Apple’s new privacy is worrying authorities

When Tim Cook made this statement about the new iOs8 and it’s new encrypted software, it got authorities all worried about the criminals and safeguarding them.

Our commitment to customer privacy doesn’t stop because of a government information request.

Government information requests are a consequence of doing business in the digital age. We believe in being as transparent as the law allows about what information is requested from us. In addition, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a “back door” in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed any government access to our servers. And we never will.

What we’re most commonly asked for and how we respond.

The most common requests we receive for information come from law enforcement in the form of either a Device Request or an Account Request. Our legal team carefully reviews each request, ensuring it is accompanied by valid legal process. All content requests require a search warrant. If we are legally compelled to divulge any information and it is not counterproductive to the facts of the case, we provide notice to the customer when allowed and deliver the narrowest set of information possible in response. National security-related requests are not considered Device Requests or Account Requests and are reported in a separate category altogether.

On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.

More info

Toronto mom sentenced to 6 years for daughter’s death

**NEWS FLASH to all those parents who shouldn’t be parents!***  Beating or torturing your child to teach them a lesson DOES NOT TEACH them a lesson, you stupid dumbfucks! Why do these idiots not get it??

A horrible parent beats and tortures her child and is sentenced to jail for just 6 years, ONLY SIX FUCKIN YEARS!! to be be shortened to 1/4. I really hope this sick and pathetic woman rots in jail and I hope she gets beaten and tortured in jail bu those jailhouse bitches.. for her to feel the pain and anguish that her child went through. Once she’s out she needs to be deported to that country from which she came from and never see Canada again. Parents like her piss me right off.  How can anyone do this to child? Something I could never comprehend. If a child is misbehaving or is “bad”, look within YOURSELF and realize YOU’RE the problem. Violence towards children, child abuse sickens me. I am going to sound crazy for second but…SUFFER BITCH….SUFFER! Just the way your child did.

And the Canadian justice system just locks her up for 6 years!! JUST 6 YEARS!  Pathetic as this woman.

Why do they even have a “justice system”  when people who do this despicable acts of crime goes to jail for a few years? Hang the bitch by her CUNT! (The evil comes out when I hear these stories).

Sabrina Siconolfi blinked back tears and looked over her shoulder at her parents as she was led from court in handcuffs to begin a 6-year-sentence for criminal negligence in the death of her two-year-old daughter, Sakina Abdurahman.

It was the first strong display of emotion on Friday in the University Ave. courthouse for Siconolfi, 32, who earlier begged Justice Ian Nordheimer to return her to her three surviving children.

Before the judge announced her sentence, he noted that Sakina’s tiny body was covered with wounds — including at least 34 bruises to her back and lower limbs and a bite mark — when paramedics arrived at the family’s apartment on Victoria Park Avenue on July 9, 2010.

“There’s no group in our society who is more defenceless and therefore more deserving of our protection, than children, especially infants,” Nordheimer said.

Forensic specialist Dr. Michael Pollanen concluded the Sakina died of heat stroke during a severe summer heat wave, but that her multiple injuries contributed to her death.

Her injuries also included widespread fresh bruising and abrasions to her scalp and face and a healing fracture in her right ribs.

Siconolfi had sole custody of Sakina and her younger brother while an older child was in the care of her parents. Siconolfi was seven months pregnant with a fourth child at the time of Sakina’s death.

Nordheimer gave her credit for 128 days in custody before she was freed on house arrest. She will immediately begin serving a prison term.

Defence lawyers Tyler Smith and Todd Morris had argued for a three-year term and extended parole, with a year’s credit for time served.

Crown attorneys Jason Gorda and Dominique Kennedy sought a seven-year penitentiary term.

Kennedy told the judge that Siconolfi has repeatedly lied to authorities and shown no remorse. “She’s the one person that Sakina was supposed to be able to rely upon to keep her safe,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy noted that Siconolfi waited an hour and applied makeup to her daughter’s body in an attempt to hide bruises on the day of her death.

“This is not a one-time mistake,” Kennedy said. “This is not a slip-up. This is not an impulsive act. This is something that occurred over a long period of time.”

Smith argued that his client was in the throes of a serious depression at the time of Sakina’s death, brought on in part by physical, emotional and sexual abuse from former partners.

He added that she was so cash-strapped that she couldn’t afford an air-conditioning unit.

Siconolfi told the judge she wanted another chance to be a good mother.

“I hope that you do give me the right to rehabilitate myself,” she said before the judge passed sentence. “I have three other children . . . My parents are getting older. They’re not going to be able to raise them for long. They’re going to need me back again.”

“Looking back, I do realize the mistakes and bad choices that I made,” she said.

Lawsuit claims hair drug Propecia hurt sex life of some men who used it

For about 8 years I’ve been taking Propecia and then Avodart which is somewhat like Propecia with different chemical makeup, apparently more potent and according to studies works more effectively than Propecia. I have been using it for hair loss. My hair started to recede slowly when I was about 27 and then became more noticeable when I was about 33 years old.  I’ve not noticed any side affects, none, not even sexual side affects. Since I’ve been using the medication it did slow the receding process and has even grown some hairs back.


REGINA – A Saskatchewan law firm is hoping to launch a class-action lawsuit over allegations a popular hair-growth drug has ruined the sex lives of some of its users.

In statements of claim filed in Regina and Calgary, two men say they lost interest in sexual activity after taking Propecia.

The claims, which have not been proven in court and have yet to be certified as a class-action, allege that drug maker Merck Frosst Canada didn’t adequately warn people about the risks of Propecia.

Sexual dysfunction is listed as a possible side effect to the drug.

But the men allege that Merck didn’t properly warn people that sexual dysfunction could continue even after they stopped taking the treatment.

A call to Merck was not immediately returned Friday.

According to the Regina statement of claim, the man started taking Propecia after having a lump on his head removed in December 2007. His doctor gave him a free sample to encourage hair growth where the lump had been and a prescription for more.

The man claims he noticed hair wasn’t growing on his head, but in rather large patches on his neck and back. He also alleges he noticed a decrease in his sex drive and had difficulty maintaining an erection.

The statement of claim in Calgary was filed on behalf of a man who started on Propecia in 2000 and took it for four years.

The man claims his relationship with his wife suffered and they grew apart because his sex drive decreased.

Regina lawyer Tony Merchant, who filed the claim, argues the warning about the side effect wasn’t good enough.

“The drug companies, not just in this case but in others, then say, ‘number 1, we had this warning there.’ But what they really mean is it’s buried somewhere and it’s not a meaningful warning of any kind,” said Merchant.

Connecticut school shooting: When evil stalked the corridors

connecticut“Our hearts are broken today …”

A president wept for his nation. A nation weeps for its children.

Little ones: 5 and 6 years old, 7 and 8, 9 and 10.

Twenty of them, shot to death, victims of one more lone gunman, yet another in the grim annals of American mass murderers who turn their incomprehensible, inchoate rage on innocents, randomly extinguishing lives, on this occasion evil stalking the corridors of a small-town elementary school in Connecticut.

Each time, the boundaries of the unimaginable are pushed further into the realm of sinister and barbaric and explosively nihilistic. It is a grandiose infamy by intent, the sickened preying on the defenceless.

To ask why is to extract sense from the senseless. There isn’t any.

Eighteen youngsters pronounced dead at the scene. Six adults slain — teachers, principal, guidance counsellor. Two more children succumbed to their injuries in hospital. Shooter dead, presumably of a self-inflicted gunshot. His mother dead at another location, believed to be the shooter’s residence. A brother taken in for questioning in New Jersey, handcuffed.

On Friday morning, a day like any other, parents had dropped their kids off at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, a postcard-pretty New England hamlet about 90 kilometres northeast of New York City, seemingly on the other side of the moon from targeted catastrophic violence.

Within the hour, in horror and disbelief, they were receiving robocalls and text messages of a crisis unfolding at the school, shots fired, lockdown, come now.

Local police got the 911 call just after 9:30 a.m. Screeching to the scene, sirens blaring, cops and troopers entered immediately. “Their focus was to search for students, faculty and staff,” said Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police. “They did search every nook and cranny and every portion of that school.”

What they encountered was monstrous.

The carnage was concentrated in two classrooms in one section of the building.

The shooter — identified in media reports as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, son of a Sandy Hook teacher — seemingly knew where he was headed and zeroed in, firing repeatedly, round after round, shell casings ejecting, strewn across the floor.

He was dressed in black battle fatigues and a military vest, according to a CNN source.

The weapons, as details begin to emerge, though not yet confirmed by authorities: a .223 Bushmaster (a military-style semi-automatic rifle) and two pistols, a Sig Sauer and a Glock.

A scream was heard over the intercom, one child later recounted.

One teacher mustered students into a room and locked the door.

Alarmed parents jumping into their cars, descended on the kindergarten to Grade 4 school, rushing with pounding hearts from homes and offices.

In the Inferno section of The Divine Comedy, Dante describes “the anteroom to Hell” as a vestibule for souls in limbo. On this morning, in Newtown, Hell’s anteroom was the local fire hall, where anguished parents, grandparents and siblings were directed to await the most wrenching of news.

My child? Mine? Mine? Mine?

Eighteen little bodies that need to be formally identified by the medical examiner.

Twenty-seven fatalities in all, and a vice-principal injured.

Safety is an illusion. Children can’t always be protected from harm, no matter how vigilant their families and teachers. At this school, there were magnetic locks on the door and visitors had to be buzzed in from the office — after 9:30 a.m.

But who could have envisioned such a horror? Even in a country where mass shootings are hardly unknown, including those in schools, to unleash deranged wrath at elementary school-age kids, the most vulnerable and defenceless among us, is beyond the sociopathic pale.

“An ordinary kid,” said one friend of the suspected shooter.

It’s so frequently the same epitaph for those who commit massacre: benign and banal individuals to the outside world, something dreadful roiling beneath.

“You can never be prepared for this kind of incident,” Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy told reporters as local churches began arranging memorial services. “What has happed, what has transpired at this school building, will leave a mark on this community and every family impacted.”

Children who survived the frenzy of bullets emerged from the school afterwards, the youngest walking with their hands placed on each other’s shoulders, lucky ones reunited with parents overcome by relief.

One boy was delivering the attendance record to the office when the chaos erupted: “I saw some of the bullets … going back into the hall that I was right next to, and then a teacher pulled me into her classroom.”

His mother, stroking her son’s hair: “I’m just so grateful to the teacher who saved him. He had bullets going by and she pulled him and another child into a classroom.”

Mergim Bajraliu, a 17-year-old high school student, said he was at home nearby when he heard two shots.

He and a neighbour ran to the school to find his 9-year-old sister, Venesa, a fourth-grader.

What he saw were two students covered in blood being carried out of the building, one of whom looked like his sister.

“My heart sank,” he said.

Then he spotted her unharmed and wrapped her in a tearful embrace. “I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ ”

A youngster told NBC: “I was in the gym and I heard, like, loud booms and the gym teacher told us to go in the corner and we huddled. We all heard these booming noises and started crying. So the gym teachers told us to go into the office where no one could find us. Then a police officer told us to run outside.”

Another teacher yanked students into a washroom.

Richard Wilfrid, a shaken parent: “I could try to explain it, but I’m sure I would fail. There’s no words that I could come up with that would even come close to describing the sheer terror of hearing that your son is in a place, or your child’s in a place, where there’s been violence. You don’t know the details of that violence, you don’t know the condition of your child and you can’t do anything to immediately help them or protect them. It is a powerless and terrifying experience.’’

Fear, as related by 8-year-old Alexis Wasik, a third-grader: “Everybody was crying. I was a little scared and felt sick to my stomach.”

Her mother, Lynn: “I am still in a daze. My heart is in a million pieces for the children.”

Friday’s attack was the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. school since a 2007 sniper attack at Virginia Tech left 32 people dead.

A country turns reddened eyes to its consoler-in-chief.

“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,’’ an emotional President Barack Obama told a news conference. “And each time I learn the news I react not as a president but as anyone else would, as a parent. That was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in American who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.”

Obama had to halt to compose himself, wiping tears from his eyes.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own …”

Again, Obama had to stop and swallow hard.

“As a country, we have been through this too many times, whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theatre in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago. These neighbourhoods are our neighbourhoods, and these children are our children.’’

Obama said he, like other parents, would go and hug his daughters a little tighter.

But for the parents of 20 murdered children, there is nothing but the yawning ache of a lifetime unfolding ahead without their precious lost kids.

“May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.”

Florida ‘first offender’ gets 161 years in prison


MIAMI—Quartavious Davis is still shocked by what happened to him in a U.S. federal court two months ago.

“My first offence, and they gave me all this time,” said Davis in an interview at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. “Might just as well say I’m dead.”

Davis was convicted of his role in a string of armed robberies in the Miami area in 2010. His accomplices testified against him, saying he carried a gun during their crimes and discharged it at a dog that chased them. But Davis was not convicted of hurting anyone physically, including the dog.

Davis would occupy no place at all in the annals of crime if not for his sentence. Now 20 years old, he was sentenced to 1,941 months in prison — 162 years and a bit — without the possibility of parole.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided that life sentences without parole for defendants under the age of 18 constituted “cruel and unusual punishment,” even in cases of murder. Unfortunately for Davis, he was 18 at the time of his crimes.

Nonetheless, Davis’s lawyer will argue that Davis’s sentence to die in prison also constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” on the grounds that Davis is a “first offender,” having never before been charged with a crime.

“Just as the Supreme Court recently held that the Constitution bars taking away all discretion from judges in sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment for committing murder,” said lawyer Jacqueline Shapiro, “so also is it cruel and extreme to allow unfettered prosecutorial discretion to force a sentencing judge to impose a life sentence on a teenage first offender convicted of lesser charges.”

Davis’s unusually long sentence results from a controversial practice known as “stacking,” in which each count of an indictment is counted as a separate crime, thus transforming a first-time defendant into a “habitual criminal” subject to several sentences and mandatory sentencing guidelines.

“Any law that provides for a mandatory term of imprisonment for a 19-year-old first offender that exceeds a century has got to be unconstitutional,” said Michael Zelman, the court-appointed lawyer who represented Davis at his trial.

Zelman resigned from Davis’s case after filing a notice of appeal. If Davis’s new lawyer, Shapiro, has her way, the Supreme Court may ultimately decide the issue. The case will be appealed first to a circuit court in Atlanta.

Until then, Davis’s story will be a prominent case in point for both sides in an increasingly heated debate, pitting those who would protect society from the prospective dangers posed by serial criminals against those who see the United States — whose overcrowded prisons house fully one-quarter of all the prisoners in the world, most of them black — as a bastion of injustice.

When he was arrested on Dec. 23, 2010, Davis was an unemployed dropout living with an aunt in Goulds, a poor, predominantly black neighbourhood south of Miami. According to expert testimony at his trial, Davis suffers from a learning disability and bipolar disorder.

At the time of his arrest, he said he was living on $674 a month in Social Security disability payments and hoping to get back into school to learn a trade.

On Feb. 9 of this year he was convicted of committing seven armed robberies at fast-food restaurants, a Walgreens pharmacy and other commercial establishments in the Miami area from August to October of 2010.

Davis, who still maintains his innocence, was the only one of the six men charged who went to trial. The others cut plea deals that left them with sentences of nine to 22 years in prison. As the odd man out, Davis was convicted largely on the basis of his accomplices’ testimony.

He received seven years for the first of the firearm counts against him and 25 years apiece for each of the six subsequent counts. The law, as written by Congress, requires the sentences to be served consecutively. In prison slang, such sentences are sometimes referred to as “life on the instalment plan” or “running wild.”

During the prison interview, Davis was advised by Shapiro not to discuss many specifics about his case.

According to the trial transcript, one of Davis’s accomplices testified that Davis fired his weapon on two occasions — at the dog who chased him and 11 days later outside a Wendy’s restaurant they had just robbed. He said Davis traded gunshots with a customer at the restaurant as he and three others sped away in their getaway car.

The accounts of Davis’s firing his gun were otherwise uncorroborated.

The armed customer outside Wendy’s, school custodian Antonio Lamont Brooks, was unable to offer positive identification of the man with whom he exchanged gunfire. But he was unhurt and squeezed off enough rounds from his 9-mm handgun to leave one of Davis’s accomplices with a bullet wound in his left buttock.

It is not clear why prosecutors decided to throw the full weight of the law at Davis. (They declined to comment on any aspect of the case.)

Florida, though, has a history of “very zealous” prosecutions, according to Marc Mauer, executive director of the Washington-based Sentencing Project, which advocates for reform in the criminal-justice system.

For example, Florida leads in the number of juveniles given life sentences without parole for lesser crimes than murder — sentences the Supreme Court declared to be unconstitutional in 2010. Florida and other states are now trying to determine how to resentence or grant parole to inmates affected by that ruling.

According to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States, Florida was first, among the 35 states reporting, in increases in time served in its prisons from 1990 to 2009.

In one recent, highly controversial Florida sentencing, Marissa Alexander, an African-American woman in Jacksonville with no previous criminal record, was sentenced to 20 years for firing a pistol twice into the air while trying to ward off an attack by her abusive husband.

Denied the protection of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, the 31-year-old mother of three was convicted of aggravated assault and given the mandatory sentence for anyone who fires a gun in commission of the felony.

Undercover Boss Canada

The show ‘Under Cover Boss’ is making way up here to Canada. My question is why does it take a TV show for CEO’s or Management to realize what really goes on in their companies? It’s coincidence that this is coming out now, when I watched the US version I said there should be a Canadian version and here we are.  Other companies they should of done Undercover for; Bell Mobility (horrible customer service), Sears (list is too long on why), Canada Post (always late and lost parcels and delivery drivers who don’t deliver your parcel but just stick a delivery notice on your mailbox to pick up your parcel even though your home), Starbucks (always long line-ups and employee’s that look like they don’t’ want to be there).


TTC chair Karen Stintz has a new starring role on TV after she donned a dark wig and disguise last summer for an episode of Undercover Boss Canada.

The TV show, already popular in Britain and the U.S., puts executives, masquerading as trainees, on the frontlines of their own businesses.

Stintz, the city councillor for Eglinton-Lawrence, said it was an eye-opener working in July at the TTC’s upholstery shop, cleaning buses, posing as a station janitor and staffing the transit system’s lost-and-found.

Stintz also rode in the driver’s booth of one of the new Toronto Rocket subway trains, although she never actually handled the controls.

Still, of her various assignments, “That was the best job for sure but it was also hard. You don’t appreciate how complicated it is,” she said. “On the simulator I couldn’t get one train to get into the station in the right spot.”

Loneliness is an issue for the subway operators, who work their shifts in isolation. Those with less seniority draw the worst hours too, she said — “all the things you don’t really think about when you’re trying to get on the train in the morning and you’re annoyed.”

Stintz was introduced to her TTC co-workers as Ruth Bear — her middle name and her mother’s maiden name. To explain the cameras, the TTC employees were told that Stintz/Bear was the subject of a documentary about a woman re-entering the work force.

Only one employee, Carmen Miller, who oversaw Stintz’s cleaning efforts, was suspicious after the TTC chair, tired from working a week of night shifts, accidentally introduced herself as Karen.

Cameras captured another employee rolling his eyes at Stintz’s rookie attempts in the upholstery shop.

“As we talk about the jobs to outsource there are efficiencies we can get, but when I worked with Sylvia cleaning the station — she has so much pride in that station. She’s the eyes and ears of that station,” Stintz reflected. “We need to build more accountability and more ownership in the TTC. Building a culture of accountability. Everybody I worked with were longtime TTC employees that did have a lot of pride, and were frustrated by their colleagues that don’t.”

Toronto Zoo CEO John Tracogna and executives from Pizza Pizza, 1-800-Got-Junk, Molson Coors Canada, Second Cup, Cineplex and FedEx Express also appear in the Canadian version of the show, according to a news release from Corus Entertainment.

Undercover Boss Canada begins airing on Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. The TTC episode is tentatively scheduled to air late next month on W Network.

HIV vaccine developed in Canada approved for human studies

How are they going to test this on humans? Give them the vaccine then expose them to the virus?


A Canadian-developed vaccine to prevent HIV has been given the green light for testing in human clinical trials.

The vaccine, developed by researchers at the University of Western Ontario, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start being tested in humans in January.

It is the first preventive HIV vaccine approved for clinical trials to use a whole HIV-1 virus, which has been both killed and genetically engineered, to activate immunity. In this way, the new vaccine is much like the killed whole virus vaccines that are successful against polio, rabies and influenza.

Other HIV vaccines currently in clinical human trials have largely focused on one specific component of HIV to trigger an immune response. Right now, there is no effective HIV vaccine.

“FDA approval for human clinical trials is an extremely significant milestone for our vaccine, which has the potential to save the lives of millions of people around the world by preventing HIV infection,” said Dr. Chil-Yong Kang, professor of virology at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, in a release.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning in London.

The vaccine, the only HIV vaccine being developed in Canada, received funding from Sumagen Canada, a company created in 2008 to support the development of the vaccine.

Previous studies have shown the vaccine triggers a strong immune response and has yet to show any adverse effects or safety risks.

2 Texas women charged for buying, selling baby

In some places in the US, it’s economy is that bad that people are now selling their baby.

ABILENE, Texas (AP) — A West Texas woman is accused of buying a 7-week-old infant from the child’s mother for $2,000 — to be paid in installments, Abilene police said Friday.

The woman, Marilu Munoz, 27, and the child’s mother, Joana Delacruz Huerta, 29, were charged late Thursday with the sale or purchase of an infant, a third-degree felony, police said.

Police said they found out about the alleged sale from an anonymous tip Thursday morning.

Some of the scheduled payments had already occurred, police Sgt. Lynn Beard said.

“It was a one-on-one kind of thing, just someone who wanted a baby,” Beard said.

Huerta remained in the Taylor County Jail on $5,000 bond. Munoz was released after posting bail Friday. Neither woman could be reached for comment, and no attorneys were listed for either of them in jail records.

Police said Huerta admitted that she had been pregnant and told officers where she thought the baby might be. Police found the child at an Abilene residence unharmed.

Police said they did not know who the baby’s biological father was or how the two women had initially crossed paths. Munoz’s husband, an illegal immigrant whose name was not released, was placed on an immigration hold at the county jail, Beard said.

“The first priority was finding the child,” Beard said.

The infant was taken into custody by Child Protective Service, authorities said.

“We have placed her in a foster home where she is being nurtured and loved,” said CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.

The agency anticipates going to court in the next few weeks where a judge will determine temporary custody.

Beard said the police investigation is ongoing and authorities don’t know why the people involved did not go through an adoption agency. He said he expects additional charges to be filed.

“It’s the first time in my 13 years (in law enforcement) that I remember this happening,” Beard said.

Mark T. McDermott, legislative director for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said “The vast majority of adoptions are done carefully and legally and with a lot of court scrutiny.”

Baby-selling is a far cry from legal adoption in several ways but “in adoption, you’re not allowed to pay the birth mother or birth father,” McDermott said. Although a birth mother can be reimbursed for her living expenses in some states, there are very strict laws about what can and can’t be paid and “no money is paid to the birth mother,” the lawyer said.

Canada’s ‘brand’ is the best in the world

Canada has the best country “brand” in the world, according to an international business consulting firm.

FutureBrand, with operations in New York,London and Singapore, ranked Canada atop itscountry brand index for the second straight year.

The federal government was quick to jump on the news, announced at the 32nd annual World Travel Market in London.

The index is compiled from what FutureBrand says is the most comprehensive study of how travelers perceive countries around the world. It surveyed 3,400 travellers on their views about 110 countries.

Switzerland came in second, followed by New Zealand, Japan, Australia, the United States, Sweden, Finland, France and Italy. Both Australia and the U.S. dropped down the rankings.

“Canada’s continued rating at the top of FutureBrand’s country brand index is a testament to our country’s global appeal,” Maxime Bernier, minister of state for small business and tourism, said in a statement.

“We have a wealth of compelling experiences for travellers, and our government is committed to sustaining this momentum by promoting Canada in innovative ways on the international stage.”

The Canadian Tourism Commission trumpeted the recognition.

“According to the (index), the most important factors that truly differentiate a nation’s brand are its associations and attributes: the qualities that people think of when they hear a country’s name, read or see images of a location, or plan a business or leisure trip,” the commission said on its web site.

“While Canada’s tourism brand has grown into a powerful cultural force and a marketing tool to inspire visitation, it also has largely untapped potential as a lever to drive trade and investment in ideas, education and business,” said commission president Michele McKenzie.

“In this period of global economic turbulence, by showing the world that Canada is a dynamic, modern and cosmopolitan society, we’re not just inviting the world to visit us, we’re capitalizing on our positive reputation to open new doors and create new opportunities.”

(Canadian Press photo)

Unpaid fines? Government is coming after you (Ontario,Canada)

Ten years after a family member used this person’s name while driving because of that person’s own drivers license was suspended, to their surprise they received a letter just last week notifying them without warning that their license is suspended until fines are paid. They went downtown to check it out, got a print out and had it paid. Total fines $1400 (3 tickets and a reinstatement fee). They had two options, to re-open file and report it or pay it. Luckily a family member intervened and paid it.

You have unpaid fines from many years ago, the government is coming after you and without warning to pay up.

Now that persons record is tainted with a suspension and when it comes to insurance renewal their insurance rates will go up.

Ontario needs tougher penalties — such as seizing cars and income tax refunds — to deal with the $1 billion in unpaid fines from traffic tickets and provincial offences such as driving without insurance over the years.

That was the push Wednesday from the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards after completing a 26-page white paper on the problem at the request of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s administration.

About $300 million is owed to the City of Toronto, now desperately looking for ways to raise revenue and cut costs.

With governments at all levels facing a cash crunch, the money from scofflaws is needed to pay for programs and to ensure justice is not undermined, said Alok Mukherjee, president of the association representing civilian police boards across the province.

“Our estimate is that the collectable amount is in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said at Queen’s Park.

Toronto is due $36 million from 2009 alone — part of $100 million in province-wide fines in default that year and enough to cover the projected shortfall in the 2012 TTC budget, the white paper says.

For 2009, charts in the report show York and Durham regions are each owed almost $4 million, Brampton $5 million and Mississauga $2 million.

One-third of fines are simply not paid after conviction and action is “long overdue,” added Mukherjee, noting the problem rose “exponentially” after responsibility for collecting fines was downloaded to municipalities by the province in the late 1990s.

He called for improved tools for collecting fines, including incentives such as discounts for early payments, doubling late-payment penalties and better sharing of information between the Transportation Ministry and the Ministry of the Attorney General on who is paying up.

“The biggest bang for the buck would be the denial of licence plate stickers,” said Fred Kaustinen, executive director of the police association.

“A cop doesn’t have to wait for an infraction to stop that person. They can stop them by seeing that the plate is out of date . . . It’s already linked to not paying your 407 bill to a private company. Certainly we could do that enforcement tool for a whole range of serious public safety infractions.”

Licence plate suspensions are effective but are limited to unpaid red light camera fines, unpaid tolls, some unpaid parking tickets, and fees and interest for Highway 407.

McGuinty agreed a fix is needed, particularly given that governments are facing tough economic times.

“That’s an important conversation that I can certainly say from my perspective we’d like to have,” he said after touring the Eglinton LRT construction site with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

“It’s going to be very important that we look for ways to ensure that any money owing to us is, in fact, being paid. And that’s for all levels of government I’m sure.”

Jim Wilson, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey, said municipalities “absolutely” need more powers to collect because offenders know “the current system is so weak.”

“It shouldn’t come to the point where police boards are screaming at you,” Wilson added.

Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli said it is “very, very difficult” to collect money from some people because they have moved — sometimes out of Ontario. That points to the need for changes in the province’s information technology systems to get the right data to the right people, he said.

“It’s a serious issue that’s being raised, and it needs serious attention, and it’s probably going to need a very serious solution.”

The $1 billion in outstanding fines includes:

$354.4 million for driving without auto insurance, invalid insurance or failing to produce an insurance card upon request

$314.6 million for Highway Traffic Act offences

$52.6 million for offences under the Liquor Licence Act

$41.8 million for breaking various municipal bylaws

$20.9 million for Occupational Health and Safety Act offences

$19.2 million for offences under the Trespass to Property Act

Who owes the money?

Ontarians: $870.5 million (91 per cent)

Other Canadians: $34 million

Americans: $18.4 million

Other foreigners: $1.6 million

Unknown: $29.8 million