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Montrealers demonstrate to show support for Palestine

Watch above: Rachel Lau was at Place Émilie-Gamelin on Sunday as demonstrators gathered to stand in solidarity with Palestine.

MONTREAL – Protesters from 60 organizations across Montreal gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin Sunday to stand in solidarity with Palestine. The demonstration started with a moment of silence, and then the chanting of “save Palestine” filled the air.

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“We believe that Israel should obey international law,” said Scott Weinstein, a representative from Independent Jewish Voices. “Primarily, they have to stop the occupation.”

READ MORE: Montreal to hold memorial for murdered Israeli teens

They are speaking out against what they call aggressive Israeli military action in Gaza.

READ MORE: Protests held across Canada over Israeli military action in Gaza

“We’re not opposed to a religion,” said Raymond Legault, a spokesperson for the Collectif Échec à la Guerre

“We’re not opposed to a people. We’re opposed to the policies of their state.”

The goal is to send a message to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“This is not about a balanced position of Canada,” said Legault. “This is not about nuances. There’s an occupier, there’s people that are occupied and this is what has to end.”

Protesters marched alongside members of the Bloc Québécois, who came out to show their support.

“We have to stop the bloodbath, “said Mario Beaulieu, leader of the Bloc Québécois. “We are asking Israel to respect international law.”

READ MORE: Israel, Hamas resume fire after 3-day truce

Nevertheless, some in Montreal’s Jewish community say Israel is being unfairly treated by the international population.

“They should really be ashamed that they only seem to come together when it is to attack, to denounce the sole, legitimate democratic country in the Middle East, which is Israel,” said Luciano Del Negro, the Vice-President of The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

Raw Video: Pro-Israel rally in Montreal

Del Negro doesn’t see the demonstration in the same light.

“It is scandalous to see people demonstrating under the garb of peace,” he said. “This is not peace. The only people who will find solace in this is Hamas.”

READ MORE: Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza, rockets fired toward Israel after truce ends

Yet, Weinstein points out many within the Jewish community are torn.

“It’s very much like George Orwell’s Animal Farm where the people who led the rebellion are now becoming the oppressors,” he said. “Jews are having a hard time with that.”

GALLERY: Montreal protest in support of Palestinians

He insists being Jewish doesn’t mean you automatically support everything Israel does.

“We’ve been taught that, pretty much since birth, that to be Jewish is to be pro-Israel,” he explained.

As the war between Israel and the Palestinians moves well into its second month, Montrealers insist they will continue protesting until the conflict ends in a permanent ceasefire.

25 years ago, Ebola outbreak in U.S. introduced us to unknown disease

RESTON, Va. – It had all the makings of a public-health horror story: an outbreak of a wildly deadly virus on the doorstep of the nation’s capital, with dozens of lab monkeys
dead, multiple people testing positive, and no precedent in the United States on how to contain it.

Americans’ introduction to the Ebola virus came 25 years ago in an office park near Washington Dulles International Airport, a covert crisis that captivated the public only years later when it formed the basis of a bestselling book.

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Initially thought to be the same hyper-deadly strain as the current Ebola outbreak that has killed hundreds in Africa, the previously unknown Reston variant turned out to be nonlethal to humans. But the story of what might have been illustrates how far U.S. scientists have come in their understanding of a virus whose very name strikes fear, even in a country where no one has fatally contracted it.

Gerald Jaax, one of the leaders of a team of Army scientists that responded to the 1989 outbreak in Reston, Virginia, closely watched the meticulously planned transfers this month of two American aid workers from Liberia to a specialized facility in Atlanta, the first Ebola patients ever brought to the U.S. Jaax recalled his days urgently trying to corral the country’s first known outbreak.

In the 1989 outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. the virus killed several macaque monkeys, similar to the onse seen here.

AP Photo/California National Primate Research Center, Kathy West

In the fall of 1989, dozens of macaques imported from the Philippines suddenly died at Hazelton Research Products’ primate quarantine unit in Reston, where animals were kept and later sold for lab testing. Company officials contacted the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland – Jaax’s unit – concerned they might be dealing with an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever among the monkeys.

READ MORE: Ebola: What the WHO’s international health emergency declaration means

Initial testing revealed something much worse: Ebola, specifically the Zaire strain, which had a 90 per cent fatality rate in humans. Four workers at the quarantine facility tested positive for exposure to the virus.

Amazingly, they never even got sick.

Researchers eventually realized they were dealing with a different strain, one now known as Ebola-Reston. Though its appearance under a microscope is similar to the Zaire strain, Ebola-Reston is the only one of the five forms of Ebola not harmful to humans.

But Jaax and his unit, including his wife Nancy , also a scientist, did not know that while at the monkey house. They just knew they had to clean it out, and do it while keeping a relatively low profile that wouldn’t scare the neighbours.

READ MORE: Why the CDC declared the highest response level to Ebola outbreak

“You could walk in and smell monkey everywhere,” said Dr. C.J. Peters, who oversaw the Army’s response to the outbreak. “There was a little shopping centre nearby….There was plenty of opportunity for trouble.”

While the Army scientists had strong protocols in place for studying viruses safely in a lab, they were not well prepared to stabilize and contain an outbreak in a private facility. At the time, Jaax said, nobody – including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – had that kind of experience. In the Reston incident, the CDC took the lead in managing the human-health aspect of the response, while the Army dealt with the monkeys.

Back in 1989, there was concern that Ebola could spread through the air, said Peters, now a professor with University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Indeed, researchers concluded there must have been some sort of aerosol spread of the virus within the monkey house, Jaax said.

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The Reston animals had to be euthanized from a safe distance – “monkeys are aerosol-producing machines,” Jaax said. In his 1995 book “The Hot Zone,” Richard Preston described how Jaax modified a mop handle so it could be used to pin a monkey in its cage where it could safely be injected and eventually euthanized. Later, to disinfect the air, the team cooked formaldehyde crystals on electric frying pans.

Ebola is no longer thought to be an airborne virus; scientists say the disease can only be spread through direct contact with bodily fluids.

The Reston crisis also elevated Ebola into the public consciousness, albeit not immediately. In an era when the country was preoccupied with the AIDS epidemic, which hit 100,000 cases in the U.S. that year, the Army and CDC scientists carried out their tasks in relative obscurity .

It was only after The Hot Zone became a bestseller and focused attention on the public-health battle to confront emerging disease outbreaks that the Reston event became well known and Ebola became a household word.

“The big difference between now and 1989 is that nobody else knew what Ebola was,” said Jaax, now an associate vice-president at Kansas State University.

One of the most important legacies of Reston, Jaax said, was that none of the dozens who worked to contain the outbreak was exposed to the virus. The plans developed on the fly to keep the responders safe worked, he said, and provided a good blueprint for the protocols used to bring back the American aid workers earlier this month.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security in Baltimore and an infectious disease physician, said the Reston responders’ incorrect belief that they were dealing with a virus that was deadly to humans provided the ideal trial run for handling such an outbreak.

“It’s like you’re performing with a net underneath you, but you don’t know it’s a drill,” Adalja said.

Director General of the World Health Organization, WHO, China\'s Margaret Chan and Assistant Director General for Health Security Keiji Fukuda of the US, right, share a word during a press conference after an emergency meeting at the headquarters of the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014.

AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi

Ebola-Reston returned to the U.S. in 1996 in monkeys in Texas that had been imported from the Philippines. The Philippines has seen three outbreaks since the strain was identified, affecting primates, pigs and nine people. The workers who handled the animals developed antibodies, but did not get sick.

READ MORE: Why the CDC declared the highest response level to Ebola outbreak

Hazelton abandoned the Reston facility in 1990, and the company was later swallowed up by a competitor. The monkey house was torn down a few years later. The new building there hosts several small offices and a day-care centre.

Some of the office park workers are aware of the site’s history; many are not.

Back in 1989, Vicky Wingert worked at the local homeowners’ association, in offices across the street from the monkey house. She said nobody had any idea there was a problem until people showed up in hazmat suits. Even then, very little information trickled out, she said.

“At the time, it wasn’t a big deal. Looking back, it probably should have been,” she said.

©2014The Canadian Press

U.S. lab tests show deceased Saudi man did not have Ebola

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – A Saudi man who died last week after returning from Sierra Leone did not have the Ebola virus according to initial international laboratory results, said Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry.

The ministry said late Saturday that samples submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back negative for the Ebola virus, adding that samples were also sent for testing to a laboratory in Germany.

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The 40-year-old Saudi national died Wednesday in a hospital isolation ward in the Saudi coastal city of Jiddah after showing symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever. He was the only suspected Ebola case in the kingdom and had just returned from a trip to affected Sierra Leone.

Ebola, which has no proven vaccine or treatment, has killed more than 900 people this year in four countries in West Africa.

Saudi Arabia is not issuing visas this year to Muslim pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea as a precaution to avoid the spread during the hajj pilgrimage, which sees massive crowds of people from around the world gather in Mecca. The decision affects a total of 7,400 pilgrims from those three countries.

©2014The Canadian Press

Gord Steeves doesn’t show up to help feed less fortunate – Winnipeg

It was an offer Althea Guiboche hoped could not be refused.

“It would have been nice for them to come out,” said Guiboche, also know as the Bannock Lady.

After controversial comments were made by Gord Steeves’ wife Lorrie, Guiboche invited the couple to serve food to the city’s less fortunate Sunday afternoon, but the pair were no-shows.

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“It is up to them if they want to change their perspective open their eyes to the reality and quite relying on the stereotypes that we have been raised to believe,” said Guiboche, who admits she wasn’t surprised the Steeves family did not come.

The offer came after a Facebook post by Lorrie four years ago made the rounds on social media Friday.

In a status update she wrote she is “really tired of getting harassed by the drunken native guys in the skywalks. We need to get these people educated so they can go make their own damn money instead of hanging out harrassing (sic) the honest people who are grinding away working hard for their money. We all donate enough money to the government to keep thier (sic) sorry asses on welfare, so shut the f**k up and don’t ask me for another handout!”

Lorrie has since sent out statement in an email to media that read “In 2010 while I was working downtown I was regularly harassed for money and often put in a position where I feared for my safety. One day in particular 4 years ago was very bad and out of frustration I vented on my personal Facebook page. I feel terrible about these comments. I am terribly sorry and I apologize. I do not clear my Facebook posts or status updates with my husband.”

Guiboche wanted the Steeves family to take the apology a step further.

“Actions speak louder than words,” she said.

For nearly two years Guiboche has volunteered her time to make, collect and hand out food to the city’s less fortunate. This Sunday around 150 people were served with bannock, pizza, salad, fresh fruit and bottled water.

Guiboche says her invitation to Gord and Lorrie is still open to come down to the corner of Dufferin Avenue and Main Street any Sunday at 3 p.m.

“Once they feel, maybe they are ready, that would be lovely,” she said.

Gord Steeves hasn’t responded to repeated interview requests however he is expected to break his silence later this week. His campaign office sent an email to media Sunday saying there would be an event with Steeves on Tuesday. Where, what time and what Steeves will say is not known.

‘We’ve heard from some dodgy characters’: Red Deer man selling $1.5 million jet on Kijiji

Watch above: When you think about Kijiji, finding an apartment or new furniture comes to mind. But what about a fighter jet? That’s exactly what a Red Deer man is looking to sell and it could be yours for $1.5 million. Shallima Maharaj reports.

EDMONTON – If you’re in the market for a Harrier jet, look no further; a Red Deer man is selling one for a cool $1.5 million. But the way he’s chosen to sell the jet is somewhat less-than-traditional. He’s taken out an ad on Kijiji.

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“I wanted to reach out to a different kind of audience, rather than the normal people that read aviation magazines, see if there’s somebody out there that wanted the ultimate toy,” said Ian Cotton.

The Scotland native, who moved to Canada in 1995, posted the ad to sell his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji last week. By Sunday afternoon, the ad had garnered nearly 26,000 views online.

Cotton says while he’s heard from a couple of serious potential buyers, he’s also heard from quite a few “jokers.”

“We’ve heard from some dodgy characters too, that clearly are doing some sort of internet scam.”

“Somebody saying they’re going to send me $1.5 million in cash through PayPal,” Cotton said with a laugh. “Of course, I don’t think PayPal deals in that kind of cash.”

A collector not a pilot, Cotton obtained the Ex-Royal Navy Harrier Jet from the UK five years ago. It’s the sixth plane he’s acquired over the past six years or so.

“The plan was to originally try and get this into flyable condition; there is one exactly the same as this flying in the States,” he explained. “I just don’t seem to have the time any more to play with these.”

WATCH: Cotton prepares the jet for the 2013 Airdrie Airshow

So, he’s taken to Kijiji to sell it. Cotton says the jet is in excellent condition. It comes with a Rolls-Royce Pegasus MK107 engine, a parts donor extra fuselage and another Harrier cockpit that can be used for display or the basis of a simulator.

The jet was built in 1986, converted to the latest FA2 standard in 1997 and last flown in 2001.

Cotton says now, all it needs are minor parts and “somebody crazy enough to fly it.”

“I think anybody that’s going to buy it is obviously going to look after it and maybe get it flying, maybe put it in a museum or maybe use it as a static display.”

To see Cotton’s ad, head to Kijiji’s website.

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Supplied, Ian Cotton

Red Deer’s Ian Cotton is selling his 1986 Sea Harrier FA2 Jump Jet on Kijiji for a cool $1.5 million.

Shallima Maharaj, Global News

Follow @CaleyRamsay

Woman punched on video by California Highway patrolman thought she would die – National

WATCH: The woman who was repeatedly punched in the head by a California Highway Patrol officer on July 1 says she feared for her life as the officer swung at her “with all his might.”

LOS ANGELES – Marlene Pinnock said she thought she was going to die as a California Highway Patrol officer straddled her, repeatedly punching her head, on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.

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During an hour-long interview with The Associated Press on Sunday – her first public comments since the July 1 incident was caught on now-viral video by a passing driver – Pinnock spoke haltingly or in a whisper, occasionally putting her hands to her temples and grimacing.

Her attorney Caree Harper frequently interrupted her and limited her responses to a reporter’s questions.

“He grabbed me, he threw me down, he started beating me, he beat me. I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death,” Pinnock said.

Pinnock was released from the hospital last week after several weeks of treatment for head injuries and now slurs her speech, Harper said.

WATCH: Video of California Highway Patrol officer Daniel L. Andrew repeatedly punching Marlene Pinnock on the side of a Los Angeles freeway (July 4). Warning: Video may be disturbing to some viewers.

READ MORE: Woman seen on video beaten by U.S. highway patrolman files civil rights lawsuit

Pinnock is suing CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow and Officer Daniel L. Andrew in federal court for civil rights violations. The suit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock’s due process rights. The CHP hasn’t identified the officer but said he had been on the job for 1 1/2 years and is on desk duty pending completion of the internal investigation.

Farrow met with community and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles multiple times last month and pledged that the investigation will conclude in weeks rather than the usual months. CHP Sgt. Melissa Hammond said Sunday that she couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation.

The CHP has said that Pinnock was endangering herself by walking on Interstate 10 and the officer was trying to restrain her.

Pinnock said she had been homeless for the last three to five years, occasionally staying at the Los Angeles Mission, a family member’s home or on La Brea or Crenshaw.

Pinnock said she had been on her way to a safe place where friends could watch her sleep when the altercation occurred. Harper said the area Pinnock was headed to is one of those frequented by the homeless and only accessible by walking along the freeway ramp.

She was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold by Andrew after the incident, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press. Andrew said in his report that she was a danger to herself and wrote that “upon contacting the subject she was talking to herself. The subject began telling me ‘I want to walk home’ and called me ‘the devil.’ The subject then tried to walk into traffic lanes.”

Harper didn’t allow Pinnock to discuss the details leading up to the incident or her medical treatment.

“If in fact she did call him the devil is secondary to the fact that he proved to be either the devil or a close relative,” Harper said. “Because he treated her in a manner nobody should ever be treated.”

Pinnock is being supported by Harper to keep her off the street and is essentially “starting from scratch,” her attorney said.

READ MORE: Calif. officer punches woman over 10 times in arrest posted on YouTube

CHP investigators in July seized Pinnock’s medical records and the clothing she was wearing during the incident from Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Harper said she was outraged by the violation of doctor-patient privacy and attorney-client privilege.

The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who called it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

©2014The Canadian Press

GALLERY: Cleanup efforts underway after storm ravages southeast Saskatchewan

REGINA – Cleanup efforts are well underway in parts of south east Saskatchewan in the wake of Friday night’s fierce storm.

Winds reaching 140 kilometers an hour swept through areas including Regina, White City and Balgonie, leaving behind extensive damage.

Balgonie superintendent, Shawn McBain, said Saturday that the entire town has been working around the clock to clean up the mess.

“I’m tired, I think the whole community is tired, but you just keep going. Do what you have to do,” he added.

Trees were left flooding the streets following the strong winds and heavy rain, and the town’s mayor Frank Thauberger said he was overwhelmed with the overflow of outside aid.

“Volunteers came from Pilot Butte and all over. Farmers came with their trucks. We just had people from all over coming to help, it was impressive.”

The head of SaskPower says a handful of customers remain without electricity in rural areas after a powerful storm blew through southern Saskatchewan.

Teri Fikowski / Global News


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Volunteers explained they were happy to see their efforts paying off, but acknowledged that there was a long way to go.

A number of residents at the Heritage Court senior complex are not yet to be able to return home, after rain began spilling through their roof Friday night.

Ruth Scherr is a resident at the complex, and said that many seniors had to leave and go stay with family.

“If it affects one, it affects all of us,” she explained. “But like I said, we consider ourselves very fortunate. It could have been a lot worse, it could have been lives lost.”

Initial damages in Balgonie run into the high thousands, including a school which still sits buried under debris.

Meantime, many areas including parts of Regina remain without power after lightning and high winds resulted in trees knocking out power lines.

SaskPower reported that at the peak of the storm, about 7,000 people were without power in the south east portion of the province, and as of Saturday afternoon roughly 95 per cent of those customers have had their power restored.

The corporation said they were still dealing with isolated outages in White City, Balgonie, Maclean, and Fort Qu’Apelle.

McIlroy rallies on back to win riveting PGA Championship – National

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The challenge finally arrived for Rory McIlroy, and he was better than ever to win the PGA Championship.

On a back nine filled with as much tension as a major can provide, McIlroy emerged from a four-man battle with flawless golf to outlast Phil Mickelson and the darkness Sunday at Valhalla and capture his second straight major.

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McIlroy closed with a 3-under 68 and became only the fourth player in the last century of golf to win four majors at 25 or younger. The others were Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones, three of the game’s greatest players.

Boy Wonder appears on his way to belonging in that group.

READ MORE: Rory McIlroy: Golf’s next big star, but not golf’s next Tiger

“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I’d have a summer like this,” said McIlroy, only the seventh player to win the last two majors of the year. “I played the best golf of my life. I really gutted it out today.”

But one of the greatest shows on soggy turf came with a most peculiar ending.

McIlroy hit a 9-iron from a fairway bunker on the 17th hole to 10 feet and made the birdie putt to take a two-shot lead to the par-5 18th. Because of a two-hour rain delay, darkness was falling quickly and it wasn’t certain McIlroy would be able to finish.

He was allowed to tee off even before Mickelson and Rickie Fowler had reached their golf balls in the fairway. Both were only two shots behind and still in the game. McIlroy came within a yard of hitting into a hazard right of the fairway. Mickelson and Fowler had to stand to the side of the green to allow McIlroy to play his second shot.

The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland hit into a bunker and had to two-putt from 35 feet for a one-shot win.

Moments earlier, Mickelson came within inches of chipping in for eagle. He settled for a 6-under 66 and a runner-up for the ninth time in a major. Fowler, the first player in history to finish in the top five at all four majors without winning, also had a chance with a long eagle putt. He missed badly, and then missed the short birdie putt.

Fowler closed with a 68 and tied for third with Henrik Stenson, who also had a share of the lead until missing a 3-foot par putt on the 14th putt. He never recovered from that and shot 66.

McIlroy finished at 16-under 268. The victory was his third in a row, following the British Open and World Golf Championship event last week at Firestone.

©2014The Canadian Press

Quebec pilot dies after plane crashes in the Laurentians – Montreal

LA MINERVE, Que. – A 33-year-old man is dead after his plane went down in a wooded area in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal.

Quebec provincial police say the man was the only person aboard the Cessna airplane when it crashed on Saturday near the village of
La Minerve.

A witness first alerted authorities shortly before 2 p.m. when he noticed a plane appeared to be having difficulty while still in the
air.

After police were able to locate the downed aircraft, the man was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

An investigation will be conducted into the crash.

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©2014The Canadian Press

24 people rescued from stranded roller coaster at U.S. theme park – National

WATCH: A thrill ride turned into a nightmare for 24 people who were stuck for five hours on a rollercoaster at a Six Flags in Maryland. Jan Crawford reports

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – Authorities say 24 people stranded on a roller coaster have been rescued from near the top of the ride at Six Flags America in Maryland.

Prince George’s County Fire officials say it took about five hours Sunday to rescue 17 adults and seven children from The Joker’s Jinx roller coaster.

READ MORE: 5 deadly roller coaster accidents

Assistant Fire Chief Paul Gomez says the riders were sitting upright. A few had cramps, back pain and dehydration, but there were no major injuries.

A Six Flags America spokesman said in a statement that it is not yet clear what caused the ride to stop but that it has a computerized safety system that “performed as it is designed to.”

Six Flags’ website says the ride goes 96.56 kph and upside down four times.

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©2014The Canadian Press

Quebec pension tensions on the rise – Montreal

MONTREAL – The funky pants and sticker-plastered city vehicles are just the beginning as workers and the province draw battle lines over a proposed reform of municipal pensions.

The Liberal government introduced its proposal to overhaul municipal pensions in mid-June, saying those plans carry a collective deficit of about $3.9 billion and aren’t sustainable in the long-term.

Underfunding and long-term sustainability of pension plans is a common concern across the country. In Quebec, the response from workers has been hard to ignore.

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READ MORE: IN PHOTOS: Quebec pension protests get creative

City employees like police officers, firefighters, public transit and other blue- and white-collar workers have been dressing down for weeks.

Police in Montreal, for example, have donned bright red ball caps and shed their work-issue slacks for camouflage, fluorescent and multi-coloured pants to show their anger.

Meanwhile, city vehicles, public transit buses, police and fire trucks across the province have been plastered with slogan stickers.

Unions say they are being put on the hook for pension shortfalls that are not of their making and feel some municipalities are looking to save on labour costs by renegotiating retirement deals.

“We want to send a clear message to governments that if it continues on that path, it’s going to be war,” union spokesman Marc Ranger warned.

WATCH: Camille Ross speaks to union representative Marc Ranger 

                    

The government’s Bill 3 is calling for a 50-50 split between municipalities and unionized workers on contributions and future deficits.

Currently, the ratio varies in the 170 individual plans that are targeted under the legislation. The bill proposes freezing the automatic indexation of pensions for about 20,000 workers already retired and sets out a timeline for negotiating a settlement, including possible arbitration.

It isn’t going over well with the 122,000 workers and retirees affected, but Ranger says the government hasn’t shown willingness to budge.

Ranger acknowledges that gaining support from the public – many of whom don’t have any pension plan at all – is a delicate task. So
they’ve opted for some unorthodox tactics like the pants and stickers to get that support.

Other unsanctioned tactics haven’t gone over so well. Police in Laval were photographed as they drove through large puddles and muddied their squad cars at a construction site. In another incident, a Montreal police vehicle was entirely encased in union protest stickers.

Montreal’s police brotherhood also denied it had anything to do with about 100 police officers calling in sick one weekend morning, forcing overtime and a scramble to find replacements.

Ranger says the tactics suggest members are angry.

“We want to be very visible by all means,” Ranger said.

“We know that it’s a thin line with public opinion, but at the same time people are sensitive to the fact that when contracts were signed, they should be respected.”

READ MORE: Quebec Games targeted by anti-pension protest

Some mayors have said they’d rather negotiate directly with workers than have the provincial government stepping in with blanket legislation.

Others, including big cities like Montreal and Quebec City with big, unionized workforces, are firmly behind the Quebec government proposal.

The tension continues to mount as parliamentary hearings on Bill 3 begin Aug. 20.

An association representing municipal police officers says members would not hesitate to “radicalize” or intensify their pressure tactics, without providing any specifics.

Denis Cote said his organization would be taking to social and traditional media through an ad campaign to garner public support.

“The objective of the municipalities is very simple: it’s to go get salary retroactively, and it’s not allowed,” Cote said.

Ranger says the unions plan to show at the hearings that the situation is not as dire as the government makes it and that union
experts peg the deficit at about $2 billion.

“Right now, the government is prepared to tear down all signed contracts and to treat defined benefit pension funds as if they were all in trouble,” Ranger said.

“We have 170 pension funds in Quebec right now and about 10 of them are in trouble, not all of them.”

Ranger said unions have shown a willingness to negotiate. He cites a recent contract with Montreal blue-collar workers where contributions were increased, the retirement age was pushed back and a special fund to deal with future shortfalls was set up.

The blue-collars currently have as many retirees – 5,500 – as they do active employees.

“We are aware we live longer and it costs more,” Ranger said.

READ MORE: Quebec’s municipal employees ready to go to Supreme Court

The provincial government says it wants Bill 3 adopted by year’s end. That would trigger legal battles that could end up at the Supreme Court of Canada, Ranger said.

The current battle is a test for the Liberals, who warned that tough economic decisions would have to be made when it came to power last April.
Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau was not available for an interview but said when the bill was introduced that there was no question of off-loading the costs onto Quebecers.

“In the past, no one took care of those deficits, and that’s the reason why we have the situation we’re trying to solve today,” Moreau said.

©2014The Canadian Press

Australian parents deny abandoning child with Down syndrome in Thailand – National

SYDNEY, Australia – An Australian couple denied they had abandoned their son with his Thai surrogate after learning he had Down syndrome, saying in an interview broadcast on Sunday that the woman demanded she be allowed to keep the boy.

Baby Gammy’s surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor with two young children of her own, had accused the boy’s biological parents, Wendy and David Farnell, of leaving her with the infant while taking his healthy twin sister, Pipah, back with them to Australia.

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HangZhou Night Net

“We did not abandon our son,” an emotional David Farnell said in an interview with Australia’s 60 Minutes.

“(Pattaramon) said that if we tried to take our little boy, she’s going to get the police and she’s going to try and take our little girl and she’s going to keep both of the babies,” he said.

READ MORE: Could a Canadian family abandon their baby carried by surrogate mom?

Pattaramon denied that she’d ever threatened to keep both children, but agreed that she hadn’t wanted the Farnells to take Gammy home.

“I did not allow Gammy to go back with them – that’s the truth,” she told The Associated Press on Sunday, apparently backtracking from her earlier accusation that the couple had abandoned the baby boy. “It is because they would have taken Gammy back and put him in an institute.”

The case, which has focused global attention on the largely unregulated surrogacy industry in Thailand, became even murkier when it emerged that David Farnell had been convicted in the 1990s of multiple sex offences against young girls. Farnell insisted Sunday that his daughter is not at risk of harm from him.

The Farnells had been trying for eight years to conceive when they approached a Thai surrogacy agency for help.

David Farnell, who has three children from a previous relationship, said the problems began when they found out before the twins’ birth in December that the boy would have Down syndrome. The couple was angry that the surrogacy agency had not conducted tests earlier that could have detected the condition, because by the time they found out, it was too late in the pregnancy to abort the fetus. Had they known earlier, they probably would have terminated the pregnancy, David Farnell said.

“I don’t think any parent wants a son with a disability,” he said. “Parents want their children to be healthy and happy.”

They expected the surrogacy agency to give them a refund and find a solution. That’s when the still-pregnant Pattaramon offered to keep Gammy, Farnell said.

“So we were thinking, oh, maybe – maybe – this might be OK,” he said.

When the babies were born, however, the Farnells said they realized they wanted to keep both. But Pattaramon then insisted she be allowed to keep Gammy, and threatened to keep Pipah as well, David Farnell said. The couple believes Pattaramon wanted to keep Gammy because male children are prized in Asian cultures.

The Farnells said they never went to any officials or contacted the Australian Embassy in Bangkok about Pattaramon’s alleged threat. They left Gammy and returned home to Western Australia state only with Pipah, they said, because their visa was running out.

READ MORE: Down syndrome baby boy abandoned by Australian parents in Thailand

They didn’t apply for a visa extension because they wanted to get Pipah to Australia to keep her away from Pattaramon, David Farnell said. Their plan was to fight to get their son back by going through the Australian authorities, he said.

In the six months they have been back in Australia, however, they have never contacted the authorities about their son, because they say they still feel their daughter is at risk of being taken back by Pattaramon. They have never called to check on Gammy’s welfare, and have contacted a liaison between themselves and Pattaramon only once, David Farnell said.

“It has been very stressing,” he said. “We miss our little boy. I come home from work some days and Wendy has dressed our little girl all in blue because she wants still to remember the little boy.”

Asked about his history as a sex offender, Farnell said he no longer feels any urges to sexually assault young girls and insisted Pipah would be safe in his care.

“I will do everything in the world to protect my little girl,” he said. “I have no inclination of doing anything like this. I don’t have any thoughts about this at all. That is the 100 per cent truth. I cannot do this again.”

Farnell rejected the suggestion that his predilection for young girls had influenced his decision to bring home his daughter and not his son.

“I’m actually ashamed you would say something like that,” a tearful Farnell said. “Honestly, there is no reason to be concerned. I’m not going to harm my little girl.”

“Everybody hates sex offenders – they’re the lowest form of people, not even worthy of breathing,” he added. “I know that. That’s why I’ve tried so hard and wanted to be a good father for my children so that at least the people can see that I am a good person now.”

The executive producer of “60 Minutes,” Tom Malone, said the Farnells were not paid for the interview, but acknowledged that the program had made a donation to a charity raising money for Gammy’s care.

©2014The Canadian Press

Woman scales barbed-wire fence at Halifax airport, tries to stop plane from taking off

HALIFAX – The Halifax International Airport Authority said it will conduct a review of its security systems after a 37-year-old woman scaled the perimeter fence.

Airport spokesperson Peter Spurway said around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, it became apparent a person had jumped the fence around the air field.

“It was down along the hangar line, away from the terminal building,” he said about the area that was breached.

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Spurway said the individual got into the air field and was spotted almost immediately by people in the air traffic control tower.

He then said airport employees in the area apprehended the person and held the individual until RCMP arrived.

RCMP spokesperson Al LeBlanc said a 37-year-old Fall River woman was arrested.

He said she sustained minor injuries from climbing the fence, did not resist police and was taken to hospital for a medical assessment.

“Her intent was to stop the plane. My understanding is she believed her partner was on an aircraft. We determined that was not the case,” he said.

“It’s an unusual incident to say the least. In all my years of policing, I’ve never heard of such an incident.”

Spurway said there are cameras in the area and there is a fence about three metres high with barb wire on the top. There are also infrared sensors and motion detectors.

“It is a bit of a feat to get over this thing,” he said. “That takes some doing.”

When asked whether the individual could have been spotted while climbing the fence, Spurway said it was possible the person, while climbing, was blocked by a building that was along the fence.

Spurway adds the incident is an extremely rare occurrence but the airport authority will be re-evaluating its security systems.

“We will take a look at details of the incident once we do our own investigation and see if there is something that needs to be done, whether the security around that area of the fence needs to be enhanced in any way. And if need be, we will do that.”

Spurway said there was a small aircraft in the vicinity during the incident but it was rerouted.

He said the woman was not in any danger, however he emphasizes the severity of the situation.

“It is not a safe place for people to be if they are not authorized to be there or do not understand the dangers of the place. Air fields are inherently hazardous with aircraft moving.”

Spurway defended the airport’s security systems.

“Do you need to be concerned? I don’t think so. The people who need to be concerned are people who go onto the air field unauthorized.”

“As for the security of the air field, it is secure. That’s why we’ll go back and look at this particular area and see if there were any issues.”

RCMP say the woman will not face any charges.

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