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Are there too many roundabouts in this GTA neighbourhood?

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 12th, 2017

Richmond Hill is a fan of roundabouts, but how many is too many? One resident feels the traffic management tool is being used too often.

Tower Hill Road between Yonge Street and Bathurst Street stretches about 4.3 kilometres and would take about seven minutes to drive. It has six roundabouts on that stretch of road, with two additional ones in the Tower Hill neighbourhood.

According to city building experts, it’s used for many reasons — one of them being that it’s safer. But that’s if people know how to use them, which according to a CityNews tipster, many drivers don’t. She says that the town should do more to educate the residents about using the roundabouts to avoid collisions.

Lynn Chan, communications advisor to the township of Richmond Hill said in an email to CityNews after we reached out about redients’ concerns that “the Town is reviewing the signage needs on the Tower Hill Road roundabouts and additional signage and pavement markings will be considered.”

According to the Ministry of Transportation, drivers should approach the roundabout in the correct lane, depending on where they are headed. Those entering the roundabout must always yield to traffic in both lanes already inside, and wait for a gap before proceeding. Motorists should never stop inside the roundabout, except to avoid a collision.  (Here is an explainer about how to use roundabouts.)

Lyft starts global expansion with Toronto service launch Tuesday

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 12th, 2017

Ride-hailing service Lyft will launch its service in Toronto on Tuesday, marking its first expansion outside the United States.

The addition of Lyft brings increased competition to Uber in Canada’s largest city.

The company announced plans to expand to Toronto last month, but had not set a date for its start.

Lyft will operate between Hamilton and Oshawa, Ont., and as far north as Newmarket, Ont.

Uber arrived in Canada several years ago and has fought an uphill regulatory battle ever since.

Beck Taxi says adding thousands of cars to Toronto’s congested streets is the last thing the city needs and only discourages transit ridership.

Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist in military

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 12th, 2017

Transgender recruits will be allowed to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, the Pentagon said Monday, as President Donald Trump’s ordered ban suffered more legal setbacks.

The new policy reflects the difficult hurdles the federal government would have to cross to enforce Trump’s demand earlier this year to bar transgender individuals from the military.

Three federal courts have ruled against the ban, including one Monday in Washington state.

In October, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly barred the Trump administration from proceeding with its plan to exclude transgender people from military service. Part of the effect of the ruling was that the military would be required to allow transgender people to enlist beginning Jan. 1.

The government had asked Kollar-Kotelly to put the Jan. 1 date on hold while they appealed her full ruling but she declined Monday, reaffirming the Jan. 1 start date. The Department of Justice is now asking a federal appeals court to intervene and put the Jan. 1 requirement on hold.

Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that could make it difficult for them to join the armed services.

Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said the enlistment of transgender recruits will begin next month and proceed amid legal battles. The Defence Department also is doing a review, which is expected to carry into 2018.

Eastburn told The Associated Press on Monday that the new guidelines mean the Pentagon can disqualify potential recruits with gender dysphoria, a history of medical treatments associated with gender transition and those who underwent reconstruction. But such recruits are allowed in if a medical provider certifies they’ve been clinically stable in their preferred sex for 18 months and are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas.

Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy must be stable on their medication for 18 months.

The requirements make it challenging for a transgender recruit to pass. But they mirror concerns President Barack Obama’s administration laid out when the Pentagon initially lifted its ban on transgender service last year.

“Due to the complexity of this new medical standard, trained medical officers will perform a medical prescreen of transgender applicants for military service who otherwise meet all applicable applicant standards,” Eastburn said.

Aaron Belkin, director of the California-based Palm Center, an independent institute that has conducted research on sexual minorities in the military, said the 18-month timeline is fair.

“It’s a good standard because the Pentagon is treating gender dysphoria according to the same standards that are applied to all medical conditions,” he said.

However, Elaine Donnelly, president for the Center For Military readiness, said Trump “has every right to review, revise, or repeal his predecessor’s military transgender policies, which would detract from mission readiness and combat lethality.” Court judges, she said, are not qualified to run the military.

The Pentagon move Monday signals the growing sense within the government that authorities are likely to lose the legal fight.

“The controversy will not be about whether you allow transgender enlistees, it’s going to be on what terms,” said Brad Carson, who was deeply involved in the last administration’s decisions. “That’s really where the controversy will lie.”

Carson worried, however, that the Defence Department could opt to comply with a deadline on allowing transgender recruits, but “under such onerous terms that practically there will be none.” Carson, who worked for Carter as the acting undersecretary of defence for personnel, said requiring 18 months of stability in the preferred sex is a reasonable time.

“It doesn’t have any basis in science,” he said, noting that experts have suggested six months is enough. “But as a compromise among competing interests and perhaps to err on the side of caution, 18 months was what people came around to. And that’s a reasonable position and defensible.”

Sarah McBride, spokeswoman for Human Rights Campaign, praised the court’s ruling, saying that it affirms “there is simply no legitimate reason to forbid willing and able transgender Americans from serving their country.”
Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report


York police seek man accused of targeting woman with hate language on Vaughan bus

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 12th, 2017

Police in York Region have released a surveillance image of a man being sought for directing a racist tirade at a woman on public transit.

Police say the suspect and victim were riding a City of Vaughan bus on Oct. 24 at around 4:20 p.m.

The man approached the woman and asked if he could take a picture with her. When she refused, he began yelling at her, “making threats and using hate-bias motivated language targeting Muslims and Islam,” police said in a release.

The man is described as a white male, between 30 and 37 years old. He’s about five-foot-nine with a heavy build.

“York Regional Police will not tolerate hate crime in any form. These kinds of crimes not only hurt the community that has been targeted, but they hurt us all.”

Uber charges Toronto customer more than $18,000 for short downtown ride

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Dec 12th, 2017

Uber is apologizing to customer who was charged more than $18,000 for a short ride in downtown Toronto.

Photos posted on social media over the weekend showed that an Uber rider was billed $18,518.50 for a 21-minute Uber ride.UBER-CHARGE-BLURRED

An Uber spokesperson confirmed the incident, and says the rider had been fully refunded.

Uber staff say the massive over-charge was a result of driver error, not a technical glitch.

Uber says the ride in question took place in a traditional taxi cab signed up to the ridehailing service — an option available to customers in Toronto — and that the driver made a mistake when entering the details of the fare into his cab’s meter.

The spokesperson says the company continues to look into what happened.

Pipe bomb strapped to man explodes in NYC subway, injuring 4

Colleen Long, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

NEW YORK — A man with a pipe bomb strapped to him set off the crude device in the subway near Times Square on Monday, injuring the suspect and three other people at the height of the morning rush hour, law enforcement officials said.

The man and three others were being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the blast.

Police say the explosion happened in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The 7:30 a.m. blast caused smoke to fill the passageway, which was crowded with throngs of Monday morning commuters.

Law enforcement officials said it appeared the detonation was accidental, and the bomb was a crudely made low-grade explosive device. It’s not clear what the suspect had intended, they said. The officials said the 27-year-old lives in Brooklyn and may be of Bangladeshi descent.

A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff. A police officer is holding the man’s hands behind his back.

The explosion triggered a massive emergency response by police and firefighters both above and below ground, tangling subway and bus service at the nearby Port Authority bus terminal.

Elrana Peralta, a customer service worker for Greyhound, said she works in the Port Authority terminal complex near where the blast happened, but didn’t hear the explosion.

“All we could hear was the chaos,” she said. “We could hear people yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’”

John Miles, 28, from Vermont, was waiting for a bus to Massachusetts. He also didn’t hear the blast, but saw police react.

“I didn’t know what was going on. Officers were running around. I was freaking out,” he said. There was an announcement that people should take their bags and leave. “They didn’t incite panic. It was fairly orderly.”

Video from above the “Crossroads of the World” showed lines of police and emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, lining the streets and no other vehicle traffic moving.

Everything around the Port Authority area was shut down — a surreal scene of still at what would ordinarily be a bustling rush hour.

New Jersey Transit buses headed to the Port Authority were diverting to other locations. NJ Transit said buses were taking passengers to Secaucus and Hoboken, where they could take trains into the city.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the explosion.

Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.

8 Toronto elementary schools given top grades in Fraser Institute report

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

The Fraser Institute’s report card on Ontario’s Elementary Schools is out and eight Toronto schools make the top ranking.

The report card ranks more than 3,000 schools based on nine academic indicators from the results of annual province-wide reading, writing and math tests.

Avondale Alternative, Hollywood Public School and Islamic Foundation School are among the top ranked Toronto schools.

You can see the complete results at compareschoolrankings.org


Parents fear TDSB changes to schools’ gifted, special ed programs

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

Worried parents and advocates say many children will never fulfil their academic potential if the Toronto District School Board follows through on a proposal to dramatically restructure its gifted and special education programs.

The TDSB task force dedicated to making the board more accepting, inclusive and fair for low-income, racialized and otherwise marginalized students has drafted a report recommending, in part, that gifted students and students who need “special education” be integrated into regular classrooms.

“Resources and supports (would) be realigned so that all schools, at least every cluster of local schools, can offer a variety of specialty programs,” the report says.

Teachers would receive special ed and gifted training and kids would still get the specially tailored learning they need, the proposal says.

But parents of children currently in gifted classes say the proposed changes would destroy the program, not reform it.

“The idea of inclusion is wonderful (and we should) make sure all the kids in the city have the same opportunities,” said Gail Argensky, whose daughter is a Grade 10 student in Northern Secondary School’s gifted program. “I think access is important too. But when you start talking about dismantling things that are working, I just don’t get that.”

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the board could not comment on the report because it’s still only in draft form and may be amended before it is tabled at Wednesday’s meeting of board trustees.

The trustees will recommend next steps based on the report, including changing the recommendations.

“There will absolutely be more opportunity for the community to have input before any decisions are made by the board,” the TDSB says on its website.

The TDSB’s gifted program is lacking in racial diversity, and needs a total overhaul, said Carl James, a York University professor who specializes in the education of minority students.

But simply placing gifted students in regular-stream classrooms throughout the city will not fix structural inequities that make it less likely for black students, in particularly, to be in gifted classes.

“The larger process of getting students identified as gifted will have to be looked at,” James said.

Some parents may not know the gifted program is an option for their kids, while other families actively pursue the gifted designation, even having their child tested privately.

“More importantly we have to look at the extent to which the gifted test might have inherent cultural biases, that might disadvantage some students,” James said.

“There is (also) the extent to which teachers identify some students and even suggest that they be tested for being gifted.”

But kids who have already tested as gifted would likely be better off in classes of other gifted kids, James added.

Agensky’s daughter, Amanda Gotlib, tested as gifted when she was in Grade 4, and entered gifted classes in Grade 7. Her time in the regular-stream classes was hard, Amanda said. She had trouble concentrating, and would take hours to finish even short assignments.

“I would have a lot of difficulty getting my work done,” Amanda said. “And I have some techniques I use when I’m trying to listen or focus and a lot of regular-stream teachers don’t really get that…. I often draw. I like to do art and doodling while the lesson is going on.”

The term “gifted” gives people the false impression that kids like Amanda are effortlessly brilliant, Argensky said. The reality is their brains work differently from other kids’ and they have different learning styles. They may not fit in socially with their peers, and often struggle with regular school work.

For kids with learning disabilities, behavioural issues and other special education needs, the task force proposal could be just the latest in a series of slashes to programming.

“We know that we are seeing cuts in the special ed realm all over Ontario,” said Katharine Buchan, educational material co-ordinator with Autism Ontario.

“With the right supports, every student typically could be integrated in to a regular classroom, but for high needs students or some students with autism that’s not always the answer,” Buchan added.

There are already long-standing concerns about the burden placed on teachers by placing kids with special ed needs in regular-stream classes, said Andy Lomnicki, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s Toronto chapter.

“There’s nothing wrong with applying the lens of equity, but it can distort what your’e looking at and how you’re trying to fix (equity problems),” Lomnicki said.

“An equitable lens could say that every student (should be) in the same classroom, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is serving their needs, or their parents needs, or the other kids in the classroom’s needs, or the teacher’s needs.”

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