Texas congressman wants to recognize magic as a ‘national treasure’

Things have been a little crazy in American politics lately, but Donald Trump isn’t the only Republican making headlines.

This week, Texas congressman Pete Sessions – along with six GOP co-sponsors – introduced a resolution to congress asking that magic be recognized as a “rare and valuable art form and national treasure.”

ChangSha Night Net

The text of the resolution reads in part, “magic is an art form with the unique power and potential to impact the lives of all people” and is used to “bring wonder and happiness to others.” It also points out that “magic fulfills some of the highest ideals and aspirations” of the United States by “encouraging people to question what they believe and see.”

It also describes magic as “timeless in appeal” because it requires “only the capacity to dream.”

The resolution – which asks that magic be made a national treasure and have the government support efforts to make sure that magic is preserved – also includes a lot of information about American magician David Copperfield:

  • Whereas David Copperfield, through his magic, inspires great positive change in the lives of Americans;
  • Whereas people consistently leave David Copperfield’s live magic show with a different perspective than when they entered;
  • Whereas Rebecca Brown of Portland, Oregon, left a David Copperfield magic show with a newfound inspiration to pursue her lifelong, unfulfilled passion for dance;
  • Whereas three months after Rebecca Brown attended the David Copperfield magic show, she performed her first choreographed recital in Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Square;
  • Whereas programs such as Project Magic, created by David Copperfield, use magic as a form of therapy for children with physical, psychological, and social disabilities;

    It’s unclear if Sessions is a fan of Copperfield.

    However, as Quartz pointed out, this admiration for magic stands in stark contrast to how the Republican-dominated House of Representatives responds to scientific research.

    “The House Science Committee even subpoenaed scientists who published research debunking a popular climate change denier theory,” read the Quartz article, titled “Republican lawmakers may not trust science, but they do believe in magic.”

    “Among the co-sponsors of House Resolution 642, ‘Recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure’,” Idaho’s Mike Simpson claims that “there is widespread disagreement as to the magnitude of human influence on the climate and the degree to which any effort by humanity to reduce carbon output would slow or reverse the effects of climate change.’”

  • University of Alberta students call for action to reduce fentanyl deaths

    EDMONTON — A group of University of Alberta students is calling for action to reduce the growing number of people who are dying from fentanyl overdoses.

    Student Advocates for Public Health is encouraging support for Health Canada’s proposal to allow people to obtain the drug naloxone — which can reverse the effects of an overdose — without a prescription.

    ChangSha Night Net

    Related

    • Alleged Alberta fentanyl dealer linked to overdose death arrested, $36K seized

    • ‘It is a huge issue’: 145 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta so far in 2015

    • Fentanyl 101: The facts and dangers

      “We see that more than 270 Albertans have died needlessly in fentanyl-related deaths,” said Rhoda Lee, who is working on her masters degree in nursing.

      “As students, we have an interest in public health and healthy public policy and we decided that the fentanyl crisis is an issue that needs to be dealt with.”

      Fentanyl is an opiod that is many times more powerful than heroin.

      READ MORE: Fentanyl 101 – what you need to know about the drug

      The Alberta figure of 270 fentanyl-related deaths is for 2015 — more than double the previous year.

      The Canadian Centre For Substance Abuse estimates that at least 655 people have died across Canada from overdoses where fentanyl was the cause or a contributing cause between 2009 and 2014. A more up-to-date number was not available.

      Naloxone kits that include a syringe and vials of the drug are already being distributed in some provinces.

      The students want the pharmaceutical industry and Ottawa to allow the drug to be sold in forms that are easier to use, such as a nasal spray and an auto-injector device similar to an EpiPen.

      “We believe that this would help people find an easier way, rather than fumbling with needles and ampules, to be able to administer this drug quickly,” Lee said.

      READ MORE: Teen’s fentanyl overdose highlights troubling trend in Alberta

      The group also supports a federal private member’s bill that calls for protecting people who phone 911 to report drug overdoses from facing charges.

      Liberal MP Ron McKinnon introduced Bill C-224 in the Commons last month and hopes it will come up for debate this spring.

      The legislation aims to encourage a person who sees someone having an overdose to call for help immediately.

      McKinnon said he is grateful for the student endorsement and hopes other groups across Canada will support the proposed Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.

      “I love to hear this,” McKinnon said from his constituency office in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

      “We are looking at organizations like cities to come on board. The more people who see this and recognize the value of it and speak up the better.”

      READ MORE: 29 Alberta clinics now offer naloxone kits for fentanyl overdose treatment

      McKinnon said in the United States, 34 states and the District of Columbia have some form of Good Samaritan overdose immunity law.

      Health Canada’s website says the department is seeking public comment on a proposal to allow the non-prescription use of naloxone.

      The deadline for making a submission is March 19.

    10 years later, family of Canadian in Chinese prison still looking for answers

    It’s been 10 years since a Canadian citizen was arrested and eventually sentenced to life in prison in China on widely condemned terrorism charges, and his wife and four young boys are still searching for answers.

    During a trip to his wife’s native Uzbekistan in March 2006, Huseyin Celil – who fled to Canada as a political refugee from China in 2001 and became a Canadian citizen four years later – was arrested by Uzbek police and handed over to Chinese authorities.

    ChangSha Night Net

    Rights groups said he was not given access to Canadian consular officials, faced torture in custody, a forced confession and an unjust trial simply for being an outspoken critic of China’s treatment of the Uighur people – a Muslim minority group in the country’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang.

    A decade later, little has been done to secure Celil’s release, highlighting a gap in the federal government’s system for the protection of Canadians abroad.

    ‘They need him right now’

    Kamila Telendibaeva says the loss of her husband is still felt daily.

    “I am raising four boys and it’s – in 10 years it’s been a very, very difficult challenge,” she says from their Burlington, Ont. home.

    “We miss him a lot. I miss him a lot. And you know we are missing him every single day … I think they need him. They need him right now.”

    Kamila Telendibaeva is seen with three of her sons during a family vacation in 2015.

    Kamila Telendibaeva/Handout

    Celil has never met his youngest son, now almost 10 years old, born just months after his imprisonment.

    “My little one, most of time, he keeps [asking] and he says, ‘If he hasn’t done anything you know, why’s he in prison?’ I keep talking to him just to remind him he [has] done nothing wrong,” Telendibaeva says.

    “They need [their] father. I feel very sorry for them, ” she adds. “They’re not seeing their father’s love … and it is not fair – it is not fair for them.”

    Arrest and extradition to China

    Telendibaeva remembers the last time she saw Celil, the couple were visiting her family in Uzbekistan in March 2006 while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

    When Celil stepped out the door of their family home to run a quick errand, well-dressed in a black suit, Telendibaeva thought he would be back in a few hours – but she never saw him again.

    Celil was arrested by Uzbek police on March 26, 2006 and quietly handed over to Chinese authorities in June 2006 to face terrorism charges in a controversial extradition that was widely criticized by the Canadian government at the time.

    Huseyin Celil is seen in this still from a family video during his citizenship ceremony in 2005.

    Family/Handout

    With no other option, Telendibaeva returned to Canada not knowing if she would ever see her husband again and hoping the Canadian government would help secure his release.

    “When you are leaving some of your loved ones behind, and three kids, and I was pregnant at that time. It was really difficult,” she says.

    “It was a really bad day.”

    Efforts to secure his release

    It took months for the federal government to even find where Celil was being held and when questioned in the House of Commons on what they planned on doing for Celil the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deepak Obhrai, promised continued action.

    “As I have stated time after time, the Prime Minister is engaged and the foreign affairs minister is engaged. Not only that, but the Minister of Natural Resources, who was in China in November, talked with senior Chinese officials and he brought up this issue there,” he said.

    “We are fully engaged with the Chinese to ensure that Mr. Celil’s rights as a Canadian citizen are protected and brought to their attention.”

    In November 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper raised Celil’s case at the highest level with Chinese President Hu Jintao while in Hanoi, Vietnam for an economic summit.

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, China’s President Hu Jintao (front row right to left), US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Thailand’s Prime Minister Durayud Chulanont (back row left to right) wave during the official photograph at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi Vietnam Sunday Nov. 19, 2006.

    /Tom Hanson

    But Secretary General for Amnesty International Canada Alex Neve says after the sentence was imposed in April, “there was almost a bit of giving up” on the part of the federal government.

    “I think the wind went out of Canada’s sails a number of years ago,” he says. “And there’s a sense of, ‘What more can we do?’”

    16×9 reached out to Global Affairs Canada to ask what more they plan on doing for Celil.

    They declined an interview and provided an email statement saying Celil’s “case remains important to the Government of Canada and continues to be raised at senior levels” and that they “continue to call upon the Chinese government to permit Canadian officials to conduct a consular visit to monitor Mr. Celil’s well-being.”

    “Our goal is to ensure that Mr. Celil is safe and treated fairly, in accordance with international norms,” the statement reads.

    China refuses to acknowledge Celil’s Canadian citizenship and reiterates that his case is an internal affair, despite his travelling on a Canadian passport at the time of his detainment in March 2006.

    “Huseyin Celil is a Chinese citizen who is serving his sentence in jail,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy told 16×9 in an emailed statement.

    “We will continue to handle relevant matter in accordance with the law.”

    Controversial trial and imprisonment

    Following his extradition to China, Celil’s trial was shrouded in secrecy and the then-38-year-old eventually sentenced to life in prison.

    After his sentencing in April 2007, Celil’s family and lawyer claimed the circumstances leading up to his conviction were in violation of his human rights.

    “They say there was a signed confession,” Celil’s lawyer in Canada Chris MacLeod tells 16×9. “But quite frankly I think it’s under clear examples of torture and abuse and maltreatment. I mean he’s been in solitary confinement for years.”

    Huseyin Celil is seen in this still from a family video during a citizenship ceremony in 2005.

    Family/Handout

    To this day, MacLeod says Celil has had no access to Canadian consular services and the family in China is only permitted to see him once every few months.

    MacLeod maintains his client’s innocence amid the harsh penalty he continues to face.

    “For a Canadian citizen to somehow be captured, detained, tortured, and have no access to the Canadian government, for that person to be facing those sorts of human rights abuses is a particular affront to Canadians and the government of Canada,” MacLeod says.

    “All he’s ever done is speak out in favour of his community, his language, his culture … things that we would consider very normal by any stretch in Canada.”

    Human rights activist or international terrorist?

    Celil is a native of China and a member of the Uighurs, a repressed Muslim minority struggling to promote its cultural and religious autonomy within the region.

    Those who speak out in favour of greater independence for the Uighur people are often classified as terrorists and face harsh consequences at the hands of the Chinese government, according to rights groups.

    For decades there have been violent clashes between Chinese authorities and Uighurs, with both sides blaming each other for the bloodshed.

    Chinese officials claim militant extremists are attempting to create an independent state, while Uighur rights groups accuse the government of using unfounded accusations of terrorism to target Uighurs and justify crackdowns on peaceful protests.

    A demonstrator holds an immigration document bearing the photograph Huseyin Celil of during a protest for his release in front of the Chinese Consulate in Toronto, Ont. on November 2006.

    /Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

    But MacLeod says the Chinese consider Celil much more than just an activist.

    “He came onto the radar of the Chinese government simply because he was quite outspoken about China’s mistreatment of the Uighur people,” he says.

    “Their worst crime that they say is that he sought a sovereign or separate state for the Uighur people.”

    Neve says Celil was a leader within the Uighur community, which may have led to China targeting him.

    “Individuals who seek to promote the rights of the Uighur people, who speak out about concerns about Chinese policies in that part of China, are regularly harassed and very frequently are tried on charges – usually trumped up charges,” he says.

    “There are thousands of Canadians detained in countries all over the world … but most of those involve valid criminal accusations … in Huseyin’s case, there are very serious human rights concerns here.”

    A sliver of hope for Celil’s future

    In a surprising move last month, China commuted the sentence of Celil and 10 other prisoners in the Xinjiang region down from life in prison to an additional 19.5 and 20-year sentences, according to Chinese news agencies.

    “It was amazing for us … we were surprised. We didn’t expect [it],” Telendibaeva says. “That’s why we don’t want to give hope and just keep pushing.”

    But the government could not confirm if the reports of Celil’s commutation are true and say they are still “seeking official confirmation.”

    READ MORE: China reduces sentences for 11 Uighurs, including Canadian

    “Celil’s case remains important to the Government of Canada and continues to be raised at senior levels,” Global Affairs Canada says in an emailed statement to 16×9.

    “We continue to call upon the Chinese government to permit Canadian officials to conduct a consular visit to monitor Mr. Celil’s well-being. Our goal is to ensure that Mr. Celil is safe and treated fairly, in accordance with international norms.”

    Telendibaeva says despite the reduction of his sentence, the family has concerns over his health – including digestive and vision issues she attributes to his extensive time in solitary confinement.

    Kamila Telendibaeva speaks in support of her husband’s release with journalist Mohamed Fahmy and Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada Alex Neve on Jan. 26, 2016.

    Global News

    “We don’t know anything. His family [in China], they are seeing him every six months. Which is – it’s very, very long. Not six days, not six weeks, six months,” she says.

    “I am saying as a Canadian, I am saying as a human, he is missing all his rights.”

    Celil has exhausted almost all of his legal options and at this point all indications show that he will not be released from prison until the age of 68, by which time his children could have families of their own.

    “At the end of the day it’s entirely up to Chinese officials to resolve this case,” says Neve.

    “But that doesn’t mean that in the face of Chinese intransigence to date that Canadian officials should give up.”

    16×9’s “The Last Moment I Saw Him” airs Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 7 p.m.

    With files from Claude Adams

    Dutch ban arms trade with Saudi Arabia, but Canada will ‘respect’ its $15B deal

    While the Dutch parliament has taken a step to chastise Saudi Arabia for its abhorrent human rights record, voting in favour of banning arms exports to the country, Canada’s prime minister reasserted a controversial arms deal with the kingdom won’t be cancelled.

    ChangSha Night Net

    Related

    • Saudi arms deal will still stand, despite Liberal disapproval: Dion

    • Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record. Why are they still Canada’s ally?

    • Men-only Ontario college campuses in Saudi Arabia unacceptable: Wynne

    • Saudi beheadings soar in 2015 to highest in 2 decades

      Prime minister Justin Trudeau, visiting UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday, where he formally announced Canada would bid for a seat on the Security Council, said his newly-elected government could not renege on a deal secured by the previous one.

      READ MORE: Canada closely monitoring country’s military exports, has legal ‘levers’ on Saudi deal

      “Canada is a country of the rule of law, a country of democratically elected government, and regardless of how we may feel about a previous government, the fact is they were democratically elected. They signed on to a contract and we are bound to respect that contract,” Trudeau said of the $15-billion arms deal the Conservatives signed to supply light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudis.

      The deal would see London, Ont.-based General Dynamics Land Systems Canada manufacture LAVs for the Saudi military, providing some 3,000 people jobs in the process. But human rights groups warn arms sent to Saudi Arabia could be used against civilians and government opposition groups.

      The bill put before Dutch lawmakers Tuesday referenced Saudi Arabia’s rising tally of executions, 73 so far this year, and its bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen, which has led to more than 6,000 deaths — half of them civilians. A UN panel report leaked in January said the kingdom’s assault on civilian targets were “widespread and systematic attacks” and a violation of international humanitarian law.

      WATCH: Ban Ki-moon asked if he objects to Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia

      The Netherlands is the first country in the European Union to adopt such a ban, following European Parliament motion in February urging member nations to put a halt on arms trade with a government that is widely viewed as an ally to Western governments.

      READ MORE: Federal government denounces mass executions in Saudi Arabia

      There has been growing public pressure on governments, including in Canada, to cease arms trade with Saudi Arabia.

      The Liberal government said last month it would review Saudi Arabia’s rights record when taking future deals into consideration, but has maintained it would not cancel a $15-billion deal brokered by the previous Conservative government.

      Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion told a Feb. 29 Senate meeting the Liberal government didn’t approve of the deal but would permit it to stand.

      READ MORE: Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record. Why are they still Canada’s ally?

      The Saudi government was on the defensive earlier this month, calling criticism of the deal “sensationalized and politicized.”

      “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not accept any interference in its jurisdiction or internal affairs by any party,” the Globe and Mail reported the Saudi embassy in Ottawa saying in a statement.

      Canada is not the only government facing calls to halt arms trade with Saudi Arabia.

      The U.K. sold more than $5.5 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia in the first three months of 2015, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

      Germany, which sold approximately $260 million in arms to Riyadh in the first half of last year, said it will take Saudi human rights violations into consideration moving forward but, like Canada, won’t call off previously negotiated deals.

      With files from

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    French’s ketchup ‘cannibalizing’ President’s Choice’s: Loblaw memo

    TORONTO – A leaked internal memo sent to some Loblaw employees said the grocery chain decided to stop stocking French’s ketchup because it was “cannibalizing” sales of its in-house President’s Choice variety.

    Loblaw confirmed the memo’s existence but said it wasn’t an official one.

    The memo addressed to grocery managers and retailers said it intended to explain why French’s ketchup was being pulled from store shelves.

    ChangSha Night Net

    “We are in the process of delisting French’s ketchup because it is cannibalizing the sales of PC ketchup and has had little impact to Heinz ketchup,” reads the memo.

    obtained a photo of the memo from someone who says they are a Loblaw employee. The employee, who wished to remain anonymous due to fears of workplace reprisal, identified the sender of the memo as a senior director at the company.

    Loblaw, however, described the sender as a mid-level employee who is a member of the company’s operations team for a group of stores.

    READ MORE: French’s ketchup uproar: 4 other times consumers were outraged

    “The memo was unofficial, misinformed and sent by a staff member prior to (Tuesday’s) decision to restock French’s ketchup,” Kevin Groh, vice-president of corporate affairs and communication, said Wednesday in a statement.

    “Customer preference was the single reason the product was removed from our shelves, and the single reason it is back.”

    Loblaw announced Tuesday it was reversing its decision to discontinue selling French’s ketchup following social media outcry.

    French’s ketchup became an Internet darling after a man’s Facebook post lauded the U.S.-based company for using 100 per cent Canadian-grown tomatoes.

    READ MORE: Ketchup politics: Ontario legislature asked to serve French’s, not Heinz

    Other Canadians answered the call to support local farmers and demand for French’s increased. People shared stories of their local grocers being unable to keep French’s ketchup in stock due to high demand.

    WATCH: Loblaws restocking French’s ketchup after social media outcry

    The memo indicates Loblaw was concerned about French’s ketchup eating into its President’s Choice profits, but Groh reiterated his company’s position that French’s ketchup simply wasn’t selling.

    “In past, French’s ketchup has not come close to matching the sales of the other brands — even when discounted,” Groh said.

    The leaked memo also says that social media buzz didn’t necessarily translate to actual sales.

    READ MORE: Loblaws to re-stock French’s ketchup, made with Canadian tomatoes

    But the memo does take issue with the notion that French’s ketchup is a Canadian-made product. It says French’s ketchup contains Canadian-grown tomatoes, but it is made in the U.S.

    A spokesperson for French’s said the ketchup it sells in Canada is produced in both Canada and the U.S.

    Loblaw’s President’s Choice ketchup, on the other hand, sources its tomatoes from California, but is produced in Canada.

    “If we truly want to support Canadian, we must rally behind PC ketchup since it is made in Canada,” the memo says.

    Groh said one brand is not more Canadian than the other, but President’s Choice is continuing conversations to purchase tomatoes from Canadian farmers if high-quality produce can be available in the amount needed for the right price.

    “We have not yet found that balance,” he said.

    Stabbing suspect once had restricted airport security clearance

    TORONTO —; The 27-year-old man accused of stabbing two soldiers at a Canadian Forces recruitment centre previously worked at Toronto’s largest airport and had access to restricted areas.

    Ayanle Hassan Ali worked for a third party employer at Toronto Pearson International Airport from December 2008 to March 2009 and possessed a Restricted Area Identification Card, according to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

    ChangSha Night Net

    “[Ali] is not an employee of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority nor does he currently work at Toronto Pearson,” a spokeswoman for the organization told Global News.

    “We join all Canadians in wishing the injured soldiers a speedy recovery, and in saluting the brave personnel who intervened to defuse the attack.”

    READ MORE: Accused in military stabbing said ‘Allah told me to do this’: police

    Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said Ali walked into the office located in a federal government building in north Toronto around 3 p.m. Monday and slashed a male soldier behind the counter in the arm with a “large knife,” then tried and failed to stab a female soldier before being subdued by Forces members, one of whom was injured in the process.

    Both soldiers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released.

    Saunders told reporters Tuesday the accused said at the scene “Allah told me to do this. Allah told me to come here and kill people.”

    WATCH: Montreal man faces charges after Toronto military recruitment office stabbings

    Police said they believe Ali acted alone in the stabbing but added investigators are looking into any possible connections with terror groups.

    Saunders said Ali is a Montreal-born Canadian citizen living in Toronto since 2011. He said the accused had no prior contact with police.

    RCMP and federal agencies are involved in the case and terrorism charges aren’t being ruled out, Saunders said.

    READ MORE: Man arrested after 2 attacked at Canadian Forces office in Toronto: police

    Ali’s lawyer David Burke told reporters the accused is “very scared right now” and may seek bail. Burke refused to answer questions on his client’s personal life or background. The charge sheet states Ali lives in north Etobicoke in the city’s west end.

    Police initially announced five charges against Ali but court documents say he faces nine offences: three counts each of attempted murder and assault with a weapon, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of weapons dangerous.

    A bulletin issued to members of the Toronto Police Service on Monday and obtained by Global News warned officers to be aware of “potential sympathizers or lone-actors” who may commit similar acts.

    It further reminded officers to “maintain heightened vigilance for suspicious behaviour.”

    Accused in military stabbing said ‘Allah told me to do this’: Police

    00:34

    Accused in military stabbing said ‘Allah told me to do this’: Police

    00:40

    Toronto military stabbing suspect may face terrorism charges

    00:19

    Toronto police investigating military office attacker’s connections nationally and abroad

    00:26

    Toronto Police Chief urges public to resist ‘Islamophobia’ in wake of attack on military office

    00:49

    ‘We do remain vigilant’: Canadian Forces recruitment centre



    With files from Will Campbell