Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - 36 - 13 of My Favorite News Stories From 2007

1 - My favorite by far has to be the downfall of Conrad Black. Born to a wealthy Montreal family, he was expelled from private schools for selling exam papers among other things.

He rose through Canadian business to own the lion's share of print media, culminating in Hollinger International. As he bought up and destroyed regional newspapers, he and his crony came up with the brilliant idea of paying themselves through non-competition agreements. Ransacking Hollinger's bank accounts didn't trouble the newly minted Lord Black as long as he could maintain his lavish lifestyle. Yes, Canadian Conrad Black bought an English seat in the House of Lords to match the upturn of his nose. But it didn't save him from being tried in an American court for fraud against the shareholders of Hollinger International.

"His lawyers filed with the judge a 53-page document that revealed him as sincere, humble, gentlemanly and deeply spiritual," writes Harry Bruce for the Dec. 9th Chronicle Herald. Black once quipped "with glee that his firing dozens of reporters and editors was like 'drowning kittens' and 'cutting off gangrenous limbs,' and to describe journalists as 'swarming, grunting masses of jackals.' "

Harry Bruce continues: "After Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary expressed solidarity with strikers at the Calgary Herald, the deeply spiritual Black denounced him as 'a jumped up little twerp of a bishop' and 'a prime candidate for exorcism.'"

"The entire case against Black and four of his former colleagues," writes Richard Siklos, editor at 'Fortune', "was that they abused their positions as senior executives in a publicly traded company (in which they owned a minority of overall shares) to take more than they were entitled to. He was ultimately convicted of stealing $6.1 million from his company and obstructing justice by lugging some boxes out of his Toronto office - in plain view of security cameras - after being warned not to do so. He was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison and a $125,000 fine." (Dec. 11, 2007) - Top photo by Peter J. Thompson

2 - "Ottawa reached a $10-million settlement with Maher Arar over Canada's role in a U.S. decision to deport him to Syria, where he was jailed and tortured. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to make the settlement announcement on Friday afternoon, when he will also issue a formal apology to Arar on behalf of Canadians. The government will also pick up Arar's legal fees." (, Jan. 25, 2007)

"On January 27th, President Bush, in an interview with the Times, assured the world that 'torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.' Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer born in Syria was apprehended by American officials in New York. He was sent back to Syria, enduring months of brutal interrogation, including torture.

"Arar, a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a teen-ager, was arrested on September 26, 2002, at John F. Kennedy Airport. He was changing planes; he had been on vacation with his family in Tunisia, and was returning to Canada. Arar was detained because his name had been placed on the United States Watch List of terrorist suspects. He was held for the next thirteen days, as American officials questioned him about possible links to another suspected terrorist. Arar said that he barely knew the suspect, although he had worked with the man’s brother." (Jane Mayer,, Feb. 14, 2005)

The case of Maher Arar has haunted me since it first appeared in the news four years ago. The idea of it really chills my blood. Every time I saw his face, I saw the torment that will stay with him for the remainder of his days. I honestly thought I would never see him smile.

3 - The Highway of Heroes

"Residents, police officers and firefighters have been gathering to salute and wave flags on Highway 401 overpasses while motorcades carrying the bodies of soldiers killed in Afghanistan make their way to the coroner's office in Toronto. The stretch of Highway 401 running from Trenton, Ont., to Toronto will be officially renamed the Highway of Heroes in remembrance of Canada's fallen soldiers." (, Aug. 24, 2007)

"Members of the Grafton 580 legion, firefighters and other mourners line Highway 401 and it's overpasses to pay respects to the hearses carrying the bodies of Canadian soldiers who fell in Afghanistan." (, Sept. 7, 2007) - photo by Frank Gunn

4 - Nominee for The Globe and Mail's 2007 Nation Builder of the Year award,

Roméo Dallaire saw his Rwandan autobiography brought to the screen for a second time, this year released as a feature film. Already told as a fantastic documentary, which I saw, 'Shake Hands With the Devil' was released in September, 2007. I still haven't seen the feature film, but it's high on my list for next year.

Starring Roy Dupuis, whom I love, IMDB reviewer Craig McPherson says "Dupuis' portrayal of Dallaire is among the most eerily accurate renditions by an actor in quite some time. Not only do the two share a striking resemblance, but Dupuis seems to almost become the General in every aspect of his being. As a Canadian familiar with the sight of Dallaire in news reports and interviews, Dupuis' performance is nothing short of impressive."

5 - "For the first time since record keeping began in 1960, the number of deaths of young children around the world has fallen below 10 million a year, according to figures from the United Nations Children’s Fund being released today.

"This public health triumph has arisen, Unicef officials said, partly from campaigns against measles, malaria and bottle-feeding, and partly from improvements in the economies of most of the world outside Africa.

" 'The next five-year survey should show even greater improvement', Unicef officials said. 'We feel we’re at a tipping point now,' said Dr. Peter Salama, Unicef’s chief medical officer. 'In a few years’ time, it will all translate into a very exciting drop.' " (Donald G. McNeil Jr.,, Sept. 13, 2007)

6 - What could be better than winning a democratically elected US presidency?

Oh, I don't know. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, perhaps.

"For their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change," Al Gore shared the award with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Winning the Oscar for 'An Inconvenient Truth' - also cool.

7 - I'm a dual citizen of Canada and the US, thus I recognize two heads of state.

I'm constantly reassured by George W. Bush's governing style, especially when he says things like:

"I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas." --George W. Bush, on former South African president Nelsen Mandela, (still with us) Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2007

8 - Next up: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez gets the slap-down from Spain's King Juan Carlos.

At the Ibero-American summit in November, "Mr Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, despite his microphone being turned off. The king leaned forward and said: 'Why don't you shut up?'

"The king addressed Mr Chavez as 'tu', the familiar version in Spanish of 'you' which is normally used only for close acquaintances, family, or children, and can be regarded as insulting when used in other circumstances." (BBC News online, Nov. 10, 2007)

9 - "Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservative Party trails in some opinion polls ahead of a possible election, is seeking to regain support by overhauling his unpopular environmental plan," writes Theophilos Argitis and Greg Quinn of Canada.

" 'There is this realization they have to start saying the right things about the environment,' said Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada in Montreal. The new proposals may make it more costly for companies such as Suncor Energy Inc. and Shell Canada Ltd. to do business in the western province of Alberta, (Harper's home province) and home to the largest pool of oil reserves outside the Middle East.

New Democratic Leader Jack Layton, who holds the balance of power in the House of Commons, said in a Jan. 17 telephone interview that he won't support the government unless it imposes pollution caps on oil and gas firms and ends their tax breaks. Harper leads a minority government, and needs opposition support to pass legislation." (Jan. 29, 2007)

The idea that Harper is forced to take real action on the environment - something he would never do if he held a majority, which the Canadian public has refused to grant him - gives me faith in the true power of democracy.

10 - The Robert Bateman exhibit at the The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, north of Toronto, Ontario - September 1 to November 4, 2007.

Robert Bateman is one of my favorite Canadian artists, a favorite with many Canadians. Yet he's been shut out of "showings in most of the major art galleries of the country.

"Bateman's 1977 decision to enter the reproduction market became a huge controversy that has coloured his reputation as an artist. He wanted to make his work accessible to more people, so he personally signs from 950 - 12,000 copies of each of his paintings. Today, Bateman prints are sold all over the world - in 500 shops in Canada alone. Critics say these prints are just overpriced posters that cheapen the legitimate art market." ( - Life and Times, October 19, 1997)

I am the proud owner of one of these signed prints, 'Barn Swallows in August' which hangs in my living room. It was a gift from my parents-in-law five years ago. I'm very proud also of the McMichael gallery for having the courage to exhibit a popular commercial artist in the face of previous snubs from other fine art galleries. - photo by Birgit Freybe Bateman

11 - "Guillaume Côté, principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada, won a Gemini for Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program or Series for his role in 'Moving To His Music: The Two Muses of Guillaume Côté'.

"The announcement was made at the Drama Variety and Comedy Gala in Regina on October 18th. The documentary, produced by Artec Media II Inc. and directed by Yosif Feyginberg, looks at Côté’s creative partnership as dancer and composer with choreographer Roberto Campanella." (Sarah Lochhead,, Dec. 22, 2007)

Not only is he my current dancer crush, but his high profile makes me extremely happy about the state of Canadian ballet. And not only does his win put him front and center, but it puts dance film front and center, too!

12 - "In 2006-07, Sidney Crosby finished his second NHL campaign with 120 points to become the youngest scoring champion in NHL history (19 years, 244 days).

He also became the youngest player in NHL history with two 100-point seasons, and the youngest Hart winner since Wayne Gretzky in 1980. The native of Cole Harbour, N.S. also became the youngest team captain at age 19." (

Being a resident of Cole Harbour, I'm rather proud of Sidney Crosby's stellar accomplishments, including his latest one from two weeks ago.

"20-year-old Pittsburgh Penguin star Sidney Crosby is the 2007 winner of the Lou Marsh award for best male Canadian athlete. The award is selected by a panel of sports journalists from the Toronto Star, The Canadian Press, the FAN590/Primetime Sports, The Globe and Mail, CBC, Sportsnet, CTV/TSN, Montreal La Presse and the National Post." (, Dec. 11, 2007)

13 - Hip-Hip-Hooray! Stephen Colbert "was voted AP Celebrity of the Year by newspaper editors and broadcast producers who said Colbert had the biggest impact on pop culture in 2007.

'It is truly an honor to be named the Associated Press' Celebrity of the Year,' Colbert responded. 'Best of all, this makes me the official front-runner for next year's Drug-Fueled Downward Spiral of the year. P.S. Look for my baby bump this spring!' "

" 'He's influenced the way we look at the news and even the way we speak,' says editor Julio Diaz. 'Whenever a major news story breaks, one of my first thoughts is what Colbert's spin on the story will be.'

Me too!

" On his last episode of the year, Colbert said: 'As you know, except for my 13 writers and production crew, I do this show single-handedly four nights a week. I'm also raising a family, promoting a book and, hey, two weeks ago I said, `Let's run for president.' I haven't gotten a wink since I blacked out talking to ('Meet the Press' journalist) Tim Russert.' "

Hope you enjoyed my year in review. What are your favorite news stories of 2007?

Just a note to let you know I'll be away from the blogosphere for awhile. My husband and I have gone to Toronto to ring in the new year with his family. Hope you all have a great time on New Year's Eve! (toot! toot! - flinging streamers)


Sniz said...

These stories took a while to read, but it was so interesting to see them condensed like this. I learned lots of stuff I didn't know before. Good list.

Kailana said...

Lots of good stuff in there! Another one I would add was Pickton getting charged finally for some of the murders he committed. Even if it was second-degree murder! That was a long time coming, so it was great to see happen!

Almost as good as how a woman can kill her own sister and trap innocent girls so that horrible things can happen to them and be set free! After her 'jail' (ha) time, she gets to get married and fade off into the sunset.

I don't know about favourite, but those were two big stories that I still have to run around in my head from time to time...

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Sid the Kid!!! You know, Sid lives and plays here... if you want anything Sid, give a holler. I'd be glad to ship it up your way (most likely without an autograph).

Travel safe for the New Year -- see ya in 2008.

pussreboots said...

Interesting list. Happy TT.

Sandy Carlson said...

Thanks for your thoughts on Al Gore. Perhaps his loss was our gain in Florida so many moons ago. May it all bear fruit soon.

Wonderful post.

Karina said...

Great list Julia! Informative, funny at times(ah, the intellect of W.), and sad as well.


Michelle Johnson said...

What a great look back on the 2007 news spots. You done a nice job with this.

When you return from your trip, I have something for you at "shades of mj" if you would like to take a look. Hope your trip goes well. Have a nice night.

Jill said...

Thank for the news review! I don't watch that much news, so I couldn't tell what is my favorite for this year!!
Hope you are having fun in Toronto!

Samantha Lucas said...

Happy new year! I hope 2008 brings you much happiness and satisfaction, along with love and success. :)

Matsonian said...

My favorite: The King of Spain saying "Por que no te callas?" - fast becoming the most famous slap down in history... ring tones, rap songs, and crazy shirts like those at CafePress and

Anonymous said...

Canada has news? LOL, okay, couldn't help it. :)

Thanks for the effort, these were some very interesting stories. And I agree, Nobel Peace Prize trumps presidency completely!

:) ~X

Akelamalu said...

Interesting stuff. The fall in the number of deaths of children is welcome, but there's still too many :(

Have a great New Years bash, see you when you get back. c

Akelamalu said...

Wishing you A HAPPY NEW YEAR and everything that's good x

Nicholas said...

I believe GWB saying torture is unacceptable about as much as I believe Conrad Black's lawyers saying the Black is a sincere, humble man.

I'm a week late seeing this, but thanks for that fascinating TT.

Camille Alexa said...

That's some powerful stuff, Julia.

Ann said...

Happy New Year! Hope you had a good time on your trip (I was away for a week and a half, went home and had a blast). :)

Isabella Snow said...

Happy New Year! And wow, what a list. I so do not see news like that over here!

Anonymous said...
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Wylie Kinson said...

Great round-up, Julia! That GWB quote had me shaking my head in disgust. Love the Robert Bateman story and yeah for Crosby!!!