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Local officials say 26 killed, 28 injured in China bus fire

1 hour 14 min ago
BEIJING - A fire on a tour bus travelling along a highway in central China has left 26 people dead and as many as 30 injured, local authorities reported Saturday. Five of those injured remained in critical condition, according to the Hunan province’s spokesman’s office. The incident occurred at around 7:15 p.m. (1115 GMT) Friday along a stretch of Hanshou County in the city of Changde. Aboard were 56 people, including 53 passengers, a tour guide and two drivers, both of whom have been detained as authorities investigate the cause of the accident. Changde authorities put the number of injured at 30. Photos from the scene show the 59-seater bus’s interior completely charred, possibly indicating the fire started with materials on board. Industrial and transport safety remain major problems in China, with at least 62 people now reported dead in a massive chemical explosion Thursday in the eastern province of Jiangsu. Previous deadly incidents aboard buses in China, including arson attacks, have been determined to have been caused by passengers or drivers bearing grudges against their employers or society. The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

Republican Karl Rove says conservatives need more than simplistic slogans

1 hour 21 min ago
OTTAWA - Legendary Republican campaign strategist Karl Rove, known for his no-holds-barred approach to American politics, has some advice for Canadian conservatives: simplistic, bumper-sticker sloganeering isn’t enough. Rove on Friday kicked off the annual Manning Networking Conference, a gathering of this country’s most influential federal and provincial conservative thinkers, strategists and politicians. This year’s event comes amid a political uproar over allegations of interference in the criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, and just seven months before Canadians head to the polls. Rove talked about the rise of populism in the United States that led to Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016, as well as how distaste for Trump’s “coarseness” and personality has since driven college-educated surburbanites, particularly women, away from the Republican party. “All of these things sort of tie together in an imperative for the conservative movement in my country, and I suspect the conservative movement in your country as well. And that is we gotta take the proposals of the opposition seriously,” he told several hundred conference attendees. “We need to take these proposals seriously. We can’t mock them, we can’t dismiss them with a cute phrase, we’ve gotta take them on and explain to the American people why they’re bad policy, why they’re not in keeping with the values of our state or our country. And finally, we’ve got to go out there and begin to describe - which is hard for conservatives in my country to do - what it is that we do as an alternative.”  In the U.S., he said, it’s particularly urgent for conservatives to propose alternatives to universal health care advocated by some Democrats. He did not point to any particular issue in Canada, but arguably his message could apply to the federal Conservative party’s steadfast opposition to the Liberal government’s plan to impose a price on carbon pollution. The Tories deride the plan as a job-killing carbon tax that will drive up the cost of everything - but have yet to unveil their own plan for tackling climate change. Rove is credited as the architect of George W. Bush’s two presidential victories. He is also a controversial figure in American politics, infamous for negative attack ads and, currently, as a key figure behind the millions in so-called “dark money” funnelled to Republican campaigns through political action committees. Rove said Trump could win a second term next year but “I think they’re realistic, they know they’re in for a tough race.” He predicted Trump will use a strategy pioneered by his Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama, to win a second term: appealing for unity and common purpose, which he said Trump “wisely” started talking about in his recent state of the union address. He also said Trump will portray his main opponent as someone “unworthy of holding the Oval Office” long before the election campaign gets underway. On the last point, Rove said he thinks Trump is counting on Democrats choosing a left-wing presidential candidate who advocates things like free college education, free health care and guaranteed jobs, and said he’s already laying the groundwork for discrediting the winner. “The president began to lay the predicate for 2020 in the state of the union address by saying, ‘We’ve never been and never will be a socialist country.'” The Manning conference is to hear from Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford and federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Saturday.         The Canadian Press
Categories: Regina News

Quebec man convicted in Mafia-linked conspiracy deported to Italy

1 hour 36 min ago
MONTREAL - Michele Torre, a Quebec man convicted in 1996 for his role in a Mafia-linked conspiracy, finally ran out of options to stay in Canada and boarded a plane Friday night to his native Italy, his lawyer said. Stephane Handfield said his client - along with an escort of two Canada Border Services agents - boarded an 8 p.m. flight bound for Italy at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Canada’s public safety minister intervened at least four times in Torre’s case to stop his deportation, Handfield said. But this time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale did not grant Torre’s request. Handfield said he emailed Goodale’s office Friday morning but “received no response” from the minister or his aides. Torre, 66, was granted permanent residency to Canada in 1967. He was convicted in 1996 in a cocaine-importation conspiracy linked to the Cotroni crime family and served part of a nearly nine-year prison sentence. In 2006, Torre again found himself swept up by police during a massive operation aimed at dismantling Montreal’s powerful Mafia. He spent nearly three years in custody but was ultimately acquitted. Since 2013, federal authorities have sought to remove Torre for “serious criminality and organized criminality.” Torre and his family claimed it was unfair to deport him so long after his last conviction, which now dates back 23 years. They argued he should have been allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds since he had lived in Canada so long and his wife, children and grandchildren are here. He was on the verge of being deported in 2016 before a ministerial reprieve arrived 90 minutes before his flight. He was then given a two-year temporary residence permit. After that expired, the Canada Border Services Agency scheduled a deportation date, this time for Feb. 28, but Goodale’s office intervened again - on the morning of Torre’s scheduled flight - and granted a reprieve. Handfield said that on March 11 the CBSA gave Torre another deportation date, scheduled for March 22. The lawyer decried the plan to have his client accompanied by CBSA agents on the flight to Italy, which he said will single him out for interrogation by authorities upon arrival. “We worry about his arrival. What will be the attitude of the Italian customs officials?” Handfield said. A spokesman for Goodale’s office said the minister cannot comment on an individual case. Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
Categories: Regina News

Local officials say 26 killed, 28 injured in China bus fire

1 hour 55 min ago
BEIJING - Local authorities say 26 people have been killed and 28 injured after a tour bus caught fire on a highway in central China’s Hunan province. The provincial spokesman’s office said Saturday that five of those injured were in critical condition. The incident occurred at around 7:15 p.m. (1115 GMT) Friday along a stretch of Hanshou County in the city of Changde. Aboard were 56 people, including 53 passengers, a tour guide and two drivers, both of whom have been detained as authorities investigate the cause of the accident. Changde authorities put the number of injured at 30. Photos from the scene show the 59-seater bus’s interior completely charred, possibly indicating the fire started with materials on board. Industrial and transport safety remain major problems in China. The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

Republicans ask to stay order blocking lame-duck laws

2 hours 3 min ago
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin Republicans asked an appeals court Friday to immediately reinstate GOP-backed laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, sparking a flurry of legal manoeuvring as both sides jockeyed for position before the court makes a decision. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued an injunction Thursday blocking the laws, which GOP legislators quickly approved in December before Evers replaced Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On Friday, an attorney for the Republican lawmakers asked the 3rd District Court of Appeals for an immediate stay blocking Niess’ order and reinstating the statutes. The court gave everyone involved until 4 p.m. Monday to file briefs, ensuring no decision will come until at least then. The Republicans’ attorney, Misha Tseytlin, told the appellate court in a filing Friday morning that Niess’ injunction was already causing confusion for military and overseas voters, noting a state Supreme Court election is only days away. Tseytlin added that Neiss’ ruling jeopardizes the validity of thousands of other laws passed during so-called extraordinary sessions, which are unscheduled floor periods convened by majority party leaders. He also questioned whether scores of Walker’s appointees still have jobs. Lawmakers confirmed 82 of Walker’s appointees during the December session, ensuring Evers couldn’t remove them when he took office. Empowered by Niess’ ruling, the governor rescinded the appointments late Friday afternoon. His spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, said the positions are now vacant. Some of the higher-profile appointees included two University of Wisconsin System regents and state Public Service Commission Chairwoman Ellen Nowak. Baldauff said the governor will fill the spots as quickly as possible to minimize disruption. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald issued a statement saying he feels the appointees were confirmed legally and called Evers’ move “irresponsible.” The laws approved during the December lame-duck legislative session prohibit Evers from withdrawing the state from lawsuits without legislative approval. The move was designed to prevent him from pulling Wisconsin out of a multistate challenge to the Affordable Care Act, but Evers quickly started the process Thursday following Niess’ order. The laws also require Kaul to seek legislative approval before settling any case and to deposit settlement winnings in the state general fund rather than in state Department of Justice accounts. The laws also rework voting regulations, restricting early in-person voting to the two weeks preceding an election and loosening requirements for military and overseas voters. Their witnesses no longer have to be U.S. citizens, and they can use email to receive and transmit ballots. A coalition of liberal-leaning groups led by the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation in January. The groups argued that the Legislature can’t meet unless the time is specified in a law passed every two years or the governor calls it into session. Extraordinary sessions aren’t scheduled as part of that law. The majority party calls them when it sees fit. Niess agreed with the coalition Thursday, saying there was no statutory basis for extraordinary sessions. Hours after Niess issued the injunction, Evers ordered Kaul to move to withdraw Wisconsin from the ACA lawsuit. Evers didn’t immediately make any other moves with his restored powers, saying he needed time to digest the injunction. The governor and the coalition sent letters to the appellate court Friday asking to be heard before it makes a decision on a stay. Evers’ attorney, Tamara Packard, insisted Tseytlin was “grossly misstating” the injunction’s effects. Both Evers and the coaltion argued the case belongs in the 4th District Court of Appeals. The judges on that court include Gary Sherman, a former Democratic legislator; JoAnne Kloppenburg, a liberal-leaning former state Supreme Court candidate; and Brian Blanchard, a former Democratic prosecutor. In another twist Friday, Kaul reversed himself and now wants to get into the lawsuit. The coalition has technically named Evers as a defendant. But Kaul said in January he wouldn’t defend the governor, explaining would face a conflict of interest since the laws affect the state Department of Justice’s authority. But Kaul sent a letter to the 3rd District Court of Appeals on Friday saying that he now wants to be heard ahead of any stay decision. The laws’ impact on DOJ gives him a “unique perspective” on the facts, he said, and statutes allow the attorney general to be heard whenever a law is found unconstitutional. Kaul spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said he feels he can’t represent others in the case because the laws affect DOJ but he can represent his own agency without any conflict. The court issued an order late Friday afternoon allowing Kaul to participate. ___ Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1 Todd Richmond, The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

Michigan deal bars LGBT discrimination in state adoptions

2 hours 11 min ago
LANSING, Mich. - Faith-based adoption agencies that are paid by the state of Michigan will no longer be able to turn away LGBT couples or individuals because of religious objections under a legal settlement announced Friday. The agreement was reached between Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office and lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the state in 2017 on behalf of two lesbian couples and a woman who was in foster care in her teens. “Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale,” Nessel, who pursued settlement talks after taking office in January, said in a statement. “Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child-placing agency enters into with the state.” Michigan, like most states, contracts with private agencies to place children from troubled homes with new families. The lawsuit alleged that the same-sex couples were turned away by Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services because they are gay. A 2015 Republican-enacted law says child-placement agencies are not required to provide any services that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs. But the definition of services does not include those provided under a contract with the state Department of Health and Human Services, according to the suit and resulting settlement . The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which intervened in the case on behalf of St. Vincent Catholic Charities and others, accused Nessel and the ACLU of trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies. “The result of that will be tragic,” said attorney Lori Windham. “Thousands of children will be kept from finding the loving homes they deserve. This settlement violates the state law protecting religious adoption agencies.” But two plaintiffs, Kristy and Dana Dumont of Dimondale near Lansing, issued a statement saying they were “so happy” for same-sex couples who are interested in fostering or adopting children. “We are hopeful that this will mean more families for children, especially those who have been waiting years for a family to adopt them,” they said. “And we can’t wait to welcome one of those children into our family.” The ACLU, which called the settlement a “victory” for nearly 12,000 children in foster care, has said the suit was filed after the office of former GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette declined to speak to it about possible discrimination. Nessel, who is gay, has criticized the law. As a private attorney, she successfully fought to overturn Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. As of February, Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities and St. Vincent were responsible for more than 1,600, or 12 per cent, of the state’s 13,000-plus foster care and adoption cases, said state spokeswoman Bob Wheaton. Under the settlement, the state must enforce non-discrimination provisions in its contracts in cases where agencies accept referrals but refuse to work with LGBT people interested in fostering or adopting any children they have accepted. Turning away otherwise potentially qualified LGBT individuals would be prohibited, as would refusal to provide orientation or training, perform a home study or process applications. In a 2017 court filing, St. Vincent Catholic Charities said it recruited more new families than seven of the eight other adoption agencies in the capital region, and seven of those agencies were willing to work with unmarried or same-sex couples. The agency said it would be unable to keep its adoption and foster programs going without the state contract. The settlement drew both praise and criticism. The liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan called it a “great step toward a more welcoming and inclusive Michigan.” But a top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, of Clarklake, said he was “deeply saddened and outraged,” and accused Nessel of furthering her “personal political agenda.” “Nessel’s apparent disregard for the laws of our state, the Constitution and the well-being of thousands of children is an affront to all citizens,” he said. Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney countered that the attorney general “strongly supports” giving every child who is a ward of the state a “forever home. That is the compassionate agenda of a mom.” ___ Follow Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 David Eggert, The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

‘Brace ourselves’: Cyclone death toll tops 600 in Africa

3 hours 4 min ago
BEIRA, Mozambique - With the flooding easing in parts of cyclone-stricken Mozambique on Friday, fears are rising that the waters could yield up many more bodies. The confirmed number of people killed in Mozambique and neighbouring Zimbabwe and Malawi climbed past 600. Eight days after Cyclone Idai struck southeast Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, touching off some of the worst flooding in decades, the homeless, hungry and injured slowly made their way from devastated inland areas to the port city of Beira, which was heavily damaged itself but has emerged as the nerve centre for rescue efforts. “Some were wounded. Some were bleeding,” said Julia Castigo, a Beira resident who watched them arrive. “Some had feet white like flour for being in the water for so long.” Aid workers are seeing many children who have been separated from their parents in the chaos or orphaned. Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the relief efforts so far “are nowhere near the scale and magnitude of the problem,” and the humanitarian needs are likely to grow in the coming weeks and months. “We should brace ourselves,” he said. Helicopters set off into the rain for another day of efforts to find people clinging to rooftops and trees. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for stepped up support for victims of Idai saying the U.N. and its humanitarian partners are scaling up the response but “far greater international support is needed.” The U.N. chief said in a statement that “with crops destroyed in the breadbasket of Mozambique more people are at risk of food insecurity in all three countries.” With water and sanitation systems largely destroyed, waterborne diseases are also a growing concern. “The situation is simply horrendous. There is no other way to describe it,” As Sy said after touring camps for the growing number of displaced. “Three thousand people who are living in a school that has 15 classrooms and six, only six, toilets. You can imagine how much we are sitting on a water and sanitation ticking bomb.” The death toll in Mozambique rose to 293, with an untold number of people missing and the mortuary at Beira’s central hospital already reported full. Deaths could soar beyond the 1,000 predicted by the country’s president earlier this week, As Sy said. The number of dead was put at 259 in Zimbabwe and 56 in Malawi. Thousands made the trek from inland Mozambique toward Beira, some walking along roads carved away by the raging waters. Hundreds of others arrived by boat, ferried by fishermen who plucked stranded people from patches of land that had been turned into islands. Many of the arrivals were children. In Beira, people salvaged the metal strips of roofs that had been peeled away like the skin of a fruit. Downed trees littered the streets. And yet there were flashes of life as it used to be. White wedding dresses stood pristine behind a shop window that hadn’t shattered. A downtown sidewalk was Marta Ben’s new home. The 30-year-old mother of five clutched a teary child to her hip as she described the sudden horror of the storm that destroyed their home in Beira. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said, barefoot, a cooking pot bubbling nearby. “We were not warned. Suddenly the roof flew away.” She and others now homeless begged passers-by for help, saying they had received nothing from the government or aid groups, not even bread. In Zimbabwe, where roads began to open and some basic communications were set up, a fuller picture of the extent of the damage began to emerge. The victims included a mother buried in the same grave with her child; headmasters missing together with dozens of students; illegal gold and diamond miners swept away by raging rivers; and police officers washed away with their prisoners. In the city of Mutare, Maina Chisiriirwa said she buried her son-in-law, who had gone to the diamond fields to mine illegally. “There are no jobs and all he wanted was to feed his family. He was with his colleagues. They thought it would be easier to mine since the rains would keep the guards and the police away from patrolling,” Chisiriirwa said. His colleagues survived, but her son-in-law was swept away, she said. ___ Farai Mutsaka reported from Mutare, Zimbabwe. Cara Anna And Farai Mutsaka, The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

Sterling scores hat trick, England beats Czech Republic 5-0

3 hours 5 min ago
LONDON - A first England hat trick was a chance for Raheem Sterling to celebrate and mourn. After swiveling with the ball and curling his second goal against the Czech Republic on Friday, Sterling had the memory of a young footballer to honour at Wembley Stadium. A t-shirt was unveiled under his white Three Lions jersey paying tribute to 13-year-old Damary Dawkins, who died on Sunday after a four-year fight against lymphoblastic leukemia. “May your soul rest in peace,” read a message beneath a photo of the Crystal Palace youth team player. Sterling had appealed last year for potential blood stem cell donors to come forward to save Dawkins. “It didn’t match and he sadly passed away,” Sterling said after England’s 5-0 win. “I thought I had to do something to try to give his family something to smile about.” But it could lead to a rebuke for Sterling from UEFA because any messages on undergarments are banned after a change to the laws of the game proposed by the English Football Association five years ago. Not that Sterling will care about any warning or fine for the moment of compassion in England’s opening European Championship qualifier. For Sterling, the abuse he once received from some of his own fans seems a distant memory now the winger has developed to become a key component in the England revolution under Gareth Southgate. “I’m so delighted for him to get the reaction he got from the crowd,” the England coach said, “because we can’t hide from the fact he’s had difficult moments. He’s turned that full circle … and I thought he was devastating tonight.” This was an unusual start to qualifying for the World Cup semifinalists, beginning the road to the Euro 2020 final at Wembley at its national stadium since no host advances automatically this time. In the first pan-continental European Championship, 12 stadiums in 12 European countries are hosting games. Wembley has the biggest role, with seven games, including the semifinals and final. The ease of the victory over the Czech Republic - Group A’s highest-ranked side at 44 after No. 5 England - suggests the path to the finals shouldn’t be hard to negotiate. Even though the creative spark was missing for the first 24 minutes, England came to life when the front three combined. Jadon Sancho collected a pass from Harry Kane before squaring the ball for the unmarked Sterling to slide in to net the opener. “I’m just being confident with myself,” Sterling said. “Being there and trying to get in areas and trying to take shots and not worry about anything, just go with it.” When Sterling was bundled over by defenders Pavel Kaderabek and Tomas Kalas in first-half stoppage time, a penalty was awarded that Kane converted. Sterling’s second - which was followed by the t-shirt tribute - came in the 62nd minute after he connected with a through ball from Manchester City teammate Kyle Walker that bounced into his path. And six minutes later, Sterling made it 24 goals in 44 appearances this season for club and country when a curling strike deflected off Ondrej Celustka into the net. “He was electric all night,” Southgate said. “He’s looked that way all week in training, and was involved in four of the goals. I’m really pleased for him. It’s a special night for him. “I just think he’s really matured as a person and a footballer. He’s hungry for those goals now.” Sterling’s replacement played a key role in England’s fifth. Callum Hudson-Odoi, the 18-year-old Chelsea forward, had a shot saved on his England debut and the ball dropped to Kalas who turned it into his own net. England next plays on Monday against Group A rival Montenegro, which drew 1-1 with Bulgaria on Friday. A trophy can still be collected by England this year, with Southgate’s side in the final four of the inaugural Nations League in June. “We play good football, everyone is expressing themselves,” Kane said. “We’ve got young and hungry players and you saw that out there.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Rob Harris, The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

Appeal Court to decide on B.C. pipeline law that would impact Trans Mountain

3 hours 12 min ago
VANCOUVER - A British Columbia Court of Appeal hearing on proposed provincial legislation that would impact the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has concluded and a panel of five judges has reserved its decision. B.C. filed the reference case to ask the court whether it can create a permitting system for companies that wish to increase the amount of heavy oil they are transporting through the province. The system would allow a provincial public servant to impose conditions on permits, which B.C. says would help it protect its environment and ensure that companies agree to pay for accident cleanup. Canada says the proposed amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act are unconstitutional because Ottawa - not the provinces - has jurisdiction over inter-provincial infrastructure. Federal government lawyer Jan Brongers told court the amendments are clearly intended to impede additional oil shipments through B.C. because they only target heavy-oil transporters that want to increase capacity. Joseph Arvay, lawyer for B.C., said in his reply on Friday that the goal of the legislation is not to block Trans Mountain and the court should not presume the law would be used inappropriately in the future. “There’s no evidence to support that theory at all,” he said. Arvay added B.C. already has environmental assessment legislation that applies to inter-provincial projects, and a ruling that found the proposed amendments interfere with federal jurisdiction would also mean that law doesn’t apply. The Canadian government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and related assets for $4.5 billion. The expansion would triple the capacity of the line that runs from the Edmonton area to Metro Vancouver and increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet seven-fold. B.C. Premier John Horgan campaigned in 2017, while in opposition, on a promise to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the expansion. But after his minority NDP government took power, it received legal advice that it cannot stop the project but it could impose conditions upon it, court heard. This is a “distinction without a difference,” given that the proposed legislation is unconstitutional, said William Kaplan, representing a consortium of energy producers including Suncor Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd., Husky Oil Operations Ltd. and Cenovus Energy Inc. When Horgan announced the proposed permitting regime last year, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley accused him of breaking the rules of Confederation and announced a ban on B.C. wines, which she later reversed. A lawyer for Alberta told the Appeal Court that the permitting scheme is a “vague, amorphous” process that gives wide-ranging discretionary powers to a government official. Peter Gall said B.C. believes the only way to protect its environment is to stop the pipeline expansion. Trans Mountain ULC also said the legislation is targeting the project and will “directly and significantly” impact it. Justice Harvey Groberman questioned lawyers who argued the goal of the legislation was to stop the project, asking why such a declaration was necessary if the argument that it impedes federal jurisdiction holds up. The National Energy Board conducted a years-long review involving dozens of interveners before recommending the federal government approve the project with 157 conditions. After the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval last summer because the board failed to consider marine shipping impacts, the board recently looked at the topic and added another 16 conditions. However, Arvay said the energy board has been found to do inadequate followup with companies to ensure that conditions are being met. He added that B.C.’s proposed regime and that of the NEB are “complementary and interlocking” and can be harmonious. The government of Saskatchewan, several First Nations, Enbridge Inc., the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Railway Association of Canada also delivered arguments opposing B.C.’s proposed rules at the five-day hearing this week. The cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, environmental group Ecojustice, the Assembly of First Nations and the Heiltsuk Nation presented cases in support of B.C., with the Indigenous groups asserting that First Nations governments have the right to make these types of rules in their communities as well. Laura Kane, The Canadian Press
Categories: Regina News

Michigan deal bars LGBT discrimination in state adoptions

3 hours 22 min ago
LANSING, Mich. - Faith-based adoption agencies that are paid by the state of Michigan will no longer be able to turn away LGBT couples or individuals because of religious objections under a legal settlement announced Friday. The agreement was reached between Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office and lawyers for the American Civil Liberties, which sued the state in 2017 on behalf of two lesbian couples and a woman who was in foster care in her teens. “Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale,” Nessel, who pursued settlement talks after taking office in January, said in a statement. “Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child-placing agency enters into with the state.” Michigan, like most states, contracts with private agencies to place children from troubled homes with new families. The lawsuit alleged that the same-sex couples were turned away by Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services because they are gay. A 2015 Republican-enacted law says child-placement agencies are not required to provide any services that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs. But the definition of services does not include those provided under a contract with the state Department of Health and Human Services, according to the suit and resulting settlement . The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which intervened in the case on behalf of St. Vincent Catholic Charities and others, accused Nessel and the ACLU of trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies. “The result of that will be tragic,” said attorney Lori Windham. “Thousands of children will be kept from finding the loving homes they deserve. This settlement violates the state law protecting religious adoption agencies.” But two plaintiffs, Kristy and Dana Dumont of Dimondale near Lansing, issued a statement saying they were “so happy” for same-sex couples who are interested in fostering or adopting children. “We are hopeful that this will mean more families for children, especially those who have been waiting years for a family to adopt them,” they said. “And we can’t wait to welcome one of those children into our family.” The ACLU, which called the settlement a “victory” for nearly 12,000 children in foster care, has said the suit was filed after the office of former GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette declined to speak to it about possible discrimination. Nessel, who is gay, has criticized the law. As a private attorney, she successfully fought to overturn Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. As of February, Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities and St. Vincent were responsible for more than 1,600, or 12 per cent, of the state’s 13,000-plus foster care and adoption cases, said state spokeswoman Bob Wheaton. Under the settlement, the state must enforce non-discrimination provisions in its contracts in cases where agencies accept referrals but refuse to work with LGBT people interested in fostering or adopting any children they have accepted. Turning away otherwise potentially qualified LGBT individuals would be prohibited, as would refusal to provide orientation or training, perform a home study or process applications. In a 2017 court filing, St. Vincent Catholic Charities said it recruited more new families than seven of the eight other adoption agencies in the capital region, and seven of those agencies were willing to work with unmarried or same-sex couples. The agency said it would be unable to keep its adoption and foster programs going without the state contract. The settlement drew both praise and criticism. The liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan called it a “great step toward a more welcoming and inclusive Michigan.” But a top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, of Clarklake, said he was “deeply saddened and outraged,” and accused Nessel of furthering her “personal political agenda.” “Nessel’s apparent disregard for the laws of our state, the Constitution and the well-being of thousands of children is an affront to all citizens,” he said. Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney countered that the attorney general “strong supports” giving every child who is a ward of the state a “forever home. That is the compassionate agenda of a mom.” ___ Follow Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 David Eggert, The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

A look at Russians who became mixed up in Trump probe

3 hours 29 min ago
MOSCOW - An investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into an elaborate Russian operation that sought to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and try to help Donald Trump win the White House has cast a spotlight on more than a dozen Russian nationals, including billionaires, an elusive linguist, an ambassador and a pop star. A look at some of the cast of characters: PUTIN’S CHEF Yevgeny Prigozhin, 57, earned the nickname of “Putin’s chef” for hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign dignitaries at his restaurant and catering important Kremlin events. A former convict, he now runs companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, thanks to his willingness to do favours for Putin that others would find too risky. Prigozhin was indicted in the U.S. last year in an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 election. The indictment said he funded the Internet Research Agency, a “troll factory” in Russia’s St. Petersburg that used social media accounts to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.” But he also is the suspected mastermind of a company called Wagner that has been sending private military contractors to fight in Syria, Ukraine and African countries. Putin has dismissed charges against the St. Petersburg native and his employees as “ridiculous,” mocking the West for falling “so low” to be suspecting “a restaurateur from Russia” of influencing the U.S. election. THE ELUSIVE LINGUIST Konstantin Kilimnik worked for Paul Manafort starting in the early 2000s. He is described as a fixer, translator or office manager and helped the political consultant formulate his pitches to clients in Russia and Ukraine. The FBI says Kilimnik has ties to Russian military intelligence, but he has denied that. U.S. officials regarded Kilimnik as Manafort’s key aide during their work on behalf of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, who became the president of Ukraine in 2010. Born in what was then Soviet Ukraine, Kilimnik got a degree in linguistics from a military university and in 1995 began working as a translator for the International Republican Institute in Moscow, a U.S.-government-funded non-profit that promotes democracy. Court documents filed by attorneys with Mueller’s office showed Manafort shared polling data from the Trump campaign with Kilimnik. The two also discussed a Russia-Ukraine peace plan several times including during an August 2016 meeting at a cigar bar in New York. A Mueller prosecutor has said that meeting goes to the “heart” of the Russia investigation, but additional details have been blacked out in court documents. Even after Manafort lost his campaign job and was indicted by Mueller on charges related to his foreign lobbying work, U.S. prosecutors alleged, Kilimnik helped ghost-write an op-ed defending Manafort. Kilimnik was indicted alongside Manafort on witness tampering charges. He reportedly lives in Russia, where he keeps a low profile and refuses to talk to reporters. THE AMBASSADOR Career diplomat Sergey Kislyak was Russia’s ambassador in Washington from 2008 until 2017, when he was called home amid scrutiny of his recurrent meetings with the Trump campaign staff as the Mueller probe gained speed. The low-key official with 40 years of diplomatic service was thrust into the limelight in December 2016 when Michael Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser, held conversations with Kislyak and asked him not to escalate a diplomatic fight with the U.S. over punishment levied by the Obama administration on Moscow. Kislyak also had conversations with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower that year and also met with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, later Trump’s attorney general. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak. The 68-year-old Kislyak, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, has vehemently denied that he or any embassy staff tried to disrupt the 2016 election. He currently sits in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. THE PROPERTY DEVELOPER & THE POP STAR Property developer Aras Agalarov, 63, and his 39-year-old pop singer son, Emin, have had a relationship with Trump dating to their bid to host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. The elder Agalarov told AP in 2017 that he first met Trump in the U.S. when he and Emin flew in to negotiate the rights to hold the pageant. They hit it off and have had a friendly relationship ever since. Agalarov told the Russian edition of Forbes that his company spent about $20 million on the pageant. Agalarov also said that he offered the future U.S. president a site for a Trump tower in Moscow, but “it didn’t come to signing any deals.” The Agalarovs maintained ties with Trump, and it was Emin who, through his British publicist, helped arrange a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian government-connected lawyer who was purported to have documents that could “incriminate” candidate Hillary Clinton in support of the Trump campaign. The meeting was attended by Donald Trump Jr., along with Manafort and Kushner. The American participants would later say the meeting was a bust in terms of gathering derogatory information on Clinton, consumed by a lengthy discussion of Russian adoption and U.S. sanctions. The younger Agalarov last month cancelled his upcoming shows in the U.S., citing “circumstances beyond my control.” His father continues to operate a successful real estate and construction business. Neither father nor son is accused of any wrongdoing. THE LAWYER Moscow lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was thrust into the Russia probe when it emerged that she attended the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Leaked documents suggested that the 43-year-old Veselnitskaya went to the meeting as part of efforts to help her clients try to overturn U.S. sanctions - one of the Kremlin’s strategic goals. While Veselnitskaya has denied acting on behalf of Russian officials, scores of emails and documents shared with the AP show she served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel. In January, Veselnitskaya was indicted by federal prosecutors in New York on one count of obstruction of justice in an unrelated tax fraud case that alleged she teamed up with a senior Russian prosecutor and submitted deceptive declarations in a civil proceeding. THE ALUMINUM MOGUL Oleg Deripaska made his billions in the aluminum industry in the rags-to-riches privatization era that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and was involved in infrastructure development for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, one of Putin’s pet projects. Deripaska once hired Manafort as a consultant, and prosecutors disclosed he provided a Manafort company with a $10 million loan around 2010. Manafort offered to provide Deripaska with private briefings during the 2016 election campaign, but there is no evidence such briefings ever occurred. The 51-year-old was trained as a physicist in the late years of the Soviet Union and became a major player on the Russian metals market even before his 30th birthday. Even among Russian billionaires, Deripaska is notable for his closeness to Putin. Deripaska and his companies were hit with crippling U.S. sanctions last year over Russia’s “malign activity” including Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. But the U.S. Treasury last month lifted sanctions on three Russian companies owned by Deripaska, reversing a move that wreaked havoc on global aluminum markets, after the oligarch restructured the companies and reduced his share in them. THE OLIGARCH AT THE INAUGURATION Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg has long ties to the U.S. including a green card he once held and homes in New York and Connecticut. The 61-year-old Ukrainian-born businessman, estimated to be worth $13 billion, heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets. Vekselberg built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era. As of mid-February, a company controlled by Vekselberg and a group of partners owned 22.5 per cent in Deripaska’s Rusal, a metals company that was hit with the U.S. sanctions, according to a letter sent by Senate Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Mark Warner to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Deripaska subsequently agreed to cede control of Rusal in exchange for the sanctions relief. As a rich and powerful Russian, Vekselberg is presumed to operate with Putin’s tacit approval. He has used his wealth to exert influence in the U.S., including the Skolkovo Foundation, a Russian government-backed non-profit aimed at winning U.S. and Western tech investment in Russia. Vekselberg has worked closely with his American cousin, Andrew Intrater, who heads the New York investment management firm Columbus Nova. Media attention zeroed in on Vekselberg and Intrater when the attorney for the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels released a memo claiming the cousins routed about $500,000 through Columbus Nova to a shell company set up by Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen. Columbus Nova denied that Vekselberg played any role in its payments to Cohen. Several days before Trump’s inauguration, Vekselberg and Intrater met with Cohen at Trump Tower, one of several meetings between Trump intimates and high-level Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition. Vekselberg also was targeted with U.S. Treasury Department sanctions, which cited his ties to Putin, after he was questioned by Mueller’s staff on a visit to the U.S. All of Vekselberg’s assets in the U.S. are frozen and U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with him and his entities. Nataliya Vasilyeva, The Associated Press
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Montreal concert by former Haitian president Martelly cancelled: promoter

3 hours 32 min ago
MONTREAL - A controversial concert scheduled for Friday night in Montreal by former Haitian president Michel Martelly has been called off at the last minute. The show’s promoter, Carl-Edward Osias, confirmed the cancellation to The Canadian Press. Osias did not want to explain the reasons behind the move, saying he would leave that to Martelly. Critics of Martelly, who performs as Sweet Micky, had called on municipal and federal authorities to block the show, citing what they say are his misogynistic comments and his alleged complicity in corruption scandals. Martelly had a singing career before entering politics. He served as president of Haiti from 2011-16. Osias said earlier this week that protests against the concert were being fuelled by Martelly’s political opponents and those who don’t understand that Sweet Micky is a stage persona. The Canadian Press
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Sterling scores hat trick, England beats Czech Republic 5-0

3 hours 52 min ago
LONDON - Raheem Sterling scored his first England hat trick in a 5-0 victory over the Czech Republic at the start of 2020 European Championship qualifying on Friday. Harry Kane also netted a penalty and Tomas Kalas compounded the visitors’ miserable night by scoring an own goal at Wembley Stadium as England made an emphatic start to its bid to qualify for a tournament it is largely hosting. Although Euro 2020 is being played across 12 countries, Wembley is staging seven games including the semifinals and final. In Group A, England next plays on Monday against Montenegro, which drew 1-1 with Bulgaria on Friday. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
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The Latest: Texas AG sues company over chemical plant fire

3 hours 52 min ago
HOUSTON - The Latest on a fire that had been burning at a Texas petrochemical storage facility (all times local): 5:30 p.m. The Texas Attorney General’s office has sued the company that operates a Houston-area chemical plant where a fire burned for several days, leading to health and environmental concerns. Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Friday that the state would hold Intercontinental Terminals Company “accountable for the damage it has done to our environment.” The lawsuit demands civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day for unauthorized air pollution, outdoor burning of chemicals and emissions of dark plumes that spread for miles. It was filed in state district court in Travis County. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. ___ 5:15 p.m. The company that operates a Houston-area chemical plant says a new fire has been extinguished about an hour after it began. Intercontinental Terminals Company spokesman Dale Samuelsen said Friday that the blaze was put out around 5 p.m., though video taken from overhead showed crews still spraying areas that were emitting smoke. The flames ignited on the west side of the tank farm, which holds potentially hazardous chemicals including benzene. Earlier, a breach in a dike on the property led to a spill that forced the closure of the adjacent Houston Ship Channel, a key commercial artery. ___ 4:15 p.m. A fire has reignited at the Houston-area tank farm where an earlier blaze sent plumes of black smoke over the Houston area for several days. Harris County’s emergency management centre says multiple tanks were on fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company plant east of Houston. It’s unclear how large or serious the fire is. Several calls to the company’s incident centre went unanswered Friday afternoon. Earlier Friday, a breach of a containment dike at the plant forced the closure of part of the Houston Ship Channel. Crews were trying to drain one tank considered to be structurally unsound. There are still significant health and environmental concerns at the site. Among the chemicals stored there include benzene, a highly flammable liquid that can cause headaches, rapid heartbeat and other symptoms. ___ 3:15 p.m. The U.S. Coast Guard has closed part of the Houston Ship Channel due to chemicals spilling from a petrochemical tank farm after a dayslong fire, affecting commerce on one of the nation’s most important commercial waterways. The Coast Guard said Friday that it was closing the channel near the Intercontinental Terminals Company plant east of Houston. The company said earlier that a dike wall breached near a damaged tank where crews were trying to drain potentially hazardous liquids. Coast Guard spokesman Kelly Parker says that caused a mix of chemicals, firefighting foam, and soot from the fire to enter the channel. By closing the channel, the Coast Guard hopes to limit the spread of those liquids into the nearby bay. The ship channel connects the Port of Houston to Galveston Bay and is a key waterway for refineries and industrial sites. ___ 1:45 p.m. The company that operates a petrochemical tank farm near Houston says there’s been a partial breach of a dike wall containing potentially hazardous liquids. The breach occurred near a damaged tank that crews were working Friday to drain of chemicals that include benzene. The cleanup efforts came after a dayslong fire at the facility was put out on Wednesday. Intercontinental Terminals Company spokesman Dale Samuelsen said the breach occurred shortly before 12:30 p.m.. He says the company has asked industrial neighbours and people at a nearby historical site to shelter in place. The surrounding town of Deer Park has not been told to shelter in place. Samuelsen said workers didn’t know what was in the liquids or how it would affect the ongoing process to pump liquid out of the tank. ___ 12 p.m. The company that operates a petrochemical tank farm near Houston where a dayslong fire damaged several tanks says it’s working to remove flammable product without allowing dangerous emissions to again escape into the air. Brent Weber with Intercontinental Terminals Company said during a news conference Friday that crews are pumping about 20,000 barrels of liquid out of a damaged tank. He says foam will be repeatedly sprayed over the tank to avoid benzene from seeping into the air. The tanks contained components of gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner. People living near the plant in Deer Park were told Thursday to remain indoors after air monitors detected elevated levels of benzene. The order was lifted later Thursday. The fire began Sunday and was extinguished Wednesday. The Associated Press
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Treasury grants further relief on IRS withholding penalties

3 hours 55 min ago
WASHINGTON - The Treasury Department announced Friday that it is expanding again the relief it grants taxpayers who had too little in income taxes withheld from their paychecks in the first year of a sweeping tax overhaul. Treasury said that taxpayers will be able to avoid penalties for paying too little in taxes as long as they paid at least 80 per cent of what they owed the government. That represents a reduction from the regular threshold to avoid penalties of paying 90 per cent of what is owed. Treasury had earlier this year reduced the normal 90 per cent threshold to 85 per cent. In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his department was making the move “to help those who attempted in good faith to meet their withholding obligations.” Mnuchin had been urged by a number of lawmakers during appearances before Congress last week to make the move. Before this filing season, taxpayers could avoid penalties for underpayment if they had paid 90 per cent of the taxes owed for the current year. In January, the IRS lowered that 90 per cent threshold to 85 per cent in an effort to deal with issues raised by the transition to the tax cut law approved by Congress in December 2017. Treasury has said that around 80 per cent of taxpayers will see a decrease in their tax bill this year, while about 15 per cent will owe roughly the same amount. Fewer people are expected to receive a refund this year. Officials point out that doesn’t reflect rising or falling tax liability. There has been confusion around the size of refunds, which have varied more than usual this year because of the new Republican-written tax law. After showing declines earlier in the filing season, the average size of refunds now is about the same as last year at $2,957, according to IRS data. Democratic lawmakers had sharply criticized the Trump administration for under-withholding from workers’ paychecks, suggesting officials may have schemed to inflate paychecks with the new withholding tables for the tax law - bringing negative surprises in refunds this spring. The Democrats endorsed Friday’s move by Treasury. “The Trump administration is taking a step to undo the harm the Republican tax law inflicted on millions of families whose taxes were under-withheld through no fault of their own,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had proposed legislation to reduce the penalty threshold to 80 per cent. “As tax filing season is in full swing, Treasury’s action will relieve the financial anxiety facing worried taxpayers across the country,” Chu said Friday. Democrats had uniformly opposed the tax law, which was pushed by President Donald Trump and hustled through Congress in late 2017 to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. They maintained the sweeping overhaul of the tax code benefits mostly big corporations and the rich. __ AP Business Writer Marcy Gordon contributed to this report. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
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Canada’s team: Buffalo Bulls women’s squad wins March Madness opener

3 hours 56 min ago
The team with the most Canadian representation at March Madness is moving on after an upset victory on Friday. The No. 10-seeded Buffalo Bulls women’s team, featuring five Canadians, pulled away late for a 82-71 win over the No. 7 Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Storrs, Conn. Starting guard Hanna Hall of Hamilton had 12 points and eight assists for the Bulls, while starting forward Adedola Adeyeye of Brampton, Ont., chipped in with four points and five rebounds. The Bulls’ other three Canadians - Oceane Kounkou of Gatineau, Que., Ayoleka Sodade of Windsor, Ont., and Keowa Walters of Toronto - did not play. Buffalo is trying to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. WINNING START It was a slow start for Canadians on the second full day of March Madness, but a couple of Canuck starters enjoyed victories in their tournament kickoffs on Friday afternoon. Tennessee senior forward Kyle Alexander of Milton, Ont., had two points and five rebounds as the second-seeded Volunteers withstood a Colgate rally to beat the No. 15 Raiders 77-70 in Columbus, Ohio. While he didn’t have a huge day, at least Alexander erased memories of being sidelined with a hip injury in Tennessee’s second-round loss to upstart Loyola-Chicago last year. The Ramblers went all the way to the Final Four after that win. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s Hailey Brown had six points and two rebounds as the No. 8-seeded Michigan Wolverines women’s team beat the No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats 84-54 in Louisville, Ky. Another Canadian starter experienced a different result, though. Montreal’s Luguentz Dort was held to 12 points by Buffalo in the Bulls’ 91-74 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tulsa, Okla. Dort, who had 21 points in Arizona State’s play-in win over St. John’s on Wednesday, shot 4 of 12 from the field against Buffalo and had three rebounds, two assists and four fouls. LOOKING AHEAD A couple of Canadian versus Canadian matchups are part of Saturday’s men’s schedule. Ignas Brazdeikis of Oakville, Ont., and his No. 2 Michigan Wolverines square off with Andrew Nembhard of Aurora, Ont., and the No. 10 Florida Gators in Des Moines, Iowa. Later, Vancouver’s Brandon Clarke takes to the floor with the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs for a contest with the No. 10 Baylor Bears, who have Devonte Bandoo of Brampton, Ont., on their roster, in Salt Lake City. Mfiondu Kabengele of Burlington, Ont., fresh off a double-double in Florida State’s tournament-opening win, also returns to action as the No. 4 Seminoles face the No. 12 Murray State Racers in Hartford, Conn. “I think with our team, obviously our quality of our depth, our length, but more especially our intelligence. I feel like we’re one of the smarter teams in this conference,” Kabengele said. “I feel that goes underrated, and I feel like our decision-making and our game plan preparation is very excellent.” On the women’s side, top Canadian Bridget Carleton plays her first game of the tournament with Iowa State as the No. 3 Cyclones play host to the No. 14 New Mexico State Aggies. Carleton was 13th in the country in scoring this season. Shay Colley of Brampton, Ont., also one of the top Canadian women in the NCAA ranks, begins her tournament with the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans against the No. 8 Central Michigan Chippewas in South Bend, Ind. Other Canadian women in action include Alyssa Jerome (Stanford, Toronto) and Aislinn Konig (North Carolina State, Surrey, B.C. The Canadian Press
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A look at Russians who became mixed up in Trump probe

4 hours 11 min ago
MOSCOW - An investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into an elaborate Russian operation that sought to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and try to help Donald Trump win the White House has cast a spotlight on more than a dozen Russian nationals, including billionaires, an elusive linguist, an ambassador and a pop star. A look at some of the cast of characters: PUTIN’S CHEF Yevgeny Prigozhin, 57, earned the nickname of “Putin’s chef” for hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign dignitaries at his restaurant and catering important Kremlin events. A former convict, he now runs companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, thanks to his willingness to do favours for Putin that others would find too risky. Prigozhin was indicted in the U.S. last year in an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 election. The indictment said he funded the Internet Research Agency, a “troll factory” in Russia’s St. Petersburg that used social media accounts to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.” But he also is the suspected mastermind of a company called Wagner that has been sending private military contractors to fight in Syria, Ukraine and African countries. Putin has dismissed charges against the St. Petersburg native and his employees as “ridiculous,” mocking the West for falling “so low” to be suspecting “a restaurateur from Russia” of influencing the U.S. election. THE ELUSIVE LINGUIST Konstantin Kilimnik worked for Paul Manafort starting in the early 2000s. He is described as a fixer, translator or office manager and helped the political consultant formulate his pitches to clients in Russia and Ukraine. The FBI says Kilimnik has ties to Russian military intelligence, but he has denied that. U.S. officials regarded Kilimnik as Manafort’s key aide during their work on behalf of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, who became the president of Ukraine in 2010. Born in what was then Soviet Ukraine, Kilimnik got a degree in linguistics from a military university and in 1995 began working as a translator for the International Republican Institute in Moscow, a U.S.-government-funded non-profit that promotes democracy. Court documents filed by attorneys with Mueller’s office showed Manafort shared polling data from the Trump campaign with Kilimnik. The two also discussed a Russia-Ukraine peace plan several times including during an August 2016 meeting at a cigar bar in New York. A Mueller prosecutor has said that meeting goes to the “heart” of the Russia investigation, but additional details have been blacked out in court documents. Even after Manafort lost his campaign job and was indicted by Mueller on charges related to his foreign lobbying work, U.S. prosecutors alleged, Kilimnik helped ghost-write an op-ed defending Manafort. Kilimnik was indicted alongside Manafort on witness tampering charges. He reportedly lives in Russia, where he keeps a low profile and refuses to talk to reporters. THE AMBASSADOR Career diplomat Sergey Kislyak was Russia’s ambassador in Washington from 2008 until 2017, when he was called home amid scrutiny of his recurrent meetings with the Trump campaign staff as the Mueller probe gained speed. The low-key official with 40 years of diplomatic service was thrust into the limelight in December 2016 when Michael Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser, held conversations with Kislyak and asked him not to escalate a diplomatic fight with the U.S. over punishment levied by the Obama administration on Moscow. Kislyak also had conversations with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower that year and also met with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, later Trump’s attorney general. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak. The 68-year-old Kislyak, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, has vehemently denied that he or any embassy staff tried to disrupt the 2016 election. He currently sits in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. THE PROPERTY DEVELOPER & THE POP STAR Property developer Aras Agalarov, 63, and his 39-year-old pop singer son, Emin, have had a relationship with Trump dating to their bid to host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. The elder Agalarov told AP in 2017 that he first met Trump in the U.S. when he and Emin flew in to negotiate the rights to hold the pageant. They hit it off and have had a friendly relationship ever since. Agalarov told the Russian edition of Forbes that his company spent about $20 million on the pageant. Agalarov also said that he offered the future U.S. president a site for a Trump tower in Moscow, but “it didn’t come to signing any deals.” The Agalarovs maintained ties with Trump, and it was Emin who, through his British publicist, helped arrange a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian government-connected lawyer who was purported to have documents that could “incriminate” candidate Hillary Clinton in support of the Trump campaign. The meeting was attended by Donald Trump Jr., along with Manafort and Kushner. The American participants would later say the meeting was a bust in terms of gathering derogatory information on Clinton, consumed by a lengthy discussion of Russian adoption and U.S. sanctions. The younger Agalarov last month cancelled his upcoming shows in the U.S., citing “circumstances beyond my control.” His father continues to operate a successful real estate and construction business. Neither father nor son is accused of any wrongdoing. THE LAWYER Moscow lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was thrust into the Russia probe when it emerged that she attended the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Leaked documents suggested that the 43-year-old Veselnitskaya went to the meeting as part of efforts to help her clients try to overturn U.S. sanctions - one of the Kremlin’s strategic goals. While Veselnitskaya has denied acting on behalf of Russian officials, scores of emails and documents shared with the AP show she served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel. In January, Veselnitskaya was indicted by federal prosecutors in New York on one count of obstruction of justice in an unrelated tax fraud case that alleged she teamed up with a senior Russian prosecutor and submitted deceptive declarations in a civil proceeding. THE ALUMINUM MOGUL Oleg Deripaska made his billions in the aluminum industry in the rags-to-riches privatization era that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and was involved in infrastructure development for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, one of Putin’s pet projects. Deripaska once hired Manafort as a consultant, and prosecutors disclosed he provided a Manafort company with a $10 million loan around 2010. Manafort offered to provide Deripaska with private briefings during the 2016 election campaign, but there is no evidence such briefings ever occurred. The 51-year-old was trained as a physicist in the late years of the Soviet Union and became a major player on the Russian metals market even before his 30th birthday. Even among Russian billionaires, Deripaska is notable for his closeness to Putin. Deripaska and his companies were hit with crippling U.S. sanctions last year over Russia’s “malign activity” including Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. But the U.S. Treasury last month lifted sanctions on three Russian companies owned by Deripaska, reversing a move that wreaked havoc on global aluminum markets, after the oligarch restructured the companies and reduced his share in them. THE OLIGARCH AT THE INAUGURATION Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg has long ties to the U.S. including a green card he once held and homes in New York and Connecticut. The 61-year-old Ukrainian-born businessman, estimated to be worth $13 billion, heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets. Vekselberg built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era. As of mid-February, a company controlled by Vekselberg and a group of partners owned 22.5 per cent in Deripaska’s Rusal, a metals company that was hit with the U.S. sanctions, according to a letter sent by Senate Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Mark Warner to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Deripaska subsequently agreed to cede control of Rusal in exchange for the sanctions relief. As a rich and powerful Russian, Vekselberg is presumed to operate with Putin’s tacit approval. He has used his wealth to exert influence in the U.S., including the Skolkovo Foundation, a Russian government-backed non-profit aimed at winning U.S. and Western tech investment in Russia. Vekselberg has worked closely with his American cousin, Andrew Intrater, who heads the New York investment management firm Columbus Nova. Media attention zeroed in on Vekselberg and Intrater when the attorney for the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels released a memo claiming the cousins routed about $500,000 through Columbus Nova to a shell company set up by Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen. Columbus Nova denied that Vekselberg played any role in its payments to Cohen. Several days before Trump’s inauguration, Vekselberg and Intrater met with Cohen at Trump Tower, one of several meetings between Trump intimates and high-level Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition. Vekselberg also was targeted with U.S. Treasury Department sanctions, which cited his ties to Putin, after he was questioned by Mueller’s staff on a visit to the U.S. All of Vekselberg’s assets in the U.S. are frozen and U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with him and his entities. Nataliya Vasilyeva, The Associated Press
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Republicans ask to stay order blocking lame-duck laws

4 hours 24 min ago
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin Republicans asked an appeals court Friday to immediately reinstate GOP-backed laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued an injunction Thursday blocking the laws, which GOP legislators quickly approved in December before Evers replaced Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On Friday, an attorney for the Republican lawmakers asked the 3rd District Court of Appeals for an immediate stay blocking Niess’ order and reinstating the statutes. The court gave all the parties involved until 4 p.m. Monday to file briefs, ensuring no decision will come until at least then. The Republicans’ attorney, Misha Tseytlin, told the appellate court in a filing Friday morning that Niess’ injunction was already causing confusion for military and overseas voters, noting a state Supreme Court election is only days away. Tseytlin added that Neiss’ ruling jeopardizes the validity of thousands of other laws passed during so-called extraordinary sessions, which are unscheduled floor periods convened by majority party leaders. He also questioned whether scores of Walker’s appointees still have jobs. Lawmakers confirmed 82 of Walker’s appointees during the December session, ensuring Evers couldn’t remove them when he took office. Empowered by Niess’ ruling, the governor rescinded the appointments late Friday afternoon. His spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, said the positions are now vacant. Some of the higher-profile appointees included two University of Wisconsin System regents and state Public Service Commission Chairwoman Ellen Nowak. Baldauff said the governor will fill the spots as quickly as possible to minimize disruption. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald issued a statement saying he feels the appointees were confirmed legally and called Evers’ move “irresponsible.” The laws approved during the December lame-duck legislative session prohibit Evers from withdrawing the state from lawsuits without legislative approval. The move was designed to prevent him from pulling Wisconsin out of a multistate challenge to the Affordable Care Act, but Evers quickly started the process Thursday following Niess’ order. The laws also require Kaul to seek legislative approval before settling any case and to deposit settlement winnings in the state general fund rather than in state Department of Justice accounts. The laws also rework voting regulations, restricting early in-person voting to the two weeks preceding an election and loosening requirements for military and overseas voters. Their witnesses no longer have to be U.S. citizens, and they can use email to receive and transmit ballots. A coalition of liberal-leaning groups led by the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation in January. The groups argued that the Legislature can’t meet unless the time is specified in a law passed every two years or the governor calls it into session. Extraordinary sessions aren’t scheduled as part of that law. The majority party calls them when it sees fit. Niess agreed with the coalition Thursday, saying there was no statutory basis for extraordinary sessions. Hours after Niess issued the injunction, Evers ordered Kaul to move to withdraw Wisconsin from the ACA lawsuit. Evers didn’t immediately make any other moves with his restored powers, saying he needed time to digest the injunction. The governor and the coalition sent letters to the appellate court Friday asking to be heard before it makes a decision on a stay. Evers’ attorney, Tamara Packard, insisted Tseytlin was “grossly misstating” the injunction’s effects. Both Evers and the coaltion argued the case belongs in the 4th District Court of Appeals. The judges on that court include Gary Sherman, a former Democratic legislator; JoAnne Kloppenburg, a liberal-leaning former state Supreme Court candidate; and Brian Blanchard, a former Democratic prosecutor. In another twist Friday, Kaul reversed himself and now wants to get into the lawsuit. The coalition has technically named Evers as a defendant. But Kaul said in January he wouldn’t defend the governor, explaining would face a conflict of interest since the laws affect the state Department of Justice’s authority. But Kaul sent a letter to the 3rd District Court of Appeals on Friday saying that he now wants to be heard ahead of any stay decision. The laws’ impact on DOJ gives him a “unique perspective” on the facts, he said, and statutes allow the attorney general to be heard whenever a law is found unconstitutional. The court issued an order late Friday afternoon allowing Kaul to participate. ___ Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1 Todd Richmond, The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu beats Kenin to advance to third round in Miami

4 hours 31 min ago
MIAMI - Canada’s Bianca Andreescu has exacted revenge on one of the three women to beat her in the 2019 season. The 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., won her ninth consecutive match on Friday, beating No. 32 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States 6-3, 6-3 in a second-round contest at the Miami Open. Kenin was the last player to beat the 24th-ranked Andreescu, prevailing in a three-set semifinal in Acapulco, Mexico on March 1. Since then, Andreescu has captured the BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells, Calif., and won two more matches in Miami. She is now 30-3 during the 2019 season. “I got a sense of how she plays. Obviously, I was expecting the right things,” Andreescu said of the rematch with Kenin. “I definitely played a lot better than in Acapulco.” Friday’s match lacked the drama of Andreescu’s previous three outings - all of which were three-set, two-plus-hour contests. She was coming off a thrilling win over Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in which Andreescu trailed 6-3, 5-1. “I’m actually really happy with how my body’s holding up. The only thing that’s a problem is now my shoulder is pretty tight,” said Andreescu, who had her right arm taped for Friday’s match. “I’ve been seeking treatment. It’s not too bad.” Andreescu and Kenin both struggled with their first serves, with the Canadian breaking the American three times in the first set to win it. Andreescu recorded another three breaks in the second set. Kenin double-faulted on the final point of the match, Andreescu’s third match point. Andreescu got in 55 per cent of her first serves, as compared to just 40 per cent for Kenin. Both players had six double-faults. Andreescu said she’s trying not to focus on her winning streak. “I try not to overthink about what happened last week. I know I just won a really big tournament, now I’m here in Miami,” she said. “The only pressure I think is the pressure I put on myself.” Kenin is familiar to Canadian tennis fans after her earlier win over Andreescu, along with a run to the ASB Classic doubles title with Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., in New Zealand in January. On the men’s side in Miami, 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal also is heading to the third round. Auger-Aliassime beat No. 29 seed Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-4, 4-6, 6-0. The Canadian bounced back after blowing a 4-2 lead in the second set. Auger-Aliassime had a solid edge in terms of getting his first serve in, doing it 67 per cent of the time as compared to 52 per cent for his opponent. The Canadian recorded six aces and six breaks. Meanwhile, Milos Raonic has advanced to the third round without playing a single point. The No. 12 seed from Thornhill, Ont., won by walkover against Maximilian Marterer on Friday as the German retired before the second-round match. Raonic received a first-round bye as a seeded player. The Canadian will play No. 19 seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain in the third round. Edmund beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 on Friday. No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., is slated to face Daniel Evans of Great Britain in a second-round match, likely on Saturday.   The Canadian Press
Categories: Regina News

Republicans ask to stay order blocking lame-duck laws

4 hours 36 min ago
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin Republicans asked an appeals court Friday to immediately reinstate GOP-backed laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued an injunction Thursday blocking the laws, which GOP legislators quickly approved in December before Evers replaced Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On Friday, an attorney for the Republican lawmakers asked the 3rd District Court of Appeals for an immediate stay blocking Niess’ order and reinstating the statutes. The court gave all the parties involved until 4 p.m. Monday to file briefs, ensuring no decision will come until at least then. The Republicans’ attorney, Misha Tseytlin, told the appellate court in a filing Friday morning that Niess’ injunction was already causing confusion for military and overseas voters, noting a state Supreme Court election is only days away. Tseytlin added that Neiss’ ruling jeopardizes the validity of thousands of other laws passed during so-called extraordinary sessions, which are unscheduled floor periods convened by majority party leaders. He also questioned whether scores of Walker’s appointees still have jobs. Lawmakers confirmed 82 of Walker’s appointees during the December session, ensuring Evers couldn’t remove them when he took office. Empowered by Niess’ ruling, the governor rescinded the appointments late Friday afternoon. His spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, said the positions are now vacant. Some of the higher-profile appointees included two University of Wisconsin System regents and state Public Service Commission Chairwoman Ellen Nowak. Baldauff said the governor will fill the spots as quickly as possible to minimize disruption. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald issued a statement saying he feels the appointees were confirmed legally and called Evers’ move “irresponsible.” The laws approved during the December lame-duck legislative session prohibit Evers from withdrawing the state from lawsuits without legislative approval. The move was designed to prevent him from pulling Wisconsin out of a multistate challenge to the Affordable Care Act, but Evers quickly started the process Thursday following Niess’ order. The laws also require Kaul to seek legislative approval before settling any case and to deposit settlement winnings in the state general fund rather than in state Department of Justice accounts. The laws also rework voting regulations, restricting early in-person voting to the two weeks preceding an election and loosening requirements for military and overseas voters. Their witnesses no longer have to be U.S. citizens, and they can use email to receive and transmit ballots. A coalition of liberal-leaning groups led by the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation in January. The groups argued that the Legislature can’t meet unless the time is specified in a law passed every two years or the governor calls it into session. Extraordinary sessions aren’t scheduled as part of that law. The majority party calls them when it sees fit. Niess agreed with the coalition Thursday, saying there was no statutory basis for extraordinary sessions. Hours after Niess issued the injunction, Evers ordered Kaul to move to withdraw Wisconsin from the ACA lawsuit. Evers didn’t immediately make any other moves with his restored powers, saying he needed time to digest the injunction. The governor and the coalition sent letters to the appellate court Friday asking to be heard before it makes a decision on a stay. Evers’ attorney, Tamara Packard, insisted Tseytlin was “grossly misstating” the injunction’s effects. Both Evers and the coaltion argued the case belongs in the 4th District Court of Appeals. The judges on that court include Gary Sherman, a former Democratic legislator; JoAnne Kloppenburg, a liberal-leaning former state Supreme Court candidate; and Brian Blanchard, a former Democratic prosecutor. In another twist Friday, Kaul reversed himself and now wants to get into the lawsuit. The coalition has technically named Evers as a defendant. But Kaul said in January he wouldn’t defend the governor, explaining would face a conflict of interest since the laws affect the state Department of Justice’s authority. But Kaul sent a letter to the 3rd District Court of Appeals on Friday saying that he now wants to be heard ahead of any stay decision. The laws’ impact on DOJ gives him a “unique perspective” on the facts, he said, and statutes allow the attorney general to be heard whenever a law is found unconstitutional. ___ Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1 Todd Richmond, The Associated Press
Categories: Regina News

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