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Trump taps conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

JULIE PACE AND MARK SHERMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 1st, 2017

President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a fast-rising conservative judge with a writer’s flair, to the Supreme Court Tuesday night, setting up a fierce fight with Democrats over a jurist who could shape America’s legal landscape for decades to come.

At 49, Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in a quarter-century. He’s known on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for clear, colloquial writing, advocacy for court review of government regulations, defence of religious freedom and skepticism toward law enforcement.

“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump declared, announcing the nomination in his first televised prime-time address from the White House.

Gorsuch’s nomination was cheered by conservatives wary of Trump’s own fluid ideology. If confirmed by the Senate, he will fill the seat left vacant by the death last year of Antonin Scalia, long the right’s most powerful voice on the high court.

With Scalia’s wife, Maureen, sitting in the audience, Trump took care to praise the late justice. Gorsuch followed, calling Scalia a “lion of the law.”

Gorsuch thanked Trump for entrusting him with “a most solemn assignment.” Outlining his legal philosophy, he said: “It is the rule of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge.”

Some Democrats, still smarting over Trump’s unexpected victory in the presidential election, have vowed to mount a vigorous challenge to nearly any nominee to what they view as the court’s “stolen seat.” President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy after Scalia’s death, but Senate Republicans refused to consider the pick, saying the seat should be filled only after the November election.

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said he has “serious doubts” that Gorsuch is within what Democrats consider the legal mainstream, saying he “hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent justice on the court.”

Trump’s choice of Gorsuch marks perhaps the most significant decision of his young presidency, one with ramifications that could last long after he leaves office. After a reality television buildup to Tuesday’s announcement — including a senior Trump adviser saying more than one court candidate was heading to Washington ahead of the event— the actual reveal was traditional and drama-free.

For some Republicans, the prospect of filling one or more Supreme Court seats over the next four years has helped ease their concerns about Trump’s experience and temperament. Three justices are in their late 70s and early 80s, and a retirement would offer Trump the opportunity to cement conservative dominance of the court for many years.

Gorsuch would restore the court to the conservative tilt it held with Scalia on the bench. But he is not expected to call into question high-profile rulings on abortion, gay marriage and other issues in which the court has been divided 5-4 in recent years.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would join the court that is often the final arbiter for presidential policy. Justices upheld Obama’s signature health care law in 2012 and could eventually hear arguments over Trump’s controversial refugee and immigration executive order.

Gorsuch’s writings outside the court offer insight into his conservative leanings. He lashed out at liberals in a 2005 opinion piece for National Review, written before he became a federal judge.

“American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means for effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education,” he wrote.

Gorsuch has won praise from conservatives for his defence of religious freedom, including in a case involving the Hobby Lobby craft stores. He voted in favour of privately held for-profit secular corporations, and individuals who owned or controlled them, who raised religious objections to paying for contraception for women covered under their health plans.

The judge also has written opinions that question 30 years of Supreme Court rulings that allow federal agencies to interpret laws and regulations. Gorsuch has said that federal bureaucrats have been allowed to accumulate too much power at the expense of Congress and the courts.

Like Scalia, Gorsuch identifies himself as a judge who tries to decide cases by interpreting the Constitution and laws as they were understood when written. He also has raised questions about criminal laws in a way that resembles Scalia’s approach to criminal law.

University of Michigan law professor Richard Primus said Gorsuch “may be the closest thing the new generation of conservative judges has to Antonin Scalia.”

Gorsuch, like the other eight justices on the court, has an Ivy League law degree. The Colorado native earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in three years, then a law degree from Harvard. He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White, a fellow Coloradan, and Anthony Kennedy before earning a philosophy degree at Oxford University and working for a prominent Washington law firm.

He served for two years in George W. Bush’s Department of Justice before Bush nominated him to the appeals court. His mother was Anne Gorsuch Burford, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Reagan administration.

Gorsuch was among the 21 possible choices for the court Trump released during the campaign. Other finalists also came from that list, including Thomas Hardiman, who serves alongside Trump’s sister on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and William Pryor, a federal appeals court judge and Alabama’s attorney general from 1997 to 2004.

If Democrats decide to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination, his fate could rest in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump has encouraged McConnell to change the rules of the Senate and make it impossible to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee — a change known in the Senate as the “nuclear option.”

A conservative group already has announced plans to begin airing $2 million worth of ads in support of the nominee in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota, four states that Trump won and in which Democrats will be defending their Senate seats in 2018.

AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

Tolls now in effect on new stretch of Hwy. 407 and Hwy. 412

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Feb 1st, 2017

The free ride is over for drivers who use the new section of Highway 407 and Highway 412 east of Toronto.

The highways opened last June and motorists were able to travel free of charge while the tolling infrastructure was being installed and calibrated. But starting on Wednesday, motorists will now have to pay to use them.

The new Highway 407 runs eastward from Brock Road in Pickering to Harmony Road in Oshawa, while Highway 412 connects Highway 407 to the 401.

The government said the tolls will be lower than those on Highway 407 ETR.

The rates are expected to be 15 per cent lower during off-peak periods and 30 per cent lower during peak periods.

Motorists can use the same transponder that is used to drive on the privately operated Highway 407 ETR (Express Toll Route), but the revenue will go to help fund infrastructure and transit projects across the province.

One dead after shooting at Adelaide and George streets

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2017

One person is dead after a shooting near George Brown College in downtown Toronto on Monday afternoon.

Toronto police said the victim was found at Adelaide and George streets.

Two handguns were found at the scene.

Police said between 10 to 12 shots were fired. It is not known if the victim was the intended target.

A suspect fled the scene in a midsize blue car, possibly an Oldsmobile.

A description of the suspect has not been released.

George Brown College’s St. James campus was placed under a hold and secure, but it has since been lifted.

Canadians mourn victims of Quebec City mosque attack in vigils across country

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2017

QUEBEC – Roseline Bouchard wept quietly as she stood in the front row at a Quebec City vigil Monday just down the street from a mosque that was the scene of a deadly shooting that grabbed the world’s attention.

In front of Bouchard, religious and political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, condemned a massacre that left six men dead and wounded 19.

Behind her, a huge crowd of hundreds of people came together in the biting cold to grieve and to show their support for the Muslim community.

Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Laval University student, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

At vigils across Canada on Monday, thousands of people stood in solidarity with Muslims.

Earlier in the day, Bouchard, a Muslim, said she offered her support directly to the wives of four men who were gunned down in the attack during prayers in the city’s Ste-Foy area.

The husbands of three of the women she met Monday died from their injuries. The other man, she added, was hit by five bullets and was fighting for his life.

“We hugged, we kissed, we were all sisters in humanity,” said Bouchard, who’s concerned about the future. “It’s not easy — there’s a lot of work to do to rebuild the bridge between people. … The hatred has to end.”

From the stage, Trudeau said the first names of each of the victims. He told the crowd that Muslim Canadians are valued members of every community.

“The six men who were killed and all the others who were wounded do not represent a threat — they were ordinary Canadians like us all,” said Trudeau, whose eyes welled up as religious leaders spoke.

“Unspeakable cruelty and violence perpetrated on those who came together in friendship and in faith. We stand with you, we love you and we support you.”

The Quebec City vigil, which was followed by a march, was one of many events held across Canada.

In Montreal, subway entrances and streets were swarmed as several thousand people made their way to a vigil.

Many carried candles and openly wept as local Muslim speakers went onstage to denounce Islamophobia. Others carried signs and stood atop a snowbank chanting anti-racist slogans as a crowd cheered below.

“I’m very sad but it calms me and gives me hope to see our co-citizens share our pain,” said Behnas, who held a sign that read: “I’m Muslim, I’m Canadian, I’m a Quebecer and I’m sad.”

On Parliament Hill, Gov. Gen. David Johnston addressed a gathering of hundreds of people on a frigid night. He said Canadians must come together.

The crowd stood silently as the names of the six people killed in the attack were read aloud.

In Halifax, hundreds turned out in front of city hall — a gathering spot illuminated by candles. People stood silently in tribute.

Visibly emotional, Mayor Mike Savage told the crowd that he was “heartbroken” by the senseless act of violence in Quebec City.

“It’s just a chance to light a candle and let people know we will not be defeated by these kind of acts,” Savage said of the gathering.

The crowd observed a moment of silence before a lone trumpeter softly played “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as a tribute.

Imam Syed Shah told the crowd the killings during prayer at the mosque were a “cowardly act.”

“I thank all of you for coming out with a candle in your hands to show solidarity and to show that we condemn these kind of terrorist attacks,” he said.

In Western Canada, hundreds turned out at vigils in large cities including Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary.

In Winnipeg, support and prayers were offered, along with on offer from the Manitoba Islamic Association.

“Come visit the mosque and see what it’s like if you’ve never been here,” said Tasneem Vali. “We welcome you.”

In Calgary, where the flag at city hall was lowered in honour of the shooting victims, there were also expressions of fear.

“I’m very horrified and quite concerned about the well-being of Canadian Muslims and the safety and security of our mosques and our women and our children and our men,” said Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy.

Calgary police have increased their patrols of local mosques but said they have received no specific threats.

“We stand with the community during this difficult time,” said acting deputy chief Cliff O’Brien, who said patrol members were asked to stop by mosques that morning if they had time. “For those worshippers, what it does is, I think, it lets them know that we do care and that we’re out there and that increased presence is a good thing.”

In Regina, shouts of “We love you” and “We stand with you” were heard as speakers addressed the crowd.

Russell Mitchell-Walker, a United Church minister, was there to show his support to the Muslim community: “I have a very important belief that faith is really important, and it doesn’t matter what kind of faith.”

Back in Quebec City, Asma Nisabour, who moved from Morocco 10 years ago, was encouraged to see so many people at the vigil.

The crowd was so large that it spilled far beyond a large church parking lot and down nearby streets.

“It’s a good sign people are here,” Nisabour said. “It shows people reject any act of terrorism, any act of Islamophobia.”

— with files from CTV

Boy Scouts will allow transgender children into programs

Claudia Lauer, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2017

A New Jersey woman whose son was asked to leave his Boy Scouts troop after leaders found out he’s transgender said she has mixed emotions after the organization announced it will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enrol in its boys-only programs.

The Boy Scouts of America made the announcement Monday.

The organization said it made the decision to begin basing enrolment in its boys-only programs on the gender a child or parent lists on the application to become a scout. The Boy Scouts had previously held a policy that relied on the gender listed on a child’s birth certificate for those programs.

The organization’s leadership considered Joe Maldonado’s case in Secaucus, New Jersey. The 8-year-old had been asked to leave his Scout troop after parents and leaders found out he is transgender. But the statement issued Monday said the change was made because of the larger conversation about gender identity going on around the country.

“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement said. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Kristie Maldonado, Joe’s mother, said she had mixed emotions Monday night when a Boy Scouts representative called to tell her the organization would allow her son to re-enrol in his troop after he was asked to leave last fall. Maldonado said she would like her son to rejoin the Secaucus troop, but only if the scout leader who made the previous decision leaves.

She said Joe, who will turn 9 on Wednesday, has spoken publicly about the incident. She called him a “ham” and noted he had a big birthday party on Saturday with the mayor of Secaucus in attendance.

“I’m so grateful. I really am that they’re accepting and that there won’t be any issues. They (other transgender youth) won’t have to go through what my son went through,” Maldonado said when reached by phone Monday. “It’s a big change for everybody that all are accepted now … I’m so delighted that they finally called and they did say this, but I’m still angry.”

Maldonado said the earlier decision to remove her son from the troop made him feel different, and she wanted to make sure he knew the troop made a mistake.

The Boy Scouts said the enrolment decision goes into effect immediately.

“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” the statement said.

Zach Wahls, co-founder of the groups Scouts for Equality, called the decision historic.

“The decision to allow transgender boys to participate in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts is an important step forward for this American institution,” he wrote in a statement posted to social media. “We are incredibly proud of Joe Maldonado – the transgender boy from New Jersey whose expulsion last year ignited this controversy – and his mother Kristie for their courage in doing what they knew was right. We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing.”

Boy Scouts of America leaders lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015 amid intense pressure. The group had, after heated internal debate, decided in 2013 to allow openly gay youth as scouts.

The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has accepted transgender members for years.

Canadian permanent residents exempt from U.S. travel ban

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 30th, 2017

OTTAWA — Canada’s immigration minister says Canadian permanent residents from seven Muslim-majority countries targeted by a U.S. travel ban can still enter the U.S.

Ahmed Hussen says Canada has been assured by the White House that they can enter the U.S. provided they have a valid Canadian permanent resident card and a passport from one of the seven countries affected.

Dual citizens with a Canadian passport are also allowed into the U.S.

It was initially unclear Saturday whether Canadians who are also citizens of the affected countries would be allowed to cross the U.S. border, as the State Department said that dual citizens were included in the ban.

Hussen held a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday to try to clear up some of the confusion created by the American ban.

He says there are no people currently stranded at Canadian airports because of the ban.

The three month ban involves people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

 

Six dead and eight injured in mosque attack: Quebec police

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 30th, 2017

A shooting at a Quebec City mosque left six people dead and eight others injured Sunday in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “terrorist attack.”

Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe said 39 other people survived and that two people were in custody after the shooting.

Coulombe said a joint terrorism task force that includes provincial police, the RCMP and Montreal police has been deployed.

The victims are believed to be between 35 and about 70, she said.

One of the suspects was arrested not far from the mosque, while the other was arrested near Ile-d’Orleans, just east of Quebec City’s downtown core.

“For the moment, nothing leads us to believe there are other suspects linked to the event, but you’ll understand we’re not taking any chances and we’re making the necessary verifications to make sure there aren’t any,” Coulombe said.

Police would not talk about the type of weapon used in the slayings.

People come to show their support after a shooting occurred in a mosque at the Québec City Islamic cultural center on Sainte-Foy Street in Quebec city on January 29, 2017. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/ Alice Chiche

 

Trudeau issued a statement to denounce the incident.

“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge,” he said.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who have died, and we wish a speedy recovery to those who have been injured.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard also called the incident a terrorist attack and said the national assembly will lower flags to half-mast.

“All our solidarity is with those who are close to the victims, the injured and their families,” he said.

A live video feed on a Facebook page of the mosque showed images of multiple police vehicles and yellow police tape.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeted Sunday he is deeply saddened by the loss of life, his office says no motive has been confirmed.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard reacted on Twitter by calling it “barbaric violence.”

“All our solidarity is with those who are close to the victims, the injured and their families,” he said.

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said his thoughts went out to the victims of Sunday’s shooting and their families.

“Quebec is an open-minded city where all can live together peacefully and respectfully,” said Labeaume. “I urge the people to unite and stand together. Quebec is a strong city. Quebec is a proud city. Quebec is a city that is open to the world.”

The mosque issued a Facebook statement early Monday after confirmation of the six dead.

“All our thoughts are with the children who have to be told their father has died,” said the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec

“May Allah give them patience and strength.”

Neighbourhood resident Carol-Ann Andrews said such an attack was “pretty surprising” for Quebec City.

“My thoughts went immediately to what was happening in the United States with all the laws and all the immigrants that are not allowed to come back,” she said.

“Unfortunately there are people in the world whose minds are not totally OK so it could have given them an idea to get rid of other people. It’s pathetic.”

Asked whether she feels safe, she replied, “We’re not safe anywhere any more.”

Police blocked the area off, while a coffee shop stayed open beyond normal hours and served free coffee. The mosque is across the street from a big stone church

In Montreal, a vigil is planned for 6 p.m. on Monday night outside the Parc subway station

The mosque in question had a pig’s head left outside the building last June.

The head was wrapped in paper and accompanied by a note that read “Bonne (sic) appetit.”

 

White House: Nothing to apologize for on Muslim countries travel ban

The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jan 30th, 2017

A White House official says there’s nothing to apologize for after Friday’s executive order imposing a travel ban on refugees to the United States.

Chief of staff Reince Priebus says President Donald Trump acted early on in his term to block “people who want to do bad things to America.”

Trump is temporarily barring refugees and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Scores were detained Saturday upon arrival at U.S. airports, drawing widespread protests and a court order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting certain people.

Priebus tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the action “doesn’t affect green card holders moving forward” adding officials were using “discretionary authority” to ask “a few more questions” at U.S. airports.

Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to the President, says the emergency order “really doesn’t affect the executive order at all.”

Conway says Trump’s order is about “preventing, not detaining” and says that only a very small percentage of travers have been impacted.

Conway says that it’s a “small price to pay” to keep the American public safe.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief lashed out at Trump on Sunday, insisting that instead of building walls, the continent will “celebrate” every wall which is torn down and “every new bridge that is built up.”

Building on criticism from several national EU capitals on Trump’s decision to impose a travel ban on refugees, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said that “all men are first and foremost human beings, with their inalienable rights.”

She says in a blog post that “everyone deserves respect, beyond their faith, gender, and nationality.”

And she added between brackets “it feels so strange that we need to restate this, just days after Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

Meanwhile, Trump could find himself the subject of a travel ban. A petition set up on a British government website calling for the U.S. President to be barred from visiting the country has attracted hundreds of thousands of signatures, qualifying it for a parliamentary debate.

Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to make a state visit to Britain this year during her trip to Washington last week.

The petition on the British parliament’s website is titled: “Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom.” It says his “well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received” by either Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles.

The website says parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for debate.

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