Metro Snapshot: January 14, 2009 - Metro US

Metro Snapshot: January 14, 2009

A WELCOME GUEST: Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was “delighted” that president-elect Barack Obama would make Canada the destination for his first official visit as president.
The prime minster said that Obama’s decision was indicative of the
importance of the relationship between the two countries.
Harper also addressed the ongoing saga of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar
, whose future beyond the promised closure of the prison camp
remains murky.

THE CABINET SPEAKS: Transport Minister John Baird said he would like to eliminate federal environmental assessments
for “green” infrastructure projects such as sewage treatment plants, a
move he said would speed up economic stimulus spending. However, the
NDP warned that the government would be in for a battle if it moved to
trim environmental standards.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said that Canada’s Arctic sovereignty was not under threat
despite recent announcements from the United States and the European
Union that spelled out their interests in the region. Northwest Territories
Premier Floyd Roland disagreed, telling reporters that it was time for
the country “to pay attention and stand up.”

THE LAST ACTION HERO: Marcus Schrenker, an Indiana financier whose life had become bogged down by personal and financial turmoil, was believed to have faked his own death by parachuting out of a staged plane crash before escaping on a motorcycle he had stashed in the pine barrens of Alabama.
He is now being pursued by police and investors who claim Schrenker is
a “pathological liar” who bilked them of millions of dollars.

in its final week, the transition between the administrations of
President Bush and president-elect Obama picked up speed. Sen. Hillary Clinton — Obama’s nominee for secretary of state — sailed through her daylong confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was mostly composed of non-contentious questions. During
the hearing, Clinton laid out a clear preview of the coming administrations foreign poicy approach, which aims to put more of a focus on diplomacy.

Timothy Geithner, Obama’s choice for Treasury Secretary, ran into a slight bump when it was disclosed that he had failed to pay $34,000 in taxes, but that didn’t deter Senate Democrats from moving forward with his nomination.

It wasn’t all good news for the president-elect, however, who learned he would indeed have to give up his beloved BlackBerry after inauguration day. Technology experts agree that no security measures for the device will ever be entirely safe from hackers, spies and snoops, posing a significant security risk to the president’s communication.

Vice-president-elect Joe Biden was in Iraq to tell that country’s leadership about American plans for a responsible troop withdrawal.

President Bush was taking care of some last-minute business, awarding three of his most loyal foreign allies — former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Australian prime minister John Howard and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe — the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honour. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders convinced the Smithsonian to change the caption on a new portrait of Bush, which Sanders claimed linked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the war in Iraq.

IN THE HOOD: Israeli troops backed by tanks thrust deeper into Gaza City, engaging with Hamas fighters in alleyways and cellars while terrified residents ran for cover. Israeli forces now have Gaza’s largest city, and one of the planet’s most densely populated areas, virtually surrounded. Meanwhile, Egypt continued to push Hamas to agree to a ceasefire in what an Israeli official called “decisive talks” that could either end the conflict or widen it.

One of Canada’s largest Jewish groups planned to ask police if the rhetoric at many of the pro-Gaza rallies that have taken place across the country broke Canadian hate crime laws, a charge that the group’s Arab counterpart vehemently denies.

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