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Former Israeli President Shimon Peres dead at 93

The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Sep 28th, 2016

A file photograph dated Feb, 17, 2014, of Israel’s former President Shimon Peres, flanked by saluting Israeli soldiers during a ceremony at the President’s residence in Jerusalem. EPA/JIM HOLLANDER

Shimon Peres, a former Israeli president and prime minister, whose life story mirrored that of the Jewish state and who was celebrated around the world as a Nobel prize-winning visionary who pushed his country toward peace, has died, the Israeli news website YNet reported early Wednesday. He was 93.

Peres’ condition worsened following a major stroke two weeks ago.

In an unprecedented seven-decade political career, Peres filled nearly every position in Israeli public life and was credited with leading the country through some of its most defining moments, from creating its nuclear arsenal in the 1950s, to disentangling its troops from Lebanon and rescuing its economy from triple-digit inflation in the 1980s, to guiding a skeptical nation into peace talks with the Palestinians in the 1990s.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper posted a message on Twitter saying he and his wife, Laureen, “are saddened to learn of the passing of dear friend Shimon Peres.” Harper offered “sincere condolences to the Peres family and to the people of Israel.

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird also expressed his condolences on Twitter, calling Peres a “wonderful human being” and that the world has lost a great statesman and that both he and Canada “have lost a friend.”

“Few have accomplished more for the advancement of Israel and the Jewish people than Shimon Peres,” said Conservative interim Leader Rona Ambrose in a statement.

“He was a man who was the architect of Israel’s robust defence strategy, and someone who also won the Nobel Peace Prize in an attempt to find peace with the Palestinian people.”

A protege of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion, he led the Defence Ministry in his 20s and spearheaded the development of Israel’s nuclear program. He was first elected to parliament in 1959 and later held every major Cabinet post — including defence, finance and foreign affairs — and served three brief stints as prime minister. His key role in the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and revered status as Israel’s then most recognizable figure abroad.

And yet, for much of his political career he could not parlay his international prestige into success in Israeli politics, where he was branded by many as both a utopian dreamer and political schemer. His well-tailored, necktied appearance and swept-back grey hair seemed to separate him from his more informal countrymen. He suffered a string of electoral defeats: competing in five general elections seeking the prime minister’s spot, he lost four and tied one.

He finally secured the public adoration that had long eluded him when he has chosen by parliament to a seven-year term as Israel’s ceremonial president in 2007, taking the role of elder statesman.

Peres was celebrated by doves and vilified by hawks for advocating far-reaching Israeli compromises for peace even before he negotiated the first interim accord with the Palestinians in 1993 that set into motion a partition plan that gave them limited self-rule. That was followed by a peace accord with neighbouring Jordan. But after a fateful six-month period in 1995-96 that included Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings and Peres’ own election loss to the more conservative Benjamin Netanyahu, the prospects for peace began to evaporate.

Relegated to the political wilderness, he created his non-governmental Peres Center for Peace that raised funds for co-operation and development projects involving Israel, the Palestinians and Arab nations. He returned to it at age 91 when he completed his term as president.

Shimon Perski was born on Aug. 2, 1923, in Vishneva, then part of Poland. He moved to pre-state Palestine in 1934 with his immediate family. Her grandfather and other relatives stayed behind and perished in the Holocaust. Rising quickly through Labor Party ranks, he became a top aide to Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and a man Peres once called “the greatest Jew of our time.”

At 29, he was the youngest person to serve as director of Israel’s Defence Ministry, and is credited with arming Israel’s military almost from scratch. Yet throughout his political career, he suffered from the fact that he never wore an army uniform or fought in a war.

Of his 10 books, several amplified his vision of a “new Middle East” where there was peaceful economic and cultural co-operation among all the nations of the region.

Despite continued waves of violence that pushed the Israeli political map to the right, the concept of a Palestinian state next to Israel became mainstream Israeli policy many years after Peres advocated it.

Shunted aside during the 1999 election campaign, won by party colleague Ehud Barak, Peres rejected advice to retire, assuming the newly created and loosely defined Cabinet post of Minister for Regional Co-operation.

In 2000, Peres absorbed another resounding political slap, losing an election in the parliament for the largely ceremonial post of president to Likud Party backbencher Moshe Katsav, who was later convicted and imprisoned for rape.

Even so, Peres refused to quit. In 2001, at age 77, he took the post of foreign minister in the government of national unity set up by Ariel Sharon, serving for 20 months before Labor withdrew from the coalition.

Then he followed Sharon into a new party, Kadima, serving as vice-premier under Sharon and his successor, Ehud Olmert, before assuming the presidency.

— With files from The Canadian Press

GO passengers delayed for hours after major problems on two lines

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 28th, 2016

GO train passengers were left stranded for hours after major problems on the Barrie and Lakeshore East lines during the Tuesday afternoon commute.

On the Lakeshore East line, passengers were delayed more than three hours after a train broke down and lost power around 4:30 p.m. near Ajax and triggered significant delays along the line.

Many riders were forced to sit or stand for hours without air conditioning as GO worked to get a tow train to push the disabled train to the nearest station. Spokeswoman Anne-Marie Aikins said congestion and the gas leak on the Barrie line made matters worse.

That led to lengthy delays for all subsequent trains during the rush hour. Metrolinx says all riders will be reimbursed for the cost of their trip.

CityNews viewer Chris Pang said the wait on the overcrowded train was unbearable.

“The conditions on the train during this … delay were atrocious,” he said.

“Since this train was crowded as usual, for over four hours many people stood, although we all tried to take turns sharing seats … The temperature aboard was gradually becoming unbearable. Many people seemed flush, and a pregnant lady started to feel faint.”

Pang said many passengers had to scramble to arrange child care.

Meanwhile, a gas leak at the Aurora GO station halted train service on the Barrie line during the evening rush, stranding as many as 1,800 passengers on four trains.

Metrolinx worked with police to get people safely out of the trains. There were no reported injuries.

Shortly before 11 p.m., York Regional Police said the leak had been capped. There’s no word on the cause, but there is construction in the area.

You can check Go Transit service updates here.

Buckling up major focus of OPP fall safety blitz

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Sep 28th, 2016

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Car seatbelt. GETTY IMAGES/Andrew J. Shearer
Provincial police are calling on drivers and passengers to help make this fall’s seatbelt campaign a success.

The campaign began Wednesday.

The OPP say 347 people have been killed while not wearing seatbelts in collisions they investigated over the past five years.

So far this year, 40 people have died in collisions where they were not buckled up.

The force says not wearing a seat belt is a game-changer when it comes to the chances of surviving a crash and reducing the severity of injuries.

In a release, OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair adds every life is worth the five seconds it takes to buckle up.

“Every year, our officers tend to crash victims of all ages who are not buckled in at the time of the collision,” Blair said.

“More often than not, they die as a result of being ejected, partially ejected or from the physical trauma they sustained inside the vehicle.

Drivers are being reminded that they and every adult passenger in a vehicle has to wear their seatbelt. They also have to ensure all passengers under the age of 16 are properly buckled up.

The 10-day blitz runs until Oct. 7.

SpaceX chief envisions 1,000 passenger ships flying to Mars

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 28th, 2016

AppleMark

The Canadarm 2 reaches out to capture the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft and prepare it to be pulled into its port on the International Space Station Friday April 17, 2015. The Harper government has finally made a commitment to extend Canada’s participation in the International Space Station mission for another four years until 2024. (AP Photo/NASA)

On a personal quest to settle Mars, SpaceX founder Elon Musk envisions 1,000 passenger ships flying en masse to the red planet well within the next century, “Battlestar Galactica” style.

Musk outlined his zealous plan Tuesday to establish a self-sustaining city on Mars, complete with iron foundries and even pizzerias. He wants to make humans a multiplanetary species, and says the best way to do that is to colonize the red planet.

“I think Earth will be a good place for a long time, but the probable lifespan of human civilization will be much greater if we’re a multiplanetary species,” he said.


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Musk, who also runs electric car maker Tesla Motors, received a wildly warm reception at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. Many in the crowd were avid space buffs.

For now, the aerospace company he founded in 2002 is focusing on satellite deliveries, as well as space station cargo runs for NASA and a future crew capsule for U.S. astronauts. Its Falcon rocket, though, is grounded for the second time in a year because of devastating accidents.

During his address, Musk did not mention the Sept. 1 launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon rocket and its satellite.

Instead, he noted that SpaceX already has begun work on the Mars Colonial fleet, recently test-firing a powerful new rocket engine named Raptor. The system ultimately could take people to the moons of Jupiter and beyond, he said.

Musk said it would be a “super-exciting” adventure to Mars but also dangerous, at least for the first few trips. His goal is to get the price down so anyone could afford to go, with a ticket costing no more than a house on Earth. He’s shooting for 1 million Martians.

Would he go, someone asked? Perhaps ultimately, but it would depend on whether he had a good succession plan in place. As for being the first Martian, the risk of fatalities will be high – “there’s just no way around it” – and he wants to see his five young sons grow up.

“It would be basically, are you prepared to die? If that’s OK, then you’re a candidate for going,” he told the audience.

In April, Musk announced plans to send an unmanned Dragon capsule to land on Mars as early as 2018. NASA is offering technical support, but no money. The space agency has its own program to get astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, using its own hardware.

Musk invited industry to join the Mars effort, which will represent a $10 billion investment. SpaceX currently is spending a few tens of millions of dollars on the enterprise, and the amount will soon grow, he said.

Musk described in detail his plans to launch a monster-size rocket – larger than even NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket – from the same launch pad at Kennedy Space Center from which the Apollo astronauts departed for the lunar surface in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The first-stage boosters would return to land vertically – just like his Falcon rocket boosters do now. Reusability, in fact, is essential to any plan for getting humans to Mars, as is refilling fuel tanks in Earth orbit and creating rocket fuel at Mars for return trips, he said.

The rocket would hoist a spaceship big enough to carry 100 to 200 people to Mars, a trip lasting several months, quicker with nuclear propulsion. Musk promised no one would be stuck there; spaceships would return regularly, and “you get a free return trip if you want.”

“Ultimately what I’m trying to achieve here is to make Mars seem possible, make it seem as though it’s something that we can do in our lifetimes,” he said.

Clinton puts Trump on the defensive in combative debate

Julie Pace and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Sep 27th, 2016

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Donald Trump aggressively tried to pin the nation’s economic and national security problems on Hillary Clinton in the first presidential debate, belittling the former senator and secretary of state as a “typical politician” incapable of delivering the change many Americans crave.

But Trump found himself on the defensive for much of the 90-minute showdown Monday night. Clinton was thoroughly prepared, not only with detailed answers about her own policy proposals, but also sharp criticism of Trump’s business record, his past statements about women, and his false assertions that President Barack Obama may not have been born in the United States. She said his charges about Obama were part of his pattern of “racist behaviour.”

The Democrat also blasted Trump for his refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with decades of presidential campaign tradition. She declared, “There’s something he’s hiding.”

Trump has said he can’t release his tax returns because he is being audited, though tax experts have said an audit is no barrier to making the information public. When Clinton suggested Trump’s refusal may be because he paid nothing in federal taxes, he interrupted to say, “That makes me smart.”


Related stories:

Poll: Majority of Americans fear Donald Trump presidency

Clinton executes debate plan: Annoy Donald Trump


The televised face-off was the most anticipated moment in an election campaign that has been historic, convulsive and unpredictable. The candidates entered the debate locked in an exceedingly close race to become America’s 45th president, and while both had moments sure to enliven their core constituencies, it was unclear whether the event would dramatically change the trajectory of the race.

The debate was confrontational from the start, with Trump frequently trying to interrupt Clinton and speaking over her answers. Clinton was more measured and restrained, often smiling through his answers, well-aware of the television cameras capturing her reaction.

Trump’s criticism of Clinton turned personal in the debate’s closing moments. He said, “She doesn’t have the look, she doesn’t have the stamina” to be president. He’s made similar comments in previous events, sparking outrage from Clinton backers who accused him of levelling a sexist attack on the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. political party.

Clinton leapt at the opportunity to remind voters of Trump’s controversial comments about women, who will be crucial to the outcome of the November election.

“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs,” she said.

The centerpiece of Trump’s case against Clinton was that the former senator and secretary of state is little more than a career politician who has squandered opportunities to address the domestic and international problems she’s now pledging to tackle as president.

“She’s got experience,” he said, “but it’s bad experience.”

Clinton, who hunkered down for days of intensive debate preparation, came armed with a wealth of detailed attack lines. She named an architect she said built a clubhouse for Trump who says he was not fully paid and a former Miss Universe winner who says Trump shamed her for gaining weight. She quoted comments Trump had made about women, about Iraq and about nuclear weapons.

When Trump made a crack about Clinton taking time off the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, she turned it into a validation of her readiness for the White House.

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,” Clinton said. “And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

The candidates sparred over trade, taxes and how to bring good-paying jobs back to the United States.

Clinton said her Republican rival was promoting a “Trumped-up” version of trickle-down economics – a philosophy focused on tax cuts for the wealthy. She called for increasing the federal minimum wage, spending more on infrastructure projects and guaranteeing equal pay for women.

Trump panned policies that he said have led to American jobs being moved overseas, in part because of international trade agreements that Clinton has supported. He pushed her aggressively on her past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact while she was serving in the Obama administration. She’s since said she opposes the sweeping deal in its final form.

Trump repeatedly insisted that he opposed the Iraq War before the 2003 U.S. invasion, despite evidence to the contrary. Trump was asked in September 2002 whether he supported a potential Iraq invasion in an interview with radio personality Howard Stern. He responded: “Yeah, I guess so.”

Presented with the comment during the debate, Trump responded: “I said very lightly, I don’t know, maybe, who knows.”

The Republican also appeared to contradict himself on how he might use nuclear weapons if he’s elected president. He first said he “would not do first strike” but then said he couldn’t “take anything off the table.”

Clinton said Trump was too easily provoked to serve as commander in chief and could be quickly drawn into a war involving nuclear weapons.

Some frequently hot-button issues were barely mentioned during the intense debate. Illegal immigration and Trump’s promises of a border wall were not part of the conversation. And while Clinton took some questions on her private email server, she was not grilled about her family’s foundation, Bill Clinton’s past infidelities or voter doubts about her trustworthiness.

Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

EXCLUSIVE: Ambulance shortage leaves man in street for over an hour with broken leg

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Sep 27th, 2016

ambulance

Imagine lying on the road in agony, your leg snapped in two, waiting for an ambulance to rush you to the hospital and it takes over an hour for that ambulance to arrive.

That’s what happened to William Thom three weeks ago when his scooter tipped over on top of him on Dufferin Street near Eglinton Avenue West.

The first ambulance responded in six minutes but Thom needed a special bariatric ambulance designed to transport patients who are over 350 pounds and there are only three in Toronto.

Thom says he was in excruciating pain as he waited for help to come.

“I’ve never had pain like that before. It was just massive pain. I mean, I have bad arthritis as it is on my knee, but that was just terrible pain.”

Thom says first responders did what they could to protect his dignity as he lay in the street waiting for the bariatric ambulance to show up.

“They moved the fire truck in front and put up posts and a tarp over me to keep the sun off me.”

The Toronto Paramedic Service says it transports 220,000 patients a year and only 35 require bariatric ambulances, which have specialized stretchers.

To complicate matters, in William’s case the first bariatric ambulance called had to be diverted for a life-threatening case which added to his wait, but paramedics admit the average response time for a bariatric call is about one hour.

“That’s unfortunate,” said Commander Jennifer Shield, “And I acknowledge that must have been a very long time for him sitting out there in the middle of the intersection.”

The service says this is the first time a concern has been raised about Toronto’s bariatric ambulance response times but say they will be conducting a review.

“I think that gives us an opportunity to go back and look at our resources and see how we could not maximize the resources that we have a little bit better,” Shield said. “And if that means taking a look at the number of bariatric vehicles we have available to service our community then we would take a look at that.”

Ontario’s Minister of Health is also promising to investigate Thom’s case.

“It is concerning,” Dr. Eric Hoskins said when asked about the incident Monday. “What’s important here is that Ontarians who do find themselves in need of an ambulance, particularly for urgent reasons, can have confidence that the response time is going to be reasonable so I will have my staff look into this particular situation to find out more about it.”

William and Kate to visit vineyard, university on Okanagan leg of royal tour

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Sep 27th, 2016

BELLA BELLA, BC - SEPTEMBER 26:  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend an official welcome performance during their isit to first nations Community members on September 26, 2016 in Bella Bella, Canada. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are visiting Canada as part of an eight day visit to the country taking in areas such as Bella Bella, Whitehorse and Kelowna.  (Photo by Ian Vogler - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit a university and get a taste of British Columbia’s culinary scene Tuesday on their visit to Kelowna, B.C.

William and Kate will begin the next leg of their tour with a stop at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, where they’ll unveil a plaque marking the 10th anniversary of the campus.

They’ll also meet students and check out a demonstration by the women’s volleyball team.


Related stories:

Prince William and Kate to meet with First Nations, tour Central Coast region
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge move their charm offensive to Vancouver
B.C. Indian Chiefs won’t participate in reconciliation event attended by royals


Later in the afternoon, the couple will head to the Mission Hill Family Estate, where they’ll view a vineyard and learn about the province’s agrifood sector at the Taste of British Columbia Festival.

Some of B.C.’s celebrity chefs will showcase their skills in cooking demonstrations for the couple.

Famed restaurateur Vikram Vij said in a release that he will be doling out some of his Indian fusion cuisine, including wine marinated lamb popsicles and coconut curried vegetables.

“I was a huge fan of Princess Diana, so to be able to serve the next generation of royals our lamb popsicles, and to show the couple how cultures and influences from around the world are being blended with wonderful B.C. ingredients, is something I am very proud to do,” Vij said.

The royals spent Monday on British Columbia’s central coast, where Prince William officially designated the Great Bear Rainforest as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.

The initiative was launched last year as a way for the 53 Commonwealth countries to share ideas and innovations around forest conservation.

“The establishment of the canopy is a loud and unambiguous statement that the citizens of all Commonwealth countries believe that nature is fundamental to the health of our societies,” William said.

“When we protect our rivers, oceans, atmospheres, or like today our forests, we are telling our children that their future prosperity cannot be disconnected from the health of the natural world.”

Nasty weather scuttled plans for a float plane or boat tour, but the duke and duchess explored part of the unique rainforest on foot.

The pair were presented with hand-carved wooden paddles before they flew back to Victoria.

Video streaming service Shomi will shut down as of Nov. 30

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Sep 26th, 2016

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Video streaming service Shomi announced Monday it will shut down at the end of November, two years after it launched.

“The business climate and online video marketplace have changed markedly in the last few years,” David Asch, senior vice-president and general manager for Shomi, said in a statement.

“Combined with the fact that the business is more challenging to operate than we expected, we’ve decided to wind down our operations.”

Asch said the company remains proud of the service it launched and the role it play in evolving video landscape in Canada.

Shomi was launched by Rogers and Shaw in November 2014 in an effort to grab the attention of a growing number of people watching TV and movies online.

It was seen as a competitor to Netflix and other similar web streaming services.

“We tried something new, and customers who used Shomi loved it,” Melani Griffith, senior vice-president of content at Rogers, said in another statement.

“It’s like a great cult favourite with a fantastic core audience that unfortunately just isn’t big enough to be renewed for another season.”

Rogers, which is the parent company of this website, said it expects to incur a loss on investment of approximately $100 million to $140 million in its third quarter, which ends Friday.

Rogers said Shomi had a “great team” of employees and it would be looking to see what openings it had for them in related departments in the company.

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