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February, 2019

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.

WATCH: U.S. Navy releases F-18 cockpit footage of anti-ISIS missions

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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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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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.