Metro Snapshot: March 26, 2009 - Metro US

Metro Snapshot: March 26, 2009

PRAIRIE FLOODING: Ice jamming on the Red River north of Winnipeg flooded a couple dozen
homes and was threatening more, leaving officials and
residents preparing for the worst.

ECONOMIC ANGST: The brand of populist outrage seething in the United States erupted in Europe yesterday. French workers gathered to burn tires, march on the presidential palace and even held a manager of U.S.-based manufacturer 3M hostage as mounting anger over job losses switched from simmer to boil, sparked by the now familiar issue of executive bonuses. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened new laws on bonuses and golden parachutes, the likes of which have recently been given to executives of bailed-out auto parts manufacturers and financial institutions.

Earlier in the day, vandals attacked the Edinburgh home of former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Fred Goodwin, whose annual US$1.2-million pension became a lightning rod in that country. Goodwin, nicknamed “Fred the Shred” for his ruthless business tactics, resigned as CEO after RBS ran into severe difficulties — posting the biggest loss in British corporate history — and had to be propped up by $29 billion in public money.

Meanwhile, legislators in Washington were softening their opposition to executive bonuses after a warning from President Barack Obama that they risked alienating the financial sector. New legislation being drafted would backpedal on the last week’s 90 per cent taxation on AIG executive bonuses, and instead focus on empowering the government to block future payouts.

‘I ADMIT THERE ARE INACCURACIES’: In the days after Polish immigrant died on the floor of Vancouver International Airport, the RCMP officers present at the incident depicted the man as an aggressive threat to public safety, even after being shocked once by a police Taser. However, one-by-one, the officers have had to recant initial statements they made to homicide investigators, raising questions about the Crown’s decision to not charge the Mounties and prompting calls from the Polish community to re-open the case.

Despite a growing body of evidence that the chances of a person being killed increase with every jolt of a Taser, the RCMP loosened a restriction on multiple Taser shocks. A new statistical analysis by a Montreal biomedical engineer found that the chances of somebody dying increased with each jolt of a Taser, however RCMP officials cited other research as guiding their decision.

NOT WORRYING AND ENJOYING LIFE: The much-debated atheist ads that lurk behind free speech protests and induced much hand-wringing amongst transit boards appear to have run up against a largely indifferent population. In a recent poll, a vast majority of Canadians indicated they either didn’t care about the ads — which read “there probably is no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life” — or supported them outright.

HOPEFUL SIGNS: Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — whose hardline stance regarding the occupied Palestinian territories provoked international concern — softened his rhetoric, promising to be a “partner for peace with the Palestinians.”

Palestinian youths from a tough West Bank refugee camp serenaded a group of elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel as part of an event called “Good Deeds Day,” organized by the country’s richest woman. There was a twist, however — the Israelis had no idea the children were from the West Bank and the children had no idea their audience lived through the Nazi genocide, or even knew what the Holocaust was.

US, TOO?: The carnage being wreaked in Mexico by warring drug cartels has deeply rattled U.S. security officials, thrusting border security back to the top of the Obama Administration’s agenda. However, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano told a conference on U.S.-Canada border issues that measure taken on the southern border would have to be duplicated on the northern border because of parity demands related to NAFTA.

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