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Trump uses State of Union to campaign; Pelosi rips up speech

JONATHAN LEMIRE AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 5th, 2020

WASHINGTON — Standing before a Congress and nation sharply divided by impeachment, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address Tuesday to extol a “Great American Comeback” on his watch, just three years after he took office decrying a land of “American carnage” under his predecessor.

The partisan discord was apparent for all to see as the first president to campaign for reelection while facing impeachment vigorously made his case for another term: Republican legislators chanted “Four More Years.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech as he ended his address.

“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump declared. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”

Offering the nation’s economic success as the chief rationale for a second term, Trump’s speech resembled a lower-volume version of his campaign rallies, offering something for every section of his political base.

But while he tweets daily assailing his impeachment, Trump never mentioned the “i-word” in his 78-minute speech. He spoke from the House of Representatives, on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the Senate one day later was expected to acquit him largely along party lines.

Pelosi, a frequent thorn in Trump’s side, created a viral image with her seemingly sarcastic applause of the president a year ago. This time, she was even more explicit with her very public rebuke.

Trump appeared no more cordial. When he climbed to the House rostrum, he did not take her outstretched hand though it was not clear he had seen her gesture. Later, as Republicans often cheered, she remained in her seat, at times shaking her head at his remarks.

Trump, the former reality TV star added a showbiz flavour to the staid event: He had wife Melania present the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, to the divisive conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer.

He stunned a young student in the gallery with a scholarship. And he orchestrated the surprise tearful reunion of a solider from overseas with his family in the balcony.

Even for a Trump-era news cycle that seems permanently set to hyper-speed, the breakneck pace of events dominating the first week of February offered a singular backdrop for the president’s address.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has presided in the Senate over only the third impeachment trial in the nation’s history, was on hand again Tuesday night _ this time in his more customary seat in the audience. Trump stood before the very lawmakers who have voted to remove him from office _ and those who are expected to acquit him when the Senate trial comes to a close.

The leading Senate Democrats hoping to unseat him in November were campaigning in New Hampshire.

In advance of his address, Trump tweeted that the chaos in Iowa’s Monday leadoff caucuses showed Democrats were incompetent and should not be trusted to run the government.

Among Trump’s guests in the chamber: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been trying to win face time with Trump, his most important international ally.

The president offered Guaido exactly the sort of endorsement he’s been looking for as he struggles to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. Trump called Guaido “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

“Socialism destroys nations,” Trump declared.

The president entered the evening on a roll, with his impeachment acquittal imminent, his job approval numbers ticking upward and Wall Street looking strong. He struck a largely optimistic tone Tuesday night, though even in past moments when Trump has struck a tone of bipartisanship and co-operation, he has consistently returned to harsher rhetoric within days.

In the closest historical comparison, Bill Clinton did not mention his recent impeachment when he delivered his State of the Union in 1999. In his address a year ago, Trump did remain on message, making no mention of how Pelosi had originally disinvited him from delivering the speech during the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.

Trump spent much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class, though the period of growth began under his predecessor, Barack Obama. And what Trump calls an unprecedented boom is, by many measures, not all that different from the solid economy he inherited from President Barack Obama. Economic growth was 2.3% in 2019, matching the average pace since the Great Recession ended a decade ago in the first year of Obama’s eight-year presidency

Trump stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.

While the White House said the president would have a message of unity, he also spent time on issues that have created great division and resonated with his political base. He attacked Democrats’ health care proposals for being too intrusive and again highlighted his signature issue– immigration — trumpeting the miles of border wall that have been constructed.

He also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.

The Democrats were supplying plenty of counter-programming, focusing on health care — the issue key to their takeover of the House last year. Trump, for his part, vowed to not allow a “socialist takeover of our health care system” a swipe at the Medicare For All proposal endorsed by some of his Democratic challengers.

Many female Democrats were wearing white as tribute to the suffragettes, while a number in the party were wearing red, white and blue-striped lapel pins to highlight climate change, saying Trump has rolled back environmental safeguards and given free rein to polluters.

Several Democratic lawmakers, including California Rep. Maxine Waters and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announced in advance of the speech that they would be skipping it, with the high-profile New York freshman tweeting that she would “not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her party’s official response and drew a contrast between actions taken by Democrats and the president’s rhetoric.

“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market,” Whitmer said. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs.”

___

AP writers Darlene Superville, Aamer Madhani in Washington and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.

Snow, ice pellets possible in GTA on Wednesday night, into Thursday

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 5th, 2020

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the GTA, calling for snow and the possibility of ice pellets starting Wednesday night and into Thursday.

“As this system is still forming in Texas, there remains some uncertainty about the exact forecast track and snow amounts. Right now I would peg this system to produce light to moderate snow amounts,” CityNews meteorologist Adam Stiles said. “There is also going to be a mixing line across southern Ontario where ice pellets could be more prominent, but that looks to be just south of us in the GTA.”

Snow is expected to arrive on Wednesday night and may mix with ice pellets, as there is also a risk of freezing rain.

“The first round of snow is expected to arrive after midnight early Thursday morning and continue into the morning commute. Snow showers will linger through the afternoon and we could even see a second push of moisture coming our way Friday morning with a secondary low developing behind the first system,” Stiles explained.

Around five to 10 centimetres of snow is expected to fall.

The precipitation will affect the morning and afternoon commute on Thursday.

“This system will require some on-the-fly adjustments as we get close to event, but the fact remains, travel on Thursday will be impacted and you should plan on giving yourself more time or adjusting non-essential travel if you can,” Stiles advised.

The good news is that the nasty weather is expected to leave the area by Thursday night.

251 Canadians on-board cruise ship quarantined after coronavirus outbreak

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 5th, 2020

A cruise ship carrying 251 Canadians has been quarantined off the coast of Japan following a confirmed outbreak of the new coronavirus on-board.

A statement from Princess Cruises says 10 people have tested positive for the virus, but none of those are Canadians.

It says the ship, with 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on-board, will remain under quarantine for 14 days in Yokohama.

It says Princess Cruises will continue to fully co-operate with and follow the instructions of global medical authorities and the Japanese government.

The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 24,500 people globally with 490 deaths reported in the Hubei province, the epicentre of the disease, and one in Hong Kong.

A Hong Kong official says more than 1,800 people on-board another cruise ship that was turned away from a Taiwanese port will be quarantined until they are checked for the virus.

1 dead in shooting on Danforth near Greenwood

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Feb 5th, 2020

Homicide is investigating after a shooting overnight on the Danforth.

Emergency crews were called to Danforth Avenue, just east of Greenwood Avenue, around 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Witnesses told 680 NEWS the victim had been inside a bar and went out onto the sidewalk to have a cigarette when three to four shots rang out.

Paramedics said a male victim was rushed to a trauma centre with life-threatening injuries.

The victim later died of his injuries.

There has been no word on suspects at this time.

Police have taped off the area while they continue to investigate.

Young man pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2011 crash that killed York officer

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Feb 4th, 2020

A young man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the crash that killed York Regional Police Constable Garrett Styles in 2011.

The man, identified only as “SK”, was originally convicted of first-degree murder in 2015, but the conviction was overturned.

An appeal court had ruled the trial judge erred in failing to caution jurors that they should consider the age of the accused and his level of maturity at the time of the incident in determining whether he knew his actions were likely to cause Styles’ death.

He has now been sentenced to two years probation with several conditions related to operating a vehicle. The original conviction had resulted in a conditional supervision order for nine years as the trial judge found he was already effectively serving a life sentence as a result of his physical state and that he had been rehabilitated.

The man, who was 15 at the time of the crash, was rendered quadriplegic in the crash.

A statement from York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffee says the Crown had consulted extensively with members of the Styles’ family who “felt very strongly they could not endure another trial.”

“While this result is not what many of us were hoping for, after eight grueling years navigating the criminal justice system and consulting closely with the Crown, this outcome seemed to best serve all involved,” read the statement.

“SK” had taken his parents’ van late at night in June 2011 to go driving with friends – despite having no licence – when Styles pulled them over in East Gwillimbury.

Court heard Styles sought to impound the van and repeatedly asked the teen driver to step out of the vehicle, eventually reaching inside to unbuckle his seatbelt.

The van then suddenly accelerated and dragged the officer about 300 metres before veering off the road and landing on top of him.

Ontario Catholic teachers on strike, also some high school, elementary teachers

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Feb 4th, 2020

Thousands of students will be out of class Tuesday as all Ontario’s Catholic teachers hit the picket lines, as well as high school and elementary teachers in select boards.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association is holding its second province-wide strike on Tuesday after holding contract talks with the government on Monday, but no deal was reached and no further dates for talks are scheduled.

Meanwhile elementary teachers will engage in their second day of ramped up rotating strikes, hitting more school boards per day than they did during the job actions they held over the past two weeks.

The escalation comes after three long days of renewed contract talks between the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the province broke off late Friday.

Today, ETFO is targeting the Avon Maitland, Durham, Hastings-Prince Edward, Lambton Kent, Peel, Rainbow, Thames Valley and Upper Grand school boards as well as Campbell Children’s School Authority, and is planning a provincewide strike on Thursday.

High school teachers will strike at the Lakehead, Lambton Kent, Thames Valley, Waterloo Region, York Region, Halton and Kawartha Pine Ridge school boards.

All four major teachers’ unions have been without contracts since Aug. 31, and are all engaged in some form of job action.

Unions are asking for wage increases of around two per cent to keep up with inflation, but the government passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years. The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting it in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights.

Teachers’ unions, particularly the three representing secondary teachers, are opposed to class size increases and mandatory e-learning requirements imposed by the government. The Tories announced last March that average secondary school class sizes would jump from 22 to 28 and four e-learning courses would be mandatory for graduation.

The province has since scaled back those increases, to an average class size of 25 and two e-learning courses, but the unions say that’s not good enough.

Man arrested for claiming to have coronavirus on plane, forcing it to return to Toronto

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 4th, 2020

Peel police have arrested a man for mischief after he reportedly told a plane full of people bound for Jamaica that he had coronavirus, forcing it to return to Toronto.

The WestJet flight, headed to Montego Bay,, departed Toronto around 10 a.m. and was about halfway there when the man stood up and told crew and passengers he had coronavirus.

The pilot radioed back and returned the flight to Toronto Pearson Airport. The plane landed at around 2:10 p.m. where the suspect was arrested.

The 29-year-old from Thornhill has since been charged with mischief. He will appear in court on March 9 in Brampton.

WestJet apologized to the 243 passengers affected by “this unfortunate situation.” They added the plane crew followed all protocols for infectious disease on board, including sequestering the man.

Peel police say they believe the incident was a prank and WestJet said the claim the man has coronavirus was “unfounded.”

Two flights were cancelled due to the incident on Monday and WestJet said they would be adding an extra flight on Tuesday, both to and from Montego Bay, for those affected.

Man stabbed to death in Mississauga

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Feb 4th, 2020

One person, believed to be a young man, is dead after a stabbing in Mississauga.

Peel police were called to the area of Sebastian Drive and Aquinas Avenue near Eglinton Avenue West just before 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. His name and age have not been released.

So far, there has been no arrest or any description released of a suspect or suspect vehicle.

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