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TMCNet:  Top News Advisory for Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014

[January 30, 2014]

Top News Advisory for Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014

(Canadian Press DataFile Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Thursday, Jan. 30 2:55 p.m.

TOP NEWS ADVISORY Here are the latest Top News stories from The Canadian Press. All times are Eastern unless otherwise stated. Coverage plans are included when available. Entries are subject to change. Contact the National Desk at 416-507-2150.


____ TOP NEWS AT THIS HOUR: Lowered expectation for federal bridge budget Bridge-Fedbudget OTTAWA _ Don't expect a pile of goodies or any big new spending programs when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivers his budget Feb. 11 _ right in the middle of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Experts say the timing signals a stay-the-course fiscal plan aimed at bridging the gap between a $5.5-billion deficit and an anticipated surplus in 2015, and groups seeking federal help appear to be adjusting their expectations accordingly.

___ Military team to tackle suicide case backlog Veterans-Offices-Suicides OTTAWA - The Harper government delivered a full-throated defence of its planned closure of eight veterans affairs offices and the shortage of military mental health staff, blaming the government unions and a reluctance of soldiers to step forward and seek treatment. Julian Fantino, the embattled veterans affairs minister whose been under pressure to resign following a testy meeting with ex-soldiers this week, told a special House of Commons debate on Thursday that he wasn't going anywhere.

___ Russian Arctic envoy defends military build-up Cda-Russia-Arctic OTTAWA - Vladimir Putin's senior Arctic envoy defends Russia's military build-up in the north, and says it is not directed at Canada or any of its allies. In an interview with The Canadian Press, he lauds a new Arctic Council initiative, led by Canada, that will focus more on business opportunities in the north. PHOTO.

___ Parole Board official behaved badly: report Parole-Board-Wrongdoing OTTAWA - A Conservative appointee to the Parole Board of Canada shared private details about offenders with the Ontario Provincial Police, says a new report by public sector integrity commissioner Mario Dion.The findings shed light on why former police officer Frederick Tufnell was mysteriously demoted last fall from his position as vice-chairman of the Ontario/Nunavut regional division of the parole board. PHOTO.

___ Genesis of Trudeau's dramatic Senate decision Trudeau-Senate OTTAWA - Just three months ago, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals dismissed as "ridiculous" an NDP motion calling on the Grits and Conservatives to expel unelected senators from their respective caucuses. Yet the Liberal leader did just that Wednesday in an abrupt about-face that left rival parties, cynics and conspiracy theorists to speculate that the move was motivated by the need to distance himself from senators who could be tarred with making inappropriate expense claims in an imminent interim report by auditor general Michael Ferguson. PHOTO.

___ Nuclear, oil & gas liability to hit $1B Nuclear-Liability OTTAWA - The Conservative government has introduced legislation that would dramatically bump up the amount of liability coverage required for nuclear plants and offshore oil and gas operations.The new $1-billion liability replaces the current $75-million minimum for nuclear operators and liability thresholds of between $30 million and $40 million for energy companies and offshore shippers, depending on where they operate. PHOTO.

___ Integrity watchdog probes senior official at federal school Federal-School-Probe OTTAWA - The federal integrity commissioner is investigating a senior official at the Canada School of Public Service, prompting her to launch an unsuccessful court bid to derail the probe.

___ Best Buy Canada lays off 950 employees Best-Buy-Canada TORONTO _ Best Buy Canada says about 950 full-time employees will be laid off as the company reworks its operations to reduce layers of management and combine some of its sales departments.The electronics retailer says the job cuts will affect both its Best Buy and Future Shop stores across Canada. Moves Business and National ____ Loonie will plummet to 85 cents: TD BMO-Loonie TORONTO _ Watch for the loonie to lose more of its luster this year, according to two well-known bank economists.Craig Alexander, chief economist for TD Economics, warned Thursday that consumers could see the Canadian dollar slide as low as 85 cents US by mid-year if the current environment continues. PHOTO. Moved Business and National ___ Advocates say dangerous offender label used too widely in Saskatchewan Sask-Dangerous-Offender REGINA _ Advocates for a man labelled a dangerous offender say Saskatchewan has cast too wide a net when it comes to applying the designation and they want the province's appeal court to weigh in. Andy Peekeekoot has more than 20 convictions on his record, including aggravated assault and for assaults on corrections workers. AUDIO ____ Union boss scrutinized for expensive gifts Que-Corruption-Inquiry MONTREAL _ The man who once headed Quebec's most powerful union is insisting he returned expensive gifts from an influential construction boss and paid for six-figure renovations to his own home himself. Michel Arsenault, the ex-president of the Quebec Federation of Labour, is being scrutinized by the province's corruption inquiry over a cozy relationship between the union and former construction magnate Tony Accurso.

___ Pope Francis reaches out to L'Isle-Verte in wake of devastating seniors' home fire Que-Fire VATICAN CITY, Vatican _ Pope Francis offered his spiritual support Thursday to L'Isle-Verte, the Quebec community devastated by fire at a seniors' home that has left 19 people confirmed dead. Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, wrote that Pope Francis was immediately touched by the tragedy upon learning of it.

___ Woman strangled after clothing gets caught in Montreal subway escalator Montreal-Subway-Strangled MONTREAL _ A woman died strangled on a Montreal subway escalator Thursday after an article of clothing, presumably her scarf, got caught in the moving device, according to an ambulance spokesman. AUDIO. PHOTO. VIDEO.

____ High court won't hear Ottawa fisheries appeal Native-Fishery VANCOUVER _ The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a federal government application to appeal a British Columbia court ruling recognizing First Nations rights to a commercial fishery.The decision brings an end to a decade-long legal fight by the Nuu-chah-nulth nations of Vancouver Island. Will be writethru ___ Health-care cuts for refugees challenged in court Refugee-Health TORONTO _ A federal court judge questioned Thursday whether provincial governments have truly filled in the gap left by cutbacks to health-care coverage for refugee claimants announced 18 months ago.Justice Anne Mactavish is hearing a legal challenge launched by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

___ US prosecutors seek execution of marathon suspect US-Boston-Marathon-Bombing BOSTON _ U.S. prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombing.The final decision was made by Attorney General Eric Holder and was announced Thursday. The twin blasts in April killed three people and wounded more than 260 in one of the most prominent terrorist attacks in the U.S since 9-11. PHOTO. APNewsNow.

___ UK lawmakers back immigration plans on criminals EU-Britain-Terror-Suspects LONDON _ British lawmakers on Thursday backed a government proposal to give authorities the power to strip foreign-born terror suspects of their British citizenship.The proposal from Home Secretary Theresa May targets naturalized citizens who are deemed to have seriously harmed "Britain's vital interests." ___ Ukraine's president takes sick leave as calls grow for his resignation EU-Ukraine-Protests KYIV, Ukraine _ Ukraine's embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, is taking sick leave as the country's political crisis continues without signs of resolution. A statement on the presidential website Thursday said Yanukovych has an acute respiratory illness and high fever. He is under pressure after two months of major protests seeking his resignation, early elections and other demands. PHOTOS ____ Knox in US as Italian court begins deliberations EU-Italy-Knox-Trial FLORENCE _ An appeals court in Florence began deliberations Thursday in the third murder trial of U.S. student Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend as the star defendant waited on another continent with, in her words, "my heart in my throat."Knox's defence team gave their last round of rebuttals, ending four months of arguments in Knox's and Italian Raffaele Sollecito's third trial for the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in the Italian university town of Perugia. PHOTO.

____ Report: Syria government has razed neighbourhoods ML-Syria-Unlawful-Demolitions BEIRUT _ The Syrian government used controlled explosives and bulldozers to raze thousands of residential buildings, in some cases entire neighbourhoods, in a campaign that appeared designed to punish civilians sympathetic to the opposition or to cause disproportionate harm to them, an international human rights group said Thursday.The demolitions took place between July 2012 and July 2013 in seven pro-opposition districts in and around the capital, Damascus, and the central city of Hama, according to a 38-page report by Human Rights Watch. The New York-based group said the deliberate destruction violated international law, and called for an immediate end to the practice. PHOTO.

___ ALSO IN THE NEWS Teen girls arrested for dumping ashes CRIME-Dumped-Ashes CALGARY _ A car prowling that led to human ashes being dumped onto the street last August has led to the arrest of three teenage girls.Colleen Ransom kept her daughter Emma's ashes in a green velvet pouch in her truck. But in the early hours of Aug. 2 someone entered the unlocked vehicle in southeast Calgary, stole the pouch and emptied the ashes onto the street.

___ Jury retires at ex-soldier's inquest Police-Shooting-Inquest PRINCE GEORGE _ A coroner's jury in Prince George, B.C., is considering its recommendations as the inquest into the fatal police shooting of a disabled former soldier draws to a close.Jurors have gone behind closed doors after hearing 30 witnesses testify about the September 2012 shooting of Greg Matters. PHOTO.

___ BUZZ Toronto cops deny Bieber shot video at station MUSIC-Bieber-Video TORONTO _ Justin Bieber's efforts to promote new music in the midst of his latest scandal are falling flat, say marketing experts familiar with celebrity meltdowns.The pop star is currently juggling a myriad of legal troubles, but that hasn't sent the 19-year-old into hiding with trusted advisors. PHOTO.

See also: AP-US-Justin-Bieber-Arrest (Report says Bieber had pot, Xanax in system at arrest).Moved National and Entertainment.

Ford-Bieber (Rob Ford sticks up for pop star Bieber). Moved National and Entertainment.

___ French ex-first lady: 'I don't regret a thing' EU-France-President's-Affair PARIS _ "Je ne regrette rien." ("I don't regret a thing.")That's what France's former first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, told the weekly Paris-Match amid the drama of being dumped by French President Francois Hollande for a younger actress. PHOTO.

___ Where's my car? Storm cleanup underway in Atlanta US-Winter-Weather-Atlanta ATLANTA _ Police and the National Guard helped people reunite with their abandoned cars Thursday as the logjam on Atlanta highways eased and the roads thawed, two days after a winter storm hit the Deep South.The cleanup could take all day. At the peak of the storm, thousands of cars littered the interstates in Georgia and in Alabama. Some people ran out of gas, some were involved in accidents and others simply left their car on the side of the road so they could walk home or to someplace warm. Across much of the South, the sun was out, temperatures were rising and snow was beginning to melt. PHOTO.

____ Chinese communities start to celebrate Lunar New Year AS-Lunar-New-Year BEIJING _ Chinese communities around the world are gearing up Thursday for the Lunar New Year holiday that begins at midnight. Mainland China will virtually shut down for the next seven days, and many residents of the polluted capital, Beijing, already have departed for holiday destinations.

(c) 2014 The Canadian Press

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