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Is the ‘killer clown’ prank coming to Toronto?

Alanna Kelly | posted Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2016

Imagine driving along a dark, winding road, turning the corner and seeing a clown standing in the middle of road. It’s a scene right out of a scary movie.

Creepy clowns, also called “killer clowns,” have been making appearances on social media via prank videos and even threats at schools.

What appears to have started as a prank has taken a sinister turn in some cases. There have been reports of people in clown costumes approaching children. And a 13-year-old girl was arrested in Virginia after asking a person posing as a clown on social media to kill one of her teachers, The Associated Press reported.

The girl was charged with one count of threatening to kill by electronic message.

Police in Toronto say it isn’t a laughing matter.

Const. Jennifer Sidhu said at this moment there have been no reports of killer clowns in Toronto.

“It is not illegal to dress up in a clown costume … It’s the actions that the person does or takes while dressed up in any costume that will lead to them possibly being charged if it is an infraction against the criminal code,” said Sidhu.

“We are aware of the incidents in the States, but as of now there is nothing on file of killer clowns in the city.”

Sidhu added that any complaints will be fully investigated and dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

One Toronto teacher reached out to CityNews on Twitter to say her students have been talking about the clown at school.

Shawn Hamilton owner of Amazing Party Store said he has seen an increase in killer clown costumes this year.

“They are looking for something scary, evil-looking, and they will put their own slant on it with knives and blood,” Hamilton said.

He receives a handful of calls every day asking for the killer clown costume.

Hamilton believes the demand is due to the “instances of supposed killer clowns doing pranks.”

Many of the images appearing on social media haven’t been proven as real.

Professional clowns in Montreal said their craft shouldn’t be confused with the creepy clown sightings over the past few weeks.

Stacey Laureyssens, interim president of the 150-member Clowns Canada, says the distinction between the fear-sowing tricksters and the real thing should be clear.

“What these people are doing is acting like monsters in clown costumes to prank people. They are not clowns,” she said.

It’s not clear if the prank is related to the movie It, based on the novel by Stephen King, featuring a demon that takes the form of a sadistic clown. The film is currently being remade in Toronto and set to be released in 2017.

Clown costumes have been banned from Connecticut School District, and a school in an Ohio School District cancelled classes on Friday because of a creepy clown threat.

Hamilton said he hopes people don’t take the killer clown costumes too seriously.

“I hope it is just for fun, [that] the pranks are safe and they don’t harm anybody.”


With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press.

Blue Jays to rely on right-hander Stroman to tame dangerous Baltimore lineup

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2016

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The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are about as similar as two clubs can be entering the American League wild-card game.

Both teams had 89-73 records in the East Division standings. Both teams clinched playoff spots on the final weekend of the season. And both teams own power-heavy lineups that can feast at a homer-happy stadium like Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays had a 10-9 edge in the season series but Baltimore took two of three games last week in Toronto.

So who will blink first on Tuesday night?

The Toronto pitching staff led the American League in earned-run average while the Orioles led the major leagues in home runs.

Chris Tillman will get the starting assignment for Baltimore while fellow right-hander Marcus Stroman will be on the hill for Toronto.

“Some guys rise to the occasion. I’ve seen Stro do that many, many times,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Monday. “I think he’s the perfect guy.”

The winner of the one-game showdown will advance to the American League Division Series. The Texas Rangers will host Game 1 of that series on Thursday.

The Orioles and the Blue Jays have been in Game 7 mode for several days as they held off the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners to get to this point. It seems rather fitting that they’ll open the post-season with an elimination game.

“There’s got to be something to be said for experiencing those kind of games,” Gibbons said. “You play enough of him, you get used to them.”


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A raucous sellout crowd is a guarantee. The Blue Jays returned to the playoffs last year for the first time since 1993 and the spectators cheered like it.

Home field could definitely be a big advantage if Toronto gets on the board early.

The Blue Jays have had to manufacture runs of late after the bats went rather cold in September. It worked on the weekend with a critical series win over the Boston Red Sox.

If sluggers like Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion can turn it on, then look out. But the Orioles also have the ability to blow things open with players like Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis and Manny Machado anchoring their offence.

“There are no pitches you can take off,” Stroman said. “Each pitch you have has to be executed. You make a mistake and they make you pay. So that’s the mentality going into it.”

Stroman was a key pitcher down the stretch for the Blue Jays last season. Toronto won the East title and beat Texas in the ALDS before falling to Kansas City in the AL Championship Series.

He struggled at times earlier this year and hasn’t won since Aug. 14 despite pitching well in recent weeks. He finished the season with a 9-10 record and 4.37 ERA.

“(I) definitely had an up-and-down year and battled a lot of adversity,” Stroman said. “I think I’ve done a pretty decent job at making adjustments throughout the year that were key for me and able to pay off down the stretch.

“I’m at a point now where I feel great, mechanics feel great, body feels great. I’m actually feeling at my strongest now. So I’m excited.”

Left-hander Francisco Liriano was also considered for the starting role. He’ll instead be available out of the bullpen along with regular starter Marco Estrada.

“I think Stro is the perfect guy,” Gibbons said. “Big game, we’ve seen him do it before. He did that a couple times for us last year. You know he’s going to come out throwing strikes. We’re glad he’s available.”

Tillman, meanwhile, had a 16-6 mark with a 3.77 ERA in the regular season.

“I have seen them a lot and they’ve seen me a lot,” he said. “There’s no secrets. I know what they’re going to do, they know what I’m going to do. Same thing goes the other way with (Stroman), we’ve seen him plenty.

“So I don’t think there are any secrets there … you do the same kind of things you always do.”

Road closures

Toronto police say roads around the Rogers Centre will be shut down at the end of the baseball game to ensure pedestrians and motorists can leave the area safely.

The game starts at 8 p.m. and around 50,000 people are expected to attend it.

The following roads will be closed:

  • Blue Jays Way will be partially closed to southbound traffic from Front Street West to Navy Wharf
  • Bremner Boulevard will be partially closed to eastbound traffic from Spadina Avenue to Rees Street
  • Bremner Boulevard will be fully closed to eastbound traffic from Rees Street to Lower Simcoe
  • Bremner Boulevard will be fully closed to westbound traffic from Lower Simcoe to Navy Wharf

 

In an effort to alleviate traffic congestion, police suggest taking public transit, carpooling, and to consider avoiding the Rogers Centre area if you are not attending the game. Police are also asking taxi and ride-sharing drivers to pick up and drop off passengers on Front Street West, east of Blue Jays Way.

With files from News Staff

Grass fire grows to engulf Keswick home

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2016

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All residents of a Keswick home were able to escape a fire on Tuesday morning.

The grass fire began on Lake Drive around 2:15 a.m. and quickly grew to engulf the house and nearby shed.

“We received a report of a grass fire. En route, crews were updated that this fire was now part of a structure fire. When crews arrived, we had two structures on fire,” Georgina fire chief Ron Jenkins said at the scene.

“The house has been destroyed.”

The cause of the fire is not yet known and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is investigating.

The damage is estimated at $700,000 to $800,000.

A fire broke out on Lake Drive in Keswick on Oct. 4, 2016. CITYNEWS/Bertram Dandy
A fire broke out on Lake Drive in Keswick on Oct. 4, 2016. CITYNEWS/Bertram Dandy

Haiti’s southwest hunkers down in night of fury from Hurricane Matthew

David McFadden, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2016

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The towns and villages of Haiti’s southwestern peninsula battened down as best they could early Tuesday for a nightlong lashing by life-threatening winds, rains and storm surge unleashed by powerful Hurricane Matthew.

The dangerous Category 4 storm was also dropping heavy rains on other parts of Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest country where many people live in flimsy shacks in areas prone to flooding. Heavy rain also fell on Jamaica and dangerous rainfall was a threat for the Dominican Republic, which adjoins Haiti.

Matthew had maximum sustained winds of 230 km/h early Tuesday, and forecasters said its slowly advancing centre would likely pass near or over Haiti’s southwestern tip after dawn. It would continue on for another landfall expected in the lightly populated eastern end of Cuba, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

“We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba,” said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist with the centre. “People who are impacted by things like flooding and mudslides hopefully would get out and relocate because that’s where we have seen loss of life in the past.”

Haitian officials spent the day Monday trying to persuade shantytown residents to take advantage of shelters being set up. Some people took up the offers, but many refused, saying they feared their meagre possessions might be stolen.

“If we lose our things we are not going to get them back!” said Toussaint Laine, an unemployed man who lives with his family in a shack in Tabarre, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Authorities also went door to door in the south coast cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie to make sure people were aware of the storm’s threats. At least 1,200 people were moved to shelters in churches and schools.

“We are continuing to mobilize teams in the south to move people away from dangerous areas,” said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of Haiti’s civil protection agency.

Many Haitians live in flimsy houses set up in risky places. In an unregulated sprawl of shacks built on hillsides near the northern edge of the capital, some poor families did what they could to reinforce their tin-and-tarp home and hoped for the best.

“I know my house could easily blow away. All I can do is pray and then pray some more,” Ronlande Francois said by the tarp-walled shack where she lives with her unemployed husband and three children.

Forecasters said the storm could dump as much as 100 centimetres of rain on some isolated areas of Haiti, raising fears of deadly mudslides and floods in the heavily deforested country where flooding is common.

Haiti’s civil protection agency reported one death, a fisherman who drowned in rough water churned up by the storm. That raised Matthew’s death toll to at least three. One man died in Colombia and a teen was killed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the storm moved through the Caribbean.

Cuba’s government declared a hurricane alert for six eastern provinces and workers removed traffic lights from poles in the city of Santiago to keep them from falling when the storm hit.

At one point a Category 5 storm, and the region’s strongest hurricane since Felix in 2007, Matthew was expected to make landfall in Cuba about 50 miles (80 kilometres) east of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities flew out about 700 spouses and children of service members.

The U.S. hurricane centre said that after crossing Cuba, the storm probably would move northward through the Bahamas, but that it was too soon to predict with certainty whether it would threaten the U.S. East Coast.

“Although our track is to the east of Florida, interests there should remain vigilant and we can’t rule out the possibility of impacts,” Pasch said.

As of 5 a.m. EDT, the storm was centred about 320 kilometres southwest of Cap-Haitien, Haiti, and 270 kilometres south of the eastern tip of Cuba. It was moving north near 15 km/h.

Ontario opposition parties want public input into water taking permit policy

Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2016

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Ontario’s opposition parties want the public to have a say as the Liberal government overhauls the province’s water-taking permit program this fall.

The New Democrats said a public review of water takings must be part of a new provincial strategy to treat water as a public trust that puts drinking water, sanitation and agricultural uses ahead of commercial users.

“Often it’s the grassroots communities that are out ahead of the policy makers,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “Ontario needs to have a complete look at the water situation and come up with a holistic strategy.”

Horwath met last week with Guelph residents who are fighting an application by multinational Nestle to renew its permit to take up to 3.6 million litres a day from its well in nearby Aberfoyle, and said they are concerned about their future drinking water supplies.

Simply charging bottling companies like Nestle more – it currently pays just $3.71 for every one million litres taken – won’t protect the water, she said.

“The highest bidder still gets the water, and we’re not taking on that stewardship role and ensuring that we have sustainable access to water that will support our growth plans over the next generations,” said Horwath.

Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner said public input will help ensure community drinking water and farming needs come ahead of water-bottling and aggregate mining operations.

“We need increased transparency and accountability in the permit to take water process,” Schreiner wrote in an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne. “Many high-risk uses of water receive little or no public scrutiny.”

Environment Minister Glen Murray’s office said he is open to public consultations, but offered nothing about how or when people could have input into the policy review.

The government has heard the community’s concerns about “how Ontario’s precious water resources are managed” so it made the permit taking review a priority, said Murray’s spokesman, David Mullock.

“A key element of this review is balancing the needs of all Ontarians, including consumers and farmers, with requests from businesses,” Mullock said in an email.

The Greens want the government to deny Nestle’s permit renewal in Aberfoyle and all permit taking applications for bottling purposes until the process is overhauled, something the NDP said the Liberals should consider.

“They should take that very, very seriously and have a hard look at whether the best thing to do is put a pause on where things sit now so we that can actually get a handle on where we stand,” said Horwath.

Progressive Conservative Ted Arnott, who represents neighbouring Wellington-Halton Hills – where Nestle purchased another well that Centre Wellington township had wanted for its drinking water – said there’s a lot of anxiety in the fast-growing area about an hours’ drive west of Toronto.

“I’m concerned too,” said Arnott. “I have an obligation on behalf of my constituents to voice concerns about ensuring that our ground water is protected over the long term, and that it isn’t depleted because of any large-volume user.”

Arnott wants any increased fees for the permits shared with the municipalities where the water is taken, but said he fears the Liberals will view it as an opportunity for a “cash grab.”

Schreiner said the government has had repeated warnings from its own environmental commissioner about the need to charge more for water because current fees cover just 1.2 per cent of the province’s water quality management costs.

Horwath said the families and city councillors she met in Guelph who oppose renewing Nestle’s permit were “insulted” when Treasury Board President Liz Sandals – who represents Guelph in the legislature – claimed that much of the opposition to the water taking was based on “misinformation.”

“It is quite astounding for this minister to have that approach to her constituents,” she said.

Wynne said this month that it’s time to treat bottled water companies differently from others with permits to take water, such as the construction and mining sectors, and ordered Murray to review the permitting process and the fees.

Nestle can keep taking water from its well in Aberfoyle while the government reviews the application to renew its permit, which expired in July.

The company, which has 300 employees at its bottling plant in Aberfoyle, has said it is prepared to pay more if rates are increased, but only if every firm with a water-taking permit – not just bottling companies – face higher fees.

There are over 6,000 permits to take water in Ontario, which last up to 10 years. Companies pay a permit fee of $750 for low- or medium-risk water takings, or $3,000 for those considered a high risk to cause an adverse environmental impact, plus the $3.71 per million litres.

In VP debate, Pence gets tasked with cleaning up for Trump

Julie Pace, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2016

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In Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will step into a role that has become all too familiar during his time as Donald Trump’s running mate: clean-up duty.

It was Pence, a mild-mannered Midwesterner with strong conservative credentials, who tried to soften Trump’s criticism of a military family and toughen the businessman’s stance on Russia. When Trump waffled over endorsing House Speaker Paul Ryan in his August primary, Pence weighed in with a solid vote of confidence in his former congressional colleague.

Pence’s task has perhaps never been more critical than on the debate stage at Virginia’s Longwood University, where he’ll face off Tuesday evening against Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s No. 2.

The vice-presidential contest comes as Trump tries to recover from one of the worst weeks of his turbulent presidential campaign. He delivered an uneven – and at times undisciplined – performance in the first presidential debate, then became absorbed in a controversy over comments he made two decades ago about a beauty queen’s weight.

That firestorm was quieted only by revelations that Trump suffered more than $900 million in losses in 1995 that could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for as many as 18 years, according to records obtained by The New York Times.

With time running out to sway undecided voters ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Republicans say Pence needs to use his moment in the political spotlight to shift the campaign conversation away from Trump’s self-inflicted wounds.

“His goal in this vice-presidential debate is to continue to take the high road, but also take every opportunity he can to not get sidetracked on issues that aren’t important,” said Alice Stewart, who advised Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.


Related stories:

Trump-Clinton debate most-watched presidential debate ever

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The single debate for the running mates is always a more low-key affair than the trio of presidential showdowns. That’s particularly true in an election where the candidates at the top of the ticket are such outsized figures who have been in the public eye for decades.

While last week’s first debate between Trump and Clinton drew a record-setting television audience of about 84 million people, the Pence-Kaine contest is expected to be watched by far fewer viewers.

For many of those who do tune in, the debate is likely to be one of their first opportunities to thoroughly assess the men who could be next in line for the presidency. In a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, more than half of registered voters said they didn’t know enough about Kaine to venture an opinion about him and about 44 per cent said the same for Pence.

Kaine is a friendly and earnest political veteran whose easygoing demeanour is similar to Pence. He’s tried to serve as a validator of Clinton’s character, eager to offset the questions many Americans have about her honesty and trustworthiness.

Kaine spent several days preparing for the debate in Raleigh, North Carolina, and in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, which is about an hour west of the debate site. Washington lawyer Robert Barnett has been playing the role of Pence in Kaine’s debate preparations.

Pence, too, has been meticulously preparing for the showdown, a contrast with Trump, who eschewed traditional study sessions and practice debates. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has stood in as Kaine in the prep sessions.

Since joining Trump’s ticket in July, Pence has often been tasked with easing the anxieties of conservatives who worry about the Republican nominee’s sometimes-fluctuating political ideology.

“There’s Pence speak and there’s Trump speak – Mike Pence using the language of conservative orthodoxy and Donald Trump using the language of a brash businessman,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

When Trump clashed with American Muslim parents whose son was killed serving the military in Iraq, it was Pence who issued a statement saying the family should be “cherished by every American.”

And when Trump seemed to encourage Russia to find missing Clinton emails, Pence quickly warned Russia that there would “serious consequences” for interfering in the U.S. election.

In both cases, Pence tried to turn the matters around on Clinton by raising points about her handling of related issues, a strategy he’s sure to rely on during Tuesday’s debate.

Federal government closes housing tax loophole

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Oct 4th, 2016

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The federal government has announced measures intended to stabilize the real estate sector amid concerns that pockets of risk have emerged in some housing markets, particularly those in Toronto and Vancouver.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the federal government will close a loophole so that only people who were living in their home as a principal residence before the home was sold are eligible to claim a capital gains exemption.

The federal government will also bring in a more rigorous mortgage rate stress test for all insured borrowers in an effort to make sure borrowers can sustain interest rate hikes or income losses, Morneau said.

“Exceptionally strong activity in certain markets, particularly in Toronto and in Vancouver, mean that people are concerned about the state of the housing market,” Morneau told a news conference Monday in Toronto.

“Across the country, many middle-class families looking to buy their first home see prices climbing often out of their reach. Some are taking on high levels of debt in a rush to buy before it’s too late.”

The changes come as concerns mount that housing costs in Toronto and Vancouver have become increasingly unaffordable for many Canadians while foreign investors purchase homes and turn them around for a quick profit.

A report released last week by Swiss bank UBS singled out Vancouver as being at greatest risk of a housing bubble in the world.

Chris Ballard, Ontario’s housing minister, called the federal efforts “an interesting move.”

“We’re very concerned about affordable housing in Ontario,” he said at the Ontario legislature shortly after Morneau’s announcement.

“I would like to see some solutions brought to the table sooner rather than later, but at the same time what we realized early on is Ontario really doesn’t have, and the federal government really doesn’t have, the data that we need to make the best decisions,” he added.

“There are all sorts of questions that just have never been asked about foreign buyers.”

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth, beat Red Sox 2-1

Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Oct 3rd, 2016

Toronto Blue Jays' Troy Tulowitzki hits an RBI-single during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON – Aaron Sanchez took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Troy Tulowitzki singled to break an eighth-inning tie, helping the Toronto Blue Jays clinch the AL’s top wild-card berth Sunday with a 2-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox in David Ortiz’s final regular season game.

Toronto clinched a spot in the post-season when Detroit lost to Atlanta 1-0 earlier Sunday evening. With their win in Boston, the Blue Jays earned the right to host the Baltimore Orioles in a one-game playoff on Tuesday.

The Red Sox, who lost five of their last six games, will start their AL Division Series against the Indians on Thursday in Cleveland.

Pitching with Jose Fernandez’s initials on his hat in tribute to the Marlins pitcher who died last week, Sanchez held Boston hitless until Hanley Ramirez’s disputed home run with two outs in the seventh. The ball sailed over the foul pole above the Green Monster; Sanchez argued it was foul, but the replay upheld the original call.

Xander Bogaerts followed with a single — the only other hit allowed by Sanchez, who lowered his ERA to 3.00 and clinched the AL title. In all, Sanchez (15-2) allowed one run, walking two, striking out six and hitting a batter.

The Blue Jays took the lead back in the eighth against Brad Ziegler (2-4) when Tulowitzki singled with runners on first and third. Toronto’s other run came on Devon Travis’ solo homer in the fifth.

Robert Osuna, who pitched two innings on Saturday night, picking up both a blown save and a win, got the last three outs for his 36th save. Boston put runners on first and second with two out in the ninth, but Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded out to third base to end the game and the Blue Jays began a muted celebration on the field.

David Price allowed one run and four hits, walking three and striking out four in five innings in his final tuneup before starting Game 2 of the ALDS for Boston.

The loss did little to spoil the celebration for Ortiz, who went hitless in four at-bats, hitting a nubber in front of the plate with one out in the ninth.

The team announced it will retire his No. 34 sometime next year in a pregame ceremony that featured former Red Sox stars like Carl Yastrzemski and teammates from Ortiz’s three World Series championship clubs.

The Red Sox draped a Dominican flag over the Green Monster, played the Dominican national anthem and invited Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.


Related stories: Win and Blue Jays are in; lose and it gets a little complicated

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