Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – January 4, 2013

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  • More Mali  When Robert Fowler, who spent 130 days as an al-Qaeda hostage in the Sahara Desert, is asked how he’s doing, he often says he’s doing fine, then adds: “So are my former captors.” In December 2008, Fowler, then the UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Niger, was kidnapped along with his colleague, Louis Guay, in Niger and spirited to northern Mali. The two Canadian diplomats lived in punishing conditions and under the threat of execution for more than four months, until their freedom was negotiated—in exchange, it seems, for a ransom and the release of al-Qaeda terror suspects.  Fowler is now safely back in the embrace of his family in Ottawa, and he sometimes has the bizarre experience of watching YouTube videos of Omar, one of the men who kidnapped him, brandishing a Kalashnikov and issuing hyperbolic threats against France, the United States and all the countries in NATO.  Omar has a lot to gloat about these days ….” 
  • Syria  DFAIT:  Don’t Go, GTFO“Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to Syria due to the deteriorating security situation. You should leave by commercial means as soon as it is safe to do so. For over a year, we have been urging Canadians to leave Syria. Many airlines, including Arab League carriers, have suspended their flights from Syria. Battles between Syrian and opposition armed forces have taken place in the vicinity of the airports in Damascus and Aleppo, which could be closed quickly, with little or no notice, and may be subject to checkpoints ….” 
  • The navy has sent personnel to Sydney (Nova Scotia) to evaluate damage done recently to a Canadian warshipCmdr. Matthew Coates, deputy commanding officer of surface operations for Maritime Forces Atlantic, confirmed Thursday that HMCS Athabaskan sustained visible damage during a towing operation.  He said a team of engineers and “experts” will be doing the assessment.  The destroyer, which is undergoing a scheduled refit, was being hauled to Halifax from St. Catharines, Ont., by a private contractor when a tow line snapped last Friday off the east coast of Cape Breton.  Coates wouldn’t say how the 130-metre vessel’s hull was scraped and punctured or when the damage occurred.  The evaluation team will assess the situation and “make sure the ship is safe to return to Halifax,” he said.  It’s too early to say when that will take place, said Coates.  “At this particular point, the initial assessment that we have on the ground is it’s not significant damage.” ….” – more here, here, here and here. 
  • At least 146 military families have suffered severe financial hardship because National Defence and the federal Treasury Board differ in their interpretation of an assistance program, federal documents show.  The disagreement involves a home-equity assistance program available to members of the military who move frequently and run the risk of taking a bath on sales of their properties.  Compensation is supposed to be available when a member is required to transfer and sells a home in a depressed housing market, but the two departments are at odds over the definition of market.  Internal records show that between 2007 and 2010, 146 applications involving tens of thousands of dollars each were rejected by the Treasury Board, despite having the support of National Defence.  Military officials have been arguing for years without success for the policy to be tweaked.  The controversy surfaces just weeks after Defence Minister Peter MacKay forced an end to a similar dispute between his department and Treasury Board, when the agency that controls federal purse strings held up improved insurance payouts to reservists who lose limbs on duty.  It also comes just days after MacKay capped rent increases for newer members of the military, who live on bases across the country ….” 
  • No criminal charges have been laid yet in the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Military Family Resource Centre at 14 Wing Greenwood.  And not a cent of the money has been returned, despite a Nova Scotia Supreme Court order last year that former business manager Karen Lorraine Byers pay the centre $403,340.  The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is still investigating the case of the missing funds, a military spokesman for the Canadian Forces base in Greenwood said Wednesday.  Investigators are conducting a detailed forensic audit, Capt. John Pulchny said in an interview.  “It’s hard to say when they will be finished that part of the investigation,” he said.  Pulchny said the investigation will determine if and when criminal charges will be laid.  He confirmed that none of the money has been recovered by the resource centre, a non-profit charity that provides family crisis, financial and housing services and other help to military families.  “That’s being handled by the civil court system,” Pulchny said about recovery of the money ….” 
  • A Canadian army colonel’s $6-million lawsuit against National Defence for defamation has been tossed out by the Ontario Superior Court.  The case involving Col. Bernard Ouellette was dismissed Monday, but details were only made public Thursday with the presiding judge noting the officer’s claims were still before the military’s grievance board.  Justice Timothy Ray also said the case did not meet the legal test for slander.  Ouellette was dismissed from his command in Haiti almost three years ago following allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a woman who worked for the United Nations.  He took the extraordinary step of suing National Defence and fellow officers for defamation after the department confirmed his dismissal to news media and stated the long-serving officer was being investigated.  Members of the military deployed overseas are required to follow a strict non-fraternization code.  Ouellette, who is married, alleged that fellow officers on the Haiti mission emailed superiors in Ottawa in March 2010 to accuse him of sleeping with a UN staffer and that they had been seen “frolicking together” by the pool ….”
  • When Ipsos Reid asked non-Chinese Asian- and Arab-Canadians what line of work they might be interested in pursuing or would recommend to a younger person, no more than one per cent of those polled said they’d look for a job in the military.  Further, when asked which career they’d be least interested in pursuing, Ipsos Reid found “the military tops the list.” Thirty-one per cent of Asian- and Arab-Canadian youth (and 25 per cent of those polled from the community) told the polling firm that a career in the military would be of least interest to them, “followed distantly by other fields.”  These are among the findings that emerged in the second phase of a three-part study the Department of National Defence launched to ascertain a better understanding of how the Canadian Forces (CF) are perceived among Canada’s minority groups – and what barriers might exist that prevent visible minority youth from joining the military.  The first part of the study, released in September, found issues with recruiting Chinese-Canadians as well ….” 
  • Paeta Derek Hess-Von Kruedner, 1962-2006, R.I.P. Legion Magazine’s version of events, including another copy of the CF Board of Inquiry’s report.
  • The launch of several critical Canadian satellites has once again been delayed. Scheduled for a January 12th launch, the new target date is mid-February according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). During thermo-vacuum testing an issue came up with the primary payload on the launch, the joint Indian-France satellite SARAL.  The Canadian satellites are part of a secondary payload set to launch on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C20 ….”
  • Remember this one from the Public Safety Info-machine, removing an Iranian group from the terrorist list?  Seems families of Iranian victims of said groups are pissed – more from the Iranian government Info-machine here and here
  • Meanwhile, The Harper government is committed to working with the U.S. government as it ratchets up efforts to counter perceived threats from Iran in the Americas.  Legislation signed by President Barack Obama last week gives the U.S. State Department six months to develop an assessment of the threat posed to the United States by Iran’s growing presence in the hemisphere, as well as a plan to combat it.  Among other things, the law requires the State Department and Homeland Security to work with Canada and Mexico “to address resources, technology and infrastructure to create a secure United States border and strengthen the ability of the United States and its allies” to prevent Iranian-backed terrorists from entering the country ….” 
  • CREDIT WHERE DUE – reports obtained and reported about being shared by Postmedia News – well done!  Canadian domestic extremists are capable of orchestrating “serious acts” of political violence, according to a newly released federal intelligence report that blames such groups for nine bombings since 2004The incidents catalogued in the “secret” report include attacks on Alberta oil pipelines and three bombings by a Quebec group called the Initiative de Résistance Internationaliste (IRI) that espouses a broad leftist agenda.  While Islamist extremists have consistently ranked as the country’s top terrorist threat since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the report shows that most of Canada’s recent politically motivated attacks were the work of domestic extremists ….” 
  • Again with the sharing of obtained reports  Islamist extremists are now radicalizing Canadians at “a large number of venues,” according to a secret intelligence report released to the National Post under the Access to Information Act.  While mosques with hardline imams are often singled out for spreading violent Islamist ideology, the study found that radicalization has been taking place at a much longer list of locales.  “Radicalization is not limited to religious centres,” says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service report, titled Venues of Sunni Islamist Radicalization in Canada.  The heavily censored report identifies the role of prisons, the Internet and foreign travel in turning some Canadians into extremists who wage or support violence. But it also points a finger at the family home.  “Parents have radicalized children,” reads the Intelligence Assessment, “husbands have radicalized wives (and some wives have radicalized or supported their husbands) … and siblings have radicalized each other,” it says ….”  
  • Andrew Hibbert knows they’re down there somewhere. At the bottom of Lake Ontario, with decades worth of zebra mussels clinging to their hulls, sit nine models of the Avro Arrow.  The models were part of a program to test the hull design of the legendary Canadian plane, cancelled before it could truly soar. Strapped to high-powered booster rockets, the 10-foot models weighed nearly 500 pounds and flew over Lake Ontario at supersonic speeds. Their onboard sensors — revolutionary for the 1950s — relayed information back to the launch site at Point Petre, in Prince Edward County.  The models represent a key part of the development of the scrapped plane project.  The Avro Arrow made its first flight in 1958. The interceptor was widely regarded as ahead of its time in terms of aerospace technology. Its Malton plant employed nearly 15,000 people.  But development was cancelled abruptly in 1959, after five Arrows had flown. All were ordered destroyed, along with any documentation and related equipment.  The models, however, were safe from the scrubbing, protected by 30 metres of water.  Eleven models were tested in total: nine at Point Petre and two in Virginia. None has been recovered yet, but that hasn’t stopped so-called “Arrowheads” from hunting for them, often at great cost of both treasure and time.  Hibbert, 70, leads up Arrow Recovery Canada, a group that has performed about 22 dives and scanned the bottom of the lake countless times searching for the lost models. The group began its work in 1998 ….”

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4 January 13 at 7:45

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