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Mexico passes Pan Am torch to Toronto

Boxing gold medalist Mary Spencer, of Windsor, Ontario

Source: The Globe and Mail

Written By: Tamara Baluja

After much speculation over whether he would go or not, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford did in fact fly to Guadalajara, Mexico, and accepted the Pan American Games flag at the closing ceremonies on Sunday. With the traditional handover between host cities now complete, the countdown to Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games officially begins.

The Toronto organizing committee, TO2015, had about two dozen officials in Guadalajara for the Games, to study best practices, and learn from its mistakes. The team also had an eight-minute window at last night’s closing ceremonies to make a pitch to the world that Toronto’s Pan Am Games will be spectacular. The tougher challenge might be creating that enthusiasm back in Ontario.

The capital budget for the Games is $700-million, and TO2015 estimates the Games will generate 15,000 new jobs and draw 10,000 elite athletes and officials to the city for the July event.

37 per cent of Torontonians can name the Pan Am Games as a major sporting event coming to the city, according to an Angus Reid survey done for TO2015. It’s a figure that indicates a lot more work needs to be done to create interest in the Games, said Ian Troop, CEO of TO2015, in a phone interview from Guadalajara.

His team, he said, will be concentrating on four key areas over the next few next years to boost the event’s profile.

The Venues

The organizing committee says it is on track to complete facilities by 2014, so there is time for rigorous testing to ensure the facilities are at international sporting standards. However most new facilities don’t even have builders yet. The hunt for a home for a new cycling velodrome hit a snag in October when Hamilton city council voted to cap the city’s commitment at $5-million. (It had been asked to commit four times as much.) Currently, TO2015 is looking at proposals from other municipalities, and although Mr. Troop wouldn’t reveal any site possibilities, he said he is optimistic a venue would be selected by the end of the year. He estimated that construction would take a year after shovels hit the ground. Meanwhile, a bidder has been selected for the Pan Am Athletes Village in the West Don Lands.

Local engagement

According to surveys by Angus Reid, only 8 per cent of Canadians named the Pan Am Games as a major sporting event without prompting. The Toronto figures were slightly better with 37 per cent of Torontonians identifying the Pan Am Games. That’s an improvement from last year when only 10 per cent identified the Pan Am Games, Mr. Troop said, but it’s still a long way from his 85 per cent goal. He said he was awed by the enthusiasm of Mexican crowds. “When Mexico was playing, it was absolute bedlam,” he said. “But the crowds were excited and supportive even when the other countries were playing.” He feels the city’s diversity will prompt fans to support not only the Canadian teams, but also other competing national teams. The group also plans to bring Canadian athletes to elementary schools to boost the profile of the Games amongst youth.

Corporate sponsorship

TO2015 has a target of $150-million in corporate sponsors, and last week, the committee announced CIBC as its first lead partner. Although he won’t say how much CIBC is committing to the event, he said he takes comfort in the fact that Toronto has the same proportion of its target achieved as the Vancouver Olympic committee had four years before the 2010 Games. The announcement of CIBC, and the partnership with another high profile sponsor which the TO2015 group will reveal in the coming weeks, will raise the profile of the Games and bring in more sponsors, said Mr. Troop.

Olympic Qualifiers

Mr. Troop said his team has been extensively wooing international sporting federations in a bid to get as many sport disciplines at the Games to be the Olympic qualifier events for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While the Guadalajara games functioned as Olympic qualifier for a dozen sports, TO2015 would like to almost double that number. If successful in securing their ambitious goal of 20 Olympic qualifiers, TO2015 would set a new standard for the Pan Am Games, Mr. Troop said. Elite athletes are more likely to come to the Toronto Games if their event is an Olympic qualifier, and Mr. Troop said the Pan Am Games would also act as dress rehearsal, should the city make another attempt at an Olympic bid.

Alberta enacts toughest distracted driving law in North America

Source: Daily Brew

Written By: John Size

The Alberta version of a distracted driver law may come long after provinces like Ontario, but it’s probably the toughest in Canada and perhaps North America.

The law, Bill 16, comes into effect tomorrow (Sept. 1) and sets out a $172 fine for texting or talking on a mobile device while driving to programming GPS devices or watching DVDs – all the usual suspects.

It sounds reasonable at the outset and the government defends it. After all, there’ s no demerit points unlike Saskatchewan where a conviction will cost you four.

“I am confident this new law, which is practical and enforceable, will help to keep Albertans safer,” said Minister of Transportation Luke Ouellette in a CBC article.

But Bill 16 seems to be the most comprehensive law in North America.

The law also bans eating, teeth brushing, shaving, hair combing, writing, sketching or applying makeup – all activities one would consider a distraction. But reading email in parking lots or calling home while parked in a drive-through would still constitute distracted driving in Alberta, and would even apply to bike couriers.

National Post blogger Jesse Kline doesn’t agree with Alberta’s late ride to the distracted driver saloon, arguing science deflates the theory bans on cellphone use decrease crashes.

“It doesn’t matter that the law won’t actually make the roads safer. Governments don’t need a problem to exist, in order to try and fix it.”

Kline’s point is simple. Between 2005 and 2009, cellphones in Alberta homes increased by 31 per cent, following a 170 per cent increase between 1997 and 2005, based on Statistics Canada data.

But between 2005 and 2009, the number of casualties caused by traffic collisions decreased by 22 per cent, meaning there’s no connection between cellphone use and crashes.

He also notes a 2010 study in the U.S. found no decrease in insurance claims following implementation of distracted driving laws in states like California and New York.

Opponents also argue cellphone bans are hard to enforce because it’s difficult for police to determine what was actually going on in a moving vehicle.

Kline suggests, “In Alberta, such questions may be a moot point, because the law is broad enough to encompass all forms of distracted driving, even when someone is not technically driving.”

Even well-known Calgary Herald columnist Robert Remington weighed into the debate with a little sarcasm in his blog by posting a variety of videos of things Alberta drivers won’t be able to do behind the wheel after Thursday.

Remington aptly notes in his selection playing the ukulele, guitar, or the saxophone will likely net you a charge under the new law and higher insurance premiums.

RIM rises on new BlackBerrys, changing landscape

Source: Reuters

The launch of a string of well-received BlackBerry smartphones helped Research In Motion stock gain 6 percent on Tuesday and almost 50 percent since hitting a five-year low on August 8.

The smartphone maker has also been aided by Google’s $12.5 billion move to buy Motorola Mobility, which analysts say could sow dissent within Android ranks and push wireless companies to more eagerly embrace alternatives to the Google software, which is used widely.

“It’s all on the heels of Google/Motorola and what that means for the changing landscape, and there’s also a little bit of what I consider excess patent fever going on,” said Colin Gillis, a tech analyst at BGC Partners in New York.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM also holds a solid share of mobile patents, particularly in data compression, encryption and synchronization.

“It’s a value name right now, it’s a deep value name,” Gillis said.

RIM’s stock had been skidding since February, hurt by a drumbeat of negative news. The company’s earnings have missed expectations and it sharply cut forecasts, while its PlayBook rival to Apple’s iPad launched to dismal reviews.

RIM has launched new versions of its BlackBerry Bold, Torch and Curve smartphones this month, which have fared better than the PlayBook did with reviewers, while investors are also picking up RIM stock because of its low cost.

“One of the biggest factors is a general sentiment for beaten down stocks,” said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice-president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver.

“Investors are in the mood for bargain-hunting.”

RIM’s Nasdaq-listed stock closed 5.9 percent higher at $32.55 on Tuesday, after jumping 5.3 percent on Monday and 3.4 percent on Friday. On Aug 8 the stock closed at $21.87, its lowest level since September 2006 on a stock-split adjusted basis.

Its Toronto-listed shares rose 6.4 percent to C$31.91 on Tuesday, adding to a 4.6 percent gain on Monday and 2.8 percent rise on Friday.

Canadian player makes a different sort of history at U.S. Open

Source: Busted Racquet

Written By: Chris Chase

Frank Dancevic made history last week. It wasn’t the great kind, like Novak Djokovichas been writing this year, nor was it the bad. Let’s call it somewhere in the middle.

By winning his third qualifying match at the U.S. Open and playing his way into the main draw, the 26-year-old Canadian became the first man to ever qualify for all four Grand Slams in a single calendar year.

Ideally, a player experiencing such success would hope to have their ranking automatically qualify him for a Grand Slam. Dancevic’s rankings — No. 269 to start the year, No. 179 currently — don’t earn him that privilege. He has to go the hard way: winning three matches at each Slam qualifying tournament.

It’s an impressive achievement. Qualifying matches are every bit as important to its participants as the second week of a Grand Slam is to guys like Djokovic and Roger Federer. Getting into a Grand Slam and reaping in the rewards it brings (money, rankings points, experience, exposure) is what players on the outer fringes of the top 100 need to propel their tennis careers.

With each match brings additional pressure and bigger stakes. Losing in the first round of Wimbledon qualifiers brings players around $2,800 (probably not enough to cover expenses) and no rankings points. Losing in the final round of qualifying nets competitors $11,000 and 16 rankings points compared to $19,000 and 35, respectively, for making the main draw. For players who bring in around $100,000 a year before paying expenses, the difference between winning and losing a few qualifying matches is the difference between being in the black or the red for the season.

Yet there’s a hint of emptiness in Dancevic’s achievement. It’s sort of like being six-time reigning MVP of a minor league baseball team or starring in a longest-running Off-Off Broadway play. Success on a smaller scale isn’t kick-starting a jump to the next level.

Dancevic hasn’t been able to keep the momentum going in the main draws. In each of the four majors, he failed to win a match, including on Tuesday when he lost in straight sets.

Crosby can look to Bergeron for inspiration

If Sidney Crosby, left, is seeking inspiration as he tries to fully recover from a concussion, his current situation was once the reality of Team Canada teammate Patrice Bergeron, right.

Source: CBC Sports    Written By: Elliotte Friedman

About a month ago, I ran into one of the Vancouver Canucks at a golf tournament. As much as we both tried to avoid it, the Stanley Cup Final ultimately came up in the conversation.

One of his comments: “Obviously, Tim Thomas was great. But Patrice Bergeron also killed us.”

Think about that when you’re considering Sidney Crosby’s future.

The Penguins released an injury update late Wednesday indicating Crosby continues “to visit leading specialists” and that he started having headaches “when he got to 90 per cent exertion in his workouts” this summer.

It doesn’t sound great. But it didn’t look good for Bergeron, either.

On New Year’s Eve 2009 – about 24 hours before the Boston Bruins were to play the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park – Bergeron walked by as I was talking to Boston defenceman Dennis Wideman.

“What a story he is,” Wideman said, looking at his teammate.

Bergeron was en route to his first concussion-free season in three years. He missed 72 games in 2007-08 and 15 more in 2008-09 due to this increasingly serious scourge on the game (Tim Wharnsby wrote more about Bergeron’s battle here).

I don’t have the exact quotes anymore, but Wideman told a story about showing up on an off-day for treatment during that first Bergeron injury. The room was dark and quiet. When he did see a trainer, all talk was at a whisper. Wideman wondered why there was no light, no music, no normal conversation.

Bergeron was there. And he couldn’t handle any of it. He was 22 and there was serious concern about his future.

But he recovered to play 73 games in 2009-10 and 80 last season. He added 20 points in 23 playoff games, including two goals in Game 7 – the first being the Stanley Cup winner. (The best news was that Bergeron made a quick recoveryfrom a concussion suffered during the series sweep over Philadelphia. He missed two games).

The point is, as Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, said on the Penguins’ website: “There is not a finite recovery” time when it comes to concussions. The 24/7 news cycle lacks patience. We want our answers and we want them now. Bergeron is proof, though, that, even if Crosby misses the beginning of this season, he can make a successful return.

The honest truth is that it makes zero sense for Crosby to make any firm declaration about his future. There’ve been a lot of declarations to retire, some public (doctors, columnists), some undoubtedly private (family, whose vote should matter most after his own).

What Crosby has, though, is time. He just turned 24. Even if he had to take the year off, a full recovery could mean another decade (at least) of high-level play. And you have to believe he will do anything possible to try and come back.

The best description of Crosby came from former teammate Rob Scuderi, who described him as a “superstar with the work ethic of a fourth-liner.” He’s so competitive and loves the game so much, it’s hard to see him walking away at such a young age without exhausting every option.

The idea he’s got nothing left to accomplish? The best don’t believe that. Just ask Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or Nicklas Lidstrom.

Bergeron won gold medals with Crosby at the 2005 world juniors and 2010 Olympics. No doubt they’ve talked. No doubt Crosby knows everything Bergeron went through and how hard it is to recover.

But it can be done. And with Wednesday’s brief announcement, Crosby let everyone know he’s going to make the smart play – taking all the time he needs.

Layton’s economic influence gone, but NDP policies resilient

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Written By: Tom Fennell

Canadians haven’t put a lot of faith in NDP economic policies over the years, but Jack Layton’s death has robbed Canada of a countervailing voice at time when the economy is slumping and right-leaning politicians in Canada, the U.S. and Europe increasingly have the field to themselves.

In Europe, the social safety net is being shredded as governments try to rein in soaring debt levels.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have even mused about adopting balanced budget amendments, which drastically reduce the role of government in the economy.

Even U.S. President Barack Obama has been unable to resist the right-flowing tide, and was bullied by the radical Tea Party into accepting its view of the world, where taxes are never raised but services are cut until the country’s books are balanced.

Now that same debate — albeit at much more muted level — is set to begin in Ottawa in a few weeks without Jack Layton there to at least question the Harper government on a number of economic questions. And he is probably the only member of the NDP party with the credibility to do so.

Harper’s economic agenda is anchored to a promise to balance the federal budget in four to five years. To do so will require the government to cut the federal payroll and lay off thousands of workers.

While polls show most Canadians support a balanced budget, Harper’s initiative comes at a time when the economy is contracting in Canada and worldwide. Global equity markets have been pricing in a major economic decline and the odds are now even the U.S. will fall into a double-dip recession.

Should Harper slow his deficit-cutting until there is a clear reading on the economy?

It’s a question that Layton would have certainly raised on the floor of the House of Commons. And given the bleak economic backdrop, many Canadians would have probably paid close attention to the answer.

It was Layton after all who played a large part in convincing the federal government to adopt an economic stimulus program at the onset of the 2009 recession. And it’s his counter arguments that will be missed in the debate if the economy grinds to a halt again.

It’s not just the deficit-fighting equation. With Layton’s death many of Harper’s corporate constituents will find little real opposition to a number of Conservative fiscal policies.
For example, while the measures were already passed, Layton got great mileage pointing out corporations in Canada were among the lowest-taxed in the world.

And without Layton there to raise the issue, will anyone pay attention as corporate taxes are cut further?

The development of the oil sands is another issue where his voice will be missed. Whether you agree with him or not, there is no doubt he would have drawn attention to the fact a growing number of Americans are opposed to building a pipeline from northern Alberta to Texas.

And it’s probably worth listening to their opinion — something you won’t hear from the Tories.

The same can be said for controversial issues surrounding carbon cap and trade. While supported by three provinces, the Harper Conservatives have all but abandoned it. And without Layton there to raise the issue, it’s doubtful Canadians will hear much about it, or any other global-warming issue, in any meaningful way over the next four years.

You could see the effect Layton’s absence had this summer on these large economic and environmental policy issues, particularly during Harper’s recent free trade junket through South and Central America.

Other than a few questions about human rights in countries like Colombia, there was no debate at home that might have shined a light on what sectors and workers would be affected in this country.

And whether you agree with free trade or not, the silence around the government’s recent free-trade initiatives seemed to rob the whole process of legitimacy.

Of course there are a host of smaller economic issues that Layton often addressed. One of his favourites, and in many ways the most important, was the flat-lining of middle-class incomes and seniors’ poverty.

Both of these issues will grow in importance if the economy rolls over into recession. And without Layton’s credibility on those issues, the Harper government is all but free to ignore them.

Still, Layton’s voice won’t be silenced entirely on economic and financial matters, and will live on in the culture of the NDP.

Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, points out the NDP unlike other parties, views the “leader as a spokesman for the party.”

Wiseman is not being disparaging, he’s simply pointing out the NDP, unlike the Conservatives and Liberals, only promote policies that have been signed off on at its annual policy conventions.

For example, when the Liberals slashed the deficit under Finance Minister Paul Martin, or when the Progressive Conservatives under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney entered into a free-trade deal with the U.S., neither initiative was sanctioned by the broader party membership.

So in that sense, Wiseman says the issues Layton pursued will also be championed by his successor.

“The NDP will be exactly the same,” says Wiseman. “And I don’t see any sign that the party for any ideological reason will change.”

And that is something Jack Layton would endorse.

Why Virginia Quake Shook Entire Coast

Source: Live Science

Written By:  Stephanie Pappas

The quake that hit the East Coast on Tuesday afternoon was notable, but not unprecedented, for the eastern half of the country, geoscientists say.

Additionally, the shaking was felt over such a large area — as far south as Atlanta and as far north as Ontario, according to eyewitness reports — largely because the eastern part of the North American continent is different than the West Coast, where quakes are more common. [Album: The Great San Francisco Earthquake]

“The crust is different in the east than in the west,” United States Geological Survey (USGS) earthquake geologist David Schwartz told LiveScience. “It’s older and colder and denser, and as a result, seismic waves travel much farther in the east than in the west.”

Additionally, said Andy Frassetto of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, the sediments along the east coast can make quakes feel stronger.

“The sediments of the coastal plain along the eastern seaboard can trap waves as they propagate and produce a minor amplification of the shaking,” Frassetto told LiveScience.

A much more extreme version of this effect occurred during the earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand, this year, Frassetto said.

Faults that rupture east of the Rockies usually create quakes felt over more than 10 times the area than those west of the mountains, according to the USGS. A magnitude-5.5 quake in the Eastern U.S. can usually be felt as far as 300 miles (500 km) away.

Latest Shaking

According to the USGS, the 5.8-magnitude quake struck at 1:51 p.m. Eastern Time. The epicenter was 5 miles (8 kilometers) from Mineral, Va., and 84 miles (135 kilometers) away from Washington, D.C. Despite the distance, the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings were evacuated. [Read: Large Earthquake Could Strike New York City]

The quake was only about 3.7 miles (6 km) deep, according to the USGS. That’s typical for the eastern U.S., Frassetto said. In the east, he said, quakes usually originate in the upper part of the crust.

In contrast, subduction zones such as the Pacific Ring of Fire, where one plate is being pushed under another, produce very deep quakes — sometimes 435 miles (700 km) down, Frassetto said. These super-deep quakes may not even be felt on the surface.

Quakes in the east

Since Virginia lies in the middle of a continental plate, the state doesn’t generally experience large-magnitude earthquakes like those that rattle Los Angeles, Alaska, Haiti, Japan and Chile (or any other areas on the edge of a tectonic plate), according to the USGS.

Even so, since 1977, there have been about 200 earthquakes in Virginia. The last “big one” in Virginia occurred on May 31, 1897, in Pearisburg; it was a 5.8-magnitude temblor that, in addition to cracking walls and toppling chimneys, reportedly caused a judge in the courthouse there to adjourn a trial, jumping over a railing and fleeing outside, according to the USGS.

Virginia is classified as a “moderate” seismic risk, with a 10-20 percent chance of experiencing a 4.75-magnitude earthquake (in quakes above 4.5, buildings begin to fall), the USGS said. Alaska and California take the first and second spots for the most earthquakes in the U.S., respectively, though California experiences more damaging earthquakes due to its greater population and extensive infrastructure.

There is a history of damaging quakes in the eastern United States, however. A destructive quake hit Charleston, S.C., in 1886, damaging thousands of buildings. Its magnitude was probably near 7.0 on the Richter scale. And in 1755, a quake with around a 6.0 magnitude struck off the coast of Massachusetts.