ECB aid mustn’t let euro zone indebted off hook: Fetker

ALPBACH, Austria |
Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:03am EDT

ALPBACH, Austria (Reuters) – Any support the European Central Bank provides to struggling euro zone members should not ease the pressure on those countries to get their financial houses in order, Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter said on Thursday.

“We have to see what the ECB can do by its statutes but we also have to tighten controls because it cannot be that this leads to moral hazard,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

“We have to check that countries do their homework and based on these control mechanisms we can help,” she added.

Fekter, a hardliner when it comes to fiscal discipline, noted that financial help to struggling euro zone countries has always come with conditions, and this has to apply to the ECB as well.

“If the ECB helps, it can only happen with conditions,” she said.

ECB President Mario Draghi has pledged to do what it takes to protect the euro zone, including launching new systems for buying bonds from the indebted Italy and Spain,

Fekter declined to discuss the situation in Greece before the “troika” of the ECB, European Union and the International Monetary reports back on how the country is fulfilling terms of its bailout.

But Fekter took a dim view of the idea of writing down the value of bilateral loans to Athens.

“I think absolutely nothing of (the idea) that if Greece does not meet the conditions then suddenly Austrian taxpayers are asked for more money,” she said.

Fekter, however, gave an upbeat assessment of chances for Italy and Spain to master their financial woes on their own thanks to the countries’ economic power that far outshone that of Greece.

“Italy is making good progress in its reform efforts,” she said, while Spain was taking a good approach to reforms to get a grip on crises in its banking sectors and regions.

“We have signals from Spain at the moment that they need aid only for banks.”

She noted that financial markets are absorbing the refinancing demand of the two countries over the rest of this year and in 2013.

She expressed confidence that the euro zone would remain intact.

“I am fighting for this. The will of the ministers is very clear for keeping the euro zone together. That is probably the most stable element in all that is being discussed at the moment,” she said.

On a domestic note, she dismissed as “very unlikely” prospects that she could exit her finance minister post as part of a shakeup in her conservative People’s Party, which has been struggling in opinion polls ahead of elections next year.

But she also called herself a “team player” who would do what was needed to help her party, junior partner in a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats.

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

Barclays retail boss Jenkins gets CEO task

Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:43am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Barclays has picked softly spoken retail boss Antony Jenkins as its new chief executive to fill the shoes left by Bob Diamond, the colorful American investment banker who resigned after a rate-rigging scandal.

Jenkins, brought in six years ago to turn around the British bank’s credit card business, lacks experience in investment banking, which, though a big profit driver for Barclays, has been at the heart of the firm’s recent troubles.

Jenkins’s manner will mark a sharp contrast with the flashier style of Diamond, who built up Barclays’s thriving investment bank but resigned as chief executive in July after the bank admitted manipulating the Libor benchmark interest rate.

Diamond was, however, grooming Jenkins for the top job before his own fall from grace.

“He’s a very capable guy,” Oriel Securities analyst Mike Trippitt said. “I think the fact that he’s come up the ranks in the retail and commercial world means he’ll take a very fresh view of the investment bank.”

Trippitt added that Jenkins was unlikely to kill off the latter, but would look at how capital was allocated in the divisions.

Technology and gadget enthusiast Jenkins beat off competition from external candidates for the role, confounding those who had thought the bank would look outside to signal a clean break with former management.

Barclays on Thursday vaunted Jenkins’ “intimate knowledge” of the bank’s portfolio, and his retail experience could be an advantage in the face of new rules forcing UK banks to safeguard small customers.

British banks are being asked to effectively isolate their riskier investment bank arms from their retail businesses, so taxpayers will not have to bail them out in any repeat of the financial crisis that struck in 2008.

Jenkins inherits a daunting in-tray. His appointment came hours after British fraud prosecutors confirmed they were launching a criminal probe into payments between Barclays and Qatar Holding in 2008.

Four current and former senior employees are also under investigation by the financial watchdog, including finance director Chris Lucas.

In June Barclays paid $453 million to U.S. and UK authorities to settle with regulators over the Libor probes.

“We have made serious mistakes in recent years and clearly failed to keep pace with our stakeholders’ expectations,” Jenkins said in a statement.

Chairman Marcus Agius also resigned over the Libor scandal. Industry veteran David Walker will replace him in November – an appointment that could appease some worried about the future of the investment bank, though the public spotlight is still bearing down on the division.

Jenkins, an Oxford University graduate who started his career at Barclays as a trainee before moving to Citi in 1989, added that repairing the damage would “take time”.

Barclays said Jenkins would receive an annual salary of 1.1 million pounds ($1.74 million), plus up to 2.75 million pounds in annual incentive awards plus long-term incentive awards of up to 400 percent of salary.

(Additional reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Will Waterman)

Stock index futures point to lower open

Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:59am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) – Stock index futures pointed to a slightly lower open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the SP 500 down 3 points, or 0.2 percent lower, and the Dow Jones futures and Nasdaq 100 futures also falling 0.2 percent by 0755 GMT.

European shares continued to drift lower on Thursday, with investors reticent about lifting their exposure to riskier assets given uncertainty over the next moves by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the outlook for the global economy. .EU.

Japan’s Nikkei average fell below 9,000 to a two-week closing low on Thursday as hopes that U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will signal more stimulus in his speech on Friday faded, while resources-related shares slid on a weaker outlook. .T.

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan promised on Wednesday that he and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney would make the tough choices needed to lead a U.S. economic turnaround that generates jobs and cuts government spending and debt.

Drenching rains from Hurricane Isaac brought flooding to the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday, but elaborate defenses built to protect New Orleans after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago seemed to pass their first major test.

Data on Wednesday showed that the U.S. economy fared slightly better than initially thought in the second quarter, but the pace of growth remained too slow to shut the door on further monetary easing from the Federal Reserve.

U.S. jobless claims data is due out at 1230 GMT on Thursday. A Reuters poll forecasts the initial jobless claims data as coming in at 370,000, down from 372,000 before.

CITIGROUP (C.N): Citigroup Inc agreed to pay $590 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit accusing it of hiding tens of billions of dollars of toxic mortgage assets, one of the largest settlements stemming from the global financial crisis.

JOHNSON JOHNSON (JNJ.N): Genmab (GEN.CO) has agreed a deal that could be worth over $1.1 billion with a unit of Johnson Johnson for the rights to a cancer agent, giving the U.S. company a 10.7 percent equity stake in the Danish biotech group.

APPLE (AAPL.O): Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) became the first handset maker to announce a smartphone using Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) latest mobile software, making its surprise, hurried announcement just days before the highly anticipated launch of Nokia’s (NOK1V.HE) version.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI inched up 4.49 points, or 0.03 percent, to 13,107.48. The Standard Poor’s 500 Index .SPX rose 1.19 points, or 0.08 percent, to 1,410.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 4.04 points, or 0.13 percent, to 3,081.19. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

Entrepreneurship Front & Center at Republican National Convention

Small business owners note a super-charged environment for them during this election year.

Tampa RNC

Mallory Benedict/PBS NewsHour

Small business owners are already taking center stage this election season, as was evident at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night in Tampa.

The Republican National Committee is portraying small business owners as the job creators likely to haul the U.S. out of its economic quagmire. They chose the “We Built It” convention theme, which obviously knocks President Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That” entrepreneur speech earlier this year, and also featured primetime addresses from speakers like Sher Valenzuela, a candidate for lieutenant governor of Delaware, who spoke about the industrial upholstery business she created with her husband, and governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, whose family is Indian immigrants and small business owners.

Even Hurricane Isaac, which gave Tampa a pass, proved a boon to local business owners. Though the threat of the storm scuttled the opening of the convention, and potentially the hopes of the city’s many entrepreneurs, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce estimates local businesses in the area will reap about $151 million in revenue from events and the influx of delegates.

“The storm missed us by a wide mark,” says Bob Rohrlack, president and chief executive of the chamber, who adds the extra day on Monday gave delegates, who would otherwise be inside the Tampa Convention Center, time to shop or spend money on other activities with local merchants.

The emphasis on small business is likely to be a sustained note in both conventions and throughout the election year.

“The economy is the focus during this election cycle, and there’s a return to understanding where employment and economic growth comes from, that the net new jobs over the 30-year period from 1975 to 2005 come from companies less than five years old,” says Scott Case, chief executive of Startup America, and a co-founder of

Case moderated a panel on Wednesday at the RNC about ways to solve the U.S. job crisis.

Startup America, a network of start-up founders, was a significant part of the convention lineup today. The small business group, founded about 18 months ago, is hosting panels, which are being put on in conjunction with The Huffington Post, ranging on topics from how to create jobs to the role of government in entrepreneurship.

The Startup America morning round of panels featured a discussion about how women perceive their roles as executives compared to male peers, and the sacrifices female chief executives need to make to start their own companies.

“Women entrepreneurs in general are a really dynamic group,” says Heather Kenyon, chief executive of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, and the panel moderator.

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  • Startup America is also behind a start-up “expo,” where about 100 start-ups from around the country pitch their businesses. 

    Among the expo attendees is Lou Aronson, whose company Votifi is a social network meant to make politics and political discussions more civil. Votifi lets people with similar views discuss political topics and organize. It also doubles as an information lab for voter trends. Launched in late 2011, Votifi has four full-time employees and 90,000 users.

    “Every convention needs its catch-phrase, and I am excited that this one is talking about creating business and creating jobs,” Aronson says, referring to the “We Built It” theme.

    Startup America will also present at the Democratic National Convention next week in Charlotte.

    But some entrepreneurs, like Zalmi Duchman, founder of the Fresh Diet, an online provider of fresh meals, and a panelist for a discussion on the role of government regulation in business, says both parties could improve their engagement with entrepreneurs.

    Duchman says he was disappointed that advertising and capital formation provisions of the JOBS act, signed by President Obama this spring, have still not been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Duchman launched his business with the assistance of a $900,000 Small Business Administration loan in 2008. The Fresh Diet, which was No. 281 on last year’s Inc. 500 list, now employs 200 people full time.

    “I built my company, but I can also say the government helped me build it,” Duchman says. 

    Obama Q&A Crashes Reddit’s Servers

    The president reached out to tech geeks Wednesday–and they promptly brought down parts of Reddit’s site.


    As Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian prepares to hit the campaign trail with his own agenda this election season, the social news site he created is getting into the game, too. On Wednesday, Reddit hosted a question-and-answer forum for President Obama to overwhelming response. So overwhelming, in fact, the Reddit servers crashed.

    As part of the site’s “IamA” series where actors, journalists, business owners, athletes, and politicians allow redditors to AMA (ask me anything), the President answered questions for 30 minutes following a campaign rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    The questions posed covered a wide array of topics: from his favorite basketball player (Michael Jordan–“I’m a Bulls man,” Obama wrote) to the now infamous White House beer recipe (it will be available soon, the president said). Redditors asked a number of policy questions, including how he plans to help small businesses if re-elected.

    “We’ve really focused on [small business aid] since I came into office–18 tax cuts for small business, easier funding from the SBA. Going forward, I want to keep taxes low for the 98 percent of small businesses that have $250,000 or less in income, make it easier for small business to access financing, and expand their opportunities to export.” 

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  • Obama also wrote that he would continue to support the JOBS Act he signed in April making it easier for start-ups to access crowdfunding and receive tax breaks.

    As for the election issue dear to Ohanian–Internet freedom–Obama said the Internet should remain a place where businesses can thrive. “We will fight hard to make sure that the Internet remains the open forum for everybody,” Obama wrote. “From those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business.” For the record, the official Republican platform includes a section on supporting Internet freedom as well.

    After crashing the servers due to traffic overload and providing a photo to prove that he (and not a campaign aide) was actually on the other end of the computer, Obama signed off so that he could make it back to D.C. in time for dinner.

    “I want to thank everybody at reddit for participating–this is an example of how technology and the Internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run,” he wrote before he signed off.

    In recent weeks, both President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have increased personal participation on their social media sites after a PEW Research report showed that both were rarely engaging with followers online.

    How a Quirky Wedding Inspired Our Business

    Dave and Carrie Kerpen were inspired to start events and marketing firm Likeable Media after they got sponsors to fund their wedding.

     Take Me Out to the Wedding  Dave and Carrie Kerpen exchanged vows in front of more than 7,000 people watching over home plate at the Brooklyn Cyclones' stadium.

    David Yellen

    Take Me Out to the Wedding Dave and Carrie Kerpen exchanged vows in front of more than 7,000 people watching over home plate at the Brooklyn Cyclones’ stadium.


    Company: Likeable Media

    2012 Rank: No. 146

    3 year growth: 2,225%

    2011 Revenue: $4.7 million

    Cake by Entenmann’s. Booze from Smirnoff. Roses by 1-800-Flowers. The setting: home plate of Coney Island’s MCU Park. The guests? More than 7,000 Brooklyn Cyclones fans. Clearly, this was no ordinary wedding. As told to Jess McCuan.

    Carrie Kerpen: You should have seen his face when I suggested we get married on a ball field—and pay for it by getting sponsors. He knew it was brilliant.

    Dave Kerpen: We used to argue about whose idea it was. I wish I could claim it, but it was all her.

    CK: I knew that Dave would want something larger than life. And I had been married before, in a pretty substantial wedding, where the marriage lasted all of five minutes. I knew we weren’t going to be able to go to my parents and say, “Can I have another big wedding?” So I said to Dave: “I know exactly how we’re getting married. We’re going to the Brooklyn Cyclones’ stadium. We’ll get married on the ball field. All of your friends can come. Boom—done.”

    DK: There were more than 7,000 people watching, but when Carrie and I exchanged vows over home plate, it was very quiet. It really did feel like just the two of us.

    CK: I had mud on my dress, but I didn’t care. It was a really beautiful ceremony.

    DK: It was the birth of both of us as entrepreneurs. After the wedding, we got calls from some of our sponsors saying, “That was great. What are you doing next?” 1-800-Flowers said it was the No. 1 promotion they had ever done.

    CK: At the time, Dave was a teacher, and I was a radio sales manager. But I felt we were ready to try something. I said to myself: “You know, we’ve got to start a company.”

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  • DK: We started working on marketing and events for Entenmann’s and 1-800-Flowers and Verizon. To throw parties for Verizon, we turned to Facebook, and we found it was pretty good for creating buzz. Then, we realized it was not just building buzz—Facebook and other forms of social media were transforming organizations. The Like button may be trendy, but being likable isn’t trendy. More and more, companies need content that’s likable. They need to resonate with their customers. We help companies create messages—in the form of facts, trivia, and videos—that people can find on their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.

    CK: Dave is very much the face of the business. He wrote a book about how companies can build their brands, be more “likable,” and use social media. He’s a commentator on social media in the business world and makes appearances on places like CNN and Fox News, and at trade events. I handle the logistics and operations side. And I’m very active with our clients.

    DK: Carrie does all the hard work.

    CK: We still tell our wedding story when we talk to new clients. It plays superwell. I think there will always be sneers, especially from people who weren’t there. But it was a really magical night of two people who loved each other getting married on a ball field.

    DK: We have two daughters, and now we have them to think about—their sponsored bat mitzvahs.

    CK: That was a joke. We’re not sponsoring bat mitzvahs.

    Learn the Art of Procrastination

    A Stanford professor argues that procrastinating isn’t so bad–as long as you do it right.



    Usually we think of procrastination as a bad habit to kick or a personal flaw that needs to be overcome with sheer willpower and a touch of self-trickery. But according to a new book, that’s the entirely wrong way to look at the tendency to put things off until the last possible minute. 

    John Perry, a professor of philosophy at Stanford University and the author of The Art of Procrastination, recently explained his out-of-the-box thinking on procrastination in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. Procrastinators aren’t actually slackers, he writes; they just have a different way of doing things:

    Are procrastinators truly unproductive? In most cases, the exact opposite is true. They are people who not only get a lot done but have a reputation for getting a lot done. They don’t have neat desks or even neat desktops on their laptops. They spend a lot of time playing catch-up. But they are likely to be creative and on the whole amiable.

    In fact, as unlikely as the idea may sound to dedicated schedule keepers, Perry isn’t the only voice out there championing a reevaluation of procrastination. When I wrote about scientific advice for curing procrastination a few years back, the comments section quickly filled with readers expressing their procrastinator pride and angrily denouncing the idea that being a bit of a dawdler was something you needed to fight like an illness. For these folks, it was a badge of honor, a legitimate work-style choice or a sign of creativity.

    But if procrastination isn’t so harmful after all, why do so many other folks complain bitterly about their tendency (or their colleagues’ tendency) to put things off? Because many of us are going about being procrastinators all wrong, replies Perry, who offers several tips to improve your procrastination skills (yes, apparently there are such things):

    First, don’t listen to most of the advice offered to procrastinators by people who don’t have this particular flaw. For example: “Keep your commitments to a minimum, so you won’t be distracted.” This is a way to become a couch potato, not an effective human being. If a procrastinator doesn’t want to work on something, it won’t help to have nothing else to do. It’s better to have lots of things to do, so you can work on some of them as a way of not doing the task that, for whatever reason, you seek to avoid.

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  • Second, don’t sit around feeling bad because you lack willpower. That will make you a depressed procrastinator but won’t help you get anything done. Most of us lack all kinds of powers. I can’t lift my car by the bumper in order to change a tire. That’s what jacks are for. I can’t add long columns of figures in my head. That’s what calculators are for. Tools give us the ability to make up for what we lack in native powers. The procrastinator has tools that allow him to manipulate himself to achieve results he can’t get with willpower alone.

    A third bit of advice: avoid perfectionism. I don’t mean avoid doing things perfectly. If you are at all like me, that’s not a problem. I mean avoid fantasizing about doing things perfectly. Often procrastination is just a way of giving ourselves permission to do a less-than-perfect job on something that doesn’t require a perfect job anyway.

    Perry offers more ideas for being a more artful procrastinator in the essay, so check it out if you are a member of the tribe of procrastinators (or go for the deep dive with his book, which is due out this month).

    Or, if you’re looking for more counterintuitive thinking on the topic, check out this recent post arguing that, contrary to conventional opinion, Type A folks can be procrastinators, too–just a slightly different flavor of procrastinator. 

    What do you make of the idea of embracing and perfecting your tendency toward procrastination? 


    5 Tricks to Drive Traffic to Your Website

    Your new site is slick–but what if it’s a digital ghost town? Try a few of these tricks to flag down more visitors.



    It doesn’t matter how slick your website looks: If no one comes to it, good luck building that Web business.

    Some entrepreneurs use the time-tested technique of paying for ads to get traffic. Others generate buzz through promotional stunts, or try tweeting with reckless abandon. But those aren’t your only options. Here are five strategies to try to push your traffic numbers skyward:

    1. Pay pennies for YouTube views.

    The concept of paying for ads (à la Google Adwords) has been around for years. One new technique, though, is to pay for YouTube viewers. is one option. You can post a video, and then pay about one penny per view. The idea is that Virool pushes your videos out to a targeted audience culled from its network of publishers. Once someone watches your video, he or she may want to visit your website as well. Just be sure your site is set up to cater to Web viewers: Offer other videos and media as well as an engaging call to action.

    2. Get specific on Twitter.

    Twitter is one of the best ways to generate traffic, because you can target users, groups, and topics. Experts say the trick is to get specific: Send tweets to popular social networking gurus who might respond, and make sure you actively retweet those in similar fields. “The average person on Twitter reads around 200 tweets a day,” says Jeffrey Powers, a popular blogger and podcaster. “Reposting a tweet is not a bad idea: 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., and 9 p.m. are good times to tweet. The best time is between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. I have my content retweeted constantly, which adds to my reach.”

    3. Run on Groupon

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  • Ryan Chaffin, an investment and marketing expert, says one good strategy is to run a Groupon. This might seem like a stretch for a company that does not sell a product, but every business has something to sell. For example, a Web design company might run a coupon offering services for half-price. When bargain hunters investigate what your company offers, you’ll probably get more traffic to your website. Note that the approval process to post coupons can take up to two weeks.

    4. Launch a Kickstarter campaign

    You may not want to seek funding from Kickstarter, especially if your company is already solvent–but that’s not why you’d try this strategy. Kickstarter’s major advantage is that it’s incredibly popular. That means, if you create a campaign, even if it is for one part of your marketing activities or to create one new product, it can be an effective way to generate traffic and attention quickly. Erin Cheyne from Mousetrap Group, a text-message marketing company, says Kickstarter is one of the best traffic generators around right now, mostly because people are curious enough to click.

    5. Write a counterpoint blog post

    Joseph Turian, the president of MetaOptimize, a technical consultancy, says one way to generate buzz on your site is to write a guest blog that offers an alternative viewpoint and get it published on a popular website. Say everyone else is buzzing about Kickstarter or Groupon. Offer your take on why you think neither site is worth the time. (Of course, only take this option if you genuinely hold that viewpoint.) Make sure that your post includes a link back to your site. And be ready for some backlash and visitors looking to post negative comments.

    Government tries to block MP’s questions at pipeline review

    NDP MP Nathan Cullen speaks to reporters at the site of the proposed Enbridge bitumen terminal on Douglas Channel, south of Kitimat, B.C., during the NDP's tour of resource development sites in northwestern B.C. in June. NDP MP Nathan Cullen speaks to reporters at the site of the proposed Enbridge bitumen terminal on Douglas Channel, south of Kitimat, B.C., during the NDP’s tour of resource development sites in northwestern B.C. in June. (Robin Rowland/Canadian Press)

    The NDP’s natural resources critic claims the government is trying to shut him up when it comes to questioning federal bureaucrats at the joint review panel looking into Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

    Nathan Cullen’s request to cross-examine officials from the departments of the environment, natural resources, transport and fisheries and oceans was met by a letter from the Department of Justice asking the panel to deny his appeal.

    “It’s a bit of an intimidation tactic,” says Cullen. “All along, if you’ve been opposed or raised concerns about this pipeline, Mr. Harper’s government has called you a radical or an enemy of the state. These are all tactics to say ‘you’re just going to have to accept what we tell you to accept.'”

    Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, in an email to CBC News on Wednesday afternoon said, “Cullen is seeking to politicize the work of the panel instead of waiting to hear the independent experts report.”

    Cullen is an intervener at the review. As such, he is allowed to question government and Enbridge witnesses at the hearings.

    The Department of Justice does not argue that right. In the letter to the panel, Kirk Lambrecht, the general counsel for the Prairie Region, raises concern about the subject matter of the questions Cullen wants to ask.

    He said Cullen’s questions don’t deal with “evidence that has been submitted by other parties during the joint review process.” And that contravenes the panel’s hearing order, or rules of play.

    Questions for 4 different departments

    Cullen wants to ask Environment Canada about its new, versus old, environmental assessment criteria. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was completely overhauled in the spring.

    His line of questioning for Transport Canada would deal with the independence of the review process and regulations on diluted bitumen (oilsands oil) compared to conventional oil.

    From Natural Resources Canada he is looking for answers on overseas project promotion and carbon pricing. Finally, Fisheries and Oceans would field his questions about the Fisheries Act, habitat protection and water crossings along the pipeline.

    “To allow such questions would undermine fairness to the witnesses, delay the proceedings and would not assist the panel in its assessment of the application,” wrote Lambrecht.

    Cullen has a different interpretation of the review’s guiding principles. He thinks that any evidence that was submitted or needs to be talked about is open for discussion.

    “If what the government is going to do and what the panel’s going to do is say, ‘If the word doesn’t appear you can’t ask a question about it,’ it would narrow the conversation so much as to make the whole thing ridiculous,” says Cullen.

    Oliver said “the joint review panel independently makes all decisions respecting its proceedings. Our officials will answer any questions that the independent panel deems relevant.”

    The MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley expects to do his questioning at the hearings in Prince Rupert sometime in the next few weeks. The panel doesn’t have a timeframe for making a decision on the Department of Justice’s letter.

    13 buzz films coming to TIFF

    ArgoThe political thriller Argo, about the rescue of American diplomats from 1979 Iran dubbed the Canadian Caper, is directed by and stars Ben Affleck. (Claire Folger/Warner Bros.)

    Amidst the Toronto International Film Festival‘s vast movie lineup each year, a smaller crop inevitably separates from the pack based on fervent anticipation and growing buzz.

    Whether due to a hot director, an impressive cast, an extraordinary film shoot or perhaps previous kudos earned, certain titles pique interest heading into Toronto’s event, considered one of today’s most important festivals at which to debut a new film because of its public access and movie-savvy audiences.

    CBC News offers up 13 of this year’s most buzzworthy TIFF films.

    It has a top-shelf cast that includes Jim Broadbent, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon, a trio of innovative directors (Run Lola Run‘s Tom Tykwer and Matrix creators Andy and Lana Wachowski) and is based on David Mitchell’s novel, a time-tripping epic comprising six linked stories that span the centuries. It’s an ambitious production, to say the least.

    With each new stint in the director’s chair, Ben Affleck is solidifying his place among the next generation of notable American filmmakers. After his acclaimed Gone Baby Gone and The Town comes Argo, which sees him both directing and starring in the political thriller about the late-1970s rescue dubbed the “Canadian Caper.” Affleck portrays the CIA specialist who concocts a daring, far-fetched plan to extract U.S. diplomats hidden inside the Canadian Embassy in Iran by disguising them as a film crew.

    After an absence of 15 years, Indian screen siren Sridevi makes a major cinematic return in the upbeat and inspirational fish-out-of-water dramedy English Vinglish, about a devoted wife and mother who finds the strength to overcome language barriers and discovers a new confidence after a move to Manhattan.

    Though appearing as a typical Hollywood production, TIFF’s opening night film is actually a Chinese-U.S. co-production and one of the anticipated genre titles of the fall season. Set in the near future, the brainy and action-packed sci-fi film sees director Rian Johnson reteaming with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the increasingly prominent star (The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush) of his high school noir debut Brick. Indie heartthrob JGL offers amazing mimicry in his turn as a younger, more foolish version of Bruce Willis’ grizzled contract killer. Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano co-star in the dark, mind-bending tale that delighted audiences offered a glimpse at San Diego Comic Con.

    Midnight's ChildrenDeepa Mehta’s film Midnight’s Children is an adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s classic, award-winning novel. (TIFF)

    Salman Rushdie’s magic realist classic has often been described as an unfilmable novel, but Canadian director Deepa Mehta is no stranger to feats of the impossible. Despite the fatwa against Rushdie and Mehta’s history of inflaming religious fundamentalists with her brave and provocative Elements trilogy (Fire, Earth and Water), the pair united to create a vibrant, internationally minded and long anticipated adaptation of the Booker-winning epic, set against the birth of modern India.

    Appearing undeniably sexy and suspenseful in its trailer, Brian De Palma’s latest pits two alluring Hollywood starlets — Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams — against one another in this corporate world thriller about a bright, ambitious woman and her ruthless mentor. The film is a remake of director Alain Corneau’s recent Crime d’amour, which featured French actress Ludivine Sagnier and the incomparable Kristin Scott Thomas.

    Ace Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh teams up with past collaborators (stage play A Behanding in Spokane‘s Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell as well as In Bruges star Colin Farrell) for his latest cinematic endeavour: a dark, Los Angeles-set crime comedy about a struggling writer and his oddball, canine-kidnapping pals running afoul of a dog-loving gangster. With McDonagh at the helm and a supporting cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko and Gabourey Sidibe, the film looks like a winner.

    To the WonderBen Affleck and Rachel McAdams are drawn together in Terrence Malick’s latest, To the Wonder. (TIFF)

    Compared with the years — and sometimes decades — that typically passed between new projects from Terrence Malick, the reclusive American filmmaker’s recent flurry of movie-making activity comes at a lightning pace. He’s following up 2011’s thought-provoking and critically lauded The Tree of Life with another philosophical meditation: To the Wonder. The basic premise sees Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams cast in a tale of a newly married man who finds himself drawn to a former flame. Still, with the visionary Malick behind the lens, what unfolds will undoubtedly encompass much more.

    Coming to TIFF on the heels of international accolades is the Canadian film Rebelle, which delves into the horrific realities faced by Africa’s child soldiers. The searing drama centres on Komona (Rachel), a girl abducted by a rebel army, brutally forced to murder her parents and join the ranks of her captors. Filmmaker Kim Nguyen draws an authentic, award-winning performance from the young Mwanza, a newcomer who earned the Berlin film festival’s best actress trophy for the difficult role, as well as from the production’s cast of nonprofessionals.

    A Late QuartetA world-renowned classic troupe’s future is in jeopardy when one player falls ill and the suppressed emotions of the others are awakened in the drama A Late Quartet. (TIFF)

    Some early award-season chatter is bubbling around A Late Quartet, which follows a world-renowned classical troupe thrown into disarray as the illustrious group approaches its 25th anniversary. As its founding member (Christopher Walken, in a reportedly fantastic turn) is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, long-simmering rivalries and explosive secrets arise that affect the rest of the players (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir).

    The Chilean-U.S. production No is a buzz title on the lips of many a jaded film critic in advance of TIFF. For one, it marks the final entry in Pablo Larrain’s trilogy about dictator Augusto Pinochet’s rule and was well received at Cannes. The director’s decision to go old school — opting to shoot grainy footage and use a 4:3 aspect ratio so as to meld his new material with archival video — is also an intriguing stylistic choice. The suspenseful political story stars indie favourite Gael Garcia Bernal as a savvy ad-man who concocts the publicity campaign that eventually leads to the end of Pinochet’s reign.

    Dubbed a “steampunk kung-fu throwdown,” Tai Chi 0 looks to be an eye-popping, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink riot that mashes up martial arts, pop art, bizarre plotlines and crazy sets. Based on (and we’re talking extremely loosely) the origins of tai chi, the film is headlined by a rising action star and choreographed by Hong Kong action great Sammo Hung. Oh, and did I mention it’s the first of an in-progress trilogy?

    French master Michael Haneke’s sombre end-of-life examination won over the notoriously picky audience at Cannes, where the film received the prestigious Palme d’Or. Starring French screen legends Jean-Lous Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, it follows an octogenarian couple dealing with their mortality as one succumbs to illness.

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