This week’s NicaNotes guest blog is by a long-time friend of the Nicaragua Network, Felipe Stuart. Felipe Stuart C. is a dual Nicaraguan-Canadian citizen and a longtime socialist and solidarity activist. He is a member of the Nicaraguan Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN). His short commentary addresses the media hysteria about allegations that the Russian government hacked and released embarrassing emails by the Democratic National Committee revealing how the DNC was manipulating the elections. Felipe asks some questions at the end of his piece. I’d be interested in your thoughts. If I get enough good ones, I’ll publish them in an upcoming NicaNotes blog. Send your comments to Chuck@AFGJ.org.

Humor and Irony from the United States

From a Nicaraguan point of view, the ‘declassified’ report on Putin’s alleged electoral interference in the US presidential election is a mix of humor and irony.

In our most recent national elections last November, Washington did to Nicaragua’s Sandinista party (the FSLN) everything Putin is alleged to have done against the USA Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.

On a per capita basis, we faced an army of US-paid anti-Sandinista internet trolls hundreds of times the size of those supposedly employed by the alleged Putin pro-Trump campaign. On top of that, the entirety of Western MSM (mainstream media) participated in this disinformation war. Worse still, the assault on Nicaraguan sovereignty has not ended – we ain’t seen nothin yet. Now, we are being threatened by the NICA Act, intended, when adopted by the Trump regime, to deny Nicaragua access to international credit unless we say ‘Uncle’ and dump the FSLN government.

Nicaraguans have experienced this kind of electoral intervention ever since 1984 (and decades back – 1928 – when US Marines ‘counted’ the votes). In 1984, not just trolls and paid journalists attacked our presidential elections, but also the Contras, armed to the teeth by the USA. In 1990, we voted with guns in our faces, just two months after the US invaded Panama and bombed the central part of its capital, killing 20,000 people.

Of course, we now have the internet, and Sandinistas – especially the youth – have learned how to wage the battle of ideas in that media. The FSLN won the youth vote overwhelmingly. Even the pulpit is no longer exclusively in the hands of reactionary religious currents. A majority of both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics supported the FSLN, often with a favorable nod from their ‘Shepherds.’

It is difficult, from afar, and never having been educated in USAmerican-style electoral machinations, to understand what is really behind the attempt to Putinize Trump. Is this a dress rehearsal for an impeachment campaign? Or, is it another ratcheting up of the Russophobic cold war campaign? Or both?

BRIEFS

  • Rosendo Mayorga, president of the Nicaragua Chamber of Commerce, reported that the commercial sector achieved US$2.065 billion in total sales for 2016, 8.7% above 2015. ‘It was a very good year because we surpassed the US$1.9 billion recorded in 2015. This growth in sales was driven by an increase in the purchase of food, beverages and household goods,’ Mayorga said. (Nicaragua News, Jan. 6)
  • An International Living report, published in FORBES Magazine last week, ranked Nicaragua among the top 10 countries in which to retire in 2017. The report is based on an evaluation which includes safety, healthcare, climate, low living costs, geographical location, and procedures to purchase new property. (Nicaragua News, Jan. 6)
  • Organizations representing people with disabilities are pleased with the progress they have made convincing businesses to hire people with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities. Dr. Orlando Sevilla, president of the Telethon Foundation said, ‘We have advanced. There has been a great opening in the private sector.’ He noted that companies in the Free Trade Zones are increasingly hiring people with disabilities. Alma Baltodano, executive secretary of the Nicaraguan Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FECONORI) cited as examples an auto parts manufacturing company that hired 20 deaf people and paid for an interpreter for three months while they trained. She also gave the example of tobacco companies in Esteli which reportedly employ over 100 people with disabilities. (El Nuevo Diario, Jan 6)
  • Chamber of Energy President Cesar Zamora announced that Nicaraguan businesses have 10 renewable energy projects totaling US$600 million with funding assured. He said they will sit down with the government in February to discuss energy priorities and development of the projects. Projects include hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, solar and biomass. In 2016, according to Zamora, US$200 million was invested in renewable energy. Zamora also said the business community will meet with the government on Jan. 15 to discuss electricity rates. (El Nuevo Diario, Jan. 5)

AFGJ – Alliance for Global Justice published this content on 11 January 2017 and is solely responsible for the information contained herein.
Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 11 January 2017 20:48:07 UTC.

This week’s NicaNotes guest blog is by a long-time friend of the Nicaragua Network, Felipe Stuart. Felipe Stuart C. is a dual Nicaraguan-Canadian citizen and a longtime socialist and solidarity activist. He is a member of the Nicaraguan Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN). His short commentary addresses the media hysteria about allegations that the Russian government hacked and released embarrassing emails by the Democratic National Committee revealing how the DNC was manipulating the elections. Felipe asks some questions at the end of his piece. I’d be interested in your thoughts. If I get enough good ones, I’ll publish them in an upcoming NicaNotes blog. Send your comments to Chuck@AFGJ.org.

Humor and Irony from the United States

From a Nicaraguan point of view, the ‘declassified’ report on Putin’s alleged electoral interference in the US presidential election is a mix of humor and irony.

In our most recent national elections last November, Washington did to Nicaragua’s Sandinista party (the FSLN) everything Putin is alleged to have done against the USA Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.

On a per capita basis, we faced an army of US-paid anti-Sandinista internet trolls hundreds of times the size of those supposedly employed by the alleged Putin pro-Trump campaign. On top of that, the entirety of Western MSM (mainstream media) participated in this disinformation war. Worse still, the assault on Nicaraguan sovereignty has not ended – we ain’t seen nothin yet. Now, we are being threatened by the NICA Act, intended, when adopted by the Trump regime, to deny Nicaragua access to international credit unless we say ‘Uncle’ and dump the FSLN government.

Nicaraguans have experienced this kind of electoral intervention ever since 1984 (and decades back – 1928 – when US Marines ‘counted’ the votes). In 1984, not just trolls and paid journalists attacked our presidential elections, but also the Contras, armed to the teeth by the USA. In 1990, we voted with guns in our faces, just two months after the US invaded Panama and bombed the central part of its capital, killing 20,000 people.

Of course, we now have the internet, and Sandinistas – especially the youth – have learned how to wage the battle of ideas in that media. The FSLN won the youth vote overwhelmingly. Even the pulpit is no longer exclusively in the hands of reactionary religious currents. A majority of both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics supported the FSLN, often with a favorable nod from their ‘Shepherds.’

It is difficult, from afar, and never having been educated in USAmerican-style electoral machinations, to understand what is really behind the attempt to Putinize Trump. Is this a dress rehearsal for an impeachment campaign? Or, is it another ratcheting up of the Russophobic cold war campaign? Or both?

BRIEFS

  • Rosendo Mayorga, president of the Nicaragua Chamber of Commerce, reported that the commercial sector achieved US$2.065 billion in total sales for 2016, 8.7% above 2015. ‘It was a very good year because we surpassed the US$1.9 billion recorded in 2015. This growth in sales was driven by an increase in the purchase of food, beverages and household goods,’ Mayorga said. (Nicaragua News, Jan. 6)
  • An International Living report, published in FORBES Magazine last week, ranked Nicaragua among the top 10 countries in which to retire in 2017. The report is based on an evaluation which includes safety, healthcare, climate, low living costs, geographical location, and procedures to purchase new property. (Nicaragua News, Jan. 6)
  • Organizations representing people with disabilities are pleased with the progress they have made convincing businesses to hire people with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities. Dr. Orlando Sevilla, president of the Telethon Foundation said, ‘We have advanced. There has been a great opening in the private sector.’ He noted that companies in the Free Trade Zones are increasingly hiring people with disabilities. Alma Baltodano, executive secretary of the Nicaraguan Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FECONORI) cited as examples an auto parts manufacturing company that hired 20 deaf people and paid for an interpreter for three months while they trained. She also gave the example of tobacco companies in Esteli which reportedly employ over 100 people with disabilities. (El Nuevo Diario, Jan 6)
  • Chamber of Energy President Cesar Zamora announced that Nicaraguan businesses have 10 renewable energy projects totaling US$600 million with funding assured. He said they will sit down with the government in February to discuss energy priorities and development of the projects. Projects include hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, solar and biomass. In 2016, according to Zamora, US$200 million was invested in renewable energy. Zamora also said the business community will meet with the government on Jan. 15 to discuss electricity rates. (El Nuevo Diario, Jan. 5)

AFGJ – Alliance for Global Justice published this content on 11 January 2017 and is solely responsible for the information contained herein.
Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 11 January 2017 20:48:07 UTC.

Prime Minister Bill English speaks to the media at Auckland Airport before flying to Europe. He is joined by Trade Minister Todd McClay. New Zealand Herald by Nick Reed.
Prime Minister Bill English speaks to the media at Auckland Airport before flying to Europe. He is joined by Trade Minister Todd McClay. New Zealand Herald by Nick Reed.

New Prime Minister Bill English’s surname could he his biggest liability in his meetings with European leaders after he arrives in Brussels tonight.

English will head straight into talks with the leaders of European Union institutions who are about to launch into negotiations with the UK over the terms of its departures from the EU.

It is not the best time to arrive in Brussels and say “hi, I’m English.”

Martin Holland, the director of the National Centre for Research on Europe at the University of Canterbury, jokes English could help himself by changing his surname to Flanders.

But jokes aside, Holland said English should not underestimate the level of anger at the EU over Brexit.

“He is going at a very interesting time. But he needs to be very aware in Brussels that pretty much everyone there is totally pissed off about Brexit, because it’s unnecessary.

“I really can’t underline enough almost the resentment by the European institutions at having to waste so much time over the next two or so years on doing this when there are much more important things to deal with. He needs to be very sensitive to that in Brussels that there really is no sympathy for the UK anymore.”

English laughs when asked if his name was a liability: “no. I’m sure it will help them remember [me].”

He says part of his work was ensuring New Zealand’s interests were protected in the Brexit changes, particularly in trade.

Prime Minister Bill English's visit to Europe comes amidst continuing EU anger over Britain's Brexit vote.
Prime Minister Bill English’s visit to Europe comes amidst continuing EU anger over Britain’s Brexit vote.

Holland says although neither side will admit it, Brexit does make things harder for New Zealand because the EU would be focussing on that.

While English was meeting all the “big guns,” Holland said New Zealand had never been a priority for the EU.

“New Zealand may find itself, if not at the back of the queue, not at the front of the queue in terms of priorities. That’s just a harsh reality.”

“So for his meetings in Brussels [English] will have to remind them that New Zealand does have priorities and we’ve been very patient. And whether we can fit into a very full EU agenda we will have to wait and see I guess.”

Holland said in that respect, English’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week could be more important than the EU meetings.

“She’s the most important player in all of this. If she wants to support and push the FTA with New Zealand then it’s much more likely to happen. If she, on the other hand, says I have an election in September and I have internal problems and this is something that would cloudy the waters then it would get postponed.”

New Zealand and the European Commission agreed to begin work on a free trade agreement in October 2015 and have been consulting since then.

Trade Minister Todd McClay was hopeful formal negotiations would begin by mid 2017. He did not believe Brexit would hamper those talks.

“The Commissioner has been very clear to me that their trade agenda continues and that they have the capacity to manage Brexit as it goes forward.”

Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel during a visit to New Zealand in November 2014. She will meet with Prime Minister Bill English during his European visit. Photo by Jason Oxenham.
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel during a visit to New Zealand in November 2014. She will meet with Prime Minister Bill English during his European visit. Photo by Jason Oxenham.

New Zealand was also waiting for a European Court of Justice decision on whether the European Commission had the mandate to agree to a free trade agreement with Singapore, or whether the parliaments of each individual member state had to approve trade deals.

That could impact on other agreements and the issue had almost derailed a FTA with Canada last year.

McClay said the uncertainty around TPP and a more protectionist outlook in the USA underlined the importance of building broad trade relationships.

David Capie, the director of the Centre for Strategic Studies, said the EU free trade deal was already important for New Zealand and that had increased given the almost inevitable defeat of the Trans Pacific Partnership following the election of Donald Trump in the USA.

“It’s even more important now TPP looks dead, protectionism is on the march, and there are some ominous signs about President Trump’s trade agenda. I think you can also argue a deal would have a symbolic value beyond its economic implications.”

New Zealand will also have to negotiate a free trade agreement with Britain once it has left the EU. McClay said preliminary discussions were already underway.

“We’ve indicated to the UK that we would want to negotiate a high quality deal with them as soon as they can take on obligations and they’ve indicated that they are comfortable with that.

“I think there will be a couple of countries they might look to do a negotiation with separately but at a similar period of time and I would expect New Zealand could be one of those.”

He expected Britain to hold talks with countries such as Australia at the same time. While there had been some informal discussion about joint ‘Anzac’ talks with Britain and both hoped to be first out of the blocks, McClay said there could be competing interests and bilateral deals were more likely.

NZ-EU trade:
• EU is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner
• Two-way trade totals $19.6 billion
• NZ is one of only six WTO members without a FTA in place or in negotiations.

NZ Herald

Prime Minister Bill English speaks to the media at Auckland Airport before flying to Europe. He is joined by Trade Minister Todd McClay. New Zealand Herald by Nick Reed.
Prime Minister Bill English speaks to the media at Auckland Airport before flying to Europe. He is joined by Trade Minister Todd McClay. New Zealand Herald by Nick Reed.

New Prime Minister Bill English’s surname could he his biggest liability in his meetings with European leaders after he arrives in Brussels tonight.

English will head straight into talks with the leaders of European Union institutions who are about to launch into negotiations with the UK over the terms of its departures from the EU.

It is not the best time to arrive in Brussels and say “hi, I’m English.”

Martin Holland, the director of the National Centre for Research on Europe at the University of Canterbury, jokes English could help himself by changing his surname to Flanders.

But jokes aside, Holland said English should not underestimate the level of anger at the EU over Brexit.

“He is going at a very interesting time. But he needs to be very aware in Brussels that pretty much everyone there is totally pissed off about Brexit, because it’s unnecessary.

“I really can’t underline enough almost the resentment by the European institutions at having to waste so much time over the next two or so years on doing this when there are much more important things to deal with. He needs to be very sensitive to that in Brussels that there really is no sympathy for the UK anymore.”

English laughs when asked if his name was a liability: “no. I’m sure it will help them remember [me].”

He says part of his work was ensuring New Zealand’s interests were protected in the Brexit changes, particularly in trade.

Prime Minister Bill English's visit to Europe comes amidst continuing EU anger over Britain's Brexit vote.
Prime Minister Bill English’s visit to Europe comes amidst continuing EU anger over Britain’s Brexit vote.

Holland says although neither side will admit it, Brexit does make things harder for New Zealand because the EU would be focussing on that.

While English was meeting all the “big guns,” Holland said New Zealand had never been a priority for the EU.

“New Zealand may find itself, if not at the back of the queue, not at the front of the queue in terms of priorities. That’s just a harsh reality.”

“So for his meetings in Brussels [English] will have to remind them that New Zealand does have priorities and we’ve been very patient. And whether we can fit into a very full EU agenda we will have to wait and see I guess.”

Holland said in that respect, English’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week could be more important than the EU meetings.

“She’s the most important player in all of this. If she wants to support and push the FTA with New Zealand then it’s much more likely to happen. If she, on the other hand, says I have an election in September and I have internal problems and this is something that would cloudy the waters then it would get postponed.”

New Zealand and the European Commission agreed to begin work on a free trade agreement in October 2015 and have been consulting since then.

Trade Minister Todd McClay was hopeful formal negotiations would begin by mid 2017. He did not believe Brexit would hamper those talks.

“The Commissioner has been very clear to me that their trade agenda continues and that they have the capacity to manage Brexit as it goes forward.”

Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel during a visit to New Zealand in November 2014. She will meet with Prime Minister Bill English during his European visit. Photo by Jason Oxenham.
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel during a visit to New Zealand in November 2014. She will meet with Prime Minister Bill English during his European visit. Photo by Jason Oxenham.

New Zealand was also waiting for a European Court of Justice decision on whether the European Commission had the mandate to agree to a free trade agreement with Singapore, or whether the parliaments of each individual member state had to approve trade deals.

That could impact on other agreements and the issue had almost derailed a FTA with Canada last year.

McClay said the uncertainty around TPP and a more protectionist outlook in the USA underlined the importance of building broad trade relationships.

David Capie, the director of the Centre for Strategic Studies, said the EU free trade deal was already important for New Zealand and that had increased given the almost inevitable defeat of the Trans Pacific Partnership following the election of Donald Trump in the USA.

“It’s even more important now TPP looks dead, protectionism is on the march, and there are some ominous signs about President Trump’s trade agenda. I think you can also argue a deal would have a symbolic value beyond its economic implications.”

New Zealand will also have to negotiate a free trade agreement with Britain once it has left the EU. McClay said preliminary discussions were already underway.

“We’ve indicated to the UK that we would want to negotiate a high quality deal with them as soon as they can take on obligations and they’ve indicated that they are comfortable with that.

“I think there will be a couple of countries they might look to do a negotiation with separately but at a similar period of time and I would expect New Zealand could be one of those.”

He expected Britain to hold talks with countries such as Australia at the same time. While there had been some informal discussion about joint ‘Anzac’ talks with Britain and both hoped to be first out of the blocks, McClay said there could be competing interests and bilateral deals were more likely.

NZ-EU trade:
• EU is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner
• Two-way trade totals $19.6 billion
• NZ is one of only six WTO members without a FTA in place or in negotiations.

NZ Herald

It’s that time of year when you can’t help day dreaming of being in sunnier climes – whether that’s Europe or further afield anything would beat the drizzle and cold of Nottingham right now, right?

Well, you wouldn’t be on your own.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Brits make around 50 million trips abroad each year – most of which are trouble-free.

However, to help ensure people’s safety the government department publishes comprehensive guidelines for every country in the world – we had a look at some of their current advice for travelling to popular holiday destinations.

It may be worth a look before you splash the cash and book your next break away.

There can be huge discrepancies within countries and you should always check the latest travel advice.

Tunisia – Do not travel

The FCO advises against all but essential travel for the majority of the country and for some areas it says you should not travel AT ALL.

A state of emergency is in effect in Tunisia, imposed after a suicide attack on a police bus on November, 24 2015. It has been extended a number of times, most recently on October 19, last year for an additional three months to January 19.

The threat from terrorism in Tunisia is high.

Greece – Avoid demonstrations and take more than one means of payment

Brits make around 2.7 million visits to beautiful historic Greece every year – mostly without incident.

However, demonstrations take place regularly in central Athens, as well as towns and cities and these should be avoided.

You can withdraw cash using your UK card up to the daily limit imposed by the Greek banking system (usually €600), or the daily limit imposed by your card issuer – whichever is the lower amount. The system for paying with debit and credit cards for retail transactions continues to function but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to exchange sterling for euros in Greece.

Turkey – Generally safe to travel

Turkey has 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites – so you’ll keep pretty busy in the sunshine.

The FCO advises against all travel to within 10km of the border with Syria and to the city of Diyarbakir.

Further afield the office advises checking their website for the current safety situation before departure but generally speaking travelling to the country is safe.

In some busy areas, especially Istanbul, the Turkish authorities are stopping members of the public to conduct ID checks. There’s also a larger than usual number of police checkpoints on main roads across Turkey.


Read more: Take a video tour of this abandoned Nottingham landmark


Spain – Don’t drink to excess

Over 12 million British nationals visit Spain every year and most visits are trouble-free except when there’s a bit too much sun, sea and sangria.

There have been several deaths as a result of falls from balconies. The FCO advises: “Don’t take any unnecessary risks, especially when under the influence of drink or drugs.”

France – Be especially vigilant

Home to the city of love, romance and amazing red wine – France remains a top tourist destination for Brits.

Due to ongoing threats to France by Islamist terrorist groups tourists are advised to be especially vigilant and can download an app to alert them about possible security incidents, including all major natural, technological and terrorist-related risks.

The app, called SAIP (Système d’alerte et d’information des populations), is available in English and French and can be downloaded by entering ‘SAIP’ in the Apple App store or Google Play.

Around 17 million Brits visit France every year without incident – indeed the most common problem reported is pick-pocketing.

USA – Be alert to hurricane season (June – November)

From deserts to swamps and mountains, America really can offer it all.

The presence of guns in America often weighs on people’s minds especially after a shooting incident occurred at Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida on Friday, January 6.

However, most of the 3.8 million Brits who travel to the States each year do so safely – but if you are heading to the coast between June and November you should stay alert to hurricane warnings.

Morocco -Be vigilant and respect its laws and customs

Mint tea, getting in lost in the Madina and eating all that amazing grub… Morocco is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination.

It does however, have a high threat from terrorism and the FCO says attacks could be indiscriminate and could target foreigners.

Protective security measures, including security personnel, may be visible in certain areas including hotels and sites popular with tourists.

Egypt – It depends where you are going (check below)

Stand in awe of the pyramids while you cultivate an enviable tan in sunny Egypt.

The FCO has issued different advice for different areas. This is as follows:

You should not travel to Governorate of North Sinai due to the significant increase in criminal activity and continued terrorist attacks on police and security forces that have resulted in deaths

All but essential travel should not be attempted to the Governorate of South Sinai, with the exception of the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier, which includes the airport and the areas of Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq; however, the FCO advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el Sheikh; the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh.

The tourist areas along the Nile river (including Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings) and the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada aren’t included in the areas to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel.


Read more: Don’t Tell The Bride want Nottingham couples and they are coming to the Midlands to find them


Italy – Check before travelling to an earthquake affected area

Culture, pizza and ice cream are around every corner in Italy but you should still take care to be safe.

An earthquake of magnitude of 6.6 struck central Italy during the early hours of October 30. Some roads in the areas affected by strong or very strong tremors have been damaged or are being reserved for emergency vehicles. Before travelling to these areas, you should contact the relevant authorities in the Marche or Umbria regions and follow local advice.

The full list of advice can be found at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice – and remember the majority of the tens of thousands of issues the FCO deals with each year are situations which could have been avoided.

NEWARK, N.J.—When Brendan Shanahan returned home from the Nagano Olympics, getting his body clock back on NHL time proved an insomniac nightmare. He spent those wee-of-the-night, eyes-wide-open hours watching infomercials on TV and, he later admitted, racking up credit-card charges for stupid stuff: Ginsu knives, slice-o-matics, total gyms, ShamWows.

Or maybe he was joking. In those days, the current Maple Leaf president cracked funny a lot.

In any event, if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman — a man of scant humour — were seeking yet another reason to turn up his nose at participation in the 2018 Olympics, he could claim he’s looking out for the best interest of players’ sleep patterns, with the Winter Games again in Far East Asia; even controlling their impulse spending habits.

Of course, Bettman doesn’t actually give a rat’s patootie about players. He is an owners’ guy and does their bidding more so than any other major domo of a North American professional sports league.

Coming up on two decades since the NHL’s readmission to the Olympic fold in Nagano 1998 — a long and bitter struggle it had been for the “pros” to gain entry — the league, via its board of poltroons, a.k.a. owners, has had a bellyful of a glamorama event that stuffs no dollars in its pocket.

The International Olympic Committee had previously set a Jan. 16 deadline for a get-off-the-pot decision on Pyeongchang.

The anti-Olympics faction can claim opposition to shutting down league play for three weeks in the middle of the season, but the collective grump is more mercenary in nature. Owners had no problem compressing the schedule this season to accommodate the totally underwhelming World Cup because that’s their putative marquee tournament, clearly envisioned as a substitute for the Olympics. Except way fewer fans than expected took the bait. The World Cup, with Sidney Crosby leading Canada to gold, was a gerrymandered affair of low-wattage hoopla.

Only the Olympics are the Olympics.

That appears to have no traction with the tone-deaf NHL, despite the preference of players and an overwhelming Olympics appetite among fans. Count Leafs GM — and general manager of Team USA in Nagano — Lou Lamoriello among the naysayers.

“I’m not personally in favour of it, only because of the timing, but I do understand what it has done for the game. I understand the international exposure. I understand the players wanting to participate, but there’s only a small percentage that do participate.

“I’m very concerned about the athletes when they leave here and the situations that can take place with the condensing of the schedule, and taking that time off during a peak part of the season. My personal feeling from the knowledge that I have would be not to go.”

The Leafs, Lamoriello hastens to add, have yet to take a formal position on the matter. “We haven’t even had any discussions internally. This is up to the executive committee and then the board of governors.’’

It beggars belief that the organization hasn’t kicked this around at its tallest forehead levels of pondering. For one thing, they’ve got a head coach in Mike Babcock who’s stewarded Team Canada to gold at the last two Winter Games and who speaks often about the privilege of representing one’s country. Were Canada to head for Pyeongchang in about 14 months’ time, it’s a good bet Babcock would be behind the bench again.

Shutting down the league in the dog days of winter doesn’t mean fewer games and lesser profits. A more genuine concern would be injuries suffered at the Olympics impacting NHL seasons — although a player could just as conceivably break a leg at any morning skate. (John Tavares, the Islanders’ best player, injured his knee in Sochi and didn’t appear in an NHL game for the rest of the season; Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg suffered a herniated disk at those Games and didn’t return to the Red Wings that year.)

Still, it’s downright deplorable that the NHL tried to extort the NHL Players’ Association — pro-Olympics — into a tit-for-tat arrangement, participation in exchange for extending the current collective agreement, which expires in 2022. Nuh-uh, responded union chief Donald Fehr, who nevertheless continues to express optimism that the players will be in situ in South Korea, comments he repeated during last weekend’s Centennial Classic in Toronto — even as Bettman iterated his view that “absent some compelling reason, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of sentiment on the part of the clubs to go through the disruption of taking almost three weeks off during the season.”

Compelling reason? How about because just nearly everybody, except for the 30 Lords of the NHL, is in favour. And that if growing the game is genuinely an ownership objective, then the biggest stage on Earth would be a good place to start — and stay. But the league has its knickers in a knot because the IOC is resisting payment on out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players in Pyeongchang — upwards of $10 million according to Bettman, which makes me think those are the deepest pockets in history — while the league is averse to the International Ice Hockey Federation potentially covering those expenses if the money would come out of funds earmarked for otherwise growing the game at the grassroots level.

Yet isn’t that precisely what Olympics inclusion does?

“In a perfect world, it’s a no-brainer,” said James van Riemsdyk of the Leafs, who was on Team USA in Sochi. “We want to go, especially in the two places they’re going to be.’’

Leafs D-man Morgan Rielly is among the younger coterie of NHLers who shone with Team Young Guns at the World Cup, but might now never get a chance to even dream on Olympic gold should the league stupidly withdraw.

“I mean, hockey in the Olympics for me was always the main event because you always watch Canada. All your favourite players were on that team. If it’s not there and the best players in the world can’t compete, it will certainly be different.

“If you ask the guys around the league, most will tell you they want to be there and they want to play. But there’s more things than just wanting to be there going on, I guess — the league, the owners. We have to come to a choice that makes everybody happy.’’

Teammate Nazem Kadri admits to some conflicted feelings, as an Olympics enthusiast and loyal company hand.

“I would never say no to the opportunity of representing my country,” said the 2010 world juniors graduate. “On the other hand, thinking of it from the perspective of management and owners, we’ve seen where guys have gotten hurt and been out for extended periods of time, unable to play for their main club.’’

And this, from teenage wonderkid Mitch Marner: “It’s every kid’s dream to play in the Olympics for their country. If it gets taken out and you might never get the chance, it’s definitely going to suck.’’

A gunman opened fire at Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport early Friday afternoon, killing at least five people before being taken into custody, according to law enforcement. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says a total of 13 people were shot. 

The suspect was immediately taken into custody after the shooting. According to Miami NBC station WTVJ, the gunman opened fire in a baggage claim area where passengers arriving on a Delta flight from Atlanta were gathering their luggage. 

More about the shooter

NBC News has identified the suspect as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, born in New Jersey. Santiago lived in Alaska for a period of time. Santiago arrived at the airport on flights from Alaska, retrieved luggage from baggage claim, took a gun from his luggage, loaded and began firing, according to law enforcement officials.

Multiple sources told NBC News Santiago had a military ID on him. A military spokeswoman told the Associated Press that Santiago had received a general discharge from the Alaska Army National Guard in 2016 for unsatisfactory performance.

Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead did not release details about the discharge in August 2016 but said that he joined the Guard in November of 2014.

Puerto Rico National Guard spokesperson Maj. Paul Dahlen said that Santiago was deployed to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, the 1013th engineer company out of Arguadilla.

According to the Associated Press, Olmstead also said that Santiago had served in the Army Reserves prior to joining the Alaska Army National Guard.

Santiago took Delta flight 1088 from Anchorage to Minneapolis Thursday night, landing early Friday. Then, he took Delta flight 2182 from Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale.

Ted Stevenes Anchorage International Airport police chief Jesse Davis told The Associated Press that Santiago departed Alaska at 9:52 p.m., checked only a firearm and did not call attention to himself adding that the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities are now backtracking his movements his movements through the Alaska airport by watching video footage.

A medical history 

The suspect appeared unannounced at their Anchorage office in November, USA TODAY reports. During that encounter, the suspect complained that the Islamic State had gained control of his mind and the terror group was urging him to fight on its behalf.

An FBI background check found no connections to terror groups, however the agency did alert local law enforcement that the suspect needed psychiatric care and turned him over to local agencies. They released him into the custody of a medical referral.

No second shooter

For more than hours after the attack, people could be seen running across the airport’s tarmac, and sheltering behind cars while police had guns drawn and pointed toward a parking garage near the airport’s Terminal 1. Officials harbored a significant concern of a second shooter at the airport, and the Transportation Security Agency even reported the possibility of a second shooter at one point. 

However, authorities later discounted the reports, and said shots had only been fired at Terminal 2.

Tightened security

Federal Aviation Administration officials said all services have been suspended at Fort Lauderdale for the time being, given the situation there, and the ongoing investigation. 

According to WTVJ, security at Miami International Airport has been tightened as a result of the situation at Fort Lauderdale.

Fla. Governor Rick Scott reacts

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who was a function in Fort Myers came to Fort Lauderdale for an update on the shooting situation. 

Scott held a late afternoon news conference, and vowed that whoever was responsible for the shooting would be “held responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”

Scott said he had reached out to President-elect Donald Trump and Vice president-elect Mike Pence on several occasions over the course of the afternoon, and that both had pledged the full support of the federal government in connection with the investigation. 

When asked if he had spoken with President Barack Obama, Scott said he had not reached out to Obama. 

Early word on the incident came from a tweet by Ari Fleischer, former White House spokesman for President George W. Bush.

“I’m at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport,” Fleischer tweets. “Shots have been fired. Everyone is running.”

Delta Air Lines responds

The shooting broke out on the lower level of the airport’s Terminal 2, according to reports from the scene. Terminal 2 houses Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. 

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Delta family are with the people of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, and those involved in the tragic events today,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement Friday afternoon.

First Coast News, The Associated Press and WTVJ contributed to this report.

(© 2017 WXIA)

By: AP | Fort Lauderdale | Updated: January 7, 2017 12:12 pm

shooting, airport shooting, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale airport, us airport shooting, Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, Fort Lauderdale shooting, Fort Lauderdale gunman, Fort Lauderdale shooting updates, Fort Lauderdale death toll, florida airport shooting, Fort Lauderdale news, world news Police waiting to escort employees and passengers walking outside terminal 2 at the scene of a deadly shooting at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

An Army veteran who complained that the government was controlling his mind drew a gun from his checked luggage on arrival at the Fort Lauderdale airport and opened fire in the baggage claim area Friday, killing five people and wounding eight, authorities said. He was taken into custody after throwing his empty weapon down and lying spread-eagle on the ground, one witness said.

Watch | USA: Police rush to Fort Lauderdale Airport following deadly shooting

“People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs,” the witness, Mark Lea, told MSNBC. “He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.” The gunman was identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska, who served in Iraq with the National Guard but was demoted and discharged last year for unsatisfactory performance. His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment recently.

Law enforcement officers stand ready at the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity Law enforcement officers stand ready at the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Santiago had walked into the FBI office in Anchorage in November to say that the U.S. government was controlling his mind and making him watch Islamic State videos. Agents questioned an agitated and disjointed-sounding Santiago and then called police, who took him for a mental health evaluation, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said Santiago did not appear intent on hurting anyone.

Read | Fort Lauderdale airport shooting: A look at other deadly attacks at US airports

Authorities said the motive for the attack was under investigation. Shortly after the shooting, and before details of Santiago’s mental health became public, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said that it remained to be seen whether it was terrorism or the work of “someone who is mentally deranged.” One witness said the attacker gunned down his victims without a word and kept shooting until he ran out of ammunition for his handgun, sending panicked travelers running out of the terminal and spilling onto the tarmac, baggage in hand.

PHOTOS: People scramble for cover as firing begins

Law enforcement officers are seen as the search for suspects is conducted near the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity Law enforcement officers are seen as the search for suspects is conducted near the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity

Others hid in bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as police and paramedics rushed in to help the wounded and establish whether there were any other gunmen. Bruce Hugon, who had flown in from Indianapolis for a vacation, was at the baggage carousel when he heard four or five pops and saw everyone drop down on the ground. He said a woman next to him tried to get up and was shot in the head.

“The guy must have been standing over me at one point. I could smell the gunpowder,” he said. “I thought I was about to feel a piercing pain or nothing at all because I would have been dead.”

Also Read | At least five dead in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag — not a carry-on — and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in. Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after taking off from Anchorage aboard a Delta flight Thursday night, checking only one piece of luggage — his gun, said Jesse Davis, police chief at the Anchorage airport.

Police waiting to escort employees and passengers walking outside terminal 2 at the scene of a deadly shooting at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, Friday, January 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. An Army veteran who complained that the government was controlling his mind drew a gun from his checked luggage on arrival at the Fort Lauderdale airport and opened fire in the baggage claim area Friday, killing several people and wounding others, authorities said. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP) Police waiting to escort employees and passengers walking outside terminal 2 at the scene of a deadly shooting at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, Friday, January 6, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

At Fort Lauderdale, “after he claimed his bag, he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don’t know why,” said Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner who was briefed by investigators. The bloodshed is likely to raise questions of whether aviation safety officials need to change the rules.

The attack also exposed another weak point in airport security: While travelers have to take off their shoes, put their carry-on luggage through X-ray machines and pass through metal detectors to reach the gates, many other sections of airports, such as ticket counters and baggage claim areas, are more lightly secured and more vulnerable to attack.

In 2013, a gunman with a grudge against the Transportation Security Administration shot and killed one of the agency’s screeners and wounded three others during a rampage at Los Angeles International Airport. Last November, an airline worker was shot and killed near an employee parking lot at Oklahoma City’s airport, and in 2015 a machete-wielding man was shot to death after he attacked federal security officers at the New Orleans airport.

People exit the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity People exit the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity

“While we have authorized doubling the number of TSA canine teams to try to prevent tragedies like this, the fact is that wherever there are crowds, such as at our airports, we remain vulnerable to these types of attacks,” Nelson said. The Fort Lauderdale gunman said nothing as he “went up and down the carousels of the baggage claim, shooting through luggage to get at people that were hiding,” according to Lea. The killer went through about three magazines before running out of ammunition, Lea said.

“He threw the gun down and laid spread-eagle on the ground until the officer came up to him,” Lea said. The gunman was arrested unharmed, with no shots fired by law enforcement officers, and was being questioned by the FBI, Sheriff Scott Israel said. The Broward Sheriff’s Office said on social media Friday night that 37 people were injured after the shooting but didn’t give details about how.

People exit the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity People exit the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity

The condition of the wounded was not disclosed. At least one of the victims was seen lying in a pool of blood with what appeared to be a head wound. The airport was shut down, with incoming flights diverted and outgoing flights held on the ground. President Barack Obama was briefed by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House said. President-elect Donald Trump said that it is a “disgraceful situation that’s happening in our country and throughout the world” and that it was too soon to say whether it was a terrorist attack.

Law enforcement officers move in to verify the identity of people in this field just outside the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity Law enforcement officers move in to verify the identity of people in this field just outside the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity

Santiago’s brother, Bryan, told the AP that his brother had been receiving psychological treatment in Alaska. He said Santiago’s girlfriend alerted the family to the situation in recent months. Bryan Santiago said that he didn’t know what his brother was being treated for and that they never talked about it. He said Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey and moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2. He was sent to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, according to Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen. He later joined the Alaska National Guard.

Law enforcement officers move in to verify the identity of people in this field just outside the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity Law enforcement officers move in to verify the identity of people in this field just outside the airport perimeter following a shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity

The Pentagon said Santiago had gone AWOL several times during his stint with the Alaska National Guard and was demoted — from specialist to private first class — and given a general discharge, which is lower than an honorable discharge. John Schilcher told Fox News he came up to the baggage claim and heard the first gunshot as he picked up his bag off a carousel.

“The person next to me fell to the ground and then I started hearing other pops. And as this happened, other people started falling and you could hear it and smell it, and people on either side of me were going down and I just dropped to the ground,” said Schilcher, who was there with his wife and mother-in-law. “The firing just went on and on.”

“I was down on the floor. When we finally looked up there was a policeman standing over me,” he said. “That’s when I assumed it was safe.”

My 2017 Top 10: Is It Novak Djokovic Or Andy Murray, And Can They Hold Off The Next Wave?

With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal “playing out the string”, and the young guns still a year or so away from taking over, the 2017 No. 1 race is going to come down to the current Top 2: Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

So how will it look at the very end? Here’s my Top 10:

10. Juan Martin Del Potro

Very unfortunate that he’s missing Australia, but I think if he can stay healthy he can put together enough of a run to finish Top 10, maybe even win a Slam!

9. Stan Wawrinka
The opportunity is there for another Slam title this year, I just don’t see it, though. He’s losing his consistency and that’ll catch up to him in the end.

8. Rafael Nadal
I think he’s still a force on clay, but he’s just not a big threat on the hardcourts anymore. Hope I’m wrong.

7. Alexander Zverev
The next in line for No. 1 makes his big move. Maybe a couple of Slam semifinals? Maybe more?

6. Dominic Thiem
Has to adapt better to surfaces other than clay, and will have a big chunk of points to defend in Paris.

5. Roger Federer
With no points to defend after Wimbledon, I think even at 36 he can do some damage. Will need some good draws early on to help his situation and confidence off injury.

4. Kei Nishikori
He can play with the Big Boys, but he’s got to start winning the bigger events.

3. Milos Raonic
I think 2017 could be the year he wins a Slam, heck, maybe two. And if he wins two he might very well finish on top.

2. Novak Djokovic
Pound-for-pound, he’s the best player on the planet. I just don’t know if he really has the motivation and the dedication now to get back there.

1. Andy Murray
As long as he keeps Ivan Lendl on board it will mean good things. He might not win multiple majors in 2017, but I think he’ll win just enough and hold on to No. 1 in the end.

Others to watch for:
Nick Kyrgios – I think he breaks the Top 10 but can’t stay there.
Marin Cilic – Capable of winning another Slam.
Gael Monfils – I don’t think he’ll duplicate his 2016 season, but he’s still a threat.
Tomas Berdych – Finally falls out of Top 10.
Lucas Pouille – Wimbledon and US Open quarterfinals were no fluke.
Grigor Dimitrov – Back on track after a poor first half of 2016?
Karen Khachanov – Only 20, he won Chengdu last year and has 3 Top 30 wins to his name.
Daniil Medvedev – Like Khachanov, he’s also a 20-year-old, 6-foot-6 Russian who packs a punch.
Jack Sock – Favorite to finish as top American, but needs more consistency.
David Goffin – Needs a big Grand Slam result to crack that Top 10.

Like last year, I think this is another season with Murray-Djokovic dueling for No. 1. But I do think we could see some surprising Grand Slam winners because neither Murray nor Djokovic are unbeatable. And we could see them as early as Melbourne in a few weeks. So there’s a lot of opportunity because I think there’s a decent chance we could see four different Slam winners this year (last year we had 3).

I’m talking guys like Raonic, Zverev, Cilic and later in the year maybe in New York, Del Po. Or maybe a Kyrgios. With no real dominant player(s), I could see any of them winning Slams this season.

I also think this is the last year the Big 4 hold No. 1. After that…??? Raonic, Zverev, Khachanov, Thiem, Kyrgios?

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