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Russian court extends detention of suspected US spy | USA News





A Russian court has extended the detention of a former United States’ marine charged with espionage until May 28, refusing a request that he be released under house arrest.

Paul Whelan, 48, should be held in a pre-trial detention facility for a further three months to give investigators more time to look into his case, Judge Sergei Ryabtsev in Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court ruled on Friday. 

Whelan, who holds US, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in a Moscow hotel room on December 28 on an allegation of possessing documents containing state secrets, a charge he denies. If found guilty, he could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

Sitting in a cage in the courtroom, Whelan told journalists he is “holding up well”.

“I could do with care packages, food, things like that, letters from home,” he said, before masked security officials cut him off. 

His lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov said after Friday’s hearing that the decision to keep Whelan under arrest was “absolutely illegal”.

Whelan’s defence denies any wrongdoing, saying the American was framed by an acquaintance who handed him a flash drive allegedly containing classified information. 

Whelan, who lived in the US but was in Russia for a wedding, met the acquaintance in Moscow and was expecting to receive photos of a May trip to the Russian countryside, Zherebenkov said.

“We believe that this was a provocation and a crime by his acquaintance,” he said, adding that the acquaintance could have been motivated by “career considerations” or a reluctance to return money owed to Whelan.

He said the defence asked the judge to change his arrest conditions to house arrest in an apartment belonging to Zherebenkov, but the motion was denied.

Tense ties 

Since his detention, Whelan has been visited by officials from the US, Canadian, Irish and British embassies.

The case has put further strain on already tense US-Russia relations as has that of another detained American, private equity chief Michael Calvey.

The US embassy in Moscow said it was closely following the case, but could not provide any further information because Russian authorities had so far prevented Whelan from signing a privacy waiver.

WATCH: Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty in US court

“We are strongly concerned about the delay” in allowing him to sign the waiver, US embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said. “Consular access without being able to do true consular support is not real access.”

Russia’s foreign ministry brushed off speculation that Whelan could be traded for Russian national Maria Butina, who confessed in the US in December to conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent.

Whelan was detained two weeks after Butina confessed as part of a US plea deal.

“Exchanging Paul Whelan for someone held in custody abroad is out of the question at the current stage,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. 


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25 Best Senators’ Memories From 25 Years at Canadian Tire Centre





There is a special birthday in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata this weekend.

Canadian Tire Centre turns 25. Its doors first opened on Jan. 15, 1996, for a Bryan Adams concert. The Senators played their first game in their new arena on Jan. 17, 1996, when they lost to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life has at that arena. I don’t know how many Sens games I have been to there — I would ballpark it somewhere between 600 and 700. But I thought it would be fun to look back and share my 25 most memorable moments at the arena. I am not counting numerous concerts as great moments in the building — I often joke that the four best concerts I have ever seen there are Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks and Garth Brooks. I am not counting the 2009 World Juniors either. I am sticking entirely to the Sens.

25. Paul MacClone

Mike Watson was just sitting in his company seats, minding his own business, watching the Ottawa Senators take on the Florida Panthers on a January night during the 2012-13 season. The casual discussion among reporters after the game was how he broke Twitter.

Watson’s friends had told him that he looked like then-Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean. When he got face time on the new high-definition scoreboard, in the front row and directly behind the coach, the crowd buzzed and cheered.

Senators coach Paul MacLean had a doppelganger behind the bench.

The shot of Watson behind the bench spread quickly on social media. Surely, everyone thought, he must have been planted in that seat. He wasn’t. The last time he had sat in those seats, Cory Clouston was the coach, and no one noticed him.

As the season went on, the MacLean doppelganger became a local celebrity and was somewhat of a mascot during Ottawa’s playoff run.

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With spare parts and derring-do, Ottawa’s own Rocketman reinvents skating





An Ottawa man is turning heads on frozen stretches of the Ottawa River with a homemade device he jokingly refers to as his “jetpack.”

In reality, Brydon Gibson’s gas-powered, propeller-driven invention is more Rona than NASA.

“I got my hands on some weed whacker motors and I figured strapping one on my back and making skating a little bit lazier would [be] a good idea,” said Gibson, 24.

He bolted a 38-centimetre propeller to a wooden frame, fashioned a throttle out of a brake handle and cable salvaged from a 10-speed bike, then added padded straps cut from a dollar store backpack. He laced up his skates, and suddenly Gibson was zipping along at speeds reaching 40 km/h. 

“I was actually getting a little scared at one point because I was going a little too fast,” the inventor admitted.

There are no brakes, but there is kill switch to cut the power “when something goes wrong,” said Gibson. “It’s actually a little finicky.”

This is not the first iteration of Gibson’s invention. As a teen, he built an electric propulsion device in his parents’ basement, though it never got to the testing phase.

“Ever since I was a kid … I’ve been taking apart things I found on the side of the road, making a mess of my parents basement, spreading electronics everywhere,” he said.

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‘It is frustrating’: U.S-educated nurse from Ottawa hits barriers to getting licensed in Ontario





Before she accepted a swimming scholarship to attend Boston’s Northeastern University, Ottawa’s Rachael Geiger made sure it had the kind of nursing program she wanted. The school’s baccalaureate nursing program offered a fifth year of co-operative placement after four years of study — something Geiger thought would leave her well prepared for a career as a nurse when she returned home after university.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Two and a half years after graduating summa cum laude from Northeastern, the 25-year-old is unable to work as a registered nurse in Ontario.

Geiger said she was initially surprised, especially since she wrote the same licensing exam in Massachusetts as is written in Ontario, the NCLEX-RN exam. She is licensed to practise in Massachusetts and Illinois.

“I never thought it would be such a challenge.”

She and her family are frustrated at how difficult it has been for her to get registered to be able to practise in Ontario. That frustration is heightened by the fact that nurses have seldom been in such high demand in Canada and around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic strains health systems and shortages loom. Local hospitals are among those trying to recruit nurses. The Canadian Nurses Association has been warning that Canada will experience extreme shortages in coming years.

“It is frustrating to sit and see all the news about nursing shortages and not be able to help,” said Geiger.

Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the professional association that represents registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in the province, said she was “more than surprised” to hear of the difficulty Geiger has had.

But Grinspun, who initially studied nursing in Israel and then the U.S. before becoming one of the country’s nursing leaders, said the system of allowing foreign trained nurses to work in Ontario is unnecessarily slow and complicated and leads many valuable nurses to simply give up or find another career. Grinspun herself challenged the system when she first came to work in Ontario.

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