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Ombudsman to release findings into Toronto school busing issues

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Aug 10th, 2017

File photo of a school bus. CITYNEWS.

Ombudsman Paul Dubé launched the probe last September following complaints of chronic delays and disruptions at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

When the school year started last September, around 60 routes in Toronto were without drivers. The delays persisted through the first four weeks of the school year and affected more than 1,000 students.

Attridge Transportation, Wheelchair Accessible Transit Inc. and SHARP Bus Lines were are at the centre of the issue.

At the time of the announcement, the Ombudsman’s office said it had received 49 complaints related to this issue.

Dubé said the systemic investigation would examine what the boards knew about possible transportation problems, how they responded and communicated with parents and offer recommendations as to what can be done to prevent such problems in the future.

Last June, both the TDSB and Catholic school boards took a step towards better communication by launching a new online portal which enabled parents to access their children’s transportation information at torontoschoolbus.org

The school boards say all buses will be soon be equipped GPS and parents will receive email notifications for any bus cancellation or delays.

Unifor Local 4268, Canada’s largest drivers’ union, has blamed the driver shortage on the Ontario government, saying the province’s current “request for proposals” system for awarding school bus contracts leads to constant instability.

This is the first formal investigation of school boards since the Ombudsman’s mandate was expanded in 2015 to include oversight of all Ontario school boards. Since then, it has received more than 800 complaints.

3 Toronto cops found not guilty of sexually assaulting a colleague

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS & NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Aug 10th, 2017

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Three police officers charged with sexual assault of a parking enforcement officer: Leslie Nyznik, Sameer Kara and Joshua Cabero.
Three Toronto police officers have been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a female colleague with whom they had been partying and drinking after an Ontario judge found there were inconsistencies in the woman’s account of that night.

Leslie Nyznik, Joshua Cabero and Sameer Kara had pleaded not guilty in connection with the alleged incident on Jan. 17, 2015.

Nyznik, the only accused to testify, told court it was the female colleague’s idea to return to a hotel room rented out by two of the accused where she instigated sex with all three men.

The woman – a parking enforcement officer whose identity is protected by a publication ban – had testified she had several drinks during the course of the night and felt powerless and unable to move or speak when the three men had sex with her against her wishes.

Justice Anne Molloy, who presided over the case, said the case came down to the reliability and credibility of complainant.

She said there were many problems with the complainant’s evidence and found some aspects simply untrue.

“Given frailties of evidence I simply cannot be sure to make a finding of criminal guilt,” she said.

The three men smiled and hugged supporters as they left the courtroom Wednesday.

Nyznik’s lawyer said outside court that his client looks forward to having his life back and going back to work.

“Mr. Nyznik is very happy to finally have this process behind him,” Harry Black said. “He took the stand and he faced the allegations and he has answered them and he is now vindicated.”

Professional Standards has also completed it’s investigation and concluded there is no evidence to charge the three officers under the Police Services Act.

The Toronto police chief will now review their suspensions. If the Crown does not appeal the judges decision, they could soon return to work, having been cleared of all charges both internally and by the court. The Crown has 30 days to appeal.

During trial, court heard Kara had invited the complainant to join in on a “rookie buy night” where rookie officers buy drinks for the veterans. The two, who worked out of the same division, had become friends, court heard.

Kara and Nyznik booked a room at the Westin Harbour Castle that day and had a few drinks there in the afternoon, court heard.

Around 6 p.m., the three men went to CC Lounge and Whisky Bar with other officers, court heard. Shortly before 9 p.m., the female parking officer arrived at the bar. She wasn’t there long before the group moved to a nearby bar, Pravda Vodka Bar.

Court heard Kara was so drunk he had to be helped back to the hotel room around 10 p.m.

The woman and Nyznik told court differing accounts of what happened after.

The woman testified she walked with one of the accused to the Brass Rail, a strip club. She later conceded under cross examination she took a cab, blaming her memory lapses on intoxication. A police officer, who was with the accused and the woman, later told the court the group hailed a cab to the strip club.

Around midnight, the woman said she ended up in a hotel room with the trio, periodically blacking out. She said she was at the whim of the three officers, all constables in a downtown Toronto division, who took turns having sex with her against her wishes.

She testified that she believed she had been drugged, but she said she didn’t know when, where, how or by whom.

Nyznik, meanwhile, said on the stand that the woman didn’t appear intoxicated during the night and instigated sex and oral sex with all three officers at the hotel room.

He said the woman surprised them when she entered the cab that was to take Nyznik and Cabero back to the hotel where Kara was sleeping.

CityNews reporter Faiza Amin chats with Flora Vineberg, a lawyer at Jellinek Law Office, about the options sexual assault complainants have, and the difference between criminal and civil cases. Watch the video below or click here.

 

Cops impound Audi R8 after slamming the brakes on speedy test drive

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Aug 10th, 2017

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Photo: @TPSMotorSquad
The acceleration works fine, but the potential sale of a pricey sports car has been slowed down by at least a week.

That’s how long a 2017 Audi R8 will be impounded after a test drive gone wrong on Highway 427 Wednesday morning.

Police say a 30-year-old man was taking the sleek red sports car for a test spin when he was clocked at 157 km/h in a 100 km/h zone.

A motorcycle cop pulled the car over near Eva Road with a sheepish salesperson in the passenger seat.

The driver was charged with stunt driving and had his licence suspended for seven days. That’s also how long the vehicle, valued at around $200,000, will be impounded.

“Should have taken it to the track,” police tweeted. “Now we are taking it to the pound.”

 

Suspected opioid use in Sarnia leaves 1 dead, 2 in hospital

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 10th, 2017

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Opioid pills are shown in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/McMaster University handout
Police in Sarnia, Ont., have issued a public safety notice after one person died and two others were taken to hospital on Wednesday evening due to suspected drug overdoses.

Police say the drug involved was thought to be cocaine but is now believed to have been laced with the dangerous opioid fentanyl and are asking anyone who recently bought street drugs to not use them due to the possibility of an overdose.

Residents are also being urged to “not be afraid” to call 911 in an emergency and state what drugs were involved so first responders can provide the proper course of treatment.

Police say the three overdoses occurred over five hours.

Many Canadian cities have grappled with drug overdose deaths in recent months, perhaps the most notable being Vancouver, which recorded 25 deaths and nearly 600 overdose calls in June alone.

More than 1,000 people died of overdoses in British Columbia last year and the coroner says fentanyl was involved in many of those deaths.

Toronto police had issued a public safety alert last month after four people died of suspected opioid overdoses over three days.


Related stories:

Construction begins on 1 of 3 Toronto safe injection sites

Toronto lays out opioid plan after emergency meeting after spike in deaths

Almost 2,500 Canadians died from opioid-related overdoses last year: data

Ontario hiring health staff, distributing more naloxone to fight opioid crisis

Glen Campbell, superstar entertainer of 1960s and ’70s, dies

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 9th, 2017

FILE - This Sept. 6, 2012 file photo shows singer Glen Campbell performing during his Goodbye Tour in Little Rock, Ark. Campbell, the grinning, high-pitched entertainer who had such hits as "Rhinestone Cowboy" and spanned country, pop, television and movies, died Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. He was 81. Campbell announced in June 2011 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
Singer Glen Campbell performing during his Goodbye Tour in Little Rock, Ark. Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
Glen Campbell, the affable superstar singer of “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Wichita Lineman” whose appeal spanned country, pop, television and movies, died Tuesday, his family said. He was 81.

Campbell’s family said the singer died Tuesday morning in Nashville and publicist Sandy Brokaw confirmed the news. No cause was immediately given. Campbell announced in June 2011 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and that it was in its early stages at that time.

In the late 1960s and well into the ’70s, the Arkansas native seemed to be everywhere, known by his boyish face, wavy hair and friendly tenor. He won five Grammys, sold more than 45 million records, had 12 gold albums and 75 chart hits, including No. 1 songs with “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.”

His performance of the title song from “True Grit,” a 1969 release in which he played a Texas Ranger alongside Oscar winner John Wayne, received an Academy Award nomination. He twice won album of the year awards from the Academy of Country Music and was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Seven years later, he received a Grammy for lifetime achievement.

For a look back at Campbell’s life and career, watch the video below or click here.

His last record was “Adios,” which came out in June, and features songs that Campbell loved to sing, but never recorded, including tunes made famous by Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt and Johnny Cash.

Campbell was among a wave of country crossover stars that included Johnny Cash, Roy Clark and Kenny Rogers, and like many of his contemporaries, he enjoyed success on television. Campbell had a weekly audience of some 50 million people for the “Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” on CBS from 1969 to 1972. He gained new fans decades later when the show, featuring his cheerful greeting “Hi I’m Glen Campbell,” was rerun on cable channel CMT.

He released more than 70 of his own albums, and in the 1990s recorded a series of gospel CDs. His 2011 album “Ghost On the Canvas” included contributions from Jacob Dylan, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.

The documentary “Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me” came out in 2014. The film about Campbell’s 2011-12 farewell tour offers a poignant look at his decline from Alzheimer’s while showcasing his virtuoso guitar chops that somehow continued to shine as his mind unraveled. The song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” won a Grammy for best country song in 2015 and was nominated for an Oscar for best original song.

Campbell’s musical career dated back to the early years of rock ‘n roll. He was part of the house band for the ABC TV show “Shindig!” and a member of Phil Spector’s “Wrecking Crew” studio band that played on hits by the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers and the Crystals. He played guitar on Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In the Night,” the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” and Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas.”

Born outside of Delight, Arkansas, he was just 4 when he learned to play guitar. As a teenager, anxious to escape a life of farm work and unpaid bills, he moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to join his uncle’s band and appear on his uncle’s radio show. By his early 20s, he had formed his own group, the Western Wranglers, and moved to Los Angeles. He opened for the Doors and sang and played bass with the Beach Boys as a replacement for Brian Wilson. (In 1966, Campbell played on the Beach Boys’ classic “Pet Sounds” album.)

By the late ’60s, he was a performer on his own, an appearance on Joey Bishop’s show leading to his TV breakthrough. Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers saw the program and asked Campbell if he’d like to host a summertime series, “The Summer Brothers Smothers Show.” Campbell shied from the Smothers Brothers’ political humour, but still accepted the offer.

As he would confide in painful detail, Campbell suffered for his fame and made others suffer as well. He drank heavily, used drugs and indulged in a turbulent relationship with country singer Tanya Tucker in the early 1980s.

He is survived by his wife, Kim; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; and his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane and Dillon. He had 10 grandchildren.

Among Campbell’s own hits, “Rhinestone Cowboy” stood out and became his personal anthem. Written and recorded by Larry Weiss in 1974, “Rhinestone Cowboy” received little attention until Campbell heard it on the radio and quickly related to the story of a veteran performer who triumphs over despair and hardship. Campbell’s version was a chart topper in 1975.

“I thought it was my autobiography set to song,” he wrote 20 years later, in his autobiography, titled “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

Durham police probing discovery of decapitated livestock in Pickering

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Aug 9th, 2017

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A beach in Pickering where police said decapitated livestock was found, Aug. 8, 2017. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera
Durham police are investigating after several decapitated animals were found near the Lake Ontario waterfront in Pickering on Monday.

Citizens called police at around 10:30 a.m. after stumbling upon the headless animals in the area of West Shore Boulevard and Beachpoint Promenade.

Police tell 680 NEWS a goat and several chickens were found.

“We’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened to these animals, how they ended up there. We’re still in the early stages of this investigation,” Const. George Tudos explained.

Authorities said it doesn’t appear the animals were part of a holiday Monday barbecue.

“It doesn’t appear that they were being utilized for eating, from what we found on the scene, so yes it’s a little bit concerning,” Tudos said. “We want to get to the bottom of this and try to figure out exactly who did this and why the animals ended up here.”

Animal Services was called to remove the carcasses.

Blurred image of a goat found on a beach in Pickering, Aug. 8, 2017. CITYNEWS/Amanda Ferguson

Blurred image of a chicken found on a beach in Pickering, Aug. 8, 2017. CITYNEWS/Amanda Ferguson

If you know anything call Durham Regional police or Crime Stoppers.

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Federal justice minister wants legal alcohol limit for drivers lowered

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 9th, 2017

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Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is considering lowering the legal alcohol limit for licensed drivers, according to a letter she sent to her Quebec counterpart.

In the correspondence to Stephanie Vallee dated on May 23, Wilson-Raybould suggests lowering the limit to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood from the current 80 milligrams.

The federal minister said the change would “make it easier to fight the danger posed by drivers who have consumed alcohol.”

She said the current rules were established after research indicated the risk of being involved in a car crash was twice as likely when a driver has 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in his or her system.

“More recent research indicates the initial data underestimated that risk,” she wrote.

Wilson-Raybould said the risk is twice as high at 50 milligrams and close to three times as high for 80 milligrams, “and the risk increases exponentially after that.”

The minister said in the letter she was eager to hear Vallee’s thoughts on the proposed legislative change.

Neither Wilson-Raybould nor Vallee was available for interviews Tuesday.

Francois Meunier, who works for an association that represents restaurateurs in Quebec, said the proposed changes would be a disaster for the province’s restaurant industry, particularly for business owners outside the big cities.

“The new rules mean a woman can have one drink and a man, in most cases, two,” Meunier said. “Forget about a bottle of wine for two, for a Valentine’s Day dinner — that’s over.”

Meunier said his members are less worried about losing alcohol sales than seeing a significant drop in total revenues, as people choose to stay home.

“It’s about food sales that go with the alcohol,” he said.

“When it comes to celebrations, parties, all that will be done at home as people change their behaviour. It’s easy to talk about taking a taxi or public transportation, but in the regions it’s not as easy.”

Trump, North Korea trade escalating threats of fire

FOSTER KLUG AND MATTHEW PENNINGTON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 9th, 2017

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President Donald Trump talks about North Korea at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Aug. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In an exchange of threats, U.S. President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang of “fire and fury like the world has never seen” and the North’s military claimed Wednesday it was examining plans for attacking Guam.

The high-level tit-for-tat follows reports that North Korea has mastered a crucial technology needed to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.

Despite regular North Korean threats against Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific about 3,400 kilometres from the Korean Peninsula, it is extremely unlikely that Pyongyang would risk the assured annihilation of its revered leadership with a pre-emptive attack on U.S. citizens. It’s also not clear how reliable North Korea’s mid-range missiles would be in an attack against a distant target given the relatively few times they’ve been tested.

Even so, the competing threats and Trump’s use of North Korea-style rhetoric – Pyongyang has long vowed to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire” – raise already high animosity and heighten worries that a miscalculation might spark conflict between the rivals.

The North Korean army said in a statement that it is studying a plan to create an “enveloping fire” in areas around Guam with medium- to long-range ballistic missiles. The statement described Andersen Air Force Base on Guam as a “beachhead” for a potential U.S. invasion of North Korea it needed to neutralize. It was unlikely the North’s threat was a direct response to Trump’s comments to the camera at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with matters related to North Korea, said the North’s army statement hurts efforts to improve inter-Korean relations. Ministry spokesman Baek Tai-hyun said Seoul remains committed to both dialogue and sanctions for solving the North Korean nuclear problem and called for Pyongyang to stop its provocations. Baek did not mention Trump’s comments.

Trump spoke hours after reports indicated North Korea can now wed nuclear warheads with its missiles, including its longest-range missiles that may be able to hit the American mainland. The North has strived for decades to have the ability to strike the U.S. and its Asian allies, and the pace of its breakthroughs is having far-reaching consequences for stability in the Pacific and beyond.

The nuclear advances were detailed in an official Japanese assessment Tuesday and a later Washington Post story that cited U.S. intelligence officials and a confidential Defence Intelligence Agency report. The U.S. now assesses the North Korean arsenal at up to 60 nuclear weapons, more than double most assessments by independent experts, according to the Post’s reporting.

“North Korea had best not make any more threats to the United States,” said a stern-looking Trump, seated with his arms crossed and with his wife beside him. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

The remarks appeared scripted, with Trump glancing at a paper in front of him. They evoked President Harry Truman’s announcement of the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, in which he warned of “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

But it wasn’t clear what Trump, who is prone to hyperbole and bombast in far less grave situations, meant by the threat. White House officials did not elaborate.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement afterward saying, “We need to be firm and deliberate with North Korea, but reckless rhetoric is not a strategy to keep America safe.”

The Trump administration considers North Korea to be America’s greatest national security threat and tensions have steadily risen this year.

Pyongyang responded angrily to the U.N. Security Council’s adoption this weekend of new, tougher sanctions spearheaded by Washington. The sanctions followed intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, the second of which was estimating as having a range that could reach more of the U.S. mainland. The newly revealed U.S. intelligence assessment indicates those missiles can carry nuclear warheads.

Denouncing the U.N. sanctions through state media, the North warned: “We will make the U.S. pay by a thousand-fold for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country.”

For North Korea, having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America would be the ultimate guarantee against U.S. invasion.

It is an ambition decades in the making. North Korea began producing fissile material for bombs in the 1990s and conducted its first nuclear test explosion in 2006. Four subsequent nuclear tests, the latest a year ago, have accelerated progress on miniaturizing a device – something North Korea already claimed it could do. Over that span, multiple U.S. presidents have tried and failed to coax or pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

The secrecy of the North’s nuclear program and the underground nature of its test explosions make it very difficult to properly assess its claims. But the new assessments from Japan and the U.S. suggest that doubts over the North’s abilities are receding.

In an annual report, Japan’s Defence Ministry on Tuesday concluded that “it is possible that North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads.” Japan, a key U.S. ally, is a potential, front-line target of North Korean aggression.

The Post story, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, went further. It said the Defence Intelligence Agency analysis, completed last month, assessed North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles.

Officials at the agency wouldn’t comment Tuesday. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also wouldn’t discuss the report.

It’s unclear how North Korea’s new capabilities will immediately affect how the U.S. approaches the country’s regular missile launches and occasional nuclear tests. The U.S. military has never attempted to shoot a North Korean missile out of the sky, deeming all previous tests to pose no threat to the United States. The U.S. could weigh military action if the threat perception changes.

The calculation of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal at 60 bombs exceeds other assessments, which range from around one dozen to about 30 weapons. The assessments are typically an estimate of the amount of plutonium and enriched uranium North Korea has in its inventory rather than how much of that material has been weaponized. It’s unclear how many, if any, miniaturized warheads North Korea has built.

Last month’s ICBM tests highlighted the growing threat. Both missiles were fired at highly lofted angles and landed in the sea near Japan, but analysts said the weapons could reach Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if fired at a normal, flattened trajectory.

North Korea threatened to hit Guam with its Hwasong-12 missiles, which it says can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.

Not all technical hurdles have been overcome, however. North Korea is still believed to lack expertise to ensure a missile could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without the warhead burning up. And it’s still working on striking targets with accuracy.

Kim Tong-hyung and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, Deb Riechmann in Washington and Catherine Lucey in New Jersey contributed to this report.

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