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.

Obama learns about messing around with Red Sox nation; Youkilis line becomes campaign fodder

WASHINGTON – Were they booing the president? Or were they “Youuuk-ing” him?

In a sensitive campaign season where every headline matters, it depends on who is doing the construuu-ing.

Let’s start with President Barack Obama, who was working for votes on Monday in Boston, the home territory of Republican rival Mitt Romney.

As he was just getting warmed up in a campaign speech, Obama uncorked something of a wild pitch.

He jokingly thanked the city for trading Kevin Youkilis – a gritty, beloved, core player for the Boston Red Sox for years – to Obama’s hometown Chicago White Sox this week.

The crowd began booing, in a loud but seemingly good-natured, defend-our-team kind of way.

“I’m just saying,” a smiling Obama told the audience at Symphony Hall. “I didn’t think I’d get any boos out of here. I guess I should not have brought up baseball. My mistake.”

When Obama ended the riff by conceding, “You’ve got to know your crowd,” he was rewarded with some laughter.

Someone helped him recover by shouting from the crowd, “We still love you!”

Not so fast, according to Romney’s camp.

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In a daily email blast to reporters on Tuesday, Romney press secretary Andrea Saul led off by accusing Obama of having taunted Red Sox fans. She lumped it in with some of the most gut-wrenching setbacks in Red Sox history.

“Maybe the president should have congratulated the team for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007,” she wrote. “Instead, he chose to mock them for trading away one of its favourite players at a time when the team is struggling.”

(Actually, the team has a winning record and has won seven of its last 10 games.)

Lest a negative story go unchallenged, enter Jay Carney, the White House press secretary and a big Red Sox fan.

Unprompted, Carney told reporters travelling with the president that there had been some “really silly reporting” about the episode.

He commended his boss for refusing to cater to Red Sox Nation and gently chided those who couldn’t tell a diss of the president from the calling of a player’s nickname.

“Anyone who knows Boston, and anyone who was in that room last night knows that the preponderance of people shouting in response to what the president said about Kevin Youkilis were saying ‘Yoooouk’ and not ‘Booo,’ for God’s sake,” Carney said.

As the debate moved to Twitter, the White House was not letting go.

Let’s have some clarity, Carney tweeted: “Some booed. Others, like me, cried ‘Yoooouk!’ in sad memoriam.”

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer couldn’t resist taking a shot at the media about the whole incident.

He said the general reaction from the press was to depict the moment as a gaffe for Obama when in fact, he said, the president stood by his team – the White Sox – and refused to pander to the home crowd.

“True sports fans understand loyalty,” Pfeiffer tweeted.

Oh, and Youkilis?

The new White Sox third baseman told reporters that he and his family got a kick out of Obama’s comments.

“It’s probably a better way to get mentioned by the president than other ways,” he said. “So that’s a good thing.”

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AP sports writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Follow Ben Feller at 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州龙凤/BenFellerDC

Grey Cup anniversary in spotlight as CFL returns to TSN for the 2012 season

Grey Cup, Grey Cup and more Grey Cup.

CTV and TSN will be pulling out all the stops this CFL season to mark the 100th anniversary of Canada’s three-down football championship.

The historic season kicks off Friday with Saskatchewan at Hamilton and Winnipeg at B.C.

TSN will carry all 2012 regular-season games while the French-language service RDS will air all games featuring the Montreal Alouettes, with a few other selected contests airing on RDS2.

Whether it’s the Grey Cup or la Coupe Grey, the anniversary will be front and centre.

“You’ll see a consistent kind of Grey Cup messaging throughout the season,” said Mark Milliere, senior vice-president of production at TSN. “We’ll have the docs coming out in the fall, we’ll have an enormous presence Grey Cup week . . . with all the activities going on in Toronto.”

Last month, the network announced eight hour-long documentaries featuring Grey Cup stories called “Engraved on a Nation: Stories of the Grey Cup, the CFL and Canada.”

“These are probably unlike anything done in sports television in terms of quality and scope,” said Milliere.

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They’ll air on TSN, CTV and RDS as the Nov. 25 game approaches but the exact schedule hasn’t been finalized.

The first Grey Cup was also awarded in Toronto in 1909, when the University of Toronto Varsity Blues defeated the Parkdale Canoe Club at Rosedale Field. This is the 100th anniversary because the cup wasn’t awarded for three years during the First World War.

Also celebrating its 15th anniversary this year is TSN’s “Friday Night Football,” which is getting a new theme song and some new animation this season.

“I’d call it a high-energy, good time, rocking party anthem,” Milliere said of the song written by California musician Doyle Bramhall II, who has toured with Pink Floyd.

The network is also enhancing its halftime studio show and adding a social media segment.

Milliere says it will feature Kate McKenna, the daughter of Sue Prestedge, one of the pioneers among female sports broadcasters at CBC.

“Kate will be featured once a week throughout the season on one of the shows and kind of bring us up to speed on the buzz and chatter on Twitter and Facebook about the league,” he said.

The main panel remains the same with host Dave Randorf and former CFL players Chris Schultz, Jock Climie and Matt Dunigan, plus guest appearances by former Blue Bombers star Milt Stegall.

This year, Stegall’s former teammate Doug Brown will also be making guest appearances and Climie will take over the host chair when Randorf is at the London Olympics.

Milliere says they also plan on introducing a feature much like the Wednesday Night Hockey Quiz segment put on by their NHL panel. The working title is “Three Downs.”

TSN is entering the second-last year of its deal to carry all CFL games and the network is anxious to keep the franchise for the future, said Milliere.

“We’ve had talks already ongoing and are looking forward to pursuing this and getting a deal done,” he said. “It’s a very important property. It’s one of the pillars of our schedule.”

TSN won the exclusive rights in late 2006 for the season starting in 2008, leaving the CBC on the sidelines. The dollar figure has never been confirmed but it has been estimated the deal is worth around $15 million each season to the CFL.

Frequently Asked Questions: ‘Bath Salts’

• “Bath salts” are not salts that go in your bath, but is rather the street name for a number of synthetic amphetamine-type stimulants that look like salts (i.e., they are a white powder).
• The general public, especially youth, should be aware that although bath salts are often identified as “legal highs” or “not illegal” this does not make them safe.
• People taking bath salts report hallucinations, paranoia, chest pain, blurry vision and increased body temperature, and can be agitated and combative.
• Bath salts are sold by dealers via the Internet or in “head-shops.”
• As of May 2012 the use of bath salts in Canada appears to be mainly limited to the Maritime provinces.

What are “bath salts”?

Bath salts is a name used for a class of products containing synthetic stimulants sold by dealers via the Internet or in drug paraphernalia shops (“head-shops”). Bath salts are frequently labelled “not for human consumption,” presumably in an attempt to circumvent drug laws in the jurisdictions in which these products are purchased.

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These products are in no way related to the salts that are sold to put in the bath (e.g., Epsom salts or other perfumed skin softening agents). Rather, they contain amphetamine-type stimulants, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone or mephedrone. These substances are part of the group of drugs known as synthetic cathinones. Synthetic cathinones are prepared in illicit laboratories and are chemically similar to naturally occurring cathinones found in the Khat plant, a shrub native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Individuals under the influence of these substances report hallucinations, paranoia, chest pain and blurry vision, and appear agitated and combative. Because of this agitation, there have been some reports from the United States that these individuals can pose a danger to themselves and others.

Street names:
 

Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, Pure Ivory, Cloud Nine, Whack, Bolivian Bath, Purple Wave, Charge+, Ocean Burst, Ecstasy, Gloom, Purple Rain, Salt, Fly, Hurricane Charley, Crash, White, Rush, Plant Food, Bubbles, Meow Meow, Explosion, Monkey Dust, Monkey Mess, Monkey Mash, Pixie Dust, Rave On.

 

-Information courtesy The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
 

Appeal Court allows bank overtime lawsuits to go ahead as class action cases

Class-action lawsuits against CIBC and Scotiabank seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for unpaid overtime can go ahead, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in a pair of decisions Tuesday.

The suits allege thousands of workers were denied overtime pay even though they were assigned more work than could be completed within their standard hours. The cases come amid a slew of similar cases over wage and hour issues south of the border.

“The proposed common issues raise the requisite degree of commonality for purposes of certification,” Chief Justice Warren Winkler wrote in the decision on the Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) case.

“I also agree that a class proceeding is the preferable procedure for resolving these issues.”

A lower court had denied class action status to the CIBC (TSX:CM) case, while a different court had allowed class action status be granted to the Scotiabank lawsuit.

However, the Appeal Court felt both cases, which have not been proven in court, should be handled the same way.

In the CIBC case, teller Dara Fresco filed a lawsuit in June 2007.

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Fresco launched the case on behalf of more than 31,000 tellers and other front-line customer service employees working at more than 1,000 CIBC branches across Canada, including assistant branch managers, financial service representatives, financial service associates and branch ambassadors.

Cindy Fulawka, a personal banking representative at Scotiabank, filed her class-action lawsuit against the bank in December 2007 seeking to represent some 5,000 Scotiabank personal or senior bankers, financial advisers and small business account managers.

“We are gratified by the court’s decision in respect to the CIBC and Bank of Nova Scotia cases,” Louis Sokolov, a lawyer with the firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, which brought the bank cases with the firm Roy Elliott O’Connor.

“For five years, the plaintiffs in those cases have been attempting to get access to the courts so that they could have their claims resolved on their merits and today the court said unequivocally that they are entitled to have the same kind of access that corporations have.”

David O’Connor, co-lead counsel in the case, said Fulawka, who lives in Saskatchewan, told him that she was very encouraged by the Appeal Court decision.

“She also added that she was sure her co-workers would feel exactly the same,” O’Connor said. “She said it was a great way to start her day.”

Scotiabank said Tuesday it was disappointed by the ruling.

“We are reviewing this decision and are keeping all options on the table,” the bank said in a statement.

“We are confident that the bank’s employee policies have been applied fairly and consistently and we will continue to put that case forward while defending ourselves vigorously.”

CIBC declined to comment Tuesday.

Despite the ruling to allow the bank class-action lawsuits to go ahead, the Appeal Court found a similar lawsuit against Canadian National Railway Co. (TSX:CNR) lacking.

The court overturned a lower court decision and ruled a lawsuit seeking unpaid overtime in that case may not go ahead as a class action.

“The absence of commonality is fatal to the certification of this action,” Winkler wrote.

The bank cases were heard by the same three-judge panel, while the CN case included Winkler and two different judges.

Privacy commissioner says Saskatchewan needs to protect whistleblowers

REGINA – Saskatchewan’s privacy commissioner says the province needs to create whistleblower protection rules.

Gary Dickson said every year about half a dozen public-sector employees contact his office to report possible breaches.

Dickson said in his annual report Tuesday that in some cases, it is covering up a loss of personal information of clients or patients. In others it may be destruction of records to frustrate a possible access to information request, he said.

But those workers aren’t protected and Dickson said his office has to tell them to proceed at their own risk.

“Usually they’re quite anxious because there’s huge consequences if their employer finds out that they’re raising these things with an independent officer (of the legislature),” said Dickson.

“And we’ve had to say ‘You need to know, we can do everything we can to protect your identity, but at some point, sometimes in an investigation, we need to reveal identity to be able to get to the bottom of it and you’re not protected under the labour relations legislation.’”

The commissioner said Saskatchewan needs to protect whistleblowers from being fired or demoted if they act in good faith.

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He recommended a whistleblower provision be included in privacy legislation similar to provisions in British Columbia, Alberta and Prince Edward Island.

Dickson said the purpose of whistleblowing is identify wrongdoing and that may not happen without protection.

“I don’t for a moment mean to suggest it’s common. I don’t think it is,” he said.

“The people we deal with take their jobs seriously and privacy and access rights seriously. But I think what happens is, if they’re not able to do that in a safe fashion, they’re not going to raise it and that may mean that there are breaches of Saskatchewan law that go unaddressed.

“And there may be no consequences when there well should be some consequences for wrongdoers.”

Dickson also said it’s time for the province to develop a new private sector privacy law. He noted that grocery store, car dealership, dry cleaner or other private business workers don’t have the same kind of privacy protection as workers in the public sector.

The commissioner said it’s time for Saskatchewan to follow the lead of Alberta and British Columbia and protect employees in the private sector.

“It would be actually a very simple matter to actually take that, Saskatchewanize it with some tweaks and it’s a model set to go,” he said.

Finally, Dickson said the 2011-2012 year has been a particularly challenging one for the health information file.

In March 2011, Dickson and two assistants had to wade through a massive recycling garbage bin behind a Regina mall to recover medical files. They found 180,169 pieces of personal health information, including approximately 2,682 patient files, in the recycling bin.

Dickson said the doctor involved lost track of the records before they were thrown into the recycling bin by two employees of a contracted maintenance company for the shopping centre.

The commissioner recommended nearly a year ago that justice officials prosecute Dr. Teik Im Ooi under the Health Information Protection Act.

The Saskatchewan government said Tuesday that the case is still with prosecutions branch and no decision has been made.

Chef Susur Lee camping recipes: Vegetable Polenta and Singapore-Style Beef Kebab

Celebrity chef Susur Lee recently whipped up a five-course camping-style meal for reporters as part of a promotional event for Coleman and Broadstone cooking equipment and Canadian Tire. Here are two of the recipes he prepared:

Vegetable Polenta Cakes

Serves five

1.1 l (5 cups) water

250 ml (1 cup) cornmeal

30 ml (2 tbsp) peas

30 ml (2 tbsp) corn

30 ml (2 tbsp) red pepper (diced)

30 ml (2 tbsp) parmesan

salt

white pepper

nutmeg

olive oil

Bring water to a boil, season with salt.

Whisk in cornmeal, peas, corn and red pepper.

Continue stirring until no longer grainy.

Add parmesan, white pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Once polenta has thickened (approximately 30 minutes), pour mixture into a plastic wrap-lined baking dish.

Add a second layer of plastic wrap on top and smooth down directly onto polenta. Chill for two hours.

When ready to make polenta cakes, lift polenta out of the dish, remove plastic wrap and place polenta on cutting board. According to desired shape, use either round cookie cutter or cut polenta into large squares.

Place saute pan over medium heat and add 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil.

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When oil is hot, add cakes and cook until golden brown on both sides (turning as little as possible).

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Singapore-Style Beef Shish Kebab

Serves five

850 g (30 oz) beef striploin

2 zucchini (cubed)

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 fresh pineapple (sliced)

10 long tamarind skewers

Marinade

1 stalk fresh lemongrass

4 slices galangal

4 slices ginger

6 shallot pieces

2 cloves garlic

10 ml (2 tsp) coriander powder

5 ml (1 tsp) cumin powder

5 ml (1 tsp) tumeric powder

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

30 ml (2 tbsp) sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) roasted ground peanuts

30 ml (2 tbsp) oil

Method

Cube beef and set aside.

Mix all marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender to make a paste. Add beef cubes to paste and marinate for 12 to 24 hours.

When ready to skewer, include zucchini, pineapple and tomato between beef cubes. Brush grill with oil and cook for 15 minutes, turning frequently.

Squeeze fresh lime juice over skewers just prior to serving.

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Source: Canadian Tire

Chef Susur Lee recalls childhood camping as he offers outdoor cooking tips

TORONTO – It may be hard to imagine gourmet celebrity chef Susur Lee munching on sand-covered chicken wings, but the renowned restaurateur says it’s a favourite memory from his childhood in Hong Kong.

“When I was a little boy, friends of mine decided to go camping, a day camp, so we had these barbecue chicken wings and we were barbecuing and I remember eating so much sand in my mouth because it was so dusty,” Lee recalled.

“We just loved the area because it was just kids, freedom … eating and hanging out.

“Now I have learned to kick it up another notch,” he added with a laugh.

Camping and exploring parklands is often a favourite pastime for new immigrants to Canada, some of whom take food very seriously, Lee noted as he demonstrated Canadian Tire outdoor cooking gear at a recent promotional event.

“There are a lot of cultures that do love camping,” said Lee, who came to Toronto around 1980 and opened up his first restaurant in the city, Lotus, in ’87.

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“For example, I was in Southeast Asia, I lived there for a few years, and every Sunday you would see people camping in the park or on the beach. When I go to the island even now … (Toronto’s) Centre Island, you can see people walking with big coolers and a ghetto blaster … they have music, they bring their guitar, they bring their soccer game and then they start putting food on the (grill).

“And that really makes the new generation really form another culture.”

Lee whipped up five courses for reporters at the Evergreen Brick Works environmental centre using Coleman and Broadstone equipment.

It was one of the hottest days of the summer in the city but Lee wasn’t fazed.

“I love the heat,” the ponytailed culinary master, who was a finalist on Season 2 of “Top Chef Masters,” said as he fired up an array of propane-powered outdoor stoves and ovens.

“I used to live in Singapore with my family and this kind of weather reminds me of Southeast Asia – very humid, very hot.”

Lee’s meal, served on picnic tables, included: a Singapore-style shish kebab (marinated sirloin beef with barbecued shrimp and grilled pineapple and vegetables); soft polenta with dill and parmesan; polenta cakes topped with ground meat and cheddar cheese; grilled shrimp in tomato sauce with lemon; and Ontario strawberries cooked in butter and unfermented ice wine syrup on top of angel food cake with mint and lemon Greek yogurt.

When cooking outdoors, Lee recommends using marinated meat, which doesn’t go bad as quickly and is convenient and packed with flavour.

He also prefers to use non-stick, propane-fuelled equipment as it gets very hot, delivers even heat and can be used anywhere (as opposed to charcoal grills that are banned in some areas).

Lee’s other outdoor cooking tips include: cooking in an area that’s not too windy; not flipping meat or vegetables too often on the grill so as to preserve the flavour and markings; making sure there’s enough propane gas for cooking equipment; and covering food with mesh food screens.

“And of course you have to have ingredients – garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. I think those are really major, for me,” said Lee. “And lots of ice in the cooler.”

Lee’s restaurants include Lee in Toronto, Chinois in Singapore, and Zentan in Washington, D.C.

His next venue is Bent (named after his regular design collaborator and wife, Brenda Bent), which is slated to open in August in Toronto.

“The concept will be a very fresh, raw bar and also very slow-cooked food. So you have hot and cold food,” said Lee, noting the concept was inspired by his experiences with his three sons, now ages 22, 20 and 14.

“When they were little boys … one loved Japanese food and one loved Korean food, one only loved sort of like European (food). I had to go to three different places to actually satisfy them, so now it came very natural: ‘OK, you like that? You love that too? I can do both.’”

Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son talks of sexual abuse on leaked police interview tape

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Jerry Sandusky’s son told police he was sexually abused starting when he was 8, a decade before the former Penn State assistant football coach adopted him, according to a police interview recording obtained by NBC News.

CAUTION: GRAPHIC CONTENT MAY BE DISTURBING

Matt Sandusky, who was adopted by Jerry Sandusky as an adult, described for investigators showering with the ex-coach and trying to avoid being groped in bed. He also said he was undergoing therapy, that his memories of abuse were only now surfacing and that he was coming forward so his family would know what happened.

“If you were pretending you were asleep and you were touched or rubbed in some way you could just act like you were rolling over in your sleep, so that you could change positions,” the now-33-year-old Matt Sandusky said in an excerpt played Tuesday on NBC’s “Today.”

His attorneys confirmed the recording’s authenticity to The Associated Press.

“Although the tape was released without Matt’s knowledge or permission, it illustrates that he made the difficult decision to come forward and tell the painful truth to investigators despite extraordinary pressure to support his father,” lawyers Justine Andronici and Andrew Shubin wrote in a statement.

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The same lawyers issued a statement Thursday saying Matt Sandusky had been abused and had spoken to investigators during his father’s trial. The next day, Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 criminal counts stemming from the abuse of 10 boys, all of whom he met through his charity for at-risk youth, The Second Mile.

Matt Sandusky met the man who would eventually adopt him through the same organization.

Jerry Sandusky, who has five other adopted children, hasn’t been charged with abusing his son.

Matt Sandusky sat with the ex-coach’s wife, Dottie, on the first day of the trial, but left after hearing one of the accusers testify. His attorneys have said he reached out to them while the trial was under way, saying he wanted to talk to prosecutors.

Messages left for Sandusky’s other children were not returned.

On the police recording, Matt Sandusky says he was sexually abused off and on between the ages of 8 and 15. While being questioned by an investigator, he says Jerry Sandusky would blow raspberries on his stomach and touch his genitals.

Those acts were similar to ones described by other victims who testified against Sandusky.

One of the accusers also said Matt Sandusky was living at the Sandusky home at the time he stayed there overnight and testified that Jerry Sandusky came into the shower with the two boys and “started pumping his hand full of soap.” Matt Sandusky shut off the shower and left, appearing nervous, the witness said.

In the recorded interview, Matt Sandusky was asked if he recalled engaging in oral sex or being raped by the former Penn State coach, Matt Sandusky says “at this point I don’t recall that.”

He is heard on the tapes as saying that he had tried to escape from Sandusky and also had attempted suicide at one point.

“I know that I really wanted to die at that point in time,” he said.

Matt Sandusky’s abuse allegations date as far back as the late 1980s, about a decade before the allegations on which Jerry Sandusky was tried.

Last week, Travis Weaver, now 30, told NBC he was abused by Sandusky as early as 1992. His lawyer, Jeff Anderson, said he represents more Sandusky victims that have not yet gone public.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment about Matt Sandusky’s claims or whether they would result in more charges. Attorney General Linda Kelly has maintained that the investigation into Sandusky is ongoing.

Matt Sandusky was prepared to testify against his father, lawyers have said. Defence attorney Joe Amendola has said that prosecutors told the defence that if Jerry Sandusky took the stand, Matt Sandusky would have been called as a rebuttal witness.

Another defence attorney, Karl Rominger, told the AP he and Amendola heard the tape before deciding not to put Jerry Sandusky on the stand.

He said that Matt Sandusky, on the tape, makes “allegations that directly contradicts sworn testimony …. directly contradicts police statements he’d given previously, directly contradicts public statements and absolutely contradicts everything his family knows.”

A message seeking comment from Amendola was left by AP on Tuesday at his office.

Afterward, Judge John Cleland issued an order prohibiting the defence attorneys from disclosing any material given to them by prosecutors that was not introduced at trial. It also gave Sandusky’s attorneys 10 days to provide the court with an inventory of all discovery materials that were distributed to any member of the defence team or other person.

Explaining why he decided to come forward after publicly standing by his dad, Matt Sandusky said it was for his family, “so that they can really have closure and see what the truth actually is. And just to right the wrong, honestly, of going to the grand jury and lying.”

Jerry Sandusky, 68, is under observation at the Centre County jail, where he is being kept away from other inmates pending a psychological review that will help determine the next step toward his sentencing in about three months.

Rominger said Sandusky is adamant about his innocence.

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Pennell contributed to this story from Philadelphia.

Possible second case of bath salts investigated after police subdue naked Calgary man smashing face against fence – Calgary

Calgary police are investigating a possible second case of bath salts use in the city.

At 1:51 a.m., police were called to the 100-block of Dovertree Place after witnesses saw an unidentified young man between the ages of 18 to 25-years-old hurting himself.

“He was seen in the alley nearly naked,” said duty inspector Paul Malchow.

“Witnesses saw him smashing his face against a fence multiple times and acting completely irrational.”

“When officers arrived at the scene they located the man. He was seen staring in a state of wonder and not responsive to officer’s commands. He was bleeding heavily from the injuries to his face. When we had sufficient amount of officers on hand along with EMS, he was subdued.”

Malchow said EMS needed to chemically subdue the man.

“Officers described him as having super-human strength and a very high threshold for pain,” he said.

The man was taken to hospital in serious condition with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police believe he was on some kind of drug, but do not know what he may have ingested.

They are awaiting test results to see if it was bath salts.

“We don’t know. It’s a possibility, but we don’t know. And he wasn’t in any state to offer us any information given his condition.”

The drug bath salts – which look like the harmless additive added for bathing – are legal in Canada but the federal government is working on banning them. The drug is snorted, ingested or smoked and can be pressed into a pill or capsule. It mimics the effects of ecstasy and methamphetamine.

On Saturday, an officer was injured when trying to subdue a man who was believed to be high on bath salts in a home in Bridlewood. It was believed to be the first case of bath salts use in Calgary.
 

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Saskatchewan residents could be without power for up to two days after storm

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – Tens of thousands of people across northwestern Saskatchewan were without power Tuesday after a storm lashed the area with strong winds and hail.

Duane McKay, Saskatchewan’s commissioner of emergency management, said that power was out in a wide swath from Lloydminster on the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, east to Prince Albert and stretching north. That also included North Battleford and Meadow Lake.

McKay said the storm Monday evening downed transmission lines and towers.

“When those go down, that’s significant reconstruction time to take place,” said McKay.

McKay could not say how many people were without power, but he noted there are about 40,000 people in the Prince Albert area and another 15,000 in North Battleford.

SaskPower has called in crews from British Columbia to help. It said it could be 24 to 48 hours before power is restored in Prince Albert and there could be rotating outages. The Crown utility said it would six to eight hours before power is restored to Meadow Lake and North Battleford.

One of those lines in the Meadow Lake area was suspended from steel towers, said SaskPower vice-president of transmission and distribution Mike Marsh.

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“To have 10 kilometres of line pushed down on its side just indicates tremendous force.”

Marsh said most of the affected lines are also in rugged terrain, making repairs more of a challenge.

“(The storm) dumped an awful lot of rain,” he said.

“In some cases the affected areas have had three to four inches of rain. It’s extremely muddy and very difficult terrain, so getting men and equipment into that area is very, very difficult.”

McKay said some homes in the storm’s path were damaged, but there are no reports of serious injuries.

No tornadoes were spotted, although winds stronger than 100 kilometres an hour were recorded. McKay speculated that might indicate a plow wind.

“Some reports said that the winds came up very rapidly – calm one minute and then racing through structures immediately after that,” he said.

“We don’t have a definition yet, but it was significant.”

The storm forced a dozen people from an apartment block in Prince Albert, where grape-sized hail and a torrential downpour caused a severe leak in the building’s roof.

“I woke up and (was) getting drenched with water so I moved my bed … then I heard a collapse in the next room and I guess the ceiling caved in,” said resident Jason Henderson.

Emergency crews across Prince Albert were kept busy responding to accidents, ambulance calls and false alarms as streets flooded and traffic lights went out. Classes and buses in all school divisions were cancelled Tuesday.

The city was urging residents not to shower or flush toilets to conserve water.

The water treatment plant was without power and officials said there was a risk of backups.

In North Battleford, hail the size of baseballs driven by a powerful wind knocked out power, snapped trees and flooded sidewalks.

Saskatoon’s public schools cancelled all school excursions because of the threat of severe weather.

And it didn’t look like southern Saskatchewan would escape unscathed either.

Environment Canada issued severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, as well as tornado watches, for many parts of southern Saskatchewan on Tuesday.

Around supper time Tuesday, the agency issued a tornado warning for the Moose Jaw area, saying one had been spotted south of Mortlach. However, an hour later, Environment Canada said the storm that produced the tornado had weakened. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

– by Jennifer Graham in Regina with files from CKBI, CJWW, CJME