‘Serena’s back!’ Venus, too. Williams sisters return to Grand Slam tennis

WIMBLEDON, England – Two simple words at the end of a June 7 tweet said it all: “Serena’s back!”

And Venus is, too.

Yes, as Serena Williams announced to the world less than two weeks ago, the most successful tennis-playing siblings in history are returning from lengthy layoffs right on time for Wimbledon, where they just so happen to have won nine of the past 11 singles championships.

For Serena, it will be her first Grand Slam tournament – and only second event – since she took home a second consecutive title from the All England Club in July 2010. Her nearly year-long absence resulted from a series of health issues, including two foot operations and blood clots in her lungs, that she said left her depressed and “on my deathbed.” Venus, meanwhile, was sidelined by a hip injury from January until June.

All eyes will be on them when the grass-court Grand Slam tournament begins Monday.

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“I feel like we’ve been on a similar road together. Her road hasn’t been as arduous or as long as mine, but I know what she’s been through coming back,” Serena said when she made her 2011 debut at a tuneup tournament this week in Eastbourne, England. “We’ve been really enjoying our time just getting back together and practising next to her and looking over and seeing her play so well. I’m like, ‘OK, I’ve got to do better.’”

There are, to be sure, other plot lines worth tracking during the fortnight.

Among them: Can Roger Federer make a real run at a seventh Wimbledon title? Can Rafael Nadal extend his recent excellence to five titles in a span of six Grand Slam tournaments? Can Novak Djokovic recover from the end of his 43-match winning streak to win a major title other than the Australian Open? Can Andy Murray finally – and mercifully – put an end to the locals’ 75-year wait for a British male champion at the All England Club? Might No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki win her first Grand Slam title? Could China’s Li Na win her second in a row? Will Maria Sharapova end her 3 1/2-year major drought?

Nadal could come up against the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in the third round. Raonic, the 31st seed from Thornhill, Ont., starts against Italy’s Fabio Fognini.

But the biggest curiosity, at least at the outset, is: How will the Williams sisters do?

“It will be interesting to see how they come back. I think it’s interesting for the tour. It’s a good story,” Federer said Saturday. “It’s been an up-and-down, bumpy road for the women’s tour as of late. But we’ll see now how it goes here with the sisters back in the game.”

Part of the interest stems from wondering how much longer they’ll be around. Venus turned 31 on Friday; Serena will be 30 in September.

“Whenever they enter a Grand Slam tournament, it’s double the excitement and double the intrigue, I think, that they bring to the sport. They just bring a different level of tennis also, as far as the power and the emotional content,” said ESPN2 analyst Chris Evert, who won 18 Grand Slam titles.

“It would be monumental in my mind if Serena pulled off a win,” Evert added. “I personally don’t know how it’s humanly possible for someone to take a year off like that and have gone through what she’s been through physically with her ailments and … it would almost shock me if she did. But knowing Serena and the way she’s come back before, you can never count her out.”

Evert – who said she never was away from the tour longer than four months – is one of only five women in tennis history who have won more major championships than Serena’s 13. The others are Margaret Court (24), Steffi Graf (22), Helen Wills Moody (19) and Martina Navratilova (18). Among active players, of course, Serena ranks No. 1, followed by Venus with seven.

No one else in this year’s Wimbledon women’s field has more than three Grand Slam titles (Kim Clijsters has four, but she pulled out with a foot injury).

Indeed, it’s remarkable to examine the measurable ways in which Serena and Venus have dominated women’s tennis, in general – and the All England Club, in particular – across the years. That’s why Serena is seeded No. 7 at Wimbledon, despite being ranked 26th; Venus is seeded 23rd, despite being ranked 33rd.

“You know,” Sharapova said, “they’re obviously the ones to beat on grass.”

Not only has Venus won five titles at Wimbledon, and Serena four, since 2000, but they’ve also produced four all-in-the-family finals there in that span. They’ve played in a total of eight all-Williams Grand Slam championship matches, with Serena holding a 6-2 edge.

At Wimbledon, Venus is 68-9, Serena 57-7. No one else in the 2011 draw has more than 27 match wins there.

“Obviously,” Wozniacki said, “no one wants to play them.”

Overall, Serena has been to 16 major finals, Venus 14. No one else in the draw has reached more than four.

As seven-time major champion John McEnroe put it: “I wouldn’t minimize their chances.”

Hey, at least one British bookmaker installed Serena as a 3-1 favourite to win Wimbledon.

The interest generated by the sisters’ rise to the top of their sport is widely pointed to as the reason for the U.S. Open’s decision to move its women’s final to prime time in 2001. Venus beat Serena that year for the title, and nearly 23 million viewers tuned in to the CBS broadcast, giving their match the largest TV audience of any program that night, including a game between traditional college football powers Notre Dame and Nebraska.

The last major tournament, the French Open, was the first Grand Slam since 2003 without Serena or Venus – and chaos reigned. It’s the only French Open in history where none of the top three seeded women reached the quarter-finals, and it left some looking forward to when the sisters would pick up their rackets again.

“I’m sure when they come back, they’ll come back ready. That’s how they do it. Tennis has been pretty spoiled by their success and they’re pretty special, two special sisters,” top-10 U.S. man Mardy Fish said in Paris. “And when they’re not around, you can feel it. You can feel at a Grand Slam when they’re not here, and so I think everyone’s hoping that they’ll be back, better than ever, soon.”

Serena lost in the second round at Eastbourne, a three-set struggle against the woman she beat in last year’s Wimbledon final, Vera Zvonareva. Venus lasted one round longer.

They’re not merely happy to be back, though.

They want to contend for more titles.

“I always believe in myself when I go on the court,” Venus said. “And I’m not just here to look good on the court; I’m here to win every match I’m in.”

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AP Sports Writers Caroline Cheese in Eastbourne, England, and Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.

After 700 km trek, group arrives in Montreal to protest against shale gas

MONTREAL – After a gruelling 700-kilometre trek through Quebec, Philippe Duhamel arrived Saturday to a hero’s welcome at a shale gas protest in Montreal.

Duhamel led a crew of marchers on a one-month journey along the St-Lawrence River, visiting dozens of towns rich in gas reserves on the way.

The goal was to draw attention to what critics argue are the dangers of shale gas development.

They say the process used to unlock natural gas contaminates groundwater and has disastrous consequences on the environment.

On Saturday, his group, sunburned and blistered, was greeted with cheers and applause by fellow anti-shale gas activists as they arrived in downtown Montreal.

“What we are witnessing now is the birth of a very strong citizen based movement,” he said.

“It’s been a tremendous experience in the sense that before we started on this walk we felt the movement was in a lull… The more we walked, the more people honked.”

Duhamel was joined by more than 2,000 people in a march that ended at Premier Jean Charest’s office.

Protesters called for a lengthy moratorium on shale gas development and a “transparent” study into the industry.

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The Quebec government has slowed development of its considerable shale gas deposits because of public concerns about the danger to the environment.

The province has launched a study into the environmental impact of the industry and promised to halt further development until it’s complete.

But Andre Belisle, one of the protest’s organizers, said that’s not enough.

“We want an evaluation committee that is credible (and) independent of the government, and we want all that to be done in the highest transparency,” he said, arguing the current study is rigged by the industry and being conducted behind closed doors.

While the protest took place without incident, some opponents of shale gas development have warned they might engage in civil disobedience.

Duhamel said last month the trek along the St-Lawrence is just the beginning, and there will be training sessions on how to organize sit-ins and occupy shale gas exploration sites.

The controversy surrounding shale gas continues to dog Quebec’s Liberal government, and opposition parties sense opportunity.

Both Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois and Amir Khadir, leader of the left-wing party Quebec Solidair and an outspoken critic of shale gas, took part in the protest.

Quebec’s Environment Minister Pierre Arcand expressed irritation Friday at critics of shale gas, saying they are spreading “falsehoods” about the industry and the government’s approach to the situation.

Former FBI agent who investigated Lee Harvey Oswald after Kennedy’s assassination dies at 86

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The FBI agent who inherited Lee Harvey Oswald’s file the year before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated has died of cancer.

Funeral services were held Saturday in a Kansas City suburb for James P. Hosty, who spent nearly five decades defending himself against accusations that he should have investigated Oswald more closely.

Hosty died June 10 of cancer at a hospice in Kansas City, McGilley and Hoge Johnson County Memorial Chapel said on its website. He was 86.

Hosty wrote the book “Assignment: Oswald,” which came out in 1996, partially in response to how he was depicted in the 1991 Oliver Stone film “JKF.”

As recently as 2003, Hosty told The Kansas City Star newspaper there was nothing he could have done to prevent the assassination given what he knew at the time. He also conceded he probably would “go to my grave trying to straighten this out.”

“He was a man on a mission,” his son, Tom Hosty, told The Star for a story that ran in the paper’s Saturday editions. “He was determined to get the entire story out there to the American public – to set the record straight.”

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Long before Kennedy’s assassination, Oswald was already well known to the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency. A former Marine, Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, and his defection made international front page news.

Hosty said that in September 1962, after Oswald returned to the U.S., the FBI agent who had the Oswald file determined that the agency’s file on Oswald should be officially closed. When that agent retired a month later, Hosty inherited his files. But in late February and into March of 1963, Hosty came to believe that Oswald and his wife needed further investigation.

He suspected Oswald’s wife, Marina, may be a Soviet “sleeper” agent who married Lee Oswald only to enter and spy on America.

He also noticed that right after Oswald disavowed the Soviet Union and the FBI closed its file on him, Oswald bought a subscription to the Daily Worker, the U.S. Communist Party newspaper. The FBI reopened the Oswald file.

“I’m sorry I ever got the case,” Hosty said in the 2003 interview.

He said the case was never considered a priority and that the bureau believed that if the Oswalds were involved in anything, it was likely no more than low-level espionage.

After Kennedy’s assassination, Hosty was appointed to help lead the FBI’s post-assassination investigation. He even sat with Oswald in the offices of the Dallas Police Department on the night Kennedy was killed.

But, in the end, the powers in Washington, Hosty said, thought “someone should have connected the dots.”

The Warren Commission Report noted Hosty by name and implied he was negligent.

“He always carried it with him,” his son, Tom Hosty, said. “He was ready and willing to talk to anybody about the assassination.”

Bombardier being watched closely for CSeries orders at Paris air show

MONTREAL – A year after Bombardier left the world’s largest annual air show without any orders for its CSeries plane, industry observers are hopeful the world’s third-largest aircraft manufacturer won’t strike out again.

There is a buoyant mood heading into the Paris Air Show, which kicks off on Monday and which is expected to translate into numerous orders for aircraft manufacturers, particularly Airbus.

“There’s just more buzz in the industry right now so we feel really good about this show,” Bombardier spokeswoman Haley Dunne said in an interview from Paris.

About 180 Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) officials are gathering at a mini-city of chalets erected at Le Bourget airport in a costly annual ritual to meet customers, suppliers and analysts. Several ministers from the federal and Quebec governments are among those expected to attend the commercial and military air show.

Five Bombardier aircraft will be on display and a separate pavilion will showcase a mock-up of the 110- to 149-seat CSeries, which is slated to enter service at the end of 2013.

Dunne insisted the company doesn’t time orders for air shows and wouldn’t say if any could arrive to help steal some of the spotlight this year.

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“We will have orders eventually, whether it’s this week or in the weeks to come or in the months to come,” she said.

“Right now we’re very comfortable with our order position based on where we are in the program so this show just gives us another opportunity to meet with our customers and continue conversations.”

Some of the pressure to produce orders was reduced when Bombardier announced earlier this month its first CSeries orders in 15 months. Sweden’s Braathens Aviation ordered 10 planes while another, unidentified, buyer ordered three of the aircraft.

Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group said the industry is watching Bombardier closely after the “shocking absence of orders” at last year’s air show in Farnborough, U.K.

“The CSeries will either be conspicuous with orders or conspicuous by the absence of orders, but conspicuous either way,” he said in an interview.

“At this point I think it’s just become a wait and see story but this is going to be another occasion to either produce something or remark upon seriously underperforming the broader market.”

He said the aerospace industry’s rosy outlook and great promise for orders at the show demonstrate the disconnect from economic trends around the world.

Cameron Doerksen of Versant Partners said the most likely CSeries order will come from Qatar Airways, which has been expected to buy the airplane for some time. The head of the Middle Eastern airline has hinted that an order may be firmed up in Paris.

A number of small orders like Braathens are possible and would increase the number of CSeries customers. So far, five customers have placed 103 firm orders for two versions of the aircraft.

“A larger customer base means more potential for follow-on orders, less cancellation risk for the backlog and more leasing company interest,” Doerksen wrote in a report.

That’s also important because there are few delivery slots available through 2015, noted Joseph Nadol of J.P. Morgan.

“Net-net, we believe that the orders at the show will be enough to shift the focus on CSeries from demand to execution,” he said, adding that the CSeries is well positioned because of its promise of operating cost savings.

David Tyerman of CanacordGenuity said a lack of CSeries orders could present a good buying opportunity for Bombardier shares. The company’s shares fell 6.5 per cent last year when it failed to win orders, but subsequently recovered.

“We suspect a similar opportunity could happen this year under similar circumstances,” he noted.

A more pressing issue for Bombardier will be to win orders for its regional aircraft. The company plans to reduce Q400 production later this year and may reduce the CRJ rate if it fails to attract new orders.

Franco-Italian turboprop builder ATR’s vow to announce record orders at the show could also threaten Bombardier’s market share.

Bombardier isn’t the only Canadian company hoping to capitalize on its presence in Paris.

Flight simulator and training company CAE Inc. (TSX:CAE), landing gear and aerostructure manufacturer Heroux-Devtek (TSX:HRX) and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney (TSX:UTX) are all expected to announce new business.

All three stand to benefit from substantial orders that are expected for Boeing and Airbus planes.

Heroux-Devtek may announce new parts supply agreements, but new landing gear development programs are also a possibility, added Doerksen. He suspects the company is targeting Bombardier’s new Global 7000 and 8000 series of business jets.

As the engine manufacturer for both the Airbus A320neo and CSeries, Pratt could win no matter which company signs up orders.

However, the first A320neo orders signed for rival CFM’s Leap-X engine threatens to steal some of Pratt’s thunder, Aboulafia said.

Virgin America became the first buyer of the CFM engine to power 30 Airbus A320neo re-engined narrowbody planes.

From Dolce&Gabbana to Jil Sander, digital world influences menswear for next spring and summer

MILAN – There’s no doubt that the digital world is on the minds’ of designers showing their menswear collections for next spring and summer.

On opening day Saturday, Dolce and Gabbana showed off their penchant for social networking. Jil Sander turned a traveller’s money pouch into a colorful iPad holder. And Burberry pushed back against the rise of digitalization opting to explore the world of handcraftsmanship.

Colours are muted, earthy tones, or black and white.

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DOLCE&GABBANA

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The forward-looking Dolce and Gabbana duo have caught on to social networking, on and off the runway.

One of the first to have live coverage of their shows over the Internet, and to beam blogger comments onto a screen above the runway, the designers have taken the net one step further, making it the inspiration for their latest menswear collection.

In black or white or a combination of both, the spring-summer 2012 collection presented Saturday included all kinds of connecting fabric from the mosquito net, to the fishing net to the wide netting of a soccer goal post.

According to the designers, the idea was to update their sartorial roots, and involve the present generation in their fashion story.

“We’re in the mood to experiment, to rework tailoring, making it modern and innovative,” Domenico Dolce said at a breakfast get-together with reporters before the show.

The result is almost minimalist, a real transformation for the duo known for their flamboyant sexy clothes.

A perfectly tailored jacket devoid of lapel paired with a pristine white shirt and a pair of boxer shorts worn with city shoes but no socks is the basic silhouette.

The netting motif is used for all types of fabric from leather to silk, and comes in such diverse styles as a suit, a pair of pants or a sweater.

For the grand finale, the designers sent 60 young models, all in white netted T-shirts and matching Bermudas, down the stoney white runway of their downtown Milan theatre.

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BURBERRY PRORSUM

There’s an inherent message in Burberry Prorsum’s menswear collection for next spring and summer. Slow down.

Designer Christopher Bailey isn’t trying to hit anyone over the head with the thought. It’s more by example.

Bailey has put craftsmanship at the heart of the collection – and not the kind of crafts normally associated with men’s clothing. There’s crocheting, stitching, embroidery and handblock prints.

“I wanted to celebrate the idea of craftsmanship. I love the whole digitalization of the world. But I don’t think one has to be at the expense of the other,” Bailey said backstage after Saturday’s preview.

From the exercise of crafts, emerged an array of ethnic references, which Bailey said was a natural part of the process. “I think just the idea of making things by hand immediately becomes ethnic,” he said.

Geometric shapes around the neckline were suggestive of traditional Native American dress. Block prints gave a textured look to tops and sweaters, with pebbling giving way to bold shapes. Circular patterns on T-shirts suggest ancient art.

Burberry’s native Scotland, too, had its due. Most of the outfits were topped with a hand-crocheted raffia golfing hat, complete with a pompon. Shoes were cork soled-moccasins or easy loafers at times contrasted with woven tapestry.

Colours tended toward the earthy, with flashes of garnet, beets or bright indigo.

The clothing was easy to wear, and pack, perhaps in a Burberry braided leather tote. Loose, oversized parkas with crocheted, detachable collars could be worn over light swim trunks. A sturdy fishermen’s knit sweater jacket with side pockets twins effortlessly with a pair of trousers.

“I wanted it to feel easy and not contrived,” Bailey said. “I wanted it to feel designed as well.”

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JIL SANDER

Raf Simons for Jil Sander likes to wow his fashion followers.

Last season, he threw the label’s minimalist trademark to the wind, bursting out in colours brighter than a box of crayons. His latest menswear collection shown Saturday for next spring and summer is so simple and colorless that it makes minimal look complicated.

Pale-faced boys with shiny gelled hair plastered to their foreheads walked down the runway in high-waisted trousers paired with black shirts or pleated blue Bermuda shorts twinned with a crotched sweater in melange wool. Shorts were worn with thick-soled black shoes and black socks.

For the outdoorsy guy, Simons offered a series of transparent plastic raincoats, which, were it not for the exquisite workmanship – one was cut like a blazer – were reminiscent of those sold at football games.

As per the show notes, the collection reads like a travelogue of the past 50 years of fashion, from the popularity of plastic to the high-waisted pants to the crocheted sweaters, army boots, utility jackets and shiny lacquered overcoats, all in streamlined styles.

Most innovative were the yesteryear money bags worn around the neck, turned into iPad carriers. The contemporary accessory came in bright shades, the sole touch of colour in the collection.

According to Simons, the idea was to bring fashion up to date without relinquishing the styles of the past. By cutting with an edge and using tecno fabrics, it was easy for the designer to prove his point.

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ZEGNA

From cool colours to tailored cuts, Zegna’s styles for the next warm weather season is classic. Khakis are paired with suede coats and grey T-shirts – with just a touch of Bohemian in a narrow scarf. Bermuda shorts are worn with a jacket and printed button-down shirt, with a pair of thick strapped sandals.

Colours were muted Mediterranean shades of sand, beige and brown, with touches of light green and pink.

Slicked back hair and cool sunglasses finish the look.

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Colleen Barry contributed to this report.

Wanted terror suspect arrested in Austria as German prosecutors dismiss report on attack plan

BERLIN – Austrian authorities have arrested an alleged Islamic extremist suspected of belonging to a terrorist group, German prosecutors said Saturday.

The 26-year-old, identified only as Yusuf O., was detained in Austria in late May on a German arrest warrant, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said. The arrest had not been made public earlier because extradition procedures are still under way.

The German national of Turkish descent is suspected of involvement with the German Taliban Mujahideen, a fundamentalist group that prosecutors say seeks to carry out attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and found a “religious fundamentalist society” there. Prosecutors declined to elaborate.

German media reported the suspect underwent paramilitary training in a terror camp in Pakistan’s lawless border region and appeared in several Islamist propaganda videos.

On Wednesday, Austrian authorities also arrested four other suspected extremists linked to the German Taliban Mujahideen at Vienna airport on suspicion they were heading off to train at terrorism camps in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

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But a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Prosecutors Office on Saturday dismissed a report alleging that one of the four suspected extremists was plotting to attack the country’s parliament in Berlin with a commercial airplane.

“There are no indications of concrete preparations for an attack in Germany,” the official said on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung reported that 25-year-old suspect had undergone flight training and was plotting to target Berlin’s emblematic parliament building by hijacking an airplane.

The newspaper gave no source for its report. Prosecutors in Vienna were not immediately reachable for comment.

German prosecutors said there was no “criminally relevant link” between Yusuf O. and the group of four.

However, the prosecution spokesman added that the group is also under investigation in Germany, though not in connection with a concrete plot but on suspicion of “providing financial support to the violent jihad.”

Germany has so far escaped a major terror attack, but several terror plots were foiled in their early stages over the past few years.

In April, German police arrested three suspected al-Qaida members in the western city of Duesseldorf allegedly working on making a shrapnel-laden bomb to attack a crowded place. Authorities believe the cell’s alleged ringleader trained in a terror camp in Pakistan.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, says that about 225 people who are German citizens or have lived in Germany, have undergone paramilitary training in Afghanistan or Pakistan since the 1990s.

US Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of child sex convictions by evangelist Tony Alamo

An attorney for an evangelist convicted of taking young girls across state lines for sex said Saturday that he will continue working to get Tony Alamo’s sentence reduced or his conviction overturned despite the refusal by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

Alamo, who was convicted in 2009 of taking five girls he had married across state lines for sex, was sentenced to 175 years in federal prison and ordered to pay each victim $500,000 and was fined $250,000.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal earlier this year and defence attorney John Wesley Hall appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

The court’s refusal to hear the case upholds the lower court ruling, according to U.S. Attorney Connor Eldridge.

The high court’s decision not to hear the case was made Monday, according to its website. Hall said he learned of the court’s decision, first reported by the Texarkana Gazette, in a letter he received Thursday.

Hall said Saturday that the high court has said that its denial to hear any case is not a reflection of the court’s view of the merits of the case.

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“You can file a post-conviction petition, to attack the conviction on some denial of rights during the process. Generally, it falls to ineffective counsel at trial,” said Hall, who did not represent Alamo during the 2009 trial.

Hall said he has up to a year to submit a filing that would be made in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Texarkana, where the trial was held.

Hall said he has not spoken to Alamo, who was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman.

Eldridge said Saturday that he is as pleased as he was when the jury returned with a guilty verdict.

“Of course, our office feels there is no legal or factual basis to overturn the jury verdict,” Eldridge said. “The jury heard the testimony in this case and found Mr. Alamo guilty.

“As we said all along, Mr. Alamo’s conduct took a terrible tragic toll on the lives of his victims. At the end of the day he was certainly held accountable by the jury’s verdict.”

Eldridge said his office is also working to collect the money that Alamo was ordered to pay the victims and the fine.

Federal Liberals delay leadership vote up to two years

VANCOUVER – Shattered Liberals will wait up to two years to choose a new leader, hoping the delay will give them a fighting chance against rival parties bent on wiping them off Canada’s federal political map.

Some 2,000 delegates to a special “virtual convention” voted Saturday to postpone a leadership vote until sometime between March 1 and June 30, 2013.

That’s an even greater delay than proposed by party brass, who had wanted 18 to 22 months to rebuild before choosing a permanent replacement for Michael Ignatieff.

Ignatieff resigned after leading the self-styled “natural governing party” to its worst defeat in history in the May 2 election. The Liberals were reduced to a third party rump with only 34 MPs; Ignatieff lost his own seat.

Toronto MP Bob Rae was named interim leader last month and will continue to hold down the fort until a permanent successor is chosen.

In a speech at the start of the teleconference convention, which was streamed live on the Liberal party’s website, Rae said both Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Jack Layton’s NDP would like to “destroy the Liberal party” for good, leaving a polarized choice between parties of the right and left.

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Liberals, he said, have to fight back by rebuilding the party, root and branch, and that will take time. While he did not express a preference for any precise date, Rae urged delegates to defer a leadership vote and give the party time pull itself up off the mat.

“We need to take the time to make the right choices and to make those important strides on fundraising, organization and policy.”

Rae added that rebuilding “is not just a name for doing whatever we normally do between elections.

“Something different happened on May 2. This has put us in a different place, we need to do things differently this time.”

Delegates were presented with a number of options, both longer and shorter than the 18-22 month delay proposed by party brass. In the end, they picked the option that provided for the longest delay.

They were persuaded in that choice by former leader Stephane Dion, who reminded delegates of the hatchet jobs done on him and Ignatieff by relentless Tory attack ads. Liberals, he argued, must not choose a new leader until they’ve amassed the money and organization needed to fight back against the inevitable Tory onslaught.

“The defeat has been very severe. The party has a monumental task to do. We should do it step by step,” Dion said in a later interview, adding that “the only good news of this disastrous (election) result” is that Liberals have plenty of time to pull themselves back together.

If Liberals choose a leader before undertaking any rebuilding, Dion said, “The leader will be without any protection facing the Conservatives.”

He predicted the Tories will try to do to the next leader what they did to him and Ignatieff, define the person “in a very negative way,” as “an ugly, unsympathetic person, unable to be a leader, not a Canadian, willing to tax them like crazy.”

And he said Canadians will believe it unless the Liberal party is ready to counter the attacks.

“And for that we need greater organization, good fundraising, good communications in the social media and the traditional media.”

In particular, Dion said the party must be able to hit back in kind when the Tories spend millions on negative ads in prime time – something the Liberals could not afford when Dion and Ignatieff came under sustained fire.

“If they put (ads) in the Superbowl and we answer on Facebook … it’s not enough. You can’t compete and then, the election starts and people think they know you,” he said, speaking from bitter experience.

Under the party’s constitution, Liberals should choose a successor within five months of a leader’s resignation – that is, by October of this year. Few, if any, Liberals had the stomach to plunge immediately into a leadership contest so soon after the May 2 bloodbath.

Hence, at Saturday’s convention they amended the constitution to allow a delay for up to two years.

They also voted to delay the party’s biennial policy convention, which was supposed to be held by the end of this year, until Jan. 13-15, 2012.

Some Liberals supported holding a leadership vote no later than the fall of 2012. Jeff Jedras, who moved that proposal, argued that rebuilding and new leadership go hand in hand and the party must “walk and chew gum at the same time.”

One supporter of Jedras’s proposal maintained that leadership contests are divisive and shouldn’t be dragged out unnecessarily. Another said an earlier contest would give the new leader more time to become known by Canadians before the next election in four years.

But the overwhelming mood of the delegates was to put off the contest as long as possible. Fully 89 per cent ultimately supported the two-year delay.

Index

MILAN – There’s an inherent message in Burberry Prorsum’s menswear collection for next spring and summer. Slow down.

Designer Christopher Bailey isn’t trying to hit anyone over the head with the thought. It’s more by example.

CHICAGO – Medicare crises, looming doctor shortages, more patients without health insurance. And that doesn’t even count the big changes coming from a revamped health care system.

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It’s a troubling time for doctors as they gather for the annual American Medical Association meeting.

PHILADELPHIA – Martha Stewart’s media aspirations just got bigger: Meet Martha Stewart, comic-book heroine.

The woman who created her own media empire – television, magazines and more – is getting a biographical treatment in her own comic book next month.

ASCOT, England – Christina Osborne has a system for winning at Royal Ascot, the five-day horse racing event that is one of the highlights of England’s glittering if brief summer social season.

The American in London doesn’t bother with the odds, the bookies or the data-packed Racing Post. She just picks the horses with the cutest names.

TORONTO – Lots of rain in many parts of the country means that grass is growing like, well, a weed, and some Canadians may already be getting their fill of cutting it. But that doesn’t mean lawn mower operators should be lax when it comes to safety, which is still essential to help prevent injury.

Lawn mower accidents can cause serious injuries to legs, arms, fingers, toes or other body parts. Between 1990 and 2006, a total of 1,161 patients visited Canadian hospitals for lawn mower-related injuries, according to Health & Safety Watch.

VIDALIA, Ga. – They’ve started fistfights and court battles, been romanticized in country songs and counterfeited by bootleggers. Their trademark sweetness has made them a coveted ingredient in recipes from salads and relishes to cookies and muffins.

If a museum dedicated to onions sounds rooted in folly, the history behind the famous Vidalia onion can likely hold its own with other veggie shrines such as the Idaho Potato Museum, the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Museum in Minnesota and the tiny Carrot Museum tucked in a Rhode Island bed-and-breakfast.

OTTAWA – Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is confirming that she intends to further restrict the way medical marijuana is grown.

She wants to take individual growers and Health Canada out of the business of producing the drug, and instead grant licences only to commercial operations.

OTTAWA – Health Canada is reviewing the status of the diabetes drug pioglitazone after studies suggested the medication may increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Pioglitazone, sold in Canada under the brand name Actos as well as in generic forms, is used alone or in combination with other diabetes drugs to control blood sugar levels when diet and exercise have failed.

Nothing says summer like ice cream and these walnut ice-cream bonbons are a perfect treat that is sure to make kids and adults alike smile.

Lollipop sticks can be purchased at bulk stores.

Next time you arrive home from work feeling famished, this Thai tuna and quinoa dish can be ready in a snap.

Quinoa Thai Tuna

Devilled eggs are a classic accompaniment to summer picnics and barbecue. But they generally are loaded with fat and calories from the egg yolks and mayonnaise.

We set out to remake the filling to be flavourful, yet pack significantly less guilt. Egg yolks do have great nutritional value; the majority of an egg’s vitamins and minerals are actually found in the yolk. But along with those nutrients are plenty of fat and cholesterol.

ATLANTA – The gap in cancer death rates between college graduates and those who only went to high school is widening, the American Cancer Society reported Friday.

Among men, the least educated died of cancer at rates more than 2 1/2 times that of men with college degrees, the latest data show. In the early 1990s, they died at two times the rate of most-educated men.

ATLANTA – A new study shows one in four high school studentsdrink soda every day -a sign fewer teens are downing the sugary drinks.

The study also found teens drink water, milk and fruit juices most often – a pleasant surprise, because researchers weren’t certain that was the case.

OTTAWA – The federal government is poised to tighten the rules on medical marijuana so that only licensed private operators are allowed to grow it, The Canadian Press has learned.

Sources say Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq wants to take individuals and Health Canada out of the business of growing pot.

Yes, indeedy, that guy in the Porsche or other jazzy, high-priced set of wheels is definitely an eye-catcher. But any woman seeking a long-term relationship should let this dude keep on driving, no matter how tempting his ride makes him seem.

That’s because such flamboyant spending seems to be driven by the desire to have no-strings-attached romantic flings – not marriage or other committed partnerships, a series of four studies by U.S. researchers has concluded.

WACCABUC, N.Y. – “Try it. Go ahead, stick your finger in!”

The dollop of spicy hot-pepper paste is hard to turn down, coming as it does from the blender of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of the best-known chefs in the world, not to mention the owner of 31 restaurants and the man known for basically revolutionizing fine dining in New York.

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The resort season is not a time for fashion to take a vacation. Resort collections, which hit stores during the all-important Christmas holiday shopping season, are a growing part of designer businesses as consumers move toward styles they can wear year-round.

The idea that people fully switch their closets between seasons is outdated, agrees Ken Downing, senior vice-president and fashion director for retailer Neiman Marcus. Shoppers want clothes they can wear the day they buy them, he says, and resort wear typically meets that demand.

OTTAWA – Stroke victims in Canada don’t get to hospitals quickly enough – and even when they do they can still wait hours for treatment, says a major study released Thursday.

The report by the Canadian Stroke Network suggests neither victims nor hospital staffs treat strokes as serious medical emergencies.

TORONTO – Almost 40 per cent of teens who answered a questionnaire about their sexual knowledge said the Internet is more useful than parents in providing this kind of information.

And almost one-quarter of respondents rated the Internet higher than their high school sexual education classes.

The goal was a simple chicken casserole that had the rich, satisfying flavour of a lasagna.

Actually, that’s a lie. The goal was a chicken roulade – a dish in which chicken breasts are pounded flat, then slathered or layered with some sort of filling, then rolled into a log and roasted or braised.

Couples hold ‘Kiss and Tell’ event in support of gay rights in U.S.

TORONTO – Canadians took part in a smooch-in Saturday in support of gay marriage rights in the United States.

More than 1,100 people across North America – dozens of them Canadians – kissed outside Lush Cosmetic stores, the company said.

The “Kiss and Tell” event was part of the company’s two-week campaign to convince the U.S. government to change the marriage law.

Gay, straight, bisexual and transgendered people in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and Calgary kissed for the cause but turnout was small in Canadian cities.

Jesse Showers, 21, and Sean Rockwood, 24, were among 10 couples who locked lips outside the Lush Cosmetics store on Toronto’s Queen Street West after a dish of breath mints was passed around.

“It’s about time to kind of start sending a message to the U.S. government to really start doing marriage equality as a priority,” said Rockwood, a store employee.

“Being gay, marriage equality is obviously a big concern for me and if I do get married some day, I want it to be recognized wherever I go,” said Showers.

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Couples kissed at 11:38 a.m. local time – chosen because 1,138 is the number of federal benefits and responsibilities afforded married Americans but denied to gay and lesbian couples living in the U.S., said store spokeswoman Maram Aoudi.

Those include spousal hospital visitation privileges, family health-care coverage, the ability to file joint tax returns and the right to sponsor partners in immigration, said the company’s U.S. spokeswoman Brandi Halls.

Participants signed postcards that will be delivered to the U.S. Congress, urging it to overturn the 1996 Defence of Marriage Act. The law states a marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Daphne McElroy, 18, kissed Sara Elizabeth Armstrong, 19. McElroy, who said she’s bisexual, said she went to the event to support gay rights. “I don’t think it’s fair that people are treated differently because of their sexual orientation,” she said.

At the Robson Street store in Vancouver, 23 couples kissed while eight couples puckered up in Victoria. There were smaller numbers in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton, store officials said.

Ten couples kissed in Ottawa’s Byward market, far fewer than the 40 who had RSVP’d on Facebook, said assistant manager Laura Johnston. But about 50 people who walked by the store stopped and signed the postcards, she said.

“But a surprising number ignored us and didn’t take the time to sign them,” said Johnston.