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13 charges laid after dramatic downtown police pursuit

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Toronto police have laid 13 charges against a Toronto man they allege was involved in a dramatic police pursuit through the downtown core which also involved a stolen police cruiser.

On May 23 at around 7:45 p.m. police allege an SUV was spotted speeding in the Eastern Avenue and Coxwell Avenue area.

When officers tried to stop the vehicle, the driver didn’t pull over and a pursuit began. Police said the pursuit had to be called off for safety reasons.

Later, police said the suspect vehicle drove into a store window near Queen Street East and Jarvis Street and caught on fire.

When officers arrived and tried to get the suspect out of the burning vehicle, it was discovered there was nobody in the car.  Police said the suspect had apparently escaped the burning wreck, only then to jump into one of the idling police cruisers and drive off.

Officers pursued the stolen police cruiser, but the chase was called off again for public safety reasons.

Several minutes later, police said the stolen cruiser stopped on Harbord Street.  An officer arrived at the scene and attempted to arrest the suspect.

It was at this point “the suspect resisted, a struggle ensued and the suspect assaulted the officer,” police said. “More officers arrived on scene and the man was arrested and taken into custody.”

Investigators said no one was hurt.

Forty-three-year-old Cosmin Radulet is facing the following charges:

  • Dangerous Operation
  • Dangerous Operation
  • Flight from Police
  • Dangerous Operation
  • Fail to Remain
  • Theft of Motor Vehicle
  • Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Over $5000
  • Mischief Over $5000
  • Dangerous Operation
  • Flight from Police
  • Assault with a Weapon
  • Assault with Intent to Resist Arrest
  • Assault Peace Officer

 

Radulet appeared in court on Sunday.

Police said they continue to investigate the incident, and are asking anyone who may have witnessed the incident or may have dash-cam, smartphone, or surveillance video to contact investigators directly.  Tips can also be left anonymously with Crime Stoppers.

Schools and students in limbo as virtual fall term looms

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, imagine being a high-school graduate right now, deciding whether to pay your tuition for post-secondary education in the fall. How do you know what you’ll be getting for your money? Do the lessons in your program even translate to virtual education? And what about the hundreds of things that aren’t taught in classes but make up university life? How much of that will even be possible?

Meanwhile, colleges and universities are trying to make plans on the fly, survive the sudden lack of international students and keep their enrolment numbers from dropping in a world that could look dramatically different in September. It’s going to be a very strange fall term on (or off) campus.
GUEST: Joe Friesen, The Globe and Mail, postsecondary education reporter

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Heat warning continues for GTA, 6 emergency cooling centres open

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

The hot weather continues across Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area on Tuesday as a heat warning issued by Environment Canada remains in place.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said the high is expected to be 30 C, but with the humidity it will feel closer to 39.

In response to the sweltering temperatures, the City of Toronto is opening six emergency cooling centres, which will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The location of these centres are:

  • Wallace Emerson Community Centre, 1260 Dufferin St.
  • Regent Park Community Centre, 402 Shuter St.
  • Malvern Community Centre Arena, 30 Sewells Rd.
  • Scarborough Village Community Centre Arena, 3600 Kingston Rd.
  • Amesbury Arena, 155 Culford Dr.
  • Domenico DiLuca Community Centre, 25 Stanley Rd.

 

“(There is) a definite risk of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion, when you’re dealing with a humidex close to 39, even 40,” Taylor explained.

This hot spell is expected to last over the next few days.

High humidex values also bring a risk or showers or thunderstorms.

The greatest chance for wet weather will be on Thursday, with showers in the forecast for the early evening.

During the summer months, residents are being reminded to never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle.

City to pilot ‘physical distancing’ circles at Trinity Bellwoods

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Officials in Toronto say they are exploring the idea of painting circles on the grass at city parks to help with physical distancing.

The city says the method, which has had success elsewhere, will be piloted in Trinity Bellwoods.

‘To assist residents with physical distancing, the City is exploring the use of circles painted on the grass, as has been successful in other jurisdictions,” the City of Toronto said in a statement released Monday.

“This will be piloted in Trinity Bellwoods Park, and staff will evaluate the effectiveness of this measure and may expand it.”

Thousands of people flocked to the west-end park on Saturday in apparent disregard of measures aimed at slowing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accountability group calls for coronavirus transparency, whistleblower protection

JIM BRONSKILL , THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, May 25th, 2020

OTTAWA — An ad-hoc transparency group is calling on governments to make crucial records related to the COVID-19 pandemic open by default as a measure of accountability to Canadians.

The Canadian COVID-19 Accountability Group urges public officials to proactively release documents concerning health and safety enforcement, scientific and public health research, and contracts, grants, and loans provided to companies and organizations.

The coalition includes academics, lawyers and representatives of groups including the Whistleblowing Canada Research Society and Anti-Corruption and Accountability Canada.

In a report released today, it says the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded dramatic action, both politically and financially, to slow the spread of the disease.

But the coalition says public and private bodies have been less than transparent with the news media and the public about those actions.

The group echoes a recent call from federal information commissioner Caroline Maynard for agencies to release pandemic-related records they create without prompting.

The coalition seeks a clear declaration that Canadian governments will protect anyone who reports public or private-sector wrongdoing pertaining to health and safety, science or the misuse of public funds, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

It also recommends the creation of a COVID-19 ombudsman to advise and support Canadians wishing to disclose any wrongdoing they see.

Many Canadians who witness suspect deeds will have questions and require advice about reporting what they have witnessed, the group says.

“Even those in organizations with disclosure mechanisms, such as whistleblower hotlines, may not know of (or trust) them,” the report says. “They would benefit from support in choosing where to go, articulating their concerns and understanding what evidence they need to make a credible disclosure of wrongdoing.”

The report calls for an awareness campaign to educate employees about how to report wrongdoing concerning the expenditure of public funds related to the pandemic, as well as the non-disclosure or manipulation of information about COVID-19.

The coalition acknowledges its recommendations are ambitious and will require “work and consistent, steady leadership.”

Some can be enacted quickly while others, such as the development of comprehensive whistleblowing legislation, will require more time, it says.

“However, without these reforms, it will be difficult for citizens to hold bad actors accountable for their actions and inactions during the pandemic, as well as prevent future failures that could jeopardize both taxpayer dollars and Canadian lives.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.

—Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Minds behind pandemic predicting algorithm already thinking about future beyond coronavirus

BT Toronto | posted Monday, May 25th, 2020

The Canadian researcher who was among the first to predict the deadly spread of COVID-19 says the world needs to change the way it monitors for and reacts to disease outbreaks.

Dr. Kamran Khan set out to make a “smoke alarm” that would detect disease outbreaks around the world when he created his pandemic-predicting software BlueDot.

Khan and his team of about 50 experts used big data and artificial intelligence to warn the world of a potentially serious viral outbreak three days before the World Health Organization, though they picked up on the signs even earlier.

Waiting for outbreaks to be declared typically takes too long, the University of Toronto professor of medicine and public health says, and the information often takes a long time to make it into the hands of the medical community and the public.

The world is changing, he says, and diseases are emerging with greater frequency and having bigger impacts.

Big data and artificial intelligence can provide a bird’s-eye view of diseases around the globe in real time, letting people move faster to quash new outbreaks.

It’s time we start using them, for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Khan says.

By this point, BlueDot’s story is famous around the world.

The software scours hundreds of thousands of sources of information in 65 languages around the world all day, every day, to look for signs of trouble.

Khan received the first indication something was amiss in Wuhan, China, on New Year’s Eve. The algorithm picked up a blog post in Chinese describing a pneumonia outbreak involving about 20 people.

Within seconds, the program was able to sift through anonymized international flight itineraries to predict 20 places the outbreak might spread.

The outbreak the algorithm described bore serious similarities to the 2003 SARS outbreak. Khan and his team submitted their findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal on Jan. 6.

By the time the virus showed up in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 13, the smoke alarm was ringing.

“If you see a case show up outside of Wuhan in another country, it’s telling you that the outbreak is much bigger than a couple dozen cases. Maybe hundreds, maybe thousands,” Khan says.

“That’s the moment we were quite concerned.”

Of the 20 places BlueDot predicted the virus could spread, 12 were among the first destinations to report outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

The embers landed in Canada, and the house has caught fire.

While Canada’s health-care system has struggled even to count the number of manually confirmed cases across the country due to archaic data gathering systems, Khan’s team in Toronto have used their technology to measure how well people have been sticking to public health advice.

Using anonymized cell phone data, they’ve been tracking how much people have been moving about as health officials urge them to stay home.

Khan refers to this as the “fire extinguisher” function of big data during a pandemic, allowing public health authorities to target their efforts where they’re needed most.

“When there’s only so many people, your human resources in the public health sector are finite, you can’t be everywhere,” he says.

As Canada gets farther from the crest of the first wave of the pandemic, and people begin moving around the country and around the world again, the smoke alarm is going to be important, Khan says.

“We’re going to be thinking about introductions from other parts of the globe and trying to make sure that those embers are kind of snuffed out as quickly as possible,” he says.

This time, he hopes governments, institutions and individuals will be able to take smarter steps more quickly.

“We need to be using the latest in data and digital technologies to our advantage to do that,” he says.

What we do with the information also needs to change, he says.

Typically when a new outbreak is reported, public-health officials find out first. They share the information with governments, which then share it with the medical community and eventually the public and industry become aware.

That cascade of information means delayed reactions.

“If we are going to be able to be successful, we are going to have to empower the whole of society,” Khan says.

And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that everyone needs to work to extinguish the fire together, he says.

MPs meeting to decide on resuming Parliament during pandemic

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, May 25th, 2020

The House of Commons is meeting Monday to decide, again, how it’s going to function as COVID-19 restrictions gradually lift across the country.

The governing Liberals are proposing four sittings a week of a special committee to talk about the pandemic and how the government is responding to it, using a hybrid system with some MPs in the Commons chamber in Ottawa and others participating by video conference.

They would also have four days scattered through the summer when MPs could press cabinet ministers on other issues.

The Liberals appear to have the NDP’s broad backing for the plan, which would be enough to get it passed today.

The Conservatives have been pushing for many more normal sittings of the Commons, with full-blown question periods and a chance to debate legislation, though with a limited number of MPs in the room to reduce the risks of spreading the novel coronavirus.

The House of Commons has been working on how to hold debates and votes with some MPs participating remotely, but hasn’t yet solved technical and security challenges.

Mayor apologizes after facing criticism for appearance at Trinity Bellwoods Park

BT Toronto | posted Monday, May 25th, 2020

 

Toronto Mayor John Tory is apologizing after facing criticism for making an appearance at Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday.

Outrage began brewing on social media as photos of the mayor at the park circulated online over the weekend.

A post on Reddit showed the mayor speaking with park visitors with his mask pulled down over his chin at what appears to be a distance of less than two metres.

John Tory in bellwoods with his mask pulled down from toronto

Another post on Imgur showed the mayor among a group of people, once again with his mask pulled down.

View post on imgur.com

Tory as well as Councillor Brad Bradford visited a number of newly opened park amenities on Saturday, including the stretch of Lake Shore East that was closed to traffic for the ActiveTO initiative to allow people to walk and bike while maintain social distance.

However, images from Trinity Bellwoods park showed massive crowds and the mayor’s presence at the park had many questioning his behaviour and the example he is setting for residents.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health called the behaviour of park visitors potentially “selfish and dangerous … that could set us back.”

The Mayor issues a statement on Sunday evening saying he wanted to apologize for his behaviour.

“I visited Trinity Bellwoods Park to try to determine why things were the way they were,” the statement reads.

“I fully intended to properly physically distance but it was very difficult to do. I wore a mask into the park but I failed to use it properly, another thing I’m disappointed about. These were mistakes that I made and as a leader in this city, I know that I must set a better example going forward.”

A spokesman from the mayor’s office tells CityNews Tory “gained valuable insights” into people’s reasoning for using the park when he visited.

As for the mayor’s incorrect usage of a face mask, Don Peat said we are all still getting used to wearing masks in public.

“The Mayor will make sure his mask is on properly when he is out in public in situations where public health and physical distancing guidelines recommend wearing one,” he said.

Meanwhile Toronto Police is stepped up social distancing enforcement at Trinity Bellwoods park on Sunday.

Chief Mark Saunders was also seen at the park speaking with concerned residents about the nearly 10,000 people that gathered there on Saturday.

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