Monkey stressed after wandering about Toronto Ikea

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Niagara Falls Tours – An official with a Toronto animal shelter holding a monkey found wandering in an Ikea parking lot says the five-month-old primate appears a bit stressed but is otherwise in good shape.

Mary Lou Leiher from the Toronto Animal Services says the monkey — originally from Montreal — is being fed and cared for while officials try to find an animal sanctuary to send him to.

She says the owners of the baby monkey named Darwin have been fined $240 for breaking the city’s prohibited-animal bylaw.

The simian — wearing a tiny double-breasted coat — broke out of his crate inside a vehicle parked outside the Ikea store Sunday, then pried open a door and began his romp around the parking lot as shoppers gawked and snapped photos.

Leiher says there’s a chance the rhesus macaque monkey might by carrying the Herpes B, and that having the creature live in a city puts both the animal and human beings at risk.

She says the monkey was very quiet and lacked signs of personality during a brief visit, adding that can be a sign of stress.

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Sandy: Barack Obama asks Congress for $60bn

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Niagara Falls Tours – US President Barack Obama has requested more than $60bn (£37bn) from Congress for response, recovery and repairs in the wake of “Superstorm” Sandy.

The scale of the request was welcomed by the governors of the two worst-hit states, New York and New Jersey.

But the request fell short of the $80bn estimate of the total damage done in those states and in Connecticut.

The White House said the storm was on track to be the second or third most costly storm in US history.

Only Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 caused more damage, Jeffrey Zients of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

Sandy has been blamed for more than 120 deaths, and many thousands of people are still unable to live in their flood-damaged homes.
No spending cuts

The presidential request will have to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate before funds are made available.

It is expected to face scrutiny in Congress, where many fiscal conservatives are strongly opposed to increases in US federal spending.

Mr Obama’s team proposed no spending cuts in conjunction with the funding request, saying the “sudden, urgent, unforeseen and temporary” nature of the disaster made the request allowable under disaster-relief laws.

In a statement, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey thanked Mr Obama for his “steadfast commitment of support” since the storm hit on 29 October.

They said the package would pay for “essential mitigation and prevention efforts that will better protect our region against the devastating impacts of future superstorms”.

The huge funding request comes as the president and his advisers are negotiating with Republicans over a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” – a combination of spending rises and tax cuts due to take effect on 1 January if no action is taken.

In the House, one leading Republican committee chairman agreed that Congress bore a responsiblity to fund disaster relief for those affected by the storm.

But Hal Rogers also said: “It is also our responsibility during these tight-budget times to make sure that the victims of this storm are getting the most of every single recovery dollar, and to ensure that disaster funds are timed and targeted in the most efficient and appropriate manner.”

Away from Washington, fundraising efforts big and small are continuing in the north-east in aid of relief work.

In New York, organisers of a huge relief concert due to be held at Madison Square Garden on 12 December – called 12.12.12 – announced that the Rolling Stones would join an already glittering line-up.

The Stones, currently on a 50th anniversary tour, will join Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Kanye West, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and The Who at the event.

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Obama to fill key posts in weeks, Hagel on Pentagon short list

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President Barack Obama is expected to announce his nominees for secretaries of state and defense in the next two weeks, with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on the short list of potential choices to head the Pentagon, senior administration officials said on Tuesday.

Hagel, whose appointment would give Obama’s reshuffled second-term Cabinet a bipartisan cast, met the Democratic president at the White House this week to discuss a post on his national security team. But there was no sign that Obama had decided on any of the key nominations he will put forth.

Obama is still deliberating whether to unveil his top national security appointments, likely to include a new CIA director, in a single high-profile package this month or to name them one-by-one, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Other top contenders to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are believed to include former senior Pentagon official Michele Flournoy, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Democratic Senator John Kerry.

Complicating matters, Obama is also deciding whether to nominate Kerry as secretary of state to replace Hillary Clinton, or to go with Susan Rice, embattled U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Rice is a long-time confidante of the president, but picking her would lead to a tough Senate confirmation battle over her comments in the wake of the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has coveted the job as America’s top diplomat and would face a much smoother confirmation process if nominated. It is unclear, however, whether he would accept the Pentagon post instead.

If Obama nominates Kerry for State, he could the risk opening up a safe Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts, which Senator Scott Brown, the Republican who just lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren, could run for in a special election.

Obama, in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday, reiterated that Rice is “highly qualified” for the job, but said, “I haven’t made a decision about secretary of state.”

NEW FACES FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

Obama’s choices for State and Defense will essentially set the tone for his administration’s handling of a wide range of global issues in his second term, including Middle East upheaval, Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West and efforts to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

With candidates still going through the vetting process, Obama is not expected to unveil his choices before next week, but he has every intention of making his announcements before the end of the year, the administration official said.

The choice of Hagel, a moderate on foreign policy who currently co-chairs Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, would give the president a Republican in his Cabinet at a time when he is trying to win bipartisan cooperation from congressional Republicans on taxes and spending to avoid a looming “fiscal cliff.”

It is also possible that Hagel’s name was being floated to show Obama’s willingness to reach across the aisle, even if he ultimately does not nominate him.

A social conservative and strong internationalist who co-chaired John McCain’s failed Republican presidential campaign back in 2000, Hagel might seem an unlikely pick were it not for his dissent years ago on the Iraq war launched under former President George W. Bush, a Republican. That war was the issue on which Obama also rose to national prominence.

Hagel served two terms in the Senate, representing Nebraska, and left in 2008. He is a professor at Georgetown University.

Since he left the Senate, Hagel has been a big critic of his own party. He told the Financial Times newspaper in 2011 that he was “disgusted” by the “irresponsible actions” of Republicans during the debt ceiling debate.

Former President Bill Clinton chose former Republican Senator William Cohen to lead the Defense Department, and Obama kept Robert Gates, former President George W. Bush’s last defense secretary, on board for the first part of his term.

Hagel has also been seen as a contender to take over at the CIA, where retired general David Petraeus resigned last month amid a scandal over an extramarital affair. CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, who took over as acting director, and White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan are also in the running.

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Calgary major not guilty of manslaughter in soldier’s death

Calgary Maj. Darryl Watts has been found not guilty of manslaughter in the death of another Canadian soldier in February 2010.

Watts, 44, was also found not guilty of two counts of breach of duty.

However, he was found guilty of two acts of negligent performance of duty and unlawfully causing bodily harm.

Watts was the commanding officer the day 24-year-old Cpl. Josh Baker died after a claymore explosive packed with 700 steel balls hit a Canadian Forces platoon at a training range north of Kandahar city.

Four other soldiers were wounded.

Videos of the accident show several soldiers, including Watts, standing around watching the tests. They were not inside armoured vehicles or standing behind them for cover, as set out in Canadian Forces safety guidelines.

A panel of five senior ranking military officers had been deliberating his fate since Saturday night.

The Crown had argued that Watts, as the platoon commander, turned a blind eye to safety standards and abdicated his duty as a leader during the exercise.

The defence countered that Watts had no training with claymore explosives, so he handed over safety responsibilities to his second-in-command, who was an expert on the weapon.

The maximum punishment for unlawfully causing bodily harm is 10 years in prison, and dismissal with disgrace for negligent performance of military duty.

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Canada ranks among world’s best places for corporate taxes

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Canada has moved up three places to eighth in a global comparison of the most advantageous place to pay corporate taxes, placing the country in the top 10 for the first time.

The annual study by PwC, in conjunction with the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, shows Canada moving sharply up in a 185-country comparison.

Canada placed 28th as recently as 2010, but continuing reductions of the corporate rate both federally and provincially, as well as reduced red tap, has dramatically improved its standing.

The advance, from a business point of view, coincides with the federal government’s efforts to brand a 25% national corporate tax rate, harmonization of sales taxes in Ontario, and improvement in the easy of filing taxes.

“As far as most countries are concerned, we’re actually a pretty friendly jurisdiction,” said Jason Safar, a partner with PwC’s tax service in Toronto.

“Canada’s current tax laws have attractive tax regimes, which impact all companies — in particularly small-medium sized domestic companies.”

The new study, which is being issued early Monday, is not the only one to have judged Canada’s corporate tax regime favourably from a business viewpoint.

Last year, Forbes magazine ranked Canada the best country in the world to do business, citing its dropping tax rate, sound banks, investor protection and relative lack of red tape.

The PwC comparison looks at three specific metrics — tax rates, the average number of hours businesses devote to paying taxes each year, and how many times a year they must file. The latter two relate to the ease of operating in the country, and PwC says it is more important than many believe.

“The economic analysis to compare the paying taxes indicators with gross domestic product and foreign direct investment suggests that while higher business taxation can be linked to slower economic growth and international investment, reducing the administrative burden and complexity of the tax system can potentially be linked to a greater change in overall growth,” the report states.

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