Lighten our regulatory burden in new digital universe, CBC urges CRTC

GATINEAU, Que. – The CBC is asking the federal broadcast regulator for more flexibility as it grapples with the new digital universe.

The strict regulatory shackles of the past don’t work in today’s fast-moving environment, CBC president Hubert Lacroix told a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearing Monday.

“We are pleased to make serious regulatory commitments, but we want them to make sense in the current – and in the future – environment,” Lacroix said.

The CBC wants to avoid having to return to the commission “every time we need to change what we are doing in order to serve Canadians properly,” he said.

For instance, young people are shunning television sets for computers, a shift that has prompted the CBC to move its children’s programming online.

Critics, however, say allowing CBC additional slack will mean less distinctive content and more commercials, making the public broadcaster indistinguishable from its private-sector competitors.

Lacroix said the CBC aims to provide Canadians with programming that helps shape a shared national consciousness and identity, citing the Olympics, historical documentaries and homegrown drama.

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The broadcaster is seeking five-year licence renewals for its various television and radio services.

As the two-week commission hearing began, the public broadcaster said much had changed since its last substantive renewal application 13 years ago.

The digital revolution has transformed the way the CBC and other broadcasters deliver news, music and entertainment programming.

At the same time, the CBC is struggling to absorb a three-year, $115-million cut to its budget of more than $1 billion.

The broadcaster is also dealing with other financial pressures and faces the possible loss of lucrative broadcasting rights for NHL games.

Lacroix said audience tastes and habits change rapidly and it makes no sense for the CBC to make commitments – airing a certain number of hours of programming in a particular genre, for instance – when it’s not financially sustainable.

“The financial challenges we face are daunting,” he said.

“But we will meet them. And we will balance our budgets. So, we cannot and will not make commitments that we know we may not be able to fulfil.

“What we can do is make very serious commitments with respect to key objectives. But we need flexibility. And that is what we have proposed.”

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais questioned the wisdom of loosening the CBC’s regulatory obligations, saying firm commitments may be “the nature of the beast” in terms of meeting the expectations of Canadians.

The CBC proposes to devote 75 per cent of the broadcasting day and 80 per cent of prime time to Canadian programming on its English-language TV network.

That would represent a dip from the current 80-per-cent Canadian content level during the broadcasting day.

In addition, the corporation has requested permission to introduce ads to secondary radio services CBC Radio 2 and Espace musique to make up for funding losses.

Lobby group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting said in a news release that would soon lead to commercials on the broadcaster’s main radio services.

“The move towards more commercialization will turn CBC into a private broadcaster which loses $1 billion a year rather than the public broadcaster that Canadians rely upon for credible news and Canadian entertainment,” said group spokesman Ian Morrison.

Ireland forms expert panel to investigate death of Indian woman denied abortion

DUBLIN, Ireland – Ireland formed an expert panel Monday to investigate why an Indian woman died in an Irish hospital – and whether her life might have been saved had she received an abortion.

The case of Savita Halappanavar has focused worldwide attention on Ireland’s two-decade failure to define when abortions can be performed legally to save the life of a woman.

The 31-year-old dentist died Oct. 28 one week after being hospitalized with an imminent miscarriage. Her widow says they asked for three days for an abortion to ease her pain but were refused because the fetus still had a heartbeat.

A coroner found that Halappanavar died from internal infections and organ failure three days after the fetus itself died. Her parents in India have accused Irish authorities of letting their only daughter die to preserve the nation’s constitutional ban on abortion.

Seeking to address international criticism, Ireland announced its fact-finding investigation would be led by Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, a Sri Lankan-born expert on maternal care who is head of obstetrics and gynecology at St. George’s Hospital in London. He is also president of the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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Health Minister James Reilly deflected criticism that the seven-member panel would be given around three months to report on the medical treatment Halappanavar received at University Hospital Galway in western Ireland. She was placed in intensive care Oct. 24 with suspected blood poisoning hours after the dead fetus was removed from her womb.

“I want this carried out as expeditiously as possible but obviously there’s a balance to be struck with … doing it properly,” Reilly said.

Her widow, Praveen Halappanavar, on Monday thanked the Irish public for its goodwill since news of his wife’s death broke last week.

About 10,000 people marched Saturday through Dublin beneath banners of Savita Halappanavar’s face and the motto “Never again,” and a similar protest is planned for Wednesday.

Reilly said the full Cabinet would discuss another government-commissioned report this week on drafting new rules to explain when life-saving abortions can be performed. Opposition lawmakers planned to introduce a bill Tuesday demanding immediate legislation, but the government said it would reject the move as premature.

The Council of Europe, which previously has criticized Ireland’s ill-defined policies on providing life-saving abortions, condemned Ireland’s medical care for Halappanavar in a statement Monday.

“I consider what happened to Savita an affront to human dignity and a serious form of violence,” said Tina Acketoft, chairwoman of the council’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

“The only way in which this disturbing death can be a little less pointless is by ensuring that no more women die in Ireland from being denied legal abortion,” she said.

Successive Irish governments have refused to pass legislation in support of a 1992 Supreme Court judgment that found life-saving abortions should be legal in Ireland. The court ruled that a 14-year-old girl who had been raped and impregnated by a neighbour should receive an abortion because she was making credible threats to commit suicide if denied one. The government had blocked her plan to travel to England for an abortion; the girl reportedly suffered a miscarriage during the court case.

The past 20 years’ legal limbo means that Irish maternity hospitals have performed abortions only in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances. The practice has taken place amid official secrecy, with the government and hospitals providing no official figures on the number of abortions or breakdowns on the medical reasons for them.

Some Irish obstetricians say they fear being targeted by lawsuits, protests or even criminal charges if they perform abortions in cases where it might be debatable whether the woman’s life is at risk.

An estimated 4,000 Irish women receive abortions annually in England, where the practice has been legal since 1967.

Non-refundable hotel rates

Did you know that some hotels actually offer a lower rate for a prepaid, non-refundable hotel reservation? This concept is not brand new; many of the major chains like Hilton, Marriott and Starwood have had them for years. But, more and more hotel chains are jumping on the “non refundable rate” bandwagon.

These lower rate offers will often show up on consumer travel websites, but take caution, the offer names may be a bit misleading. They are advertised in ways that don’t make their restrictions super obvious. You may see deals offered that say things like “Book Early and Save”, “Advanced Purchase” “Limited Time Offer”.

So why exactly are hotels taking this new approach? There are a number of reasons.

By offering the lower rate, the hotel is guaranteed payment for the full stay of the reservation. Customers can’t simply check out earlier than they had planned, causing the hotel to lose the extra nights of held space.

Also, by peaking potential guests’ interest in their property with the low rate, hotels know that many travelers will end up choosing more expensive, cancelable reservations.

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Travelers have been getting wise to hotels’ trick of dropping prices at the last minute, so these lower non refundable rates discourage people from canceling and rebooking later at the lower rate.

These non-refundable hotel rates can be a great deal, so if you are interested in booking them here are some tips:

Read all the terms and conditions carefully before you enter any credit card information. This ensures that you aren’t locked in to a condition you didn’t know about such as a minimum stay.

Do some research. Look around other sites and the hotel’s website itself to make sure you are in fact getting a deal, and aren’t just locked in at a rate that could be booked elsewhere without the commitment.

And finally make sure booking the non-refundable rate is worth it. The locked in price may not be even be that much cheaper than the standard price.

For example I saw a hotel in New York offering rooms for just $30 per night cheaper at the non-refundable rate…but if you booked the regular room, you had the option to cancel up to 3 days prior. So, if you like to be flexible with your travel plans this is something to consider.

Happy Travels! 

Local businesses reel from the lack of sports action in Vancouver

It is not a good time to be a sports fan in Vancouver.

With the BC Lions’ loss to the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Division final yesterday, there are no longer any professional sports teams playing in the city.

Earlier this month, the Vancouver Whitecaps were eliminated from the playoffs and today marks day 65 of the NHL lockout.

Businesses that cater to sports fans are now hoping a deal can be reached to save at least part of the hockey season.

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At Sports Corner on Granville Street, sales are down between 40 and 45 percent.

“It is bad,” says General Manager Mike Jackson. “We will get some hits at Christmas. But that combined with the NHL lockout is devastating for us.”

Jackson says merchandise is coming in, but it’s moving at a snail’s pace…a grim picture when one considers jobs are on the line.

“If we don’t get some kind of NHL season this year, we will probably have to lay people off,” says Jackson. “The last thing you want to do is put people out of work.”

Kingsley Bailey with Vancouver Ticket Service has lost 50 percent of his revenues and won’t likely recoup the loss.

“I don’t think they have taken a couple of steps back and really looked at the economic problems and downfalls that are happening as the result of it. We are talking millionaires fighting with billionaires.”

And then there are the sports bars that have taken a significant hit.

The Mill Marine Bistro has seen a 15 percent drop in sales, and with little to entice the fans on the TV screen, fewer thirsty fans are coming through the door.

“People are still coming down, but they are definitely picking and choosing when they go,” says Adam Merpaw with the restaurant. “Plus, without those sporting events going on downtown, people are just not sticking around after work.”

They are also not taking advantage of the Aquabus’ new service.

The owner was hoping to have a Canucks boat on game night where he would transport fans between the tap and barrel bar in the Olympic Village and the Plaza of Nations.

But so far, the idea has sunk.

“That was a missed opportunity that we’ve lost,” says Geoff Pratt with Aquabus. “It is incalculable how much we’ve lost because we did not actually get to try it, but it puts jobs on the line, because we would not put an extra boat on, so we don’t hire the crew for that type of thing, so it has quite a ripple effect.”

Family of pedestrian killed in an alleged impaired driving crash wants justice

A 63-year-old man was facing charges of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

He’s accused of striking down and killing a 25-year-old man who was doing the right thing – walking home instead of driving after having a few drinks with friends.

The accused is pleading not guilty, his lawyers arguing police didn’t do their due diligence at the scene.

A memorial stands along the Lougheed highway where 25-year old Matthew Beaver was hit and killed.

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Just a few miles away in Vancouver provincial court, his family and friends hope one man is held responsible for the death.

“I am here to represent my son,” says victim’s mother Sue Simmons

“My best friend is dead and I want to see some closure. I want to see some justice,” Matthew Preissl told Global News.

Beaver’s friend Matthew Preissl was with him in the hours before the accident last September.

Then beaver went to another friend’s house and was walking home when he was hit and killed.

Police say the crash happened in the left lane and 63-year old John Davidson was drunk himself behind the wheel.

The Crown says that given the time, location and condition of both the suspect and victim they weren’t confident they could get a conviction.

“I was told that they can’t prove that him driving impaired caused the accident,” says Simmons.

But the suspect isn’t pleading guilty to any charges.

Police say Davidson wanted a particular lawyer after the crash and left a message for him.

Police then continued their investigation.

The suspect’s lawyer argues police didn’t try hard enough to find that lawyer and therefore some evidence should be inadmissible – an argument that just infuriates Beaver’s family further.

“He was definitely drunk. He blew well over twice. They are trying to get a technicality, and he killed my son, but there is no mention of it,” says Matthew’s father Gord Beaver.

The family promises as the trial continues they will be there, and they’ll also be upgrading the roadside memorial so even if they don’t get the justice they want Matthew Beaver to be remembered.

B.C. inquest hears evidence in the drowning of search-rescue official

NELSON, B.C. – The drowning of a volunteer search-and-rescue official in British Columbia’s Kootenay region last year can be blamed on poor planning and inadequate equipment, a coroner’s inquest has heard.

Testimony examining the June 2011 death of 29-year-old Sheilah Lorraine Sweatman began Monday in Nelson, B.C.

Sweatman, a member of a swift-water, search-and-rescue team, drowned in the Goat River south of Creston, B.C., while trying to recover a submerged car and determine if there was anybody inside.

A WorkSafeBC report has already found Sweatman got caught up in a steel cable and was dragged under the water to her death.

“The rescue plan was not adequate in the Sheilah Sweatman accident,” WorkSafeBC investigator Nigel Corduff told the inquiry.

Corduff said a pre-planning report should have been used before the rescue team began the recovery operation, and the document would have suggested the steel cable would not be the best method for a successful recovery.

The inquest also heard there was no way of saving Sweatman, a native of Winnipeg, Man., because there was no equipment available in the boat to cut the cable.

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In fact, the inquest heard that a nylon rope was used to successfully remove the vehicle from the river one day after Sweatman’s death.

During the inquest’s morning session, Sweatman’s mother, Terri Sweatman, gave a tearful, emotional statement, while a portrait of her daughter was easily visible near the jury box.

She described Sheilah as the fourth of five Sweatman children, a “fierce but tender daughter,” who was a “strong-willed, dedicated” member of the local search-and-rescue team.

She said her daughter had “tremendous courage to face any physical or moral challenge.”

Testimony is scheduled through Thursday, with Friday set aside for jury deliberations.

Remaining witnesses include several search-and-rescue members, RCMP officers, a pathologist and a toxicologist along with Sheila’s colleague on the raft and the tow-truck driver.

Emergency management personnel and Sheilah’s father, Wynn, are also expected to testify. (The Nelson Daily)

Victoria area resident on the hook for faulty oil tank spill clean-up

Two major oil spills in the past week have highlighted the growing problem with failing home oil tanks in the Victoria area.

The tanks rust from the inside out, and are generally good for about 15 years.

But if they’re not replaced in time bad things happen. They start to leak.

The cleanup costs are a fortune, and sometimes a big spill means the entire house has to be demolished.

Gina Dolinsky’s backyard is the site of an ongoing investigation into an oil leak discovered last February.

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“They had to dig it all up in order to determine where the oil was coming from,” says Dolinsky.

But after learning her oil tank and pipes are all intact, Dolinsky is no closer to finding any answers.

“It’s very, very hard. And if I absolutely can’t find the source of it, then of course I will have to wait to clean it all up.

Suspicions are now focused on another property, seven doors away.

The house had to be demolished after 300 liters of oil was delivered to a disconnected tank.

The company’s insurer is on the hook for the bill, pegged at $750,000.

While it happened just weeks before issues arose at Dolinsky’s home, she needs proof the leaks are connected.

Requests to have the oil tested for a match have so far, gone unanswered, leaving Dolinsky responsible.

“I need the cooperation of that oil to help me out, and be a good citizen. Help out with this, and don’t make it my problem.”

In the meantime, there are other potential sources to seek out.

With an estimated 8,000 aging oil tanks buried in Saanich, leaks are becoming more common.

The municipality is now urging residents to make sure everything is up to date.

“The message is don’t wait,” says Saanich mayor Frank Leonard. “It really needs to be done now. Your home heating oil supplier will help you with that process. It is not only good for you and your own calamity and stress level, but it good for the environment as well.”

Given what’s happening along this street, neighbours are taking action.

“I actually got a new one shortly after we moved in,” says Kevin Archambault who lives on the street. “It is double walled. It is dated. There is a tag on it. The company checks it regularly. So we feel it’s safe.”

Meanwhile, Dolinsky plans to move away from oil altogether, installing natural gas instead.

But that doesn’t solve the issue. It’s a matter of pushing for answers that may lie deep beneath the surface.

Ahead of Alberta stop, Trudeau backs Chinese takeover of Calgary-based Nexen

EDMONTON – Justin Trudeau has come out strongly in favour of a Chinese state-owned energy company’s effort to purchase Calgary-based petroleum producer Nexen.

Trudeau, who is coming to downtown Edmonton on Nov. 20, made the comments in an opinion column published in some Postmedia newspapers and websites, arguing that China’s objectives are not “sinister” and that Canada is in an enviable position for engaging the Asian power.

“China has a game plan,” the Liberal leadership contender wrote. “There is nothing inherently sinister about that. They have needs and the world has resources to meet those needs.

“We Canadians have more of those resources – and therefore more leverage – than any nation on Earth.”

The Chinese National Offshore Oil Company’s $15.1-billion takeover bid for Nexen has become a sensitive issue for Stephen Harper’s government, which is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether it will accept the deal.

There has been concern – including from some Conservative backbenchers – that permitting CNOOC to take over Nexen represents a threat to Canada’s national security.

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Others, however, have warned that rejecting the takeover will anger Chinese officials and scare off other potential foreign investors.

In his opinion article, Trudeau said Canada should use its natural resources to build a foundation for broad, long-term economic engagement with the Asian power – and approving the Nexen deal would go a long way to accomplishing that goal.

“Why is the CNOOC-Nexen deal good for Canada?” Trudeau wrote. “Because Chinese and other foreign investors will create middle-class Canadian jobs …. More fundamentally, it is in Canada’s interest to broaden and deepen our relationship with the world’s second-largest economy.”

The 40-year-old Quebec MP will be at the Citadel Theatre at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, as part of his campaign for the Liberal leadership.

Earlier that day, Trudeau will make a couple of stops in Calgary, including a visit to the campaign office of Harvey Locke, Liberal candidate for Calgary Centre in the Nov. 26 federal byelection.

Trudeau said conditions should be attached to foreign investors that require them to abide by Canadian laws and operate in good faith. And he acknowledged that there will be national security concerns in certain sectors.

“However, in the CNOOC case, Chinese ownership of three per cent of oilsands leases hardly constitutes a national security issue,” he wrote.

“Most important, the big picture isn’t about CNOOC or Petronas, but the many opportunities like them that will follow in their footsteps.”

Malaysian state-owned energy company Petronas is awaiting word from the Harper government on its plan to take over Calgary-based natural gas producer Progress Energy after its initial proposal was rejected last month.

Trudeau took a shot at the Harper government for what he called its “erratic approach and secretive behaviour” when it comes to reviewing foreign takeovers, and its failure to lay out a clear, public strategy for engaging Asia.

“The government has failed to provide the context, to make the positive case for Asia,” he wrote. “It is therefore as difficult to reject bad ideas like the Northern Gateway as it is to approve good opportunities like the CNOOC and Petronas deals.”

Trudeau has opposed the proposed Northern Gateway,the contentious pipeline planned to carry bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to the port of Kitimat, B.C., citing environmental concerns.

Speaking in Richmond, B.C., on Oct. 3 – the day after he announced his bid for the Liberal leadership – Trudeau said Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. must develop a better plan if it wants the project to proceed.

“I don’t think the Enbridge pipeline is a good idea,” he said after his Richmond speech. “I believe in the precautionary principle. I believe that if you are going to build a project that goes through one of the most vulnerable and beautiful ecosystems in the world and the Great Bear Rainforest … you have to have a better plan than what it looks like Enbridge is putting forward.”

While heavy on emphasizing the need for economic engagement with China, Trudeau’s article makes only a passing mention of the country’s democratic and human rights record, referring to the need to engage with the Chinese instead of isolating them.

It also does not mention what the government should do when national security is a factor in a proposed foreign takeover, although an official within Trudeau’s camp indicated the Liberal leadership candidate is not in favour of different rules for privately owned and state-owned foreign companies.

Trial for man who ran down an 83-year-old resumes in Surrey

A trial for a young man who crashed his car into a Surrey bus shelter three years ago resumed on Monday.

The crash fatally injured 83-year-old Pritam Benning.

The driver faces a charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

Gurjit Dhillon has gone in and out of court every day of his trial.

He never speaks to the media or to surviving family members, and now he has decided against taking the stand in his own defence.

“Ultimately it is his choice whether or not he testifies. There’s not much more that we can say about that,” defence lawyer Marvin Stern told Global News.

Three years ago, Benning was sitting at a Surrey bus stop when an out of control corvette slammed into him.

He died five days later.

Gurjit Dhillon was driving his brother’s corvette.

Witnesses saw two corvettes that night, revving engines and communicating, but street racing charges were dropped and the court is proceeding with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death.

Today, defence argued there is reasonable doubt to even that.

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“It is a very tragic incident that happened, there is no question about that what-so-ever,” says Stern. “We are viewing this as a motor vehicle accident as opposed to a crime.”

Defence argues there is reason to believe the automatic braking system in the corvette might have been to blame and that witness accounts are conflicting and unreliable, in part because it took 35 months to get the case to trial.

“The charges weren’t sworn for a long time after the incident before went into the court system,” says Stern.

“Part of the delay was because Dhillon changed his lawyer, which we don’t hear about,” says victim’s son Manjit Benning.

Defence did not call any witnesses.

The judge will hand down his sentence November 30, and there may be much at stake.

There are reports the accused driver may not be a Canadian citizen.

Dhillon’s lawyer says he is not involved in any immigration issues on his client’s behalf, but says the trial involves an indictable offense.

“If someone who is not a citizen is convicted of an indictable offense, it may be subject to deportation,” says Stern.

“There’s got to be some responsibility for his actions, because otherwise what’s the deterrent?” says Manjit Benning. “We just don’t want our dad to have died in vain.”

Ford plans to bring smaller engine from Europe to the US next year in the Fiesta

DEARBORN, Mich. – Ford is bringing its smallest engine to the U.S. in the race to meet stricter government fuel economy rules.

The company says the 2014 Fiesta will be the first North American vehicle to get Ford’s new 1-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine when it goes on sale next year. The 1-litre has been sold in the European version of the Focus sedan since March.

Ford isn’t releasing fuel economy numbers yet, but says the 1-litre Fiesta will be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid available in the U.S. It should get well over 40 miles per gallon.

“This is truly a dynamo of an engine,” says Bob Fascetti, Ford’s director of global engine engineering.

Ford plans to show a Fiesta with the new engine at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month. The Focus sedan has the engine in Europe, and Ford hints the U.S. Focus may also get it soon.

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Three-cylinder engines are common in small European cars but have rarely ventured across the Atlantic. That’s partly because they gained a reputation for being loud, shaky and underpowered in 1990s econoboxes like the Geo Metro. The tiny Smart ForTwo is currently the only car for sale in the U.S. with a three-cylinder engine. Its sales are just a fraction of the Fiesta’s, however. Daimler AG had sold just 8,309 Smart cars in the U.S. through October, compared with sales of 47,475 for the Fiesta.

But getting new customers isn’t the only consideration. Car companies are under pressure to increase the fuel efficiency of their cars. President Obama ordered them to double their average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon (23 kilometres per litre) by 2025. One of the easiest ways to do that is use proven technology from Europe, where gas is more expensive and customers place a premium on fuel economy.

General Motors plans to bring a diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze from Europe to the U.S. next year. It’s expected to top 40 mpg (17 kpl). And Ford probably won’t be the last to bring over its smaller engines. BMW AG recently unveiled new three-cylinders that could be bound for America.

Ford’s first three-cylinder uses turbocharging and direct fuel injection to give it the power of a larger engine. It has 123 horsepower, for example, which is three more than the current Fiesta with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder. At the same time, the 1-litre will likely get far better fuel economy than the 33 mpg (14 kpl)combined city and highway rating for the current Fiesta

By comparison, the Smart ForTwo gets just 70 horsepower and 36 mpg (15.3 kpl) out of its 1-litre three-cylinder. And unlike the Fiesta, it uses premium gas.

Dave Sullivan, an analyst with auto consulting firm AutoPacific, said he was pleasantly surprised by the three-cylinder he tested in the European Focus. He doesn’t think customers will care if the engine has fewer cylinders as long as it performs well and saves fuel.

“Other European automakers like VW and Fiat have these, but none of them are as quiet as this one,” Sullivan said.

The 1-litre is the fourth member of Ford’s EcoBoost engine family. The first engine was a 3.5-litre V6 that gave the Taurus SHO performance sedan the power of a V8. Ford also has 1.6-litre and 2-litre versions.

EcoBoost engines cost around $1,000 more than conventional ones, but they’ve been a popular option anyway. Ford says 80 per cent of Ford Escape SUV buyers and 42 per cent of F-150 pickup buyers are springing for EcoBoost engines. In Europe, about 30 per cent of Focus buyers are getting the 1-litre EcoBoost

Ryan Murphy pays tribute to Lear, Alda; Argentine show wins 2 Int’l Emmys

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy paid tribute at the International Emmy Awards Monday night to television legends Norman Lear and Alan Alda, whose cutting-edge, socially-conscious shows in the ’70s changed the face of television.

Unlike previous years when Britain dominated the awards honouring excellence in television production outside the U.S., the winners in the nine categories this year spanned six countries. Argentina, Brazil and Britain each won two Emmys; Australia, France and Germany had one apiece.

Murphy closed the awards ceremony by delivering a moving tribute to Lear, now 90, and “M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H” star Alda as he presented them with the 40th Anniversary Special Founders Award. The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences marked the milestone anniversary by presenting special awards honouring a producer and performer who had groundbreaking shows on TV in 1972 when the International Emmys were first presented.

Fittingly, the night’s big winner was Argentina’s “Television x la Inclusion,” a drama produced by On TV Contenidos dealing with issues of social exclusion and inclusion. It became the first series in the history of the International Emmys to sweep both acting categories.

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Dario Grandinetti, who starred in Pedro Almodovar’s film “Talk to Her,” won the best actor award for his portrayal of a divorced, xenophobic taxi driver determined to drive out his Peruvian neighbours.

Cristina Banegas, a Argentine theatre, film and TV actress, was honoured as best actress for her role as the mother of a girl with Down syndrome who fights her health insurance company when it won’t authorize life-saving heart surgery for her daughter.

The British winners were in the documentary category for “Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die,” about the author who after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis travels to a Swiss clinic for a first-hand look at assisted suicide procedures, and “Black Mirror,” a suspenseful and satirical look at the unease created by modern technology, in the TV movie/mini-series category.

Both of Brazil’s wins went to TV Globo productions. “The Invisible Woman,” about a publicist married to his boss whose relationship is threatened by the appearance in his life of his imaginary ideal woman, was chosen the best comedy. “The Illusionist,” the story of a scam artist who becomes an illusionist after meeting a magician in jail, won in the telenovela category.

Murphy himself was honoured midway through the awards ceremony hosted by Regis Philbin at the Hilton New York Hotel. Jessica Lange, the star of Murphy’s contemporary gothic TV series “American Horror Story,” presented him with the honorary 2012 International Emmy Founders Award.

Murphy, the writer, director and producer whose credits also include “Nip/Tuck” and “Popular,” was recognized for the impact his shows have had in recognizing diversity and encouraging people to become more inclusive. With “Glee,” Murphy also essentially created a novel TV format mixing music with drama/comedy.

At the end of the ceremony, Murphy returned to the stage to give the awards to Lear and Alda. Murphy recalled how moved he was when he watched Lear’s sitcoms in his youth – “All in the Family” and its spinoffs “Maude” and “The Jeffersons,” which decades later inspired him to produce “Glee” and “The New Normal.”

Lear’s shows were funny but tackled the key social issues of the day – racism, sexism, even abortion, rape and homosexuality – a sharp contrast to ’60s hits like “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres” which avoided race or other social problems.

Alda starred as the wise-cracking, anti-authoritarian Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on “M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H, in which the Korean War served as a stand-in for social commentary on the Vietnam War. He became the only person ever to win U.S. Emmys for acting, writing and directing in the same series.

The other Emmy winners included France’s police drama “Braquo,” about a group of Parisian cops who circumvent the law, using violence and intimidation, for best drama series; Germany’s “Songs of War,” in which “Sesame Street” composer Christopher Cerf explores the relationship between music and violence after learning his songs had been used to torture prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, for arts programming; and “The Amazing Race Australia” for non-scripted entertainment.

Six International Emmys for children’s programming will be presented at a new awards ceremony on Feb. 8 in New York.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a taped introduction before Korean entertainer J.Y. Park presented the honorary International Emmy Directorate Award to Kim In-kyu, president of the Korean Broadcasting System.




Australian investment banker who chained fake bomb to teenager sentenced to 13 1/2 years in jail

SYDNEY – An Australian investment banker who admitted chaining a fake bomb to a Sydney teenager as part of a bizarre extortion plot was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison on Tuesday.

Madeleine Pulver, then 18, was studying at home alone in her family’s mansion in August 2011 when Paul Douglas Peters walked in wearing a rainbow-striped ski mask and carrying a baseball bat. He tethered a bomb-like device to her neck along with a ransom note and then slipped away, leaving the panicked teen alone. It took a bomb squad 10 hours to remove the device, which contained no explosives.

Peters, 52, failed to convince the judge that his made-for-Hollywood crime was the result of a psychological meltdown sparked by the breakdown of his marriage and a failing career. Instead, the judge said, the once-successful businessman and father of three had shown no remorse, lied to police and was largely motivated by one thing: money.

“The offender intended to place the very young victim in fear that she would be killed,” New South Wales state District Court Judge Peter Zahra said. “The terror instilled can only be described as unimaginable.”

Pulver hugged relatives after the sentence was read. Her father, Bill Pulver, wiped away tears. Peters remained stone-faced and said nothing.

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“I’m pleased at today’s outcome and that I can now look to a future without Paul Peters’ name being linked to mine,” Madeleine Pulver said outside court. “For me, it was never about the sentencing, but to know that he will not reoffend. And it was good to hear the judge acknowledge the trauma he has put my family and me through.”

Zahra gave Peters less than the maximum sentence of 20 years, acknowledging he’d pleaded guilty and was likely depressed at the time.

After attaching the device to the teen, Peters fled to the U.S., but police used an email address he left on the ransom note to track him down. Authorities arrested him two weeks later at his ex-wife’s home in Louisville, Kentucky, and extradited him to Australia. He pleaded guilty in March to aggravated break and enter and committing a serious indictable offence.

Defence attorneys had argued that Peters was depressed, drinking heavily and exhibiting wild mood swings before committing the crime and had no memory of the attack. He had recently split from his wife, was separated from his children and had become obsessed with a book he was writing about a villain out for revenge, his lawyer Tim Game said during earlier sentencing hearings. A psychiatrist for the defence testified that Peters may have tried to become the evil protagonist in his book. Peters told the psychiatrist: “It’s not about money, it’s about revenge.”

But prosecutors said it was exactly the opposite.

During an earlier hearing, prosecutor Margaret Cunneen said that Pulver was never the intended target of Peters’ crime. The investment banker was having financial problems and originally travelled to Mosman – the wealthy Sydney suburb where the Pulvers live – to hunt down the beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar trust fund he had learned about, she said. When he arrived in Mosman, he bumped into a neighbour of the Pulvers whom he had met while doing business in Hong Kong. That man, who lived next door to the Pulvers, then became Peters’ new target, Cunneen said.

But on the day of the attack, Peters walked into the wrong house. Madeleine Pulver was, in the end, just the unwitting victim of Peters’ incompetence, the prosecutor said.

Embarrassed by his bungled extortion bid, Peters concocted a story about being delusional and not remembering the crime to save face, Cunneen said.

The judge largely agreed with the prosecution’s version of events, saying the attack was precise and premeditated, and dismissed the defence’s arguments that Peters was delusional and in a psychotic state during the crime. Zahra did accept that Peters was likely depressed, but said it did not explain or excuse his behaviour.

Peters, who will be eligible for parole in 10 years, cried in court when the judge detailed the problems the banker had been facing with his marriage and his career. He showed no emotion when the judge described the trauma Madeleine endured as a result of the attack – a point which did not escape Bill Pulver’s notice.

“Mr. Peters has actually, from our perspective, shown no clear remorse for this entire event,” Pulver said outside court. “There has still been no apology nor any explanation for his behaviour, which is disappointing. But the man was just told he was going to be in jail for 10 years, so he has reason to be upset.”

Taiwanese director Niu seeks more collaborations as way to raise Mandarin-language films

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Golden Horse-nominated director Niu Chen Zer says he gets tremendous joy doing work he loves and he’s found a new way to share it with the world.

His company, Honto Productions, is joining with another Taiwan-based film company, Atom Cinema, to release eight television and film projects over three years. China’s Huayi Brothers will be an investment and distribution partner in the collaboration announced Sunday.

Niu said he will look for suitable projects as a producer and wants to help raise Mandarin-language films to the next level.

“I’m ready,” Niu said. “For the rest of my life, other than making a few more good films, I want to share with others everything I know and the resources I have. I want to share it with the world.”

The collaboration comes at a pivotal moment in Taiwanese cinema, which has made a comeback in recent years after a long period of poor performances at the box office. Niu said that through exchanges and collaborations between filmmakers in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, he sees a better future for Mandarin-language films.

This announcement came a week before the Golden Horse Awards, which honour Mandarin-language films. Niu is a nominee for best director for “Love,” which has three other nominations.

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He was just 17 when he received his first Golden Horse acting nod for “Growing Up” in 1983, an experience he proudly called one of his most exciting and nerve-wracking.

“I didn’t expect to win, nor did I want to win,” he said. “However, as the date of the award ceremony approaches, you begin to have a lot of imaginations, thinking ‘wouldn’t it be nice if I win?’ When you’re sitting at your seat, it’s very nerve-wracking. I remember that. Your heart is pounding, when they announce the winner and it’s not you, it’s like a rollercoaster ride. I remembered it well.”

He said he loves his work, so any award he might receive is a “bonus.”