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Two Canadian pitchers selected in second day of MLB Draft

680 NEWS / THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 14th, 2017

University of Kentucky right handed pitcher Zach Pop (#52) was brought in for the late innings during game play between the Miami University Redhawks and the University of Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky, Lexington, US, on March 12, 2017. (Mat Gdowski/Icon Sportswire/REX/Shutterstock)

Canadian pitchers Zach Pop and Daniel Procopio were both chosen on Day 2 of the MLB Draft on Tuesday, bringing the total of Canadian players selected to four over the first 10 rounds.

The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted Pop, a Brampton, Ont., native pitching at the University of Kentucky, with their seventh-round selection, while the Los Angeles Angels used their 10th-round selection on Toronto’s Procopio, a right-handed pitcher out of Niagara University.

Pop spent the 2017 season pitching as the Wildcats’ set-up man and appeared in 22 games. He struck out 20 in 20 2/3 innings, giving up 19 hits and holding batters to a .247 average.

Pop was a 23rd-round selection of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 but did not sign with the club. Later that year, he helped Canada to a bronze medal at the under-18 Pan American Championships in La Paz, Mexico.

Procopio started 12 games for the Purple Eagles and went 6-4 with a 4.19 earned-run average. He had 75 strikeouts over 58 innings and limited batters to a .203 average.

Procopio represented Canada in 2013 at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. He was drafted by the New York Mets in 22nd round of the 2013 MLB Draft as a high school player.

Right-hander Landon Leach of Pickering, Ont., was the first Canadian drafted this year, going to the Minnesota Twins in the second round (37th overall) on Monday. Shortstop Adam Hall of London, Ont., went to the Baltimore Orioles with the 60th overall pick.

The final day of the MLB Draft goes Wednesday with rounds 11 through 40.

Mayor Tory calls for continued crackdown on illegal marijuana dispensaries

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Jun 14th, 2017

Toronto Mayor John Tory believes the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should have been decriminalized “years ago” but says Toronto police should continue to target illegal dispensaries across the city.

Tory’s comments Tuesday came a day after the Toronto board of health voted in favour of the immediate decriminalization of marijuana. It also recommended a legal age of 19.

“I very much favour, as soon as possible, the notion that people should not have a criminal record for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. That’s something that should have been done years ago,” Tory said from city hall on Tuesday, where he was hosting a delegation of politicians from Dallas.

The mayor seemed fine with the board of health’s recommended age of 19 once marijuana is officially legal. The federal government has recommended a legal age of 18, giving provinces their own leeway.

“That’s the age of alcohol so maybe it should be the same age,” he said.

But Tory said Toronto police should remain vigilant when it comes to the slew of dispensaries that have leapfrogged the legal process.

“I’m much more concerned … with people who are assuming that the new rules are in place or there aren’t going to be any rules and that these shops continue to pop up in neighbourhoods.”

“That is not something that has been legalized,” he maintained. “The federal government has said nothing about having some wide network of shops on every street corner pop up to sell marijuana.”

“That’s why I support police continuing to enforce that law.”

Tory said he was “less concerned” with the enforcement of possession laws, but said he’d like to see Toronto police take a consistent approach.

“They should not be charging one person on one street, and not charging somebody else,” he stressed, adding that how the law is enforced is “a decision the police have to make and not me.”

“I’m expressing concern today about the marijuana shops and the fact that they are proliferating again in the city … I’ve expressed that to the police chief and to our zoning people.”

“I would hope that there might be continued vigilance and diligence with respect to the enforcement of the laws, both zoning laws and criminal laws.”

The federal government has tabled legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use. It is expected to pass by July 1, 2018.

Students can opt out of religious classes at Catholic school after complaint settled

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 14th, 2017

Students in an art class. GETTY IMAGES/Caiaimage/Robert Daly
An Ontario Catholic school board is amending its policies to give students more flexibility to opt out of religious classes or activities.

The move by the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board comes as a result of a human rights complaint lodged by a former student, who argued she was discriminated against when she sought an exemption from religious classes.

Under the terms of a settlement in the case, the board must prepare a policy giving students the option to opt out of specific religious classes or activities while maintaining the option to participate in others.

The new policy must also simplify and clarify the process for obtaining an exemption.

The settlement also states that the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association will share the policy with all 29 Catholic boards in the province, explaining that it’s the result of a human rights complaint, and will urge boards to review their existing exemption policies.

The Trustees’ Association does not have the authority to compel boards to implement policy changes, but a lawyer representing the former student says the decision marks a positive step for students who want to have more religious freedom in school.

Warriors’ Game 5 win wraps up highly-watched NBA Finals

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 14th, 2017

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, left, and guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrate during the second half of Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Warriors won 129-120 to win the NBA championship. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Golden State’s championship-clinching victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals was watched by more than 25 million viewers on ABC, wrapping up the most-viewed series since Michael Jordan’s last title in 1998.

The Warriors’ victory on Monday night peaked with 29.5 million viewers and was an increase of 20 per cent from the 20.9 million who watched Game 5 last year.

The series, the first that matched the same teams in three straight Finals, averaged 20.4 million viewers, Nielsen said Tuesday.

Related Story: 

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry lead Warriors to NBA title


At least 6 killed in massive London highrise fire

GREGORY KATZ, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jun 14th, 2017

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Residents said the blaze appeared to start in an apartment on a lower floor and spread upward quickly.

A deadly night-time fire raced through a 24-story apartment tower in London early Wednesday, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more. Some desperate residents threw their children from high windows, hoping someone on the ground would catch them.

Police commander Stuart Cundy said there were six confirmed fatalities, adding that the figure was likely to rise “during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days.”

London’s Ambulance Service said 74 people are being treated in hospital and 20 of those patients are in critical condition.

People in the apartments cornered by the quickly advancing flames and thick smoke banged on windows and screamed for help to those watching down below, witnesses and survivors said.

Flames from the inferno lit up the night and smoke spewed from the windows of the Grenfell Tower in North Kensington where more than 200 firefighters battled the blaze and went into the building with breathing apparatus. A plume of black smoke stretched for kilometres across the pale sky after dawn, revealing the blackened, flame-licked wreckage of the building.

“This is an unprecedented incident,” Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters on the scene. “In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never, ever seen anything of this scale.”

The London Fire Brigade received the first reports of the fire at 12:54 a.m. and the first engines arrived within six minutes, she said. Flames could still be seen more than 10 hours later.

There was no immediate word on the cause, but angry residents said they had repeatedly warned about a potential fire threat. One resident said the fire alarm did not go off.

Samira Lamrani, a witness, said a woman dropped a baby from a window on the ninth or 10th floor to people on the sidewalk.

“People were starting to appear at the windows, frantically banging and screaming,” Lamrani said, and the woman gestured that she wanted to drop a baby. “Somebody did, a gentleman ran forward and managed to grab the baby,” Lamrani told Britain’s Press Association news agency.

Ruks Mamudu, 69, escaped from her first floor apartment wearing only her purple pyjamas and bathrobe. She and her grandson sat outside the building and watched people trapped on higher floors cry desperately for help. “I sat there watching my house burn down and watching people cry for help who couldn’t come down,” she said.

People at the scene spoke of being unable to reach friends and family inside. Others said they could see people inside using flashlights and mobile phones to try to signal for help from higher floors.

Nassima Boutrig, who lives opposite the building, said she was awakened by sirens and smoke so thick that it filled her home as well. “We saw the people screaming,” she said. “A lot of people said ‘help, help, help.’ The fire brigade could only help downstairs. It was fire up, up, up. They couldn’t stop the fire.”

The disaster occurred 10 days after a terror attack at London’s Borough Market, and some locals said they initially feared the fire was also terror-related, though authorities discounted that possibility.

“The flames, I have never seen anything like it, it just reminded me of 9-11,” said Muna Ali, 45. “The fire started on the upper floors … oh my goodness, it spread so quickly, it had completely spread within half an hour.”

Other witnesses described a white, polystyrene-type material falling like snow from the building as it burned. Some locals feared the charred tower block might collapse but a structural engineer said the building was not in danger, London Fire Brigade said.

Edward Daffarn, a 55-year-old who lived on the building’s 16th floor, said the fire alarm didn’t ring. “I’m lucky to be alive. A neighbour’s smoke alarm went off and another neighbour phoned and told me to get out,” he said.

Daffarn said residents had complained for years to London City Council about building safety, to no avail. “I consider this mass murder,” he said of the blaze.

Grenfell Tower was recently upgraded at a cost of 8.6 million pounds ($14 million Cdn.), with work finishing in May 2016. The Grenfell Action Group, a community organization formed to oppose a nearby redevelopment project, has been warning about the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower since 2013.

The group has raised concerns about testing and maintenance of firefighting equipment and blocked emergency access to the site. “All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time,” the group said in a blog post written after the fire broke out.

A July 2014 newsletter for residents said the building was designed “according to rigorous fire safety standards.” It recommended that in case of a fire in the building residents should stay inside their apartments.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said many questions now need to be answered about tower blocks around the city.

“There will be a great many questions over the coming days as to the cause of this tragedy and I want to reassure Londoners that we will get all the answers,” Khan said in a statement.

The Associated Press’ Cara Rubinsky, Sylvia Hui and Ben Jary contributed to this story.

Toronto proposes new rules for short-term rentals, including Airbnb properties

MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jun 13th, 2017

Toronto’s mayor says proposed new rules for the city’s short-term rental market, including properties listed on Airbnb, would help strike a balance between the need for such accommodations and the disruptions they can cause to local neighbourhoods.

John Tory is defending a report released by the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards department which lays out a number of proposals for individuals and companies who offer short-term rentals.

One proposed change would ban people from renting out homes that are not their primary residences.

Related stories:

Most Airbnb hosts not registered in Quebec, one year after law took effect
Airbnb driving up rent in Toronto, group says
Airbnb launches global platform to help connect hosts to refugees

Tory says such a move would help stabilize neighbourhoods by limiting the number of people staying there temporarily, while also potentially putting housing units back on the market for longer-term tenants.

Other recommendations include licensing short-term rental companies such as Airbnb, creating a registry for people who operate short-term rentals, and changing zoning bylaws to create a new land use classification for short-term rentals.

City council must vote on the recommendations, and Tory says the proposed rules are still open to public consultation and feedback.

But the mayor said there’s a need to address the short-term rental market in the city, which defenders argue brings millions of tourism dollars into the city. Airbnb estimates its users spent about $417 million in city neighbourhoods last year.

Tory argued that those who snap up secondary properties that they then list on Airbnb and similar websites risk destabilizing neighbourhoods by introducing transient populations into otherwise residential areas.

He said the proposed new rules, which the city estimates would remove about 3,200 properties from the short-term rental market, could limit that risk.

“I think what we’ve done here is we’ve tried to achieve a balance between this kind of availability for tourists and others, and the needs of people for permanent housing and the need for stable neighbourhoods,” Tory told a press conference on Monday.

The city report said limiting rentals to principle residences would still leave roughly 7,600 properties on the market.

The city based its information on 2016 data provided by Airbnb, the most high-profile platform through which people both list and book short-term rentals.

Airbnb said it welcomed Toronto’s move toward regulating home-sharing.

Alex Dagg, the company’s public policy manager for Canada, said Airbnb is reviewing the recommendations and plans to offer feedback to the city at a later date.

Toronto’s proposed rules come after Quebec implemented a law last year regulating properties on Airbnb and other home rental websites.

That law requires people who rent out accommodations for no more than 31 consecutive days to have a permit and pay a hotel tax. Individuals who violate the law can be fined between $2,500 and $25,000 daily, while corporations face penalties of between $5,000 and $50,000 a day.

Recent data suggests, however, that the majority of Quebecers who listed their properties on Airbnb and other home rental websites are not registering with the province.

The province’s Tourism Department says it issued 967 permits for rental hosts out of 2,244 applications in the year since the law took effect on April 15, 2016.

There were 19,400 Airbnb hosts in Quebec in 2016, according to the company’s data, and that doesn’t include people who rent out their homes on other websites such as VRBO and Kijiji. That would suggest a compliance rate of less than five per cent among Airbnb hosts alone.

Full statement from Alex Dagg

Airbnb welcomes the City of Toronto’s move toward regulating home sharing. Airbnb and its host community participated throughout the city’s public consultation process, and we shared data and information about our community with city staff, Mayor John Tory and members of Toronto City Council. We are reviewing the city’s report in detail and look forward to providing our response and feedback to executive committee.

The vast majority of Airbnb hosts in Toronto use home sharing to help pay the bills and afford to stay in their homes. Airbnb is transforming travel by allowing people to experience cities like a local and support neighbourhood businesses. 

Airbnb continues to recommend fair, easy-to-follow rules that support home sharing and respect our responsible host community.

Don’t climb on construction cranes, police warn

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jun 13th, 2017

A firefighter works to rescue a woman stuck atop a construction crane on Wellesley Street near Yonge Street on April 26, 2017. Photo credit: Steve Russell/Toronto Star
York regional police can’t believe they have to say this, but: Don’t climb on construction cranes.

Police said Monday they are seeing an increase in the number of calls for people trespassing on construction sites and climbing cranes.

“Gravity is not going to be your friend,” Const. Andy Pattenden said in a YouTube video.

“There’s obvious dangers associated with climbing cranes that are 10, 12, 13 storeys tall … it will result in serious injury and or death.”

Police said in two separate incidents on May 22, six youths had scaled a crane at a construction site. All 12 youths are now facing charges, and police called their parents to pick them up.

On May 27, a 22-year-old man from the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville was charged with mischief for climbing a crane. And on June 11, two 16-year-olds were charged with mischief.

All these incidents came after the highly-public ‘Crane Girl’ climb in April. Marisa Lazo is charged with mischief and is free on bail.

Update: Owners reunite with mysterious family photos found near Queen and Ossington

AUDRA BROWN AND ESPE CURRIE | posted Tuesday, Jun 13th, 2017

This is an update to a story we brought to you on June 8, 2017: Mysterious family photos found near Queen and Ossington

Laura Rojas, who found 700 family photos on a memory card on a west end Toronto street, has found their rightful owner.

Rojas took to social media to track down the owner last week, thinking they likely lived near Argyle and Ossington streets, where the card was found. The day after the story aired on CityNews, a viewer wrote in to CityNews saying they knew the family Rojas was looking for.

A few days later, Rojas met Kate Kourtsidis to return the archive, and CityNews was there. Kourtsidis says the day after the story aired, her mother texted her telling her to Google “CityNews mysterious family photos.”

As she watched, she realized the people in the photos looked weirdly familiar.

“Then my parents’ photo pops up, and it’s definitely my parents, then my Papu [grandpa] comes up, my aunt when was little, and I recognize my dad as a little boy,” Kourtsidis says.

“I called my mom crying with laughter. I was like, what is this? She said ‘Kate, how did a photo of me from 28 years ago end up all over the news!’ and I said, I’m just as shocked as you are!”

Kourtsidis told Rojas her father had been digitizing hundreds of negatives to give to his mother, also pictured in  many of the photos.

“A lot of them are my family in Greece and of my dad when he used to work in Sioux Lookout as a forest fire fighter,” she says.

“There are photos of my great-grandmother, my Papu’s mom. She had to go back to Greece during the time that the photos were taken and she’s passed away now.”

She says her grandparents will be thrilled to have them. Rojas says she knew they were important to someone.

“I’m an immigrant to Canada, and when I came from Columbia I didn’t have all my family photos,” Rojas says.

“I also got a CD of family photos from my uncle a few years ago, so I was thinking of that, that is was important to someone.”

Kourtsidis’ father dropped the card at the corner of Argyle and Ossington in April when they were out for dinner. She says her father is very happy to have them back.

“It’s incredible! My dad couldn’t believe the amount of effort that she went to, to identify the house and find my family,” she says.

“They’re such old photos that I imagine the task would be very difficult. My grandparents look nothing like that now and my parents don’t look like that anymore. My dad thought it was really impressive and a really nice act of kindness. It’s really pleasant surprise.”

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