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Marco Muzzo to be sentenced Tuesday in fatal drunk-driving crash

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 29th, 2016

Marco Muzzo will learn his sentence on Tuesday after pleading guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death.

The 29-year-old was driving to his home in Vaughan on September 27 when his Jeep Cherokee ran a stop sign at the intersection of Kipling Avenue and Kirby Road, crashing into a Dodge Grand Caravan.

Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his 5-year-old brother Harrison and 2-year-old sister Milly were all killed in the crash along with their grandfather, Gary Neville. Two others in the minivan were seriously injured.

Muzzo’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit at the time of the crash.

The Crown has called for an “unprecedented sentence”, somewhere between 10 – 12 years while Muzzo’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, asked for a sentence of eight years less time served.

A psychiatric report filed with the court last month said Muzzo was showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and mild depression.

Egypt plane drama ends: hijacker arrested, passengers freed

Menelaos Hadjicotis and Hamza Hendawi, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 29th, 2016

An Egyptian man who hijacked an EgyptAir plane during a routine domestic flight to Cairo and forced it to land on the island of Cyprus on Tuesday has surrendered and was taken into custody after he released all the passengers and crew.

His surrender ended an hours-long drama and standoff at the Larnaca airport in southern Cyprus. The hijacker had earlier freed most of the passengers but kept seven people – four crew members and three passengers – with him.

Just minutes before the arrest, local TV footage from the airport showed several people disembarking from the aircraft and a man who appeared to be a crew member climbing out of the cockpit window and sliding down the side of the plane.

Alexandros Zenon, the permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry in Cyprus, confirmed the hijacker’s surrender and subsequent arrest, saying the situation was “over.” The arrest was also reported by Egypt’s prime minister, Sharif Ismail, and Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi.

“All passengers and crew are safe,” Fathi said on state television.

The man’s motivation was unclear, but Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the hijacking was “not something that has to do with terrorism” and a Cyprus government official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the man “seems (to be) in love.”

Anastasiades, appearing alongside European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Nicosia, was asked by reporters whether he could confirm that the incident was about a woman. “Always, there is a woman” involved, he replied, drawing laughter.

A Cyprus police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to disclose details of the situation, says the hijacker walked off the plane and was taken into custody by special anti-terrorist police. The official said the man wore a belt but there were no explosives in it. The Cypriot woman who the hijacker had asked to speak to is his former wife with whom he has four children, the police official said. The hijacker had also complained about the current Egyptian government and had demanded the release of female prisoners from Egyptian jails.

A civil aviation official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to talk to the media, said the man gave negotiators the name of a woman who lives in Cyprus and asked to give her an envelope. It was not clear if she was his former wife.

The flight MS181 took off from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria on Tuesday morning en route to Cairo with at least 55 passengers, including 26 foreigners, and a seven-member crew.

An official with flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 said the plane showed no immediate signs of distress. The flight between Alexandria and Cairo normally takes about 30 minutes.

There was also confusion about the hijacker’s identity. At a news conference in Cairo, Egypt’s Civil Aviation minister, Sharif Fathi, refused to identify him.

Earlier, Egyptian government spokesman Hossam al-Queish said the hijacker was Ibrahim Samaha, but an Egyptian woman who identified herself as Samaha’s wife said her husband is not the hijacker and was on his way to Cairo so he could fly to the U.S. to attend a conference.

The woman, who identified herself only as Nahla, told the Egyptian private TV network ONTV in a phone interview that her husband had never been to Cyprus and that a photo on Egyptian and regional TV channels that supposedly showed the hijacker was not him. Later, the official Middle East News Agency gave a different name for the hijacker.

Egypt’s state news agency, MENA, later identified the hijacker as Seifedeen Mustafa. The name was confirmed by a senior Cypriot official.

Al-Queish, the government spokesman, also told the private CBC TV network that authorities could not confirm that the hijacker had explosives on him. An earlier statement from the Egyptian Aviation Ministry said the man claimed he had a belt with explosives.

The plane landed at the airport in the southern Cypriot city of Larnaca, also on the Mediterranean. A statement from the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry statement said the foreigners on board included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian. Three other foreigners could not be identified.

The initial batch of passengers released by the hijacker were seen calmly walking off the plane down a set of stairs, carrying their hand luggage, and boarded a bus parked by the plane’s side. Security was tight at the airport, with police repeatedly pushing back reporters and TV news crews working just outside the facility’s fence, near where the aircraft stopped.

Police also evacuated the nearby Makenzy beach, a stretch of coast close to the airport and popular with tourists. It was not immediately clear why.

An Egyptian aircraft was expected to later fly to Larnaca so it could bring back the released passengers, according to officials.

The incident raises more questions about security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

All 224 people on board were killed in the crash. Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft and the extremist Islamic State group took responsibility.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Tuesday, said that a “very good question” is whether the man who hijacked the plane Tuesday was able to pass through airport security with a bomb-laden belt.

The hijacking was reminiscent of a deadly 1978 incident that involved Egyptians, planes and Larnaca airport.

The incident arose when two Palestinians assassinated an Egyptian government minister at his hotel in Nicosia. The assailants took hostages and drove to the airport, where they boarded a plane with them. They later returned to Cyprus, where they had an hours-long standoff until an Egyptian C-130 carrying commandos landed at Larnaca airport.

The commandos attempted to storm the Cyprus Airways jet, but were fired upon by Cypriot troops. Many were killed. The Palestinians eventually surrendered. They were arrested, sentenced and released years later.

The incident poisoned Egypt’s relations with Cyprus for years. Relations eventually improved, but it was Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in office since June 2014, who has forged close ties with Cyprus. El-Sissi and Anastasiades frequently confer in person or on the phone. They spoke by phone Tuesday about the hijacking.

Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

Should the city erect a statue to memorialize Rob Ford?

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 29th, 2016

Soon after it was confirmed that former Toronto mayor Rob Ford had died, a petition sprang up on change.org to immortalize Ford with a statue.

“The people of Toronto want to give back to a man who has given so much to them,” the description reads. “The man was a fighter until the end. Fighting for every single person he represented and known for keeping an eagles [sic] eye on every tax dollar spend in the city of Toronto, ending what was known as the ‘gravy train.’”

Regardless where a person may stand on the idea of a procession and televised funeral for the Ward 2 city councillor, it’s not uncommon to recognize a politician who has died in office.

They erected a bronze statue of former NDP leader and Toronto city councillor Jack Layton following his death in 2011. Sir Adam Beck has a statue on University Avenue. Police officers who die in the line of duty are commemorated at the Ontario Police Memorial outside of Queen’s Park.

And Toronto has a long history of naming things after former mayors. There’s Mel Lastman Square, Nathan Phillips Square, Allan Gardens, even the William Lyon MacKenzie fire rescue boat.

So there’s little doubt something will be done to memorialize Ford. But a statue?

Douglas Ford Park. PHOTO: REDDIT
Douglas B. Ford Park. PHOTO: REDDIT

Perhaps naming a park after the polarizing former mayor would be more appropriate. There already is a Douglas B. Ford Park in Etobicoke, named after Rob’s father, a one-term MPP who represented Etobicoke-Humber between 1995 and 1999. Because Ford proclaimed to be such a man of the people, maybe a park in Rexdale would be appropriate.

There’s already a petition to rename Centennial Park after him. But there’s also a petition to stop that petition. Gotta love democracy.

Or perhaps we could name a street after him. Most of Toronto’s streets are named after former politicians, and there’s no shortage of streets being built in the GTA. It would be a fitting testament to a man who claimed to be Toronto’s biggest advocate for growth.

A bit of a longer shot would be naming a school or library after Ford – he was never a big advocate of post-secondary education and shuttered Toronto’s libraries for 11 days during a labour dispute in 2012, during which he famously said he didn’t know who Margaret Atwood was. So … probably not. Maybe a sports facility is more appropriate, like the field where his Don Bosco Eagles played until he was dismissed as coach in 2013.

Queen subway station. PHOTO: WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

How about an airport? Calgary was considering naming their airport after former prime minister Stephen Harper. Unfortunately, both of Toronto’s airports already recognize a World War I flying ace and the 14th prime minister of Canada, so a change would be unlikely. And Toronto probably doesn’t want to remind tourists of Ford’s controversial mayoral reign every time they fly into the city.

So what’s left … a subway stop? That would be appropriate for a man who advocated subways over all forms of above-ground public transportation throughout his tenure on council. An office building or tower? A pub? Come on, that’s a cheap shot.

There are no clear requirements for a petition to be submitted to Toronto city council, so maybe this statue idea will get some traction. The city has already agreed to foot the bill for Ford’s memorial, so anything is possible.

FBI cracks gunman’s iPhone using ‘mystery method’

The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 29th, 2016

The FBI said Monday it successfully used a mysterious technique without Apple Inc.’s help to hack into the iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in California, effectively ending a pitched court battle between the Obama administration and one of the world’s leading technology companies.

The government asked a federal judge to vacate a disputed order forcing Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone, saying it was no longer necessary. The court filing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California provided no details about how the FBI did it or who showed it how. Apple did not immediately comment on the development.

The brief court notice left important questions unanswered: Who showed the FBI how to break into iPhones? How did the government bypass the security features that Apple has invested millions of dollars to build into its flagship product? Are newer iPhones vulnerable to the same hacking technique? Will the FBI share its information with scores of state and local police agencies that said they also need to break into the iPhones of criminal suspects? Will the FBI reveal to Apple how it broke its security? Did the FBI find anything useful on the iPhone?

The surprise development also punctured the temporary perception that Apple’s security might have been good enough to keep consumers’ personal information safe even from the U.S. government – with the tremendous resources it can expend when it wants to uncover something.

The FBI used the technique to access data on an iPhone used by gunman Syed Farook, who died with his wife in a gun battle with police after they killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December.

U.S. magistrate Sheri Pym of California last month ordered Apple to provide the FBI with software to help it hack into Farook’s work-issued iPhone. The order touched off a debate pitting digital privacy rights against national security concerns.

Apple was headed for a courtroom showdown with the government last week, until federal prosecutors abruptly asked for a postponement so they could test a potential solution that was brought to them by an unidentified party the previous weekend. Technical experts had said there might be a few ways an outsider could gain access to the phone, although the FBI had insisted repeatedly until then that only Apple had the ability to override the iPhone’s security.

The case drew international attention and highlighted a growing friction between governments and the tech industry. Apple and other tech companies have said they feel increasing need to protect their customers’ data from hackers and unfriendly intruders, while police and other government authorities have warned that encryption and other data-protection measures are making it more difficult for investigators to track criminals and dangerous extremists.

The withdrawal of court process also takes away Apple’s ability to legally request details on the method the FBI used. Apple attorneys said last week that they hoped the government would share that information with them if it proved successful.

The encrypted phone was protected by a passcode that included security protocols: a time delay and self-destruct feature that erased the phone’s data after 10 tries. The two features made it impossible for the government to repeatedly and continuously test passcodes in what’s known as a brute-force attack.

Soggy start to the week as spring storm hits southern Ontario

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 28th, 2016

It was a soggy start to the work week as a spring storm hit southern Ontario, arriving on Sunday night and lasting until Monday.

The heavy rain will taper to showers and end in the afternoon, 680 NEWS meteorologist Harold Hosein said. As the rain dies down, the wind will pick up, he warned. Winds will become northwesterly, gusting to 60 km/h.

The forecasted high is 8 C, with cloudy periods and an overnight low of 3 C.

Across Toronto and the GTA, residents were woken up by the loud claps of thunder.

 

 

 

For those who were awake to see it, Mother Nature put on quite a show, with lightning striking the CN Tower.

 

 

 

 

Doug Ford preparing for an emotional send-off this week

ADRIAN GHOBRIEL | posted Monday, Mar 28th, 2016

An emotional Doug Ford opens up about what the past few days have been like and the celebration that is to come his brother’s life in the coming week.

Starting Monday at 10 a.m., thousands of people are expected to pay their respects over the next two days as the former mayor lies in repose at City Hall.

If you would like to send a video or pictures to be used in the Rob Ford memorial, you can do so at the following linkrobfordmemorial@gmail.com

Pothole menace angers motorists, creates business for repair shops

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 28th, 2016

MONTREAL – An annoying sign of spring — the dreaded pothole — is testing the patience of Canadian drivers this year while also creating a financial bonanza for auto repair shops.

Extreme fluctuations in early spring temperatures along with lots of rain have unearthed a high number of potholes that are exposing motorists to hefty repair bills.

“It’s probably the worst year I’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years,” Ben Lalonde, president of My AutoPro service centres in Ottawa, said in a recent interview.

Business is up as customers are showing up with bent wheels, punctured tires, misalignments and wrecked suspensions. Repair bills can range between $200 and $500 depending on the force of impact and the type of damage, Lalonde said.

Spring is a lucrative period for repair shops, says Jack Bayramian, owner of Montreal’s Decarie Garage, who adds that repairs stemming from pothole damage makes up about 30 per cent of his year’s revenues.

There’s no tally for the cost of dealing with the aftermath of potholes in Canada, but a poll of U.S. motorists by the American Automobile Association suggests they spend an average of US$3 billion a year dealing with pothole repairs. The Canadian Automobile Association is in the process of conducting its own poll.

While repair shops welcome the extra business, they also say it can cause customers to pare back spending on preventative maintenance.

“I know having bad roads is good for business but I think it’s (temporary) … because a lot of people end up neglecting their cars, and at the end it could be a safety concern,” James Bastien, manager of an OK Tire in the nation’s capital.

Most motorists tend to pay for repairs out-of-pocket unless damage is well above insurance claim deductibles, or they can beat the odds and win a claim from a municipality.

Several large Canadian municipalities are struggling this year to keep up with the menace that is consistently among the top sources of angry complaints from residents.

“This year has been fairly bad,” says Bryden Denyes, area manager of core roads for the City of Ottawa.

The city has filled 51,000 potholes so far this year, up substantially from 20,200 at the same time in 2015, but down slightly from two years ago. Compared to last year’s almost relentless bone-chilling cold, Ottawa has faced 28 freeze-and-thaw cycles versus just 11 a year ago.

The capital spends $5.4 million a year filling potholes and repairing roads, compared to the nearly $7 million to fix major and arterial roads in Montreal. Toronto spent $6 million in 2014 to fix 360,000 potholes.

Lionel Perez, a councillor responsible for Montreal’s infrastructure, said it’s a constant struggle to plug the holes, especially because of decades of under-investment.

The challenge is even bigger in Edmonton, which over the last nine years has faced an average of 455,000 new potholes a year. A warmer winter and less snow has given the Alberta capital somewhat of a reprieve this year.

In addition to filling potholes, municipalities have to contend with damage claims submitted by residents.

Very strict rules limit compensation in Quebec. Payouts are also low in other provinces.

Ottawa paid out only 10 per cent of claims last year, while Edmonton’s annual payout ratio is about 16 per cent. Toronto, meantime, paid out about half the 2,376 claims filed in 2014, the city said in its latest report.

Ghomeshi found not guilty of all charges in sexual assault trial

CityNews | posted Thursday, Mar 24th, 2016

Judgement day in the compelling sexual assault trial of Jian Ghomeshi has arrived.

The fallen radio star has been found not guilty in all four counts of sexual assault one count of overcoming resistance by choking by Ontario Court Justice William Horkins today.

“The quality of the evidence failed to prove the case,” Horkins said in delivering the verdict. “The testimony brings reasonable doubt.”

Ghomeshi had previously pleaded not guilty to the five charges against him. Ghomeshi now faces/was facing a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail. The choking charge carried or carries a potential life sentence.

Ghomeshi – who kept a very low profile inside and outside the courtroom – immediately hugged his mother and sister upon hearing the verdict. Because of this acquittal, he now has the option of pursuing a counter lawsuit for defamation or malicious prosecution against his accusers.

Looking back at the trial, the strategic decision not to testify in his own defence likely played a large part in why he walked out of Old City Hall a free man today.

He also has an all-star defence team to thank, Marie Henein and Danielle Robitaille, for using every moment of the trial’s 80 days to break down every fiber of his three complainants’ testimonies.

This trial heard three alleged victims: Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere and two other women who chose to keep their identities protected.

Henein’s fierce cross examination targeted inconsistencies in the women’s accounts of what happened between them and the former broadcaster, some of which allegedly happened over a decade ago. In her closing statements, Henein accused all three women of lying under oath.

The defence consistently produced what several media outlets could only describe as ‘bombshells’ of evidence against each complainant throughout the case.

For the first complainant, Henein presented flirtatious emails sent after alleged assaults in 2002 and 2003, including an infamous bikini photo that was never made public. The emails were brought up in court after the woman testified she never contacted Ghomeshi following a series of violent accounts with him.

DeCoutere was confronted with emails of her own, including one where she expressed a desire to have sex with Ghomeshi after an alleged assault where she was slapped and choked by Ghomeshi against her will. Henein also produced a hand-written letter sent to Ghomeshi days after the alleged assault that ended with the words: “I love your hands.”

The third and final complainant admitted to deliberately withholding information from police. In addition to that, Henein also revealed that the third woman and DeCoutere exchanged thousands of messages discussing their allegations and shared contempt for Ghomeshi.

The 48-year-old disgraced radio host has acknowledged to being into “rough sex” but maintains that it was always consensual.

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