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Toronto group heading to Houston to rescue dogs from overwhelmed shelters

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 1st, 2017

Next week, a small team of Canadian volunteers will get into two vans, drive for two days to flood-ravaged Houston, pick up a group of rescue dogs from overwhelmed shelters, and head home.

Nicole Simone, who runs Redemption Dogs, an animal advocacy group based in Toronto, said four volunteers will leave the city next Wednesday to help an animal shelter in Houston that has seen an influx of canines after Hurricane Harvey hit the city.

The shelter needs to free up space and find homes for its animals because it keeps rescuing more and more dogs, she said.

“A lot of the rescues lost their property,” Simone said. “They’re all flooded out. They’re all overwhelmed.”

Simone has a friend who runs Hot Mess Pooches, a shelter in Houston, and has been following the organization’s efforts over the past few days. The shelter had to rescue 40 dogs on Wednesday alone, she said.

“It is really upsetting, so we thought we could help out, even in a small way,” Simone said.

Simone spoke to a friend in Toronto, who said he was willing to drive down to Houston, and then found two others who wanted to head down to the U.S. with her. She has also started an online fundraiser to help support the group’s efforts.

The Canadian volunteers will only be rescuing dogs that do not have owners, said Simone, who already has a handful of rescue organizations in Ontario lined up to take the dogs in and find foster homes for them until they are adopted.

Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas last week and left large swaths covered in water. At least 31 people have died and emergency officials expect that number to climb in the coming days.

More than 1,000 homes in the state have been destroyed, close to 50,000 were damaged and over 32,000 people were in shelters. About 24,000 National Guard troops have been called in to help.

The situation is also dire for animals.

Rescue organizations from across the United States have mobilized to help deal with the fallout from the hurricane. Countless animals have escaped, have been abandoned or are strays that have been caught up in the flood.

The Humane Society of the United States is co-ordinating a massive effort to ship dogs out on planes to various parts of the country.

In many cases, people are bringing their furry friends with them as they evacuate. On Wednesday, more than 500 people took shelter at a bowling alley in nearby Beaumont, Texas, along with dozens of dogs, cats, a lizard and a monkey.

With files from the Associated Press

Rock balancer says goodbye to the CNE after 18 years

AUDRA BROWN | posted Friday, Sep 1st, 2017

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As the saying goes, it’s all about having balance in life. Daryl Maddeaux has made it his life’s work, literally, to keep it that way.

The artist, who was discovered on a beach balancing rocks, shot to fame nearly 45 years ago.

His work has dazzled thousands of people every year at the Canadian National Exhibition. But after 18 seasons, Maddeaux will balance his last stone on the Labour Day long weekend.

The 65-year-old said he is retiring to spend more time with his family and grandchildren.

Maddeaux told CityNews after being on the road for 200 days a year, he is looking forward to what’s ahead.

But what is his secret for how he balances those rocks? Maddeaux said every stone has three points of contact to make them perfectly balanced.

Gas prices rise 5 cents at midnight, another 9-cent hike by Saturday

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Sep 1st, 2017

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Drivers faced a staggering price hike at the gas pumps on Friday, but it is only expected to get worse over the long weekend.

Gas prices went up five cents at most GTA stations at midnight, to an average price of 123.9 cents/litre.

But the sticker shock won’t end there.

Roger McKnight, the chief petroleum analyst with En-Pro International Inc., said if the current trend continues, he foresees an increase of nine cents by Saturday, which would put the price at 132.9 cents/litre.

The last time gas prices touched this level was three years ago.

The hikes being attributed to the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

The storm has knocked out significant oil drilling and refining capacity in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, and on Wednesday, the largest U.S. oil refinery shut down. The operator of a major pipeline carrying fuel to the East Coast said it was running at a reduced rate.

Colonial Pipeline says it plans to shut down a key line on Thursday. The company didn’t say how long it expects the closure to last, saying it will know more when workers can evaluate its facilities.

McKnight points out that the Colonial pipeline is responsible for sending refined products from the Gulf area north to Eastern Canada.

Related stories:

Two explosions rock flooded Houston-area chemical plant

Gasoline future prices jump in Harvey’s wake due to refinery disruptions


With files from The Associated Press

Floral tributes laid at Kensington Palace for Diana anniversary

DANICA KIRKA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 31st, 2017

Diana's 20th Death Anniversary
Media and crowds of Diana well-wishers gather outside Kensington Palace gates in London, England, on Aug. 31, 2017, to pay tribute on the 20th anniversary of her death. Photo: Amer Ghazzal/Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Dozens of floral tributes, photos and personal messages have been laid at the gates of London’s Kensington Palace on Thursday as Britain remembered Princess Diana on the 20th anniversary of her death in a Paris car crash.

Royal fans gathered at the palace, Diana’s former home, to mark two decades since the princess’ death triggered a flood of grief across Britain and beyond. Her admirers began paying tribute to Diana before dawn, placing candles shaped in the letter “D” at the palace gates.

“We had never met her and been nowhere near her, but I think she touched so many people because of who she was, the way she conducted herself in the context of where she was living and who she became,” said Mara Klemich, 55, a royal well-wisher from Sydney, Australia.

Princes William and Harry honoured their mother Wednesday at Kensington Palace, visiting a garden where she would stroll by and ask the gardeners about their ever-changing displays.

The princes and the Duchess of Cambridge met with well-wishers afterward, but aren’t expected to take part in any engagements Thursday.

The weeks leading up to the anniversary have been met with reflection in Britain as the public remembers “the people’s princess” and considers her contributions to the country.

The 36-year-old princess died in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997. Her Mercedes, pursued by paparazzi, crashed into a concrete pillar in the Alma Tunnel in Paris while travelling at more than 100 km/h.

Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul were all killed. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was injured but survived.

In Paris, royal watchers also gathered at the Alma Tunnel to remember her life.

“It’s been 20 years now but there are people you don’t forget, and she is one of them,” said Sylviane Rives of Paris, who works nearby. “That is what I wrote on a little card for her.”

Many took to social media to express their grief and to recall her kindness.

The co-designer of Diana’s wedding dress, Elizabeth Emanuel, tweeted a picture of the princess shortly after her arrival at St. Paul’s Cathedral for her 1981 wedding.

“Thinking of the wonderful times we spent with Diana and the great joy she brought into our lives and all those who knew her,” Emanuel tweeted.

Rosa Monckton, a friend of Diana’s, told the Times of London that she “busted the myth of being a fairytale princess” and that Diana’s many troubles helped people relate to her.

“I think that given the life she had, when you think what she had to overcome, and all of this in the public eye, I think she was a truly extraordinary woman,” she said. “Very damaged, very flawed, as we all are, but underneath it all this incredible resilience.”

Associated Press writers Kevin Scott and Oleg Cetinic contributed to this story.

Eligible Ontario homeowners to get smart thermostats under new program

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 31st, 2017

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A smart thermostat on display at a Green Ontario Fund news conference at Artscape Wychwood Barns on Aug. 30, 2017. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera
Eligible Ontario homeowners will be able to get smart thermostats for free under a new government program.

Environment Minister Chris Ballard announced Wednesday that $377 million in proceeds from Ontario’s cap-and-trade auctions this year will be used to establish a Green Ontario Fund.

That not-for-profit provincial agency will oversee programs and rebates for homes and businesses to reduce energy costs.

Part of that will be the GreenON Installations program, under which eligible households can register to have a technician visit and install a smart thermostat at no cost. The province says 100,000 smart thermostats will be available under the program.

Smart thermostats are connected to the internet and adjust themselves automatically and can be programmed and adjusted through smartphones.

A smart thermostat on display at a Green Ontario Fund news conference at Artscape Wychwood Barns on Aug. 30, 2017. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

 

Owners and renters of detached and semi-detached homes, townhouses and row houses can register through the Green Ontario Fund website, though renters must have their landlords’ permission.

Registration opened Wednesday with installations starting in the fall on a first-come, first-serve basis. At one point, the website crashed.

The Green Ontario Fund website crashed on Aug. 30, 2017.


Related stories:

Ontario exploring electricity bill pricing in pilot project

Hydro rates in Toronto the highest in Canada: Fraser Institute

How Ontario’s cap-and-trade system works: a few basic details

Bride launches class-action lawsuit against Air Transat for ruining wedding

ROSS MAROWITS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 31st, 2017

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An Air Transat sign is seen on May 31, 2016 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
A disgruntled B.C. bride has filed a national class-action lawsuit against Air Transat for ruining her wedding by allegedly misrepresenting flights as non-stop.

Vancouver law firm Rosenberg Kosakoski LLP said Wednesday it has launched the claim against the airline operated by Montreal-based tour company Transat A.T.

The claim alleges the airline fraudulently misrepresented its efforts that were designed to increase ticket prices and reduce costs by using “sub-standard aircraft.”

The law firm says Air Transat advertised direct flights that typically garner higher prices. However, the aircraft ultimately made stops that were not disclosed to passengers until the plane was airborne.

The class action was filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court by Jessica Spencer, a 33-year-old accountant from Victoria, on behalf of herself and other passengers who were misled.

Spencer claims Air Transat’s actions ruined her dream destination wedding.

The lawsuit hasn’t been tested in court.

Transat couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

The class-action suit comes as the Canadian Transportation Agency held a hearing Wednesday about passengers being trapped for hours aboard two Air Transat jets earlier this summer in sweltering heat with a lack of water and facing the stench of vomit in the cabin.

Christophe Hennebelle, the airline’s vice-president of corporate affairs, offered an apology to passengers, saying the hearings showed the complexity of the situation on July 31.

Both planes were originally bound for Montreal — one from Brussels, the other from Rome — but were forced to divert to Ottawa due to weather conditions. They were among about 20 other planes that couldn’t land in Montreal or Toronto during a two-hour window.

Whitby woman, 60, denied pet adoption because of her age

AMANDA FERGUSON | posted Thursday, Aug 31st, 2017

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A Whitby woman says she experienced discrimination at a PetSmart this week when she was turned away from adopting a kitten because of her age.

Betsy Foster, 60, says she went to the store in Oshawa on Sunday and a little black-and-white kitten quickly caught her eye.

She struck up a conversation with a volunteer from a rescue agency and was surprised to learn she wasn’t allowed to apply to adopt the cat.

“I told her, ‘We just want one cat.’ And she says, ‘We won’t allow a senior to adopt a kitten,’” Foster told CityNews. “I said, ‘Why?’ and she says, ‘Seniors are going to get older and the cat could outlive you.’”

Foster then relayed what happened to her husband Rick, 71, who was shocked.

“I was pissed,” he said. “I got home and wanted to make sure I’m onside, so I went to talk to my neighbour Marlene — she’s a senior too — and she says, ‘That’s age discrimination.’”

CityNews reached out to PetSmart to enquire about its pet adoption policy, and the company said the Fosters should not have been turned away.

PetSmart said it works with a number of charities and rescue agencies and declined to identify the agency involved.

“We require all of our partners to treat everyone with respect regardless of age, race, religion, gender, and orientation,” said spokewoman Christina Martinez.

“PetSmart Charities of Canada has an established assessment process in place that it uses to identify partners, which includes requiring the organization to abide by an anti-discrimination policy. We take any allegation of discrimination seriously and we are looking into the allegations.”

The Toronto Humane Society, another agency that works with PetSmart, said the only age requirement it enforces is a minimum of 18 years.

Lawyers for Omar Khadr in court to seek easing of bail conditions

DEAN BENNETT, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 31st, 2017

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Omar Khadr speaks to the media outside his lawyer’s home after being granted bail in Edmonton on May 7, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Lawyers for former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr are to appear in an Edmonton court Thursday seeking to ease his bail restrictions and grant him unsupervised visits with his sister.

Khadr is also seeking unrestricted internet access and more freedom to move around Canada while on bail pending the appeal of his conviction by a U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes.

Khadr, now 31, has been free on bail for more than two years and notes no issues have arisen since his release.

Right now, he can only have contact with his sister Zaynab Khadr if one of his lawyers or bail supervisor is present.

Khadr is arguing he wants to reconnect with his family and is old enough that he can’t be negatively swayed.

Several years ago, Zaynab and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing support for the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

In 2005, Zaynab was investigated by RCMP for allegedly aiding al-Qaeda, but no charges were filed. She is now reportedly living in Sudan with her fourth husband, but is planning a visit to Canada.

Thursday’s hearing is the next phase in a 15-year legal journey for Khadr that has ignited sharp and divisive debate among Canadians over terrorism, human rights and the rule of law.


Related stories:

Interview with Omar Khadr about his settlement with the federal government

Khadr money freeze request rejected

Majority of Canadians disagree with $10.5M payout to Khadr: poll

Khadr apology, settlement about violation of Charter rights, Trudeau says


The Toronto-born Khadr spent years in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay after he was caught, as a teenager, and accused of tossing a grenade that killed army medic Christopher Speer during a firefight at an al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002.

In 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to multiple charges before a U.S. military commission, including to killing Speer, but has since said he can’t remember if he tossed the fatal grenade. He has said he entered the plea to try to get out of Guantanamo, where he says he was mistreated, and into the Canadian justice system.

He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that Khadr’s charter rights were violated at Guantanamo and Canadian officials contributed to that violation.

Khadr filed a $20-million lawsuit against the government and last month it was revealed he had settled the case for a reported $10.5 million. That set off a fierce debate.

Khadr has said he wants to get on with his life. He recently married and plans to move to the city of Red Deer, halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, to begin studies to become a nurse.

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