Canada to reopen Egypt, Libya embassies amid unrest

Canadian and U.S. embassies across the Middle East took precautions against continued violent protests over the weekend, while Libya said it has rounded up some 50 people in connection with the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Canada closed three of its embassies for the day on Sunday — in Egypt, Libya and Sudan, where anti-U.S. protests have turned violent — citing continued security concerns.

CBC’s Sasa Petricic reported later that the embassies in Libya and Egypt were due to reopen on Monday following days of security fears, but that the embassy in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, would remain closed.

Earlier in the day, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had said the missions were to be closed in order to ensure the safety of diplomatic staff.

Protests also broke out across Pakistan, including a violent confrontation that left two dead in Karachi. Police in the southern city used water cannons and tear gas to repel hundreds of demonstrators after they broke through a barricade near the U.S. consulate. One demonstrator was killed. All Americans who work at the consulate were safe, a U.S. Embassy official said.

The U.S. State Department ordered the departure of all family members and non-essential personnel on Saturday from posts in Sudan and Tunisia, blaming the security situation in the capitals of Tunis and Khartoum.

Afghans burn U.S. and Israeli flags in Kabul on Sunday.Afghans burn U.S. and Israeli flags in Kabul on Sunday. (Ahmad Jamshid/Associated Press)

The Canadian mission in Tunis is normally closed on Sunday.

The moves follow a wave of protests and violence, over an anti-Islam film, that has swept across the Middle East and Muslim countries and which earlier claimed the lives the American ambassador to Libya and three consular staff when an angry mob stormed the consulate in Benghazi.

Libya’s president said on Sunday about 50 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, and that some of the suspects are from outside the country.

The evidence “leaves us with no doubt” the attack was pre-planned said President Mohamed Magariaf during an appearance on the CBS program Face the Nation.

“It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” he said.

Suspicions have lingered that the attack may have been pre-planned and perhaps organized by extremist elements including al-Qaeda.

On the same program, however, UN Ambassador Susan Rice said the U.S. has no evidence proving that the attacks in Benghazi were premeditated.

The attack appears to have begun as a spontaneous protest which was later joined by extremists armed with heavy weapons, said Rice. It then, “spun from there into something much, much more violent.”

Rice added the U.S. will want to draw its own conclusions from the investigation.

Al-Qaeda cheers

Al-Qaeda appears to be attempting to capitalize on the wave of anti-U.S. sentiment.

“What has happened is a great event, and these efforts should come together in one goal, which is to expel the embassies of America from the lands of the Muslims,” the group said in a statement released Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

The Pentagon dispatched elite Marine rapid response teams to Libya and Yemen on Friday, but a team deployed to Khartoum was turned back when the Sudanese government objected.

There were more anti-U.S. protests Sunday over the 14-minute film, which was made in California.

Several hundred university students in Afghanistan gathered to protest, burn an American flag and to chant “Death to America.”

The obscure, amateurish movie made in the U.S. is called Innocence of Muslims and shows the Prophet Muhammad in buffoonish, offensive behaviour.

Actors who appeared in the film said they were misled about it, and that some dialogue was crudely dubbed during post-production.

The Canadian Embassy in Cairo also closed on Thursday because of the angry protests at the nearby American embassy.

The normal Egyptian weekend is Friday-Saturday so the Cairo embassy has been closed since.

Timeline: Attacks on American diplomatic missions

CBC’s Derek Stoffel visited the Canadian Embassy in Cairo on Sunday, where a note on the door informs visitors that it’s closed. About a dozen people were outside, looking to get visas and travel documents.

“I’m surprised the embassy is closed. Now I’m not sure when I can get my papers renewed,” said one man who wants his work permit renewed.

The Harper government shuttered its embassy in Tehran and severed diplomatic ties with Iran earlier this month, in part because it said it was concerned about the safety of Canadian diplomats.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

Magnotta’s extradition expected to cost taxpayers $375K

The cost to Canadian taxpayers for Luka Rocco Magnotta‘s extradition from Germany, aboard a government plane fit for the prime minister, is expected to be about $375,000.

The estimated price tag for the accused killer’s unusual journey home includes flight expenses, catering service and a hotel stay for authorities who fetched the fugitive from across the Atlantic, according to federal documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

Berlin police arrested Magnotta in early June to end an international manhunt following the killing and dismemberment of Chinese national Jun Lin.

Magnotta is facing several charges in connection with the gruesome slaying, including first-degree murder. The 30-year-old porn actor and stripper has pleaded not guilty to all counts. The chilling details of the crimes he’s accused of caught media attention around the world.

The circumstances of his exceptional return to Canadian soil also raised eyebrows.

Magnotta flew home aboard one of the military’s CC-150 Polaris Airbus transport planes, an aircraft that can be configured to accommodate prominent passengers such as the prime minister, foreign dignitaries, the Governor General and members of the Royal Family.

Flight costs $15,505 per hour

The flights, from an Alberta military base to Germany and back to Canada, spanned 23.9 hours at an estimated rate of $15,505 per hour — for a total cost of $370,570.

The rate is an estimate that includes maintenance, hangar fees, crew salaries and fuel, which makes up $6,420 of the hourly cost, according to the Department of National Defence.

The hotel cost for eight crew members to stay overnight in Berlin was expected to come to nearly $1,300, while the catering total was approximately $3,500 — $1,500 in Montreal and $2,000 in the German capital.

The figures were included in a package of documents obtained under the Access to Information Act.

A spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence said the final bill for the mission should be confirmed by financial staff in the coming weeks.

A Canadian military plane arrives at Mirabel airport carrying Luka Rocco Magnotta on Monday, June 18, 2012 in Mirabel, Quebec. A Canadian military plane arrives at Mirabel airport carrying Luka Rocco Magnotta on Monday, June 18, 2012 in Mirabel, Quebec. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

“They have a partial actual cost — they’re almost there, but they didn’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Morgan Bailey said.

The tally does not include costs assumed by other Canadian police forces involved in Magnotta’s extradition.

The documents say Public Safety Canada asked the Department of National Defence for help in bringing “a person of interest” from Berlin to Montreal.

The plane’s journey to fetch Magnotta began as it lifted off from a military base in Cold Lake, Alta. It headed for Montreal, where it picked up police officers, before travelling overseas to Berlin.

The ride home saw the Airbus fly from Berlin to Magnotta’s drop-off point at Mirabel airport, north of Montreal. The aircraft later continued on to a military base in Trenton, Ont.

At the time, a police official told media that commercial airlines had declined requests to transport Magnotta across the Atlantic.

Police thankful for plane

Montreal police were thankful the federal government made the plane available for the extradition.

“How can we bring him back to Montreal on a commercial flight with other people sitting on board?” Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere said in Mirabel, shortly after Magnotta emerged from the plane.

“For very extraordinary cases, we do have to take some extraordinary measures.”

‘For very extraordinary cases, we do have to take some extraordinary measures.’—Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere, Montreal Police

Lafreniere also said a direct flight was necessary because, in the case of an international layover, Magnotta could have tried to claim asylum in any country he might have landed in on his way back to Canada.

The Montreal police department has declined, however, to share how much it spent on the mission to Germany.

In a response to an access-to-information request, the force cited concerns that sharing such figures could expose investigation methods and have an impact on court proceedings.

A Montreal police spokeswoman interviewed recently said the service would not comment on details of Magnotta’s extradition flight, which Lafreniere has indicated included six city officers.

Quebec provincial police, which were involved in the mission, also declined to reveal the costs associated with Magnotta’s return to Canada.

In its response to a demand made under the Access to Information Act, the provincial police force referred the request to Montreal police, which it indicated was leading the file.

Police allege Magnotta fled Montreal for Europe in late May, shortly before Lin’s torso was discovered inside a suitcase in an alley behind the suspect’s west-end apartment building.

The body of his supposed victim was found in multiple pieces. The 33-year-old Concordia University student’s hands and feet were mailed separately to the offices of political parties in Ottawa and schools in Vancouver.

Magnotta, who is originally from Scarborough, Ont., was arrested without incident at a Berlin Internet cafe on June 4 after he was spotted reading online news articles about himself by an employee.

Two weeks later, he was aboard Flight CBC 3812 bound for Mirabel.

Magnotta was met by a motorcade of police vehicles with flashing lights at Mirabel airport. A half-dozen men escorted him down the aircraft’s stairs onto the tarmac, and into an unmarked minivan at the centre of the convoy.

Armed officers, at least one of whom carried an assault weapon, monitored a handcuffed Magnotta during the transfer after he emerged from the grey airplane emblazoned with the Canadian government’s logo.

Magnotta is also accused of defiling Lin’s corpse, harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MPs, and publishing and mailing obscene material.

He opted for a trial by jury during a June court appearance in Montreal and will face a preliminary hearing next March, where part of the evidence against him will be heard.

© The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

NHL fans across Canada feel stung by lockout

Hockey fans across Canada are hoping the NHL’s lockout of its players won’t last long, while also bracing for the possibility of a lost season.

The NHL closed its doors at midnight Saturday and there were no formal talks between the league and its players in the final three days before the previous agreement expired.

It’s the NHL’s second lockout in seven years and the fourth work stoppage in two decades.

The last lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, making the NHL the first North American sports league ever to cancel an entire season over a labour dispute.

Fans in Winnipeg are taking news of the lockout especially hard, as they had just welcomed an NHL franchise back to the Manitoba capital last year after a 15-year absence.

Steve Taylor, a Winnipeg Jets season-ticket holder, said he doesn’t think fan support for the team will be affected, but he thinks the lockout is insulting to fans generally.

“It’s disappointing that people can start out playing a game that they love and end up quibbling over millions of dollars, and ruin it for a lot of people who pay a lot of money to go see the games,” he said.

“It’s pathetic, really.”

‘Hurts a lot’

Brandon Bryant, a 41-year-old in Toronto, said he usually hosts special gatherings to watch hockey games. That’s in jeopardy now.

“It hurts a lot,” he said.

“We live for hockey season and look forward to it during the off-season and the owners are putting that at risk now.”

In Nova Scotia, the lockout was on the minds of players, coaches and parents as minor hockey associations began conditioning camps and tryouts this weekend.

Andrew Schnare, a coach with the Chebucto Minor Hockey Association, said the NHL lockout is a hard thing for young players to understand.

“Their idols are locked out and they don’t really understand why,” he said. “They just want to watch a hockey game and follow their idols.”

Rhys Finnick, who works at the Sports Junkies sporting goods store in Vancouver, blamed team owners for the labour unrest and called them greedy.

But regardless of how the dispute plays out, he said his passion for the game will stick.

“I’m becoming less and less of a fan of the NHL concerning the business side of it,” he said.

“But I’ll always watch it no matter what. They could lock out for 10 years and as soon as they start playing again, I’m going to watch the first game.”

Exhibition games in jeopardy

Even fans in cities that don’t have NHL teams are unhappy with the possibility they may miss games if the lockout stretches on.

In Regina, Steve Leibel said he and his son have tickets to watch an exhibition NHL game there that was set for next Thursday.

“I was really looking forward [to] taking my son to the Oilers-Islanders game that we had coming here, and now that’s likely not happening,” Leibel said.

Fans in Saskatoon had hoped to see an exhibition game between the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins next Saturday.

The first exhibition games could be scrapped next week, and the prospect of having the regular season start as scheduled on Oct. 11 is less and less likely with each day.

Businesses fear losses

Meanwhile, those who work in restaurants, bars, retail stores and other businesses that profit from hockey games fear the lockout could hurt their bottom line.

“It’s going to be a very rough year. We are going to be in the minus,” said Khalid Maskour, whose souvenir shop in Montreal features Canadiens shirts, hats and flags.

Maskour, who estimated half of his business revolves around Habs souvenirs, said a short or cancelled hockey season will take a big bite out of his sales during the winter.

Tony Siwicki of the Silver Heights Restaurant in Winnipeg said since the Jets returned last season, he has bought team gear for staff, hired extra security, and even purchased a bus to shuttle fans from his eatery to home games.

“Now we’ve got all this money out that we … won’t get back. We have to sit on it for, [in] the worst-case scenario, for another year,” Siwicki said.

“I hope they come to an agreement,” he added. “A lot of people … rely on this kind of entertainment to make money, to survive, to support their families.”

Katharine Galaher, a fan in Toronto, said the league should remember people who work in bars and restaurants that make their money off hockey games.

“They need to think of the well-being of everyone else that’s losing their jobs for the season,” she said.

With files from The Canadian Press

Movies play a £4.6bn role in brightening the UK picture

The study, carried out by Oxford Economics, shows that while UK film directly contributed £1.6bn to the economy last year, this figure rises to £4.6bn when taking into account other factors such as the boost it gives to tourism and trade.

The direct contribution of £1.6bn is up from around £1.5bn last year, although lower than 2009, when the study says the industry contributed more than £1.7bn.

However, the independent report – commissioned by the British Film Institute and film studios Pinewood Shepperton – said that in 2011 the film industry supported 44,000 direct jobs, an increase of 8,000 on 2009, and 117,000 jobs indirectly (up 17,000).

The study also suggested films showing off the UK give a yearly boost to international tourist spending to the UK of up to £2.1bn, translating into a contribution of roughly £1bn to the economy.

Ed Vaizey, the minister for culture, communications and creative industries, said the report “reminds us of the crucial role the industry plays in job creation, tourism, inward investment and the promotion of all that is great about Britain”.

Although Pinewood Shepperton chief executive Ivan Dunleavy said the study showed the industry was “performing well relative to today’s economic climate”, he added: “We can do more.”

He said: “We now need to look at how to enable further investment in infrastructure and how to build on the UK’s growing international reputation to boost exports.”

Pinewood Shepperton had a £200m expansion plan rejected in January, and is in the process of preparing a new application.

PwC reveals its tax bill: £305,000 per partner

Speaking to The Independent on the release of PwC’s annual results today, senior partner Ian Powell said the firm decided to show the tax contribution as there is “currently such a lot of focus on people paying their way”.

Bankers have been bashed for their bonus payments and non-domiciles for tax avoidance, and the Shareholder Spring highlighted executives’ mammoth pay packets.

However, PwC clients hoping that their accountant is finding ways to help them save money may be surprised to learn that the 872 partners do not seem to be very effective at trimming their own tax bills. Including Nat-ional Insurance contributions, they paid an effective tax rate of around 47 per cent, up from 46 per cent last year, for a combined total of £266m.

However, the average profit paid out to each UK partner, excluding 30 on secondment overseas, was nearly £800,000, up from £763,000 last year. This reflected a seven per cent growth in revenue, which came in at £2.62bn.

Mr Powell said: “We’re pretty pleased with revenue against the backcloth of the economic environment. That’s the advantage of a partnership: we can take medium and long-term views.”

He said that he had up to £100m to spend on acquisitions over the next 12 months, with deals likely in Central and Eastern Europe, India and “especially” the Middle East. He also wants to bulk up his consulting, forensic accounting and regulatory teams in the UK.

Mr Powell was re-elected unopposed as senior partner earlier this year. PwC’s reputation has this year been hit by several investigations into its auditing of big-name firms, but has only accepted any wrongdoing in a case involving JPMorgan, where it was fined a record £1.4m.

MoD’s Trident fears spark pledge by BAE

After it emerged that the Ministry of Defence has demanded guarantees over Trident, a source close to the company said the ring-fencing of the BAE-built program in Cumbria would be a priority.

While Trident – alongside its cyber security arm Detica – is believed to be one of a number of issues the coalition is concerned over, BAE has been piling the pressure on the government. The Independent on Sunday revealed it has been privately warning a collapse of the merger with the owner of Airbus would result in thousands of job losses in this country.

The proposed merger, which would result in the world’s largest defence and aerospace group, is likely to have major political repercussions for a number of countries.

Britain holds a ‘golden share’ in BAE, meaning it is able to stand in the way of foreign shareholders taking control of 15 per cent or more, while both France and Germany have a 22.5 per cent stake in aerospace giant EADS.

While BAE is understood to be confident it will get the go-ahead from governments, reports from Germany yesterday claimed the deal could fall foul of European law. The issue is the plan to issue ‘golden shares’ to the British, French and German governments, according to Spiegel.

When news of the potential merger emerged last week, shares in BAE initially shot up 7 per cent before falling back amid some fears that the proposed deal could be valuing the comp-any too cheaply. Espirito Santo Investment Bank claimed the talks “highlight the cheap valuation of BAE”.

In Paris, EADS’ share price has fallen sharply since the announcement.

Boots steps up the pace in China with £56m buy

Alliance Boots announced yesterday it will buy 12 per cent of Nanjing Pharmaceutical, which will make it the wholesaler’s second-biggest shareholder.

Following the news Stefano Pessina, the executive chairman of Alliance Boots, outlined his ambitions for China, saying he wanted between 20 and 30 per cent of the country’s pharmaceutical distribution market.

“In 10 years, I hope we will be one of the major players in China or we will be, together with other companies, part of one of the major players in China,” he said. He added that the country was working on improving its healthcare sector.

Mr Pessina also said the company wanted to make similar investments in Latin America.

With revenues of about 20bn renminbi (£1.9bn) last year, Nanjing Pharmaceutical is China’s fifth-largest pharmaceutical wholesaler.

Alliance Boots has already made a move into the country’s pharmaceutical distribution industry through a joint venture with Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals, which was launched in 2008.

It has been an eventful past few months for Alliance Boots. In June, US giant Walgreens announced that it had agreed to buy 45 per cent of the company in a deal worth more than $16bn (£9.9bn).

Getting infrastructure on road is key to recovery – business chiefs

Only 35 per cent of companies believe the coalition’s policies will boost investment in infrastructure, according to a report by the CBI and KPMG.

John Cridland, the head of the CBI, said there was too much talk and not enough action from the government.

“There are lots of new announcements but business people do not think this is leading to any change on the ground,” said Mr Cridland, pictured. Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of the 568 companies surveyed said the UK’s infrastructure is less favourable than elsewhere in the European Union, and more than two-fifths (43 per cent) claimed it is worse than in other developed economies outside the EU.

Many businesses equated the quality of the UK’s infrastructure to barely above that of an emerging-market economy.

Richard Threlfall, a partner at KPMG, said: “Confidence in our infrastructure is ebbing away. Last year, 43 per cent [of businesses surveyed] thought the coalition would be able to deal with this, now that is down to 35 per cent.”

However, there was some good news for the government, with its £40bn UK Guarantees scheme – unveiled in July to underwrite infrastructure projects – given a cautious thumbs-up as 60 per cent of respondents to the survey said it will help get diggers on the ground.

Mr Cridland said businesses had placed a shopping list of urgent infrastructure improvements in front of ministers, centring on the road network.

“We would like to see some projects of national importance super-fasttracked through the planning and funding processes,” he said, adding that road improvements could be paid for by tolls. “I have long said we need a plan A-plus, and I can’t see a more effective way of doing this than investing in infrastructure,” he said. “It’s a crucial part of the growth narrative. The emphatic message from business is get on with it”.

The third runway at Heathrow remains at the front of UK plc’s mind: “Aviation is a lagging indicator – we know it is politically difficult but they need to get on with that too,” Mr Cridland said.

Businesses ambitions for busier skies over the UK don’t stop at Heathrow: “In the medium term, all London’s airports need one extra runway,” he added.

Mr Threfall said that the delay caused by the government asking Sir Howard Davies to carry out a review of airport capacity would only hamper other necessary improvements to Britain’s infrastructure.

“Without knowing where we are with the hub airport, we won’t know where to connect the roads and train networks,” he added.

Bahrain mall to open five years after being built

A shopping mall in Bahrain that stood empty for five years after being built is finally expected to officially open at the end of the year, according to senior municipal officials.

Gulf Daily News reports that the US$1.66m (BHD 630,000) complex was completed in 2007 and a private firm was appointed in 2008 to manage the property on behalf of the Northern Municipality, which comes under the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry.

However, the company was sacked last month after failing to attract a single tenant, according to municipality director-general Yousif Al Ghatam.

He said the municipality took back responsibility for the mall and had already rented out 60 percent of the space, which it hopes to fill by the time the official opening takes place in December.

“I don’t understand why we needed to bring in the company in the first place,” he added.

“It was a decision taken by the previous municipality director-general, but I decided to pull the plug after discovering the real estate company didn’t rent out any shops.”

The mall is located on the troubled Zaid bin Omaira Avenue, which has been marred by street violence.

The private real estate firm was paying just US$9,289 (BHD3,500) a month to lease the space and the municipality predicts it can double its revenues by going it alone.

“We are expecting a revenue of US$159,236 (BHD60,000) a year from renting out shops, which is around double the amount we were receiving from the private real estate company,” explained Al Ghatam.

He said the aim was to fill the complex by the time the official opening took place during National Day celebrations in mid-December.

“We have now signed contracts for a supermarket, children and women’s clothing shops, phones and perfumes shops, a stationery shop, gifts and flower shops and a children’s play area,” he revealed.

“The municipality will also open an office in the mall to make it easier for residents of the area to access services,” he added.

Dubai Int’l Airport eyes major cargo expansion

Dubai International Airport’s cargo facilities are set to undergo a major modernisation and expansion programme that will see freight capacity increased to 3.1 million tonnes by 2018.

Construction is set to begin on a 30,000 sq m addition to Dubai International’s 1.2 million tonne cargo mega terminal, increasing capacity by 25 percent to 1.5 million tonnes a year.

The airport’s original cargo facilities, Hall A and Freight Gate 1, will also undergo a total refurbishment, a statement said.

Together these facilities will be dedicated for the sole use of Emirates Airline, the statement added.

A new transhipment facility with capacity for 400,000 tonnes of freight a year is also under construction.

Once complete, it will handle about 60 percent of cargo transferred between Dubai International and Dubai World Central, Dubai’s second airport.

The new facility will be built on the former site of the Airport Expo building which was partially demolished earlier this year.

The new infrastructure responds to growing volumes of freight being transported through Dubai.

Total annual cargo volumes across both airports are projected to surge from the 2.19 million tonnes recorded last year to 4.1 million tonnes by 2020.

“Construction of the new facilities at Dubai International will take place in several stages to ensure the day-to-day working of the airport is not disrupted,” said Jeff Gould, VP development at Dubai Airports.

Chris Garton, SVP, operations at Dubai Airports, added: “The continued growth in cargo volumes as well as the size of the airport meant that cargo facilities could no longer be clustered into one area.

“The new infrastructure will not only increase our capacity but go a long way to simplifying what has become an increasing complex cargo operation as the airport has grown.”