National Post

Victoria’s new mayor refuses to swear oath to Queen Elizabeth II — enraging city’s monarchists

Danny Lawson / Getty Images

While she now governs a city named for a queen, renowned for its tea rooms and the capital of a province with the word “British” in its title, the first act of new Victoria mayor Lisa Helps was to refuse to swear an oath to the current Queen.

“Today I affirmed an oath to serve my community with integrity. This is what today should be about,” said Ms. Helps in a Twitter post written soon after her refusal set local media abuzz — and filled her inbox with angry email.

The question no one has asked: Which Canadian mayors DO pledge allegiance to the Queen? Pls RT Let’s find out!


Lisa Helps (@lisahelps) December 06, 2014

Today I affirmed an oath to serve my community with integrity. This is what today should be about. Speech: ow.ly/Fotqc


Lisa Helps (@lisahelps) December 05, 2014

Honoured to start 2nd term as City Councillor. Thanks everyone who helped to continue standing up for people & planet http://t.co/KcVh8Pf8Lv


Ben Isitt (@Ben_Isitt) December 05, 2014

In post-inauguration comments, she said she had wanted to pledge her oath solely to the people of Victoria, and left out the Queen’s name partly as a gesture to the local Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

She was not alone. Five of the city’s nine-member council also broke with tradition by declining to pledge allegiance to “Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”

In a blog post explaining his decision, Councillor Ben Isitt cited the “tremendous suffering and dislocation for indigenous people” caused by British imperialism.

“I’m not a big fan of the monarchy, and I work closely with local First Nations, and I think to honour that work and the process of decolonization, I couldn’t in good faith take this voluntary oath,” he told the National Post.

The decision has incensed Victoria’s small, but vocal cadre of monarchists.

Bruce Hallsor, the Monarchist League of Canada’s representative, said members would not have voted for Ms. Helps had they known she would refuse to swear an oath to the Queen.

She won the November election by only 89 votes.

“I’m pretty sure there’s more than 89 monarchists who voted for Lisa Helps who would not have voted for her if she had been upfront about our recent position,” Mr. Hallsor told Global B.C.

While an oath to the Queen is mandatory for MLAs across town at the B.C. Legislature Assembly, the province’s mayors face no such requirement. For this reason, pledging fealty to the Queen was long ago abandoned in some of Victoria’s older, richer and arguably more monarchist suburbs.

“We don’t take the oath, and there’s quite a number of other communities around here that don’t do it either,” said Nils Jensen, mayor of Oak Bay, a Victoria enclave renowned for its tweediness.

Danny Lawson / Getty ImagesQueen Elizabeth II is seen during a visit to RAF Lossiemouth on her 67th wedding anniversary on Nov. 20, 2014 in Lossiemouth, Scotland.

“We are in the chain that leads up to the Crown, but whether or not you want to express it publicly, in my opinion, doesn’t matter one way or the other.”

Under British Columbia’s Community Charter, new mayors need only to pledge they did not buy votes or intimidate voters and they will not become corrupt.

The situation is different at the provincial and federal levels, where the Canadian Constitution demands representatives pledge to be “faithful and bear true allegiance” to the Queen.

Even Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois swore an oath to the Queen before becoming Quebec premier in 2012, although she did so in a reluctant closed-door ceremony.

Elsewhere in Canada, First Nations are also known to ceremonially reaffirm their links to the Crown, saying they represent a “government-to-government” link that predates the creation of Canada.

In British Columbia, where much of the province sits on untreatied land, few such sentiments exist.

An oath to the Queen is also demanded of new citizens, although this year, the requirement was challenged in court by three immigrants from Jamaica, Ireland and Israel.

Their case was rejected by the Ontario Court of Appeal on the grounds any Canadian oath is technically an oath to the Queen, whether it mentions the monarch or not.

“Because the Queen remains the head of our government, any oath that commits the would-be citizen to the principles of Canada’s government is implicitly an oath to the Queen,” wrote Justice Karen Weiler.

National Post

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Discovery’s ‘Eaten Alive’ guy isn’t actually eaten alive by giant snake — and viewers are furious

Mohsin Kazmi/Discovery Channel

Note to Discovery Channel: When you call a show “Eaten Alive” and hype it as a dude getting, um, eaten alive by a giant snake … you might want to make sure, you know, that it actually happens.

Because on Sunday night’s two-hour spectacle, it didn’t. And viewers were pretty mad.

Mohsin Kazmi/Discovery ChannelPaul Rosollie and the snake that didn’t eat him alive, much to the chagrin of some Discovery Channel viewers.

The guy in question (conservationist/snake expert Paul Rosolie) panicked when the snake started to put its mouth around his head and began to crush his arm, so he frantically called for his team to shut down the whole operation. They did, and a group of experts rushed in to pull Rosolie out of the snake’s grasp. This was to the dismay of many viewers, who tuned in and expected more grisly action, leading to tweets like these:

“Should have known better… It was @Discovery I want my 2hrs back… Also he didn’t get eaten! Almost don’t count! #EatenAlive”

“Welp I fell for it watched #eatenalive featuring no eating of a live person by an anaconda as promised. Should stick to watching football.”

“So the snake never eats the guy? What a farce. I’m going to bed. #eatenalive”

“This is why I have trust issues @Discovery #EatenAlive”

“I can relate to this #EatenAlive guy. I’ve been wrapped up in my comforter a little too tight and had trouble breathing. Not impressed.”

“The only thing that anaconda swallowed were the two hours of my life I’ll never get back. #EatenAlive”

“Super disappointed in this Eaten Alive show.. I just sat here for two hours to see a snake lick the top of this dudes head,” tweeted another.

But really, who are we kidding? Any buzz is good for ratings, and therefore, Discovery is likely perfectly fine with the outcome. For those who missed it: Discovery, jazzed about its ratings for other live, death-defying stunts, billed the two-hour “Eaten Alive” special as something pretty spectacular. Rosolie would hunt in the Amazon for a deadly anaconda; don a special protective suit; bathe himself in pig’s blood to attract the animal; and be consumed (and maybe regurgitated?) by the aforementioned snake for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

Of course, it made tons of headlines and PETA immediately condemned the act, even though Rosolie insisted the whole stunt was to draw attention to preserving the Amazon. The special was pre-taped, and the network assured that both Rosolie and the snake — who has the capability to regurgitate food it doesn’t like — would make it out alive.

Still, it was pretty highly-hyped: “On ‘EATEN ALIVE’ … naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie enters the belly of an anaconda in a snake-proof suit,” reads the Google description under Discovery’s Web site when you search for the show, which of course is false. In a press release, however, the network was more cautious, saying “Rosolie’s goal was to persevere through the constriction and POTENTIAL ingestion deep into the belly of the beast.” (Emphasis is ours.)

Viewers may have noticed something was up when first 90 minutes of the special was all about Rosolie’s team’s hunt for a killer 25-foot anadonda that Rosolie spotted years ago on another Amazon expedition. He really wanted to try to get eaten alive by that creature, which he thinks is the largest snake in the world. But it didn’t pan out, so the team was forced to use a back-up snake.

“There’s 16 minutes left and this man is not in a snake’s mouth. What have they been doing for the last hour and 44 minutes?? #EatenAlive”

If that wasn’t a foreshadowing for the disappointment to come, well, you are probably not familiar with the disappointing expectations of reality television. The only snake-eating action was in the last 10 minutes, when Rosolie approached the snake in the water. The anaconda — nearly 20-feet long and terrifying — circled around him and then started to constrict. Rosolie was fine at first, and then we got a crazy picture (via Rosolie’s helmet camera) into the snake’s throat.

All of a sudden, Rosolie started to freak out because the snake was crushing his arm. “Are you OK?” one of his team members asked through the headset, a question that also was mocked on Twitter:

“‘Are you OK?’” Doing great, thanks. #EatenAlive”

No, Rosolie was not OK, and the team had to rush in and rescue him. And that was it — though Rosolie promised at the end of the special that his hunt for the largest snake in the world still isn’t over.

So, yeah, pretty disappointing cliffhanger. On the 15-minute “Discovery News” special afterwards, the host asked Rosolie about the negative reaction from animal supporters about putting a snake through all that stress, though he didn’t bring up people’s disappointment that he was still … alive. Several tweets scrolled through the bottom of the screen as some people noted it was a fascinating thing to see on TV.

YouTube / Discovery Channel

YouTube / Discovery ChannelA screengrab of Paul Rosolie from a trailer for Eaten Alive, a special chronicling Mr. Rosolie’s quest to be eaten by an anaconda.

And then there were lots who still felt cheated by the lack of snake digestion:

“.@Discovery I’ve never watched your show Naked and Afraid but after watching #EatenAlive I assume everyone is clothed and calm.”

“Calling it #EatenAlive is like having a show on the Food Network about cooking a turkey and all they do after 2 hours is preheat the oven.”

The anaconda from #EatenAlive was interviewed after the show. It said Paul Rosolie “tasted like a chicken”.


Alan McFerrin (@amcferrin90) December 08, 2014

If I was a snake I’m not trying to eat a person wearing all that armor #eatenalive

Like eating a burrito still in the foil wrapper.


Jae…Julia…whatev (@thatladyj) December 08, 2014

LEarn more about the floating forest, anacondas and the amazon: amazon.com/gp/aw/d/006225… #EatenAlive


Paul Rosolie (@PaulRosolie) December 08, 2014

The question everyone wants the answer to from @PaulRosolie himself. dsc.tv/Fs3oa #EatenAlive http://t.co/0YLNGHFDNV


(@Discovery) December 07, 2014

“Spoiler: no one gets eaten alive in #EatenAlive. Too bad. I was really looking forward to the regurgitation part of their plan.”

“I thought the Anaconda was actually going to eat the guy.. Hence the name #EatenAlive…. Would have been way cooler.”

“@PaulRosolie didn’t need an anaconda. He’s getting #EatenAlive quite well by the Twitter universe.”

“That man lied in every damn interview #EatenAlive”

“What did we learn. Anacondas are bad. Discovery Channel is worse. #EatenAlive”

Discovery Channel released a statement about the lack of eating and regurgitation of Rosolie:

“Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for one of the most beautiful and threatened parts of the world, the Amazon Rainforest and its wildlife. He went to great lengths to send this message and it was his absolute intention to be eaten alive. Ultimately, after the snake constricted Paul for over an hour and went for his head, the experiment had to be called when it became clear that Paul would be very seriously injured if he continued on. The safety of Paul, as well as the anaconda, was always our number one priority.”

And PETA has also weighed in on the dangers of the whole debacle:

“Last night, despite protests by conservationists, biologists, herpetologists, and decent people everywhere who oppose the abuse of wildlife, the Discovery Channel aired the inexcusable torment of a captured wild green anaconda and several other snakes. The animals were removed from their water habitat and transported to a filming location, and the chosen snake was deceived into using her precious energy reserves to constrict a human being pretending to be a pig, all for a publicity stunt.

“Under natural conditions, anacondas go weeks and even months between meals, eating only when necessary for survival and expending the tremendous amount of energy required to attack, constrict, and consume large prey only when the payoff outweighs the risk. Paul Rosolie and his crew put this snake through undeniable stress and robbed her of essential bodily resources. She was forced to constrict and then not allowed to eat.

“Study after study has shown that entertainment features such as this one that show humans interfering with and handling wild animals are detrimental to species conservation. Rosolie knows this. Discovery knows this. Yet they chose to contrive and air this shameful stunt for ratings anyway.”

Man facing terrorism-related charges in Quebec arrested at Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport

A man arrested by Quebec provincial police on terrorism-related charges will have a bail hearing Tuesday.

Crown prosecutor Lucie Martineau objected to Nejib Belhaj-Chtioui’s release on Monday as he was arraigned at the Montreal courthouse.

Police say he was the subject of an outstanding warrant and was arrested Sunday at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport upon returning from Tunisia.

He faces two charges relating to the terrorism hoax section of the Criminal Code — conveying information and committing an act to cause reasonable concern that it is connected to a terrorist activity.

The investigation was conducted by a provincial police unit that probes extremist threats.

Martineau said she objected to Belhaj-Chtioui’s release because he hadn’t been in Canada and was arrested at the airport.

She wouldn’t say if she thought he would flee the country if released, adding, “I just objected to his release today and we will know more about him tomorrow [Tuesday].”

Martineau said there had been a warrant out for Belhaj-Chtioui’s arrest since 2013 for acts allegedly committed between May 13 and May 20, 2011.

She wouldn’t elaborate.

She added she believed Belhaj-Chtioui had been out of the country since the warrant was issued.

A woman who claims she had a child with Belhaj-Chtioui attended the court appearance and said she and the accused were never married and are no longer together.

He had been in Tunisia for the past 18 months, she said.

“I just came here to see what will happen to my girl’s father,” the woman told reporters.

‘Calgary’s worst driver?’ Watch woman hit car as she struggles to get BMW out of half-empty parking lot

A woman who was dubbed “Calgary’s worst driver,” after she was caught on camera backing into another vehicle, has received a $115 fine, police said.

Update: Even videos don’t always tell entire story. Driver in recent parking lot video was spoken to at scene…1/3 #yyc


Cst. Jeremy Shaw (@CstShaw) December 08, 2014

2/3 of collision by @CalgaryPolice. A summons for unsafe backing was issued following investigation by patrol officers. #yyc


Cst. Jeremy Shaw (@CstShaw) December 08, 2014

3/3 All parties have been cooperative and the investigation is now closed. Drive safe all! #yyc


Cst. Jeremy Shaw (@CstShaw) December 08, 2014

The female driver — who spent more than four minutes trying to manoeuvre her BMW out of an half-empty parking lot — was charged with “unsafe backing” of a vehicle because she didn’t meet the criteria for a hit-and-run, Inspector Ken Thrower said.

He admitted that watching the video was frustrating, but said nerves and inexperience may have played a role in the incident.

Police haven’t offered any specific details about the woman’s driving record or said whether she was a new driver or not.

The video, posted last week on YouTube, gained traction on Reddit Calgary before it caught the attention of local police. It has since been viewed more that 2.5 million times.

Constable Jeremy Shaw dubbed the motorist “Calgary’s worst driver” and said police had “started a hit and run investigation,” in a tweet Friday.

But on Saturday, the Calgary Police Service posted a comment on the video saying the parking lot crash had already been reported to authorities at the time of the incident.

The case is now considered to be closed.

Watch the video, below, but be warned — it is miserable knowing you can’t hop in the driver’s seat and back up the BMW yourself.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYcsW48HHXM&w=620&h=379]

I nominate you as #yyc‘s #worstdriver! And yes, we have already started a hit and run investigation. http://t.co/IBbizh6PXC

— Cst. Jeremy Shaw (@CstShaw) December 5, 2014

Liberals introduce bill to create mandatory Ontario pension plan because ‘workers not saving enough’

Ontario’s Liberal government introduced legislation Monday to create a mandatory provincial pension plan, which the Opposition and business groups slammed as a job-killing payroll tax.

The bill clears the way for the introduction on Jan. 1, 2017, of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, which will be mandatory for workers who do not already have a company pension plan, said Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

“The reality is that a significant number of today’s workers are simply not saving enough to maintain their standard of living when they retire,” said Sousa.

The bill would require employers and employees to each contribute 1.9 per cent of a worker’s salary to the ORPP, up to $1,643 a year, which the Ontario Chamber of Commerce warned will result in fewer jobs.

“Employers worry that by making it more expensive to hire, the new pension plan will negatively impact job creation and hurt Ontario’s competitiveness,” said Chamber president and CEO Allan O’Dette. “We need to ensure that any changes to the pension system are made with a full understanding of the impact they will have on Ontario’s business climate.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business warned that forcing every Ontarian without a workplace pension and their employers to pay premiums each year will result in higher unemployment and lower wages.

Nearly 70 per cent of small business owners say they would freeze or cut salaries and 53 per cent would reduce the number of jobs to cope with the added costs, said CFIB spokesman Plamen Petkov.

“Business owners tell us the main reasons for currently not offering a pension plan are high costs and administrative complexities,” he said.

The Progressive Conservatives also warned that Ontario’s weak economic recovery could be stalled by mandatory pension contributions from employers.

“When you’re looking at a very fragile manufacturing economy in this province today, it hardly seems the right time to include a payroll tax,” said PC critic Julia Munro.

People who call the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan a payroll tax are expressing “an extreme view,” said Sousa.

“They made the same argument today as they made about CPP in the 1960s no less,” he said. “They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.”

Ontario would still prefer to see improvements to the Canada Pension Plan instead of having to create its own retirement plan, but can’t get the federal Conservative government to agree, admitted Sousa.

However, he dismissed suggestions the Ontario bill was designed to stall real progress on the issue until after next year’s federal election in hopes a new government in Ottawa would be open to improving the CPP.

“Unless we take the proper steps now, we won’t be ready,” he said. “If they see fit to provide for CPP [enhancement] we’ll be able to move forward to that, but failing that determination, we must do what we are doing.”

The Liberals introduced a second bill Monday to create Pooled Registered Pension Plans, which Sousa described as a voluntary savings tool for employers, employees and the self-employed.

“This is an alternative, especially for mobile workers who may be in and out of jobs, and they want to take advantage of a pooled system that is at much lower cost and of greater benefit to them,” he said.

However, the New Democrats criticized the pooled pension plans because they will be administered by the private sector, and said they doubted the Liberals really intend to proceed with a mandatory provincial pension plan.

“There is either a public plan or a private plan, and the one the Liberals are running with is the Harper-style private plan, and the public plan that they talked about during the election campaign may or may not roll out over time,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “It’s a wait and see.”

The Tories also questioned the Liberals’ commitment to implementing an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, saying there was very little in the legislation except a call for more government consultations on the issue.

“I liken it to the hanging of the Christmas stocking, but it’s empty,” said Munro.

Two-thirds of Ontario workers do not have a company pension plan.

Life-sized scarecrows outnumber the living three-to-one in a small village in rural Japan

AP Photo / Elaine Kurtenbach

NAGORO — This village deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Tsukimi Ayano crafted to replace neighbours who died or moved.

At 65, Ayano is one of the younger residents of Nagoro. She moved back from Osaka to look after her 85-year-old father after decades away.

“They bring back memories,” Ayano said of the life-sized dolls crowded into corners of her farmhouse home, perched on fences and trees, huddled side-by-side at a produce stall, the bus stop, anywhere a living person might stop to take a rest.

“That old lady used to come and chat and drink tea. That old man used to love to drink sake and tell stories. It reminds me of the old times, when they were still alive and well,” she said.

AP Photo / Elaine KurtenbachTsukimi Ayano speaks as she stitches a scarecrow girl by her outdoor hearth at her home in the mountainous village of Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan.

Even more than its fading status as an export superpower, Japan’s dwindling population may be its biggest challenge. More than 10,000 towns and villages in Japan are depopulated, the homes and infrastructure crumbling as the countryside empties thanks to the falling birthrate and rapid aging.

In Japan’s northeast, the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck in March 2011, killing more than 18,000 people, merely hastened the decline.

First the jobs go. Then the schools. Eventually, the electricity meters stop.

Neither Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party nor any of its rivals have figured out how to “revive localities,” an urgent issue that has perplexed Japanese leaders for decades.

But some communities are trying various strategies for attracting younger residents, slowing if not reversing their decline. In Kamiyama, another farming community closer to the regional capital of Tokushima, community organizers have mapped a strategy for attracting artists and high-tech companies.

AP Photo / Elaine Kurtenbach

AP Photo / Elaine KurtenbachA teenager look alike scarecrow sits on a log pile in Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan.

Nagoro is more typical of the thousands of communities that are turning into ghost towns or at best, open-air museums, frozen in time — a trend evident even in downtown Tokyo and in nearly or completely empty villages in the city’s suburbs.

The one-street town is mostly abandoned, its shops and homes permanently shuttered.

The closure of the local elementary school two years ago was the last straw. Ayano unlocks the door and guides visitors through spotless classrooms populated with scarecrow students and teachers.

When she returned to her hometown 13 years ago, Ayano tried farming. Thinking her radish seeds may have been eaten by crows, she decided to make some scarecrows. By now there are more 100 scattered around Nagoro and other towns in Shikoku.

Like handcarved Buddhist sculptures, each has its own whimsical expression. Some sleep, their eyelids permanently shut. Others cuddle toddler scarecrows.

AP Photo / Elaine Kurtenbach

AP Photo / Elaine KurtenbachScarecrow passengers wait for a bus at a bus stop for scarecrows in Nagoro, Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan.

Ayano brings one along for company on her 90-minute drive to buy groceries in the nearest big town. But most remain behind, to be photographed and marveled at by tourists who detour through the winding mountain roads.
“If I hadn’t made these scarecrows, people would just drive right by,” said Ayano, who greets a steady stream of visitors who wander through the village.

The plight of Japan’s countryside is partly a consequence of the country’s economic success. As the nation grew increasingly affluent after World War II, younger Japanese flooded into the cities to fill jobs in factories and service industries, leaving their elders to tend small farms.
Greater Tokyo, with more than 37 million people and Osaka-Kobe, with 11.5 million, account for nearly 40 per cent of the country’s 127 million people, with another 10 million scattered in a handful of provincial capitals.

“There’s been this huge sucking sound as the countryside is emptied,” said Joel Cohen, a professor at Columbia University’s Laboratory of Populations.

Japan’s population began to decline in 2010 from a peak of 128 million. Without a drastic increase in the birth rate or a loosening of the staunch Japanese resistance to immigration, it is forecast to fall to about 108 million by 2050 and to 87 million by 2060.

By then, four in 10 Japanese will be over 65 years old.

The government has a target of preventing the population from falling below 100 million, but efforts to convince Japanese women to have more babies have yielded meagre results. Young Japanese continue to drift from the countryside into big cities such as Tokyo, where the birth rate is a mere 1.13 children, thanks to long working hours, high costs and killer commutes.

The population of Miyoshi, which is the town closest to Nagoro, fell from 45,340 in 1985 to about 27,000 last year. A quarter of its population is over 75 years old. To entice residents to have more children, the town began offering free nursery care for third children, free diapers and formula to age 2 and free health care through junior high school.

“The way to stop this is to get people to have more babies,” said Kurokawa, whose own three children and seven grandchildren still live in the area. “Apart from that, we need for people to return here or move here. We need them all.”

But it’s not an easy sell, despite the fresh air and abundant space.

“You can’t just grab people by the necks like kittens and drag them here,” Kurokawa said. “They have to want to live here.”

(AP Photo / Elaine Kurtenbach

(AP Photo / Elaine KurtenbachSeiichi Kurokawa, mayor of Miyoshi, shows posters of local tourist spots at his office in Miyoshi in Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan. The population of Miyoshi, which is the town closest to Nagoro, fell from 45,340 in 1985 to about 27,000 last year.

To match potential occupants with empty homes, towns like Miyoshi are setting up “empty house banks.” Across Japan there are 8.2 million such akiya, or empty homes, more than a tenth of all residential buildings.

But getting residents of half-empty towns to accept newcomers can also be a challenge. In Kamiyama, to the east, the town still struggles to convince owners who often have relatives living in distant cities to open abandoned homes for rent or renovation, said Shinya Ominami, chairman of a civic group that has led efforts to revive the town.

Kamiyama, a town of about 6,000, set up an artists in residence program in 1999. The installation of fiber optic cable enabled the town to begin marketing itself as a location for IT satellite offices with rents as low as 20,000 yen (US$200) a month. Eleven companies have come so far.

In a briefing for potential investors and visiting officials from other areas, Ominami shows a slide of the town’s shopping street, dotted with houses that are empty, and then another with some of the buildings filled with new businesses — a bistro, a design studio, an IT incubation hub.

“In Kamiyama, 50,000 yen rent gets you a really luxurious property,” Ominami said. “Extremely high class.”

AP Photo / Elaine Kurtenbach

AP Photo / Elaine KurtenbachIn this Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 photo, a pair of slippers sits ready to be worn outside an abandoned home in Kawamata in Tokushima Prefecture, southern Japan, one of many thousands of empty houses in rural Japan. Japan’s dwindling population is perhaps the country’s biggest challenge, with thousands of communities depopulated, empty homes and infrastructure crumbling as the countryside empties thanks to a low birthrate and rapid aging.

By drawing in younger new residents and encouraging businesses that cater to them, like an organic foods pizza parlour and a gelateria, the community can breathe new life into older, traditional industries like farming, he said.

“People think of decline as something pathetic. That’s too vague. We need to think more clearly about this,” Ominami said. “Once we accept this is the reality, we can figure out how to cope with it.”

Associated Press writer Emily Wang contributed to this report

Disgruntled customer throws snake at Tim Hortons employee who refuses to dice his onions

After a dispute over diced onions on a breakfast sandwich, a man threw a snake over a counter towards an employee of a Saskatoon Tim Hortons.

According to Saskatoon police, staff members “fled the store in fear” after the incident, which took place Monday around 7:30 a.m. at the Tim Hortons in the 600 block of 22nd Street West.

“I’ve never heard of a snake being thrown at an employee by a customer … It was definitely a little chaotic,” said Saskatoon police spokeswoman Alyson Edwards.

“The staff was shocked and afraid and fled the store.”

Staff told police that two male customers were arguing with an employee about their breakfast order – specifically that they wanted their onions diced. When the argument escalated, one of the men reached into the pocket of the other man, pulled out a garter snake and threw it behind the counter.

No one was injured, said police.

Officers quickly found the snake and determined it was not venomous, said Edwards. Police found a temporary home for the snake until it can be released into the wild in the spring.

The only other incident that compares to this one, said Edwards, was the theft of a snake from the Forestry Farm.

The two men, both 20, are facing charges of mischief and causing a disturbance.

Korean Air VP suffering from ‘nut rage’ delays flight over attendant’s improper snack etiquette

Nanyang Business School

The daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang Ho, who was suffering from what media has dubbed “nut rage,” ordered a plane back to the gate so she could remove a crew member who gave an incorrect answer to a question on how to serve macadamia nuts, the airline said.

Heather Cho, 40, a vice president of the airline, ordered the head of the service crew on Flight 86 from New York to Seoul to deplane after an attendant earlier had served Cho macadamia nuts without asking, the carrier said. Cho then summoned the purser to ask a question about the airline’s policy on serving nuts. Cho ordered the man to leave the plane when he couldn’t answer. Under the carrier’s rules, passengers must be asked first before serving.

Nanyang Business SchoolHeather Cho manages Korean Air’s catering and in-flight sales business, cabin service and hotel business divisions.

The purser didn’t know the company’s procedures and “kept on making up lies and excuses,” Korean Air said in a separate statement late yesterday.

The aircraft had already left the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport for takeoff on Dec. 5. It took no more than two minutes to return to the gate to deplane the crew member, according to the airline. The flight was 11 minutes late when it arrived in Seoul on Dec. 6.

Korean Air in its statement late yesterday apologized to passengers for the inconvenience the incident caused. It noted the plane was less than 10 meters from the gate at JFK when the decision to return was made.

The Airbus A380 had about 250 passengers and 20 cabin crew.

South Korea’s Transport Ministry said yesterday it was investigating reports by Yonhap News and YTN about a Korean Air vice president ordering a crew member to deplane, according to an e-mailed statement that didn’t mention either Cho or the specific incident. Action will be taken against the carrier if it flouted any regulations, the ministry said.

“We’ll see whether her behaviour was against the law. It is an unprecedented case, so we need to see the related regulations,” a ministry official told The Korea Times. “Even though she is senior vice president at the company, she was a passenger at that time, so she had to behave and be treated as a passenger. She could have taken other measures after coming back to Korea, such as strengthening service training.”

Given Cho’s position, it was “reasonable” for her “to raise a problem in service,” Korean Air said late yesterday.

Cho, who went to Cornell University, joined South Korea’s largest carrier in 1999, according to a biography posted on the website of Singapore’s Nanyang Business School. Cho is a member of the school’s advisory board. Cho manages Korean Air’s catering and in-flight sales business, cabin service and hotel business divisions, it said.

Cho’s father is also chairman of the Hanjin Group of companies that includes Korean Air, Hanjin Shipping Co. and Hanjin Transportation Co. He’s also the president of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizing committee.

Scientists crack open 2,500-year-old sarcophagus to restore mummy of 14-year-old Egyptian boy

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Once the lid was off the wood sarcophagus holding the 2,500-year-old mummified remains of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy, scientist J.P. Brown could relax.

The conservator at Chicago’s Field Museum and three other scientists had just used clamps and pieces of metal to create a cradle to lift the fragile lid. Wearing blue surgical gloves, they slowly lifted the contraption containing the coffin lid and carefully walked it to a table in a humidity-controlled lab at the museum.

“Sweet!” Brown said, after helping set the lid down. He later added: “Oh yeah, god, I was nervous.”

The well-planned routine came Friday as scientists started conservation work on the mummy of Minirdis, the son of a stolist priest. The mummy needs to be stabilized so it can travel in the upcoming exhibit, “Mummies: Images of the Afterlife,” which is expected to premier next September at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It is expected to travel to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in fall 2016.

The Field Museum has had the mummy since the 1920s, when the institution received it from the Chicago Historical Society. It’s part of the museum’s collection of 30 complete human mummies from Egypt.

“There’s always a risk of damage,” said Brown, who did the work in a lab filled with plastic-covered examination tables set behind a large window to let schoolchildren watch his daily work. “So we like to handle these things as little as possible.”

Inside the coffin, there was expected damage. CT scans, which make X-ray images that allow scientists to see inside the coffin before opening it, showed the boy’s feet were detached and partially unwrapped with his toes sticking out. His shroud and mask were torn and twisted sideways. Those also will be repaired.

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastIn Chicago, the mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy lies in his opened coffin after J.P. Brown and his team of curators at the Field Museum opened the coffin for the first time Friday.

Brown didn’t worry that the mummy would scatter to dust when opened — something common in the movies. Pieces of the coffin had previously gone missing, exposing the mummy to the elements.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastP.J. Brown, Regenstein Conservator at the Field Museum examines the burial mask on the mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy who was the son of a priest.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy and his exposed toes lie in his opened coffin after J.P. Brown and his team of curators at the Field Museum opened the coffin for the first time Friday.

“The last bit of ‘Indiana Jones’ and all that,” Brown explained before opening the coffin. “That’s not going to happen.”

And it didn’t.

Walking around the opened coffin, Brown pointed and explained the significance of a certain marking, the coloured resin on the linen wrappings or the gilded gold on the mask. If Minirdis had lived, he would have been a priest like his father, Brown said. Scientists don’t know why he died so young.

“The fascinating thing about any mummy is that it’s survived as long as it has,” Brown said. “They’re actually amazingly fragile.”

This kind of work is always painstaking, filled with pre-planning and tests so scientists are prepared for the unexpected, said Molly Gleeson, who works with mummies as project conservator at Penn Museum’s “In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies” exhibition in Philadelphia.

“These are unique individuals, unique objects,” she said. “There’s nothing else like them. If damage were to happen, we can’t put things back together exactly the way they were before.”

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastP.J. Brown, second from left, Regenstein Conservator at the Field Museum, and his team of scientists open the coffin containing the mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy who was the son of a priest Friday. Brown and his team will begin conservation work on the 2,500-year-old boy before it becomes part of a traveling exhibition.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastRichard Lariviere, left, President and CEO of the Field Museum, gives visiting students from Liberty Intermediate School in Bourbonnais, Ill., an impromptu, up close look at the mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy who was the son of a priest Friday.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastP.J. Brown, Regenstein Conservator at the Field Museum examines the burial mask on the mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy who was the son of a priest.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastP.J. Brown, Regenstein Conservator at the Field Museum describes what a CT scan revealed about the mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy who was the son of a priest.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy, his exposed toes, and burial shroud with gold painted toenails as they lie in his opened coffin Friday.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastP.J. Brown, Regenstein Conservator at the Field Museum Friday describes the conservation process that will be given to the coffin and mummified body of Minirdis, a 14-year-old Egyptian boy who was the son of a priest. Brown says they have to fix his burial mask, shroud, reconnect his detached feet, and do work to shore up the coffin and mummy so they can withstand travel.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastEgyptian hieroglyphics etched on top of a 2,500 year-old Egyptian coffin identify the mummy’s name and lineage inside.

Private plane crashes into home in D.C. suburbs, at least three dead

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — A small, private jet has crashed into a house in Maryland’s Montgomery County on Monday, killing at least three people on board, authorities said.

Preliminary information indicates at least three people were on board and didn’t survive the Monday crash into home in Gaithersburg, a Washington, D.C. suburb, said Pete Piringer, a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman.

He said a fourth person may have been aboard.

Piringer said the jet crashed into one home around 11 a.m., setting it and two others on fire. Crews had the fire under control within an hour and were searching for anyone who may have been in the homes.

U/D plane into a house Drop Forge Lane, G’Burg, several house damaged,#mcfrs FFs involved search, rescue & firefight pic.twitter.com/or3I2TJ4Ii

— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) December 8, 2014

Television news footage of the scene showed one home nearly destroyed, with a car in the driveway. Witnesses told television news crews that they saw the airplane appear to struggle to maintain altitude before going into a nosedive and crashing.

An FAA spokesman said preliminary information shows the Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100 twin-engine jet was on approach at the nearby Montgomery County Airpark. The National Transportation Safety Board is sending an investigator to the scene.