Nerve-agent victim Yulia Skripal out of hospital, tensions build over where she’ll go next


Nerve-agent victim Yulia Skripal out of hospital, tensions build over where she'll go next

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Yulia Skripal has been discharged from a British hospital and taken to an undisclosed “secure location” to continue her recovery, U.K. authorities announced this morning. But questions are swirling about where she’ll go after that — with Canada listed among the possible destinations.

The 33-year-old and her father Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer-turned-double-agent, were poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury.  

Sergei Skripal, who was upgraded from critical to stable condition late last week, may also soon be released.  

“Although he is recovering more slowly than Yulia, we hope that he too will be able to leave hospital in due course,” Dr. Christine Blanshard, medical director of the Salisbury District Hospital, told reporters.

The former Russian agent had lived quietly in Salisbury since 2010, when he came to the U.K. as part of a swap that saw 10 Kremlin “sleeper” spies exchanged for four people who had been convicted of feeding information to Western intelligence services.

This past weekend, the Sunday Times reported that the U.K. government is considering moving the Skripals abroad and furnishing them with new identities.

MI6, the British intelligence service, is said to be looking at a “five-eyes” partner — the U.S., Canada, New Zealand or Australia — to take on the job of protecting the pair from further attacks.

The Russians, who maintain that they had nothing to do with the poisoning, are calling the plan a “gross violation of international law.”

And there was a follow-up tweet today — albeit with a cheeky photo of Sergei Skripal at his 2006 trial for high treason.

Secret resettlement of Mr and Ms Skripal, barred from any contact with their family will be seen as an abduction or at least as their forced isolation.

Canada has been a haven for Russian defectors in the past.

Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk at the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa who switched sides in 1945, was given a new identity and lived out the rest of his life in Canada, dying in 1982.

In 1992, the government of Brian Mulroney approved a high-stakes operation to smuggle a double-agent for Canada out of Moscow and set him up with a new life. Yevgeni Brik had been sent to Montreal as a Soviet spy in the early 1950s, but was eventually turned. He worked for Canadian intelligence for years until he was betrayed by an RCMP officer who was secretly working for the Russians.

Arrested during a trip back home, Brik was convicted of treason and served 15 years in jail. After being spirited back to Canada by CSIS agents, Brik lived in Ottawa until his death in 2011.

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Aleksey Artamonov, a former Russian intelligence agent, defected to the West along with his wife in 2008, providing detailed information about the Kremlin’s money-laundering activities.  

He hoped to go to Sweden, Denmark or Switzerland, but the CIA suggested Canada.

And even that didn’t happen. After stops in Philadelphia and Salt Lake City, Artamonov and his wife ended up in Portland, Ore., living under new identities.

“This is not at all what we imagined when we went to the Americans. We don’t have jobs, we don’t have documents. We live in a place we never even heard of before we got here,” he told the Guardian newspaper in a 2015 interview.

“Do not trust anything to do with the U.S. government, because they will lie to you. They promise but they don’t deliver. There is no sense in cooperating.”

Cape Town is making progress in its efforts to stop city water reservoirs from running dry.

Water usage by the South African city’s four million residents has been steadily dropping, with the target of 450 million litres a day now in sight.

A move by municipal authorities to reduce water pressure in the system is saving an additional 50 million litres a day, and last week the city’s collective usage was 516 million litres.

And as the rainy season approaches, there are hopes that the three-year drought might be lessening.

But even if the immediate crisis is solved, Capetonians are in for some lasting sticker shock, with water rates set to rise by 27 per cent under the city’s proposed new budget.

The reduction in water use — almost 400 million litres a day less than a year ago — has translated into a 2 billion rand ($209 million Cdn) budget shortfall, reports the Mail & Guardian.

The rate hike is to take effect July 1. But residents’ groups, like Save Cape Town, are campaigning hard against the changes, with a protest rally scheduled for this Friday. The local chamber of commerce has also come out against the increase, warning that it will encourage businesses to seek out private water sources.

Earlier this year, South Africa’s government stepped in to stop retailers from hiking the price of bottled water as demand surged.

Canadians are the world’s biggest TV watchers, according to a new global survey.

The One Television Year in the World report compiled by Eurodata, an audience measuring service, tracked viewing habits in 110 countries. On average, it says, Canadians watch four hours and three minutes of television a day — the same as Americans.

That’s 14 minutes more than European residents and well above the Asian average of two hours and 25 minutes.

Despite the growth of streaming services, the study says traditional TV viewing time seems to be holding steady. People are simply watching more content on more screens, and making use of newer options like time-shifting and on-demand services.

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In 2016, the last full year of data, the CRTC says 44 per cent of Canadian viewers subscribed to a streaming service like Netflix or CraveTV. They watched three hours of streamed content per week on average, up from a half-hour a week in 2010. (The most avid users now average 6.5 hours a week.)

In comparison, 61 per cent of 18-to-29 year-olds in the United States now “primarily” watch streamed content, according to a recent Pew Research Center Study.

There is, however, one very important viewer who doesn’t seem to be changing his habits. President Donald Trump often begins watching TV as early as 5:30 a.m., according to White House insiders, and follows multiple channels on multiple screens throughout the day. The world’s most powerful man watches at least four hours a day of cable news, and sometimes double that amount.

That would make the 71-year-old a super-consumer, even among his demographic. The average 65-plus U.S. viewer watches 6.8 hours a day.

“If the federal government allows its authority to be challenged, if the national interest is given over to the extremes on the left or the right, and if the voices of the moderate majority of Canadians are forgotten, the reverberations of that will tear at the fabric of confederation for many, many years to come.”

– Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ups the pressure on Ottawa to find a solution to the dispute between her province and British Columbia over the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

April 10, 2000: Research In Motion, a Canadian success story

Pairing a keyboard and a pager was paying off big time for Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. The co-founders of Research In Motion (RIM) — soon to be rebranded as BlackBerry — were worth about $1 billion each and their “Canadian high-tech Cinderella story” was all palace ball and no pumpkin. The magic eventually ran out, of course. At its peak in December 2012, there were 79 million BlackBerry users around the globe. By the end of 2016, its share of the global cellphone market was just 0.0481 per cent.

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Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.

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