News Corp. considers splitting into 2 companies; stock jumps to 4-year high

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is preparing to spin off its newspaper business into a separate company, an acknowledgement that the printed page that gave rise to a media empire will never again be central to its future.

Murdoch’s plan to split his company represents a break from the past. The 81-year-old billionaire built the company from a single Australian newspaper he inherited from his father. And through the years, he maintained a fondness for newspapers even as he purchased entertainment companies and assembled a global conglomerate with a market value of $52 billion.

The Wall Street Journal, News Corp.’s flagship newspaper, reported late Tuesday that News Corp.’s board of directors will consider the plan Wednesday and possibly announce its approval Thursday morning.

Under the proposal, newspapers will be shunted off into a separate publicly traded entity, which Murdoch will control along with a second company that comprises News Corp.’s entertainment business. That portion of the company includes Fox News Channel, its broadcast TV network and the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

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Investors hailed Tuesday’s announcement that News Corp. is considering a split, sending the stock up $1.68, or 8.3 per cent, to close at $21.76 Tuesday. During the day, the stock was as high as $21.89, its highest level since hitting $21.90 on Oct. 25, 2007.

Analysts said the newspaper and book publishing division could be worth about $5 billion – what Murdoch paid the Bancroft family for Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, in 2007.

News Corp. investors have never liked that acquisition and over the last five years the stock price has stagnated, hurt by fears Murdoch would overpay for other newspaper assets.

By contrast, investors adore Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, who along with Murdoch’s son James, the deputy COO, have been steering the company toward a future based on expanding profitable pay TV operations around the globe.

The split could be beneficial for both companies. Part of News Corp.’s problem in recent years is that it has been trying to please two kinds of investors with different, and somewhat conflicting, demands: Those looking to make a killing on a rising stock price and more conservative ones who like less risky, more predictable companies that pay generous dividends.

News Corp. has failed to please either. Its stock is no higher than it was five years ago, and it pays a dividend of just 17 cents a year, or 0.8 per cent of what it costs to buy a share. The average company in the S&P 500 stock index pays its owners cash each year equivalent to 2 per cent of its stock price.

A spin off might change this. It would free the TV and film business from the drag of the slower growing publishing business. And it would allow the publishing business the freedom to hike its cash payout.

“News Corp. has one of the best TV businesses, but some people like musty, dusty publishing companies that pay great dividends,” said Barton Crockett, an analyst at Lazard Capital. “It’s a good thing for shareholders.”

Crockett said newspapers have been raising dividends lately, and he thinks a separate News Corp. publishing business could do the same, possibly to 6 per cent, which is what rival Gannett Co. pays.

News Corp.’s move comes as Britain’s communications regulator, Ofcom, enters the final stages of its review of whether satellite TV firm British Sky Broadcasting is “fit and proper” to hold a broadcast license. News Corp. holds a 39 per cent stake in BSkyB, but its ownership is in jeopardy because of the hacking probe.

Analysts said the separation of assets might appease regulators and help the company avoid being forced to sell its remaining stake, worth some $6.9 billion.

“I’m not saying it completely ameliorates Ofcom’s concerns. But I think it helps,” said Canaccord Genuity analyst Tom Eagan.

British investigators have been probing allegations that News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper journalists hacked into phones and bribed public officials in the hunt for scoops. The probe caused the company to abandon its bid for full control of BSkyB last year.

The media conglomerate did not specify Tuesday which businesses each company would contain, although The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the company is considering separating the newspaper and book publishing businesses from the entertainment arm.

News Corp.’s entertainment business is far more profitable. It accounted for about 75 per cent of the company’s revenue and nearly all of the operating profit in the first nine months of the fiscal year, which ends this coming Saturday.

Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger said in a research note that the split would allow the company to invest more in the growing entertainment field “without the baggage of publishing.”

A former News Corp. executive familiar with internal company deliberations says such a split has been talked about for years, although discussions gained new momentum in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, which erupted last July.

The former executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about internal company deliberations, said no final decision has been made.

Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould said that without the publishing assets, revenue growth at the bigger TV and movie entity would nearly double to about 7 per cent a year.

It is unclear if the spun-off publishing unit would also bear the legal costs of the U.K. probe. In the first nine months of the fiscal year, probe costs have totalled $167 million.

The point of a split is not to create a smaller company “that would just wither and die,” said Tom Eagan, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. It would have to contain enough profitable businesses to attract investors.

Eagan pointed to the successful spin-off of cable TV giant Time Warner Cable Inc. from the entertainment company Time Warner Inc. in March 2009. Because the cable division was more willing to pay out dividends and buy back shares, its stock price has more than tripled since then. Meanwhile, Time Warner Inc.’s stock price has doubled.

Time Warner shareholders were granted stakes in both separated companies and likely fared better than if the company hadn’t split, Eagan said.

So-called conglomerates that combine disparate businesses in one company were once popular. But the fashion for many years has been to slim down and simplify.

Motorola recently spun off its cellphone unit. Sara Lee Corp. is creating a new public company from its European coffee and tea business. Kraft Foods Inc. is also splitting in two – one for North American brands like Velveeta and one for Cadbury chocolates and other global snacks.

The problem for News Corp. isn’t just that newspapers and books make less money than television and film. It’s also that investors value the earnings from each differently. They are willing to pay less for a single dollar of earnings from the former than they are for a single dollar of earnings from the latter.

On Monday, investors buying News Corp. stock were paying the equivalent of $5.80 for every $1 of operating earnings that the combined company is expected to generate this year, according to Gould. That’s 20 per cent lower, or $1.50 less, than investors are paying for more pure play TV and film companies like CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.

Do the math on News Corp.’s expected $6 billion in operating earnings this year, and that means the company is being valued $9 billion less than its TV and film rivals. Gould says the idea behind the split is to capture some of that $9 billion. He believes the company could do it and is recommending that his investing clients buy the stock.

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Business Writer Bernard Condon in New York and Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.

Katy Perry shows her side of breakup from Russell Brand on-screen in concert film

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Things aren’t all dreamy in Katy Perry’s new 3D concert film.

The pop star’s energetic Day-Glo performances and chart success – tying Michael Jackson’s “Bad” with five No. 1 singles from her album “Teenage Dream” – are undercut by heartbreak. She sobs uncontrollably backstage as her marriage to Russell Brand falls apart during her world tour, and talks about her dashed desire for “fairy tale” romance.

Perry co-produced “Katy Perry: Part of Me” and is now promoting it with the same energy she gave to the year-long “California Dreams” tour it documents. Like Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never,” the movie cross-cuts between concert footage and biography. It includes interviews with Perry’s friends, assistant, manager, makeup artist, Christian evangelical parents, and plenty of fans. Brand is on screen in several scenes but his presence is reduced by the end mostly to phone and text messages.

In an interview, Perry spoke about sharing her side of the breakup on-screen, leaning on her fans as “a support system,” and plans for her next album.

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The Associated Press: Your relationship with Russell Brand supplies the narrative arc of the film. It’s very personal. You’re crying on screen. Is it the same to you as doing a break-up song like “Wide Awake”?

Perry: Oh my God, I have tear ducts! Crazy! I am human! I think it was important for me to leave some of the more difficult things in the film so that it wasn’t just a narcissistic fanfare film about how great I am. Because I’m not all great. There might be moments of greatness but they are very hard-worked (sic). I think it was important to show that there are obstacles and problems in people’s lives and it’s OK if you have them. You just have to overcome them. … Sometimes if you want to achieve something great, there will be curveballs. You just have to dodge them every once in a while.

AP: There’s a clip in the movie where you tell Ellen DeGeneres you’re going to take a long nap when the tour is over. It seems like you never did. You never took a break.

Perry: I’m still having fun. When I thought of documenting this whole process of last year, I didn’t know it was going to be a huge movie with billboards and Hollywood and stuff. But I just knew that there was a huge wave coming and I wanted to be able to forever keep the memory of that wave. So I caught everything. I threw the net out very wide. And at the end of it it was over 300-plus hours of film. And it turned into this movie. And I’m glad. Because it sends a great message, it’s very inspiring and it’s another kind of layer of me that I’ve revealed in time.

AP: At one point in the film, you’re heartbroken and sobbing before going onstage in Brazil, where fans chant “We love you Katy” in Portuguese. The movie makes it feel like fan love replaces Russell Brand’s love – or at least helps you through the breakup.

Perry: Nothing was replaced. It was always there. … Yeah, of course, it’s a support system. It’s exactly like when I was signed to major labels and dropped. And the guys that really didn’t understand my artistic vision were like, “No, we’re not going to put her record out.” I packed up my things and went to Hotel Cafe, here in Los Angeles, which is a tiny venue. And I played my songs. … And people were supporting these songs. And they were telling me that this was the right thing to do. So there is no void filled. It’s just that it’s always been there.

AP: You wonder in the film about whether you can have a relationship and a career. Do you feel like there is an answer to that?

Perry: The answer is always changing for me, you know, because every day is kind of a bit of a surprise. Sometimes it’s a great opportunity, sometimes it’s a situation I have to deal with. So I don’t know. I still believe in love, most definitely. I’m just going to let that take the lead.

AP: Where are you at on the next album? Will there be a shift in your sound?

Perry: I don’t want to completely self-sabotage everything that I’ve got and alienate everyone. But I definitely want to take some chances as I always have. And after the movie comes out, I think it’ll be appropriate for me to go away for a while.

AP: Do you worry about getting overexposed?

Perry: I worry if it’s not real. I’m OK if everything is honest and truthful and relatable. If it’s fabricated and ill-motived, it’s not good. But I don’t try and involve myself in that type of stuff.

AP: What will change in your next phase in terms of balancing your public and private life?

Perry: I’ll continue to try and balance like a circus act. And I will just fight to always tell the truth. Even if it’s difficult.

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Online:

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson on Twitter at 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活twitter杭州龙凤/ryanwrd

Spanish government debt auction sees rates double or triple as investor concerns mount

MADRID – Spain’s borrowing costs soared in a pair of short-term auctions Tuesday as investors worried that the country would not be able to manage an expensive rescue of its ailing banking sector.

The Treasury auctioned €3.1 billion ($3.9 billion) in the two maturities, just above its target range, and demand was strong.

But the cost was very high – an indication that investors are concerned that the Spanish government will be stuck with huge expenses after a European bailout of its fragile banking system.

The interest rate on 3-month bills was 2.36 per cent, nearly triple the 0.85 per cent paid in the last such auction on May 22. The rate on the 6-month bills was 3.24 per cent, nearly twice as much as the 1.7 per cent paid in May.

The auction came a day after Spain formally requested financial aid for its banks from its partners in the eurozone. The move was a formality – it had expressed its intent a week early.

Once again, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos did not say how much of the €100 billion ($125 billion) lifeline on offer the country planned to use.

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While the bailout will help the banks, the government is ultimately responsible for repaying the money. That has raised fears that it will be stuck with huge liabilities and that’s evident in the country’s borrowing costs.

Addressing a parliamentary commission Tuesday, de Guindos also said no new austerity measures have been set by Brussels as conditions for the loan.

That could irk other bailed-out countries that did have string attached to their rescues. However, on Monday Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy did say Monday that new “economic measures” were in the works even though the Spanish economy is back in recession. These are widely understood to include an increase in the sales tax, a tax on goods and services.

The new conservative Spanish government has already enacted a wave of spending cuts, raised income and property taxes and frozen civil servant wages.

De Guindos reiterated that Spain’s three biggest banks — Santander, BBVA and CaixaBank — will not need aid to meet new capitalization requirements. He said the aid requested will not surpass the €100 billion the government has available, and that terms of the loan are being negotiated. These terms are expected to be announced by July 9.

The minister said that banks which do accept loan money might have to separate toxic assets from clean ones, although he did not go so far as to say Spain will create a bad bank. So far the government has resisted such a step, which de Guindos said the EU wants.

He said this asset separation would be an additional step for individual banks that need it, aside from measures applying to the whole banking sector in Spain. He did not elaborate.

A key problem for Spain is that its banks hold massive amounts of its government bonds. So as those bonds lose value, the banks take losses, fueling a vicious cycle of uncertainty over the banks’ and the government’s finances.

Those concerns were evident in Moody’s decision Monday to downgrade 28 Spanish banks, including international heavyweights Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA. The agency cited the banks’ exposure to the government’s bonds and said they are vulnerable to further losses from Spain’s real-estate bust.

“The problem facing Spanish banks, which is again being reflected in rising Spanish bond yields, is that no-one is clear on how much bailout money Spanish banks will end up needing,” said Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.

Hewson noted that it also remains unclear what conditions will come attached to the aid for Spain’s banks. If, in the event one of the rescued banks fails, the eurozone bailout fund gets the right to be repaid before other creditors.

The Moody’s downgrade had been widely expected and stock markets were mostly steady on Tuesday.

But tensions remained high in bond markets. In the secondary bond market, where auctioned debt is traded freely, the yield on Spanish 10-year bonds edged up 0.23 percentage points to close at 6.81 per cent, a painfully expensive rate. The yield last week punched through the 7 per cent level, a level seen as unsustainable over the long term.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry reported that the central government budget deficit had soared to 3.41 per cent of GDP in the first five months of 2012, just 0.09 percentage points below the targeted figure agreed with the European Union for the entire year.

Spain has agreed to aim for an overall deficit of 5.3 per cent of GDP for 2012 based on a projected 3.5 per cent figure for the central government, 1.5 per cent for regional governments and 0.3 per cent for town halls.

Tuesday’s figure, up 30 per cent on the same period last year, was due to advance payments to regional governments, increased Social Welfare costs and reduced income, the ministry said.

Spain is battling to slash its deficit, which was 8.5 per cent last year, to the EU limit of 3 per cent of GDP by 2013.

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Ciaran Giles contributed to this report.

Recreational property prices down in Sylvan Lake

Anyone looking for real estate in Alberta knows prices have gone up, but in one segment of the province’s recreational property market, the prices haven’t rebounded.

According to a recent Remax report, recreational property prices are down in Sylvan Lake.

Two years ago, prime waterfront homes were selling on average for over a million dollars in the community, now the average is about 750 thousand, says the report.

When Stepp wrote the analysis, he noted there were only three waterfront properties for sale in 2012. He says the market will rise when the oil industry does.

“Price of oil is maybe down a little bit right now. Share prices are down in a lot of oil companies. As that strengthens, you’re going to see people getting their money back into recreational property.”

He says that since the prices are down it’s an excellent time to be buying lakefront property.

“We have a good selection of lakefront properties right now. I would say they are actually on sale.”

Mayor of Sylvan Lake, Susan Samson says this is a unique case, caused by the economic downturn.

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“Traditionally lake front properties have held their own value and consistently have gone up, but since the downturn in the economy in 2008, we’ve seen less of a demand for those lake front properties.”

She says the demand is low and it will take time to see prices match those of pre-2008.
“I think the prices will take longer to creep up, but it’s a limited commodity and when it’s sold, it’s gone.”

However, there is another factor; those with means are being lured south to inexpensive places in the United States says Carmen Brodeur, a former Edmontonian now working as a realtor in Phoenix.

“You can get a very nice vacation home in Phoenix and Scottsdale for 200 to 300 thousand dollars; you don’t get much for that price point in Alberta at all.”

She says Phoenix has always been very popular for Albertans because there are a lot of direct flights from Edmonton and Calgary.

However, Sylvan Lake realtor Kevin Lapp says Sylvan is a great location for people living in the two major cities in Alberta because it’s so central and so close.

“The opportunity to move onto the water and be close to home and have your family here really drives the Sylvan Lake market.”

With files from Vinesh Pratap
 

Ad showing pot-banging PQ Leader Marois prompts legal threat

MONTREAL – A less-than-flattering ad of Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, with a possible election approaching, has prompted a threatening legal letter.

The ad contains images of the opposition leader during a recent protest banging on pots, and casting a quizzical gaze at them.

The man who originally shot the video, and posted it on Facebook, is upset it’s now being used by the governing Liberals in a political ad and has sent a letter demanding it be taken down.

In their response Tuesday, the Liberals emphatically refused to withdraw the ad.

Premier Jean Charest defended the 15-second spot, which doesn’t contain a single word. All it does is show the PQ leader marching, banging pot covers together, and staring at those makeshift cymbals. The images are shown in black and white and slowed down for dramatic effect.

“This illustrates an episode in the political life of Pauline Marois that Quebecers have an interest in knowing,” Charest told reporters Tuesday.

“The image speaks for itself. We did not suggest a conclusion Quebecers should reach – given how obvious that conclusion is.”

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Marois spent the spring encouraging student protesters, even wearing their iconic red square on her lapel. Now, with an election approaching and polls suggesting the protests might have limited support, Marois has stopped wearing that red square.

A provincial election could be held as early as September, with a campaign beginning in August. Charest, however, has more than a year before he needs to call a vote.

A McGill University expert on intellectual property and Internet suggested the Liberals might be forced to stop running the ad because it goes against the creator’s moral rights under the Copyright Act.

Richard Gold said that Facebook is normally a grey area because certain uses are permitted when it comes to images, such as sharing a video with friends or commenting on it.

“But this is quite different,” he said. “This is taking it off Facebook and associating it with a cause.”

Gold said he doesn’t believe the Liberals have the right to use the video for their own purposes without permission, nor do they have the right to manipulate the footage.

He said this ad is different from a famous one made by the federal Conservatives. The notorious Stephane Dion, “not-a-leader,” ad used media footage from a 2006 leadership debate in which Dion responded to criticism from then-opponent Michael Ignatieff by saying, “Do you think it’s easy to make priorities?” The spot painted Dion as weak and indecisive.

Comparing this Marois ad to that one, Gold said regulated broadcasters generally make their footage available, while Seguin as a private citizen has no obligation to do so.

He said, however, that if the PQ had obtained rights to the video or if it was shot at their behest, then the Liberals might have an opening to argue that it’s fair game.

That’s exactly what the Liberals argued Tuesday in a note to the video poster, Guy Seguin. The reply was somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

“You will understand our surprise at your claim today that you do not consent to having these images reproduced or used for political purposes,” said the letter from Karl Blackburn, the Quebec Liberals’ director general.

“The images in question were obtained on the Facebook page of the Parti Quebecois candidate in the Argenteuil riding, Roland Richer,” he said, referring to the PQ candidate who recently won a byelection.

“This candidate spread them for political and partisan purposes, without any reservations and with the explicit or implicit consent of the person who filmed them…

“Furthermore, in consulting your Facebook page, ‘Let’s dump the Liberals,’ which uses our own logo, I noticed that you also used a parody of an ad we paid for and authorized. So it seems evident to us that you understand very well the political context.”

-With files by Alexandre Robillard and Andy Blatchford

Bank study warns global potash supply capacity could outstrip demand by 2020

CALGARY – Global supplies of potash could outstrip demand by between 59 and 100 per cent by the end of the decade, a research report from Rabobank warns.

The European bank said Tuesday the North American potash consortium Canpotex and its European counterpart BPC won’t sit idly by while rivals bring on additional supplies.

But Rabobank said one of the key variables will be the degree to which Brazil, India and China are prepared to endure uneconomic projects – either in their own countries or through investments abroad – in order to meet their own needs.

Collectively, the three countries accounted for about 40 per cent of the world’s potash imports.

“In the end, it is mainly geopolitical and long-term strategic security parameters that justify such investments,” Rabobank analyst Dirk Jan Kennes said in a release.

“From a pure economics angle, many of these investments might render losses if prices come under pressure due to oversupply.”

Another factor is the ability of producers to secure financing for their mines, which is more of a problem for small players than for major ones, Rabobank said.

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Canada has one of the world’s largest supplies of potash. Exports of the key crop nutrient have been a major source of trade as well as tax revenue for the province of Saskatchewan.

Canpotex markets the fertilizer abroad on behalf of the three biggest Saskatchewan producers: Potash Corp. (TSX:POT), Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) and the American potash producer Mosaic Co. (NYSE:MOS).

Agrium spokesman Richard Downey said the cost of building a new mine from scratch is too high to make economic sense for most fertilizer firms these days.

“The challenge is everybody says they’re going to build one, but until you’ve actually committed the billions of dollars it takes to build a new mine, there’s actually very little that has actually been announced that has started construction,” he said.

German company K+S Group broke ground on its $3.25-billion Legacy mine last week in what will be the first new potash mine in Saskatchewan in nearly 40 years.

Ango-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton is undertaking a feasibility study for its multibillion-dollar Jansen mine in Saskatchewan, with an eye to beginning production in 2015. There has been some speculation that project may be delayed due to market conditions, but the company has said it remains on track.

Aside from those, most companies are pursuing so-called brownfield projects – expansions to existing facilities that are much quicker and cheaper to bring on.

Calgary-based Agrium, for instance, announced late last year it would spend $1.5 billion to expand production from its Vanscoy facility in Saskatchewan from two million to three million tonnes annually.

Canadian diver Despatie pleased with progress since resuming physical activity

MONTREAL – Canadian diver Alexandre Despatie said he’s pleased with his progress since resuming physical activity last week.

Despatie suffered a concussion two weeks ago after hitting his head on the board in Madrid while training for a Grand Prix event.

He was hospitalized and required surgery to close a 10-centimetre wound near his hairline.

On Tuesday, the two-time Olympic silver medallist provided an update on his recovery.

“Things are going great,” Despatie said in an audio recording released by Diving Canada. “Obviously it’s a process, there are steps to follow which I’m doing.

“But I haven’t had a headache in five days even though we’re increasing the training, which is a really good sign.”

Despatie, from Laval, Que., said the stitches were scheduled to be removed later Tuesday.

He plans to resume regular training soon and is hopeful that he’ll be ready in time to compete at the London Olympics next month.

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“The biggest test in my rehab I think – mentally and physically – is yet to come and it’ll be going back in the pool, starting diving again,” he said. “Obviously it’s the same idea to go one step at a time and make sure that everything goes the way it should be.

“But in general we’re really progressing forward, which is the most important thing.”

Despatie, 27, was injured while practising an inward three-and-a-half, during which his head spins back towards the board during rotation.

He won silver in springboard at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens to become the first Canadian male to earn an Olympic medal in diving.

After breaking his foot a few weeks prior to the 2008 Games in Beijing, Despatie won silver again.

Montreal Impact ready to unveil former Italian international Marco Di Vaio

Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner calls him a “difference-maker.” Montreal coach Jesse Marsch marvels at his attacking skills.

The fans will get to see former Italian international Marco Di Vaio for themselves Wednesday night as the Impact (5-8-3) host Toronto (1-10-2).

The 35-year-old designated player is finally eligible to play in MLS and is expected to see action at Saputo Stadium.

That’s bad news for Toronto, whose backline has already conceded a league-worst 28 goals this season.

“He’s a guy that really good at stretching defences, because the runs that he makes along the line are very intelligent and he times his runs really well,” said Marsch.

Di Vaio, who will wear No. 9, also knows what to do around the net. He scored 142 goals in 342 Serie A games in Italy with Lazio, Bari, Salernitana, Parma, Juventus, Genoa and most recently Bologna.

“He’s very gifted in terms of different ways to finish plays, of setting up plays. His eye for scoring goals and setting up attacking plays makes him unique and different,” added Marsch.

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Di Vaio’s arrival is timely for the Impact, who have lost fellow Italian striker Bernardo Corradi to a knee injury sustained in training. Montreal is also without influential Italian defender Matteo Ferrari and there are injury question marks around forward Andrew Wenger (hamstring) and defender Nelson Rivas (abdominal strain).

Marsch can count on the offensive skills of Brazilian playmaker Felipe and American defensive midfielder Collen Warner.

For Mariner, the derby match in Montreal is another challenging away match.

Since taking over for the departed Aron Winter, the former English international is 0-1-2 and has seen his team settle for 3-3 and 2-2 ties after throwing away leads in Houston and against New England. He opened his tenure with a 2-0 loss in Kansas City.

Wednesday marks the fourth meeting between Montreal and Toronto this season in what has quickly become a fierce rivalry.

The Impact won the previous league encounter 2-1 at home in April but the next month saw Toronto knock Montreal out of the Amway Canadian Championship 2-0 on aggregate.

In the second leg of that cup encounter, a 2-0 win in Toronto. Marsch had to be separated from then Toronto assistant Bob De Klerk at the final whistle.

The Montreal coach declined to discuss the incident after that game and was gracious towards his opposition prior to this week’s encounter.

“I think they’re much better than their record and I think they’ve played quite well lately,” he said.

Mariner sees positives for his team but says they have to put 90 minutes-plus together in a game.

“Seventy-five, even 93 and 30 seconds isn’t good enough in this league,” he said, mindful of the second-half stoppage goal conceded against New England.

The Toronto coach acknowledged Tuesday he is looking for help in defence.

“It’s pretty obvious that we need a boss back there. We need somebody that can control that backline.”

Canadian international Adrian Cann is currently rehabbing a minor knee injury while Jamaican international Dicoy Williams is coming back from major knee surgery. Canadian teenager Doneil Henry has been thrust into the starting lineup at 19 while English fullback Richard Eckersley is currently playing out of position at centre back.

“We have a problem at the centre of the defence,” said Mariner. “We’ve got a player in Doneil Henry who looks like he could go all the way. He’s got absolutely everything to be successful but he’s a young player … This is a very, very tough league for a kid to come into and play consistently well. He’s already gone past our expectations for this season.”

Montreal is also looking for the right mix at the back, having conceded 26 goals in 16 games.

“We’re continuing to try to figure out how to limit opportunities. And then when opportunities come, how to try and decrease the amount of goals we give up,” said Marsch. “It’s been an ongoing process. It’s been something we’ve been well aware of. From the beginning, we’ve talked about the fact that expansion teams give up a lot of goals.”

NOTES – Montreal is 2-0-0 at its new home, defeating Houston 4-2 and Seattle 4-1 … Ecuador winger Joao Plata will not travel with Toronto, still feeling the effects of a hamstring tweak … The three TFC players arrested last week in Houston for public intoxication – forwards Nick Soolsma and Luis Silva and defender Miguel Aceval, were slated to be part of the travel party to Montreal … Toronto has Italian left back Alberto Giulliatto, formerly with Treviso, on trial.

Milan menswear designers dispel gloom over euro-land with a bright summer 2013

MILAN – Casual and colorful is the message sent out by designers of menswear for summer 2013.

After four days of preview shows ending Tuesday, it is clear that the Italian designers – and others showing in Milan – want to project good vibes for next summer, despite European economic gloom.

The current round of menswear had a happy feel to it, whether it was offering suits with Bermuda shorts for the office or a fuchsia summer raincoat to outshine even the darkest cloud.

The myriad of big and brightly colored weekend bags, in materials ranging from simple canvas to precious crocodile, and the abundance of loafers, sneakers and running shoes, show that the designers are into the good life.

Shorts-short as well as knee length are the stars of the season, moving between resort and workplace with incredible ease.

The blazer also makes a huge comeback, cut close to the body, colorful and worn with a pair of shorts or a trouser cropped at the ankle. Lightweight coats are another summer favourite.

Although some designers threw in a tie for old times sake, the more popular piece to go under a suit was a white open-collared shirt or a classic polo shirt.

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This round, designers used organza and other see-through materials-usually relegated to womenswear for special transparency on pullovers and patterned jackets.

But no matter what the style, summer 2013 is all about colour, from red to green to yellow to deep blue. Different colours may appear in the same outfit, such as a green lapel on a yellow jacket or blue pockets on a red coat.

Even minimalist designer Jil Sander chose to mark her return to the eponymous label she left eight years ago with a collection dipped in colour. And that should say it all.

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ARMANI

For next summer, Giorgio Armani is back to doing what he does best – tailoring gorgeous jackets.

Indeed, it all started with a jacket for the Milanese designer who turns 79 next month. The first was lining-less, but it wasn’t long before an Armani suit was a wardrobe must and an Armani tuxedo a red carpet favourite.

The Armani show on Tuesday was an ode to the jacket, from soft cardigan cuts to blazers and more structured city jackets, all in super-refined lightweight fabrics.

The overall look was of a well put-together man whose cut of clothes is casual. A cardigan jacket could be worn with a pair of pleated trousers, while a navy suit had Bermuda shorts but also a shirt and tie.

The season’s silhouette is comfy and slightly elongated. The jacket has four or six buttons and the shoulder is unpadded. The pleated trousers are soft around the hips and brush the ankle.

The latest leather jacket – either bomber or blazer – is made of leather worked to look like seersucker, a tribute to Italian craftsmanship.

Armani is not in the habit of following the pack. While most of Milan is screaming colour, Armani quietly stuck to his longtime favourites: sandy beige, pebble grey, coffee brown and ink blue.

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Dsquared2

The Dsquared2 man is a creature of the night.

Even after dark he wears his “easy rider” shades, and his style is strictly black.

The transgressive 2013 summer menswear collection presented Tuesday by the fun-loving Canadian designing twins Dean and Dan Caten came as a surprise after four days of preview showings characterized by a sporty but conservative look.

High-top animal print shoes with black soles and metal tongues as large as shin guards, abundant use of metal chains and tight-fitting leather scuba jackets all contributed to a very dark look. The only bright light in the collection was a series of white embroidered or studded shirts.

Like many designers showing their summer collections during this round of menswear, the Cates paired Bermuda shorts with jackets for a contemporary suit look. But the DSquared version has a panel across the front, making it the only wraparound Bermuda for men seen to date, and not only in Milan.

St. Albert goes green at record speed

St. Albert has exceeded its waste diversion target eight years ahead of schedule.

One year since the introduction of the automated curbside solid waste program, residents in St. Albert are one of the leaders in the country in recycling, composting and sending less garbage to landfills.

“St. Albert is proud of its environmental stewardship, which is reflected in the many parks and trails and the river valley,” says Mayor Nolan Crouse. “Through collaboration between City staff and residents, St. Albert has become a regional and national leader in its commitment to the environment, and we will continue to look at ways of improving this City service as one of the ways of preserving and sustaining our environment.”

St. Albert has several green programs in place, including a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ solid waste system, in which residents pay more when they produce more waste. The city also has curbside recycling, curbside organics recycling through its green cart composting program, as well as recycling and compost depots.

One of the goals of St. Albert’s Environmental Master Plan was to reduce solid waste to 125 kilograms per person per year and the amount of waste sent to landfills by 65 per cent by 2020.

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The City of St. Albert has now met and exceeded this target with its residential waste diversion of 65.9 per cent and waste generated per person per year at 114 kilograms.

“We are very pleased that we were able to meet and exceed our targets and the implementation went well, and overall residents are satisfied with the program. As with any new service we anticipated some challenges and are monitoring the program and concerns residents raise and are working to address them on an ongoing basis,” says Glenn Tompolski, director of public works. “We have made some improvements such as, enhancing services at the recycle depot and better options for fall leaf collection. We will continue to listen to residents and continue to make improvements to the program in the future.”

The City also implemented a number of initiatives and improvements to help reduce waste sent to landfill. Residents can now bring certain household hazardous items such as paint, motor oil, as well as extra garbage and scrap metal to the recycling depot. The first “Large Item Drop-off” event was held in October 2011 and helped nearly 450 people dispose of unwanted big household items. Another event is planned for July 28, 2012. A complete A-Z Waste Wise list of proper options for disposing household items was recently developed and distributed to all households and is also available online.

Click here for a complete copy of the one-year report on the solid waste program.
 

Sources say Germany’s Merkel told lawmakers Europe won’t have full shared debt liability

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday told a caucus meeting that there won’t be a full shared debt liability in Europe “as long as I live,” according to a lawmaker from Merkel’s governing coalition.

Merkel’s comments came as a sharp rebuke of jointly guaranteed debt for the eurozone, so-called eurobonds, which some see as a necessary step in fighting off the 17 nation currency zone’s debt crisis.

Merkel briefed lawmakers from her junior coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, ahead of this week’s EU summit. A participant confirmed Merkel’s remarks to The Associated Press but declined to be named because of the meeting’s confidential nature.

Another official from the Free Democrats’ told the AP that the caucus “reacted with applause to hearing that the chancellor does not want a joint debt liability.”

Previously, Merkel had ruled out eurobonds as a quick fix solution to the debt crisis, but always maintained that they were a long-term policy option as one of the final steps of the bloc’s integration. Saying that it won’t happen in her lifetime, however, appears to imply that Merkel, aged 57, thinks that eurobonds won’t become a reality for decades.

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The lawmaker – whose party has been skeptical on bailing out ailing southern European nations – said Merkel’s comments were greeted by one participant shouting: “We wish you a long life!”

A German duty government spokeswoman declined to comment on Merkel’s reported remarks, noting that she was at the caucus meeting in her capacity as party leader and lawmaker, not as the Chancellor.

Despite her strong words, Merkel has during the course of the European crisis accepted measures she had previously ruled out. She had opposed having a permanent rescue fund for Europe, for example, before then accepting it.

Jochen Blind, a spokesman for Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats, said he could not comment because he was not present during the meeting.

Merkel is set to address Parliament in Berlin Wednesday, a day before the summit of EU leaders in Brussels is set to debate new strategies to tackle the bloc’s debt crisis.

Her comments Tuesday also coincided with the publication of a roadmap for a closer European integration by four of the bloc’s top officials – Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi – who also called for the introduction of eurobonds.

Top 10 gay wedding destinations

TORONTO – The steadily increasing stream of states and countries legalizing gay marriage has dramatically changed the lives of LGBT people and their loved ones in recent years.

In honour of the growing number of places to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nuptials, online travel adviser Cheapflights杭州夜网 has come up with its top 10 list of gay wedding destinations.

Washington, D.C.
Although gay marriage was only first legalized in D.C. on December 18, 2009, the U.S. capital has long possessed a large LGBT population. As such, Washington has no dearth of gay-friendly neighbourhoods and hotels for your wedding festivities. Imagine a rooftop reception with panoramic views of the city – you and your beloved a part of the history of America beginning to make good on its promise of “equality and justice for all.”

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Montreal
Since Paris has yet to legalize gay marriage, Montreal is the next best thing. With beautiful parks, fantastic cuisine, a raucous nightlife and an unrivalled atmosphere of convivialité, Montreal is a perfect place to say, “I do.” In fact, it’s so charming you might even want to stay on for your honeymoon. Plus, the city’s proximity to Mont Tremblant and the Laurentians is an added bonus if you’d like to get away for skiing in the winter or exploring the great outdoors in summer months.

Amsterdam
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage – on April 1, 2001. With a plethora of beautiful churches, five-star hotels, international cuisine and charming streets and canals – to say nothing of the museums, galleries and monuments – your guests will be in the palm of your hands if you invite them to your big day in Amsterdam.

Madrid
Considering the country’s strong ties to the Catholic Church, Spain’s legalization of gay marriage in 2005 surprised many. Nonetheless, the lively whirlwind of Spanish culture, art and architecture sets an inimitable backdrop for the big day. From jaw-dropping cathedrals to top cuisine and drink to the sexy roll of the Spanish “r” in the streets, few other cities light up romance like Madrid.

Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown is the Fire Island of Massachusetts. With quaint bed and breakfasts dotting the coastal town’s narrow lanes, fantastic restaurants and gay nightlife, “P-town” is a must-visit destination year-round. Add gorgeous beaches and a vibe of utter acceptance.

Stockholm
Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of its location at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, Stockholm is renowned for its natural beauty and clean air. Waterways, parks and green spaces make up a large percentage of the city’s space. It is also a highly sophisticated city with many classy restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. Though the winters are cold, the city’s beauty is breathtaking – there’s even an ice hotel if you really want to stay cool on your wedding day.

Buenos Aires
Home of hip Latin beats and merrymaking, it’s is a bustling city that combines a modern skyline with the ornate architecture of the past. With a great deal of flair and style to be found on almost every corner, a culture that imbues even the mundane with great passion, and no shortage of great clubs and restaurants, your guests will not soon forget your “I do” in Buenos Aires.

New York City
“Finally!” many thought when New York State legalized gay marriage in July 2011. What better destination can you imagine for getting married and celebrating afterward? Imagine being high atop the city that never sleeps in any number of marvellous hotels, toasting your husband or wife and family? And when it’s time to boogie down and celebrate, you’ve got the entire Big Apple to roam about in. (And with the New York subway, guests needn’t fret about driving and transportation after a few glasses of bubbly!)

Reykjavik, Iceland
Often referred to as the “nightlife capital of the north,” Reykjavik is like nothing you’ve experienced. The city also has a well-cared-for outdoor environment, with many geothermal-heated outdoor pools, beautiful parks and green spaces. However, if it’s an enchanted wedding you really crave (and as long as you and your guests are clad in parkas), it’s Reykjavik’s Northern Lights that will make your special day truly one of a kind.

Oslo, Norway
As in other Nordic gay wedding destinations, in Oslo you are very close to nature. Hiking, skiing, boating and swimming are all within a stone’s throw of the city. And within the city centre, you have your pick of beautiful, modern hotels, sidewalk cafés and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants. Even here, though, nature is all around with an abundance of trees, parks, fountains and green space.
 

 

Artists collaborate to design welcome arches on Churchill Square

The gates of the Works aren’t graffiti – though they sing with similar rhythm.

Found at the north and south ends of Churchill Square as part of the Works Art and Design Festival, En Masse’s emerging temporary welcome arches are beautifully tattooed by a pair of Montreal artists, Jason Botkin and Fred Caron, and a handful of locals called up from Edmonton’s in- and outsider art scene.

Huge faces, Q-bert pyramids, animals and political commentary flow with the confident gravity of lava into one another, a process of filling up the white vinyl which took about a week as spectators watched and hashtagged #enmasseproject on Instagram.

“Its boundaries are pretty simple,” founder Botkin explains of the ongoing initiatives, which have popped up at music festivals and even inside corporate offices out east. “It’s collaborative drawing of any number of people above two or three, always in black and white. Beyond that there’s no other rules.”

Now Edmonton is part of that giant, expanding canvas – no turning back, Dad.

In the En Masse projects Botkin encourages participating artists to play well with others, drawing just the body of a dinosaur, for example, leaving the head incomplete for someone else to finish up.

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The process is similar to a well-known surrealist art and late-night party practice known as “exquisite corpse,” a form of creative tag where hidden drawings are collectively assembled in progressive stages. With just two people playing, one artist might fill half a page, the next continuing based on just the edges of the first half they’re allowed to see. The finished products are often surprising and hilarious.

While En Masse’s evolving organisms are exposed for the artists to see as they riff off each other, the lack of exquisite corpse surprise creates something more musical, as images harmonize and snap together like perfect jazz. Monday afternoon as a light rain came down, a half dozen artists worked on the side facing city hall, stepping back to see each other’s monochrome styles.

Though Botkin says what he calls local “graff kids” were leery of showing their faces given our political climate regarding street art, stencils were passed along to ensure representation.

Botkin, who went to school at ACAD in Calgary, was never a graffiti artist himself. But given a gallery space to fill up in Montreal as an early project, he solicited street artists to cover its walls.

“It was a giant experiment and it turned out really well,” he explains. “We approached it with some trepidation, not knowing how these big egos might react – the street art community is notoriously politicized and rich with big ego, so we wondered, what happens when there are no more political boundaries?

“But the En Masse process really dissolved that.”

On the lower right of the north skin, the word “confiscated” appears over and over, aimed directly at a city hall with strict policies which in some cases is behind the times, especially when it comes to differentiating between vandalism and the sort of alleyway art studios that brought Basquiat and Banksy into the mainstream. And we still punish business for being tagged.

When police controversially seized DP’s gallery art a few weeks ago from Paint Spot they pried open a conversation other cities – including Montreal known for its spectacular street art – have already been through. Though some of the zero-tolerance status quo in Edmonton might feel violated by even the suggestion of this, unsolicited art of (importantly) a certain caliber is actually protected and recognized by cities like New York and London.

The recent swirl around the Rollie Miles mural – vandalized, then quickly and unofficially replaced with a fantastic new tribute to the legendary Edmonton Eskimo which is now being institutionally recognized – are baby steps along this path.

“It’s really crazy in Edmonton,” Botkin laughs. “I’m really amazed and shocked. It’s quite amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it. Montreal’s pretty liberal. It’s not a battleground.

“Do we have a problem with graffiti? The city certainly does,” the artist notes, “and we try to address that, because it’s everywhere. I’m not a graffiti artist, but there’s the good and the bad with everything. There’s a lot of bad graffs out there and frankly it boils down to vandalism, a lot of the graff artists I know think so, too. But these graff kids are often just lacking public tools.

“You need to give these kids this concept that art is something extremely powerful as a tool for social, political and economic change, but only when you take responsibility for it, and understand the implications of what the practice is, historically referenced, and just expanding oneself.

“You need to feel safe to venture outside of your own territory. I don’t mean to pick on graff kids, you can find it in tattoo, illustration, the fine arts – anywhere across the board you find people with a myopic view.

“One of the things the En Masse project challenges is that narrow vision. What happens when you are forced to work with someone with a very different approach to style, and how do you learn form them, and what do you learn from them?”

Botkin isn’t just talking about art here: “How do you push each others’ boundaries and find a more nuanced perspective on the whole issue of street art versus high art? Or street art versus the public, who see it all as vandalism?

“How do you break that down?”

En Masse’s answer is obvious: let’s work it out together.