Netanyahu's U.S. visit overshadowed by developments in corruption probe

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TODAY:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s U.S. visit overshadowed by developments in ongoing bribery and corruption probe
  • Toronto Police say they have recovered the remains of a seventh person in their investigation of Bruce McArthur, and they’ve released a disturbing photo of a man whom they believe is an unidentified victim
  • Donald Trump’s off-the-cuff decision last week to slap tariffs on foreign-produced steel and aluminum isn’t yet final, but it looks like Canada isn’t going to get a pass

Netanyahu packs his troubles

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington for a five-day U.S. visit. But his mini-summit with President Donald Trump, and a planned effort to relaunch an American-backed Middle East peace process, have now been overshadowed by troubles back home.

Today, Israeli police confirmed that Nir Hefetz, a longtime Netanyahu media advisor and confidant, has reached a deal to testify against the prime minister and his wife in an ongoing bribery and corruption investigation, and will reportedly provide audio recordings.

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U.S. President Donald Trump chats with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington on Monday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The so-called Case 4000 revolves around still-unproven allegations that Netanyahu’s government gave assistance to Israeli telecom giant Bezeq in exchange for favourable coverage on its popular news website Walla.

Hefetz, described by the Haaretz newspaper as Netanyahu’s “all-round Rasputin-Haldeman-Stephen Miller kind of guy,” is said to be the man who brokered the alleged arrangement.

Israeli media were quick to speculate that the former spin doctor might have information to share about three other ongoing police investigations into the prime minister’s dealings while in office — two of which have now been sent to prosecutors for a decision on charges.

Hefetz

Nir Hefetz, a long-time adviser to Netanyau, is seen at the Israeli Justice Court in Tel Aviv on Feb. 22. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Netanyahu maintains that he has done nothing wrong, and says that the probes are politically motivated.

But all the same, the news cannot be welcome. Hefetz is the third advisor to strike a deal with police, following agreements with his former chief of staff, Ari Harrow, and the former director of the communications ministry, Shlomo Filber.

Netanyahu has now been questioned by police eight times over the past year, most recently on Friday.

And there may be more to come, with Israel’s Channel 10 network reporting that Hefetz is cooperating on other investigations that have not yet been publicly disclosed.


The hunt for a victim’s name

(Note: This story contains an image some may find disturbing.)

Toronto Police say they have recovered the remains of a seventh person in their ongoing investigation of Bruce McArthur, and they have released a disturbing photo of a man whom they believe is an unidentified victim of the alleged serial killer.

“I do not want to release this photo, but I am doing so as a last resort,” Det.-Sgt Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator in the case, told a press conference this morning. “I have never done this, and I do this with great hesitation. It’s obviously a key piece of evidence.

“We believe this is a photo of a deceased person.”

bruce mcarthur alleged homicide graphic warning

Det. Hank Idsinga, right, said Monday that Toronto police are trying to identify the man shown in the photo beside him. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The picture shows a heavyset, dark-haired, bearded man with what appears to be a facial injury on his left cheek. His eyes are partially closed.

Idsinga did not disclose how the police obtained the photo or the circumstances under which it was taken, but its release appears to answer the question at the heart of the case — how investigators were able to lay murder charges before they had recovered and identified the remains.

To date, McArthur, 66, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the disappearances of Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Selim Esen, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi and Skanda Navaratnam.

Bruce McArthur

Bruce McArthur, 66, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder. (Bruce McArthur/Facebook)

Although police have now recovered seven sets of human remains from large planters that the landscaper had stashed at a midtown Toronto home, they have so far identified only three of them. The bodies of 49-year-old Kinsman and Mahmudi, 50, were identified via fingerprints, and 40-year-old Navaratnam via dental records.

It was only in Navaratnam’s case that investigators waited for the forensic identification before laying a murder charge.

The obvious inference has always been that there was other undisclosed evidence that led police to conclude the men were dead and McArthur was their alleged killer. Something the release of the apparent post-mortem photo now seems to confirm.

Trophies” are often thought to be a hallmark of serial murderers. Although some research suggests that the patterns aren’t as clear-cut as books, movies and television pretend.

Alleged mcarthur victims

This combination of photos shows the six men Toronto landscaper Bruce McArthur is accused of killing (clockwise): Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Majeed Kayhan, 58. (CBC/Toronto Police Service)

Idsinga today reiterated that his investigation is far from complete, and that police are examining cold cases that go back decades for possible links to McArthur.

And it will likely be some time before DNA results are available for the four as-yet-unidentified sets of remains.

In the meantime, police are asking for the public’s help to identify the man in the photo.

“We need to put a name to this face,” Idsinga told reporters.


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How northern health care is failing patients

The National sent Nick Purdon to northern Ontario to follow a doctor and speak to patients to find out how people in Ontario’s far North are being served by the health care system:

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Christian Sakakeesic, 19, is from Cat Lake, Ont. (Nick Purdon/CBC )

“I’m here trying to express some feelings,” is the first thing Christian Sakakeesic said to me.  

I did expect that. In fact, I was a little intimidated by him. He looked tough, with his hoodie up and his earbuds in. But when I asked him why he was staying at the medical hostel in Sioux Lookout, Ont., he just started to talk — as honestly and bravely as anyone I’ve ever met.

“I couldn’t express any feelings back in my reserve, because I just lost my friend — he got killed over there, and my uncle too. That’s why I am here, trying to express my feelings.”

Christian told me how his best friend and his uncle died of gunshot wounds. He knew he needed help, but there was nobody in Cat Lake, the tiny First Nation where he’s from, who he could trust.

So Christian flew out to Sioux Lookout for a few days to stay at the Jeremiah McKay Kabayshewekamik hostel.

The 100-bed hostel is one of the most remarkable places in the country. It’s where patients who live in the small indigenous communities that dot the northernmost part of Ontario stay when they fly out to get health care.

These are people who have to leave their homes to access what most Canadians would consider basic services — things like a mental health appointment.

Tonight on The National, watch Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja’s feature about the Sioux Lookout hostel, and how health workers say the system is failing northern residents.


Trade war a go-go

Donald Trump’soff-the-cuff decision last week to slap tariffs on foreign-produced steel and aluminum isn’t yet final, but it looks like Canada isn’t going to get a neighbourly pass.

The last U.S. president to try this sort of thing — George W. Bush in 2002 — exempted his NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, as well as most developing nations, tightly targeting steel makers in China and Europe.

But yesterday, senior Trump advisors signalled that the new duties — 25 per cent on steel, and 10 per cent on aluminum — will be one-size-fits-all.

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U.S. President Donald Trump sits beneath a steel emblem in the shape of the state of Ohio at the Staub Manufacturing plant in Dayton in this 2016 photo. His administration’s decision on whether to levy steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada is expected later this week. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Certain industries might get a break, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and economics guru Peter Navarro told the U.S. Sunday morning panel shows, but not producing nations.

The Trudeau government is still lobbying hard against the proposed tariffs and a final decision is expected later this week. Although at this point, a global steel and foil trade war seems almost inevitable.

Here are some of the underlying numbers in the dispute. First, there’s steel:

  • 850 million metric tonnes — the world’s steel production in 2000.

  • 1.7 billion metric tonnes — the world’s annual steel production today.

  • 49 per cent — China’s share of global steel production.

  • $ 1.96 billion — the value of China’s steel exports to the United States.

  • $ 29 billion U.S. — the value of American steel imports in 2017, down from $ 37.8 billion in 2014.

Canada isn’t in the top-10 producers of steel globally, but it’s still firmly in America’s sights:

  • 17 — Canada’s rank among global steel producers.

  • 1 — Canada’s rank among steel exporters to the United States.

  • 17 per cent — the share of U.S. steel imports made in Canadian mills, worth $ 5.53 billion.

  • 88 per cent — the portion of Canada’s steel exports that head south of the border.

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An Alcoa aluminum plant in Alcoa, Tenn. The five U.S. aluminum smelters produced 66,039 metric tonnes in January 2018. (Wade Payne/Reuters)

And then there’s aluminum:

  • 3 million metric tonnes — China’s estimated January 2018 aluminum production from 120 smelters.

  • 255,664 metric tonnes — the amount of aluminum produced by Canada’s 10 smelters in January.

  • 66,039 metric tonnes — the amount of aluminum produced by the five remaining U.S. smelters that same month.

Thanks to the U.S. federal government’s infrastructure improvement plan, there’s a lot of potential business on the line:

  • $ 1.7 trillion U.S. — the amount President Trump wants to spend on replacing America’s decaying infrastructure.

  • 50 per cent — the share of all steel used in the U.S. that currently goes into buildings and infrastructure.

  • 34 per cent — the portion of aluminum used in North America that is produced in the U.S. and Canada, compared to the 27 per cent that is imported and the 37 per cent that is recycled.

And consequences for thousands of households:

  • 154,000 — the number of people directly employed by the U.S. steel industry today.

  • 22,000 — the number of people employed by Canada’s steel manufacturers.

  • 10,000 — the number of aluminum industry employees in Canada

The question is whether tariffs actually work. Past American experience suggests the answer is no:

  • 16,000 — the number of jobs the U.S. steel-making industry claims were created by George W. Bush’s tariff.

  • 200,000 — the number of jobs lost due to the 2002 tariff, according to steel consuming industries.


Quote of the moment

“Houses are for living in, not for speculation.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, announcing a plan to address his country’s overheated property market by building 5.8 million new apartments this year.

China Politics

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, stands beside Chinese President Xi Jinping during the opening session of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Monday. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)


What The National is reading

  • Aid convoy enters Syria’s eastern Ghouta (CBC)
  • Islamic State video ‘shows deaths of U.S. soldiers in Niger ambush’ (BBC)
  • Tensions mount as Myanmar increases troops on Bangladesh border (Asia Times)
  • Guatemala vows to move embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (Deutsche Welle)
  • Malt liquor drink pulled from shelves after death of 14-year-old Montrealer (CTV)
  • Putin: Russia will ‘never’ extradite citizens sought by U.S. (Fox News)
  • Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky cycling accused in damning drugs report (Guardian)
  • Lacoste changes logo to raise awareness of endangered species (CNN)

Today in history

March 5, 1983: Ads urge teens to ‘Stay Real’, avoid marijuana

Ottawa spent $ 600,000 on this soft-focus ad campaign to try and persuade teens to put off smoking pot or hash until they were a little bit older. Kids were encouraged to talk to their parents about drug use, or write away to Health Canada for a 24-page brochure on the dangers of marijuana. It is unclear whether anyone ever did.

Government urges teens to “stay real,” avoid marijuana2:29


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