Tag Archives: Woman

Suspect arrested on hate-crime charges in NYC attack on Filipino American woman

A man was arrested on hate-crime and assault charges after a Filipino American woman was attacked near New York City’s Times Square, police said early Wednesday.

Police said Brandon Elliot, 38, is the man seen on video kicking and stomping the woman on Monday. They said Elliot was living at a hotel that serves as a homeless shelter a few blocks from the scene of the attack.

He was taken into custody at the hotel around midnight. Tips from the public led to his apprehension, police said.

Elliot was convicted of stabbing his mother to death in the Bronx neighbourhood in 2002, when he was 19. He was released from prison in 2019 and is on lifetime parole. The parole board had previously twice denied his release. His record also included an arrest for robbery in 2000.

“When you’re releasing people from prison and you’re putting them in homeless shelters you’re asking for trouble,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told WPIX-TV. “There’s got to be a safety net and there’s got to be resources for them…. You just shake your head and say, ‘What could possibly go wrong’ and this is what goes wrong. It just never should happen.”

Elliot faces charges of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault in Monday’s attack, police said. It wasn’t immediately known whether he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf. He was expected to be arraigned by video Wednesday.


Police said Brandon Elliot, 38, is the man seen on surveillance video attacking the woman outside an apartment building near New York City’s Times Square. (Courtesy of New York Police Department/The Associated Press)

Victim suffered serious injuries

The victim was identified as Vilma Kari, a 65-year-old woman who immigrated from the Philippines, her daughter told the New York Times. The newspaper did not identify Kari’s daughter.

Kari was walking to church in midtown Manhattan when police said a man kicked her in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, stomped on her face, shouted anti-Asian slurs and told her, “You don’t belong here,” before casually walking away.

She was discharged from the hospital Tuesday after being treated for serious injuries, a hospital spokesperson said.

The attack was among the latest in a national spike in anti-Asian hate crimes and happened just weeks after a mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent.


Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, cries after speaking on Tuesday at a news conference with politicians and community activists outside the building where the attack happened. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

The surge in violence has been linked in part to misplaced blame for the coronavirus pandemic and former president Donald Trump’s use of racially charged terms such as “Chinese virus” and “China virus.”

Bystanders criticized

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday’s attack “absolutely disgusting and outrageous.” He said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that witnesses did not intervene.

“I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you do, you’ve got to help your fellow New Yorker,” de Blasio said Tuesday.

Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, said the victim “could easily have been my mother.” He, too, criticized the bystanders, saying their inaction was “exactly the opposite of what we need here in New York City.”

WATCH | De Blasio, Yang respond to ‘horrifying’ attack:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and mayoral candidate Andrew Yang react to the violent attack on a 65-year-old Filipino American woman that was caught on a security camera. 1:06

The attack happened late Monday morning outside a luxury apartment building two blocks from Times Square.

Two workers inside the building who appeared to be security guards were seen on surveillance video witnessing the attack but failing to come to the woman’s aid. One of them was seen closing the building door as the woman was on the ground. The attacker was able to casually walk away while onlookers watched, the video showed.

The building’s management company said the workers were suspended pending an investigation. The workers’ union said they called for help immediately.

Residents of the building defended the workers Wednesday in a letter to the management company and the media. They contend that a video clip focusing on the suspect and the assault was “unfortunately cut to inadvertently exclude the compassionate action” taken by staff members, which they said included giving the victim aid and alerting medics.

Philippine government reacts

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez said the victim is Filipino American.

The country’s foreign secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr., condemned the attack in a Twitter post, saying: “This is gravely noted and will influence Philippine foreign policy.”

Locsin did not elaborate how the attack could influence Philippine policy toward the United States. The countries are longtime treaty allies, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a vocal critic of U.S. security policies who has moved to terminate a key agreement that allows large-scale military exercises with American forces in the Philippines.

“I might as well say it, so no one on the other side can say, ‘We didn’t know you took racial brutality against Filipinos at all seriously.’ We do,” Locsin said.

Increase in hate crimes 

This year in New York City, there have been 33 hate crimes with an Asian victim as of Sunday, police said. There were 11 such attacks by the same time last year.

On Friday, in the same neighbourhood as Monday’s attack, a 65-year-old Asian American woman was accosted by a man waving an unknown object and shouting anti-Asian insults. A 48-year-old man was arrested the next day and charged with menacing. He is not suspected in Monday’s attack.


A man looks at two police officers patrolling along a busy section of Main Street in Flushing, a largely Asian American neighborhood, in the Queens borough of New York on Tuesday. Police have stepped up patrols across the city. (Kathy Willens/The Associated Press)

The NYPD last week said it was increasing outreach and patrols in predominantly Asian communities, including the use of undercover officers to prevent and disrupt attacks.

“This is crucial to the equation,” de Blasio said of the new policing efforts. “It’s a very few people but we need to find each and every one of them and stop this.”

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CBC | World News

Montreal health agency says communications with family were ‘incomplete’ after woman found dead in ER

Montreal’s West Island health agency has admitted its communications were lacking with the family of a woman who was found dead last month on the floor of a room in the emergency department of Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe-Claire, Que. 

But the family says that’s not enough.

In a statement emailed to the media this morning, the CIUSSS de l’Ouest de l’Île de Montréal said it has asked the coroner to investigate Candida Macarine’s Feb. 27 death. 

“Although the investigation is still ongoing, the CIUSSS is already able to say that its communications with the family were incomplete, especially at the time of the announcement of the death,” the statement said.

“The CIUSSS team is obviously sorry for the concerns this caused to the family of the deceased,” it continued.

Macarine died in a negative pressure isolation room that nurses in the Montreal-area hospital had warned managers about several times, saying it was difficult to see and monitor patients there.

The day of her death, Macarine’s family was told only that she had died of cardiac arrest. 

Learned circumstances of mother’s death from news report

It wasn’t until they noticed a CBC News story two weeks later about a woman found “dead and ice cold” on the floor beside her bed that they realized that woman was likely their mother.

The family and CBC News have repeatedly requested more information from the hospital during the last two weeks.

The agency finally acknowledged Tuesday that Macarine was the patient who died, and that it had failed to report the circumstances of her death to the family.

WATCH | Placido Macarine shares how it feels to know so little about his mother’s death:

The family of a woman who died at Lakeshore General Hospital in a room that staff had warned managers about for weeks only learned about the circumstances of her death after reading a CBC story earlier this week. 2:19

‘Unacceptable’

The statement comes a day after the family of Filipino heritage held a tearful news conference, accusing the hospital of racism.

In an interview with CBC Tuesday, Candida Macarine’s son Emmanuel Macarine said he wasn’t impressed with the hospital’s statement.

“No, no, I’m sorry, but for me it’s not an apology,” Macarine said.

He scoffed at the hospital’s admission that its communication with the family was “incomplete.”

“Incomplete? Well I don’t know how they tried to communicate with us! Until now, we didn’t receive anything — until after the press conference yesterday,” he said.

Head of CIUSSS offers to meet with family

The health agency intends to act on recommendations from the coroner’s investigation to “ensure that such a situation does not happen again,” CIUSSS said in its statement.

“Moreover, if it is shown that our staff acted inappropriately, the CIUSSS will not hesitate to take the decisions and actions that are necessary in such situations.”

The health agency statement didn’t explain why the family was never told of the circumstances of Macarine’s death.

In an email, a spokesperson told CBC News that the agency would not comment further until the CIUSSS CEO Lynne McVey has had a chance to meet with the family.

“Lynne McVey wrote to family members yesterday and asked to meet with them to offer her support in this difficult ordeal,” the statement said.

‘Cannot trust them anymore’

Emmanuel Macarine said the family has no immediate plans to meet with McVey.

“After all the refusals to our requests to know the truth of what happened to our mom, we cannot trust them anymore,” he said. “I mean, what are they going to say now?”

Macarine said the family would prefer to deal with the coroner’s office.

He said he and some of his brothers and sisters would hold a news conference Wednesday.

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CBC | Health News

Nurses fired after Atikamekw woman ‘humiliated’ at Quebec clinic

Two nurses at a health clinic in Joliette, Que., were fired Tuesday afternoon after an Atikamekw woman revealed they had taunted her with racist insults.

The incident occurred in the same regional health network where, six months ago, another Atikamekw woman — Joyce Echaquan — died not long after recording the racist treatment she received from hospital staff.

Jocelyne Ottawa, 62, said she was treated with disdain by two nurses at the clinic in Joliette, about 70 kilometres northeast of Montreal, which she visited last Friday to have a bandage changed on her foot.

“One of them told me, when she saw my name in the folder: “We’re going to call you Joyce, for short,’ Ottawa recalled in an interview with Radio-Canada.

“Then they asked me if I could sing them a song in Atikamekw.”

Ottawa also said that one of the nurses took her cellphone and that, when Ottawa realized it was missing, the nurse said: “I have it in my hand.” Ottawa told her: “You have no business looking at my cellphone.”

Firings meant to send message, health authority says

Ottawa said she felt humiliated and intimidated and, later, posted a message on Facebook about her experience.

“I told myself: ‘Why are they saying this to me? Is it to mock Joyce, once again?'”

The regional health authority, the CISSS de Lanaudière, which operates the clinic and the hospital, initially suspended the nurses without pay pending an investigation.

In a statement released late Tuesday afternoon, the health authority said the nurses had been fired.

“The comments made by the two employees showed a disregard for the code of ethics of the nursing profession and the code of ethics of our organization,” Caroline Barbir, the interim head of the CISSS de Lanaudière, said in the statement.

“The CISSS de Lanaudière has a zero-tolerance policy about behaviour that is racist, discriminatory and intimidating. I want that message to be heard loud and clear.”

Ottawa’s revelations renewed concern about the way Indigenous people are treated by health-care workers in Joliette and across Quebec.

Echaquan died in the hospital after she used her cellphone to film staff making derogatory comments about her. The video, which was posted live to Facebook, was shared around the world.

The previous head of the Lanaudière health authority was removed from his post last December in the wake of Echaquan’s death.

Quebec’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière said Tuesday it’s clear there is more work to do. But he maintained the government’s controversial position that systemic racism does not exist in the province.

Change will take time, he said, and training will need to be implemented across the province and even then, attending a course won’t solve everything.

“I’m so sorry. I’m so shocked. I’m so disappointed … Can we guarantee that it won’t happen again? The answer is no.”


The CISSS de Lanaudière, which operates the clinic and the hospital in Joliette, said it has a zero-tolerance policy for racist behaviour. (Jean-Michel Cotnoir/Radio-Canada)

The two nurses who were fired were among more than 4,200 CISSS employees who attended a cultural safety awareness session, an approach put in place in November. Further training is planned for health-care professionals across the province.

Nancy Bédard, president of the province’s largest nurses union, the FIQ, said her organization is committed to the fight against violence and racism, whether based on gender, race or cultural background.

“We strongly denounce any gesture and any behaviour conveying intolerance or racism. “

The case for Joyce’s Principle

For Sipi Flamand, deputy chief for the Atikamekw Council of Manawan, the latest incident is further proof the province must adopt what is called Joyce’s Principle, which aims to guarantee that Indigenous people have equitable access to health and social services without discrimination.

“As long as Joyce’s Principle is not adopted, there will still always be systemic racism and the Quebec government has the obligation to recognize it,” Flamand said.

Ottawa said she returned to the clinic on Monday, despite being unsettled by her earlier experience. 

“I have no choice. I need care,” she said.

“I’d like to tell them that we, Indigenous people, are human beings in our own right. And we have a right to get the same care as any other individual no matter their race.”


Joyce Echaquan’s death, following racist remarks, last year at the hospital in Joliette, led to calls for Indigenous people to have equitable access to health and social services without discrimination. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

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CBC | Health News

British police officer’s arrest for missing woman Sarah Everard’s death stuns public, politicians

Britain’s most senior police officer has sought to reassure women it is safe to walk the streets of London at night after one of her officers was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering a 33-year-old woman.

Sarah Everard’s disappearance and the announcement that human remains had been found prompted women to flood social media with posts about the steps they take to keep safe when out alone at night, including clutching keys to use as a weapon and wearing running shoes in case they need to escape.

Others detailed a catalogue of incidents of harassment by men in public over the decades since they were schoolgirls.
“These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said. “Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence.”

Everard was last seen at 9:30 p.m. on March 3 as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London. Her image, smiling at the camera or caught on CCTV that evening, has been splashed across British newspapers all week.

‘Women aren’t safe on our streets’

An officer, a man in his 40s whose job it was to guard diplomatic buildings, has been arrested on suspicion of murder, kidnap and indecent exposure, while a woman in her 30s was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender.

“The disappearance of Sarah and the absolute tragedy around that has really touched a nerve with a lot of women,” said Anna Birley, 31, one of the organizers of a planned Reclaim These Streets vigil to honour Everard and demand change.

“We feel really angry that it’s an expectation put on women that we need to change our behaviour to stay safe. The problem isn’t women, the problem is that women aren’t safe on our streets,” said Birley.


A forensic officer leaves a house in Deal, U.K., in connection with the Everard investigation on Wednesday. (Steve Parsons/PA/The Associated Press)

The London police force has said the officer, who works for the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, had not been on duty the night Everard disappeared. Multiple reports from British news outlets indicate his most recent shift before that was at the U.S. embassy.

Cressida Dick, the head of London’s police force, said she and her colleagues were “utterly appalled” at news a serving officer had been arrested, saying it had sent waves of “shock and anger” through the public and the police.

“I know Londoners will want to know that it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets,” she said.

“But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public, particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing, will be worried and may well be feeling scared.”

Reaction from a Labour MP:


Police continued to question the officer on Thursday. A woman in her 30s, who media reported was the officer’s wife, was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender, but has since been released on bail.

England’s police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said it had launched an investigation into the London police force’s handling of the case.

The officer who was arrested was reported to police on Feb. 28 over allegations of indecent exposure in a south London fast food restaurant, several days before Everard disappeared.

Although the remains have not yet been formally identified, Everard’s family released a statement, saying their “beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.”

“Sarah was bright and beautiful — a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable,” the family said.

Vigil planned for Saturday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he was shocked and deeply saddened by the developments.

“The message that needs to be sent is that male violence is something that has to be tackled and challenged and the justice system and society has to wake up to that,” said Jess Phillips, the opposition Labour Party’s spokesperson on domestic violence.

“At the moment we just simply don’t take it seriously as we take other crimes.”

Phillips on Thursday read out in the chamber of the House of Commons the names of 118 women killed in the United Kingdom last year in cases in which a man has been charged or convicted. It took her more than four minutes to read the list.


The hashtags #saraheverard and #TooManyMen trended online as women relayed their experiences, prompting men to ask what they should do differently, such as not walking closely behind a woman on her own.

Some pointed out online the concerning drop in prosecutions of sexual assault, though it’s not clear if it is specifically applicable to the Everard case.

Only 1.5 per cent of 57,516 rape cases recorded in England and Wales led to a charge in the year up to September 2020, official data showed last month, with 42 per cent of cases failing due to evidential difficulties, such as victims not supporting further action.

Rape prosecutions hit a record low of 2,102 in 2019-2020, down about 30 per cent year on year, while convictions fell by 25 per cent to 1,439, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Amid warnings the system is failing survivors, the CPS has set out a five-year blueprint to ensure sex offenders are brought to justice, including improving communications with victims and working with police to strengthen cases.

The Reclaim The Streets vigil is set to be held Saturday night at Clapham Common, near the place where Everard was
last seen.

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CBC | World News

How a 22-year-old woman helped bring down the Tokyo Olympics chief

When a 22-year-old Japanese college student launched an online campaign against the powerful Tokyo Olympics chief and the sexist remarks he made, she was not sure it would go very far.

But in less than two weeks, Momoko Nojo’s #DontBeSilent campaign organized with other activists and gathered more than 150,000 signatures, galvanizing global outrage against Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020.

He quit last week and has been replaced by Seiko Hashimoto, a woman who has competed in seven Olympic Games.

The hashtag was coined in response to remarks by Mori, an octogenarian former prime minister, that women talk too much. Nojo used it on Twitter and other social media platforms to gather support for a petition calling for action against him.

“Few petitions have got 150,000 signatures before. I thought it was really great. People take this personally too, not seeing this as only Mori’s problem,” said a smiling Nojo in a Zoom interview.

Her activism, born from a year studying in Denmark, is the latest example of women outside mainstream politics in Japan taking to keyboards to bring social change in the world’s third-largest economy, where gender discrimination, pay gaps and stereotyping are rampant.


Japan’s Olympic Minister, Seiko Hashimoto, right, talks with Yoshiro Mori at a meeting in December. Hashimoto has been named Mori’s replacement as president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee. (Associated Press)

‘Good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan’

“It made me realize that this is a good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan,” said Nojo, a fourth-year economics student at Keio University in Tokyo.

She said her activism was motivated by questions she has often heard from male peers like, “You’re a girl, so you have to go to a high school that has pretty school uniforms, don’t you?” or “Even if you don’t have a job after graduating from college, you can be a housewife, no?”

Nojo started her nonprofit “NO YOUTH NO JAPAN” in 2019, while she was in Denmark, where she saw how the country chose Mette Frederiksen, a woman in her early forties, as prime minister.

The time in Denmark, she said, made her realize how much Japanese politics was dominated by older men.

Keiko Ikeda, a professor of education at Hokkaido University, said it was important for young, worldly people to raise their voice in Japan, where decisions tend to be made by a uniform group of like-minded people. But change will come agonizingly slowly, she said.

“If you have a homogeneous group, it’s impossibly difficult to move the compass because the people in it don’t realize it when their decision is off-centre,” Ikeda said.

Proposal dismissed as PR stunt

Nojo dismissed a proposal this week by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to allow more women in meetings, but only as silent observers, as a poorly-executed PR stunt.

“I’m not sure if they have the willingness to fundamentally improve the gender issue,” she said, adding that the party needed to have more women in key posts, rather than having them as observers.

In reality, Nojo’s win is only a small step in a long fight.

Japan is ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index — the worst ranking among advanced countries — scoring poorly on women’s economic participation and political empowerment.

Activists and many ordinary women say drastic change is needed in the workplace, and in politics.

“In Japan, when there’s an issue related to gender equality, not many voices are heard, and even if there are some voices to improve the situation, they run out of steam and nothing changes,” Nojo said.

“I don’t want our next generation to spend their time over this issue.” 

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Case dropped against NYC woman who called 911 on Black birdwatcher in Central Park

Amy Cooper, the white woman arrested last year for calling 911 on a Black birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park, had her criminal case thrown out Tuesday after she completed a diversionary counselling program that prosecutors said was meant to educate her on the harm of her actions.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said Manhattan prosecutors were satisfied with Cooper’s participation in the program — described as an alternative, restorative justice solution — and were not seeking to pursue the case any further. Such outcomes are standard for first-time offenders facing misdemeanour charges, Illuzzi-Orbon said.

Judge Anne Swern, presiding over the matter by video because of the coronavirus pandemic, agreed to dismiss the charge of filing a false police report and said she would seal Cooper’s case file, in accordance with state law.

The confrontation, captured on video the same day Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, drew worldwide attention and was seen by many as a stark example of everyday racism.

Christian Cooper, the birdwatcher who recorded the video and was the subject of Amy Cooper’s 911 call, said he was caught off guard and learned of the dismissal only when the Associated Press called him shortly thereafter. Illuzzi-Orbon said he declined to participate in the matter. (There is no relation between Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper). 

Christian Cooper later issued a statement highlighting what he said was another racial injustice, saying he was “far more outraged” by the U.S. Congress denying statehood to the mostly non-white District of Columbia “than by anything Amy Cooper did.”

“That gross racial injustice could be fixed by Congress now, today, and that’s what people should be focused on — not last year’s events in Central Park.” 

Amy Cooper’s lawyer, Robert Barnes, praised prosecutors for a “thorough and honest inquiry” into the allegations and said he agreed with the decision to dismiss the case.

“We thank them for their integrity, and agree with the outcome,” Barnes said. “Many others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation, and for some, there may be legal consequences coming.” 

Fired from job

Amy Cooper, 41, drew widespread condemnation after frantically calling 911 on May 25 to claim she was being threatened by “an African American man” who had confronted her for walking her dog without a leash.

When police called Amy Cooper back in an attempt to locate her in the park, she falsely claimed the man, Christian Cooper, had “tried to assault her,” Illuzzi-Orbon said. The second call was not recorded on video, Illuzzi-Orbon said. It was previously reported incorrectly that Cooper was the one who called 911 again.

Illuzzi-Orbon said that when officers arrived, Christian Cooper was gone and Amy Cooper admitted he hadn’t tried to assault her. Illuzzi-Orbon said Amy Cooper’s false claim could have led to a physical confrontation between police and Christian Cooper if they had gotten to him first.

“The simple principle is: One cannot use the police to threaten another and, in this case, in a racially offensive and charged manner,” Illuzzi-Orbon said.

After the incident, Amy Cooper was fired from her job as a portfolio manager at investment firm Franklin Templeton. Her actions were also condemned by the University of Waterloo, which she attended, in a statement on Twitter.

Court’s dismissal criticized

Amy Cooper’s diversionary program, run through a wing of the Center for Court Innovation and a Manhattan psychotherapy provider, included education about racial equality and five therapy sessions focused on making her appreciate that racial identities shape our lives, but that they shouldn’t be used to cause harm, Illuzzi-Orbon said.

The prosecutor said Amy Cooper’s therapist described it as a “moving experience” and that she learned “a lot in their sessions together.”

To some, the dismissal of Amy Cooper’s case after a series of counselling sessions felt like just a slap on the wrist.

Eliza Orlins, a public defender who is running to replace Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., tweeted: “This isn’t surprising. This is how the system was designed to function — to protect the privileged from accountability.”

Ernest Owens, a prominent Black journalist, tweeted: “White privilege, 2021.” He also called out the “irony” of the case being dropped following the counselling program. 


Case inspired new law

In the video posted on social media, Christian Cooper claimed Amy Cooper’s cocker spaniel was “tearing through the plantings” in the Ramble, a secluded section of Central Park popular with birdwatchers, and told her she should go to another part of the park. When she refused, he pulled out dog treats, causing her to scream at him to not come near her dog.

Amy Cooper also warned him she would summon police unless he stopped recording.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper is heard saying in the video as she pulls down her face mask and struggles to control her dog.

“Please call the cops,” said Christian Cooper.

“There’s an African American man, I’m in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog. … Please send the cops immediately!” she said during the 911 call before the recording stops.

Amy Cooper’s 911 call inspired New York lawmakers to pass a law making it easier to sue a person who calls police on someone “without reason” because of their background, including race and national origin. San Francisco lawmakers passed a similar law.

Amid the backlash, Amy Cooper released an apology through a public relations service, saying she “reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions.”

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Kamala Harris makes history as first woman of colour to take the oath of U.S. vice-president

U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris broke the barrier Wednesday that has kept men at the top ranks of American power for more than two centuries when she took the oath to hold the nation’s second-highest office.

Harris was sworn in as the first female vice-president — and the first Black person and person of South Asian descent to hold the position — in front of the U.S. Capitol by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The moment was steeped in history and significance in more ways than one. She was escorted to the podium by Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, the officer who single-handedly took on a mob of Trump supporters as they tried to breach the Senate floor during the Capitol insurrection that sought to overturn the election results. Harris was wearing clothes from two young, emerging Black designers — a deep purple dress and coat.

After taking the oath of office, a beaming Harris hugged her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and gave President Joe Biden a first bump.


U.S. President Joe Biden and Harris share a fist-bump during the inauguration on Wednesday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary falls away, expanding the idea of what’s possible in American politics. But it’s particularly meaningful because Harris is taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities.

Those close to Harris say she’ll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the new administration.

“In many folks’ lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States,” said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world.”

WATCH | Kamala Harris is sworn in as U.S. vice-president:

History has been made in the United States with the swearing-in of Kamala Harris as vice-president. She is the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American to ever hold the job. 1:14

Child of immigrants

Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard,” said Simon.

Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first came to Washington as a senator from California, where she’d served as attorney general and as San Francisco’s district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump’s victory quickly scrambled the nation’s capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars.

After Harris’ own presidential bid fizzled, her rise continued when Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer.

The inauguration activities included nods to her history-making role and her personal story.

Sorority marks the day

Harris used two Bibles to take the oath, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, joined the presidential escort.

To mark the occasion, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the nation’s oldest sorority for Black women, which Harris joined at Howard University, declared Wednesday as Soror Kamala D. Harris Day.

“This event will certainly be a momentous occasion that will go down in the annals of our archives as one of the greatest days the founders’ of Alpha Kappa Alpha could have envisioned,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, the sorority’s international president and chief executive office.


Rep. Terri Sewell, wearing a mask with AKA, a reference to Alpha Kappa Alpha, the sorority of Harris, in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. The sorority declared Wednesday Soror Kamala D. Harris Day. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

She’ll address the nation later in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War.

Biden, in his inaugural address, reflected on the 1913 march for women’s suffrage the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, during which some marchers were heckled and attacked.

“Today, we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Biden said.


Harris leaves after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States on the west front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters)

Raised not to hear ‘no’

Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity.

“I was raised to not hear `no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'” she recalled during a CBS Sunday Morning interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.”

Harris’ swearing-in holds more symbolic weight than that of any vice president in modern times.

She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All.

People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school, Jones said. They will have to understand Harris’ traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali.

“Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said.

Her election to the vice-presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election.

“We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said.

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U.S. executes 1st woman on federal death row in nearly 7 decades

The U.S. government executed convicted murderer Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, early on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court cleared the last hurdle for her execution by overturning a stay.

Montgomery’s execution marked the first time a female prisoner has been executed since 1953 in the United States.

She was pronounced deceased at 1:31 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

Challenges were fought across multiple federal courts on whether to allow execution of Montgomery, 52, who had initially been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate on Tuesday in the Justice Department’s execution chamber at its prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Kelley Henry, Montgomery’s lawyer, called the execution “vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.”

“No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease — diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors,” Henry said in a statement.

Convicted for 2007 murder

Montgomery was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery cut Stinnett’s fetus from the womb. The child survived.

Some of Stinnett’s relatives travelled to witness Montgomery’s execution, the Justice Department said.

As the execution process began, asked by a female executioner if she had any last words, Montgomery responded in a quiet, muffled voice, “No,” according to a reporter who served as a media witness.


Karen Burkhart holds a sign across the road from the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind., Tuesday to protest the scheduled execution of Lisa Montgomery. Montgomercy was executed early Wednesday. (Joseph C. Garza/The Tribune-Star/The Associated Press)

Federal executions had been on pause for 17 years and only three men had been executed by the federal government since 1963 until the practice resumed last year under President Donald Trump, whose outspoken support for capital punishment long predates his entry into politics.

Montgomery’s lawyers asked for Trump’s clemency last week, saying she committed her crime after a childhood in which she was abused and repeatedly raped by her stepfather and his friends, and so should instead face life in prison.

Suffered brain damage, mental illness, says ACLU

It is one of three executions the U.S. Department of Justice had scheduled for the final full week of Trump’s administration. Two other executions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been delayed, for now at least, by a federal judge in Washington, to allow the condemned murderers to recover from COVID-19.

The American Civil Liberties Union and some liberal lawmakers had previously opposed the government’s plans to execute Montgomery, with ACLU saying her life had been “marred by unthinkable trauma that resulted in documented brain damage and mental illness.”

Montgomery’s execution was the first of 2021 by the federal government and the 11th since last year.

In 2020, the U.S. government executed 10 people and it was for the first time ever that the federal government conducted more executions than all U.S. states combined, according to a database compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

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Spurs’ Becky Hammon becomes 1st woman in history to direct NBA team

Becky Hammon became the first woman to direct a team in NBA history, taking over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers following Gregg Popovich’s ejection in the first half.

Popovich was ejected by official Tony Brown with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter. Popovich screamed at Brown and entered the court following a non-call on DeMar DeRozan’s attempted layup and a subsequent attempted rebound by Drew Eubanks. Popovich was applauded as he exited the court by several of the team’s family members that were in attendance at the AT&T Center.

Hammon took over the team’s huddles during timeouts and walked the sideline following Popovich’s ejection. Hammon was the first full-time female assistant coach in league history.

Tim Duncan took over last season when Popovich was ejected against Portland on Nov. 16, 2019. The Hall of Famer opted not to return as assistant this season.

A three-time All-American at Colorado State, Hammon played for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars in the WNBA as well as overseas before retiring to join Popovich’s staff in 2014.

WATCH | Keeping girls in sport during the pandemic:

Scott Russell is joined by Chandra Crawford, Stephanie Dixon and Ainka Jess to chat about how the pandemic has only worsened the issue of young girls in this country dropping out of sports and what needs to be done about it. This is the second panel in a five-part series of discussions on the state of sport in Canada. 19:13

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Sask. woman who got stomach removed to thwart cancer describes life with ‘ticking time bomb’

For years, Summer Heide didn’t eat spicy food because the slightest indigestion would trigger fears that she had stomach cancer.

She would lay awake at night, terrified that she would die and leave her children without a mother.

Heide, a 32-year old farmer from southeastern Saskatchewan, isn’t a hypochondriac. A rare and deadly stomach cancer runs in her family and, since learning she inherited a gene mutation that could cause cancer, she’s been forced to make agonizing decisions and take drastic steps to save her own life.

“It was just too much fear over the unknown,” Heide said. “There was always the little bit of ‘When is the ticking time bomb going to go off? When might I get the cancer?'”

DNA discovery

Heide was only a toddler when her aunt, RoseMarie Lawrence, passed away from stomach cancer in 1991. She was just 29 years old.

That kind of stomach cancer, known as diffuse gastric cancer, is particularly sneaky. Cancer cells grow in loose clusters — not a tumour — that can easily move and multiply in the stomach lining. Initial symptoms, such as heartburn, seem innocuous. By the time the cancer is detected, it’s usually too late.

Heide’s uncle Luke Lawrence, RoseMarie’s husband, remembers asking the doctor whether their two children were at risk of getting the cancer.

“I was very concerned for my children because I knew nothing about cancer,” he said. “[The doctor] says ‘Cancer is not contagious.’ At that time, they didn’t know anything about hereditary forms of cancer.”


Luke Lawrence lost his wife and daughter to an aggressive stomach cancer that the family eventually learned was hereditary. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Sixteen years later his daughter Erin, Heide’s cousin, was diagnosed with the same cancer that had killed her mother.

She was 20 years old and passed away within seven months.

Before she passed away, doctors suggested Erin get genetic testing. She took a blood test, one that didn’t exist before her mother died, and discovered she had a rare mutation in the CDH1 gene that causes Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer Syndrome. It’s a disorder that can pass down through families and puts people at a high risk for developing stomach cancer at a young age.

A child has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the gene mutation from a parent who is a carrier.

“We didn’t know none of this until it was far too late because Erin had already been diagnosed with Stage 4 of this form of cancer,” said Luke Lawrence, “So [the testing] was to create an awareness for the family, more so than what we could do for Erin. That’s why we did it.”

The family calls it “Erin’s Gift.”

In 2007, Heide and seven other family members went for predictive genetic testing to see if they also carried the gene mutation. Five tested positive, including her grandmother, her father, and herself. 


Summer Heide (second from right) tested positive for the gene mutation that causes Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC). So did her sister, Ali Kowaluk (left) and her father, Clint Birkenshaw (second from left). Her brother, Caleb Birkenshaw (right), tested negative. (Submitted by Summer Heide)

Heide was 19 when she got the results.

“It was devastating, obviously, but I think I was so young and naive that I didn’t actually think about what that meant,” Heide said.

What it meant was Heide’s chances of developing the deadly stomach cancer by age 80 were as high as 83 per cent. Women who have the mutation also have an estimated 60 per cent risk of developing lobular breast cancer in their lifetime.

Genetic testing revealed that Summer Heide has a gene mutation that increases her chances of developing a deadly stomach cancer. That discovery has forced Heide to make agonizing decisions that affect her life and the lives of her children. 5:21

Demand for genetic testing increases

Demand for cancer-related genetic testing has increased exponentially over the past two decades, according to the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors. Referrals to some genetic testing clinics in the country have doubled or even tripled in recent years.

“Patients are more aware of it, physicians are more aware of it, and the testing has become better. The technology has improved,” said Ingrid Ambus, a genetic counsellor at North York General Hospital in Toronto, adding that testing can now diagnose hereditary cancer syndromes beyond the more common ovarian and breast cancers.

Less than 10 per cent of cancers have hereditary causes, but researchers have identified more than 80 genes in which mutations can be passed down through families and potentially cause cancer.

Ambus said patients often find it “empowering” to know that a cancer runs in their family so they can seek counselling, screen for the cancer, make lifestyle changes or have preventative surgery.


Summer Heide was 19 years when she learned she had inherited a gene mutation that put her at high risk of developing developing a deadly stomach cancer at a young age. (Submitted by Summer Heide)

A genetic counsellor advised Heide that the only way for her to prevent aggressive gastric cancer would be to remove her entire stomach, a procedure called a prophylactic total gastrectomy.

She met with a surgeon in 2007, but was told there wasn’t enough clinical information available at that time to guarantee that she could have children after a total gastrectomy.

She decided to wait.

Soon, she would have to make another difficult choice.

Passing on the gene

When Heide and her husband were ready to have children, they had the option to do in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis on her embryos. That would have allowed them to only implant embryos that didn’t have the mutation.

“I didn’t want to do that,” said Heide. “I do feel like some feel like it’s a little bit selfish, because I could spare my kids from having the gene. But I wouldn’t get the kids that I have if I were to choose that, and I would never choose anybody different.”


Summer and Nick Heide welcomed their first child, Mikka, into the world on May 8, 2009. (Submitted by Summer Heide)

After Heide and her husband had their first two children, Mikka and Harlow, her anxiety began to grow. She was tortured by the fact that her cousin Erin had passed away just seven months after diagnosis. Heide wondered whether cancer was already forming inside her.

“No one would love [my daughters] like me. So every, like, Christmas or birthday, or any type of holiday, I would always go above — take lots of pictures, make it perfect — in case it was their last one with me,” she said.

Heide still resisted the idea of getting an invasive surgery to remove her stomach. She was worried about long-lasting side affects, including diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue.

She’d also had one of her veins cut during a routine endoscopy — a diagnostic test to look for cancer — and began to vomit blood and lose consciousness.

“I was mentally making peace with myself and God that maybe my time had come. That shakes a person deeply,” she said.

From that point on, she had a deep fear of medical procedures. She would schedule a gastrectomy, then cancel.

Game changer

Then, in 2014, her younger sister, Ali Kowaluk, decided to get genetic testing.

Kowaluk admits she had procrastinated. Then she got married and began to contemplate having children. She knew it was time to visit a genetic counsellor at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.

She tested positive for the gene mutation and knew immediately that she would have the surgery.


Ali Kowaluk poses pregnant in 2019. Five years earlier, she started contemplated having children and decided she needed to know for her future children’s sake whether she carried that gene mutation that could lead to cancer. (Debra Mavin Photography)

Kowaluk had her entire stomach removed at the age of 23. Afterward, the surgeon told her that tests on tissues removed from her revealed Stage 1 cancer.

“So that was hard to hear, still hard to talk about. I don’t talk about that part very much,” Kowaluk said, choking up.

Undetected, the aggressive cancer would have certainly gone on to kill her. The surgery saved her life.

“I could not be here today,” Kowaluk said.

Now a mother of one-year-old Winston, Kowaluk is shaken by how close she came to passing away like her cousin Erin.

Kowaluk’s near-death experience was a wake-up call for big sister, Heide.

One night, after both of her daughters fell asleep during their bedtime story, one curled up under each arm, she lay there praying to God and silently sobbing. The next morning, she woke up with mental clarity. It was time to have the surgery.

“Knowing you carry a gene with such devastating potential is a heavy weight to carry. It was heavier than I could mentally handle any longer,” she said. 


Summer Heide’s daughter, Mikka, coaxes her mother into taking a walk inside a Calgary hospital a few days after she had surgery to remove her stomach. (Submitted by Summer Heide)

Heide got her stomach removed at Calgary Foothills Hospital in 2015.

The recovery took nearly a year and was excruciating, she said. She could barely get off the couch some days.

Two years after the surgery, despite not knowing if it was possible, she got pregnant and had a third child, a boy named Huxley. It seemed to reset her body, she said.

The next generation

Today, Heide stands in her kitchen, sunshine pouring through the window, snacking on tiny bites of chicken and cottage cheese.

The 5-foot-5, 105-pound woman eats every couple hours and only small amounts, because she doesn’t have a stomach to digest and store food. She has to chew everything until it’s mush, and eating and drinking fluid at the same time pushes food into her small intestine too quickly and makes her sick.

She has reached a level of peace and confidence with her health that she hasn’t had in years.

“Of course, I wish we didn’t have this gene, but it’s also a gift that we know about it, because I might not be sitting here today if I didn’t know about it,” she said.


Sisters Ali Kowaluk (left) and Summer Heide (right) pose with their sons at Heide’s home near Rocanville, Sask.. The two women have had their entire stomachs surgically removed. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Unfortunately, her worries aren’t over.

“The worry about myself has now been put onto my kids, because I just worry and hope that none of them have the gene,” Heide said,

Each of her three children, and Kowaluk’s son, has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the gene mutation. They can get tested when they’re 18.

The two women hope that, by then, medical advancements will provide better options for testing, treating and preventing the disease.

“I have high hopes for him,” Kowaluk said of her son Winston.

Heide shares the same optimism.

“It’s hard, but it is what it is. We’re lucky that we get a chance at life.”

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