Tag Archives: vows

Canadian keeper Sheridan vows to return ‘stronger, better than ever’ from surgery

Sky Blue FC says Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan has undergone successful surgery on her right quad.

The NWSL club said there is no timetable for Sheridan’s return.

The 25-year-old from Whitby, Ont., was injured Feb. 18 in Canada’s first game at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. She was helped off the pitch in the 10th minute of the 1-0 loss to the U.S., going down in pain after a seemingly innocuous pass to a teammate.

“Surgery went really well and I am excited to start my recovery process,” Sheridan said in a statement Tuesday. “I will be pushing myself to come back stronger and better than ever.”

The Olympic football tournament is scheduled for July 21 to Aug. 7 in Tokyo. Canada Soccer said it had no information on Sheridan’s possible return to action.

Veteran Stephanie Labbe, who has 72 caps, started the rest of the SheBelieves Cup, with the uncapped Rylee Foster as her backup. Erin McLeod, a 38-year-old who has 118 caps, had to leave camp early with a dislocated finger.

WATCH | Sheridan leaves SheBelieves Cup game with injury:

Early in the match against the United States, Canada’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan plays the ball then goes down in pain. She would have to be replaced by Stephanie Labbé. 1:19

Also Tuesday, the Chicago Red Stars said Canadian defender Bianca St-Georges had successful arthroscopic surgery to repair a “lower knee injury” suffered in camp with Canada prior to the SheBelieves Cup.

The NWSL team said the surgery happened Feb. 24. The 23-year-old from Quebec is expected to return to action before the May 15 start of the regular season.

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CBC | Soccer News

Doctor who caught COVID-19 variant vows to ‘vigorously defend’ against charge she obstructed contact tracing

An Ontario physician and her husband — the first people in Canada known to have caught the coronavirus variant originally detected in the U.K. — are vowing to fight public health charges alleging they hindered contact tracing efforts. 

Dr. Martina Weir and her husband, Brian Weir, who works for Toronto’s paramedic service, both said in statements issued through their respective lawyers that they are not guilty, intend to plead not guilty and will “vigorously defend” themselves against the charges.

As CBC News previously reported, it was only by chance the lab that handled the couple’s COVID-19 tests identified the variant, according to Public Health Ontario. The province does not check each positive case of COVID-19 for the B117 strain.

The couple, from Durham Region east of Toronto, are each accused of three non-criminal counts under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act that were laid last week but only formalized Tuesday. The charges include:

  • 2 counts each of “failing to provide accurate information on all persons that [they] may have had contact with during their period of communicability for COVID-19.”
  • 1 count each of obstruction for “providing false information” to public health officials.    

In Martina Weir’s case, the obstruction count alleges she gave the false information to Durham Region’s associate medical officer of health during contact tracing in relation to the coronavirus strain first reported in the U.K.

Brian Weir’s obstruction count alleges he provided false information about whether he had contact with anyone who had travelled from the U.K.

CBC News has learned that a close family member who lives in Britain flew to Canada in mid-December to spend time over the holidays at the Weirs’ home.

Initially, in its Boxing Day announcement that a then-unnamed Durham couple had tested positive for the coronavirus variant first reported in the U.K., Ontario’s Health Ministry said they had “no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.” 

But a day later, the ministry issued a second statement alleging the couple had withheld information.

“Additional investigation and follow-up case and contact management has revealed that the couple had, indeed, been in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K., which is new information not provided in earlier interviews,” the ministry said in a Dec. 27 statement.

Signage at Winnipeg’s airport warns international travellers they have to isolate for 14 days. The charges against an Ontario doctor and her husband allege they obstructed health officials by not providing accurate information related to contact with anyone who travelled to the U.K. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

No indication of workplace risk

Martina Weir works as a physician at two publicly run nursing homes and three hospitals in Durham Region. 

A spokesperson for the nursing homes said Weir wasn’t at work between Dec. 11 — well before she is believed to have tested positive for COVID-19 — and earlier this week. The spokesperson said there are no concerns about any risk to the homes’ residents but that Weir’s contract employment there is under review. 

A spokesperson for the hospitals, Sharon Navarro, said staff coming to work there “must attest that they have not travelled outside the country and or had contact with anyone travelling outside the country.”

She did not answer questions about whether Martina Weir had been to work in mid-December or whether any other staff or patients who may have tested positive for COVID-19 are being screened for the B117 variant.      

Neither Weir nor her lawyer would say whether she went to work at the hospitals during the period when she was potentially contagious. 

CBC News has no indication that Weir went to work and put anyone at risk at any of her workplaces.

WATCH | What do we know about the variant 1st identified in U.K.

The B1-17 coronavirus variant, first discovered in the U.K., is now in at least 40 countries, including Canada. It has 23 mutations, including one that attaches to healthy cells like a key going into a lock. 1:56

College of Physicians aware of charges

By law, Weir has to report the charges against her to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the provincial regulator for doctors. The college can then follow up with an investigation, and results are forwarded to a committee that decides whether to take no action, issue a caution, ask a doctor to undergo remedial training, or send the matter to a disciplinary hearing.  

The college said in a statement on Tuesday that, in general, “Countering public health best practices at any time — including during a pandemic — represents a risk to the public and is not acceptable behaviour.”

Toronto Paramedic Services, where Brian Weir works as a senior scheduler for the city’s emergency medical service, said it wasn’t aware of the charges against him and wouldn’t comment on something pertaining to its “staff as private citizens.” 

Brian Weir’s lawyer didn’t answer a question from CBC about whether Weir was at work during the period when he was potentially contagious.

CBC News has no indication Brian Weir went to work and put anyone at risk at his workplace.

The Weirs’ first appearance is set for March 10 in provincial offences court. The charges carry a maximum penalty of $ 5,000 each.  

Health workers have ‘elevated moral responsibility’

Martina Weir is believed to be the second doctor in Canada charged with a public-health offence in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. A doctor was charged in New Brunswick last year with failing to self-isolate for 14 days after he returned from a trip to Quebec to pick up his daughter. 

Bioethicist Kerry Bowman of the University of Toronto said that, in his view, health-care workers have “an elevated moral responsibility” because they are “in a position of trust with the public.” 

“We’re in this awful race right now, over these difficult winter months, with vaccines and the variant and everything else,” he said. “So it’s very … very serious.”

University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman says health-care workers have ‘an elevated moral responsibility’ because they are ‘in a position of trust with the public.’ (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

According to Statistics Canada, 17 of the country’s biggest police forces responded to more than 16,800 potential violations of provincial laws and regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic between March and August. The data does not indicate how many of those cases resulted in fines or charges.

At the federal level, the Public Health Agency of Canada said earlier this month that between late March 2020 and Jan. 5, 2021, police have laid eight charges, given out 126 tickets and issued around 200 warnings for alleged violations of the Quarantine Act, which applies to people entering Canada from abroad.

Have a tip to share on this story? Contact Zach Dubinsky at 416-205-7553 or zach.dubinsky@cbc.ca, or send us a secure, anonymous message through SecureDrop.

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CBC | Health News

Thai PM vows to stay on as protesters defy his ban

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Friday he was not quitting after tens of thousands of anti-government protesters defied a ban on demonstrations and he warned them not to persist.

The ban on gatherings of more than five people was imposed early on Thursday after nearly three months of protests that have called for a reduction in the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy as well as the removal of Prayuth.

Protesters defied the ban and staged one of the biggest demonstrations in Bangkok on Thursday evening.

“I’m not quitting,” Prayuth told reporters after an emergency cabinet meeting.

“The government must use the emergency decree. We have to proceed because the situation became violent … It is being used for 30 days, or less if the situation eases.”

He warned people not to violate the emergency measures, saying: “Just wait and see … If you do wrong, we will use the law.”

Pro-democracy protesters wave mobile phones with flashlights during the protest rally occupying the main road in Bangkok’s central business district on Thursday. (Gemunu Amarasinghe/The Associated Press)

Protesters seek the removal of Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup, saying that he engineered last year’s election to keep hold of power. He says the election was fair.

Protesters also want a new constitution, to replace on drafted under military rule.

Calls have also built for reforms to the monarchy, which is accused by protesters of helping to entrench decades of military influence in politics.

Protests have been largely peaceful.

The only specific incident cited by the government for the imposition of emergency measures was one in which Queen Suthida’s motorcade was jeered by protesters, but it also said protests were damaging the economy and national security.

Police said on Friday that two men would be charged with attempted violence against the queen, which carries a possible death sentence.

Protesters have denounced the emergency measures and the arrest of some 40 protesters in the past week and are planning another demonstration at 5 p.m. local time in Bangkok on Friday.

Parliamentary opposition parties also condemned the emergency measures.

“Pheu Thai Party calls on General Prayuth Chan-ocha and the state officials to lift the emergency decree and to stop intimidating the people in all manners and to release those who were arrested immediately

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Trump vows to ban TikTok app from U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he will take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns.

Trump’s comments came after published reports that the administration is planning to order China’s ByteDance to sell TikTok. There were also reports Friday that software giant Microsoft is in talks to buy the app.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said.

The company’s operations in the U.S. have been under review by the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting, “I have that authority.” He added, “It’s going to be signed tomorrow.”

Tik Tok’s operations in the U.S. have been under review by the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources said the administration could soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its ownership in TikTok.

There have been reports of U.S. tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration sets its sights on the app.

The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, reported Friday that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft declined to comment.

TikTok issued a statement Friday saying that, “While we do not comment on rumours or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”

App under review in U.S.

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teens in the U.S. and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

TikTok’s goofy videos and ease of use have made it immensely popular, and U.S. tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat. It has said it has tens of millions of U.S. users and hundreds of millions globally.

But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government, and the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials.

TikTok’s fun, goofy videos and ease of use has made it immensely popular, and U.S. tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat. It has said it has tens of millions of U.S. users and hundreds of millions globally. (AFP via Getty Images)

TikTok maintains it doesn’t censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and it would not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data even if asked. The company has hired an American CEO, a former top Disney executive, in an attempt to distance itself from its Chinese ownership.

U.S. national-security officials have been reviewing the Musical.ly acquisition in recent months, while U.S. armed forces have banned their employees from installing TikTok on government-issued phones. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the U.S. was considering banning TikTok.

These national-security worries parallel a broader U.S. security crackdown on Chinese companies, including telecom providers Huawei and ZTE. The Trump administration has ordered that the U.S. stop funding equipment from those providers in U.S. networks. It has also tried to steer allies away from Huawei because of worries about the Chinese government’s access to data, which the companies have denied it has.

LISTEN | Understanding TikTok:

This week, TikTok was in the news for pulling a video critical of China’s mass detention of Uighurs. Most of the popular Chinese-owned social media app’s users are children and teens who share lip-syncing videos, dance crazes and comedy skits. But in today’s episode, Alex Hern, technology editor at the Guardian, explains why — behind the memes and music — there are some real concerns about censorship, privacy and foreign influence. 23:48

The Trump administration has stepped in before to block or dissolve deals on national-security concerns, including stopping Singapore’s Broadcom from its $ 117 billion bid for U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm in 2018 in an effort to help retain U.S. leadership in the telecom space. It also told China’s Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. to sell off its 2016 purchase of gay dating app Grindr.

Other countries are also taking action against TikTok. India this month banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing privacy concerns, amid tensions between the countries.

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CBC | World News

Majority of Minneapolis city council vows to disband police department

A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city’s police department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil rights investigation after George Floyd’s death.

Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it.

Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would “dismantle” the department.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”

Demonstrators calling to defund the Minneapolis police department march on University Avenue in Minneapolis on Saturday. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Floyd, a black man in handcuffs, died after a white officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck, ignoring Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving.

Community activists have criticized the department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change.

The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

A more complete remaking of the department is likely to unfold in coming months.

Disbanding has precedent

Disbanding an entire department has happened before. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, N.J., the city disbanded its police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County. Compton, Calif., took the same step in 2000, shifting its policing to Los Angeles County.

It was a step that then-attorney general Eric Holder said the Justice Department was considering for Ferguson, Mo., after the death of Michael Brown. The city eventually reached an agreement short of that but one that required massive reforms overseen by a court-appointed mediator.

WATCH | What defunding the police might look like:

Calls to defund the police have been growing as people protest police brutality in the U.S., Canada and around the world. Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, explains what defunding the police might look like. 7:40

The move to defund or abolish the Minneapolis department is far from assured, with the civil rights investigation likely to unfold over the next several months.

On Saturday, activists for defunding the department staged a protest outside Mayor Jacob Frey’s home. Frey came out to talk with them.

“I have been coming to grips with my own responsibility, my own failure in this,” Frey said. When pressed on whether he supported their demands, Frey said: “I do not support the full abolition of the police department.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey leaves a demonstration calling for the police department to be defunded on Saturday in Minneapolis. Frey declined when he was asked if he would fully defund the police and was then asked to leave the protest. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

He left to booing.

At another march Saturday during which leaders called for defunding the department, Verbena Dempster said she supported the idea.

“I think, honestly, we’re too far past” the chance for reform, Dempster told Minnesota Public Radio. “We just have to take down the whole system.”

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CBC | World News

GM Unveils New Lithium-Ion Battery Tech, Vows 400-Mile Cars

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General Motors is going electric in a big way. This week the company announced plans for a new battery technology called Ultium that will have more range than Tesla and be used in a broad array of future EVs including an upcoming Cadillac luxury SUV and flagship sedan. GM says the technology uses less hard-to-get, hard-on-miners cobalt, and cell costs should fall below the $ 100-per-kilowatt-hour level that starts to make EVs more competitive than gasoline-engine cars.

The batteries will be built as rectangular pouches rather than cylindrical cells – more space-efficient – that can be stacked horizontally and vertically. GM promises 19 battery and drive unit configurations initially for affordable cars, luxury cars, SUVs and pickups. GM and partner LG Chem are scheduled to break ground in the next three months on a $ 2 billion plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that could create more than 1,100 jobs. Sorry, make that “good-paying jobs,” since this is an election year.

General Motors chairman / CEO Mary Barra at the Ultium rollout Wednesday in Michigan at GM’s Design Dome.

GM is spending this week briefing analysts, media, employees, and partners at its Warren, Michigan, Design Dome on its Empire Strikes Back strategy. Since fall, relative-newcomer Tesla tripled in value and is worth more than GM and Ford combined as analysts see Tesla being the best pure-play for people who want to get in on EVs as an investment. “GM is building toward an all-electric future because we believe climate change is real,” said chairman and CEO Marry Barra Wednesday. She pegged GM’s EV investment at $ 3 billion annually.

One attention-grabber is GM’s claim that its new battery technology will provide a range of 400 miles or more per charge, slightly topping the 390 miles Tesla claims for the Tesla Model S Long Range sedan. (Tesla, for its part, plans to lay out its future EV and battery plans within the next month or so.) GM didn’t go into detail on what size battery pack would accomplish the feat, although you’d obviously need larger packs for larger cars.

Working with LG Chem, GM’s new battery technology uses rectangular pouch cells rather than cylindrical cells. Battery modules will be built in Lordstown, Ohio.

The new battery technology will have configurations from 50 kWh to 200 kWh for cars and SUVs. Performance vehicles will achieve 0-60 mph acceleration of as little as 3 seconds. GM says most will have 400-volt battery packs, and support for Level 2 charging (possible at home with 220 volts) and DC fast charging at up to 200 kW. The truck platform would have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charge capability. This would include commercial vehicles.

For both cars and trucks, the pouch cells will allow for even higher energy density and lower centers of gravity. The ability to stacks cells horizontally or vertically is unique in the industry. GM also says battery management is built-in and – compared with the current Chevrolet Bolt – reduces battery pack wiring 80 percent.

GM says the new cells will have “the highest nickel and lowest cobalt content in a large format pouch cell.” It also says its researchers are working to eliminate cobalt as one of the battery components. Currently, cobalt is tough to mine, comes from countries that are not always friendly to the US, and working conditions are said to be unsafe, although there’s considerable discussion about whether that’s because of inherent dangers or because the mining companies don’t treat workers well.

GM’s new battery technology will be called Ultium.

GM plans an extensive rollout of new electric vehicles starting this year. According to GM:

Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick will all be launching new EVs starting this year. The next new Chevrolet EV will be a new version of the Bolt EV, launching in late 2020, followed by the 2022 Bolt EUV, launching Summer 2021. The Bolt EUV will be the first vehicle outside of the Cadillac brand to feature Super Cruise, the industry’s first true hands-free driving technology for the highway, which GM will expand to 22 vehicles by 2023, including 10 by next year.

The self-driving, shared EV called the Cruise Origin was shown in concept form in January in San Francisco. Next up to be announced is the Cadillac Lyriq in April. The GMC Hummer EV will be introduced May 20 with production due to begin in fall 2020 at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant, the company’s first plant just for EVs.

GM is staking its massive investment on a big uptick in demand for EVs – whether voluntary, helped by tax incentives, or mandated because of concerns about climate change. GM says:

Third-party forecasters expect U.S. EV volumes to more than double from 2025 to 2030 to about 3 million units on average. GM believes volumes could be materially higher as more EVs are launched in popular segments, charging networks grow and the total cost of ownership to consumers continues to fall.

GM revealed an all-new modular architecture and Ultium batteries at the GM Design Dome in Michigan.

GM is right to be optimistic since there’s pretty much nowhere to go but up for the EV industry. The market last year for electric vehicles was 330,000 in the US out of 17.0 million light vehicles sold, 1.9 percent, and those 48 vehicles include both pure EVs and plug-in hybrids that go 15 to 50 miles on battery before the combustion engine kicks in (but not hybrids like the Toyota Prius).

Pure EVs, 18 models total, accounted for 245,000 sales, or 1.4 percent of the US market. But when Tesla Model 3, Model X, and Model S got done feasting on the market – with no tax credits to offer anymore – what’s left amounted to barely 50,000 sales. Just six pure-EV models managed more than 5,000 sales last year:

  1. Tesla Model 3, 158,925
  2. Tesla Model X, 19,225
  3. Chevrolet Bolt EV, 16,148
  4. Tesla Model S, 14,100
  5. Nissan Leaf, 12,365
  6. Audi e-tron, 5,369

GM had two other electrified vehicles on sale in 2019, the end-of-life Chevrolet Volt PHEV with 4,910 sales and the Cadillac CT6 PHEV with 24 sales. The year before Chevy killed the Volt PHEV, it actually had slightly more sales than the Bolt EV, but demand for plug-ins continues to be soft. Last year the Toyota Prius Prime was the second-best-selling electrified vehicle with 23,630 sales, but the only PHEV with more than 10,000 sales was the Honda Clarity, at 10,728. BMW has the most electrified vehicles, six, with five of them PHEVs.

History has shown that first-to-market status doesn’t always guarantee long-term dominance. Facebook was not the first social media platform. Remember Myspace? In other words, Tesla absolutely dominates the market for EVs today, but this is a long race, not a sprint.

Now read:

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ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

Japan vows to strengthen immigration checks in wake of Carlos Ghosn escape

Japan’s justice minister says the flight of former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn as he awaited trial on financial misconduct charges was inexcusable and vowed to beef up immigration checks.

Justice Minister Masako Mori said Sunday she has ordered an investigation after Ghosn issued a statement saying he was in Lebanon.

She said there were no records of Ghosn’s departure from Tokyo.

She said his bail has been revoked, and Interpol had issued a wanted notice. Departure checks needed to be strengthened to prevent a recurrence, Mori said.

While expressing deep regret over what had happened, Mori stopped short of outlining any specific action Japan might take to get Ghosn back.

Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon.

A vehicle leaves Ghosn’s house in Beirut, Lebanon, on Saturday. (Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press)

“Our nation’s criminal justice system protects the basic human rights of an individual and properly carries out appropriate procedures to disclose the truth of various cases, and the flight of a suspect while out on bail is never justified,” she said in a statement.

Mori’s statement was the first public comment by a Japanese government official after the stunning escape of Ghosn, once a superstar of the auto industry.

First arrested in November 2018, Ghosn was out on bail over the last several months, and more recently had moved into a home in an upscale part of Tokyo.

He has repeatedly said he was innocent. His statement from Beirut said he was escaping injustice.

Japan’s justice system has come under fire from human rights advocates for its long detentions, the reliance on confessions and prolonged trials.

Ghosn’s trial was not expected to start until April at the earliest.

During that time, he had been prohibited from seeing his wife, and was only allowed a couple of video calls in the presence of a lawyer.

Watch: Interpol issues ‘red notice’ for Ghosn

Why disgraced ex-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn may be beyond the reach of prosecutors after his dramatic escape to Lebanon — and despite a request for his arrest by Interpol. 2:06

Ghosn had been charged with underreporting his future compensation and breach of trust in diverting Nissan money for his personal gain.

Although the details of his escape are not yet clear, Turkish airline company MNG Jet has said two of its planes were used illegally, first flying him from Osaka, Japan, to Istanbul, and then on to Beirut, where he arrived Monday and has not been seen since.

He promised to talk to reporters Wednesday.

His lawyers in Japan said they knew nothing, were stunned and felt betrayed by his action.

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Vicki Gunvalson Vows She’ll Never Return to ‘RHOC’ as a ‘Friend’ Again (Exclusive)

Vicki Gunvalson Vows She’ll Never Return to ‘RHOC’ as a ‘Friend’ Again (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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Israel vows to keep hitting militants as 18 killed in Gaza

Israeli airstrikes killed more Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza on Wednesday as rocket fire toward Israel resumed after a brief overnight lull, raising the death toll in the strip to 18 Palestinians in the heaviest round of fighting in months.

The military said more than 250 rockets have been fired at Israeli communities since the violence erupted following an Israeli airstrike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander accused of being the mastermind of recent attacks. Israel stepped up its battle against Iran and its proxies across the region.

The latest fighting brought life in much of Israel to a standstill. Schools remained closed in Israeli communities near the Gaza border and restrictions on public gatherings continued as rockets rained down.

Those attacks came after the early morning strike on Tuesday killed Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife as they were sleeping. Rocket fire from Gaza reached as far north as Tel Aviv, and two people were wounded by shrapnel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a special cabinet meeting that Israel has no interest in sparking a wider confrontation but warned the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad that Israel will keep pounding them until the rockets stop.

“They know we will continue to strike them without mercy,” Netanyahu said. “They have one choice: either stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows.”

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have yet to enter the fray — a possible sign the current round of violence could be brief.

Egypt, which frequently mediates between Israel and Gaza militants, has been working to de-escalate tensions, according to Cairo officials. The Islamic Jihad rejected the efforts, with spokesman Musab al-Berim saying the group’s priority is to “respond to the crime and confront the Israeli aggression.”

Seeking to keep the outburst under control, the Israeli military has restricted its operations to Islamic Jihad, and nearly all the Gaza casualties so far have been members of the militant group.

An Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome defence missile system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is seen above Gaza city on Tuesday. (Bashar Taleb/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s new defence minister said Israel wouldn’t hesitate to carry out additional targeted killings against those who threaten it.

“Whoever plans to harm us during the day, will never be safe to make it through the night,” he said after taking office Tuesday.

Netanyahu appointed him to fortify his hard-line political base as he clings to office after two inconclusive elections. Bennett has long advocated tougher action against Palestinian militants but wasn’t part of the plans to strike Abu el-Atta.

No Israeli deaths have been caused by the rockets attacks, mostly thanks to Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, which the military said intercepted some 90 per cent of the projectiles. A few homes suffered direct strikes, though, and there was a near miss on a major highway, where a rocket crashed down just after a vehicle had passed.

In Gaza, the Islamic Jihad said 38-year-old Khaled Faraj, a brigade commander, was killed early Wednesday along with another militant from the group’s Quds radio network. Four others were killed in an airstrike, including a father and two sons, and two others were targeted later. Their identities were unclear.

Along with Tuesday’s pre-dawn strike in Gaza, another strike attributed to Israel targeted a senior Islamic Jihad commander based in Syria. The strikes appeared to be a new surge in the open warfare between Israel and Iranian proxies in the region.

Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbour, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and expertise.

Netanyahu has also claimed Iran is using Iraq and far-off Yemen, where Tehran supports Shia Houthi rebels at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing the government, to plan attacks against Israel. Hamas also receives some support from Iran.

Israel frequently strikes Iranian interests in Syria but Tuesday’s attack in Damascus appeared to be a rare assassination attempt there of a Palestinian militant.

Despite the disruption to daily life, there appeared to be widespread support in Israel for the targeting of Abu el-Atta — a “ticking bomb” who was actively orchestrating new attacks, according to officials. Netanyahu said the military operation was approved by the cabinet 10 days in advance.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Wednesday. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

“We showed that we can strike terrorists with minimum damage to innocents,” Netanyahu said. “Anyone who harms us, we will harm them.”

Still, some opposition figures suggested the timing could not be divorced from the political reality in Israel, where Netanyahu leads a caretaker government while his chief challenger, former military chief Benny Gantz, is currently trying to build a coalition government of his own.

Despite their rivalry, both men support a unity government, but each demands that he lead such a government.

Gantz said he’d been briefed on the airstrike in advance, calling it “the right decision.” Netanyahu updated his rival on developments later, according to his office.

Israel’s attorney general is to decide in the coming weeks whether to indict Netanyahu. An indictment would increase pressure on him to step aside. Netanyahu has sought to portray himself as one best capable of steering the country through its many security challenges.

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Israel’s Netanyahu vows to begin annexing West Bank settlements if he wins re-election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to annex the heart of the West Bank if he wins re-election next week, a move that could inflame the Middle East and extinguish any remaining Palestinian hope of establishing a separate state.

Arab leaders angrily condemned Netanyahu’s remarks, and a UN spokesperson warned the step would be “devastating” to the prospects for a two-state solution.

Netanyahu said he would extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley — an area seen as the breadbasket of any Palestinian state — shortly after forming a new government and would move later to annex other Jewish settlements.

Such action would swallow up most of the West Bank territory sought by the Palestinians, leaving them with little more than isolated enclaves.

Netanyahu said it was important to act as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Mideast peace plan after the Sept. 17 election.

“This is a historic opportunity, a one-time opportunity, to extend Israeli sovereignty on our settlements in Judea and Samaria, and also on other important regions for our security, for our heritage and for our future,” Netanyahu said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.

The prime minister was not clear about the status of the Palestinians on the West Bank.

Over 2.5 million Palestinians live there and in east Jerusalem, in addition to nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers. Israel already has annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not internationally recognized.

A view shows Palestinian houses in the village of Ein Yabrud with the Jewish settlement of Ofra seen in the background, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Sept. 3. (Raneen Sawafta/Reuters)

Election theatrics

Netanyahu is locked in a tight race, and his announcement, the most detailed vision for the region that he has presented during his decade in power, was the latest in a series of frenetic moves he has made in recent days to try to rally hardline voters.

The proposal was dismissed by opponents as election theatrics. They have accused Netanyahu of trying to divert attention from a corruption scandal and Israel’s security challenges.

Later in the day, he was whisked away from a campaign event in southern Israel after Palestinian militants fired rockets toward the area.

Netanyahu’s plan would hinge on a number of factors, most critically whether Trump would back him. But Trump’s team of Mideast advisers is dominated by supporters of the settlements, and the muted reaction Tuesday from the United States indicated there would be little resistance.

U.S. officials said Netanyahu had told them about his proposal ahead of time and that they had not raised any objections because they do not believe it will affect prospects for an eventual peace agreement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Israeli leader spoke as the White House announced the firing of national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton was a strong supporter of Netanyahu’s tough policies against Iran and had visited the Jordan Valley with the Israeli leader in June.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — as part of a future independent state.

For Israel, the Jordan Valley is considered a security asset because it provides a buffer zone against potential attacks from the east. Many moderate Israelis believe Israel should retain some element of control in the area under a peace deal.

Palestinians, however, say there can be no independent state without the area, which comprises nearly a quarter of the West Bank. It is home to many Palestinian farms and also is one of the few remaining areas of the territory where the Palestinians have open space to develop.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said all agreements with Israel will be cancelled if Netanyahu presses forward. (Nasser Nasser/The Associated Press)

Palestinians, others react

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said all agreements with Israel will be cancelled if Netanyahu presses forward.

“We have the right to defend our rights and achieve our goals by all available means, whatever the results, as Netanyahu’s decisions contradict the resolutions of international legitimacy and international law,” he said.

Opposition politicians alike criticized Netanyahu for proposing West Bank annexation as part of his campaign. On Twitter, Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties, called Netanyahu’s statement “not just election spin” but “a vision of apartheid.” Ehud Barak, a former prime minister who is campaigning to oust Netanyahu, said the prime minister “has no public or moral mandate to determine things so fateful to the state of Israel.”

Locked in a tight race, Netanyahu has resorted to a series of stunts in recent days aimed at drawing attention to his campaign and, critics say, diverting attention from a looming corruption case.

The international community, along with the Palestinians, overwhelmingly considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem illegal.

Netanyahu’s plan would turn Palestinian population centres into enclaves that he said he would seek to link to neighbouring Jordan. Unlike Israeli settlers, West Bank Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, condemned the announcement as “a serious escalation that undermines all peace efforts.”

At the United Nations, Secretary General Antonio Guterres also rejected the proposal. “Such a prospect would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace and the very essence of a two-state solution,” said UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

Netanyahu’s challengers accused him of playing politics. Yair Lapid, a leader of the Blue and White party, dismissed it as an “an election stunt.”

During the hard-fought campaign, Netanyahu has alleged fraud in Arab voting areas and has been pushing to place cameras in polling stations on election day. He also claimed to have located a previously unknown Iranian nuclear weapons facility, and later this week he flies to Russia for a lightning meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

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