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Mississauga man facing more than 30 charges in alleged taxi scam

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Jan 21st, 2020

A 22-year-old Mississauga man has been arrested and charged in connection with a taxi scam.

Multiple incidents were reported to police alleging a taxi driver had switched out customers’ debit cards with a similar card from the same bank.

The original cards were then allegedly used for fraudulent transactions until the account was emptied or blocked by the card’s real owner or the bank.

On Jan. 4, Jerron Acosta was arrested.

Acosta has been charged with 31 counts of possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000 and one count of drug possession.

At the time of his arrest, police say Acosta was driving a 2016 Toyota Corolla taxi with licence plate CKMB 471 and a City of Toronto Taxi Plate #1484.

Police believe there may be other people involved in the scam, as well as other victims.

They are asking anyone with information on the case, or anyone who believes they may have been victims of a taxi scam, to call police.

Last year, five adults and one youth faced collectively more than 250 identity theft fraud charges in connection with an ongoing taxi fare scam investigation.

Trump impeachment trial to begin with rules fight, long days

LISA MASCARO, ERIC TUCKER AND ZEKE MILLER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 21st, 2020

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is set to unfold at the Capitol, a contentious proceeding to render judgment on his Ukraine actions as Americans form their own verdict at the start of an election year.

As the Senate reconvenes with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the rare impeachment court, senators sworn to “impartial justice,” the legacy of Trump’s presidency and the system of checks and balances are at stake before a politically divided nation.

A first test will come midday Tuesday when the session gavels open to vote on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for debate.

On the eve of the trial, the Republican leader offered a compressed calendar for opening statements, just two days for each side, as Trump’s lawyers argued for swift rejection of the “flimsy” charges against the president and acquittal.

“All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” the president’s lawyers wrote in their first full filing Monday. “The articles should be rejected and the president should immediately be acquitted.”

Democrats — as the House prosecutors practiced opening arguments well into the night on the Senate floor — vowed to object to a speedy trial as they pressed for fresh witnesses and documents.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned of a “coverup” with McConnell’s plan that could lead to back-to-back 12-hour days.

“It’s clear Sen. McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through,” Schumer said. He called the proposed rules a “national disgrace.”

The first several days of the trial are now almost certain to be tangled in procedural motions playing out on the Senate floor or, more likely, behind closed doors, since senators must refrain from speaking during the trial proceedings.

Senators are poised for only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, coming just weeks before the first primaries of the 2020 election, with four senators running for the Democratic nomination sidelined from campaigning.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, told supporters in Des Moines they’re going to have to “carry the ball” for him while he takes his seat in Washington. The Iowa caucuses are in less than two weeks.

At the White House, with the president embarked on a trip to the global leaders conference in Davos, Switzerland, officials welcomed the Republican trial proposal.

“We are gratified that the draft resolution protects the President’s rights to a fair trial, and look forward to presenting a vigorous defence on the facts and the process as quickly as possible, and seeking an acquittal as swiftly as possible,” said White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also be away for the proceedings, leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Poland and Israel to commemorate the 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz at the end of World War II.

House Democrats impeached the Republican president last month on two charges: abuse of power by withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine as he pressed the country to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and obstruction of Congress by refusing to co-operate with their investigation.

The Constitution gives the House the sole power to impeach a president and the Senate the final verdict by convening as the impeachment court for a trial.

The president late Monday named eight House Republicans, some of his fiercest defenders, to a special team tasked with rallying support beyond the Senate chamber in the court of public opinion.

McConnell is angling for a quick trial and acquittal, and with Republicans holding the Senate majority, the trial proposal is likely to be approved by senators in the president’s party. The Republican leader had promised to set rules similar to the last trial, of President Bill Clinton in 1999, but his resolution diverged in key ways, which may leave some senators from both parties uneasy.

After the four days of opening arguments, senators will be allowed up to 16 hours for questions to the prosecution and defence, followed by four hours of debate. Only then will there be votes on whether or not to call other witnesses.

At the end of deliberations, the Senate would then vote on each impeachment article.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah signalled in an email message to his constituents Monday night that he was on board with the the resolution put forth by McConnell, even as he said the allegations against Trump are “extremely serious — did the President abuse his office for personal political gain, and did he obstruct Congress’ investigation by blocking subpoenas?”

Romney is among a small number of Republican senators who want to consider witness testimony and documents that weren’t part of the House impeachment investigation, but the test of their votes will likely come later.

With security tightening at the Capitol, the House prosecutors led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff made their way Monday through crowds of tourists in the Rotunda to tour the Senate chamber. The White House legal team led by Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow soon followed.

The doors of the Senate chamber were closed to onlookers and the media during the walk-throughs. Four TV monitors were set up inside the Senate chamber to show testimony, exhibits and potentially tweets or other social media, according to a person familiar with the matter but unauthorized to discuss it by name.

In their own filing Monday, House prosecutors issued fresh demands for a fair trial. “President Trump asserts that his impeachment is a partisan ‘hoax.’ He is wrong,” the prosecutors wrote.

The House Democrats said the president can’t have it both ways — rejecting the facts of the House case but also stonewalling congressional subpoenas for witnesses and testimony. “Senators must honour their own oaths by holding a fair trial with all relevant evidence,” they wrote.

The White House document released Monday says the two charges against the president don’t amount to impeachable offences. It asserts that the impeachment inquiry, centred on Trump’s request that Ukraine’s president open an investigation into Democratic rival Biden, was never about finding the truth.

House Democrats in their initial court filing over the weekend called Trump’s conduct the “worst nightmare” of the framers of the Constitution.

“President Donald J. Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain,” the House prosecutors wrote, “and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress’s investigation into his misconduct.”

But Trump’s team contended Monday that even if Trump were to have abused his power in withholding the Ukraine military assistance, it would not be impeachable because it did not violate a specific criminal statute.

No president has ever been removed from office. With its 53-47 Republican majority, the Senate is not expected to mount the two-thirds voted needed for conviction. Even if it did, the White House team argues it would be an “unconstitutional conviction” because the articles of impeachment were too broad.

Administration officials have argued that similar imprecision applied to the perjury case in Clinton’s impeachment trial.

The White House also suggests the House inquiry was lacking because it failed to investigate Biden or his son Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was vice-president. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

Teenager dead after Scarborough shooting

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Jan 21st, 2020

A teenager has died after a shooting in Scarborough on Monday afternoon.

Police responded to a call for the sound of multiple gunshots in the Markham and Ellesmere roads area shortly after 3 p.m.

A teenager was located with gunshot wounds in the area. He was taken to a trauma centre via emergency run in life-threatening condition and was later pronounced dead.

Police said one person is in custody.

The homicide unit has taken over the investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the police directly and they can leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers.

Strikes closes all Catholic schools, some public elementary and high schools

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 21st, 2020

Catholic schools across Ontario will be closed on Tuesday, as will public high schools and elementary schools in several boards.

The union representing Catholic teachers is holding a one-day strike, while the other two unions are engaged in rotating strikes.

All three unions, as well as the one representing teachers in the French system, say they are frustrated with a lack of progress in contract negotiations with the provincial government.

The unions say class size increases and the introduction of mandatory e-learning courses are among the sticking points, but Education Minister Stephen Lecce says compensation is the main barrier.

Boards targeted Tuesday by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation include the Toronto District School Board, Rainy River District School Board, Simcoe County District School Board, Near North District School Board, Grand Erie District School Board, Trillium Lakelands District School Board and Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is also striking at the Grand Erie and Trillium Lakelands boards, as well as the Renfrew County District School Board and the Superior-Greenstone District School Board.

Prince Harry: ‘No other option’ but to cut royal ties

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 20th, 2020

Prince Harry said Sunday that he felt “great sadness” but found “no other option” to cutting almost all of his and his wife Meghan’s royal ties in the hopes of achieving a more peaceful life.

The comments were Harry’s first public remarks since his split from the royal family was announced earlier this month. Video of his speech was posted to Harry and Meghan’s official Instagram account.

Harry said he did not make the decision lightly and praised his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and the rest of his family for supporting him and his wife in recent months. He called the decision “a leap of faith” and said he hopes the move will allow him and his family to achieve a “more peaceful life.”

During his speech at a charity event, Harry framed the decision as being at least in part because of press scrutiny, saying the “the media is a powerful force.”

He said that he and Meghan intend to continue a life of service and that his love and support for the United Kingdom is unwavering, but added that he needed to shed the royal ties he grew up with.

“We’re not walking away, and we are certainly not walking away from you,” Harry said. “Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the commonwealth and my military associations but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.”

Harry and Meghan plan to spend most of their time in Canada. Beginning this spring they will stop using their “royal highness” titles and will lose all access to public funds once they stop carrying out official functions.

Harry made the remarks at a dinner to support Sentebale, his Africa-based charity supporting youngsters with HIV. He opened his speech noting that many in the audience had watched him grow up and said he wanted them “to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share, not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry.”

Harry framed the decision to leave as his own, made on behalf of Meghan and their young son, Archie. He said that Meghan shares his values and remains “the same woman I fell in love with.”

He spoke of both during his remarks, telling the audience that Archie had seen snow for the first time a few days ago and “thought it was bloody brilliant.”

He then turned to his relationship with the queen and other members of his family.

“I will always have the utmost respect for my grandmother – my commander in chief – and I’m incredibly grateful to her and the rest of my family for the support they have shown Meghan and I over the last few months,” he said.

Young girl seriously injured after being struck in High Park

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jan 20th, 2020

A young girl has suffered serious injuries after being struck by a vehicle in the High Park area of the city.

Emergency crews were called to High Park Avenue between Humberside and Glenlake avenues around 7 p.m.

The young girl was initially attended to by residents of the street before paramedics arrived on the scene.

She was transported to hospital in serious but non-life threatening condition.

It’s not certain what led up to the incident but the driver did remain on the scene.

Addressing the ‘crisis’ that is Ontario’s food waste problem

ERICA NATIVIDAD AND VICTORIA REVAY | posted Monday, Jan 20th, 2020

It’s Ontario’s two-million tonne problem: Prepared food being needlessly wasted with a large portion of it ending up in the province’s landfills.

But the problem doesn’t start there.

Mike Chopowick, director of policy and communications with the Ontario Waste Management Association, says almost half the food waste takes place before it even gets to your fridge or kitchen table.

“Starting from the farming process, the retail stage and then there is the food waste that people generate,” he says. “Food waste across Canada costs about $860 per person, so there is a financial incentive and there is the ethical issue of not using the food and feeding people that really need it.”

Feeding the hungry with some of that surplus food that comes from restaurants and food retailers is what Tony Colley is doing.

The Toronto entrepreneur founded B12Give, a mobile platform that redistributes hot food and take it to shelters within the hour. Colley says he realized how big of an issue avoidable food waste was for the city when he began working with a catering company. He says he noticed that hot food left over from events was discarded nightly and he wanted to find a solution.

“There is nothing like this in Canada which is why I decided to create this program,” says Colley. “Most of the rescue agencies work with manufacturers or producers and take food to a distribution centres and sort.”

There are about a dozen food rescue agencies across the country. Second Harvest is one of those organizations. The Toronto-based non-profit commissioned a world-first study in 2017 that shows the food waste realities of Canadians. The study was conducted by Value Chain Management and measured raw data from food industry practices rather than using estimates. It showed that more than half of the food produced in Canada is wasted and that the value of groceries landing in disposal sites and landfills is almost $50 billion.

All the food being sent to landfills is causing another challenge. Ontario is running out of space.

According to Nadien Kerr, manager of resource recovery within Solid Waste Management Services at the City of Toronto, in 2018, Toronto processed approximately 160,000 tonnes of Green Bin organic waste. Approximately 90 per cent of collected Green Bin tonnes are from residential sources such as homes, apartments and condos. The remaining 10 per cent is from the City’s non-residential customers, which include small commercial businesses as well as schools, city buildings, and charities. As for larger businesses and commercial operations, they have private collection not done by the City.

CityNews reached out to the Loblaw Corporation that owns over 2,000 grocery stores across Canada to see how they manage their food surplus. In a statement the company says, “currently, all of our Toronto corporate stores and many of our franchised locations work with local organizations to redistribute food to help people facing food insecurities in their community.” Adding that “in 2019, we also partnered with the Flashfood app, which provides customers the opportunity to purchase food items nearing expiration at a reduced price of up to 50 per cent off at select Loblaw grocery stores. Through this initiative, 4.6 million pounds of food was diverted from landfills last year.”

But experts like Chopowick say more needs to be done, calling food waste a “crisis” in the country.

“It’s our understanding the Ontario government has said they’re going to introduce a proposal to implement some sort of disposable ban on food waste,” he says. “We’d have to consider who the ban would apply to and what type of food would be covered by the ban and whether or not you’d want it across the province or just in large cities. In most cases, it usually takes four to five years to phase it in and implement it.”

As for the issue of food waste that comes from prepared food, Colley says he doesn’t think food retailers can ever become a zero-waste operations, but reducing the amount of food waste and reusing it to help those in need still helps.

“We all have the same mission which is food rescue. In the past two years I’ve rescued over 10,000 pounds of food which has served about 7,800 people across the city. Food retailers will never become a zero-waste facility. We know that but what I can do is to help them become a zero avoidable food waste facility.”

Disruptive week starts for elementary and secondary school students

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jan 20th, 2020

It will be a disruptive week for students and parents as both elementary and secondary school teachers stage several one-day strikes across the province affecting various school boards every day this week.

First up is the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario who will stage walkouts at York Region, Toronto and Ottawa-Carleton boards on Monday.

Tuesday will be the busiest day in terms of labour disruption with elementary schools in Grand Erie, Trillium Lakelands, Renfrew and Superior-Greenstone boards being targeted.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation is also set to stage a walkout on Tuesday which will affect nine provincial school boards including the biggest one, Toronto District School Board.

OSSTF President Harvey Bischof says this will be the last full withdrawal of services by OSSTF/FEESO members until after the “crucial exam period.”

Ontario’s English Catholic teachers also plan to hold one-day strikes on Tuesday which will affect both elementary and secondary schools.

Elementary teachers at Thames Valley, Rainbow and Rainy River school boards will strike on Wednesday and at Avon-Maitland, Halton, Niagara and Lakehead on Thursday before closing the week out with job action at the Ontario North East and Bluewater school boards on Friday.

ETFO President Sam Hammond has said the main issues in bargaining include classroom size, more resources for students with special needs, protection of their kindergarten program and fair compensation.

“(Education Minister Stephen) Lecce seems prepared to let his government’s damaging cuts to public education proceed instead of taking a responsible approach at the bargaining table,” said Hammond in a press release Sunday, adding that the government hasn’t returned to the bargaining table since their last session on Dec. 19.

“We continue to urge the Minister to get back to the table to discuss the critical issues that parents and educators care about.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced last week the Ford government would provide parents with children up to Grade 7 up to $60 a day for child care during teacher strikes.

According to the government, more than 100,000 parents have signed up for their Support for Parents program. Leece said the compensation would be retroactive for “qualifying parents to cover costs already incurred due to labour disruptions that have occurred during the current 2019-20 labour negotiations.”

Lecce said that should all boards across the province go on strike on the same day, it would end up costing the province $48-million per day.

The strikes are just the latest development in escalating tensions between the four major teachers’ unions and the provincial government, who have been bargaining a new collective agreement since the beginning of September.

Only the union representing Ontario’s French school system has contract talks scheduled with the government.

ELEMENTARY & SECONDARY TEACHERS JOB ACTION CALENDAR

MONDAY, JAN 20
ETFO

  • Elementary Teachers of Toronto
  • York Region Teacher Local
  • Ottawa Carleton Teacher Local

TUESDAY, JAN 21
ETFO

  • Grand Erie Teacher Local
  • Trillium Lakelands Teacher Local
  • Renfrew County Teacher Local
  • Superior-Greenstone Teacher Local

OSSTF

  • Rainy River District School Board
  • Near North District School Board
  • Grand Erie District School Board
  • Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board
  • Toronto District School Board
  • Simcoe County District School Board
  • Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board
  • Trillium Lakelands District School Board
  • Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board

OECTA

  • Teachers in all publicly funded Catholic district school boards

WEDNESDAY, JAN 22
ETFO

  • Thames Valley Teacher Local
  • Rainbow Teacher Local
  • Rainy River District Teacher Local

THURSDAY, JAN 23
ETFO

  • Avon Maitland Teacher Local
  • Halton Teacher Local
  • Niagara Teacher Local
  • Lakehead Teacher Local

FRIDAY, JAN 24
ETFO

  • Bluewater Teacher Local
  • Ontario North East Teacher Local

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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