Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – January 8, 2013

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  • More Mali  Robert Fowler, the retired Canadian diplomat who was kidnapped by terrorists in Africa, blasted the Harper government Monday for saying it has not been asked to contribute to the international military mission to Mali.  Fowler condemned the government for advancing that position on the eve of a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen and the head of the African Union in Ottawa, where a request for a Canadian troop contribution was widely expected.  Fowler, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, accused the government of ignoring last month’s resolution by the UN Security Council that called on all countries to contribute to halt the spread of terrorism that has taken root in Mali.  “The government has been asked. In the Security Council resolution 2085 of 20 December, the Security Council urges member states — of which I believe Canada is still one — to provide a whole set of things, including military training, provision of equipment, intelligence, logistics support and any necessary assistance to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organizations,” Fowler told The Canadian Press.  “Therefore, we have been asked.”  Earlier in the day, a government official who spoke only on condition on anonymity offered the exact opposite view.  “Nothing has been asked of us as yet,” the official told The Canadian Press ….”
  • Syria  “As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad calls for national reconciliation to end his country’s civil war, Canada’s foreign minister is telling the Middle East dictator to save his breath.  “Assad’s words have rung hollow for the 22 months the Syrian people have fought for his departure from office,” John Baird said in an e-mail to QMI Agency. “In that time, more than 60,000 Syrians – many of them civilian women and children – have been killed.”  Assad delivered his own hour-long aria at the Damascus Opera House on Sunday, speaking publicly for the first time since June ….”
  • Afghanistan  One commentator’s take  “Last Wednesday, the Taliban published a statement entitled a Quick Glance at 2012This smug annual review claimed that NATO forces in Afghanistan have “completely lost their will to fight and (have) practically (begun) the process of withdrawal and retreat.”  While the current casualty figures would indicate that coalition forces are engaging in more combat now than at any other time during the 11-year, U.S.-led intervention, it is hard to deny the Taliban assertion that all the western allies have their eyes fixed on their eventual exit …. the stage has been set for history to repeat itself in Afghanistan, with many of the same cast members still playing their old familiar roles.”
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P.  “Canada’s military police detectives are too incompetent to be trusted with major crime investigations, a lawyer for the parents of Cpl. Stuart Langridge will tell the final day of a federal inquiry on Wednesday.  In final arguments to the Military Police Complaints Commission, Michel Drapeau will lodge a devastating indictment of the military’s National Investigation Service and its investigations into the death of Langridge, a 28-yearold veteran of deployments to Bosnia and Afghanistan who hanged himself at his CFB Edmonton barracks in March 2008.  Drapeau will urge the commission to recommend that in future all major cases be referred to the RCMP or other civilian police forces.  Langridge’s mother and stepfather Sheila and Shaun Fynes allege that three NIS investigations into their son’s suicide were whitewashes more concerned with protecting the military’s reputation than getting to the truth of what happened to Stuart.  Langridge died after a long struggle with depression, drugs and alcohol that his parents say was symptomatic of mental injury suffered during his high-risk Afghanistan deployment ….”
  • The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, will make an important commemorative announcement (at the) Canada Aviation and Space Museum (today at) 1:30 p.m. ….”
  • Temporary repairs have been made to the damaged hull of a navy warship in the hopes of resuming its trip to Halifax in the coming days, the military said Monday.  HMCS Athabaskan has been moored some 400 kilometres away in Sydney, N.S., for more than a week after it suffered damage to its hull while it was being towed. The vessel had just undergone a $26.7 million refit in St. Catharines, Ont.  The military has said tethering lines broke after the destroyer left Sydney and was being towed in rough waters off a rocky shoal.  Lt.-Cmdr. Bruno Tremblay, a spokesman for the navy in Halifax, said an engineering team completed minor, temporary repairs on the 40-year-old vessel Saturday to ensure its hull is watertight.  “I am confident that the ship can safely return here to her home port in Halifax,” Tremblay said. “As planned, the tow will likely occur this week.”  Tremblay said a plan is now being finalized with a different towing company, Irving-owned Atlantic Towing Ltd., to return HMCS Athabaskan to Halifax for further assessment ….”
  • Helping the Turtles, one Sea King Mission at a Time (via the RCAF Info-machine)  “Last December, while deployed on Operation Caribbe, Canada’s contribution to the international war on drugs, Her Majesty’s Ottawa and its air detachment worked together seamlessly in an animal rescue.  Ottawa’s CH-124 Sea King helicopter and crew were conducting a patrol ahead of the ship when Captain Derek Kauth noticed an unmanned bamboo raft in the water with three sea turtles in tow. After a closer look, the crew found that two of the sea turtles were tangled in a net attached to the raft.  The crew put their search and rescue training into practice by lowering their airborne electronic sensor operator, Corporal Rob Stoodley down the rescue hoist into the water to attempt to free the turtle.  The aircrew, who are members of 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron (belonging to 12 Wing Shearwater, N.S., but based at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, B.C.) provided continuous radio updates to the ship and launched a smoke marker into the water to indicate the trapped animals’ position.  The ship soon arrived and deployed its rigid hull inflatable boat and its Zodiac boat, carrying sailors from the ship’s diving team. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Bode was able to grab the net with a hook, while Master Seaman Allan Kobayashi unhooked the netting from one of the turtles.  PO2 Bode and Leading Seaman Sean Dubeau snipped the netting away from the second turtle allowing the two turtles and a baby turtle that was hiding to swim away unharmed. The dive team disassembled the bamboo raft and removed the netting from the sea to prevent further wildlife endangerment ….”
  • No sign of this document being shared, so no word on what else was there  The Canadian Forces has decided to start charging municipalities and provinces to cover the costs whenever the military is called upon to help in emergencies such as floods and wildfires, according to internal Defence Department documents obtained by Postmedia News Military officials say federal budget cuts are to blame for the move, which ends a 15-year practice of waiving efforts to recover such costs and could force communities and provinces to think twice before calling the Canadian Forces for help.  Supporting provincial and municipal governments during natural disasters in Canada has long been considered one of military’s most important missions.  In the past two years, Canadian soldiers have helped fight flooding in Manitoba and Quebec and evacuated, housed and fed residents of northern Ontario communities threatened by forest fires.  The costs borne by the military varied from nearly $4 million for the flooding in Quebec and $3.8 million for flood mitigation in Manitoba, to $51,000 for evacuating and feeding the threatened communities in Northern Ontario …. provinces and municipalities, which have received help from the Canadian Forces without cost for more than a decade, will now be forced to pay for such assistance.  “Whilst DND has typically waived the cost of CF assistance to other government departments over the past 15 years,” reads a briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay this past July, “given present fiscal restraints, the department is no longer in a position to routinely waive the often significant costs associated with this assistance.  “Going forward, the waiving of such costs must be the exception, rather than the rule,” the note adds.  National Defence spokeswoman Tanya LeBlanc said in an emailed statement the department “takes its role as a strong steward of public resources very seriously and makes every effort to ensure sound financial management of taxpayer dollars.”  “DND has always had the authority to recoup costs,” she added.  “Given present fiscal restraints, DND has decided to exercise its authority to recoup costs related to support to other government departments when it deems it necessary.” ….”
  • Again, Stewart Bell of Postmedia News SHARES the reports he writes about – well done!  Canada was on a list of terrorist targets found by U.S. Navy SEALs during the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, according to a newly declassified intelligence report.  The report by the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre is the first official government confirmation that the cache of papers recovered during the operation that killed the al-Qaeda leader named Canada as a target.  “Canada’s international profile as a potential terrorist target has been confirmed through an analysis of files captured during the 2011 05 02 raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound.  “Canada is specifically named in the files, along with the U.S., Britain, Israel, Germany and Spain, as targets for terror strikes,” reads the report, obtained by the National Post under the Access to Information Act.  Bin Laden was shot dead 20 months ago when a Special Forces team crossed from Afghanistan in helicopters and stormed his walled compound. The manhunt has been dramatized in a Hollywood film to be released this week, Zero Dark Thirty.  During the nighttime operation, U.S. forces seized bin Laden’s computers and papers.  A handful of the more than 6,000 documents were publicly released last year but they concerned al-Qaeda’s strategic direction and internal dynamics rather than targeting.  But the April 2012 threat assessment, released by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, confirms Canada was on a list of targets found during the raid. The report does not say bin Laden had developed any specific plans to attack Canada ….”
  • Cherished photos are packed away, the dance hall is long silent and the lights are about to be turned off for the last time in the auditorium of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 001 Regina.  By the end of January, the downtown building that has welcomed veterans since 1947 must be empty.  The property has been sold and the entire rear of the building — which houses the Atlantic Auditorium, the Lancaster Lounge and the Dieppe Cafeteria — is to be demolished to make way for a parkade.  Only the facade will remain with room for a museum and a small watering hole.  “That sounds terrible and it just rips me right apart to lose the heritage of this in the back,” said branch president Terry Duncan ….”

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8 January 13 at 7:45

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