WELCOMING 2009: Oakville's Courage brothers held their 24th annual Polar Bear Dip to greet the new year and raise money to provide clean water in developing countries. The dip began as a dare from the brothers' mother to get up off the couch, and has since grown into the largest charitable ice-water dip in Canada, attracting nearly 5,000 spectators. The first day of 2009 was also a frigid one for many in the Maritimes as well, albeit unvoluntarily as a howling blizzard created whiteout conditions across much of Nova Scotia, causing power outages and disrupting travel.

The new year got off to a tragic start in Bangkok, when a party billed as a New Year's Eve blowout to celebrate a wildly popular nightclub before moving to its new location erupted in flames, killing dozens of people and injuring more than 200.

TRIPLE HOMICIDE: It was a bloody start to 2009 in Calgary where police were investigating four homicides from two separate incidents, including a shooting at a Vietnamese restaurant that left three dead. While authorities hesitated to say the murders were connected to gangs or drugs, they said did say the killing didn't appear to be random.

A MOUNTAIN OF TROUBLE: Two more lives were claimed by avalanches in British Columbia when a skier and a snowboarder were killed by separate slides in out-of-bounds areas in the resort town of Whistler, and a snowboarder who spent three nights lost on the Lower Mainland's Mount Seymour when he accidently went out of bounds said he was happy to be alive after being found by rescuers.


BIG BUSINESS: Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain was named Canada's Business Newsmaker of the Year for his compassionate and business savvy response to last summer's listeria outbreak, beating out competition that included fallen media titan, Conrad Black and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

A report put together by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives claimed that it would take the country's top CEOs -- many of whom include big bank CEOs whose companies have recieved billions in federal government bailout money -- 12 hours to earn the salary of the average Canadian worker, pegged at $40,237. "A lot of the CEOs have a compensation formula that still compensates
them wonderfully while they're not creating value or even destroying
value - laying off people and the like," said Roger Martin, dean of Rotman
School of Management.

A new study alleged that insomnia costs the Quebec economy as much as $6.5 billion a year through direct and indirect costs such as absences from works and reduced productivity on the part of overtired employees.

AIR STRIKE: An Israeli warplane dropped a 900-kilogram bomb on the home of Nizar Rayan, one of Hamas' top commanders, killing him and 18 others, including Rayan's four wives and nine of his 12 children. Rayan had publicly called for suicide attacks against the Jewish state.

The attack, along with the rest of Israel's punishing assault on Gaza, buoyed the spirits of many Israelis by replacing the lingering feelings of helplessness and frustration caused by Hamas' rocket attacks. Egypt's foreign minister criticized the rocket attacks, saying that they must stop in order for any military truce to be effective and that the Hamas handed Israel an excuse to launch its offensive "on a golden platter."

LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE: California's so-called Santa suit gunman, Bruce Pardo, lived a double life for months, planning his attack while maintaining a mask of friendliness. As early as the summer, Pardo was stockpiling ammunition and ordering supplies to build the device he used to torch his in-laws' home.

SOMEWHAT HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: The fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban revolution was marked with toned-down festivities under the pall of ailing president Fidel Castro's absence. However, many Cubans were optimistic about the future, noting that president-elect Barack Obama has signalled that he would lift severe restrictions on family travel and remittances.

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