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THE WEEK THAT WAS

August 6 2001
Overture

THE WEEK THAT WAS

August 6 2001

THE WEEK THAT WAS

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DIAL M FOR MAD

Its a weird sort of progress. Bell Canada withdrew its proposal to the CRTC to start charging customers an extra $2.80 a month for Touch-Tone service regardless of what type of phone they have. The move would have in effect penalized the five per cent of Bell customers—about 285,000 customers in Ontario and Quebec—who still have rotary phones. But when several thousand of them complained to the federal regulator, Bell backed off. So it’s consumer activism 1, Ma Bell 0.

Spanking and the law

An Ontario court ordered two fundamentalist Christian parents reunited with their seven children after endorsing a temporary agreement forbidding the use of corporal punishment. The

children had been in foster care since being forcibly removed from their home in Aylmer, Ont., on July 4 after their parents, firm believers that the Bible advocates spanking, refused to refrain from using a paddle for disciplinary purposes. The parents will undergo counselling as well as checks by childwelfare workers. Police have yet to determine if criminal charges will be laid.

Afine for Air Canada

Stock market regulators fined Air Canada $1 million and sent public companies a strong warning about disclosing information. The securities commissions of Ontario and Quebec each fined the Montreal-based airline $500,000 in settlement of charges that its officials told a small group of analysts about its worse-than-expected sixmonth results one evening last October, nearly a full day be-

fore the public learned about them. Air Canadas stock sank the next morning. Regulators have intensified campaigns to stamp out what is known as selective disclosure.

Nicole then and now

Police in Toronto unveiled an age-enhanced photo of Nicole Morin, who vanished at the age of 8 from her mother’s penthouse apartment 16 years ago. The portrait, which

shows how she might appear at 24 years old, was created at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va. Nicole’s father, Art Morin, said he hopes it will help bring new informa-

tion in a case that, so far, has produced no leads. Nicole was last seen on July 30, 1985.

Sex in Atlanta

As part of the high-profile case against strip club owner Steve Kaplan, Atlanta Braves outfielder Andruw Jones was called in last week as a witness by the prosecution. Jones, a regular customer at Kaplan’s Gold Club in Adanta, said he was invited to a private party by an employee of the strip club in 1996 or early 1997. He testified that when he arrived at the hotel room he found two woman “doing lesbian action,” and that he then had intercourse with them while Kaplan and several other men watched. Prosecutors say Kaplan, who got his start in New York City, used the lure of sex to attract pro athletes and celebrities to his club while funnelling cash to New York’s Gambino crime family. He and six others are

THE JDS DISASTER

A year ago, Ottawa high-tech darling JDS Uniphase Corp. couldn’t work fast enough to deliver orders for its fibre-optic components from such top-drawer clients as Nortel Networks Corp. and Lucent Technologies Inc. Now, of course, the entire industry is a financial disaster area, and last week JDS became ground zero. It announced new layoffs of 7,000 people and posted one of the biggest annual losses in corporate history— $50.56 billion (U.S.). JDS came down to earth literally: the binational company, also headquartered in San Jose, Calif., will sell off its three corporate planes.

The company’s workforce will be more than halved, to 13,000, by its total layoffs of 16,000, and it will close operations in nine cities. But the loss is not as devastating as it looks. The biggest portion was $45 billion in “good-

will”—the accounting term for the amount paid to buy a company above the value of its assets. JDS will put most of the red ink on its third quarter, creating a record. Both JDS and Nortel, which recently posted a $ 19.4-billion quarterly loss, are seeking to get off their books the inflated value of companies they acquired in the intense buy-them-all days of the tech bubble. Since the purchases tended to be in thenhigh-priced stock, the impact on cash flow was never very great. JDS chief executive Jozef Straus called the loss “paper money.”

charged with, among other things, obstruction, credit card fraud, loan-sharking and prostitution.

Wahid moves out

Indonesia’s former president, Abdurrahman Wahid, gave in to parliament’s wishes and made way for his successor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, after a tense three-day standoff. Wahid, who was dismissed by parliament for alleged incompetence and corruption, had refused to abandon the presidential palace, calling the dismissal illegal. Wahid, 60, who is blind and recently had two strokes, will undergo medical treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. He vowed to return as the country’s voice of democracy.

Death of a queen

She was known as the “Bandit Queen,” a gang leader idolized by India’s poor who became a respected member of parliament—only to die in a hail of bullets. Phoolan Devi, a member of the Samajwadi Party, was gunned down outside her home in New Delhi by two masked

gunmen who fled in a car. Two days later, police arrested a suspect, Sher Singh Rana, 21, who admitted he and an accomplice shot Devi six times to exact revenge for her involvement in the massacre of 22 uppercaste men in the village of Behmai in 1981, where Devi had been raped. As word of her death spread, her supporters went on a rampage, throwing stones and smashing windshields of cars parked outside the house where her body lay bedecked with flowers in a sprawling garden.

Bad blood

After a two-day illegal strike, 11,000 health-care workers in British Columbia returned to their jobs. They now face a lawsuit for stopping thousands of medical procedures across the province. The Health Sciences Association, which represents the hospital workers—including X-ray and lab technicians, physiotherapists and social workers—is demanding a 24per-cent wage increase. Nego-

tiations broke down when the government offered a 15-percent wage increase to some union members, but only 5.5 per cent to others.

A pig’s eye

After four years of clinical study, Health Canada has approved the sale of contact lens implants made of pig tissue. The procedure provides an alternative for patients whose eyesight is too poor to qualify them for laser surgery. Unlike laser surgery, which costs as much as $3,000 an eye, the operation can be reversed. It may also increase the risk of cataracts.

THAT CARBON-SINKING FEELING

It was hailed as a success-of sorts. In Bonn, Germany, representatives from 180 countries signed a heavily watered-down version of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The agreement, designed to slash emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, appeared to be near death after President George Bush pulled the United States out of the pact on March 29. Activists also painted Canada as a villain when Environment Minister David Anderson initially supported the U.S. position, saying European leaders were being intransigent on the complicated question of so-called carbon sinks-areas of vegetation, such as prairies or forests, that absorb carbon dioxide, and which abound in Canada. Federal negotiators in Bonn, led by Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, argued that Canada should receive credit for the sinks, which would ef-

fectively allow the country to produce higher levels of greenhouse gas than originally agreed to at Kyoto.

In Bonn, Canadian negotiators won a major concession when the European Union agreed to extend Canada credits for the carbon sinks. That compromise also put pressure on Japan, which finally agreed to sign, leaving the United States-which produces a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases-as the lone holdout. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said the deal “opens the way” for Parliament to ratify the refined Kyoto accord. And if 54 other countries also enshrine it in law, it will become binding internationally. Chrétien now plans to meet with provincial leaders to explain Canada’s position. He is expected to receive a chilly reception in Edmonton, where Premier Ralph Klein says the pact would be an economic disaster for his province.