IN OLD NEW YORK: Kicking off what officials said would be the biggest U.S. media offensive ever launched by a Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper
hit New York City to raise the country's profile while riding a wave of
post-Obama buzz. Harper focused exclusively on reaching out to American
business leaders and news organizations, including an early morning
appearance on Fox News where he said Canada must become more of a
"squeaky wheel" to grab the attention of Americans.
HOME-GROWN WOES: Canadians who have become used to placing the blame for the stagnating economy elsewhere were dealt a reckoning by Statistics Canada. In a new report, the agency released figures that showed the domestic economy took a serious December drubbing, with retail sales dropping by 5.4 per cent -- the largest plunge in 15 years. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty echoed the concerns found in the report and called for an end to partisan debates in order to quickly implement the planned $40-billion stimulus package.
DZIEKANSKI 'COMBATIVE': The public inquiry into the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski -- who died after being shocked by an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport -- heard the highly anticipated testimony from one of the four officers who responded to the fateful call. Const. Gerry Rundel said that they were responding to a call regarding an intoxicated man behaving violently, and that when they arrived, Dziekanski took a "combative" stance while brandishing a stapler. Toxicology tests showed that Dziekanski was not intoxicated at the time of the incident.
OLIVE BRANCH DENIED: Trapped on a tiny sliver of land after losing most of their strongholds to government forces, Sri Lanka's
Tamil Tigers rebel group appealed for a ceasefire in a letter sent to
the United Nations. However, the government rejected the overture as
the group's final effort to "save their miserable skins."
THAT SINKING FEELING: A Canadian coast guard captain said that the rescued crew of a Spanish trawler
that sank off the coast of Newfoundland were extremely lucky that his
ship happened to be ten minutes away when they received the distress
call. The captain of the Spanish vessel said that the ship sank in a mere 18 minutes, and crew members had resorted to jumping overboard into the frigid North Atlantic as the Canadians arrived on scene.
STAR SPANGLED BUDGET: U.S. President Barack Obama preached fiscal restraint even as federal spending soared on the back of the massive $787-billion stimulus package, and summoned allies, foes and outside experts to a special White House meeting on the country's future fiscal health. An interesting exchange occurred at the end of that meeting when Obama's rival from the campaign, Sen. John McCain, criticized cost overruns in military procurement, pointing to a fleet of 28 Marine One presidential helicopters being manufactured at an over budget cost of $11.2 billion. Obama largely agreed with the senator, saying that he thought the current fleet was fine, quipping that he had never had a helicopter before and "maybe I've been deprived and I didn't know it."
JAILBREAK: Eight inmates used part of a bed to chip their way through the wall of a Mississippi jail, capping an escape plan that unfolded over a long period of time. However, the escape lacked the theatrical flair of the dramatic escape plan hatched by Greek inmates who escaped their prison via helicopter amidst a gun battle, nor was it as successful: six of the Americans were quickly captured, while the Greek escapees were still on the run.
NO ROOM FOR DISSENT: Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed his top negotiator in Gaza truce talks for publicly criticizing Olmert's demand that the Palestinians release a captured Israeli soldier before any deal is finalized. The move threatened to derail peace talks mere weeks before the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu -- who wants to see Hamas leaders toppled and is likely to take a tougher line on peace talks -- takes over the government.