JUNEAU, Alaska — The state of Alaska on Wednesday cancelled bids for a ferry terminal update that the Canadian government threatened to block because of a dispute over the use of American steel.
The Canadian government issued an order Monday that would have blocked the state from doing the project on land it leases at Prince Rupert, British Columbia, unless a resolution was reached.
The dispute centred on “Buy America” requirements for steel, iron and manufactured products used in projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration.
Much of the construction funding for the project was to come from the federal agency, with the rest coming from the state. The cost of the ferry terminal replacement project was estimated at between $10 million and $20 million.
Canadian officials called the requirement to only use U.S. steel on Canadian soil unacceptable. They suggested that the state seek a waiver from the federal government of the “Buy America” provision, but Gov. Bill Walker said he had not seen a need for one. Another option would have been for the state to fund the project itself, but Alaska faces multibillion-dollar budget deficits because of the fall in oil prices.
It was not immediately clear what Wednesday’s action will mean for the project in the long run. The Prince Rupert terminal is part of the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Patricia Eckert, the associate director for international trade within the governor’s office, said by email late Wednesday that the state transportation department can maintain normal operations at the port “over the next several years until this is sorted out.”
The ferry system signed a 50-year lease with Prince Rupert in 2013, she said.
- Published in National Post
It was Christopher B. Phillips’ 42nd birthday when he emerged from the Chimo Hotel, where he had been holed up in a sixth-floor room, in handcuffs and a white HAZMAT suit just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.
But the mystery surrounding what brought him to Ottawa didn’t become clearer even as details of his high-profile life did.
The Nova Scotia man who made headlines for a public divorce from a decorated Olympian surrendered to Ottawa police Wednesday after driving across the eastern provinces with what authorities initially feared were dangerous chemicals.
Ultimately, police said they could not find any hazardous materials.
The highly educated man with careers spanning across respected professions — doctor, lawyer, chemist, businessman — left a mark across North America.
The United States’ Department of Homeland Security confirmed its Ottawa officer is assisting local police with the investigation, while Mounties from Nova Scotia were en route to the capital to interview the suspect.
It was about 10 p.m. on Tuesday when an Ottawa police officer spotted the white 2004 Chevy cube van in the parking lot of the Chimo Hotel. The RCMP had shared a Canada-wide bulletin to first responders and uniformed personnel about Mr. Phillips who was wanted in an investigation in Nova Scotia, where he lives.
The briefing note said Mr. Phillips was last seen Monday travelling from Moncton, N.B., driving a cube van with Nova Scotia licence plate FLK 572.
“Person reported to have mental health issues/PTSD and has issues with law-enforcement personnel,” the note said. “Person may have chemicals or hazardous materials in the vehicle.”
Police alleged Wednesday he was involved with the discovery of “large quantities” of chemicals in Nova Scotia.
The Ottawa Citizen has learned the chemical authorities were looking for — but failed to find in Ottawa — was osmium tetroxide — a rare and expensive laboratory chemical that stirred up brief interest as a possible terrorist weapon 11 years ago. Its fumes are toxic to humans.
Court records in that province show Mr. Phillips has been charged with uttering threats and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose for a period ranging between Dec. 26 of last year and Wednesday.
An arrest warrant was issued for him Wednesday morning in Dartmouth, N.S.
Nova Scotia RCMP officers say they began their investigation when they were called about a suspicious package around 9:20 p.m. Monday. They investigated three locations, finding chemical materials in two, according to authorities.
The RCMP believed that Mr. Phillips had an American military background in biological and chemical warfare, but the United States Military has no record of him. Those records only date back to 1999.
The U.S.-born Mr. Phillips was once married to the U.S. Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast Shannon Miller. They divorced in 2006 and in 2008 Mr. Phillips moved to Halifax.
In a statement, Ms. Miller, who won a 1996 balance beam gold medal, said after hearing the recent news about her ex-husband her “prayers immediately go to the safety of those around him.”
“I’m thankful that the brave men and women of the Ottawa police department and other law enforcement agencies were able to apprehend him and diffuse the situation without incident,” Ms. Miller said.
The two were married at a Baptist church in Miller’s hometown of Edmund, Okla., in June 1999. They separated in 2004.
In July 2007, Mr. Phillips was issued a licence to practise as a doctor and surgeon in Washington state. He was certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He purchased an already operating laser eye care clinic in the fall of 2007 in Bellingham, Wash., and later had multiple misconduct allegations levied against him and the practice.
According to State of Washington Health Department allegations, Mr. Phillips promised five patients at an eye care clinic he owned that he could restore their vision to 20/20 with surgery.
None of the patients’ vision was restored to 20/20, despite his assurances, it was alleged.
In an informal disposition for those allegations reached in March 2010, Mr. Phillips agreed not to renew his expired licence.
He was charged in Washington state in 2008 with providing liquor to a minor and disturbing the peace in connection with a loud party at his home.
According to U.S. court documents, in March 2008, Mr. Phillips was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment at the Menniger Clinic.
The documents do not state what the diagnosis was.
“The records from this hospitalization contain diagnoses which would make it very difficult or impossible for (Phillips) to obtain employment as an expert witness,” the documents state.
The documents and health records are part of a civil suit that Mr. Phillips launched against several media outlets that reported he had suddenly vanished and left his patients in the lurch. The suits were ultimately dismissed.
After filing for personal bankruptcy in July 2008, he moved to Halifax and married Gosia Phillips. Proclamations published by the province of Nova Scotia show that Gosia Eve Phillips legally changed her name in February 2010 from Malgorzata Ewa Klonowska.
Mr. Phillips’ LinkedIn profile paints a picture of a veritable renaissance man — an attending eye surgeon at Boston University, Sawyer Business School graduate at Suffolk University, a medical and business law degree from the same institution’s law school.
‘Person reported to have mental health issues/PTSD and has issues with law-enforcement personnel’
Suffolk University confirmed that Mr. Phillips earned a law degree in May 2007 followed by an MBA in May 2010.
The profile also lists him as the manager of Neurology and Sleep Medicine Associates, Inc., a business registered in Nova Scotia since 2009.
According to the province’s business registry, that business operates out of a home at 43 Parkedge Crescent in Dartmouth. RCMP searched the home Tuesday but found nothing of note.
However, RCMP were also at 54 Lakeridge Crescent, where they say they found a package in the garage containing hazardous chemicals.
Police also located hazardous and volatile chemicals inside a cottage on Dyke Road in Nova Scotia.
Property records show Gosia Eve Phillips owns the Lakeridge home. She is also listed as the president of their business. She is a Harvard University graduate and a neurologist who specializes in sleep medicine and is an assistant professor of medicine at Dalhousie University.
According to sources, it was Gosia Phillips who alerted authorities to her husband’s whereabouts.
A woman who answered the phone at the Parkedge Crescent home Wednesday morning said Gosia Phillips was at work and that she was there “sitting the babies.”
Postmedia News, with files from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Meghan Hurley, Vito Pilieci, Andrew Seymour and Ian MacLeod
- Published in National Post
Canadians go to university to get an education. But it arrives, we know, at a particularly hormonal moment in most young peoples’ lives — a hot, sweaty, risqué fact that the Université de Moncton has bravely recognized by doing something universities never do: producing a sexy (yes, sexy) new promotional video marketing the, ah, all-around student experience at the French-language school.
The 30-second video spot features attractive young people engaged in many acts, from peering through a gizmo in a science lab — to sucking face in the library stacks. It is that not-so fleeting kiss that has sparked a minor kerfuffle in Moncton, while generating tens of thousands of YouTube hits for an advertising campaign that, were it not for a few lab coats, could easily be mistaken for a beer commercial.
“When you launch an ad campaign there is people that like it, and people that don’t,” says Marc Angers, UdeM’s director of communications and marketing. “We did [market] testing for a target audience of 16-18 years of age. And the research showed they were looking for lifestyle when they chose a post-secondary education.”
And the point of the campaign, beyond its shock value, and its nods to Acadian pride (the Acadian flag makes two cameos), its clever play on the French word “langue,” — which is French for “language” and “tongue,” and which appears at least six times in the video’s voiceover including the exact moment of the library kiss (“It’s the language of business affairs … and other affairs”) — is to convince young people to say to their folks: ‘‘I am applying to UdeM.”
Alas, argues Marie-Noelle Ryan, president of the university’s professor’s and librarians’ association, the kids that bite on the sexy-library bait will be disappointed when they wake up in first-year physics class.
“It is a false image of what it is to study at the university,” the professor told the Moncton Times and Transcript.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether a rape culture exists on Canadian university campuses. But one culture that is indisputably demonstrable, and could be testified to by legions of graduates, male and female, is a randiness that pervades places of higher learning.
As legend had it around Queen’s while I was there for graduate school, things have been known to happen in the Joseph S. Stauffer library. University libraries, it seems, are the campus equivalents of the airplane washroom.
“It’s something we consider much ado about nothing even if there is some perception of a controversy,” Michel Albert, the student union’s communications director, said in response to stories about the ad on CBC and the U.S. Gawker site.
The video’s closing scene depicts a winsome lass glancing over her shoulder, inviting the viewer to sidle on down towards the beach, and a circle of friends gathered there.
They are standing around a fire. The sun has set. Campus life has never looked so good.
“What’s important for us is, it worked,” Mr. Angers said. “It did what it was aimed for: it generated awareness.”
National Post, with files from Ashley Csanady, Postmedia News
- Published in National Post
Isadore Goldberg learned he was deceased from the teller at his bank.
He was not amused.
Goldberg, 89, a longtime Côte St-Luc city councillor who has a municipal park named after him, took TD Canada Trust and Toronto Dominion Bank to small claims court on the matter, and won.
Quebec Court Judge Dominique Vézina recently awarded him $3,000 in damages, saying the mistake “triggered inconveniences” for Goldberg, a “respected retired man” who had been a TD client for more than 30 years.
Goldberg’s 2012 visit to the bank branch in Montreal was prompted by a letter he received from Revenue Quebec asking where it could direct-deposit a cheque, since his bank had refused it.
‘I didn’t think it was very funny’
When he went to the branch for an explanation, he learned from the teller — who knew him — that according to TD’s file, he was deceased.
“I didn’t think it was very funny,” said Goldberg, a councillor in Côte St-Luc from 1982 to 2002.
He said he wanted to straighten out the matter then and there, but after a few minutes of discussion involving a couple of tellers, was told by a supervisor “move, you’re holding up the line.”
“That I didn’t like,” Goldberg said. “You’d think they’d be more sympathetic to someone who’s banked there over 30 years.”
Not only were his accounts frozen, an automatic action when TD receives a death notice, but all deposits received after the presumed date of death were returned to sender. It took “four to eight” days for TD to reinstate Goldberg’s banking status, but he also had to clarify matters with government agencies and fill out different forms, which caused him stress and nervousness and affected his quality of life, the judge said.
Goldberg told the court it ended up taking about 40 hours of his time over three months to straighten out the problems caused by the bank’s actions.
‘You’d think they’d be more sympathetic to someone who’s banked there over 30 years’
The bank initially offered him $300 for his trouble, which he considered insufficient.
TD admitted the mistake and apologized for it, saying it stemmed from an incorrect spelling of Goldberg’s first name, but maintained in court that it caused him no damage. Judge Vézina concluded otherwise.
“The notice of death received by TD did not concern this Mr. Goldberg but he was the one having to deal with the consequences of the blunder,” she wrote, noting that the bank “failed to verify” available information such as the branch where the account was opened, ages, addresses and social insurance numbers.
“Although the court finds no premeditation or bad faith on the part of TD for the mistake, it notes the lack of verification and the serious consequences for Mr. Goldberg,” the judge said.
Goldberg still maintains an account with the TD branch but has moved “90 per cent” of the assets once there to another institution.
- Published in National Post
HALIFAX — Lawyers for a Dalhousie University dentistry student say the school unfairly suspended him based on Facebook material he hadn’t seen.
Sarah MacIntosh told a news conference Wednesday that Dalhousie University concluded Ryan Millet was guilty of “blatant unprofessionalism” and suspended his clinic privileges earlier this month based on six specific posts made in a Facebook group, two of which he did not see.
“That finding was based on the limited fact that he was a member of a Facebook group in which other people posted inappropriate comments,” MacIntosh said.
“If that’s the new standard — guilt by association is the new standard for a finding of unprofessionalism — I mean people should be looking at what movies they watched, what parties they might have been at where other people made other inappropriate comments last weekend.”
MacIntosh said Millet agrees five of the six posts that led to his suspension were offensive to varying degrees and one was a breach of patient confidentiality.
Millet was a member of a Facebook group where misogynistic comments were posted about female classmates, but his lawyers say he helped expose it.
MacIntosh said Millet has been unfairly targeted in a disciplinary hearing process and they want the university’s senate to appoint an independent judge to figure out how to proceed.
Dalhousie University has said it is following a just process and will evaluate each case of the 13 men who were part of the Facebook group.
- Dalhousie dentistry student unfairly sanctioned despite blowing the whistle on sexist Facebook group, lawyer says
- Robyn Urback: Women should speak first in classrooms, says SMU prof. Really, do the men have to speak at all?
- Nothing criminal about Dalhousie dentistry students’ misogynistic Facebook posts: Halifax police
A Facebook page called Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen where sexually hateful comments about women were posted has been taken down.
But according to the CBC, members of the Facebook group voted on which woman they’d like to have “hate” sex with and joked about using chloroform on women. The CBC said in another post, a woman is shown in a bikini with a caption that says, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”
- Published in National Post
An online video featuring two children offering crude instructions on “how to kill your teacher” is under investigation by the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district.
The video, posted on YouTube approximately a week ago, features two young boys displaying what appear to be toy guns and discussing how to kill a teacher.
Nanaimo RCMP, who estimate the boys to be 11 or 12 years old, were alerted to the video’s existence after it was noticed by a radio host in Florida.
The video, which has since been removed, was forwarded to all senior administrators in the school district in an attempt to identify the students.
But Nanaimo Mounties will not get involved unless it is determined that the boys are from the city, said Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien.
“The main thing is that we want to identify who the kids are and sit down with them, with their parents, to discuss the total inappropriateness of the video.” said O’Brien.
The main thing is that we want to identify who the kids are and sit down with them, with their parents, to discuss the total inappropriateness of the video
Radio host Shawn Wasson stumbled across the video during research for his show The News Junkie out of Orlando, Fla.
Concerned, Wasson dug deeper and found another video posted by the same user that featured a Nanaimo landmark.
The primary issue was safety, said Wasson.
“I thought if there was a teacher in the school district where these kids [might be] going, they would probably want to be aware of that, and at least have some sort of talk with these kids,” said Wasson.
“Kids need to know that when you post something like this online, whether you think it’s a joke or you’re living in a fantasy world, it can be taken differently by someone who may feel that they’re a target of what you’re saying.”
He said although less common in Canada, U.S. citizens are all too aware of the consequences of inaction when it comes to crimes like school shootings.
“This is a new reality. Some of this may have been going on before MySpace or YouTube or Facebook or any of those things popped up, and now . . . posting things like this that can get them in some pretty serious trouble,” said Wasson.
The school district does not currently have a social media policy in place but are working on one as part of their communications plan, said spokesman Dale Burgos.
- Published in National Post
The act of leaving an elementary school child home alone could soon be explicitly illegal, depending on whether a Manitoba judge decides to convict a mother for leaving her six-year-old home alone for 90 minutes.
Coming at the same time as a Maryland mother was investigated for letting her children walk to a park alone, the Manitoba case could signal the beginnings of a Canadian legal ban on latchkey kids — even when the child isn’t in danger.
“The Crown is arguing that the inherent dangers of leaving the child in a house should be sufficient,” said Mike Law, lawyer for the accused Winnipeg mother, whose name has not been made public.
Calling the case “precedent-setting,” Mr. Law said neither he nor prosecutors have found any record of a parent being convicted for leaving their school-age child in a home that, to all outside observers, is risk-free.
“No broken glass, no knives left around, it wasn’t the middle of winter, it wasn’t an apartment building where windows could be opened,” said the defence lawyer.
Winnipeg child abandonment cases are usually much more ghastly. Last March, a 22-year-old mother was convicted after abandoning her children, ages two and four, for hours as she drank at a hotel bar.
The year before, a 23-year-old faced child-abandonment charges after she wheeled her toddler into a ditch and wandered away to sleep off an ecstasy high.
In the case currently being decided, a Winnipeg mother was arrested soon after Child and Family Services became aware that she intentionally left her child unattended for 90 minutes as she ran errands.
The specific charge is child abandonment, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
Under the Criminal Code, child abandonment is defined as doing anything to a child “so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured.”
“Even in a home environment, that child was endangered,” prosecutor Nancy Fazenda argued Monday, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
Although nothing bad happened, in 90 minutes, Ms. Fazenda argued, the child could have choked to death, electrocuted themselves or fallen down a set of stairs — not to mention the consequences of a sudden flood, fire or home invasion.
The case is set to be decided in 30 days.
‘No broken glass, no knives left around, it wasn’t the middle of winter, it wasn’t an apartment building where windows could be opened’
In the U.S., the issue of “child independence” has recently been thrown into the spotlight after parents in Silver Spring, Maryland, were investigated for neglect after they directed their 10-year-old son and six-year-old daughter to walk to a local park on their own.
“The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood,” mother Danielle Meitiv told the Washington Post.
Federally, there has never been a set age at which a Canadian child can be safely left alone — although various provinces and counties all keep their own guidelines on the question.
Under Manitoba’s Child and Family Services Act, a child under 12 years old is seen to be in “need of protection” if it is “left unattended and without reasonable provision being made for the supervision and safety of the child.”
In Ontario’s Simcoe County, the Children’s Aid Society draws the line at 10 years old. “There is no magical number of minutes that a child can be left alone,” reads a society pamphlet.
Other Ontario Children’s Aid Societies have simply warned that if a child under 10 is found home alone, “the onus is on the parent” to prove to authorities that “their child has not been left in a potentially harmful situation.”
In the U.K. — where thousands of citizens grew up as latchkey children during the Second World War — the issue of children being left home alone was recently highlighted by the case of Joan, a woman attempting to clear her record of a “police caution” for child neglect.
Eight years before, Joan had been handed the citation after leaving her six-year-old son home alone for 45 minutes as she took a driving lesson.
“He was in no danger when I left him,” she told the Sunday Times.
Britons do not appear to be taking Joan’s side. Last November, a YouGov poll commissioned by The Times found that two thirds of U.K. citizens wanted to make it illegal for any child younger than 12 to be left on their own.
- Published in National Post
LONDON — Feminists are rejoicing at the disappearance of bare breasts from the British tabloid The Sun — though the newspaper is not saying whether the decision to ditch its “Page 3 girls” is permanent.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid has featured topless models on its third page for almost 45 years, but since Friday they have been replaced by models wearing bras or bikinis.
The Sun has declined to comment on the change, but the Murdoch-owned Times newspaper reported Tuesday that the feature had been dropped from the paper’s print edition. It said the Sun website would continue to feature topless models.
Murdoch bought the struggling Sun in 1969 and turned it into Britain’s bestselling newspaper, a mix of patriotic flag-waving, celebrity scandal, cheeky humour — and, critics say, sexism.
The Sun‘s circulation has been declining for years as people switch to digital media, though it still sells about 2 million copies a day.
Page 3 was long seen as integral to the brand, but Murdoch has recently indicated that might be changing. The Sun’s Irish edition stopped using topless models in 2013. Last year Murdoch said he found Page 3 “old-fashioned, but readers seem to disagree.”
A protest campaign led by young women under the slogan “No More Page 3” has helped put pressure on Murdoch’s News Corp.
Campaigner Yas Necati said it was “about time” the newspaper dropped a feature that “gives the message that men make the news for what they do, and women for what they look like.”
The Conservative-led government’s education minister, Nicky Morgan, said the move was “a long-overdue decision and marks a small but significant step towards improving media portrayal of women and girls.”
But former Page 3 models spoke up in defence of topless tradition.
“This isn’t a triumph for feminism,” model Laura Lacole told the BBC. “This is a triumph for prudishness.”
- Published in National Post
In a report that should surprise no one, University of Ottawa researchers have determined that women have one-night stands for the sex.
In a survey of 510 mostly Canadian women, “the person’s physical appearance turned me on” was rated as the number one reason heterosexual respondents had opted for casual sex.
Although women in committed relationships reported having sex as an expression of love or affection, casual sex was almost purely physical. The number two and number three reasons for casual sex, respectively, were “It feels good” and “I was ‘horny.’”
“To my knowledge, this is the first study to specifically compare physical and emotional reasons for casual sex,” said study co-author Heather Armstrong, writing in an email to the National Post.
Emotional closeness barely even made the list. As per the survey, women are more likely to have casual sex because a man had “beautiful eyes” and “smelled nice,” rather than doing it because they wanted to feel intimate.
Prepared by the University of Ottawa’s Human Sexuality Research Laboratory, the study’s stated goal was to “explore women’s motivations to have sex” — whether it be straight sex, gay sex, casual sex or sex with a spouse.
“As expected, women reported more physical motivations for casual sex and more emotional motivations for sex in a committed relationship,” read the study.
As expected, women reported more physical motivations for casual sex and more emotional motivations for sex in a committed relationship
Namely, committed women were far more likely to have sex with their partners to “show my affection,” “communicate at a ‘deeper’ level” or solidify “the natural next step in my relationship.”
However, even in marriages and long-term courtships, “it feels good” still held the #1 spot as to why a heterosexual woman would take her partner to bed.
Recruited mostly from a “large, urban university in eastern Canada,” the study’s 510 subjects were 78% Caucasian, mostly non-religious and had a mean age of 21.6 years.
Possibly due to the relative youth of the group, it included a high number of current or recent virgins, as evidenced by the #24 reason for having casual sex with a man being “I wanted to see what it would be like to have sex with another person.”
- Rehtaeh Parsons story highlights world where sex talk is more open among teens but no less confusing
- ‘Booty call or one-night stand?’ Women better at labelling relationships because casual sex ‘risky’: study
- Women twice as likely to have orgasms in committed relationships than one-night sex hookups: study
In recent decades, the science of casual sex has been informed heavily by a 1989 study out of the United States. Prepared by researchers Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield, the study recruited men and women on U.S. university campuses and asked them to approach classmates with random propositions for sex.
Of the men approached by female participants, an incredible 69% agreed. By contrast, not a single woman assented to a man’s random request to “go to bed with me tonight?”
More recently, a 2011 study out of the University of Michigan found that when women can be assured of “safety” and “sexual prowess,” they were just as likely as men to opt for a night of commitment-free sex.
“The extent to which women and men believed that the proposer would be sexually skilled predicted how likely they would be to engage in casual sex with this individual,” read the study.
Asked if she suspected that her study reflected a change in sexual norms, Ms. Armstrong responded that rates of casual sex are likely rising — but that the reasons for it are pretty much the same as they always have been.
“People have casual sex because it feels good and because their partner’s attractive and I think that probably would have been the case in the past as well,” she said.
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Published in National Post
The Argentine prosecutor who last week accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of trying to absolve Iranian officials from their involvement in the most deadly terrorist attack in the nation’s history has been found dead in his apartment.
Alberto Nisman’s body was discovered by his mother and a police officer in the bathroom of his apartment last night alongside a gun and the shell of a bullet, according to a statement by the Security Ministry, which didn’t provide the cause of death. Nisman was scheduled to present evidence for his accusations against Fernandez at a lower house commission today. He was 51, according to local media.
“The autopsy has already begun,” Prosecutor Viviana Fein, who is in charge of the investigation into Nisman’s death, told reporters in Buenos Aires today. “There were no witnesses or neighbors and there was no letter.”
Nisman alleged that Fernandez and her Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had sought to cover up an investigation he was heading into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that left 85 people dead and hundreds injured. Fernandez will need to show she’s fully co-operating with the investigation to ensure that Nisman’s death doesn’t tarnish the prospects of candidates from her alliance seeking to succeed her in presidential elections in October, said Buenos Aires-based political analyst Sergio Berensztein.
“This could constitute what’s commonly referred to as a black swan event in the sense that it could have an impact that’s impossible to determine today but that could be very significant in the electoral campaign,” Berensztein said. “If the president puts herself at the disposal of the investigation and provides all the tools needed so that this is cleared up quickly, she could emerge strengthened by this.”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office named Alberto Gentili as Nisman’s replacement until Jan. 31. Gentili worked with Nisman on the investigation of the 1994 bombing.
Nisman’s mother and federal police officers assigned to protect the prosecutor entered the apartment after repeatedly trying to contact him on Sunday by telephone and by ringing the door bell. Since the door was locked from the inside, a locksmith was called to open it. Once inside, his mother and the policemen found Nisman’s body blocking the door in the bathroom. Next to the body was a caliber 22 pistol and a bullet casing.
“In criminal investigations when you have a body, a weapon and a bullet shell evidently things point in a certain direction but we’ll have to wait and see if the investigation corroborates this,” Security Secretary Sergio Berni said in an interview on Radio Nacional Rock. “We’re very respectful of what the family must be experiencing at the moment so we can’t give any more details.”
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said in his daily press conference he had nothing to add to the statement released by the Security Ministry and that investigations into the cause of death were being carried out.
Lawmaker Patricia Bullrich of the opposition PRO party told TN news channel today that she had spoken to Nisman on Jan. 17 to co-ordinate his visit to Congress today.
“He told me had been threatened and that he was studying the case, that he was going to give us some very strong evidence and for that reason he had requested that the meeting should be private,” Bullrich said.
Nisman’s allegation is one of multiple court cases against Fernandez and her government that threaten to weaken her influence over elections in which a candidate for her party is tied in polls with two aspirants opposed to her government.
Argentine prosecutors in 2006 charged Iran and the Hezbollah group with organizing the 1994 bombing and issued eight arrest warrants, one of them for former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.
Seven years later, Fernandez said she signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranians to set up a truth commission into the bombing.
According to Nisman, the aim of the accord was for Iranian officials to be taken off Interpol’s wanted list. In exchange, Argentina would export grains and meat to Iran and receive oil.
Timerman said Jan. 15 that the accusations were “lies” and accused Nisman of trying to stoke up sentiment against Fernandez’s government during a year in which Argentines will vote for a new president.
Since the formal accusations had already been made, it’s likely that public pressure to see the evidence Nisman had against the government will make it difficult to cover up now, Berensztein said.
Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli, who plans to run for the presidency under Fernandez’s Victory Front coalition, had 24.7 per cent of voter support against 23.7 per cent for Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri and 17.2 per cent for lawmaker Sergio Massa in a Nov. 26-Dec. 3 poll of 2,400 people carried out by Management & Fit. The survey had a margin of error of two percentage points.
In a Jan. 2-5 Polldata survey of 1,680 people, Massa led with 26.3 per cent against 24.5 per cent for Scioli and 21.1 per cent for Macri.
Fernandez’s government, which was censured in 2013 by the International Monetary Fund for misreporting its economic data, has created an atmosphere of mistrust with the public that may make it difficult for it to dismiss accusations of foul play, Berensztein said.
“There’s a problem in Argentina of a lack of credibility in public announcements because of the constant manipulation of statistics, which leads to predictable doubts,” Berensztein said.
With assistance from Daniel Cancel in Buenos Aires.
- Published in National Post
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