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Simply adorable: New photos of Prince George celebrate third birthday

CityNews | posted Friday, Jul 22nd, 2016

New photos of Prince George have been released on his third birthday.

The first born of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine, is the third is line to the throne.

Kensington Palace says the photos were taken a week ago at the family home.

The photos feature candid shots of the little prince including one playing with the family dog, Lupo.

Prince George was born at St Mary’s Hospital on July 22, 2013.

Related stories:

Celebrating Prince George’s first year

Prince George christened at St James’s Palace

Just the facts: Trump resurfaces debunked claims in speech

Calvin Woodward and Michael Biesecker, The Associated Press | posted Friday, Jul 22nd, 2016

Despite promising “the truth, and nothing else” in his convention speech, Donald Trump presented the nation with a series of previously debunked claims and some new ones Thursday night – about the U.S. tax burden, the perils facing police, Hillary Clinton’s record and more.

A look at some of the Republican presidential candidate’s claims and how they compare with the facts:

TRUMP: “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17 per cent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”

THE FACTS: A rollback? President Barack Obama has actually achieved some big increases in spending for state and local law enforcement, including billions in grants provided through the 2009 stimulus. While FBI crime statistics for 2015 are not yet available, Trump’s claim about rising homicides appears to come from a Washington Post analysis published in January. While Trump accurately quotes part of the analysis, he omits that the statistical jump was so large because homicides are still very low by historical standards. In the 50 cities cited by the Post, for example, half as many people were killed last year as in 1991.

TRUMP: “The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015. They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.”

THE FACTS: The pace of releasing immigrants is driven not by the Obama administration, but by a court ruling. A federal judge ruled last year that the government couldn’t hold parents and children in jail for more than 20 days. An appeals court partially rolled that back earlier this month, saying that parents could be detained but children must be released.

By the standard used by the government to estimate illegal border crossings – the number of arrests _ Trump is right that the number in this budget year has already exceeded last year’s total. But it’s down from 2014.

TRUMP: “When a secretary of state illegally stores her emails on a private server, deletes 33,000 of them so the authorities can’t see her crime, puts our country at risk, lies about it in every different form and faces no consequence – I know that corruption has reached a level like never before.”

THE FACTS: Clinton’s use of a private server to store her emails was not illegal under federal law. Her actions were not established as a crime. The FBI investigated the matter and its role was to advise the Justice Department whether to bring charges against her based on what it found. FBI Director James Comey declined to refer the case for criminal prosecution to the Justice Department, instead accusing Clinton of extreme carelessness.

As for Trump’s claim that Clinton faces no consequence, that may be true in a legal sense. But the matter has been a distraction to her campaign and fed into public perceptions that she can’t be trusted. The election will test whether she has paid a price politically.

TRUMP: “The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 per cent compared to this point last year.”

THE FACTS: Not according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks police fatalities daily. The group found that the number of police officers who died as of July 20 is up just slightly this year, at 67, compared with 62 through the same period last year. That includes deaths in the line of duty from all causes, including traffic fatalities.

It is true that there has been a spike in police deaths from intentional shootings, 32 this year compared with 18 last year, largely attributable to the recent mass shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. But that was not his claim.

And overall, police are statistically safer on America’s streets now than at any time in recent decades.

For example, the 109 law enforcement fatalities in 2013 were the lowest since 1956.

TRUMP: “My opponent has called for a radical 550 per cent increase in Syrian (refugees). … She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people.”

THE FACTS: Trump persists in making the bogus claim that the U.S. doesn’t screen refugees. The administration both screens them and knows where they are from. The Department of Homeland Security leads the process, which involves rigorous background checks. Processing of a refugee can take 18 months to two years, and usually longer for those coming from Syria. Refugees are also subject to in-person interviews and fingerprint and other biometric screening.

For all that caution, U.S. officials acknowledge that the Islamic State group could try to place operatives among refugees. Last year, FBI Director James Comey said data about people coming from Syria may be limited, adding, “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our database.”

TRUMP: “Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when President Obama took his oath of office less than eight years ago. Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely. … President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing.”

THE FACTS: Trump is playing with numbers to make the economy look worse than it actually is. The sluggish recovery over the past seven years has been frustrating. But with unemployment at 4.9 per cent, the situation isn’t as bleak as he suggests.

Trump’s figure of 14 million who’ve stopped working since Obama took office comes from the Labor Department’s measure of people not in the workforce. It’s misleading for three reasons: The U.S. population has increased in that time; the country has aged and people have retired; and younger people are staying in school longer for college and advanced degrees, so they’re not in the labour force, either.

A better figure is labour force participation _ the share of people with jobs or who are searching for work. That figure has declined from 65.7 per cent when Obama took office to 62.7 per cent now. Part of that decrease reflects retirements, but the decline is also a long-term trend.

On national debt, economists say a more meaningful measure than dollars is the share of the overall economy taken up by the debt. By that measure, the debt rose 36 per cent under Obama (rather than doubling). That’s roughly the same as what occurred under Republican President George W. Bush.

The Hispanic population has risen since Obama while the poverty rate has fallen. The Pew Research Center found that 23.5 per cent of the country’s 55.3 million Latinos live in poverty, compared with 24.7 per cent in 2010.

TRUMP: “Another humiliation came when President Obama drew a red line in Syria, and the whole world knew it meant absolutely nothing.”

THE FACTS: Trump’s reference is to a threat by Obama for retaliatory strikes if Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against rebels _ and he’s basically on target. When Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” in 2013 by using chemical weapons, the U.S. president backed down.

Obama’s two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, pushed for intervention, as have a former defence secretary and CIA director. But Obama as commander-in-chief has the last word, and nothing has swayed him thus far.

TRUMP: “When that same secretary of state rakes in millions and millions of dollars trading access and favours to special interests and foreign powers, I know the time for action has come.”

THE FACTS: That’s a somewhat overheated take on a legitimately troublesome issue for Clinton.

Although financial disclosures show she earned only her government salary as secretary of state, she made more than $21 million afterward, over three years, for speeches and appearances for private companies. None of those speeches was paid for by foreign governments, but some groups she addressed could be counted as special interests.

As well, the Clintons’ family charity, the Clinton Foundation, received millions of dollars in donations while she was secretary of state, some from foreigners. And Bill Clinton earned millions making appearances and speeches for foreign corporations and organizations while his wife was at the State Department.

TRUMP: “After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region, and the entire world. Libya is in ruins, and our ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos. Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis now threatens the West. … This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”

THE FACTS: It’s an exaggeration to suggest Clinton, or any secretary of state, is to blame for the widespread instability and violence across the Middle East.

Clinton worked to impose sanctions that helped coax Tehran to a nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers last year, a deal in which Iran rolled back its nuclear program to get relief from sanctions that were choking its economy.

She did not start the war in Libya, but supported a NATO intervention well after violence broke out between rebels and the forces of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country slid into chaos after Gadhafi was ousted and killed in 2011, leaving it split between competing governments.

Clinton had no role in military decisions made during the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Republicans’ claim that high-level officials in Washington issued a “stand-down” order delaying a military rescue in Benghazi has been widely debunked.

On Iraq, Clinton as a senator voted in 2002 to grant President George W. Bush authority to invade Iraq, but has since said it was a “mistake.” Many in the Middle East do not regret Saddam’s ouster and regional allies allowed U.S. bases in their country to support the war. But many also now fear the Islamic State group, which rose in the chaos of Syria’s civil war and Iraq’s security vacuum.

Five things to know about dry weather and your plants

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jul 21st, 2016

1) If they’re too dry, they can cause spontaneous combustion: Vaughan Fire Chief Larry Bentley says the elements inside your plant soil can create a very dangerous situation if too dry. “It’s peat moss. It’s dried bark and wood products and there’s a little bit of fertilizer,” he says. “All those items when they dry out are susceptible to ignition. And fertilizer can be an oxidizer so it can enhance the ignition process.”

2) Don’t butt out into a plant: In Vaughan, fire officials say they have responded to numerous incidents in which cigarettes were improperly butted out. Chief Bentley says if you are going to smoke outside, find an ashtray. “What happens is an hour, two hours later as it sits and smoulders it’ll reignite,” he says.

3) Toronto water consumption: Toronto Water tells CityNews the city’s reservoirs are at a full level. Typically in the summertime consumption increases between 15 and 20 per cent, but the city’s plants have more capacity than what is typically used. With that said, they urge consumers to use water wisely. “The City of Toronto has enough water to meet current demand however we like to remind residents and businesses that it is always wise to be water efficient,” they say in a statement to CityNews.

4) Use clay instead of plastic: Chief Bentley says clay flowering pots are less likely than plastic to melt in the event of fire, thus containing the flames more effectively than plastic.

5) Summer of drought: CityNews meteorologist Adam Stiles says the GTA has been experiencing drought conditions since April. “We’ve been running below average precipitation since April and the hot dry summer just continues to compound that,” Stiles explained. “According to the Canadian Drought Monitor we are in a severe drought for all of Toronto and parts of the GTA. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has us in a Level 1 low water level condition and is asking people and businesses to implement water conservation measures whenever possible.”

Should you rent or buy your home?

Cityline | posted Wednesday, Jul 20th, 2016

Buying a home is a dream for many, but it might not always be the most realistic choice. Personal finance expert Bruce Sellery explains the pros and cons of buying or renting a home in today’s housing market.

Financial factors to consider when buying include:

  • The price of the house
  • Amortization in years
  • Condo fees
  • Property taxes
  • Utilities
  • Maintenance – paint, roof, appliances, etc.
  • Renovations
  • Price appreciation – how much will the price increase?
  • Duration: how long will you live there? Real estate commission: five per cent of the sale price ($600,000 house is $30,000 thousand).

Other important factors to consider when thinking about buying a home:

  • It is a trade-off. For example, if you want a walk-in closet, is it worth sacrificing a vacation in the sun?
  • The bank will calculate what you can afford based on whether you will default on the loan – they do not consider any other investments such as retirement savings, kids’ education or any personal luxuries.

Financial factors to consider when renting include:

  • Price of rent
  • Investment return – you have to invest that money, how much will it earn?

The advantages of owning a home include:

  • Forced savings: you might not pay your credit cards or your car loan, but you will pay your mortgage.
  • Nesting: some people just want to own and fix their place up just the way they want it.

The advantages of renting include:

  • It is cheaper – it can cost less, depending on where you live.
  • It is worry-free – if you have a good landlord, you can call them when the roof leaks.
  • It is flexible – you’re 27 years old, you can accept a job and move across the country at a moment’s notice.  It is way harder to do it if you own.
  • It can free up capital – a senior without a pension.  If all your money is in your house, how are you going to pay for groceries?

Courtesy of Cityline

Find out how much the Canada Child Benefit will help your family

Maclean's | posted Wednesday, Jul 20th, 2016

If there’s one transformative policy in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s first budget, it’s the new Canada Child Benefit. Liberals campaigned hard on an overhaul of the last government’s approach to helping parents with kids, and they’re calling their CCB “the most significant policy innovation in a generation,” and “a plan to help families more than any other social program since universal health care.”

Nine out of 10 families will, according to government calculations, get bigger monthly cheques than a suite of child benefits delivered to families during Stephen Harper’s time in office. The program, it’s claimed, will “lift hundreds of thousands of kids up from poverty.”

Putting aside the lofty rhetoric behind the Liberals sales pitch for the CCB, the real question facing Canadian families is: Are you better off? How does the new, non-taxable program stack up against the payouts from the former (and taxable) Universal Child Care Benefit and Canada Child Tax Benefit?

Use this calculator to determine an estimate of how much those defunct programs helped your family—and what you can expect the CCB to deposit in your bank account.

To use the calculator tool, click here.

Man accused in deaths of Calgary mother, daughter to appear in court

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jul 20th, 2016

The man accused of killing a Calgary woman and her five-year-old daughter is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

Edward Delten Downey had not retained a lawyer when he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder last Thursday; none of the charges has been proven in court.

It’s not clear how Downey knew Sara Baillie, a 34-year-old who worked at the Calgary airport Chili’s restaurant, or her daughter, Taliyah Marsman.

Baillie was found dead in her home on July 11 and an Amber Alert was issued for the little girl.

Police found Taliyah’s body three days later in a rural area just east of Calgary.

A memorial service is to be held for the pair on Thursday.

New benefit targets child poverty, minister says

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 20th, 2016

OTTAWA – The federal minister overseeing the government’s new child benefit program says the monthly payments starting this week will cut Canada’s child poverty rate to its lowest level in generations.

Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the child poverty rate in Canada is expected to drop to 6.7 per cent from 11.2 per cent by this time next year once the families feel the full effect of the new child benefit.

Federal officials estimate almost 300,000 children and 200,000 adults will see their family income rise over the next 12 months to above the low-income cut off that measures poverty levels across the country.

Nowhere is that going to be felt more than in Manitoba where federal officials calculate more than half the children currently living in poverty will be lifted above that cutoff.

The new non-taxable, income-tested child benefit rolls out Wednesday with the average family receiving about $2,300 under a program that was a cornerstone of the Liberals’ campaign platform.

The single benefit replaces what Duclos calls a more complicated system for families that required parents to apply for the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement, and tax claw backs on the monthly universal child care benefit payments.

Related stories:

New child benefit could pose pitfalls for divorced couples: Critic

Trudeau announces EI benefits extended to three western regions

Budget revamps tax benefits for families, focuses on low and middle income

Three things to know about the new program

1) If you already receive the universal child care benefit, or the child tax benefit, you don’t need to apply for the new one. Your information is already on file and all you have to do is file your 2015 tax return. Payments will be made by direct deposit if you’re signed up for it, or by cheque if that is how you received the universal child care benefit around the 20th of each month.

2) The new child benefit won’t count as income, meaning it won’t count against your tax return next year and be taxed like the previous universal child care benefit. Provinces have also said they won’t count the new money when calculating income-tested benefits like rent and child care supplements.

3) How much you receive is based on two things: the number of children under age 18 in your household and your net family income. Families with a net income of less than $30,000 receive the full benefit of $533 per month for a child under six and $450 per month for children six to 17. Benefit levels drop as income rises. Most families, on average, will receive about $191 per month. An extra $227 per month is added for a child who qualifies for a disability payment.

Trump triumphs as GOP nominee, completing stunning climb

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 20th, 2016

United for a night, Republicans nominated Donald Trump Tuesday as their presidential standard-bearer, capping the billionaire businessman’s stunning takeover of the GOP and propelling him into a November faceoff with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“This is a movement, but we have to go all the way,” Trump said in videotaped remarks beamed into the convention hall.

For Trump, the celebrations were a much-needed opportunity to regroup after a chaotic convention kickoff that included a plagiarism charge involving wife Melania Trump’s address on opening night. There were no big missteps Tuesday, but the event was void of the glitzy, Hollywood touch Trump promised, with a series of Republican officials parading on stage to level sharp, but repetitive, criticisms of Clinton.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was one of the few speakers to energize the crowd, delivering a full-throated takedown of Clinton and imploring delegates to shout “Guilty!” as he ticked through numerous accusations of wrongdoing.

“We didn’t disqualify Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States, the facts of her life and career disqualifies her,” Christie said.

For some Republicans, the night also offered a glimpse of what could have been. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who resisted calls to jump into the presidential race, made a vigorous call for party unity – though his message focused more on the risks of letting Democrats keep the White House and make gains in Congress than a rationale for Trump.

“Let’s compete in every part of America, and turn out at the polls like every last vote matters, because it will,” Ryan said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been a lukewarm supporter of Trump, was greeted with a smattering of boos as he took the stage, reflecting many Republicans’ dissatisfaction with party elites.

It was one of the occasional flurries of dissent on the convention floor, including jeers as states that Trump did not win recorded their votes during the nominating roll call vote. Still, Trump far outdistanced his primary rivals, and his vice-presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was also formally nominated.

Trump was put over the top by his home state of New York. Four of his children joined the state’s delegation on the convention floor for the historic moment and appeared overwhelmed with emotion.

“Congratulations, Dad, we love you,” declared Donald Trump Jr.

Trump’s son and daughter Tiffany Trump were scheduled to address the convention Tuesday night, part of a weeklong campaign effort to highlight the brash billionaire’s softer side. Campaign officials said a central goal of the Cleveland gathering was improving the image of a candidate seen by large swaths of voters as harsh and divisive.

Melania Trump was praised for making progress on that front during her Monday night address. She spoke of her husband’s “simple goodness” and his loyalty and love of family – while noting the “drama” that comes with Trump in politics.

But her speech was quickly overtaken by charges that it included two passages– each 30 words or longer – that matched a 2008 Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama nearly word-for-word.

Trump’s campaign offered no apologies, with top adviser Paul Manafort telling The Associated Press the matter had been “totally blown out of proportion.”

Still, the plagiarism controversy and other unforced errors by the campaign cast a shadow over the convention and raised fresh questions about Trump’s oversight of his campaign, which gives voters a window into how a candidate might handle the pressures of the presidency.

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