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Ontario teachers plan second mass protest at legislature on Thursday

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Mar 4th, 2020

Ontario teachers and education workers are planning a second mass demonstration at the legislature this week.

Strikes by English Catholic teachers and Toronto high school teachers are happening on Thursday, and members of those unions plan to congregate at the legislature.

The teachers have told legislative security they are expecting about 15,000 people — which would be about half the expected crowd at a legislature protest last month, when elementary teachers were also involved.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is not engaging in any strikes this week, but the union has said if contract deals aren’t reached by Friday, they will begin a new phase of strikes effective Monday.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has not bargained with the government since Dec. 16. They were involved in informal, exploratory talks between Sunday and Tuesday, but announced they had ended on Tuesday night and no future bargaining dates had been scheduled.

Issues in this contentious round of education bargaining include increased class sizes, mandatory e-learning, seniority-based hiring rules and compensation.

Arson suspected in fire at Scarborough collision reporting centre

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Mar 4th, 2020

Police are investigating a possible case of arson after a fire broke out at a collision reporting centre in Scarborough overnight.

Emergency crews were called to the scene in the Lawrence Avenue East and Howden Road area, just west of Birchmount Road, around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Police said it appears someone smashed open the two glass front doors, dumped gasoline on the carpet inside the building and lit it on fire.

The suspects then fled the area.

Officials said the fire was knocked down quickly and the building was ventilated to get all the smoke out.

No suspect description has been released.

Bank of Canada expected to cut interest rate amid coronavirus concerns

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Mar 4th, 2020

The Bank of Canada will announce Wednesday morning its trend-setting interest rate amid economic concerns stemming from the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In January, governor Stephen Poloz opened the door to a possible interest rate cut if weakness in the economy was more persistent than expected.

But that was before COVID-19, as the virus is named, spread to more countries outside of China, disrupting global supply chains and shaving forecasts for economic growth in Canada and elsewhere.

Economists are widely forecasting the bank will cut its rate today following an unexpected 0.5 percentage point cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday to its rate as an emergency economic measure.

The central bank is expected to cut its rate by one-quarter of a point and leave open the possibility of mirroring the American cut of half a percentage point.

Markets had already baked in at least one rate cut this year, but now forecasts peg today’s decision as the first of what could be multiple reductions to the central bank’s key interest rate target, which stands at 1.75 per cent.

TCDSB cancels all trips to Europe over COVID-19 concerns

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Mar 4th, 2020

The Toronto Catholic District School Board says it’s cancelling all trips to Europe over concerns about the novel coronavirus.

The board issued a statement saying parents had been expressing worries about the trips as the number of global cases of the virus known as COVID-19 continues to climb.

Yesterday, officials in Ontario reported two new cases in the province, bringing the total to 20.

A total of 33 cases have been confirmed across the country.

Super Tuesday test: Biden looks to blunt Sanders’ momentum


The dizzying fight for the Democratic presidential nomination reaches a critical juncture on Tuesday as millions of voters from Maine to California head to the polls. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has energized liberals and young voters, is seeking to pull away from the rest of the field, while Joe Biden hopes to ride a wave of momentum and establish himself as the standard-bearer for the party’s moderate wing.

The Super Tuesday contests in 14 states are also the first test of billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s massive spending in the Democratic race. He skipped the first four states, banking on more than half a billion dollars in advertising and ground operations to establish him as a front-runner for the nomination.

The Democratic race has shifted dramatically over the past three days as Biden capitalized on his commanding South Carolina victory to persuade anxious establishment allies to rally behind his campaign. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg abruptly ended their campaigns and endorsed Biden. Another former competitor, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, publicly backed Biden while a new wave of mayors, lawmakers and donors said they would support the former vice-president.

Sanders and his closest advisers pushed back against the shift of party establishment and donor class toward Biden. Campaigning in Minnesota, Sanders sought to beat back Biden’s momentum with a welcoming message to Klobuchar and Buttigieg supporters.

“To all of Amy and Pete’s millions of supporters, the door is open. Come on in,” Sanders said. “We all share the understanding that together we are going to beat Donald Trump.”

The dramatic developments came at a key crossroads in Democrats’ turbulent primary season as the party struggles to unify behind a clear message or messenger in its urgent quest to defeat the president. Yet as a field that once featured more than two dozen candidates shrinks to just five, the choice for primary voters is becoming clearer.

On one side stands Biden, a 77-year-old lifelong politician who was relishing his newfound momentum in a campaign that has struggled at times to excite voters with a message emphasizing a pragmatic approach to governing and modest change. On the other stands Sanders, a 78-year-old democratic socialist who has scored four consecutive first- or second-place finishes relying on an energized coalition drawn to his promise to transform the nation’s political and economic systems.

Yet the primary isn’t just a two-man race.

Bloomberg, in particular, could create problems for Biden’s establishment appeal. The former New York mayor, who will appear on a 2020 ballot for the first time on Tuesday, has invested an unprecedented amount in his presidential bid and wracked up many high-profile endorsements of his own.

And Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has struggled for delegates and momentum over the last month, has vowed to stay in the race until the party’s national convention in July.

During an outdoor rally Monday night in East Los Angeles, Warren criticized Biden as she told supporters that nominating a “Washington insider will not meet this moment,” nor will nominating a man :who says we do not need any fundamental change in this country.”

For Biden, the wave of new support could not have come at a better time.

Just two days earlier, a loss in South Carolina would have effectively killed his candidacy. But 48 hours after a blowout victory, the former vice-president stood on stage in the heart of one of Super Tuesday’s crown jewels backed by three former rivals and a growing collection of donors, activists and elected officials.

Biden enters Super Tuesday confident in his ability to win states that resemble South Carolina’s demographic makeup: those with large African-American and white moderate populations. That makes Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia potential Biden victories, even in a splintered field.

Yet some of Super Tuesday’s more valuable terrain is less forgiving.

Sanders has predicted victory in California, the day’s largest delegate prize. The state, like delegate-rich Texas, plays to his strengths given their significant factions of liberal whites, large urban areas with younger voters and strong Latino populations. Sanders also enjoys obvious advantages in his home state of Vermont, and in neighbouring Massachusetts, where he’s eyeing a knockout blow against progressive rival Warren in her home state.

Bloomberg’s stock is at risk of fading as Biden gains ground. But the billionaire will still be a major factor on Tuesday.

He spent much of last week campaigning in a handful of Southern and Western states where his aides say they believe he could notch a win, largely because he’s the only candidate who’s visited multiple times and pounded the local airwaves with ads. He focused on Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas.

Bloomberg’s campaign believes he has particular appeal among suburban Democrats — those well-educated, upper middle-class voters who may be more moderate on financial issues and may be aware of his advocacy on gun control and climate change.

And Biden’s strategy for the coming days, which relies on media coverage and dispatching his new collection of surrogates, reflects a stark reality: Compared to Sanders and Bloomberg, he is understaffed, underfunded and almost out of time as he fights to transform his sole South Carolina victory into a national movement.

Biden raised $18 million in February, compared to an eye-popping $46.5 million for Sanders and $29 million for Warren.

Sanders has struggled to win over his colleagues in Congress but earned a high-profile endorsement of his own on the eve of Super Tuesday from Democracy for America, a national grassroots organization that boasts thousands of members across the county.

“The overwhelming support for Bernie we saw in our member vote should be a wake-up call to the broken, visionless, corporate Democratic establishment,” said the organization’s chair, Charles Chamberlain. “Americans want fundamental change in Washington, not a return to the status quo.”

While Tuesday’s outcome is uncertain, Biden’s team was confident that the fast-moving trajectory of the race was moving their way.

“The vice-president has momentum,” said Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and Biden’s national co-chairman. “You’ll see that in the Super Tuesday states that look more like South Carolina.” And, he added in a stroke of confidence, “We’re going to win Texas.”

One complication: A significant number of votes were cast in the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday’s elections when Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Tom Steyer were still in the race.

At least 1.4 million people have already voted in California’s Democratic primary, for example, according to data collected by The Associated Press. In Texas, more than 1 million early Democratic votes have been cast. And in Virginia, nearly 28,000 people voted early, twice as many as in 2016.

Through four primary contests, the AP allocated 60 delegates to Sanders, 54 to Biden and eight to Warren.

The first four states were always more about momentum than math. Super Tuesday states offer a trove of 1,344 new delegates based on how candidates finish. Just 155 delegates have been awarded so far.

Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Coronavirus alarms sound worldwide, but China sees crisis ebbing


Iranians hoarded medical supplies, Italians urged doctors out of retirement and South Koreans prepared to pump billions into relief efforts Tuesday as the virus epidemic firmed its hold around the globe.

Mushrooming outbreaks in the Mideast, Europe and South Korea contrasted with optimism in China, where thousands of recovered patients were going home. A growing outbreak in the United States led schools and subways to sanitize, quickened a search for a vaccine, and spread fears of vulnerability for nursing home residents.

“We have moved to a new stage in the fight,” said Dow Constantine, the political leader in King County, Wash., which is home to Seattle. All six U.S. fatalities from COVID-19 have been in Washington state and Constantine said his county is buying a hotel to become a hospital for isolated patients.

World Health Organization leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the agency’s greatest concern. He said the virus was uniquely capable of community transmission but could be contained with the right measures.

“We are in unchartered territory,” Tedros said.

South Korea saw its largest daily increase in new cases Tuesday, with 851 new infections reported, largely in and around the southeastern city of Daegu, where many cases were clustered around a local church. In all, 5,186 in South Korea have tested positive for the virus.

In the capital of Seoul, drive-through virus testing centres began operating, with workers dressed head-to-toe in white protective suits leaning into cars with mouth swabs, a move meant to limit contact with possible carriers of the illness. Troops were also dispatched across the city to spray streets and alleys with disinfectants.

The country’s death toll rose to 28 and President Moon Jae-in, calling the outbreak “a grave situation,” said his government would push to inject more than 30 trillion won ($25 billion) to fund clinics, aid for small businesses and other measures related to the virus. It requires parliamentary approval.

“The entire country has entered a war against an infectious disease,” he said.

Shares on most Asian indexes rose for a second day, following the Dow Jones Industrial Average surging nearly 1,300 points, or 5%. Finance ministers and central bank leaders from the Group of Seven major industrial countries were to convene by phone Tuesday to discuss their response to the virus outbreak.

“The fear factor is still very high,” said Kirk Hartman, president of Wells Fargo Asset Management.

In China, the count of new virus cases dropped again Tuesday, with just 125 new cases after a six-week low of 202 a day earlier. It’s still by far the hardest-hit country, with 80,151 cases and 2,943 deaths. The virus has been detected in at least 70 countries with 90,000 cases and 3,100 deaths.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations said the country was winning its battle against COVID-19.

“We are not far from the coming of the victory,” said Zhang Jun.

In Iran, WHO experts arrived to help local health workers and deliver supplies. France, Germany and the United Kingdom said they would urgently fly test supplies, protective body suits and gloves to Iran, and offered about 5 million euros ($5.5 million) in support.

Iran’s judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, said some people were stockpiling medical supplies for profit, and urged prosecutors to show “no mercy for hoarders.”

“Hoarding sanitizing items is playing with people’s lives and it is not ignorable,” Raisi said.

In Italy, the count of infected people continued rising to 2,036 and officials said it could take up to two weeks to know whether measures including quarantines in 11 northern towns were working.

The U.S. count of COVID-19 cases surpassed 100 in at least 11 states. President Donald Trump and his Cabinet met with pharmaceutical executives on Monday to discuss how to speed the search for a vaccine. On Capitol Hill, aides said negotiations were nearing completion on an emergency funding bill to fund a vaccine development and offer disaster loans to businesses hurt by the crisis.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams, a leading public health official in the U.S., urged calm.

“Caution, preparedness, but not panic,” he said.

In Japan, questions continued to build about how the virus might affect the Olympics.

Chinese athletes have already fanned out of their country, with the table tennis team in Qatar, the women’s basketball team in Croatia and wrestlers in Serbia.

The games are set to open in Tokyo on July 24 and the president of the International Olympic Committee said the organization remained committed to going forward as planned. An Irish bookmaker has been taking bets: 4/6 the opening ceremony will not go ahead in Tokyo or 11/10 that it will.

The games’ CEO, Toshiro Muto, was planning a Wednesday teleconference with IOC’s executive board.

Sedensky reported from Bangkok. Contributing to this report were Chris Grygiel in Seattle; Kim Tong-Hyung and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Stephen Wade in Tokyo; Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Alleged drunk driver arrested after going wrong way on Gardiner

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 3rd, 2020

Toronto police are investigating a crash involving an alleged drunk driver who was driving westbound on the eastbound Gardiner Expressway.

The crash happened near Don Valley Parkway early Tuesday morning but the exact time is not yet known.

Police told 680 NEWS the female driver struck another a minivan. A female passenger suffered minor injuries but the male driver was not injured.

The driver of the vehicle hit said he saw headlights coming right at him and swerved his minivan to avoid the other vehicle.

The wrong-way driver tried to run away after but was chased down and arrested. She suffered minor injuries.

The eastbound lanes of the Gardiner are closed approaching the DVP.

1 person critically injured in Chinatown shooting

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 3rd, 2020

One person has been rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries after a shooting at a 24-hour restaurant in Chinatown.

Toronto police were called to the restaurant on the south side of Dundas Street West west of Spadina Avenue just after 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

So far there’s no word of any arrest or description of a suspect.

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