Foreign reporter shut out of G20

Pakistani journalist Syed Asfar Imam has been to the Congo to cover the United Nations mission, to England to interview the late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and to the U.S. for the Kashmir Mission Program.

Last week, Imam, chief international correspondent for Aaj TV news network, got his media accreditation to cover the G20 summit in Toronto. But he won’t be here anytime soon. The Canadian High Commission told him it would take three months to get a visa.

So Imam said he contacted Dimitri Soudas, communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper — and was advised to join him on Twitter to follow news at the summit.

Nicholas Keung Immigration Reporter

A peek at the summit

We’re just a regular old non-hamburger-selling hospital, we promise

In a presumed attempt to avoid the vandalizing wrath of protesters who hate both big corporations and world-class medical facilities, the Burger King and Tim Hortons signs at the Hospital for Sick Children’s University Ave. entrance have been covered with green garbage bags.

And then Donald Rumsfeld will speak about good war planning

Former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove is in town Friday night to speak at the G20 Summit for Faith and Business Leaders, an event organized by Christian conservative Charles McVety. More strangely, Rove will also hold a news conference “commenting on the G20 and the moral question of massive spending and debt.” Rove can comment, but not credibly: even when defence is excluded, Bush spent more in inflation-adjusted dollars than any president since Lyndon Johnson.

Possible intended messages of the summit media centre’s four-dimensional 4D Ontario ride

Ontario: Where you will think you will have fun but quickly get nauseated

Ontario: Where residents spend large quantities of time whitewater rafting and riding horses through forests

When life gives you fences, make a fence blog

Someone has launched a blog and art project called “Fenced Out,” soliciting photos of “whatever you find put up on (or over)” the G20 security fence. After the summit, this someone says at fencedoutblog.tumblr.com, “we will digitally stitch the collected photos together to create a different kind of fence — an online mural made up of the public’s interventions, that will endure well after the steel and concrete barrier is taken down.”

Detention, The Film

Police have set up a temporary holding facility for detained protesters at the former Toronto Film Studios on Eastern Ave. Here are some movie sequels the cops could force the protesters to participate in if they feel like violating some Charter rights:

Men in Black III. Synopsis: Anarchists fight aliens.

Billy Elliot II. Synopsis: An 11-year-old anti-globalization activist discovers a gift for ballet while dodging rubber bullets.

Ocean’s 14. Synopsis. A motley collection of Oxfam employees executes a casino heist and uses the proceeds to expedite the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Summit-related tweet of the day

Dan Speerin: “The argument of it being an honour to hold the G20 would be a lot more believable if last year it wasn’t in Pittsburgh.”

With files from Robert Benzie and Antonia Zerbisias

Mounted police take in the game

A Star reader captured this scene outside the Air Canada Centre. He writes: "Here is a beautiful picture demonstrating the effectiveness of our $1 billion G20 summit security personnel hard at work. I know I feel safe. Tax dollars well spent."


It's a bird, it's a balloon

The Star's Richard Brennan spotted this surveillance balloon near Deerhurst today:


Bomb scare at police headquarters

A high security alert encircling Toronto's police headquarters kicked into overdrive Thursday morning when someone spotted what looked like a suspicious package on a tree planter outside the College Street building.

The object, round and blue with red detail and what appeared to be wires, could be a pipe bomb, police said.

It turned out to be a purse. But a dozen officers stopped pedestrians and cars on College St., while two specialist officers picked up the package and walked away with it.

Even before and after the incident, tight security around police headquarters means no one is allowed in or out without an escort and must pass through three checkpoints.

A peek at the summit

Everyone on the bus to Dufferin and Sheppard!

“We have what is estimated to be 3,500 foreign media coming to Toronto. We’ve entertained a number of them already. It’s clear that most of them have never been to Toronto, most of them have never been to Canada. This is a fabulous opportunity . . . Let’s try to get the media out to see the city. All the neighbourhoods during the World Cup are going to be very vibrant. They’re not going to see what we really are in downtown because it’s empty and barricaded. But the rest of the city is still alive and vibrant, and if we can get people out to see the rest of the city, it will accomplish our goal.”

— Mike Williams, Toronto’s general manager of economic development

Overheard in the summit media centre I

Man 1, standing behind the counter of the free coffee bar beside the fake lake: “What can I get for you?”

Man 2, a member of the local media standing at the bar looking confused: “What do you got?”

Man 1: “Latte, hot chocolate, cappuccino, espresso...”

Man 2: “And this is all part of the...”

Man 1: “Yep.”

Overheard in the summit media centre II

“Party on.” — CBC’s Wendy Mesley, to a group of RCMP officers after posing for a picture with one of them

True summit-related fact

The westbound Gardiner Expressway was virtually empty at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

First they turn downtown into a maze, then ...

G20 protesters are at risk of being used as “guinea pigs” to test the effects of sonic cannons, civil rights groups say. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Labour Congress were in court Wednesday seeking an injunction against use of the long-range acoustic devices during demonstrations this week, saying the high-decibel gadgets, which can damage hearing, are “weapons” for which Ontario government approval is needed.

Toronto police bought four in May, while the OPP bought three this month.

Their planned use “has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in which reasonable citizens are questioning whether they should attend the G20 protests,” argued Paul Cavalluzzo, lawyer for the applicants.

OPP lawyer Christopher Diana said there is no evidence the cannons will cause people to avoid the protests. (He may have a point: After all, hearing damage hasn’t put an end to rock concerts.)

Possible intended messages of the summit media centre’s four-dimensional 4D Ontario ride

Ontario: Where you will think you will have fun but quickly get nauseous

Ontario: Where summer lasts much longer than winter

Ontario: Where residents spend large periods of time whitewater rafting and riding horses through forests

A place to stnad, a plcae to grow

According to a photo posted on BlogTO.com, at least one resident of the downtown security zone has received a pass that identifies his province as Ontairo. Perhaps it was typed by someone who had just exited the 4D Ontario ride.

Can they teach us how to be unconscious of this summit?M

Another group of international luminaries gathering in Toronto this week is the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, which begins its 14th annual meeting Thursday. Among the matters to be discussed on Sunday: “Idiosyncratic spatial inhomogeneities in breakthrough to consciousness of suppressed visual stimuli.”

The summ-hit list: G20-appropriate oldies of the day

The Manhattan Transfer, “Spies In the Night.” Sample lyrics: “Shadows looking through an open window/Footsteps following wherever you go/Undercover eyes. . .” The Miracles, “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me.” Sample lyrics: “Don’t want to stay here/Don’t want to spend another day here/Oh, oh, oh, I want to split now.”

Summit-related tweet of the day

Andrew Bailini: “it wasn’t an earthquake..it was just the effect of the final bill for the G20 & G8 being dropped on the Canadian taxpayers..#porkbarrel”

Live: Ask a G20 security expert

Sgt. Tim Burrows, part of the Integrated Security Unit, will be here at noon Thursday to answer any questions you might have about getting around Toronto while the G20 is in town.

Please use the Comment field in the Cover it Live panel to ask your questions.


G20 police raid in Forest Hill

A man in his 30s was arrested in a G20-related police raid on a Forest Hill house around noon Tuesday.

Police are keeping tight-lipped on why the Elderwood Dr. house was searched or what — if anything — was seized.

Several officers converged on a home, in the Bathurst St. and Eglinton Ave. W. area, around 12:10 p.m., said Toronto police Const. Tony Vella.

It's unclear if any charges will be laid.

“The investigation is ongoing,” he said, and police won’t be releasing further information surrounding the arrest at this time.

By 9:30 p.m., a police contingent was still present in the neighbourhood surrounding the two and a half storey home, Vella said.

No injuries were reported in the incident.

A peek at the summit

Literally, the quietest G20 gathering

Do you like sitting in silence? Do you like capital letters? If so, you should consider participating in the June 27 Human Summit Project, a meditation-focused Woodbine Park gathering that, according to a news release from its organizer, the Centre for Spiritual Living, “can literally change the consciousness of millions and Awaken Humanity To Its Spiritual Magnificence.”

The city above Toronto, in terms of fun, on this particular weekend

Subject line of the City of Mississauga’s news release: “Media Advisory: Looking for something to do during the G20 weekend?” (Translation: “Toronto is going be excruciatingly boring if you’re not, like, throwing rocks at bank towers.”) First sentence: “The City of Mississauga is open for business this G20 Summit weekend with fun and engaging activities for children and adults of all ages to enjoy.” (Translation: “Yeah, Toronto isn’t going to have any fun and engaging activities, at all, for anyone. Like, none.”)

Fun and engaging activities include a concert featuring jazz guitarist Rob Tardik, a historical walking tour of Port Credit, and, far more excitingly, the Frank McKechnie Community Centre and Library’s 10th Anniversary Open House.

Hottie, you’re so hot you exacerbate the climate change crisis

If the library open house doesn’t do it for you, drive 15 minutes or so to Mississauga’s Treasures Gentleman’s Nightclub, which is holding a “G-String Summit” between June 23 and June 26. The “host” of the “summit,” which is totally not just a marketing stunt, is Miss Brooke Haven, an adult film star. Most of her duties appear to include stripping.

New TTC summit diversion

The Dufferin 29B and D buses will no longer travel inside Exhibition Place, which is closed to vehicular traffic. Instead, they will stop at the loop just outside the Dufferin Gate, said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross.

Summit essentially useless: pundits

Jeffrey Rubin, Huffington Post: “Everybody will be heading to the upcoming G20 summit in Toronto with conflicting agendas, in much the same way that they came to the environmental summit on global climate change in Copenhagen a few months ago. And, like that environmental summit, the economic summit in Toronto will have just as negligible an impact. For starters, if no one can agree on points of substance, why bother holding these extravaganzas in the first place? Particularly when host countries like Canada are paying absurd sums in security bills for the privilege.”

Alan Beattie, Financial Times: “Former officials and experts say that while the meeting is likely to pass off without violent disagreement, it is only at the cost of accepting stark divisions on contentious issues, or pushing their resolution into the future . . . The conversation this weekend is likely to be civil, if forthright. But few leaders seem likely to change their minds.”

Summit-related tweet of the day

Anthony Zanfini: “After seeing 25 cops standing in front it is clear that the most important delegate at the #G20 is Tim Horton’s.”

Summit leaves road wide open

It’s sardine city on the TTC most days. But Toronto Star staffers are reporting the luxury of exhaling on the city’s streetcars this week as the summit drives away traffic and transit riders — although the TTC says it doesn’t have the numbers proving ridership is down this week.

The eastbound Queen car, which normally takes 12 to 15 minutes to travel from Niagara St. to University Ave., took seven minutes Tuesday around 9:25 a.m.

“The streetcar just hurtled on because there was reduced traffic on Queen St.,” according to reporter Raveena Aulakh.

Debra Black made a similar report on the Spadina car.

Reduced traffic may be the summit’s silver lining.

“I’m loving this G20 stuff … made it in 15 minutes from Pape and Danforth to city hall, despite the rain. Even fewer cars on the road this morning, not many delivery trucks,” wrote Vanessa Lu.

Nancy White said she saved money as well as a little time. Lighter traffic got her to work five minutes faster than usual from the Beach along Queen East to Queens Quay.

The parking lot north of the Star building at 1 Yonge St., was charging $10 instead of the usual $12 summer rate.

“I guess they know people are staying away,” she said.

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