GM continues to shake up leadership of money-losing European unit

DETROIT – A leadership shake-up at General Motors Co.’s money-losing European unit continued Monday as the company named Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky as head of the board that oversees the bulk of GM’s operations on the continent.

Girsky replaces Nick Reilly, who resigned from the Opel supervisory board and announced his retirement as president of GM Europe earlier this month.

GM also appointed Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann and International Operations President Tim Lee to the 20-member Opel board, which governs Adam Opel AG, made up of GM’s Opel brand and its British Vauxhall brand. Lee will take the post created with Girsky’s promotion to chairman, while Ammann will take a seat vacated by Opel sales and marketing Chief Financial Officer Keith Ward.

In 2009, Girsky led a successful effort to shoot down plans to sell GM’s European operations to a group of investors led by Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. Girsky, a former financial analyst, has served on the Opel board since January of 2010. He has represented the United Auto Workers union’s retiree health care trust fund on the GM board since July of 2009, when the company emerged from bankruptcy protection.

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“GM is committed to Opel and wants the brand to grow in a profitable way,” Girsky said in a statement. “To realize Opel’s full potential, we will continue to optimize its cost structure, improve margins and better leverage GM’s scale.”

GM announced earlier this month that Reilly would retire as head of GM Europe in March of next year. Opel-Vauxhall CEO Karl Stracke, a former chief of engineering at GM, will replace him starting Jan. 1.

GM’s European unit swung to a pretax loss of $292 million in the third quarter. The loss forced GM to back off of a forecast of breaking even in Europe this year.

Europe faces a financial crisis and could slip into recession. Growth is slow is several key nations. Italy, the region’s third-biggest economy, is bucking under the weight of government debt, and the region is dealing with high unemployment, stingy bank lending and declining exports.

GM CEO Dan Akerson said earlier this month when the company announced its third-quarter results that the European performance is unacceptable and said GM must look for more ways to control costs. But he stopped short of giving specifics or talking about plant closures or layoffs.

Last week, Akerson also wouldn’t give specifics, but he made reference to French competitor Peugeot Citroen SA’s plan cut 6,000 jobs because of flat demand in Europe.

Sales in Europe are about 18 per cent of GM’s 2.2 million global total, but they are expected to weaken as the economy slows in the fourth quarter.

GM shares fell 53 cents, or 2.4 per cent, to $21.15 as the broader market dropped in afternoon trading.

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KJ can barely see over steering wheel, but he can drive monster trucks like pro

OCALA, Fla. – Kaid Jaret Olson-Weston is strapped into a 1,270-kilogram half-scale monster truck, humming playfully as he waits for the green light.

KJ, as he is known to his fans, sits patiently as he and his coach go over the safety features in his truck.

The roll cage is lowered. KJ starts the engine and jumps over humps of dirt before crushing a beat-up car. He spins the truck – and its 90-kilogram tires – clockwise, then backwards, leaving behind a cloud of dust in its tracks at his training centre in Ocala, Fla.

Despite these feats, KJ can barely see over the steering wheel. At eight years old, he is the youngest monster truck driver.

“I’d never seen anybody that young,” said Rev Prochnow, who started the American Monster Truck Association 20 years ago.

KJ, a somewhat shy kid with a passion for “everything else you can name with a motor in it” performs across the U.S. at about 60 different shows every year, from large arenas to small fairs. He signs hundreds of autographs at each show, but still considers himself an average kid.

“I do really good in school and am able to drive this, which people think it might be hard but it’s actually pretty easy,” he said.

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Monster truck driving is growing in popularity and that’s why it’s catching the attention of young drivers like KJ.

“All the big names recognize that this is it, this is coming,” said Tod Olson-Weston, KJ’s coach and father, who is starting to train eight other young drivers through his company Uncle Tod’s Motorsports.

KJ drives half-scale trucks, which are about half the size and a quarter of the weight of a regular monster truck.

“There is a distinction between what he’s doing and what we do,” said Marty Garza, spokesman for the Monster Truck Racing Association, which does not allow drivers under the age of 18 to perform in full-fledged monster truck events. KJ’s has a 200-horsepower truck compared to the larger monster trucks which have 1,500 or 2,000 horsepower.

“It would be like calling a go-kart a race car,” Garza said.

The MTRA, which has a 25-year history of developing safety standards for the industry, does acknowledge that the smaller trucks are very well built in terms of the safety for the driver. And although KJ doesn’t say much while he’s driving, his coach is in constant communication with him through a headset worn beneath his helmet.

“We can appreciate what he’s doing and he’s the ultimate fan,” Garza said. “As long as he’s in a controlled environment and all the safety precautions are taken to make sure that no one is in any sort of danger, we don’t have a problem with it.”

There has been opposition from other organizations, though.

The Monster Truck Challenge said in an email that having drivers this young is “not something we want to be associated with.” And Monster Jam, the world’s largest monster truck tour with more than 350 events in North America and Europe annually, said that although “KJ has a unique skill” it “does not intend to pursue youth mini-monster truck performances/competitions for its events.”

“Put all that aside, you look at it and say he knows how to control it. He knows how to handle it. He’s safe around the people. He’s mature,” Tod Olson-Weston said of his son. “His passion for monster truck driving is clearly there.”

KJ’s Monster Bear truck was customized to fit his size and has all the safety features required in a monster truck: A five-point safety harness. Neck restraints to keep his head from moving too far. Custom built seat. Pedals can slide to position. A fire-suppressant system and a Kid KJ helmet. There is also the Remote Ignition Interrupt System, which can stop the truck on a radio command.

KJ’s younger brother and mother also drive monster trucks, so the sport is a family business – and a costly one. Each half-scale truck costs between $50,000 and $100,000. (The larger monster trucks which costs between $150,000 and $250,000.)

“My family loves monster trucks,” Tod Olson-Weston said. “And I am right there with them.”

As for KJ, he is looking forward to being able to drive a truck that is “a lot bigger.”

“I’m probably going to be even more fearless,” he said.

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Place d’Armes: Old Montreal’s public square cradle of city’s long history

MONTREAL – It’s the frequently overlooked public square that rests in the shadow of Old Montreal’s captivating Notre-Dame Basilica and only a statue of the city’s founder offers a hint of its significance.

Place d’Armes is one of the most-visited sites in Montreal but sightseers usually stroll across its cobblestones to line up the perfect photo of the iconic Basilica’s towers. Few realize the 320-year-old plaza itself radiates the city’s long history.

Now, after a two-year, multimillion-dollar facelift, one of Montreal’s oldest public squares has reopened to the public.

Over the centuries, Place d’Armes has been a graveyard, military parade ground, transportation hub and gathering point for major events. Its name literally means “place of weapons” but parade ground would be a better translation.

Until 1834, the square also held a secret. The missing, decapitated head from a bust of Britain’s King George III sat submerged in its well, where American invaders had plunked it more than half a century earlier.

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Today, Place d’Armes is easily recognized by its statue of founder Paul de Chomedy de Maisonneuve but the space’s most-striking characteristic lies in the fact it’s wedged between architectural treasures spanning several centuries.

Standing in the centre of the plaza, visitors can take in a quick historical tour of Montreal in one 360-degree spin.

There’s the old seminary and Basilica that represent the initial Catholic influence, a classical bank building from a time when the area was the cradle of Canada’s financial power and foreign architectural designs that signal Montreal’s emergence as an international city.

“You also see the clash of these functions, which is basically part of the DNA of Montreal,” Dinu Bumbaru, director of Heritage Montreal, said of the recently renovated Place d’Armes.

“That statue of Maisonneuve . . . is like the pivot of the whole space – everything rotates around it. I think it’s one of those anchors in time.”

This unique historical panorama provided at Place d’Armes makes it a regular stop for students taught by McGill architecture Prof. Julia Gersovitz.

The buildings bordering the square include the old Sulpician seminary (built in the 1680s), the gothic-revival-styled Notre-Dame Basilica (1820s), the Bank of Montreal building (1840s), the red sandstone New York Life Insurance Building (1880s), the 96-metre, art-deco Aldred Building (1930s) and a more modern bank building (1960s).

Gersovitz says the plaza offers the quickest-possible history lesson about Montreal’s transfer of power but she notes the area is often overlooked.

“You’re often focused on the built environment, rather than the squares or the public spaces that help to define that built environment,” she said.

“There’s a lot that happened in the negative space that isn’t built up, that has an impact on us.”

Until recently, the square, which is visited by five million people annually, was hidden behind construction fences as it underwent a $15.5-million makeover.

During the excavation, workers found the remains of around 200 people in an old cemetery linked to the original church that sat on the square – before the Basilica was completed. The city says it moved the remains to a cemetery on Mont Royal.

Through its history, Place d’Armes has also held other secrets – one of them that decapitated head from a monument to King George III.

The bust was erected in the square in 1766 as a power symbol of the British Empire, according to the website of Montreal’s McCord Museum, where the item is now displayed. The museum says that in 1774 angry British citizens vandalized the monument after the Quebec Act came into effect, giving new privileges to French Canadians.

“They painted it black, hung a potato rosary around its neck and topped it with a sign reading, ‘Behold, the Pope of Canada, or the English idiot,’ ” the museum says.

The king’s woes continued a few months later when American soldiers stormed into Montreal. The monument was beheaded and the bust disappeared and didn’t turn up until 1834.

Bumbaru said the statue of a British king was a natural target around the time of the American Revolution.

“So they started making jokes about it and then cut his head off and dropped it in the well,” he said of the invaders.

Place d’Armes has also held its share of crowds who tried to get into the Basilica for major events. These include the funerals of hockey legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard and former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as well as singer Celine Dion’s wedding.

“This is not a full summary of Montreal, because we have many other things elsewhere, but it’s a wonderful anchor,” said Bumbaru.

If you go. . .

Getting there: Place d’Armes is in Old Montreal, right in front of Notre-Dame Basilica. The best option is a trip on the subway (Metro) to Place d’Armes station. But there are many parking lots and parking spots available on nearby streets.

Accommodations: There are lots of hotels within a short walk of Place d’Armes.

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Former AIG chief Greenberg’s company suing US over bailout, saying it violated Constitution

WASHINGTON – A company run by the former CEO of American International Group Inc. is suing the government for US$25 billion in damages over its taxpayer bailout of the big insurer.

Former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg’s current company – Starr International – filed lawsuits Monday in federal courts against the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The suits accuse the government of taking valuable assets from AIG’s shareholders without their consent or fair compensation, in exchange for the government’s 80 per cent stake in the company. The suit says the government’s actions violate parts of the Fifth Amendment.

Much of the $182 billion in rescue money that AIG got from the government went to pay the New York-based firm’s obligations to big banks.

Starr International was the largest shareholder in AIG. It is suing on behalf of AIG and the AIG shareholders and says the $25 billion or more in damages it wants represents the market value of the 563 million shares the government received, as of last Jan. 14.

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“The government is not empowered to trample shareholder and property rights even in the midst of a financial emergency,” Starr International says in the suits. It contends that the government discriminated in its action against AIG, by refusing to provide loans or loan guarantees or access to the Fed’s discount borrowing window as it had to other financial institutions such as Citigroup Inc.

The AIG shareholders didn’t agree “to the proposed taking of their property rights,” the lawsuits say. They were filed against the government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington and against the New York Fed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Tim Massad, Treasury’s assistant secretary for financial stability, said “It is important to remember that the government provided assistance to AIG – and stopped it from collapsing – in order to prevent a meltdown of the entire global financial system.

“Our actions were necessary, legal and constitutional,” Massad said in a statement. “We are reviewing the lawsuit and expect to defend our actions vigorously.”

AIG’s latest repayment to the Treasury, $972 million on Oct. 31, brought its outstanding balance from the bailout down to about $68 billion. The government now owns 77 per cent of AIG’s common stock, having sold shares to reduce its stake.

Treasury has recouped $18 billion of the $68 billion it provided to AIG through the government’s so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program. The rest of the money came from the New York Fed, to meet AIG’s obligations to its Wall Street trading partners on financial instruments called credit default swaps. AIG has repaid all but $17.5 billion of those loans.

After the subprime mortgage bubble burst in 2007, the credit default swaps – which insured against default of the securities tied to the mortgages – collapsed. That pushed AIG to the brink. The company got an initial $85 billion infusion from the government on Sept. 16, 2008. The aid ultimately grew to $182 billion.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the rescue money also received federal bailout infusions themselves. They included Goldman Sachs Group, Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup.

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Ottawa and provinces to formally begin talks for post-2014 health deal

OTTAWA – The federal government will officially begin discussions on the next health- care accord this week – talks that will define the fiscal and social-policy relationship between Ottawa and the provinces for years to come.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is to meet her provincial counterparts in Halifax on Friday for their first formal talks on how to reform and pay for health care after the current agreement expires in 2014.

“This will be an opportunity to talk about what’s working and begin to talk about what principles will guide upcoming decisions about health care,” said Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for Aglukkaq.

Billions of dollars and the quality of hospitals, medical treatment and prevention measures are at stake, as is the very nature of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s relationship with the provinces.

The federal government is providing $27 billion to the provinces for health care this fiscal year, an amount that is set to rise by six per cent a year for the next four years even as Ottawa struggles to balance its books.

But the provinces provide the bulk of the funding – often at the expense of other programs and their general fiscal health.

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They are desperate to find ways to wrestle down costs and that process is well underway in many provinces. Ontario, for example, has pledged to hold health-care increases to just one per cent a year. And other provinces are poised to cut outright.

“How do we, facing the challenges that we face now as a country, ensure that we don’t break the bank, but that we continue to have a system which ensures healthier Canadians?” asked health-law expert Maureen McTeer, who leads a Canadian Nurses Association task force.

McTeer says the federal and provincial ministers need to find a way to preserve an acceptable acute-care system based in hospitals and complement it with much better and more efficient primary care based in communities.

But the formal beginning of the health-care talks this week is a soft launch.

The ministers are only devoting an hour to the topic during their meetings.

“There are still more than two years until the health accord expires and it’s important to point out that work is underway on a number of topics that affect the health of Canadians,” said Outhouse. “These initial discussions will be one of several agenda items this Friday.”

The health ministers don’t plan to tackle the thorny issue of who will pay for the mounting costs. That will be left to finance ministers.

Critics fear the fiscal squeeze will mean cuts to health care or privatization and they plan to make their concerns known loudly from the margins of the meetings.

But the tough decisions are still a ways off. The recent round of provincial elections means most of the provincial health ministers are new to their jobs, and not yet ready to plunge into serious negotiations.

And Ottawa has taken off some of the heat by promising to continue six-per-cent annual increases in funding for two years beyond the expiry of the current accord in 2014.

Plus, the federal government has made it clear it does not want to conduct the kind of crisis-fuelled negotiation that former prime minister Paul Martin conducted earlier this decade. Conservative insiders say that kind of atmosphere led to long-lasting, but poor decisions, with little accountability.

While ministers have only just begun formally setting out their bargaining positions, officials at both levels of government have been preparing the groundwork for almost a year.

At the same time, a range of professional groups and researchers have conducted their own cross-country hearings and investigations into the state of health care.

There seems to be a consensus that the long-time focus on acute care in hospitals is insufficient, said McTeer. But there is also a realization that to expand publicly funded health care beyond its current realm would require finding significant reforms and savings elsewhere.

But where those efficiencies can be found and whether or not governments can afford them as the population ages are open questions. At the same time, calls for more home care, better palliative care and a national pharmacare program are growing constantly louder.

McTeer’s task force and others call for a national, consensus-building conference next year to give governments a solid basis to build upon.

At this point, the policy makers and the experts are talking past each other, noted economist Don Drummond said in a recent report.

“Many analysts and health-care stakeholders have been sounding the alarm: Canada’s health system is unsustainable. But their alarms are not being heard by the public and government action is slow and incremental,” he said.

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As holidays approach, how do you battle ‘gimmes,’ teach teens to be charitable?

NEW YORK, N.Y. – As the daughter of a minister, Jennifer James travelled frequently while her family served the less fortunate, from the rural heartland to the inner city. A lot of the time, she went without as a kid.

“My earliest memories are of working among the homeless in downtown Los Angeles, dipping ice cream for drunks,” she said. “I learned a lot and I was a better person for it, but there was a lot of pain along the way.”

In her zeal to spare her own three kids, the 44-year-old mom in Oklahoma City, Okla., has given them a world she didn’t know – braces on their teeth and cushy furniture for their rooms, fancy computers and private schooling. But now, at 14, six and four, she realizes something is missing.

“Pretty soon it’s like the kids just expect it and think you’re giving so much because they’re just that fantastic and not because you’re making sacrifices,” James said. “They have no paradigm for sacrifice. Now I’m trying to wind the skein of yarn back up and it’s not easy.”

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Call it entitled child syndrome, the chronic gimmes or just plain spoiled. The lament is a familiar one for many well-meaning parents year round but intensifies at the holidays, especially among older kids who crank up gift demands but can’t be coaxed off the couch to give back.

Can you force a teen to lose all the push back in favour of a little charity?

“Parents need to get into the WHY behind why teens are not wanting to give,” said Tammy Gold, a parenting coach in Short Hills, N.J.

Is it selfishness never outgrown or volunteer fatigue after years of forced participation? Did you forget to “model” charity at home, or at least check in to figure out whether your own good deeds were rubbing off? Does your teen anticipate a material reward in return, or a bribe beforehand?

It may be one or all of the above, but Gold and other experts urge parents not to give up – or give in to foreboding that selfish teen equals grown-up sociopath.

It could be your reluctant volunteer just hasn’t found the right cause or has been mismatched in the past, said dad David Levinson, a Hollywood screenwriter who founded the Los Angeles community service organization Big Sunday (Bigsunday杭州龙凤).

“Everyone, even the youngest kids, has something that speaks to them, whether it’s homelessness, literacy, the environment, seniors, veterans, AIDS, animals, children,” he said. “At the same time, everyone has things that don’t speak to them, scare them, or turn them off. For me, it’s cats. For others it might be, say, homeless people. And, while they might be embarrassed to have that reaction, that’s OK.”

If your teen has no interest in cooking, forget the food kitchen as a way to wake up your sleeping giver. If he’s not a people person, working closely with the homeless or the infirm might bring out the shy and awkward in him instead.

“Personally, I hate paperwork, and I was stunned to discover that some people actually enjoy it and are good at it,” Levinson said.

He suggests projects that have a clear beginning, middle and an end, like cleaning up a single block or repainting a room at a shelter rather than pitching in on long-term problems with intangible solutions.

No matter how much nudging, a demand to participate isn’t the way to go.

“If you persist there’s a reasonable chance that they might actually do it, but there also is a chance that they won’t,” said Suffield, Conn., psychologist Anthony Wolf, who wrote a guide for parenting teens, “I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up.”

Wolf added: “Have in your head, ‘Well, what happens if I don’t get them to do it? Should I punish them?’ That’s a singularly terrible idea.”

Encourage teens to look for volunteer opportunities on their own, said Donna Henderson, a professor of counselling at Wake Forest University. And remember, they’re not babies anymore. “Because teens have more capacity for action, they can do more,” she said.

Disaster fatigue touches adults and kids alike, but parents should recognize and build on natural moments of empathy, said Michel Tvedt, the teen engagement expert for the aid group World Vision.

“Begin to give them a voice in family giving,” she said. “Let your teen know you would like to give a charitable gift as a family but that you’d love to let them be the final decision maker.”

As the holidays draw closer, Tvedt said, suggest that teens give loved ones charitable gifts instead of material gifts. “Teens will not respond well to guilt,” she said, and should be encouraged to “find their own identity as givers.”

Linda Cohen, whose blog 1000mitzvahs杭州龙凤 is loaded with suggested acts of kindness, unknowingly stumbled on that strategy with her 13-year-old daughter.

She felt deflated as a charitable-minded mom when she couldn’t get her own teen to decide on a mitzvah project last summer, ahead of her bat mitzvah. The push back, she said, was startling, until they found just the right project. The teen decided to collect gift cards with money left over on them to cash in and benefit an organization that provides art supplies to hospitalized kids.

Is she eager? “That might be a bit of a stretch,” Cohen said, “but at least she thinks the project is worthy of some of her time and attention. She’s 13, which means we needed to find something that speaks to her at this age.”

Wolf said parents shouldn’t lose sight of the end game if they fail to budge an intransigent teen.

“Whether they do or don’t participate,” he said, “the big picture is: ‘What I really care about is that they basically become a good person.’”

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Holocaust survivors donating ‘everyday objects’ to museums as survivors age, limit appearances

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A steamer trunk. Banquet table cloths. A nearly 160-year-old dollhouse.

As aging Holocaust survivors living around the United States age, they are slowly donating to museums everyday personal items that advocates say shed light on their plight in Nazi Germany.

The donated items are some of the survivors’ last physical links to the Holocaust, and they don’t want them collecting dust in attics and basements when they could be used to help tell a story, museum officials and curators say.

The Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, for example, this week will officially unveil an exhibit entitled “Hidden Treasures,” featuring a 158-year-old dollhouse owned by a German-Jewish family and hidden away during World War II.

In addition, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is offers to museum members a 2012 calendar highlighting 12 “extraordinary ordinary objects, each with an unforgettable story to tell.” Among the 12 items are a typewriter, a camera and a wedding band.

By donating items, survivors are connecting people to normal life at that time, something usually overshadowed by horrors, said Jerry Small, the New Mexico museum’s co-president.

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“These simple, everyday items represent and show a destroyed culture,” Small said. “To have these artifacts means we can show how people lived.”

Until recently, many Holocaust survivors spoke regularly to audiences and schools about their experiences in concentration camps, losing family members, living as refugees and fleeing to the United States.

But Regina Turner, founder and executive director of the New Mexico Human Rights Projects, said many survivors have passed away and only a few remain or are healthy enough to speak publicly. Seven years ago, for example, 15 Holocaust survivors took part in an Albuquerque school speakers’ series sponsored by Turner’s organization. Today, only six participate and most were young children living in hiding during the war, she said.

“This is truly the last generation,” Turner said. “Some of them have realized their mortality and they are donating what they have in order to tell their story.”

That’s what happened to Lilo Waxman, 91, of St. Louis.

In 1936, her family left Nazi Germany before the major persecution of Jews by Hitler started. They landed in New Mexico with the help of an uncle who was a major merchant in the state at the time. Her family was forced to leave many of their possessions in Germany, including a dollhouse that had been in the family for generations.

The dollhouse was hidden in a Christian friend’s attic in Germany, said Waxman, who lost family members to concentration camps. “The woman’s family didn’t even know it was there,” Waxman said in a telephone interview from her St. Louis home. “But there it was, hidden from the Nazis.”

After the war, Waxman’s family recovered the dollhouse, and she periodically showed it to friends and members of Temple Israel in St. Louis.

“But now I just can’t keep up with it, and I wanted to find a home for it,” Waxman said. “I don’t want these rooms getting lost.”


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州龙凤/russcontreras

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Judge denies request by doctor convicted in Michael Jackson’s death for new testing on vial

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A judge denied a request Monday by lawyers for the doctor convicted of causing Michael Jackson’s death to have an independent laboratory test the contents of a key vial of evidence.

Just days before the scheduled sentencing of Dr. Conrad Murray, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said defence attorneys could have sought the testing months ago or even during the doctor’s six-week trial but chose not to.

“You’re not involved in fishing, you’re involved in foraging,” Pastor said.

Murray’s attorneys wanted a lab to test a small amount of liquid found in a vial of the anesthetic propofol that authorities contend was used to help Jackson sleep on the day he died.

Defence lawyer J. Michael Flanagan argued the results would reveal the accuracy of a theory by a prosecution expert who testified that Murray left Jackson’s bedside while the singer was on an IV drip of propofol and the painkiller lidocaine.

Murray had been giving Jackson nightly doses of propofol to help the singer sleep as he prepared for a series of comeback concerts.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren contended there was no legal basis for the testing and said Murray received a fair trial.

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Pastor examined the propofol vial, which was found in the closet of Jackson’s bedroom, before issuing his ruling.

Flanagan said it didn’t occur to him that the contents of the vial should be tested until after the conclusion of Murray’s trial, which ended Nov. 7 with the conviction of the cardiologist on an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Flanagan said if prosecution expert Dr. Steven Shafer’s theory is correct, the small amount of liquid that remained in the vial should contain lidocaine. In that case, “that’s the ballgame” and would prove Murray did leave the singer alone on an IV drip, Flanagan said.

Flanagan also argued that Shafer didn’t tell jurors that he believed Murray injected lidocaine into the propofol vial until Shafer was called as a rebuttal witness in the final moments of testimony.

Walgren said Shafer and other witnesses acknowledged that they didn’t know exactly what happened in Jackson’s bedroom before the singer’s death on June 25, 2009. Shafer was one of several experts who told jurors that he could only theorize on events based on toxicology results, Murray’s statements to police and evidence found at the scene.

“Whether there was lidocaine in that bottle or not is completely irrelevant,” Walgren said.

Murray is set to be sentenced on Nov. 29. Walgren said he is finalizing work on a sentencing memorandum and several people may speak during the hearing. He did not say whether members of Jackson’s family, several of whom attended the trial daily, would offer statements.

Murray remains jailed and faces a possible sentence ranging from probation to up to four years.


Anthony McCartney can be reached at 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州龙凤/mccartneyAP

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America’s beloved ‘Sundance Kid’ asks for Canada’s help to take on oilsands

TORONTO – Hollywood heavyweight Robert Redford, fresh from a campaign against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, is setting his sights on Alberta’s oilsands.

In a column published today in the Globe and Mail newspaper, Redford denounces the oilsands development near Fort McMurray, Alta., and calls on Canadians to join him in his effort to shut down the project.

“Where spruce and fir and birch trees once rose and waters ran fresh and clean, tar-sands production has left a lifeless scar visible from outer space,” he writes.

The result, he continues, is “a vast repository of enduring pollution that threatens fish, birds, animals, public health and an entire way of life for native people.”

Redford, long a champion of environmental causes in the U.S., said he developed a greater appreciation of Canada’s natural wonders during a recent stretch in Vancouver, where he has been working on his latest directorial effort, “The Company you Keep.”

Extracting energy from the oilsands results in three times the amount of carbon emissions generated by producing conventional North American crude oil, Redford argues.

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He urges Canadians and Americans alike to reduce their oil consumption, speak out against the oilsands and maintain their resistance to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial effort to ship 700,000 barrels of bitumen daily from northern Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Under siege from critics, the U.S. State Department has ordered a review of the project, prompting TransCanada to agree to re-route the pipeline away from the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was quick to decry Redford’s perspective.

“Canadians lack any appetite for this kind of trite, hypocritical and uninformed attack on an industry in the total absence of offering a reasonable solution,” said spokesman Travis Davies.

Hollywood, he said, is itself a pretty resource-intensive business.

“If you’re of the belief that we can be off hydrocarbons tomorrow, then show me how. Put a solution out there,” Davies said.

“Until we are, we think that Canadian energy is a responsible choice and the right one for North America.”

Redford’s editorial also condemned the Northern Gateway pipeline, Enbridge Inc.’s proposed 1,200-kilometre project to transport oil from the oilsands to northern B.C.

“Crossing the territories of more than 50 First Nations groups, slicing through rivers and streams that form one of the most important salmon habitats in the world and putting at risk the coastal ecosystem of British Columbia?” Redford asks.

“Americans don’t want to see that happen any more than Canadians do, and we’ll stand by you to fight it.”

Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, called Redford’s clarion call a welcome opportunity to take up a cross-border cause, since each country’s energy policies wind up having repercussions on the other.

“The way the pipelines and the export market has happened, we have integrated Canadian energy as really a North American energy grid,” Barlow said.

“If we’re going to slow the pace of the tar sands and start to move towards a more sustainable energy future, we’re going to have to do it together.”

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MPP Dave Levac elected Speaker of The House in surprise result

TORONTO – Longtime Liberal Dave Levac was elected Speaker of the Ontario legislature Monday, taking over as chief political referee in Ontario’s first minority parliament in a generation.

Three other Liberals were also vying for the job: Donna Cansfield, Kevin Flynn and David Zimmer.

Flynn was dropped after the first ballot, while Zimmer and Cansfield – who could have been the first woman elected to the post – lost after the second ballot.

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An emotional Levac thanked his colleagues in the legislature, calling it an honour to serve as Speaker.

“I accept the challenge humbly, and very proud to say that we are the elected members of Ontario,” he said.

“I’ll do my best to work with all of you to keep the dignity and the honour and the trust of this place in your hands. It’s your house, it’s our house.”

The Speaker oversees debate in the legislature but can also be called upon to break a tie vote – a critical role with the Liberals holding 53 of the 107 seats and the opposition together controlling 54.

The Speaker, by convention, tends to vote with the governing party, although there have been exceptions.

There was speculation after the Oct. 6 election that the minority Liberals might push for a Speaker from one of the opposition parties, which would level the playing field by taking away their one-vote advantage. But that didn’t happen.

Levac replaces Steve Peters, who held the post since November 2007, and will be Ontario’s 41st Speaker since 1867.

The job also comes with a bump in salary to nearly $153,000 a year and an apartment at the legislature. It’s also one of the few roles that includes a portrait on the walls of the legislature along with one of the premier.

Now that a Speaker has been chosen, the legislature can officially get back to business with a throne speech on Tuesday.

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