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Gunmen attack military hospital in Kabul, kill 4

Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 8th, 2017

Gunmen stormed a military hospital in Afghanistan’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least four people and wounding more than 60, setting off clashes with security forces that were still underway hours later.

Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a Defence Ministry spokesman, said an unknown number of gunmen entered the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital after an explosion and gunfire. The 400-bed military hospital is located near two civilian hospitals in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul, which is also home to several embassies.

Health Ministry spokesman Ismail Kawasi said at least three bodies of civilians and more than 60 wounded people had been brought to nearby hospitals, adding that the toll was likely to rise as ambulances were still at the scene.

Waziri said Afghan forces had battled the attackers floor by floor, and were carrying out a clearing operation on the 6th and 8th floors of the complex. He said a suicide bomber had detonated his payload and another attacker was shot dead, and that one member of the security forces was killed and three others wounded.

Afghan helicopters circled over the area, which was surrounded by security forces.

Abdul Qadir, a hospital worker who witnessed the attack, said an attacker in a white coat shot at him and his colleagues. He added that there were seven patients prepared for surgery at the operation theatre where he works at the time of the attack.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack during an address in honour of International Women’s Day, calling it “an attack on all Afghan people and all Afghan women.”

No one immediately claimed the attack, and the Taliban denied responsibility.

The assault on the hospital came exactly a week after the Taliban launched a complex attack in Kabul targeting security forces that killed at least 22 people and set off clashes that lasted several hours.

Movie based on Rob Ford’s crack scandal made by ‘scumbags’ says Doug Ford

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Mar 8th, 2017

Doug Ford is the calling the makers of an outlandish dark comedy about his late brother’s crack video scandal “scumbags.”

In an interview with CityNews on Tuesday night, Ford also called the timing of the film’s release — just days after the first anniversary of Rob Ford’s death — “tasteless.”

Ford believes the filmmakers are exploiting the late mayor’s well documented drug problem.

“We all know he had an issue,” Doug said. “He went and got help for that issue and we’re proud of it. And anyone who wants to make a profit of someone else’s illness – well, It’s unfortunate for them.”

The poster for the film, titled Filth City, includes a depiction of a mayor toting an assault rifle with a crack pipe in his mouth. The poster reads: “The crime rate is high. So is the mayor.”

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The film, directed by Andy King, and written by King and Danny Polishchuk will debut on March 25 at 8 p.m., when it closes out the Canadian Film Fest at Scotiabank Theatre. Ford died on March 22, 2016 after a battle with cancer.

Actor Pat Thornton plays Tom Hogg, described in a synopsis of the film as “a drug-addicted mayor fighting for re-election.” The synopsis adds that after he’s caught on tape smoking crack, “he’ll do almost anything to keep it out of the wrong hands.”

Founder of the Canadian Film Fest, Bern Euler, believes the film will be a “crowd-pleaser” and says it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

“While it is based on Rob Ford, it is a comedy,” he said. “At the end of the day this is a really entertaining movie.”

 

George Michael died of heart and liver problems, coroner says

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 7th, 2017

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Tributes left outside the home of British musician George Michael in London. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

A British coroner says George Michael died of natural causes as the result of heart and liver problems.

Darren Salter, senior coroner for Oxfordshire, says a post-mortem has found that the singer died of “dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver.”

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is limited, while myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle.

The British pop superstar died at his home in Oxfordshire county, southern England, on Dec. 25. He was 53. An initial autopsy failed to determine the cause of death.

Salter said Tuesday that because Michael died of natural causes, no inquest will be held.

Michael reached early fame with WHAM! with their hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and weent on to have a solo career with a series of hits such as “Faith” and “Freedom.”

He sold well over 100 million albums globally, earned numerous Grammy and American Music Awards, and recorded duets with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti and Elton John among others.

Throughout his career, his drug use and taste for risky sex brought him into frequent brushes with the law, most famously in 1998 when he was arrested for public lewdness in Los Angeles. Yet, he managed to turn the incident into fodder for a popular song that poked fun at his behaviour, and his acknowledgment of his homosexuality at that time made him even more popular with his fans.

Case of mumps at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, TDSB says

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 7th, 2017

FILE - This Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, file photo, shows boxes of the measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine (MMR) and measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine inside a freezer at a doctor's office in Northridge, Calif. On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, health officials announced that German measles (rubella) is officially gone from North and South America, the first region to rid itself of the disease. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Boxes of the measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine (MMR) and measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Damian Dovarganes

The recent outbreak of mumps in the city has affected a student at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

“Recently a case was identified in a Toronto school,” the TDSB said in a letter, which was dated March 3.

The school board advises parents to make sure their child’s vaccinations are up-to-date, and to ensure children four years old and older have two doses of the mumps vaccine, either measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV).

The TDSB said the risk of acquiring the mumps in Toronto schools is low since the vaccine is mandatory for children attending school in Ontario.

According to Toronto Public Health, most people affected with mumps are among people aged 18 to 35, and about 40 per cent of them were up-to-date with the relevant vaccines. People in that age group may be under-immunized, and are urged to check their vaccination records for MMR or MMRV vaccines.

As of Monday, there are 26 confirmed cases of mumps in Toronto. The city typically sees about five cases of the mumps every year.

Health officials said there has also been increased mumps activity in Manitoba, Western Canada hockey teams, and other parts of Canada and the U.S.

Click here for a fact sheet on mumps.

UK lawmakers to companies: End sexist high heel dress codes

JILL LAWLESS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Mar 7th, 2017

wokrplace footware debate

In a debate that has gone from office corridors to Britain’s Parliament, lawmakers put their foot down Monday and told employers to stop making women wear high heels as part of corporate dress codes.

Members of Parliament debated a ban on mandatory workplace high heels, in response to a petition started by a receptionist who was sent home without pay for wearing flat shoes. The debate was non-binding, but the government promised to act against heel-height rules, makeup guidelines and other corporate codes that apply to women but not to men.

Labour lawmaker Helen Jones, who helped lead a parliamentary investigation into dress codes, said she and her colleagues were shocked by what they found.

“We found attitudes that belonged more – I was going to say in the 1950s, but probably the 1850s would be more accurate, than in the 21st century,” she told lawmakers at Parliament’s Westminster Hall.

Monday’s debate was triggered by the experience of Nicola Thorp, who was told in December 2015 that her smart flat shoes were unacceptable for a temporary assignment in London with finance firm PwC.

Her employment agency, Portico, had a dress code specifying that female workers must wear non-opaque tights, have hair with “no visible roots,” wear “regularly re-applied” makeup – and appear in shoes with a heel between 2 and 4 inches (5 and 10 centimetres) high.

For Thorp, that was a step too far.

She started an online petition, calling formal workplace dress codes “outdated and sexist.” It has gathered more than 150,000 signatures, making it eligible for a debate in Parliament.

Thorp told the BBC after she launched the petition that “dress codes should reflect society.”

“Twenty years ago, women weren’t allowed to wear trousers in the same role that I’m doing now,” she said. “And it’s only because some women spoke up about that and said, ‘We feel like we have a right to wear trousers,’ that that’s changed.”

The British government says the law already forbids companies from discriminating against women, but a report from Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee found that “discriminatory dress codes” remain commonplace in sectors including the retail and tourism industries.

The committee said it had heard from hundreds of women “who told us about the pain and long-term damage caused by wearing high heels for long periods in the workplace, as well as from women who had been required to dye their hair blonde, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly reapply makeup.”

The College of Podiatry told the committee that women who wear high heels for long periods have “reduced balance, reduced ankle flexion and weaker muscle power in the calf” and are prone to disabling pain.

Jones said that “women told us that when they raised these concerns they were belittled.” One was told “she’d have plenty of time to rest her feet when she was unemployed.”

In London’s financial district on Monday, many workers felt that companies were entitled to impose dress codes – but that mandatory high heels went too far.

“A lot of things are enforced, but high heels in particular – because that can also be a health issue for people – I think that’s unnecessary,” said company director Penelope Mantzaris.

Banker Dan Matthews said his company expected men to wear suits and ties “and I think that’s a fair request.”

“So I suppose it’s fairly contradictory in a way, because in one respect I’m saying that we men should be required to wear a suit and tie but women shouldn’t wear high heels,” he said. “But I think that’s just where the line happens to be at the moment.”

Thorp’s petition has already caused one change. Portico announced last year it was amending its policy to adopt a gender-neutral dress code and to allow workers to wear flat shoes if they prefer.

Britain’s Conservative government said it was listening. Women and equalities minister Caroline Dinenage told lawmakers that the U.K. had “strong laws to tackle sex discrimination at work, and this includes dress codes.”

But she said they needed to be more widely understood and better enforced. Dinenage said she had written to key trade bodies about “outdated and sexist employment practices.”

“Shod in heels or flats, we are collectively putting our foot down,” she promised.

Jonathan Shenfield contributed to this story.

Parents ‘outraged’ after learning students may be relocated to accommodate condo construction

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 7th, 2017

school relocation

The development of a 35-storey condominium project near John Fisher Public School on Erskine Avenue continues to draw the ire of nearby Yonge and Eglinton residents. Members of the school community recently learned students could potentially be relocated during the work.

“Parents are outraged,” says area councillor Jaye Robinson, who says angry emails and phone calls have been flooding into her Ward 25 office. “We actually can’t respond quickly because we can’t keep up with it. I’ve never seen in all my years of being at City Hall a response like this one. It’s unprecedented.”

The project, which will be developed right next door to the public school, is slated to begin soon. The building of the tower was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board, despite strong opposition from the City of Toronto, area residents and parents.

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In a statement, the Ontario Municipal Board wrote, “Evidence presented at hearings, provincial laws and planning policies all guide the decisions made by the OMB.”

But Robinson is critical of the very process by which this tower’s development, and others, are decided.

“The OMB is defining our neighbourhoods in Toronto,” she says. “We don’t need it. We have a sophisticated planning division that works hard to develop in a responsible way that fits with the context of the neighbourhood and maintains the streetscape.”

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Robinson says in her ward alone, 80 per cent of the last 32 development proposals have been rejected by the City of Toronto, but ultimately won approval by the OMB. Robinson notes Ontario is the only province that has an appeals body like the OMB, and suggests it be abolished altogether.

But Premier Kathleen Wynne, who admits change is needed, stops short of making the same suggestion.

“We’re bringing forward more changes to the OMB that will put more decision-making power in the hands of municipal councils,” she said Monday morning.

“But having said that there will still be official plans in place that will have density provisions in them and there will still be building that will happen in communities across the province.  There will still be situations no matter what changes we bring to the OMB where we have to make sure that we have the right protections in place for communities.”

Between 2015 and 2016, cases from Toronto accounted for 43 per cent of the 2,437 appeals the Ontario Municipal Board received.

Trump signs revised executive order on temporary travel ban

Alicia A. Caldwell and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

airport-los-angeles-refugee-e1488753025594

President Donald Trump on Monday signed a new version of his controversial travel ban, aiming to withstand court challenges while still barring new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries and shutting down the U.S. refugee program.

The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries but still affects would-be visitors from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

Trump privately signed the new order Monday while Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally unveiled the new edict. The low-key rollout was a contrast to the first version of the order, signed in a high-profile ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as Secretary of Defense James Mattis stood by Trump’s side.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was not scheduled to hold an on-camera briefing Monday either, leading to the appearance that the president was distancing himself from the order, which was a signature issue during his campaign and the first days of his presidency. The order also risks being overshadowed by unsubstantiated accusations the president made over the weekend that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of his phone during the campaign.

The original travel ban caused immediate panic and chaos at airports around the country as Homeland Security officials scrambled to interpret how it was to be implemented and travelers were detained before being sent back overseas or blocked from getting on airplanes abroad. The order quickly became the subject of several legal challenges and was ultimately put on hold last month by a federal judge in Washington state. That ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court.

The revised order is narrower and specifies that a 90-day ban on people from the six countries does not apply to those who already have valid visas or people with U.S. green cards.

The White House dropped Iraq from the list of targeted countries following pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had urged the White House to reconsider, given Iraq’s key role in fighting the Islamic State group. Syrian nationals are also no longer subjected to an indefinite ban, despite Trump’s instance as a candidate that Syrian refugees in particular posed a serious security threat to the United States.

In a call with reporters Monday morning, senior officials from Homeland Security and Justice Department said the travel ban was necessary to allow the government to review what more can be done to properly vet would-be visitors and refugees.

The officials said 300 people who arrived in the United States as refugees were currently under investigation as part of terrorism-related cases. The officials pointed to those cases as evidence of the need for the travel order, but refused repeated requests to address how many of those people were from the six banned countries or how long they have been in the United States.

A fact sheet describing the new order circulated before the new order was announced cites negotiations that resulted in Iraq agreeing to “increase cooperation with the U.S. government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States.”

The mere existence of a fact sheet signaled that the White House was taking steps to improve the rollout of the reworked directive. The initial measure was hastily signed at the end of Trump’s first week in office, and the White House was roundly criticized for not providing lawmakers, Cabinet officials and others with information ahead of the signing.

Trump administration officials say that even with the changes, the goal of the new order is the same as the first: keeping would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.

According to the fact sheet, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a country-by-country review of the information the six targeted nations provide to the U.S. for visa and immigration decisions. Those countries will then have 50 days to comply with U.S. government requests to update or improve that information.


Related stories:

Supporters and critics of motion condemning Islamophobia clash in Toronto

Revised Trump immigration order delayed until next week

U.S. appeals court refuses to reinstate Trump’s travel ban

Hundreds rally against Islamophobia and U.S. travel ban in Toronto


Additionally, Trump’s order suspends the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

The new version also to removes language that would give priority to religious minorities. Critics had accused the administration of adding such language to help Christians get into the U.S. while excluding Muslims.

“I think people will see six or seven major points about this executive order that do clarify who was covered,” said presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway in an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”

She said the new order will not go into effect until March 16, despite earlier warnings from the president and his team that any delay in implementation would pose a national security risk, allowing dangerous people to flow into the country.

Legal experts say the new order addresses some of the constitutional concerns raised by a federal appeals court about the initial ban, but leaves room for more legal challenges.

“It’s much clearer about how it doesn’t apply to groups of immigrants with more clearly established constitutional rights,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck. “That’s a really important step.”

Removing language that would give priority to religious minorities helps address concerns that the initial ban was discriminatory, but its continued focus on Muslim-majority countries leaves the appearance that the order is a “Muslim ban,” Vladeck said.

“There’s still going to be plenty of work for the courts to do,” he said.

Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell and Sadie Gurman contributed to this report.

Toronto casts a spell in new tourism ad

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

A new tourism ad for Toronto celebrates everything from Drake to the LGBT community to jellyfish, with plenty of stops along the way.

The campaign, created by Tourism Toronto and marketing firm J. Walter Thompson, bills Toronto as “Canada’s downtown.” It’s set to “I Put A Spell on You,” written by American Jay Hawkins and made famous by Nina Simone. In this case, the song is sampled by Toronto’s Mike Wise, with vocal performance by Toronto poet and singer, Bethany Lee.

Vibrant nightlight scenes – Chinatown’s neon, flames shooting up from food truck kitchens, Caribana revelers dancing in front of stopped streetcars – are interspersed with praise for Toronto’s ethnic and sexual diversity, and welcoming nature.

A still from a Toronto tourism video makes an argument that love is love is love. YOUTUBE

The stopped streetcar isn’t the only sign of the TTC: dancers are seen performing on the subway, a nod to the TTC’s own marketing campaign. That campaign was created with the National Ballet.

There’s also references to the Blue Jays and the Raptors, with one kid in a park doing the famous Jose Bautista bat flip as the crowd cheers at the Rogers Centre.

Drake seen in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance at the 30-second mark, and the name of the ad – “The views are different here” – echoes the Toronto rapper’s latest album. As for jellyfish, they can be seen in the ad, and at the Ripley’s Aquarium.

In this city, it’s OK to let your guard down – whether that means kissing your same-sex partner, or hanging off the CN Tower, the ad shows.

Not a source of civic pride? The Toronto Maple Leafs, who don’t make one appearance.

Watch the video, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

 

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