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Party Pics: Laureen Harper replaces Stephen, and Bill Blair wants to arm wrestle at the True Patriot Love gala

Party Pics: at the True Patriot Love gala

Stephen Harper missed Thursday night’s True Patriot Love Dinner at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, but his wife Laureen managed just fine by herself. Canada’s first lady even picked-up a new suitor. “She’s my date tonight,” Lloyd Robertson proclaimed at the start of the evening, which honours and helps members of the Canadian Military and their families. (In addition to business heavyweights like Paul Godfrey, Robert Deluce and Ivan Fecan, the room was so full of military men that Mrs. Harper didn’t need a security detail.) Of course, our mayor’s antics were the topic of much of the chatter, and Police Chief Bill Blair had the pleasure of hearing many theories and opinions on the subject from attendees. Which isn’t to say Blair didn’t have fun—the chief even mock-challenged a friend to an arm wrestling match. How very Rob Ford of him.

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Current Obsession: Larry Towell’s haunting photographs from the ruins of Afghanistan

The Canadian photographer’s images capture the human side of an unwinnable war

Current Obsession
Larry Towell was in New York for a meeting when he heard that the twin towers had been hit. He immediately grabbed his camera and ran to the scene; his resulting images of dazed and dust-covered New Yorkers have become iconic. That reaction was part of a pattern for the 58-year-old Towell, who for more than three decades has been travelling from his southwestern Ontario home to places like Nicaragua, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and South Africa to take photos of people caught up in bitter, bloody conflicts. Beginning in 2008, Towell went to Afghanistan to witness first-hand the war that had been sparked by 9/11. He spent months in the country, and though he spent some time embedded with U.S. military units, he was determined to take pictures that said more than what government and political officials were telling the world. Many of his stark and unnerving photos are now on display at the ROM as part of a joint exhibition with the Irish photographer Donovan Wylie. We asked Towell to give us the backstory on some of the show’s unforgettable scenes.

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Memoir: a high-stakes war adventure in Afghanistan is hard to replicate in peace-loving Toronto

Memoir: Itching for a Fight For the last 10 years, I’ve been a reservist with the Queen’s York Rangers, a Toronto-based army unit. After basic training, reserve soldiers like me train on a part-time basis—one night a week, one weekend a month. We also deploy, voluntarily, on operations overseas. Four years ago, my unit asked me if I wanted to go to Afghanistan on a 10-month tour. Rather than any notion of patriotism, it was my desire for adventure—for an undertaking where the stakes were truly high—that compelled me to say yes.

In May 2008, after a year of full-time training in Petawawa, I was sent to Kandahar. My job as a watch officer in the task force headquarters was about as safe as it got over there: I coordinated time-sensitive operations, such as medevac, for troops engaged in firefights. Our base was frequently rocketed, but I was never hurt. In fact, I had some very good times, including, as strange as it must sound, the first time I went on a foot patrol into Lako Khail, one of the province’s most dangerous corners. As I walked along the dusty road, the only thing that mattered was the moment, and I’d never felt more alive.

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Business

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RIM is losing its hold on the security-conscious, including Halliburton and the U.S. military 

While consumers and investors alike shunned Research in Motion last year, the BlackBerry’s reputation for security managed to maintain the company’s hold on the market for governments, banks, law firms and other leak-averse businesses. But now even the security-conscious are moving on. The U.S. military reportedly plans to use Android devices to handle classified documents, while drilling giant Halliburton will swap its BlackBerrys for iPhones over the next two years. Neither deal will sink RIM—Halliburton employees, for instance, account for only about 4,500 BlackBerrys—but both show that the paranoid (or the presidential) have other options. Still, when even Halliburton doesn’t want to be seen with you, things aren’t looking good. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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Destination Munkistan: A look at Peter Munk’s new Adriatic playground for the super-rich

The latest project of the gold magnate Peter Munk is a seaside resort and tax haven for fellow billionaires in the post-Soviet backwater of Tivat, Montenegro. A delirious tour of a world of champagne-drenched parties, supersize yachts and the recession-proof Ultra-High Net Worth Individual

Captain Fantastic: Peter Munk on his 40-metre yacht, the Golden Eagle, which has a full-time staff of five. (Image: Jim Ross)

Captain Fantastic: Peter Munk on his 40-metre yacht, the Golden Eagle, which has a full-time staff of five. (Image: Jim Ross)

There are birthday parties, and then there was Nathaniel Rothschild’s party this past July. The financier, scion of the prominent banking family and future baron was turning 40 and spent £1 million on the weekend-long extravaganza. The venue: Porto Montenegro, a newly developed luxury resort and marina in the Montenegrin coastal town of Tivat, on the southeast side of the Adriatic Sea. It was the sort of gathering that marks the end of an era or the birth of an empire—and in a way, for Europe’s youngest and smallest democracy, it was both.

Four hundred guests arrived at the village airport on private jets or stepped off the fleet of super-yachts that washed ashore from the world’s most glamorous tax havens—the Grenadines, Gibraltar, Grand Cayman. The attendees were described in the Guardian society pages as “200 ugly rich people and their poorer but more attractive partners,” or, as one guest more generously put it, “plutocrats and the women who love them.” A number of the partiers were so fantastically rich they could bankroll whole armies (which the birthday boy’s family, in its heyday, once did): Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (who arrived on his £70-million yacht, the Queen K); the wealthy Egyptian Sawiris family (who have embarked on their own Montenegrin development nearby); King Leruo Molotlegi, ruler of a tiny, platinum-rich part of South Africa, who hit the dance floor in a fabulous dashiki; British politician Lord Peter Mandelson; Jimmy Choo honcho Tamara Mellon; the historian Niall Ferguson and his Dutch-Somali partner, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a feminist critic of Islam. There was a healthy smattering of European royalty, as well as members of the Guinness and Goldsmith clans.

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At $2 million an episode, Combat Hospital, a new MASH-like war drama set in Afghanistan but made in Etobicoke, needs to find an audience fast

Combat Hospital’s 185,000-square-foot set, on the site of a former bottle factory, is one of the largest in Canada.

Combat Hospital’s 185,000-square-foot set, on the site of a former bottle factory, is one of the largest in Canada. (Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)

Over the 10 years of Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan, our film and television industry has, on more than one occasion, recreated that country for the purpose of entertainment. Mostly, these efforts have occurred on Canadian soil, no small feat given that Afghanistan is an anarchic, war-ravaged nation where summer temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius, and Canada is a country known for its cold-weather sports and niceness. Ingenuity, it seems, is key. When a production team attempted to build an Afghani village for the CBC series The Border, they did so in a gravel pit in Caledon, a popular film location that, owing to the magic of the lens, has also served as a tropical jungle (Amazon) and the high Arctic (Lives of the Saints). The Maritime producer Barrie Dunn, for his soon-to-be-released film Afghan Luke, used the British Columbia interior, specifically a small town near Kamloops called Cache Creek.

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How Byron Sonne’s obsession with the G20 security apparatus cost him everything

The fence, as the notorious G20 barricade was known, was three metres high and 10 kilometres long. It was put up at a cost of $9.4 million to cordon off the public from two parts of the downtown core during the summit’s two days in Toronto last year. The most crucial area to protect was the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the world leaders were set to meet. A second barricade enclosed Bay Street to Blue Jays Way and Wellington to Lake Shore Boulevard—home to the hotels where the Internationally Protected Persons would sleep.

In the buildup to the summit, Byron Sonne, a slim, balding 37-year-old computer consultant, shot photos and videos of security measures and uploaded them to the Internet under the nickname Toronto Goat. Sonne was obsessed with finding flaws in the security apparatus. Some of his comments on Twitter and Flickr derided the fence’s integrity and strength; a couple of photos showed climbing tools called tree steps that he said could be used to scale the fence or tear it down. Other security measures came under his scrutiny, too. Sonne posted a link to a Toronto Star map of the 71 new CCTV cameras that had been installed for the summit, and took photos of loose wires behind one of them, implying that they could be rendered useless with one snip.

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People

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Off to a great start: Sun News president explains “Iggy in Iraq” goof

Michael Ignatieff: apparently not the mastermind behind the Iraq War (Image: Michael Ignatieff)

This morning’s papers from the Sun Media chain have a special feature on page 3, and no it’s not an attempt to pick up the Maxim market. Pierre Karl Péladeau, president and CEO of Sun owner Quebecor Media, took to the pages of his papers to explain just why the chain and TV network ran its bizarre story about Michael Ignatieff’s role in planning the Iraq War (which, to be clear, turned out to be non-existent).

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The Informer

Politics

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The four vital issues that won’t be discussed in the upcoming election

For all intents and purposes, tomorrow is the expiration date for the 40th Canadian Parliament. This means that, for the next six- to eight-week election campaign, there will be plenty to talk about. There will also be plenty not talked about. Some issues are so politically radioactive that, no matter how vital they may be to the health of the nation, no leader will touch them. Here, we speculate on what we won’t be hearing from Iggy, Harpy and Lay this spring.

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The Informer

Politics

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What would budget proposals look like if Ottawa made sense? Two think tanks’ adventures in coherence

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) today released the Alternative Budget, its annual exercise in make-believe, where the left-wing group conjures up a budget that the government of the day—be it Liberal or Conservative—regularly ignores. This year’s alt-budget is, we’ll wager, likely headed for the same fate as all the previous ones, given what the details are: rolling back corporate tax cuts, establishing two new tax brackets for high-income earners, cancelling the F-35 fighter jets and imposing a national carbon tax and a new 28 per cent tax rate for the oil sands. “The money saved and generated could go into programs that would create new jobs, reduce income disparity, rebuild infrastructure, improve pension benefits and help the environment,” reports the Globe and Mail.

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Memoir: a Toronto cop in Kandahar

I spent nine months in Afghanistan, helping train police officers and patrolling with the military. I’m not a churchgoing man, but I’ve never done more praying in my life

We arrived by military plane at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on the night of November 17, 2009. For a large air base, it was dark and surreal. I’ve never seen so many bats. Light at night is the enemy’s friend, so the base was what we call light disciplined, meaning minimal illumination, and it was also really noisy and dusty. Everyone thinks Afghanistan is all sand, but it’s more like dust. We used to call it moon dust—you take a step and it billows up around your feet. It gets into everything. There’s also a pervasive smell, a combination of open sewage, diesel, and all the things they burn for fuel: cow manure, wood, plastics. It all floats up into the air. Afghanistan was nothing like the world I knew in Canada, but it would be my home for the next 273 days.

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Politics

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When Liberals attack—or “clarify”—they still somehow mess it up

Between the Conservative ads out earlier this week, the “leaked” NDP memo about how awesomely ready they are, and the news this morning that the Liberal Party has released ads of its own, it’s beginning to look a lot like Writ-mas. The new Grit ads have the shocking novelty of not being terrible or confusing, like some of the 2008-era ads were. In this latest batch, the Liberals are attacking “clarifying” the Conservative record on matters fiscal and military, and so far there isn’t even a single happy-shiny ad in the package to give this a veneer of positivity. (Not that we were taking the lone positive Conservative ad seriously.)

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Politics

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Rumours fly about another Tory cabinet minister joining the “Toronto elite” (somewhere, John Baird’s ears are burning)

Peter MacKay: Bay Street bound? (Image: Benjamin J. DeLong)

Being a Conservative MP must be tough these days. There’s the boss, who doesn’t make winning elections easy. Then there’s the pay ($150,000 doesn’t go as far as it used to). Add to that the frustrations of a year of minor political crises in Ottawa, and anyone can see why some cabinet ministers would be beating a path to the doors. First there was Jim Prentice, who abruptly announced he was done with politics and heading to work for Bay Street bank CIBC. Now there are rumours swirling about Defense Minister Peter MacKay ditching the capital for Toronto.

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Real Estate

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Lest we forget: interactive map shows where Toronto’s fallen soldiers once lived

Click on map for full version

Earlier this week, OpenFile introduced its Poppy File, rolling out an impressive interactive map by Patrick Cain, the same guru who produced some of the most detailed maps of Toronto’s mayoral results. This latest cartographical contribution shows the home addresses of more than 3,200 people who died in World War II and listed a next-of-kin address in Toronto (click here for the interactive version).

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The Goods

Shopping

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We’re coveting these skinny cargo pants

It’s probably obvious by now that we’re fans of military details on clothing. The cargo pant, which we saw in the late ’90s, spilling into the early 2000s, has resurfaced once again, but as a new take on the trend. This season, women are still rolling them up and wearing them with heels, but unlike the baggy pants of the J-Lo era, these cargos are slim and sexy. J Brand’s Houlihans (named after Mash’s Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan) have proven exceptionally popular, warranting an entire article in the New York Times. We also like this pair from Fidelity ($220), which is less bulky than the original style, with pockets that don’t add extra volume to the hip area. They come in a camo print, muddy brown, black and, our favourite, olive green.

Available at Over the Rainbow, 101 Yorkville Ave, 416-967-7448.

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