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Health Canada ready to unveil newly revamped Canada Food Guide

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 22nd, 2019

OTTAWA — Canadians will finally see Health Canada’s modern spin on healthy eating today.

Health Minister Ginette Petipas Taylor will unveil an overhauled Canada Food Guide in Montreal this morning.

The guide is expected to have a bigger focus on plant-based sources of proteins, a change which has already sparked concern among industry players including dairy and beef farmers.

When the food guide review began several years ago Health Canada officials said the facelift would be based on input from scientists and health experts as well as feedback from Canadians.

They said they would not meet with industry stakeholders or base the new guide to healthy eating on research from food industries.

A document put out by Health Canada for consultation said most Canadians do not eat enough vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and many also consume drinks with lots of sugar.

It also said a shift is needed towards a more plant-based and fibre-rich foods, and that Canadians should eat less red meat and saturated fats.

The Canadian Press

6 Toronto schools top Ontario elementary school rankings

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jan 21st, 2019

The Fraser Institute has released its annual rankings on Ontario’s elementary schools and six Toronto-area schools top the list, down from eight last year.

The report card ranks more than 3,000 schools based on nine differing academic indications including the results of the EQAO tests, which including reading, writing and math.

There were 16 elementary schools that scored a perfect 10, including Toronto-based schools, Avondale Alternative, Havergal College and the Islamic Institute of Toronto. Northmount, Sathya Sai and St. Sebastian also topped the list.

Al-Risala Private Academy in Mississauga made it to the top of list once again.

Critics of the rankings have said it focuses too heavily on standardized tests and doesn’t really help students succeed in the classroom, but the BC-based think tank calls itself the go-to source for measuring a school’s performance.

It also says the annual report card helps to facilitate school improvement as “comparisons are at the heart of the improvement process.”

You can find the results on all the school rankings, as well as each school’s individual report card on their website.

Volunteers hand out thousands of winter survival kits to GTA homeless

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jan 21st, 2019

Thousands of winter survival kits were handed out to homeless people across the GTA on Saturday as the city braced for another frigid weekend.

Volunteers worked to package the 3,000 kits before they were distributed through over 200 social service agencies, homeless shelters, and outreach providers.

Each kit contains sleeping bags, clothing, food and health care items which Project Winter Survival says will give “street and shelter dwellers a fighting chance to beat the odds.”

Jody Steinhauer, with charity Engage and Change and founder of Project Winter Survival, says these kits can offer some marginal relief as the “growing plight of our city’s homeless goes from critical to deadly during the volatile winter season.”

Steinhauer adds they have received requests for over 21,000 survival kits, an increase of almost 60 per cent over last year. She calls the numbers “staggering.”

A City of Toronto report released in 2018 said an average of 8,715 people are homeless and there were 100 deaths among those experiencing homelessness.

At least two people, believed to be homeless, have died in Toronto since the beginning of January.

One woman was found dead in a clothing donation box, while a second woman was hit by a garbage truck while sleeping in a laneway near York and Adelaide streets.

Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter to call for end to delegated leadership conventions

ALLISON JONES THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 21st, 2019

As Ontario’s Liberals regroup following their electoral drubbing last summer, one of the few remaining elected members wants to give more people a say in how their next leader is chosen.

Mitzie Hunter will call on the party at its June annual general meeting to do away with delegated conventions and move to a one-member, one-vote system.

Delegated conventions are big, dramatic affairs, but they have also fallen out of favour with most other political parties, including the federal Liberals. They decided in 2009 to end delegated conventions and were the last federal party to do so.

Hunter said the move would take leadership decisions out of the back rooms and place them in the hands of every party member.

“I believe that the people of Ontario gave us as Liberals a very clear direction in the results of the last election that we do need to re-look at our party,” she said.

“This is a place to start, making sure that as we elect the leader of the party that the voices of all of our members who want to participate in that selection are heard. One member, one vote gives us that opportunity, moving away from a select group of people choosing who the leader is to every member that wants to have a say being able to do so.”

The Liberals went down in spectacular electoral defeat last June. They had held a majority government prior to the vote, but were left with just seven seats, not even enough to have official party status in the legislature.

Former premier Kathleen Wynne resigned as Liberal leader and the party is now helmed on an interim basis by John Fraser.

The party is talking about waiting until after the October federal election to hold a leadership race and will likely finalize rules for that process at its annual general meeting, set for June 7 — the anniversary of last year’s election.

Under the Liberals’ current rules for delegated conventions, each riding association elects 15 delegates, a few other delegates are elected, such as student representatives. There are also automatic delegates, including current and former caucus members, any candidates from the 2018 election and members of the party executive.

There are often multiple rounds of ballots in delegated conventions, with losing candidates making deals to throw their support — and therefore their delegates’ support — behind another candidate, until one person has a majority of support.

That system has run its course, Hunter said.

“We are in a space and time right now where we want to make sure that this party is open, that people feel that they have a direct choice in the leader that is selected — there’s nothing standing between them and that decision and that their voice is welcomed and it is respected and it is not going to be controlled by backroom decisions,” she said.

In rare move, Israel confirms attacking Iran forces in Syria

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 21st, 2019

In an extraordinary statement, the Israeli military confirmed early Monday that it attacked Iranian military targets in Syria, hours after carrying out a rare daylight air raid near the Damascus International Airport.

The statement was issued hours after Israeli missile defences intercepted an incoming missile over the Golan Heights in the wake of the airport raid.

“We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” the military statement said. “We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory.”

Until now Israel has largely refrained from public admissions of its covert military operations in neighbouring Syria, in order to avoid large-scale involvement in the eight-year civil war.

The Syrian military said Israel carried out intensive airstrikes with successive waves of guided missiles shortly after 1 a.m., but added that Syrian air defences destroyed most of the missiles before they reached their targets.

On Sunday, Syrian state media said air defences repelled an Israeli air raid near the international airport south of Damascus. State TV said Syria’s air defences “prevented” the attack from achieving its goals. It said Israel targeted six missiles on an area near Damascus International Airport, of which five were shot down and one diverted to nearby empty farmland.

Residents of the capital said they heard five explosions early Sunday afternoon, apparently the sound of air defences firing into the air.

The Israeli military had initially declined to comment on the airstrike, though it said a rocket fired at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.

Israeli warplanes have used Lebanon’s airspace recently to strike deep inside Syria, including attacking a warehouse near Damascus International Airport earlier this month, according to Syrian state media.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently confirmed that Israel has struck hundreds of targets in Syria linked to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, including a weapons facility two weeks ago. Iran and Hezbollah are allied with the Syrian government in the civil war.

Two hours after the reports that Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted a rocket fired toward the Golan Heights, Netanyahu, who currently is on a visit to Chad, said in a statement: “We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria and to harm anyone who tries to harm us.”

Earlier Sunday, a roadside bomb went off south of Damascus without causing casualties, state media reported. The SANA news agency said the blast targeted a military checkpoint on a main highway during rush hour.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors Syria’s war, said the bomb targeted the vehicle of a “security personality” that it did not identify. The Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said it was unclear whether the individual was killed or wounded. “It was not a random act,” he added.

Attacks have been rare in Damascus since Syrian government forces captured the last rebel-held neighbourhoods and suburbs of the capital last year. Bombings have left hundreds dead over the course of the nearly eight-year civil war.

In the northern Syrian town of Afrin, a blast aboard a bus killed at least three people.

The attack came on the anniversary of a Turkish military operation that evicted Kurdish fighters from the town and displaced tens of thousands of its residents. The town now is under the control of Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

The Observatory said three people were killed and nine wounded in the explosion. The Syrian Civil Defence, an opposition-linked group known as the White Helmets, said that the blast killed “martyrs” and that others were wounded and rushed to hospitals.

250 passengers leave frigid Labrador after being stranded for 16 hours

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 21st, 2019

The end to a gruelling 16 hour ordeal aboard a plane grounded on a tarmac in frigid Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L. couldn’t have come soon enough for one passenger who says he was left frustrated by the experience and wondering why it took so long to get help.

“You’re cold, you’re tired, you’re hungry,” said Sonjay Dutt, a professional wrestler who was travelling to an event in China.

“I’ve travelled for work pretty much on a weekly basis for the last almost 20 years, and I’ve never experienced something like this.”

United Flight 179 from Newark, N.J., to Hong Kong was diverted to the Goose Bay Airport Saturday night after a passenger experienced a medical emergency, according to United Airlines spokeswoman Natalie Noonan.

She said that after the passenger was removed from the plane and taken to hospital, a mechanical issue with the plane’s door prevented the aircraft from taking off. Noonan believes the door was unable to be shut because it likely froze in the wintry temperatures.

Noonan said passengers weren’t able to get off the plane because there were no border officials working overnight.

As the hours drew on, Dutt said there was little communication between the airline and the 250 passengers stuck on the plane, which became uncomfortably cold as temperatures outside plunged to nearly -30 C.

He chronicled his experience on social media, tweeting out photos and tagging United in several posts.

“At one point you have to roll with the punches. You’re at their mercy,” he said in a phone interview. “You’re just hoping that they can communicate with you as honestly as possible, and I feel like that wasn’t done.”

Dutt said food began to run low, but after about 10 hours, officials delivered food from Tim Hortons to the passengers, and some people were taken to the airport’s customs area to stretch their legs.

Mechanics arrived late Sunday morning and attempted to fix the door while the passengers were still on board. When the door repair proved to be a lengthy process, the tired travellers were moved to a rescue plane, which eventually left for Newark late Sunday afternoon.

Dutt said he’s a frequent flier with the airline and will be looking for answers once he gets back.

“This is unacceptable at all levels,” he said.

In response, Noonan said the company did “everything they could” to make sure the passengers were as comfortable as possible.

United officials will greet the passengers upon their arrival in Newark, she said, and will provide them with compensation – including refunds and vouchers – after their ordeal.

“We absolutely understand the frustration. It is a very unique situation,” she said.

“The airport they landed in was just not equipped to handle everyone that was coming in.”

The Goose Bay Airport could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Coldest day of the season so far in the GTA

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jan 21st, 2019

It is the kind of cold that takes your breath away and leaves tears in your eyes.

The GTA, including Toronto, remains under an extreme cold warning on the coldest morning of the winter season so far.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said the windchill was near -35 on Monday morning. She said exposed skin can freeze in as little as 10 minutes.

“A period of severely cold wind chills is expected,” Environment Canada said in its extreme cold warning, adding that windchill values of -30 to -38 will continue this morning.

The national weather agency said windchill values will hover around -30 this afternoon as the winds ease.

Although it will be mainly sunny on Monday with a high of -11 C, Taylor said the windchill will be near -21 in the afternoon. The temperature will drop to -18 C this evening with a windchill of -27.

The record low for this date is -25.6 C, which was set in 1970. Taylor doesn’t think the GTA will break the temperature record, but said it is “definitely the coldest windchill we have seen so far.”

In Toronto, the city’s extreme cold weather alert continues for Toronto. During the alert, the city activates various services to help get the homeless and other vulnerable residents inside, including more overnight outreach and a warming centre at Metro Hall. The warming centre is open by 7 p.m. the day an alert is issued and stays open until noon the next day.

Environment Canada said temperatures won’t be as cold on Tuesday as a “milder” air mass moves in.

Taylor said it will be mainly cloudy on Tuesday with a high near -5 C with around 3-5 centimetres of snow overnight.

GTA braces for bitter cold, blowing snow this weekend

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jan 18th, 2019

A special weather statement is in effect for Toronto and parts of the GTA calling for snow and bitterly cold temperatures this weekend.

“Much of Southern Ontario will be on the northern fringe of a major winter storm tracking south of the Great Lakes this weekend,” Environment Canada said in its statement, which was issued on Thursday.

Two areas of the GTA — Oakville and Burlington — are under a winter storm watch as “winter storm conditions possible Saturday.”

Although some snow fell in the GTA on Friday, the brunt of winter weather will hit the region starting Saturday and taper off by nightfall.

The national weather agency said the accumulation will be around 5-10 centimetres near Lake Ontario and up to five centimetres north of Highway 7.

There is also the risk of blowing snow with the winds gusting to 50 km/h. The strong wind will result in windchill values between -20 and -30.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said the snow will start late Saturday morning with around 8-10 centimetres for Toronto.

Burlington and Oakville could get up to 15 centimetres of snow, while more than 15 centimetres is possible for Hamilton and the Niagara area. Hamilton and Niagara are under a winter storm warning.

In the GTA, the high will be near -10 C but it will feel like -20 C to -25 C with the wind.

CityNews weather specialist Frank Ferragine said the snow will start in the GTA mid-morning and stick around until early Sunday.

Taylor said cold and windy conditions, along with blowing snow, will continue into Sunday. The high on that day will be near -15 C with a teeth-chattering windchill near -30.

Environment Canada said the extreme cold is expected to continue into Monday morning. If you think the cold winds will be unbearable this weekend, Taylor said the windchill for Monday will be near -35. Brrrr ….

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