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: 30 min 51 sec ago

100 protesters still holed up in Hong Kong university

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 20:27
Hong Kong's leader says an estimated 100 protesters remain holed up in one of the city's main universities that had been blockaded by police. Leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that 600 protesters had left the Hong Kong Polytechnic campus, including 200 who are under 18 years old. Police have surrounded the university and are arresting anyone who leaves. Lam said those under 18 would not be immediately arrested but could face charges later. The Associated Press

Woman gets 15 days for throwing cup at Florida congressman

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 20:17
PENSACOLA, Fla. - A woman has been sentenced to 15 days in federal custody for throwing a sports drink at a Florida congressman who frequently appears on television supporting President Donald Trump. Federal court records show that 35-year-old Amanda Kondrat’yev was sentenced last Monday in Pensacola. Her confinement is scheduled to begin Dec. 2. Kondrat’yev pleaded guilty to assault in August. She had faced up to a year in prison. Authorities say Kondrat’yev was part of a group protesting in June outside a town hall meeting attended by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz. The second-term Republican was leaving a coffee house when a cup struck him in the back. Several witnesses identified Kondrat’yev as the assailant, and the throw was caught on video. The Associated Press

Holmes: I’d ‘never seen anything’ like Trump-Sondland call

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 19:58
WASHINGTON - The phone call State Department official David Holmes overheard between President Donald Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland during a lunch in Ukraine was so distinctive - even extraordinary - that no one needed to refresh his memory, according to testimony released late Monday in the impeachment inquiry. "I've never seen anything like this," Holmes told House investigators, "someone calling the President from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candour, colorful language. There's just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly." Holmes' account of the conversation in Kyiv is the first with Trump personally calling about the investigations into Democrats and Joe Biden that are central to the impeachment inquiry. A transcript of Holmes' closed-door testimony was released Monday. Holmes, a political counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is scheduled to testify publicly Thursday. The conversation between the president and the ambassador July 26 came one day after the call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that led to the impeachment inquiry. Holmes, who joined Sondland and others during the lunch meeting, told investigators Trump was talking so loudly he could hear the president clearly on the ambassador's phone. “I then heard President Trump ask, quote, 'So he's going to do the investigation?'" Holmes testified. "Ambassador Sondland replied that 'He's going to do it,' adding that President Zelensky will, quote, 'do anything you ask him to.'” Holmes said he didn’t take notes of the conversation he overheard between Trump and Sondland but remembers it “vividly.” Pressed during the interview if anyone helped him recall the details, Holmes said, "that wouldn't have been needed, sir, because, as I said, the event itself was so distinctive that I remember it very clearly." A transcript was also released late Monday from an interview with David Hale, the State Department's No. 3 official. Hale is scheduled to testify publicly Wednesday. He was questioned earlier this month about the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. . Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 19:41
Some Canadian universities are urging their exchange students in Hong Kong to consider returning home as the semi-autonomous Chinese territory is beset by escalating violence between government officials and pro-democracy protesters. Dozens of Canadians remained in Hong Kong on Monday, according to several institutions reached by The Canadian Press - many of which said it would be in their students’ best interest to flee the violence. So far just one Canadian school, Montreal’s McGill University, has reported a partnership with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the campus at the centre of a tense police siege. But students at several schools have already begun heeding widespread warnings and cut their exchanges short. The University of British Columbia said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left the territory. “Given the ongoing tensions in Hong Kong, the university has reached out to all UBC students studying in Hong Kong to discuss their options and ensure they feel safe and supported should they decide to leave,” UBC said in a statement. “Our recommendation to them is that they leave.” Protests have been raging in Hong Kong since early June, but have escalated in recent weeks and begun spilling over into post-secondary institutions that have opted to suspend classes early in a bid to curb the violence. The protests started peacefully, sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. But by the time the extradition bill was withdrawn, the protests had broadened into a resistance movement against the territory’s government. Universities have become the latest battleground for the protesters, with a police blockade of Hong Kong Polytechnic University fuelling anger and prompting dramatic efforts to help students stuck inside. The battle for control of the campus began last week as demonstrators fortified the campus to keep the police out. On Monday, cornered by security forces determined to arrest them, they desperately tried to get out but faced a cordon of officers armed with tear gas and water cannons. McGill said the ongoing violence has prompted campus closures at some of the schools where 22 of its students were completing exchanges. “There is now a clear and strong message from our partner universities in Hong Kong to end the semester early,” the school said in a statement, noting the “vast majority” of students have opted to follow the university’s guidance and leave the city. Simon Fraser University near Vancouver, Kingston, Ont.’s Queen’s University, and the University of Toronto said officials have contacted all students on exchange in Hong Kong and are helping make travel arrangements for those who wish to leave. While Queen’s issued a formal statement urging its 15 students to return to Canada, Simon Fraser and U of T did not. However, both schools say they’re working closely with their exchange students - numbering 17 and 20 respectively - to help them fly out of Hong Kong. The University of Toronto said in a statement that it is “working closely with each partner organization and each student to determine the best approach for helping students stay safe and have a smooth academic transition plan.” Global Affairs Canada says it is closely monitoring the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong, but did not specifically address the circumstances facing students. The government is urging Canadians in the area to exercise “a high degree of caution” in their travels.  - With files from The Associated Press This story by the Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.   Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

House puts out testimony from official who heard Trump call

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 19:21
WASHINGTON - Impeachment investigators have released closed-door testimony from a U.S. official in Ukraine who overheard a call between diplomat Gordon Sondland and President Donald Trump this summer. Transcripts were released late Monday from interviews with David Holmes, the diplomat who overheard the call, and from David Hale, the State Department's No. 3 official. Holmes is scheduled to testify publicly Thursday about the call. He told lawmakers behind closed doors Friday that he overheard Sondland telling Trump that the president of Ukraine would do anything that Trump wanted, according to remarks obtained by The Associated Press. Trump was pushing Ukraine to investigate Democrats at the time. Hale is scheduled to testify publicly Wednesday. He was questioned earlier this month about the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press

Closing arguments begin in legal case over private health care in B.C.

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 19:15
VANCOUVER - A lawyer arguing in favour of a two-tier health-care system in British Columbia says the government can’t legally justify preventing patients from paying private doctors to alleviate their suffering sooner than the public system could provide treatment. Peter Gall began his closing arguments Monday in a decade-long constitutional challenge of the Medicare Protection Act of B.C. as lead plaintiff Dr. Brian Day, CEO of Cambie Surgical Corp., looked on from the gallery. The case has drawn a fierce defence from those who warn a parallel public-private system would only benefit the wealthy and expanding private insurance would disproportionately impact patients who aren’t considered “profitable.” “If you cannot provide timely service to everyone, you cannot prohibit anyone from going outside the system for private care,” Gall told B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Steeves. It’s entirely within the provincial government’s constitutional purview to make policy decisions about how the public health-care system is delivered, Gall said, adding that has led to shortcomings where the government’s own data show it is failing to provide diagnostic and surgical services in a timely manner. That means patients should have the right to make their own choices, he said. “Waiting for these services causes, at a minimum, ongoing pain, ongoing physical and mental suffering, ongoing disability and as well the possibility of additional and permanent harm, even death.” Gall dismissed fears that allowing private health services would result in a radical transformation of the public system as purely “hypothetical,” adding that the government could introduce strict regulations. Government lawyers aren’t scheduled to begin closing arguments until next week but they say in court documents that Day’s claims of four plaintiff patients having been deprived of life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the charter are problematic because those protections apply to issues of justice, not health care. Rather than a constitutional challenge, the government alleges Day’s case amounts to “political theatre” and an attempt to force change on the health-care system for the financial benefit of doctors who earn more money from wealthy patients going to private clinics. The province also says Day’s lawyers have failed to establish that patients suffer harm by waiting for services. Public health care supporters, including interveners in the case, held a news conference outside the court before the final arguments kicked off Monday. “We joined this court case because we believe in defending a public health-care system where everyone is covered, everyone is treated equally and no one goes broke paying for their care,” Edith MacHattie, a representative for a coalition of interveners, said in a statement. The BC Health Coalition, Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the B.C. Nurses’ Union are interveners in the case. “All this case has proven is that a private for-profit system would improve access for the healthiest and wealthiest while creating longer wait times for everybody else,” MacHattie said. Day legally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996, saying he wanted to create more operating-room time for surgeons who couldn’t get it in public hospitals and that profit was never a motive. However, the facility has been operating since 2003 in violation of provisions of the Medicare Protection Act that haven’t been proclaimed into law. The case landed in B.C. Supreme Court in 2016 with support from four of Day’s patients. In 2018, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000 for a first offence and $20,000 for a second violation of the act if they charged patients for publicly available services. Dix said the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach, which allowed private-clinic surgeries and diagnostic tests to continue because provisions of the law had not been enforced, would come to an end. However, Day successfully sought an injunction that prompted a B.C. Supreme Court judge to order the government not to enforce sections of the act until their validity could be established at trial, which is expected to conclude Dec. 6. Speaking outside the court Monday, Day said he’s glad the case is wrapping up and is now in the hands of the judge rather than politicians. “The system is broken. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Patients were just waiting and suffering and that’s just wrong.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Police chief: 3 people killed in Oklahoma Walmart shooting

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 19:05
DUNCAN, Okla. - Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday morning outside a Walmart store in southwestern Oklahoma, and the shooter is among the dead, authorities said. Two victims were shot inside a car and the third died in the parking lot just before 10 a.m. outside the store in Duncan, Police Chief Danny Ford said. Authorities did not immediately describe a motivation for the shooting. Ford told The Associated Press that investigators believe the gunman shot the male and female victims and then turned the gun on himself. Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks authorities said during the news conference Monday afternoon that there was never an active shooter inside the store and he described the shooting as an isolated incident. He did not further explain. Hicks said the two victims had been inside the Walmart Money Center, which offers check-cashing, money orders, tax preparation and other services, before they were killed, but that the shooter did not enter the business. Two bodies covered with sheets were visible in the parking lot Monday afternoon. One body was in the driver's seat of a red, two-door car. The other body was lying on the ground next to the vehicle. Bullet holes were visible in the car's windshield. Police said in a Facebook post that a handgun was found at the scene. At the news conference, Ford described the gun as semi-automatic but said he had no further details. He said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was still processing the scene. Ford said he believed nine shots were fired. Authorities have not released the identities of those killed but did confirm the shooter was among the dead. Ford said all three knew each other but declined to describe their relationships or other identifying information pending notification of immediate family. He said all three were dead when police arrived just minutes after the shooting. Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins initially said no staff were involved. Jenkins later released a statement offering thoughts and prayers for the family of the woman killed in the shooting, who she said had been with the company for less than two months. Jenkins said the woman was at the Walmart during her free time and wasn't scheduled to work that day. Duncan is a city of more than 22,000 residents located about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Oklahoma City. The Walmart is in a commercial centre that includes a sporting goods store and a dollar store along U.S. Highway 81, the main road that passes through Duncan heading south toward Texas. Aaron Helton, of Duncan, said he was parking outside the Walmart where he planned to buy groceries when he heard about nine gunshots. "I arrived and there were three bodies," Helton said. Helton was one of many nearby witnesses who fortunately was not hit by gunfire, Ford said. The closest person was in a vehicle three parking spaces away from where the victims sat, Ford said. "We got radio of a lot of people dodging and running," Ford said. "There were people in the vicinity, for sure." There were more than 100 vehicles in the parking lot about two hours after the shooting plus a steady stream of customers coming and going from Walmart, which remained open for business. It was at least the third shooting at a Walmart in the U.S. this year. A Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, reopened Thursday after being closed since August, when a gunman opened fire in the busy store, killing 22. Just days before, two Walmart employees in Mississippi were killed by a man authorities described as a disgruntled Walmart worker. The killings in Oklahoma come amid a spate of high-profile shootings across the U.S. A 16-year-old student at a high school in the city of Santa Clarita outside Los Angeles shot and killed two classmates and wounded three other teens Thursday before shooting himself in the head. He died the next day. In New Jersey, players and spectators ran for cover Friday night when a gunman opened fire at a high school football game, wounding two people. And on Sunday, four people were killed and six wounded in Fresno, California, where police say two shooters sneaked into a backyard party and shot into a group of Hmong family and friends. ___ Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report. Sean Murphy, The Associated Press

US angers Palestinians with reversal on Israeli settlements

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 18:33
WASHINGTON - The Trump administration on Monday said it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy and further undermining the Palestinians' effort to gain statehood. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. is repudiating the 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are "inconsistent with international law." Israeli leaders welcomed the decision while Palestinians and other nations warned that it undercut any chance of a broader peace deal. Pompeo told reporters at the State Department that the Trump administration believes any legal questions about settlements should be resolved by Israeli courts and that declaring them a violation of international law distracts from larger efforts to negotiate a peace deal. "Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace," Pompeo said. "The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace." The change reflects the administration's embrace of a hard-line Israeli view at the expense of the Palestinian quest for statehood. Similar actions have included President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the movement of the U.S. Embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. "The U.S. administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The European Union warned of the potential repercussions in a statement following the announcement that did not mention the U.S. "All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace," said the statement from the 28-nation bloc. "The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power." Even though the decision is largely symbolic, it could give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after failing to form a coalition government following recent elections. It could also spell further trouble for the administration's peace plan, which is unlikely to gather much international support by endorsing a position contrary to the global consensus. The Netanyahu government was dealt a blow on settlements just last week when the European Court of Justice ruled products made in Israeli settlements must be labeled as such. The 1978 legal opinion on settlements is known as the Hansell Memorandum. It had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded U.S. opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength, depending on the president's position. The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory. In the final days of the Obama administration, the U.S. allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a "flagrant violation" of international law. Pompeo said that the U.S. would not take a position on the legality of specific settlements, that the new policy would not extend beyond the West Bank and that it would not create a precedent for other territorial disputes. He also said the decision did not mean the administration was prejudging the status of the West Bank in any eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. For Netanyahu, the welcome boost comes at a time when he has been weakened domestically by mounting legal woes and two inconclusive elections this year. Unable to secure a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu is now anxiously waiting to see if his chief rival, Benny Gantz, can put together a coalition. If Gantz fails, the country could be forced into a third election, with Netanyahu facing the distraction of a trial. Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the policy shift “rights a historical wrong” concerning settlements. “This policy reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria,” it said, using the Israeli terms for the West Bank. Gantz, meanwhile, applauded Pompeo’s “important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security and future of the entire Middle East.” Pompeo dismissed suggestions that the decision would further isolate the U.S. or Israel in the international community, though Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi wrote on Twitter that the settlements hurt peace prospects. "We warn of the seriousness of the change in the U.S. position towards the settlements and its repercussions on all efforts to achieve peace,” he said. Shortly after Pompeo’s announcement, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued an advisory warning for Americans planning to travel in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, saying, “Individuals and groups opposed to (Pompeo's) announcement may target U.S. government facilities, U.S. private interests, and U.S. citizens.” It called on them "to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness in light of the current environment.” Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory. Today, some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state. After the war, it immediately annexed east Jerusalem, home to the holy city's most important religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized. But Israel has never annexed the West Bank, even as it has dotted the territory with scores of settlements and tiny settlement outposts. While claiming the fate of the settlements is a subject for negotiations, it has steadily expanded them. Some major settlements have over 30,000 residents, resembling small cities and serving as suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Palestinians and most of the world say the settlements undermine hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up land sought by the Palestinians. Israel's settlement activities have also drawn attention to its treatment of Palestinians. While Jewish settlers can freely enter Israel and vote in Israeli elections, West Bank Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, require permits to enter Israel and do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections. ___ Associated Press writers Josef Federman and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

Campus under siege as Hong Kong police battle protesters

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 18:31
HONG KONG - Police tightened their siege of a university campus where hundreds of protesters remained trapped overnight Tuesday in the latest dramatic episode in months of protests against growing Chinese control over the semi-autonomous city. In yet another escalation for the movement, protests raged across other parts of the city, fueled by palpable public anger over the police blockade of Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the desire to help the students stuck inside. Now in its fifth month, the Hong Kong protest movement has steadily intensified as local and Beijing authorities harden their positions and refuse to make concessions. Universities have become the latest battleground for the protesters, who used gasoline bombs and bows-and-arrows in their fight to keep riot police backed by armoured cars and water cannon off of two campuses in the past week. China, which took control of the former British colony in 1997 promising to let it retain its autonomy, flexed its muscles, sending troops outside their barracks over the weekend in a cleanup operation. China's ambassador to Britain accused the U.K. and the U.S. of meddling in the country's internal affairs and warned that the Chinese government "will not sit on our hands" if the situation in Hong Kong "becomes uncontrollable." "These rioters, they are also criminals. They have to face the consequences of their acts," said Cheuk Hau-yip, the commander of Kowloon West district, where Polytechnic University is located. "Other than coming out to surrender, I don't see that there's any viable option for them," he said, adding that police have the ability and resolve to end the standoff. Authorities, meanwhile, were dealt a setback Monday when Hong Kong's high court struck down a contentious ban on wearing face masks in public imposed last month, ruling it unconstitutional. The pitched battle for control of Hong Kong Polytechnic University began last week as demonstrators for days fortified the campus to keep the police out. On Monday, cornered by security forces determined to arrest them, they desperately tried to get out but faced a cordon of officers armed with tear gas and water cannons. Senior government officials said they were trying to de-escalate the situation and urged the protesters to leave peacefully and co-operate with police - advice that seemed certain to lead to arrests and therefore strengthened the protesters' resolve to resist. Before dawn on Tuesday, police allowed a group of minors to leave the campus after their high school principals secured a promise that they could go home safely. Police took down the teenagers' details and they could still face prosecution later, local broadcaster RTHK reported. The teens, some wearing masks to protect against tear gas, were seen hugging their principal as they left the cordoned-off university campus. A day earlier, security forces repelled one escape attempt with tear gas, driving hundreds of protesters back onto the campus. Later, huge crowds of supporters advanced on foot toward the police from outside the cordon to try to disrupt the police operation. Some protesters descended by ropes from a footbridge to a road below, where they were met by motorbike riders trying to help them flee as police fired tear gas. All day Monday, multiple protests disrupted traffic in the Asian financial centre, where schools remained closed because of safety concerns stemming from the demonstrations, which began in June but have become increasingly violent in recent weeks. Riot officers broke into one university entrance before dawn Monday as fires raged inside and outside, but they didn't appear to get very far. Fiery explosions could be seen as protesters responded with gasoline bombs. Police, who have warned that everyone in the area could be charged with rioting, said 154 arrests were made over the weekend. A total of 4,491 arrests have reportedly been made since the protests began in June. Local council elections scheduled for Sunday were at risk of being delayed because of the unrest, said Patrick Nip, Hong Kong's secretary for constitutional affairs. "The situation in the past weekend has obviously reduced the chance of holding the election as scheduled," Nip said, adding that the government "won't take this step unless absolutely necessary." The protesters, meanwhile, made gains on a legal front when the high court struck down the ban on face masks. The court said it did not consider anti-mask laws unconstitutional in general, but in this case, the law infringed on fundamental rights further than was reasonably necessary. Many protesters wear masks to shield their identities from surveillance cameras that could be used to arrest and prosecute them. The ban has been widely ignored, and police have brought charges against protesters wearing masks. The months-long protests started peacefully in early June, sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to the mainland. But by the time the bill was withdrawn, the protests had hardened and broadened into a resistance movement against the territory's government and Beijing. Activists see the extradition bill as an example of Hong Kong's eroding autonomy under Beijing's rule since the 1997 handover from colonial power Britain. The head of a nationalistic Chinese newspaper said Hong Kong police should use snipers to fire live ammunition at violent protesters. "If the rioters are killed, the police should not have to bear legal responsibility," Global Times editor Hu Xijin wrote on his Weibo social media account. The anti-government protesters barricaded themselves inside Polytechnic last week. Police surrounded the area Sunday night and began moving in after issuing an ultimatum for people to leave the area. The crowd wore raincoats and carried umbrellas to shield themselves from police water cannons. At daybreak Monday, protesters remained in control of most of the campus. In one outdoor area, some demonstrators made gasoline bombs while others wore gas masks. Two walked about with bows and arrows. "We are exhausted because we were up since 5 a.m. yesterday," said a protester who gave only his first name, Matthew. "We are desperate because our supplies are running low." A few hundred protesters streamed out of the campus early Monday in an apparent bid to escape, but they were driven back by police tear gas. Some wearing gas masks picked up smoking tear gas canisters and dropped them into heavy-duty bags. Other protesters blocked a major road not far from the Polytechnic campus to distract police and help those inside the campus try to escape. They tossed paving stones onto stretches of Nathan Road as police chased them with tear gas. An injured woman arrested for participating in an unlawful assembly escaped after protesters stopped her ambulance and hurled rocks and bricks inside. Police issued a "wanted" notice for the 20-year-old woman and said anyone who aided her could be charged with assisting an offender, which can be punished by up to 10 years in prison. Classes from kindergarten to high school were suspended for the sixth straight day Tuesday because of safety concerns, the education department said. It said most classes were expected to resume Wednesday, except for kindergarten and classes for the disabled, which were suspended until Sunday. ___ Chan reported from London. Associated Press writer Dake Kang contributed to this report. Ken Moritsugu And Kelvin K. Chan, The Associated Press

Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil give Canada Davis Cup win over favoured Italy

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 18:20
MADRID - Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil kept rolling on Monday, notching a pair of upsets to lead Canada to a win over Italy on the opening day of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals. Shapovalov, ranked 15th in the world, gave Canada an insurmountable 2-0 lead when he beat world No. 8 Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) in a match that lasted 2 hours 51 minutes. “I think it came down to the forehand on match point,” Shapovalov said of his win over Berrettini. “Honestly it’s an amazing win for me. Matteo’s such an amazing player and he’s had an unbelievable season. So for me to be able to get another win like this it’s a huge confidence booster. “It was a really tough match. … So for me it’s another step forward. And it just shows me where my game is at.” Berrettini and Fognini finished on a high note with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Pospisil and Shapovalov in a doubles match. Italy made a late change to use their top two players in doubles instead of Simone Bolelli and Lorenzo Sonego in a bid to record a valuable match win in the new Davis Cup format. The winners of each of the six three-team groups and the next two best teams advance to quarterfinals. Earlier Monday, Pospisil recorded the biggest upset of the day. Pospisil, a late replacement for Felix Auger-Aliassime (recovering from an ankle injury), beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 7-6 (5), 7-5. Ranked 150th in the world after missing half the season while recovering from back surgery, Pospisil was a big underdog against world No. 12 Fognini. “I’ve been playing well the last few months and I’m high on confidence and I feel like my game is in a good place and so is my head,” Pospisil said. “So I’m just happy I delivered the first (win), it was a very important one, obviously. Best-of-three matches, every match is valuable so I’m just happy I got the team a winning start. “And Denis played amazing too to get the 2-0 win. It would have been nice to get the doubles but that’s how it goes when every match is very close.” Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., and Vancouver’s Pospisil both came into the Davis Cup Finals with momentum. Pospisil, whose ranking tumbled while missing the first half of the year following back surgery, won a pair of Challengers in the U.S., this fall. That came after the former world No. 25 made a run to the round of 16 at the Shanghai Masters and notched first-round upset of then-No. 9 Karen Khachanov of Russia at the U.S. Open. Shapovalov, 20, captured his first career ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open last month before reaching the final at the Paris Masters. Shapovalov fought off three set points in the first set against Berrettini, a semifinalist at this year’s U.S. Open. The Canadian seemed to enjoy playing in front of boisterous Italian fans, putting a hand up to his ear at one point to encourage noise. It was Shapovalov’s fourth career win against a top-10 opponent, with three coming this year. “I love the atmosphere,” Shapovalov said. “I think at a time like this, the end of a season you’re not really looking forward to playing events … but to play Davis Cup and the atmosphere is like this, you walk out and it’s so hectic, it’s like nothing that we experience. And for me it’s just fun to get into it.” Pospisil, 29, improved to 18-17 in Davis Cup play. Tennis Canada says Auger-Aliassime could return later this week. The world No. 21 was in the stands for the matches on Monday. Canada is without world No. 31 Milos Raonic (back). It is the first year of the Davis Cup Finals, a week-long event in a neutral venue. The old format had the competition run over several weekends during a full-year cycle. Previously, ties were best-of-five contests played at the home of one of the competing teams. “Coming here the first time this (format) was going to be run, nobody knew what to expect but I’m actually really surprised how well it’s run and I like the format,” said Canada’s captain Frank Dancevic. “I think it’s good. I think it’s fun, all the teams in one spot. … I thought the crowd was into it today, maybe not exactly the same as when you’re playing at home, but overall I prefer this system over the old one.” Canada, the United States and Italy are in Group F. Canada faces the U.S., on Tuesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Hockey Canada dropping ‘midget,’ other traditional minor age group names

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 18:10
CALGARY - Hockey Canada is changing its traditional age group names, including “midget,” a year after some other sports organizations stopped using the term. The governing body of hockey in Canada announced Monday that the age categories, that also included novice, peewee, atom and bantam, would be replaced by names descriptive of the ages of the players, from under-7 up to U21. The change, approved at Hockey Canada’s winter congress in Montreal, will impact all minor and female hockey programs under the Hockey Canada umbrella. Some other organizations, including BC Hockey and Athletics Canada, changed their classification names in November, 2018. The changes started when Regina Scott, who has a young son with dwarfism, reached out to the local youth basketball association in Guelph, Ont., after noticing the term “midget” on a banner at a mall. The term has long been used as youth age category title across several sports. However, the word is considered a derogatory slur. “We believe everyone should feel welcome in the game and in our on-going effort to make hockey more inclusive, the members at the Hockey Canada annual meeting determined that the names of our age Divisions will change,” Michael Brind’Amour, chair of the Hockey Canada board of directors, said in a statement. “Following a comprehensive review, we believe this change will simplify the system for families who may be new to the game. The new age Division names will be implemented for next season.” Hockey Canada said the change will be implemented nationally by the national governing body and its 13 provincial and territorial members for the 2020-21 season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Police chief: 3 people killed in Oklahoma Walmart shooting

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 18:00
DUNCAN, Okla. - Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday morning outside a Walmart store in southwestern Oklahoma, and the shooter is among the dead, authorities said. Two victims were shot inside a car and the third died in the parking lot just before 10 a.m. outside the store in Duncan, Police Chief Danny Ford said. Authorities did not immediately describe a motivation for the shooting. Ford told The Associated Press that investigators believe the gunman shot the male and female victims and then turned the gun on himself. Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks authorities said during the news conference Monday afternoon that there was never an active shooter inside the store and he described the shooting as an isolated incident. He did not further explain. Hicks said the two victims had been inside the Walmart Money Center, which offers check-cashing, money orders, tax preparation and other services, before they were killed, but that the shooter did not enter the business. Two bodies covered with sheets were visible in the parking lot Monday afternoon. One body was in the driver's seat of a red, two-door car. The other body was lying on the ground next to the vehicle. Bullet holes were visible in the car's windshield. Police said in a Facebook post that a handgun was found at the scene. At the news conference, Ford described the gun as semi-automatic but said he had no further details. He said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was still processing the scene. Ford said he believed nine shots were fired. Authorities have not released the identities of those killed but did confirm the shooter was among the dead. Ford said all three knew each other but declined to describe their relationships or other identifying information pending notification of immediate family. He said all three were dead when police arrived just minutes after the shooting. Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins initially said no staff were involved. Jenkins later released a statement offering thoughts and prayers for the family of the woman killed in the shooting, who she said had been with the company for less than two months. Jenkins said the woman was at the Walmart during her free time and wasn't scheduled to work that day. Duncan is about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Oklahoma City. The Walmart is in a commercial centre that includes a sporting goods store and a dollar store along U.S. Highway 81, the main road that passes through Duncan heading south toward Texas. Aaron Helton, of Duncan, said he was parking outside the Walmart where he planned to buy groceries when he heard about nine gunshots. "I arrived and there were three bodies," Helton said. Helton was one of many nearby witnesses who fortunately was not hit by gunfire, Ford said. The closest person was in a vehicle three parking spaces away from where the victims sat, Ford said. "We got radio of a lot of people dodging and running," Ford said. "There were people in the vicinity, for sure." There were more than 100 vehicles in the parking lot about two hours after the shooting plus a steady stream of customers coming and going from Walmart, which remained open for business. It was at least the third shooting at a Walmart in the U.S. this year. A Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, reopened Thursday after being closed since August, when a gunman opened fire in the busy store, killing 22. Just days before, two Walmart employees in Mississippi were killed by a man authorities described as a disgruntled Walmart worker. The killings in Oklahoma come amid a spate of high-profile shootings across the U.S. A 16-year-old student at a high school in the city of Santa Clarita outside Los Angeles shot and killed two classmates and wounded three other teens Thursday before shooting himself in the head. He died the next day. In New Jersey, players and spectators ran for cover Friday night when a gunman opened fire at a high school football game, wounding two people. And on Sunday, four people were killed and six wounded in Fresno, California, where police say two shooters sneaked into a backyard party and shot into a group of Hmong family and friends. ___ Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report. Sean Murphy, The Associated Press

Bettman declines to weigh in on Cherry, says MacLean “spoke from the heart”

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 17:37
TORONTO - Given the seismic events on “Hockey Night in Canada” in recent days, Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley’s scheduled appearance on a roundtable Monday looked like a great get for the Primetime sports management conference. The last “Coach’s Corner” segment and Don Cherry’s departure were still hot talking points among the sports media executives on the panel even though Yabsley was not in attendance.   “For those of you who were hoping to see Bart here, I can tell you from experience I went through something similar at the CBC with the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song - I think I hid in my condo for a week,” former Sportsnet president Scott Moore told the packed conference room. “You get everything from the Twitter lynch mobs coming after you to death threats. So for Bart to have been here today, it would have been all anybody wanted to talk about, and I think that would have been unfair to him and unfair to the conference.” A schedule conflict was the reason for Yabsley’s absence, a Sportsnet spokesperson said via email. Cherry’s firing and its ramifications have dominated the Canadian news cycle since his departure was announced. The 85-year-old broadcaster made comments on “Coach’s Corner” on Nov. 9 that many felt were critical of immigrants for not wearing Remembrance Day poppies. Cherry used the phrase, ‘You people,’ during the segment but later denied that he was singling out visible minorities. Yabsley issued a statement the next day apologizing for Cherry’s “divisive remarks” and MacLean apologized on the air that evening. Cherry, who did not apologize, was fired Nov. 11. MacLean opened the first intermission segment last Saturday night - the first since Cherry was let go - by speaking alone on camera for nearly five minutes. MacLean talked at length about his close relationship with Cherry during his monologue but said he had to choose “principle over friendship,” adding “Coach’s Corner is no more.” Moore, also a former CBC executive, appeared on a panel with Bell Media’s Shawn Redmond, the vice-president of Discovery Networks and TSN, CBC Sports & Olympics executive director Chris Wilson and moderator Christine Simpson of Sportsnet. Moore declined to discuss specifics on Cherry’s departure. “I think the events of the last 10 days or so have been really unfortunate for Don and for Rogers,” he said. “It’s not the way anybody wanted for Don’s career to come to an end. “He has been the most influential hockey commentating voice in Canada for the last 40 years.” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not weigh in on the developments during a keynote interview appearance at the conference. However, he was asked about Cherry during a brief availability with reporters afterwards. “I believe the CBC has had a number of statements, we’ve had a number of statements, Don has spoken and I’m not going to start another news cycle,” Bettman said. HNIC was a longtime CBC Saturday night staple, but the show and its games moved to Sportsnet in 2014 after Rogers agreed to a lucrative, long-term rights deal with the NHL. “Coach’s Corner” and HNIC are still broadcast on CBC in a sub-licensing deal with Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet. “Ron obviously made his feelings clear and spoke from the heart,” Bettman added. MacLean was the subject of some initial criticism for not calling Cherry out on his comments and offering a thumbs-up gesture. His monologue drew mixed reviews online, with some applauding him for providing an honest, candid take on the situation while critics felt he could have gone further. Moore, now the CEO of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted Canada, felt MacLean had “been caught in the crossfire,” adding that it would be “totally unfair” for him to take any of the blame. “In a live environment, for him to have even noticed that something was awry - and it was not incredibly obvious to everyone at the time - for him to have noticed it while he’s getting spoken to in his ear, while he’s having to worry about getting to a videotape, while he’s trying to get to a commercial, that would have been impressive enough for him to notice it,” Moore said. “So for people to say that Ron should have solved this problem, they are naive about the process and are being unfair to Ron,” Moore added. “So I just think it’s been a tough week for all involved.” Cherry joined HNIC in 1980 as a playoff analyst and was so popular that he was kept on as a colour commentator. CBC later created “Coach’s Corner” as a vehicle to showcase Cherry, with MacLean eventually replacing Dave Hodge as co-host. Sportsnet is exploring new format options for the first intermission, a spokesperson said.  A Postmedia report on Monday said that Cherry was starting a new podcast, with the first episode scheduled for release Tuesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

Alberta government firing election commissioner who was investigating leadership

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 17:26
EDMONTON - Alberta’s United Conservative government is firing the province’s election commissioner, but says it’s not because he is investigating the party and has fined it more than $200,000. Finance Minister Travis Toews says the decision to end Lorne Gibson’s contract is about saving money, but Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley calls it a shameful, authoritarian attack on the rule of law. “This restructuring is about finding efficiencies and ensuring that we have the most defensible process and structure going forward,” Toews said Monday before introducing the bill. “This structural change will not affect ongoing investigations. We believe that it’s critical to protect the integrity of democracy in this province.” Toews replied “absolutely not” when asked if Gibson’s investigation into the UCP and the party’s 2017 leadership campaign played any role in the decision to fire him. Notley said Premier Jason Kenney’s firing of the very person who is investigating him and his party for fraud “reeks of political interference. It reeks of corruption.” “It’s an abuse of power, pure and simple.” Gibson’s firing was contained in an omnibus bill introduced in the house and aimed at reducing spending and duplication across government. The UCP also put time limits on the bill’s debate. The NDP said it will be no more than one hour at any stage. Gibson’s contract - which runs to 2023 - is to be terminated as soon as the bill passes and is proclaimed into law. His job and five staff positions are to be transferred to chief electoral officer Glen Resler and will save an expected $1 million over five years. Resler would be responsible for hiring a new election commissioner. Toews said it would also be Resler’s office deciding whether to go ahead with existing investigations, which would include the one into the United Conservatives. “The chief electoral officer will have full ability to rehire the existing commissioner (if he so chooses),” Toews said. “We will have absolutely no input into that.” Notley predicted Gibson’s ouster will have a chill effect on all government officials tied to the investigation, which she said is effectively dead. She said she will attempt to meet as soon as possible with Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell to discuss the possibility of her not signing the bill into law - a rare and controversial step. Resler is in overall charge of running Alberta’s elections, but in early 2018 the former NDP government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising. They hired Gibson at $195,000 a year. Gibson’s highest profile investigation has been into the 2017 United Conservative leadership race won by Kenney. It focuses on the campaign of leadership candidate Jeff Callaway. Internal documents have revealed that Kenney’s campaign team worked in lockstep with Callaway, who attacked Kenney’s main rival, Brian Jean, of the former Wildrose Party while Kenney stayed quiet. Callaway dropped out of the race late to throw his support to Kenney. Documents show Kenney’s team shared talking points and a time for Callaway to drop out, but the premier has said that is normal communication among campaign teams. Gibson has issued more than $200,000 in fines tied to fundraising violations in the Callaway campaign. Some donors to his campaign broke the law by donating money provided to them by someone else. The RCMP has been conducting a separate investigation into whether voter ID fraud was committed in the leadership race. Gibson has a fractious history with Alberta’s conservative governments. He served as the chief electoral officer from 2006 to 2009. His contract was not renewed by the Progressive Conservative government of the time after he spotlighted problems with the electoral process, including that the PCs were appointing officials who monitored ballot boxes at voting stations. Gibson sued unsuccessfully for wrongful dismissal. In the spring of 2018, the then-Opposition UCP, tried to filibuster Gibson’s appointment as election commissioner. It questioned whether the role was needed and, if so, whether Gibson, given his testy relations with past governments, was the right person to fill it. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Trump suggests he may give written testimony in House probe

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 17:19
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump suggested Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony in the House impeachment inquiry over whether he pressured Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden and his son while withholding aid to the country. But people familiar with the matter cautioned that the conditions for his testimony were unlikely to be met. In a pair of tweets, Trump said he will "strongly consider" an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to testify before the House impeachment panel. Pelosi told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview aired Sunday that Trump could come before the committee and "speak all the truth that he wants." Trump tweeted: "She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don't like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!" The president provided written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller during his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. While some officials have complied with subpoenas, Trump has made defiance the official posture of his administration in the face of congressional demands for testimony and documents. He's objecting to impeachment inquiry rules that don't give his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review documents. Two people familiar with the matter said Trump would only seriously consider testifying if Democrats acceded to the president's demands. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Mueller's team tried to interview the president for more than a year before Trump submitted the written testimony in response to questions on certain Russia-related topics in November 2018. But Mueller found many of Trump's answers in the Russia probe less than satisfying. He said in his final report to Congress that the answers showed "the inadequacy of the written format," especially since the office was unable to ask follow-up questions. Mueller's team cited dozens of answers that it considered incomplete or imprecise. Trump said he had no recollection for several questions posed by the special counsel's office After Trump submitted the written answers, the special counsel's office again sought an in-person interview with Trump, but the president declined. Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Teachers union files lawsuit against Quebec secularism law, known as Bill 21

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 17:11
MONTREAL - A federation representing 45,000 Quebec teachers is taking the government to court over Bill 21, accusing the province of violating the fundamental rights of teachers across the province.  The Nov. 6 lawsuit, first reported by The Associated Press, is the latest court challenge of the Quebec government’s controversial legislation, which bans certain public sector workers from wearing religious symbols at work. It’s the first lawsuit against Bill 21 by a teachers union. The law, passed in June, already faces court challenges from the English Montreal School Board and a group of civil rights and religious advocates. Sylvain Mallette, president of Federation autonome de l’enseignement, said his organization filed the latest suit because the Quebec government is “weakening the rule of law.” Bill 21, he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, “violates … the freedom of religion and conscience of public school teachers and threatens their working conditions.” Seventy-five per cent of his federation’s members are women, he stated, a group disproportionately affected by the secularism law because Muslim women are among the most visible members of Quebec society who wear religious symbols. His federation, he said, is asking Quebec Superior Court to “declare several articles of this law unconstitutional, unenforceable, invalid, inoperative and void.” Among the articles targeted by the federation is the one that requires public servants such as teachers, police officers and judges, to remove all religious symbols while on the job. The federation’s lawsuit is a modification of an earlier court challenge filed in March. That initial lawsuit sought for the courts to declare unconstitutional any attempt by the government to count the number of teachers in public schools who wear religious symbols. The Nov. 6 filing includes the original demands but is also seeking the invalidation of most of Bill 21. Bill 21 invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution, which shields legislation from most challenges under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The main argument in the federation’s lawsuit is that Bill 21 violates its members’ freedom of conscience and religion and their equality. But the challenge states that even if the notwithstanding clause is invoked, nothing prevents a plaintiff from seeking to obtain a clear statement from a judge that the law is in violation of Charter rights. Moreover, the federation argues that jurisprudence surrounding the use of the notwithstanding clause “should be reviewed” given Quebec and Canada’s ongoing commitments to international treaties on human rights. The lawsuit also states Bill 21 violates Section 6 of the Charter, which outlines Canadians’ mobility rights and is not shielded by the notwithstanding clause. Without going into detail, the lawsuit states the plaintiff intends to demonstrate that Bill 21 also violates interprovincial mobility rights. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil give Canada Davis Cup win over favoured Italy

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 17:10
MADRID - Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil kept rolling on Monday, notching a pair of upsets to lead Canada to a win over Italy on the opening day of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals. Shapovalov, ranked 15th in the world, gave Canada an insurmountable 2-0 lead when he beat world No. 8 Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) in a match that lasted 2 hours 51 minutes. Berrettini and Fognini finished on a high note with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Pospisil and Shapovalov in a doubles match. Italy made a late change to use their top two players in doubles instead of Simone Bolelli and Lorenzo Sonego in a bid to record a valuable match win in the new Davis Cup format. The winners of each of the six three-team groups and the next two best teams advance to quarterfinals. Earlier Monday, Pospisil recorded the biggest upset of the day. Pospisil, a late replacement for Felix Auger-Aliassime (recovering from an ankle injury), beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 7-6 (5), 7-5. Ranked 150th in the world after missing half the season while recovering from back surgery, Pospisil was a big underdog against world No. 12 Fognini. Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., and Vancouver’s Pospisil both came into the Davis Cup Finals with momentum. Pospisil, whose ranking tumbled while missing the first half of the year following back surgery, won a pair of Challengers in the U.S., this fall. That came after the former world No. 25 made a run to the round of 16 at the Shanghai Masters and notched first-round upset of then-No. 9 Karen Khachanov of Russia at the U.S. Open. Shapovalov, 20, captured his first career ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open last month before reaching the final at the Paris Masters. Shapovalov fought off three set points in the first set against Berrettini, a semifinalist at this year’s U.S. Open. The Canadian seemed to enjoy playing in front of boisterous Italian fans, putting a hand up to his ear at one point to encourage noise. It was Shapovalov’s fourth career win against a top-10 opponent, with three coming this year. Pospisil, 29, improved to 18-17 in Davis Cup play. Tennis Canada says Auger-Aliassime could return later this week. The world No. 21 was in the stands for the matches on Monday. Canada is without world No. 31 Milos Raonic (back). It is the first year of the Davis Cup Finals, a week-long event in a neutral venue. The old format had the competition run over several weekends during a full-year cycle. Previously, ties were best-of-five contests played at the home of one of the competing teams. Canada, the United States and Italy are in Group F. Canada faces the U.S., on Tuesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Police chief: 3 people killed in Oklahoma Walmart shooting

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 17:04
DUNCAN, Okla. - Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday morning outside a Walmart store in southwestern Oklahoma, and the shooter is among the dead, authorities said. Two victims were shot inside a car and the third died in the parking lot just before 10 a.m. outside the store in Duncan, Police Chief Danny Ford said. Authorities did not immediately describe a motivation for the shooting. Ford said at a news conference that it appears a gunman shot the male and female victims and then turned the gun on himself. Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks authorities said during the news conference Monday afternoon that there was never an active shooter inside the store and he described the shooting as an isolated incident. He did not further explain. Two bodies covered with sheets were visible in the parking lot Monday afternoon. One body was in the driver's seat of a red, two-door car. The other body was lying on the ground next to the vehicle. Bullet holes were visible in the car's windshield. Police said in a Facebook post that a handgun was found at the scene. At the news conference, Ford described the gun as semi-automatic but said he had no further details. He said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was still processing the scene. Ford said he believed nine shots were fired. Authorities have not released the identities of those killed but did confirm the shooter was among the dead. Ford said all three knew each other but declined to describe their relationships or other identifying information pending notification of immediate family. He said all three were dead when police arrived at the scene just minutes after the shooting. Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins said in an email that no staff members were involved in the shooting and that the store was not evacuated. Ford told The Associated Press that based on the social media posts of the woman who was killed, he believed she may have been a Walmart employee at some time. Duncan is about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Oklahoma City. The Walmart is in a commercial centre that includes a sporting goods store and a dollar store along U.S. Highway 81, the main road that passes through Duncan heading south toward Texas. Aaron Helton, of Duncan, said he was parking outside the Walmart where he planned to buy groceries when he heard about nine gunshots. "I arrived and there were three bodies," Helton said. Helton was one of many nearby witnesses who fortunately was not hit by gunfire, Ford said. The closest witness who has spoken to police was in a vehicle three parking spaces away from where the victims sat. "We got radio of a lot of people dodging and running," Ford said. "There were people in the vicinity, for sure." There were more than 100 vehicles in the parking lot about two hours after the shooting plus a steady stream of customers coming and going from Walmart, which remained open for business. It was at least the third shooting at a Walmart in the U.S. this year. A Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, reopened Thursday after being closed since August, when a gunman opened fire in the busy store, killing 22. Just days before, two Walmart employees in Mississippi were killed by a man authorities described as a disgruntled Walmart worker. The killings in Oklahoma come amid a spate of high-profile shootings across the U.S. A 16-year-old student at a high school in the city of Santa Clarita outside Los Angeles shot and killed two classmates and wounded three other teens Thursday before shooting himself in the head. He died the next day. In New Jersey, players and spectators ran for cover Friday night when a gunman opened fire at a high school football game, wounding two people. And on Sunday, four people were killed and six wounded in Fresno, California, where police say two shooters sneaked into a backyard party and shot into a group of Hmong family and friends ___ Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report. Sean Murphy, The Associated Press

Documents give glimpse of challenges to digitizing federal services

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 17:02
OTTAWA - The federal system that handles old age security payments will be as old as the seniors it serves by the time it is replaced near the end of the decade, but even now it illustrates the kinds of challenges facing officials trying to bring government services into the digital age. The 56-year-old system is getting a $1.8-billion overhaul to be completed sometime after 2027, a project that illustrates the kinds of challenges facing officials when they try to bring government services into the digital age. Newly released internal documents from Employment and Social Development Canada show the modernization project, and others like it, is challenged by antiquated equipment, as well as complicated rules for procurement and data use. The Canadian Press obtained the documents prepared for top officials in response to a request made through the Access to Information Act. Officials acknowledged in presentations and briefing notes from earlier this year that the government isn’t “moving to digital as fast as Canadians want,” and “transformative change would require substantive rethinking of our rules framework.” Getting the change right is considered crucial, because officials believe service satisfaction is linked to public trust in governments. Any erosion in that trust could lead to fewer people wanting to use government services or even sharing their information in the first place. The issue will land in the laps of the new social development minister and Treasury Board president, particularly as the Liberals promised new and better services for Canadians in their campaign platform this fall. There is a sense from experts and stakeholders that providing services doesn’t get as much attention from politicians as it should, noting that investments in digital capacity can be the bedrock needed to deliver on promises of better, or speedier benefits. For a minority government, one expert said, a long-term investment in the public service may not an easy sell. “There is a bit of a challenge and almost a built-in bias against investing in digital government, in particular in a more precarious minority government situation because these aren’t the kinds of things you’re going to benefit from immediately - this is a long game,” said Amanda Clarke, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s school of public policy who focuses on digital government initiatives. Officials have been working for years on simplifying online services, sometimes through an approach that asks people to provide the information needed only once, before it is then shared easily across government bodies. One example is the “birth bundle,” which allows parents to register the birth of their child, apply for a social insurance number, sign up for the Canada Child Benefit and open an education savings plan all at once. But that kind of one-stop shopping experience has only emerged after “great effort” to navigate complex rules about information sharing for a specific end cannot always be scaled up, the documents say. For instance, the documents show a review of 340 services across 11 departments found just under one-third are available online from end to end. Treasury Board spokesman Martin Potvin said improving that ratio to create digital services for Canadians that is “easy to use, accessible, and citizen-focused” is central to the work underway. Andre Leduc, vice-president of government relations and policy with the Information Technology Association of Canada, said modernizing more of those services, like the update to old age security, is going to “take a painstaking amount of time” to avoid mistakes. “It’s one thing to not pay your own employees - it’s completely different if you can’t pay Canadians for the programs that we’ve had in place for decades,” he said. At the same time, moving too slow means the government could be left with outdated technology by the time the switchover happens. Having a private company seeing an opportunity and becoming disruptive is another risk, he said. The documents say that barriers the government faces to moving more quickly towards digital services include a “lack of ‘digital dexterity’ within the public service.” Purchasing and funding cycles subject to “waterfall development” - a step-by-step approach that adds more time to project completion - are another challenge. So is a focus on “big-bang” projects instead of “agile, modular approaches that can be scaled,” the documents say. Shifting towards more agile development, where a smaller project is tested first before scaling up and committing to it long-term, would be significantly different than how the government operates now, including how budgets and spending are set, Clarke said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2019. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Trudeau pressed to ensure less restrictive assisted-dying law a priority

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 16:49
OTTAWA - Even before he swears in his new cabinet, Justin Trudeau is being urged to ask his new justice minister to move swiftly to make Canada’s assisted-dying law less restrictive. The prime minister has said he’ll comply with a September court ruling that struck down as unconstitutional the requirement that only those near death can qualify for medical help to end their suffering. In her ruling, Quebec Superior Court Judge Christine Baudouin gave the government six months - until March 2020 - to amend the law, although the government could seek an extension. Dying with Dignity Canada is urging Trudeau, who is to unveil his new cabinet on Wednesday, to ensure whomever he appoints as justice minister will give priority to amending the law - and go further than the ruling demands. For starters, the group wants the government to get rid of the requirement that a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for a doctor-assisted death. That is the provision struck down by Baudouin. But it also wants the government to drop the stipulation that someone must be able to give informed consent twice: once when they request the procedure and again immediately prior to receiving it. The requirement to give consent a second time has stripped some people, who’ve been approved for an assisted death, of their ability to follow through after their condition deteriorated and they lost the capacity to give last-minute consent. In other cases, people who feared losing capacity have refused brain-fogging pain medication or have been forced to receive a doctor-assisted death sooner than they wanted. Dying with Dignity Canada has been lobbying hard for an end to the second consent requirement. They are calling for “Audrey’s amendment” in memory of Audrey Parker, a Halifax woman who was suffering from terminal breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. She had been approved for an assisted death but ended her life earlier than she had originally wanted last fall because she feared she was losing mental capacity. “We would like to see (these changes) high on the list of priorities because there are real cases of real people who are waiting for this to happen,” said Jim Cowan, a former Liberal senator who is now chair of the Dying with Dignity Canada board. Longer term, the group wants the government to change the law to allow people to make advance requests for an assisted death but Cowan suspects the government will want more time to debate that. The issue must be dealt with, in any event, under the legally required parliamentary review of the assisted dying law that must be launched by next June. The review must also deal with two other issues left unresolved in the 2016 legislation: whether it should apply to mature minors and those suffering solely from mental illnesses. Dying with Dignity Canada is urging the government to include it in preparing for the review. Cowan noted that the group has a lot of data and personal stories about how the law has worked and “where the difficulties lie.” Cowan declined to comment on who his group might like to see as justice minister. However, it’s likely that Dying with Dignity Canada and other groups advocating for a less restrictive law would prefer to see Montreal MP David Lametti remain in the post. They were thrilled when Trudeau plucked Lametti from the backbenches last January to take on the justice portfolio. He was one of just four Liberal MPs who had voted against the Trudeau government’s 2016 legislation that legalized medical assistance in dying. The former law professor had argued the law was too restrictive and did not meet the eligibility criteria set out by the Supreme Court in a landmark 2015 ruling that struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted death - an opinion eventually echoed by Baudouin. The law was originally spearheaded by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, now an Independent MP, who rejected calls for changes even in the face of anguished pleas from Parker and others. During the recent election campaign, Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Green Leader Elizabeth May all agreed that the government should comply with Baudouin’s ruling. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he’d appeal it. Trudeau’s Liberals won a minority of seats in the House of Commons and will need the support of either the NDP or the Bloc to pass legislation - which should be relatively assured in the case of amendments to the assisted-dying law. “We support Dying with Dignity Canada’s call for the government to re-examine this law,” NDP MP Don Davies said in a statement Monday. “The recent court ruling in Quebec highlights the problem with the current … rules and as Jagmeet Singh mentioned during the last campaign, we are committed to improving the law to ensure that everyone has the right to die in dignity.” This Canadian Press report was first published Nov. 18, 2019. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Pages