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Communications breakdown: Scaramucci ousted from White House job after just 11 days

CATHERINE LUCEY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 31st, 2017

WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci is out as White House communications director after just 11 days on the job — and just hours after President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, was sworn into office.

Hoping to turn the page on a tumultuous opening chapter to his presidency, Trump had insisted earlier Monday that there was “no chaos” in his White House as he swore in the retired Marine general as second chief of staff.

Not long after, Scaramucci, who shocked many with his profane outburst last week against then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, was gone.

In the words of the White House announcement, he was leaving because he “felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.” The two-sentence release concluded, “We wish him all the best.”

Earlier, in an Oval Office ceremony, Trump predicted Kelly, who previously served as Homeland Security chief, would do a “spectacular job.” And the president chose to highlight the rising stock market and positive jobs outlook rather than talk about how things might need to change in his White House under Kelly.

Trump on Friday ousted Priebus as chief of staff and turned to Kelly, who he hopes will bring military discipline to an administration weighed down by a stalled legislative agenda, infighting among West Wing aides and a stack of investigations.

The re-shuffling continued Monday with word that Scaramucci, on the job from less than two weeks, will no longer serve in the White House’s top communications post.

While Trump is looking for a reset, he pushed back against criticism of his administration with this tweet: “Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!”

In fact, economic growth averaged 2 per cent in the first half of this year, a pace Trump railed against as a candidate and promised to lift to 3 per cent. The stock market first hit a record under President Barack Obama and has kept growing. The unemployment rate, too, started to decline on Obama’s watch. And wage gains have been weak.

Trump on Monday convened his first Cabinet meeting with Kelly at his side, telling his team it is “doing incredibly well” and “starting from a really good base.” On how he would deal with rising tensions with North Korea, Trump said only: “It will be handled.”

Seated across from Trump was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has stayed on the job while Trump has publicly savaged him in interviews and on social media.

Kelly’s success in a chaotic White House will depend on how much authority he is granted and whether Trump’s dueling aides will put aside their rivalries to work together. Also unclear is whether a new chief of staff will have any influence over the president’s social media histrionics.

Former Trump campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, who was ousted from the campaign in June 2016, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he expected Kelly would “restore order to the staff” but also stressed that Trump was unlikely to change his style.

“I say you have to let Trump be Trump. That is what has made him successful over the last 30 years. That is what the American people voted for,” Lewandowski said. “And anybody who thinks they’re going to change Donald Trump doesn’t know Donald Trump.”

Kelly’s start follows a wild week, marked by a profane tirade by Scaramucci, the president’s continued criticism of his attorney general and the failed effort by Senate Republicans to overhaul the nation’s health care law.

In addition to the strains in the West Wing and with Congress, Kelly starts his new job as tensions escalate with North Korea. The United States flew two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force against North Korea, following the country’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test. The U.S. also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defence system located in Alaska.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that she hopes Kelly can “be effective,” and “begin some very serious negotiation with the North and stop this program.”

Another diplomatic fissure opened Sunday when Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. would have to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by several hundred under new sanctions from Moscow. In a television interview, Putin indicated the cutback was retaliation for new sanctions in a bill passed by Congress and sent to Trump.

Trump plans to sign the measure into law, the White House has said. After Putin’s remarks, the State Department deemed the cutbacks “a regrettable and uncalled for act” and said officials would assess the impact and how to respond to it.

While Trump is trying to refresh his team, he signalled that he does not want to give up the fight on health care. On Twitter Sunday, he said: “Don’t give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace.”

The protracted health care fight has slowed work on Trump’s other policy goals, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure investment. But Trump aides made clear that the president still wanted to see action on health care. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that senators “need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass something.”

Asked if nothing should be voted on in Congress until the Senate votes again on health care, Mulvaney said: “Well, think — yes. And I think what you’re seeing there is the president simply reflecting the mood of the people.”

The House has begun a five-week recess, while the Senate is scheduled to work two more weeks before a summer break.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Ferry service set to resume Monday to Toronto Island

NITISH BISSONAUTH | posted Monday, Jul 31st, 2017

Ferry service for parts of the Toronto Islands and Centreville resumed on Monday morning, as the island officially opened for the season.

“Our city staff … worked incredibly hard to keep people safe and to protect these lands so we could open as soon as possible,” Mayor John Tory said at the ferry docks on Monday morning.

Tory also thanked the Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), saying that “every single division, every available person, was working on this.”

For businesses impacted by the closure due to spring flooding, the opening is a huge sigh of relief. Captain Paul Dawson of The Otter Guy Water Taxi service is hopeful a return to business will help mitigate the losses he’s suffered so far this summer.

“It’s been really tough. I had to find other work,” said Dawson of his ‘dream job’.

“I didn’t think of doing anything else this summer. It’s my first year doing this and the island being flooded, it’s extremely disappointing”

Dawson says the water taxi businesses have struggled to stay afloat.

“This year we’ve had to do other things – Skyline tours, Ducky tours when the rubber duck was here – it’s been completely different. Wasn’t part of our business model, (but) we’ve had to adjust.”

The Island Cafe on Ward’s Island is hoping to make up for lost dollars after a slow start to the summer.

“It’s been a rough year,” said Max Kelly, a server at the café. “We think that because of the excitement of the island opening and people excited about coming over, when you miss something, you miss it so much when its gone. Now that its open, we think there’s going to be extra rushes of people coming over to enjoy the island.”

Access to the island has been limited since May due to unprecedented flooding, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1970’s.

The damage was so extensive that by the end of May, over 45,000 sandbags, a thousand meter bags and 27 industrial pumps had been deployed by City and TRCA staff to protect residents and assets on the Island.

Dejan Ristic, who lives on the island, says he’s never seen a summer without tourists until this year. While he says it’s a quiet and peaceful change, it’s about time people come back and enjoy the island.

“Not everyone can afford a cottage up north, this is the next best thing,” says Ristic.

According to a report by the city’s general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the flooding on the islands will cost the city about $4.88-million in lost ferry revenue and permit cancellations through the end of July.

Had the Island remained closed through the end of August, that would have resulted in an additional loss of $2.23 million

Mayor John Tory is expected to be on hand Monday morning as the first ferry leaves from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal for Centre Island at 8 a.m. Centreville is scheduled to open at noon. As for the water taxis, they’re planning on having extra boats to accommodate all the crowds expected to head to the islands.

10 Things You Need to Know 
List courtesy the City of Toronto

1. Services resume on Monday, July 31
Public access to the park, summer schedule ferry service and recreation programs such as summer camps will resume Monday morning. The first ferry will depart from the mainland to Ward’s Island at 6:30 a.m. and from the mainland to Centre Island at 8 a.m.

2. Get your ferry tickets in advance to avoid the lineups
Online ticket sales for the ferry service is available here. Island visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance to avoid lineups at the ticket kiosk at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Additional staff will be in place tomorrow to provide quicker service and help visitors navigate their way from ticketing to boarding.

3. Know when to go
The peak period for lineups at the terminal is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Plan your arrival at the ferry for outside these hours to avoid the crowds. Check with @TorontoPFR on Twitter for updates on wait times and ferry schedules.

4. Hit the beach, island-style!
All beaches on Toronto Island Park – Centre Island Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach and Ward’s Island Beach – will be open, however, some portions of beaches will be in a reduced state. Lifeguards will be on duty from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. (And remember, a portion of Hanlan’s Point Beach is clothing optional.)

5. Some areas may still be affected by flooding
Some areas of Toronto Island Park, such as Olympic Island, are still experiencing flooding impacts and remain closed. Signs clearly indicate areas that are closed and members of the public are cautioned to avoid restricted areas for their own safety.

6. There’s so much to do on the islands
Businesses on the island are expected to resume normal business operations on Monday. Centreville Theme Park will be open and details are available here. There’s also the Franklin Children’s Garden, William Meany Maze, canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals from The Boat House, wading pools, splash pads, fishing, bicycle rentals and more. The park also features restaurants, cafés and tons of picnic spots. Learn about all of the Toronto Island Park amenities here and plan your fun-filled visit. While you’re there, visit the new information centre on Centre Island for more program, service and other visitor information.

7. There are going to be crowds
Last year, there were more than 1.46 million visitors to the park, which is considered one of the gems of the city’s park system and one of the city’s most popular attractions during the summer. Many residents feel summer isn’t complete without a visit to Toronto Island Park and have been anxiously awaiting the reopening since May when the islands were restricted due to flooding. Warm-weather weekends typically see more than 20,000 people a day on the islands. Plan your visit accordingly.

8. Event permits will resume, but it will take time
Island park permits are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis and City staff will continue to work with permit holders directly to provide any available options for rescheduling or relocating their events if affected by the parts of the park that remain closed. Permits that cannot be rescheduled or relocated will be refunded through the usual process. Permit holders should call 311 for assistance.

9. They weren’t always islands
The cluster of seven islands referred to as Toronto Island Park were not always islands. They were originally a series of continuously moving sandbars and eroded stone from the Scarborough Bluffs that were carried westward by Lake Ontario currents. By the early 1800s, the longest of these bars extended nearly nine kilometres southwest from Woodbine Avenue, through Ashbridge’s Bay and the marshes of the lower Don River, forming a natural harbour between the lake and the mainland. The largest of these formations was connected to the city’s mainland until 1858 when a storm completely separated the peninsula from the mainland and the gap was not repaired.

10. Summer fun safety
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and bug repellent (with DEET) and pack extra if you’re going to be on the islands for more than a couple of hours. A light jacket is also a good idea because it can get chilly by the water, and no day trip is complete without a refillable water bottle to keep you hydrated.

They met on Jeopardy! Interest in teachers’ love story ‘overwhelming’

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 31st, 2017

A New Brunswick teacher who married a fellow Jeopardy! contestant this month says she’s surprised by all the attention they’ve received – she says they’re just “a couple of boring nerds” in love. Maryanne Lewell of Saint John met South Carolinian Michael Townes four years ago during the quiz show’s annual teachers tournament, and kept in touch afterwards. Lewell and Townes are seen walking on Water St. in St. Andrews, N.B., on their wedding day in a July 7, 2017, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Shannon-May Photography, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
A New Brunswick teacher who married a fellow Jeopardy! contestant this month says she’s surprised by all the attention they’ve received — they’re just two nerds in love.

Maryanne Lewell of Saint John said she met South Carolinian Michael Townes four years ago during the quiz show’s annual teachers tournament and eventually fell for his charms.

Their July 7 wedding in St. Andrews By-The-Sea, N.B., was featured in the coveted “Vows” section of The New York Times. It was picked up by other media outlets from People to Martha Stewart Weddings.

“We are just a couple of boring nerds, who met doing something we love,” Lewell told The Canadian Press in an email this week from Texas, where the new couple is visiting family. “And while the attention and support has been wonderful and affirming, it’s also overwhelming. But it’s cool that people love our story: we love it too.”

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek sent them his congratulations, calling them ”winners in love.”

Lewell, who teaches history and social studies at Saint John High School, said she took the online test, and then auditioned and was cast in the 2013 tournament. She said the contestants all bonded off camera; she never competed against Townes and developed a rapport with him.

“Obviously when we were all in Los Angeles we were focused on the game. Being on Jeopardy! was a bucket list item for many of us, and we were all excited to share that nerdy dream with others who understood. Many of us kept in touch after,” she said.

“It became obvious to Mike and myself that we had a lot in common; and perhaps if we were in the same city we would already have been on a date. So we decided to try the long-distance relationship.”

She said Townes won her over by being a friend and “a good guy” during regular visits over a couple years. It may also have helped that they both have three degrees.

When he proposed on Canada Day 2015, she said yes.

She said The New York Times had never before profiled a couple who met on Jeopardy! — such hookups have happened before — and asked to cover their wedding.

Lewell has also been a contestant on the CBC Television show Canada’s Smartest Person, in 2015.

Townes has two children, so Lewell said she plans to move south to be with her new husband.

“They are still in school. That dictates living arrangements, though we have yet to run the immigration gauntlet. We are consulting now to begin that process,” she said.

Anger over tax dollars being used in Brampton hockey team bailout

CRISTINA HOWORUN | posted Monday, Jul 31st, 2017

The Brampton Beast is offering hockey fans a chance to own part of the franchise.

“It’s something very unique. I’m from the Toronto area, I don’t think there’s ever been a chance to own part of a hockey team,” explains Cary Kaplan, a part owner and the team’s general manager.

“You can’t buy the Toronto Maple Leafs as an individual or even as a group.”

“Valuations for teams like this are in the $5-10-million area, for the whole 100 per cent. It’s still a lot of money to buy even one share, we’re looking for people to buy five or 10 per cent.

A 10 per cent stake in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) team could cost you $1-million, but Brampton taxpayers are already footing part of the bill – whether they like it or not.

“We have a situation where gains are being privatized and risks, socialized,” explains Brampton Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon.

Last year, Brampton council agreed to give the club $500,000 a year for three years, in exchange for sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

“Council gave away a million and half dollars to a private, for profit organization that had poor planning and made poor business decisions and the evidence is clear that the team will likely never make money,” Dhillon adds.

In 2016, the Beast went to Brampton Council asking for an immediate cash infusion of $750,000 for operating costs, as part of a deal to cover the team’s projected losses of up to $1.5-million. The club had lost close to $4-million since 2013, when it launched in Brampton.

A staff report suggested the deal wasn’t in the best interests for rate payers, saying: “The purpose of the proposed partnership for 2016-2017 season appears mainly to be a vehicle or mechanism for City funding to cover the Club’s anticipated operating losses of up to $1.5 Million.”

“The Brampton Beast’s information does not show evidence of achieving financial break-even based on the key drivers of revenue already within the control of the
Club, i.e., tickets and attendance, suite licence, advertising, pouring and naming rights,” reads a report signed by Brian Rutherford, the City’s Director of Business Services.

“Based on the available information, it appears that funding losses in one form or another will be required for some time to cover the Club’s expenses,” he adds.

Despite city staff reservations, Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of doling out the cash – only Mayor Linda Jeffrey and Councillor Dhillon opposed the bailout.

“Bailout is the wrong word,” explains Kaplan. “It’s just like the City buys a park or community centre. Cities also invest in local hockey teams in every single city,”

And Brampton has invested. The City has invested about $20-million in the Powerade Centre, where the Beast plays. And while the Beast is outselling its predecessor – the OHL’s Battalion – and has seen sales growth year-over-year, it’s still only selling about 55 per cent of its tickets, and a staff report suggests only half of those seats are actually filled come game-time.

“We feel like we are getting there,” Kaplan says of attendance at the 5,000 seat arena. “Two thousand more people in an area like Toronto and Brampton shouldn’t be too hard to get. We think this community initiative will help us fill the last few seats.”

But Dhillon says residents are questioning why tax dollars went to a private company in the first place. And now that the club is selling shares, shouldn’t the City get a stake equivalent to its investment?

“People I spoke to are pretty angry. Because that $1.5 million essentially has gone nowhere. It’s gone to a team that’s selling a 50 per cent stake. It could’ve gone to youth programs, senior programs, drug addiction, but now we’ll be seeing nothing,” he says.

“All we did in Brampton – just like in Toronto, North Bay, Belleville and everywhere else – is say ‘we’d like you to partner with the team’. So they’re a sponsor,” Kaplan explains.

Week-long police crackdown on rush-hour rule breakers begins Monday

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jul 31st, 2017

No standing, no parking, Tow away zone and No Stopping in downtown Toronto.
Toronto police are starting a week-long rush-hour traffic blitz on Monday morning, with a focus on traffic congestion and gridlock within the downtown core.

Along with parking enforcement officers, police say there will be zero-tolerance for those breaking the rules. Extra officers are being called in to issue tickets while traffic services will be towing away vehicles as needed.

More than 46,000 parking tickets have already been issued in 2017 with nearly 10,000 vehicles towed from the city’s rush-hour routes.

The blitz will end on Friday.

Canada pleased by U.S. decision to scrap border tax proposal

KRISTY KIRKUP, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 28th, 2017

A truck carrying wood goes through the customs checkpoint, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Champlain, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadian officials are praising a U.S. decision to drop a contentious border tax proposal, suggesting its death signals an open-mindedness in the Trump administration on open borders and free trade.

Canada is pleased to see the decision, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday, noting on Twitter that both economies prosper together.

From the moment the border adjustment tax was floated early this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Freeland and other Canadians vocalized concerns to key U.S. officials, added Freeland’s spokesperson Adam Austen.

“We are very pleased with today’s announcement in favour of open trade and open borders,” he said.

A border adjustment tax system had been contemplated in order to pay for lower U.S. tax rates overall without blowing a hole in the American budget.

U.S. officials said Thursday they’re “confident” such a system is no longer needed to reduce broader tax rates.

The remarks came in a joint statement from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, White House economics aide Gary Cohn, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady.

“While we have debated the pro-growth benefits of border adjustability, we appreciate that there are many unknowns associated with it and have decided to set this policy aside in order to advance tax reform,” it said.

Canadian government insiders seemed deeply relieved to see discussion about the border adjustment tax come to an end, suggesting the tax threatened to be more harmful to Canada’s trade with the United States than NAFTA renegotiations or protectionist measures on steel or in other areas.

The federal government lobbied hard against it, and insiders say Thursday’s decision to ditch the border adjustment tax vindicates their efforts.

Since Trump’s inauguration in January, a swath of Canadian officials including cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries have made 175 visits to the U.S. to meet with senior U.S. officials, Austen said Thursday, noting about 300 individual contacts have been engaged — including U.S. cabinet members, members of Congress and governors.

“These figures will continue to grow as Canadian senior officials embark on additional outreach to the United States in the coming weeks,” he said.

The first round of NAFTA talks starts Aug. 16 in Washington.

During a March visit to Washington, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said he found a lot of opposition to the idea of a border tax because it would not be in the interests of Canada and the United States in the energy market.

Critics of the idea warned it would have provoked a trade war, international sanctions and hiked the cost of American imports.

—With files from The Associated Press

Say goodbye to iPod Nano, Shuffle but Touch will survive

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 28th, 2017

File photo, from left, an iPod, iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle are displayed at an Apple store in New York. The company discontinued sales of the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in a move reflecting the waning popularity of the devices in an era when most people store or stream their tunes on smartphones. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
The iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle have played their final notes for Apple.

The company discontinued sales of the two music players Thursday in a move reflecting the waning popularity of the devices in an era when most people store or stream their tunes on smartphones.

The iPod product line still remains alive. Apple plans to continue selling its internet-connected iPod Touch.

Apple’s iPhone, released a decade ago, played an instrumental role in the demise of the digital music players that the company popularized with the 2001 debut of the iPod.

The Nano and Shuffle came out in 2005 as less expensive and smaller alternatives to the standard iPod.

Apple has long predicted iPods would gradually fade away as more people bought iPhones or other smartphones capable of playing music.

CNE midway ride shuttered after deadly accident in U.S.

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jul 28th, 2017

A popular midway ride at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) will not be offered this year after a deadly accident involving the same attraction at the Ohio State Fair.

North American Midway Entertainment, the company that provides attractions to the CNE, said in a statement that the Fire Ball ride has been closed as a precaution until further notice.

The announcement came after an 18-year-old man was killed and seven others were injured — two of them critically — at the fair in Columbus on Wednesday.

Video captured by a bystander shows the machine crashing into something and breaking apart, throwing riders to the ground.

The ride, which swings passengers back and forth as it spins them around, had successfully passed inspection before the state fair opened.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the accident.

A CNE spokesperson confirmed the ride wouldn’t be offered at the fair this year.

“We are saddened by the tragedy at the Ohio State Fair, and our thoughts are with those involved,” CEO Virginia Ludy said in a statement.

“Safety is a top priority at the CNE … We will continue to work with our midway provider, North American Midway Entertainment, to ensure vigilance in upholding our high standards as well as those of the province and the (Technical Standards and Safety Authority).”

The CNE said all of its rides are inspected daily by the midway company and third-party safety engineers during the fair’s two-week run.

The Ex will be open from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4.

With files from The Canadian Press

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