Thursday, December 30, 2004

Round up of all known Tsunami Donation sites.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Checked your bill lately????????

Creative marketing the market can do without
Hard-sell system takes toll — on honesty


Have you checked your Bell Canada phone bill recently?

Take a look. A close look.

Frank Farr, a retiree living in Brockville, was surprised when he did. He discovered he was paying $5 a month for a touchtone phone feature he never ordered. "I don't use any of that stuff," he said. "I don't even have an answering machine."

Pam Devine of Brampton had a similar experience. She recalls a telemarketer for Bell trying to sell her on the rental of a more expensive telephone. She expressed an interest, but eventually declined the offer.

"On my next bill I found the rental for the more expensive telephone. When I called Bell and brought this to their attention, they said this happens quite frequently, but that the average person never bothers to check their bill."

Charges are often explained away as one-off glitches or computer-entry errors, assuming a customer catches them. But one insider working at Bell's consumer direct-marketing centre in Toronto told the Star that it's not uncommon for some staff, many earning a substantial part of their pay through commissions, to intentionally place services on customer phone bills in hopes they won't get noticed.

The practice is known in the telecommunications world as "cramming," a little known and little studied sales tactic that is more associated with boiler rooms and deceptive telemarketing rings than the brands we've come to respect and trust.

Bell says cramming isn't an issue at its call centres. "From what I understand there hasn't been a problem with our call centre reps," said company spokesperson Nessa Prendergast. "And as soon as we find out about something like this happening, we take it very seriously."

But another perspective from the front lines tells a different story. "Products and service are regularly placed on customers' phone bills, without their knowledge or consent," said the inside source, an employee for several years at Bell's call centre at 50 Eglinton Ave. E. He asked to be kept anonymous for fear of reprisal.

Such services are also misrepresented, he said, with certain pertinent details withheld so customers believe they are getting better value than they are. "I've heard telemarketers, on inbound and outbound calls, say misleading things to customers to get the sales . . . . If it has happened to you, it has happened to thousands of others."

He's not suggesting Bell management is condoning or even aware of the problem, and he emphasizes there are many hard-working sales agents who frown on such unethical tactics. It should also be said that the following observations relate to a single Bell call centre and are not necessarily reflective of other operations.

The picture painted is of a 300-employee call centre with high staff turnover and young, inexperienced sales representatives, all facing intense pressure to sell, sell, sell. Each of the front-line agents will handle from 60 to 80 calls per shift, and failure to produce could lead to a short career.

Employees get a base salary, but it's the commissions that get noticed and elevate people through the ranks. It's the commissions that win internal prizes, such as tickets to the Toronto Raptors and vacations to the Bahamas.

Selling telecommunications services isn't as easy as it used to be. Bell's traditional business of making money from local and long-distance phone services has been eroding for several years as more people communicate by e-mail, wireless phone services, and text/instant messaging. It's a trend throughout the industry that has forced service providers to develop and creatively market new products and features.

Some of this market erosion is being offset by demand for mobile phone and high-speed Internet services. But Bell has increasingly relied on the sale of new features, including everything from touchtone services, such as call display or call waiting, to insurance plans for phones, inside wiring repair and satellite dishes.

"With competition these days there is a lot of push for people to sell, and it's a skill you have or you don't. Some people are finding it challenging to meet some of the objectives," said Brenda Knight, president of the Canadian Telecommunications Employees' Association, the union representing call centre agents at Bell.

Knight said everybody is expected to sell, not just the telemarketers who call your home.

"The client calls in and says my phone is not working, the rep has to try to sell," she said. "The market is pretty saturated, there's now competition. It's tough, there's no doubt about that."

The fact is, households can only spend so much, and selling non-essential services is often akin to planting crops on dead soil. Knight said the issue of sales agents "taking shortcuts" is nothing new and is not unique to Bell or the telecommunications industry, but she did say there has been a noticeable increase in Bell agents taking stress leave in recent years.

Mary-Ann Bell, senior vice-president of contact centres for Bell, said the company has a "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to unethical sales practices and has a number of checks and balances in place — audit mechanisms, random call monitoring, coaching and other "intelligent" support tools — to make sure agents are held accountable.

"We make it very, very clear to our employees that such behaviour is not going to be tolerated," said Bell. "Obviously we can't have 100 per cent control over all of the agents. We look at the results of each employee, and every time we see a material and sudden change in results, leading us to suspect something, we will investigate."

She said 50 to 60 per cent of all Bell call centre employees are under some sort of commission sales plan and complaints about agents themselves represent less than 1 per cent of total customer complaints received by the company.

"It's not very frequent," she said, adding that when it happens an order can be traced to an agent and proper disciplinary action can be taken.

Likewise, the issue hasn't resulted in any material complaints to our telephone regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. "Accurate billing and charges are something that are certainly a concern for the CRTC," said Philippe Tousignant, a spokesperson for the watchdog. "If people came forward with complaints related to that, then we would look into it."

Yet the subtle nature of cramming, the small value of the unauthorized transactions, and the ease with which billing problems can be explained away as innocent errors, doesn't lend itself to widespread complaint. Besides, to whom should customers complain about sales agents?

Often, the first line of complaint is to call the customer support agents themselves, though Bell says calls and e-mails of this sort are supposed to be elevated to a senior manager of a customer care team.

Until recently, cramming was much more likely to go unnoticed by Bell customers. Ma Bell was one of the last phone companies in Canada to offer a monthly, itemized bill that breaks down the price and description of purchased services.

Customers did get an itemized bill at the end of the year, but the rest of the time charges were lumped together on a single line, making small increases difficult to spot or challenge. For example, a customer might open a detailed bill at the end of the year and find that a $3.75 charge for inside wiring insurance was placed on the bill in August, amounting to $18.75 of unauthorized charges throughout the rest of the year.

"The majority of customers don't ask for a credit, they just say take that off my bill," said the inside source, adding that these newly found charges can add up when the selling playground consists of seven million customers.

If several months go by before a charge is noticed, chances are slim that the commission for the service will be stripped back from the agent who processed it and often it will be the agent's word against the customer's claim. "The penalty to the agent is negligible," he said.

Mary-Ann Bell said the company's policy is to take back the commission from the original agent who made the sale if the service is cancelled, for whatever reason, within the first three months. If the service is cancelled after three months, the commission is typically not taken back.

This, in itself, illustrates the value of detailed billing for customers. The CRTC figured last year that it was time Bell followed the same billing practices of Telus, Sasktel and Manitoba Telecom, who all offer monthly, itemized bills. Bell fought the idea, arguing that its customers had never demanded such bills and never complained about not having them.

Trying to strike some kind of middle ground with the regulator, Bell proposed to offer these detailed bills on a monthly basis only to people who specifically asked for them. The CRTC rejected the compromise, and on Dec. 23 last year it ordered Bell to offer itemized bills as a standard practice. That order went into effect in June of this year, and customers now have a way of investigating suspicious charges.

Dan Gonder, a former Bell technician and founder of Trent Telecom, a telephone repair and installation company in Peterborough, said he often comes across people unknowingly paying for Bell services.

"I would show up a lot of times, and these would be elderly consumers, and they've been paying rentals on a set for years and years and years. I'm looking at their bill and they're paying for stuff they don't even use anymore."

Gonder said the playing field isn't level for consumers because they often lack technical knowledge or proper information to challenge sales agents. Take the issue of a dead phone line and a call to report the problem. Often, customers are told they can pay more than $100 to get it repaired or can pay $3.75 a month to have it covered by Bell's insurance plan.

"You'd be a fool to not take the inside maintenance program, but most problems are network problems," said Gonder, adding that network-related problems must be fixed at Bell's expense. By Bell's own admission in regulatory filings the rate of failure for inside residential and business phone wiring is "very low," so customers who get talked into insurance plans usually don't need them.

From the perspective of someone who has worked and observed in one of Bell's call centres for several years, the tactic isn't a bit surprising.

"Because it's a saturated market, you're getting poor customer lists, with poor selling potential, and this predisposes the reps to stick things on bills underhandedly," said the insider.

"Not everybody does that, but there is a large percentage that do. The public needs to be aware of what really goes on and how customers are manipulated to generate revenue."

John Lawford, research analyst with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, said the statistics kept by the phone companies and the CRTC aren't detailed enough to track complaints about unauthorized charges or "hard selling" tactics.

If a customer were to complain, it's more than likely to get lost under the general heading of "billing" or "quality of service."

He supports the idea of creating an independent telecom ombudsman, similar to a privacy commissioner or the federal banking ombudsman, who could investigate complaints and get to the level of detail that the CRTC isn't equipped to collect or analyse.

"I'm sure the cramming of charges is happening, but we're in the dark because we don't have figures on it," said Lawford. "An independent ombudsman could do a polling across the industry and get some numbers on the issue."

Friday, December 17, 2004

Dec. 17, 2004. 06:54 AM
Court rejects $25 levy on MP3 players
iPods exempt from charge, panel rules
Fee is okay on blank recording devices


The Federal Court of Appeal has overturned a controversial $25 levy applied last December to all iPods and other MP3 digital music players.

At the same time, the court rejected claims the levy as it applies to blank recording media, such as cassette tapes and recordable CDs, is unconstitutional.

"The issue has to do with what kind of media the levy's attached to," said Michael Geist, an Internet law professor at the University of Ottawa. "It overturned the applications of the levy on iPods and upheld the constitutionality of the system itself."

Retailers including Wal-Mart Canada, Staples Business Depot and Future Shop Ltd. asked the federal appeals court in January to declare "unconstitutional and invalid" the section of the Copyright Act that first created the levy, which has been applied to blank recording media for several years.

They argued the section is too vague and the levy is a tax in disguise that violates sections of the Constitution Act, which only allows Parliament to impose a tax.

In a second appeal filed the same day, a group of electronics and computer manufacturers — including Apple Canada Inc., Dell Computer Corp. and Intel Corp. — asked the court to dismiss the Copyright Board's Dec. 12 decision to extend the levy to "digital audio records," such as the popular Apple iPod and similar devices.

Their concern with the levy was that it raised the prices of their products and encouraged the creation of a cross-border grey market for the products.

The appeals court ruled the Canadian private copying regime is valid copyright legislation and does not constitute a tax. At the same time, it said the Copyright Board does not have the power to impose levies on digital memory that's embedded directly into electronics products.

The case could be appealed to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, it's unclear if consumers can expect to see a price reduction.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Bell reveals plans for faster wireless network


MONTREAL — Bell Canada outlined plans today for a faster wireless network that the company says will be up to six times speedier than what's currently available in Canada.

The Montreal-based phone company said technical trials have begun in the Toronto area and that the new network will be rolled out in major urban centres across Canada throughout 2005 and 2006.

Bell said the new network will be capable of data speeds of up to 2.4 million bits per second — comparable to a high-speed home Internet available over land lines.

The advance wireless network will use the EVDO standard (Evolution, Data Optimized).

The company says EVDO provides the platform for the next major growth phase in wireless services, allowing for new consumer video, data-rich applications and enhanced business productivity solutions.

"Wireless data presents the same tremendous growth potential today that wireless voice did almost 20 years ago," Michael Neuman, president of Bell Mobility and Bell Distribution Inc., said in a statement.

Shares of Bell's parent, BCE Inc. (TSX: BCE) closed at $28.42, down 13 cents on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Dec. 9, 2004. 09:07 AM
NHLers pay respects at Zholtok's grave


RIGA, Latvia - A visit to the grave of former NHL centre Sergei Zholtok was optional, but the entire Worldstars team turned out Thursday morning to pay their respects.

Led by Sergei Fedorov, the 17 locked-out NHL players walked the wet path through the wooded Ivan cemetery in Riga and laid flowers on the grave of one of Latvia's best and most popular players.

No words were spoken as the players stood for several minutes before the grave piled high with flowers and evergreen branches. The only thing moving was a stray black cat that wandered into the group, clearly looking for someone to take it home.

Zholtok, 31, of the Minnesota Wild, died of heart failure Nov. 3 while playing for Latvia's top club, Riga 2000, in a game in Belarus.

The graveyard visit preceded the opening game of the Worldstars' 10-game, seven-country tour of Europe, against Riga 2000 at Sporta Pils Arena.

"It was a time for reflection," said forward Anson Carter, who played briefly with Zholtok with the Edmonton Oilers. "There's a lot tough things going on with CBA talks and stuff like this puts things in perspective for us.

"All the labour battles we're going through don't seem that significant when you're talking about someone's life. Sergei was a great hockey player and a tremendous person and he'll be sadly missed."

Zholtok, who left behind wife Anna and sons Edgar and Nikita, was treated for an irregular heartbeat two seasons ago and missed games twice last season due to heart trouble.

He opted to return home to Riga to wait out the NHL lockout playing in a league made of clubs from Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine.

With about five minutes left in a game against Dinamo Minsk, Zholtok went to the team's locker-room, where he collapsed and died. Paramedics at the rink tried in vain to revive him.

Wild forward Alexandre Daigle said Zholtok may have been saved had he been monitored by doctors with the same attention that players get in the NHL.

"That was the big difference," said Daigle. "He was only 31 years old — nobody's supposed to die that way."

Karlis Skrastins, a Nashville Predators defenceman playing for Riga 2000, said his team is well cared for but doctors hadn't followed Zholtok's medical history as closely as the Wild's medical staff.

"I don't want to say anything bad about our doctors because they didn't know what's inside Sergei and know how to react," he said.

"It was a tough time for us playing the game. It was a big shock not just for the team, but for all of Latvia because he was one of the best players in Latvia's history."

Zholtok played 588 NHL games for Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Minnesota and Nashville. He scored 111 goals and had 147 assists, including a career high 26 goals for Montreal in 1999-2000.

He was also a member of the Latvian team that won a silver medal at the 1994 IIHF World Championship.

It was thought that only a handful of Worldstars players would stop by the grave before their morning practice, but the bus was full when it left the team hotel.

"We realized as a team that it was mandatory," said Carter. ``We didn't have to say anything to anybody.

"Everyone felt obliged to pay their respects to Sergei, who was a heck of a National Hockey League player."

The Worldstars tour was organized by IMG during the lockout.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

FTD seeks to bloom again as a public firm... BUT....

FTD seeks to bloom again as a public firm

By Rob Kaiser
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 25, 2004

Like a spurned suitor returning with an armful of flowers, FTD Inc. is seeking to win its way back into investors' hearts.

The Downers Grove-based flower delivery service--which saw its shares plunge after going public in 1999 and went private earlier this year--filed papers this week to return as a publicly traded company.

Now owned by the Los Angeles-based private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners, FTD is seeking to raise as much as $180 million. The company did not disclose how many shares it plans to sell or the price of the shares being offered.

The financial documents filed this week show a growing company saddled with sizable debt.

FTD posted revenue of $397.1 million in the 12-month period ending June 30 and a net loss of $6.1 million.

The company did have $13.7 million in income from operations in the period, but that was wiped out by $16.4 million in interest payments and other expenses.

As of Sept. 30, FTD had assets of $581.3 million and $428.6 million in debt. It had $1.2 million in cash.

The high debt is a result of the private equity firm's acquisition of the company.

FTD plans to use money it raises from the public offering to buy back preferred stock issues.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the public filing.

FTD sells flowers to consumers through its Web site and toll free number, generating more than 3.5 million orders annually that are filled by the 20,000 FTD member florists.

In the 12-month period that ended June 30, consumer sales brought in $216.8 million, more than half of FTD's revenues. The company makes the remainder of its money by providing technology, services and merchandise to the FTD florists.

FTD's first foray into the public markets was in September 1999, when the company spun its online unit into the inflating Internet bubble. Following the dot-com burst, was reconnected with its FTD parent in 2002, and the two entities were fused into one public company.

An investment fund run by Leonard Green & Partners bought FTD in February, and took the company private.

Michael Soenen, a 34-year-old who had been at the helm of when it went public, returned to the company in May as FTD's president and chief executive.

Selling directly to consumers has been a growing area for the company.

Revenue from consumer orders grew from $154.1 million in fiscal year 2002 to $191 million the following year to $216.8 million in the most recent year. During the quarter ended Sept. 30, the consumer segment generated sales of $36.4 million, up 14 percent from the year-earlier quarter.

FTD plans to continue its growth in this area by expanding its marketing partnerships and specialty gift offerings and by offering lower-priced flower arrangements to younger consumers, according to the filing.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

Thursday, November 18, 2004

CRTC approves Fox News for Canada
Last Updated Thu, 18 Nov 2004 19:07:38 EST

OTTAWA - The conservative-leaning Fox News Channel will soon be coming to Canadian digital television channels.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved an application Thursday to bring the Fox News Channel, one of the highest-rated news channels in the United States, onto Canadian digital airwaves.

The Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA) applied to the broadcast regulator in April.

Canadians already have access to the main Fox network, but not the right-leaning, 24-hour news channel, with its trademarked slogan of "fair and balanced."

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) opposed the application, saying it would discourage foreign broadcasters from partnering with Canadian broadcasters.

However, in its decision, the CRTC said Fox News offers little Canadian coverage and is not "partially or totally competitive with any Canadian pay or specialty service." It added that the channel would "significantly boost digital penetration in Canada" and increase the availability of digital services in the country.

The CRTC also approved the NFL Network, a 24-hour "lifestyle and entertainment" channel for football fans. It doesn't carry live games, with the exception of a few exhibition games.

Past application rejected

The CRTC rejected a CCTA application to bring Fox to Canada last November because Fox News U.S. and Winnipeg-based Global Television were planning to create Fox News Canada, a combination of U.S. and Canadian news.

However, in March, a Fox U.S. executive said there were no plans to create the combined channel.

The CRTC was thrust into the spotlight in July after giving conditional approval to the digital broadcast of Arab television station al-Jazeera.

The commission said Canadian carriers had to keep an "audio-visual recording" of the controversial network's broadcasts. It told Canadian distributors to monitor the broadcast 24 hours a day, giving them permission to "alter or curtail" programming to keep out abusive commentary, especially of an anti-Semitic nature.

No Canadian distributors carry al-Jazeera.

Fox was launched in 1996 by a former Republican advisor, Roger Ailes. It's a subsidiary of News Corp. Ltd., which is controlled by right-wing Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Diana fund officals face fresh new suit

Diana Fund officials face fresh US court appearance
By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
(Filed: 14/11/2004)

The officials of a charity set up to honour Diana, Princess of Wales will face public scrutiny in a United States court despite settling a £14 million legal action from an American souvenir company last week.

The Franklin Mint is continuing to sue the American law firm that represented the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, The Telegraph learnt yesterday.

A Franklin Mint Princess Diana doll and plate
Andrew Purkis, the fund's chief executive, will be called to give evidence. However, the trustees, including Diana's sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, will probably be spared court appearances.

The hearing is expected to take place in California next month when Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, a Los Angeles law company, will be sued for $25 million (£14 million) for its role in the "malicious prosecution" of the Franklin Mint. An official close to the Franklin Mint said yesterday: "We will be asking Dr Purkis to explain the circumstances in which the American law firm was hired in the first place." The law company, which is contesting the action, had advised the fund that it should sue the company for selling memorabilia bearing the Princess's image and name. Unsuccessful legal actions against the Franklin Mint have cost the fund £6 million in legal fees.

Dr Purkis said yesterday: "If I am summoned, I will simply tell the truth about the events as they happened."

The fund had hoped to avoid further scrutiny of its decision to begin legal action against the Franklin Mint which was intended to try to protect its "rights" to the late Princess's name and image.

The Mint and the fund last week reached an out-of-court settlement on the eve of a hearing in Los Angeles. The fund agreed to pay £14 million to charities chosen by both sides, and each side has agreed to pick up its legal costs - an estimated £2 million each.

The fund was set up in 1997, after the Princess's death, and has given more than £50 million in charitable gifts worldwide. However, in July last year, it announced that it had frozen further gifts worth £48 million because of the legal action.

The fund first sued Franklin Mint in 1998 but lost the case four years later at a cost of £4 million in joint legal bills. The Mint then counter-sued for "malicious prosecution".

Its owners, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who have given £25 million to charity in the past eight years, claimed that their reputation and that of their company was unfairly maligned by the fund and its former US lawyers.

The couple were incensed by accusations that they were "stealing" the Princess's name and likeness.

Court papers filed by the Mint blame the US law firm for publicising the fund's law suit to "further their own business plan to generate similar litigation". They say the publicity was "filled with inflammatory allegations designed to damage the Mint's sales efforts . . . and sully [the Mint's] reputation and charitable endeavours. The lead allegation was that the plaintiffs [the Mint] were akin 'to vultures feeding on the dead' ".

A spokesman for Manatt, Phelps & Phillips said yesterday: "We believe strongly in our moral and legal position and that we will prevail in this case. Our trust in the justice system gives us confidence that judge and jury will agree we acted responsibly and with integrity."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Charities Win in Settlement of Suit Against Diana Fund

By Debora Vrana, Times Staff Writer

A memorial fund for Princess Diana agreed Wednesday to earmark $25 million for charitable causes to settle a lawsuit brought against the fund by Franklin Mint — a commemoratives marketer owned by Los Angeles businessman Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda.

Funds from the court settlement, reached just days before the case was to go to trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court, will be funneled to humanitarian projects chosen by both sides in the dispute and geared toward causes favored by the late princess, such as land-mine removal, according to a joint statement from the Franklin Mint and the London-based Princess of Wales Memorial fund.

Resnick, a corporate farmer, philanthropist and art collector who bought the Philadelphia-based Franklin Mint in 1985 for $167 million, could not be reached for comment.

The legal battle began in 1998, when the memorial fund filed a trademark suit to stop the Franklin Mint from selling memorabilia of Princess Diana, who died the year before in a Paris car accident. The items included a commemorative plate, a Princess of Diana purse and the Princess Diana Porcelain Bride Doll, currently priced at $195 on the Franklin Mint website. In its suit, the fund accused the Resnicks of "profiting from the death of Diana."

That suit was later dismissed. But in 2002, the Resnicks and the Franklin Mint filed a suit alleging that the memorial fund and the executors of Diana's estate, including her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, had acted maliciously by initiating the trademark action.

Settling the 2002 lawsuit will allow the memorial fund — which was set up as a clearinghouse for the millions of dollars in donations that flowed in after Diana's death — to resume distributing humanitarian grants after having its funds frozen for two years during the legal battle.

In Wednesday's statement, Andrew Purkis, the memorial fund's chief executive, said the settlement was the best way to honor the princess' memory.

Lawyers for the two sides could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

November 11, 2004

Court deal saves Diana fund from bankruptcy
From Chris Ayres in Los Angeles

A LAWSUIT brought by a billionaire Beverly Hills couple against the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund is to be dropped after the two sides agreed to embark on a “mutually agreed programme of humanitarian work”. The settlement will save the fund from bankruptcy.

The Los Angeles lawsuit had been brought by Lynda and Stewart Resnick, owners of the Franklin Mint souvenir firm.

The Resnicks’ claim dated back to 1998, when the fund sued them in their home state of California for cashing in on the Princess’s death with a commemorative plate and other memorabilia. The fund accused the couple of being “vultures feeding off the dead”.

The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge, who said that because the Princess was English, her image could not be protected by California’s publicity rights law. He also said that the vultures claim was immaterial and impertinent.

The dismissal allowed the Resnicks to sue for malicious prosecution. The couple, who supported John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign, claimed £13.5 million in damages. They said they would donate any money they received to charities supported by the Princess.

But in a joint statement yesterday, the two sides said they were “pleased to announce that they have agreed to resolve their differences with an out-of-court settlement”.

The fund and the Franklin Mint agreed that the “energy and resources” needed for a court battle would be better spent on charitable work in honour of the Princess.

The settlement will save the fund the embarrassment of having to call several British aristocrats as witnesses. As part of the settlement, the fund will pledge £13.5 million over five years to causes including HIV/Aids, landmines and care for the terminally ill.

Andrew Purkis, the fund’s chief executive, said: “We are immediately resuming our grants programme to support projects that aim to change the lives of some of the most vulnerable people.”

In July 2003, the fund had frozen its £48 million of uncommitted reserves because of “the unquantifiable nature of the liability arising from the case”.

The fund’s reserves came from public donations after the Princess’s death and money raised by Sir Elton John’s Candle in the Wind single, as well as other licensed products.

Since 1998, the Franklin Mint, which also sells Gone With the Wind figurines, Star Trek chess sets and an Elvis Presley commemorative revolver, has closed its company museum and shut its retail operations. The Pennsylvania firm now sells its goods through an internet site.

According to the statement, neither the fund, the Franklin Mint nor the Resnicks made any money from yesterday’s settlement. The Resnicks’ main business is now farming: they own the world’s largest supplier of pistachios and almonds, based near the singer Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch in Los Angeles.

Yesterday’s settlement was made only hours before a jury was about to be selected in the case. The Resnicks’ lawsuit had claimed that the Diana fund, including Lady McCorquodale, the Princess’s sister, acted “maliciously, wantonly . . . and with the intent to oppress”.

The Franklin Mint has withdrawn that claim. The malice allegation has been abandoned “in recognition of the fact that the fund’s trustees acted in good faith”.

Cheap Martha Stewart sends bill to her company!

Martha Stewart sends legal bill to her company


WASHINGTON — Martha Stewart is asking the company she founded to reimburse about $3.7 million (figures U.S.) of the legal fees she incurred while on trial earlier this year for obstruction of justice and other charges, according to a regulatory filing late Tuesday.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. made the disclosure in its quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission after markets closed Tuesday. The filing said Stewart submitted the claim pursuant to the company's bylaws.

The New York-based media and housewares company didn't say whether it planned to honour Stewart's request.

Stewart was convicted in March of lying to investigators about her sale of ImClone Systems Inc. shares. She is serving a five-month prison sentence in West Virginia that began Oct. 8.

After her release, the domestic diva, who owns about 60 percent of the company's shares, will be serving another five months of house arrest. She is appealing her case.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Jury Selection Postponed In $25M Lawsuit Involving Princess Diana

POSTED: 10:16 am PST November 8, 2004
UPDATED: 10:29 am PST November 8, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- Jury selection -- set for Monday -- was postponed to Wednesday in the Los Angeles trial of Franklin Mint's $25 million malicious-persecution lawsuit against a charitable memorial fund set up in honor of the late Princess Diana.

The reason for the postponement was not immediately available.

Princess Diana's estate sued the Mint in 1998, claiming the collectibles company violated its "exclusive rights" to her name and image by putting out a "Limited Edition Commemorative Plate" of the princess following her death in a 1997 car crash.

In 2002, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously found that the trustees of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the executors of her estate had no basis for the claims they filed against the Mint.

The judges found, among other things, that the law of Great Britain, where Princess Diana lived, does not recognize post-mortem right of publicity claims.

The memorial fund, which was established to accept donations for various charities with which Princess Diana was associated during her lifetime, announced in July 2003 that it would have to suspend its charitable donations as a result of the costly legal battle.

Representatives for the Mint have said the lawsuit is not about money and that any damages would be donated to charity after collecting court costs.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Multi-million pound claim will 'waste' Diana memorial funds
By Sally Pook
(Filed: 08/11/2004)

A multi-million pound legal battle which friends of Diana, Princess of Wales, say should never have reached court opens in Los Angeles today.

The Franklin Mint, an American company which makes souvenirs including Diana dolls, is suing the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund in a case described as "savage and punitive" by one British charity.

Princess Diana doll and plate
Franklin Mint Princess Diana doll and commemorative plate

The action originated six years ago when, with the advice of its lawyers, the fund sued The Franklin Mint, alleging it was illegally selling Diana dolls, plates and jewellery. The fund lost and was left with a £4 million legal bill.

The Franklin Mint then counter-sued. Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of the company, claim their reputation was damaged by the fund, which said they were "vultures feeding on the dead".

The Franklin Mint's case of malicious prosecution, described as groundless by the defendants, has angered charities and friends of the princess, who say money which should have gone to charity is now being wasted on legal fees.

The company is claiming nearly £14 million but has pledged that any money it receives will go to charity. If it wins, and the damages exceed what's left in the fund, the trustees, including Diana's sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, will be liable.

Rosa Monckton, a close friend of the princess, said: "This is a case that should never have happened. Obviously I hope the fund wins. It would be appalling to see yet more money that people have donated going on legal fees.

"But I think it was very misguided of the fund to get their lawyers to sue in the first place. I don't know what they were thinking of." The fund has defended its orginal action, saying it had an obligation to protect the image of the princess. The fund was allegedly advised by an American legal firm that it had a strong case against the company.

A spokesman for the fund said yesterday: "The fund believes that time and energy is being wasted on a groundless lawsuit which could be put into supporting good causes around the world."

The fund was established in 1997 with £20 million of public donations following the death of the princess. It raised an additional £45 million from donated products and £35 million from licenced products. It has committed £50 million to more than 400 humanitarian initiatives, however the fund froze £48 million last year when the Franklin Mint began legal action.

Response International, a British charity established to support victims of violent conflict, was one of those affected by the freezing of the fund's assets.

Philip Garvin, chief executive, said: "This has set us back hugely. I believe the Franklin Mint is being punitive and savage. The legal fees will hurt everybody."

Saturday, November 06, 2004

How just wrong this is!!!!!!

How wrong is this process? Totally wrong with no respect to the Veterans of Canada and also the people of Canada. What's also bad is Tim Hortons has horrible coffee and tasteless flat donuts now days.

What’s next from Canadian Mint?

The Royal Canadian Mint had a brilliant idea when it decided to use brand new technology to paint a red poppy in the centre of the Canadian quarter in honour of Remembrance Day. The idea is brilliant in its simplicity. Collecting coins is easy and inexpensive and the link between Canadian money and patriotic pride is a natural one. A 25 cent coin in general circulation just before Remembrance Day would serve as an appropriate tribute to our war veterans.

But the coin is not in general circulation. It is not available at financial institutions in Canada. The coin was made available exclusively to Tim Hortons (and Legions that wanted to participate).

This is preposterous. The Canadian Mint has taken a national symbol of pride and remembrance and reduced it to a gimmick to sell coffee and donuts. What do we have to look forward to next from our national mint—a Canadian flag coin available only at McDonalds when you order a Big Mac, large fries and a coke?

Don’t get us wrong, Tim Hortons makes great coffee, but to trivialize and cheapen the emotional impact of the poppy by tying it to the purchase of fast food is insulting, deflating, demoralizing and just plain wrong. Our national currency should never be allowed to be used to promote private enterprise.

Canadians, especially our veterans, deserve an apology from the Canadian Mint and a promise to never ‘play’ with our money in this way again.

E.R.A. -Huntsville Forester

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Diana's fund to face trial on BBC perhaps!

Diana's Fund to face 'trial by television'
By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
Filed: 31/10/2004)

The charity set up to honour Diana, Princess of Wales is facing a "trial by television" as its £15 million legal battle with an American souvenir company begins this week.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund is being sued for "malicious prosecution" by the company, Franklin Mint. The hearing, opening in Los Angeles on Friday, is expected to last three weeks.

This weekend, court officials told The Telegraph that the BBC has applied to Judge John P Shook to televise the hearing. If the application is successful the hearing will be seen by a worldwide audience of tens of millions, increasing the pressure on the trustees, who have been accused by critics of squandering millions of pounds. Requests to televise court hearings are usually looked upon favourably by United States judges.

Those under most scrutiny are Andrew Purkis, the fund's chief executive, and Anthony Julius, the solicitor who acted for the Princess in her divorce from the Prince of Wales and who is now a trustee of the fund.

Dr Purkis, who will appear as a witness at the hearing this week, yesterday attacked Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the wealthy owners of Franklin Mint, for bringing the "groundless" action.

The court is expected to listen to a "videotaped deposition" from Mr Julius in which he admits that as early as October 1997 - less than three months after the Princess died - the trustees agreed to target Franklin Mint to make an example of it and to discourage other companies from making unauthorised memorabilia. Court documents obtained by The Sunday Telegraph contain a transcript of Mr Julius confirming the accuracy of minutes of a meeting of trustees.

The fund was set up in 1997 shortly after the Princess's death in a car crash in Paris and, over the past seven years, has given more than £50 million in charitable gifts worldwide. However, on July 11 last year, it announced that it had frozen further gifts worth £48 million because of the legal action by Franklin Mint.

The fund first took legal action against Franklin Mint in 1998. It lost that action four years later at a cost of £4 million in joint legal bills. The fund is now being counter-sued for $25 million (£14.5 million) by the US company.

The Resnicks, who have given more than £25 million to charity in eight years, claim that their reputation and that of their company was unfairly maligned by the fund and its former US lawyers, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

The couple were incensed that they were accused of being "vultures feeding on the dead" and that they were "stealing" the Princess's name and likeness. In its claim, Franklin Mint says that royal souvenirs have been openly sold around the world for centuries without permission and that those of Diana were no exception.

Her death on August 31, 1997, "created massive consumer demand for Princess Diana memorabilia, which the Mint and hundreds of others attempted to service". Charitable commitments "as a means of honouring Princess Diana" had been scrupulously met.

In its own representation to the court, the fund says that trustees were "reluctant litigators" and had taken action - in good faith, without malice and after extensive legal advice - to protect "certain intellectual property rights of the Princess which had been licensed to the fund". Dr Purkis said the Mint's legal action had already cost the fund a further £2 million in legal fees. This is on top of the fund's £4 million losses from its earlier failed action.

"This case is unnecessary," he said. "The original action was all over and we paid out dues in full - a substantial award to the Resnicks and Franklin Mint. That should have been the end of the matter."

If successful, Franklin Mint has said that it will donate any proceeds to charitable causes linked to the Princess.

Those who are critical of the fund's original legal action against the company include Rosa Monckton, one of the Princess's closest friends. She has called for the fund to distribute its money and close. She said that the action in 1998 was "absolute insanity" and that the trustees now had only themselves to blame.
Millions expected at Red Sox parade; route extended into river
Class action targets cellphone 'access' fees News Staff

Canada's four biggest cellphone carriers could lose their operating licences if a new class-action lawsuit proves they've misled customers about an add-on fee.

A class action suit has been filed naming CTV's parent company Bell, as well as Rogers, Telus and Fido operator Microcell. It alleges the carriers' monthly $7 "system access" fee is illegal.

According to a report in The Toronto Star, the claim came to light in quarterly financial reports released by Rogers Wireless Inc. and Microcell Telecommunications Inc. this week.

"The plaintiffs seek unquantified damages from the defendant wireless telecommunications service providers, plus costs and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest," Microcell said in its quarterly earnings report released Wednesday.

In the fine print, the phone companies say the charge pays for things like government licensing charges, contribution charges to help subsidize residential service in rural and remote areas, and to help pay for new equipment.

But the suit claims customers are being misled by companies claiming the fee is a mandatory stipend collected on the federal government's behalf. The fee is, in fact, an industry creation not required by Ottawa, the suit claims.

The carriers now risk breaching their licences if caught describing the fee as a mandatory government charge.

According to The Star, Canada's mobile phone operators will make more $800 million from the special fee this year.

Representatives from Rogers and Microcell told the paper they have good defences to the allegations. Telus and Bell declined to comment beyond confirming they are named in the suit.

All four carriers said the suit, which was filed in Saskatchewan on Aug. 9, has yet to be certified.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Open letter signed by 24 Olympians and Professional Athletes

To: Interested Parties
From: Bush-Cheney '04 Communications
Date: 10/21/04
Re: Letter Signed By 24 Olympians And
Professional Athletes Supporting
President Bush

Twenty-four Olympians and professional athletes have endorsed President Bush and signed the following letter expressing their support, noting, "In these critical times, our President has had the courage to stand up and do what's right. For that and for his unwavering character, we choose George W. Bush as our President for the next four years."

Open Letter Signed By 24 Olympians And Professional Athletes Supporting President Bush

To Our Fellow Americans:

We have given much thought to the values and characteristics that make a great athlete. Our lives have been spent trying to run farther, push further, and jump higher than the person beside us, or across the field of our chosen sport. With years of training and exhaustive competition beneath our belts, we have identified the values necessary to compete and win--values like personal strength, determination, a sense of fair play and faith.

The same qualities that make a great athlete make a great President--the determination to do what is right, regardless of the latest polls, the personal strength to bear the weight of the nation on your shoulders, and the faith that a higher power will direct the actions of good people.

We see in President Bush these same qualities.

In 2001, our nation was attacked without cause or provocation. The President's values saw us through those dark days after the terrorist attack. The economy was rocked by the dual blows of the terrorists' cowardly action and the reckless disregard of the rules by a few rogue executives.

But President Bush's decisive, principled leadership has moved America forward, and today our nation is safer and our economy is strong and getting stronger.

The fight against terrorism takes decisiveness. It takes continued support for our troops and first responders. But most importantly, it takes courage and inspirational leadership in the White House. In these critical times, our President has had the courage to stand up and do what's right.

For that and for his unwavering character, we choose George W. Bush as our President for the next four years. He is a leader we can depend on to make the tough decisions and the right decisions. Please join us in supporting a candidate of courage, President Bush--a leader who backs our troops defending our nation and shares our values.


Emie Banks MLB Hall of Famer
Daniel Beery Olympic Gold Medalist, Rowing
Carlos Beltran MLB All-Star Centerfielder
Craig Biggio MLB All-Star Catcher & Second Baseman
Josh Davis Three-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, Swimming
Adam Dunn MLB All Star Left Fielder
John Elway NFL Hall of Famer
Bob Feller MLB Hall of Fame Pitcher
Natalie Golda Olympic Bronze Medalist, Water Polo
Matt Hasselbeck NFL Quarterback
Bernie Kosar NFL Quarterback, Ret.
Steve Largent NFL Hall of Famer
Karl Malone NBA All-Star & MVP Winner
Anthony Munoz NFL Hall of Famer
Jack Nicklaus PGA Tour Most Major Championship Titles
Mary Lou Retton Olympic Gold Medalist, Gymnastics
Dot Richardson Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, Softball
Nolan Ryan MLB Hall of Fame Pitcher
Janet Lynn Salomon Olympic Bronze Medalist, Figure Skating
Chris Spielman NFL Linebacker, Ret.
Roger Staubach NFL Hall of Famer
Kerri Strug Olympic Gold Medalist, Gymnastics
Lynn Swann NFL Hall of Famer
Todd Walker MLB Second Baseman

(Corporate and organizational affiliations are listed for identification purposes only are not intended to imply any endorsement by the corporation or organization.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

New York Post October 21 2004


October 21, 2004 -- In 12 days, Americans will go to the polls to render a verdict on George W. Bush's presidency.

But Nov. 2 will not simply be a re ferendum on President Bush's leader ship. It is about the choice facing the nation — not just whether Bush deserves another term, but whether Sen. John F. Kerry provides an acceptable alternative.

The answer to the latter question is an emphatic no.

John Kerry comes out of the Democratic Party's elitist left wing, embracing values and goals that America has repudiated at the polls time and time again.

True, Kerry campaigns like a centrist. But his 20-year record in the Senate belies that flag of convenience.

Suffice it to say that John Kerry has rarely seen an expensive social program he didn't embrace — or a national-security initiative he could abide.

And long before he came to the Senate, Kerry made a national reputation as the spokesman for those whose solution to Vietnam was simply to run away. Moreover, he earned that rep by publicly slandering an entire generation of U.S. soldiers as — in his own words — "war criminals."

Now America faces a chal lenge unlike any it has ever before experienced: global Islamist terrorism.

But to Kerry, terrorism is a law-enforcement problem, to be fought like organized crime or gang violence. And — for all his equivocation on a pledge never to use military force unless its purpose meets a "global test" — his record suggests strongly that he meant precisely what he said the first time.

He first ran for office pledging that he'd "like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations" — and he's rarely strayed from that position.

Yet even when America put together a global coalition and United Nations endorsement to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991, Sen. Kerry actually led congressional opposition to that effort.

Once the war was being prosecuted successfully, however, Kerry started waving the flag — even praising the first President Bush's "moxie."

This time around, Kerry endorsed the removal of Saddam Hussein as a threat to America's security and voted to authorize the unilateral use of force.

Then, when the postwar picture grew complicated (and radical antiwar can didate Howard Dean seemed to be running away with the nomination), he turned against the war, voting against properly equipping supplying troops then in harm's way — explaining that he'd only meant to "authorize" the use of force, not actually to use it.

For two decades, he has voted to slash America's defense budget, eliminating vital weapons systems.

As recently as 1994 — just one year after the first World Trade Center bombing — he proposed mammoth cuts of the Pentagon and intelligence-agencies budgets. Many of Kerry's own Democratic colleagues took to the floor of Congress to warn that his cuts endangered America's security.

In the end, even Ted Kennedy voted against Kerry's proposed defense cuts as too drastic.

Yet, the following year, Kerry voted to freeze defense spending for seven years. The year after that, he introduced a bill to slash defense spending by a further $6.5 billion.

Today, Kerry campaigns as a deficit hawk, citing his support of the Reagan-era balanced-budget bill. At the time, however, he boasted that he only voted for the bill "to force the Reagan administration to cut defense spending."

John Kerry, in short, remains firmly in the throes of Vietnam syndrome, afraid to take the steps needed to protect America from threats to its security — and, even worse, tailoring his worldview to his current standing in the polls.

And, by the way, he now campaigns against the Patriot Act, calling it a threat to our civil liberties. Yet he voted in favor of that very same bill, too.

Little wonder, then, that John Kerry has spent almost no time on the campaign trail talking about his record. Because it's the skeleton in his closet — an endless litany of left-wing votes and proposals that refutes his headlong rush to the political center as Election Day draws near.

On domestic issues, the record is the same: Kerry's campaign pledges and pronouncements are totally contradicted by his 20-year performance as a legislator from Massachusetts. "I'm a liberal and proud of it," Kerry declared in 1991 — and nothing he's done in the Senate suggests otherwise.

He has voted consistently to raise taxes — though on other issues, he is consistently inconsistent: opposing the death penalty for terrorists in 1996, then supporting it in 2002; voting for the No Child Left Behind Act, then attacking it as a "mockery"; opposing work requirements for welfare recipients, then voting for welfare reform; saying he opposes litmus tests for federal judges, then vowing to impose one if he wins this year.

And at a time when soaring liability insurance costs — in the wake of sky-high jury verdicts — are threatening the U.S. health-care system, Kerry chose as his running-mate a multi-millionaire personal-injury lawyer who stands in the way of any meaningful tort reform.

Himself a multi-millionaire by marriage, Kerry unconvincingly pretends to champion the struggling middle-class even as his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, derides the work experience of Laura Bush — a former schoolteacher and librarian and a full-time mother.

"I don't know that she's ever had a real job, I mean, since she's been grown up," Heinz Kerry told USA Today — a remark for which she quickly apologized.

Ultimately, however, there is one over- riding issue in this campaign: the War on Terror.

That much became clear — to everyone, it seems, except John Kerry — in the ashes of the World Trade Center.

For most Americans, 9/11 changed the way this nation needs to think about external threats and national security.

But for John Kerry, still stuck emotionally in the Vietnam quagmire, it appears that there were no lessons to be learned.

Which is why America can't afford John Kerry as president.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Diana charity faces 14 million pound lawsuit in USA

Diana charity faces £14m lawsuit in US


THE Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was last night facing a £14m crisis after a US firm was given the go-ahead to sue the charity for damages.

A Californian judge ruled an American souvenir firm could sue the beleaguered fund for compensation, the latest step in a long-running row over Diana memorabilia.

The Memorial Fund is being sued by the Franklin Mint over a failed legal bid six years ago to stop it producing Diana dolls, plates and other souvenirs. That left the charity with a £4m legal bill and the Franklin Mint is now counter-suing for malicious prosecution in the original case, which could mean the charity having to pay £14m in damages plus a second legal bill.

The long-running legal battle between the two has seen the Fund freeze all grants to charitable sources.

Yesterday, Andrew Purkis, chief executive of the Memorial Fund, insisted the action was "groundless and implausible" and insisted he was looking forward to the resolution of the case. The legal action will be heard on November 5.

Purkis said: "We are pleased that the damaging period of waiting will soon be over and we have full confidence in the great strength of our defence.

"We regret the waste of time and energy caused, and the interruption of much-needed humanitarian work among some of the world’s and the UK’s most vulnerable people."

The Franklin Mint could not be contacted yesterday but it has previously insisted the charity should be held accountable for its "bad behaviour".

Last year, a spokesman for Franklin Mint insisted the Fund had fought a "suicidal" legal action and should be held responsible.

The company has pledged that any money it receives from the latest legal action will go to charity.

The Diana Memorial Fund was set up in 1997 to channel £19m worth of gifts, donated during the outpouring of grief after Diana’s death in a Paris car crash, and £37m raised by Sir Elton John’s song ‘Candle in the Wind ’97’ into humanitarian projects.

The row began when the Memorial Fund accused the Franklin Mint of commercially exploiting the identity of the princess and falsely implying that its products would benefit her estate.

The charity embarked on the case claiming it had a duty to protect Diana's image, name and likeness from use on unauthorised merchandise. It accused Franklin Mint, owned by the Los Angeles-based billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, of acting "like vultures feeding on the dead".

After that case finished, Franklin Mint said the Fund appeared to have sacrificed the welfare of its good causes to pursue the claim. It has defended its decision to pursue the case for compensation, insisting it is not a not a matter of money but principle.

It has also criticised the Fund for freezing grants to 127 beneficiaries and claimed it has been the victim of the "most nasty PR campaign" by the Fund.

The Memorial Fund stopped giving grants to projects last year as part of its fight against Franklin but said it had secured replacement funding so that no project collapsed. It has £48m in the bank.

Causes, including HIV/Aids treatment centres and landmine clearance projects, charities which were championed by Diana, are under threat because of the financial situation.

About 120 voluntary groups could be affected while 500 jobs at the Fund and its beneficiaries are under threat. A third of its staff have already stopped working for the Fund.

A spokeswoman for the Fund said they had secured an extra £6m to support ongoing projects while legal proceedings were underway. The ruling means the Fund will continue its freeze on grants to charities.

Evidence submitted to the Los Angeles court last month revealed the attorney-general rapidly developed serious doubts about the merits of the case against the Franklin Mint. Papers also showed the princess’s sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, president of the Fund, and the trustees believed they had been "misled" by their US legal adviser.

Last night a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "It is always a shame when charities of this stature that have done such good work run into difficulties.

"Our advice is that voluntary organisations exercise great care before embarking on litigation.

"This is especially bad news as this is a high-profile charity with an international reputation for supporting hard-to-fund projects and an impressive track record of helping thousands of vulnerable beneficiaries.

"The Commission has given advice and guidance to the Fund throughout the proceedings but, ultimately, decisions about running the charity remain with the trustees.

"There are cases where charities have no choice but to got to court to protect their reputations. But this long-running case highlights the serious consequences that may arise from going to court, especially when the legal battle is joined with litigators overseas.

"The Commission will do what it can to support the charity and we very much hope that the Fund succeeds in its bid to keep its programmes running."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

End of Everybody loves Raymond

End begins for lovable ‘Raymond’
By Joshua Klein
For RedEye

All good things must come to an end. After years of success, the beloved sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" on Monday began its ninth and final season.

Ironically, now also is the best time to start playing catch-up, as the first season of the show has just made it to DVD. RedEye spoke to the show's star, Ray Romano, about the beginning, the end and some things in between.

It must be odd to have the first season of "Everybody Loves Raymond" come out on DVD just as the show starts its final season.
It's a little nostalgic. We had to watch and do commentary on it, so I got to relive the whole first season again. You get to see different hair. And different weight.

Especially Brad Garrett, who plays Ray's big brother Robert.
Oh, yeah! Brad went through something like a 50-pound weight swing. During the hiatus of the first year, he lost 50 pounds, so the second year you see a big difference. And Patty [Patricia Heaton, who plays Ray's wife] was pregnant toward the end of the first year. It's fun to see how we've changed. There's a bittersweetness to it, I guess. We seem so young and innocent. (Laughs.)

A huge number of shows never make it on TV, and most of those that do are terrible.
In the beginning, it was just a big ball of confusion. I didn't know anything. I didn't even know if I could do it, if I could make the transition. Was the show going to be the type of show I was looking for? I wasn't even concentrating on what we had until about ... not far in, about the fourth or fifth episode. I just got a glimpse of this chemistry and the potential of all this. You really have to get lucky to have all of this work: the writing, the acting, the casting. It was about the fifth episode where I remember telling my friend--my writer friend who I took from New York to be on the staff; we shared an apartment--"I really think there's something there, something a little bit magical." Even then, even if you have that, it doesn't mean you're going to be on. The audience may not come, the network may not give it time. But I saw that little spark.

So you knew it would last?
Towards the end of the first year ... the first year is weird, because the audience members that come in don't know who you are or who your character is. They're not laughing when Marie [Doris Roberts, who plays Ray's mom] walks in the door and sees someone else baby-sitting for the kid, because there's no history. The laughs are hard to come by. You have to trust that it's funny and trust who these characters are. But towards the end of the first year, you saw that the audience was invested in these characters. Then when we made the move from Friday to Monday, and we held onto that Cosby audience, that's where we kind of allowed ourselves to think, well, maybe we've got something here that might last.

A lot of people have pointed out that what makes "Everybody Loves Raymond" work is that, even though your name is in the title, each character can support an entire episode.
Yeah. The star whose name is in the title is lucky he had those people surrounding him! (Laughs.) You're right, every character is rich and defined, funny on their own, and you can sympathize. You like them. Even if you hate them, you like them. You love to hate them. That's a testament to the writing and acting. You've got to catch it in a bottle. You've got to get lucky.
Amazing Race contestants visit Canada for finale


The Amazing Race's final stretch will bring four couples to Canada as they compete in a worldwide competition for a $1-million (U.S.) prize.

In the two-hour finale of the reality television show, teams will race through Banff's Sunshine Village ski resort and visit the Olympic ski jump at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

In other episodes, competitors have danced the tango in Buenos Aires, made bricks in Kolkata, India and wrestled with an ox-driven plow on the outskirts of Manila.

The show features 11 two-person teams who follow clues and assignments that send them speeding from one city to another across the globe. The last team to check in at the end of each episode is eliminated.

In the last two legs of the race, the final four teams will ``push themselves through exhaustion and pain on a gruelling 45-metre rope climb that becomes one of the most intense road blocks in the history of The Amazing Race," broadcaster CTV said in a release.

The Amazing Race, which airs in Canada on CTV on Tuesday at 9 p.m. (check local listings), won its second Emmy in a row on Sunday for best reality competition series.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Oprah surprises audience with 276 new cars

CHICAGO (AP) — Oprah Winfrey celebrated the premiere of her 19th season by surprising each of her 276 audience members with a new car.

"We're calling this our wildest dream season, because this year on the Oprah show, no dream is too wild, no surprise too impossible to pull off," Winfrey said on the show that aired Monday.

Winfrey said the audience members were chosen because their friends or family had written about their need for a new car. One woman's young son said she drove a car that "looks like she got into a gunfight"; another couple had almost 400,000 miles (about 644,000 kilometres) on their two vehicles.

Making sure the audience was kept in suspense, Winfrey opened the show by calling 11 people onto the stage. She gave each of them a car — a Pontiac G6.

She then had gift boxes distributed to the rest of the audience and said one of the boxes contained keys to a 12th car. But when everyone opened the boxes, each had a set of keys.

"Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!" Winfrey yelled as she jumped up and down on the stage.

The audience screamed, cried and hugged each other — then followed Winfrey out to the parking lot of her Harpo Studios to see their Pontiacs, all decorated with giant red bows.

The cars, which retail for $28,000 (U.S.), were donated by Pontiac.

"A little idea grew into a big idea," Mary Henige of Pontiac told The Associated Press.

She added that Pontiac will pay for the taxes and the customizing of the cars.

In other segments on the show, taped Thursday, Winfrey surprised a 20-year-old girl who had spent years in foster care and homeless shelters with a four-year college scholarship, a makeover and $10,000 in clothes. And a family with eight foster children who were going to be kicked out of their house were given $130,000 to buy and repair the home.

The Oprah Winfrey Show, which debuted in 1986, is syndicated to 212 domestic markets and 109 countries.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Lightning bolt decides thriller
Canada can thank injured Yzerman for unselfish attitude
Lecavalier joins Henderson, Lemieux in Canuck puck lore


Canadians can offer a collective nod of thanks today to an absent warrior for its berth in the 2004 World Cup final.

If Steve Yzerman had insisted, after all, he could have kept his position on Team Canada, and Vincent Lecavalier would never have been in the building last night to become his country's latest international scoring hero.

Lecavalier joined a glorious list last night, putting his name alongside Paul Henderson in 1972, Darryl Sittler in 1976, Mike Bossy in 1984 against the Russians in overtime, Mario Lemieux from Wayne Gretzky in 1987 and Anson Carter in overtime at the world championships last year.

But without Yzerman's selflessness — and some clutch goaltending from a wobbly Roberto Luongo to prevent the gallant Czechs from wrecking the moment — Lecavalier would never have become part of that illustrious group of Canadians who scored with defeat at hand.

Yzerman, you may remember, spent the summer dealing with an eye injury, a sore knee and a new problem with a herniated disc in his neck as he contemplated his place on Team Canada '04.

He'd played through such injuries before, many times. At the 2002 Olympics, he was basically a player skating on one leg with mashed knee ligaments in the other, but he performed well enough to be part of Canada's top line en route to gold.

This time, he was the lone player notified in advance that he would be named to the Canadian roster, such is the respect Wayne Gretzky has for the Detroit Red Wing captain.

As the summer wore on, Gretzky kept checking in, wondering if Yzerman would be able to play, wondering when he would be able to commit.

As training camp drew near in August, Yzerman agonized over the decision, but finally decided that even though he was healthy enough to play, he couldn't help the team.

Not an easy thing for such a proud athlete to admit.

But Yzerman went further. He told Gretzky that the 24-year-old Lecavalier was just the player to replace him, and in his mind he almost certainly looked back to the 1996 World Cup and a roster filled with too many worn veterans that couldn't get it done in the end against the Americans.

He undoubtedly felt this was the perfect time to hand the baton to another member of Canada's ongoing relay from generation to generation of hockey bluebloods.

He was proven right. Lecavalier made it so.

When Lecavalier showed that sublime skill for which he has long been recognized last night at 3:45 of the first overtime to beat the Czechs, you have to believe Yzerman was watching and smiling.

Remember that list of Canadian scoring heroes? Yzerman's on it, too.

He scored eight years ago in OT against Sweden to push Canada into the World Cup final, and here, eight years later, was his injury replacement doing the very same thing.

So add Yzerman in '96 against the Swedes to that list.

Maybe he would have made a difference last night as well, but it's also reasonable to suggest that only a handful of players in the world could have made the shot Lecavalier did to win the game.

When he scored, after fanning on his first attempt, he was skating backwards away from the net at a terrible angle with all the expectations of his country on his shoulders, and he drained it.

Drained it with the same cool as another Canadian lefty, Mike Weir, exhibited on the 18th green to win the 2003 Masters.

Until then, Lecavalier wasn't exactly having the most memorable night of his young career.

For much of the game, it seemed he wasn't seeing the ice much, a byproduct of the Canadian coaching staff's commitment to playing Kris Draper, Shane Doan and Joe Thornton against the top Czech line featuring Jaromir Jagr.

Lecavalier was the Canadian player pulled down by Jiri Fischer. This created a power play for Canada in the second period, and he also was the player kneeling in front just before Fischer was to return to the ice and accidentally used his behind to block a Brad Richards shot headed for the open net.

Fortuitously for Lecavalier and Canada, the puck bounced directly to Mario Lemieux, who whipped it home to make it 2-0.

Lecavalier drew a dubious assist for that one, and the next time his name was announced it again wasn't for a wondrous deed.

The call was dreadful by referee Paul Devorski, but nonetheless Lecavalier was sent off for holding Roman Hamrlik in the offensive zone in the seventh minute of the third, and 41 seconds later Martin Havlat scored to tie the game 2-2.

But the play that will be remembered was how the Man Formerly Known as The Michael Jordan of Hockey somehow turned a one-on-three rush in OT into his first gigantic contribution to Canadian shinny history.

Canada's youth, so jittery and uncertain much of the night, was finally served, making the selflessness of an absent warrior a contribution too important to overlook.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


The world stops to remember and not forget all of those who lost their lives on September 11 2001.

NYC Port Authority to join lawsuit against Saudis

NYC Port Authority to join lawsuit against Saudis


NEW YORK — The government agency that owns the World Trade Center site said Friday it intends to hold Saudi Arabia and nearly 100 other defendants liable for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the complex.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it planned to join Friday as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed a week ago by Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, a bond trading firm that lost two-thirds of its workers in the trade centre attack.

"We also have a responsibility to the millions of people who live and work in the region as well as to our bondholders to pursue every legal avenue to recover the losses we sustained on Sept. 11," the Port Authority said in a statement.

The agency lost 84 of its employees in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Cantor Fitzgerald lawsuit named as defendants Saudi Arabia, al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and other accused terrorists, along with financial institutions and charitable organizations that allegedly raised money for terrorism efforts.

Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees in the attacks, seeks $7 billion US in damages. It accused Saudi Arabia of supporting al-Qaida with money, safe houses, weapons and money laundering.

Saudi Arabia — the birthplace of bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers — has defended itself as a loyal ally in the fight against terrorism. It cited the Sept. 11 Commission's conclusion that the Saudi government did not fund al-Qaida.

Still, the commission criticized Saudi Arabia as "a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism."

Americans are from Mars , Canadians from........

Americans are from Mars, Canadians are from Venus
Thanks to a growing cultural divide, selling to Americans is getting trickier. Demographer Michael Adams suggests how to bridge the gap

By Rebecca Gardiner
PROFIT-X / July 15, 2004

Despite the common assumption of an increased Americanization of Canada, there is actually a growing cultural divide, says Michael Adams, president of Toronto-based Environics Research Group and author of Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the myth of converging values. recently ask Adams what Canadians need to keep in mind when doing business with Americans.

How are Canadians so different from Americans?

ADAMS: Most people presume Canadians are just unarmed Americans with parkas and that there really is no difference. It seems commonsensical — research shows that 90% of both Canadians and Americans think the family is the most important thing in their lives. Mind you, 90% of people in Iran think that too.

But looking at the structure of authority in the family, things are different. One of the aspects we use to monitor this is the statement that the "father of the family must be the authority in his house." What we find in Canada is that about 18% of us in the year 2000 believed this to be true, while in the U.S. it was 49%. Since 2000, these numbers have been increasing in the U.S and decreasing in Canada.

What does this growing cultural divide mean for business?

ADAMS: Two things. First, the American way is to have a strong father, a commander-in-chief, to whom you give all the power and say "lead us to the promised land" — whether that's in business or foreign policy. Down there, they are looking for leaders to be leaders. They want someone with a plan who can identify the "enemy" and can be followed to great success or until he and the company implodes. Canadians, on the other hand, might sit down and figure out a plan together. It's much more collaborative here and less hierarchical.

Second, when it comes to family and business, we just think of things differently. A Canadian thinks "my family comes first" so when the meeting that started at 5:00 pm and was supposed to be over by 5:45 pm drags on until 6 p.m., the Canadian says, "My family comes first I've got to go home and be with my kid." Whereas the American says "I can't possibly leave this meeting at six o'clock and jeopardize my standing in this company. I can't have people questioning my loyalty or I might be overlooked for the next promotion."

So each country expresses the primacy of family in a different way. In Canada it's more of an attitude that employees really do matter and their values are important. People are not as intimidated by the potential of a loss of a promotion or the loss of a job, because they can go elsewhere. In the U.S., on the other hand, there is much more concern about the loss of a job or the loss of a promotion. Why are Americans more focused on their employment status?

ADAMS: Americans are living much closer to the line. They have much higher personal debt, and are much less likely than Canadians to pay off their monthly credit card bills. They are living more on the edge to afford the materialism that is the promise of the American dream.

Canadian culture tilts more towards saying, "You know life is more than standard of living — it's also about the quality of life." In America, quality of life is standard of living. It's a culture that expresses itself in a more material way; ours is more experiential. Americans spend a lot of money on stuff that are symbols of where they are in the status hierarchy. Here, boomers are starting to think they don't need stuff — it drags them down so they are looking for experiences. So if I'm Canadian and looking to export to the U.S. or expanding my business there, what do I need to keep in mind?

ADAMS: It's more competitive in the States and there's much more of a sense that you get your just desserts. If you make a million bucks, great, but if you're a bad guy and get thrown in the clink, you deserve that, too. Expect it to be rougher, tougher and less secure. There's a constant sense of apocalyptic anxiety — that something bad might happen. You know: the next sniper, the next terrorist bombing.

On the other hand, doing business in the U.S. you'll find more people who are really motivated. It's an aspirational culture and one where people are willing to make great sacrifices. So you know you can probably pay them less on the option that they will share the wealth when you succeed. It's more of a Vegas attitude — if you've got a great opportunity, people are more willing to roll the dice to realize the American dream of rags to riches and log cabin to the White House.

© 2004 Rogers Media Inc.

NYT balks at Moore's 9/11 Movie

NYT balks at Moore's 9/11 book


NEW YORK — The New York Times will not permit Michael Moore to include an article criticizing its own reporting for an upcoming companion book to the DVD release of the filmmaker's Fahrenheit 9-11.

"We strongly value the Times's neutrality in its election coverage and we are determined not to associate ourselves with any work in film or print that attacks either candidate," New York Times spokesperson Catherine Mathis said in a statement released yesterday.

Moore's The Official Fahrenheit 9-11 Reader is scheduled to come out next month in conjunction with the DVD release of Fahrenheit 9-11, Moore's take on President George W. Bush, the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The movie, which relentlessly criticizes and ridicules the president, has earned more than $100 million at the box office, a record for a documentary.

The Times article, published in May, was a self-analysis of the newspaper's pre-Iraq war reporting, including Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

"In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged," according to the article.

Moore's publisher, Simon & Schuster, said several other publications granted Moore permission to use material, including the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Only the Times refused.

"Michael Moore attracts controversy and this is no exception," David Rosenthal, Simon & Schuster's executive vice-president and publisher, said in a statement Friday.

Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the top honour at the Cannes Film Festival in May, was controversial even before it reached theatres in July. The movie lost its original distributor when the Walt Disney Co. refused to let subsidiary Miramax Films release it because of its political content.

Miramax chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein bought back the film and arranged for independent distribution through Lions Gate Films and IFC Films.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

NHL disappointed

NHL 'extremely disappointed' by proposal


The NHL Players' Association delivered its first proposal since last October to the NHL on Thursday but it did little to avoid the looming lockout.

The league was not impressed by the union's offer, which did not include a salary cap.

"We are extremely disappointed with what the union presented to us today," Bill Daly, the NHL's executive vice-president, said in a statement. "Not only did the union's proposal fail to move the process forward toward a resolution but, in fact, represented a step backwards in the process."

Daly added that "no further meetings are scheduled at this point."

Still, the new offer may score the Players' Association some points in the public relations war by making the union look willing to negotiate as the NHL prepares to play the heavy in the labour dispute, possibly triggering a lockout next week.

The collective bargaining agreement expires Wednesday at midnight EDT.

The NHLPA's executive committee joined executive director Bob Goodenow, associate counsel Ian Pulver, outside counsel John McCambridge and Saskin for Thursday's meeting, which began at 1 p.m. EDT and ended at 5:10 p.m. in downtown Toronto.

The committee, made up of active NHL players, consists of president Trevor Linden, vice-presidents Bob Boughner, Vincent Damphousse, Daniel Alfredsson, Bill Guerin, Trent Klatt and Arturs Irbe.

Alfredsson and Guerin were not there because of the World Cup.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and Daly were joined on the league side by owners from their executive committee, including Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss (chairman of the board), Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs (chairman of the finance committee), as well as Nashville Predators owner Craig Leopold, Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, Minnesota Wild chairman Bob Naegele and New Jersey Devils CEO and GM Lou Lamoriello.

It was the first time players and owners were at a negotiating session since Oct. 1, when the NHLPA made its last proposal (although the league claims it was June 2003). The NHLPA proposed a system at that time that included a luxury tax, revenue sharing, a one-time five per cent rollback in salaries and some changes to the entry-level system. It was quickly rejected by the league.

"As we predicted, two weeks ago in Ottawa, the union has simply repackaged its original unacceptable and ineffective proposal from 15 months ago — and even watered it down. Even under the union's modelling and projections, which we do not agree with or accept, more than half of our clubs would still lose money and nearly a third of the clubs would still lose in excess of $10 million (all funds US) each season.

"Nothing more clearly demonstrates the union's unwillingness to acknowledge or meaningfully address this league's problems than this recycled proposal."

The league offered six new "concepts" July 25 but they were rejected by the union Aug. 17.

The current collective agreement, twice renewed over 10 years, has seen salaries grow from an average of $733,000 in 1994-95 to $1.83 million in 2003-04. League-wide revenues have also risen during that span, but the NHL says not at the same pace. In fact, the league says it lost $273 million in 2002-03.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Team Canada rolls over Team Slovakia

Iggy comes through in clutch


Jarome Iginla ended his scoring slump with two goals as Canada rolled over Slovakia 5-0 on Wednesday night to advance to the semifinals of the World Cup of Hockey.

Iginla scored during an outburst of four goals in a 9:20 span of the second period and added another in the third frame as Canada improved to 4-0 in the tournament.

Canada next plays the Czech Republic in the semifinals Saturday (CBC, 6:30 p.m. EDT). The United States plays Finland on Friday night in the other semifinal (CBC, 7 p.m. EDT).

"It's going to be a tough game," Iginla told CBC. "We've been watching them, we realize it's not how you start a tournament and they're starting to rev up now.

"They've scored a lot of goals lately, they've got a lot of fire power. So it's going to be a good one." The final of the eight-team tournament is Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Vincent Lecavalier, Iginla, Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth tallied in the second-period spree that chased starting goaltender Jan Lasak in favour of Rastislav Stana at 11:48.

Shots were 26-23 in favour of Canada as Martin Brodeur earned his first shutout.

An announced crowd of 18,786 - 33 fewer than a sellout at the Air Canada Centre - watched Canada's top line of Mario Lemieux, Iginla and Sakic put on a show.

"It's such a treat playing with Mario and Joe Sakic," said Iginla. "You know you're going to get chances playing with them."

Iginla, who had a first-period goal disallowed because he pushed Lasak into the net with the puck, finally got on the board after being thwarted on numerous chances in the first three games.

The injury-riddled Slovaks made a game of it for 20 minutes.

The team that took the ice was much changed from the loose, risk-taking squad that went 0-3 during round robin play. This group played as five-man units, was watchful on defence and was not outplayed in the first period.

But Lecavalier scored that critical first goal 2:28 into the second frame and Canada took control.

After Miroslav Satan was sent off for tripping Shane Doan, Brad Richards blew past Radoslav Suchy on the rush and fed his Tampa Bay teammate Lecavalier for a blast into an open net.

No team has won yet in the tournament after giving up the opening goal and it caused the Slovaks to sag and begin losing most of the battles for the puck.

Less than three minutes later, Iginla came off the boards and slid a shot to the far post that looked to go in off a Slovak defender battling in the crease with Lemieux.

Dany Heatley then won a race for the puck and fed a backhand pass to the onrushing Lecavalier, whose backhand shot was tipped in at the net by Smyth at 11:29.

Only 19 seconds later, Sakic finished a tic-tac-toe rush with Iginla and Lemieux.

Iginla was sent in on the right side to score on a shot to the far post 7:49 into the third period.

Brodeur was rarely tested, but he made a fine stop on Lubos Bartecko on a shot from the edge of the crease midway through the second period.

Brodeur also took a penalty for a slash on Richard Zednik in the middle frame and the penalty was served by the 38-year-old Lemieux.

Canada has yet to trail in a game. Slovakia went 0-4.

Notes: Finland and the Czech Republic both practised in Toronto on Wednesday. ... A surprise scratch for Slovakia was defenceman Richard Lintner, who had played on the first defence pair with Zdeno Chara. Also scratched was Ladislav Cierny while defencemen Jaroslav Obsut and Radoslav Suchy returned to the line-up. ... Canada's scratches were the same as the last two games: goalie Jose Theodore and forwards Patrick Marleau, Kirk Maltby and Brenden Morrow. Defencemen Wade Redden (shoulder) and Ed Jovanovski (knee) are injured.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Border may remain closed to Canadian cattle

Border may stay closed: Harper
Protectionist forces winning in U.S., Conservative leader says


OTTAWA - The U. S. border won't likely re-open to Canada's beef exports until after 2005 - if then, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper warned today.

In a pessimistic statement, Harper said Canada will have to find internal solutions to the mad cow crisis that has devastated the beef industry, because it could be a very long wait for crucial export markets to reopen.

"We still do not know when the border will re-open," Harper told a brief news conference, one of his first in Ottawa since the June federal election.

"And frankly, given the strength of protectionist forces in the United States and given the ongoing Liberal mismanagement of Canada-U.S. relations, I do not believe we can know if the border will, in fact, reopen.

"This is strictly a political problem. It has nothing - nothing whatsoever, to do with the quality and safety of Canadian beef."

While Harper hinted that better relations between Canada's Liberal government and Washington might improve matters, he also suggested U.S. authorities are in no rush to solve the problem.

"Bad relations . . . have in my judgment without a doubt played a role in how poorly this has run its course," Harper said.

"That said, the ongoing American closure is without justification . . . this is simply a question of protectionism."

The crisis, which has cost Canadian producers billions, was triggered when a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered on a northern Alberta farm in May 2003.

The border was immediately shut to exports and while the U.S. now allows some cuts of beef to cross, certain live cattle exports from Canada remain banned.

Worsening matters, a BSE case was discovered in Washington state in December, making it impossible for U.S. producers to export, especially to the important Japanese market.

The issue has driven down beef prices paid to Canadian producers and left them with herds they can't afford to feed this winter.

Producers have suggested a range of solutions to make the Canadian industry more self-sufficient, from increasing slaughter and processing capacity to short-term financial aid until prices improve.

Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell, who recently met his U.S. counterpart Ann Veneman to push for a speedy border opening, denied his Liberal government has mismanaged the issue.

And he accused Harper of playing politics with a complex issue.

"Rather than trying out political rhetoric, I think we ought to be focusing on the specific issues that face us," he said during a Liberal retreat in Kelowna, B.C.

"I'm not going to speculate on a border opening, but I'm determined to work with the industry, with the provinces on developing made-in-Canada solutions," added Mitchell.

"We need to ensure that our producers have an opportunity to sustain and build an industry."

But there's not much more the Canadian government or the industry could do on the diplomatic front, said feedlot operator Jack de Boer.

"The U.S. government is in a protectionist mode and until they get their markets back from Japan and other countries, I don't think they're interested in our beef," said De Boer, who holds about 15,000 head of cattle in southern Alberta.

Harper said short-term, low-interest loans might be possible to help producers. But he didn't give details or put a price tag on potential solutions.

Harper did call for more study and meetings on the mad cow crisis, especially on how to cope with a longtime border closure.

"We have to look at the indefinite shutting of the border. . . what are our plans going to be if the border remains fully or partly shut?" said Harper.

"It is completely unfair, American actions in this case are blatantly protectionist and without regard to their trading responsibilities."

De Boer said Canada may have to take the fight to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, a long, costly process.

"That's a longshot, but I think our government at some point has got to take up that challenge and I think the time is here."

Happy 6th Birthday Google

Happy Birthday Google

Monday, September 06, 2004

Hurricane IVAN churns ahead

Hurricane Ivan churns in Frances' wake


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - Islanders scrambled to put up storm shutters and stock up on supplies as the fourth major hurricane of the season churned closer to the Caribbean, packing sustained winds of 105 mph.

Hurricane warnings were issued for Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. Martinique was place under a hurricane watch, while Trinidad and Tobago were under a tropical storm warning.

Barbados' Prime Minister Owen Arthur convened an emergency session of the Cabinet Monday to plan a strategy against Hurricane Ivan.

"Ivan poses a direct and serious threat to Barbados," Arthur said. Government offices closed early. The first day of the new academic year was scheduled for Monday, but children were ordered to remain home as teachers helped convert school buildings into hurricane shelters.

Ivan's winds weakened from 125 mph to 105 mph Monday, but it was still a powerful Category 2 storm. Forecasters said that the hurricane could regain force by the time it reaches land by Tuesday morning.

"It's still a strong hurricane," said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. ``Barbados and other islands could see trees blown down, roof damage and it doesn't take much wind to damage crops.''

Ivan's outer bands could start affecting Barbados by late Monday, Blake said.

At 5 p.m., the hurricane's centre was about 305 miles east-southeast of Barbados. It was expected to hit the island of 280,000 residents by Tuesday morning and was moving toward the west-northwest near 22 mph.

Hammers pounded throughout the capital of Bridgetown on Monday as metal hurricane shutters and wooden planks were used to cover windows and doors. Islanders also rushed to buy supplies like lanterns, kerosene, bottled water, canned food, flashlights and batteries. Long lines formed at gas stations.

The manager of Dacosta Mannings hardware store in Bridgetown reported a heavy influx of shoppers. "People were here before the store opened and when it did they rushed for the hurricane preparedness centre," Donna Susan Hinds said.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 50 miles from Ivan's centre while tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.

Ivan became the fourth major hurricane of the season on Sunday afternoon, following Hurricane Frances, which left at least two dead in the Bahamas and carved out a path of destruction that stretched from the Turks and Caicos Islands to the U.S. state of Florida.

Ivan could threaten Florida but it was too early to tell, meteorologists said. It is also forecast to move over St. Lucia, a former British colony of 165,000 residents.

"We have a major deadly storm approaching St. Lucia and we need to be prepared," said Dawn French, director of the island's National Emergency Management Office.

St. Lucia's Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony called an emergency planning meeting and ordered all government offices and businesses closed on Tuesday.

St. Lucians crammed into supermarkets to buy supplies including candles, batteries and bottled water. "I'm taking no chances. This one looks serious," said 27-year-old shopper Cuthbert Lyons, who is St. Lucian but is on vacation from Britain.