The Week In Seven Stories

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The Week In Seven Stories

Post by shanaya on April 4th 2009, 8:47 pm

Leaders from the G20 nations praised the "historic" agreement reached at this week's summit in London as a turning point to curb the global economic slump. In their final communiqué released Thursday, they pledged to inject more than $1 trillion into the world economy, increase financial regulations and steer clear of protectionist trade policies.

An upbeat host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, called it a "day the world came together to fight back against the recession."
Belle of the ball Michelle Obama had seemingly all of London gushing during her G20 visit, particularly when she put her arm around the Queen, usually a protocol no-no.Belle of the ball Michelle Obama had seemingly all of London gushing during her G20 visit, particularly when she put her arm around the Queen, usually a protocol no-no. (Reuters)

But the power brokers had a tough time getting themselves together, even for a group photo, which had to be retaken because Stephen Harper was missing. (The BBC reported the prime minister was "in the loo" while Harper told reporters he was caught up with an adviser.) Not to be outdone, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi missed the second take.

World reaction to the leaders' pact, meanwhile, ranged from cautious optimism to skepticism over whether the lofty language would translate into real financial action. The agreement also likely did little to appease thousands of protesters who gathered in the city's financial district at the start of the summit on Wednesday.

Whither GM

If there was any doubt who is running the world's second biggest car company — General Motors — it was dispelled Monday when U.S. President Barack Obama effectively fired GM's long-serving CEO Rick Wagoner and gave the ailing behemoth 60 days to cut its labour and other costs if it wants any more government help.

Forcing Wagoner to resign immediately sent international stock markets into a tailspin despite the fact that GM's problems are well known, having lost $82 billion in the last four years alone. Markets bounced back later after GM's new CEO, veteran turnaround manager Fritz Henderson, said more auto plants would close and bankruptcy protection is "more probable" as a mid-term solution.

The American public is overwhelmingly against bailing out the big car companies, opinion polls suggest. But continued plant closures and their cascading effect are also taking a toll. New jobless figures for March show the U.S. unemployment rate reached 8.5 per cent and that 5.1 million Americans have lost their jobs since the recession began last fall.

* NEWS STORY Bankruptcy a possibility: interim GM chairman

Costly goodbyes

When he appeared before a congressional committee last fall, then-GM CEO Rick Wagoner demurred when asked if he would reduce his salary to $1 a year in exchange for government assistance. Whether this contributed to his forced leave-taking, we may never know. But he certainly didn't leave empty handed.
Caisse de depot CEO Michael Sabia, the former head of Bell Canada Enterprises.Caisse de depot CEO Michael Sabia, the former head of Bell Canada Enterprises. (Canadian Press)

Wagoner walked away with a $23 million US severance package, one of several large golden parachutes that came to light last week.

On this side of the border, BCE Inc. revealed that former CEO Michael Sabia left with a $21-million package following his six years at the helm. Retiring Manulife CEO Dominic D'Allesandro was being awarded a special $12.6-million US gift to recognize his "extraordinary performance" over the past 15 years. And Torstar Corp. CEO Robert Pritchard, the former head of the University of Toronto, is to receive $9.58 million when he voluntarily steps down next month.

Sabia, the new head of Quebec's investment arm, the Caisse de depot, is weathering a controversy there over his appointment and has offered not to take any bonuses in his first two years on the job or any pension or golden handshake when he leaves.
Tackling Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama took his request for a military surge in Afghanistan to the big NATO meeting in Strasbourg, France, on Friday, warning European leaders that their countries are more likely to be victims of terror attacks than the U.S.

With Canada's help, the U.S. has been pressuring its NATO allies — France and Germany in particular — to step up their troop commitments against the Taliban as well as to help train the Afghan police and army.

European leaders have been, until now, reluctant to be dragged more deeply into the Afghan conflict and Obama's message was dealt a blow by reports of a new law in Afghanistan that would severely limit women's rights there.

Viewed as an attempt by an election-bound President Hamid Karzai to woo the support of the country's Shias, the legislation would make it illegal for Shia women to refuse sex with their husbands, leave the house without their permission or have custody of children in the event of divorce.

Female parliamentarians around the world reacted with anger to reports of the new legislation. In an interview with CBC News from London, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the proposed law "is antithetical to our mission in Afghanistan."

Omar Samad, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada, said the law is under review and pleaded for patience and understanding.

NEWS STORY Afghan government examining rape law, ambassador
Gaza judge

The UN appointed South African judge Richard Goldstone, a former war crimes prosecutor, to investigate allegations of war crimes in the recent, almost month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip earlier this year. Goldstone and three other investigators — a Pakistani human rights lawyer, a British law professor and a retired Irish colonel — are to report back to the UN's Human Rights Council in July.

The Human Rights Council is a sub-group of the UN that tends to be dominated by Muslim countries and has been critical of Israel in the past. As a result, is not clear whether its report will be endorsed in any way by the main UN Security Council, which is the body that authorizes any war crimes tribunals.

According to rights groups, over 1,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed during the conflict. So were 13 Israelis, some by Hamas rockets fired at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Canadian judge

Justice Paul Cosgrove, a former Trudeau-era cabinet minister, resigned in disgrace from the Ontario Superior Court this week after a Canadian Judicial Council report recommended he be removed from office.

He was only the second Canadian judge to be so chastised by the Canadian Judicial Council and was facing removal by Parliament if he hadn't resigned himself, at 74, a year before his official retirement date.

The council's 16-page report said Cosgrove had engaged in "pervasive" misconduct during a 1999 murder trial, in which it was alleged that he had inappropriately aligned himself with defence lawyers and had allowed witnesses to be verbally abused.

Cosgrove had apologized for his trial conduct but he had also been fighting the five-year inquiry because it had been brought by the attorney general of Ontario. His lawyers argued that judges would be hesitant to criticize the Crown's case if they felt they would be automatically suspended, as was the case with Cosgrove, and their careers cut short by the initiation of a complaint.

However, the judicial council, which is composed of 22 Canadian chief justices and senior judges, didn't accept the argument or his apology.


A group of Canadian researchers rocked the international espionage community this week by reporting a Chinese-based cyber attack on almost 1,300 computers around the world. Asked initially to investigate whether the computers of the Dalai Lama's organization in Tibet had been compromised, the investigators claimed to have discovered an ultra-sophisticated spying network that infected data collection systems in 103 countries, including in embassies and international organizations.

The researchers from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and an Ottawa-based group called SecDev said they had no evidence that computer spying was the direct work of the Chinese government. But Beijing reacted with unusual anger, calling the report a fabrication and suggesting it was a result of "Cold War ghosts."

* NEWS STORY China rejects computer spy claims

Talking points

Speaking of snooping, 15 hospital workers in Bellflower, Calif., have been fired for peeking at medical records of octuplet mother Nadya Suleman without permission. Hospital authorities say they don't believe any confidential information was passed on to the media.

In a surprise move, a judge in Malawi rejected Madonna's request to adopt a second child from the AIDS-ravaged African nation, saying it would set a dangerous precedent to bend the rules that require prospective parents to live in the country for a period of time. Malawi's child welfare minister had come out in support of Madonna's plan to adopt a three-year-old girl, noting there are two million orphans in the country.
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