"The Pulse of Canada "



Hillary Clinton: ‘I want the public to see my email’

Posted March 5, 2015 by Richard Lawler

Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a self-hosted email address has been at the center of controversy over the last few days, and now the former Secretary of State tweets that she wants those emails — or at least the 55,000 pages she has shared with …

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Hyundai lets owners control their cars with smartwatches

Posted March 4, 2015 by Mariella Moon

Hey, Hyundai owners, it’s finally here: the Blue Link companion app for smartwatches that the automaker promised back during CES this year. And yes, you can use it to remotely lock/unlock doors, start/stop the engine, flash lights or honk any Blue Li…

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Sun Sea money pit: Ottawa spent $600,000 on smuggling ship that arrived off B.C. coast before deciding to scrap it

Posted March 4, 2015 by The Province - News

Almost five years after a derelict cargo ship with 492 Sri Lankan migrants arrived off the B.C. coast, the federal government has failed to find a buyer for the vessel

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Etsy wants to raise up to $300 million by going public

Posted March 4, 2015 by Mariella Moon

Etsy, yes that marketplace for handcrafted and bespoke goods, plans to raise money not by selling custom crocheted rabbit hats or bohemian jewelry, but by doing an initial public offering. The Brooklyn company has just filed an S-1 form at the US Sec…

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Blatchford: Via Rail terror plot suspect gives bizarre ‘closing address’ for jury

Posted March 4, 2015 by The Province - News

Christie Blatchford: Esseghaier’s own earthly judgment day is fast approaching, yet he warned the jurors that ‘the Judgment Day is sure to come and that’s why you have to prepare’

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LeBron, Cavs simply too much for Raptors: Arthur

Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

LeBron James looked old, or at least, older. Ice bags on his knees, ice bag strapped to his back, his feet in an ice bucket. LeBron looked old when he was young, of course, but that was a long time ago. He’s 30 now. It has taken ages to get here.

“For me, I’m my biggest critic,” said LeBron after his Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Toronto Raptors 120-112. “I’m tougher on me than anybody could ever be. And I was kicking myself in the face and beating myself up (after Sunday’s loss to) Houston, right to the next day. When I woke up the next day I was refreshed and I was back in the gym. It was another day, another opportunity to get better.

“And it’s those moments that define who you are as a player, or as a person. I’ve been in situations like that, I man up to them, I understand that I’m the leader of this team. When we win, we win together; when we lose, sometimes I’m taking all the blame. That’s who I am.”

In the first three quarters of Wednesday’s game, he didn’t shoot much; he passed. He threw passes that looked like magic tricks, like knives, like soft tosses to his kids. On one play he broke down the defence twice to get teammate James Jones an open shot. He barely looked like he was sweating, except when strictly necessary. He watched Toronto fast breaks more than once. In the third quarter, LeBron got called for a carry. Rest comes at different times.

Which is fine, because LeBron needs to rest. He has played nearly 42,000 career NBA minutes — he’ll pass Larry Bird next year — and is sixth all-time in minutes per game. Per game, the only guy near him who has played in the last 40 years is Allen Iverson. In Cleveland, LeBron’s numbers have dipped across the board, except for his passing. After four straight Finals, he finally sat for a week in January, resting his occasionally troublesome back, and his knee. People who watched closely said he seemed frustrated, too, and not as mentally engaged as he could be.

LeBron went to Miami, didn’t touch a basketball for a week, and came back playing like himself. This year the MVP talk has clustered around Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, who is attacking the league like an exploding sun.

But LeBron is still LeBron, when he needs to be.

“Everybody takes him for granted,” says Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “He does it so easy. There’s no way an intelligent basketball person would have LeBron not mentioned as an MVP candidate. It’s asinine even to think that way.

“They’ve got the best basketball player in the world right now.”

“If you want to win one game, you want to win three games, five games, whatever, I think everybody in this league would say, I’m going to take LeBron first, and I’ll build my team from there,” said Cavs guard J.R. Smith.

Toronto, in this game, was resting point guard Kyle Lowry, who is their LeBron. It’s a combination of physical and mental toll, according to those who know. He sat for a third straight game. In the first quarter LeBron went out of his way to slap hands with Lowry on the Raptors bench. He must know how it feels.

Then Cleveland opened a 19-point lead midway through the third, thanks mostly to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love; Toronto stormed back behind Lou Williams, whose 21-point fourth quarter was a team record, and with Jonas Valanciunas playing big, with 26 and 11. DeMar DeRozan finished with 25, too. Valanciunas flagrantly fouled LeBron at one point, and LeBron missed a dunk where he thought he was fouled, and he wasn’t happy. The building was pulsing. With six minutes left Toronto was up 96-95 and on a roll, and the place was rocking.

LeBron roused himself. He got all the way to the rim for a dunk. He drove and found Jones for an open three. He probed the defence, found a seam, drew a foul, made the free throws. He hit a three over Terrence Ross. He hit another one, from the other side of the floor. One possession after a Jones miss, LeBron hit Smith for a three. In the final minute, his swooping layup sealed it.

Smith calls James the smartest player he’s ever played with, and Smith played with Jason Kidd; he says the difference is there was almost no blueprint for LeBron doing what he does at his position. LeBron finished with 29 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, and only took 16 shots.

“People who see the pass beyond the pass beyond the pass, people who see who needs the shot gets it,” says Smith. “And the intelligent part about it is knowing what your teammates are going to do before they do it. If I pass it to him, he’s going to pass it to him, and he’s going to take one dribble and draw his man, then he’s going to be open. That’s a brilliant mind.”

The Raptors have now dropped six of seven. They are 14-16 over their last 30 games, and Cleveland is going to pass them for the second seed, surely. Lowry’s rest program better work.

For LeBron, meanwhile, it was just another night, for a nearly-old man. Long road here, and there’s still road left to go.

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The big US carriers will shut down their mobile wallet this month

Posted March 4, 2015 by Jon Fingas

There was no question that AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon gave up on their Softcard mobile payment service when they agreed to pre-install Google Wallet, but it’s now apparent that they’re beating an especially hasty retreat. Softcard is telling users …

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How reliable are Metro Vancouver’s transit ridership projections?

Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

Metro Vancouver mayors predict a reduction in traffic congestion and significant growth in transit ridership over the next decade if residents vote Yes in the upcoming plebiscite. But how reliable are these forecasts?

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Cam Cole: Where has all the scoring gone?

Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

As the busiest teams in the National Hockey League prepared Wednesday to play their 66th game, the leading scorers had 67 points.

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Vaughn Palmer: Opposition ‘audit’ of local government watchdog scores points

Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

VICTORIA — Toward the end of question period one day this week, the New Democrats challenged the B.C. Liberals over the embarrassing results to date of one of Christy Clark’s pet projects. The premier, during her successful bid for the party leadership, promised to establish an auditor general as a watchdog on local government. The auditor, when appointed two years ago, promised to deliver 18 audits in the first year of operations alone.

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Media and Maple Leaf Chat on Mapleleafshotstove.com

Posted March 4, 2015 by torontosportsmedia

By TSM The fellas over at Mapleleafshotstove.com invited me to sit on a panel tonight to talk Maple Leaf and sports media alongside Elliot Saccucci and Michael Langlois. Take a watch below. Mike (not really) in Boston and I are going to bring back the […]

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Missing since October, Hunter the coonhound home

Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

Missing since October, dog comes home

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Politics Canada: Is Harper Government a bigger threat to your security than terrorists?

Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

Take Our Poll (function(d,c,j){if(!d.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src=’https://s1.wp.com/wp-content/mu-plugins/shortcodes/js/polldaddy-shortcode.js';s=d.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);} else if(…

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340 aboriginals volunteer for inquest jury rolls in northern Ontario

Posted March 4, 2015 by Donovan Vincent - News reporter

A team compiling lists of on-reserve natives who’ll volunteer to be on jury rolls for inquests probing the deaths of aboriginals in Thunder Bay and Kenora, has so far gathered 340 names.

The team, which includes, lawyers, a family counsellor and members of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), which represents First Nations groups in northern Ontario, has been fanning out to northern Ontario reserves since November as part of a government-funded initiative aimed at reducing the problem of low aboriginal participation on juries.

The problem is so acute that it prompted Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, to last year halt 12 long-delayed inquests probing the deaths of natives in the Thunder Bay and Kenora areas.

One of the inquests is looking into seven young people who died since 2000.

A new time-limited regulation recently passed by the provincial government now permits on-reserve aboriginals in Thunder Bay and Kenora to volunteer to be on jury rolls for inquests in these areas.

With the regulation in place and the volunteer lists being compiled, the inquests can now proceed, Huyer told the Star recently.

Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and a member of the team gathering the list of names, called the 340 volunteers “a great success’’ so far.

He cited the example of the team’s visit Monday to Bearskin Lake reserve near Kenora. The on-reserve population there is about 460 people, and the team managed to gather 41 volunteers.

“The collaborative nature of the project, both NAN and the provincial government working on this, I think is paying huge dividends for both sides,’’ Fiddler said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Huyer says the goal is to have a “regular’’ list of names for inquest jury rolls for Thunder Bay and Kenora, and then a supplementary roll of volunteer on-reserve natives.

Kenora and Thunder Bay have large numbers of aboriginal populations, so the aim is to have rolls that more proportionately represent these communities.

Fiddler said he and the others on the team are aiming to complete their work by the end of this month, and then the list of volunteers will be made available to the provincial government and chief coroner.

Huyer says the volunteer list won’t necessarily guarantee that aboriginal people will be on the final five-person jury panels that will sit in court to hear inquests.

Jurors on the rolls will still be screened for things like bias, and relationship or professional connections to the dead.

The idea of having volunteers for inquest jury rolls was first put forward in 2013 by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci in his ground-breaking report, “First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries.”

The inquest into the seven young native people who died since 2000, Reggie Bushie, Jethro Anderson, Jordan Wabasse, all 15 years old, along with Kyle Morriseau, 17, Curran Strang and Robyn Harper, both 18, and Paul Panacheese, 21 — all but two by drowning — was called after a Star investigation looked into the lack of investigation into their deaths.

Many of them had to leave their remote reserves in northern Ontario to attend high school in Thunder Bay.

Huyer says this large inquest will hopefully take place sometime in late fall.

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Ian Mulgrew: Terror trial finally introduced to The Other Brother

Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

After a month of setup, the linchpin in the 2013 Canada Day plot has made his appearance in B.C. Supreme Court, albeit via secret surveillance tape. The undercover Mountie playing a Mr. Big-like jihadi sympathizer known as “The Other Brother arrived with no fanfare, only a quiet knock on a motel room door.

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Big box stores could ditch the grid, use natural gas fuel cells instead

Posted March 4, 2015 by e! Science News - Popular science news

Large facilities like big box stores or hospitals could keep the lights on by using a fuel cell that runs off the natural gas that already flows in pipelines below most city streets.
read more

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Premier promises increase to minimum wage, but not to $15

Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

VICTORIA — Premier Christy Clark has rejected the idea of raising B.C.’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, but says she is exploring the idea of planned, predictable, rate hikes.

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Social assistance glitch could lead to Toronto man’s eviction

Posted March 4, 2015 by Marco Chown Oved - Staff Reporter

Some people received too much money, others not enough. But for one Toronto man, glitches in the province’s new computerized benefits payment system could get him evicted from his apartment.

Drywaller Andrew McLean, 53, had arranged for his disability cheques to go directly to his landlord to ensure his rent was paid on time. But when those cheques stopped arriving, Ontario’s Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) prevented new ones from being issued quickly.

Now his landlord has successfully argued for an eviction order for late-payment of rent, though McLean’s disability benefits caseworker admits it’s the government’s fault the cheques weren’t getting there on time.

“With the implementation of a new computer system, it has been very difficult to cancel and reissue another cheque to the landlord because of the many computer glitches we are experiencing,” McLean’s caseworker wrote in a letter submitted to the Landlord and Tenant Board. “I was not able to reissue another cheque to the landlord until three weeks after I was notified by the client that the cheque was not received.”

Ministry of Community and Social Services spokesperson Kristen Tedesco denied that SAMS was responsible for McLean’s eviction. “We want to be clear that SAMS is not the cause of tenant evictions in Ontario. If someone is eligible for ODSP, they will get their full entitlement every month. If an issue exists with the delivery of a monthly income support cheque, caseworkers can provide a replacement cheque,” she wrote in an email.

Launched last fall, the $242-million SAMS was supposed to streamline the province’s welfare and disability benefits, but has been plagued with bugs since day one. Some welfare recipients have reported receiving no money at all, while others received overpayments totalling $20 million altogether.

The botched rollout has cost the province millions in overtime and extra hires and prompted Premier Kathleen Wynne to issue a public apology and hire Pricewaterhouse Coopers to conduct an independent review.

McLean, who had a heart attack last year and is scheduled for a double bypass surgery in two weeks, says being kicked out in the cold is the last thing he needs.

“My doctor wrote me a letter saying I should avoid stress,” he said. “Now I’m sitting here with everything packed, ready for the sheriff.”

The eviction order is enforceable as of last weekend and the province is working with the city to find a solution for McLean, Tedesco said.

McLean, who moved into the one-bedroom apartment four years ago, says he’s been a productive member of society, working for decades in the construction industry and raising his son as a single father: “I worked my whole life until this happened. I’ve never been on welfare.”

After a 2012 accident caused permanent damage to his back, McLean says he has not been able to work. He has lived off workers’ compensation and disability benefits. “When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I can’t move,” he said.

Last January, McLean was late with his rent and entered into an agreement with the Landlord and Tenant Board, promising to pay his rent on time for a year. He arranged to have his rent deducted from his benefit cheque and sent directly to the landlord.

But in July, then again in September and October, even though the cheques were signed and mailed on time, the landlord says he did not receive them, according to McLean’s caseworker’s letter. By the time replacements were issued, weeks had passed.

McLean got an eviction notice in November and went to the Landlord and Tenant Board, whose verdict was that though the late cheques weren’t his fault, he would still be evicted.

“Although it is apparent that the Tenant is not directly responsible for the late rent payments from ODSP, the Tenant does bear the responsibility of meeting the conditions set out in (his agreement to pay rent on time),” wrote board member Harry Cho in an eviction order issued Dec. 23. “The absence of moral blameworthiness on the Tenant’s part is irrelevant.”

The 26-storey apartment building near Lawrence Ave. W. and Weston Rd. is owned by Realstar Management, a company that operates 170 residential buildings across Canada. Contacted by the Star, a company representative said he could not comment on an individual tenant’s situation.

“That’s what the board is there for. It’s their impartial decision,” said Scott Bigford, Realstar senior vice-president.

After being alerted to McLean’s predicament, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty organized a rally outside the ministry responsible for the SAMS system on Wednesday.

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Navy divers, marine archeologists will study Franklin’s ship in winter mission

Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

Anxious to uncover secrets locked in Sir John Franklin’s flagship, Parks Canada marine archeologists are teaming up with navy divers for the first time in a winter mission to explore HMS Erebus in the waters of the High Arctic.

The treasure of artifacts that underwater archeologists believe are aboard Erebus is just too tempting to wait several more months for the metres-thick sea ice to melt.

So the civilians, who have the final say on what happens at the wreck site, will be paired with Royal Canadian Navy divers, the experts at working in extreme conditions, in an urgent, potentially risky mission.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the April operation at a reception at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto Wednesday night.

The ambitious plan to build an ice camp, with emergency services in case divers get into trouble under the ice, has been in the works for weeks under the command of Rear-Admiral John Newton.

He leads Canada’s maritime forces in the Atlantic along with an effort to re-establish the Navy’s Arctic presence.

Exploring Erebus in the dead of an Arctic winter is ambitious enough. While the logistics were worked out, joint dive teams have been planning and training for weeks to limit the risk of harming Erebus, her artifacts or themselves.

But the ice dive will be part of an even bigger, recurring Operation Nunalivut. It’s designed to demonstrate Canada’s growing capabilities in the Arctic, including emergency response, safeguarding sovereignty and security, economic development and environmental protection.

Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Research In Motion, has played a key role in the effort to find Erebus and the still missing HMS Terror, which began in 2008.

“Seeing them re-establishing their presence in a place that has such strategic interest to Canada is really positive and powerful, any way you look at it,” Balsillie, Canada’s honorary captain of the Navy for the Arctic, told the Star.

Franklin and his 128 men set sail in 1845 on a Royal Navy expedition to find a missing link in the Northwest Passage, hoping to be the first to complete the Arctic voyage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

The year after Franklin died of unknown causes in 1847, his crew abandoned Erebus and Terror, locked in ice. Survivors tried to make their way overland to safety in the south. All perished.

It was the worst disaster in the Royal Navy’s long history of Arctic exploration and remains an enduring maritime mystery, which may soon begin to unravel.

“Ice is an ideal diving place because it’s fixed and it’s stable,” Balsillie said. “They will be able to be so productive from an archeological point of view that I think we’re going to get some mysteries — not all the mysteries, but some — solved in April,” Balsillie said.

When a team led by Parks Canada underwater archeologists found the submerged wreck of Erebus last September, news of the discovery made headlines around the world.

Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Larry Lyver, 50, of St. John’s, Nfld., is operations chief for the ice dive.

A reservist with the Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic at CFB Shearwater, near Halifax, Lyver has been working for months to plan and co-ordinate the effort to set up a remote camp for dozens of people on the sea ice.

“We will be in control of dive safety issues up there. Anything on the surface is ours,” Lyver recently told the Star.

“How we conduct our business under the ice, in terms of proceeding to the artifacts, cleaning the Erebus — whatever it is Parks Canada wants to do — they will tell us and we will work in a support role with them.”

Building a camp on windswept ice, and sustaining everyone there with heat, food, fuel and other essentials, requires complex logistics support that will come from the Navy’s Joint Task Force North, based in Yellowknife, Lyver said.

“We identify our requirements. They make it happen,” Lyver said. “We could not do this without them. And in the event of an emergency, they get us out — in quick order.”

It will be the first time in more than 160 years that sailors set their hands on one of the Franklin Expedition ships.

Erebus is submerged in relatively shallow Arctic waters some 30 metres deep, off an island in eastern Queen Maud Gulf.

Franklin’s crew abandoned Erebus and HMS Terror further north, off the northwest coast of King William Island.

Erebus now stands on the seabed far to the south, entombed beneath sea ice some two metres thick. It won’t start to melt and break up for months.

But Parks Canada marine archeologists can’t wait that long to begin probing for clues. The risks of losing crucial evidence to the destructive force of shifting ice, ocean currents or looters is simply too high.

Since Franklin lived and worked aboard Erebus in the commander’s cabin at her stern, some history buffs speculate that his logbook may be aboard.

The duty of recording important details in the captain’s log would have fallen to Franklin’s successors after he died. It may contain vital clues about the crew’s struggle to survive as lead poisoning, scurvy, hunger and other afflictions took their toll.

It is even possible that Franklin’s body was kept aboard Erebus in a vain attempt to bring home one of Victorian Britain’s heroes of Arctic exploration for a proper burial.

Inuit stories tell of hunters, who boarded a ship in the area where Erebus was found, seeing a large dead man in a darkened room with a big smile, perhaps the result of gums swollen by scurvy, a Vitamin C deficiency.

Louis Kamookak, an Inuk historian who has spent more than 30 years cataloguing Inuit oral history linked to the lost Franklin Expedition, is convinced the explorer was buried in a shallow grave in the permafrost.

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WWII’s Devil’s Brigade a unique U.S.-Canada commando unit

Posted March 4, 2015 by Jim Coyle - News, Insight

To hear old soldiers tell it, the most perilous and hair-raising of their exploits were really no big deal, and any heroics they might have stumbled into just sort of happened.

Jack Callowhill says he never intended to join the fabled Devil’s Brigade to take on the most daring of missions in World War II as an elite commando in the joint Canada-U.S. 1st Special Service Force.

The Hamilton-born man was stationed at Valcartier, Que., and noticed a posting one day on the bulletin board looking for volunteers for a special force.

“It didn’t tell you what you were going to do, where you were going to go or anything else,” Callowhill recalled Wednesday at a celebration of the Devil Brigade’s recent receipt of a U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.

All he knew was that he wanted out of Valcartier. He volunteered. And as a result, Callowhill, 92 next month, took a double-time march into history.

The Devil’s Brigade was the first time Canada and the United States joined forces in a single 1,800-man unit, and it became the forerunner to such specialized commando outfits as the Canadian Joint Task Force and Special Operations Regiment and the American Green Berets and Navy SEALs.

From 1942 to 1944, the Devil’s Brigade — where, as 94-year-old vet Meyer Doobie observed, you soon found out “who was what, and who wasn’t” — was given some of the most dangerous and difficult missions of the war, making amphibious and airborne landings, taking out key bridges and fortifications, and generally harassing the Germans behind enemy lines.

The Germans were so rattled they gave the Brigade, which blackened faces with boot polish and destroyed enemy targets by night, another name. They called them “the black devils.”

Last month, at a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, about 40 surviving members — 14 of them Canadian — received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour the U.S. Congress can bestow.

On Wednesday, at a ceremony hosted by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, that honour was celebrated with three vets on hand, including one who couldn’t make it to Washington, Doobie.

As Jack Callowhill recalled, it was the rigorous training in Helena, Mont., that formed the men into a hardened and tight-knit fighting force.

“What you saw in The Devil’s Brigademovie was nothing,” he says.

With other Canadians, he’d taken a five-day rail ride to Montana. The snow was deep, the temperatures frigid. “We sort of fell off the train.”

In the first two weeks, they did parachute jumping, while the third week had them mountain climbing and the fourth week they were skiing.

“It became what you might call a competition between the guys,” he says. “Nobody was going to be the first one to fall out, nobody was going to be the first one to give up on anything.”

By the end of that training, you couldn’t tell the difference between a Canadian and an American, he says, “except in their pay.”

American consul-general Jim Dickmeyer, who presented Meyer Doobie with his medal, noted that George Washington had received it. So did Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. “This is a big deal.”

It did take a while to get around to honouring the Brigade, Dickmeyer allowed. The average age of surviving members is 92. But he joked to the old soldiers that “Hollywood got you first” with the 1968 movie starring William Holden and Cliff Robertson.

To Capt. Declan Ward of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment in Petawawa, the Devil’s Brigade has an abiding legacy and lasting influence on today’s special forces.

“It built the foundation,” Ward says.

It taught that hardship and “sweat in training saves blood on the battlefield,” he says. “That commitment to being able to operate in austere conditions, to achieve your objective no matter what the elements, is something that we hold very dear within the regiment today.”

For his part, brigade member Bill Hawkyard, 94, of Toronto says that what bound the men together, along with their training, was a sense of humour.

It was a soldier’s ribald humour that kept them going in the face of large casualties, he says, a sense of humour that kept them alive and has contributed to their longevity. “Like Doobie there!”

The perpetually wise-cracking Meyer Doobie of Toronto explained to the Star that his service with the Devil’s Brigade, his subsequent stint with the Toronto Police Service and his third marriage eight years ago at age 86 are all due to the simple fact he’s “a sucker for punishment.”

He still likes nothing better than a laugh, he said, promptly noting with feigned alarm someone nibbling on fried hors d’oeuvres at the Massey College reception.

“Watch it!” warned the vet with a chestful of medals and the knife inside an arrowhead Brigade patch. “That stuff’ll kill ya.”

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FTC offers a $25,000 prize if you can trap robocallers

Posted March 4, 2015 by Jon Fingas

Yep, the Federal Trade Commission still hates robocalls as much as you do. The agency has launched a contest where you’ll get a $25,000 top prize if you develop technology that sends illegal automated telemarketing to a honeypot system, which makes i…

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Many want to drive a stake through TransLink, the wallet-draining vampire

Posted March 4, 2015 by The Province - News

One of the big reasons Metro Vancouver residents seem chilly to the idea of a new transit tax is distrust that the tax will actually be spent on transit. Just look how the government jacks up your Hydro rates and ICBC premiums — and then siphons millions of dollars from those Crown corporations to spend on other things.

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Progress is flowing, slowly, on frozen pipes: Keenan

Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

Here’s the bad news: after the city fell back into a deep freeze overnight following its first day above freezing in more than a month, Toronto Water expects about 150 people out there to wake up to find they have suddenly have no water service due to frozen pipes. If you’re one of them, you’re looking at a possible 15 days before your pipes will be thawed.

So: if you woke up this morning and you still have water, go to your basement and turn on a tap to a thin trickle to prevent freezing. Leave it on until the spring thaw finally arrives.

The sorry prognosis for those without water — up to two weeks without the means to drink, wash, bathe, or flush — was delivered by Toronto Water general manager Lou Di Gironimo at a press conference alongside Mayor John Tory and Toronto Hydro officials Wednesday afternoon. Given the current wait list, it now takes about five days for an assessment crew to arrive after a no-water call, after that, if a household is placed on the excavation-and-thaw list, the wait is a further seven to 10 days.

The good news is, Toronto Water has been improving their response. Last week, I reported that in addition to staggering wait times, residents faced an impenetrable wall of miscommunication, lack of information, missed appointments, and general confusion that left them instructed to stay at home waiting for crews that never arrived for a week or more. Immediately after that report, Tory and Di Gironimo announced the implementation of so-called SWAT teams to streamline communications and track progress.

Over the weekend, I continued to receive reports from multiple residents of unexplained missed appointments and clueless (but friendly) customer service representatives. Di Gironimo says that after Monday, as the SWAT team crew grew from six to 75 people, things improved. He says they have now streamlined the system to ensure people begin speaking to operators who have information handy and access to road crew communications and schedules. They have an outbound call centre to arrange specific schedules and manage triage. They have merged the assessment crews with the “highline” installation crews who attempt a temporary fix by tapping into a neighbour’s water supply, so both now arrive at the same time (that’s the crew that arrives after five days).

Even as I was writing this, Denise Teixeira, who I profiled a week ago as she and her husband waited in frustration, called to say she is expecting a thaw crew and a backup highline crew on Thursday (12 days after they first called to report frozen pipes), and that the person she’d spoken to in scheduling seemed to be in command of information and gave her clear steps for followup. “It seems like that’s some improvement,” she said. “Some hope.”

The coldest month in Toronto history has created a situation in which clearly communicated information about two weeks without water seems like an improvement. It still stinks. (Sometimes literally: Texiera said she took her son to a play date the other day and asked the other mother if she could use the shower. You need to get creative.)

“We’re learning lessons as we go,” Tory told me after the press conference. He says that by the end of the year, Toronto Water will have a website where people will be able to log in and track the progress of their own file — something it’s hard to believe doesn’t already exist.

As he said, the frozen pipes and the blackouts Hydro was dealing with this week are the result of “extreme weather events beyond the city authorities’ control.” Those extreme weather events, he noted, are happening more frequently, and we need to be prepared for them.

At the same press conference, Hydro manager Anthony Haines spoke of efforts to “climate change-proof” the system, buying hardier equipment that can more easily withstand extreme weather, and he spoke of the lessons already learned and implemented in the recent blackout after the struggles of the ice storm of late 2013.

For the city in general, a big part of climate change-proofing should involve applying these lessons about communications and case management—from hydro, from water, and from others—to all situations. We shouldn’t have to build the boat all over again every time we need to sail it.

We’ll need to wait until the next extreme weather event to see if the lessons stick.

In the meantime, leave a tap running in the basement.

Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca .

Follow: @thekeenanwire

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Daycare death still a mystery as province fights lawsuit

York Region homicide detectives and the provincial coroner’s office are still investigating the July 2013 death of a toddler in an unlicensed home daycare that was filthy and illegally overcrowded.

“I’m stymied by the police investigation,” regional coroner Dr. Dave Evans told the Star Tuesday. “I can’t say one way or the other until the police give me permission because (cause of death) is classed as evidence. It’s a waiting game.”

A York police spokeswoman said the investigation into 2-year-old Eva Ravikovich’s death in the Vaughan home is “ongoing.” Meantime, Ontario’s Education Ministry will be in Superior Court Thursday seeking to quash a $3.5-million wrongful-death suit launched by Eva’s parents.

Ekaterina Evtropova and Vycheslav Ravikovich claim their daughter died, in part, because the education ministry, which oversees child care in Ontario, failed to address complaints that the daycare was looking after too may children. The parents are also suing the daycare’s owners and operators, but nothing can happen on that score until the government’s motion to strike is addressed by the court, said the parents’ lawyer Patrick Brown.

The ministry’s notice of motion, filed in Jan. 2014, says the case should be dismissed because the child-care business where Eva died was unlicensed and unregulated by the province.

Brown said the government’s motion lacks merit because the ministry has acknowledged it is responsible for ensuring that unlicensed daycares aren’t caring for too many kids.

At least 35 children were signed up at the daycare when Eva died. York health officials found potentially deadly bacteria on food in the kitchen and 14 dogs in a neighbouring house that they believed the daycare operators may have also used for child care.

Under legislation in force when Eva died, unregulated home daycares were permitted to look after just five children under age 10, not including their own kids.

New legislation, passed last December, now limits unregulated daycares to caring for five children including their own and has raised the fines from $2,000 to $250,000 for operators who break the rules.

After Eva’s death, the government acknowledged that it had failed to follow up on 25 of 244 complaints about overcrowding in unregulated home daycares in the 18 months before Eva’s death. Two ministry staff were suspended and Education Minister Liz Sandals set up a “dedicated enforcement team” to respond to complaints.

Provincial Ombudsman André Marin’s subsequent investigation into the government’s handling of complaints about unregulated daycares decried “the systemic government ineptitude” and called Eva’s case the “canary in the coal mine.”

However, Marin’s report lauded the government’s efforts since Eva’s death.

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Whitecaps’ Pa Modou Kah has his own ‘labour’ pains

Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

The labor dispute that threatened to keep Pa Modou Kah and his Whitecaps’ teammates, off the soccer pitch Saturday has been settled. But a different labor issue could still sideline the new centre back.

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Rob Ford’s crack confession tie nets $16,100 on eBay

Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

Ford’s crack tie nets $16,100

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Progressive Conservative reboot a kick in the teeth to many Tories: Cohn

Posted March 4, 2015 by Martin Regg Cohn - Provincial Politics

The Progressive Conservatives were once the province’s natural governing party, for better or for worse.

Now they’re Ontario’s natural opposition party — and it keeps getting worse.

After losing four straight elections — and their near-death experience under Tim Hudak in 2014 — the Tories are choosing a new leader. But instead of recovering, PCs are reeling — demoralized by a leadership race that was supposed to reboot the party but feels like a kick in the teeth to many Tories:

  • Christine Elliott, the party’s high-profile deputy leader and presumed frontrunner, may be fizzling;
  • Patrick Brown, an unknown MP seeking to flee obscurity in Ottawa for opportunity at Queen’s Park, is rattling the party’s ranks with his campaign of shock and awe;
  • MPP Monte McNaughton, trailing badly in third place, has spearheaded an obsessive anti-sex-ed crusade that has set back the party’s public image.
  • But Brown is the news of the day. He upended the race this week with reports that he’d sold more than 40,000 new memberships — potentially quadrupling the party’s existing membership base.

    While his campaign boasted of its triumph, Elliott’s camp went into damage control mode, denying early stories that they’d sold barely one-third as many, but still unable to provide their own numbers. Emanating from the party’s progressive wing, she’d promoted a Big Blue Tent — an echo of the old Big Blue Machine that kept the old Tory dynasty in power decades ago.

    We won’t know the outcome until the May leadership convention. But if Brown wins, the party — and the province — are in for a surprise:

    Who is Patrick Brown?

    We don’t know. He doesn’t say.

    At 36, he is a lifelong Tory who became a Barrie city councillor at age 22, ran (and lost) federally in 2004, then rode the Harper wave to power in 2006. Endlessly energetic, he looks suspiciously like Hudak 2.0.

    Spend an hour with him, as I did when he dropped by our bureau last year, and you won’t have a clue what he believes in or why he wants to be premier.

    Spend 90 minutes with him, as party members do in regional leadership debates (which can be viewed online), and you’ll still be without a clue.

    The only real clues come from his flirtation with social conservatives. Brown won a coveted “Green Light” rating from the Campaign Life Coalition by backing a bill that revisited abortion rights federally (ignoring appeals from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to avoid reopening the issue). And he has sided with critics of an updated sex-ed curriculum provincially.

    Backed by some of the same people who helped make Rob Ford mayor, Brown talks passionately about the ethnic groups he’s visited, the supporters he has signed up, the attention he’s getting.

    That’s a change from the federal scene, where Brown never got noticed. During nine years in Ottawa, he has been passed over for cabinet while Harper tapped other Ontario MPs with less political experience. He has never made the cut as a parliamentary secretary (a stand-in for ministers), nor been chosen by his fellow MPs to chair a parliamentary committee — the customary consolation prizes for also-rans.

    That his inertia in Ottawa should somehow serve as a springboard for the Ontario leadership has left most Tory MPPs disheartened and incredulous. Caucus members treated him as a joke.

    “He’s a federal member who’s made no headway whatsoever in the Harper government in the eight or nine years he’s been there,” MPP Garfield Dunlop mused publicly last year. “How could I possibly think he could come to Ontario and do a good job when he couldn’t even make cabinet in Ottawa?”

    With most of the provincial caucus snubbing Brown, he reached out to its two biggest outliers for support: Rick Nicholls, the MPP who recently professed his rejection of evolution, co-chaired the draft Brown campaign (a future science minister under premier Brown?); and MPP Jack MacLaren, past president of the far-right Ontario Landowners Association (“Keep off my land”), is a campaign co-chair (a future attorney general?).

    No one is laughing about the Brown juggernaut. On outreach, he has outdone his rivals.

    But can he lead? Only PCs know for sure.

    Martin Regg Cohn’s Ontario politics column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. mcohn@thestar.ca , Twitter: @reggcohn

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    Daily Roundup: Nintendo and indie gaming, HTC’s attempt at VR and more!

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

    In today’s Daily Roundup, we take a look at Nintendo’s relationship with indie game makers, find out how Valve wants to change VR and chat with HTC’s chief designer. Head past the break to get caught up on all of the day’s top stories….

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    Via terror accused urges jury to prepare for ‘Judgment Day’

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

    Via terror accused: Prepare for ‘Judgment Day’

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    An old hand sees hope for John Tory’s SmartTrack: James

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

    For three decades, Paul Bedford was a deft stickhandler at city hall, skating around political obstacles to deposit Toronto’s Official Plan and other policies needed to improve the city.

    As chief planner till his retirement in 2004, Bedford did what Jennifer Keesmaat must now do — balance competing interests, heed politically motivated plans and designs that are often inimical to a livable metropolis, and do so without yanking too hard on the lion’s tail.

    He served on the board of Metrolinx, freelances as a university prof and is always ready with his take on how the city plans for its future. That background spawns credible insights worth considering as Toronto tries to navigate competing transit plans.

    A well-studied point of view claims that the city’s top priority is a downtown relief line (DRL) that moves commuters off the Bloor-Danforth line, eases congestion at the Yonge-Bloor interchange, brings rapid transit to Thorncliffe and Flemingdon, provides alternatives for the burgeoning downtown population, facilitates better options along King St. and Queen St. and moves commuters out of crowded Union Station.

    DRL promoters are miffed at Mayor John Tory’s upstart plan, SmartTrack, because it will no doubt relegate the DRL to year 2040 or 2050 instead of 10 to 15 years from now. Politics will trump good planning, again, is the cry.

    Bedford’s views on the brewing SmartTrack/DRL conflict are particularly interesting in that they go against the grain. He is willing to stand against the tide of his colleagues and urban kin and speak favourably about SmartTrack.

    He supports the DRL, if necessary, but not necessarily the DRL. He says he is still to be convinced that it will deliver huge ridership outside the peak period.

    He says he has many questions about SmartTrack. But he’s prepared to give it a chance and wait for studies to provide the answers.

    “If studies provide solid evidence that SmartTrack‎ would divert riders away from the Bloor-Danforth line and the Yonge-Bloor subway station, then the DRL may not be needed in the foreseeable future. It would at least buy time.”

    Sounds reasonable. It will take most of the year to wring out the answers. The fear, though, is that the fix is in. Mayor Tory has invested too much political capital in this plan to have it returned NSF or Not Doable.

    Bedford and others say the SmartTrack study will be peer-reviewed to ensure its rigour.

    “The most important determinant of transit ridership is office employment,” Bedford says. “The SmartTrack concept would connect over 100 million square feet of existing office space in the 416 and 905 area code and would provide a strong incentive for locating substantial future office development on this transit line and would help shape the future land use structure of the GTHA over the coming decades.”

    Healthy skepticism about transportation studies is appropriate, he says. But “the reality of what SmartTrack promises is hard to refute,” says Bedford. Right now there are thousands of jobs in Markham and the airport corporate centre. They are all car-dependent. “Sure, we should take studies with a grain of salt, but it’s hard to refute reality on the ground today. It’s pretty powerful.”

    The problem, of course, is getting hard evidence that is not infected with politics. It’s almost taken for granted that the planners and consultants can justify just about anything with a twist of few numbers and forecasts. And their intent doesn’t even have to be nefarious.

    This crisis of confidence in transit planning will continue until the whole process of project selection is drastically altered to provide rigour, independence and accountability. Who is responsible for the debacle that is the Sheppard Subway — still subsidized years after it opened because only a quarter of the jobs exist where they were forecasted?

    Who is responsible for leaving the Scarborough RT to go to ruin when it could have been modernized? Who is responsible for replacing the RT with a $3-billion subway option — wait, that might be $6 billion when they finishing looping it towards Pickering and back?

    Nobody is. In every case, the culprits disappear before the stink rise.

    Royson James usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Email: rjames@thestar.ca

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    Stephen Hume: Transit can be life-and-death issue

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

    The NO vote that doesn’t garner much attention in the current rumpus over whether and how to fund mass public transit in Metro Vancouver is NO2 — nitrogen dioxide — source of that acrid reddish brown haze that hangs over the city on a hot, muggy summer day. Nitrogen dioxide is one of the nastier compounds to blow out of car exhausts. Exposure makes existing lung disease worse and increases susceptibility to respiratory infections. It’s linked to heart attack deaths, cancer and reproductive effects.

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    Conservation officers say contents of garbage bags in Delta ditch are Canada geese, not bald eagles

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Vancouver Sun - News

    An investigation into bald eagle parts in a South Delta ditch has turned into a wild goose chase.

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    Troubled Kwantlen now investigating possible ‘illegal pyramid scheme’

    Posted March 4, 2015 by The Province - News

    Kwantlen Polytechnic University has launched another internal probe into possible wrongdoing, this one involving an “illegal pyramid scheme,” The Province has learned. A KPU spokeswoman said that several university employees “may have been approached” about joining the “scheme,” which the school’s administration has also reported to the RCMP.

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    Chinese police run secret operations in B.C. to hunt allegedly corrupt officials and laundered money

    Posted March 4, 2015 by The Province - News

    Chinese police agents have been conducting secret operations in Canada — a top destination for allegedly corrupt officials — seeking to “repatriate” suspects and money laundered in real estate. Vancouver city officials will not comment on co-operation with Chinese agents in “Operation Fox Hunt,” or on suspects pointed to by Chinese news services.

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    Rules needed for growing medical pot in homes, Federal Court in Vancouver told

    Posted March 4, 2015 by The Province - News

    Rules are needed for growing medical pot and not vegetables in homes because the plant is a controlled substance that’s “highly divertable” to other uses, a health official told a Federal Court hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday. The court is being asked to determine if the federal government’s law governing licensed growers of medical marijuana is constitutional.

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    The Associated Press is automating college sports news, too

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Billy Steele

    In an effort to bring the masses more sports news, the Associated Press plans to use automated tech for stories it wouldn’t normally cover. The AP is working with the NCAA this spring to produce game reports across Division I baseball, Division I wom…

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    OpenMedia.ca: ICYMI: Help our own Meghan Sali battle the trolls

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

    ICYMI: Our own Meghan Sali is meeting with key MPs in Ottawa next week about Bill S-4. This piece of legislation could bring American-style copyright trolls to Canada. Tell Meghan your concerns in the blog or in the comments below.

    One of the big concerns we hear from our community is that there’s no-one in parliament that speaks Internet.

    Well, here at OpenMedia, we work day in and day out to inject Internet voices into democratic processes to ensure that the government hears our ideas and addresses our concerns.

    read more

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    Smuggled note to teacher saves beaten, trapped mom

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

    Boy’s note to teacher saves mom

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    Neurosurgeon and right-wing star Ben Carson rises as possible Republican candidate

    Posted March 4, 2015 by Anonymous

    WASHINGTON—Mick Hartley, a retired pilot, had never been involved in politics. He had barely heard of pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson. And then he clicked on the 27-minute YouTube video.

    “MUST WATCH to see Obama’s face,” one version was subtitled.

    Carson was revered by black Americans for his surgical feats and for his up-by-the-bootstraps rise from poverty to department chief at prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital. His name meant nothing to white conservatives like Hartley until his speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.

    Carson criticized Obamacare, railed against the national debt, pitched a flat tax inspired by the Bible, mocked the “PC police.” The president, looking tired and perplexed, was sitting two seats from the podium.

    Brilliant black self-made conservative Christian reveals the nakedness of the liberal emperor: the stuff of tea party fantasies. Four years after Cuba Gooding Jr. played him in made-for-TV movie, 26 years after he successfully separated conjoined babies attached at the head, Ben Carson was a right-wing star.

    “He articulates conservative principles better than anyone I’ve ever heard, and that includes Ronald Reagan,” Hartley, 68, said last week from Colorado. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, we need this guy. At least as a senator or congressman. Somewhere.”

    Carson is aiming higher. The soft-spoken 63-year-old with a penchant for inflammatory remarks announced Tuesday that he has formed an exploratory presidential committee, a near-certain sign that he plans to launch an improbable run.

    He has been egged on by a draft-Carson group that says it has raised an astonishing $15 million and signed up 30,000 “active” volunteers. Hartley is one of them.

    “I’ve been surprised by the whole thing. It’s not only the money,” John Philip Sousa IV, chairman of the draft committee, said in an interview.

    “Thirty thousand active volunteers for a guy that’s never held public office. Thirty thousand active volunteers for a guy who, up until the Prayer Breakfast, 99 per cent of those people had never heard of. It’s just incredible. But it shows how hungry the country is for true leadership.”

    Carson placed second in a national February poll of likely Republican candidates. He had 18 per cent support — more than the combined support for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

    His ascent has not been derailed by a steady stream of curious commentary. He has declared the modern U.S. “very much like Nazi Germany,” Obamacare is “slavery in a way.” On Wednesday, he told CNN that homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice — “because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.”

    “Good,” conservative pundit SE Cupp wrote on Twitter, “so we can stop indulging the Ben Carson candidacy as a thing even earlier than I’d hoped.” Liberal pundit Frank Rich, in an essay in New York magazine, attributed Carson’s rise to the “desperation of the GOP to fill its racial quota of one black presidential candidate per election cycle.”

    Herman Cain, another black longshot with no political experience, led in early 2012 polls before his rapid collapse. Cain, a former pizza executive, did not have nearly the resumé or biography of Carson, the sixth-most-admired man in America in a 2014 survey.

    “I think they appreciate more of the man than the message,” said Iowa State Rep. Rob Taylor, one of the organizers of Carson’s campaign infrastructure in the state. “I mean, his genuineness, his straightforward approach, his ability to think in a critical manner under crisis. Those are traits of leadership that people are yearning for today.”

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    Lost ‘City of the Monkey God’ found deep in Honduras jungle centuries after mysterious civilization vanished

    Posted March 4, 2015 by The Province - News

    Local folklore spoke of a mystical Eden-like paradise where human-monkey children roamed. Others described a city of gold where a giant monkey deity was worshipped

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