Nova Scotia man awarded Vimy medal for supporting veterans

November 23rd, 2018

A Nova Scotia veteran was awarded a Vimy medal Friday for his ongoing support of veterans through the organization Veterans UN-NATO.

“Members tell me … that this group has saved their lives,” said Gus Cameron, who is part of the local branch of Veterans UN-NATO.

READ MORE: Halifax honours Canadian veterans in Remembrance Day ceremony

The organization seeks out retired veterans who may be feeling isolated.

Cameron, who served many years in the Royal Canadian Navy, was awarded the medal by veterans advocate and former MP Peter Stoffer at Steak and Stein restaurant in Halifax.

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Cameron joined the group in 2012 and has organized breakfasts for members every Saturday at Steak and Stein.

“He served … for many years in the navy, and now he’s continuing that service, making sure that all veterans and their families and that of the RCMP are together, that no one’s left behind,” said Stoffer, who was awarded a patch the same morning for his own work supporting veterans.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau officially reopens Veterans Affairs office in Nova Scotia

Cameron said the first breakfast attracted nine members; nowadays, 50-90 people attend them.

“It’s just nice to know that we’re doing the right thing, and we’re having fun,” he said.

Canadians respect military, but lack general awareness: survey

November 23rd, 2018

OTTAWA – Governor General David Johnston says Canadians may have a lot of respect for the country’s military, but they don’t know enough about what it actually does.

Soldiers routinely rank near the top of opinion polls that ask Canadians which professions they respect the most.

READ MORE: Many military bases falling apart: National Defence audit

But a survey conducted for the Department of National Defence earlier this year suggests many Canadians have only a limited familiarity with the military, if any.

Johnston says events such as Friday’s Remembrance Day ceremony are important for recognizing and raising awareness of the duty and sacrifice demonstrated by Canada’s military personnel on the battlefield.

WATCH: AG report finds Canadian military struggling to recruit 

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But he says during his six years as Canada’s commander-in-chief, he has also come to recognize that the Canadian military is unique in its ability to both fight and, in his words, construct order out of chaos.

READ MORE: Harjit Sajjan says Canada to send military to Africa for a ‘long duration’

That includes taking off their warrior hats to help rebuild communities and even countries devastated by natural disaster or conflict.

Johnston says that unique ability has been praised by representatives from other countries, even if it may not be widely recognized in Canada.

Johnston’s term as Governor General is set to expire next September, meaning Friday will be his last Remembrance Day as Canada’s commander-in-chief.

WATCH: Canadian military donate time to help settle Syrian refugees 

Thousands flee Thai capital as prime minister says flooding likely

October 23rd, 2018

BANGKOK – Tens of thousands of Bangkok residents jammed bus stations and highways Wednesday to flee Thailand’s flood-threatened capital as the city’s governor ordered official evacuations in two swamped northern districts for the first time since the crisis began.

Floodwaters bearing down on the metropolis have killed 373 people nationwide since July, causing billions of dollars in damage and shutting down Bangkok’s second largest airport.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government had repeatedly vowed to protect the capital, which has so far mostly escaped unscathed. But official assessments have turned grim in recent days, and everywhere people are preparing for flooding that seems all but inevitable.

Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra said residents of two of the city’s 50 districts – Don Muang and Bang Phlat, both already partially submerged – should leave for safer city shelters.

“This is the first time I am using the term ‘evacuation,’ the first time I’m really asking you to leave,” Sukhumbhand said.

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Elsewhere in the city, thousands of people packed Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus terminal, trying to leave town on their own. Many appeared to be taking advantage of a government-declared five-day public holiday to avoid a possible watery siege. The holiday runs Thursday through Monday in flood-affected areas, including Bangkok.

Some waited for hours on the sidewalk outside Mo Chit because there was no space inside the terminal, the main departure point for buses to Thailand’s north.

The mass exodus included thousands of migrants from neighbouring Myanmar, workers dependent on low-paying jobs so desperate to leave they are willing to brave a return to their intensely repressive nation to do so.

Authorities were also forced to move hundreds of inmates from three prisons – many on death row – to facilities in other provinces.

Satellite maps of Bangkok showed a city almost entirely surrounded by water. Most of the vast pools of runoff now submerging a third of the country are flowing from the north toward Bangkok – southward toward the Gulf of Thailand.

“The amount of water is gigantic,” Yingluck said. “Some water must spread into Bangkok areas but we will try to make it pass through as quickly as possible.”

In the district of Sai Mai, located on the capital’s northern outskirts, waist-high water turned roads into virtual rivers and swamped gas stations and homes.

Hundreds of residents clamoured aboard packed military trucks with their belongings, desperate to leave. But help was in short supply.

“We haven’t been able to get on one (military truck) yet, we have been waiting for almost an hour,” said 71-year-old Saman Somsuk. “There aren’t many trucks.”

Others got out any way they could – in paddle boats, plastic tubs, inner tubes and rubber rafts. Several men floated down a flooded road in a makeshift boat made of empty oil barrels tied to a rectangular plank.

As fears of urban disaster set in, some residents built cement walls to protect their shops and homes.

Websites posted instructions on the proper way to stack sandbags. Many residents fortified vulnerable areas of their houses with bricks, gypsum board and plastic sheets. Walls of sandbags or cinderblocks covered the entrances of many buildings.

Concern that pumps would fail prompted a run on plastic containers in which to hoard water. Anticipating worse, one woman travelling on Bangkok’s Skytrain system carried a bag of life vests.

On Tuesday, floods breached barriers protecting the capital’s Don Muang airport, shutting it down hours later. The airport is used primarily for domestic flights, but its closure dealt a major psychological blow to efforts to protect the capital.

The country’s main international airport is still functioning normally.

Panic has gripped parts of the city as more and more of it is affected by the advancing water. Residents stocking up on food and other necessities have emptied supermarket shelves. Bottled water and toilet paper were in especially short supply.

Yingluck urged everyone in the capital to move their belongings to higher ground and warned that the city’s fate rested on three key flood barriers.

“If the three spots … remain intact, the situation will improve,” Yingluck said. However, “in the worst case, if we can’t protect all three spots, all of Bangkok will be flooded.”

A day earlier, Yingluck had warned that the floods could range from 4 inches to 5 feet (10 centimetres to 1.5 metres) deep in the capital.

Residents living near Mahasawat Canal in western Bangkok evacuated on Wednesday after a rapid overnight rise in water.

“I decided to leave because the water came in very fast,” said Jong Sonthimen, a 57-year-old factory cleaner. A boat carried her and two plastic garbage bags with her belongings to a Buddhist temple, where pickup trucks waited to take residents to a safer area.

Last week, Yingluck ordered key floodgates opened in Bangkok to help drain runoff through urban canals to the sea, but there is great concern that rising tides in the Gulf of Thailand this weekend could slow critical outflows and flood the city.

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Associated Press writers Vee Intarakratug, David Thurber and Todd Pitman contributed to this report.

Yemeni women burn traditional female veils to protest regime crackdown as clashes kill 25

October 23rd, 2018

SANAA, Yemen – Hundreds of Yemeni women on Wednesday set fire to traditional female veils to protest the government’s brutal crackdown against the country’s popular uprising, as overnight clashes in the capital and another city killed 25 people, officials said.

In the capital Sanaa, the women spread a black cloth across a main street and threw their full-body veils, known as makrama, onto a pile, sprayed it with oil and set it ablaze. As the flames rose, they chanted: “Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs?”

The women in Yemen have taken a key role in the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s authoritarian rule that erupted in March, inspired by other Arab revolutions. Their role came into the limelight earlier in October, when Yemeni woman activist Tawakkul Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two Liberian women, for their struggle for women’s rights.

Wednesday’s protest, however, was not related to women’s rights or issues surrounding the Islamic veils – rather, the act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen, in this case to stop the attacks on the protesters.

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The women who burned clothing in the capital were wearing traditional veils at the time, many covered in black from head to toe.

The women’s protest came as clashes have intensified between Saleh’s forces and renegade fighters who have sided with the protesters and the opposition in demands that the president step down.

Medical and local officials said up to 25 civilians, tribal fighters and government soldiers died overnight in Sanaa and the city of Taiz despite a cease-fire announcement by Saleh late Tuesday. Scores of others were wounded.

A medical official said seven tribal fighters were among those killed in Sanaa’s Hassaba district. Another medical official said four residents and nine soldiers also died in the fighting there.

Government forces also shelled houses in Taiz – a hotbed of anti-Saleh protests – killing five people, including four members of one family, a local official said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Saleh has clung to power in the face of more than eight months of massive near-daily protests against his rule.

As they burned their veils, Yemeni women activists handed out leaflets appealing for help and protection.

“This is a plea from the free women of Yemen; here we burn our makrama in front of the world to witness the bloody massacres carried by the tyrant Saleh,” the leaflets read.

Across town, a group of women supporters of Saleh marched Wednesday up to the U.N. office to voice their opposition to international pressure on the president to step down. The women entered the U.N. building to hand in their protest note.

During a meeting with the U.S. ambassador on Tuesday, Saleh offered to sign a U.S. and Gulf Arab-backed power transfer deal that gives him immunity from prosecution if he steps down.

The meeting with U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein was Saleh’s first since he returned last month from Saudi Arabia, where he was treated after an attack on his presidential compound in June left him badly wounded.

Saleh has repeatedly backed out of the deal at the last minute and the opposition has dismissed his latest offer.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed disappointment over lack of progress, despite Saleh’s pledge to sign the power transfer accord.

“We said that the proof would be in the pudding,” Nuland said. “We haven’t yet tasted a good pudding.”

Manitoba remains murder capital

October 23rd, 2018

Manitoba has maintained its unwelcome distinction as the homicide capital of Canada. 

 

In figures released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, Manitoba leads all other provinces in homicide rates with 45 killings in 2010, a rate of 3.6 per 100,000. The next highest was Saskatchewan at 3.3, but most were much lower. The national average is 1.6 homicides per 100,000 population. 

 

Stats Can’s report notes, “Homicide rates have been generally higher in the western provinces and northern territories than in the eastern part of the country for many decades.“ 

 

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The homicide rate actually dropped in Manitoba and across Canada, with the national average reaching its lowest point since 1966. Manitoba’s rate dropped as well: there were 57 homicides in 2009 for a chart-topping rate of 4.7 per 100,000. But even with the decrease in 2010, Manitoba still leads the country in killings. 

 

Among cities, Winnipeg is also high on the homicide rate list, but not number one. Thunder Bay, ON saw the highest homicide rate for the second year in a row with five killings for a rate of 4.2 per 100,000 population in 2010. Winnipeg was fourth behind Regina and Saskatoon with 22 homicides in 2010, a rate of 2.8 per 100,000. But that appears to be a short-term blip: in Winnipeg saw 32 homicides in 2009 and the city has already recorded 32 homicides so far in 2011.  

 

And the decade-long average shows a disturbing trend: from 2000 to 2009, Winnipeg had an average 25 homicides per year, a rate of 3.5 pre 100,000 – the second highest in the country behind Regina. 

 

Stats Can also notes that firearms are involved in fewer homicides nation wide than in years past, with a significant decrease in incidents of rifles and shotguns being used in killings. The vast majority of gun-related homicides involved handguns.  Overall, the agency says, “Stabbings (31%) were nearly as common in 2010 as shootings (32%). Another 22% of homicides involved beatings and 8% were by strangulation or suffocation. The remaining homicides used other means such as motor vehicles, fire and poisoning.“ 

Arab delegation says Syria’s Assad looks serious about solving crisis; 15 killed in crackdown

October 23rd, 2018

BEIRUT – Arab officials held a “frank and friendly” meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad Wednesday, the head of the delegation said at the beginning of a regional effort to resolve a bloody 7-month revolt, the most serious challenge yet to the four decade Assad dynasty.

The Arab committee is trying to start talks between Assad’s government and its opponents, but protest leaders reject any dialogue with the regime while it continues its brutal crackdown, which the U.N. says has killed more than 3,000 people since March.

Activists said at least 15 civilians were killed Wednesday in military operations across the country, 12 of them in the flashpoint central city of Homs.

The meeting in Damascus between the Arab ministerial committee and Assad came hours after tens of thousands of Syrians packed a main square in the Syrian capital, chanting, “the people want Bashar Assad.” Assad succeeded his father, and together the family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani was quoted as saying that the Arab delegation felt that the Syrian government is eager to work with the Arab committee “in order to reach a solution.”

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Sheik Hamad told reporters that the Arab committee and the Syrian government will hold another meeting on Sunday either in Syria or in Qatar.

“What is important for us is that there are no victims from any side in Syria,” Sheik Hamad told reporters. “The fighting should stop and the dialogue should begin between the Syrian brothers so that, God willing, they agree on points that fulfil people demands.”

Syria has rejected previous Arab initiatives, and it was not clear if this would be different, or if the regime was trying to gain time to try to crush the uprising.

The Arab officials’ visit follows a meeting in Cairo last week by the 22-nation Arab League, which gave Syria until the end of the month to end military operations, release detainees arrested in the crackdown, and start a dialogue with the opposition.

Human Rights Watch quoted Syrian activists as saying at least 186 protesters and residents have been killed in Syria since the Cairo meeting.

The activists said towns and villages in southern and central Syria, as well as some areas in the north and east, closed their businesses in compliance with an opposition call for a general strike.

Amateur videos showed shops closed in different parts of the country as well as counter-demonstrations to the one held in Damascus. One of the largest took place in the village of Halfaya in the central province of Hama.

A giant banner raised on an electricity pole there read: “To the Arab League. How do you want us to have a dialogue with the killer of children and women when all laws say that the killer should not be negotiated with, but put on trial?”

The Syrian government has staunchly defended its crackdown on protesters, saying it is the target of a foreign conspiracy.

Bassma Kodmani, spokeswoman for the broad-based opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said it is “impossible” to talk about a dialogue within the current security crackdown.

“And even if the right conditions for dialogue prevail, the only thing to discuss would be a roadmap for the peaceful transfer of power,” she told The Associated Press.

“Russia gives Bashar international protection, Iran gives him weapons, and Arabs give him time,” read a banner carried by protesters in northern Syria Tuesday evening. “No dialogue with the killer of children,” read another.

Human Rights Watch called on the Arab ministers to demand that the government allow independent, civilian monitors into Syria to observe the behaviour of security forces.

In a pro-government rally timed to coincide with the Arab ministers’ visit, tens of thousands of Syrians carrying white, red and black flags and posters of Assad gathered at Damascus’ Omayyad square .

The opposition says authorities regularly stage such rallies in support of the embattled leader.

Assad still has significant support among Syrians, including those who benefited financially from the regime, minority groups who fear they will be targeted if the Sunni majority takes over, and others who see no clear and safe alternative to the president. He also still has the loyalty of the bulk of the armed forces, key to his remaining in power.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other rights groups said 15 civilians were killed Wednesday in shootings by security forces nationwide, including 12 in the rebellious city of Homs. The Observatory also reported 11 soldiers were killed in Hama province when the bus they were travelling in was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, also said 15 people were killed Wednesday nationwide, most of them in Homs.

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Zeina Karam can be reached on 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州夜网/zkaram

Kenyan grenade suspect tells court he was a member of Somali militant group al-Shabab

October 23rd, 2018

NAIROBI, Kenya – A Kenyan suspect arrested after two grenade blasts this week said in court on Wednesday that he took part in one of the attacks and is a member of the al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab.

The grenade blasts came after al-Shabab warned it would attack Kenya in retaliation for its military incursion into southern Somalia. Some though, questioned whether al-Shabab was behind the attacks given that it already has demonstrated it is capable of killing dozens of people in attacks on foreign soil.

Elgiva Bwire Oliacha, 28, also known as Mohammed Seif, pleaded guilty to nine charges, including causing grievous bodily harm to two people during Monday evening’s blast at a bus stop where hundreds of blue-collar Kenyans were waiting to get a ride home.

An officer with the anti-terror police unit who brought Oliacha to court said authorities will bring more charges against him in court on Friday, including charges related to the grenade attack on a pub early Monday morning that wounded a dozen people.

The officer, who did not give his name because he is not authorized to speak with journalists, said that Oliacha is expected to plead guilty to all of those charges as well.

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Chief Magistrate Gilbert Mutembei allowed police to continue holding the suspect for two more days to complete their investigations.

Oliacha, who was not represented by a lawyer, looked calm in court, smiling and laughing with journalists who questioned him. When asked if he had gone to train in Somalia with al-Shabab, he said: “I would not even give that information to police.”

Oliacha was arrested Tuesday night by members of an elite paramilitary wing of the Kenya police at his house in a city slum.

Monday’s two blasts came about a week after hundreds of Kenyan forces moved into neighbouring Somalia to attack al-Shabab militants who the government blames for a string of kidnappings in recent weeks, including those of four Europeans, on Kenyan soil. One of the Europeans – a quadriplegic French woman – has since died in captivity. Al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, threatened to carry out terror attacks in Kenya in retaliation.

Police say Oliacha is a Kenyan and not ethnic Somali. During his arrest he was found with six guns, 13 grenades and hundreds of bullets in his house in a slum called Kayole in eastern Nairobi. Oliacha admitted to possession of the weapons in court on Wednesday.

Analysts have raised doubts as to whether al-Shabab was behind the Nairobi grenade attacks that targeted working-class Kenyans.

Given al-Qaida’s preference for large-scale attacks, the twin blasts did not bear the hallmarks of a major, well-planned terror assault. A U.S. warning also had said likely targets would include shopping malls and night clubs where foreigners congregate.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a suicide truck-bomb attack earlier this month which killed more than 100 in Somalia and the July 2010 suicide attacks in Kampala, Uganda which killed 76 people watching the World Cup final.

In July, experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against Somali and Eritrea, said the Kampala bombings “signalled a new and alarming trend, in which East African extremist groups inspired and mentored by al-Shabab, including the Muslim Youth Center in Kenya, might represent the next generation of extremist threats in East Africa and the wider region.”

A timeline of the Toronto Zoo’s elephant exhibit

September 22nd, 2018

TORONTO – The elephants at the Toronto Zoo are being moved to a
sanctuary in the United
States. A vote by City Council on Tuesday
night approved the motion to send the elephants to a warmer climate.  

 

Global
News looks at the evolution of the Elephant Exhibit at the Toronto Zoo.

 

1983

The
Toronto Zoo opens it’s first elephant exhibit.

 

July 2006

The
elephant, Patsy, is euthanized due to long-term degenerative arthritis.

 

September
2008

An
elephant at the Toronto Zoo, Tequila, dies. The cause of death was never
released to the public.

 

October
2009

According
to minutes from a board meeting at The Toronto Zoo there is a concern among
board members about the condition of the elephant exhibit. Board members are
concerned that if the exhibit is not expanded the Zoo may lose it’s accreditation
under the Association
of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

 

November 2009

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Tara, the zoo’s largest elephant dies. In the days following
her death, the non-profit organizations Zoocheck and In Defence of Animals,
called for the remaining elephants to be moved to a sanctuary with more room
for them to roam.

 

August
2010

The
Toronto Zoo commissions a study on the conditions of the elephant exhibit and
the future of the 37-year old exhibit. The review finds the “exhibit design,
layout and wildlife collection has always been a fundamental planning
initiative undertaken each year by the Zoo’s professional and expert staff.”

 

April 2011

Former
game show host, Bob Barker, visits Toronto
to urge City Council and the Toronto Zoo to cancel the elephant exhibit and
send the elephants south to a sanctuary. According to Bob Barker the health
problems the elephants face in Toronto are in
part caused by the cold climate and could be alleviated by moving to California.

 

May 2011

Toronto
Zoo officials vote 5-2 to move Toka, Thika and Iringa to another zoo

 

October
25, 2011

Toronto
City Council votes 31-4 in favour of the motion to send the Toronto Zoo’s three
aging elephants, Toka, Thinga and Iringa, to a sanctuary in California. The sanctuary has 80 acres for
the elephants to roam as well as a whirlpool to treat arthritis.

 

Property lines turning into battle lines in Mission

September 22nd, 2018

CALGARY – Being a good neighbour can prove a challenge sometimes, especially when construction is involved.

A long time Mission resident is upset townhouses are being built beside his home and property lines are quickly turning into battle lines.

“Their pile driver actually hit the edge of the garage and forced the sheeting together and caused a one foot hole,” says Howard Zarvie.

An angry inch away there’s frustrated builders who have approval to put pilings right up to the property line for the new townhouse project. They say repeated and ongoing negotiations with Zarvie haven’t gotten them anywhere.

“We provided him with options. We are more than willing to accommodate him with a brand new garage. If it requires a setback of a foot or so that might be the case, we are not even certain of that,” says Shawn Burstyn, Director of rpdhomes. “That was always on the table – new garage, no questions asked.”

Zarvie’s current garage is right on his property line. The garage has been repaired but not to Zarvie’s satisfaction. The city says it has no jurisdiction unless safety becomes an issue but it is trying to come up with a good neighbour policy to help ease tensions around inner city development.

“There is in the works, as a matter of fact, a practical guide to construction that we have started to employ and some of it is around what you speak of where we would in essence explain to neighbouring properties what your work is going to be about,” says Marco Civitarese, Chief Building Inspector.

As for Zarvie, he says he’s is as upset with the city as anyone else. “The city should never let people build, especially in a neighbourhood like this, to property line on subgrade.”

However, the city says to reduce urban sprawl, building up is the only alternative to building out.

Rdphomes tried to buy Zarvie’s property over three years ago but those negotiations also failed.  

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It survived the Blitz, but St. Paul’s Cathedral shuts doors over anti-capitalist campsite

September 22nd, 2018

LONDON – St. Paul’s Cathedral has welcomed visitors for 300 years, but for almost a week its heavy oak doors have been shut, locked because of an anti-capitalist protest camp outside the landmark building.

Church officials say the campsite is a health hazard, and on Wednesday London’s Anglican bishop asked the demonstrators to leave. But hours later, the church appeared to acknowledge that the protesters are settling in for a long stay.

The protesters accuse the church of choosing the wrong side in the standoff between capitalism and idealism that has spawned sit-ins from New York to Sydney.

“We want this church to open,” said a 50-year-old protest spokesman who gave his name as Akira. “We were shocked that they closed it.”

The Dean of St. Paul’s, Rev. Graeme Knowles, said Wednesday evening he was optimistic that the cathedral would reopen Friday following changes to the layout of tents used by the protesters.

The cathedral is considering all its options in response to the protest – including legal action – Knowles said, adding that a final decision would be made Thursday on whether St. Paul’s could open in time for a midday service Friday.

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Business owners, residents and officials in cities where encampments have sprouted up are increasingly complaining about sanitation problems, disruptions to business, and crime.

In Glasgow, Scottish police said Wednesday they were investigating reports a woman was raped in a tent in the city’s George’s Square, where protesters have set up camp.

In recent days, authorities in several cities around the world have swooped in to evict encampments of anti-corporate demonstrators inspired by New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement, clashing with demonstrators in some U.S. cities.

But London’s campsite has grown since protesters erected tents near the base of the cathedral steps on Oct. 15. They had hoped to camp outside the nearby London Stock Exchange, but were stopped by police. Cathedral officials initially permitted the protesters to stay.

The camp, perhaps 100 tents and 500 people strong, has the air of a scruffy village carnival, with banners, speeches, activities – and even, one recent afternoon, a singalong. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” sang a small but enthusiastic group attempting a Stealers Wheel classic. “Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”

That is a fair summary of how cathedral officials feel. They say they support the right to demonstrate and did not want to shut the building – for the first time since German bombers blitzed London during World War II – but made the decision last Friday because the protesters’ tents, stoves and generators pose a threat to public safety.

The closure is costing the cathedral thousands of pounds (dollars) a day – St. Paul’s charges adults 14.50 pounds ($23) for admission, unless they are attending a service – and means disappointment for tourists hoping to visit Christopher Wren’s domed church, one of London’s most famous buildings and the site of the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

On Wednesday, Bishop of London Richard Chartres, the third highest-ranking cleric in the Church of England, asked the protesters to go home, saying: “The camp’s presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address.”

The protesters say they have worked with health-and-safety officials to make sure the site is safe, and want to negotiate a compromise with the church.

The protest is less than two weeks old but has a semi-permanent feel. There is a kitchen dispensing donated food and water, a tent offering free “tea and coffee and empathy,” a technology tent linking the camp to the world via the Internet, a music tent, a meditation tent, a library, a movie theatre and a newspaper.

There are twice-daily meetings to plan strategy, and near-constant debates. The activists include many students and veteran protesters, but also, organizers say, doctors, shopkeepers and teachers.

Their demands are diverse, ranging from tighter control of banks to the complete dismantling of the capitalist system. But that diversity, the protesters say, is the point.

“This is a free space – a free space for ideas, for discussions, for coming together and trying to brainstorm something, as a collective,” said Emma Medoes, a student who works part time in a bar.

Similar camps have sprung up across the United States and around the world since activists took over a plaza near New York’s Wall Street seven weeks ago to protest corporate greed and social inequality.

Most have withered or been dismantled, sometimes by force. On Tuesday police in Oakland, California, fired tear gas and bean bags to disperse about 170 protesters who had been camping in front of City Hall for the past two weeks. Police in Atlanta also moved in to break up a 2-week-old camp.

Several high-profile protests remain. In the hub of Asian capitalism, Hong Kong, 30 to 40 protesters are camped outside the headquarters of banking giant HSBC.

In Germany, crowds of several thousand demonstrated on Oct. 15 and again on Saturday, and a small camp has been pitched outside the headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. But the protests have failed to catch fire in a country that has one of Europe’s strongest economies.

As winter approaches in London, it’s unclear whether the protest will prosper or shrink.

At the moment police can’t remove the protesters, who technically are not trespassing – they camped with the Cathedral’s approval. A handful of people have been arrested for public disorder offences since the protest began, but police say it has been mainly peaceful.

The local governing authority, the City of London Corporation, says it is taking legal advice on the best way to evict the protesters – but that could be a long process.

An anti-war vigil outside Britain’s Parliament has continued for 10 years, despite repeated legal attempts by local authorities to move it. A handful of die-hards remain, even though legal challenges have limited the protesters to the sidewalk, rather than the grass area of Parliament Square.

The issue is complicated because this patch of London dates back to medieval times, with complex ownership split between the local authority and the cathedral.

Bookmaker William Hill is taking bets on a reopening date, offering 50 to 1 odds on the building still being shut at Christmas.

The camp is drawing support from some of the tourists, office workers – and even bankers – who stop by the site to take photographs and chat. Many say they understand the anger at bankers at a time when economic crisis and government austerity are bringing rising unemployment, higher prices, scarcer services and dwindling pensions.

“I agree with some of the things they are saying,” said David Pressman, a 19-year-old trainee investment banker. “I think there is a lot of greed from a small number of people.”

The protest has already spawned a second, smaller camp, a mile (1.6 kilometres) away in Finsbury Square. But a local councillor claimed this week that infrared photographs revealed that 90 per cent of the tents at St. Paul’s were unoccupied at night as protesters returned home to hot showers and warm beds.

Camp organizers insist that most of the tents are occupied at night, saying there are plenty of newcomers willing to take over from those whose who have to leave.

Protester Malcolm Blackman, 44, said the photographs were probably taken before midnight – when many demonstrators were in the pub.

“If you’re going to have a tent city in the middle of London, you’re going to enjoy London,” he said. “We’re not all so poor we can’t afford a pint.”

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Associated Press Writers Juergen Baetz in Berlin and Peter Enav in Hong Kong contributed to this report.