Hugh MacDonald will not seek reelection

Veteran Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald has decided he will not seek re-election, the party’s executive director said Tuesday.

“I can confirm that he let the leader (Raj Sherman) know last week that he will not be seeking re-election,” Corey Hogan said after unconfirmed rumours began circulating online.

“Raj asked him if he would run again and he said, essentially, ‘I’m tired.’ “

MacDonald, 56, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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The 15-year veteran Liberal MLA, was a candidate in the race to become leader of the Liberal party but was defeated earlier this month by ousted Tory MLA and party newcomer Raj Sherman.

During the contest he regularly attacked Sherman during debates and was vocal about his dissatisfaction with changes to the Liberal leadership election process, which allowed thousands of party “supporters” to vote in addition to paying members.

Despite his concerns about the process, MacDonald said he would accept the results and planned to stay with the party. “I would not encourage any political party ever to experiment with this sort of process again,” he said at the time.

MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah said the MacDonald’s tough criticism of Sherman during the debates was a harbinger of things to come.

“A stalwart member who has been an important part of the team has decided not to run,” he said. “It does raise questions about caucus unity and Sherman’s leadership.”

The question, Mensah said, is whether Sherman will be able to mend the fractured party in time for the coming provincial election, widely anticipated to be called within the next six months.

“There’s no question that Hugh MacDonald is part of the party establishment,” Mensah said. “His concern is reflective of a concern among some in the Liberal Party about having what some consider an interloper – someone from outside – taking over the party.

“Is this the tip of the iceberg, so to speak? Or is this just an isolated defection from the team?”

Sherman spokesman Jonathan Huckabay declined to comment Tuesday.
 


Actor Rob Lowe says Bollywood market lured him to coming-of-age tale ‘Breakaway’

TORONTO – Rob Lowe has been a pin-up boy, a movie idol, a TV star and – most recently – a bestselling author.

Now, he’s intent on becoming a movie mogul.

The veteran actor says his new role as part owner of the vast Miramax film library has him scouting for money-making productions that could involve partnering with Canadian and foreign filmmakers.

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Lowe says it’s a big reason he appears in the Indo-Canadian hockey film, “Breakaway,” an amalgam of Bollywood and sports movie tropes that hits theatres around the world this weekend.

“I was really interested in the theme of assimilation and what it means to belong and in terms of fathers and sons, what it means to break that bond and go your own way,” Lowe said of the coming-of-age tale when it debuted at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

“And as a businessman, as I’ve started to transition into that area, I was really interested in the Bollywood business and I thought this would be a good way to learn.”

The Toronto-shot “Breakaway” treads familiar Canuck ground by revolving around an underdog hockey phenom. The twist here is that the on-ice star is an Indo-Canadian kid struggling to assert his independence from overbearing immigrant parents.

Rajveer Singh, played by newcomer Vinay Virmani, is more interested in hanging out at the community rink than working at his uncle’s trucking company. When the local amateur team rejects him despite a stellar on-ice performance, Rajveer forms his own team with his South Asian pals and they make a bid for the championships.

Lowe plays the rink manager and the team’s coach, but his character also happens to be an ex-NHLer with a few hard-won lessons up his sleeve. He also has a lovely sister, who inspires colourful Bollywood fantasies in the lovestruck Rajveer.

“I was interested in seeing what a hybrid would look like and that’s what this movie really is,” Lowe said.

The film’s global aspirations are bolstered by cameos from Indian stars Akshay Kumar (who also executive produced the film) and Anupam Kher (“Bend It Like Beckham”), and rap stars Drake and Ludacris. Meanwhile, Canadian comic superstar Russell Peters turns up as a wisecracking Wall Street hotshot poised to marry into the Singh family.

Virmani said he was awestruck the first time he met Lowe on set, noting that the Hollywood star once played a hockey prospect much like Rajveer in 1986’s “Youngblood.”

“I shot about six hours of hockey in the afternoon, (and then) I was going to do this big dramatic scene with Rob,” recalled Virmani, who also co-wrote the script.

“I was a little bit nervous and I saw him skating out on the ice. And I said, ‘Hi Mr. Lowe, I’m Vinay Virmani, I’m going to play Rajveer Singh.’ And he just gave me a big hug right away and he said: ‘Ah, you know, this is a homecoming for me man, because 20 years ago I did ‘Youngblood’ here and you’re just where I was. And that’s what I love about Canada, that a brown kid like you can be the next Youngblood!’”

Known as “Speedy Singhs” outside of Canada, “Breakaway” hit 600 theatres in India on Sept. 23, but suffered a dismal opening according to Boxofficereport杭州夜网.

It’s set to screen in the U.K., Middle East, Australia, Fiji, the Far East, Africa and Canada on Friday.

Lowe said his shift to the business side of the industry began about a year and a half ago when he partnered with a group of financiers behind Filmyard Holdings. They bought Miramax as their first investment and Lowe said the first priority is to recapitalize their debt and pay off initial investors.

“We have been in the process of trying to figure out what the new Miramax would look like and we’re deep in the thick of it. Eventually we will make movies at some point… but this first year has been (about) building infrastructure and monetizing our library,” said Lowe, referring to widespread reports the company is seeking digital deals.

“Obviously the next phase of that will be making movies and what does that look like for us and how do we do it? There’s a lot of different ways we’re thinking about doing it.”

CEO Mike Lang was among the executives at the Toronto film fest hunting for revenue opportunities for Miramax’s 700-plus titles, which include “Pulp Fiction,” the “Kill Bill” series and the “Spy Kids” franchise, said Lowe.

The film star didn’t rule out teaming up with Canadian filmmakers down the line to collaborate on big-screen ventures.

“We’re actively looking for partnerships right now with some of our project libraries that we inherited, actual scripts,” said Lowe.

“I think it’s $500 million worth of undeveloped material that we inherited, that (Miramax founders) Bob and Harvey (Weinstein) developed and they have great taste. So one of the things we’re doing is looking for creative partners to maybe move forward with those.”

Lowe said his hectic work schedule required him to commute throughout the “Breakaway” shoot between Toronto and L.A., where he plays peppy city manager Chris Traeger on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.”

But he spoke effusively about his time north of the border, rattling off favourite restaurants, his affinity for a downtown sports bar and the beauty of cottage country north of Toronto where he managed to squeeze in a three-day writing session for his recent memoir, “Stories I Only Tell My Friends.”

“I think the most writing I got done on the book was here during this movie in Muskoka as the leaves were falling,” he said.

“And I’ve been to Muskoka – I go every year, we have friends that have a house there and I love it – but I’d never been in the fall/winter and man, you could just feel the hammer was about to come down.”

Now that he’s waded into the high stakes arena of film financing, Lowe said he’s eager to learn more about a South Asian film market that appears ripe for savvy North American filmmakers.

“I’m in the film business and even I don’t really have a proper grasp of how potent it is,” he says.

“Breakaway” opens across the country Friday.


‘L Word’ actress escorted from flight after kissing woman

The publicist for a lesbian actress and musician who says she was escorted off a flight for “one modest kiss” of her partner says the encounter was not a stunt for her band’s upcoming breast cancer awareness tour.

Leisha Hailey, best known for playing Alice Pieszecki in the now defunct Showtime lesbian life drama “The L Word,” asked her Twitter followers to boycott Southwest Airlines after the encounter Monday.

The airline responded that Hailey’s display of affection was excessive and drew customer complaints.

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The actress and her partner, Camila Grey, denied in a statement released Tuesday that the affection they showed toward each other was inappropriate.

“We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one modest kiss,” the written statement said. “We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple.”

Hailey and Grey acknowledge they became upset after the flight attendant reprimanded them. They said the attendant told them that Southwest is a “family airline.”

“No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn’t make it any less loud,” the statement said. “You can’t whisper hate. We ask this airline to teach their employees to not discriminate against any couple, ever, regardless of their own beliefs.”

Hailey and Gray said they plan to file a formal complaint with the airline.

The incident resulted in a national media spotlight for the actress, who now is a part of the electro-pop duo Uh Huh Her. Publicist Libby Coffey said Tuesday that the encounter was real and was “absolutely not” done for attention.

The airline said in a news release posted on its website: “Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behaviour and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”

Hailey tweeted that she was escorted off the flight after it landed. The statement said the incident with the flight attendant lasted five minutes.

The air carrier so far has limited its response to the four-sentence statement on its website. Phone calls and emails seeking comment were not returned.

“Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behaviour as excessive,” the statement said in part.

Details of how the couple was escorted off the flight were not included in the Southwest statement. Initial reports had the flight between Baltimore and St. Louis, but a tweet by the band says its members were flying from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles.

The band’s Twitter feed also characterized the kiss as fleeting. “I didn’t realize a small peck on the lips is regarded as excessive and never once did your stewardess mention other passengers,” said the tweet from UhHuhHerMusic.

Hailey said in a tweet that she has an audio and video recording of the encounter between the couple and the flight attendant. It’s not immediately clear who made it.

Hailey demanded a public apology and a refund from the airline.

Hailey was a musician before joining the cast of the cable drama featuring the lives of lesbian friends and lovers living in Los Angeles. The show is currently not aired.

Southwest’s website says it is the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Herndon Graddick, senior director of programs at GLAAD, said in an email late Monday that “GLAAD contacted Southwest to call for additional actions beyond tonight’s statement that ensure all customers feel comfortable and welcomed while travelling.”

Earlier this month, the Dallas-based airline kicked off Green Day’s lead man Billie Joe Armstrong for wearing his pants too low. The Grammy winner was escorted off a plane after failing to follow a flight attendant’s directive to pull up the pants.

Southwest also removed director Kevin Smith from a flight last year because he didn’t fit properly in a single seat. His first tweet read, “Dear (at)SouthwestAir I know I’m fat, but was (the) captain (…) really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?”

Hailey is preparing to launch a 21-city tour with Uh Huh Her to promote breast cancer awareness. One of the band’s songs was included in the 2010 movie “The Kids Are All Right.”


Jackson’s voice, recorded before death, echoes through court at trial of doctor

LOS ANGELES – First, prosecutors showed a photo of Michael Jackson’s pale and lifeless body lying on a gurney. Then they played a recording of his voice, just weeks before his death.

Slow and slurred, his words echoed Tuesday through a Los Angeles courtroom at the start of the trial of the doctor accused of killing him. As a worldwide audience watched on TV and Jackson’s family looked on from inside the courtroom, a drugged Jackson said:

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“We have to be phenomenal. When people leave this show, when people leave my show, I want them to say, ‘I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I’ve never seen nothing like this. Go. It’s amazing. He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.”‘

Prosecutors played the audio for the first time during opening statements as they portrayed Dr. Conrad Murray, 58, as an incompetent physician who used a dangerous anesthetic without
adequate safeguards and whose neglect left the superstar abandoned as he lay dying.

Defence attorneys countered that Jackson caused his own death by taking a drug dose, including propofol, after Murray left the room.

Nothing the cardiologist could have done would have saved the King of Pop, defence attorney Ed Chernoff told jurors, because Jackson was desperate to regain his fame and needed rest to prepare for a series of crucial comeback concerts.

A number of Jackson’s family members were in the courthouse, including his father Joseph, mother Katherine, sisters LaToya and Janet, and brothers Jermaine, Randy and Tito. LaToya Jackson carried a sunflower, her brother’s favourite flower.

Murray, who arrived at court holding hands with his mother, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.

Speaking for more than an hour, prosecutor David Walgren relied on photos and audio recordings to paint Murray as an inept and reckless caretaker.

Walgren showed a photo of a lifeless Jackson on a hospital gurney. He juxtaposed the image with those of Jackson performing. Walgren also played the recording of Jackson speaking to Murray
while, the prosecutor said, the singer was under the influence of an unknown substance roughly six weeks before his death.

Jackson trusted Murray as his physician, and “that misplaced trust in Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life,” Walgren said.

The recurring theme was Jackson’s never-ending quest for sleep and propofol, the potion he called his “milk” and that he believed was the answer. Jurors were told that it was a powerful anesthetic, not a sleep aid, and the prosecutor said Murray severely misused it.

The prosecutor said while working for Jackson, the doctor was shipped more than four gallons of the anesthetic, which is normally given in hospital settings.

Chernoff, the defence attorney, claimed the singer swallowed several pills of the sedative lorazepam on the morning of his death and that was enough to put six people to sleep. After taking
propofol, Jackson did not even have a chance to close his eyes, Chernoff said.

Chernoff, who had long hinted that the defence would blame Jackson for his own death, added a surprise. He claimed that Jackson died not because his doctor continued to give him the drug but because he stopped it, forcing Jackson to take extreme measures.

“What we will hear is that Dr. Murray provided propofol for two months to Michael Jackson for sleep,” Chernoff said. “During those two months, Michael Jackson slept. He woke up and he lived his life.

“The evidence will not show you that Michael Jackson died because Dr. Murray gave him propofol. The evidence is going to show you Michael Jackson died when Dr. Murray stopped,” the attorney
said. He said Murray was trying to wean Jackson off of propofol and had been giving him other sleep aids known as benzodiazepines trying to lull him to sleep.

On June 25, 2009, the last day of Jackson’s life, Chernoff said, he was in the third day of a weaning process and it didn’t work.

“Michael Jackson started begging. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t sleeping. … When Michael Jackson told Dr. Murray ‘I have to sleep. They will cancel my performance,’ he meant it,” Chernoff said.

Murray, in a recording of his interview with police detectives, acknowledged that he relented and agreed to give Jackson a small dose of propofol.

Walgren said Murray’s claim that he gave the singer a minuscule dosage, enough to keep him asleep perhaps five minutes, was not true. He also accused Murray of deception when he hid from
paramedics and hospital emergency staff that he had given Jackson propofol. He said they were desperately trying to revive him but didn’t know about the drug.

He returned repeatedly to the fee Murray was to be paid – $150,000 a month – and pointed out that he first had asked for $5 million.

“There was no doctor-patient relationship,” Walgren said. “…What existed here was an employer-employee relationship. He was not working for the health of Michael Jackson. Dr. Murray was working for a fee of $150,000.”

Chernoff countered with a description of Murray’s history of treating indigent patients for free. At times during the defence attorney’s opening statements, Murray appeared to be crying and
wiped his eyes with a tissue.

Jackson’s family members appeared pained as Walgren described the singer as a vulnerable figure, left alone with drugs coursing through his body.

“It violates not only the standard of care but the decency of one human being to another,” he said. “Dr. Murray abandoned Michael when he needed help.”

Following opening statements, Jackson’s choreographer and friend, Kenny Ortega, testified that Jackson was in bad shape physically and mentally less than a week before his death.

He said he sent a message to Randy Phillips, producer of the “This Is It” concert, telling him that Jackson was ill, probably should have a psychological evaluation and was not ready to perform.

“It’s important for everyone to know he really wants this,” he wrote. “It would shatter him, break his heart if we pulled the plug. He’s terribly frightened it’s all going to go away.”

In response to the email, Ortega said, a meeting was called at Jackson’s house where Ortega clashed with Murray, who told him to stop playing amateur psychiatrist and doctor.

“He said, ‘Michael was physically and emotionally capable of handling all his responsibilities for the show,”‘ said Ortega, “I was shocked. Michael didn’t seem to be physically or emotionally stable.”

Within a few days, he said, Jackson had recouped his energy and was full of enthusiasm for the show.
 


State Department hearings for Keystone XL oil pipeline draw Nebraska backers, critics

LINCOLN, Neb. – U.S. State Department representatives received an earful Tuesday from supporters and opponents of a proposed Canadian oil pipeline that would cross part of Nebraska’s vast underground water supply.

Both sides traded boos and jeers Tuesday during an emotional federal hearing in downtown Lincoln.

The sides staged dueling rallies in front of the Pershing Center.

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Pipeline supporters, dressed in bright orange, waved signs that read, “Keystone Unlocks Good Jobs for Nebraska,” and “Reason, Not Extremism.” Opponents sported red with black arm bands, flashed “Protect the Sandhills” signs and handed out shirts that said, “But Dad, our cows can’t drink oil.”

The rowdy hearing marked the second day of hearings this week in the six states that would be crossed by the Keystone XL pipeline that’s being proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP).

The debate has drawn the greatest attention in Nebraska, where the proposed route would cross part of the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to about 2 million people.

Pipeline opponent Dan Rudnick of Lincoln said he’d like to see state and federal action to at least reroute the pipeline around the Ogallala Aquifer.

Nebraska state Sen. Ken Haar, a leading pipeline critic, urged State Department officials to delay their decision on the Keystone XL pipeline or reject it. Federal officials have said they will decide by the year’s end.

Haar said the federal government and TransCanada are trying to define the national interest and “don’t give a damn about Nebraska.”

Nebraska State Senator Jim Smith, a pipeline supporter, said the proposed route is the safest and most environmental. As he finished his remarks, protesters shouted, “Shame on you!”

The pipeline would move oilsands crude from northern Alberta and hook up to TransCanada’s existing pipelines and move oil to U.S. refineries in Oklahoma and along the Gulf of Mexico.

The State Department, which has to approve the pipeline because it would cross the U.S.-Canada border, is expected to decide by the end of the year.

TransCanada and its supporters say the pipeline would mean tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and more energy security for the country.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in New York over the weekend that U.S. approval of the oil pipeline is a “no-brainer” since the project would bring thousands of jobs and also ensure a secure source of energy for the United States.

Despite those reassurances, the project has become a flashpoint for environmental groups, who say the pipeline would bring “dirty oil” that requires huge amounts of energy to extract and could cause an ecological disaster in case of a spill. Opponents have urged Obama to block the project as a sign he is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Environmental activists, including actress Daryl Hannah and NASA scientist James Hansen, have been arrested in ongoing protests outside the White House the past two weeks.

In Ottawa, several hundred people showed up on Parliament Hill on Monday to protest the pipeline plans and the growth in the oilsands industry.

The demonstration was organized by Greenpeace and other groups who say the pipeline from Alberta to Texas is harmful to the environment in both Canada and the United States.

With files from The Canadian Press