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June, 2019

Douglas Hales back in court after recent ‘Mr. Big’ ruling

SASKATOON – Accused killer Douglas Hales will be back in a Saskatoon courtroom Monday to find out if a recent ruling on “Mr. Big” sting operations will affect his case.

Hales, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Daleen Bosse, was arrested after RCMP officers posed as members of a criminal organization trying to recruit him in a “Mr. Big” sting operation.

Final arguments have been made in the case and a verdict was expected on Aug. 29.

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  • Douglas Hales back to court early over Mr. Big ruling

  • Lawyer for accused killer calls ‘Mr. Big’ ruling ‘an earthquake’

  • Stricter rules needed in ‘Mr. Big’ police stings: Supreme Court

Monday’s court appearance was ordered after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on July 31 that confessions extracted through sting operations must be presumed inadmissible in court.

Follow Meaghan Craig on 桑拿会所 for the latest from the hearing

The court said prosecutors must prove a “Mr. Big” confession is admissible by showing it’s reliable and that it won’t unfairly prejudice a crime suspect during court proceedings.

The Crown must also prove the confession was not obtained via police coercion or was facilitated due to a suspect’s mental health or addiction issues.

Bosse was last seen in May 2004 and her burned remains were found outside of Saskatoon in August 2008.

Hales was arrested on Aug. 10, 2008 and charged with first-degree murder and offering an indignity to a body.

During closing arguments, the Crown argued Hales killed the university student out of rage when she mocked his sexual impotence.

Hales lawyer contended Bosse died of alcohol poisoning and he then burned her body out of panic, believing he would be charged with murder since he provided her with alcohol.

With files from Meaghan Craig and The Canadian Press

Iraq president names deputy speaker new PM – National

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s new president on Monday snubbed the powerful incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and nominated the deputy parliament speaker to form the new government, raising fears of more infighting in the government as country faces the threat of Sunni militants in the north.

In a televised address Fouad Massoum gave Haider al-Ibadi, who was selected by a coalition of Shiite political parties, 30 days to form a new government and present it to parliament for approval.

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The ceremony came hours after the embattled al-Maliki delivered a surprise speech at midnight accusing the Massoum of blocking his reappointment as prime minister and carrying out “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

READ MORE: As Iraq gets new president, car bomb kills 21

Al-Maliki’s Dawa party then issued a televised statement rejecting the new nominee, saying he did not have the support of the party.

“Al-Ibadi represents only himself,” said party spokesman Khalaf Abdul-Samad surrounded by stone-faced party members, including al-Maliki.

Al-Ibadi, who pledged to form a government to “protect the Iraqi people,” was nominated for the post by the Iraqi National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that includes al-Maliki’s.

The powerful Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose movement controls dozens of seats in parliament, expressed his support for al-Ibadi’s nomination, describing it as the “first sign” the country was headed back to safety.

“I think that this nomination will be an important start in order to end the crisis that the people are undergoing such as security and service problems,” he said in a statement.

Al-Ibadi is a British-educated lawmaker with a background in electrical engineering and a member of al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party. He has been closely involved in previous governments.

Critics say al-Maliki, a Shiite, has contributed to the crisis facing the country by monopolizing power and pursuing a sectarian agenda that alienated the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Al-Ibadi’s nomination came hours after al-Maliki deployed his elite security forces in the streets of Baghdad, partially closed two main streets – popular spots for pro and anti-government rallies – as hundreds of his supporters took to the streets, raising fears that he might use force to stay in power.

“We are with you, al-Maliki,” they shouted, waving posters of the incumbent premier, singing and dancing.

Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker with the Sadrist movement, cautioned the military, which includes units directly loyal to al-Maliki, not to intervene.

“The security forces and government bodies belong to the Iraqi people, and they should not interfere in politics,” he said when asked whether al-Maliki might use force to stay in power.

The new political crisis in Baghdad has raised concerns abroad.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands “absolutely squarely behind President Massoum,” and called for restraint. “There should be no use force, no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

Kerry said a new government “is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” and that “our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The U.N. special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Iraq’s “special forces should refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority.”

Britain, the U.S., the EU and neighbouring Turkey have all sent messages of support over al-Ibadi’s nomination.

Also Monday, senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration, which launched airdrops and airstrikes last week to support Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling militants from the Islamic State group, has begun directly providing weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga forces who have started to make gains against the al-Qaida breakaway group that controls much of the north.

U.S. airstrikes have reinvigorated Iraqi Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State and on Sunday, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters retook two towns – Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometres) from the Kurdish capital of Irbil – from the Sunni militants in what was one of their first victories after weeks of retreat.

The successes, however, were balanced out by news of a defeat in the far eastern Diyala province where Kurdish forces were driven out of the town of Jalula after fierce fighting against Sunni militants.

The militants blasted their way into the town at midnight using a truck bomb followed up with several suicide bombers on foot, said a police officer and a army official, adding that at least 14 Kurdish fighters were killed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The move to directly arm the Kurds underscores the level of U.S. concern about the Islamic State’s gains. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

The militant advances and the political turmoil has deepened Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 Iraqis recently joining the 1.5 million people already displaced from violence this year.

The U.S. also announced the deployment of a disaster response team to Iraq help distribute humanitarian aid to those forced from their homes in the fresh wave of violence in the country’s north.


Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Sydney contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

Montreal Pride kicks off, inspired by the colour orange – Montreal

MONTREAL — One of Montreal’s more colourful festivals kicks of on Monday.

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The 8th edition of Montreal Pride runs until Sunday and features more than 80 scheduled events, including free shows at Place Émilie-Gamelin, Pride Day at La Ronde, movies under the stars, the infamous pink dot gathering, and a three-act American opera presented by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s Maestro Kent Nagano.

Montreal Pride is held every year to showcase the diversity and vitality of the LGBT community while raising awareness of inequalities that continue to exist in Quebec and around the world.

“In 77 countries, the mere fact of being an LGBT person is punishable by fines, corporal punishment, imprisonment or even death,” said the president of Montreal Pride, Eric Pineault, in a statement.

“As long as we do not all have legal and social equality, we will continue our mission to work for better future.”

Montreal’s Pride’s flagship events, presented by Viagra, are scheduled for Saturday, August 16, and Sunday, August 17.

The second colour of the rainbow flag is the theme colour for 2014 Montreal Pride.

File / AP Photo

Every year, the highlight of the festival, the 30th annual pride march, is inspired by a colour of the rainbow flag. This year, orange, the flag’s second colour, has inspired the theme of Montreal Pride 2014: “Our Flag, Our Fire.”

WHO seeks expert advice on the ethics of using experimental Ebola drugs – National

TORONTO – On Monday experts from around the world will converge, by telephone, to try to chart a path through a mine field of ethical issues related to the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The experts – ethicists and representatives of the affected countries and other players involved in the outbreak – are meeting at the request of the World Health Organization to debate whether it is ethical to use experimental Ebola therapies in this epidemic.

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Most of the treatment options, including the one given recently to two American aid workers, have never been tested in humans. Studies in Ebola-infected primates provide the strongest clues of whether these potential drugs and candidate vaccines might work on people and whether they are safe for people to use.

The ethical questions are thorny, especially given the number of available doses or treatment courses is vanishingly small – nowhere near enough to make a dent in an outbreak that has already claimed close to 1,000 lives. Nearly 40 per cent of all known Ebola deaths ever have occurred in this outbreak, which is far from over.

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

“You have experimental products which have never even been used in humans, in healthy volunteers. And in addition, there is very, very little of it. So what do you do with it?” Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s assistant director general for health systems and innovation, says in describing the dilemmas the ethics panel will be asked to help the WHO work through.

“Of course it should be used but for whom and how? I think you could make a case that if they are to be used, they should be used also in a condition where it is possible to learn as much as possible from their use.”

Researchers have been trying to develop Ebola drugs and vaccines for years. But even the most promising projects eventually run up against what has been an intractable problem: The only way to know if a vaccine prevents Ebola infection or a drug cures it is to use it in an outbreak. The idea of using in Africa drugs for which there is little or no human safety data makes many people shudder.

“You need to reassure the governments and the regulators in these countries that you are not just taking their citizens and using them to do research,” Kieny insists.

Dr. Ross Upshur, former director of the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics, says the idea of using experimental drugs needs sober reflection.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about the experimental Ebola drug

“Trust me, I am no friend of Ebola,” says Upshur, now a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “But taking whatever might be out in however many labs around the world and starting to stick them into people without a good clear (study) protocol, without informed consent, without regulatory oversight would be foolish.”

“We need to … be really clearheaded about this, because it will also be precedent setting.”

Many of the questions the panel will debate will inform decisions that will need to be taken down the road. Right now there is almost nothing to distribute, people familiar with the various research projects say. Making experimental drugs or vaccines is expensive business, and the laboratories and biotech companies doing this type of early research only produce tiny batches.

Take for example the therapy used by Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies that attack proteins on the surface of the Ebola virus.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the company behind the product, has “fewer than a handful” of treatment courses left of the drug, called ZMapp, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Another source is more specific, saying that after Brantly and Writebol were treated, there was only enough drug left for three people.

“So this idea about (opening) the cupboard: There’s no cupboard right now. That’s like a moot point about distributing it because there’s very, very little,” Fauci insists.

It is estimated that making another batch of ZMapp could take three to four months. “This is something so new and experimental it (production) has not been scaled up,” says Kieny.

Another potential option for compassionate use is a therapy called TKM-Ebola, made by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals of Burnaby, B.C.

The drug binds to the RNA of the Ebola virus, blocking its ability to make disease causing proteins. It has been given to some healthy human volunteers. But the study was suspended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of concerns over what has been described as a safety signal when the drug was given at high doses.

Last week the FDA partially lifted that hold, potentially allowing the drug to be used in the outbreak. Tekmira President Dr. Mark Murray said the company would be willing to assist in any responsible use of the drug. But the company will not disclose how many doses of TKM-Ebola it has on hand, or how long it will take to make more.

Prior to the emergency use of ZMapp, most experts argued that experimental drugs could not be used safely in this outbreak. There is too much panic and hostility among people in affected communities, the argument went. Use of anything new, especially something injectable, would only fan the raging rumours that the response workers are spreading Ebola, not trying to treat it.

But since the Brantly-Writebol incident, opinion has shifted.

Three leading public health leaders – Dr. Jeremy Farrar, head of Britain’s Wellcome Trust, Dr. David Heymann, head of the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security in London, and Dr. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – argued last week in the Wall Street Journal that it is time to fast-track safety testing of the therapies in healthy volunteers in unaffected countries, so that drugs can be tested in African in this outbreak. They note the epidemic is likely to continue for months.

And that is probably the most optimistic timeline for having any product to test in Africa. Fauci says his organization plans to begin a Phase I clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine in September. Phase I trials involve giving something to a small number of healthy volunteers to see if it is safe. With a vaccine, a Phase I trial could also show if recipients developed Ebola antibodies.

“If it’s successful and if it’s safe and if it works, then we would hopefully be able to sometime in late 2015 have some to be able to give to health-care workers who are going to put themselves on the line,” says Fauci.

While more than a year away, that is lightening speed for a vaccine that hasn’t yet been given to people. Still, everyone hopes this outbreak will be over by then.

In the meantime, Kieny says, the WHO is exploring the possibility of helping the affected countries develop convalescent serum – blood from survivors which would contain Ebola antibodies – and hyperimmune globulin, a more concentrated antibody serum. Both these therapies are used for a variety of illnesses; hyperimmune globulin, for instance, is used to treat people who have been exposed to rabies.

“Neither convalescent serum nor hyperimmune globulins are there yet,” Kieny says. “But this is something that could be worked on and be available in the coming few months.”

STF mum on stripping authority from its president

SASKATOON – The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation won’t comment publicly on the reasons why a non-confidence motion was passed against its president Colin Keess, saying it’s an internal matter.

The executive of the STF passed a non-confidence motion on June 19 and on Aug. 1 passed another motion stripping Keess of all his duties and responsibilities.

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  • Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president stripped of authority

The matter came to light after the STF sent an email on Aug. 8 to over 12,000 teachers informing them of the action against Keess.

Keess said he has no idea why he was stripped of his authority.

“I have no idea what the ‘conduct as president’ refers to in the release, and I suppose I won’t until a proper process is followed and I hear the allegations,” said Keess in a statement released Sunday.

The STF says Keess is aware of what is transpiring. In a release Sunday evening, the STF executive said “public statements from Mr. Keess that he has ‘not a clue’ why this action has been taken are inaccurate.”

“Mr. Keess has been made aware of the basis of the motion of non-confidence. A further in-camera meeting has been scheduled for Mr. Keess to meet with the executive members in relation to this matter.”

STF goes on to say its members are expected to abide by established principle of executive conduct and policies and has no further plans to speak about the issue publicly at this time.