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Russian military exercises off Canada coast cause tension

In a situation reminiscent of the Cold War, Canada has a surveillance plane monitoring two Russian attack submarines cruising off the East Coast.

The sighting of the nuclear-powered subs in international waters came after Defense Minister Peter MacKay criticized Moscow for a planned exercise to drop paratroopers at the North Pole this summer.

It also happened as Canada's navy prepares to conduct an antisubmarine exercise in the arctic this month.

While the situation isn't threatening, it's part of a pattern of "Russia flexing its muscle," MacKay said.

It's believed the Akula II Class warships have moved north and outside of Canada's territorial limits extending 12 nautical miles into the ocean.

Recently, several Russian strategic bombers have brushed up against Canada's arctic border, but not crossed over.

In February, Canadian fighter jets scrambled to intercept a Russian bomber a day before President Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa.

The arctic's mineral wealth and ill-defined borders have caused intense competition among Canada, Russia, the United States, Denmark and other countries.

Cooler weather gives firefighters a break

Firefighters have taken advantage of cooler, drier weather in battling forest fires burning across British Columbia.

About 1,500 people have returned to their homes in the central Okanagan Valley as firefighters contained most of the 35-square-mile Terrace Mountain fire.

At its peak, about 2,500 people along Okanagan Lake were forced to leave their homes, in some cases twice as the fire returned.

The B.C. Forest Service said about 650 firefighters and support workers aggressively attacked the blaze that started July 18 from what's thought to be a human cause.

A fire evacuation alert was lifted for residents of Halcyon Hot Springs near Revelstoke as a nearby forest fire was almost half contained. There is also the Intlpam fire burning northwest of Merritt.

News in brief

• A woman and two children were seriously hurt when struck by lightning as they walked in a park in Brampton, near Toronto. The isolated lightning bolt struck at a time that it was not raining, witnesses said. Dulce Caines, 26, and her son, Kyus, 5, took the brunt of the bolt, which also felled a 3-year-old friend.

• Distracted drivers will be targeted in Alberta as the provincial government plans to order them to hang up their phones and pay attention. Legislation is expected to go beyond banning cell phone use and texting to include all types of electronic devices and other behaviors distracting to drivers.

• Former President Bill Clinton will speak to a crowd expected to be about 25,000 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto on Aug. 29. His topic: "Embracing Our Common Humanity." Tickets are $23-$46.

Facts and figures

There is more good economic news with reports manufacturing sales increased 1.9 percent in June, while economists predicted a 0.3 percent drop.

The Canadian dollar is lower at 90.83 cents U.S., while the U.S. greenback returns $1.1010 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada interest rate is unchanged at 0.25 percent, and the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.

Stock markets are slightly lower, with Toronto's composite index at 10,745 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,189 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 10, 31, 32, 42, 47; bonus 30. (Aug. 8) 11, 22, 31, 32, 40, 49; bonus 13. Super 7: (Aug. 7) 1, 10, 22, 26, 28, 40, 42; bonus 14.

Regional briefs

• Shoppers in Ontario and Atlantic Canada could get some good deals as a grocery price war could be brewing. Loblaws, one of Canada's largest grocers, is cutting prices by 10 percent to 25 percent on about 3,000 items. The chain in some areas also offers 10 percent discounts for those who are unemployed.

• Environmentalists say emissions from Alberta's oilsands are likely responsible for acid rain falling over northern Saskatchewan. They want the federal government to cap the amount of emissions that are harming pristine rivers and lakes, said Peter Prebble of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.

• A lobster liberator could save the life of a century-old crustacean. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is urging Nova Scotia fisherman Beau Gillis of Freeport to let them have a lobster he caught that's believed to be more than 100 years old. The group's liberator would release it back into the ocean to "live out his remaining days in peace," said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Russian military exercises off Canada coast cause tension 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 8:58pm]
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