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Spring-like temperatures sweep through the GTA on Friday

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Dec 28th, 2018

There may only be a few days left in December but if you’re headed outside on Friday, you’ll find it feels a lot more like spring.

680 NEWS meteorologist Carl Lam says Toronto and the GTA is expecting a high of 10 C with wind gusts up to 50 kilometres per hour.

“That’s not very typical for December,” Lam explained.

“This is more like late April and early May type weather. But we’re also seeing precipitation headed our way.”

According to Lam, the GTA could see between five to eight millimetres of rain.

During the overnight, a system brought freezing rain warnings to much of southern Ontario threatening slippery conditions for the area, but that has now been lifted.

But enjoy Friday’s warm weather while you can.

Lam says a big cold-front is expected to sweep through Friday evening, knocking temperatures down to -1 C.

Man stabbed during fight at Richmond and Spadina

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Dec 27th, 2018

A man was stabbed and two others were injured during a fight in front of a downtown bar.

Police said they got a call shortly before 2 a.m. about a group of men fighting at Richmond Street and Spadina Avenue.

Paramedics took a man to hospital with a serious stab wound. He is expected to recover

Witnesses said a group of men were seen driving away in a car after the brawl.

Missing 75-year-old woman located after 2-day search

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Dec 27th, 2018

An extensive two day search for a missing 75-year-old woman has come to a successful conclusion.

Shirley Lee had been missing since 9 p.m. Christmas Eve when she was last seen at her home in the area of Lawrence and Morningside avenues.

“This is amazing,” said Lee’s grandson Chris Chase who told CityNews his grandmother walked up to someone at the Value Village near Markham Road and Lawrence and asked for help.

“I’m really relieved. We’ve been searching for two days straight non-stop and this is the best Christmas gift I could ever get,” said Chase.

Lee was taken to a nearby hospital to be examined by doctors but according to police, initial indications are she is doing well.

A better fate for your Christmas tree

KEVIN BISSETT, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 27th, 2018

Canada’s Christmas tree farms produce over three million pine, spruce and fir trees each year — and most of them are simply abandoned at the curb soon after Santa makes his annual visit.

Now, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is suggesting that people should instead haul their tree to the backyard, to help nature and learn a bit about ecology.

“There are better things we can do with our live Christmas tree when we’re done with it,” said Dan Kraus, senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Most municipalities have programs to chip and compost old Christmas trees, but Kraus said residents have an opportunity to make the most of their old tree.

“Put it out in the backyard and you’ll find that backyard birds start using it right away, especially if you have a birdfeeder. The birds will land in the tree before they go to the feeder. Some of them may even stay in it at night to get some shelter,” he said.

“You can decorate your old tree for birds and squirrels by doing things like hanging suet, or peanuts.”

He said that over winter, many of the needles will fall off, and by spring the tree will be ready to introduce to the soil.

Kraus suggests cutting off the branches in the spring and laying them on the ground around flowers.

“They’ll provide a little bit of shelter. They’ll help hold moisture in the soil, and then you can just put the tree trunk somewhere on the ground, even as a border for your garden area. That will start to provide some habitat right away for things like toads or various insects through the summer in your garden,” he said.

Kraus said the smaller you cut the branches, and the more they are in contact with the soil, the sooner they will begin to decompose.

“You are feeding the soil. By fall the smaller branches and twigs that have been in contact with the soil will have probably broken down quite a bit. They might not even be there anymore,” he said.

He said it could take a couple years for the trunk of the tree to completely decompose, but drilling holes in it will speed the process.

“That will encourage insects to burrow into the wood. It will provide habitat and make the trunk break down more quickly,” he said.

Kraus said, for those who don’t have a place on their property to recycle a tree, make sure your municipality composts them.

He said many places used to just put the trees in the landfill, which creates methane that’s not good for climate change.

Brooke Henderson repeats as Canadian Press female athlete of the year

GREGORY STRONG, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 27th, 2018

There was a quiet poise to Brooke Henderson on that Sunday morning last summer in Regina ahead of her final round at the CP Women’s Open.

She had experienced big moments before: her first LPGA Tour win as a 17-year-old in 2015, her first major victory a year later, her first appearance at the Olympics.

This tournament was different.

No Canadian had won the national open since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973. Supporters who crammed the galleries could sense something special was happening.

Henderson would deliver in emphatic fashion, firing a closing-round 65 for a four-shot victory.

“The 18th hole, standing on that green, surrounded by family and friends and hundreds of fans and spectators cheering me on = it was sort of a surreal moment,” Henderson said. “To finally hold that trophy that I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl, it gives me chills just thinking back on it.”

It was one of two tournament titles and 11 top-10 finishes for Henderson last season. On Wednesday, she was rewarded for her stellar campaign by being named a repeat winner of the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as The Canadian Press female athlete of the year.

Henderson, who has won the award in three of the last four years, picked up 30 of 54 votes (55.6 per cent) in a poll of broadcasters and editors from across the country.

“Especially this year being an Olympic year with all the great athletes that competed in the Winter Olympics, it’s a big honour and I’m just really proud to take home this award again,” Henderson said.

Figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond and short-track speedskater Kim Boutin tied for second place with 10 votes each (18.5 per cent).

The winner of the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year will be named Thursday and the team of the year will be named Friday.

With wet weather in the forecast, Henderson had an early start for her final round at the CP Women’s Open. Showing no sign of nerves or timidity, she lashed her opening drive down the fairway and birdied the hole for a two-stroke lead.

Angel Yin, Sung Hyun Park, Su Oh and others tried to make charges that day but Henderson wouldn’t buckle. In fact, the Canadian found another gear.

Henderson pulled away with four straight birdies on the back nine and tapped in a birdie putt on the 18th hole to send the crowd into a tizzy. Her seventh career LPGA Tour victory moved her one behind Sandra Post’s record for all-time wins by a Canadian.

“The blinders were on,” Post said. “She was looking at the finish line and she just looked like it was hers. She wasn’t nervous. It was hers.”

It was an emotional summer for Henderson and her family. Her maternal grandfather died in early June and her paternal grandfather died in early August.

Henderson, from Smiths Falls, Ont., remained steady and consistent throughout the year. She won the Lotte Championship last April in Hawaii, earned US$1.47 million over the season and finished ninth in the world rankings.

“Big performances on the biggest stage amongst stiff competition in one of the highest-profile sports in the world,” said Edmonton-based Postmedia editor Craig Ellingson.

Henderson was fourth in scoring average (69.99) on the LPGA Tour, eighth in driving distance (268-yard average) and fourth in greens in regulation (74.5 per cent).

Her short game statistics were middle of the pack. Henderson was 72nd in putting average (29.7 putts per round) and 87th in sand saves (43.7 per cent).

“It’s easy to get down on yourself when things aren’t going perfectly,” Henderson said. “I feel like I stayed really patient through the majority of the year. When things were not very good, they always turned around. You just have to wait them out and I did that.

“Even going into the CP Women’s Open, I was in contention a few times and wasn’t able to get the job done. But I feel like I learned from those experiences and then when I put myself in position in Regina, I wasn’t going to let it go that time. I was able to seal the deal.”

Bobbie Rosenfeld, an Olympic medallist in track and field and a multi-sport athlete, was named Canada’s best female athlete of the half-century in 1950.

The first winner of the Rosenfeld award was golfer Ada Mackenzie in 1933. Marlene Stewart Streit leads all golfers by taking the honour on five occasions (1952, ’53, ’56, ’57, ’63).

Trump: Mattis out as of Jan. 1; deputy to be acting chief

LOLITA C. BALDOR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 24th, 2018

Irritated with the criticism and fallout from Defence Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation, President Donald Trump on Sunday pushed the Pentagon chief out the door two months earlier than planned, an acrimonious end to a tense relationship that had been eroding in recent months.

In a series of tweets, Trump appeared to questions why he had put Mattis in his Cabinet in the first place, and said deputy defence secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over as acting secretary on Jan. 1 to cover the accelerated departure.

The sudden change strips Mattis of any chance to further frame national security policy or smooth rattled relations with allies through the originally planned transition at the end of February. And it reflects White House displeasure with the retired Marine Corps general’s blistering resignation letter, which he delivered to Trump on Thursday.

Mattis resigned in protest over Trump’s decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria. U.S. officials, however, said that the reaction to his decision to leave – including the shock and dismay expressed on Capitol Hill – annoyed Trump and likely led to Mattis leaving earlier than planned.

Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, a spokesman for Shanahan, said the former Boeing executive will accept the appointment as acting secretary.

“Deputy Secretary will continue to serve as directed by the president, and the Department of Defence will remain focused on the defence of the nation,” Buccino said on Sunday.

It is unusual for the Pentagon to have an acting secretary of defence. Historically when a secretary has resigned, he has stayed on until a successor is confirmed. For example, when Chuck Hagel was told to resign in November 2014, he stayed in office until Ash Carter was confirmed the following February.

While Mattis’ resignation followed Trump’s announcement that he would soon pull all of the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, officials said that the decision was the result of an accumulation of disagreements.

In a stunning resignation letter, Mattis made clear he did not see eye to eye with a president who has expressed disdain for NATO and doubts about keeping troops in Asia.

Earlier Sunday, Trump’s acting chief of staff said that Trump had known for “quite some time now” that he and Mattis “did not share some of the same philosophies … have the same world view.”

Mick Mulvaney told ABC’s “This Week” that the president and his defence chief “just could never get on the same page” on Syria, adding that Trump had said since his presidential campaign that “he wanted to get out of Syria.” Mulvaney said the president “is entitled to have a secretary of defence who is committed to that same end.”

Asked whether Trump wanted a Pentagon leader willing to challenge him or someone in lock step with his views, Mulvaney said “a little bit of both.”

“I’ve encouraged him to find people who have some overlap with him but don’t see the world in lockstep with him,” Mulvaney said.

The Pentagon on Sunday would only say that Mattis serves at the pleasure of the president.

Other officials said it wasn’t clear whether Mattis had spoken directly to Trump about the accelerated departure. Mattis had been at work on Friday, and defence officials had insisted he was planning to stay through February, when he would attend a NATO defence ministers meeting.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined leading Republicans on foreign affairs in urging Trump to reconsider his decision to withdraw American forces from Syria.

“We believe that such action at this time is a premature and costly mistake that not only threatens the safety and security of the United States but also emboldens” the Islamic State group, President Bashar Assad’s government, Iran and Russia, according to the letter, signed by McConnell and eight other senators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who organized it.

They asked Trump to “not make any final decision for 90 days to allow time to adequately study the impacts of this decision on our partners, our allies and the re-emergence of ISIS and other terror groups, to ensure our nation’s strategic interests are secured.”

But Mulvaney, asked on ABC whether there was any chance the president might change his mind on Syria decision, said: “No. I think the president has told people from the very beginning that he doesn’t want us to stay in Syria forever. You’re seeing the end result now of two years’ worth of work. But keep in mind it’s not unusual for a president to lose members of the Cabinet over these types of disagreements.”

Just after tweeting the announcement about Shanahan, Trump said he had had “a long and productive call” with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump said they discussed IS, “our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly co-ordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area. After many years they are coming home.”

Shanahan, a longtime Boeing Co. executive, was nominated for the deputy job in early 2017.

He moved up through the management ranks at Boeing over a career that began in 1986. The Puget Sound Business Journal called him a Boeing “fix-it” man in a March 2016 report. He oversaw the company’s global supply chain strategies and use of advanced manufacturing technologies. Shanahan was central to getting the 787 Dreamliner on track after production problems in the program’s early years, the report said.

Doctors, rescuers work in tsunami struck Indonesian areas, death toll rises to 281

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 24th, 2018

Doctors worked to help survivors and hundreds of people searched on debris-strewn beaches for more victims Monday from a deadly tsunami that smashed into houses, hotels and other buildings without warning in the darkness along an Indonesian strait.

The waves that swept terrified people into the sea Saturday night along the Sunda Strait followed an eruption and possible landslide on Anak Krakatau, one of the world’s most infamous volcanic islands.

At least 281 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. Dozens are missing from the disaster areas along the coastlines of western Java and southern Sumatra islands, and the numbers could increase once authorities hear from all stricken areas.

The Indonesian Medical Association says it is sending more doctors and medical equipment and that many of the injured are in need of orthopedic and neurosurgery expertise. It says most patients are domestic tourists who were visiting the beach during the long holiday weekend.

It was the second deadly tsunami to hit Indonesia this year, but the one that struck the island of Sulawesi on Sept. 28 was accompanied by a powerful earthquake that gave residents a brief warning before the waves struck.

On Saturday night, the ground did not shake beforehand to alert people to the oncoming wave that ripped buildings from their foundations in seconds and swept terrified concertgoers on a resort beach into the sea.

Dramatic video posted on social media showed the Indonesian pop band Seventeen performing under a tent on Tanjung Lesung beach at a concert for employees of a state-owned electricity company. Dozens of people sat at tables while others swayed to the music near the stage as strobe lights flashed and theatrical smoke was released. A child could also be seen wandering through the crowd.

Seconds later, with the drummer pounding just as the next song was about to begin, the stage suddenly heaved forward and buckled under the force of the water, tossing the band and its equipment into the audience.

The group released a statement saying their bass player, guitarist and road manager were killed, while two other band members and the wife of one of the performers were missing.

“The tide rose to the surface and dragged all the people on site,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, when the current receded, our members were unable to save themselves while some did not find a place to hold on.”

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Monday morning that 281 deaths had been confirmed and at least 1,016 people were injured.

The worst-affected area was the Pandeglang region of Java’s Banten province, which encompasses Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the agency said.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo expressed his sympathy and ordered government agencies to respond quickly to the disaster.

“My deep condolences to the victims in Banten and Lumpung provinces,” he said. “Hopefully, those who are left have patience.”

In the city of Bandar Lampung on Sumatra, hundreds of residents took refuge at the governor’s office, while at the popular resort area of Anyer beach on Java, some survivors wandered in the debris.

Many of those affected were domestic tourists enjoying the long holiday weekend, but foreigners were visiting the area ahead of Christmas as well.

“I had to run, as the wave passed the beach and landed 15-20m (meters, or 50-65 feet) inland,” said Norwegian Oystein Lund Andersen, in a Facebook post. The self-described photographer and volcano enthusiast said he was taking pictures of the volcano when he suddenly saw the water racing toward him. He and his family fled safely to higher ground.

The damage became apparent after daybreak Sunday. Nine hotels and hundreds of homes were heavily damaged by the waves. Broken chunks of concrete and splintered sticks of wood littered hard-hit coastal areas, turning beach getaways popular with Jakarta residents into near ghost towns. Debris from thatch-bamboo shacks was strewn along beaches.

Yellow, orange and black body bags were laid out, and weeping relatives identified the dead.

Scientists, including those from Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics agency, said the tsunami could have been caused by landslides – either above ground or under water – on the steep slope of the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano. The scientists also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.

The 305-meter (1,000-foot) -high Anak Krakatau, whose name means “Child of Krakatoa,” lies on an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands, linking the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea. It has been erupting since June and did so again about 24 minutes before the tsunami, the geophysics agency said.

The volcanic island formed over years after the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, one of the largest, most devastating in recorded history. That disaster killed more than 30,000 people, launched far-reaching tsunamis and created so much ash that day was turned to night in the area and a global temperature drop was recorded.

Most of the island sank into a volcanic crater under the sea, and the area remained calm until the 1920s, when Anak Krakatau began to rise from the site. It continues to grow each year and erupts periodically.

Gegar Prasetya, co-founder of the Tsunami Research Center Indonesia, said Saturday’s tsunami was likely caused by a flank collapse – when a big section of a volcano’s slope gives way. It’s possible for an eruption to trigger a landslide above ground or beneath the ocean, both capable of producing waves, he said.

“Actually, the tsunami was not really big, only 1 metre (3.3 feet),” said Prasetya, who has studied Krakatoa. “The problem is people always tend to build everything close to the shoreline.”

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and home to 260 million people, lies along the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.

A powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August. And the tsunami and earthquake that hit Sulawesi in September killed more than 2,100 people, and thousands more are believed buried in neighbourhoods swallowed by a quake phenomenon known as liquefaction.

Saturday’s tsunami also rekindled memories of the massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake that hit Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004. It spawned a giant tsunami off Sumatra island, killing more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries – the majority in Indonesia.

London airport remains open, but location of drone culprit up in air

GREGORY KATZ, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 24th, 2018

London’s Gatwick Airport operated without problems Sunday, but the fugitive drone operators who brought incoming and outgoing flights to a standstill over multiple days remained at large – and a potential threat – after police cleared two local residents who were arrested as suspects.

Sussex Police were hopeful they had halted the disruptive and costly drone incursions during one of the heaviest travel periods of the year with Friday’s arrests of a couple who live near the airport. But they were released Sunday, and police said they were no longer suspects.

Tens of thousands of passengers suffered through long flight delays or were stranded by cancellations after two drones were reported seen above the airfield at Gatwick on Wednesday night, prompting an immediate suspension of all air traffic.

Sussex Chief Detective Jason Tingley said Sunday he could not rule out new drone activity at Gatwick or other U.K. airports. He also said it was possible that witnesses who reported sightings after the first ones aroused alarm were mistaken.

“Of course, that’s a possibility. We are working with human beings saying they have seen something,” Tingley told the BBC.

At the same, he said police were making progress in a three-pronged investigation: tracking “persons of interest,” investigating 67 reported drone sightings, and examining a damaged drone found near Gatwick.

The drone in police hands may provide useful forensic clues, such as the DNA of people who handled it, Tingley said. But the rain the London area got on Friday and Saturday might have washed away some evidence, he said.

Airport authorities consider drones a menace because they could damage a plane in flight or be sucked into a plane’s engine, causing a deadly crash

After the shutdown extended into Thursday, increased military protection was brought in Thursday night to watch for more drones while planes resumed taking off and landing at Britain’s second-busiest airport.

The government has kept the details of the security operation secret, but the military equipment is thought to offer better tracking capabilities and give authorities early warning if drones approach Gatwick, located 30 miles (45 kilometres) south of London.

At the airport on Sunday, flight arrival and departure boards showed fewer delays than on Saturday. Additional tracking gear at the periphery of the runway and an increased police presence were the only clear signs of the headaches experienced there in the past four days. But officials have stepped up surveillance of the surrounding airspace behind-the-scenes.

British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said the unspecified “military measures” have bolstered confidence that the airport will be able to remain open without further interruptions. But anti-drone technology is a relatively new, imperfect field, Grayling said.

It is not clear how officials will respond if another drone gets too close. The best guide may be what happened on Friday night, when the airport was shut down for 70 minutes after a drone was spotted. The military deployment allowed the airport to reopen relatively quickly, authorities have said.

No confirmed drone incursions have taken place since then – a factor that led many to assume police had found the responsible operators when they arrested the two suspects Friday night.

That hope ended Sunday when the couple – a 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman – was allowed to return to their home in Crawley, a 5-minute drive from Gatwick.

Detective Tingley said he is satisfied the two were not involved. He is hoping a tip will provide a crucial lead.

Tingley said police did not identify the suspects but The Mail on Sunday tabloid named them and published a large front-page photo of them with the headline, “Are These the Morons Who Ruined Christmas?”

The crisis at Gatwick marked the first time drones caused sustained disruption at a major airport. There is not much data on the dangers drones pose to airplanes because they are a relatively new phenomenon.

Police say the motive for the drone incursion is not yet known but they do not believe it is “terror-related.”

Gatwick Airport, which handles roughly 43 million passengers per year, has offered a 50,000 pound ($63,000) reward through Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the drone operators.

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