The Week That Was

The Week That Was

May 13 2002
The Week That Was

The Week That Was

May 13 2002

The Week That Was

The Hubble’s new eye brings the universe into clearer focus

After 12 years of service, the Hubble Space Telescope got a new camera during last March’s shuttle mission. Among the first images (10 times as detailed as any seen before) from the new camera is one of an extremely distant collision between two spiral galaxies. Closer to home, NASA photographed the Cone Nebula (above), a pillar of gas and dust 2,500 light-years away from earth in the constellation Monoceros.

‘The sex thing’

A three-member disciplinary committee of the Ontario College of Teachers banned Amy Gehring from teaching for 10 years and ordered her to pay $10,000 in costs. Gehring, 26, a native of Otterville, Ont., gained notoriety in England, where she worked as a substitute teacher for a year, over allegations of having sex with her students. Gehring was tried and found not guilty of four counts of indecent

assault, but subsequently admitted in a media interview to sleeping with a student.The Ontario punishment was one of the toughest ever imposed in that province. Gehring said the committee had been “hung up on the sex thing."

No shotgun wedding

Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper wants a wedding with the Progressive Conservative Party by the end of August-but only on his

terms. In an open letter to members of the Tories, Harper said the two parties should unite under the Alliance banner in the House of Commons and field one slate of candidates in the next federal election. Harper laid out the terms of the coalition in a private meeting with Conservative Leader Joe Clark in April, but the two failed to reach an agreement, prompting the return of five dissident Alliance MPs to the party fold. Clark rejected Harper's

latest overture. “He’s making it clear that unless the Conservative party disappears and folds into his,” said Clark, “then there will be no cooperation on the floor of the House.”

War crimes arrest

The RCMP arrested Vancouver resident Michael Seifert, 78, who was tried and convicted in Italy in absentia of war crimes committed during the Second World War. Seifert, born in Ukraine, came to Canada in

1951. Eighteen months ago, an Italian military court found him guilty of killing, raping and torturing prisoners while he served as a guard at the Bolzano concentration camp in northern Italy. Seifert was arrested on an extradition warrant from the Italian government.

Surprise, surprise

Gen. Pervez Musharraf overwhelmingly won another five-year term as president of Pakistan, garnering a 97.7 per cent vote of approval in a referendum on his leadership. However, an independent human rights commission in Pakistan and other observers called the referendum a humiliating fraud. “There was no voters’ list, no polling agents, no question of verifying identities,” said Arif Nizami, editor of the independent national daily the Nation. Musharraf seized power in 1999 in a military coup.

On ice

The International Skating Union announced that French figure-skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne and French Ice Sports Federation head Didier Gailhaguet would receive three-year suspensions for their part in the Salt Lake City Olympic figure skating scandal. Russian skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze had initially won the pairs gold over Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, in what was widely alleged to be a rigged competition. By coincidence, Salé and Pelletier, who after an outcry were also given gold medals later in the Games, announced on the same day last week that they were retiring from amateur skating and moving on to the professional circuit.

The Sampson case

Confusion continued to swirl around the case of Canadian Bill Sampson, who was arrested in Saudi Arabia in December, 2000, and accused of murder in the bombing death of a British expatriate. Saudi authorities had denied earlier reports that Sampson had been found guilty in a secret trial and sentenced to death.Then, last week, the desert kingdom’s ambas-

sador to Canada, Mohammed al-Hussaini, said a panel of five judges will soon consider Sampson’s case and that he will get a fair hearing. The ambassador also said Sampson is unlikely to face a death sentence, because he has recanted an earlier confession he made on Saudi TV. Other expatriates have raised suspicions that the confession had been obtained by torture.

‘Cruel and evil’

Ontario Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk sentenced Marcia Dooley to 18 years in jail before she can apply for parole. Dooley was convicted on April 18 of seconddegree murder in the death of her stepson Randal, 7-one of the most horrific cases of child abuse in Canadian legal history. Randal’s father, Tony, also convicted of second-degree murder, received

a sentence of 13 years before being eligible to apply for parole. Ewaschuk called Marcia a “cruel and evil stepmother” and said Tony was a “coward” for “ignoring Randal’s plight as Marcia’s whipping boy.” After Randal’s death, an autopsy on his emaciated body found 13 broken ribs, a lacerated liver and a tooth in his stomach, along with numerous bruises and scars.

Ernie’s high-wire act

Hey, who turned out the lights?

Just when it seemed that Ontario would proceed with its plan to sell off its electricity transmission utility, the biggest privatization in Canadian history was plunged into darkness. The initial shock came on April 19 from a court decision that, somewhat unexpectedly, agreed with challengers who argued that a law saying the provincial government may “hold” the shares of Hydro One Inc. did not mean it may “sell” them. Then, last week, legal experts suggested the ruling may also mean that Hydro One cannot hold title to dozens of local electricity firms it bought in recent years.

The judgment-handed down just 12 days before the whole process was due to start-had stunned Bay Street underwriters, who were salivating at the estimated $100 million worth of fees on the stock sale, projected to reap $5 billion. On May 1, as scheduled, Ontarians’ electricity bills were converted to rates determined by the open market or private long-term contracts. But new Premier Ernie Eves faced a major political dilemma over the optics of the blocked sale. He had just left a high-paying job on Bay Street to take over the premiership from his friend Mike Harris, who had set the privatization in motion while Eves was finance minister.

The court challenge was mounted by two unions which claimed

to be acting on behalf of consumers they feared would face soaring electricity charges.

Initially, the government said it would appeal the case and might bring in clarifying legislation. But by last week, after Eves ordered public hearings, heresy was on the Tory table. A minister said the government might simply lease out Hydro One while retaining ownership. Bay Streeters spoke of a government-owned income trust, in which investors could buy units. And before winning a by-election to gain a seat in the legislature, Eves plugged into the popular current, declaring: “I’m not doing this so some guy on Bay Street can get a bonus before he goes on summer vacation.” Zap.

House arrest

John Robin Sharpe was sentenced to four months of house arrest for possession of hundreds of pornographic pictures of children. The Vancouver man, who is in ill health, had earlier been found not guilty on another two child pornography counts relating to his own writings. Sharpe, who had argued that the country’s child pornography law violated Charter guarantees of freedom of expression, fought his case to the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld the law but said private works of the imagination should be excepted-

That sinking feeling

It seemed like a good deal when it was signed in 1998: four used submarines from the Royal Navy in return for British soldiers using Canadian training bases. Well— maybe not. The two submarines already delivered to Canada, HMCS Victoria and HMCS Windsor, are now being checked to see whether they have cracked exhaust valves. The investigation was triggered when cracks were found on HMCS Chicoutimi, which is still being tested in Britain along with HMCS Corner Brook before delivery to Canada.

If flawed, the valves, which vent exhaust from the submarines’ hulls, could allow water to flow into the vessels. The Chicoutimi’s cracks were discovered about two months ago, although Windsor was still

and that artistic merit should be taken into account.

Reviving brain cells

Brain cells previously believed to die or become dysfunctional after a spinal cord injury are in fact alive and capable of regeneration as long as a year after the injury, according to a three-year study on animals at the University of British Columbia. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study focused on brain cells responsible for sending movement signals to the body.Those cells shrink

cleared to sail on a training mission from Halifax in March. The valves are not the only problem: in February, a shallow dent the size of a phone book was discovered on Victoria’s hull.

A team of British and Canadian naval officials-Canada says the vessel has been in no accidents since it was delivered in October, 2000-is now trying to determine what caused the dent.

Some experts have speculated that it could have resulted from a tugboat at Victoria’s old home port near Liverpool. Repairing the subs isn’t cheap-the dent could cost about $400,000 to fix, while the valves-two on each vessel—would cost $120,000 each to replace. Defence Minister Art Eggleton said that if Britain delivered damaged goods, it should pay.

dramatically after a spinal cord injury. Exposed to a nerve growth factor, they regained full size and vitality, the researchers report, and were able to regenerate the fibres needed to carry movement messages to the body.

Jack’s house

His authors Include David Suzuki, David Foot and Jack Granatstein.

But publisher Jack Stoddart can’t pay them. In a major blow to the Canadian book industry, Stoddart went Into bankruptcy protection to try to reorganize his flailing group of companies, led by Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd. and General Distribution Services Ltd., one of Canada’s biggest book distributors. Stoddart blamed problems with the old Chapters chain of book superstores, before it was taken over by rival Indigo Books & Music Inc., for much of his $45-million debt. Many publishers, though, were angry over the way he handled his companies.Two major creditors, publishers Douglas & McIntyre Inc. and Key Porter Books Ltd., said they might take some Stoddart assets in payment of the $3 million he owes them.

Where is Rilya?

In January, 2001, four-year-old Rilya Wilson disappeared from the Miami house of her grandmother, Geralyn Graham. According to Graham, a woman claiming to be from Florida’s family services agency took Rilya into state custody. But last week, officials said there is no record of the girl being taken into state care-and they don’t know where she is. Rllya’s real caseworker, who has resigned, was apparently falsifying records in that case and others, making it appear she had visited Rilya and other children at their homes. It wasn’t until late April that a new caseworker made an actual visit to Graham and discovered the child was missing. Graham, who had made inquiries about Rilya’s whereabouts, is not considered a suspect by police, who have labelled the case a homicide.

Angry words and a new push for peace

Blinking in the sunlight and flashing a V-for-victory sign, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat emerged from the semi-darkness of his shattered headquarters after a month-long Israeli siege of Ramallah. “With our blood and our souls, we will redeem you," hundreds of Palestinians chanted as he climbed into a black Mercedes to begin a tour of the battle-scarred West Bank city. Later, at a press conference, Arafat denounced Israel’s ongoing siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which stands on the site where Christians believe Jesus was born-and where more than 150 priests and civilians remain trapped inside with about 30 Palestinian

fighters. “This is a crime,” he shouted, “that cannot be forgiven.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has waged a military offensive across the West Bank since March 29. The raids, in which hundreds of Palestinians may have died, followed a wave of increasingly deadly Palestinian suicide attacks. Arafat was only released after Israel accepted a U.S.-brokered deal. As part of the agreement, six Palestinians, including four wanted in the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister last October, were transferred to a jail in Jericho where they were being held under the supervision of British and American authorities.

Hours after Arafat’s release, the

U.S. announced that it would join Europe, Russia and the United Nations in convening a Middle East peace conference. Secretary of State Colin Powell said one of the goals would be to “clear the political way forward” to a Palestinian state. Sharon is scheduled to visit Washington this week to discuss the peace conference with George W. Bush. Arafat reacted cautiously, saying he “welcomed” the idea but wanted to discuss it with Arab leaders before agreeing to attend.

The U.S. proposal followed a United Nations decision to drop its investigation into a battle at the Jenin refugee camp-where the Palestinian Authority claims hundreds of innocent civilians were killed during 10 days of fighting that began on April 2. But Israel

maintains that only about 50 armed Palestinians died there, and objected to the makeup of the investigating team, which they said would have included representatives from nations hostile to Israel.

The UN has also been unable to broker an end to the siege at the Church of the Nativity. With tensions remaining high, Israeli troops killed one Palestinian and wounded two other people in fighting at the church last week. And as the standoff continued, Israeli troops swooped down on a Hamas hideout in Nablus, killing one activist. But as he toured Ramallah, Arafat brushed off Sharon’s threat to continue the crackdown, and pointed to a group of children. “One of these,” he declared, “will wave the flag over a Palestinian state.”