Anglo American Halts Rustenburg Operations After Staff Intimidation

Anglo American PLC (AAL.LN) has shut its platinum-mining operations in the Rustenburg area of South Africa after staff there experienced intimidation and threats when trying to report for work, the Financial Times in London reported Saturday, citing the company.

The mining company said its staff weren’t on strike but that it would suspend activity “until such time as operations can be safely resumed.”

Anglo American said intimidation and threats to its workers came from “unidentified individuals.”

Newspaper Web site: http://www.ft.com

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Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones Newswires

EU Barnier: Banking Supervisor Timetable Is Ambitious, Difficult

Getting a single banking supervisor for all euro-zone banks under the European Central Bank up and running during 2013 is an ambitious plan, the European Union financial-services head Michel Barnier admitted Saturday, while also conceding that his proposal for the new agency had to be negotiated to address strong concerns over voting rights by non-euro zone countries such as Sweden.

Speaking after the second day of an informal meeting of EU finance ministers in Nicosia, Mr. Barnier said that “time is short and criticism has been voiced” over his proposal but that his timetable was “realistic and necessary.”

Both Mr. Barnier and ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio–who was speaking at the same press conference–were keen to stress that legal work was left to be done to amend rules that prohibit non-euro area member states from voting on ECB decisions. This is a matter of concern to non-euro zone countries, which are invited to voluntarily join the bank supervisor but, as things stand, wouldn’t be able to vote.

Mr. Constancio also noted that, while it was never intended for the still-embryonic ECB single banking supervisor to directly supervise every single one of the 6,000 euro-zone banks on a “day-to-day basis,” the new body should have the “legal competencies” to do so. This, he said, was also a matter to be addressed in the preparatory process for the new agency.

Write to Matina Stevis at matina.stevis@dowjones.com and Costas Paris at costas.paris@dowjones.com.

Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones Newswires

Germany’s Schaeuble: Object to ECB Rate Setters as Bank Supervisor

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Saturday that he had “considerable” objections to seeing the Governing Council of the European Central Bank be the final authority on banking supervision in Europe.

“The ECB must be strongly involved” in bank supervision, said the German minister, but “it cannot involve monetary policy nor can it affect the independence of the ECB,” Mr. Schaeuble told a news conference. “For example, I have considerable doubt about the proposal of the [European] Commission that the Governing Board of the ECB would have the final decision,” he said.

Mr. Schaeuble was speaking on the sidelines of an informal meeting of European finance and economy ministers in the Cypriot capital.

The meeting has served as a setting for European officials to voice concerns about recent proposals for the European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, to make the ECB the single supervisor for banks within the euro zone and to allow non-euro zone states to come under ECB supervision.

Mr. Schaeuble said it was important to see a deal that all 27 European States could agree on.

The role of the ECB is a key point of contention, especially among non-euro zone governments. Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg said earlier Saturday that it was “very problematic” for his country’s banks to fall under the supervision of the Frankfurt-based central bank.

(Gabriele Steinhauser contributed to this report)

Write to Todd Buell at: todd.buell@dowjones.com Twitter: @ToddBuell

Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones Newswires

EU’s Single Bank Supervisor Plan Runs into Trouble

NICOSIA, Cyprus–Europe’s plan for a new single bank supervisor hit its first major road block Saturday, with a number of countries saying that a proposed Jan. 1 2013 launch date left too little time to resolve key issues thrown up by the plan.

On the second day of a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Cyprus, at least four ministers voiced opposition to the supervisor’s start date — including the German, Swedish, Dutch and Danish ministers — said two people familiar with the discussion.

There were also widespread concerns about other aspects of the plan, including whether the supervisor should in fact oversee all euro-zone banks and how to ensure the plans won’t marginalize authorities in non-euro zone countries from key regulatory decisions.

The proposal to put the European Central Bank in charge of policing the more than 6,000 banks in the euro zone is the beginning of an effort to replace the euro zone’s patchwork of national banking systems and regulators with the uniform rules of a “banking union,” which officials say is necessary to repair Europe’s crisis-hit common currency.

But only days after the proposal was published, disagreements over the pace at which this should happen and over the scope of the ECB’s role threatened the plan.

The starting date for the supervisor is a key issue for the euro zone.

Regional leaders agreed in June that the region’s bailout fund can only start directly recapitalizing banks once a single supervisor is established. Delaying the supervisor’s launch would therefore mean putting off the time when euro-zone banks can receive assistance without that aid increasing the national government’s debt load.

Coming out of the meeting Saturday, Sweden’s finance minister Anders Borg said he believed there were a “large number of countries” who had concerns about the EU plans.

“There are a whole host of conditions that must be met before we can reach a compromise” on the proposals, he said. “This is going to be a very tough autumn with a lot of hard negotiations.”

Earlier, Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager had said that agreeing on the new supervisor “will probably take a lot of time.”

“January will probably prove to be too ambitious to have the total mechanism in place, I do not see how this could be done effectively,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he had “considerable” objections to seeing the ECB’s governing council, whose main role is to set interest rates, also act as the final authority on banking supervision in Europe.

He said there should be stricter separation of decision making within the ECB on monetary and supervisory issues. Under the current proposals, the ECB’s governing council is ultimately responsible for supervisory matters despite plans for the creation of a supervisory board.

“The ECB must be strongly involved” in bank supervision, said the German minister, but “it cannot involve monetary policy nor can it affect the independence of the ECB,” Mr. Schaeuble told a news conference.

On Friday, Mr. Schaeuble said he did not expect the region’s permanent bailout fund will be ready to make direct recapitalizations by January.

The comments prompted a rebuke by French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici who said that “not proceeding fast would be a “mistake in the current European situation.”

“The crisis is here and is affecting everyone, including Germany, which is now suffering from an economic slowdown… there’s no reason to slow down,” he said.

The matter is particularly acute for Spain, which was offered aid of up to 100 billion euros for its ailing banks that would ultimately boost its sovereign debt load if it’s channeled through the government.

Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guindos Saturday said it was important to keep the Jan. 1 deadline for the bank supervisor.

“We have to be ambitious and try to maintain it,” he said.

European internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier, who presented the EU’s bank supervision proposal earlier this week, said at the end of the talks Saturday that the timetable for passing the measures was “demanding” but not unrealistic.

However it was the concerns of non-euro zone countries about the proposals that dominated, in particular how they could ensure that new financial rules would not be pushed through the European Banking Authority by the future single supervisor, which would hold a majority of 17 of the EU’s 27 member states.

That includes worries that the euro-zone supervisor would be able to take unilateral decisions on banks headquartered in the euro zone but which have large branches in non-euro zone countries.

“There cannot be a European supervision where half of Europe doesn’t have a vote in it. That is not acceptable. It cannot stand. It will not be tolerated,” Mr. Borg said.

Both Mr. Barnier and ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio–who was speaking at the same press conference–were keen to stress that legal work was left to be done to amend rules that prohibit non-euro area member states from voting on ECB decisions. Currently, non-euro zone members have no voting rights even if they decide to join the supervisory regime.

Germany had also raised concerns about the EU’s proposal that the ECB have responsibility for all 6,000 euro zone banks, a position echoed by Belgian Finance Minister Steven Vanackere on Saturday.

“It’s impossible for one single body to control 6,000 financial institutions,” Mr. Vanackere told reporters. “Where central banks could take responsibility for their banks, for example for smaller institutions, ones which are not systemic, that could take place in line with the guidelines which are determined at the level of the ECB.”

-Write to Frances Robinson and Laurence Norman at frances.robinson@dowjones.com and Laurence.norman@dowjones.com

(Todd Buell, Matina Stevis, Alkman Granitsas and Jonathan House contributed to this article.)

Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones Newswires

Baffinland Gets Greenlight for Mary River Iron Project

The Nunavut Impact Review Board has granted Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. the greenlight to proceed with its multibillion-dollar Mary River iron-ore mine project, ending the Toronto mining company’s four-year effort to seek approval for the one of the largest mining developments planned in Canada.

In a decision released late Friday, the Nunavut environmental assessment agency outlined 184 terms and conditions for Baffinland Iron Mines to address potential environmental hazards and adverse socioeconomic effects of its proposed iron-ore mine project along the Mary River deposit on North Baffin Island in the Qikqtani Region of Nunavut.

The Mary River project, expected to have a mine life of more than 20 years, is estimated to generate between 18 and 30 million tons of iron ore a year. Baffinland, 70% owned by ArcelorMittal (MT) and 30% by Iron Ore Holdings (IOH.AU), is expected to build a railway and ice-breaking ore carriers for the project. A spokesman for Baffinland couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Write to Evelyn Juan at evelyn.juan@dowjones.com

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Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones Newswires

Greg Weston: Government’s fall agenda will unfold behind closed doors

As MPs take their Commons seats for the fall sitting of Parliament, Canadian and European Union negotiators will be huddling elsewhere in the capital, trying to hammer out a free-trade deal that could significantly impact this country and its citizens for decades.

But don’t ask what’s in the deal, or even what Canada wants and is prepared to give up.

Public debate? Forget it. Canadians won’t get to see details of the agreement until after the deal is done.

‘Most of the contentious issues facing the Conservative government this fall will be decided behind closed doors — explanatory memo to follow.’

It’s the same story for the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge trading bloc that Canada has been actively lobbying to join.

Of course, membership has its price — a free-trade deal with some of the fastest growing economies in the world, potentially impacting every sector of the Canadian economy.

Details to follow, likely after the deal has been initialled.

As Parliament reopens this week to consider the pressing affairs of state, the Harper government of promised openness and accountability is operating increasingly as though the nation’s business were nobody’s business.

It’s not just huge trade deals with Europe and the Pacific Rim that are being kept under wraps, and well away from Commons debate.

In fact, most of the contentious issues facing the Conservative government this fall will be decided behind closed doors — explanatory memo to follow.

Foreign takeover ‘framework’

For example, the prime minister is promising a new set of rules on foreign takeovers.

The move was prompted by a takeover bid by CNOOC, one of China’s largest energy companies, for Alberta-based Nexen and its significant stake in the oilsands.

This potential political powder keg is not so much the Nexen takeover itself, but the possibility the Chinese could use the deal as a template to go on a shopping spree for other Canadian energy companies and possibly control of the oilsands.

On the other hand, Stephen Harper has been begging the Chinese to invest some of their trillions in Canadian energy development, and now that a cheque is on the table, it would be difficult for the PM to block the sale.

The whole issue of foreign takeovers has been a matter of intense public interest since the Conservatives made up the term “strategic asset” as an excuse to nix the politically unpopular takeover of Saskatchewan’s Potash Corp. in 2010.

Similarly, the government’s promised new “foreign takeover framework” would be certain to spark heated national debate — if details were actually known by anyone outside the Prime Minister’s Office.

Instead, sources say the new takeover rules probably won’t be announced much before the government’s decision on the Nexen deal.

Omnibus bill, part 2

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, shakes the hand of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty after he tabled his March budget. Implementation of budget measures will be one of the items on the government's fall agenda when Parliament returns Monday.Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, shakes the hand of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty after he tabled his March budget. Implementation of budget measures will be one of the items on the government’s fall agenda when Parliament returns Monday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Government insiders say the one thing most likely to preoccupy parliamentarians over the coming months is the same issue that dominated the spring sitting: implementing the federal budget.

Most of the budget measures were passed in June in a 425-page omnibus bill that also contained dozens of other totally unrelated pieces of legislation, a hodgepodge of everything from Employment Insurance reform to streamlining environmental assessments.

The move all but eliminated meaningful debate on sweeping changes to Canadian law and governance.

This sitting of Parliament is about to get more of the same.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will introduce a second “budget” bill he promises will contain “quite a bit.”

The most contentious parts of the actual budgetary measures will be changes to pensions for parliamentarians and public servants to bring them in line with private retirement plans.

True to form, the government isn’t saying what other legislative changes it will toss into the mix this time.

One thing is certain: They will be measures the government of openness and accountability would rather not discuss in public.

Wharnsby: NHL, players face another lengthy battle

Beginning of Story Content

NEW YORK – Sept. 15, 2012 proved to be another miserable day for the NHL in an era that has seen a cycle of dysfunction between the league and its players.

As expected, there were no late-game dramatics on Saturday. There was no final bargaining session between the two sides.

After conversations between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA’s No. 2 man, Steve Fehr, earlier in the day, Daly finally made it official that there would be no final bargaining session before the midnight ET lockout deadline. What a shocker, we jest.

The two sides have agreed not to meet until either the NHLPA or NHL has a new proposal to present. It could be a long wait.

This is the third lockout under NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. In 1994-95, the labour dispute lasted 103 days and reduced the season to 48 games. Eight years ago, Bettman cancelled an entire season with a Feb. 16 announcement. Now the two sides skate into more uncertainty.

There has been plenty of speculation that this lockout would elapse no longer than mid-December because both sides would not want to see the cancellation of the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, 2013.

The annual outdoor game has become the NHL’s regular-season showpiece and the basis for the television deal with NBC. Nobody wants to miss the accompanying HBO 24/7 series, either.

Another possible lengthy battle

But we’re not convinced this lockout will be over by then. The last time the NHL endured a lockout, the NHLPA and NHL waited three months before they sat across from each other in a meaningful bargaining session. The two sides seem to be set up for another lengthy battle.

What was evident from the past few days in Manhattan was the NHLPA and NHL have become entrenched in its positions. The two sides are not negotiating, just presenting versions of their proposals. Both sides are out for the big win, not working together to find a solution.

In the next few days and weeks, we’ll read about different players scurrying off to find roster spots in Europe. Training camps were supposed to open on Friday. The regular season was supposed to open its door on Oct. 11. Instead, we’ll see announcements that exhibition games and then regular-season games will be cancelled.

So many will lose with this latest labour dispute. Referees and linesmen won’t be paid. Thousands of arena staff will miss out, too. Local businesses that thrive during the NHL season also will be out of luck. The dedicated hockey fan will have a void to fill.

Alternatives

But we’re here to help. There’s always plenty of daily action with Steve, Lloyd, Michelle, Eileen and the gang on Coronation Street. Okay, you don’t like that one.

Well, the AHL will have some stud-filled lineups this season. We saw players like Jeff Skinner, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins assigned to their AHL teams in the past two days. In the last lockout, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal and Mike Cammalleri thrived in the AHL and made them better when they returned to the NHL.

There also are the junior ranks and one of the most underrated levels of hockey, Canadian university. The 2013 Memorial Cup will be played in Saskatoon in May. It would be something if Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads could lead his club to the championship tournament like his fellow Cole Harbour, N.S. resident, Sidney Crosby, did with the Rimouski Oceanic in 2004-05.

There are 34 Canadian university programs, one probably near you. Try it, you’ll like it.

Sometimes the hockey fan just has to take on other sporting endeavours. After all, we’re well-rounded people. The Ryder Cup only is a couple weekends away. The CFL and NFL are in full swing. Major League Baseball is down to its final three weeks and the playoffs begin soon.

Before long we’ll find other undertakings. And, if or when, the NHL and NHLPA get around to sorting out their dysfunctional relationship, we’ll come back.

We always do, don’t we.

End of Story Content

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Ice science meets Inuit legend in search for Franklin’s ships

There are few clues in the great mystery surrounding what happened to Sir John Franklin’s ships in the 1840s, in the frigid waters of the Canadian Arctic.

But searchers hoping to find the 19th-century British vessels this summer are looking at two vastly different sources to guide their quest: oral histories told years ago by the Inuit, and hints that can be read in today’s satellite photos about how sea ice forms and shifts around.


Franklin search
Special Report: Hunting for the lost Franklin expedition
Team scours Canadian Arctic for ships missing since 1845

Sometimes the clues from the two sources line up. Sometimes they don’t. But searchers agree they are the best guide so far in the drive to find HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in the Arctic waters off the coast of Nunavut.

According to Inuit testimony, recorded by search parties after the ships were beset in ice in 1846 and deserted by their crews off King William Island two years later, one ship sank in deep water somewhere west of the island.

The other went further south, perhaps as far as the Queen Maud Gulf and maybe into Wilmot and Crampton Bay.

Ryan Harris, a marine archeologist with Parks Canada who has led remote-sensing operations in previous searches for the Franklin vessels, says the Inuit oral histories are critical in determining where to look for the remnants of that ill-fated quest to find the Northwest Passage.

“If it weren’t for the Inuit testimony, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out where to start looking.”

No one knows which ship might be the more northerly one. Or which took the southerly route.

“We just know that one ended up farther north and one apparently farther south,” says Harris.

Masts were once visible

For the northern ship, the Inuit reports point to what Harris says is a “fairly large area” to search, hundreds and hundreds of square kilometres in size.

The Inuit stories of the second ship, which were gathered by search parties such as those led by Charles Francis Hall and Lt. Frederick Schwatka, a U.S. cavalry officer, provide current searchers with a few more elements to work with.

U.S. Lt. Frederick Schwatka led an 1880 expedition to find documents written by earlier explorers that were rumored to detail Inuit encounters with Europeans near the site believed to be where Franklin’s ships became stuck in ice.U.S. Lt. Frederick Schwatka led an 1880 expedition to find documents written by earlier explorers that were rumored to detail Inuit encounters with Europeans near the site believed to be where Franklin’s ships became stuck in ice. (Edward Gooch/Hulton Archive/Getty)

The Inuit said they had access to that ship for a short time, “and they were able to recover a number of useful materials before it sank,” says Harris.

“When they came back to it after the breakup of ice one year, the masts were still visible.”

But that was an era long before GPS and satellite tracking, and homing in on an exact, 21st-century location from those decidedly less precise descriptions has proven very difficult.

Indeed, who can say exactly where the ships may have ended up, given ocean currents and the way the wrecks might have been pushed around by the ice that formed every winter.

That is where the ice studies come in to play.

Satellite records

Tom Zagon, a research scientist with the Canadian Ice Service, approached Parks Canada a couple of years ago suggesting the use of historical information about ice formation to try to focus the Franklin search effort.

“A lot of the evidence that’s out there, it’s sparse, it’s vague, it’s ambiguous and sometimes even contradictory,” says Zagon.

A MODIS satellite image from Aug. 1, 2012, shows ice conditions in Victoria Strait and Queen Maud Gulf, the area where the vessels of Sir John Franklin's expedition were beset, abandoned and presumably lost.A MODIS satellite image from Aug. 1, 2012, shows ice conditions in Victoria Strait and Queen Maud Gulf, the area where the vessels of Sir John Franklin’s expedition were beset, abandoned and presumably lost.
(NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response)

“So the idea was to use ice information, and it’s only recently that we really have enough of a satellite record, enough of an archive, to be able to do this.”

For this year’s search, Zagon looked at satellite images to identify trends in ice formation and movement to try to help determine where the ships might have ended up.

For example, from some of the historical evidence, there’s a suggestion that one vessel sank north of the Royal Geographical Society Islands.

“That’s a very large area,” says Zagon.

“But if you look at the ice information, you can see that certain areas exhibit very high ice pressure, the kind of ice pressure that sinks vessels.

“Well, these areas then become the focus for the search and the other areas take a back seat. Thery’re still large areas, but they’re much, much smaller than what one was dealing with previously.”

Mapping the smooth ice

The Inuit oral histories also make references to types of ice, something Zagon says can be helpful in today’s context with the search for the vessels.

“For example, they say they are walking on smooth ice. Well, those areas of smooth ice form in the same areas every year and you can map these out, same with areas of rough ice.”

However, even if the searches are focused on the right areas, there is still the question of whether the wrecks are still intact, a century and a half after they went down.

Parks Canada and the Department of National Defence have continued the search for Franklin's lost ships, with this expedition from the summer of 1967 using divers to search beneath the ice. Parks Canada and the Department of National Defence have continued the search for Franklin’s lost ships, with this expedition from the summer of 1967 using divers to search beneath the ice. (Library and Archives Canada)

The discovery of HMS Investigator off Banks Island in Mercy Bay two years ago showed an Arctic wreck can be well-preserved. But Parks Canada’s Harris says the ultimate fate of Erebus and Terror depends on many factors.

In the southern search area, survey work done in previous years shows a fairly firm ocean bottom with lots of gravel and glacial effects on the underwater topography, but no scours or big wedges carved in the floor by ice.

“Even though it’s not terribly deep, it’s only 20, 30 sometimes upwards of 50 metres in the areas we’ve been looking, the ice doesn’t seem to be getting down that deep and significantly affecting the seafloor,” says Harris.

“So a wreck in that area would probably stand to be very well preserved, perhaps perfectly intact like the wreck of Investigator.”

What are the odds?

In the northern search area, it’s a different story, though. Multibeam sonar scans have shown that ice has made deep gouges in the seafloor.

“It’s carving these deep furrows in the mud and some of these furrows are upwards of 60 or 80 metres wide and they just snake all over the bottom,” says Harris.

“So if one of the vessels had sunk and was in the path of one of these ice drags, then it would certainly stand to have been obliterated because these are sort of immovable forces in many ways.”

Still, no one knows how old those scours are — maybe they’ve been there for centuries — so their existence isn’t enough to dash all hope of finding Erebus or Terror in that area.


FRANKLIN FINDS
Tracking explorers’ discoveries about the expedition
Admiralty map outlines who found what and where

Harris says the nature of the vessels — that they were modified for Arctic service, and reinforced to withstand ice pressures – could also stand them in good stead for preservation.

Harris won’t venture any odds on whether the search team will be successful this year.

“I’ll never wade into that kind of discussion,” he says. “There are too many variables.

“We’re making a certain number of inferences, we’re weighing different sources of testimony that don’t agree, we’re picking and choosing what makes the most sense to us.

“Ultimately over the next three years, I think we stand a very good chance of surveying the areas we think are a priority for where we think these two vessels are most likely to be found.”

U.S. man linked to anti-Islamic movie may be in hiding

A Southern California filmmaker linked to an anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed at a Los Angeles sheriff’s station and afterward decided not to return to his home — possibly heading into hiding, authorities said.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was interviewed Saturday by federal probation officers for about half an hour at the station shortly after 12 a.m. in his hometown of Cerritos, Calif., said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department.

After that, deputies dropped Nakoula off at an undisclosed location.

“He is gone. We don’t know where he went,” Whitmore said. “He said he is not going back to his home.”

Probation under review

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, with face covered, is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, California.Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, with face covered, is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officers in Cerritos, California. (Bret Hartman/Reuters)

Federal officials are investigating whether Nakoula, who has been convicted of financial crimes, has violated the terms of his five-year probation. If so, a judge could send him back to prison.

Nakoula went voluntarily to the station, wearing a coat, hat, scarf and glasses that concealed his appearance. His home has been besieged by media for several days.

Whitmore said Nakoula was not handcuffed and the heavy apparel was his idea.

The probation department is reviewing the case of Nakoula, who pleaded no contest to bank fraud charges in 2010 and was banned from using computers or the Internet or using false identities as part of his sentence. Whitmore did not disclose other details about the interview.

Federal authorities have identified Nakoula, a self-described Coptic Christian, as the key figure behind Innocence of Muslims, a film denigrating Islam and the Prophet Muhammad that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Middle East.

Much of the film was shot inside the offices of Media for Christ, a nonprofit based in the Los Angeles-area city of Duarte. The charity raised more than $1 million last year “to glow Jesus’ light” to the world.

A federal law enforcement official said authorities had connected Nakoula to a man using the pseudonym of Sam Bacile who claimed earlier to be writer and director of the film.

Violent protests set off by the film in Libya played a role in the attacks in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials. Anti-U.S. mob protests have since spread to several other countries.


ANTI-U.S. OUTRAGE
Timeline: Attacks on American diplomatic missions

There are indications that Innocence of Muslims may have already been under way as a film project when Nakoula was arrested. A casting call for actors and crew for a film called Desert Warrior ran in Backstage magazine, based in Los Angeles and New York, in May and June 2009. The casting call described the film project as a “historical Arabian Desert adventure” and listed a “Sam Bassiel” as producer.

One notice identified Pharaoh Voice Inc. as the film’s production company. California state records show Pharaoh Voice was incorporated in September 2007 by a “Youssef M. Basseley.” The principal address for Pharaoh Voice in Hawaiian Gardens, a southern California community, is the same location where Nakoula lived until 2008, according to state records.

Leaders of Egyptian Coptic and Muslim communities from New Jersey and New York City and its suburbs gathered at a mosque Saturday in a show of unity. The group, meeting in Jersey City, N.J., expressed pain over the wave of protests and appealed for calm.

“Those who did this (film) are not Christian,” the Rev. David Bebawi, a Coptic priest, told the gathering of about 30 leaders. “Those who killed the American ambassador and others are not Muslim.”

An organizer of Saturday’s event, Egyptian-born Muslim Ahmed Shedeed, said as a community with deep roots in America, many are struggling with a range of emotions.

“There is an agony in the community, there is turmoil over this happening,” Shedeed said. “It’s something we all have to face as a united Egyptian community and make sure those looking to pull us apart do not succeed.”

© The Associated Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

Deadline expires, NHL triggers lockout

When the moment of truth arrived, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association were nowhere near the bargaining table.

The sides remained so far apart in negotiations that no last-ditch attempt was even made before the league entered its fourth work stoppage in 20 years. Instead, the collective bargaining agreement quietly expired at midnight on Saturday and the NHL locked out its players.

“We spoke again today, and in light of the fact that neither party has indicated an intention to move off of its last proposal, we have decided that there is no point in convening a formal bargaining session,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press in an email. “We will keep in close contact in the coming days and if anything changes, I am sure we will be in touch.”

The lockout was a long time coming.

As far back as November, the NHL informed the union it would be unwilling to continue operating past the expiration of the current CBA. But there were no formal talks held in the final three days under the expiring agreement.

Steve Fehr, the NHLPA’s special counsel, claimed the union requested a meeting before the “owners’ self-imposed deadline” on Saturday but was rebuffed.

“We spoke again today, and in light of the fact that neither party has indicated an intention to move off of its last proposal, we have decided that there is no point in convening a formal bargaining session.” — NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly

“[Executive director] Don Fehr, myself and several players on the negotiating committee were in [New York] and prepared to meet,” he said in a statement. “The NHL said that it saw no purpose in having a formal meeting. There have been and continue to be private, informal discussions between representatives of both sides.”

The parties last sat down together on Wednesday afternoon, with each tabling a proposal, and commissioner Gary Bettman indicated he expects the next move to come from the union.

Jobs in jeopardy

The impact of the work stoppage will be felt immediately. The first pre-season games are expected to be cancelled next week and the possibility of having the regular season start as scheduled on Oct. 11 will become less and less likely with each passing day.

During the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, both the league and individual teams decided to lay off employees. On Saturday afternoon, Daly said the NHL has no plans to cut staff “at this point in time.”

A number of players are expected to seek alternative opportunities in Europe, with the Russian-based KHL offering the most financial appeal. Switzerland, Sweden and Finland will also likely be popular destinations.

Players aren’t scheduled to receive the first of 13 NHL paycheques this season until Oct. 15 — something they’ll miss if the lockout extends past that date. There are no immediate plans for them to receive a stipend from the union.

Even the main negotiators will stop being paid. Bettman and Daly both committed to giving up their salary during the lockout, while Donald Fehr stopped collecting a paycheque at the start of July as a sign of solidarity with his membership.

With the sides struggling to agree on how to divide up US$3.28 billion in annual revenues, both lamented the damage that is bound to be inflicted by engaging in another work stoppage.

“Hockey is poised, I think, to really move over the next three or four years to a fundamentally different place than it’s been before,” said Fehr. “The question is whether the dispute we’re currently having is going to screw that up. If so, that’s bad and that’s unfortunate — we ought to be doing what we can to avoid it.”

Added Bettman: “Even a brief lockout will cost more in lost revenue and wages than making a deal we think we need to make.”

Money: the problem

For the last several weeks, all of the secondary issues have been pushed aside so that talks could focus solely on the league’s core economic system.

The NHL believes too much money is being paid out in salaries and has proposed a system to address it. They’re calling for the players’ share in revenue to be set at 49 per cent next season — down from 57 per cent in the expiring deal — and proposed that it drops to 47 per cent by the end of the six-year deal.

“This is very hard and I feel terrible about it.”

— NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

The union tabled an offer where the salary cap would be set to fixed increases of two per cent, four per cent and six per cent over the next three years. The system would then revert to a percentage-based system for the final two years.

Both sides in the dispute have questioned whether the other actually wanted to avoid a lockout.

“We all kind of feel that’s what they are looking for,” Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of the league after a meeting of more than 275 players in New York this week. “If you look at the key principles of everything, we’re showing we’re willing to move, to sacrifice things.

“If you look at [the NHL] proposal, it’s not really the same type of feeling.”

The last round of negotiations saw the sides cancel an entire season before the NHLPA eventually relented and accepted a salary cap. However, it didn’t end up working out so badly for players as the average salary rose to $2.45 million over the course of the CBA.

“It actually turned out to be more fair than perhaps it should have been,” said Bettman.

And so the NHL begins writing another chapter in its history of labour strife.

An 11-day strike in April 1992 caused 30 games to be postponed, while a 103-day lockout in 1994-95 forced the cancellation of 468 games and delayed the season’s start until Jan. 20. The 2004 lockout began Sept. 16 and wasn’t settled until July 13 — making the NHL the first North American sports league to ever cancel an entire season over a labour dispute.

The three lockouts have all come with Bettman at the helm. During a board of governors meeting on Thursday, owners voted unanimously in support of the work stoppage.

“This is very hard and I feel terrible about it,” Bettman said afterwards.

But the players felt owners should have been willing to do more, especially after all the trouble they went through during the last round of negotiations.

“I think we want more of a partnership and it seems like they just want to take money back,” said Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza. “We did that last time. We gave them a percentage of our salaries and it solved absolutely nothing.”

© The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press