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Western Louisiana in crosshairs as Harvey moves back to land

JEFF AMY AND MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 30th, 2017

Residents of Cypress Lake Drive use boats to transport others and retrieve items from flooded homes in Moss Bluff, La., on Aug. 29, 2017. (Rick Hickman/American Press via AP)
Western Louisiana residents braced for more wind and water early Wednesday as Tropical Storm Harvey made its second landfall after dumping record rainfall on Texas.

The storm came ashore just west of Cameron, La., bringing maximum sustained winds near 72 km/h, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Harvey had lingered over Texas for days before meandering back into the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters say another 13 to 25 centimetres of rain could fall in western Louisiana.

“We are starting to get down to the end of the tunnel of all this rain,” meteorologist Roger Erickson said.

Erickson warns that some coastal rivers won’t be able to drain effectively because Harvey’s winds are pushing in storm surge, aggravating flooding in areas already drenched by more than 51 centimetres of rain. Gusts up to 80 km/h are predicted for coastal areas and up to 65 km/h in Lake Charles and along the Interstate 10 corridor.

Cameron Parish’s Office of Emergency Preparedness said a curfew was in effect until the threat had passed and checkpoints have been set up at entry points into evacuated areas.

State offices in 28 parishes and most Baton Rouge area schools won’t open Wednesday in anticipation of possible severe weather. Gov. John Bel Edwards urged people to remain alert but said the state is responding well to less severe conditions in its own borders.

“You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, but with the people in this room, I’m confident we can handle it,” he told local and state officials during a visit Tuesday to Lake Charles, which is near the Texas border.

Edwards said Louisiana also has offered to shelter storm victims from Texas. He said he expects Texas officials to decide within 48 hours whether to accept the offer.

Harvey’s devastating flooding brought back tough memories in New Orleans as Tuesday marked the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Mayor Mitch Landrieu opened his Tuesday news conference with a moment of silence for Katrina victims and words of support for Harvey’s victims in Texas and southwest Louisiana.

“We’ve got to save our house,” New Orleans resident Israel Freeman said as he loaded sandbags for his mother’s home into his Cadillac. “She already went through Katrina. She built her house back up. We just had a flood about two, three weeks ago. She just recovered from that.”

Bradley Morris lives in a ground-level house in New Orleans and was “preparing for the worst.”

“There’s plenty of puddling and stuff already,” he said, “so I just assume that we’re probably going to get a taste of what we had a couple weeks ago.”

Landrieu urged residents to stay home Tuesday because of the threat of potential high water. Some New Orleans neighbourhoods flooded earlier this month during a deluge that exposed problems with the city’s pump and drainage system. On Tuesday, rains flooded a few of the city’s streets, but not to the same extent.

New Orleans officials planned to reopen government buildings and public schools Wednesday, a day after they were shut down amid fears of flooding rain from Harvey.

“The weather outlook got a little bit better for us,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. He cautioned however, that a change in the forecast could mean a change in plans.

About 500 people were evacuated in southwest Louisiana’s most populous parish early Tuesday, as a heavy band of rain pushed waterways out of their banks, Calcasieu Parish spokesman Tom Hoefer said. He said as many as 5,000 parish residents were affected by the flooding, but not all of those people have flooded homes. Some are just cut off by flooded roads.

Evacuations continued Tuesday in some rural areas outside Lake Charles, with authorities working to empty a flood-prone subdivision near the town of Iowa. Officials in Acadia Parish advised residents near the Mermentau River and Bayou Nezpique to leave.

Family members and authorities in Texas have reported at least 18 deaths from the storm. No Harvey-related deaths were immediately reported in Louisiana, according to a spokesman for Edwards.

Associated Press writers Stacey Plaisance, Kevin McGill, Janet McConnaughey and Jeff Martin contributed to this story.

Canadian airlines cancel scores of flights due to Hurricane Harvey

ROSS MAROWITS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 30th, 2017

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Rescue boats fill a flooded street as flood victims are evacuated as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise on Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/David J. Phillip
Canada’s two largest airlines have cancelled scores of flights, affecting thousands of passengers, due to the massive hurricane that has flooded parts of Texas.

Calgary-based WestJet says 25 flights between Calgary and Houston have been cancelled since Friday, impacting travel plans for 1,400 passengers.

It says aircraft are positioned to resume service when the situation on the ground has improved.

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport says on its website that it should reopen for commercial traffic on Thursday at noon local time.

WestJet says it is tentatively planning to operate one flight that day and one on Friday. Extra flight segments will be added over the weekend to help transport passengers.

Air Canada has cancelled several flights between Houston and airports in Montreal and Toronto. It wouldn’t provide details about the number of passengers affected.

The Montreal-based carrier (TSX:AC) says in a website advisory that customers who purchased tickets directly with the airline for flights between Saturday and Sept. 5 to Houston, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and San Antonio International Airport can change their flights free of charge until Sept. 20.

Passengers who purchased tickets through Aeroplan or Air Canada Vacations should contact them directly.

Hurricane Harvey has dumped a record 49.32 inches of rain on Texas.

America’s fourth-largest city has been paralyzed by the storm that arrived as a Category 4 hurricane. Forecasters expect it will head back inland east of Houston sometime Wednesday then head north and lose its strength.


Related stories:

Guelph men drive to Houston to sister forced from home by flooding

Two Quebec women among the many affected by Texas flooding

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

SUV smashes into Etobicoke townhome, man accused of impaired driving

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Aug 30th, 2017

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One man is in custody after an SUV slammed into an Etobicoke home on Aug. 30, 2017. CITYNEWS
Toronto police are investigating after the driver of an SUV smashed into a townhome early on Wednesday morning.

The driver apparently lost control of his vehicle, bounced off the curb, struck a small tree, and then crashed into the home, sending bricks onto the lawn.

It happened at the corner of Albion Road and Silverstone Drive, west of Martin Grove Road, just after midnight.

There were people home at the time, but none of them were injured.

The driver had minor injuries. He’s also accused of impaired driving and drug possession.

Kenya bans plastic bags, may fine violators up to $38,000

TOM ODULA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Aug 29th, 2017

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A woman leaves a grocery store Friday, May 15, 2015 in Montreal. The city has begun consultations on wether to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
A ban on plastic bags came into force Monday in Kenya and those found violating the new regulation could be receive maximum fines of $38,000 or a four-year jail term.

The ban applies to the use, manufacture, and importation of plastic shopping bags and gives a minimum fine of about $19,000 or up to a year imprisonment, according to the government. Exemptions were made for manufacturers producing plastic bags for industrial use.

A spot check showed many people and shops in the capital city, Nairobi, still packaging goods in plastic bags. But most supermarkets chains had stopped giving out the bags and were selling cloth bags instead

Vehicles were being stopped at road blocks for bag checks.

Similar bans have been implemented in other African countries such as Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Malawi.

Activist Boniface Mwangi has appealed to the Kenyan government to reduce the penalties, saying they are overly punitive and will mainly affect poor citizens who cannot afford to bribe their way to freedom.

“So if you’re rich, you can get away with anything, but if you’re poor, don’t use plastic bags from 28th August or you will go to jail,” he said in a Facebook posting.

In the slums of Nairobi, plastic bags are not only used to pack food and store clothes, but also as mobile toilets, he said.

“When you rent a house there, it doesn’t come with a toilet and so every time you need to use a toilet, you have to pay,” Mwangi said. “If you’re a family, using the toilet becomes an expensive affair.”

Some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

Thin plastic shopping bags litter Nairobi’s streets and contribute to towering piles at dump sites. The Kenyan government says the bags harm the environment, block sewers and don’t decompose.

Some Kenyan manufacturers have said the ban will cost jobs, but Environment Minister Judi Wakhungu last week said more jobs will be created from making bags from environment-friendly materials.

Plastic bags have long been identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, killing birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, said the U.N. environment agency. The bags also provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.

Ontario to create French-language university

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Aug 29th, 2017

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The Ontario Legislative Building is seen on June 29, 2010. BENSON KUA
A French-language university is one step closer to reality in Ontario as the Liberal government says it will introduce legislation to create one.

The provincial government is accepting key recommendations from a report by the French-language University Planning Board.

The location isn’t yet determined, but the university would be intended to serve central and southwestern Ontario, the areas with the fastest growing Francophone populations.

Ontario is home to 611,500 Francophones.

Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews calls the announcement a tremendous step forward, saying it will provide access to high-quality French-language university education.

The government says the university would be the first of its kind in the province, though there are currently two publicly funded French-language colleges and nine universities at which students can study in French.

Francophone Affairs Minister Marie-France Lalonde says Francophone culture and the French language have always been essential to Ontario’s identity and prosperity.

Hillary Clinton book tour stopping in Toronto

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Aug 29th, 2017

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a “Get out the vote,” rally held at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 in downtown Tampa, Fla. (Andres Leiva/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Hillary Clinton is stopping in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to promote her upcoming book “What Happened.”

Her publisher Simon and Schuster says the book is Clinton’s “most personal memoir yet” with revelations including her thoughts and feelings during last year’s failed U.S. presidential bid.

The 15-city speaking tour is being billed as a “detailed and surprisingly funny” look at her journey, the process of writing the book, and her plans for the future.

Clinton is scheduled to visit Toronto, the second stop on her tour, on Sept. 28 at the Enercare Centre.

She is booked for the Palais des Congres de Montreal on Oct. 23 and the Vancouver Convention Centre on Dec. 13.

“What Happened” is due Sept. 12.

OPP say massive cocaine seizure is largest in its history

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS; AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Aug 29th, 2017

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The cocaine was hidden inside hollowed-out quartzite stones packed onto shipping containers coming from Argentina – the drugs were concealed so well that even police dogs couldn’t detect them.

It was a tip from the public that ultimately led to the largest drug seizure in the Ontario Provincial Police’s history as the force carried out an investigation into an international cocaine smuggling ring with ties to Mexican cartels.

Altogether the force said it seized 1,062 kilograms of cocaine during a months-long investigation that culminated in July, according OPP deputy commissioner Rick Barnum.

The value of the seizure is estimated to be worth $60 million, with a street value of around $250 million.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Barnum said Monday at a news conference at OPP headquarters in Orillia, Ont., adding that tests revealed the cocaine tested 97 per cent pure and was destined for distribution across the country where it would be cut with other drugs to increase profits.

Police described how the cocaine was encased in rocks and packaged tightly to avoid detection, click here.

The investigation – dubbed “Project Hope” – was conducted with the Canada Border Services Agency, Peel regional police and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, among other organizations.
Barnum alleged those behind the operation – two Canadian citizens and one Costa Rican citizen who now face drug importation and drug trafficking charges – have been in business since 2014.

The men allegedly set up a front selling stones, Barnum said.

“I would say the business was definitely cocaine importation, there’s a lot more money in making that than there is in selling stones,” he said.

The force showed off hundreds of bundles of cocaine on Monday, as well as some of the stones that had contained them.

The stones would be cut open and cocaine, often bundled in one-kilogram packages, would be placed inside, police said. The stones would then be glued back together with cement, they said.

Police seized bricks of cocaine encased in stones. OPP held a news conference on Aug. 28, 2017. CITYNEWS/Bryan Carey

 

The police investigation began with a tip in March, Barnum said, and “good information” later led to a traffic stop of a transport truck north of Toronto on May 1 that led to the seizure of about 40 kilograms of cocaine.

Police then decided to test their dogs to see if their noses were up to snuff.

“Our dogs never detected the cocaine sealed inside,” Barnum said.

“It made it very, very difficult to detect, almost impossible, quite frankly, without the investigative phase of our work. It was detected through work from our intelligence operations in conjunction with Peel police, through good old police work following up leads through information we received.”

Police found drug caches in warehouses in Brampton and Stoney Creek, Ont., Barnum said.

The cocaine was transported in shipping containers from Argentina to Montreal, and then sent to Ontario, police allege.

“Argentina is not really a source country or production country for cocaine,” Barnum said, adding that the South American country is a transportation link to countries such as Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia where cocaine is made.

“I would say there are definitely connections to Mexico and Mexican cartels,” Barnum added.

There are Mexican cartel operatives currently in Ontario, Barnum alleged, although he wasn’t sure how many.

Luis Enrique Karim-Altamirano, 52, from Vaughan; Mauricio Antonio Medina-Gatica, 36, from Brampton; and Iban Orozco-Lomeli, 42, from Toronto, were charged with various drug trafficking offences on May 1.

Karim-Altamirano remains in custody pending a bail hearing on Wednesday. Medina-Gatica and Orozco-Lomeli have been released on bail.

SIU confirms Toronto police informed them of 2015 incident 11 months later

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Aug 29th, 2017

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The Special Investigations Unit headquarters in Mississauga. CITYNEWS
In a series of tweets Monday, the SIU offered a clarification regarding a 2015 incident that resulted in a Toronto police officer being charged on August 23.

The tweets said reports that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) did not inform the SIU of the incident are incorrect and they were in fact notified, albeit almost a year later.

The incident in question occurred on November 30, 2015 when officers responded to a 911 call in North York. They arrested a man who was sitting inside a taxi outside an apartment complex in the Maple Leaf Drive and Jane Street area. The man sustained serious injuries during the course of the arrest.

In a release on August 23, the SIU said they were notified of the incident on October 31, 2016. After an investigation TPS Constable Joseph Dropuljic was charged with one count of assault and is expected to appear in court on Sept. 7.

The SIU confirmed to CityNews that they were notified by TPS 11 months after the incident occurred.

They did not provide an explanation regarding the nearly year-long delay in informing the SIU or the laying of charges close to 19 months later, stating the matter is now before the courts.

More to come

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