Month: October 2019

German farmers take Merkel govt to court on climate targets

BERLIN — Three German farming families are taking Chancellor Angela Merkel to court, arguing that her government isn’t doing enough to tackle climate change.

The lawsuit, which will be heard Thursday by a Berlin court, is the first attempt in Germany to hold authorities legally accountable for pledges they have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The families, who are backed by environmental group Greenpeace, say their farms are already suffering from the effects of man-made global warming and Germany is partly responsible.

The families’ lawyer, Rhoda Verheyen, said her clients want judges to decide whether the government’s self-set emission reduction targets for 2020 constitute a binding pledge.

Germany’s environment ministry has acknowledged that it will miss its 2020 goal, but says that it’s now concentrating on a more ambitious target for 2030.

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Follow AP’s full coverage of climate change issues at https://ift.tt/2FLiB0N

Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

@repost Divorce Splitting Assets

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/10/31/german-farmers-take-merkel-govt-to-court-on-climate-targets/

By The Wall of Law October 31, 2019 Off

Who killed Barry and Honey Sherman? A new book offers fascinating insights.

The murders of Honey and Barry Sherman, the billionaire couple found dead in their Toronto home in December 2017, remains one of the country’s most perplexing unsolved crimes. In the newly published Billionaire Murders: The Mysterious Deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman, Kevin Donovan, the chief investigative reporter at the Toronto Star, reveals new details of a case he has been examining for two years. Kevin Donovan speaks with Anne Kingston about the flawed police investigation, the fractious relationships within the Sherman family, how the Shermans’ wealth has been deployed to avoid media scrutiny, and what he believes about who might have done it.

Warning: The following conversation contains graphic details, some involving suicide.

Q: Your book reveals that Toronto police weren’t contacted  for almost 90 minutes after the Shermans’ bodies were found next to their indoor swimming pool. Is that kind of delay unusual in your experience?

A: It’s very unusual, and I was fixated on it for some time. As far as I can tell, the bodies are discovered, some phone calls were made and the people who made the phone calls don’t want to describe to me why they did what they did. The police are adamant they got their call at 11:44 a.m. All of my research indicates the bodies were found at 10:10 a.m.

Q: Toronto police never said publicly that they believed the case was a murder-suicide, though they talked about “no forced entry” and no search for suspects. You write that police sources continued to tell reporters privately that murder-suicide was the working theory, which inflamed the Shermans’ family and friends. Yet there were also reports that both Barry and Honey Sherman were found with their coats pulled back behind him, which would immobilize arm movements—and rule out murder-suicide. How could police even consider it a murder-suicide?

A:  I can’t speak for Toronto police. But, as I understand it, the coats were pulled down but not enough to immobilize them. There’s also the detail about marks found on their wrists indicative of them being bound together; but those ties are removed and cannot be found. I struggle with this. How could you look at that scene and not think this was a case of double murder? The other thing I spend a lot of time trying to figure out was that [the Shermans] were in a seated position on the floor, their backs to the pool. There’s no way you could strangle yourself sitting upright like that. It’s different than jumping from a stool, like we’ve seen in the movies. There’s no fall here. So, in my opinion, there can be no murder-suicide or double-suicide.

Q: So it’s another glaring question mark?

A: Yes, one of the things I’ve been trying to get through my journey through the court process is to find out from police: “Okay, you’re not going to  release documents that detail what your theory is now. But give me and the public the first six weeks when it was considered murder-suicide, and let’s see who you talked to and what made you arrive at that wrong conclusion.” There is jurisprudence out there that says media and the public can have access to other theories once they are debunked. I’ve not won that one but am working on it. The true public interest in this—and why media are interested—is “Did our municipally funded force make some mistakes? If so, it’s something that needs to be looked at? Right now, we have the chief of police saying: “My officers did a great job.”

Q: Another unique aspect of this case was the Sherman family, rejecting the murder-suicide theory, hiring noted criminal defence attorney Brian Greenspan within 72 hours of the bodies being found. He assembled his own team to investigate and later set up a tip-line offering a potential $10-million reward. How did that factor into the investigation?

A: Brian Greenspan’s marching orders, in his words, were to “put a second lens on this.” Then he quickly thinks ‘We need to do a second set of autopsies,’ which I think was a good idea. What I do think is unusual is this lengthy investigation where Toronto police say they now have 343 tips they have to check out—including at least one tip from a psychic. So the police are slowed down by having to check all this stuff out. The other thing I found very unusual—and have never seen in a criminal case—is that there is an enormous reward and the information is to go to the private team and not the police.

Q: Greenspan has framed this as two parallel investigations. But he is representing the family, which was adamant early on about what could and could not be an outcome. So the idea that there are parallel ‘police-style’ investigations is false. Greenspan’s responsibility is to his clients.

A: That’s a good point. Then there is the issue of what he refers to as evidence—how does he get that to the police? Brian Greenspan obtained information that the crime scene was not, in their opinion, properly vacuumed so they found evidence—jewelry found in the driveway that’s wasn’t Honey’s. Police hired a lawyer to receive information from Greenspan and the Sherman family. It must be a maelstrom for the police to work with.

Q: With the tip-line, people are more likely to go where there’s a reward, rather than to police. How is the information relayed from Greenspan’s team to the police?

A: They get information in—emails or calls—they make a note or print-out and put on USB key and take it to the police. There have been 343 tips so far. It used to be on a weekly basis. But that ended on July 2, 2019. That’s the last Toronto Police has heard from the Greenspan team. I don’t know why.

Q: Do you have a theory why it took police six weeks to say it was a targeted double homicide?

A: I do, and I try not to be too self-serving or too Toronto Star-serving. I was asked to investigate on Jan. 6, and I spent a few weeks trying to find out, not who killed them, but whether it was it murder-suicide or double murder. I started interviewing people, including Dr. David Chiasson, a retired deputy chief coroner who happened to be involved in the case, who gave me permission to identify him. I got access to other forensic information—and get a sense of what the private investigators where doing. On Jan. 19, I published that the Shermans were murdered. Dr. Chiasson who conducted the second autopsy was interviewed on Wednesday and on Friday the police held a press conference. As fantastical as it seems, the Toronto police were invited into that autopsy room in December by the private team. They chose not to go or to see the second autopsy report—until it was on the front page of the Toronto Star.

Q: There appear to be so many miscues on the part of police—they didn’t collect DNA, or follow up on interviews.  It seemed that either they didn’t take it seriously as a murder investigation, or there was interference, or they were inept, which is how Brian Greenspan presented it. What do you think?

A: It’s a little bit of everything. The Shermans were killed on Dec. 13 and found on Dec. 15. That week was when the Toronto police were closing in on the Bruce McArthur serial murder investigation. McArthur wasn’t arrested until January but a lot of homicide resources were on that case, and not directed at the Shermans. And tragically there are a lot of homicides in Toronto. The fact Honey had injury to her face and Barry didn’t may have fueled thinking it was murder-suicide. The first police-mandated autopsy was done by someone who was not a veteran—and he wasn’t sure. The thinking in the first weeks was that Honey was the victim, not Barry.

Q: In your book, you write about the damage to Honey’s face which suggested the killings had a personal component—that the killer or killers felt differently towards husband and wife. Why was that worth mentioning?

A: I had no access to the police investigation so I’m looking for the clues. And that says to me that the person may have liked Barry more than Honey. But it could also mean that a person attacked Honey and then strangled Barry.

Q: Your book is also a fascinating portrait of wealth—and family dysfunction. You write that Barry Sherman gave his children millions but kept his wife on a tight financial leash—she had access to cash for trips and shopping, but controlled no money of her own. You also report that just before their deaths, Honey told friends her husband was contemplating giving her a big financial gift; her sister, Mary, was also telling people that Honey was giving her a lot of money. Why was this relevant?

A: Honey was given money for her needs but not her desires. If she wanted to put in a very expensive marble floor in their Florida condo, she could do that. Barry wasn’t interested in spending money—he liked to give it away—and felt his wife should be the same way. In the final year of her life, both Honey and Barry told friends she was going to come into between $100 million and $500 million. Then it became known that some of this might go to her beloved sister, Mary. Honey and Mary  were very close; they might be the closest relationship in the Sherman family. Honey was tough on her children—she wanted them to have jobs and pay bills. Barry was closer to them; he’d just give them money. From quite good sources, it was not unusual for the two older children to receive $100s of million and the younger two children to receive in the low millions. It was a very dysfunctional situation with money and the Sherman family.

Q: You also report that Honey appeared to have no will, and that there was a search for it. That would have  implications in terms of  the order of their deaths. Could you explain?

A: Nobody knows who died first. It’s more likely Honey died first. None of her close friends remember her having a will. They looked for a will. I went to court to try to get their wills, which is an ongoing legal battle. The papers filed for Honey are filed for a person without a will—intestate. I’ve seen two papers for Barry—one says he has a will, another says he doesn’t. I find it very confusing. My understanding of the will that I have not yet seen is that it gives money equally to the four children. It sets up a trust for Honey that will provide for her and she would have control over should Barry predecease her. Barry used a basic pro-forma will, like you can buy at Staples. I would have thought there would be millions for charities—but there’s nothing like that.

Q:  Jonathon Sherman emerges as an interesting figure in your book. You quote friends of Honey saying Honey and Jonathon “hated” one another, and also detail  Jonathon’s complex relationship with his father. Could you speak to that?

A: There’s one son, and three daughters. The daughters were not interested in business. Jonathon is interested in business, and with his father’s financial help purchased a self-storage firm and property in what he sees as the new cottage country. I have a chain of emails in the book from 2015 between Jonathon and his father; it’s quite acrimonious. At the time cash is tight for Apotex; Barry had bet on drugs that didn’t work out; it had happened before and he was going to ride it out. But he didn’t have hundreds of millions to pass around. According to Jonathon, far too much of his father’s money was going to Frank D’Angelo and not to him.

Frank D’Angelo is a colourful person and close friend of Sherman’s [who Sherman bankrolled in numerous business ventures]. Jonathon boldly asks for $250-million to develop cottages and expand his  storage business. Barry Sherman responds to lengthy emails with very short one-liners. In the final one, he says D’Angelo is good at making movies, here’s the trailer to his latest one; it was a put-down by Barry to his son. I understand that after that—I don’t have emails but talked to people who did—Jonathon said to his sisters: “Our father may be showing signs of incompetence; maybe it’s time to do something.”

I asked Brian Greenspan about that. He said Jonathon was only being a good steward of family finances, and maybe that was the case. But there was no attempt I could see to have Barry removed. I then tracked financial payments—I can only look where Barry has put a charge on Jonathon’s properties. After this acrimonious discussion there’s no money for a year, then the tap opens up again and in 2017 there’s quite a big payment to Jonathon’s business. It seems that things were much better between them.

Q: The email from Jonathon to his sister you quote has the subject line “to fellow shareholders.” You also report Jonathon wanted to be involved with Apotex succession planning with his business partner.

A: I have probably talked to a half dozen men who were sons of Barry Sherman’s friends. Barry was generous giving people employment. He was desperate to have someone succeed him in the business. Jonathon wasn’t doing that. He was doing his own thing.

Q: You also quote what you call an “eye-brow raising” comment Jonathon made at the funeral about his parents: that he and his siblings were glad “neither of you had to suffer like we are suffering now.” You saw that as worth noting?

A: I think so. Only Jonathon spoke for the family. You can tell it’s been a tough couple of days. You also can read between the lines about some of the comments he made, including mention of his mother falling when skiing, and see the relationship isn’t so great with his mother.

Q:  The book also chronicles fractures after the Shermans’ deaths, including Honey’s sister being exiled from the family. You also write about how Jack Kay,  Barry Sherman’s right hand at Apotex for 35 years and a trustee of the estate, was subject of a rumour floated by Jonathon that he was somehow involved in the murders, and he was later kicked out of Apotex. Some of this is stranger than fiction.

A: Jack Kay was asked to come back to be in charge at Apotex. One year and one day after the murders, Jonathon Sherman and an Apotex executive ushered Kay out of the building. There’s no gold watch, no party. There’s mediation going on now because Kay was not offered anything after 35 years of service. It is the case that there is a lot of finger-pointing going on, as I report, where they initially blame Frank D’Angelo, then Jonathan says Jack Kay was involved. When Greenspan has written me, he says that my own sources, who I don’t identify, may be guilty as well.  There’s a lot of finger-pointing.

Q: You asked everyone you interviewed “Where were you on the night of Dec. 13,?”  the night the Shermans are presumed to have been killed. When you went to ask the children, Greenspan asked you to go through him. He then said he couldn’t answer because he was “bound by police request.” Did you hear that from anyone else?

A: No, not at all. To the extent people had an alibi I would try to check it out. I have asked police on the witness stand if they ever asked people not to talk to the media, and they said “No.” [Donovan represents the Toronto Star in court in its bid to have documents about the case unsealed.]

Q: The Shermans were powerful figures entrenched in establishment Toronto, and establishment Canada. Family friends like Senator Linda Frum and Toronto mayor John Tory spoke to the police on behalf of the family. To what extent did the Sherman’s wealth affect your ability to report this story? I think for instance of how they successfully blocked access to what usually is public information, which is  extraordinary.

A: It is so extraordinary. The Shermans have been able to block the will. I’m not even too sure how much is in that estate file. I’ve learned through the process, people who have private businesses can shield most of their assets from probate. It’s gone to the Supreme Court of Canada and they’re fighting hard to stop it. I have an interest in Ford family and I went to court to see if the late mayor Rob Ford’s will had been filed. There was no problem. But the Sherman family wanted the will sealed because they said the family will be in danger if the information comes out. The police have said that won’t be the case.

The wealth really played into it. I had a hard time to have friends of Honey meet with me to tell one nice story. I said, “You’re treating them like the Kennedy’s but the Kennedy’s got their story out so what is it about them?” Friends of Honey were afraid she would look bad—that she drinks diet Coke with lemon and could be harsh with people sometime. Once they felt more comfortable with me, the stories tumbled out.

Q: What about the details of the police investigation itself?

A: What I found very interesting is that when I had a detective on the stand in court—we go back every six months, that’s the deal we have—he said “I can’t answer on that because the will and estate is embedded in our police documents.” That raises a lot of interesting scenarios for me because when I’ve interviewed people about the will it doesn’t seem that other people are beneficiaries. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s a key thing in the will that’s the answer. But the detective used the same word several times—it is imbedded throughout the ITO [authorization to obtain a search warrant]. To me that was a “Hey Martha” moment.

Q:  You describe a major revelation during a court date last April, when you were trying to get documents unsealed and you asked Detective Dennis Kim on the stand if police had a theory of the case…

A: There was a long pause. He said: “Yes we do.” And I said: “What does your theory mean?” He said: “It’s an idea of what happened.” I asked: “Who are the suspects?” And the judge told me: “You can’t go further than that.”

Q: That was a eureka moment for you?

A: A huge eureka moment. Then I asked him again if he had a theory of the case in October and wondered if he would backtrack.  He said “Yes.” I asked “Was it the same theory?” He said: ” Yes.” I asked: “Is there a suspect?” He said: “I can’t tell you.” I asked: “Is there a person of interest?” He said:  “I can’t tell you.” The most interesting thing that day was he revealed he got the Toronto police intelligence unit to go through a “voluminous”—his word—amount of data. And based on that they’re doing more production orders. And based on that, I think they’re close.

Q: We’ve been told the Sherman murder investigation has shrunk to one detective.

A: It’s bigger now. It started with 50 detectives, then down to one who produces production orders. Now they told me the original detective, Brandon Price, and another detective are involved on a daily basis.

Q: The Toronto Star’s lawyer told you to go out and “solve case.” In the book you don’t name anyone but clearly have some theories about who did it.

A: There were so many ‘out-there’ theories—that the murders were the result of a bad business deal, or the Mossad or the Clinton Foundation was behind it. I’ve arrived at the thinking that it’s not any of these theories. It’s somebody Barry Sherman knew who didn’t want him alive anymore and didn’t want Honey alive anymore. Years ago, Barry Sherman said, “If someone wants to take me out they could just shoot me.” That’s true. He would leave his office every night and get into his car. He would be easy to kill. Why kill him in the home? Why kill him with his wife? Why in the pool room? Who would know the schedule? The fact those bodies lay there for 36 hours tells me someone knew they wouldn’t be found.

Q: You write it would have to be someone familiar with the house, that it was personal, not professional.

A: I’ve spoken to people over the years about different types of homicide. And strangulation, that’s a very close, intimate thing. That’s different than hiring a hit man.

Q: You also write that you don’t think the killer or killers were professionals. One reason is the use of belts—one was taken from an upstairs bedroom. Organized criminals don’t look for their murder weapons at the scene.

A: I’ve not seen crime scene photos. But I was told belts were used. Barry was wearing a belt that morning, one Honey bought him at Canadian Tire. The other belt was from their bedroom, or my supposition is that was where the other belt was. I don’t think a foreign object was brought into the house to do the killing. Why the pool? Because it’s out of way, because the tile floor can be cleaned up easier.

Q: Do you think this case will ever be solved?

A: I do. That’s one of the questions I ask Detective Yim. And I’m able to look at his answers four times over two years. This [latest] time he said: “The case is moving along well. It’s very active and we’re cautiously optimistic.” They seem very pleased with whatever this Toronto police intelligence report by civilian analysts told them. That appears to be a very big break in the case.

MORE ABOUT BARRY SHERMAN:

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source https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/who-killed-barry-and-honey-sherman-a-new-book-offers-fascinating-insights/

By The Wall of Law October 31, 2019 Off

Ford government argues carbon tax stickers on gas pumps help ‘further’ free expression

TORONTO — A law mandating that gas stations display anti-carbon tax stickers “furthers the purposes of freedom of expression,” the Ontario government argues as part of its defence to a constitutional case.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is challenging the law, saying it violates free speech provisions because it constitutes compelled political speech. The government’s statement of defence, which the CCLA posted on its website, argues that the suit should be dismissed.

It says the CCLA doesn’t have standing to bring the challenge because it isn’t a gas retailer and therefore isn’t affected by the law.

The government also argues that the law does not limit the ability of gas stations to express any message or political speech.

“The (law) furthers the purposes of freedom of expression, which include seeking and attaining truth and participating in social and political decision-making, by promoting informed consumer choice and transparency,” the government argues.

The stickers show the federal carbon tax adding 4.4 cents per litre to the price of gasoline now, rising to 11 cents per litre in 2022. They do not include information about rebates available to Ontario residents.

The stickers became mandatory shortly before the federal election campaign began in September.

“This is a tax on everything, and we’re not going to stand for it,” Energy Minister Greg Rickford told the legislature in April. “We’re going to stick it to the Liberals and remind the people of Ontario how much this job-killing, regressive carbon tax costs.”

The carbon tax is expected to cost a typical household $258 this year and $648 by 2022. Residents of provinces with the tax will be getting rebates on their income tax returns that start at $128 annually and increase for people with spouses or dependents at home.

Ontario is among several provinces challenging the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax in court. Premier Doug Ford said in August that voters would decide the fate of the province’s legal challenge, but his government is nonetheless pressing ahead with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The province lost at the Ontario Court of Appeal in June.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2019.

@repost Best Family Lawyer

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source https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ford-government-argues-carbon-tax-stickers-on-gas-pumps-help-further-free-expression-1.4662986

By The Wall of Law October 31, 2019 Off

HBO Max Shows Coming To Canada Through CraveTV

Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, speaks onstage at the HBO Max WarnerMedia Investor Day Presentation, Burbank, Calif., Oct. 29, 2019.

TORONTO ― As the battle for TV viewers intensifies, Bell Media says it’s struck an agreement for the exclusive Canadian rights of original series made for the upcoming U.S. streaming platform HBO Max.

The pact with Warner Bros., announced Wednesday, will secure a fresh selection of programming to help fortify Bell’s Crave streaming brand in an increasingly crowded market where Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus arrive in November.

The deal also confirms that HBO Max isn’t headed to Canada as a standalone option when it launches stateside next May, a move that would’ve thrown another streaming competitor into the ring.

Watch: Will streaming services end up costing us as much as cable? Story continues below.

 

Instead, Bell Media president Randy Lennox said TV shows produced by Warner for HBO Max will mostly land on Crave’s premium HBO tier, which costs roughly $20 per month. The subscription price won’t be raised as part of the new agreement, he added.

“We wanted to simplify this convoluted world of so many offerings,″ Lennox said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“Disney Plus, Netflix and Amazon are inarguably ubiquitous goliaths ― but when you add all this content… to the already substantial Crave offering, I really do believe we compete on the world stage.″

Upcoming titles in the HBO Max deal, which takes effect next year, include a spinoff of “Gossip Girl,″ DC Comics series “Green Lantern,″ and “Dune: The Sisterhood,″ a project from Quebec director Denis Villeneuve that’s set in the universe of Frank Herbert’s “Dune″ novels.

But not everything on HBO Max will be mirrored in Canada, since the agreement only covers output from Warner’s television production operations.

That means certain TV shows produced by other companies will be excluded, among them Sony’s update to the cult animated series “The Boondocks,″ and “Sesame Street,″ which has a U.S. deal with HBO Max for both past and upcoming seasons.

Wildly popular 1990s sitcom “Friends″ was confirmed to be leaving Netflix for the HBO Max service in the United States, but won’t be making that same leap in Canada. And Japanese animated films made by Studio Ghibli, including Oscar winner “Spirited Away,″ aren’t part of the deal either.

Lennox said the selection available through Crave’s HBO package more than compensates for the missing programs.

Viewers will have access to HBO titles “Game of Thrones″ and “Succession″ and Hollywood movies “Green Book″ and “Crazy Rich Asians,″ as well as the basic tier of Crave, which features Showtime’s cable programs and classic network TV hits “Seinfeld″ and “Big Bang Theory.″⁣

A battle for viewers

Exclusive content has become a valuable asset for all of the major streaming players, who have invested billions of dollars in producing new shows and films to attract more subscribers and retain their current ones.

Netflix heads into the final months of the year with its strongest roster of potential awards contenders yet, including the Martin Scorsese drama “The Irishman″ and Scarlett Johansson-starring divorce dramedy “Marriage Story″ in an effort to reinforce its dominace. Amazon makes a similar play for accolades with the Adam Driver CIA whistleblower thriller “The Report.″

Those films will be trying to wrestle attention away from the star-studded TV lineup debuting Nov. 1 on Apple TV Plus, and the extensive selection of family-oriented programs making their way to Disney Plus on Nov. 12.

Under the HBO Max contract, Bell also renewed its first-run rights for Warner Bros. feature films, which include recent blockbuster hits “Joker″ and “It Chapter Two.″

@repost Separation Before Divorce

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source https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/hbo-max-canada-crave-tv_ca_5db98fede4b066da552a0c68

By The Wall of Law October 30, 2019 Off

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Colonel testifies he raised concerns about Ukraine, Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defying White House orders, an Army officer serving with President Donald Trump’s National Security Council testified to impeachment investigators Tuesday that he twice raised concerns over the administration’s push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and Joe Biden.

Alexander Vindman, a lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and later as a diplomat, is the first official to testify who actually heard Trump’s July 25 call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He reported his concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel.

Vindman also told investigators he tried to change the White House’s rough transcript of the call by filling in at least one of the omitted words, “Burisma,” a reference to the company linked to Biden and his son, according to people familiar with his testimony. But Vindman was unsuccessful.

His concerns, though, were far bigger than the transcript. And lawmakers said his failed effort to edit it didn’t significantly change their understanding of what transpired during Trump’s call that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Vindman’s arrival in military blue, with medals, created a striking image at the Capitol as the impeachment inquiry reached deeper into the White House. He testified for more than 10 hours.

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Utilities say equipment probably sparked California fires

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Electrical equipment caused two Southern California wildfires — one that killed three people and destroyed more than 1,600 homes last year — and another still smouldering in the well-heeled hills of Los Angeles, where thousands of people including Arnold Schwarzenegger fled homes in the dark, utilities said Tuesday.

The two findings add more examples of electric lines sparking major wildfires as utilities in California increasingly resort to drastic power outages as a precaution to prevent devastating blazes.

A fire that broke out early Monday morning near the J. Paul Getty Museum was sparked after high winds blew a eucalyptus branch onto an electric line that caused it to arc, ignite dry grass and destroy a dozen homes, according to preliminary findings announced by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power utility and the Fire Department.

Meanwhile, Southern California Edison announced that it believes its equipment caused the deadly Woolsey fire last year northwest of Los Angeles that scorched dry grasslands and burned across the Santa Monica Mountains all the way to the coast.

The Ventura County Fire Department found that SoCal Edison equipment ignited the November fire, torching homes in Thousand Oaks, Calabasas and Malibu, the utility said in a statement.

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Brexit ballot: UK lawmakers back December 12 election

LONDON (AP) — Britons will be heading out to vote in the dark days of December after the House of Commons on Tuesday backed an early national vote that could break the country’s political impasse over Brexit — or turn out to be merely a temporary distraction.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes electing a new crop of lawmakers will give his Conservative Party a majority and break the stalemate that blocked his plan to take Britain out of the European Union this month. This week the EU granted Britain a three-month Brexit extension until Jan. 31.

But after three years of inconclusive political wrangling over Brexit, British voters are weary and the results of an election are hard to predict.

The House of Commons voted 438-20 — with dozens of lawmakers abstaining — for a bill authorizing an election on Dec. 12. It will become law once it is approved Wednesday by the unelected House of Lords, which does not have the power to overrule the elected Commons.

Even before the result was announced, the political parties were in campaign mode.

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NCAA board approves athlete compensation for image, likeness

The NCAA took a major step Tuesday toward allowing college athletes to cash in on their fame, voting to permit them to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

The nation’s largest governing body for college sports and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit — something they have fought against doing for years — while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The NCAA Board of Governors, meeting at Emory University in Atlanta, directed each of the NCAA’s three divisions to create the necessary new rules immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.

Board chair Michael Drake, the president of Ohio State University, said the NCAA must embrace change and modernize “to provide the best possible experience for college athletes.”

But such changes will come with limitations, he said.

“The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions,” Drake told The Associated Press.

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Papadopoulos seeks California seat left vacant by Rep. Hill

LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide who was a key figure in the FBI’s Russia probe, filed paperwork Tuesday to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Democrat Katie Hill.

Papadopoulos didn’t immediately comment, but on Sunday he tweeted, “I love my state too much to see it run down by candidates like Hill. All talk, no action, and a bunch of sellouts.”

Hill, whose district covers Los Angeles County, announced her resignation on Sunday amid an ethics probe into allegations she had an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.

She’s admitted to a consensual relationship with a campaign staff member, but denied one with a congressional staff member, which would violate U.S. House rules. She’s called herself the victim of revenge porn by an abusive husband she is divorcing.

Papadopoulos, meanwhile, was a key figure in the FBI’s Russia probe into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

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Immigration official says US-Mexico border crisis not over

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top U.S. Border Patrol official has a warning: The crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is not over.

Even though crossings have been down over the past few months and news of custody deaths and teeming facilities full of children and families has faded from front pages and talking points of politicians, the number of migrants coming over border is still high. And resources are still stretched.

“It is kind of a new norm. We’re at risk at any time,” if some recent deterrent efforts are blocked by the courts, like a policy forcing asylum seekers to wait out their claims in Mexico , Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement operations at Border Patrol said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We will go back, mark the words, we will go back to the crisis level that we had before.”

Immigration has been a top issue since President Donald Trump took office almost three years ago, with Democrats heavily critical of his administration on border conditions. But Washington is now dominated by talk of impeachment and immigration seems somewhat less pressing, with monthly apprehension numbers declining and Mexico and other nations enhancing co-operation with the U.S. on immigration issues.

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Biden’s communion denial highlights faith-politics conflict

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest’s denial of communion to Joe Biden in South Carolina on Sunday illustrates the fine line presidential candidates must walk as they talk about their faiths: balancing religious values with a campaign that asks them to choose a side in polarizing moral debates.

The awkward moment for Biden came during a weekend campaign swing through South Carolina, a pivotal firewall in his hopes to claim the Democratic presidential nomination. The former vice-president on Sunday visited St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, a midsize city in the state’s largely rural northeast. As he frequently does on the trail, Biden — a lifelong Catholic — made a stop at a local parish, attending services without the press before stopping at other churches with reporters.

But the Rev. Robert Morey at St. Anthony opted not to serve communion to Biden. The priest said in a statement to media outlets that his decision was based on Biden’s support of abortion rights, something Morey said the church cannot condone by way of sacrament.

The episode recalled the divisive debate that erupted in 2004, when then-senator and future Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry grappled with public warnings from several Catholic officials that abortion-rights supporters should not receive communion. As Biden joins other candidates in making his faith a key element of his pitch to 2020 voters, Morey’s communion denial raises questions about whether other Democrats might face similar tests of their ability to balance personal beliefs and their public stances on key issues.

Biden’s campaign has declined to comment on the situation. Asked about it Tuesday on MSNBC, the former longtime Delaware senator shifted to an overall discussion of his views on faith.

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Lebanese prime minister quits amid anti-government protests

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s prime minister resigned Tuesday, bowing to one of the central demands of anti-government demonstrators shortly after baton-wielding Hezbollah supporters rampaged through the main protest camp in Beirut, torching tents, smashing plastic chairs and chasing away protesters.

The demonstrators later returned to the camp in time to hear the news that Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he was stepping down after hitting a “dead end” in trying to resolve the crisis, which has paralyzed the country for nearly two weeks. The protesters erupted in cheers at the news.

The resignation plunges Lebanon deeper into turmoil and uncertainty as it grapples with a severe economic and financial crisis that has led to a scarcity of hard currency and the local currency losing value for the first time in more than two decades. Lebanon is facing a deep-running fiscal crisis as it staggers under one of the highest debt ratios in the world — $86 billion, or more than 150% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The rampage by supporters of Hezbollah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Shiite Amal movement marked a violent turning point in the protests, which have called for the resignation of the government and the overthrow of the political class that has dominated the country since the 1975-1990 civil war and is blamed for the current economic crisis. The government is dominated by factions allied with Hezbollah, the most powerful armed group in the country.

Hariri had reluctantly worked with those factions as part of a national unity government that had failed to address an increasingly severe economic and fiscal crisis.

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HBO orders 10 episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel

LOS ANGELES (AP) — HBO is green-lighting a new “Game of Thrones” prequel after reportedly cancelling another that starred Naomi Watts.

The cable channel said Tuesday that it’s given a 10-episode order to “House of the Dragon,” set 300 years before the original series that ended its eight-season run in May.

The prequel is based on George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood,” HBO said. The new drama was co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal, whose credits include “Colony.”

It will focus on House Targaryen, made famous in “Game of Thrones” by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys and her fearsome dragons.

“House of the Dragon” was announced by HBO programming president Casey Bloys during a presentation for HBO Max, the streaming service launching in May 2020 . A spinoff of HBO megahit “Game of Thrones” would be a key attraction in the increasingly crowded streaming marketplace.

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Strasburg, Nats top Astros 7-2, force World Series Game 7

HOUSTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg took a gem into the ninth inning and Juan Soto ran all the way to first base with his bat following a go-ahead home run, the same way Houston slugger Alex Bregman did earlier.

Washington has matched the Astros pitch for pitch, hit for hit, win for win — even home run celebration for home run celebration.

Strasburg gutted through without his best fastball to throw five-hit ball for 8 1/3 innings, and now it’s onto a winner-take-all Game 7 to decide the first World Series in which the visiting team won the first six games.

Eaton and Soto hit solo homers off Justin Verlander in the fifth, Anthony Rendon had five RBIs, including with a two-run homer in the seventh, and the Nationals beat the Astros 7-2 Tuesday night to tie the Series at three games apiece.

Fired up after a disputed call at first base went against them in the seventh, the Nationals padded their lead moments later when Rendon homered off Will Harris. Washington manager Dave Martinez, still enraged at umpires, was ejected during the seventh-inning stretch, screaming as a pair of his coaches held him back while the crowd sang along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Rendon added a two-run double off Chris Devenski in the ninth.

The Associated Press

@repost Agreement to Keep Property Separate

Via Grounds for Divorce

source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/10/30/ap-news-in-brief-at-1204-a-m-edt-202/

By The Wall of Law October 30, 2019 Off