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Extreme cold ends but more snow on the way for GTA

CityNews | posted Monday, Jan 8th, 2018

Toronto and the GTA are finally getting a reprieve from the bone chilling cold.

Environment Canada has ended an extreme cold warning for the city as well as Halton, Peel, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Hamilton.

While temperatures Sunday morning started out at -35 with the wind chill, it is expected to warm up to a high of -6 by the evening.

A warming trend this week will see an almost 20 degree swing in temperatures from Sunday night into Monday with forecast highs reaching 2C. And the long range forecast is calling for a high of 5C on Thursday before we plunge back into negative territory.

But as the bitter cold moves out, the snow moves in.

The snow is expected to begin Sunday afternoon or early evening and between 5 and 10 cm is expected by the morning commute on Monday.

While Environment Canada has cancelled its warning, Sunday marks the 14th consecutive day of the City of Toronto’s extreme cold weather alert.

Moss Park armoury opens doors as winter respite location

CityNews | posted Monday, Jan 8th, 2018

Moss Park Armoury opened its doors as a winter respite location sooner than expected on Saturday evening.

The federal government gave the City of Toronto permission to open the Moss Park Armoury as a 24-hour winter respite centre for vulnerable people on Friday.

Late Friday afternoon, the City announced the Armoury won’t be open until Monday as it needed at least two days to get everything properly set up.

But on Saturday afternoon, Mayor Tory announced that the Armoury as well as other locations will be opened the same evening in response to “unprecedented demand and continuing extreme weather conditions.”

According to a release from the City of Toronto, city staff were given access to the federally owned Armoury at 9 a.m. Saturday and immediately began retrofitting the facility to meet the immediate needs of those seeking shelter from the bitter cold.

The location will remain open for two weeks and has 100 cots available. When it’s fully up and running, the location will provide access to meals, showers and hygiene kits as well as referrals to additional resources like case management and housing support, the city says.

In addition to opening the Moss Park Armoury, the city has increased the capacity and number of beds at other winter respite locations.

The Better Living Centre has increased capacity to 200 immediately and an additional 80 cots have been added to the Regent Park Community Centre. The Wellesley Community Centre will also remain open overnight to provide additional space in case all other locations are at capacity. In addition, anyone can come in from the cold at all public buildings during regular business hours, including civic centres and libraries.

Saturday marked the 13th day an extreme cold weather alert called by Toronto Public Health is in effect.

Globes roll out red carpet under cloud of sex scandals

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jan 8th, 2018

The Golden Globes red carpet has been dyed black by streams of actresses, actors and activists outfitted in a colour-co-ordinated statement against sexual harassment and gender inequality in Hollywood.

Arrivals were streaming into an atypically tumultuous 75th Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Many female stars arrived with activist guests – Michelle Williams with “Me Too” founder Tarana Burke, Meryl Streep and domestic workers advocate Ai-jen Poo, Laura Dern and farmworker advocate Monica Ramirez – as part of the larger effort to keep the Globes spotlight trained on the sexual harassment and assault scandals that have roiled Hollywood and other industries.

“We feel sort of emboldened in this particular moment to stand together in a thick black line,” Streep said.

The Globes, which will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. EDT on NBC, had long been the stomping grounds of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose downfall precipitated allegations against James Toback, Kevin Spacey and many others. Weinstein presided over two decades of Globes winners and was well-known for his manipulation of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the 89-member group that puts on the Globes.

Ashley Judd, the first big name to go on record with her Weinstein experience, and Salma Hayek, who last month penned an op-ed about her nightmare with Weinstein, attended together.

Sunday night’s black-clad protest was promoted by the recently formed Time’s Up: an initiative of hundreds of women in the entertainment industry –including Streep, Williams, Dern and the night’s Cecil B. DeMille honoree, Oprah Winfrey – who have banded together to advocate for gender parity in executive ranks and legal defence aid for sexual harassment victims.

“It’s not a fashion statement. It’s a solidarity statement,” said “The Crown” actress Claire Foy.

Just about everyone, woman and man, celebrity and red-carpet reporters, was dressed in black Sunday, many of them wearing a Time’s Up pin. “This Is Us” star Chris Sullivan even sported black fingernails.

“I can tell you it’s a very small gesture. Me wearing black isn’t going to change anything, but from small gestures come big ones,” said Alfred Molina.

But the unified statement has more dramatic effects on the normal choreography of the usually superficial red carpet. While being interviewed live on E!, Debra Messing called out the network for allegedly not paying its female hosts the same as its male hosts.

The exchange was just another illustration of how the “MeToo” reckoning that has plowed through Hollywood has upended awards season. Sunday’s Globes are considered wide open, with contenders including Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The ongoing scandals have derailed Oscar campaigns and prompted new ones. Among the nominees Sunday is Christopher Plummer, who was brought in at the last minute to erase Spacey from “All the Money in the World.”

It should all make for an unusual atmosphere for the Globes, which have long fostered a reputation as the loosest, booziest evening of awards season. Even former host Ricky Gervais has acknowledged Sunday’s awards will have an awkward tone.

“If I were hosting the Golden Globes this weekend, I wouldn’t be brave enough to do the joke I’ve just thought of,” Gervais said Wednesday.

Hosting duties will fall instead to a Globes rookie: late-night host Seth Meyers. He will have his hands full trying to match last year’s broadcast, hosted by Jimmy Fallon. It was watched by 20 million viewers, an 8 per cent increase.

“We don’t want this night to be a session where we’re just scolding everything that happened because it is really important for us to remember that great movies came out of this year,” Meyers told The Associated Press last week. “A lot of people, we’re realizing, worked really hard in environments that were not that conducive to working really hard. So the goal is to have people have a wonderful night and an enjoyable party in a year which everyone deserves it.”

Last year’s broadcast also roped in one notable viewer: then President-elect Donald Trump. He was critical of Streep after the actress’s forceful political acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, which this year goes to Winfrey.

–––

Associated Press writers Andrew Dalton and Lindsey Bahr contributed to his report from Beverly Hills

Man stabbed on train at Lawrence West station

CityNews | posted Monday, Jan 8th, 2018

One man is in hospital with serious injuries after being stabbed while on a subway train at Lawrence West station on Sunday evening.

Police responded to a call at the subway station around 7:15 p.m. and found a man suffering from stab wounds.

Paramedics told CityNews a man in his 30s was taken to hospital with serious injuries but they are not life-threatening.

Police searched the area and say one person is in custody.

Trains were turning back at Glencairn and Wilson Stations for a short time, but regular service has since resumed.

Justin Bieber museum exhibit to open in hometown of Stratford

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jan 5th, 2018

STRATFORD, Ont. – Mementoes from Justin Bieber’s formative years as an aspiring Canadian singer will go on display at a museum in his hometown of Stratford, Ont. next month.

“Steps to Stardom” — a reference to the young singer’s busking shows on the steps outside the local Avon Theatre — opens at the Stratford Perth Museum on Feb. 18.

The exhibit was put together by the museum’s curators in co-operation with Bieber’s grandparents, Diane and Bruce Dale, who gave them access to an extensive archive of items from the performer’s childhood and career.

Among the pieces set for display are Bieber’s Grammy Award, microphones, a hockey bag, and personal letters, including one from Michelle Obama.

About 125 items of interest were collected and will be narrowed down to between 50 and 75 pieces for display. After that, the ongoing exhibit will be refreshed with new items as time passes.

John Kastner, general manager of the museum, said organizers had been considering a Bieber exhibit for a while.

But plans didn’t begin to take shape until last summer when Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, the heritage critic for his party, visited the museum with his family and noted there wasn’t acknowledgment of Bieber’s history in the city.

He wasn’t the only person who asked about the superstar’s absence, Kastner said, but this time it was different.

“This was a (former) cabinet minister,” he said. “That sort of stuck with me.”

Seeing Bieber’s childhood stomping grounds has been a highlight for many visitors to the small city for years. In 2010, Stratford’s tourism board unveiled a “Bieber-iffic Map” highlighting 24 locations linked to the singer.

Organizers hope “Steps to Stardom” will have a similar appeal to Bieber’s loyal fan base, but also draw more casual music fans. The museum is also pushing for a broader selection of exhibits that would cater more specifically to millennial interests.

Kastner acknowledges some visitors will probably scoff at a pop star’s history being on display alongside more traditional artifacts, which include a history of the local fire department and a tribute to Stratford as a railway hub.

Even if not everyone is ready to catch Bieber fever, he hopes they’ll understand why the museum thinks this exhibit makes sense.

“You (must) tell this story if we’re going to be relevant and we’re going to be modern,” Kastner said.

“I think it’s a job for museums to tell stories and this is a great story.”

— By David Friend in Toronto

Facebook CEO Zuckerberg’s 2018 challenge: Fix Facebook

Barbara Ortutay, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jan 5th, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg says his “personal challenge” for 2018 is to fix Facebook.

The Facebook CEO has declared a goal each year since 2009. Past challenges have included wearing a tie every day, learning to speak Mandarin and eating meat only from animals he killed himself. Last year, he visited every U.S. state he hadn’t been to yet.

This year, though, his challenge is directed at his company rather than personal ambitions. Zuckerberg wrote Thursday that he wants to focus this year on protecting Facebook users from abuse, defending against interference by nation-states and “making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”

In other words, he wants to do his job as Facebook’s CEO.

“This may not seem like a personal challenge on its face, but I think I’ll learn more by focusing intensely on these issues than I would by doing something completely separate,” Zuckerberg wrote.

He added that while Facebook won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, “we currently make too many errors.”

Facebook had a tough 2017. It testified before Congress about Russian election meddling using its platform and drew harsh criticism from early employees and investors about its role in the world.

But Zuckerberg also has little choice but to fix Facebook’s problems. Regulators in Washington, Europe and elsewhere are expecting concrete results. And while the platform has more than 2 billion users, there is nothing to guarantee they will stay and keep using Facebook as much as they do now if they feel depressed, lied to with fake news and hoaxes and manipulated by foreign powers.

Zuckerberg compared this year’s challenge to the first one he did nine years ago. It wasn’t so much about him back then either, but about the social platform he created.

“That first year the economy was in a deep recession and Facebook was not yet profitable. We needed to get serious about making sure Facebook had a sustainable business model. It was a serious year, and I wore a tie every day as a reminder,” he wrote. “Today feels a lot like that first year.”

But fixing deep-rooted, existential problems is a taller order than turning a profit.

Many of Facebook’s problems are deeply rooted in how it’s set up and why it’s been so successful, financially and otherwise. Its secret formulas give users the content they are most likely to interact with and what’s most likely to keep them coming back for more. Sometimes, that’s heartfelt posts by their friends but other times it’s viral fake news stories or inflammatory comments about political candidates.

Broken Presto card readers cause long lineups at Finch Station

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 5th, 2018

It was a frustrating Thursday morning at Finch Station for TTC riders when a number of Presto card readers malfunctioned, causing major backups at the entrance.

Commuter Lauren Jacobs tweeted a picture of a long lineup at the station’s entrance around 7:30 a.m.

“There were 30 people in line in front of us, and the line kept growing,” Jacobs told CityNews.

“I thought it was people getting Metropasses, but we noticed all the Presto readers, except for one, were out.”

Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins couldn’t confirm how long the issue lasted, but said staff were sent check the card readers right away.

“They are little computers, so sometimes you just have to reboot them, and it’s fairly quickly done,” she said. “One needed to be replaced, and that’s been replaced.”

In an email, TTC spokesman Stuart Green apologized for the delays and said the lineups were compounded by people waiting to buy a January Metropass, since it’s the last day to do so.

“We normally would have had a station supervisor on property to direct customers to one of the crash gates,” Green said. “This morning that supervisor was called away to another station to attend to a flooding issue.”

While two extra collector boxes were staffed at the time, those “crash gates” only accept cash, tokens and Metropasses.

Some commuters, including Jacobs, question the TTC’s push to get riders using Presto cards when the system is still in transition.

“It makes me want to get a Metropass or just go back to using tokens because I can’t use my Presto card all the time, or I have to wait in long lineup,” she said.

But Aikins insisted the system is ready and breakdowns are becoming less frequent.

“The reliability rate across the Presto system has improved immensely,” she said. “It’s in the high 90s now, which is getting pretty close to exactly where we want it to be.”

‘Very intense’ winter storm shuts schools, offices in Atlantic Canada

Alison Auld and Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jan 5th, 2018

A massive and powerful storm pummelled Atlantic Canada on Thursday, shutting down everything from schools to bridges as wind, rain and snow thrashed the region.

“This is a very large, very intense storm,” said Darren Borgel, a meteorologist with Environment Canada. “This one will definitely be memorable for its extreme winds, especially in Nova Scotia.”

Social media images showed one Halifax house with its roof gone, and another building that had partially collapsed.

At high tide the storm surge flooded parts of Halifax’s famed waterfront boardwalk, moving a Canada 150 sign and lapping at an ice cream outlet. Water also poured into an excavation site of a massive hotel/office complex.

And 20 minutes before high tide, the surging ocean had swallowed a dock at Halifax’s Dingle Park and flooded the short causeway connecting the nearby Armdale Yacht Club to the mainland.

While parts of Nova Scotia were whipped by wind and rain amid temperatures well above freezing, New Brunswickers faced heavy snow that made it impossible to see across the street.

“If you are in your home and don’t need to travel, don’t travel,” said Greg MacCallum, director of New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization, who called it a “serious storm.”

Environment Canada said high waves combined with storm surges could cause damage along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and in Prince Edward Island later in the evening, and that flooding was also likely in those areas.

The weather agency said high waves would persist overnight and may cause further flooding and pounding surf near high tide on Friday morning for southwest facing coastlines.

Borgel noted high tide was expected to coincide with the greatest surge in the evening along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, just as winds were forecast to pick up again.

“I expect there’s going to be some serious damage when things come to light on Friday morning,” he said.

The agency warned that people should not attempt to travel across flooded roads because even shallow, fast-moving water can sweep a vehicle away.

Environment Canada had issued warnings for everything from wind and rain to blizzards and storm surges along much of the Atlantic coast.

“There’s a varied mix of weather conditions depending on where you are in the Maritimes — the whole spectrum of weather,” said Borgel.

The federal agency had issued a range of winter storm warnings and watches for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, saying the low-pressure system would bring fierce winds that could gust up to about 140 km/h in parts of Nova Scotia and snowfall amounts of up to 40 centimetres in New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia was expected to see up to 50 millimetres of rain, possibly causing localized flooding.

By Thursday evening, many lights were out across Nova Scotia. About 94,000 utility customers were without power as of about 1:30 a.m., Friday, many along the Atlantic coast.

In downtown Halifax, the wind started to howl early in the afternoon, sending sheets of rain sideways, stinging pedestrians as they headed home early from work.

Sandra Simons, who lives across the harbour in Dartmouth, was running to catch the last ferry of the day. The service was cancelled early at 2:30 p.m. as the harbour was churned into a roiling mass of whitecaps and heavy swell.

“It’s lovely,” said Simons. “I like the wind, I like the waves, but it’s hard walking. Still, the wind is really bad here. The ferry behind us is the last one going across, so I’m just running for that.”

Breanne Barry was also on her way home to Dartmouth, but she missed the last ferry.

“It’s crazy — the wind is getting really bad,” said Barry, as she grabbed the fur-lined collar of her parka as it was whipped by the wind. “I’m just happy that we haven’t got any snow. I just want everyone to stay safe and stay off the road.”

Halifax also pulled its buses off the road at 4 p.m., closed the city’s Public Gardens and shut one of two harbour bridges because of the wind.

Later in the evening at the Herring Cove lookoff near the mouth of the Halifax harbour, a row of spectators gathered in the dark, the headlights of their cars illuminating massive waves breaking against the rocks.

The severe weather prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge Atlantic Canadians to be vigilant.

“To everyone in Atlantic Canada — stay safe, stay indoors, and stay updated on the latest,” he said on Twitter, linking to the Environment Canada website.

Virtually all of New Brunswick was under either winter storm, rainfall or wind warnings and the central and northern parts of the province were expected to see roughly 40 centimetres of snow, along with wind gusts of up to 90 km/h in some areas.

Environment Canada said early Friday that while heavy snow and blowing snow was expected to continues for the northern half of New Brunswick, the snow has changed to a mix of freezing rain and ice pellets for central areas overnight.

Snow was expected to end by late morning over southern New Brunswick but persist into the afternoon for northern areas.

MacCallum said NB Power added extra crews and pre-positioned them in areas of the province where outages were likely to occur. The utility was reporting about 10,400 outages as of about 1:30 a.m. Friday.

MacCallum also warned about the dangers of carbon monoxide, and said people should have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.

“If not, be aware of the threat and avoid doing things like cooking over open flames, using generators near the house or in a garage. These things produce carbon monoxide gas and it will kill people,” he said.

Two people died and others were hospitalized during an ice storm that hit the province in January of last year.

MacCallum said EMO is working with the Red Cross to identify warming centres and shelters in the event people are left without power for an extended time.

P.E.I. was expected to be hit by fierce winds and up to 25 centimetres of snow before it changes to rain and ice pellets in the evening. Maritime Electric said early Friday that power was out in about 20 communities.

The Confederation Bridge linking New Brunswick and P.E.I. was closed to all traffic “for user safety” Thursday night “until the current weather situation changes,” but later reopened to cars.

Nova Scotia Power said it had more than 1,000 people at the ready in what is its biggest-ever pre-storm mobilization of personnel and resources.

More than 50 departures and arrivals were cancelled at Halifax Stanfield International Airport early Thursday. Marine Atlantic also cancelled sailings between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, while Bay Ferries shelved its crossings between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

School boards in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. didn’t wait for the storm to arrive, with most schools and some universities closing well before the weather set in. Many government offices, schools and businesses also shut down for the day.

The Halifax Regional School Board warned Thursday evening that almost half of its 134 schools were without power, and further cancellations were possible on Friday.

Environment Canada said the storm — which was being dubbed a “bomb cyclone” — was expected to continue its northerly trek, with snow and strong winds in expected parts of Newfoundland and Labrador Thursday evening and into Friday.

In the U.S., the storm dumped as much as 45 centimetres of snow from the Carolinas to Maine and unleashing hurricane-force winds.

Forecasters expected the system to be followed immediately by a blast of face-stringing cold air that could break records in more than two dozen cities, with wind chills falling to -40 in some places this weekend.

Three people were killed in North Carolina after their vehicles ran off snow-covered roads, authorities said.

With files from Kevin Bissett in Fredericton, Michael MacDonald in Halifax, and The Associated Press.

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