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Canada must block Russia’s leadership and abuse of Interpol

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On Wednesday, Interpol will be electing a new president to head the international criminal policing agency and a member of the Putin regime is currently the lead candidate. Should Interpol confirm the Kremlin’s candidate, the move would be akin to letting a ravenous fox out in the international human rights hen house.

While Interpol’s charter forbids it from engaging in political activity, this hasn’t stopped the Kremlin and other repressive regimes, from trying to subvert Interpol’s mandate to help them achieve their political objectives.

Among the tools available to Interpol member states, are the Red Notice and Diffusion notices, which are formal requests, made by one member state to all other Interpol members, to arrest and extradite an individual. These are important tools when used by law abiding nations but have terrifying potential when abused by regimes that engage in political repression — such as Russia, China, Venezuela and others.

The number of Red Notices and Diffusions have exploded over the past decade, doubling since 2016. Activists believe that many of them are frivolous or politically motivated according to Fair Trial, a U.K.-based rights group.

The leading candidate to become head of Interpol is a Russian, former Major-General Aleksandr Prokopchuk. The previous president, Meng Hongwei, was kidnapped by his own government when visiting China in the September and a letter of resignation from Interpol was delivered the next month.

Among them, is investor and global human rights activist, Bill Browder, who has been aggressively pursued by Kremlin authorities since 2008. Vladimir Putin tried him in absentia in 2017 on politically motivate charges aimed at silencing the global Magnitsky human rights campaign he leads.

A leading source of foreign investment to Russian in the early 2000’s, Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital, was the target of a $230 million tax fraud, committed by organized criminals working with Kremlin officials. In 2008, Hermitage lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky was detained, after he reported the theft by Russian officials. He died in prison a year later from systematic negligence and being viciously beaten by prison officials. Since his death Browder has embarked on a campaign to bring his killers to justice by promoting international sanctions legislation targeting global human rights abusers with visa bans and asset freezes in the West, including Canada.

Browder’s human rights campaign has become a major threat to the oligarchs who keep Vladimir Putin in power and the Russian president himself. It became a central theme of the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki this summer, and is at the core of the Mueller Russia probe. It has also put Bill Browder in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, along with other prominent Russian pro-democracy and human rights activists, including those in Canada.

The Kremlin’s toolbox of political repression has expanded over the past decade, to include legislation that crudely restricts various forms of freedom of speech and allows the Kremlin to prosecute violators both in Russian and abroad.

Among the most severe is the Russian “gay propaganda” law. The draconian anti-LGBTQ law makes advocacy for gay rights or any public support for gay issues, a crime. The law also applies to foreigners who promote gay rights in Russia.

Most worrying, is that the Kremlin has prosecuted and convicted many individuals in absentia. An Interpol led by the Kremlin, would allow Putin to apply Interpol Diffusion and Red Notices on its critics and those of its allies, without any hesitation.

Canadians have also been targeted with Kremlin repression. In March 2016, the Kremlin lawyer at the centre of the current Mueller probe, Nataliya Veselnitskaya, brought Russian government attention to a memorial event I organized for assassinated Russian opposition leader and my friend, Boris Nemtsov, at the University of Toronto. The event included a panel discussion with Bill Browder, opposition leader, Vladimir Kara-Murza and Boris Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna. Within days, a formal request into the event and my involvement by the Office of the Prosecutor General, Yuri Chaika, was made by a Russian Duma member, Georgy Federov.

There is no reason to believe the Kremlin would not expand its abuse of the Red Notice system to silence international critics once its candidate takes control of the organization, including those in Canada and in the nations of our allies.

The Canadian government and all lawmakers must be alert to the serious threat that the Kremlin’s takeover of Interpol poses to international human rights. Canada can join calls by other nations, including Ukraine, to suspend Russia from the organization and actively seek a new international alternative to form a new international law enforcement body among law abiding nations.

Marcus Kolga is an expert on disinformation ,human rights and sanctions. He is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad.

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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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