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Mid-East Peace Talks to Begin

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began four weeks of intensive and decisive peace talks in a last-ditch effort to end 52 years of conflict, Palestinian officials said yesterday.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a senior aide to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, said the agreement to pursue talks was reached during separate meetings between U.S. President Bill Clinton and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders at the United Nations Millennium summit last week.

“It was agreed that the negotiations would start immediately after the return (tonight) of the Israeli side from the United States,’’ remarked Rdainah in Gaza, where Palestinian leaders were discussing whether to declare an independent state. The negotiations will last for four weeks. The coming four weeks will be decisive,’’ he added.

The Palestinian Central Council is expected to postpone Wednesday’s self-imposed deadline to announce statehood until at least Nov. 15.

Harry Potter Books Restricted

A Southern Ontario school board has placed heavy restrictions on the Harry Potter books in its classrooms, but denied yesterday that it has banned the 40,000 elementary schoolchildren under its authority from reading the phenomenally popular series.

In a memo sent yesterday to principals of the Durham Regional School Board’s 100 elementary schools, Bev Freedman, the superintendent of programs, said teachers may not read the books about the orphaned magician unless every student in the class receives consent from their parents.

“Contrary to the news, Harry Potter is not banned,” the memo, sent by e-mail, reads. “Nothing has changed. The book can remain in libraries and be used for book reports.”

However, the memo also states: “It should not be used with the entire class for novel study or for whole class reading unless you have written permission from the parents in that class. We want to be sensitive to the parents who are concerned about the amount of witchcraft/magic in the novels.”

With three million copies of the four Harry Potter books in print in Canada, the stories by J.K. Rowling, a British author, have become the most popular children’s books in history.

Ms. Rowling is set to read at Toronto’s 60,000-seat SkyDome on Oct. 24.

Alliance on Full Electoral Footing

The Canadian Alliance moved yesterday to a full electoral footing, announcing that Jason Kenney, the MP for Calgary Southeast, and Peter White, a key fundraiser for the Alliance, will co-chair the party’s campaign in the next federal election.

The Alliance will also launch a national publicity campaign this month that will promote the new leader, Stockwell Day, and the party’s policies, while portraying the Liberal government and its leader, Jean Chrétien, as tired and bereft of fresh ideas to improve the quality of Canadian life.

The party’s advertising campaign is expected to begin after Sept. 18, the opening day of the fall session of Parliament.

Mr. Day, who is expected to win the by-election in the British Columbia riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla on Monday, will probably take his seat in the Commons during the same week.

Canadian Equestrian Banned for Life

Eric Lamaze faces a lifetime ban from all competitive equestrian sports after testing positive for the second time in four years to cocaine use.

Lamaze was bumped from Canada’s Olympic show-jumping team Wednesday after testing positive for cocaine metabolites. Lamaze was also jettisoned from Canada’s 1996 Olympic squad after testing positive for cocaine use just weeks before the team left for Atlanta. The lifetime ban means Lamaze cannot ride or coach at any Canadian Equestrian Federation-sanctioned event.

“This is terrible; I wouldn’t wish it on anybody else,’’ he said. “All I know at this point is that a bad part of my life has come back to me.’’

–Courtesy of The Toronto Star, The National Post and The Globe and Mail

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