Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – January 21, 2013

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  • More Mali (1)  Canada on Saturday announced that it was relocating non-essential embassy staff and their dependents from the Malian capital of Bamako.  The announcement came just days after Canada sent a military aircraft to assist the French-led mission to oust al-Qaeda-linked extremists from the embattled West African country.  The embassy “will now be limited” in its ability to serve Canadian nationals who ignored a Jan. 11 advisory against travel to Mali, Rick Roth, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said in a statement.  About 240 Canadians were registered with Foreign Affairs Canada in Mali when a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) C-17 cargo plane with a reported 35 Canadian military personnel was dispatched to France last week to transport equipment to Bamako, about 350 kilometers from the fighting ….” – more here, here and here.
  • More Mali (2)  Reports of more Canadian help  “Canada has volunteered to transport African troops to Mali, France’s Foreign Minister told a radio station Sunday.  Transportation for armed forces fighting Islamists in Mali’s north can come “partly from Africans themselves, partly from Europeans, partly from Canadians, and the Russians have offered modes of transportation for the French, so it’s pretty diverse,” Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 ….”
  • More Mali (3a)  Columnist:  Entering Mali is easy, exiting, not so much
  • More Mali (3b)  Columnist:  Canada’s response to Mali crisis inexplicable, contradictory
  • More Mali (4)  More on whazzup in Mali here (Google News), here (EMM Explorer) and here (France’s defence ministry’s latest update in French)
  • Algeria (1)  Two dead Islamist militants found inside the Algerian desert siege site were Canadians, an Algerian security source told Reuters on MondayAlgerian special forces had discovered the bodies at the Tiguentourine gas plant near the town of In Amenas, the source said.  Troops stormed the plant on Saturday, ending a hostage crisis which began when Islamists took control of the site before dawn on Wednesday. Many hostages, including American, British, French, Japanese, Norwegian and Romanian citizens, are among those missing or confirmed dead ….” – more here.
  • Algeria (2)  Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada condemns the Algerian kidnappings, calling the attacks “deplorable and cowardly.”  The minister says it’s believed no Canadians or dual nationals were among the hostages and a permanent resident of Canada who was at the site is safe and has left Algeria.  The minister says while the full scale and exact details of the situation remain unclear, Canadian officials remain in close contact with Algerian authorities to seek further information.  The Algerian government says special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert Saturday to end a standoff with Islamist extremists that left at least 23 hostages dead and killed all 32 militants involved.  The bloody standoff erupted Wednesday when militants attempted to hijack two buses at the plant, were initially driven back and then seized the sprawling refinery, which is 1,300 kilometres south of Algiers ….” – more from the DFAIT Info-machine here
  • Algeria (3)  More on the Algerian situation here (Google News) and here (EMM News Explorer)
  • Afghanistan  As the medical system is being rebuilt in Afghanistan, many programs that are familiar in Canada, are being introduced to a new generation of Afghan physicians. One such program is the medical conference to provide continuing medical education, known as CME.  A two-day medical scientific conference was held by the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences (AFAMS) on 30 – 31 December 2012 in Kabul. With almost 300 attendees, the theme of the conference was efficient delivery of healthcare in Afghanistan.  The conference was planned and run by an Afghan faculty, while members of the Canadian Forces provided advice. All of the presentations were made by Afghan physicians with the exception of one talk given by Major Dennis Marion of the Canadian Forces Health Services. Major Marion, a specialist in Internal Medicine, is currently posted to Edmonton, Alberta ….”
  • A retired top army commander who penned a controversial report on transforming the military is breaking his silence 18 months after retiring from the ranks.  In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, retired Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie said he’s been drawn out from the sidelines after seeing a $475-million increase in spending by the Department of National Defence (DND) for professional services, including consultants and contractors, coupled with a 22 per cent cut in the army’s budget.  The Public Accounts show that spending for Professional and Special Services at National Defence went from $2.7 billion in 2009-2010 to $3.2 billion in 2011-2012.  “This has a direct impact on our troops. It’s going to result in lower levels of readiness, it’s going to mean our troops are not as well trained … It’s going to have an impact on part-time reserves, the lifeblood of the army. So I can’t watch from the sidelines,” Leslie told host Evan Solomon in his first in-depth interview since retiring in Aug. 2011 ….”
  • In an effort to come to grips with a series of complaints about its quality of care and how those complaints are dealt with, the country’s largest veterans facility has called in an outside expert to look at the situationThe review of the Sunnybrook Veteran’s Centre this week comes in addition to an official audit by the federal government that is currently underway.  The new audit will focus on those beds funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Health — a cost of about $29.2 million a year — but has disavowed any responsibility for oversight of the centre.  The review, which begins this week, is being carried out by Karima Velji. The senior executive at Baycrest, a prominent research hospital focused on the elderly, is also an assistant nursing professor at the University of Toronto.  “We would like you to focus on quality of care in the provincially funded chronic-care beds, with an in-depth focus on the processes used to resolve complaints,” Sunnybrook’s executive vice-president Malcolm Moffat said in a letter to Velji ….” 
  • The union that represents Veterans Affairs Canada employees has confirmed that 233 letters announcing staff cuts were sent to offices across the country on Thursday.  More than 50 employees in Charlottetown received letters and another 46 were sent to employees in the rest of Atlantic Canada, Yvan Thauvette, president of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, said in a telephone interview from Quebec on Friday night.  “There’s eight positions located at the district office in Charlottetown, 46 additional positions within the main offices from Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown,” Thauvette said.  He did not have figures available on how many Nova Scotia workers received letters.  “I know that employees from the Sydney district office received surplus letters telling them that the office is set for closure on Feb. 28, 2014,” he said.  The Sydney office averages about 160 visits by clients per month, and about 12 people will lose their jobs when it closes.  Nationally, “the department already eliminated 160 positions and from the letters that were sent yesterday, they intend to eliminate 186 positions by the end of March,” Thauvette said ….”
  • Former Canadian DefMin under Paul Martin gets honourary Sierra Leone diplomatic appointment  “His Excellency Bockari Stevens, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States, …. presented a Letter of Commission to the newly appointed Honorary Consul in Canada, the Honorable David Pratt, P.C. at a short ceremony at Sierra Leone’s Washington embassy.  Ambassador Stevens, who is also accredited as Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to Canada, said he was very pleased to have an individual with Mr. Pratt’s background and qualifications assume the role of Honorary Consul in Canada. Sierra Leone does not have a resident high commissioner in Canada ….”

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21 January 13 at 7:45

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