Monday, February 21, 2011

Bendus up for 2nd straight NCAA player award

Vicki Bendus of Wasaga Beach, Ont., is up for a second straight Patty Kazmaier Award as player of the year in NCAA Division 1 women's hockey.

The Mercyhurst College forward was among 26 nominees, including 17 Canadians, announced Monday by USA Hockey.

Bendus is joined by fellow current or past Canadian national team members Meghan Acosta of Ruthven, Ont., Haley Irwin of Thunder Bay, Ont., Brianne Jenner of Oakville, Ont., Rebecca Johnston of Sudbury, Ont., Marie-Philip Poulin of Beauceville, Que., Jenn Wakefield of Pickering, Ont. and Catherine Ward of Montreal.

Also on the list are forwards Kelly Babstock of Mississauga, Ont., Bailey Bram of Ste. Ann, Man., Isabel Menard of Ottawa and Jesse Scanzano of Montreal; defencemen Laura Fortino of Hamilton, Jocelyne Larocque of Ste. Ann and Lauriane Rougeau of Beaconsfield, Que.; and goaltenders Jenni Bauer of St. Catharines, Ont., and Hillary Pattenden of Surrey, B.C.

Mercyhurst, which will play host to the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four, lead all schools with five nominees: Agosta, Bendus, Bram, Pattenden and Scanzano.

Agosta was a top-three finalist in 2007, 2008 and 2009 before taking last season off to play for Canada at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She leads all NCAA scorers with 31 goals and 46 assists in 30 games. Bendus has 18 goals and 31 assists this season.

No player has won the award two years in a row since it was instituted in 1998. The only two-time winner was Jennifer Botteril of Winnipeg in 2001 and 2003.

Other nominess are Americans Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Jocelyne Lamoueux, Monique Lamoureau-Kolls, Molly Schaus, Jackee Snikeris and Kelli Stack, as well as goaltender and 2010 Kazmaier finalist Noora Raty of Finland.

The 34 D1 head coaches will cut the list to 10 nominees on March 3. A 13-member committee will select the three finalists on March 10 and the winner will be announced March 19.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

That brief time out from heated discourse? No more

President Barack Obama? Weak, a socialist and a liar. Liberals? Monsters and a cancer. Former Vice President Dick Cheney? Called a war criminal, "murdering scum" and a draft dodger — by people in his own party.

Just a month after the Arizona shooting rampage led to bipartisan calls for toned-down political discourse, incivility suffused the year's largest gathering of conservatives. Just like at most partisan get-togethers on either end of the ideological spectrum.

The brief political time out is over — if it ever really existed.

"All right, sit down and shut up," Cheney said after being greeted by hecklers when he made a surprise appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Supporters shouted down the insults with a "U.S.A." chant, and a visibly annoyed Cheney brushed off the outbursts.

Such incivility didn't overwhelm the conference, which is a rite of passage for presidential contenders, right-leaning media personalities and grass-roots activists. But it kept popping up throughout the three-day affair in speeches by names big and not so big.

That's not to say liberals would have been any more civil at their own event, and the tone at the conservative gathering was arguably no different from what it's been in the past. After all, it's what these events are for.

On both the left and the right, hard-core ideologues are the ones who attend such conferences, and agendas are set with that audience in mind. Verbal bomb-throwing is the norm from speakers who serve up political red meat to highly partisan crowds that devour it.

This weekend's conference was a sign of a return to normalcy in the wake of the shootings that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and killed six in January. That attack touched off a national debate about overheated political rhetoric. Politicians of all stripes, Obama included, pleaded for a more civil discourse.

The GOP's top elected leaders — House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — set a respectful tone in their speeches to the conservative gathering.

So did many of the Republicans likely to run for president.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who referred to Obama only once, confronted the issue of "the venomous, petty, often ad hominem political discourse of the day." He urged conservatives to be more thoughtful in their rhetoric.

Yet even as he invoked Ronald Reagan's admonishment, "Remember, we have no enemies, only opponents," Daniels slapped at Democrats: "Our opponents are better at nastiness than we will ever be. It comes naturally." He also told conservatives to embrace a nicer approach — for political gain.

"The public is increasingly disgusted with a steady diet of defamation, and prepared to reward those who refrain from it," he said. "It would help if they liked us, just a bit."

Other likely presidential contenders openly denigrated Obama — his policies, his politics, his ability to lead.

Ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suggested the president lies. "This is someone who doesn't believe in truth and evil in America," he said.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said the country has seen Obama "usher in socialism" and she branded his health care law "the crown jewel of socialism."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said that under Obama, "an uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak president."

It wasn't all personal; some was just business. Yet much of the criticism relief on words and phrases that liberals tend to find offensive and conservatives wield specifically to score political points.

The false rumors about Obama's heritage surfaced.

"I'm not one who questions the president's birth certificate and the existence of his birth certificate," said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "But when you listen to his policies, don't you at least wonder what planet he's from?"

Laughter and applause followed that. And after Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador's quip that he "was fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth, and I have the birth certificate to prove it."

The most pointed attacks came from sharp-tongued commentators, as is usually the case.

Andrew Breitbart, an activist who runs a conservative media company, assailed people from liberal groups such as ACORN, Code Pink and unions. "Hate-filled, racist sheep," he called them.

"These people I've confronted are monsters," he said.

Pundit Ann Coulter took aim at Obama using Democrats' poor fortunes in November's congressional elections. "The way things are going, Obama may want to look into becoming the president of Egypt. Nobody would complain about him being a Muslim then," she said to cheers. Obama was born in Hawaii and is a Christian.

Like previous years, insults dotted Coulter's speech.

"In honor of the new spirit of civility, I thought I would point out that under mean, divisive George Bush a nuclear sub was named after Jimmy Carter," she said sarcastically — and then proceed to bash the former Democratic president.

She lumped Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in with "overbearing, out-of-touch, despots."

Asked about her least favorite Democrat, she said: "That's like asking my least favorite disease ... Cancer."

In the end, modern politics is predictable — two parties, drawing distinctions, each saying it's better because the alternative is worse. If this weekend showed anything, it was that the 2012 presidential campaign has begun — no better than usual, but perhaps no worse, either.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Canada Reads is down to four books

Last week I spoke with Vancouver author and lawyer Anne Giardini, who is representing her mother Carol Shields and her book Unless in the CBC Canada Reads battle for book of the decade. (Read the story here.)

Essex County, a graphic novel by Jeff Lemire, was eliminated by the panel of five Monday morning, so now Unless has a 25-per-cent chance of winning the competition.

Other finalists include: The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou, championed by former NHL enforcer and activist Georges Laraque; The Birth House by Ami McKay, championed by designer and TV personality Debbie Travis; The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis, championed by CNN broadcaster Ali Velshi. 

Sheilds also wrote The Stone Diaries and Larry’s Party, among other books. Lorne Cardinal, a native of Sucker Creek First Nations in Alberta, will defend Unless in the competition on CBC Radio’s Q on Feb. 7, 8 and 9.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Early Canadian map back on auction block

It began with a stunning discovery last year in the attic of a Scottish estate: A previously unknown, 312-year-old hand-drawn map of Canada by John Thornton, one of the leading cartographers of 17th-century Europe.

Expected to sell at a U.K. auction in January for up to $120,000, the lost-and-found treasure became the focus of a fierce bidding war involving collectors and museums from around the world — including Manitoba's provincial archives — that ended with the map's purchase by a British rare-books dealer for close to $320,000.

Now, the buzz-worthy "Thornton map" of 1699 is for sale again this weekend at an vintage-map fair in Florida — this time for more than $600,000.

And in keeping with the map's ballooning price, new research suggests the artifact's historical value is far greater than originally understood. The dust-covered relic rescued from behind a water tank in Scotland appears to represent the landmark moment in Canada's past when rival French and English empires first attempted to formally divide the country.

The excitement surrounds a thin red line drawn diagonally across present-day Labrador, Quebec and Ontario, where the frontier possessions of Britain and France were in dispute at a time of rapidly growing interest from both mother countries in Canada's fur-trade riches.

Remarkably, the line passes directly through the labels for "Nova Britania" and "New France" on the 68-by-80-centimetre vellum map, drawn by Thornton on sheepskin to help ensure its preservation.

The map also includes labels for "Laboradore," "New Scotland" (Nova Scotia) and the island of "New Found Land," as well as the southern part of Baffin Island and northern edge of the fledgling American colonies of New England.

Maureen Dolyniuk, manager of the Winnipeg-based Hudson's Bay Company Archives, said the unexpected appearance of the Thornton map fills a major gap in the cartographic record of Canada.

That's one of the reasons, she told Postmedia News, that the HBC archive attempted to purchase the map at a Jan. 17 auction in Britain when it was outbid by Oxford-based antiquarian Daniel Crouch.

"We did attempt to acquire the map, but as you know, it went for quite a bit more than the pre-auction estimate," said Dolyniuk.

"We have a record in the minute books of the Hudson's Bay Company that they purchased two copies of this map," she added, noting the firm paid Thornton all of "three pounds" for his services in 1700.

The HBC archive, a world-renowned repository of early maps of North America, already possesses an important 1709 map of Canada drawn a year after John Thornton's death by his son, Samuel.

That map also features the same long, red diagonal line — but this time conspicuously marked as the boundary between French and English territory, and roughly corresponding to the height of land dividing the Hudson Bay watershed to the northwest from the St. Lawrence River/Atlantic Ocean watershed to the southeast.

Significantly, historians have pointed to the 1709 map as critical to negotiations between France and England leading to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, which — until the British victory in the Seven Years War some 50 years later — established each empire's domain in North America.

Dolyniuk, who has been collaborating with Crouch in researching the history of the newly discovered map, said it appears to have been the template — the Hudson's Bay Company's initial attempt at a French-English division of territory — from which Samuel Thornton crafted his 1709 map ten years later.

"We don't see any earlier versions of it," Dolyniuk said, describing John Thornton's scarlet stroke as perhaps the first clear expression of the company's — and by extension, the British Empire's — line in the sand in the face of French competition for the future Canada.

"It's the line the company used to defend their territory, the rights over their charter territory," she said. "It was their interpretation of the boundary between the English and French territory."

Even as recently as the 1920s, when officials from Britain and Canada were still negotiating where to draw the boundary between Labrador and Quebec, the 1709 map — and thus its 1699 template — were factored into the final border agreement, notes Dolyniuk.

John Thornton's map "would have been a wonderful addition to our holdings had we acquired it," she said.

Crouch, currently in Florida ahead of Sunday's annual Miami Map Fair, told Postmedia News he was thrilled to acquire such a "unique" artifact. And the price he's set for it in Miami makes it clear he believes the $318,000 he paid at auction two weeks ago was a bargain.

"I am quite used to bidding at auction," he said, "but the Thornton is a manuscript map and unique, so there is always a special kick when one is successful with such items."