“Star-Crossed: A Novel” (Crown), by Minnie Darke
A journalist once considered adjusting her newspaper’s horoscope to help an astrology-devoted friend. She didn’t do it, but in her new novel, Minnie Darke imagines what happens when her lovesick protagonist acts on the same impulse she had. The result is an escapist delight.
“Star-Crossed” tells the story of Justine and Nick, astrology skeptic and believer, childhood friends who recently reunited. Justine is baffled by Nick’s faith in his horoscope: “I just think that if you want to play Romeo, you should play Romeo. You don’t have to twist the words of some stargazing nut to give yourself permission.” When she later gains access to the horoscopes at the newspaper where she works, Justine gets the idea to tinker with the Aquarius entries to nudge Nick into realizing his feelings for her. Needless to say, it doesn’t quite work out as she intends.
What follows is a “Love Actually”-esque menagerie of interconnected characters and subplots. The colorful figures include a jilted singer-songwriter; a divorced oncologist dating a male midwife; a widow with an extensive collection of commemorative Charles and Diana wedding china who is in a Skype relationship with someone on the other side of the world. It also includes a terrier/frequent animal shelter escapee whose inner thoughts readers are privy to, to this reader’s dismay. The way their tales all satisfyingly tie together in the end brings to mind the butterfly effect — the way small events can have significant consequences.
In all, “Star-Crossed” is a light, fun read, with a creative spin on a winning rom-com formula.
Rasha Madkour, The Associated Press
@repost Divorce and Property Settlement
AP sources: Former CIA chief Brennan to brief Dems on Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats will hear from former CIA director John Brennan about the situation in Iran, inviting him to speak next week amid heightened concerns over the Trump administration’s sudden moves in the region.
Brennan, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, is scheduled to talk to House Democrats at a private weekly caucus meeting Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide and another person familiar with the private meeting. Both were granted anonymity to discuss the meeting.
The invitation to Brennan and Wendy Sherman, the former State Department official and top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, offers counterprogramming to the Trump administration’s closed-door briefing for lawmakers also planned for Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers are likely to attend both sessions.
The Trump administration recently sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Persian Gulf region, and withdrew nonessential personnel from Iraq, raising alarm among Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill over the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.
Trump in recent days downplayed any potential for conflict. But questions remain about what prompted the actions and many lawmakers have demanded more information.
Biden rejects Democrats’ anger in call for national unity
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — His party may be enraged by Donald Trump’s presidency, but Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden insisted Saturday that Democrats will not defeat the Republican president if they pick an angry nominee.
Facing thousands of voters in his native Pennsylvania for the second time as a 2020 contender, the former vice-president offered a call for bipartisan unity that seemed far more aimed at a general election audience than the fiery Democratic activists most active in the presidential primary process. He acknowledged, however, that some believe Democrats should nominate a candidate who can tap into their party’s anti-Trump anger.
“That’s what they are saying you have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don’t believe it,” Biden declared. “I believe Democrats want to unify this nation. That’s what the party’s always been about. That’s what it’s always been about. Unity.”
Biden’s moderate message highlights his chief advantage and chief liability in the early days of the nascent presidential contest, which has so far been defined by fierce resistance to Trump on the left and equally aggressive vitriol on the right. Biden’s centrist approach may help him win over independents, but it threatens to alienate liberals who favour a more aggressive approach in policy and personality to counter Trump’s turbulent presidency.
“I want aggressive change. I’m not hearing that from him yet,” said 45-year-old Jennifer Moyer of Blandon, Pennsylvania, who attended Biden’s rally and said she’s 90% sold on his candidacy. “I don’t want middle of the road.”
US: Iran military could misidentify airliners amid tension
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Commercial airliners flying over the Persian Gulf risk being targeted by “miscalculation or misidentification” from the Iranian military amid heightened tensions between the Islamic Republic and the U.S., American diplomats warned Saturday, even as both Washington and Tehran say they don’t seek war.
The warning relayed by U.S. diplomatic posts from the Federal Aviation Administration, though dismissed by Iran, underscored the risks the current tensions pose to a region critical to both global air travel and trade. Oil tankers allegedly have faced sabotage and Yemen rebel drones attacked a crucial Saudi oil pipeline over the last week.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Iraqi officials said ExxonMobil Corp. began evacuating staff from Basra, and the island nation of Bahrain ordered its citizens out of Iraq and Iran over “the recent escalations and threats.”
However, U.S. officials have yet to publicly explain the threats they perceive coming from Iran, some two weeks after the White House ordered an aircraft carrier and B-52s bombers into the region. The U.S. also has ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq.
President Donald Trump since has sought to soften his tone on Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also stressed Saturday that Iran is “not seeking war,” comments seemingly contradicted by the head of the Revolutionary Guard, who declared an ongoing “intelligence war” between the nations.
Female lawmakers speak about rapes as abortion bills advance
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — For more than two decades, Nancy Mace did not speak publicly about her rape. In April, when she finally broke her silence, she chose the most public of forums — before her colleagues in South Carolina’s legislature.
A bill was being debated that would ban all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected; Mace, a Republican lawmaker, wanted to add an exception for rape and incest. When some of her colleagues in the House dismissed her amendment — some women invent rapes to justify seeking an abortion, they claimed — she could not restrain herself.
“For some of us who have been raped, it can take 25 years to get up the courage and talk about being a victim of rape,” Mace said, gripping the lectern so hard she thought she might pull it up from the floor. “My mother and my best friend in high school were the only two people who knew.”
As one Republican legislature after another has pressed ahead with restrictive abortion bills in recent months, they have been confronted with raw and emotional testimony about the consequences of such laws. Female lawmakers and other women have stepped forward to tell searing, personal stories — in some cases speaking about attacks for the first time to anyone but a loved one or their closest friend.
Mace is against abortion in most cases and supported the fetal heartbeat bill as long as it contained the exception for rape and incest. She said her decision to reveal an attack that has haunted her for so long was intended to help male lawmakers understand the experience of those victims.
Illinois not alerted to early clues in womb-cutting case
CHICAGO (AP) — Police and Illinois’ child welfare agency say staff at a Chicago-area hospital didn’t alert them after determining that a bloodied woman who arrived with a gravely ill newborn had not just given birth to the baby boy, as she claimed.
The woman, Clarisa Figueroa, was charged more than three weeks later with killing the baby’s mother , Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, after police found her body outside Figueoa’s home. Chicago police say she cut Ochoa-Lopez’s baby out of her womb on April 23, then called 911 to report she had given birth to a baby who wasn’t breathing. Paramedics took Figueroa and the baby to Advocate Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn.
Ochoa-Lopez’s family spent those weeks searching for her and holding press conferences pleading for help finding her, unaware the child was in a neonatal intensive care unit on life support.
The baby remained hospitalized on life support on Saturday, according to authorities.
Prosecutors say that when Figueroa was brought with the baby to the hospital, she had blood on her upper body and her face, which a hospital employee cleaned off. They also say Figueroa, 46, was examined at the hospital and showed no physical signs of childbirth.
War of Will wins Preakness featuring riderless running horse
BALTIMORE (AP) — Mark Casse completed a lifelong quest two weeks after the scare of a lifetime. And he did so in a race featuring a riderless horse that threw his jockey out of the gate and kept running.
Since he was a child, Casse wanted to win a Triple Crown race, and the well-respected trainer got that victory when War of Will bounced back from a bumpy ride in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness on Saturday.
Casse, 58, was more relieved than anything that his prized 3-year-old colt didn’t go down in the Derby, which could’ve been a multihorse catastrophe, and could finally take a deep breath following the Preakness.
“This is even I think probably more special given everything that we’ve been through,” Casse said. “I’m not even calling it redemption. I didn’t feel like he got his fair shot, and that’s all I wanted — a fair shot. And he showed what he had today.”
War of Will was unfazed starting from the inside No. 1 post position for the second consecutive race, even though that contributed to his rough run at Churchill Downs. Rising star jockey Tyler Gaffalione guided the horse along the rail in the Preakness and made a move into the lead around the final curve, holding off hard-charging late addition Everfast, who was a nose ahead of Owendale for second.
Australia’s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s ruling conservative coalition won a surprise victory in the country’s general election on Saturday, defying opinion polls that had tipped the centre-left opposition party to oust it from power and promising an end to the revolving door of national leaders.
“I have always believed in miracles,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a jubilant Sydney crowd.
He compared his Liberal Party’s victory for a third three-year term to the births of his daughters, Abbey, 11, and Lily, 9, who were conceived naturally after 14 years of in vitro fertilization had failed. His wife, Jenny Morrison, suffered endometriosis.
“I’m standing with the three biggest miracles in my life here tonight, and tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he said, embraced by his wife and daughters.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten had earlier conceded defeat as the coalition came close to a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government. Vote counting was to continue on Sunday.
The Netherlands wins Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The Netherlands won the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv Saturday, with Duncan Laurence’s doleful piano ballad “Arcade” crowned champion of Europe’s annual music extravaganza.
The 25-year-old was tapped as an early front-runner before the Grand Final but was only ranked third after the vote of professional juries from the 41 participating countries, trailing Sweden and North Macedonia. He surged ahead thanks to the fan vote, securing The Netherlands its fifth win ever in the competition. Italy finished second, followed by Russia, Switzerland and Norway.
“This is to dreaming big. This is to music first, always,” Laurence said, as he was handed the trophy from last year’s winner, Israel’s Netta Barzilai.
Some 200 million people around the world were believed to have watched the annual campy contest with 26 nations battling in the Grand Final of the 64th Eurovision.
Madonna was the star attraction, performing her hit staple, “Like a Prayer,” marking 30 years since its release, and a new song “Future” from her forthcoming album “Madame X.” She took the stage after participants wrapped up their performances shortly after midnight when the elaborate voting process got underway across Europe.
Tornadoes rake Southern Plains; more severe weather expected
DALLAS (AP) — A spate of tornadoes raked across the Southern Plains, leaving damage and causing few injuries, and parts of the region were bracing for more severe thunderstorms and possible flooding.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF2 twister Saturday morning with winds up to 130 mph (209 kph) that destroyed at least two homes and left one person with minor injuries in southwestern Oklahoma.
A suspected tornado caused roof damage to “numerous” homes in northwestern Arkansas, a state official said, and severe winds downed trees and power lines across a highway, blocking all lanes.
Energy companies in Oklahoma and Arkansas reported tens of thousands of customers were without power Saturday afternoon.
Tornadoes touched down Friday in Kansas and rural parts of Nebraska, tearing up trees and powerlines, and damaging some homes and farm buildings, according to the National Weather Service.
Police ID teen tackled after bringing gun to Oregon school
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police released the identity Saturday of an 18-year-old student who was tackled after reportedly bringing a gun into classroom at an Oregon high school.
Angel Granados Dias had been booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on suspicion of possessing a firearm in a public building, attempting to shoot a gun at a school and reckless endangerment, the Portland Police Bureau said.
He is a student at Parkrose High School, where he brought the shotgun Friday, authorities said. Witnesses told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he appeared distraught when he appeared at the door to their government class and pulled the weapon from beneath a long black trench coat, and that a football and track coach who also works security at the school, Keanon Lowe, tackled him before anyone got hurt. Lowe is a former football standout at the University of Oregon.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Granados Dias had a lawyer. He was being held on $500,000 bail and was scheduled to appear in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Monday. There were no other suspects.
In a letter to families Friday evening, Parkrose School District Superintendent Michael Lopes Serrao said two students had informed a staff member of “concerning behaviour” by the student who brought the gun. Security staff then responded, found him and quickly disarmed him, he said.
The Associated Press
@repost Filing for Spousal Support
Via Divorce for Men
LONDON — Hedwig Hegtermans has lived in Britain for two decades, but she didn’t have a vote when the country decided in 2016 to leave the European Union. She’s determined to have her say on Brexit now.
An election for the European Parliament being held this month in all 28 EU member states — including the not-yet-departed U.K. — is giving Hegtermans and other Europeans in Britain the chance to pass judgment on the Brexit decision that left their lives in limbo.
“It is a way for people to voice their frustration,” said Hegtermans, a Dutch citizen and member of The 3 Million, a lobby group for EU citizens in Britain.
Like other non-U.K. EU nationals, she was not eligible to vote in Britain’s EU membership referendum three years ago — and like them she saw her automatic right to live and work in Britain whipped away by the Brexit decision. (The British government says all 3 million EU citizens in Britain can stay, but they have to apply for “settled status” through a somewhat glitch-prone new registration process).
“We did not have a vote in the referendum, we could not voice anything while we were the people who will be affected the most,” Hegtermans said.
She said the May 23 election to fill the U.K.’s 73 seats in the 751-seat EU legislature “is one way for us to let our voices (be) heard.”
The result of next week’s election won’t directly affect Brexit. But it will be interpreted as a test of public sentiment — almost a mini-referendum — and could sway politicians to take a harder or softer course as Britain heads for the exit door.
That makes this the most high-profile European election in Britain in years — but it shouldn’t be happening. The U.K. was due to have left the EU by now.
Instead, British politicians are deadlocked over departure terms and Brexit has been postponed from March 29 until Oct. 31 while they try to sort out the mess. So Britain is taking part, and the contest here is dominated by candidates promising either to speed up Brexit or throw it into reverse gear.
Pro-European parties are eager to attract votes from EU citizens, who can vote in European polls though not in U.K. national elections.
That’s why a former finance minister of Poland could be found recently standing outside a suburban London subway station, thrusting anti-Brexit leaflets at tired commuters. Jan Vincent-Rostowski, a London-born economist who served in a centre-right Polish government between 2007 and 2013, is a candidate for the newly former pro-EU party Change UK.
“I thought that was something I could bring to the campaign, being both a British citizen — a Londoner born and bred — but also a Polish citizen who has done his bit in politics elsewhere,” Vincent-Rostowski said.
“Brexit is collapsing under the weight of its own internal contradictions. And if something bad is collapsing I think it’s a good idea to give it a push. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Chipper and polite — “Can I give you a leaflet madam?” — he got a reasonably warm reception in suburban Ealing, a diverse London district that voted 60% for remaining in the European Union. Several Poles recognized him, stopping to chat or film him on their phones.
But this is a heated and bad-tempered election. Both of Britain’s main parties — the governing Conservative and opposition Labour — are bracing for a hammering as voters frustrated by the Brexit impasse turn to parties promising either a definitive break with the EU or a chance to remain in the bloc.
Thousands of Brexiteers across the country are flocking to rallies for the new Brexit Party led by former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who accuses the government of betraying Brexit and wants Britain to walk away from the bloc even if there is no divorce deal to smooth the way.
Among pro-Europeans, Change UK is competing for votes with the centrist Liberal Democrats and environmentalist Greens. All support holding a new referendum that would include the option of remaining in the EU.
Politics professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London said EU citizens’ votes could deliver a boost to pro-EU parties, if “they can be bothered to come out and vote in what is such a depressing time for them. “
EU elections in Britain generally have a low turnout. At the last EU election in 2014, it was 35%, and Bale said a turnout of 40% this time would be “stunning.”
EU citizens also must navigate a U.K. voter-registration process that requires them to fill out a form declaring that they do not plan to also vote in their home country.
Hegtermans said there has been “quite a bit of confusion” about the forms, and the deadline for registration passed on May 7. It’s likely some Europeans will show up at polling stations only to be turned away.
Others may stay away out of a common U.K. malaise: Brexhaustion.
Europeans in London expressed a mix of enthusiasm and resignation at the prospect of an election that — three years after the vote to leave the EU — is dominated by Brexit.
“As a Polish citizen, I would love Britain to stay in the European Union,” said 32-year-old Kate Staron. “So definitely I will vote and try to make some difference. .. I encourage everyone else to go and vote as every vote is important.”
Marcel Wojtyniak, a 25-year-old data analyst also from Poland, wasn’t so sure.
“I think there’s a lot of exhaustion on the subject,” he said.
“I suppose I just moved on. I accepted the fact. I don’t really think the European elections are going to make that much difference.”
Follow Jill Lawless at http://bit.ly/N5cuAt
For more news from The Associated Press on the European Parliament elections go to http://bit.ly/2PWiTn8
Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
@repost Types of Custody
HOUSTON — The Latest on the investigation of a police shooting of a Houston-area woman (all times local):
A woman says a police officer harassed her cousin more than 10 times at their Houston-area apartment complex before he finally shot and killed her.
Antoinette Dorsey-James, a first cousin of Pamela Turner, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that Turner told relatives that every time she had an encounter with the manager of the complex, the officer would show up at her apartment and bother her.
Turner’s family says Turner and the officer lived at the same complex and that Turner knew him by name.
Harris County court records show Turner was accused of criminal mischief and assault on April 24 after a physical confrontation with the apartment complex manager over an eviction notice.
The complex’s management hasn’t returned a call seeking comment Thursday.
Baytown police have said an officer shot Turner Monday during an attempted arrest.
A lawyer for the family of a woman who was fatally shot by a Houston-area police officer says the officer lived in the same apartment complex as her and knew she suffered from mental illness.
Attorney Ben Crump says Pamela Turner had struggled with paranoid schizophrenia since her diagnosis in 2005, and may have been in crisis the night she was killed.
Baytown police have said an officer shot the 44-year-old African American woman Monday during an attempted arrest, and that she shocked him with his Taser during a struggle.
At a Thursday press conference, Crump and Turner’s family portrayed the officer as the aggressor.
Turner’s daughter, Chelsie Rubin, said she asked a Baytown police officer if the department was aware of her mother’s illness and he confirmed they were.
The Associated Press
@repost Prenup Lawyer
Remember this important fact: none of us knows whether Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is guilty of the crime with which he was charged.
Well, Vice-Admiral Norman knows, presumably, and his legal team would have a pretty good idea, as would a few Crown prosecutors and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
As for the rest of us Canadians, though — including the members of Parliament who made this murky saga even weirder by voting unanimously on Tuesday to apologize to the vice-admiral and his family “for what they endured over the course of his breach of trust case, which collapsed last week,” as The Globe and Mail put it — all we have are opinions, most of them uninformed.
On the part of the Liberal government’s Opposition in Parliament, all of the mainstream media, and the usual suspects on the Trudeau-hating right, these opinions are strongly held — so just stating the obvious truth is likely to spark outrage.
Nevertheless, it is unavoidable. The breach of trust charge against Vice-Admiral Norman was stayed last week. And, according to LawFacts.ca, a legal resource website published by Legal Aid Ontario, luckily not an institution of which the vice-admiral needed to avail himself, “the decision by the Crown to stay or withdraw charges means they discontinue the prosecution.”
“However, there is one important difference,” LawFacts.ca explained. “Stayed charges can be ‘brought back to life’ within one year of the day they are stayed. While this tends to be rare, you should know that if you’re charged with new offences during the one-year period after you’ve had charges stayed, the stayed charges could be brought back and the Crown could prosecute you on those same charges again.”
Even when charges are withdrawn, meaning they cannot be brought back again, this simply means that prosecutors have reached the conclusion they cannot get a conviction from a court in a legal system that operates from a presumption of innocence requiring the state to prove all charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a confusing situation like this, when much of the essential information is either a military or cabinet secret, this imperfect result is more akin to the famous Scotch verdict, discussed in this space before: Not proven.
This is not to say Vice-Admiral Norman is not the victim of an injustice. He may well be. Only that we don’t really know, and will likely never be allowed to know.
It must be noted that, had the accused had been a poor person, a person of colour, or a member of a minority religion, many of the same people who donated to Vice-Admiral Norman’s GoFundMe account with the encouragement of Conrad Black, would now be screeching that he “got off on a technicality.”
And if he were an accused terrorist railroaded by a foreign country’s drumhead kangaroo court with the active assistance of Canadian officials who ignored the accused’s constitutional rights, the din would be almost unbearable, I imagine.
In this regard, the whole affair reminds me of the scene from the movie Being There, in which Louise, Chance the gardener’s former housekeeper, observes, “It’s for sure a white man’s world in America. … Yes, sir, all you’ve gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want.”
In fairness, Louise also observed in this scene that “I raised that boy since he was the size of a piss-ant. And I’ll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No, sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between the ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now!” This is a description that may be more fittingly applied to Justin Trudeau or Andrew Scheer than Vice-Admiral Norman.
It must also be noted that, had this been a normal case involving a normal citizen instead of a senior naval officer comfortable in elite society, the MLAs who ran screaming to the press during the trial would have mumbled that they couldn’t comment about a matter that was before the courts. However, when powerful men are involved, apparently the normal law of political gravity is repealed.
Which brings us to the topic of Jason Kenney, the former federal minister of defence now premier of Alberta, who we are told took supposedly exculpatory evidence to Vice-Admiral Norman’s lawyers at the very last moment, thereby allowing him to take credit for the circumstances under which the vice-admiral was able to skate.
Wouldn’t it have been less expensive for taxpayers and much easier on Vice-Admiral Norman and his family, who had to endure so much, if Kenney had gone to the RCMP or the prosecutors immediately with his exculpatory memories? It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t have returned a call from a former minister of defence on such a topic.
Failing that, Kenney certainly could have just phoned one of his friends at Postmedia and dominated the front pages of their newspapers for a few days.
I wonder why he didn’t? Surely, it couldn’t have been because by withholding the information until the last minute he was able to cause maximum damage to the government of the prime minister whose job he covets.
So I wonder, now that we’re in an apologetic frame of mind, if Kenney could also be persuaded to apologize to Vice-Admiral Norman for causing him unnecessary pain by delaying?
And I wonder if Parliament will be passing any more unanimous votes of apology in the event charges are dropped against other Canadians, let alone if cases come to light in which less-well-connected citizens appear to have been railroaded by police and the courts into undeserved prison sentences.
How likely do you think that is?
Pardoned by the president, Lord Black may now exit the Dominion at last
Speaking of Lord Black of Crosshabour, known lately for rambling hagiographies polishing the tarnished reputation of the current U.S. president in both a turgid doorstopper and his apparently unedited column in the National Post, I see U.S. President Donald Trump has at last returned the favour and expunged the former newspaper magnate’s 2007 criminal convictions south of the Medicine Line.
In a letter yesterday from the White House, a symbolically appropriate venue under the circumstances, Trump heaped encomia on the former Canadian citizen still resident in this country and pardoned His Lordship for the three counts of fraud and one of obstruction of justice for which he served three and a half years in a federal prison in Florida.
It seems churlish to suggest this is another example of the phenomenon described by Louise the housekeeper in the passage above, yet the conclusion is inescapable.
Well, it may turn out to be an event unique in recorded history: the first time a convicted felon has been granted a full pardon by a future convicted felon.
At any rate, Lord Black is now free to travel to the great republic to the south and, as another famous American president might have put it, fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that he will do so soon.
Here’s your hat, m’Lord, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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@repost Custody Papers