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Joy-riding TTC bus thief arrested in Whitby

CityNews | posted Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Durham police were dealing with a bizarre situation on Tuesday morning.

They arrived at an Ajax home after a man called police to say he was concerned his brother had stolen a TTC bus and gone for a joyride.

After speaking to the man, police later found the stolen bus, at Bonacord Avenue and Cochrane Street in Whitby.

A 33-year-old man was taken into custody.

The TTC confirmed to CityNews that one bus was missing. The driver had completed their regular route and parked at the Birchmount garage at 1:40 a.m.

It’s not clear yet how the man got ahold of the bus.

White House denies Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials

JILL COLVIN AND CATHERINE LUCEY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

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Closed-door emergency meetings. Hallways packed with reporters. Statements rushed out, but few questions answered.

It’s become a familiar scenario in the crisis-prone Trump White House, where big news breaks fast and the aides paid to respond seem perpetually caught off-guard.

The Washington Post report Monday led to the latest feeding frenzy. The news that Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials in a meeting last week prompted another round of bizarre scenes, just days after Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey sent his communications team into a tizzy.

They included a surprise encounter between reporters and Trump’s top national security adviser and an attempt to drown out conversations with a blaring television.

White House officials denied the story in several statements, including a 45-second on-camera statement delivered by Trump’s national security adviser. But officials refused to answer specific questions, including what precisely the report had gotten wrong, ensuring it would dominate a week that White House officials hoped would be quiet in advance of the president’s first foreign trip.

Reporters started gathering in the hallway outside Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s office right after the Post story broke. As the group grew to more than 20 people, press aides walked silently by as journalists asked for more information. Soon, three of the four TV channels being played in the press area were reporting the Post story.

At one point National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who would later deliver the televised denial, stumbled into the crowd of journalists as he walked through the West Wing.

“This is the last place in the world I wanted to be,” he said, nervously, as he was pushed for information. “I’m leaving. I’m leaving.”


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Not long after, the press office sent a trio of short, written statements. Then Spicer briefly appeared to say McMaster would speak outside soon, prompting a mass exodus to a bank of microphones set up in the West Wing driveway.

“I was in the room, it didn’t happen,” McMaster told reporters after emerging.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation,” McMaster said. “At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

But what, precisely, had been misreported?

The Post cited current and former U.S. officials who said Trump had shared classified details with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. They said the information, which had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement, was considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.

The Post story did not claim that Trump revealed any specific information about how the intelligence was gathered, as McMaster’s denial suggested.

Reporters immediately returned to Spicer’s office, hungry for answers.

As they huddled in a hallway, one eagle-eyed reporter for the conservative One America News Network spotted a handful of staffers, including Spicer and spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, walking not far from Spicer’s office.

Soon after, faint, muffled sounds were heard coming from that direction.

It was unclear precisely where they were coming from or what they were – but after a reporter tweeted about the noise, White House staffers quickly turned up the volume on the office television, blaring a newscast loudly enough to drown out any other potential noise.

Around 7:30 p.m., Sanders emerged to announce that White House officials would not be answering any more questions for the evening.

“We’ve said all we’re going to say,” she said, asking reporters to clear the hallway.

They obliged.

Ending distracted driving a priority during Road Safety Week

CityNews | posted Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

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Drivers using a hand-held phone, whether it’s to text or take a quick peek at a map, remains a problem right across the country.

Canada Road Safety week began on Tuesday and officials are cracking down on distracted driving.

Police are also looking for drivers impaired by alcohol or dugs, failure to use or the improper use of seat belts, and aggressive driving. Police said those three, along with distracted driving, are called the “Big 4 Killers.”

Officers will be conducting targeted traffic enforcement in and around the City of Toronto, on Highways 427 and 401, the Don Valley Parkway, the Gardiner Expressway, as well as city streets.


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TTC addresses ‘hot car’ issue

CityNews | posted Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

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As the weather heats up, the TTC is making efforts to ensure subways won’t cause you to lose your cool.

With temperatures expected to hit 29 degrees on Wednesday, the transit provider says crews have worked hard over the past seven months to fix the ‘hot cars’ that plagued Line 2 users last summer.

Commuters on the Bloor-Danforth subway line endured a sweaty ride due to a shortage of functioning HVAC systems on the older T1 cars, the TTC said in a press release.

They said enough cars have been repaired or overhauled this year to provide a cool, comfortable ride. In addition, if a car’s HVAC system happens to malfunction while it’s in service, the TTC will be able to quickly remove and replace the affected train.

In order to “aggressively attack” the problem, the TTC has, to date, spent $7.5-million of a proposed $13-million program to repair and rebuild the HVAC systems on older trains.

Systems on 151 cars have been rebuilt and 63 others have been repaired so far.

Even though only a quarter experienced failures last year, the HVAC systems in all 370 cars on the old T1 fleet will reportedly be overhauled by the end of this year.

This will significantly reduce breakdowns in the long term, the release said.

Man finds mom’s gravesite sodded over on Mother’s Day

CityNews | posted Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

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Despite the fact that his mother has been resting peacefully in the same plot at Glendale Cemetery in Etobicoke for the past 10 years, Cecil Mercer was worried sick about her on Sunday. And understandably so.

It was Mother’s Day, and he couldn’t find her.

Clutching the flowers he intended to lay at her gravesite, a perplexed Mercer and his wife instead spent a panicked 20 minutes pacing the cemetery grounds near Albion Road and Highway 27, desperately trying to find the spot where both his mother and father are buried.

“My wife says ‘Maybe we are in the wrong spot?’ I said ‘No it’s right here,’ ” Mercer told CityNews.

And he should know.

His father has been buried at the same spot since 1996 and he’s been visiting the site for more than 20 years.

But this time, his parents’ plaque was nowhere to be found. There was nothing but a patch of green grass.

“I was terrified that they had dug it up and moved it,” Mercer said. “It’s very upsetting to me because I’ve been wandering around looking for my mom and dad and it’s Mother’s Day.”

Mercer, flowers still in hand, trudged towards the cemetery office where staff there seemed equally stumped by the vanished gravesite.

Eventually a maintenance worker was summoned and, at Mercer’s insistence, he slammed a shovel into the ground. A loud clank provided the early evidence. Further digging confirmed it — the plaque had been completely sodded over.

Mercer said he has since spoken to management at the cemetery, who chalked it up to an unfortunate error during routine maintenance work. They also assured him that new checks and balances were being implemented to avoid a repeat situation.

“I said ‘This is ridiculous. I don’t accept that as an answer, I can’t.’ How disrespectful is that to my family’s plot?”

“Just think about someone coming there and not being able to find their parents’ grave? Do you know how stressful that is?”

Management at Glendale Cemetery did not immediately return CityNews’ calls for comment.

Ontario businesses warn against major labour law changes

JESSICA SMITH CROSS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

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A group representing Ontario businesses warned the Liberal government Monday against making major changes to labour laws that could have a negative impact on the province’s economic recovery and lead to job cuts.

In a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce expressed its concerns about the province’s Changing Workplaces review, a top-to-bottom look at labour laws that is expected to usher in major changes.

“There is a sense amongst the employer community that politicians are either unaware or significantly underestimating the cumulative financial burden of recent policies that have increased the cost of doing business in the province,” the business group wrote in the letter.

“Employers stress that the resulting cost escalation would act as a direct constraint on their ability to invest in the human and physical capital required to ensure the future prosperity of the province.”


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Chamber of commerce vice-president Karl Baldauf said employers are especially concerned about potential changes to unionization. He warned that allowing unions in more sectors of the economy to use a card-based certification process to let employees form a union – when enough workers sign a union card, without holding a vote on the matter – could see workers unionized against their wishes.

The Ontario Federation of Labour, however, wants to see card-based certification extended to all sectors to make it easier for workers to unionize.

President Chris Buckley said the suggestion that unions would abuse that process to sign up unwilling workplaces is nothing but “fearmongering.”

“Giving workers a fair opportunity to join a union is called democracy,” he said.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said Monday that the government will make the report public in the near future, with plans to act on its recommendations. A government source said the report is expected to be released next week.

Flynn said the government will look at the union certification process closely to ensure that when workers make the decision to unionize, or not, they’re doing so of their own free will without the government placing undue hurdles in the way.

Other issues covered by the Changing Workplaces review include benefits, work scheduling, vacation, sick time and sick notes, emergency leave and leave for those who experience domestic violence, and the issue of misclassifying employees as independent contractors so that they’re exempt from labour laws.

Baldauf said businesses could adapt to some small changes to labour laws in those areas, such as making it mandatory for businesses to give all employees sick leave, but warned a major overhaul could have unintended economic consequences that ultimately lead to job losses.

“The problem is the government appears to be proceeding with broad legislative change without understanding the economic impact of these changes,” Baldauf said.

Baldauf also said raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour – a move supported by the province’s unions – could put some businesses in jeopardy, causing them to cut back on staff or increase prices.

Flynn, however, said raising the minimum wage isn’t part of the Changing Workplaces review, although he wouldn’t rule out doing so at some point. Currently, the minimum wage is set by legislation to rise with inflation and Flynn said he sees no reason to change that.

As for the other changes, Flynn said most successful employers already abide by the potential new rules considered in the Changing Workplaces review, as they offer benefit packages, vacation pay, and sick time.

“What we’re trying to do is reward those successful, responsible employers by ensuring there’s a level playing field and that level of dignity, respect and decency in the workplace is something that’s expected of all Ontario workplaces,” he said.

The government began the review more than two years ago and sought two labour law experts as special advisers. Those experts consulted with workers, unions and businesses to create their report and recommendations.

While the government has the final Changing Workplaces report, cabinet has yet to decide how to respond to its recommendations. Flynn said the response will include new legislation, regulations and government policy.

‘We were lucky’: massive cyberextortion attack could have affected Canada

NICOLE THOMPSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, May 15th, 2017

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A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, is seen on laptop in Beijing, on May 13, 2017. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Mark Schiefelbein

Canada is not immune to online extortion, despite apparently sidestepping a massive attack that temporarily crippled networks around the world, a cybersecurity expert said.

Atty Mashatan, a professor at Ryerson University’s School of Information Technology Management, said it was nothing more than a fluke that Canada appears to have been spared from Friday’s ransomware attack that disrupted services in Russia, the U.S., Ukraine, Spain and India.

Attacks like this one, dubbed “WannaCry” for the “WannaCrypt” technology used to execute it, happen when a type of software seizes control of a computer, encrypting its contents and rendering them inaccessible.

“The vehicle that the malware [is using to go] from one device to the other is spam. The most common way that they do that is via a link in an email,” Mashatan said. “It looks as if it’s from someone you know, in your contacts. You click on it, and bingo. The actual malware, the file, is downloaded.”

The perpetrators then demand hundreds or thousands of dollars to unlock the victims’ computers — essentially holding the documents, photos and other items on the computer for ransom.

“This one wasn’t really a targeted attack at all,” Mashatan said. “They usually run this campaign and hope to infect as many devices as they can.”

“This time around we were lucky,” she said. “There’s so many people who are emailing one another within the U.K., whereas the traffic between the U.K. and Canada is not as much.”

But if the wrong person had clicked on an infected link, they could have spread the ransomware to Canada.

 

Computer users worldwide — and everyone else who depends on them — should assume that the next big “ransomware” attack has already been launched, and just hasn’t manifested itself yet, Ori Eisen, who founded the Trusona cybersecurity firm, told The Associated Press.

The attack appears to be “low-level” stuff, given the amounts of ransom demanded, Eisen said Saturday.

He said the same thing could be done to crucial infrastructure, like nuclear power plants, dams or railway systems.

A representative from Public Safety Canada said the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre is aware of the reported attacks, but made no mention on whether any Canadian users were affected.

In the meantime, Mashatan said it’s important for everyday people to remain vigilant to prevent these attacks from spreading.

She said people should keep their computers’ operating systems up-to-date, because the latest updates often patch up security holes. People should also avoid clicking on suspicious links.

With files from The Associated Press

New York eyes breathalyzer for texting to combat distracted driving

ANNA GRONEWOLD, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, May 15th, 2017

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Israel-based tech company Cellebrite has developed a plug-in device that’s been nicknamed the ‘textalyzer’

Ben Lieberman just wanted to find out what may have caused the head-on collision that killed his 19-year-old son, Evan, on a highway north of New York City. It took a lawsuit and six months in court to get the cellphone records showing the driver of the car his son was in had been texting behind the wheel.

Lieberman doesn’t believe getting that information should be so hard.

He’s channeling his grief over the 2011 accident into a proposal that would allow police at accident scenes in New York to immediately examine drivers’ cellphones with a device to determine if they’d been tapping, swiping or clicking. It’s been called a Breathalyzer for texting.

“You think people are already looking at phones and it just doesn’t happen,” said Lieberman, who is partnering with the Israel-based tech company Cellebrite to develop the plug-in device that’s been nicknamed the “textalyzer.”

The idea already faces obstacles from constitutional and privacy advocates who are quick to note that police need the owner’s consent and a warrant to get cellphone records. They’re also concerned such technology would be used to access all of the personal information people may have on their cellphones.

“Every fender bender would become a pretense for gobbling up people’s private cellphone information, and we know that cellphones typically contain our entire lives,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman, who is no relation to Ben Lieberman.

At least 46 states have laws barring texting while driving and 14 ban all hand-held devices, but some safety advocates say more needs to be done to enforce the laws.

Deborah Hersman, the CEO of the National Safety Council and a supporter of the “textalyzer” legislation, noted that in 2016, 40,000 people died on the road, a 14 per cent jump from 2014 and the biggest two-year jump in 50 years.

“There can’t be a more compelling reason than life or death for saying why we should have access to this information,” Hersman said.

Cellebrite said its technology, which is about nine months away from being finished, sidesteps privacy concerns because it’s designed only to determine usage, not access data. Company officials said the device would only be able to tell if someone physically clicked or swiped the phone during the time of the accident, and then investigators could use that to determine if they should get a warrant for more detailed information.

“For this device, the whole purpose is not to get any data,” said Jim Grady, the chief executive officer of Cellebrite USA. “So no, police won’t be able to, unless they rewrite our code.”

Under the bill, which has been approved in one Senate committee and is pending in another, a person would not be criminalized for refusing to have their phone checked, but they could get their license suspended. The idea is that a person implies consent to drive without distractions when they receive a license, said Jay Shapiro, a New York attorney and former deputy district attorney.

Sponsors say they expect the Republican-led Senate to approve the bill, but anticipate opposition from the Democratic-led Assembly.

Similar legislation is being considered in Tennessee, New Jersey and the city of Chicago.

After Ben Lieberman obtained the cellphone records, the driver of the car carrying Evan had his license revoked for a year. He was never charged with a crime.

Lieberman said he hopes the “textalyzer” will serve as a deterrent and a way for law enforcement to begin tracking the scope of the problem.

“The last thing I want to do is be responsible for legislation that is going to infringe on someone’s privacy,” he said, “but I also don’t want to bury another child.”

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