BlackBerry selling most Canadian real estate

NEW YORK – BlackBerry is selling most of its real estate holdings in Canada as the struggling smartphone company continues to look for ways to improve its business.

BlackBerry Ltd. did not disclose the buyer or purchase price, but said Friday that it will sell more than 3 million square feet of space and vacant lands. It will also lease back part of the space.

“The successful sale of property in Canada will help us move toward our goal of continued operational efficiency,” CEO and Executive Chair John Chen said in a statement.

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The company had announced in January that it planned to sell the majority of its Canadian real estate holdings.

BlackBerry pioneered the smartphone in 1999 and dominated for years, but since the late 2000s the company has been hammered by competition from the iPhone as well as Android-based rivals.

Under Chen — who took on the CEO post permanently late last year — BlackBerry has been working to turn around its business.

Chen said that BlackBerry is still committed to having a strong presence in Canada. It is keeping its headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario.

The company said that more terms of the transaction will be announced once principal conditions are satisfied or waived by the parties.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of fiscal 2015.

BlackBerry’s stock rose 13 cents, or 1.4 per cent, to $9.55 in morning trading Friday. Its shares are up more than 32 per cent over the past three months.

Beauty queens tweet for peace in Venezuela – National

TORONTO – The political unrest in Venezuela has spawned an online campaign for peace with beauty queens posting photos of themselves with the hashtag #Misses4Peace.

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Started by Miss Trujillo 2005, Angelika Hernandez, #Misses4Peace “tries to join Misses and ex-Misses voices in a cry to the global community to help them find peace and harmony in their country,” it says in a statement on her YouTube channel.

Venezuela has more Miss World and Miss Universe titles than any other country, with a total of thirteen.

In February, 22-year-old Genesis Carmona, Miss Tourism 2013 for the central Venezuelan state of Carabobo, was shot down by members of the armed militias known as “colectivos” who opened fire on a demonstration in Valencia.

READ MORE: Beauty queen killed during political protest mourned in Venezuela

Carmona, who was in her final year in a marketing program at a university in Valencia, was not ardently political, friends and family said. Her uncle said she was drawn to the rally by the dismal economic conditions that the oil-rich country has experienced after 15 years of socialism-inspired policies and that her mother had gone with her to protect her.

Monica Spear, a popular soap-opera actress and former Miss Venezuela, was shot and killed along with her ex-husband in January when they resisted robbers by locking themselves inside their car after tire punctures disabled it on an isolated stretch of highway. Their 5-year-old daughter was wounded in the incident as well.

Seven people were arrested for their deaths after a digital camera stolen in the crime was discovered.

READ MORE: Outrage over beauty queen’s slaying a call to action in crime-wracked Venezuela

“This is not a political initiative, but we do demand PEACE for our beloved Venezuela,” it says on Hernandez’s YouTube channel.

On Monday, Air Canada suspended flights to and from Venezuela as they can no longer ensure the safety of its operation there. They said they will resume flying into the country once they are “satisfied that the situation in Venezuela has stabilized.”

The #Misses4Peace campaign has spread far since launching in February with beauty queens from around the world getting involved.

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-With files from The Associated Press

©2014Shaw Media

Halifax police charge 4 in connection with Matthew Penney homicide – Halifax

CORRECTION: The original article based on the information provided by the RCMP stated that Jason Patrick MacKenzie faced a charge of manslaughter in connection with Matthew Penney’s homicide. The RCMP have since provided updated information that MacKenzie has not been charged with manslaughter. The article has been updated to reflect the change.

HALIFAX – Halifax police have charged a man with manslaughter following an investigation into a burnt body that was found at a provincial park on New Year’s Day.

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Tyler Berry, 24, is also facing numerous other charges in the death of 26-year-old Matthew Penney.

Police have also charged Berry with criminal negligence, causing death by a firearm, indignant disposal of human remains and public mischief.

Jason Patrick MacKenzie, 27, has been charged with accessory to manslaughter, accessory to criminal negligence causing death by firearm, indignant disposal of human remains and public mischief.

Penney’s remains were discovered at Oakfield Provincial Park in Grand Lake, about 35 kilometres north of Halifax. He had last been seen the night before in Dartmouth.

Two women have also been charged in connection with the case.

Keisha Slawter-Vassel, 24, is charged with accessory to manslaughter, accessory to criminal negligence causing death by firearm and public mischief.

Caitlin Fay Thompson, 23, is charged with public mischief.

On Thursday, officers executing two warrants at residences on Bras Dor Lane and Springhill Drive in Dartmouth took the suspects into custody.

All four are due to appear in Dartmouth provincial court on Friday.

©2014Shaw Media

Windsor tops Acadia, Alberta over Carleton at University Cup – Saskatoon

Watch above: highlights from the Windsor vs. Acadia matchup at the University Cup

SASKATOON – The Windsor Lancers say they don’t mind playing as underdogs. And so far, that title has been working for them.

Richard Cameron had a goal and an assist as the No. 3 Lancers upset No. 2 Acadia 4-2 in the CIS men’s hockey championship on Thursday.

Drew Palmer, Kenny Bradford, and Mike Christou also scored for Windsor (1-0), while Spencer Pommells and Saverio Posa contributed two assists apiece.

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“Not a lot of people knew about the University of Windsor Lancers before this tournament,” said Windsor’s head coach Kevin Hamlin. “To be honest, I don’t care if they know us by name at the end of it but they will know who the Lancers are.

“We’ve had some lean times through the course of this season but we have battled together and battled through.”

Mike Cazzola and Liam Heelis each scored one and assisted on another for Acadia (0-1), and Evan Mosher shouldered the loss after stopping 24-of-28 shots on net.

Lancers goaltender Parker van Buskirk made 25 saves for the win.

Acadia led 1-0 after a goal from Cazzola at 1:19 of the first period. Cameron tied it up at 16:52.

Heelis’ goal at 1:43 of the second gave the Axemen a 2-1 lead, but Windsor replied with three unanswered goals – including two power-play goals – to seal the win.

The Lancers will face the tournament host University of Saskatchewan Huskies Saturday. Acadia will take on the Huskies Friday with its season on the line.

“We probably didn’t play our best tonight and we got beat by a good opponent,” said Axemen head coach Darren Burns. “But we will stick together and we will be ready to go tomorrow.”

Earlier, top-seeded Alberta used a three-goal first period en route to a 3-2 victory over No. 6 Carleton.

Watch below: highlights from the Alberta vs. Carleton matchup at the University Cup

Travis Toomey, T.J. Foster and Rowley Jordan scored for the Golden Bears (1-0), who outshot the Ravens 41-17.

Joe Pleckaitis scored a power-play goal at 14:40 of the first period for Carleton (0-1), and Damian Cross rounded out the Ravens offence with another power-play goal at 17:21 of the third.

Kurtis Mucha picked up the win with 15 saves, while Carleton’s Francis Dupuis stopped 38 shots.

©2014The Canadian Press

Loonie gets boost from solid retail sales numbers – National

TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed higher Friday in the wake of a better than expected reading on retail sales for January and rising commodity prices.

The loonie was up 0.26 of a cent to 89.21 cents US as Statistics Canada said sales were up 1.3 per cent, against the 0.7 per cent rise that had been expected.

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The agency also reported that Canada’s annual inflation rate fell to 1.1 per cent in February from 1.5 per cent the previous month. But on a month-to-month basis, prices rose 0.8 per cent from January.

READ MORE: Don’t look now but loonie’s plunge is deepening 

Economic optimism that followed the release of two pieces of U.S. data on Thursday sent commodities higher with the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange moved up 56 cents to US$99.46 a barrel.

The April gold contract gained $5.50 to US$1,336 an ounce while May copper rose two cents to US$2.95 a pound.

The U.S. Conference Board’s index of leading indicators, an indicator of future economic activity, rose in February by the largest amount in three months. And a key manufacturing reading, the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index, rebounded in March from a negative reading in February.

The data helped persuade investors that the U.S. economy is strengthening to a point where it can withstand higher short-term interest rates.

Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen said Wednesday that the U.S. central bank could begin raising short-term rates six months after it halts its bond purchases around year’s end. The Fed has been cutting back on those purchases — a key element of stimulus that had kept long-term rates low — in $10-billion increments since December, lowering monthly purchases so far from $85 billion to $55 billion.

Yellen’s comment on interest rates helped sink the Canadian dollar by about a cent this past week.

Another source of pressure was Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, who said earlier in the week that interest rate hikes in Canada could be further away than thought.

He added that a rate cut by the Bank of Canada could not be ruled out.