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Hillary Clinton book tour stopping in Toronto

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

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

Group responsible for busing Toronto students says it’s facing driver shortage ahead of school year

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Aug 29th, 2017

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The group responsible for transporting thousands of Toronto students to school every day says it is facing a bus driver shortage just a week before classes begin.

In a letter to parents (full letter below), the Toronto Student Transportation Group (TSTG) said both “Sharp Bus Lines and Stock Transportation have indicated that they have insufficient drivers to cover all of their routes.”

The TSTG coordinates transportation for the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

The group says contingency plans are in place, including the reassigning of drivers, and bringing in additional drivers.

“We will be confirming this information on Wednesday and following up with the bus operators to ensure that the new drivers are familiar with the routes prior to school start on Tuesday,” it said.

“To be clear, these adjustments impact 21 (1%) of the 1750 total bus routes. Unlike last year, which saw approximately 60 routes without drivers, we have been assured by bus operators that all of these routes will be covered by alternate/spare drivers.”

A TDSB spokesperson told CityNews that the public will be notified if the issue is not resolved.

Last school year, thousands of Toronto students were stranded by driver shortages that affected 60 routes. In that instance, the issue dragged on for several weeks, prompting an investigation by Ombudsman, Paul Dube.

When delivering his findings earlier this month, Dube put some of the blame on Toronto public and Catholic school boards for failing to heed the early warning signs of a driver shortage, ultimately leaving students in limbo.

“More than anything this case was about communication failures,” Dube said on August 10. “Communication with parents was practically non-existent until well into the crisis. Even though board officials were warned of potential problems in the week before school actually started.”

Click here for the Parent Letter August 28th 2017.

Omar Khadr wants unfettered access to sister, other bail changes

COLIN PERKEL, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 28th, 2017

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Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, 30, is seen in Mississauga, Ont., on July 6, 2017. Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr returns to court this week to ask that his bail conditions be eased, including allowing him unfettered contact with his controversial older sister, more freedom to move around Canada, and unrestricted internet access. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr returns to court this week to ask that his bail conditions be eased, including allowing him unfettered contact with his controversial older sister, more freedom to move around Canada, and unrestricted internet access.

In support of his request, Khadr notes the conditions originally imposed two years ago were necessary as a graduated integration plan following his 13 years in American and Canadian custody. No issues have arisen since his release and the various restrictions have been revised several times – most recently in May last year, he says.

Currently, Khadr, 30, can only have contact with his sister Zaynab if one of his lawyers or bail supervisor is present. The condition is no longer necessary, he says.

“I am now an adult and I think independently,” he says in an affidavit. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

Zaynab Khadr, 37, who recently had a fourth child in Egypt, according to court filings obtained by The Canadian Press, was detained in Turkey a year ago for an expired visa. She and her fourth husband subsequently moved to Malaysia but are now said to be living in Sudan and planning to visit Canada.

“I would like to be able to spend time with her and the rest of our family when she is here,” Omar Khadr states. “As far as I am aware, Zaynab is not involved in any criminal activities and is frequently in contact with the Canadian embassy in order to ensure that her paperwork is up to date.”

Zaynab Khadr, who was born in Ottawa, was at one point unable to get a Canadian passport after frequently reporting hers lost. She was also subject to an RCMP investigation in 2005 but faced no charges. Her third husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, is reportedly still a Taliban hostage along with his American wife and children in Afghanistan. In 2008, she went on a hunger strike on Parliament Hill to draw attention to her brother’s plight as an American captive in Guantanamo Bay.

Several years ago, she and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing pro-al-Qaida views. Omar Khadr told The Canadian Press last month that he saw no point in decrying their views.

“I’m not excusing what they said. I’m not justifying what they said,” Khadr said. “They were going through a hard time. They said things out of anger or frustration.”

Khadr, who recently married, says a college in Red Deer, Alta., about a half hour from where he spent time in maximum security after his return from Guantanamo Bay, has accepted him into its nursing program. He says he plans to leave his Edmonton apartment at the end of September and find new accommodation.

In another bail-variation request the court in Edmonton will consider on Thursday, Khadr asks for an end to a condition that he provide his supervisor notice about his travel plans within Alberta, and that he obtain permission to travel outside the province. Requiring him to remain in Canada would be sufficient, the documents state. He also wants restrictions on accessing computers or the internet lifted.

In May 2015, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross granted Khadr bail pending appeal of his conviction by a widely maligned U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes. The appeal in the States has stalled through circumstances outside his control and nothing has changed since his release, his filing says.

Khadr found himself at the centre of a fierce political firestorm amid word last month that the Canadian government, which apologized to him for breaching his rights, had paid him $10.5 million in compensation. He says he just wants to get on with his life.

“I wish to become independent and to put my legal matters behind me,” he says in his affidavit. “I am a law-abiding citizen and I wish to live free of court-imposed conditions.”

American soldiers captured a badly wounded Khadr, then 15 years old, in July 2002 following a fierce assault on a compound in Afghanistan in which a U.S. special forces soldier was killed.

Khadr later said he pleaded guilty before the commission to throwing the deadly grenade as a way out of American detention. He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.

Two teens arrested in fire that killed 5-month-old in Edmonton

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 28th, 2017

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Police have charged two people in connection with a fire that killed five-month-old Hunter in Edmonton.
Charges have been laid against two people in connection with a fire that killed a five-month-old baby in Edmonton.

Police allege patio furniture on the porch near the front door of the home was purposely set on fire early Tuesday.

Cordell Brown, the father of the boy, said he was sleeping on the main floor and that his wife Angie Tang was asleep on the second floor with their son, Hunter.

Firefighters rescued Tang and Hunter, but the boy died of smoke inhalation and Tang is in hospital.

Brown and six others who lived in the house were able to escape the fire on their own.

Bronson Woycenko, 19, faces charges that include second-degree murder, arson and disregard for human life while Jessica Tammerand, 18, is charged with arson and disregard for human life.

On top of those allegations, they also each face a charge of mischief under $5,000.

Several Edmonton media outlets are reporting that Brown told them Woycenko and Tammerand were former tenants he had evicted.

Police say the two suspects were arrested Friday evening without incident, it’s not know when they’ll appear in court.

Police are still investigating the case.

Canadian mayors take Trump to task over ‘very difficult’ NAFTA talks tweet

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 28th, 2017

AppleMark
FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump waves as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington to board Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then onto Yuma, Ariz., to visit the U.S. border with Mexico and attend a rally in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
U.S. President Donald Trump again suggested the North American Free Trade Agreement be terminated, tweeting Sunday that both Canada and Mexico are being “very difficult,” but observers and political leaders didn’t appear to take the threat too seriously.

Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger and Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens both took Trump to task by issuing their own Twitter responses.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard brushed aside Trump’s comment.

“I think what we have to recognize is that the negotiations are going forward. You will not hear me react to his daily tweets or statements. I don’t think that would be very productive,” Couillard said as he arrived in Charlottetown for the annual meeting of New England governors and eastern premiers.

Couillard says the American governors he’s meeting with are eager to modernize and improve NAFTA.

“When we talk to governors, when business people talk to each other, the feeling is quite good and quite positive. Everybody recognizes that trade is beneficial for both Canada and the U.S.A.”

Trump has already threatened earlier this year to end NAFTA. At the time Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office said “heated rhetoric” is common in trade negotiations, her officials had little to add in response to Trump’s Sunday tweet.

Sunday’s tweet was the first time though that Trump has complained about Canada’s role in the talks, which began earlier this month between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Sui Sui, an economics professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, said she doesn’t take Trump’s comments too seriously either, because these kind of talks “should be hard.”

“This is a pretty normal trade negotiation: each party fights (for) the best interests of their own country,” she said. “The Canadian government is just doing their job, same as the Mexican government.”

Robert Holleyman, former deputy trade czar under Barack Obama, also doesn’t expect Trump to follow through with his threat to withdraw the U.S. from the trade deal. In a Twitter post on Sunday morning, Holleyman cited agricultural interests and dissent from Congress as barriers to the president’s plan.

“Mark my words. He will not pull out of NAFTA,” he wrote.

Trade economist Dan Trefler, professor at the University of Toronto and senior research fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, agrees that Trump’s Twitter rhetoric is unlikely to translate to action. For one thing, the president is unlikely to receive the congressional approval he would need to act on a major trade agreement. “Congress has been more involved in these trade negotiations than it’s ever been involved in any previous trade negotiation,” Trefler says.

And while withdrawing from NAFTA would appeal to parts of Trump’s base – people who work in manufacturing jobs in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, for instance _ Trefler says it would alienate Trump’s many supporters in the farm belt.

Echoing Couillard, Trefler said that focusing on Trump’s inflammatory Twitter posts can detract from the things his administration is doing. “It’s easy for him to make these kinds of statements, because they play to the image,” he says.

“Trump has only one audience, and that’s the electorate.”

Battered by Harvey, Houston braces for even more flooding

MICHAEL GRACZYK, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Aug 28th, 2017

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An unidentified man helps Carlos Torres, in tube, get to dry ground after Torres drove his tractor-trailer into a freeway flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey near downtown Houston, Tex., on Aug. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
As the nation’s fourth-largest city braced for more rain and rescues Monday, officials started releasing even more water from reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey even though the move aimed at protecting downtown Houston could make already devastating flooding worse around thousands of homes.

The strategic engineering move that officials said was planned for 2 a.m. local time came about 90 minutes early in one instance and a day early in another. Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

Harris and Fort Bend county officials initially said residents should be prepared for the influx of water that was scheduled to happen at Addicks around 2 a.m. Monday and a day later at Barker. Officials warned residents they should pack their cars Sunday night and wait for daylight Monday to leave.

“The idea is to prepare… pack up what you need and put it in your vehicle and when the sun comes up, get out,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District. “And you don’t have to go far, you just need to get out of this area.”

Rescue scenes played out across the Houston area Sunday as floodwaters inundated the nation’s fourth-largest city following Hurricane Harvey.

Residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs designed to help prevent flooding in downtown Houston, were warned Sunday that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding and could spill into homes. Rising water levels and continuing rain was putting pressure on the dams that could cause a failure without the release.

The Army Corps of Engineers early Monday started the water releases at the reservoirs ahead of schedule after water levels increased dramatically in a few hours’ time, a Corps spokesman said. The timetable was moved up to prevent more homes from being affected by flooding from the reservoirs, Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said. He added that water levels were rising at a rate of more than six inches per hour in both reservoirs.

Meanwhile, officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, late Sunday issued widespread mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts. County officials were preparing for the river to reach major flood stages late Sunday. County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were predicting that the water could rise to 59 feet, three feet above 2016 records and what Herbert called an “800-year flood level.” Herbert said that amount of water would top the levees and carries a threat of levee failure.

On Sunday, incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, gray-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighborhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

Volunteers joined emergency teams to pull people from their homes or from the water was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties. It was blamed for at least two deaths.

As the water rose, the National Weather Service issued another ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 50 inches (1.3 meters) of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

Some areas have already received about half that amount. Since Thursday, South Houston recorded nearly 25 inches (63 centimeters), and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 69 centimeters.

“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Average rainfall totals will end up around 40 inches (one metre) for Houston, weather service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

“This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.

Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.

Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.

Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke Sunday to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

“When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Leho said.

Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.


Related stories:

Rescuers pluck hundreds from rising floodwaters in Houston

Menacing Hurricane Harvey slams into Texas Gulf Coast


Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

“I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.

The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.

“Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott, a Republican, said at a news conference in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, saying there was no way to know which parts of the city were most vulnerable.

“If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Turner said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

The Coast Guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

The White House announced that President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday. He met Sunday by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

The rescues unfolded a day after Harvey settled over the Texas coastline. The system weakened Saturday to a tropical storm.

On Sunday, it was virtually stationary about 40 kilometers northwest of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of about 72.42 km/h, the hurricane center said.

Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961′s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

The Associated Press’ Carla K. Johnson, Juan Lozano, Josh Replogle, Robert Ray, Peter Banda, Jamie Stengle and Claudia Lauer contributed to this story.

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