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Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada. (Jim Mone/AP)

Blue Jays nearing one-year extension with Marco Estrada

Sportsnet | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays and Marco Estrada are nearing agreement on what’s expected to be a one-year contract extension that could be announced as soon as Wednesday, an industry source told Sportsnet.

The news, first reported by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi late Tuesday night, adds a bit more certainty to the Blue Jays rotation for 2018, with the right-hander slotting in behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ. Joe Biagini is also being looked at as a potential starter while veteran lefty Brett Anderson is with the team for an extended audition.

General manager Ross Atkins hinted at an extension when Estrada wasn’t dealt before the non-waiver trade deadline, saying, “we’ll start thinking about not only how he impacts us now, but how he can potentially impact us beyond 2017.”

Later that day, after Estrada threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Chicago White Sox, he said in an interview that, “I’m sure they want me back. I hope they do. I’ve expressed a lot that I’m really happy here and I’d like to stay, and I guess today is a sign of that if I wasn’t traded.”

 “Or maybe nobody really wanted me – I haven’t been pitching all that great and it’s hard to get what you want for me. I don’t know. That stuff, I really don’t want to worry about it. I’m here, I’m pitching for these guys, at the end of the season we’ll try and work something out, I hope. That’s all I can ask for.”

Estrada is finishing out a $26-million, two-year deal he signed after his breakout 2015 season, starring in the playoffs the past two years while growing into one of the team’s more popular players.

The new deal comes 11 games before he would have become a free agent, and in the midst of a strong rebound from a dismal 10-start stretch in June and July during which he posted an 8.87 ERA in 45.2 innings with a 1.019 OPS against.

Over his past 10 starts, he’s pitched to a 3.75 ERA in 62.1 innings with 48 strikeouts and a .678 OPS against.

Ontario college to offer 1st post-secondary certificate in cannabis production

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Ward
 A southern Ontario college says it will be the first to offer a post-secondary credential in the production of commercial cannabis.

Niagara College says the graduate certificate program will launch in the fall of 2018 and aims to prepare students to work in the licensed production of cannabis, which includes marijuana, hemp fibre and hemp seed.

The school says the one-year post-graduate program was approved this summer by the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

It will be open to those with a diploma or degree in agribusiness, agricultural science, environmental science/resource studies, horticulture or natural sciences, or an acceptable combination of education and experience.

The college’s president, Dan Patterson, says the program is meant to address a growing labour market need in the wake of legislative changes in Canada and abroad.

The school says the production of cannabis is highly regulated and the program, which will be taught at its Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, will conform to all regulations and requirements.

A community college in New Brunswick announced last year it would offer a course in horticulture tailored to equip students with the skills to work in a the growing marijuana industry.

School officials at the French-language College communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick have said the course was designed in collaboration with industry leaders.

The federal government has pledged to legalize recreational marijuana by next summer.

The new law would allow adults 18 and over to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent in public, share up to 30 grams of dried marijuana with other adults and buy cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer.

The government has also said it intends to bring other products, including pot-infused edibles, into the legalized sphere once federal regulations for production and sale are developed and brought into force.

Provinces, territories and municipalities would be able to tailor rules for their own jurisdictions, enforcing them through mechanisms such as ticketing.

They will also be allowed to set their own licensing, distribution and retail sales rules, establish provincial zoning rules for cannabis businesses and change provincial traffic safety laws.

In Ontario, the provincial Liberal government recently announced a controversial plan to restrict the sale of cannabis to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Hurricane Maria aims at Puerto Rico after slamming Dominica, Guadeloupe

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

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Puerto Rico faced Wednesday what officials said could be the strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. territory as they warned it would decimate the power company’s crumbling infrastructure and force the government to rebuild dozens of communities.

Maria barrelled toward the island with 250 km/h winds and was expected to make landfall Wednesday midmorning along Puerto Rico’s southeast coast as a Category 4 storm, punishing the island with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours, forecasters said.

Maria had previously been a Category 5 storm with 281 km/h winds.

“This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history.”

The number of power outages spiked as Maria approached, with the storm centered early Wednesday about 115 kilometers southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moving northwest at 17 km/h, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Maria ties for the eighth strongest storm in Atlantic history, when measured by wind speed. Coming in second is this year’s Irma, which had 300 km/h winds and killed 38 people in the Caribbean and another 36 in the U.S. earlier this month.

Puerto Rico had long been spared from a direct hit by hurricanes that tend to veer north or south of the island. The last Category 4 hurricane landfall in Puerto Rico occurred in 1932, and the strongest storm to ever hit the island was San Felipe in 1928 with winds of 257 km/h.

As Maria approached, U.S. President Donald Trump offered his support via Twitter: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!”

More than 4,400 people were in shelters by late Tuesday, along with 105 pets, Rossello said.

The storm’s center passed near or over St. Croix overnight Tuesday, prompting U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp to insist that people remain alert. St. Croix was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago. But this time, the island would experience five hours of hurricane force winds, Mapp said.

“For folks in their homes, I really recommend that you not be in any kind of sleepwear,” he said during a brief news conference. “Make sure you have your shoes on. Make sure you have a jacket around. Something for your head in case your roof should breach. … I don’t really recommend you be sleeping from 11 o’clock to 4 (a.m.). … Be aware of what’s going on around you.”

Maria killed one person in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe when a tree fell on them Tuesday, and two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe, officials said.

About 40 per cent of the island – 80,000 homes – were without power and flooding was reported in several communities.

The storm also blew over the tiny eastern Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday, where Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page, including that his own roof had blown away.

“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit wrote before communications went down.

The storm knocked out communications for the entire island, leaving anyone outside Dominica struggling to determine the extent of damage, though it was clearly widespread. “The situation is really grave,” Consul General Barbara Dailey said in a telephone interview from New York.

She said she lost contact with the island about 4 a.m. At that point, officials had learned that 70 per cent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own.

Flooding was a big concern, given the island’s steep mountains, cut through with rivers that rage even after a heavy rain. Dominica was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people and destroyed more than 370 homes in August 2015.

Forecasters said the storm surge from Maria could raise water levels by six to nine feet  near the storm’s center. The storm was predicted to bring 25-38 centimeters of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.

To the north, Hurricane Jose weakened to a tropical storm Tuesday night. Forecasters said dangerous surf and rip currents were likely to continue along the U.S. East Coast but said the storm was unlikely to make landfall. Big waves caused by Jose swept five people off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island and they were hospitalized after being rescued.

A tropical storm warning was posted for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and tropical storm watches were up for parts of New York’s Long Island and Connecticut.

Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Miami and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

Equifax says 100,000 Canadians affected by cyberattack

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

File photo of a person using computer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Equifax Inc. says approximately 100,000 Canadian consumers may have had their personal information compromised in the massive cyberattack on the credit data company made public earlier this month.

The company says the investigation is ongoing and the information that may have been breached includes names, addresses, social insurance numbers and in some cases credit card numbers.

It adds that hackers obtained access to files containing the personal information of some Canadian consumers through one of Equifax’s consumer website applications intended for use by U.S. consumers.

Equifax Canada’s president and general manager Lisa Nelson apologized to Canadian consumers whose data may have been compromised in the breach.

On Sept. 7, Equifax announced that it suffered a data breach that may have compromised the personal information of 143 million Americans and less than 400,000 U.K. residents.

Canada’s privacy watchdog announced last Friday that it was probing the data breach and Equifax has committed to notifying those affected in writing as soon as possible.

Metrolinx exploring hydrogen-powered GO trains

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

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The province and Metrolinx are looking into a study that could zap the use of conventional overhead wires.

Ontario is conducting a feasibility study on the use of hydrogen fuel cells as part of the Metrolinx Regional Express Rail program. It’s also calling for companies to put forward concept designs.

The introduction of hydrogen-powered trains could see the transit agency deliver faster and more frequent electrified rail service on the GO rail network and UP Express.

“We want to see who’s interested at this point, what they can provide, bring those industry leaders to see what are our options to electrify our services,” said Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins.

“Make no mistake. Electrification is underway.”

Their goal is to put the brakes on diesel locomotives, but it’s too soon to say whether the technology is viable.

“So far, there’s only one hydrogen-powered prototype train in Germany — there’s not many other examples,” said transportation expert Murtaza Haider.

“It’s not a high-speed train. I think the maximum speed is 85 miles per hour and it’s also for a shorter distance, not for long-haul.”

Nonetheless, he thinks the study is a move in the right direction. especially considering the trains will be a lot quieter.

“These are long-term investments made for 30 to 50 years down the road,” he said. “Picking the right technology that is adaptive is key, so we can upgrade it as time and innovation takes place.”

Metrolinx said it’s a huge undertaking and will be costly. It’s part of a $21-billion modernization project.

The Hydrogen Feasibility Study is expected to be complete by the end of 2017 and a decision on how to electrify the transit system will be taken shortly after.

The Metrolinx Regional Express Rail program will bring two-way, all day service to commuters across the GTHA, with an anticipated 6,000 weekly trips by 2025.

Mexicans dig through collapsed buildings as quake kills 248

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

Volunteers search a building that collapsed after an earthquake, in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has rocked central Mexico, killing at least 55 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust and thousands fled into the streets in panic. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Police, firefighters and ordinary Mexicans dug frantically through the rubble of collapsed schools, homes and apartment buildings early Wednesday, looking for survivors of Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades as the number of confirmed fatalities climbed to 248.

Adding poignancy and a touch of the surreal, Tuesday’s magnitude-7.1 quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours earlier, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date.

One of the most desperate rescue efforts was at a primary and secondary school in southern Mexico City, where a wing of the three-story building collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete slabs. Journalists saw rescuers pull at least two small bodies from the rubble, covered in sheets.

Volunteer rescue worker Dr. Pedro Serrano managed to crawl into the crevices of the tottering pile of rubble that had been Escuela Enrique Rebsamen. He made it into a classroom, but found all of its occupants dead.

“We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults – a woman and a man,” he said.

“We can hear small noises, but we don’t know if they’re coming from above or below, from the walls above (crumbling), or someone below calling for help.”

A mix of neighborhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school’s rubble. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received Whatsapp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.

Rescuers brought in wooden beams to shore up the fallen concrete slabs so they wouldn’t collapse further and crush whatever airspaces remained.

The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children. It was not clear whether those deaths were included in the overall death toll of 248 reported by the federal civil defense agency. Pena Nieto had earlier reported 22 bodies found and said 30 children and eight adults were reported missing.

In a video message released late Tuesday, Pena Nieto urged people to be calm and said authorities were moving to provide help as 40 per cent of Mexico City and 60 percent of nearby Morelos state were without power. But, he said, “the priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people.”

People across central Mexico already had rallied to help their neighbors as dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of rubble. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 sites in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed and twisted and hundreds of thousands of panicked people ran into the streets.

Dust-covered and exhausted from digging, 30-year-old Carlos Mendoza said two people were pulled alive from the ruins of a collapsed apartment building in the Roma Sur neighborhood during a three-hour period.

“When we saw this, we came to help,” he said, gesturing at the destruction. “This is ugly, very ugly.”

Blocks away, Alma Gonzalez was in her fourth-floor apartment when the quake collapsed the ground floor of her building, leaving her no way out. She was terrified until her neighbors mounted a ladder on their roof and helped her slide out a side window.

Mancera said 50 to 60 people were rescued by citizens and emergency workers in the capital.

The national Civil Defense agency reported early Wednesday that the confirmed death toll stood at 248, more than half of them in the capital.

The official Twitter feed of agency head Luis Felipe Puente said 117 dead had been counted in Mexico City and 72 in Morelos state, which is just south of the capital. It said 43 were known dead in Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Twelve deaths were listed in the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides, three in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca.

At the site of a collapsed apartment building in Mexico City, rescuers worked atop a three-story pile of rubble, forming a human chain that passed pieces of rubble across four city blocks to a site where they were dumped.

Throughout the day, rescuers pulled dust-covered people, some barely conscious, some seriously injured, from about three dozen collapsed buildings. At one site, shopping carts commandeered from a nearby supermarket were used to carry water to the rescue site and take rubble away.

As night began to fall, huge flood lights lit up the recovery sites, but workers and volunteers begged for headlamps.

Where a six-story office building collapsed in Mexico City, sisters Cristina and Victoria Lopez Torres formed part of a human chain passing bottled water.

“I think it’s human nature that drives everyone to come and help others,” Cristina Lopez said.

“We are young. We didn’t live through′85. But we know that it’s important to come out into the streets to help,” said her sister Victoria.

Ricardo Ibarra, 48, did live through the 1985 quake and said there hadn’t been anything like it since.

Wearing a bright orange vest and carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag strapped to it, he said he and his friends just wanted to help.

“People are very sensitive because today was the 32nd anniversary of a tragedy,” he said.

Buildings also collapsed in Morelos state, including the town hall and local church in Jojutla near the quake’s epicenter. A dozen people died in Jojutla.

The town’s Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill held in the morning came in handy.

“I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared,” Anzures said of the drill. When the quake came, she said, children and teachers rapidly filed out and nobody was hurt.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 quake hit at 1:14 p.m.local time and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, 123 kilometers southeast of Mexico City.

Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away.

The quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit Sept. 7 off Mexico’s southern coast and also was felt strongly in the capital.

U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted the epicenters of the two quakes were 400 miles (650 kilometers) apart and said most aftershocks are within 100 kilometers.

Black Lives Matter protest woman’s deportation at Yonge and Bloor

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Sep 19th, 2017

Beverley Braham, who is married to a Canadian and is facing deportation to Jamaica, attends a rally protesting her deportation on Sept. 19, 2017. CITYNEWS

Beverley Braham is facing deportation to Jamaica and her supporters, including the Black Lives Matter Movement, are holding a demonstration to protest her detention and her leaving.

The demonstration began at Yonge and Bloor streets around 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

Braham is married to a Canadian citizen. She and her two-month-old son, who was born in Canada, could be sent to Jamaica on Sept. 21.

“Justin [my two-month-old son] was in [immigration] detention with us,” Braham told CityNews on Tuesday.

Her son was born in May. On Sept. 6, she took her son and husband with her when she met with an official from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

That’s when, Braham says, a CBSA official made her husband leave the room, called Children’s Aid Society (CAS), and took away her baby food.

“I was unable to feed my child,” Braham says.

Then, they were kept in detention for nearly three full days, until Sept. 8.

“She should be .. building her family here and and enjoying her new child,” Leroi Newbold, co-founder of BLM Toronto said in a statement.

“Instead, she has been in the fight for her life, and that her baby, and has faced inhumane detention with her tiny infant. This is not just. We are here to say enough is enough. Let Beverly stay.”

Braham is involved in the sponsorship process, and advocates are asking that she be allowed to stay until her sponsorship is complete.

iPhone 8: A taste of iPhone X with less sticker shock

Winston Sih | posted Tuesday, Sep 19th, 2017

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When Apple announced three new smartphones at its new Cupertino, Calif. headquarters, Apple Park, I instantly got dozens of texts with the same question: Winston, which one is right for me?

The answer is—these devices are targeted at different people. iPhone 8 packs a lot of punch that makes it a significant upgrade from its iPhone 7 sibling, but it also jams in a lot of familiar that will leave enthusiasts waiting to compare with the 10th-anniversary iPhone X when it goes for sale in November.

Design

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At first glance, users will notice a vary familiar design. Yes, the headphone jack is still gone, but the tech giant’s classic Home Button remains, with TouchID functionality for fingerprint access and Apple Pay. Turn the phone around and you’ll find a new, all-glass back—admittedly making me very nervous at first—but makes way the much-welcomed wireless charging on iPhone.

Apple says iPhone 8 features the most durable glass in a smartphone—a 50 per cent deeper strengthening later—and aerospace-grade 7000 Series aluminum on the exterior for reinforcement. Despite my initial worries, our review unit has proven to be that, quite durable, though I’d still recommend using a case in the day-to-day. They remain water-resistant—not waterproof. So don’t go diving with iPhone 8.

The new devices are still available in two sizes—iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus—with 4.7- and 5.5-inch Retina HD screens, respectively, in three finishes—grey, silver, and gold.

Bionic performance

Replacing its A10 chip predecessor, Apple introduces A11 Bionic to its latest roster of smartphones—‘the most powerful and smartest chip ever in a smartphone.’  And that’s a big claim to make. Pushing the six-core CPU and three-core GPU to max simultaneously was difficult in my day-to-day use cases, making it easy for developers to integrate apps to take advantage of augmented reality.

The power in the new devices also makes way for TrueTone—the same technology in the latest iPad—that adaptively adjusts the hue of your screen to your environment realtime, minimizing eye strain. Users will notice louder audio through new stereo speakers, though minimal improvement from iPhone 7.

Similar with new sensors, ‘Portrait Lighting’

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I struggled when thinking about how a smartphone camera could see improvements. It basically does everything I need it to do today—Instagram, Facebook Live, the odd Boomerang, make funny faces on Snapchat. Oh, right, and the awe-worthy, photographer-of-the-year Portrait Mode pics that made anyone the star of a party.

The camera remains at 12 megapixels for both devices, but new sensors make room for better video stabilization, improved colour filter, calibrated cameras alongside the gyroscope for those augmented reality apps.

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On iPhone 8 Plus, a new feature called ‘Portrait Lighting’ is introduced, taking advantage of the dual cameras. You get the bokeh depth-of-field effect while the software gives users the options to digitally manipulate lighting to enhance facial contour, mimic studio conditions, and crop out the background. When it works well, it works well, but on testing, conditions need to be just right or it becomes a little finicky. Definitely a beta feature until it is refined.

Say goodbye to cord city

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Apple has introduced new charging technology in all three devices that follows the same Qi standard in many third-party accessories today. Paired with iPhone’s glass back, this allows users can ditch the Lightning cable and recharge by simply placing their device on a Qi-compatible mat, including Apple’s AirPower mat, not out until later this year.

But surprise, their charging mat will only work with the new iPhones, Apple Watch Series 3, and a new AirPods case. Older devices will not work.

Accessory makers like Mophie are making wireless mats, and expect many more restaurants and cafes to take advantage of wireless charging as more smartphone manufacturers are taking the lead on integrating it into their phones.

iOS 11

Through the latest operating system, iOS 11, brings many refinements to the user experience to new and existing devices, including Apple Pay in iMessages, Do Not Disturb mode when driving, a new Siri voice assistant, and central file storage. A large improvement for existing iPhone owners who don’t want to make the upgrade.

Pricing

iPhone 8 will be available in 64GB and 256GB capacities for $929 and $1,139 off-contract, respectively. iPhone 8 Plus will be available in the same capacities for $1,059 and $1,269 off-contract.

So, I make the upgrade?

iPhone 8 brings a lot of improvements to Apple’s flagship smartphone—the A11 Bionic processor, refinements in the 12-megapixel camera sensor, wireless charging, as well as iOS 11. But it also brings a lot of similar through its familiar design. If you have an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7, you’ll see minor improvements, but unless you’re going to be taking advantage of augmented reality or eager for wireless charging, the free upgrade to iOS 11 will suffice.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus is a good upgrade if you are an older-model iPhone user due for an upgrade. You’re looking to take better family photos, want to stay productive on a larger screen, and can’t let go of that Home Button—not yet anyway. You get a lot of the power from iPhone X with a little less of the sticker shock.

As for those still curious about iPhone X, the all-new device breaks tradition and will be the shiny new toy many are waiting out for—marketed as Apple’s flagship premium offering. It rings in at a whopping $1,300 to start, and features an edge-to-edge OLED display, no home button, and FaceID facial recognition technology, to be available Nov. 3 in Canada.  No doubt many will be waiting to compare the devices side-by-side before making their decision.

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