Chennai: Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth Thursday congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP is set to make a thumping return to power in the Lok Sabha elections. “Respected dear @narendramodi ji hearty congratulations… You made it!!! God bless”, the 69-year-old actor tweeted. The BJP alone is leading in 300 seats, according to the latest Election Commission statistics. Last year, Rajinikanth made a comment which appeared to back Modi, indicating the prime minister was a strong person. Also Read – ‘Will be acting till I die’ “When 10 persons go against one person, who is stronger? Those 10 or the person they are aligning against ? If 10 persons declared a war against one man, who is stronger?”, he had said when asked about the possibility of a grand opposition alliance to take on Modi. Asked if Modi was “stronger” and whether this was what he implied through his statement, the actor had said he “can’t be more clear”. Rajinikanth has already announced he will float his political party and contest all the 234 seats in the next Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, due in 2021. The popular actor, who has a large fan following, is yet to launch his party. Rajinikanth is touted to be inclined towards the BJP, with Modi himself meeting the veteran star on more than one occasion in the recent past, including once at his residence here. The critics of the actor have often claimed he is favourably disposed towards the saffron party.
New Delhi: The NHRC Saturday sent a notice to the Gujarat government over the fire tragedy in Surat in which 22 students died in a massive blaze at a commercial complex in Sarthana area of the city, officials said. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also observed that mere announcement of compensation to the aggrieved families cannot be a solution to such kind of hazards. Three of the 22 students who died in the fire in the ill-fated Takshila Complex on Friday had appeared for the Class 12 Board examinations and had cleared them comfortably, as per results that were declared Saturday. Also Read – Dussehra with a ‘green’ twist Among the dead, 18 are girls, the youngest being 15 years of age and the eldest just 22, police said. The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of the incident, it said in a statement. “Considering the incident as a grave violation of the human rights of the young students, the Commission has issued a notice to the chief secretary, government of Gujarat calling for a detailed report in the matter, including status of the criminal cases registered against the building owner and others found guilty, along with action taken against the public servants concerned,” the rights panel said. Also Read – India receives its first Rafale fighter jet from France In the response, the chief secretary has been asked to include the legal status of the building, its construction, fire fighting measures, fire safety clearance and relief granted to the grief stricken families, it said. “The Commission also expects that the best and free of cost treatment is provided by the state to the injured persons. Response from the state government is expected within four weeks,” the NHRC statement said. Issuing the notice, the NHRC has also observed that it has been constantly insisting the authorities to be more vigilant to avoid such tragic incidents. “Going by the media reports, it appears that there was no safe passage for the victims, which could have been used as a fire exit in case of the emergency. Mere announcement of compensation to the aggrieved families cannot be a solution to such kind of hazards,” the Commission observed. Several such incidents have occurred across the country where precious human lives have been lost due to negligence by the authorities and lack of fire department’s clearance, it added. While some of the students died of suffocation, many due to injuries sustained after jumping off windows to escape the fire. In a video clip of the incident, some young students at the Complex could be seen jumping off the third and fourth floors amid plumes of thick smoke. According to eye witnesses, at least 10 students had jumped out to save themselves from the blaze. The state government had ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident. As per media reports, the fire department officials reached the spot and deployed 19 fire trucks and two hydraulic platforms to douse the fire and evacuate the people trapped in the building, the NHRC said. “An inquiry into the matter has reportedly been ordered by the state government. Reportedly, Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased have been announced by the state government and as a precautionary measure all the tuition centres or coaching centres, etc, have been ordered to be closed in the area. The fire hazard checks are also being conducted in various places,” the statement said.
New Delhi: Human rights experts have suggested that a letter from the Prime Minister to chief ministers will help prioritise the issue of bonded and migrant labour. During an open house session hosted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), participants discussed the issue and felt that the root cause of this menace lies in the agrarian crisis, which needs to be addressed on priority in the country, a senior NHRC official said on Saturday. Also Read – Dussehra with a ‘green’ twist”It was also suggested that a letter from the prime minister to the chief ministers will help priorities this issue on the lines of mission mode campaigns, like the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan,” the NHRC said in a statement. NHRC Member Justice P C Pant said that a preventive approach is needed to end bonded labour, as it has acquired various “new forms and dimensions” with changing times and vocations since the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act was enacted in 1976. Also Read – India receives its first Rafale fighter jet from FrancePant said bonded labour contracts are not purely economic in India and these are reinforced by custom or coercion in many sectors such as agriculture, silk, mining, match production and brick kiln industries. He said that robust inter- state coordination mechanisms involving all ministries, agencies, trade unions and NGOs are required to address the issues of migrant workers, who may end up becoming bonded labour. D M Mulay, Member, NHRC, said that for the robust implementation of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, it will be necessary to increase the conviction rate of those involved in subjecting people to bonded labour to act as a deterrent. Jyotika Kalra, Member of the rights panel, said that the NHRC has been very proactive in taking cognisance of complaints related to bonded labour. She suggested that NGOs should try sending online complaints to the commission by geo-tagging photos showing bonded labour. Online complaints are easy for quick processing, monitoring and effective action to catch the culprits, she said. NHRC Secretary General Jaideep Govind said that the social and economic marginalisation of weaker sections and their inability to move out of their respective groups makes them particularly vulnerable to forced labour and human trafficking.
New Delhi: Representatives of trade unions Saturday pressed the government to raise the minimum wage to Rs 20,000, provide 200 days of assured work under the rural employment guarantee scheme and ensure minimum monthly pension of Rs 6,000. The unions during a pre-budget meeting also demanded hiking slabs for exemption of income tax for salaried persons and pensioners to Rs 10 lakh per year. They asked for Rs 8 lakh income tax slab for senior citizens and exemption of all perks and fringe benefits like housing, medical and education facilities and running allowances from income tax. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in SepBesides, the representatives of around a dozen central trade unions expressed their reservation against the privatisation and divestment in profit-making public sector undertakings and stressed on increasing investment for job creation in the pre-budget meeting with Minister of State for Finance & Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur. After the meeting, some of trade union leaders also expressed their unhappiness over the absence of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the meeting. Thakur chaired the meeting as Sitharaman had to attend the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council meeting held around the same time. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to CustomsAll India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur said, “Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had invited us for pre-budget consultations. But we had a discussion with Minister of State. They tried to limit the discussion on four broad points protection of labour, skill development, jobs and wages.” However, she said, “We, the 10 central trade unions group, put up all of our points. We have demanded for Rs 20,000 minimum wage, Rs 6,000 minimum monthly pension and guaranteed employment of 200 days under MNREGA (100 days at present).” She stressed that the government needs to make investments for creating jobs and stop divesting and privatising public sector undertakings as well as the implementation of fixed-term employment announced in the last budget. She also pointed out that the government had given no heed to their suggestions and demands in the budget last year. Indian National Congress Union Congress (INTUC) President G Sanjeeva Reddy said, “We have opposed the idea of giving profit being earned by the government to the private sector. We have opposed privatisation and divestment in profit-making PSUs. There is no such need. Reddy said, “There is a need for creating jobs at present. Besides we have opposed the consolidation of 44 labour laws into four codes. At present, individual labour laws are not being implemented.” In a statement, the Finance Ministry said that experts and representatives from various trade unions and labour organisations gave suggestions related to the alignment of skill development with aspirations of rural youth with a focus on agriculture; the need for strict enforcement of Minimum Wages Act and introduction of the comprehensive unemployment insurance scheme. They also asked for a revision of ITIs’ syllabus for enhancing employability; provision of social security for contract workers; and giving a boost to the capital intensive industry. Other demands included conversion of casual/contractual workers to formalised employment; fixation of minimum wages on the recommendation of 15th Indian Labour Conference; increase in allocations on social sector and basic essential services like health, education and food security; extension of MGNREGA to remaining all rural areas and introducing it in urban areas besides increasing number of workdays under the scheme to 200 days and creation of National Fund for Unorganised Workers to provide social security.
New Delhi: Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, actor Sunny Deol and Aam Aadmi Party’s lone MP Bhagwant Mann were among the leaders who took oath as members of 17th Lok Sabha on Tuesday. There was loud applause when BJP MP Om Birla, who is tipped to be the NDA’s nominee for Lok Sabha Speaker’s post, entered the House and later when he got up to take oath. IUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal and former Union ministers Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Preneet Kaur and Shashi Tharoor were also administered oath on the second day of the maiden session. Also Read – IAF receives its first Rafale fighter jet from France Dressed in jeans, white shirt and blazer, Deol took oath in English amid cheers and slogan of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ from the treasury benches. There was a slip of tongue by the BJP MP from Gurdaspur when he said “withhold the sovereignty and integrity of the country” instead of “uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the country”, but he quickly rectified it. There was some banter between Mann and members of treasury benches after he ended his oath with the slogan ‘Inqalab Zindabad’. Also Read – Cosmology trio win Nobel Physics Prize Badal concluded his oath with Sikh religious chant of ‘Wahe Guruji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guruji de Fateh”. Tharoor was absent on Monday when other members from Kerala, including Rahul Gandhi, took oath. Kaur, who is the wife of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, had a bandage on her forehead. Former Union minister P Chidambaram was sitting in the Speaker’s Gallery as his son Karti Chidambaram was to tak oath. The maiden session of 17th Lok Sabha commenced on Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari among the prominent members who took oath on the first day.
Under OIL Super 30, 74 students have cracked the IIT JEE (Advanced) this year. This is a remarkable achievement under the project, with 74 out of 143 students (who qualified for IIT JEE Main), qualifying the prestigious IIT JEE (Advanced).OIL Super 30, which is one of the most impactful CSR projects of Oil India Limited (OIL) in the domain of education, has once again attained success in its overall objective of transforming the lives of underprivileged students, from the marginalised sections of the society. Also Read – An income drop can harm brainThe OIL Super 30 project is wholly supported by Oil India Limited, India’s second largest National Exploration and Production Company and is implemented by Centre for Social Responsibility and Leadership (CSRL), New Delhi, across 6 centres of Guwahati, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Nagaon in Assam, Jodhpur in Rajasthan, and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. Today, the project has become a household name for the families, students and educationists, in the North Eastern region, as one of the best known CSR initiatives of OIL India Limited. Also Read – Shallu Jindal honoured with Mahatma AwardOil India Limited had instituted the CSR project, OIL Super 30, in 2010, with its first centre at Guwahati. Under the project across 6 centres, each year, approximately 180 students (with 30 students in each centre) of economically backward families are provided 11 months free residential coaching for IIT-JEE and other engineering entrance examinations. With the help received from the project, students have attained admissions in various prestigious Engineering institutes leading medical institutes.
NEW DELHI: The Delhi government announced on Wednesday that it is keen on lending a helping hand to the Bihar government to deal with the crisis in whichever form required. “The entire country is distraught and concerned by the visuals being played by the media. The images of children crying and suffering in Bihar’s hospitals have been heartbreaking for all of us. In this time of difficulty, on behalf of the Delhi government, I want to offer any help needed by the Bihar government in tackling this crisis. Delhi can offer help in the form of medical teams, paramedics, ambulances — and anything else that may be required,” said Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. Also Read – Kejriwal ‘denied political clearance’ to attend climate meet in DenmarkOver 100 children have lost their life in Bihar after consuming toxic lychee fruit. According to several reports, the fruit was found to be infested with virus and the patients showed symptoms similar to that of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), a deadly brain disease. Meanwhile, the Delhi government held a fresh attack on BJP-led Centre over the Ayushman Bharat Yojana. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia termed the Ayushman Bharat scheme as a white elephant. He said that the scheme has failed the people of the country and is not practical as what is required is to strengthen our healthcare infrastructure and access for all to healthcare. He said that this scheme is more about paying the insurance companies, than taking care of the health of the people. Also Read – Bangla Sahib Gurudwara bans use of all types of plastic itemsThe Bharatiya Janata Party and their Central government ministers have been advertising the Ayushman Bharat scheme lately. Unfortunately, this crisis has proven that the scheme is a white elephant. The scheme does not provide healthcare coverage to most ordinary citizens since the eligibility requirements mandate that persons who own telephones, 2-wheelers or fridges are not covered under the scheme. Moreover, the scheme does not provide coverage for primary healthcare and Out-Patient treatment,” said the Deputy CM. He added that a strong network of healthcare infrastructure, not insurance schemes like Ayushman Bharat. Instead of enriching insurance companies, the government should have focused on building Mohalla Clinics, Poly Clinics, adding capacity to existing hospitals and building more hospitals. “Delhi has provided a model to the country by setting up Mohalla clinics, Polyclinics, and hospitals. More beds, more ICUs, more modern machinery is the need of the hour. That is the solution for today’s healthcare problem,” he said. Health Minister Satyendra Jain raised the question of why children suffering from AES in Bihar are not being treated at private hospitals under Ayushman Bharat scheme. He said, “Most of the children suffering [from AES] would have qualified under the eligibility requirements of Ayushman Bharat. Yet we find that all children are being treated at the government hospitals. What has happened to scheme in this case?”
Kolkata: The sole purpose behind the ‘Reign of Terror’ unleashed by the BJP in vast areas surrounding Bhatpara on Thursday is to scare the Trinamool Congress workers and force them to either join BJP or keep themselves away from politics in the entire Barrackpore sub-division.Bhatpara, which is otherwise a peaceful area in North 24-Parganas, became the epicentre of violence since Arjun Singh joined the BJP from TMC shortly before the general elections. Singh, who was nominated as a BJP candidate from Barrackpore, defeated the sitting Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi. Following Singh’s victory, Trinamool Congress MLAs from Bijpur and Noapara, Subhrangshu Roy and Sunil Singh joined the saffron party. Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaPawan Singh, Arjun’s son, won the Bhatpara by-election by defeating Madan Mitra. Partha Bhowmick, Trinamool Congress MLA from Naihati, is putting up a lone battle. In Barrackpore sub-division, the TMC has control over Naihati, Jagatdal, Barrackpore, Panihati and Barranagore. Manas Mukherjee of the CPI(M) is the MLA from Kamarhati. BJP has taken control over Bhatpara, Kanchrapara and Halisahar municipalities while the state government has deputed an administrator in Naihati municipality. Locals alleged that the BJP has deployed a large number of Hindi-speaking outsiders to create trouble in the area. They are putting pressure on the Trinamool rank and file so that they stay aloof from politics. Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee had recently visited Naihati to cheer up the party workers. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersThe outsiders are putting enormous pressure on the Muslims as well. They have allegedly told the Muslims that they will give them full protection if they join BJP. An uneasy calm prevails in vast areas surrounding Bhatpara like Jagatdal, Kankinara, Naihati where most of the shops have downed shutters. The slum dwellers have kept themselves indoors. Despite the Chief Minister’s instructions, the police have taken a softer stand against the outsiders. Jyotipriya Mallick, TMC president, North 24-Parganas demanded that the outsiders should be arrested immediately. “Bhatpara is a peaceful area but the BJP is turning it into a trouble-torn zone. The police have been instructed to arrest the criminals,” he said.
Jaipur/New Delhi: Rajasthan BJP president Madan Lal Saini died on Monday while undergoing treatment at AIIMS in Delhi, a party spokesperson said. Saini, also a Rajya Sabha MP, was 75. He was diagnosed with infection in lungs and was admitted at a private hospital in Jaipur. On Saturday, he was shifted to Delhi owing to his deteriorating health conditions and was being treated under the Hematology Department at AIIMS. “He was later shifted to the ICU after his condition further deteriorated. He passed away today around 7.09 pm,” a source at AIIMS said. Saini, who hailed from Sikar district, was appointed BJP state president last year. He was a former MLA and RSS volunteer who held various posts in the Bhartiya Kisan Morcha as well. A pall of gloom descended at the party’s state headquarters in Jaipur where a large number of BJP leaders and workers gathered after hearing the news of Saini’s death. His body will be kept at the party office in Jaipur for visitors on Tuesday morning. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief and said Saini’s death was a major loss for the BJP. “The passing away of Shri Madanlal Saini Ji is a major loss for the BJP family. He contributed to strengthening the Party in Rajasthan…,” he tweeted.
Mumbai: Actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh says with new talents emerging everyday across platforms, the mechanics of the industry has completely changed, with star system giving way to artistes. Diljit says today the definition of a “star” has changed. “Back home, no one looks at me as a star. At least I know my mother doesn’t. I don’t about others. But I think there’s nothing like a ‘star’ anymore. People will like you as an artiste, they’ll respect you for that and not just because you’re a star. Also Read – Rihanna to release 500-page ‘visual’ autobiography “There are very few stars today, there are more artistes. Which is very good,” Diljit told PTI. The actor, who made his Bollywood debut with “Udta Punjab”, says social media has given access and voice to many good singers and actors. “They make even short videos with all seriousness. It makes you realise that you’re working and you’ve got an opportunity but isn’t because you’re the best. “Whatever God has given me, I feel blessed but I don’t take it for granted. There are much better looking, more talented people, sometimes one gets an opportunity and that’s all luck,” he says. Also Read – Hilarie Burton, Jeffery Dean Morgan tie the knot Though there is a constant influx of new talents in the industry–or on the Internet–the 35-year-old actor says it doesn’t cause insecurity. “If you’re getting way too much than perhaps what you deserve, there’s no insecurity. It comes up when you feel ‘I expect and deserve much more but I’m not getting it.'” Opportunity is a key which describes Punjabi artistes ability to multitask. Most of them write, sing, act and produce their own content. “That’s because when there are less opportunities, one does everything on their own. Of course, no doubt there is talent in North. Today if there’s an individual music scene, it’s only in Punjab. Even in Hindi films we have Punjabi songs. “We had heard ‘Kaala Chashma’ long back, it comes to Bollywood and becomes a hit again. Everyone benefits. Hindi has a massive reach. So singers get a platform as well. Both parties are happy,” the actor says. Diljit will be next seen in the spoof-comedy “Arjun Patiala”, featuring Kriti Sanon and Varun Sharma. In the film, directed by Rohit Jugraj, Diljit is playing a quirky small town cop. For the actor, who has done several hit comedies in Punjab, the genre is never easy. “I never approach comedy thinking ‘I know it all.’ Comedy is tough. To make people laugh is not easy. Written material, the story and situation matter a lot. In Punjabi films I do give me inputs. In Hindi not really. “I don’t have that much control in Hindi language, in Punjabi I can say a particular dialogue will sound funnier if we tweak it. In Hindi I just follow.” The actor says he was bowled over the script at the narration stage itself. “I’ve never done a comedy in this space. I thought I should give it a try. Maddock has made some fantastic films too. All it takes is two minutes for me to say yes or no to a script. I had to do this one the moment I heard it.” Written by Ritesh Shah and Sandeep Leyzell, “Arjun Patiala” is scheduled to release on July 26.
Noida: A massive fire broke out at a private factory which spread to a nearby factory in Noida Special Economy Zone (NSEZ) on Monday afternoon. Officials said that no casualties were reported in the fire, however, heavy damage to the property has been caused to both the factories. As per officials, the fire broke out around 3 pm at a plastic product-manufacturing company which spread to nearby factories. Huge plumes of dense smoke were seen billowing out of a factory building in the commercial area. Nearly two dozen fire fighters performed the rescue operation till late evening. Also Read – Bangla Sahib Gurudwara bans use of all types of plastic itemsArun Kumar Singh, Chief Fire Safety Officer, Noida said that both the companies that were engulfed in fire had a lot of plastic material which compounded the fire. “As we received the information, we rushed to the spot and around 20 fire fighters performed the rescue operation. It had come to light that both the factories had a lot of plastic manufacturing material and chemicals which made fire spread rapidly,” said Singh. Police officials said that the two factories that were affected in the fire were RBF Latex limited at plot number 24 in NSEZ and Plastic processors and export private limited at plot number 24 A.
Hong Kong: A British consulate employee detained in China has returned to Hong Kong, his family said on Saturday. Simon Cheng disappeared after visiting the neighbouring city of Shenzhen on August 8 and was placed in administrative detention by police. “Simon has returned to Hong Kong,” his family said in a Facebook post, adding he would take “some time to rest and recover”.
Mumbai: The RBI Board meeting on Monday to finalise its annual accounts, is also likely to take up the Bimal Jalan panel’s recommendations on Economic Capital Framework (ECF) along with the dividend payment to the government, sources said. The Jalan panel had submitted its report to the RBI Governor on Friday. The report, which recommends transfer of surplus reserves to the government in a staggered manner over three-five years based on a predetermined formula, may be put on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) website later for public access. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalThe RBI follows July-June financial year and the dividend is usually distributed in August after annual accounts are finalised. For FY20, the government has pegged a Rs 9,000 crore dividend from the RBI. Sources had earlier said that the RBI may start transferring the first tranche of the surplus this calendar, based on the Jalan panel report. With economy facing a slowdown in key sectors, the government is looking at RBI dividends and surplus to step up public investment and tackle funding gaps. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostBut any decision on capital transfers based on the panel’s proposals may not come on Monday as the board members may need more time to study the recommendations. The board however, most likely will announce the normal dividend to be paid to the government for FY19 based on the surplus, sources said. The government has already received Rs 40,000 crore during FY19. In February this year, the RBI had announced a Rs 28,000 crore interim dividend taking the total dividend transfer to the government to Rs 68,000 crore. The RBI Central Board will have to approve the Rs 28,000 crore interim dividend. So far the extent of capital reserves to be transferred to the government based on the Jalan panel report has been a matter of speculation. According to BofA Merrill Lynch, the ECF is expected to peg the excess capital of the RBI at Rs 1-Rs 3 lakh crore, where Rs 1 lakh crore is from contingency reserves and Rs 2 lakh crore from revaluation reserves. “The RBI Act doesn’t bar the RBI from transferring excess capital if any, to the fisc beyond the RBI’s annual surplus,” BofA Merrill Lynch said. As per 2017-18 annual report of the RBI, the reserves stand at Rs 9.6 trillion.
Hyderabad: In a suspected case of suicide, senior TDP leader and former Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker Kodela Siva Prasada Rao died here on Monday, police said.Based on eye-witness accounts, Rao was suspected of having committed suicide, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West Zone) A R Srinivas said without elaborating. Replying to questions, he, however, said it could be confirmed only after post-mortem. The 72-year old leader was last month slapped with a criminal case by the Andhra Pradesh police for alleged illegal possession of furniture of the assembly. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsHe is survived by wife, two sons and a daughter. Rao was rushed to the Basavatarakam Indo-American Cancer Hospital in an ‘unresponsive’ state from his house here around 11 am, but died without responding to efforts to revive him, the DCP and the hospital said. “The family members are telling that he was under stress for the past few days, but the reasons for it are still not known,” the DCP said. The hospital in a release said Rao was brought at 11.35 am “in an unresponsive state”. As per protocol, resuscitative measures were initiated immediately.
TORONTO – 12:45 a.m.Toronto police say the suspect in Monday’s van attack, Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday at 10 a.m.Police say information on the charges against him will be released at that time.11:00 p.m.The White House issued a statement late Monday saying the “United States stands with the Canadian people in the aftermath of today’s tragic event in Toronto” and pledged to provide “any support Canada may need.”The statement added: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those affected, and we wish a full recovery to those injured.”8:00 p.m.The death rose to at least 10 late Monday following a “horrific attack” in which a man drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians along a stretch of Toronto’s Yonge St.The incident also left 15 people injured.The suspect was identified as Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., and authorities said he was not known to police.4:50 p.m.Toronto police say nine people have been killed and 16 other injured when a van struck pedestrians near a major intersection north of the city.Deputy police chief Peter Yuen urged the public to help authorities with what he said would be a long and complex investigation.He said police are setting up two hotlines — one for the families of the victims and one for eyewitnesses.4:10 p.m.Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he has no information at this time to lead him to believe that the national terrorism threat level should be raised. The threat level in Canada is currently medium, which means that a violent act of terrorism could occur.Goodale made the comment following an incident in which a van struck pedestrians north of Toronto, sending at least seven people to hospital.He said the Toronto police are leading the investigation and until they provide more information on the incident and potential motive, it would be inappropriate for him to comment.———3:50 p.m.Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says a van crash that has left at least seven people injured is a frightening and tragic situation and her thoughts are with all those affected.She says police forces and governments across the province are sharing information and working together as the investigation continues.———3:40 p.m.Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto says it has received seven patients from the scene of the incident involving a van striking a number of pedestrians in the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area.Sunnybrook says its emergency department has been locked down as an added precaution, and the centre has activated its Hospital Emergency Operations Centre and is meeting currently to ensure beds are available for the injured.———3 p.m.An eye witness says he was driving northbound on Yonge Street when he saw several people being treated by bystanders and paramedics.“I saw what seemed to be a police takedown on a Ryder truck and I saw more and more sirens, more and more police cars coming in,” Phil Zullo tells The Canadian Press.“As I kept along Yonge Street and saw ….people strewn all over the road,” he says. “I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers. It was awful. Brutal.”———2:45 p.m.Toronto Mayor John Tory says he is on his way to the scene of an incident in which several pedestrians were struck by a van.Tory says in a statement his thoughts are with those affected by the incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured.The mayor says he has offered any and all assistance that the city can provide to police to help with the investigation.———2:30 p.m.Toronto police say one person is in custody after multiple pedestrians were hit by a van in north Toronto.They say the person arrested is the driver of the vehicle involved in the incident at the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area.———2:15 p.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathies for those involved.“Our hearts go out to everyone affected,” Trudeau said in Ottawa. “We are going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours.”Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford also weighed in.“Our thoughts are with the victims and those affected,” he said on Twitter. “Thank you to the brave EMS and first responders who are working tirelessly to help.”———1:27 p.m.Police report multiple pedestrians struck by a van in north Toronto.They said the extent of their injuries isn’t known.Television footage form the scene shows multiple first responders treating people on the sidewalk.
FORTUNE, N.L. – If all goes well, Canadians will soon be able to drive to a little-known corner of France.The French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon just off the south coast of Newfoundland — North America’s last vestige of colonial New France — have long attracted adventurous travellers seeking an unusual European experience.But the ferry that links Fortune, N.L., with the windswept archipelago 40 kilometres away only carries walk-on passengers in the spring and summer months.Later this year, however, the tiny French territory plans to start using two new ferries that can carry up to 15 cars, 200 passengers and three tractor-trailers year-round.“It’s like a piece of France right next door,” Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell said Tuesday.“The language is different from what we’re used to in Newfoundland, but it’s very similar … to the (language spoken in) the Basque region of France … It offers traditional French food, French atmosphere, and the music and song of France. It’s unique. This archipelago is indeed a part of Europe that’s right next to our border.”Penwell said St-Pierre-Miquelon — about the size of Honolulu and home to about 6,000 French nationals — doesn’t get the attention it deserves.“We get frustrated,” he said in an interview from Fortune, population 1,400. “I think there’s a fair number of people even in Newfoundland and Labrador who don’t realize it’s there.”The islands were returned to France in 1815 after several stints of British occupation.The French government now provides hefty subsidies to support its outpost, which is heavily dependent on government jobs, fishing and tourism.The smallest of the islands, St-Pierre, is also the most populated, with colourful clapboard homes on tidy, winding streets.Tourists can take advantage of fine French wines — at reasonable prices. In the town of St-Pierre, there’s a regular midday siesta and access to smaller boats that serve the larger, sparsely populated islands of Miquelon and Langlade.Restaurants and bakeries specializing in fresh seafood and French patisserie bustle with foreigners in summer.Though often draped in thick fog and scoured by powerful offshore winds, the largely barren islands offer precious isolation for campers and hikers.The new ferry service was supposed to start May 15, but the port authority in Fortune hasn’t been able to scrape together enough money to upgrade its wharf.“I think they’re still about a million dollars short,” Penwell said. “So they’re looking to the provincial government and the (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) to see if they can come up with a bit more money … So far there’s been no resolution.”Negotiations with federal and provincial officials are ongoing, but Penwell said a temporary solution is in the works, though he isn’t sure when the wharf will be ready.The head of the independent port authority in Fortune declined comment Tuesday.Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourism minister, Christopher Mitchelmore, issued a statement saying he’s working with the Fortune Port Corporation to find the money.“I met with officials from St-Pierre-Miquelon on Friday, and am hopeful they can reach an agreement with St-Pierre-Miquelon which will provide them with options to finance the expansion,” Mitchelmore said.— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax.
OTTAWA – Heritage Minister Melanie Joly unveiled Thursday what she billed as a road map for the future of Canada’s creative industries, but precisely where on the cultural landscape it will end up leading remained far out of focus.The long-awaited strategy seeks to refashion for the digital age all of the pillars that support and regulate the country’s famously fragile culture, but little of the change will become apparent overnight.Instead, Joly is plotting a course that, over the coming months, aims to rework the myriad laws and regulations that govern broadcasting, telecommunications and copyright, as well as the private and publicly supported funds that back musicians, writers and publishers.The mandate of the CBC is up for a refresh as well, while the government eyes a strategy for supporting local news as it makes its own transition to the online world.“We will enact policies that help our creators and cultural entrepreneurs address the challenges of today’s digital reality, and ensure that Canada’s voice will be heard loud and strong on the world stage,” Joly said.The government doesn’t intend to go it alone. A $500-million agreement with video-streaming giant Netflix will see the company set up a Canadian branch of operations and invest over five years in original productions in Canada. They’ve also committed to $25 million to French-language content.How much the company would have invested anyway is unclear. The company told the government that in 2016, it “commissioned hundreds of millions of dollars of original programming produced in Canada.”The new deal, however, was made under the Investment Act, meaning that if Netflix fails to hold up its end of the bargain, it could be fined.It’s the opposite of what many in the industry wanted to see: Netflix and other interested streaming companies contributing to the same content development funds that traditional broadcasters are legally obliged to support.A spokesman for Bell Media suggested the $500 million over five years from Netflix is only a fraction of what Canadian companies are required to pay. Bell, for its part, spent $900 million on the 2017-18 broadcast season alone.“Our total annual investment in Canadian content in 2017-18 is 9 times the average amount that Netflix would contribute yearly,” spokesman Scott Henderson said in a statement.Rogers invested more than $660 million in Canadian content last year, and $580 million the year before.The government also plans to increase its own contribution to the Canadian Media Fund, though by how much is unclear. Taxing Netflix, or imposing additional taxes on internet providers that carry their content, just wasn’t an option, Joly said.“We went and got the biggest investment in the last 30 years in Canadian content from a foreign company and that we did to support our industry, to support our creators while not taxing more Canadians.”While the money, the investment and the support for Canadian stories is fantastic, it also leaves open a lot of questions about who controls the rules around Canadian broadcasting, said David Sparrow, the president of ACTRA, the performers’ union.“I think the question is, are we allowing them to write their own rules because they have deep pockets and they’re investing this money?”The federal government isn’t just looking to Netflix to support Cancon; Joly made it clear she expects other tech giants to start doing some heavy lifting to actively support its development. She highlighted some initiatives underway by Google and Facebook; the latter will help fund digital journalism development in a new program with Ryerson University.Canadian culture shines because of a strong policy system, said Pierre Nantel, the NDP’s heritage critic.“My take here is that I can’t believe that we are going to make policy just (making) deals.”The only major federal funding announcement in the strategy is $125 million over five years for a creative export strategy. That help is welcome, said Margaret McGuffin, executive director of the Canadian Music Publishers Association.“Our music publishers have 75 per cent of their revenues coming from export,” McGuffin said. “Anything that supports export means that Canadian songs are going to be heard around the world.”— with files from David Friend in TorontoNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the government will contribute $100 million over four years to a creative export strategy.
Hockey commentator Don Cherry says media coverage of athletes kneeling during the playing of national anthems has been hypocritical.The “Hockey Night in Canada” personality posted a statement to his verified Twitter account Wednesday night, taking aim at “left wing media” and its coverage of National Football League players taking a knee during the American anthem to protest the racist treatment of African Americans.Cherry pointed that former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, a devout Christian, was mocked by the media for taking a knee to pray after scoring a touchdown in his breakout rookie season in 2010.“The late night leftie talk shows made fun of Tim, to the cartoonists in the paper he was a joke and they made fun of him. It was brutal,” Cherry said in the 131-word statement. “Yet the NFL players go on their knees to make a point and they are heroes.”Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the kneeling phenomenon in 2016, refusing to stand during the anthem in the NFL’s pre-season. It has since become common across the NFL, and support has come from other major leagues.At least one Major League Baseball has knelt during the U.S. anthem, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders linked arms during “O Canada” before a CFL game last week as a show of unity. National Hockey League players Wayne Simmonds and Joel Ward have both entertained the idea of kneeling during the anthems during that sport’s pre-season.The protests have drawn the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized NFLers for the practice in interviews and on Twitter. In response to Trump’s demands to stop the kneeling, more athletes have begun to protest.On Sunday, all but one of the Pittsburgh Steelers refused to take the field during the national anthem, while other teams linked arms or groups of players sat or took a knee. In response to Trump’s tweets, the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors refused to visit the White House, a tradition among reigning championship teams.Cherry says that Tebow was mocked while Kaepernick and others have been praised because of religious persecution.“The reason they can make fun and ridicule Tim getting on his knees and thanking the Lord is because he is a Christian,” said Cherry. “No other religion you can make fun of and ridicule … only Christianity. If you are Christian you are open season.”Kaepernick is also open about his Christian beliefs, with Biblical tattoos covering his torso and his own touchdown celebrations “thanking Him.”
TORONTO – Her voice is shaky, a tremor that developed from stress that belies the strength of a desperate mother.To say that Lorinda Stewart lived through agony barely gets at the horrific ordeal she endured during the 460 days her daughter Amanda Lindhout was a hostage to ransom-demanding thugs in Somalia. Nor would it be right to assume the nightmare ended with their reunification. It was, in fact, just another beginning.“I had all these expectations of when Amanda came home of parties and joy and actually, I had a pretty huge breakdown. Nothing was what I thought it would be,” Stewart said in an interview Tuesday.“I expected it to be this Hollywood moment where we would run into each other’s arms laughing full of joy but the shock I felt when I saw Amanda — and she was just so skeletal and her eyes were haunted — it just wasn’t that moment at all.”The crashing reality of that moment — it would take therapy and many months before the endless crying and depression began lifting — is one of several that Stewart, 61, recounts in her just published memoir, “One Day Closer,” a harrowing, soul-baring account of her quest to get her daughter home — a story that leaves the reader feeling aged with each page at the brutality of it all.Lindhout, now 36, was a seasoned traveller and budding freelance journalist when she and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were grabbed in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. It was supposed to get sorted quickly, but the kidnappers were demanding millions of dollars — an amount far beyond the families’ ability to pay.Stewart, under the close eye of the RCMP who cocooned her in a cone of absolute secrecy, became the lead negotiator, moving back to Alberta from B.C. where she had been living. Negotiating meant talking frequently with a man known to her as Adam — the pipeline and lifeline to a daughter, whose protracted mistreatment was shocking to the point of sadistic.Through it all, Stewart gathered binders of materials, including recordings of intercepts of calls with Adam that underpin the book.Dark points, she said, were many. Among the worst was hearing the rumour that her captive daughter was pregnant. And the “bad call,” months into the hostage-taking, in which her distraught daughter called to beg her to pay her captors off. They were torturing her, Lindhout told her helpless mother. Her murder was imminent.Stewart catches her breath. Her eyes go somewhere else.“That’s a hard one to talk about. It was extremely distressful. I was able to say what I needed to say without breaking down while I was on the call. But after that, I started throwing up and just found myself on the floor. It’s really difficult,” she said. “But then I realized I had to get myself back up and continue to fight for her to come home.”“One Day Closer,” published by Simon and Schuster, goes beyond the inner turmoil of a mother’s despair. Stewart also offers an at-times unflattering but eminently relatable portrayal of her own life, the poor partner choices she made, the strained and broken family dynamics, the struggles as a single or sometimes married mother from small-town Alberta, raising five children, making ends meet however she could.“Writing a memoir does take courage because everybody is going to see you differently,” Stewart said. “My hope is to inspire people. I’m well aware I may be judged as well. I wanted people to know who I was.”It is in her strength and obstinacy that one sees the qualities that helped her daughter survive the sexual assaults, the torment, the despair.“I found myself deeply moved, surprised yet again at the resiliency that she holds … the ability to get through the impossible,” Lindhout said about having read her mother’s book. “It was confronting in a way…to really understand what a bizarre reality she was living, which I think I really understood for the first time.”The reality included living a secret life in a house in Sylvan Lake, Alta., 24/7 for months with a rotating cast of RCMP officers, who acted as her negotiating mentors, support, and liaison with what emerges as a faceless, distant entity: Ottawa.While she speaks highly of the Mounties who lived with her in the home they rented, Stewart has little time for the shadowy string-pullers in the nation’s capital. She trusted them entirely, she said. She did everything they asked. And yet, she said, they lied to her at times, told her little, kept insisting she hold the faith because they were making progress.Then they dropped her like a hot potato when things dragged on, leaving her and her ex-husband to find a private consulting company to help secure her daughter’s freedom, Stewart said.Gone was not only the emotional support, but also the money the government gave her to devote herself to being a secret agent.“I felt betrayed in a lot of ways. I felt bitter,” she said. “Not knowing and feeling like you’re in the dark just added to the terror that we were already experiencing.”In contrast, the private security firm, at a cost of $2,604 a day, kept her fully informed and involved every step of the way, she said. But with the Canadian government refusing to pay any ransom, raising the more than $600,000 the two families ultimately needed to free their children, meant ongoing desperation, a sell-off of assets and home refinancing, along with reliance on the generosity of friends and strangers.Raising ransom money also meant becoming the target of criticism from those who believed that paying off bandits only serves to encourage lawlessness. Stewart would have none of it, shutting out anything that distracted from her mission:“I just had to have one focus, one goal, and that was to get her home,” she said. “Eventually, I had to face what was there. That time did come eventually, after she was home.”The crash came when she realized how frail and sick her daughter was. The dawning reality that they both had a long journey and healing ahead of them — healing that still continues. People, she said, couldn’t understand the non-stop crying, why there appeared to be so little joy, why she had hit that wall so hard.Time, coupled with therapy, would ultimately set her on a path to healing — a still unfinished journey of which the book is a cathartic part.In recent days, both mother and daughter have been following the accounts of Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman, who were freed last week along with their three children born during five years of captivity in Afghanistan.Stewart advises the ex-hostages’ parents to be kind and gentle to themselves, not fight the torrent of conflicted emotions that might include immense sadness even though everyone is now safe. Therapy is a big part of that, she says.Lindhout suggests Boyle and Coleman get away from the spotlight, find the time to enjoy the sky.“Their road back, coming back into the world from such an intense and unique life-saving experience can be really hard,” Lindhout said. “It’s not made easier by public judgment and criticism, which I also went through. People should just have some compassion. They’ve just been through a lot, more than any human should have to.”In June 2015, police in Ottawa arrested Adam — Somali national Ali Omar Ader. He is currently on trial for his alleged role in Lindhout’s kidnapping.
HEARTS DELIGHT, N.L. – A small Newfoundland community has become fixated on the plight of six dolphins trapped by ice in its harbour.Wayne Ledwell of the Whale Release and Strandings Group said heavy ice off Heart’s Delight has cut off the exit route for the white-beaked dolphins, leaving them stranded in a pool of open water.“They won’t go through the ice. They’re staying well clear of it and they know exactly where it is and exactly what danger it is to them,” said Ledwell in an interview Wednesday.“These are small animals of 300 or 400 pounds and they can’t navigate that ice. It will kill them if they get out into it.”Ledwell said the pool had grown smaller overnight Monday as temperatures dropped and the water froze over, but a local resident helped break the ice with a speedboat.He said dozens of residents have been flocking to the harbour this week, eager to check on the dolphins, which have been stuck since Sunday.“These dolphins belong to this community now,” said Ledwell.“People really want to get those dolphins out. They really want something to be done about it, and unfortunately we really can’t do anything right now.”Wanda Worthman, who lives in the area, said the community of 650 people is worried about the dolphins’ well-being, considering they will remain trapped unless the winds shift and move the pack ice out of the harbour.“It’s beautiful to watch them. They’re so graceful. It’s sad … and everyone here in the town is feeling the same thing,” said Worthman, who said she visits the dolphins two or three times a day.“My husband, he leaves work every afternoon and goes and checks on them and every morning before he goes to work he goes down again.”Worthman said the dolphins were making noises and appeared to be in good condition Wednesday. She said people have also been feeding them.“My brother-in-law went out and got some shrimp and brought it over,” she said.But, Ledwell said dolphins typically will only eat live food they caught themselves. He said they can last awhile without food, and there may be something to eat in the harbour.“They’re not like us. They don’t have a regular breakfast, dinner and supper,” he said, noting that he’s seen dolphins trapped in a smaller pool for more than two weeks.Ledwell said there’s a possibility that if the winds don’t change, the dolphins could be pushed further to shore and then they could attempt to catch them in stretchers and bring them by truck to a nearby community’s harbour that’s free of ice.“But that wouldn’t be ideal for the dolphins,” he said. “These situations are very dynamic and they change all the time. There’s no template for how to handle it.”Ledwell said the dolphins were part of a larger group of about 100 dolphins feeding in the bay in recent weeks, and this group happened to become trapped by heavy pack ice as it moved in.On Tuesday, the Fisheries Department requested the help of a Canadian Coast Guard ship that was in the area for routine ice reconnaissance.It says the ship attempted to go into the harbour, but it was determined attempts to shift the ice would be “very dangerous” for the dolphins and cause them additional stress.