Monthly Archives: May 2019

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U.S. unemployment rises to 10.2%

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers cut a deeper-than-expected 190,000 jobs in October, government data showed on Friday, driving the unemployment rate to 10.2%, the highest in 26-1/2 years.

The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was the highest since April 1983 and October’s non-farm payrolls loss was the smallest since August last year. It revised job losses for August and September to show 91,000 fewer jobs lost than previously reported.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected payrolls to drop by 175,000 and the jobless rate to edge up to 9.9% from 9.8% in September.

The labor market is being watched for signs whether the economic recovery that started in the third quarter can be sustained without government support. The economy grew at a 3.5% annualized rate in the July-September period, probably ending the most painful U.S. recession in 70 years.

Payrolls have declined for 22 consecutive months now, throwing 7.3 million people out of work since December 2007, when the recession started.

However, the pace of layoffs has slowed sharply from early this year, when nearly three-quarters of a million jobs were lost in January. In October, job losses were across almost all sectors, with education and health services and professional and business services bucking the trend.

Manufacturing employment fell 61,000 last month, while construction industries payrolls dropped 62,000.

The service-providing sector cut 61,000 workers in October and goods-producing industries slashed 129,000 positions. Education and health services added 45,000 jobs, while government employment was flat.

© Thomson Reuters 2009

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Top court rejects malicious prosecution charge in Saskatchewan child abuse case

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that a Crown prosecutor was not acting maliciously when he prosecuted 12 members of a Saskatchewan family in the early 1990s after three foster children accused them of sexual abuse and bizarre satanic ritual abuse.

The ruling – which clarifies standards for when wrongly accused individuals can sue for malicious prosecution – overturns two earlier decisions in the Saskatchewan courts that found Matthew Miazga liable for building a case against foster parents Dale and Anita Klassen and members of their extended family.

The Saskatchewan government has supported Miazga in his lengthy court battle, asserting that a ruling against him could have a chilling effect on prosecutors, causing them to err on the side of caution in pursuit of wrongdoing to the detriment of public safety.

The Supreme Court unanimously concluded that the case against Miazga did not meet the stringent standards, set out by the court 20 years ago, for suing Crowns for maliciously prosecuting innocent people.

"In this case, there is no evidence to support a finding of malice," Justice Louise Charron wrote in the 7-0 decision.

She concluded that the trial judge who found Miazga liable in 2003 made a "palpable and overriding error" when he ruled that Miazga could not have had a subjective belief that he had reasonable grounds to pursue the case and that he, therefore, acted out of malice.

"The absence of a subjective belief in sufficient grounds, while a relevant factor, does not equate with malice," wrote Charron.

The three foster children were age four, four and seven when they were apprehended in 1987 from their deaf mute, alcoholic and sexually abusive, biological parents, who were later convicted.

The youngsters were placed in the Klassen home and, in the following years, accused their foster family of sexual abuse and satanic ritual abuse, including animal sacrifice and drinking their blood, and cutting up the children themselves to obtain their blood to drink, and forcing them to eat feces and drink urine.

In 1993, criminal charges against all but one member of the Klassen family were stayed and the children later admitted they had made up the story. One family member, Peter Klassen, pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse.

In ruling against Miazga in 2003, the trial judge questioned how the prosecutor or anyone else could have possibly believed the children’s "patently absurd" story of sexual and ritual abuse at the hands of their foster family, particularly when there was no corroboration.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal upheld the decision in 2007.

"The judge clearly believed it should have been evident to anyone, from the outset of the investigation and throughout the prosecution, that the evidence of the children, because of the bizarre and incredible nature of some of their allegations, and their propensity to lie, was not sufficiently credible or reliable to support the laying of charges or the prosecution of them," said the 2-1appeal court ruling.

The Supreme Court decision to overrule the Saskatchewan courts comes 20 years after it first established a test for malicious prosecution in a case involving nurse Susan Nelles, who was falsely accused of baby deaths at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.

In the landmark 1989 ruling, the court discarded blanket immunity for prosecutors, saying that they can be successfully sued. The bench, however, cautioned that it was not open season on Crowns and it established a stringent test for lawsuits to succeed.

The Saskatchewan government has paid the Klassen family $2.46 million in a 2004 damages agreement.

Brian Dueck, the police officer who investigated the case and laid the charges, was also found liable for malicious prosecution, but he did not appeal the decision.

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Brace for more H1N1 deaths, Canada’s top doctor warns

OTTAWA – Canadians should be prepared to hear about more swine flu deaths in the coming weeks as the H1N1 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, the country’s top doctor warned Thursday.

On the contrary, the spread of the H1N1 virus picked up speed over the past week, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones said at a news conference, and its prevalence is nearing levels that were seen at the peak of the first wave in June.

Butler-Jones said there are more regions reporting outbreaks, especially in the western provinces, and the number of hospitalizations and intensive-care unit admissions has tripled since last week.

"We expect to hear of more illness and deaths in the coming weeks as we go further into the second wave. This is something we have to be prepared for as much as it saddens us," said Butler-Jones. "It’s why prevention remains our goal, for all Canadians to be immunized when their turn comes and ensure appropriate treatment with antivirals for those who are ill."

The latest death toll from the Public Health Agency of Canada indicates that 115 Canadians with H1N1 have died.

This week’s toll is believed to include a two-month-old baby from London, Ont. Ethan Bailey Desabrais died of influenza but test results were pending to determine if it was the H1N1 strain.

"I was trying to save my son," said the little boy’s mother, Carla Desabrais. "We were driving down the street and we were yelling for any emergency vehicle that was coming towards us. . . . Every day is a haze."

The Desabrais’s nine-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son both have been vaccinated. Ethan was not eligible because he was under six months of age.

The child was pronounced dead at hospital.

"Go get the shot," the mother said Thursday.

Health officials in Alberta, meanwhile, announced that they had seen four more deaths in the past few days.

Butler-Jones said there were no indications the virus is being held at bay.

"Not a bit. Anybody that thinks that we’ve seen anything but the beginning of this, I think that would be lovely, but it’s a bit of wishful thinking. This will continue to increase," he said.

Getting the H1N1 vaccine into people’s arms is the key measure to slow the spread of the pandemic, and as people await their turn for their shot, other prevention methods, such as people staying home when sick, coughing into their sleeves and frequent handwashing are important, he advised.

Butler-Jones is also offering his advice in full-page advertisements appearing in 125 newspapers across the country Friday and Saturday. In the advertisement, Butler-Jones writes that he wants to provide "the facts" about the H1N1 immunization program, which has been under heavy attack by opposition MPs on Parliament Hill.

He assures Canadians there will be enough vaccine for the entire population and that "getting vaccinated is a safe and effective way to protect yourself and others" from the virus.

During Thursday’s news conference, Butler-Jones said the provinces and territories are administering the H1N1 vaccine as quickly as they can and by early next week, he anticipates that six million Canadians will have been immunized.

Clinics are still fine-tuning how they deliver the vaccine, and that includes figuring out ways to use every last drop of it. There have been reports about some doses being tossed out at the end of the day. Butler-Jones said each vial contains 10 doses and he hopes that wastage is "minimal."

"I think that’s something that everybody should and will be looking at," he said.

Butler-Jones and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq both expressed their thoughts on the reports this week that some NHL players have been immunized ahead of the general population, while people in high-risk groups have been lining up for hours since clinics opened last week.

"I’m pleased that they are so keen and interested in getting the vaccine, it shows how important it is, but please wait until your group is ready," said Butler-Jones.

An Alberta Health Services employee was fired after Calgary Flames players and their families, were allowed to get the vaccine and in Ontario, health officials are promising to investigate how some players with the Toronto Maple Leaf and Toronto Raptors received their shots.

"I think a review of this issue is merited. I don’t feel that at this point in time, that the time is right for this to happen but it is something that we will be looking into," said Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Arlene King.

With files from Global News

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Canadian military starts planning for Afghanistan departure

Canada’s top soldier has issued instructions for his officers to start making plans for the pull out of military units in Afghanistan.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk’s order for a “drawdown” of forces in Afghanistan lays the groundwork for what will be a lengthy process of transporting tons of equipment and supplies back home.

“The CDS has issued direction to his commanders to proceed with plans to draw down the CF force in Afghanistan as per the Parliamentary motion,” defence sources confirmed in statement late Thursday night.

Natynczyk informed the troops about the drawdown during his recent trip to Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last year that Canada’s military mission would end in 2011. “You have to put an end date on these things,” Harper told reporters at the time.

The Canadian government wants to shift the focus on the Afghanistan mission from military operations to civilian aid and support.

Harper reiterated the 2011 withdrawal in September and pointed out that he took that same message to U.S. leaders during recent meetings in Washington. “In 2011, we will have been in Afghanistan almost as long as we were in the two world wars combined,” Harper said. “I think in this time frame we’ve just got to see some results from the Afghan government on the ground as it pertains to their own security.”

Parliament had set 2011 as the end of the mission, and Harper announced he will follow that timetable. In interviews, he noted that the Canadian public does not have the appetite to keep soldiers in Afghanistan past that date.

“Canada’s government and public is suffering from Afghanistan fatigue,” said Allen Sens, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia. “There’s been a lack of progress, and I think the public has a sense that it’s time for other countries to step up and move into the south, where the fighting has been the toughest.”

The winding down of Canada’s combat mission is expected to be a major logistical exercise.

Some of the gear, ranging from trucks to tanks, will have to be prepared for being shipped home. While the Canadian Forces has its own large transport aircraft, it will likely have to augment that by leased aircraft. Transport ships will also have to be arranged to carry some of the material back to Canada.

It is possible, however, that the Canadian Forces could transfer some of the equipment to either the Afghan National Army or police or to allied units.

Earlier this year, U.S. forces in Iraq began drawing down its units and equipment in preparation for its 2011 large-scale reduction of forces in that country. It has removed some 14,000 pieces of equipment from Iraq so far, in some cases redistributing the gear to its forces in Afghanistan.

Last month Defence Minister Peter MacKay suggested to a Commons committee that Canadian troops may stay on in Afghanistan in a non-combat role. MacKay said that soldiers would be involved in development and reconstruction but did not provide specific details.

The debate over the way ahead in Afghanistan has been heated over the last several months.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier has said it will be difficult for Canadian troops to be in Afghanistan without taking part in combat operations. “If you stay in the south and try to do something like training, you will still be in combat,” said Hillier.

But some politicians, such as Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the senate defence committee, have voiced concern that Canada cannot accomplish what it hoped to in Afghanistan and it is time to withdraw. He noted that Canada had as its goal the building of 50 schools by 2011, but only five have been constructed so far because of the worsening security situation.

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Motive probed for Fort Hood shooting spree

KILLEEN, Texas – Investigators on Friday searched for the motive behind a mass shooting at a sprawling U.S. army base in Texas, in which an army psychiatrist trained to treat war wounded is suspected of killing 13 people.

A spokesman at the base said the suspected gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a lifelong Muslim born in the United States of immigrant parents, had been shot four times by security police and was unconscious but in stable condition.

A woman died overnight from her wounds, raising the toll from Thursday’s incident to 13 dead and 30 wounded, said Colonel John Rossi, a spokesman at Fort Hood, the biggest military facility in the world.

Hasan was "stable and in one of our civilian hospitals," Rossi said. "He’s on a ventilator."

The Army refused to discuss possible motives for the shooting while the investigation is under way. "We’re not going to speculate on motives," Rossi told reporters at the base, from where thousands of troops are deployed to combat zones.

The gunman, with two guns including a semi-automatic weapon, opened fire apparently without warning at the crowded Soldiers Readiness Processing Center, where troops were getting medical check-ups before leaving for foreign deployments.

Hasan, 39, had spent years counseling severely wounded and traumatized soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., many of whom had lost limbs during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He had been transferred to Fort Hood in April and was to have been deployed to Afghanistan, where the U.S. military is engaged in an increasingly bloody war against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

At the White House, President Barack Obama warned against jumping to conclusions on the shooter’s motive, after meeting with FBI officials including agency director Robert Mueller to discuss the incident.

"We don’t know all the answers yet and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," Obama said.

His cousin, Nader Hasan, has said in media interviews that he was very reluctant to be deployed overseas and had agitated not to be sent. "We’ve known over the last five years that was probably his worst nightmare," he said.

Nader Hasan also said his cousin had complained, as a Muslim, of harassment by fellow soldiers.

American Muslim groups issued statements expressing regret over the incident and stressing that it appeared to have been carried out by a single disturbed individual.

"Thousands of Arab Americans and American Muslims serve honorably everyday in all four branches of the U.S. military and in the National Guard," the Arab American Institute said.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee deplored the shooting by what it called a "rogue" gunman, but suggested Muslim American communities take special precautions "due to the potential of a backlash against these communities."

The Fort Hood commander, Lieutenant-General Robert Cone, speaking to reporters, said: "There are reports, unconfirmed, that (the gunman) was saying "Allah akbar" (God is great)." But he said there was no evidence this was a terrorist attack.

The United States has been engaged in six years of fighting in Iraq and nearly eight years of war in Afghanistan which has put extra stress on the military and on individual soldiers.

In May, a U.S. soldier at a base in Baghdad shot and killed five fellow soldiers.

Fort Hood personnel have accounted for more suicides than any other Army post since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, with 75 tallied through July of this year.

Rossi said Thursday’s shooting lasted 10 minutes. He said a female civilian police officer was the first to wound the gunman, who was wearing military garb. The officer – identified as Kim Munley – is in stable condition, after originally being listed as among the dead, he said.

Sergeant Andrew Hagerman, a military police officer who said he was one of the first on the scene, said Hasan was prone and unconscious when he arrived.

"You’re always surprised at how much carnage there is," said Hagerman, who returned in July 2008 from a tour of duty in Iraq.

Fort Hood, about 60 miles (97 km) from the state capital Austin, is home to about 50,000 troops.

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