24 Nov -

Economic confidence rebounding, but Albertans remain skeptical: poll

Canadians are feeling much better about the economy in the latter half of 2016, a new poll suggests, but confidence remains low in economically hard-hit Alberta.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Global News between Nov. 25 and Dec. 9, reveals that overall, confidence has increased dramatically since February 2016, when just 34 per cent of Canadians felt the economy was in good shape. That was the lowest rating in two decades.

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    The figure now sits at 61 per cent, nearly doubling in less than a year. Of that 61 per cent, 13 per cent rated the economic situation as “very good,” while 49 per cent said it was “somewhat good.”

    Mike Colledge, president of Ipsos Public Affairs, noted that those numbers are still well short of the high confidence levels (80 per cent or more) seen before the recession of 2008-2009.

    “Like the stock market, public confidence goes up and down,” Colledge explained.

    “I think the further away we’ve gotten from 2008 and 2009, Canadians have started to almost accept that the growth rates we had pre-recession aren’t coming back, and they’ve settled into a new normal.”

    WATCH: Trudeau talks pipelines with Global B.C.’s Chris Gailus

    Canadians are “real-time focused” when it comes to how they perceive the economy, he added, no matter their income level. Rather than looking at big-picture elements like the Liberal government’s infrastructure stimulus plan, they tend to measure the health of the country’s finances based on their own pocketbooks.

    “Low interest rates are a big boon for today,” Colledge noted.

    “People perceive themselves to have more buying power than they do, which is why we have record levels of household debt right now.”

    Different story in Alberta

    While economic confidence may be increasing across the country, the story in Alberta is far less rosy. Among respondents living there, just 36 per cent said they would describe the national economy as doing well.

    READ MORE: Alberta pushes to diversify oil-laden economy

    Comparatively, a majority of residents of British Columbia (59 per cent), Atlantic Canada (62 per cent), Ontario (65 per cent), Quebec (66 per cent), and Saskatchewan/Manitoba (66 per cent) were confident in the health of the economy.

    “The 2015 decline in oil prices has really sunk in,” Colledge said of Alberta’s pessimism.

    “Albertans, more so than some other provinces, define themselves by the oil industry. I know it’s an important economic contributor across the country … but Albertans really see the connection (to oil) on a personal level and they see it everywhere they go.”

    Local picture

    Perceptions of local economies among respondents also tended to be comparatively bleaker, the poll revealed. No region cracked the 50 per cent mark when it came to local economic confidence.

    Only a quarter of Albertans say their local economy is doing well (which is still a 12-point improvement from the figure at the end of 2015). In the Prairies it was 34 per cent, in Atlantic Canada 36 per cent, in B.C. 42 per cent, in Ontario 45 per cent and in Quebec 48 per cent.

    WATCH: Vancouver police say Alberta economy one reason for spike in crime

    According to Colledge, Canadians may feel more optimistic about the national picture because they see banks and businesses doing well, new investments from Ottawa, and job announcements happening elsewhere. But at home, the reality may be different.

    “They see their neighbours who are struggling, they see unemployment in their neighbourhood.”

    Moving into 2017, Colledge said the federal government is probably hoping to see the confidence indicators increase both nationally at at the local level.

    “From a government standpoint, a populace that’s happy is more likely to give you leeway to do other things whether they’re social or economic,” he said.

    This poll was conducted between Nov. 25 and Dec. 9, 2016, with a sample of 1,004 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel who were interviewed online. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

24 Nov -

Majority of Quebecers have positive view on health, lifestyle: study

The Institut de la statistique du Québec released a study Tuesday concerning the health of Quebecers based on data collected from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS).

The CCHS is an annual report that has been gathering answers from hundreds of thousands of Canadians aged 12 and up since 2001.

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    The Quebec institute analyzed results from 2007 to 2014 under five main themes: the state of Quebecers’ mental health and well-being; use of health care services; alcohol and tobacco consumption; disease and health limitations; lifestyle and social conditions.

    READ MORE: Quebec City monastery recognized internationally for health retreats

    According to Katrina Joubert, lead author and research analyst, some of the results paint a fairly positive picture.

    Trends such as the daily use of cigarettes are on a decline (from 19 per cent to 15 per cent) while those who perceived themselves to be physically active was up from 59 per cent to 64 per cent.

    The majority (59 per cent) of Canadians stated that their general health was “excellent or very good.”

    READ MORE: Money will not bring you happiness, but these two things will

    That said, the percentage of Quebecers reported being “overweight and obese” has been on a slight increase since 2007, while the number of respondents stating that regular pain and discomfort prevents them from activity has experienced a significant bump.

    Data also showed 74 per cent of Quebecers believed their mental health was “excellent or very good” (down from 77 percent in 2007-2008).

    About 94 per cent were very satisfied or satisfied with their life.

    READ MORE: It’s not just a paycheque: Finding happiness through employment

    The percentage of people who responded that their days were “quite a bit to extremely stressful” was maintained at 26 per cent, above the 23 per cent national average.

    Joubert indicated that one of the main findings was the fact that respondents with a university degree seemed to score higher on all positive health attributes compared to those with no diploma.

    Specifically, 27 per cent of those without a diploma suffered from “moderate to serious health problems” compared to 10 per cent of those with a university degree.

    READ MORE: Parents of autistic children in Quebec struggle for access to health services

    In contrast, those with a degree are more susceptible to visiting a mental health professional compared to those without.

    Joubert concluded that while the study helps to provide long term health trends, more research is needed to understand the reasons behind some of the results, such as why an increasing number of 12 to 17-year-olds are consulting mental health professionals (six per cent in 2009-2010 compared to 10 per cent in 2013-2014).

24 Nov -

Cost of cap-and-trade for Ontario consumers beginning Jan. 1, 2017

Ontario has passed legislation to create a cap-and-trade system to fight climate change, which comes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

What is cap-and-trade?

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Under the program, industries and businesses are given specific pollution limits, but can sell their emission allowances to other companies if they come in below their annual limit, or buy credits if they exceed it.

READ MORE: Ontario premier reflects on hydro, road tolls and cap-and-trade ahead of 2018 election

Under this new legislation, natural gas providers, for example, must buy emission allowances for the amount used by residential and business customers. These “recovery” costs will then be passed on to consumers.

What cap-and-trade means for homeowners?

The cap-and-trade is expected to cost about 3.3 cents per cubic metre (m3) of natural gas used in 2017.

The cost will depend on how much gas you use, but for the average Ontario household, the additional annual expense is estimated to be about $70 to $80 in 2017.

READ MORE: Ontario auditor general report reveals cap and trade to cost $8B in first years

According to Enbridge Gas, a typical residential customer uses about 2,400 cubic metres of natural gas a year for home and water heating.

Based on a cap-and-trade rate of 3.3 cents/m3, a typical residential customer would pay $6.70 on average per month for a total annual bill impact of about $80.

What cap-and-trade means for businesses?

Facilities, plants and natural gas distributors with emissions of 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gas emissions per year are required by law to participate in the program. They will be required to buy their own emission allowances.

READ MORE: Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges one-year delay on cap-and-trade plan

Businesses generating more than 10,000 tonnes but less than 25,000 tonnes of emissions may choose to opt into the program.

What cap-and-trade means for motorists?

Gasoline will cost about 4.3 cents a litre more in 2017 as a result of the cap-and-trade program.

How will cap-and-trade affect electricity costs?

The Ontario government says cap-and-trade will not make your electricity more expensive. The consumption of electricity is 90 per cent emissions-free partly due to the province’s plan to phase out coal-fired power generation.

However, due to the rising cost of electricity, as reported extensively by Global News, Ontario is removing the eight per cent provincial share of the Harmonized Sales Tax on bills as of Jan. 1.

This is expected to result in savings of $130 for the average household per year. Rural ratepayers could receive additional relief resulting in $540 a year in savings.

Federal Liberals applaud Wynne’s cap-and-trade plan for Ontario

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Federal Liberals applaud Wynne’s cap-and-trade plan for Ontario

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Ontario, Quebec sign their own cap-and-trade deal

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Wynne explains how cap-and-trade will benefit Ontario

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Philippe Couillard praises Kathleen Wynne for introducing cap and trade system

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Kevin O’Leary says the 2016 Ontario budget is full of waste

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How the price at the pumps could rise due to an Ontario government program



24 Nov -

Best movies and TV of 2016: From O.J. to ‘Stranger Things,’ it’s all nostalgic

There was most definitely a trend to 2016 pop culture: in our rush to escape the harsh realities of politics and the current world landscape, as a collective we gravitated toward events of the past. Whether it was the ’90s criminal trial of O.J. Simpson, the life and times of a young Queen Elizabeth II, or a bunch of kids in the ’80s discovering something otherworldly in their own backyard, TV was our lifeboat from reality.

The best movies of 2016 were less steeped in the past (and there were far fewer candidates for this list), though ESPN tackled Simpson’s trial with the seven-hour-plus documentary O.J.: Made in America, and one of the most buzzed-about films, Moonlight, happens to take place in 1980s Miami.

Here are the best TV and movies 2016 had on-offer, in no particular order.

TV

The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

When word broke that American Horror Story and Glee creator Ryan Murphy was producing an O.J. TV show, it was hard not to think of the campy concoction that might result. While yes, there was a touch of camp, but what we ultimately ended up getting was an absolutely spellbinding miniseries with a killer cast (no pun intended). Leading the charge were Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark and Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, who each turned in award-worthy performances. Even John Travolta (as lawyer Robert Shapiro) expertly captured his character. An indicator of a great show: audiences came back week after week, even though they fully knew what was going to happen.

The Crown

The monarchy, you say? Ten episodes about a young Queen Elizabeth, you say? What sounded like a potentially dull affair ended up being very interesting, thanks in part to the stellar performances by Claire Foy as Elizabeth, and 3rd Rock From the Sun‘s John Lithgow as Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It’s fascinating to see the inner workings of the monarchy — since, hey, we never get to — and despite the fictional liberties taken by The Crown, it’s difficult not to be seduced by the pomp of it all (and the humanness, faults and all, of Elizabeth).

READ MORE: The Crown on Netflix: Everything you need to know

Making a Murderer

OK, so technically Making a Murderer was released on Netflix in mid-December 2015, but it was a societal zeitgeist for nearly all of 2016. People around the world were literally obsessed with the story of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, who were jailed for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Some believed their innocence, some thought for sure they were guilty. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, you most likely have a stake in the outcome, right? Making a Murderer can also be credited with starting the true-crime TV trend (along with the 2014 fictional series True Detective), which doesn’t look like it’s abating any time soon.

WATCH BELOW: The latest on Making a Murderer

Appeals court blocks ‘Making a Murderer’ subject Brendan Dassey’s release from prison

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Appeals court blocks ‘Making a Murderer’ subject Brendan Dassey’s release from prison

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Steven Avery of ‘Making a Murderer’ engaged to woman he’s met once

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‘Making a Murderer’: Brendan Dassey’s conviction overturned by federal court

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Netflix documentary ‘Making a Murderer’ prompts calls for pardon

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“Making a Murderer” creators reveal a juror said verdict in Avery case was a “compromise”

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Lawyer for Steven Avery files paperwork to have DNA evidence re-examined

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Ex-detective says Steven Avery was framed, serial killer responsible for Teresa Halbach death

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Steven Avery’s new lawyer says case has ‘hallmarks of a wrongful conviction’



Stranger Things

If you haven’t heard of this show, then you must be living in a cave somewhere. Stranger Things was arguably the breakout show of the year, and hit peak nostalgia with its title font, music, time frame and subject matter. Reminiscent of ’80s hits The Goonies and E.T., people flocked to the show like Chunk to a Baby Ruth. The casting of ’80s and ’90s darling Winona Ryder, calculated or not, also helped up the attractiveness of the series. People are still talking about it, and news of a Season 2 coming down the pipe spawned thousands of celebratory internet articles.

Game of Thrones

This gigantic, lumbering beast finally paid off its loyal fans with a developmentally robust season, after a few preceding ones that felt like a slog through mud. Yes, lots of stuff happened on Game of Thrones in Season 6, including long-separated family members reuniting, deaths (many deaths) and a slow build towards all-out, total war. With so many disparate plotlines going on, audiences were starting to grow weary, but luckily the TV drama righted the ship just in time.

READ MORE: Jon Snow’s father: Game of Thrones confirms character’s lineage

South Park

Crudely animated comedy South Park has almost always lived in the shadow of The Simpsons, but it has been going strong alongside it for decades. This season in particular perfectly captured the 2016 presidential election, and its timely commentary nailed it in ways most shows would be afraid to even attempt. In its own meta fashion, the show blamed our obsession with nostalgia as the reason for Donald Trump’s (Mr. Garrison’s) victory, and despite the outrageous series of events on the show leading to his election, in some weird, twisted way, it all made sense.

Westworld

One of the most brilliant shows to start up in 2016, Westworld takes the heavily trodden path of robots becoming sentient and puts its own steampunk-ish spin to it. Previous shows like Battlestar Galactica adeptly dealt with the robots-turning-against-their-creators plotline, so it was a risky road for HBO. It all paid off, though, with the show’s alluring complexity and rich storytelling keeping audiences captive. It actually ended up being the channel’s most-watched first season ever for an original-scripted series.

Black Mirror

Originally a British series, Black Mirror was taken over by Netflix for its third season, which debuted this year. Each episode has a different cast, a different story and a different city, and it explores the dark underbelly of social media and our complete reliance on new technology. A modern combination of Twin Peaks and The Twilight Zone, the show is a complete mind-f**k, and may even cause you to get rid of your phone and social media accounts. Seriously, you’ll never look at Facebook or Instagram the same way again.

Better Call Saul

Overlooked, underappreciated and poorly described as the “prequel to Breaking Bad,” Better Call Saul continues to be one of the best shows on TV. Every episode is a theatrical wonder, with deliberate staging and exceptional acting. Bob Odenkirk, who reprises his Breaking Bad character Saul Goodman, is easily one of the finest actors in the biz, and it’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off of him while he’s onscreen. For a show that’s dialogue-heavy, it is never dull, and series creator Vince Gilligan still uses the gorgeous New Mexico desert as the backdrop to the proceedings.

READ MORE: Better Call Saul Season 2 finale: Michael Mando on what’s to come

Atlanta

While Atlanta is lesser-known and might not bringing in huge audiences, the critical response has been overwhelmingly positive. Managing to somehow be raw, hilariously funny and accurate all at the same time, it’s a refreshing take on modern life. Series creator and actor Donald Glover has crafted a gem, often inverting racial stereotypes to make audiences think (for example, he cast a black actor as Justin Bieber, highlighting how we tolerate a white pop star’s outlandish behaviour, but not a black one).

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee, a Canadian woman who headed south, has been providing the pointed commentary the American populace needed during the tumultuous presidential election. In the past, people looked to The Daily Show, but after Jon Stewart’s retirement the show lost much of its political bite. Thank goodness Bee stepped into the fray, because she has been absolutely nailing it over the past year.

Movies

O.J.: Made in America

By the time this ESPN special TV documentary aired, there was a very real chance of O.J. Simpson fatigue. Numerous specials and true-crime shows on Simpson saturated the tube this year, but Made in America managed to supersede them with its painstaking accuracy and exposition. Outstanding footage and interviews (some never-before-seen) made it a must-see, and as unbelievable as it may sound, it isn’t boring for one split-second of its 7.5-hour running time.

READ MORE: O.J. Simpson shown grinning in new Nevada prison photo

Moonlight

Buzz has been deafening around Moonlight since it started playing the film-festival circuit. The movie follows the life of a black Miami man from childhood to adulthood as he tries to find his way in life. Moonlight is starkly raw in its portrayal, and if you’ve ever been to Miami, the film absolutely nails the depiction of the hot, sweaty city. Brace yourself for some big, emotional scenes.

Arrival

Many people are bored with alien movies and their generic approaches to otherworldly beings visiting our planet. This is why Arrival is such a standout this year; Canadian director Denis Villeneuve takes the typical extraterrestrial film and transforms the message. It should also be mentioned that it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful package (the cinematography is stunning, as usual with Villeneuve’s work).

La La Land

Even if you’re not a fan of song-and-dance, La La Land has the ability to sweetly burrow its way into your heart. Starring Canadian Ryan Gosling in yet another dreamboat role, the movie follows the trials of a young couple as they try to make their way in Hollywood. Despite a slight sag in the middle of the movie, it managed to spur tears from even the hardiest of critics. You can expect this film to rack up the accolades and awards come 2017.

WATCH BELOW: Interviews with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone for La La Land

Emma Stone Calls ‘La La Land’ A Tribute To Los Angeles

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Emma Stone Calls ‘La La Land’ A Tribute To Los Angeles



Manchester By the Sea

Anchored by an amazingly strong cast (Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler) delivering some of their best performances, Manchester By the Sea is heavy and true-to-life. It’s hard to think of another film in recent memory that deals with the subject of grief so openly and laid-bare. Our advice: take an entire box of tissues with you to the theatre — you’re going to need them.

Finding Dory

The follow-up to definitive children’s movie Finding Nemo, showing up 13 years later in cinemas, is just as cute as the original and is yet another example of society’s obsession with nostalgia and escaping to the past. Dory, voiced expertly by Ellen DeGeneres, is endearing despite her complete and total lack of memory, and you’ll root for her just like you did for Nemo back in the day.

Deadpool

Super-raunchy and actually funny, Deadpool was a surprise hit earlier this year. Starring Canada’s own Ryan Reynolds as the titular character (hahaha, titular), Deadpool took the dry, overdone superhero genre and turned it on its head. Simultaneously mocking the ridiculousness of our superhero worship while striking out on its own path, the comedic approach helped the film surmount the usual hurdles that stymie comic-book movies.

Did we miss anything you loved this year? Let us know in the comments section below!

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24 Nov -

Toronto panda wrestles snowman during winter frolic

Toronto’s pandas continue to prove why they’re so cute.

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Toronto Zoo has released video of their giant pandas frolicking in the snow.

READ MORE: Toronto Zoo pandas joyfully frolic in the snow after storm

Video posted to YouTube shows Da Mao playing with a snowman that was built Tuesday inside the panda’s enclosure for “enrichment.”

Da Mao is seen scratching and climbing on top of the frozen figure.

At one point the snowman’s head breaks off, sending the adult panda tumbling.

WATCH: Toronto Zoo panda bear enjoys the winter weather

Another video recorded on the zoo’s security camera on Dec. 12 showed Da Mao somersaulting down a snowy slope.

Da Mao was joined by the zoo’s twin panda cubs Jian Panpan — meaning “Canadian Hope” — and Jia Yueyue — “Canadian Joy” — pouncing and tumbling in the snow together.

The playful twins, both of whom celebrated their first birthday in October, have been a major attraction for the city.

Da Mao, who arrived on loan with partner Er Shun from China in 2013, gave birth to Jian Panpan and Jia Yueyue last year.

Da Mao and Er Shun are scheduled to move to the Calgary Zoo in the spring of 2018.

ChangSha Night Net

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24 Nov -

Elderly woman punched, pulled from home during scary Halifax home invasion

An elderly woman was punched in the face and dragged from her Halifax home during an attempted robbery Tuesday night, police say.

Officers were called to a home on Pennington Street at 10:45 p.m.

Eighty-five-year-old Jeanette MacDonald says she was home alone when she answered a knock at her door to find a man, who police say punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground.

The suspect then punched the widow again and dragged her out of her home by her arm. She said the man had a gun and knife in his pockets, and demanded money.

“I said ‘give you my money? I got no money,” MacDonald said from her home Tuesday.

“Just a punk that’s all he was.”

MacDonald has significant bruising on her face under her eyes, as well as on her chest.

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MacDonald said the man pushed her onto the floor and knocked her large china cabinet down over her. She said she tried to push him away, but he pushed her outside of her home. Neighbours came to help after they heard her screaming.

“Oh god man I was petrified,” MacDonald said.

The woman was treated for minor cuts and bruises. She told Global News she’s feeling sore after the attack.

The suspect —; described as a 5’5″ man with a slim build and no facial hair —; fled the scene, and despite the efforts of several officers and a K-9 unit, police couldn’t find him. The suspect was wearing a red sweater and toque at the time.

“We want to emphasize that the victim did nothing wrong. However, if you’re not expecting somebody, especially later at night, to be coming to your residence, err on the side of caution,” said Halifax Regional Police Const. Dianne Penfound.

—; With files from Steve Silva, Global News. 

24 Nov -

Aleppo evacuations resume as Syrian government regains control of city

BEIRUT – Syrian rebels resumed their evacuation from Aleppo on Wednesday, paving the way for the government to reassume control of the war-torn city.

The Syrian opposition agreed to surrender their last foothold in the city last week, marking the most significant victory for President Bashar Assad since an uprising against his family’s four-decade rule swept the country in 2011.

READ MORE: Russia drafts ‘Moscow Declaration’ to resolve Syrian conflict with Turkey, Iran

It followed a punishing offensive by the government and its regional allies that drove out tens of thousands of civilians from the east of the city.

The government agreed to allow the remaining residents — fighters and civilians — to leave as part of the agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey in Ankara last week.

WATCH: EU’s top diplomat urges international co-operation to prevent Syria turning into ‘black hole’

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An Associated Press TV crew said four buses from the opposition’s last foothold in the city arrived to the western Aleppo countryside Wednesday, marking the first successful evacuation in over 24 hours.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 60 buses are expected to evacuate some 3,000 fighters and civilians from the opposition’s last foothold in the city. It is the last convoy set to leave Aleppo before the government is expected to declare it has reassumed full control of the city for the first time since rebels carved out an enclave for the opposition in 2012.

READ MORE: Buses headed to Aleppo for evacuation attacked, burned

Syrian state TV said the evacuations resumed after rebels handed over prisoners taken in previous rounds of fighting.

A dispute delayed the final round of evacuations for over 24 hours after some 20,000 civilians and fighters were bused out of the city.

Some 3,000 rebel fighters and civilians endured harsh wintry conditions overnight, waiting to board what may be the last convoy out of the east. Activists circulated photos on social media of families huddled around fires amid the sleet and snow. By midday, temperatures in the city hovered around freezing.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through a network of activists on the ground, said 60 buses were waiting to leave.

Rebels and the government traded blame for the delay.

READ MORE: Turkey ambassador killing a ploy to wreck Syrian peace process, says Vladimir Putin

Syrian state media said on Tuesday evening that “differences among terrorist groups” were holding up the evacuations from Aleppo and from two rebel-besieged Shiite villages in the country’s north, Foua and Kfarya. The government calls all armed opposition fighters terrorists.

The rebels are supposed to allow the evacuation of the sick and wounded from the two villages as part of a cease-fire deal reached last week to ensure the evacuation of eastern, rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was prepared to facilitate the evacuations when they resume.

WATCH: Aleppo girl, Bana Alabed, meets Turkish President Erdogan

Spokeswoman Ingy Sedky said the ICRC had already evacuated 750 people from the twin villages. This would leave some 1,500 more requiring evacuation, according to the deal reached by rebels and the government Monday.

On Tuesday, the ICRC said it has evacuated 25,000 people from the city since operations began last week, but the Observatory says the tally is closer to 17,000.

The Observatory also said 21 buses are still waiting to evacuate the sick and wounded from the rebel-besieged Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya.

Also Tuesday, the U.N. humanitarian aid agency said Syria’s government authorized U.N. plans to send about 20 staffers to monitor evacuations from eastern Aleppo. It was not clear if the U.N. monitors would arrive before the operations were complete.

Elsewhere in northern Syria, fighting between the Islamic State group on one side, and Turkish forces and Syrian opposition forces on the other, killed four Turkish soldiers, according to the state Anadolu news agency.

WATCH: Ban Ki-moon says United Nations has failed the people of Syria 

The report cited unnamed military sources as saying that 11 Turkish soldiers were also wounded in the fighting for the IS-held town of al-Bab on Wednesday, including one who was reported to be in critical condition. The agency reported intense clashes near a hospital in the town, saying the militants were using it as a shelter and to store arms and ammunition.

Turkey sent ground troops into northern Syria in August to support Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces in clearing a border area of Islamic State group militants and to curb Kurdish territorial expansion.

At least 24 Turkish soldiers have been killed so far in the operation, called Euphrates Shield.

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

24 Nov -

Canadian man with family caught in Libyan conflict calls on Ottawa for help

TORONTO – A Canadian man whose family is trapped in a militant-controlled area in the Libyan city of Benghazi is calling on Ottawa to help broker a ceasefire so innocent civilians can flee the fighting.

Ali Hamza, of Mississauga, Ont., says his 75-year-old mother, five siblings, sister-in-law and six young nieces are among about 130 families still living in the neighbourhood of Ganfouda, which is besieged by Libyan army troops that answer to a powerful military commander.

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The North African nation has been plagued by violence and chaos since the ouster and death of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi in a 2011 civil war.

Since September, Hamza says his family and friends in Ganfouda have told him that homes have been destroyed, people have been killed and residents are running out of food, water, medication and other basic necessities.

READ MORE: Kidnapped Canadian who returned from Libya recounts ordeal

The 50-year-old is urging Ottawa to issue a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ganfouda until families in the area can be evacuated.

A spokeswoman with Global Affairs Canada says the federal government is “deeply concerned” about the ongoing armed conflict in Libya, including the district of Ganfouda.

“Canada supports the work of humanitarian partners to facilitate free and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance and to permit civilians who wish to leave to do so in safety and with dignity,” said Jocelyn Sweet.

But Hamza says that’s not enough. He believes a strong public stance from Canada on the situation in Ganfouda would have an impact.

“Canada is a humble country but its weight is known,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking Canada…do a statement to protect the civilians who have been entrapped there.”

READ MORE: Canadian hostage, 2 others released in Libya

Hamza said the civilians in Ganfouda, including his family, have not been able to leave the area because they have not been guaranteed safe passage.

“Canada and the international community’s silence on Ganfouda has allowed armed groups to commit gross human rights violations without accountability,” he said. “It sends the message to Canadians that the life of my mother and my family is worthless. While they are not Canadian citizens, they are still my family.”

Hamza is also part of an informal group of activists who are trying to get a shipment of aid to Ganfouda, but those efforts have been put on hold due to the precarious security situation, he said.

Amnesty International has raised the alarm over the situation in Ganfouda, saying hundreds of Libyan and foreign nationals have been trapped in the neighbourhood for months, with dwindling food and fuel supplies. The group has also expressed concern about people in the area facing possible mass punishment under the pretext that they are supporters or sympathizers of the Islamic State group.

READ MORE: 240 migrants feared dead in 2 shipwrecks off Libya

Despite a UN-brokered peace deal reached a year ago, Libya remains divided between east and west, with no effective government and rival factions and militias – each side with backing from different foreign countries.

– with files from the Associated Press

24 Nov -

From Drake to Justin Bieber, 2016 was the year of Canadian music

It’s not a new phenomenon. Canadians have been dominating the music charts for decades, but rarely do we witness what happened in 2016: multiple Canadian artists practically owned the scene, taking up prime real estate on the charts and racking up nominations and awards across multiple genres.

This year, it wasn’t just about accolades either; Canadian musicians like Drake, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber were fully ingrained in pop culture, setting the tone rather than following it.

Drake

It’s gotten to the point where it’s hard to remember when Drake (a.k.a Aubrey Graham) “started at the bottom.” He’s so entrenched at the top we all must look like specks down here.

This has been a banner year for Drake, and he’s catapulted to fame on the world stage, bringing his hometown of Toronto along with him.

Big wins in 2016:

In February, Toronto Mayor John Tory gave Drake a key to the city.

He may already serve as the Global Ambassador for the Toronto Raptors, but he was also appointed coach of Canada’s team at the 2016 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.Along with Bieber, Drake received five Juno Award nominations for Juno Fan Choice, Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Artist of the Year and Rap Recording of the Year; he lost four of five to Bieber and The Weeknd, but won Rap Recording of the Year for If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late.In addition to debuting at No. 1 on Billboard and selling more than 600,000 copies on its first day, Views became the first album ever to achieve one billion streams on Apple Music.He’s the most-streamed artist of 2016 on Spotify with a whopping 4.7 billion individual plays.Breaking a Michael Jackson record should be regarded as the gold standard, and Drake did that with his 13 American Music Award nominations, two more than Jackson’s 11 nominations in 1984; he won four of those awards.He received the most BET Award nominations in 2016 with 14, and he took home the trophies for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist and Best Collaboration (with Rihanna, see below).Drake’s single with Rihanna (who he dated for a brief period in 2016), Work, was the #1 song in over a dozen countries at the time of its release, and has been nominated for multiple awards.Alongside singer Céline Dion, he topped Google’s list of the Top Trending Canadians for the year.

READ MORE: Drake cancels remaining Summer Sixteen Tour dates due to ankle injury

Justin Bieber

A year packed with success isn’t really anything new for Justin Bieber, who virtually took over the world in 2016 with the release of his latest album, Purpose, in November of 2015. He toured the globe, made headlines, found a new girlfriend (at least temporarily) and absolutely dominated music award shows across the board.

Big wins in 2016:

Bieber was the first male artist in almost 10 years to have three #1 hits (Sorry, What Do You Mean?, Love Yourself) from one album — the last artist to achieve that goal was Justin Timberlake with 2005’s Future Sex/Love Sounds.Hard to believe, but Biebs won his first Grammy in 2016 for Where Are U Now, his collaboration with Diplo and Skrillex, and celebrated with a Carpool Karaoke session.

While his series of outbursts at concerts made headlines, his Purpose tour continued across the world, earning him millions of dollars and tons of attention.He became the first artist — ever — to reach 10 billion views on YouTube.The Canadian crooner broke eight Guinness World Records, including most 桑拿会所 followers (as of this writing, 90.5 million) and most-streamed track on Spotify in one week (What Do You Mean?, 30,723,708 times).In his home country, he was nominated for five Juno Awards, winning the Juno Fan Choice Award and Pop Album of the Year.He’s slated to win a boatload of Grammys at the 2017 ceremony, and he’s closing out this year with four nominations: Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Solo Performance, Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

READ MORE: Justin Bieber croons Toronto pub crowd with surprise performance

The Weeknd

The Weeknd‘s rise over the past couple of years has been nothing short of amazing. Ever since late 2010, it has been a meteoric ascent into fame for the Scarborough, Ont. native. His latest release, Starboy, is both a critical and fan favourite, and it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.

Big wins in 2016:

A generous soul, he donated $50,000 to the University of Toronto for an Ethiopic Studies program and $250,000 to Black Lives Matter.He was featured on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo (FML) and Beyoncé’s Lemonade (6 Inch).The Weeknd cleaned up at this year’s Juno Awards, taking home five awards: Album of the Year for Beauty Behind the Madness, Single of the Year (Can’t Feel My Face), Songwriter of the Year, R&B/Soul Recording of the Year, and the big prize, Artist of the Year.Being nominated for an Academy Award isn’t something many musicians can claim, especially so early into a career, but The Weeknd can; his song from Fifty Shades of Grey, Earned It, was nominated, but unfortunately he lost to Sam Smith.At the 2016 MTV European Music Awards, he beat out Beyoncé for Best Video for Starboy.Lest we forget his performance of Starboy at this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, debuting his newly shorn locks.

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara has emerged in 2016 as a force to be reckoned with. A former YouTube star, Cara released her debut album, Know-It-All, in mid-2015, and the first single, Here, became a sleeper hit both in Canada and in the U.S. At only 20 years old, her career is just starting.

Big wins in 2016:

She won Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2016 Juno Awards, defeating the other four nominees.Cara was selected as one of the opening acts for the European and North American legs of Coldplay’s current tour, which runs through almost all of 2017.Disney’s animated film Moana used Cara’s How Far I’ll Go as one of its marquee songs (and it’s arguably the most catchy of the movie’s soundtrack).At the 2016 iHeart Radio Much Music Video Awards, she took home the Best New Canadian Artist award, quite a feat considering she started out a mere year ago.

Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes is another example of Canadian ingenuity, his career started on the video app Vine in 2013. Over the past three years, he’s become one of the top-performing pop-rock acts, and his name frequently appears on the Billboard Hot 100 and Top 40 lists. In 2016 he released his sophomore album, Illuminate, and went on his second world tour.

Big wins in 2016:

Not just a pretty voice, Mendes was signed to Wilhelmina Models earlier in the year.For the first time, he was selected by Forbes magazine as one of the Top 30 under 30.

His debut single from Illuminate, Treat You Better, easily reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200.He’s racked up the awards this year too, receiving the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Breakout Artist, the MTV Europe Music Award for Best New Male (an honour bestowed on Bieber in 2015), the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Worldwide Act and the MuchMusic Video Award for Pop Video of the Year (I Know What You Did Last Summer).

WATCH: Shawn Mendes talks Illuminate

The Tragically Hip

By far the band with the most experience on this list, The Tragically Hip roared back into the public consciousness in 2016 (though some would argue they never left). After lead singer Gord Downie announced that he has terminal cancer, the band embarked on a Canada-only tour to coincide with the release of their latest album, Man Machine Poem.

Big wins in 2016:

The band’s final tour triggered a nostalgic wave, and their 15 sold-out concerts were raved about by fans and newbies alike.

The Tragically Hip in Kingston

03:36

The Tragically Hip in Kingston

03:00

The Tragically Hip end tour and possibly their career with a bang

02:20

The Tragically Hip’s last concert cements bands legacy as Canadian music legends

00:40

A walkthrough at The Tragically Hip’s final show of their Man Machine Poem tour.

00:29

The Tragically Hip kick off final show of Man Machine Poem tour with “50 Mission Cap”

00:28

The Tragically Hip play “Courage” as 2nd song of night

02:05

Fans say goodbye to Tragically Hip

01:04

The Tragically Hip’s fans sing ‘O Canada’ before historic concert

02:14

Springer Market Square the place to be if you don’t have tickets to The Tragically Hip

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The Tragically Hip get set to play historic show in Kingston, Ont

01:46

Justin Trudeau wades through crowd before historic Tragically Hip concert in Kingston



A week after the final show in Kingston, Ont., all 17 of The Hip’s albums were on the Billboard Canadian Albums Chart, quite a feat considering the band formed in 1983.The Hip’s tour phenomenon raised awareness of Canadian music around the world, and Downie shone a spotlight on his particular form of cancer.Although it appears like the band as it’s known has now disbanded, Downie announced his own solo album, Secret Path, released in October.Follow @CJancelewicz ChangSha Night Net

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24 Nov -

North Carolina set to repeal anti-LGBT ‘bathroom bill’

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s legislature is reconvening to see if enough lawmakers are willing to repeal a 9-month-old law that limited LGBT rights, including which bathrooms transgender people can use in public schools and government buildings.

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House and Senate members planned to meet in the capital Wednesday for a special session two days after the Charlotte City Council gutted an ordinance that in March led the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass House Bill 2, known by some as the “bathroom bill.”

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

For months, the state’s Republican leaders had said they were willing to consider repealing the law if Charlotte acted first to undo its expanded antidiscrimination ordinance. But the mayor and most council members, with the support of gay rights groups, had been unwilling to do so in the name of equality.

The Democrat-controlled council didn’t act until Monday, two weeks after GOP Gov. Pat McCrory conceded the gubernatorial race to Democrat Roy Cooper.

WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of LGBT supporters rally against North Carolina’s ‘Bathroom Bill’

During the race, Cooper blasted McCrory over the law he signed and its fallout – job losses, cancelled concerts and sporting events – contributed to McCrory’s narrow defeat. Cooper, the attorney general for the past 16 years, helped broker Charlotte’s co-operation in the deal and said during the campaign he wanted HB2 repealed.

Although House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said earlier this week that they “would take up the repeal of HB2” in a special session, uncertainty over exactly what lawmakers will do remains. The legislature has shown a willingness to go its own way, despite intense outside pressure to scrap the law.

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

Over the past year, there has been bitter fighting between Democrats and Republicans. Just last week, Republican leaders convened a surprise legislative session and passed two laws designed to bring Cooper’s powers in check when he becomes governor Jan. 1.

Cooper expects a full repeal of HB2, his spokeswoman said.

A few lawmakers from both parties interviewed Tuesday said they anticipated a simple measure they would support to repeal the entire bill.

“My hope for the session is that we have a one-day session with one bill and we go home,” GOP Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville said. But McGrady said any lawmaker could offer amendments to retain parts of the law, which could complicate matters.

READ MORE: Debate over transgender bathroom law spreads across U.S.

Some conservative lawmakers – urged on by conservative Christians groups that supported HB2 – are likely to want to keep the law in place.

“I’m not interested in repealing anything,” GOP Rep. Jeff Collins of Rocky Mount told The Wilson Times. “I think we did the right thing the first time.”

The Charlotte measure approved Monday notes that it won’t take effect unless HB2 is repealed in its entirety by Dec. 31. And some sections of the city’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance for LGBT people approved earlier this year that weren’t invalidated by HB2 were left intact. Both details could give some lawmakers justification not to repeal the state law Wednesday.

But repealing the bill would require only a handful of GOP support – perhaps 10 members in the Senate or 15 in the House – if all Democrats voted for it. The session that McCrory called is scheduled several days before Christmas, with some legislators out of town.

HB2 is best known for requiring transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

READ MORE: US Attorney General says transgender bathroom law is part of civil rights struggle

It also limits statewide protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in public accommodations and employment, and it reinforced a prohibition on local governments from raising minimum wage. Local governments are also prevented from enacting nondiscrimination measures that would go further than state law.

Discussions about repealing the law increased after decisions by the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference to move their championship events out of North Carolina this academic year. The NBA also moved an All-Star Game out of Charlotte.

LGBT groups, which had fought any deal with legislators earlier this year to do away with the Charlotte ordinance, are now on board if the result is the end of HB2.

“Full and complete repeal of HB2 is the only acceptable outcome,” Stephen Peters of Human Rights Campaign said Tuesday in an email.

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