24 Jun -

Uber pulls self-driving cars off San Francisco roads after DMV pulls permits

Uber Technologies Inc has removed its self-driving cars from San Francisco streets, halting the autonomous program one week after its launch as the company faced a regulatory crackdown.

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles said on Wednesday it revoked the registration of 16 Uber self-driving cars because they had not been properly permitted. For the last week, the agency was demanding that Uber shut down its program and comply with regulations requiring a permit to test self-driving cars on public roads.

Uber said it was not obligated to have a permit because its vehicles require continuous monitoring by a person in the car.

READ MORE: Uber launches self-driving fleet in San Francisco despite warning from DMV

San Francisco was supposed to be Uber‘s second testing ground for its self-driving cars. The company unveiled its self-driving cars in September in Pittsburgh.

“We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules,” an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement.

WATCH: Uber tracking policy changes raise privacy questions

California defines autonomous vehicles as having the capability to drive “without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person.”

Uber has argued that the law does not apply to its cars, which cannot stay in autonomous mode continuously. A driver and an engineer are in the front seats to take over frequently in sticky traffic situations such as construction zones or pedestrian crossings.

Uber‘s defiance was met with threats of legal action from the DMV and the state attorney general.

READ MORE: 1 Toronto Uber rider took almost 1,700 trips in 2016

The DMV told Uber that if it had obtained a permit, the regulator would have given the green light to the self-driving pilot. DMV director Jean Shiomoto said in a letter sent to Uber on Wednesday that she would “personally help to ensure an expedited review and approval process,” which she said can take less than three days.

The permit process is largely seen as a public safety measure, as regulations also require that companies provide the DMV with accident reports. Uber, however, has complained that its home state has favored complex rules over technological innovation.

It is not yet clear whether Uber will apply for the permit or simply bring the self-driving cars to another state.

Another 20 companies exploring self-driving cars, including Alphabet’s Google, Tesla Motors and Ford Motor Co, have obtained California DMV permits for 130 cars.

Uber opened up the self-driving car program to San Francisco passengers on Dec. 14, but has been testing the cars on city roadways for more than a month.

24 Jun -

Van explodes outside office of Christian lobbying group in Australia

Van explodes outside office of Christian lobbying group in AustraliaA van carrying gas cylinders exploded outside the headquarters of a Christian lobbying group in Australia’s capital, though there did not appear to be any political or religious motivations behind the incident, police said Thursday.

The driver, a 35-year-old Australian man, was the only person injured in Wednesday night’s explosion, which seriously damaged the van and blew out windows in the two-story building, Australian Capital Territory police said.

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The driver ignited several gas cylinders that were inside the van, causing the explosion, Deputy Chief Police Officer Mark Walters said. He then walked to a hospital, where he was in critical condition with serious burns. Police have not released his name, saying only that he was not previously known to authorities.

“As a result of our conversations with the man, we have been able to establish that his actions were not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated,” Walters told reporters in Canberra.

Walters declined to elaborate on why they have ruled out any sort of political motive, and would not say whether the man had any connection to the Australian Christian Lobby, a conservative advocacy group. An investigation into what prompted him to ignite the cylinders was underway, Walters said.

The head of the Australian Christian Lobby said his group had received anonymous threats over the past year because of its opposition to gay marriage and equality for transgender students.

“I don’t know the motivation of last night’s attack, but the context of what I see here is in the context of multiple death threats and threats of violence that my staff have endured over the course of this year,” managing director Lyle Shelton told reporters.

The group has locked the building for most of this year after never doing so for at least eight years, Shelton said, calling the incident a “truly shocking situation.”

Police said they were investigating the threats against the group.

The van was removed from the scene early Thursday morning.

24 Jun -

B.C. woman allegedly stole Christmas lights off front lawns with help of young girl

Charges are pending against a Delta, B.C. woman who allegedly stole multiple Christmas decorations from the front lawns of unsuspecting homeowners.

“I hear this lady in the middle of the road yelling, ‘Get in the car, get in the car, get in the car,” theft victim Latham Antonissen said.

The alleged Grinch tried to steal Christmas just after 8 p.m. Friday. She may have had some help. Shockingly, a little girl under 10 years of age may have been her accomplice.

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“There’s a little girl in the bush trying to steal their little laser lights that shine into the house,” Antonissen said.

When neighbours came out of their homes, witnesses say the 51-year-old woman left the scene in a vehicle, leaving the young girl to run in the opposite direction.

After being followed for a short distance, the woman was eventually stopped and arrested. Delta Police confirmed there were numerous decorations clearly visible in both the front and back seats of the vehicle.

But this nightmare before Christmas didn’t end there. The suspect did not have a licence to operate a vehicle and refused a breathalyzer test at the scene.

“We have taken a person off the road that was under the influence of alcohol at the time and we’ve notified MCFD [Ministry of Children and Family Development] to ensure the safety and well-being of the young child,” Delta Police spokesperson Sharlene Brooke said.

A charge of possession of stolen property is still pending. The woman was released on a promise to appear in court in February while the young girl is under the care of another guardian.

– With files from John Hua

24 Jun -

Germany monitored Berlin truck attack suspect for six months

German officials had deemed the Tunisian man being sought in a manhunt across Europe a threat long before a truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin – and even kept him under covert surveillance for six months this year before halting the operation.

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Now the international manhunt for Anis Amri – considered the prime suspect in Monday’s deadly rampage – is raising questions about how closely German authorities are monitoring the hundreds of known Islamic extremists in the country.

The issue puts new pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is running for re-election next year. Critics are lambasting her for allowing hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers to enter the country, allegedly without proper security checks.

READ MORE: Berlin attack: German police on manhunt for ‘violent and armed’ Tunisian asylum-seeker Anis Amri

Among them was Amri, a convicted criminal in both Tunisia and Italy with little chance of getting asylum who successfully evaded deportation from Germany even as German authorities rejected his asylum application and deemed the 24-year-old a possible jihadi threat.

He is suspected in the attack that left 12 people dead and 48 injured Monday evening in Berlin. Health officials said 12 of the injured had very serious wounds.

After German media published photos of him and a partial name, federal prosecutors issued a public appeal for information along with the promise of a 100,000-euro ($105,000) reward for his arrest.

Within hours it emerged that the man authorities warned could be “violent and armed” had in fact been known to them for months as someone with ties to Islamic extremists who used at least six different names and three different nationalities.

WATCH: Berlin attack: German investigators seek Tunisian man in Christmas market attack

“People are rightly outraged and anxious that such a person can walk around here, keep changing his identity and the legal system can’t cope with them,” said Rainer Wendt, the head of a union representing German police.

Authorities had initially focused their investigation on a Pakistani man detained shortly after the attack, but released him a day later for lack of evidence. After finding documents belonging to Amri in the cab of the truck, they issued a notice to other European countries early Wednesday seeking his arrest.

According to Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Amri arrived in Germany in July 2015 as the influx of asylum-seekers was nearing its peak.

Although registered in the west of the country, near the Dutch border, Amri had moved around Germany regularly since February, living mostly in Berlin, said Jaeger.

WATCH: Toronto Christmas Market steps up security after Berlin attack

Within months of his arrival, authorities had added Amri to a growing list of potentially violent Islamic extremists, not all of them asylum-seekers.

“Security agencies exchanged information about this person in the joint counter-terrorism center, the last time in November,” said Jaeger.

State prosecutors in Berlin even launched an investigation of Amri on March 14 following a tip from federal security agencies, who warned that he might be planning a break-in to finance the purchase of automatic weapons for use in a possible future attack.

Surveillance showed that Amri did deal drugs in a notorious Berlin park and was involved in a bar brawl, but no evidence was found to substantiate the original warning.

READ MORE: Barriers installed at Montreal’s Christmas market after Berlin attack

The surveillance measures were called off in September, by which time Amri had disappeared from his regular haunts in Berlin, prosecutors said.

Separately, Amri’s asylum application was rejected in July. German authorities prepared to deport him but weren’t able to do so because he didn’t have valid identity papers, Jaeger said. In August they started trying to get him a replacement passport.

“Tunisia at first denied that this person was its citizen, and the papers weren’t issued for a long time,” Jaeger said. “They arrived today.”

It wasn’t clear whether Germany was aware of Amri’s previous brushes with the law, both in his homeland and in Italy, where he lived until last year. Tunisia’s Mosaique FM radio reported that he was sentenced to several years in prison in both countries for violent crimes.

READ MORE: Berlin Christmas market attack: First victim was truck driver who was dedicated to his job

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that Amri was ordered expelled after his prison time in Italy. However, Tunisian authorities didn’t finish all the paperwork in the required time, so Amri never was sent back to Tunisia, it reported.

The Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, did not identify Amri as the man witnesses saw fleeing from the truck, but described him as “a soldier of the Islamic State” who “carried out the attack in response to calls for targeting citizens of the Crusader coalition.”

Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere cautioned that he was “a suspect, not necessarily the perpetrator.”

“We are still investigating in all directions,” he said.

READ MORE: Islamic State claims responsibility for Berlin truck attack, German officials still investigating

A spokesman for Tunisia’s anti-terrorism judicial police said they questioned Amri’s family members at their home Wednesday in the central Tunisian town of Oueslatia.

Spokesman Sofiane Selliti did not say how many people were questioned. His family lives in poverty and his parents are divorced, according to Tunisia’s Mosaique FM radio, which reported that the father said he had no contact with his son, although his other sons did.

Some German lawmakers have called for consequences regardless of whether Amri turns out to have been behind the wheel of the truck in Berlin.

“In my view we experienced a major shift on Monday,” said Stephan Mayer, a member of Merkel’s center-right bloc. “Terrorism has reached a new level in Germany. It’s shaken the nation and citizens are worried. I think citizens wouldn’t accept it if we simply returned to the political order of the day.”

READ MORE: Berlin attack: Germans share messages of strength after Christmas market attack

Mayer proposed extending the period that people can be held in detention prior to deportation, to give authorities more time to gather the necessary paperwork. He said authorities should also be able to deport people deemed a threat to public order.

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office currently considers 549 Islamic extremists capable of committing “politically motivated crimes of considerable significance.”

Wendt, the police union official, said keeping tabs on all of these people was a major challenge.

“From a manpower perspective it would … be unimaginable to keep all potential threats under police surveillance round the clock,” he said.

24 May -

Alan Thicke died of ruptured aorta artery, death certificate reveals

Alan Thicke died after his aorta artery tore then ruptured last week, according to his death certificate released Wednesday.

The details emerged after the “Growing Pains” star died Dec. 13 at 69. He was buried Monday in Santa Barbara, California.

The Canadian actor had enjoyed a lengthy career on both sides of the border. He also worked as a songwriter and talk show host.

WATCH: Alan Thicke: 1947-2016

His cause of death was determined by a doctor and no autopsy was performed.

Thicke’s aorta ruptured about three hours after it first developed a tear, the death certificate states.

An aortic tear also killed John Ritter in 2003. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

Tanya Thicke recalled her “beloved husband, soul mate and the patriarch of our family” in a statement Tuesday.

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“It is with gut wrenching sadness and unbelievable grief that I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the outpouring of love and support during this unimaginable time,” she wrote.

READ MORE: Alan Thicke dead: ‘Growing Pains’ star dies at age 69

In addition to playing Dr. Jason Seaver on “Growing Pains,” which aired on ABC from 1985 to 1992, Thicke had guest appearances on shows such as “How I Met Your Mother” and “This Is Us.”

Born in Ontario, Canada, he was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his work in the late 1970s as a writer for Barry Manilow’s talk show, and later for a satirical take on the genre in the variety show “America 2-Night.”

He composed several popular theme songs, including the original theme for “Wheel of Fortune” and other shows including “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes.”

24 May -

North Carolina Senate refuses to repeal transgender bathroom law

North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday defeated a bipartisan bid to repeal a controversial law restricting bathroom access in the state for transgender people, which has seen months of protests and boycotts by opponents decrying the measure as discriminatory.

A one-day special legislative session ended abruptly after the state Senate voted against abolishing a law that has made the state the latest U.S. battleground over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

The legislation to repeal the law, known as House Bill 2 (HB2), was defeated on a vote of 32-16, leaving the bathroom restrictions in place statewide. The rejection followed Republican-led political maneuvering that tied its repeal to a second provision that would have temporarily banned cities from affirming transgender bathroom rights.

WATCH: Incoming North Carolina governor announces intention to repeal ‘bathroom law’

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The Republican-dominated state Senate adjourned without voting on the temporary municipal ban. The state’s House of Representatives, also controlled by Republicans, had already voted to adjourn.

READ MORE: Transgender woman takes selfie in North Carolina bathroom to protest anti-LGBT law

Democratic Senator Jeff Jackson said the repeal was defeated because Republicans reneged on a deal with Democrats to bring the measure to a floor vote with no strings attached.

“They got here with strings attached so it failed,” Jackson said.

Earlier in the week, outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory had called the special session to consider scrapping the law, which passed in March and made North Carolina the first state to bar transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity.

WATCH: Department of Justice puts North Carolina on notice their bathroom law violates federal law

Supporters of the statute cited traditional values and a need for public safety, while opponents called it mean-spirited, unnecessary and a violation of civil liberties.

The national backlash was swift and fierce, leading to boycotts that have been blamed for millions of dollars in economic losses for the state as events, such as business conferences and the National Basketball Association’s 2017 All-Star Game, were moved out of North Carolina.

READ MORE: North Carolina bathroom bill makes pepper spray ‘valuable tool’ for students: school board member

The pushback contributed to McCrory’s razor-thin defeat in a fall re-election bid against Democrat Roy Cooper, an opponent of the law.

On Monday, Cooper had said he reached a deal with state Republicans to repeal the law. But Republicans eventually proposed pairing the repeal with a months-long “cooling-off period,” or moratorium, in which local jurisdictions would be banned from enacting their own ordinances regulating public bathrooms, showers or changing facilities.

The moratorium proposal died without the Senate taking any action.

HB 2 was enacted largely in response to a local measure in Charlotte that protected the rights of transgender people to use public bathrooms of their choice.

The Charlotte City Council on Monday repealed its ordinance as a prelude to the state repealing HB 2.

24 May -

Cindy Stowell’s inspirational Jeopardy! run comes to a close

Cindy Stowell’s inspirational Jeopardy! winning streak came to an end Wednesday.

The Stage 4 colon cancer victim, who passed away Dec. 5, just over a week before her appearances on the game show began to air. She reeled off six consecutive wins before finally being bested.

Before dying, Stowell promised to donate her $103,803 in winnings to the Cancer Research Institute, according to the New York Times.

Jeopardy! said in a statement that only a select group of the game show staff, including host Alex Trebek, knew Stowell was ill. Her opponents, however, did not.

“She really saw it as a personal challenge to test herself in this forum that she watched and loved,” longtime boyfriend, Jason Hess, told the New York Times. “She said going in that her main objective was not to embarrass herself. Clearly, she achieved that.”

Trebek paid tribute to Stowell during Wednesday’s airing.

“Appearing on our show was the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition for that lady,” he told viewers. “From all of us here at Jeopardy!, our sincere condolences to her family, and her friends.”

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One of Stowell’s opponents spoke kindly of her on 桑拿会所.

The man who ended her run, Sam Scovill, paid tribute to her boyfriend on 桑拿会所.

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Earlier this year, Stowell, a science content developer from Austin, Texas, passed the online contestant test and moved onto the next round – an in-person audition in Oklahoma City, Okla., according to a statement from the game show.

However, before appearing in person, Stowell received some horrible news, forcing to her to inquire about the timing of the audition and possible taping.

“Do you have any idea how long it typically takes between an in person interview, and the taping date? I ask because I just found out that I don’t have too much longer to live,” Stowell wrote to Jeopardy! contestant producer Maggie Speak. “The doctor’s best guess is about 6 months. If there is the chance that I’d be able to still tape episodes of Jeopardy! if I were selected, I’d like to do that and donate any winnings to … charities involved in cancer research.

“If it is unlikely that the turnaround time would be that quick, then I’d like to give up my try out spot to someone else,” Stowell wrote.

According to the game show, Speak told Stowell to attend the in-person audition and if she qualified, the game show would be booked for a taping as soon as possible.

On Aug. 31, Stowell fulfilled her dream.

Hess and Stowell’s family issued a statement through the game show, saying she played “the game she loved.”

“Cindy came on Jeopardy! to play the game she loved and in doing so, she was able to make a contribution to cancer research in the hopes that no one else would have to go through what she did,” her family said in the statement.

24 May -

Lumby sends long-term campers packing

They’re not exactly luxury accommodations, but the Lumby Lions Campground has turned into long-term affordable housing for some this winter. Now the Village of Lumby says the eight residents who have set up trailers there have to leave by mid-February.

Some campers say they have nowhere else to go and closing the campground is not fair.

“I think it is very unfair and uncalled for,” said camper Darrell Turner.

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“What are we harming? Who are we hurting?”

Turner says he doesn’t know what he will do when they are forced to leave on February 15. His neighbour Virginia Meuier is in a similar situation. Unable to find an affordable place to rent that will accept her dogs, she has been living in her trailer at the campground since October and paying $300 a month.

Read More: Province makes $18.4-million pledge for Kelowna affordable housing

“I don’t think it is fair at all. Some of us have nowhere to go so that’s why we are here,” Meunier said.

The Lions Club has been operating a campground on land owned by the Village of Lumby for years, but this year the club decided to try something new and keep the site open over the winter.

Read More: Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis driving people into homelessness: report

The club says it only found out after accepting winter campers that keeping the site open year round wasn’t allowed.

When the Lions Club asked for permission to keep the site open this winter, the village rejected the request. The mayor says allowing winter camping at the site would put the municipality in a difficult legal situation.

“It would now be viewed as a mobile home park in the eyes of the court so now then we have to start supplying sewer and water,” said Mayor Kevin Acton.

Instead of legitimizing what he considers to be, an unsuitable living situation, the mayor is promising the village will work to find new homes for those who are being displaced. Only one of the campers has a full sewer and water connection.

“We can’t halfway take care of people. We need to either take care of them or not take care of them and I am choosing to take care of them. We are going to find a place for them to live. We are going to find a place that is suitable,” said Acton.

While Turner and Meuier say they have nowhere to go when the campsite closes, others have already made alternate plans. One camper will be house-sitting and another says he will be moving his trailer to his job site. A third camper said he was only staying at the campground for a month while working in the area. He will simply be returning home.

24 May -

Calgary librarian shows off rare first edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’

The Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol was published 173 years ago this week – on Dec. 19, 1843 – and a copy of it is in remarkably good condition in Calgary.

Pointing to a handwritten inscription inside the front cover, rare books specialist Annie Murray said:

“Someone called John Adams owned it in 1851 and eventually it made its way to Calgary. Who knows how?”

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    Murray is a curator at the University of Calgary library, where the book is part of a collection of vintage volumes.

    The first edition of A Christmas Carol is one of only 10 in Canada.

    “This is a morality story. It’s about a person changing for the better,” explained Murray, referring to main character Ebenezer Scrooge gradually coming to appreciate the Christmas spirit of generosity over the course of the story.

    “Dickens was very scarred from childhood experience of poverty,” said Murray. “Having to work while his father was in debtors’ prison, he was very sympathetic to the poor and he felt that by telling a Christmas story, this was the best way for him to help create more attention around charity and giving.”

    WATCH: Theatre Calgary celebrates 30 years of spirited tradition with A Christmas Carol

    Murray feels this timeless tale is particularly timely in Calgary this year, “because of all the people who’ve lost their jobs.”

    “Families are struggling, people need help. And this is a book that reminds you that everybody has something they can give.”

    You’re welcome to stop by the U of C library to check out A Christmas Carol and other rare books.

    The library closes for the holidays on Wednesday, Dec. 22 and reopens on Jan. 3.

24 Apr -

Tweets predicted someone would overdose at Toronto nightclub’s all ages concert

Hours before the Friday night “all ages” concert at REBEL nightclub, chilling tweets foretelling the night circulated.

“Five dollars says one person who’s going to dvbbs overdoses on molly,” said one 桑拿会所 user.

“More than one” chimed in someone else.

“Maybe five,” said another.

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READ MORE: 6 hospitalized in addition to woman who died after overdosing at Toronto nightclub: councillor

That night, a 19-year-old woman died of an apparent overdose.

Friends have identified her as Violet Davidson.

A person describing herself as Violet’s sister posted on Facebook, “Today brings much heartbreak and sorrow,” adding that the Durham College student was “an amazing artist.”

It’s believed six other young people were hospitalized for suspected overdoses after partying at REBEL.

Toronto Board of Health chair and Councillor Joe Mihevc said Toronto has a drug prevention and harm reduction programs in place.

“We need to obviously intensify our efforts. We need to make sure that when these big parties, these big raves occur, that they have appropriate security guards (and) appropriate police presence to deter the activity as much as possible,” said Mihevc.

The dad of a 16-year-old girl rushed to hospital from the concert said she claimed she bought the drugs from someone inside REBEL.

“He was sort of working the floor,” the father said, who has asked to be unidentified to protect his daughter.

REBEL did not respond to specific questions from Global News, but a representative emailed a statement.

“REBEL has a zero tolerance drug policy and also subjects every patron entering the venue to a full search. Anyone who is caught with an illegal substance is immediately denied entry,” the statement read in part.

At the VELD Music Festival in 2014, two young people died after over dosing.

VELD is run by the same company as REBEL, INK Entertainment.

The company did not reply to questions about the deaths at VELD.

READ MORE: Woman dead, 16-year-old girl hospitalized after overdosing at popular Toronto nightclub

One city councillor, who is also on the Board of Health, said she wants private venues holding such events to be required to have an ambulance on site.

“Right now it’s not structured at this location where you have Toronto Paramedics on scene to intervene,” said Paula Fletcher.

However, such venues hire private paramedics for events.

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