News Talk 650 CKOM

Subscribe to News Talk 650 CKOM feed
Saskatoon's Number One News and Information Station - News, Talk, Sports, Traffic, and Weather
Updated: 24 min 45 sec ago

Canada’s Kia Nurse helps Canberra to Australian women’s league title

4 hours 51 min ago
CANBERRA., Australia - Canada’s Kia Nurse had 12 points and three assists to help the University of Canberra Capitals to their eighth WNBL Championship, with a 93-73 victory over the Adelaide Lightning. Kelsey Griffin led Canberra with 29 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in front of a crowd of 4,820.  Nurse joined Canberra in Australia’s women’s league after her WNBA season for the New York Liberty, where she averaged 9.1 points off the bench. In between the two pro leagues, the 22-year-old from Hamilton played for Canada at the women’s World Cup in September, where the Canadians finished seventh. Nurse tweeted after the victory: “WNBL CHAMPIONS!!!!!! Whaaaaaat thank you @UCCapitals for giving me an opportunity to play with an amazing group of women!!!!”   Canberra’s victory marked an incredible late-season run. They won 13 of their last 14 games, their only defeat was a one-point loss. Nurse finished second in voting for the Rachael Sporn Grand Final MVP award, which went to Griffin.   Most WNBA players spend their off-seasons playing in other leagues abroad, such as in Australia or Asia, partly out of financial necessity - the average salary in the WNBA last season was about US$71,600.   The Canadian Press

Quebecers stranded by Haitian protests expected to fly back to Canada today

5 hours 7 min ago
MONTREAL - More than 100 Quebec tourists who have been trapped in Haiti in the midst of violent street protests will be flown back to Montreal on Saturday evening, Air Transat confirmed. Helicopter evacuations began early Saturday morning to take travellers in small groups from a resort hotel on the Caribbean country's Cote des Arcadins to the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Transat said the 113 passengers, along with a few people from other airlines, are expected to arrive in Montreal just before 9 p.m. “Our customers, as well as their loved ones, have lived a challenging and uncertain week,” spokeswoman Annick Guerard said in a statement. “Since the rise of tensions in Haiti, our teams have been mobilized and working hard to repatriate our customers safely and as quickly as possible.” The Quebec and Canadian governments helped to co-ordinate the evacuation effort, the company said. Normand Rosa, one of the guests at the hotel, said Saturday morning that the helicopter evacuations from the hotel were “rolling smoothly.” Rosa said he was glad Transat had finally given in to pressure to bring the vacationers to the airport, after the company said earlier in the week that logistics and security prevented it from doing so. He said that while the hotel staff had been accomodating and he’d never felt unsafe, it was time to return home. “We have plenty food, everything is under control, but maybe in a week or two … so it’s better to evacuate before it deteriorates further,” he said in a phone interview. Protests demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise have claimed several lives over the past week. Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti. Other Canadians stuck in Haiti have also been making their way to the airport by way of helicopter flights or harrowing road journeys. An Ottawa doctor and three health professionals from New Brunswick endured a nerve-wracking seven-and-a-half hour trip that ended with his group hiring an ambulance driver to secure safe passage to the airport on Friday. Reached Saturday from a stopover in Philadelphia, Dr. Emilio Bazile said he felt lucky to have escaped with only a few bruises from flying rocks that also damaged a vehicle. He said he felt relieved to have gotten out but also “happy to have been there, despite the fact I almost got killed,” since the experience had allowed his team to treat some 850 people for health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Despite nursing his injuries, Bazile said he’d like to return. “I think I will go back, but maybe my family will discourage me,” he said. The Canadian government issued a new advisory for Haiti late Thursday, saying Canadians should avoid all travel to the Caribbean country. On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland urged any Canadians remaining in Haiti to contact consular officials if they need help and to consider leaving the country by commercial means. “To Canadians who are in Haiti: get in touch with us. Let us know where you are, who you are, how to reach you, so we can help,” Freeland said in a phone conference from Munich. The Canadian government tweeted Saturday that Air Canada would complete a scheduled flight out of Port-au-Prince on Monday, but has cancelled subsequent flights. Air Transat said that it would continue to operate its regular twice-weekly flights in and out of Haiti until further notice. — With files from Josiane Pelosse and Helen Moka Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

City overcomes stubborn Newport to reach FA Cup quarters

5 hours 15 min ago
Manchester City broke through Newport’s stubborn defence in the second half to beat the fourth-tier side 4-1 in the FA Cup on Saturday, although the result wasn’t as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. Newport’s hopes of an epic fifth-round upset were still intact when Padraig Amond pulled a goal back to make it 2-1 in the 88th minute. But Phil Foden replied instantly with his second goal of the game and Riyad Mahrez added an injury-time score, allowing City to advance to the quarterfinals to keep Pep Guardiola’s side in the hunt for a possible four trophies. Brighton and Millwall also advanced. Brighton beat second-tier Derby 2-1 while Championship side Millwall overcame AFC Wimbledon 1-0. City’s visit to South Wales had only one realistic outcome, but the win wasn’t quite as simple as most expected. City entered the game as the overwhelming favourite - especially after beating Chelsea 6-0 last weekend in the Premier League - but struggled to impose its usual attacking game on a pitch that contained more mud than grass in many places. “It was the worst conditions I have played in,” Foden said. “We had to show professionalism and keep the ball moving and they tired in the end.” Newport, with an annual wage bill that’s less than one per cent of City’s, managed to reach the halftime break still at 0-0, and even created the best chance of the opening 45 minutes. City goalkeeper Ederson had to produce a stellar one-handed save to keep Tyreeq Bakinson’s header at bay in the 14th minute. But Leroy Sane, who hit the crossbar in the first half, finally created the breakthrough for City in the 51st. Sane ran onto a pass from Gabriel Jesus and fired a left-foot shot that hit goalkeeper Joe Day square in the face before spinning through his arms and into the net. The strike left Day with a bloody nose, and left Newport’s chances in tatters as well. Foden doubled the lead in the 75th with a solo goal by Foden, after the teenager picked up the ball on the halfway line before charging forward and slotting a shot past Day. Newport still managed to make it interesting when Amond seized on a defensive mistake to lob the ball over Emerson, but Foden quickly restored City’s two-goal lead with a fierce left-foot shot into the net from inside the area. Mahrez added the fourth from the left side of the box in injury time, creating a scoreline that flattered the visitors. “The first 20 minutes were difficult from throw-ins and long balls, and they are much better than us in those situations, but in the last 20 minutes we put the game into our hands,” Guardiola said. “The home crowd was amazing. Winning here, I (understand) English football today better than ever and how tough the cup is in these conditions.” BRIGHTON HOLDS ON Brighton reached the quarterfinals for the second year in a row after holding off a late comeback attempt by Derby. Brighton looked to be in complete control after taking a 2-0 lead at halftime, with Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia scoring for the Premier League side. But Derby threatened to make a comeback after veteran left back Ashley Cole - a seven-time FA Cup winner with Arsenal and Chelsea - scored his first goal in the competition in the 81st. That made for a nervy last 10 minutes for the hosts, but Harry Wilson and Fikayo Tomori both shot wide for Derby to scupper any hopes of a comeback. Knockaert opened the scoring in the 33rd minute by meeting a low cross in the area and sweeping a shot inside the near post, before Locadia doubled the lead on the stroke of halftime by firing in from close range after Yves Bissouma’s effort had hit the post. Cole responded with his first goal in English football in six years after Florian Jozefzoon went down under a challenge from Bernardo and the ball was cleared into the path of the former England defender. While his teammates appealed for a penalty, Cole calmly headed home. MILLWALL THROUGH Millwall also advanced after Murray Wallace’s early goal was enough to see off League One struggler AFC Wimbledon. Wallace headed in a cross from Ryan Leonard in the fifth minute and the hosts had a number of second-half chances to add to the lead, but couldn’t find a way past Wimbledon goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale for a second time. It’s the second time in three years the London club reaches the quarterfinals. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Mattias Karen, The Associated Press

Police: Aurora gunman likely knew he was being fired

5 hours 24 min ago
AURORA, Ill. - The man who gunned down five co-workers and wounded a sixth at a suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse before shooting and wounding five police officers brought his gun to a meeting in which he was going to be fired, authorities said Saturday. Because Gary Martin brought his gun to Friday’s meeting at the sprawling Henry Pratt Co. warehouse in Aurora, he likely knew he might be about to lose the job he had held for 15 years, police Chief Kristen Ziman said at a news conference. Ziman said she didn’t know what had been conveyed to Martin, why he was being fired or whether he had shown up for his regular shift or was there just for the meeting. But she said as soon as he was fired, he pulled his handgun and began shooting. Three of the five co-workers he killed were in the room with him and the other two were just outside, she said. Frantic calls to 911 started pouring in from frightened workers at 1:24 p.m. and officers arrived at the scene within four minutes, authorities said. Martin fired on the officers when they arrived, striking one outside and another near the building’s entrance. The other three wounded officers were shot inside the building. None of their wounds are considered life-threatening, Ziman said Saturday. All of the officers who were wounded were shot within the first five minutes of police arriving at the scene, authorities said. After that flurry of shots and with officers from throughout the region streaming in to help, Martin ran off and hid inside the 29,000-square-foot building. Police used an armoured rescue vehicle called a Bearcat to enter the building, Aurora police Lt. Rick Robertson said. Teams of officers then began to search the massive building, finding Martin hiding in the back about an hour later, he said. “He was probably waiting for us to get to him there,” said Robertson. “It was just a very short gunfight and it was over, so he was basically in the back waiting for us and fired upon us and our officers fired.” Police identified the slain workers as human resources manager Clayton Parks of Elgin; plant manager Josh Pinkard of Oswego; mould operator Russell Beyer of Yorkville; stock room attendant and fork lift operator Vicente Juarez of Oswego; and human resources intern and Northern Illinois University student Trevor Wehner, who lived in DeKalb and grew up in Sheridan. It was Wehner’s first day on the job, his uncle Jay Wehner told The Associated Press. Trevor Wehner, 21, was on the dean’s list at NIU’s business college and was on track to graduate in May with a degree in human resource management. “He always, always was happy. I have no bad words for him. He was a wonderful person. You can’t say anything but nice things about him,” Jay Wehner said of his nephew. The worker who was shot but survived was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, authoritiessaid. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury during the search of the building. Martin had been arrested six times in Aurora over the years, including for domestic battery, Ziman said. He was able to buy the Smith and Wesson .40-calibre handgun he used in the attack because an initial background check didn’t catch that he had a prior felony conviction in Mississippi, the chief said. Martin was issued a firearm owner’s identification card in January of 2014 after he passed the initial background check and he bought the gun that March 11. It wasn’t until he applied for a concealed carry permit five days later and went through a more rigorous background check that uses digital fingerprinting that his 1995 felony conviction in Mississippi for aggravated battery was flagged and his firearm owner’s ID card was revoked, she said. Once his card was revoked, he could no longer legally have a gun. The shooting shocked the city of 200,000, which is about 40 miles (65 kilometres) west of Chicago. “For so many years, we have seen similar situations throughout our nation and the horrible feeling that we get when we see it on the news. To experience it first-hand, is even more painful,” said Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin said Friday. Resident Christy Fonseca said she often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother’s Aurora neighbourhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town. Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother’s house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. It was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away. “In Aurora, period, we’d never thought anything like this would happen,” Fonseca, a lifelong resident, said as she looked out at the warehouse where Henry Pratt makes valves for industrial purposes. ___ Associated Press writers Carrie Antlfinger and Amanda Seitz contributed to this report. Babwin and Rousseau reported from Chicago. Don Babwin And Caryn Rousseau, The Associated Press

Vlad Guerrero Jr. impresses in first day at Blue Jays big league camp

5 hours 26 min ago
DUNEDIN, Fla. - Devon Travis doesn’t have to watch batting practice to know when Vlad Guerrero Jr. is hitting the ball. He can tell just by listening. “It’s the sound,” the Blue Jays second baseman said Saturday after taking swings alongside baseball’s top prospect at Toronto’s spring training stadium. “I’ve never been into all the mechanical stuff but I’m sure if you spoke to those guys they’d tell you he does things that you dream of hitters doing. “But the biggest thing for me is the sound. When he’s hitting you don’t have to look. You know it’s coming off someone’s bat who’s different.” Guerrero reported to Blue Jays camp - his first time on the big league side of spring training - early Saturday morning, walking into the clubhouse with teammate Lourdes Gurriel, who occupies the locker stall next to his. The first official workout for position players isn’t until Monday, but the hitters who were in camp early went through defence drills and batting practice at Dunedin Stadium while pitchers and catchers worked out down the road. Guerrero hit more than a few balls beyond the fence Saturday, impressing the Blue Jays’ new hitting coach Guillermo Martinez in the process. “He was just trying to hit line drives but his line drives go over the fence,” Martinez said. “He’s not trying to elevate, he’s not trying to hit the school (behind the field) on purpose. “I like to say he takes a professional batting practice. He literally takes every swing and thinks about everything he tries to do.” The hype around the 19-year-old Guerrero has been building for years, and it intensified last season after the burly third baseman dominated pitchers at both the double-A and triple-A level. The son of Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos great Vladimir Guerrero batted .389 in the minors in 2018, including a .402 average through 61 games with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats - in between missing a month with a knee injury - and a .336 mark in 30 games with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. “Obviously the hype around him is strong and it’s real. The kid can flat out hit and that’s a fact,” Travis said. “I think for us it’s just, he’s our teammate and we can’t get caught up in the hype and excitement, however we are all excited to see what he can do in the big leagues. “He’s the type of guy who can carry a team so we’re looking forward to it.” New manager Charlie Montoyo didn’t get a chance to see Guerrero on Saturday - Montoyo accompanied the pitchers and catchers in their workout at Bobby Mattick Training Center - but he was pleased with the reports he received from both Martinez and third base coach Luis Rivera. “He looked good taking ground balls and then … the ball gets off his bat pretty good,” Montoyo said. “So I guess he looked pretty good.” Travis, who was in the same hitting group with Guerrero, Gurriel and prospect Cavan Biggio for Saturday’s batting practice, compared the sound he heard from his young teammate’s bat to that of 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson and two-time league home run leader Jose Bautista.  “There have been some pretty good hitters here over the past few years,” Travis said. “Donaldson for sure had a different sound, Bautista had a different sound. … (Guerrero) is one when it comes off his bat you know it’s him.” Martinez, meanwhile, couldn’t think of a suitable comparison for Guerrero. “Not really, no,” he said when asked if he’d seen anyone like him before. “He’s a special player.” Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

Merkel defends Iran deal, multilateralism but Pence resists

5 hours 28 min ago
MUNICH - German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew lengthy applause Saturday for her spirited defence of a multilateral approach to global affairs and support for Europe’s decision to stand by a nuclear deal with Iran. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was not among the impressed, however, and he doubled down on American criticism of Europe. Merkel’s comments at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of world leaders and top global defence and foreign policy officials, followed days of acrimony between the U.S. and Europe over Iran. Merkel told the group - which included the largest U.S. delegation ever with dozens of members of Congress, Ivanka Trump, Pence and others - that she shared American concerns about many Iranian efforts to increase its power in the region. But while she said the split with the U.S. over Iran’s nuclear agreement “depresses me very much,” she defended it as an important channel to Tehran, stressing the need for international diplomacy. “I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria,” she said. “The only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?” Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union have been trying to keep the 2015 deal with Iran alive since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of it last year. The deal offers Iran sanctions relief for limiting its nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that, so far, Tehran is sticking to the agreement. But the U.S. argues that the deal just puts off when Iran might be able to build a nuclear bomb. Speaking after Merkel, Pence pushed for Europeans to end their involvement in the nuclear deal, calling Iran “the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” “The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,” Pence said. “The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” Merkel’s speech was warmly received, while Pence’s was met with polite applause. “This was a big and say-it-as-it-is Merkel speech,” Daniela Schwarzer, the director of the German Council on Foreign relations think-tank , wrote on Twitter. “Minutes of applause and standing ovations for a powerful commitment to picking up the pieces of a shattered (world) order and working on a European and (international) order that creates win-win situations.” Former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, who was in office when the Iran nuclear deal was negotiated, went out of his way to thank Merkel and defended the Iran deal as a “significant agreement.” Biden told the group that many Americans did not agree with the Trump administration’s “America first” approach. “You heard a lot today about leadership but in my experience, leadership only exists if somebody and others are with you,” he said after Pence’s address. “Leadership in the absence of people who are with you is not leadership.” In her speech, Merkel also questioned whether it was a good idea for the U.S. to withdraw troops quickly from Syria “or is that not also strengthening the possibilities for Iran and Russia to exert influence there?” Turning to nuclear disarmament, Merkel said the recent U.S. announcement that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty was “inevitable” because of Russian violations. Moscow followed suit by also withdrawing from the treaty, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration was also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which is not covered by the treaty. Merkel noted the treaty was conceived “essentially for Europe,” where such missiles were stationed during the Cold War. She said “the answer cannot lie in blind rearmament.” “Disarmament is something that concerns us all, and we would of course be glad if such negotiations were conducted not just between the United States … and Russia, but also with China,” she said. Merkel also defended Germany’s progress in fulfilling NATO guidelines for countries to move toward spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence by 2024, which has been criticized as too slow. And overall, she rejected the idea of a go-it-alone foreign policy. She said it’s better to “put yourself in the other’s shoes … and see whether we can get win-win solutions together.” Pence stuck to the U.S. line that the 2 per cent NATO guideline is a strict commitment rather than a target, saying while more alliance members have met the criteria, “the truth is, many of our NATO allies still need to do more.” He also reiterated American opposition to the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which Washington fears will make Europe overly reliant on Russian gas. “The United States commends all our European partners who’ve taken a strong stand against Nord Stream 2,” he said. “And we commend others to do that same.” He added: “We cannot ensure the defence of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.” Merkel defended the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, dismissing the American concerns as unfounded and assuring Ukraine that it won’t get cut off from Russian fuel. Speaking as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko looked on, she told him his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the pipeline is complete. Merkel noted that Europe also has enough terminals to receive more liquefied gas from the U.S., among other options. “There’s nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal,” she said. ___ Moulson reported from Berlin. David Rising And Geir Moulson, The Associated Press

City overcomes stubborn Newport to reach FA Cup quarters

5 hours 33 min ago
Manchester City broke through Newport’s stubborn defence in the second half to beat the fourth-tier side 4-1 in the FA Cup on Saturday, although the result wasn’t as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. Newport’s hopes of an epic fifth-round upset were still intact when Padraig Amond pulled a goal back to make it 2-1 in the 88th minute. But Phil Foden replied instantly with his second goal of the game and Riyad Mahrez added an injury-time score, allowing City to advance to the quarterfinals to keep Pep Guardiola’s side in the hunt for a possible four trophies. Brighton and Millwall also advanced. Brighton beat second-tier Derby 2-1 while Championship side Millwall overcame AFC Wimbledon 1-0. City’s visit to South Wales had only one realistic outcome, but the win wasn’t quite as simple as most expected. City entered the game as the overwhelming favourite - especially after beating Chelsea 6-0 last weekend in the Premier League - but struggled to impose its usual attacking game on a pitch that contained more mud than grass in many places. Newport, with an annual wage bill that’s less than one per cent of City’s, managed to reach the halftime break still at 0-0, and even created the best chance of the opening 45 minutes. City goalkeeper Ederson had to produce a stellar one-handed save to keep Tyreeq Bakinson’s header at bay in the 14th minute. But Leroy Sane, who hit the crossbar in the first half, finally created the breakthrough for City in the 51st. Sane ran onto a pass from Gabriel Jesus and fired a left-foot shot that hit goalkeeper Joe Day square in the face before spinning through his arms and into the net. The strike left Day with a bloody nose, and left Newport’s chances in tatters as well. Foden doubled the lead in the 75th with a solo goal by Foden, after the teenager picked up the ball on the halfway line before charging forward and slotting a shot past Day. Newport still managed to make it interesting when Amond seized on a defensive mistake to lob the ball over Emerson, but Foden quickly restored City’s two-goal lead with a fierce left-foot shot into the net from inside the area. Mahrez added the fourth from the left side of the box in injury time, creating a scoreline that flattered the visitors. BRIGHTON HOLDS ON Brighton reached the quarterfinals for the second year in a row after holding off a late comeback attempt by Derby. Brighton looked to be in complete control after taking a 2-0 lead at halftime, with Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia scoring for the Premier League side. But Derby threatened to make a comeback after veteran left back Ashley Cole - a seven-time FA Cup winner with Arsenal and Chelsea - scored his first goal in the competition in the 81st. That made for a nervy last 10 minutes for the hosts, but Harry Wilson and Fikayo Tomori both shot wide for Derby to scupper any hopes of a comeback. Knockaert opened the scoring in the 33rd minute by meeting a low cross in the area and sweeping a shot inside the near post, before Locadia doubled the lead on the stroke of halftime by firing in from close range after Yves Bissouma’s effort had hit the post. Cole responded with his first goal in English football in six years after Florian Jozefzoon went down under a challenge from Bernardo and the ball was cleared into the path of the former England defender. While his teammates appealed for a penalty, Cole calmly headed home. MILLWALL THROUGH Millwall also advanced after Murray Wallace’s early goal was enough to see off League One struggler AFC Wimbledon. Wallace headed in a cross from Ryan Leonard in the fifth minute and the hosts had a number of second-half chances to add to the lead, but couldn’t find a way past Wimbledon goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale for a second time. It’s the second time in three years the London club reaches the quarterfinals. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Mattias Karen, The Associated Press

CN says train leaking crude following derailment in western Manitoba

5 hours 37 min ago
ST-LAZARE, Man. - A train carrying oil has derailed and is leaking in Manitoba. Canadian National Railway says in a statement that 37 cars carrying crude left the tracks early Saturday morning near St-Larare, which is east of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary. CN says there is “a partial leak” of crude, and that its environmental team is working to clean up the site and protect the environment. It says there are no reports of injuries or fires, and that it’s still determining how much oil spilled. St-Lazare is about 50 kilometres from Moosomin, Sask., where conservative leaders have been speaking at a pro-pipeline rally Saturday. Supporters of pipelines argue that shipping oil by pipeline is safer than by rail. The Canadian Press

Nadav Lapid’s ‘Synonyms’ wins Berlin film fest’s Golden Bear

5 hours 47 min ago
BERLIN - Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” a film following a young Israeli man who uproots himself to France and tries to immerse himself in his new country, has won the Berlin International Film Festival’s top Golden Bear award. The film was chosen Saturday from a field of 16 movies competing at the first of the year’s major European film festivals. Wang Jingchun was named best actor for his role in Wang Xiaoshuai’s “So Long, My Son,” a Chinese family saga. Best actress went to Yong Mei for her part in the same film. The best director prize went to Germany’s Angela Schanelec for “I Was at Home, But.” The Associated Press

US-backed Syria force says IS territorial defeat is near

5 hours 48 min ago
BAGHOUZ, Syria - The sound of mortar shelling and fighter jets whizzing by filled the air. At the base in this small village, fighters from the U.S.- backed Syrian Democratic Forces co-ordinate with their comrades about two kilometres (1.2 miles) away who are closing in on Islamic State militants hiding in their last toehold on the border between Syria and Iraq. Despite the projectiles being fired, the mood among the fighters at this base is easygoing. The Kurdish-led force, with help from the U.S.-led coalition, has all but defeated the most ferocious extremist group to terrorize the region in years. “The situation is great. It can’t be better,” said one commander at the front line into his walkie-talkie. Clashes continue inside the village of Baghouz, mostly at night. Fighters say IS militants are hiding among civilians in a displaced people’s camp to avoid airstrikes. Artillery rounds were meant to clear land mines for the SDF fighters to advance. But SDF commanders insist the official end of the group’s hold on territory in Syria is near. “We will very soon bring good news to the whole world,” said Ciya Furat, a commander with the Kurdish-led SDF, speaking at a news conference, miles away at the al-Omar Oil Field Base in the Deir el-Zour province. The capture of the last pocket still held by IS fighters in Baghouz would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq - their so-called “caliphate” that at the height of the group’s power in 2014 controlled nearly a third of both Iraq and Syria. President Donald Trump said the White House will make an announcement about Syria and the fight against IS by the end of Saturday. “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that will be announced over the next 24 hours,” Trump told journalists at the White House on Friday. An Associated Press team in Baghouz on Saturday heard several aircraft overhead. At least two airstrikes and mortar rounds were seen in the distance, close to the tiny area where the militants are said to be holed up. SDF fighters said they were fired by the U.S.-led coalition. The SDF declared the final push to capture the village a week ago after more than 20,000 civilians, many of them the wives and families of foreign fighters, were evacuated. Since then, SDF commanders say they have been surprised to discover that there were hundreds of civilians still in the enclave, after they were brought up by the militants from underground tunnels. Their presence has slowed down the SDF advance. Hostages, including fighters from the Kurdish-led forces and civilians, were another reason the advances were slowed down. Furat, the SDF commander, said that his fighters were able to liberate 10 of their colleagues held by IS. He said IS fighters are now besieged in an area that is about 700 square meters (840 square yards). Furat’s comments were carried by Kurdish news agencies, including Hawar News. “We are dealing with this small pocket with patience and caution. It is militarily fallen but civilians are used as human shields,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told the AP. Bali added that the SDF believes that IS gunmen are also holding previously kidnapped Syrians in the area. SDF fighters said that as they cleared areas captured from IS they found some captives held in bathrooms four days earlier, including two soldiers from the Syrian government. They added that they have also removed and buried bodies of foreign fighters. “We found bodies of Moroccans, Chinese and Chechnyans. Bodies of foreigners,” said SDF fighter Hamza as he communicated with his comrades on his walkie-talkie. Hamza said IS snipers still target their forces from among the civilians and described the abundance of land mines as a major challenge. He also had a message for the U.S. president. “We tell Trump, it wasn’t you that liberated it. It was us here on the ground,” he added. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said SDF fighters are almost in full control of the area once controlled by extremists, adding that there might still be IS fighters hiding in a network of underground tunnels. The Observatory said that some 200 IS gunmen surrendered Friday, days after about 240 others surrendered and were taken by SDF fighters and members of the U.S.-led coalition. Furat said that after the physical defeat of IS, the SDF “will continue in its fight against Daesh sleepers cells.” Despite the expected defeat on the ground, activists and residents say IS still has sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq and is laying the groundwork for an insurgency. The group has claimed responsibility in recent months for deadly attacks, mostly in Iraq, more than a year after the Iraqi government said the extremists have been defeated after losing the northern city of Mosul in 2017, the largest they held. Hamza, the fighter, said his forces have borne the brunt of the fighting in the ground offensive against the militants. Despite being on the brink of territorial defeat, the group remains a danger, he said. “We can finish Daesh off in two days,” Hamza said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “But we need months or years to liberate the minds.” ___ Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report. Sarah El Deeb, The Associated Press

Canada’s Brazdeikis has 13 points as No. 6 Michigan beats No. 24 Maryland 65-52

5 hours 49 min ago
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Charles Matthews scored 14 points and Canada’s Iggy Brazdeikis added 13 to lift No. 6 Michigan to a 65-52 victory over No. 24 Maryland on Saturday. The Wolverines (23-3, 12-3 Big Ten) rebounded from their loss at Penn State earlier in the week. Michigan raced out to a 14-2 advantage and led by as much as 15 in the first half. It was a struggle for the Wolverines after that, but the fast start was too much for Maryland (19-7, 10-5) to overcome. Bruno Fernando scored all 12 of his points in the second half for the Terrapins. Michigan led 27-18 at halftime. Maryland turned the ball over 13 times in the first half. The Terps had only three turnovers in the second, but the damage was done. With Maryland down five, Anthony Cowan Jr. had a chance to cut further into the lead, but he missed an easy layup, and Brazdeikis, a 20-year-old from Oakville, Ont., made a three-pointer at the other end to make it 50-42. BIG PICTURE Maryland: The Terrapins are 6-3 when trailing at halftime this season, including 5-2 in Big Ten games. But that’s a tough trend to rely on against good teams on the road. Fernando was impressive early in the second half, but that wasn’t enough, and Maryland missed a bunch of three-pointers toward the end. Michigan: This was a crucial win for the Wolverines in their chase for the Big Ten title. Michigan still has two games left against Michigan State and a rematch at Maryland. When the Wolverines defend like this, they can win in spite of poor outside shooting, but their 7-for-26 showing from three-point range Saturday leaves plenty of room for improvement. POLL IMPLICATIONS Michigan might drop anyway because of the loss to Penn State, and Maryland may rise anyway after beating Purdue by 14 earlier in the week. UP NEXT Maryland: The Terrapins play at No. 21 Iowa on Tuesday night. Michigan: The Wolverines play at Minnesota on Thursday night. Michigan beat the Gophers last month on a buzzer-beater by Matthews. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25   The Associated Press

Toronto Wolfpack improve to 3-0-0 with rugby league win over Widnes Vikings

6 hours 9 min ago
NEWCASTLE, England - The Toronto Wolfpack scored three tries in 10 minutes in the second half to break open a tight game and dispatch previously unbeaten Widnes Vikings 30-6 in Betfred Championship rugby league play Saturday. The win moved Toronto (3-0-0) into first place in the standings ahead of Sheffield Eagles (3-0-0) on points difference. Sheffield won 24-10 over Bradford Bulls (2-1-0) on Friday in another battle of unbeaten teams. Saturday’s neutral site game at Kingston Park Stadium was part of a doubleheader. Doncaster RLFC defeated Newcastle Thunder 32-26 in the earlier third-tier League 1 game. Andy Ackers had two tries and Blake Wallace, Gary Wheeler and Ricky Leutele added single tries for Toronto, which led 8-0 at the half. Gareth O’Brien kicked four conversions and a penalty. Brad Walker scored a consolation try for Widnes in the 75th minute. Jack Owens added the conversion. Toronto has conceded just two tries in three games, outscoring its opponent by a combined 102-12. “We’re still a bit rough through some areas that we have to work on but we’re getting there,” said Leutele. Widnes (2-1-0) started strongly but eventually was beaten back by Toronto’ stifling defence and its pace and power on offence. “The effort from our guys was fantastic … Second half we ran out of bodies and we ran out of subs as well,” said Widnes coach Kieron Purtill, former coach of the Canada Wolverines. The game was a reunion of sorts for former Widnes players Joe Mellor and Tom Olbison, who both joined Toronto after the Vikings were relegated last season. Widnes dropped out of the Super League after a 20-12 loss to the Wolfpack in the Super 8s Qualifiers last September. O’Brien and Adam Sidlow also had past stints at Widnes. Gadwin Springer, a French international forward who signed from Castleford in the off-season, made his first start for Toronto. The game was somewhat of an arm-wrestle early on, with neither side able to take advantage. But Toronto went ahead in the 14th minute when Widnes winger Ryan Ince fumbled a towering kick from Jon Wilkin near the Vikings goal-line. Wallace picked the ball up and raced in untouched for the try. O’Brien’s penalty made it 8-0 in the 24th minute after an Anthony Gelling high tackle ended a rampaging run by Leutele, who won an NRL title with the Cronulla Sharks in Australia prior to joining Toronto. Widnes winger Olly Ashall-Bott had to be helped off late in the half after landing awkwardly on his ankle in a tackle. Widnes’ Danny Craven had to leave for a head injury assessment in the second half after getting the worst of an attempted tackle on Wheeler. The Wolfpack had some early chances in the second half but failed to convert. Toronto forward Darcy Lussick came close but was judged to have been stopped just short of the goal-line. A line-break by Lussick set the scene for Toronto’s second try in the 49th minute. The big Australian passed to Wilkin just before being tackled and Wilkin fed Ackers for the score. O’Brien’s conversion increased the lead to 14-0. Five minutes later, Wheeler touched down in the corner for another try, getting the ball down despite losing his footing as he neared the line. Leutele scored in the same corner in the 59th after four rapid-fire passes along the backline. Ackers collected his second try in the 71st minute, breaking several tackles. Toronto opened the season with road wins over the York City Knights (14-0) and Rochdale Hornets (58-6). Widnes downed Halifax RLFC 40-16 and won 36-24 at Toulouse. Toronto plays at Leigh next Sunday. --- Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter The Canadian Press

Conservative leaders to attend against Bill C-69 in Saskatchewan

6 hours 24 min ago
MOOSOMIN, Sask. - Conservative leaders from across Canada rallied Saturday against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Bill C-69. The premiers of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick joined Conservative leader Andrew Scheer on a panel of speakers at the event held to draw attention to legislation that would overhaul how major energy projects are reviewed.   Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called it “the no more pipelines bill.” “We have a very thorough process that does work. What we need is a federal government that supports our resource industries across this nation,” Moe told the crowd of hundreds in southeastern Saskatchewan. “Unfortunately what we have is a federal government that is pressing forward with Bill C-69.” Scheer vowed that if elected in October, he would repeal Bill C-69, if it passed, but his government’s first job would be to scrap the carbon tax.   Before the event, rally organizer Sinclair Harrison said if the bill passes it would be detrimental to future pipeline development. He also hoped the event would encourage TransCanada Corp. to reapply to build Energy East, a pipeline that would have transported oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick and Quebec. The company scrapped the $15.7 billion project in 2017. Energy East would have featured a tank terminal in Moosomin, Sask., near where the rally is taking place. “We’re here to speak for the silent majority that are in favour of pipelines,” said Harrison. There were also plans for additional pipelines to be built further south. Harrison said the area already sees tax revenue coming in from the existing TransCanada mainline and is reaping the benefits from construction taking place on another nearby pipeline. “The more pipelines, the better off we are,” he said.   “If everyone could see the economic benefit that these construction companies have on the area, it’s phenomenal.” Marlene Spear from Langenburg, Sask., attended the rally and believes more pipelines are needed because it is safer than moving oil by rail. “My son-in-law’s actually out today at a train derailment so travelling the oil and gas across our country by train is not necessarily any safer than travelling it though a pipeline.” The rally comes as a truck convoy that started in Red Deer, Alta., is making its way to Ottawa as part of a protest in support of the energy sector. Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

Police: Aurora gunman likely knew he was being fired

6 hours 26 min ago
AURORA, Ill. - The man who killed five co-workers and wounded another and five police officers at a suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse brought his gun to a meeting in which he was going to be fired, authorities said Saturday. Because Gary Martin brought his gun to Friday’s meeting at the sprawling Henry Pratt Co. warehouse in Aurora, he likely knew it was possible he was about to lose the job he had held for 15 years, police Chief Kristen Ziman said at a news conference. Ziman said she didn’t know what had been conveyed to Martin, why he was being fired or whether he had shown up for his regular shift or was there just for the meeting. But she said as soon as he was fired, he pulled his handgun and began shooting. Three of the five co-workers he killed were in the room with him and the other two were just outside, she said. A sixth employee and five police officers were shot but survived. Frantic calls to 911 started pouring in from frightened workers at 1:24 p.m. and officers arrived at the scene within four minutes, authorities said. Martin fired on the officers when they arrived, striking one outside and another near the building’s entrance. The other three wounded officers were shot inside the building. None of their wounds are considered life-threatening, Ziman said Saturday. All of the officers who were wounded were shot within the first five minutes of police arriving at the scene, authorities said. Martin then hid inside the 29,000-square-foot building and a search ensued. He fired on an officer about an hour later and police fired back, killing him, authorities said. Police identified the five slain workers as human resources manager Clayton Parks of Elgin; human resources intern and Northern Illinois University student Trevor Wehner of DeKalb; plant manager Josh Pinkard of Oswego; mould operator Russell Beyer of Yorkville; and stock room attendant and fork lift operator Vicente Juarez of Oswego. The wounded worker, whose name wasn’t released, was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury during the search of the building. Martin had been arrested six times in Aurora over the years, including for domestic battery, Ziman said. He was able to buy the Smith and Wesson .40-calibre handgun he used in the attack because an initial background check didn’t catch that he had a prior felony conviction in Mississippi, the chief said. Martin was issued a firearm owner’s identification card in January of 2014 after he passed the initial background check and he bought the gun that March 11. It wasn’t until he applied for a concealed carry permit five days later and went through a more rigorous background check that uses digital fingerprinting that his 1995 felony conviction in Mississippi for aggravated battery was flagged and his firearm owner’s ID card was revoked, she said. The shooting shocked the city of 200,000, which is about 40 miles (65 kilometres) west of Chicago. “For so many years, we have seen similar situations throughout our nation and the horrible feeling that we get when we see it on the news. To experience it first-hand, is even more painful,” said Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin said Friday. Resident Christy Fonseca said she often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother’s Aurora neighbourhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town. Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother’s house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. It was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away. “In Aurora, period, we’d never thought anything like this would happen,” Fonseca, a lifelong resident, said as she looked out at the warehouse where Henry Pratt makes valves for industrial purposes. At Acorn Woods Condominiums where Martin lived, a mix of brick apartments and condos nestled on a quiet street just a mile and a half from the shooting, neighbours gathered on sidewalks near Martin’s unit talking and wondering among themselves if they knew or had come in contact with him. Mary McKnight stepped out of her car with a cherry cheesecake purchased for her son’s birthday, to find a flurry of police cars, officers and media trucks. “This is a strange thing to come home to, right,” she said. She had just learned that the shooter lived close by and his unit in the complex had been taped off by police. Asked if Martin’s rampage had been a “classic” workplace shooting, police chief Ziman said: “I don’t know. We can only surmise with a gentleman that’s being terminated that this was something he intended to do.” ___ Associated Press writers Carrie Antlfinger and Amanda Seitz contributed to this report. Babwin and Rousseau reported from Chicago. Don Babwin And Caryn Rousseau, The Associated Press

8 miners rescued in Zimbabwe; dozens more feared dead

6 hours 28 min ago
KADOMA, Zimbabwe - Eight subsistence miners who were trapped underground for several days after heavy flooding in Zimbabwe have been rescued, though dozens of their co-workers are still missing and feared dead. Rescuers on Saturday pulled the exhausted, muddied survivors from the ground and took them to a tent for medical treatment. Relatives waiting at the scene ululated, cheered and hugged each other. Later came the retrieval of the dead. One by one the bodies were pulled from one of the tunnels in the gold fields, put in blue body bags and into a police truck which is transporting them to a tent for identification. Dozens of the small-scale gold miners were caught underground Tuesday on the outskirts of Kadoma, west Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, when a dam wall collapsed and water rushed into the nearby mining tunnels. It is unclear how many miners remain trapped, but the government has said between 60 and 70 people were working underground at the time of the accident. The government has declared it a national disaster. Uniformed police, government workmen and artisanal miners, some of them wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals, are working together in the retrieval operation using a hand-powered winch and ropes. Ignoring a strong stench, some people broke through the police perimeter to catch a glimpse of the process, while others hoped to identify their friends and relatives. At least 20 bodies had been identified underground, while the search for more bodies continued, said Henrietta Rushwaya, the leader of Zimbabwe’s association of small scale miners. A government statement Friday said that $200,000 is needed to complete the operation. Local head of the Civil Protection Unit Cecilia Chitiyo told reporters Saturday that “well-wishers” should donate body bags, masks, gloves, diesel fuel and other needed items. Farai Mutsaka, The Associated Press

Canada’s Kennedy races to 12th in cross-country skiing World Cup event

6 hours 53 min ago
COGNE, Italy - Russell Kennedy of Canmore, Alta., raced to a career-best 12th place in a World Cup cross-country skate-ski sprint on Saturday. “It was awesome. That was crazy today,” Kennedy said. “I thought I could do a top-30 but definitely finishing 12th was a surprise. I’m just psyched.” The 27-year-old Olympian, who also shared guiding duties for Brian McKeever at the 2018 Paralympic Games, took advantage of hard and fast conditions to earn a spot into the head-to-head heats with the top-30 athletes after posting the 12th-fastest qualifying time around 1.6-kilometre track. “After my qualifier, I crossed the line and in my head I thought that was a sick race regardless of the result. Then I saw the result, so I was pretty excited,” said Kennedy. His previous best World Cup finish was 36th in Quebec City. Italians finished one-two with Federico Pellegrino capturing gold, and Francesco De Fabiani racing to silver. Lucas Chanavat of France was third. Alex Harvey, of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was 48th in qualifying, while Evan Palmer-Charrette, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 59th. None of the Canadian women qualified for the heats. Dahria Beatty, of Whitehorse, was the top Canadian in 38th.  American Jessica Diggins won the women’s gold ahead of Germany’s Sandra Ringwald and Sweden’s Johanna Hagstroem. The Canadian Press

Canadian pitcher Axford ready for mentorship role in return to Blue Jays

7 hours 15 min ago
DUNEDIN, Fla. - John Axford doesn’t mind that he’ll likely be the oldest pitcher on the Blue Jays roster this season. He’s comfortable in more of a mentorship and leadership role, anyway. The 35-year-old right-hander, who signed a minor league deal with Toronto on Saturday, reported to Blue Jays camp that morning, stepping into a clubhouse that had taken on a much more youthful appearance than the one he left when he was traded in July. “There’s a lot of new faces in there that I haven’t seen in a while, or I haven’t seen (at all),” Axford said. “Looking at the roster, I’m seeing that I might be the oldest potentially on that list. … So to be able to talk to some of those young guys, maybe I can instill some of the things I learned when I was a kid.” Axford, who turns 36 on April 1, is five months older than 35-year-old lefty Clayton Richard, who joined Toronto’s starting rotation via an off-season trade, and nearly a year older than new bullpen coach Matt Buschmann. Axford credited LaTroy Hawkins, who he pitched with in Colorado, and Trevor Hoffman, his former teammate in Milwaukee, as veterans that he looked up to earlier in his own career. “You get to see their work ethic, you get to see their attitude day to day, you get to see what they do to create the atmosphere in the bullpen that was beneficial and positive for you to come to the field every day,” he said. “So I think that was one of the biggest things for me, creating that atmosphere that guys are enjoying and bringing positivity to the field and the bullpen.” Axford, a native of Port Dover, Ont., also signed a minor league deal late with Toronto last year - just before camp opened - and went 4-1 with a 4.41 ERA in 45 games with the Blue Jays before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31. He didn’t do very well in the five appearances he made with the Dodgers over the last two months of the season - a stint that also saw him fracture his fibula when he was hit by a comebacker - allowing eight runs (seven earned) over 3 2/3 innings. Still, Axford didn’t quite expect to sign so late this time around. “Last year I expected that because I had a terrible 2017. I was released in July and I didn’t pitch in August and September so that was expected for me personally,” he said. “But this year coming in and having pitched a full season, I missed part of the year with the fractured fibula, but I don’t think I expected it to be as late as it was this year. “But it seems to be a sign of the times of the way things are rolling and we’ll see how the trend continues.” Axford owns a career record of 38-34 with a 3.87 ERA and 144 saves in 543 games for eight different teams (2009-2018). The towering right-hander said he had some offers from other teams, with those also coming late into the off-season, but he wanted to return to Toronto so he could live at home in nearby Burlington, Ont., and spend time with his two sons JB and Jameson like he did last year. Axford spoke with Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins at the Baseball Canada banquet last month in Toronto, letting them know how much he wanted to come back. “For me it’s home,” he said. “Spending as much time as I did with family and friends and my kids was perfect and ideal and it was really a dream last year. So I wanted to get back in that situation.” Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

Canadian pitcher Axford ready for mentorship role in return to Blue Jays

7 hours 26 min ago
DUNEDIN, Fla. - John Axford doesn’t mind that he’ll likely be the oldest pitcher on the Blue Jays roster this season. He’s comfortable in more of a mentorship and leadership role, anyway. The 35-year-old right-hander, who signed a minor league deal with Toronto on Saturday, reported to Blue Jays camp that morning, stepping into a clubhouse that had taken on a much more youthful appearance than the one he left when he was traded in July. “There’s a lot of new faces in there that I haven’t seen in a while, or I haven’t seen (at all),” Axford said. “Looking at the roster, I’m seeing that I might be the oldest potentially on that list. … So to be able to talk to some of those young guys, maybe I can instill some of the things I learned when I was a kid.” Axford, who turns 36 on April 1, is five months older than 35-year-old lefty Clayton Richard, who joined Toronto’s starting rotation via an off-season trade, and nearly a year older than new bullpen coach Matt Buschmann. Axford credited LaTroy Hawkis, who he pitched with in Colorado, and Trevor Hoffman, his former teammate in Milwaukee, as veterans that he looked up to earlier in his own career. “You get to see their work ethic, you get to see their attitude day to day, you get to see what they do to create the atmosphere in the bullpen that was beneficial and positive for you to come to the field every day,” he said. “So I think that was one of the biggest things for me, creating that atmosphere that guys are enjoying and bringing positivity to the field and the bullpen.” Axford, a native of Port Dover, Ont., also signed a minor league deal late with Toronto last year - just before camp opened - and went 4-1 with a 4.41 ERA in 45 games with the Blue Jays before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31. He didn’t do very well in the five appearances he made with the Dodgers over the last two months of the season - a stint that also saw him fracture his fibula when he was hit by a comebacker - allowing eight runs (seven earned) over 3 2/3 innings. Still, Axford didn’t quite expect to sign so late this time around. “Last year I expected that because I had a terrible 2017. I was released in July and I didn’t pitch in August and September so that was expected for me personally,” he said. “But this year coming in and having pitched a full season, I missed part of the year with the fractured fibula, but I don’t think I expected it to be as late as it was this year. “But it seems to be a sign of the times of the way things are rolling and we’ll see how the trend continues.” Axford owns a career record of 38-34 with a 3.87 ERA and 144 saves in 543 games for eight different teams (2009-2018). The towering right-hander said he had some offers from other teams, with those also coming late into the off-season, but he wanted to return to Toronto so he could live at home in nearby Burlington, Ont., and spend time with his two sons JB and Jameson like he did last year. Axford spoke with Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins at the Baseball Canada banquet last month in Toronto, letting them know how much he wanted to come back. “For me it’s home,” he said. “Spending as much time as I did with family and friends and my kids was perfect and ideal and it was really a dream last year. So I wanted to get back in that situation.” Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

Quebecers stranded by Haitian protests expected to fly back to Canada today

7 hours 44 min ago
MONTREAL - More than 100 Quebec tourists who have been trapped in Haiti due to violent street protests are expected to return to Canada today. Helicopter evacuations began this morning to transport travellers from a resort hotel on the Caribbean country's Cote des Arcadins to the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Air Transat, which sold the tourists the vacation package, is providing the flight back to Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport that is expected to land this evening. The airline had previously resisted calls to transport the vacationers to the airport, citing issues with both logistics and security. Other Canadians stuck in Haiti have also been making their way to the airport by way of helicopter flights or harrowing road journeys. Protests demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise have claimed several lives over the past week. Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti. The Canadian Press

Sam Gagner headed back to Oilers; Canucks deal him for Ryan Spooner

7 hours 44 min ago
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks have acquired centre Ryan Spooner, sending Sam Gagner back to the Edmonton Oilers. Vancouver is the third NHL stop this season for Spooner, who has split his 2018-19 campaign between the New York Rangers, Oilers and Bakersfield Condors. The 27-year-old from Ottawa had two points (1-1-2) in 16 games with the Rangers, three points (2-1-3) in 25 games with the Oilers and six points (2-4-6) in seven games with the Condors. Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the second round, 45th overall in the 2010 NHL draft, Spooner has collected 163 NHL points (48-115-163) in 314 career games. The 29-year-old Gagner has spent most of the season on loan to the Toronto Marlies, scoring 12 goals and picking up 37 points in 43 AHL games. Gagner was selected No. 6 overall in the 2007 draft by Edmonton and spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Oilers. The Oilers said via Twitter they hope Gagner will be available for Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders. The deal comes less than a day after the Oilers sent Cam Talbot to Philadelphia for fellow goalie Anthony Stolarz.   The Canadian Press

Pages