Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – January 23, 2013

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  • More Mali (1a)  “The massive Canadian C-17 transport plane that’s currently ferrying French war supplies to Mali has been seconded from regular duty in Canada and elsewhere for the next three months.  The decision by air force planners offers further evidence the Conservative government is poised to extend its commitment to what observers say could be a prolonged battle against Islamic extremists who’ve dug themselves into the northern half of the former African colony.  The transport, which is attached to 429 Squadron out of CFB Trenton, has been flying vehicles and equipment between France and the Malian capital of Bamako in a deployment Prime Minister Stephen Harper said would only last a week.  Defence sources say the overseas command running the operation has not been notified of an extension; a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the government’s commitment has not changed.  That commitment is set to expire Thursday, but Harper is expected to announce an extension any day now ….”
  • More Mali (1b)  “The federal government is still considering how to respond to requests for an extension of Canada’s commitment to support the French-led military operation in Mali as the one-week tour of a C-17 transport plane in the West African country nears its end.  “No further decisions have been finalized,” Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Rick Roth told CBC News on Tuesday.  Roth, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said any decision will not involve a Canadian combat role in MaliThe Canadian Press reported Tuesday that the C-17 has been seconded from regular duty in Canada and elsewhere for the next three months.  The decision by air force planners offers further evidence the Conservative government is poised to extend its commitment to what observers say could be a prolonged battle against Islamic extremists who’ve dug themselves into the northern half of the former African colony.  Defence sources told The Canadian Press the overseas command running the operation has not been notified of an extension.  CBC News has learned that Canada is expected to extend its commitment to Mali, but the decision is still pending some final consultations with other allies involved in the conflict ….” – more here and here.
  • More Mali (2)  Interesting tidbit from the RCAF Info-machine  “Royal Canadian Air Force traffic technicians from 2 Air Movements Squadron, 8 Wing Trenton, Ont., and loadmasters from 429 Transport Squadron, 8 Wing Trenton, Ont., wasted no time getting to work as part of Air Task Force Mali, Canada’s contribution to the French efforts to stabilize the African country of Mali ….”  Notice the photos:  why no names of traffic technicians, but no problems sharing ranks and names of photographers, who are also on the ground?
  • More Mali (3)  CBC has an online survey going re:  whether Canada should do more, the same, less or come home
  • More Mali (4)  Canadian miners in Mali are grappling with security as a French-led assault pushed rebel forces further away from the capital on Tuesday.  Some companies have reduced operations, cancelled exploration or pulled out foreign workers. But mining operations are still carrying on normally in Mali’s gold-rich southwest, where most companies work hundreds of kilometres from the fighting that has gripped the vast West African nation.  Toronto-headquartered IAMGOLD evacuated about six Canadian workers from several areas in early January when rebels began advancing southward toward the capital, Bamako, as a “precautionary measure,” said Bob Tait, vice president of investor relations.  It has cut some exploration activities but its two mines continue to operate normally, he said.  IAMGOLD holds equal shares in the Sadiola and Yatela gold mines with AngloGold Ashanti, which operates both mines.  Mali is Africa’s third-largest gold miner after Ghana and South Africa ….”
  • More Mali (5)  More on whazzup in Mali here (Google News), here (EMM Explorer) and here (France’s defence ministry’s latest update in French)
  • Again, no documents shared, so no idea what else is there  Canada’s spy agency sees the “insider threat” as a rising security risk for Canadians at home and abroad, according to a secret document obtained by CBC NewsAlgeria’s Prime Minister Abdul Malek Sallal said Islamist militants who attacked an Algerian gas plant last week included at least one Canadian — and a threat assessment report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency points to an upward trend of domestic Islamist extremism.  “Small groups (of) Canadians will continue to be inspired by the narrative and seek to engage in extremist activities both at home and abroad,” reads The Threat Environment to 2025 report obtained by Power & Politics under the Access to Information Act.  The assessment outlines global and domestic threats — and what is driving those trends, from energy and Arctic resources to geopolitical conflicts and the pursuit of nuclear weapons.  The report notes that CSIS has a number of key regional conflicts and failing states it’s keeping an eye on, including North and Western Africa where places like Mali and Algeria have been in the spotlight.  The report says Islamist extremism is a complicated threat, and warns that extremists will take advantage of “under-governed spaces and weak states.” ….”
  • Safe travels home, HMCS Regina  “When you’re a Roughriders fan and can’t manage to tune into a game, it can be a little frustrating – doubly so when you’re on a Royal Canadian Navy frigate in the Arabian Sea.  Instead, explained commanding officer of HMCS Regina, Cmdr. Jason Boyd, crew members take to continually refreshing scores online as they follow the game from a body of water that in no way resembles anything in Saskatchewan.  “Unfortunately, on the satellite TV we have, we can’t get any coverage from back in Canada,” Boyd said with a laugh.  Boyd talked to the Leader-Post from the HMCS Regina on Friday, during its final night on patrol.  The ship is now on its way home, headed back to Canada after five months of patrolling the area as part of Operation Artemis, a maritime security and counterterrorism operation in the Arabian Sea region ….”
  • The number of positions being cut at Veterans Affairs Canada headquarters in Charlottetown is in dispute.  A senior spokesman in Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney’s office reiterated Monday the number of department positions being reduced on P.E.I. is 22, at least for now. The office says that number will be reached without any layoffs.  The union representing VAC employees says the number is 55 with more to come.  The department had met with union members in Charlottetown last week to discuss workforce reduction.  “On Jan. 17, 2013, we began a process to reduce 22 positions from the over 1,000 strong workforce in PEI. With approximately 135 P.E.I. Veterans Affairs employees currently eligible to retire, we expect the vast majority of these reductions to be found through normal attrition, alternation and good human resource management,” said press secretary Jean-Christophe de le Rue ….”
  • Results of an evaluation of the food served to veterans under Pictou County Health Authority’s care should be available next month.  The review comes more than six months after the meal program was introduced. The switch from food prepared on site to meals that are prepared elsewhere, frozen and shipped to the authority saves $70,000 annually.  Bernie Currie, an outspoken critic of the food, is a member of the committee tasked with the review of the 28-day meal cycle.  Currie’s father, Joe, is in the Northumberland Veterans Unit at Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital in Pictou.  Bernie Currie said the 12-person committee, which includes residents, family members, care staff, the Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Affairs Canada, will gather evaluations that the veterans do after each meal and make recommendations to the authority’s board.  Committee members have the option of eating the food during the review period.  “If we’re out there, we can eat it,” said Currie. “I just opt not to.”  He said he has had the food in the past and tasted his father’s meals when he goes to visit; other times, he brings food for his father.  Currie said he hasn’t noticed an improvement in the food since the review started ….”
  • Meanwhile, “On behalf of the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, Pat Davidson, Member of Parliament for Sarnia–Lambton, today announced a contribution of up to $5,278 to restore the Oil Springs Soldiers Monument, which was erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the First World War ….”
  • Yet another lawyer switch for Omar Khadr  Omar Khadr’s two Canadian lawyers have stepped down as his counsel after the former Guantanamo Bay inmate turned again to a man who spent years championing his highly politicized case, The Canadian Press has learnedIn a notice of motion to Federal Court, where Khadr is suing the federal government for breaching his constitutional rights, John Norris and Brydie Bethell said they made the decision to step down last week.  “Current counsel concluded they were required to withdraw from representing (Khadr) for reasons they are not at liberty to disclose to the court,” Norris said in his application.   “Counsel have advised the plaintiff that they intend to bring this motion.”  It’s the latest twist in the long-running saga that has seen the Canadian prisoner fire or change lawyers several times over the years ….”
  • Canadian and South Korean officials are preparing to rekindle 60-year-old memories of morale-boosting hockey games played by Canadian troops on a frozen river amid the battlefields of the Korean WarIt would have been a startling sight for enemy soldiers from the hills above the Imjin River in the winters of 1952 and 1953 – Canadians fighting for the puck on shimmering ice between deadly battles for precious terrain on the Korean Peninsula at the height of the Cold War conflict.  The matches took place “in the sound of the heavy guns of nearby U.S. Army artillery,” just a short distance from the front lines of the struggle against Communist forces, said Korean War veteran Vince Courtenay.  And next month, in both Ottawa and Seoul, that wartime outbreak of hockey that briefly reminded Canadian soldiers what they were missing back home will be commemorated in outdoor events inspired by the Imjin River games ….”

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23 January 13 at 7:45

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