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Dogs can deceive to get what they want, study finds

STELLA ACQUISTO | posted Friday, Mar 17th, 2017

Does your dog have the ability to deceive you to get what it wants? According to a study published in Animal Cognition, it does.

The Swiss study was conducted on a number of dogs of different breeds.

The animals were introduced to two women. One was cooperative; the other, competitive.

During the test, researchers placed three boxes before the dogs — one with food they liked, one with food they disliked and one empty.

On the first day, when the dogs led the women to the preferred food box, the cooperative woman gave the dog the food, while the competitive woman kept it for herself.

On the second day, researchers found the dogs would often lead the competitive woman to the empty box and the cooperative woman to the food.

The author of the study went on to suggest dogs are able to “adjust their behaviour and that they are able to use tactical deception.”

Owner and head trainer Caryn Liles at the Toronto Centre for Canine Education said such behaviour is natural for canines, but she doesn’t think they have the ability to be deceptive.

“I think the wording was interesting,” she said. “Dogs have the intelligence level of a two- to three-year-old child.

“They lack things like spite and guilt and they don’t have a moral compass, which we often mistake … So, it’s not that they are lying because they don’t have that moral compass, but they operate on their environment in order to achieve whatever goal they have.”

Don’t let the mumps ruin your St. Patrick’s Day festivities

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 17th, 2017

Bars across the city will be hopping with St. Patrick’s Day revelers on Friday, some as early as 11 a.m.

But, before you share that drink with a friend, Toronto Public Health wants to remind the public that the mumps virus is still kicking around town.

The outbreak started last month after 14 cases were confirmed involving people between the ages of 18 and 35 who had visited bars in the western part of the downtown core.

Health officials would not release the list of the bars, saying it wasn’t the bars themselves that was the issue, it was the behaviour of the patrons in the bars.

The mumps virus is found in saliva and sweat and is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing and coming into contact with a person’s saliva by sharing drinks or utensils or by kissing.

Since the initial discovery, the number of cases has climbed to 43, four of them in schools.

Toronto Public Health is asking the public to take the following precautions:

1) Check vaccination records for you and your child

Two doses of mumps vaccine (MMR, MMRV) are recommended for all individuals born in 1970 or later. Children receive one dose after the first birthday (MMR) and a second dose at 4 to 6 years of age as part of Ontario’s Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule; check your child’s yellow immunization card. Individuals born between 1970 and 1992 may have received only one dose as a child. If an adult is unsure about their vaccinations or has only received one dose of mumps-containing vaccine, a booster dose is recommended.

2) Watch for symptoms of mumps

The mumps infection causes fever, swelling of one or more salivary glands, loss of appetite, tiredness, and headache. If you or your child have symptoms of the mumps and are ill, please contact your health care provider and do not attend work or school.

3) Planning to travel

Ensure that your immunizations are up-to-date for you and all your family members before travelling.

White House resists GOP pressure, stands by wiretap claim

Eileen Sullivan, The Associated Press | posted Friday, Mar 17th, 2017

The White House on Thursday stood by President Donald Trump’s unproven accusations that his predecessor wiretapped his New York skyscraper, despite growing bipartisan agreement that there’s no evidence to back up the claim and mounting pressure to retract the statement.

Angrily defending the president’s statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Trump “stands by” the four tweets that sparked a firestorm that has threatened Trump’s credibility with lawmakers. Spicer denounced reporters for taking the president’s words too literally and suggested lawmakers were basing their assessments on incomplete information.

Spicer’s comments were a rebuttal to the top two members of the Senate intelligence committee, who released a statement earlier Thursday declaring there is no indication that Trump Tower was “the subject of surveillance” by the U.S. government before or after the 2016 election. Spicer suggested the statement from Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., was made without a full review of the evidence or, incorrectly, a briefing from the Justice Department.

“They are not findings,” he said.

Related stories:

House intel leaders see no evidence supporting Trump’s wiretap claim
Conway suggests surveillance of Trump went beyond phones
Obama denies unfounded Trump claim president had phones wiretapped

The standoff between the White House and lawmakers came four days before FBI Director James Comey is slated to testify before Congress, when he will inevitably be asked whether the president’s accusations are accurate. The White House’s refusal to back down raised the stakes for Comey’s appearance before the intelligence committee on Monday.

Trump tweeted earlier this month that President Barack Obama “was tapping my phones in October” and compared the incident to “Nixon/Watergate” and “McCarthyism.”

Trump, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, said he’d learned about the alleged wiretapping from news reports referencing intercepted communications, despite the fact that he and his advisers have publicly denounced stories about government agencies reviewing contacts between Trump associates and Russians.

Trump said there would be “some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”

In the two weeks since the tweets, the White House has tried to soften the statement, but not disavowed it.

Spicer on Thursday asserted that Trump meant to broadly refer to “surveillance,” rather than a phone wiretap.

“The president’s already been very clear that he didn’t mean specifically wiretapping,” he said.

In an attempt to bolster his case, the spokesman spent nearly 10 minutes angrily reading from news reports which he said pointed to possible evidence of surveillance. The list included a report from The New York Times, which Trump has dubbed “fake news,” as well as conservative commentary, a little-known blog and several reports based on anonymous sources, which Trump has said cannot be believed.

Among the items he quoted from was a transcript of a recent appearance by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano on the network, in which Napolitano suggested GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, had helped with the alleged tapping. Obama, he claimed, “went outside the chain of command” so there were “no American fingerprints on this.”

The agency, which rarely comments on allegations about intelligence matters, flatly denied the claim, responding with a statement calling the allegations “nonsense.”

“They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” read the statement, which was issued on condition that it be attributed to an anonymous spokesperson to protect the identity of agency staff.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the senators’ statements Thursday.

Burr and Warner were among eight senior congressional leaders briefed by Comey on March 10. A Senate aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the senators’ private briefings, said Spicer was incorrect in claiming Burr and Warner had not been briefed on the matter.

“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” Burr and Warner said in a one-sentence joint statement Thursday afternoon.

The phrasing of the statement left open the possibility that tenants or employees working in the tower may have been monitored. In response to Trump’s claims and a request from the House intelligence committee, the Justice Department is doing its own review of whether Trump or any of his associates were the subject of surveillance. The department is slated to provide a response to the committee by Monday.

Burr and Warner are leading one of three congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including whether Trump associates were in contact with the Kremlin.

The senators joined a growing, bipartisan group of lawmakers who have publicly disputed Trump’s accusation in the lead up to Comey’s testimony.

Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin pushed back on the accusations as well.

“We’ve cleared that up,” Ryan said, adding that he’d received a briefing and seen no evidence of Trump’s wiretap claims.

But the issue is unlikely to pass as quickly as some Republicans hope.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday that he still believes the FBI or Justice Department should comment publicly in “a simple statement that goes to the heart of the matter – without jeopardizing classified information.”

“I believe such a statement would serve the public well, and I fear that without an official answer this issue will continue to linger,” Graham said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had not given Trump any reason to believe he was wiretapped by Obama. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he had seen no information to support the claim and then went further. He suggested the U.S. president’s assertion should not be taken at face value.

“Are you going to take the tweets literally?” Nunes said. “If so, clearly the president was wrong.”

Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Student fined $25,000 for accessing personal health info

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 17th, 2017

An Ontario student has been fined $25,000 for accessing personal health information, which provincial officials say is the highest penalty of its kind ever in Canada.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office says the masters of social work student was on an educational placement with a family health team in Central Huron when she accessed the information without authorization.

A statement says the student, who was not named, pleaded guilty to accessing the personal health information of five individuals contrary to the Personal Health Information Protection Act.

As part of her plea she acknowledged she accessed the personal health information of 139 individuals between September 9, 2014 and March 5, 2015.

The commissioner’s office says it was told the person was illegally accessing the records of family, friends, local politicians, staff of the clinic and other individuals in the community.

The statement calls $20,000 fine and $5,000 victim surcharge handed to the student the highest fine to date for a health privacy breach in Canada and Ontario Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish hopes it sends a message.

“Health care professionals need to know that this kind of behaviour, whether it’s snooping out of curiosity or for personal gain, is completely unacceptable and has serious consequences,” Beamish said in a statement. “Patient privacy is vital if Ontarians are to have confidence in their health care system.”

Canadian-Kazakh national among 4 charged in Yahoo breach

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Mar 16th, 2017

A Canadian man of Kazakh origins has been arrested in Ontario as one of four suspects in a massive hack of Yahoo emails, Toronto police said Wednesday.

Karim Baratov, 22, was taken into custody in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday at the request of American authorities, a police spokesman said.

“Our job was to locate and arrest one of the people,” Mark Pugash told The Canadian Press. “We did that safely without incident.”

In a release, the U.S. Department of Justice said a grand jury in California has indicted Baratov and three others, two of them allegedly officers of the Russian Federal Security Service, for computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offences.

According to the department, the four are alleged to have hacked into Yahoo’s systems and stolen information from more than 500 million user accounts.

“(They) then used some of that stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies,” the department alleged.

“One of the defendants also exploited his access to Yahoo’s network for his personal financial gain, by searching user communications for credit-card and gift-card account numbers.”

Officials alleged the conspiracy began in January 2014.

Toronto officers were involved because its fugitive squad has a strong reputation, Pugash said. He could offer no further information about Baratov but said the suspect had been turned over to the RCMP.

“This was a very large operation,” Pugash said. “Our job was that final part of it, which was to locate and arrest him.”

Mountie spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the RCMP assisted the FBI in its investigation.

U.S. officials said Baratov also went by the names Kay, Karim Taloverov and Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov.

Also indicted in the alleged conspiracy were Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, and Alexsey Alexseyevich (Magg) Belan, 29, all Russian nationals and residents. Dokuchaev and Sushchin are said to be Russian intelligence agents who allegedly masterminded and directed the hacking, the department said.

The charges against the four were announced by top American justice and security officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey.

“Cyber-crime poses a significant threat to our nation’s security and prosperity, and this is one of the largest data breaches in history,” Sessions said in a statement.

Belan, who had previously been indicted in 2012 and 2013, was named one of FBI’s most wanted cyber-criminals in November 2013 but escaped to Russia before he could be extradited from Europe, the department said.

Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., Yahoo was already facing a proposed $50-million class action on behalf of Canadians whose personal information may have been stolen. The company informed the representative plaintiff, Natalia Karasik, of Barrie, late last year that her information was part of a hack of its servers in 2013.

In September, Yahoo sent a mass email to users to inform them that their account information had been stolen from its network in a cyberattack in late 2014. The information included email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, passwords and security questions. The company said at least 500 million user accounts were affected.

Yahoo also faces class actions in the United States.

Correction: A previous Canadian Press story said Karim Baratov was arrested in Ancaster. He was taken into custody in Hamilton.

Former City of Toronto employee loses life savings, home in online scam

CityNews | posted Thursday, Mar 16th, 2017

Police say a former City of Toronto employee lost her home and life savings after falling victim to a sophisticated online scam.

In a release, police said the woman first lost $40,000 through a romance scam after she was duped into believing she was in a long-term relationship with a person who convinced her to “assist … with a series of falsified financial issues.”

Things would get progressively worse.

The suspects were then able to convince the woman to sell her condominium and hand the proceeds over in hopes of gaining “compensation” of $22 million, issued by the Nigerian courts.

Police said those behind the scam went to considerable lengths to sway the victim, including using the identities of real people employed by the FBI and United Nations and sending her fake news releases.

She was ultimately defrauded of an additional $400,000.

No arrests have been made and police are reminding the public to be vigilant.

Airbnb driving up rent in Toronto, group says

Shauna Hunt | posted Thursday, Mar 16th, 2017

Airbnb has launched an ad campaign targeting homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages, but a local coalition is calling on the city to impose stricter rules on the burgeoning short-term rental market.

While the hot housing market in Toronto has led to a short supply of rental units and soaring rents, a recent report by Fairbnb claims short-term condo rentals are also a big part of the problem.

“I think it definitely has (contributed to the rental crisis),” said Fairbnb’s Thorben Wieditz.

“The city of Toronto’s vacancy rate is 1.3 per cent — in some of the condo buildings and condo districts it’s actually below one per cent — and removing any units of the housing market will definitely decrease the supply and increase the demand, increase the prices, and make it more difficult for people to find a place to live.”

The city is about to begin consultations on the best way to regulate home-sharing. Fairbnb will be asking for restrictions that protect the rental market while allowing for legitimate homeowners, like CityNews cameraman Adrian Golombek.

Golombek said he uses Airbnb because he still has control of his house, whereas if he had a problem with a regular renter, he would have a hard time evicting the person.

“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to pay the bills,” he said.

“It’s a lot of work — it’s a lot of people coming in and out and a lot of cleaning. But I would say in the summertime, you could make double what you would make if it was just a regular renter.”

Faribnb supports a one host, one listing policy, which would prevent people from buying and renting multiple properties.

“There are about 12,000 listings in the city of Toronto, and one of the remarkable things we found … is that 16 per cent of the hosts that rent out on Airbnb have multiple listings on the platform at any given moment,” Wieditz said.

Those hosts in turn control about 40 per cent of Toronto’s Airbnb listings.

“The overarching goal of our policy recommendations is to put any available rental listing back onto the traditional rental market,” Wieditz said.

Meanwhile, NDP MPP Peter Tabuns will table a bill Thursday which would provide rent control for all Ontarians, including those in newer buildings.

Federal judge in Hawaii puts Trump travel ban on hold

Ben Nuckols and Gene Johnson, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Mar 16th, 2017

Hours before it was to take effect, President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban was put on hold Wednesday by a federal judge in Hawaii who questioned whether the administration was motivated by national security concerns.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson also said Hawaii would suffer financially if the executive order blocked the flow of students and tourists to the state, and he concluded that Hawaii was likely to succeed on a claim that the ban violates First Amendment protections against religious discrimination.

“The illogic of the government’s contentions is palpable,” Watson wrote. “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed.”

Trump called the ruling an example of “unprecedented judicial overreach” and said his administration would appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’re going to win. We’re going to keep our citizens safe,” the president said at a rally in Nashville. “The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.”

The judge issued his 43-page ruling less than two hours after hearing Hawaii’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the ban from being put into practice.

The ruling came as opponents renewed their legal challenges across the country, asking judges in three states to block the executive order that targets people from six predominantly Muslim countries. Federal courts in Maryland, Washington state and Hawaii heard arguments Wednesday about whether it should be allowed to take effect early Thursday as scheduled.

In all, more than half a dozen states are trying to stop the ban.

Watson made it clear that his decision applied nationwide, ruling that the ban could not be enforced at any U.S. borders or ports of entry or in the issuance of visas.

Nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2012, he is currently the only Native Hawaiian judge serving on the federal bench and the fourth in U.S. history. He received his law degree from Harvard in 1991.

In Maryland, attorneys told a federal judge that the measure still discriminates against Muslims.

Government attorneys argued that the ban was revised substantially to address legal concerns, including the removal of an exemption for religious minorities from the affected countries.

“It doesn’t say anything about religion. It doesn’t draw any religious distinctions,” said Jeffrey Wall, who argued for the Justice Department.

Attorneys for the ACLU and other groups said that Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and statements from his advisers since he took office make clear that the intent of the ban is to ban Muslims. Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller has said the revised order was designed to have “the same basic policy outcome” as the first.

The new version of the ban details more of a national security rationale. It is narrower and eases some concerns about violating the due-process rights of travellers.

It applies only to new visas from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program. It does not apply to travellers who already have visas.

“Generally, courts defer on national security to the government,” said U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang. “Do I need to conclude that the national security purpose is a sham and false?”

In response, ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat pointed to Miller’s statement and said the government had put out misleading and contradictory information about whether banning travel from six specific countries would make the nation safer.

The Maryland lawsuit also argues that it’s against federal law for the Trump administration to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. Attorneys argued that if that aspect of the ban takes effect, 60,000 people would be stranded in war-torn countries with nowhere else to go.

Chuang made no immediate ruling.

In the Hawaii case, the federal government said there was no need to issue an emergency restraining order because Hawaii officials offered only “generalized allegations” of harm.

Jeffrey Wall of the Office of the Solicitor General challenged Hawaii’s claim that the order violates due-process rights of Ismail Elshikh as a U.S. citizen who wants his mother-in-law to visit his family from Syria. He says courts have not extended due-process rights outside of a spousal relationship.

Neal Katyal, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Hawaii, called the story of Elshiskh, an Egyptian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, “the story of America.”

In Washington state, U.S. District Judge James Robart – who halted the original ban last month – heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which is making arguments similar to the ACLU’s in the Maryland case.

Robart said he is most interested in two questions presented by the group’s challenge to the ban: whether the ban violates federal immigration law, and whether the affected immigrants would be “irreparably harmed” should the ban go into effect.

He spent much of Wednesday’s hearing grilling the lawyers about two seeming conflicting federal laws on immigration – one that gives the president the authority to keep “any class of aliens” out of the country, and another that forbids the government from discriminating on the basis of nationality when it comes to issuing immigrant visas.

Robart said he would issue a written order, but he did not say when. He is also overseeing the challenge brought by Washington state.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson argues that the new order harms residents, universities and businesses, especially tech companies such as Washington state-based Microsoft and Amazon, which rely on foreign workers. California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon have joined the claim.

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