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RCMP admits to using Clearview AI in online child sex abuse cases

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Feb 28th, 2020

The RCMP has confirmed that it is using a controversial facial recognition technology to assist in online child sexual exploitation investigations.

In a statement released Thursday, the national police force says its National Child Exploitation Crime Centre (NCECC) has been using and evaluating Clearview AI’s software for the last four months.

“The Internet has changed the way child sexual exploitation offences are committed, investigated and prosecuted and Clearview AI is only one of many tools/techniques that are used in the identification of victims of online child sexual abuse,” the RCMP said.

The NCECC says the software is primarily used to help identify, locate and rescue children who have been or are victims of online sexual abuse. It added that in 15 cases in which the application has been used, it has resulted in the successful identification and rescue of two children.

The RCMP says it is also aware that Clearview AI is being used on a limited basis by a few units within the force to determine its effectiveness in other criminal investigations.

The RCMP says it plans to speak with Canada’s Privacy Commissioner to help develop guidelines and policies that conform to legislation and regulations.

“While we recognize that privacy is paramount and a reasonable expectation for Canadians, this must be balanced with the ability of law enforcement to conduct investigations and protect the safety and security of Canadians, including our most vulnerable,” said the RCMP.

Recently Toronto’s Chief of Police admitted that some of their officers have used Clearview AI, but he did not disclose how many times it had been used or for what purposes. Mark Saunders said even though the application had been used within the force since October 2019, he did not become aware of its use until February 5, at which time he directed officers to stop using the controversial facial recognition technology.

Police forces in Peel, Durham and Halton region have also admitted having access to the software.

The Ontario Provincial Police say they have used facial recognition technology but would not specify if Clearview AI is one of them.

Clearview AI recently revealed it was the victim of a data breach. According to a report in The Daily Beast, the company said an unauthorized intruder gained access to its list of customers and user accounts but that the intruder did not obtain any law-enforcement agencies’ search histories.

The New York Times reported back in January that Clearview AI had scraped 3 billion images from the internet, including from Facebook, which is a violation of the social media giant’s terms of service.

Some Ontario high school teachers hold rotating strike today

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 28th, 2020

TORONTO – High school teachers are off the job today at more than a dozen Ontario boards as part of their union’s campaign of rotating one-day strikes.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation says the 16 boards include those in Hamilton-Wentworth and Ottawa-Carleton.

The union representing the province’s French-language teachers, meanwhile, is set to resume contract talks with the government today.

The new round of negotiations comes a day after the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association announced a provincewide walkout for March 5, citing unsuccessful bargaining talks earlier in the week.

All four of the province’s major teachers’ unions have been in contract talks with the provincial government since September.

Last week, they engaged in a province-wide strike that saw 200,000 workers off the job _ the first time since 1997 that educators from all the labour groups were on strike on the same day.

Blowing snow, snow squalls for much of the GTA

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Feb 28th, 2020

Weather advisories and warnings are in effect across the GTA and beyond due to blowing snow and snow squalls that are expected to hit much of the region on Friday.

Drivers north of Toronto have already reported dangerous driving conditions due to the snow squalls. There are also school bus cancellations in some areas — click here for a list.

Environment Canada has issued a weather advisory for Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Milton, Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton, which will be in effect for most of the day due to the inclement weather conditions.

“A well organized snow squall originating from Lake Huron will move across the area late this afternoon into this evening,” the national weather agency said in its advisory.

“At this point, it seems very likely this band will impact the afternoon/evening commute in the Golden Horseshoe from Oshawa to Hamilton. This band may also impact the 401 corridor from Oshawa to Kingston late this afternoon as well.”

The system could bring about two to five centimetres of snow in an hour, and drivers are warned to expect sudden changes in visibility due to the heavy snow.

Other areas of the GTA, such as Caledon, Newmarket, Pickering, Oshawa, Durham Region and northern York Region are under a snow squall warning. The national weather agency said lake-effect snow squalls will continue into Saturday.

“Snowfall rates under this band may reach or exceed five centimetres per hour at times. This snow squall is crossing Highway 400 between Innisfil Heights and Highway 89,” Environment Canada said.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said snow squalls to north of the GTA will sink south and affect Toronto and parts of the GTA with three to seven centimetres of snow throughout the day. She said the wind gusts could be close to 65 km/h at times with the windchill near -10 to -15.

Plane destroyed in fire at Buttonville, being investigated as suspicious

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Feb 28th, 2020

York regional police are investigating after an airplane was destroyed in a fire at Buttonville Airport overnight.

Emergency crews were called to the scene around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

Police said the plane, a 1980’s Dassault Falcon 50 Tri Jet, had been parked at the airport for several months.

No injuries have been reported and nothing else was damaged in the fire.

Reports from the scene indicate that a large hole was found cut into a nearby fence and that gasoline may have been used to douse the plane.

Police are investigating this as suspicious.

Hardest-hit China, South Korea count 938 new COVID-19 cases

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 27th, 2020

BEIJING — As the worst-hit areas of Asia continued to struggle with a viral epidemic, with hundreds more cases reported Thursday in South Korea and China, worries about infection and containment spread across the globe.

For the first time, the coronavirus has caused more new cases outside China, the epicenter of the outbreak, than inside the country. With Brazil on Wednesday confirming Latin America’s first case, the virus has reached every continent but Antarctica.

The United States, which has 60 cases, hasn’t been spared the fear that has swept Asia, Europe and the Mideast. President Donald Trump declared that the U.S. was “very, very ready” for whatever threat the coronavirus brings, and he put Vice-President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the country’s response.

As the epidemic expanded geographically, worries about the COVID-19 illness multiplied.

“The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Though the virus has pushed into countries both rich and poor, its arrival in places with little ability to detect, respond and contain it brought worry that it could run rampant there and spread easily elsewhere.

Major gatherings have been eyed warily, with schools closing, churches moving services online, food deliveries booming and many business conferences and sporting events cancelled. The Summer Olympics begin July 24 in Tokyo, and Japan’s top government spokesman said Olympics preparations would proceed and the games would go on as planned.

South Korea reported 505 more cases Thursday, bringing its total to 1,766. Most of the new cases were in the country’s fourth-biggest city, Daegu, where the outbreak has hit hardest and the national government has mobilized public health tools to help the region’s overwhelmed medical system.

The South Korean and U.S. militaries postponed their annual joint drills out of concerns over a viral outbreak that has infected soldiers in both countries’ armed forces, put many troops in quarantine and closed base facilities. Twenty South Korean soldiers and one American service member in South Korea have tested positive for the new coronavirus. South Korea has already suspended some unilateral field training, and the U.S. military was urging its personnel to avoid handshakes and large gatherings if possible.

But there are signs the virus is spreading further in South Korea, with 56 cases reported so far in the capital, Seoul, and 61 in the second-largest city, Busan. The country on Thursday also confirmed its 13th death; most of them are still in and near Daegu.

China reported 433 new cases along with 29 additional deaths. Thursday’s updates bring mainland China’s totals to 78,497 cases, and 2,744 deaths.

Of the new cases, 383 were in the epicenter of the city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December. Wuhan also accounted for 19 of the new deaths.

South Korea followed China in expressing dismay at travel restrictions imposed by other countries.

About 40 nations and regions so far have prohibited or restricted South Korean visitors, according to Lee Tae-ho, Seoul’s second vice minister of foreign affairs, who described such moves as excessive and said his government has been effectively utilizing its “world-best quarantine capabilities.”

But calls have grown inside South Korea for expanding its own entry ban, which currently covers only visitors from China’s Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital.

China has put Wuhan and nearby cities on lock down, many airlines have reduced Chinese flights, and many places have increased monitoring of arrivals from China, all resulting in far few Chinese arrivals around the globe. Lee said the inflow of Chinese into South Korea has been reduced by more than 80%.

In Europe, an expanding cluster of more than 440 cases in northern Italy was eyed as a source for transmissions. In the Middle East, blame was directed at Iran, which had 19 deaths, the highest toll outside China. Saudi Arabia said early Thursday it would ban tourists from places with confirmed outbreaks, including pilgrims coming for the Umrah or to visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

Shortly after Trump spoke about U.S. efforts on the virus, health officials identified what could be the first community spread U.S. case. The patient in California was not known to have travelled to a country with an outbreak or had ties to a known patient. Most of the previously confirmed U.S. cases had travelled to China, were evacuated from the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship, or were family members of those cases.

In South Korea, the largest cluster of infections was connected to a Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Health workers have finished testing 1,300 churchgoers who have exhibited symptoms, said Kim Gang-lip, South Korea’s vice health minister.

The church gave a list of its 212,000 members nationwide to government authorities, who plan to widen screening.

After many countries restricted travel from China to try to prevent the illness from spreading, China itself is now heavily regulating arrivals from abroad. State broadcaster CCTV reported South Koreans were being monitored after Chinese authorities detected fevers in five arrivals.

Province set to release report on Pickering nuclear false alarm

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 27th, 2020

Ontario is set to release a report today on what led to a false alarm being issued about a nuclear incident last month and the response to it.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones tapped the chief of Emergency Management Ontario to conduct an investigation.

The alert about an incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station was pushed to cellphones, radios and TVs across the province on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 12.

The emergency notification warned of an unspecified incident, but said there was no abnormal release of radioactivity and people near the facility didn’t need to take protective actions.

An all-clear alert was sent to cellphones nearly two hours after the original notification.

Jones has said the error occurred during a routine training exercise being conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.

Fire breaks out at Canadian Tire in Brampton

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Feb 27th, 2020

No injuries have been reported after a large fire broke out at a Canadian Tire store in Brampton.

Firefighters were called to the scene on McLaughlin Road near Bovaird Drive around 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

Officials said a passerby saw the flames and called 911.

Video of the fire shows flames and large clouds of black smoke rising above the building.

Officials it appears the fire started in the outdoor garden centre and then spread to inside the store.

Crews were able to get the fire under control and continue to extinguish hot spots.

There’s been no word on what sparked the blaze, or if it’s being considered suspicious.

Emergency crews are advising people to avoid the area.

Drivers facing messy commute with slippery roads, blowing snow

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Feb 27th, 2020

The snow plows and salters have been out all night, but it is still a treacherous drive across the GTA on Thursday morning.

A snowfall warning remains in effect for Toronto and the rest of the GTA. There were some school bus cancellations in the GTA and beyond — click here for a list.

Snow started falling on Wednesday morning but due to the above-zero temperatures there was not a lot of accumulation. The snowfall intensified in the evening and overnight hours.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said as of midnight, Pearson airport recorded 11.4 centimetres of snow — which broke the snowfall record of 10.6 centimetres set on Feb. 26, 1979.

Taylor said the GTA could get another five centimetres of snow early this morning. However, flurries are still expected to hang around for a bit. The region could another two or three centimetres of snow by the afternoon or evening.

She said although the snowfall warning is likely to end at some point in the morning, intense snow squalls are expected off Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Some of these squalls could extend to parts of the GTA at times.

Drivers across the region will be faced with hazardous road conditions at times with blowing snow, with wind gusts that could exceed 80 km/h.

Police have been busy across the GTA, dealing with several crashes that increased as the conditions worsened throughout the night.

Toronto police said that from noon Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday officers responded to more than 100 crashes with 28 people hurt but none of the injuries have been serious.

In a tweet just before 6 a.m., the OPP said they responded to around 180 crashes in the GTA over the past 12 hours.

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