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As military probes deadly crash, clues could lie in the Cyclone’s troubled procurement history | CBC News

As the tragic events in the Ionian Sea off Greece came into focus last week, a sense of dread rippled through a tight-knit community of former military and political staffers — people whose careers have intersected with the long, troubled effort to bring the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter into service. Texts and emails were exchanged. One from…

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As military probes deadly crash, clues could lie in the Cyclone’s troubled procurement history | CBC News

As the tragic events in the Ionian Sea off Greece came into focus last week, a sense of dread rippled through a tight-knit community of former military and political staffers — people whose careers have intersected with the long, troubled effort to bring the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter into service. Texts and emails were exchanged. One from a former defence official simply read: “Gutted.”It was more than an expression of remorse over the young lives shockingly cut short on a spring afternoon half a world away. It was an articulation of exasperation. The bane of two governments before last week’s crash claimed six lives, the Cyclone helicopter was the defence procurement program that came within a whisker of being cancelled — the subject of high corporate and backroom political drama and hand-wringing among engineers and safety experts. ‘Worst procurement in the history of Canada’ The Cyclone was chosen to replace the air force’s five-decade-old CH-124 Sea Kings; its procurement was considered by many in Ottawa to be a textbook example of what not to do when buying equipment. It drew the wrath of one auditor general and received the title of “worst procurement in the history of Canada” from Peter MacKay, the former Conservative defence minister. Both civilian and military leaders have underlined the fact that the crash’s cause remains unknown and that a thorough investigation — which could take more than a year — will be needed to determine why a reasonably new helicopter (five years old) went down without warning. Six military members were killed in last week’s Cyclone crash. Clockwise from top left: Capt. Kevin Hagen, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin. (Department of National Defence) The investigators have to be given “all the room and authority to proceed” at their own pace, Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, said Thursday. But there are key facts about the aircraft and the decisions made regarding it that Canadians should understand as that investigation unfolds. For starters: the Cyclone is a one-of-a-kind. A ‘developmental’ aircraft Based upon the Sikorsky S-92 civilian helicopter, it is for all intents and purposes a “developmental” helicopter. That aspect came in for heavy criticism from then-auditor general Sheila Fraser in 2010, who suggested Paul Martin’s Liberal government misrepresented it as an established, proven design when the contract was first signed in 2004. It’s one of the reasons why bringing the helicopter into service took more than a dozen years — and billions of extra dollars. The original 2004 budget for the Cyclone’s procurement was $3.2 billion, which had ballooned to $5.7 billion a decade later when consideration was given to scrapping the program. Masked military pallbearers carry the casket of Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough during a repatriation ceremony for the six Canadian Forces personnel killed in a military helicopter crash in the Mediterranean, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ontario, Canada May 6, 2020. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press) At a point early in the process, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was startled to learn it would have to spend an extra $117 million on the development of a more powerful engine to lift an aircraft that had been hardened to military standards. “The key point here is that the Cyclone is a developmental aircraft,” said Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia defence policy analyst who has written reports and articles critical of the maritime helicopter program. Fly-by-wire Is there something in the design of the aircraft — or in the software that operates it — that may have gone wrong last week? Unlike the Sea King it replaced, the Cyclone runs on a “fly-by-wire” (FBW) design. It replaces conventional mechanical flight controls with electronic ones — basically, computers that order the flight control surfaces to move based on the input from pilots. “The Cyclone is a 21st century military aircraft and it is flown mostly by computers, fly by wire, and the electronic suite is extremely advanced,” said Byers. “The pilot’s instructions are conveyed electronically. It’s a modern aircraft. Obviously, the risk of mechanical failures are reduced — but with that the risk of some kind of electronic interference or computer failure goes up.” Fly-by-wire technology has been the industry standard for both commercial and military aviation for a quarter century, but it’s not without its problems. Its use (or perhaps misuse) was a major factor in the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, which killed all 228 passengers and crew. In this Monday, June 8, 2009 file photo released by Brazil’s Air Force, Brazil’s Navy sailors recover debris from the missing Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean. (Brazil air force/AP) Fly-by-wire controls the pitch and movements of the aircraft, sometimes without pilot intervention. Seven years ago, the software that runs the Cyclone was at the centre of a bitter dispute between the former Conservative government and the manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft (which is now owned by U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin). The argument involved the company’s demand to deliver the operating system in phases, or “blocks”, as they are known in the industry. The government, threatening to cancel the deal, wanted a fully “mission ready” aircraft but eventually settled for delivery in two blocks. The Department of National Defence said the helicopter that crashed received its software upgrade in 2018. ‘Non-compliant’ Concerns about the flight computer system went beyond the software, however. In the summer of 2013, air force flight safety officials declared four test Cyclones “non-compliant,” citing the possibility that delicate flight systems, including the computer that runs the engines, were not sufficiently shielded against powerful electromagnetic (EM) waves, such as those produced by military-grade radar on frigates. A report by The Canadian Press at the time quoted multiple sources at the air base in Shearwater, N.S., saying EM interference had the potential to blank out the digital instruments — even to shut down the engines. In 2013, the directorate of airworthiness at the Department of National Defence issued a restricted flight certificate and imposed limits on the helicopter’s operations specifically because of so-called “E-3” concerns — electromagnetic compatibility, electromagnetic vulnerability and electromagnetic interference. At the time, the problem was considered a potential “show-stopping” design flaw, but a source who was intimately involved in the file who spoke to CBC News this week insisted that the concerns were rectified without having to go through a major redesign of the airframe. If pilot error is ruled out in last week’s crash, and if there are concerns about either the flight control software or the adequacy of the design, Byers said the Liberal government could find itself facing a horrible dilemma. “I’m not suggesting that is likely to happen, but with any developmental aircraft, you risk discovering a fundamental problem that is integral to the aircraft,” he said. “In a worst-case scenario, you quite literally have to start again.”
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B.C. voters heading to the polls as snap election called for Oct. 24 | CBC News

After weeks of speculation, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has made official the worst-kept secret in the province: British Columbians are heading to the polls.  Horgan said Monday he had called an election for Oct. 24 after meeting with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and asking her to dissolve the legislature.”I’ve struggled mightily with this decision, and it did not come easily to me,” said…

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B.C. voters heading to the polls as snap election called for Oct. 24 | CBC News

After weeks of speculation, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has made official the worst-kept secret in the province: British Columbians are heading to the polls.  Horgan said Monday he had called an election for Oct. 24 after meeting with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and asking her to dissolve the legislature.”I’ve struggled mightily with this decision, and it did not come easily to me,” said Horgan, acknowledging the controversy of calling an early election during a pandemic.  But he said that, with COVID-19 expected to be a fact of life for the next year, an election made sense now.  “We can either delay that decision and create uncertainty and instability over the 12 months … or we can do what I believe is always the right thing and ask British Columbians what they think.” The announcement comes after weeks of speculation that Horgan would call an election just over three years into his mandate, and it comes after six cabinet ministers announced their retirements in the past seven days. The NDP currently have 41 seats in the legislature, as do the opposition Liberal Party, while the Green Party has two. WATCH | B.C. premier announces Oct. 24 election: British Columbia voters will head to the polls on Oct 24. Some are criticizing the premier for moving forward early, but John Horgan says COVID-19 would have been a factor no matter when he called an election. 1:59 How did we get here? Horgan has led a minority government since July 2017 after his New Democratic Party and the Greens teamed up to defeat the Liberals in a confidence vote following a May election with no clear decision.  Since that time, he has led the province with the support of the Green Party — under a unique and formal agreement — and passed legislation setting a fixed election date for October 2021. The agreement also stipulated Horgan “will not request a dissolution of the legislature … except following the defeat of a motion of confidence.”   But, in calling the election, Horgan argued the province found itself in unique circumstances because of the pandemic and that the Green Party had also broken a rule of the agreement by introducing an amendment to a government bill without notification. “The issues of 2017 are not the issues of 2020,” said Horgan.  “What we did in the past is one thing, and what we need to do in the future is quite another matter.”  Horgan also repeatedly argued that an election would create more certainty for the province if one party had a majority government and the ability to make decisions without consulting other parties. “We need a stable government,” he said.  Up in the polls Horgan will attempt to become the first two-term NDP premier in B.C. history and heads into the campaign with his party up in the polls and with the highest personal approval rating of any premier in Canada, according to recent surveys by Angus Reid. In recent weeks, the B.C. Liberal Party and the Green Party have criticized Horgan for considering an election during a global pandemic. While British Columbia received plaudits for its initial containment of the virus, cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent months, and the effects of students returning to class are still not fully known.  The opposition parties quickly attacked Horgan for calling an election.  “Today, John Horgan chose politics over people,” said Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who said his party will announce its platform and full list of candidates in the coming weeks. “The only reason for this general election is to try and secure the jobs of the NDP … it’s not necessary.” Horgan is seen after the news conference in Langford, B.C., where he announced the election. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press) Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said she spoke with Horgan on Friday, and told him she and fellow Green MLA Adam Olsen would continue to support the NDP on legislation if an election was not called.  “When people are worried about their kids being back in school, when people are worried about their jobs, when people are worried about their housing, this is not a time where we put the interest of a political party ahead of British Columbians,” she said.   A number of longtime MLAs have said they won’t be seeking re-election, including NDP cabinet ministers Carole James, Judy Darcy, Shane Simpson, Michelle Mungall, Doug Donaldson, Claire Trevena and Scott Fraser. Liberals Rich Coleman and Linda Reid, and former Green Party leader Andrew Weaver have also said they will not run again.
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First man to climb Everest 10 times dies at 72

All the ascents to the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit of the world’s tallest mountain between 1983 and 1996 by Ang Rita, who went by his first name, like many Sherpas, were made without bottled oxygen.The 72-year-old, who had suffered brain and liver ailments for a long time, died at his home in the Nepali capital of…

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First man to climb Everest 10 times dies at 72

All the ascents to the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit of the world’s tallest mountain between 1983 and 1996 by Ang Rita, who went by his first name, like many Sherpas, were made without bottled oxygen.The 72-year-old, who had suffered brain and liver ailments for a long time, died at his home in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, his grandson, Phurba Tshering, said.Ang Rita was also known as the “snow leopard” for his climbing skills.”He was a climbing star and his death is a major loss for the country and for the climbing fraternity,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, a former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.The body will be placed at a Sherpa Gomba, or holy site, in Kathmandu, and cremated on Wednesday according to sherpa tradition, Ang Tshering said.Many other climbers have since surpassed Ang Rita’s feat, with one member of the community setting a record of 24 ascents.

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U.S. Justice Department threatens to strip federal funds from cities it says allow ‘anarchy’ | CBC News

World·NewThe U.S. Justice Department on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., saying the three liberal cities were allowing anarchy and violence on their streets.New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., have been identified as 3 cities that could lose fundingThomson Reuters · Posted: Sep 21, 2020 4:22…

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U.S. Justice Department threatens to strip federal funds from cities it says allow ‘anarchy’ | CBC News

World·NewThe U.S. Justice Department on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., saying the three liberal cities were allowing anarchy and violence on their streets.New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., have been identified as 3 cities that could lose fundingThomson Reuters · Posted: Sep 21, 2020 4:22 PM ET | Last Updated: September 21Police and protesters square off Saturday, July 25, 2020, near Seattle’s Central Community College. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for cities such as Seattle, which it claimed has allowed anarchy and violence on the streets. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press )The U.S. Justice Department on Monday threatened to revoke federal funding for New York City, Seattle and Portland, Ore., saying the three liberal cities were allowing anarchy and violence on their streets. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.In a joint statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler accused the Trump administration of playing politics and said withholding federal funds would be illegal. “This is thoroughly political and unconstitutional. The president is playing cheap political games with congressionally directed funds,” the statement said. “Our cities are bringing communities together; our cities are pushing forward after fighting back a pandemic and facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, all despite recklessness and partisanship from the White House.” Many cities across the United States have experienced unrest since the May death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. In some cases the protests have escalated into violence and looting, but the majority have been largely peaceful.  Protesters march in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Last week, the DOJ urged federal prosecutors to consider sedition charges against protesters who have burned buildings and engaged in other violent activity in American cities. (Mark Graves /The Oregonian via The Associated Press) The federal government has mounted a campaign to disperse the racial justice protests, including by sending federal agents into Portland and Seattle and encouraging federal prosecutors to bring charges. Last week, the Justice Department urged federal prosecutors to consider sedition charges against protesters who have burned buildings and engaged in other violent activity. Monday’s threat to revoke federal funds was the government’s latest escalation in its quest to curb the protests. It comes after U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month issued a memo laying out criteria to consider when reviewing funding for states and cities that are “permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction in American cities.” The criteria include things such as whether a city forbids the police from intervening or if it defunds its police force. In all three cities, the Justice Department said, leadership has rejected efforts to allow federal law enforcement officials to intervene and restore order, among other things. In a press briefing earlier on Monday, New York City Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson promised a court battle if the Trump administration proceeds to cut off the funds. “The president does not have the authority to change the will of Congress,” he said. “We are preparing to fight this in court if, ultimately, he actually takes concrete steps to withdraw federal funds.”With files from The Associated Press
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