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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

Police investigating torched cars in west-end Toronto – Toronto

Watch above: What are police saying after multiple arsons in a west-end neighbourhood? Mark Carcasole reports

TORONTO – Police are investigating after eight cars were torched in west-end Toronto overnight.

Fire crews responded to a used car lot on Toro Road near Finch Ave. W. and Keele St. just after 2:30 a.m to find several vehicles engulfed in flames.

No injuries were reported and there’s no word yet on any arrests.

Andy O’Connor, the owner of nearby business Gottesman Signs, said area residents are used to crime.

“I’m not surprised at all. Not in this neighbourhood,” he said. “A lot of that stuff goes down here.  We’ve had cars on fire behind our shop before, we’ve had cars broken into and smashed up.”

The incident comes a day after several other cars were set on fire in the Jane St. and Wilson Ave. area early Sunday morning.

However police weren’t willing to link the two incidents.

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Firefighters were called to a number of homes where crews found the vehicles in flames on some driveways.

Police say a total of seven cars were damaged. Anyone with information is urged to call police.

Meanwhile, investigators are still on the search for an arsonist that destroyed multiple vehicles in an upscale Toronto neighbourhood in May.

Police have released a security video of a “person of interest” in the case.

Spain imports experimental Ebola drug to treat priest – National

MADRID, Spain – Spain has imported a U.S.-made experimental Ebola drug to treat a Spanish missionary priest evacuated from Liberia last week after testing positive for the killer virus.

The Health Ministry announced Monday that the ZMapp drug, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego, was obtained in Geneva this weekend and brought to Madrid to treat Miguel Pajares. The 75-year-old priest was placed in isolation Thursday at Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital.

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There is no known cure or licensed treatment for Ebola, which has killed more than 1,000 people in the current outbreak in West Africa. The World Health Organization has called the Ebola outbreak – which emerged in Guinea in March and has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and possibly Nigeria – an international health emergency and urged nations worldwide to donate resources to battle the disease.

READ MORE: Ebola outbreak disrupts business and hurts local economy

The ethical questions surrounding experimental Ebola drugs and vaccines were being debated Monday during a teleconference of medical ethicists and other experts organized by the U.N. health agency.

Two Americans diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia and evacuated back to the United States have been treated with the drug. One of them, Dr. Kent Brantly, said last week that his condition was improving and the husband of the aid worker being treated with Brantly said the same thing. Both are in isolation at an Atlanta hospital.

Spain said it obtained permission from the laboratory developing the drug and, under an agreement between WHO and the Doctors Without Borders charity group, imported the drug from Geneva where it said a dose had been available. The ministry said Spain sought the drug under legislation permitting use of unauthorized medication in patients suffering from a life-threatening illness who cannot be treated satisfactorily with any authorized drug.

READ MORE: Won’t be the last time patient tested for Ebola, hospital official

Despite Spain’s statement, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told The Associated Press on Monday that the U.N. agency had no role in helping Spain obtain the experimental drug.

At least one country in West Africa has expressed interest in the experimental drug. Nigeria’s health minister, Onyenbuchi Chukwu, said last week he had asked U.S. health officials about access but was told the manufacturer would have to agree.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “there are virtually no doses available,” a CDC spokesman said last week, before the announcement that Spain was also using the drug.

Because the ZMapp drug has never been tested in humans, scientists say there’s no way to tell if it has made any difference to the two American aid workers who have so far received it.

The drug is a mixture of three antibodies engineered to recognize Ebola and bind to infected cells so the immune system can kill them. Scientists culled antibodies from laboratory mice and ZMapp’s maker now grows the antibodies in tobacco plants and then purifies them. It takes several months to even produce a modest amount of the drug.

READ MORE: Nigeria declares national state of emergency over Ebola

Nigerian health authorities, meanwhile, confirmed another Ebola case Monday, a nurse who was treating Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who flew into the country with the disease and died of it last month. That brings the locally confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria to 10, including two who have died, Sawyer and another nurse. Nigerian authorities have 177 contacts of Sawyer now under surveillance.

WHO has not yet confirmed the Ebola cases in Nigeria.

©2014The Canadian Press

Ukraine crisis: Rocket attack leads to mass jail breakout – National

DONETSK, Ukraine – Rockets slammed into a high-security prison Monday in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, igniting a riot that allowed more than 100 prisoners to flee, authorities in eastern Ukraine said.

Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky said a direct rocket hit killed at least one inmate and left three others severely wounded. In the chaos, he said 106 prisoners escaped, included some jailed for murder, robbery and rape.

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In the past week Ukrainian government forces have intensified their military operations and surrounded Donetsk, the largest city in rebel-held eastern Ukraine. Exchanges of rocket fire and deaths from shelling have become a feature of daily life and hundreds of thousands have chosen to flee.

The prison break became possible after a substation providing the building with electricity was damaged, disabling the facility’s alarm system.

“Extremely dangerous prisoners are now free. It is hard to know the extent of threat this poses to the city, which is flooded with weapons,” Rovinsky said.

Rebels routinely accuse government forces of using heavy artillery in their campaign to retake Donetsk.

But Ukrainian security spokesman Andriy Lysenko blamed the prison strike on separatist fighters.

“Bandits in Donetsk shelled residential quarters and correctional facility No. 124,” he said.

Prisoners said the rocket hit their building late Sunday night.

“At around 10 p.m., after lights went out and the prisoners began heading to their sleeping quarters, a rocket hit this place,” said one prisoner, who gave his name as Vova Kordemansky. “Nobody was in this room, but one guy downstairs had his head blown off.”

Officials with Ukraine’s state penitentiary service said later Monday that 34 prisoners had returned to the jail. It was not immediately possible to verify that claim.

One of the prisoners who had apparently returned to the prison told The Associated Press that inmates were forced to flee to avoid incoming rockets, but were apprehended in a nearby neighbourhood.

Both Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian rebels who want independence for their eastern region have deployed heavy and often imprecise weapons in the battle that began in April. Apartments and other civilian buildings have frequently been hit, adding to the mounting death toll among civilians.

Rovinsky said Monday at least 10 homes, shops and garages were hit by overnight rockets. He added that 20,000 people had no electricity in Donetsk and an estimated 400,000 have fled the city, which had a pre-war population of 1 million. Many shops have closed and supplies are dwindling at the few still open.

Local authorities have attempted to continue providing basic services, such as trash removal and a skeleton bus service.

The Ukrainians army’s strategy has focused on encircling Donetsk and nearby rebel towns and breaking off road links with other separatist towns and villages further east, closer to the Russian border.

Many of those in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine distrust the new central government in Kyiv, which came to power after the February ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych, whose power base was in eastern Ukraine.

Fighting began a month after Russia annexed Ukraine’s peninsula of Crimea in March.

Associated Press writer Peter Leonard in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

Illegal parking next to Toronto fire hydrants a cash cow for the city – Toronto

ABOVE: How has this one fire hydrant made the City of Toronto almost $300,000?

OTTAWA – It’s the street equivalent of a desert mirage, an elusive piece of prime parking real estate that, for some strange reason, everyone else just happened to miss.

Eventually, however, a telltale slip of paper tucked beneath a windshield wiper offers an explanation: you parked in front of a fire hydrant.

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Maybe it was an honest mistake. Or maybe you thought you could slip in and out before your illegal parking job caught the attention of a passing bylaw officer. Either way, now you’ve been hit with a hefty fine.

And as it turns out, some hydrants seem to be more tempting – and more costly – than others.

In Toronto, one hydrant stands above the rest. People are fined so often for parking in front of it that on Google’s Street View, a white Toyota can be seen with a yellow slip under its wiper blade as a parking-enforcement officer walks away.

Since 2008, cars that parked too close to the hydrant at 393 University Ave. have been ticketed 2,962 times. Those fines add up to $289,620 – more than any other hydrant in the city.

So, why is this one particular hydrant such a cash cow for the city? There are a few possible explanations. It’s right by the courthouse and near a major downtown intersection. The hydrant itself is in the middle of a busy sidewalk set back some distance from the street, and it would be easy enough for drivers to miss. No markings on the street make it obvious that the spot is off-limits.

Anthony Fabrizi, the city’s manager of parking ticket operations, says the hydrant needs to be a certain distance from the street so pumper trucks can park there.

“There’s lots of logic to the madness when you see behind the scenes,” Fabrizi said.

The fire hydrant located at 393 University Avenue in Toronto is pictured on Thursday, August 7, 2014.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

In Toronto, the fine for parking within three metres of a fire hydrant is $100. It used to be $30 until the city hiked the fine in early 2008.

A Canadian Press analysis of Toronto’s parking-ticket data found the city has collected more than $24 million since 2008 by fining people who parked too close to hydrants.

Fabrizi says all parking fines, including those from parking next to hydrants, add up to $80 million a year.

That may seem like a big number, but Fabrizi says it only represents about one per cent of the money needed to run all of the city’s programs.

“The amount of revenue that parking generates is so minuscule compared to the overall revenue that it really doesn’t serve a great purpose as a revenue generator.”

About half the revenue from parking tickets pays for parking enforcement and operations, he added.

“Parking is a bit of a funny business in terms of budgeting,” Fabrizi said.

“We have to budget in terms of firm numbers the costs associated with enforcing parking. So we know that there’s about a $50-million cost … so that is a $50-million budget that has to be paid even if no parking tickets were issued.

“Historically, we see that parking tickets and fines, once it goes through the courts, generate about $80 million a year. So the program pays for itself and then there’s a little bit of a margin, about $30 million extra.”

Most parking tickets in Toronto are handed out to people who let their parking meters expire or who park in no-parking areas. Tickets for parking too close to fire hydrants only accounted for 1.45 per cent of all parking infractions last year.

While the hydrant at 393 University Ave. is by far the city’s golden goose, many others are also quite lucrative.

At 33 Elmhurst Ave., a hydrant lurks in the shadow of a large condo building in North York. Vehicles that parked there have been ticketed 2,253 times since 2008, with fines totalling $207,030.

A nearby federal government building may explain all the parking tickets. The Joseph Shepard building houses branches of Passport Canada, a Canadian Forces recruiting centre and several other federal departments.

If you’re visiting Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, don’t park in front of the fire hydrant at 113 Merton St. This unassuming hydrant, tucked between two trees, is the city’s third most-ticketed spot, with 2,165 fines handed out amounting to $212,300.

The city also tracks the province or state on the licence plates of people who get fined for parking too close to hydrants. Not surprisingly, almost every ticketed vehicle had Ontario plates. Drivers with Quebec plates were a distant second, followed by visitors from New York and Alberta.

But pity the two poor drivers with Hawaiian plates, who came a long way only to get busted for parking in front of hydrants.

TOP 10 most lucrative Toronto hydrants:

1. 393 University Ave., $289,620
2. 112 Merton St., $212,300
3. 33 Elmhurst Ave., $207,030
4. 56 The Esplanade, $191,110
5. 5519 Yonge St., $173,330
6. 99 Atlantic Ave., $163,760
7. 361 University Ave., $152,530
8. 43 Elm St., $152,220
9. 5100 Yonge St., $145,310
10. 6 Spring Garden Ave., $131,110

Source: City of Toronto

How Canadians are avoiding paying taxes on tax-free savings accounts

OTTAWA – A tricky rule keeps tripping up thousands of Canadians who make withdrawals from their tax-free savings accounts, and replace the money too early.

Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) allow Canadians age 18 and over to save money in a certain dollar amount each calendar year. Federal benefits and credits aren’t impacted, and all income earned and withdrawn is generally tax-free, as long as you follow the rules.

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Some 54,700 taxpayers got warning packages from the Canada Revenue Agency earlier this year about the problem affecting the 2013 taxation year, and were told they face a penalty.

The number has been dropping steadily from a peak of 103,000 in 2010, but still represents a persistent misunderstanding of TFSA rules even as the agency and financial institutions step up education measures.

The regulations say that account holders can put back the amounts they withdraw from a TFSA only in a later calendar year. Doing so in the same calendar year exposes them to a tax hit for overcontributions, even though they’re only replacing the withdrawn funds.

By the end of 2013, some 10.7 million Canadians had opened a TFSA, a savings vehicle introduced by the Conservative government in 2009 that allows money to grow inside tax-free with no income-tax hit on withdrawal.

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The popular savings tool cost the federal treasury some $410 million in forgone taxes in 2013, or more than a billion dollars over its first five years.

Some taxpayers are apparently slow to absorb the finicky withdrawal rule: this year 11,260 of them got the same warning package from the Canada Revenue Agency last year as well, figures provided by CRA show.

As of the end of last month, the agency had waived penalties for more than 17,000 Canadians who broke the rule in 2012. The average penalty waived was $516, or a total of almost $9 million.

And for the 2013 taxation year, more than 20,000 Canadians have already paid their penalties.

Taxpayers who received a TFSA warning package in the mail this summer were given 60 days to respond. Those who don’t respond get a notice of assessment, imposing a penalty.

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A spokesman for the agency said the onus is on Canada’s banks and other financial institutions to make sure their customers know the rules.

“As with any financial or investment product, financial institutions have a responsibility to inform their clients of the details and restrictions relating to TFSAs,” said Philippe Brideau.

“The CRA continues to work very closely with the financial institutions to ensure that CRA information related to TFSA is well understood and known by the Canadian financial sector.”

Brideau noted that fewer than half a per cent of TFSA holders ran afoul of the rules in 2013.

The current maximum annual contribution to a tax-free savings account is $5,500, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to double the maximum once the federal books are balanced, expected next year in advance of the scheduled 2015 federal election.

A special analysis in 2012 by the Finance Department found that the savings vehicle is more popular among higher income and older Canadians.

©2014The Canadian Press

U.S. provides weapons to Kurds in fight against Islamic militants – National

WATCH: The U.S. is arming Kurdish fighters both directly and indirectly as they battle ISIS militants in Northern Iraq. Craig Boswell has the latest

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, senior U.S. officials said Monday, but the aid has so far been limited to automatic rifles and ammunition.

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Previously, the U.S. sold arms in Iraq only to the government in Baghdad, some of which would be transferred to the Kurdish forces in the north. The Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to Islamic State militants in recent weeks, however.

The weapons appeared to be coming through intelligence agencies covertly and not through regular Defence Department channels.

The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. A Kurdish official said the weapons were coming from “U.S. intelligence agencies,” and a senior Pentagon official said the Defence Department may yet get involved. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations.

READ MORE: Ottawa earmarks $5 million for Iraq aid

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

The move to directly aid the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State militants’ gains in the north, and reflects the persistent administration view that the Iraqis must take the necessary steps to solve their own security problems.

To bolster that effort, the administration is also very close to approving plans for the Pentagon to arm the Kurds, a senior official said. In recent days, the U.S. military has been helping facilitate weapons deliveries from the Iraqis to the Kurds, providing logistical assistance and transportation to the north.

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But the Kurdish government official said Monday the U.S. weapons being directly sent to Irbil – a northern Iraqi city where U.S. personnel are based and where Islamic State militants are advancing on Kurdish forces – are very limited in scope and number, and mostly consist of light arms like AK-47s and ammunition.

He said the American lethal aid is still not enough to battle the militants, even though Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces were supplemented with similar munitions from Baghdad over the weekend.

READ MORE: Thousands of minority Yazidis flee from Iraq to Syria to escape

The State Department sought to downplay the significance of the apparent shift in U.S. policy.

The militants have “obtained some heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms and we’re providing those – there’s nothing new here,” said department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

She said the U.S. was working with Baghdad to speed up deliveries of “badly needed arms” to Kurdish forces in the north. The Iraqi government, she said, “has made deliveries from its own stocks and we are working to do the same.”

READ MORE: Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM

The additional assistance comes as Kurdish forces on Sunday took back two towns from the Islamic insurgents, aided in part by U.S. airstrikes in the region. President Barack Obama authorized the airstrikes to protect U.S. interests and personnel in the region, including at facilities in Irbil, as well as Yazidi refugees fleeing militants.

U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to reporters in Sydney, where he is attending an Asian defence ministers meeting, said the airstrikes “have been very effective from all the reports that we’ve received on the ground.” He declined to detail how or when the U.S. might expand its assistance to Iraq, or if military assessment teams currently in Baghdad would be moving to a more active role advising the Iraqi forces.

Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

Israel-Gaza ceasefire holds as negotiators resume talks in Cairo – National

ABOVE: Civilians on both sides of Israel/Gaza conflict apprehensive as latest cease-fire holds

CAIRO, Egypt – An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire halting the Gaza war held into Monday morning, allowing Palestinians to leave homes and shelters as negotiators agreed to resume talks in Cairo.

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  • New 72-hour ceasefire accepted by Palestinian negotiators in Gaza conflict

  • Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza, rockets fired toward Israel after truce ends

  • Ottawa refuses to let injured Gaza children into Canada for treatment

  • Hamas says Gaza war not over until demands met

The truce took effect just after midnight (2101 GMT), preceded by heavy rocket fire toward Israel. In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the cease-fire would allow humanitarian aid into battered Gaza neighbourhoods and the reopening of indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.

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

On Monday morning, high school students in Gaza filed the streets as they headed off to pick up their graduation certificates after the Education Ministry said they’d be ready. People waited to buy fuel for generators as power and communication workers struggled to fix cables damaged in the fighting. Long lines formed at ATMs.

In Cairo, negotiators said talks would resume at 11 a.m. (0800 GMT) Monday. The four-member Israeli delegation arrived at Cairo International Airport earlier that morning.

The monthlong war, pitting the Israeli military against rocket-firing Hamas militants, has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers, officials there say.

The fighting ended in a three-day cease-fire last Tuesday. Egypt had hoped to use that truce to mediate a long-term deal. But when it expired, militants resumed their rocket fire, sparking Israeli reprisals. The violence continued throughout the weekend, including a burst of fighting late Sunday ahead of the expected cease-fire.

READ MORE: Israelis army says 2 rockets fired from Gaza hours ahead of cease-fire’s end, no casualties

Last week’s talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas’ demand for a complete end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, enforced by Egypt and Israel. Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people for jobs and schooling. It has also limited the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports. Unemployment there is more than 50 per cent.

PLO member comments on latest Israel-Hamas 72-hour ceasefire

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PLO member comments on latest Israel-Hamas 72-hour ceasefire

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Explosion on Gaza skyline as Israel accepts Egyptian ceasefire proposal

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Israel, Hamas reignite fighting after recent ceasefire

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Israel-Gaza conflict: Will temporary ceasefire hold?

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Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds as talks continue

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Israel-Gaza: Three-day ceasefire lasts 90 minutes




Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian delegation member, said he was optimistic ahead of Monday’s talks.

“We hope to reach a deal within the 72 hours, based on ending the blockade and opening the crossings,” Salhi said.

Israeli officials had walked away from negotiations over continued fire from Gaza. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday, warning that his country’s military campaign “will take time.”

The current Gaza war escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank. Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Peter Enav in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

Dog walker Emma Paulsen charged with six offences

VANCOUVER — Langley dog walker Emma Paulsen has been charged with six offences under the Criminal Code of Canada and the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after allegedly leaving six dogs in the back of her truck, where they all died from apparent heatstroke.

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“This is a situation which is precedent setting. We are very pleased at Crown’s decision to approve charges under pretty much every single possible section of animal cruelty that could have been in this particular case,” Marcie Moriarty of the SPCA, told Global News.

The charges under the Criminal Code include killing or injuring an animal, causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal, failing to provide adequate care to the dogs and mischief. The Crown also invoked a newer preventative section of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act – enacted in 2012 – which makes it an offence to fail to provide adequate care to an animal.

Moriarty said a case of this scope – both in terms of the charges and the type tragedy – hasn’t been seen before in Canada.

Global News reported previously that Paulsen had apparently left the six animals under her care in the back of her truck in May of this year, when she went into a store to run an errand. When she returned, they had all died. Paulsen then panicked and allegedly concocted a story about the dogs being stolen, which led to an almost week-long search for the animals.

“It’s a catastrophic tragedy she will regret for the rest of her life,” Paulsen’s mother told Global News earlier this year.

For the dogs’ owners, the news of the charges is what they’ve been waiting to hear. “It’s good news that justice will be served against her for what she put everybody through,” Amber Williams, an owner of one of the dogs, told Global News.

“I don’t think it really gets any easier because they suffered and that’s the part I don’t think I’ll ever get past,” said Jennifer Myers, who owned Buddy.

If convicted, Paulsen faces up to five years in jail, a fine of $75,000 and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

–With files from Kristen Robinson and Paula Baker.

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Longest game in Blue Jays history ends with walk-off single

TORONTO – Jose Bautista made the most of his second chance.

The Toronto Blue Jays slugger grounded out weakly with the bases loaded in the 13th inning Sunday, missing the chance to play hero against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre.

But when the opportunity came up again – six innings later – Bautista came through, hitting an opposite field single over the head of a drawn in outfield in the 19th to score Munenori Kawasaki as the Blue Jays capped the longest game in team history with a come-from-behind 6-5 win.

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“I was just trying to see a pitch up in the zone and drive it into the outfield,” Bautista said in a quiet but jubilant Blue Jays clubhouse.

“I got lucky that I connected well enough…Obviously it was a great win for us.”

It was the second straight extra inning walkoff victory for the Blue Jays (63-56) after the Tigers (62-53) won the series opener on Friday night by scoring three runs in the ninth to win 5-4.

“We had a long day today. We battled through a lot of things,” Bautista said. “Coming out on top at the end of the day is the only thing that matters and we were able to do it.”

The Blue Jays bullpen was superb, holding the heavy-hitting Tigers scoreless over the final 15-2/3 innings after veteran starter Mark Buehrle was pulled with Toronto down 5-0 and one out in the Detroit fourth.

“They did a great job, kept us in the ball game,” said centrefielder Colby Rasmus, who made two great catches in extra innings to keep the Tigers off the board. “It was huge…Thankfully we were able to push one across there. It was a grind all day.”

At six hours and 37 minutes, and 19 innings, it was the longest game in Blue Jays history both in terms of duration and the number of innings.

Chad Jenkins (1-1) was the last of Toronto’s eight pitchers on the day, giving up seven hits over six scoreless innings in his longest outing of the year.

“Exhausted,” was how Jenkins summed up his feelings post game, adding that he would not have been able to come out and pitch another inning if the Blue Jays hadn’t scored the winner in the 19th.

“I was running low on fumes,” said Jenkins, who noted that he had a couple of starts at Triple-A Buffalo go into a sixth inning – but that was earlier in the season.

Jenkins paid tribute to the thousands among the sellout crowd of 46,126 who stayed and cheered a game that was both one inning, and 39 minutes, longer than the Blue Jays had ever played before.

“For the fans who sat through all of it, thank you, that was awesome,” Jenkins said. “It’s really exciting to look up and see it’s 7:30 and there’s still people here cheering, going crazy, going nuts. It made it so much better.”

Both teams had their chances to end it sooner.

The Blue Jays had several glorious chances. But Juan Francisco in the ninth and 15th innings, and Bautista in the 13th, failed to produce the winning run with the bases loaded.

The Blue Jays left 24 runners on base.

The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the 16th but Jenkins coaxed a double play from Torii Hunter to keep it 5-5. Detroit left 19 runners on base.

“Despite the fact that both teams were bending at times, they weren’t breaking until the bottom of the 19th,” said Detroit manager Brad Ausmus, who was ejected in the middle of the third inning for arguing.

In the Jays 19th, Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello (13-7), normally a starter, intentionally walked Melky Cabrera to load the bases with none out to set the stage for Toronto’s the second straight walkoff win.

Kawasaki, who trotted in with the winning run as the ball bounced against the wall over a drawn in outfield, started the inning with a single. He moved to third when Porcello fielded Jose Reyes’ sacrifice bunt but threw the ball away.

On Saturday, the Blue Jays tied it in the ninth and then won it in the 10th.

“It doesn’t really matter (how). All that matters is the two wins,” said Bautista.

Down 5-0, the Blue Jays scored two in the sixth on Dioner Navarro’s ninth home run off Detroit starter David Price and added another pair in the seventh. Reyes made it 5-5 with two out in the ninth with an RBI single, making up for a first inning error that opened the door for three unearned Detroit runs.

Toronto now hits the road for eight games over the next 10 days beginning Monday night in Seattle.

Notes: After the game the Blue Jays optioned infielder Ryan Goins to Triple-A Buffalo and called up reliever Brad Mills.

©2014The Canadian Press

Marc Emery returns to Canada this week – BC

VANCOUVER — Canada’s “Prince of Pot” is returning home after serving a five-year sentence in an American prison. Marc Emery, 56, was extradited in May of 2010, after pleading guilty to selling marijuana seeds from Canada to American customers. Authorities called his initial arrest – made almost a decade ago – a “significant blow” to the legalization movement.

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But since that time, the marijuana landscape has changed dramatically. In the United States, two U.S. states are now issuing recreational pot licences and 23 states have authorized marijuana as a medicinal treatment.

“All his work has come to fruition,” Jodie Emery, Marc’s wife, told Global News in a Skype interview.

She says the couple expects to be reunited on August 12, when Marc is set to be transferred by plane to Detroit from a Louisiana institution, where U.S. Marshalls will escort him to the Canadian border to cross into Windsor. From there, the Emerys will fly to Toronto on Wednesday morning and meet with media and their supporters before visiting relatives in Ontario. They expect to be back in Vancouver on August 17.

“Marc was probably the most well-known marijuana activist in the world even before he was extradited,” said Jodie. She says they have already been invited to Spain, Ireland and other countries to speak about reforming laws and also have a BC tour planned.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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