Kevin Hart responds to Montrealer’s #KeepBeingAwesome note

Montreal teacher Saiswari Virahsammy is giving out random love notes to strangers on the street, but she never expected to get a response from comedian and avid jogger Kevin Hart — the man she credits with inspiring her to start running.

#KeepBeingAwesome is a pay-it-forward project the professional Indian dancer started last October.

ChangSha Night Net

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    The good karma paid off Tuesday when Virahsammy was at Hart’s Just For Laughs comedy show.

    READ MORE: Kevin Hart hunting for fresh talent at Montreal’s Just For Laughs

    A little while ago, when Virahsammy was struggling to finish a 5-kilometre run, she pictured Hart encouraging her and was eventually able to complete the course.

    “I wanted to tell him about the story, but figured it might be hard to get to him, ” the 29-year-old told Global News.

    “So, I wrote him one of my #KeepBeingAwesome notes. When the show was done, I was able to hand in hand give it to him.”

    View this post on Instagram

    When you hand in hand give a #KeepBeingAwesome note to @kevinhart4real because one day, during a 5k jog, the only way I could finish it was to picture him encouraging me and jogging beside me, and I did. #KeepBeingAwesome

    A post shared by Sai Swari (@sai_swari) on Jul 26, 2016 at 9:09pm PDT

    The note reads: “Hey Kevin, I started jogging a year ago, and to be honest, coming from a girl that couldn’t run, it was a huge thing for me. Eventually I was able to do 5-km jogs. Then, I did them every day.”

    “ I remember one day, I was having a hard time finishing the job, and I imagined you encouraging me to finish, and I did.”

    “So, thank you for what you do to the community. Keep being awesome, Kevin. You’re my brother. I honestly look to you for true encouragement. I love what you do. Keep going.”

    View this post on Instagram

    @kevinhart4real just read my #KeepBeingAwesome note on his snapchat 🙈 Man, he’s great 💜💜💜 #SpreadTheLove #TheLittleActionsCount

    A post shared by Sai Swari (@sai_swari) on Jul 28, 2016 at 6:19am PDT

    Much to Virahsammy ‘s surprise, Hart read the entire note on his SnapChat.

    After, Hart continues: “With that being said, that makes me smile, man.”

    “Fans are the best. I do it for you guys. S—; like that warms my heart.”

    WATCH BELOW: Kevin Hart responds to Virahsammy’s note on SnapChat

    Virahsammy started the project when her temple was celebrating the birth of their Guru, Sai Baba.

    “All the youths had decided to do something that would spread love in different ways,” she told Global News.

    “I thought it would make people smile knowing that someone noticed something they did that was pretty neat.”

    READ MORE: This Instagram account wants there to be more models of colour

    Virahsammy admitted it took a lot of courage to give her first note, but said she now sees it as a way to “notice the beauty in the world.”

    “I didn’t want people to thank me, I just wanted them to feel appreciated,” she said.

    “As strangers, I think it’s OK for us to compliment each other and encourage each other. We are all worthy of love, right?”

    “So while we are sharing this world together, why not tell each other what we appreciate from one another?”

    Virahsammy is a high school teacher with the Lester B. Pearson School Board, teaching French as a second language; she’s also a Bollywood teacher at UQAM.

    She said #KeepBeingAwesome has done much more than put a smile on strangers’ faces – it’s also helped her overcome her own battles.

    READ MORE: Montreal woman wants you to reconsider your beauty standards

    “It helped me spread genuine love around me rather than being caught in negative emotions. Those notes really helped me to see all the beauty that is in people around me and in this world that was created to be appreciated,” she said.

    “We have one beautiful life to live, why not keep being awesome by loving one another with our differences?”

    Virahsammy is now heading to Honduras to teach English and introduce Indian dance.

    “Wherever I decide to be in this world, I want to keep spreading love in the best way that I can,” she said.

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长沙桑拿 24/06/2019

Prince George called out for alleged ‘white privilege’ by British Council employee

A British Council employee has come under fire for posting a number of harsh comments about Prince George to social media.

Angela Gibbins, who works as a senior employee at the charity, verbally attacked the three-year-old on her Facebook page following the release of his picture for the Queen’s 90th birthday. The news was first reported by The Sun in the U.K.

When a Facebook user shared the above image with the caption, “I know he’s only two years old, but Prince George already looks like a f***** d***head,” Gibbins responded by saying, “White privilege. That cheeky grin is the innate knowledge he’s royal, rich, advantaged and will never know ANY difficulties or hardships in life.”

She continued with: “Let’s find photos of 3yo Syrian refugee children and see if they look alike, eh?”

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According to several reports, the 52-year-old’s “friends” were upset by her comments, saying, “You are a total idiot Angela, to look at the picture of a child and be filled with nothing but hatred for them. You are a disgrace to humanity.” Another person added, “You look at a smiling child and this is the kind of stuff you think? You need some time off the internet.”

The British employee stood by her opinions, though, adding, “I’m sound in my socialist, atheist and Republican opinions.”

She added, “I don’t believe the royal family have any place in a modern democracy, least of all when they live on public money. That’s privilege and it needs to end.”

READ MORE: Prince William and Kate Middleton are headed back to Canada

Gibbins’s comments have since prompted an investigation by the British Council, which released the following statement:

“This comment was made on a private social media account. It has absolutely no connection to the British Council and does not represent the views of the British Council… That said, we expect the highest standards of our staff and we will be investigating the matter further.”

Those on social media were also quick to react to the news:

United Kingdom Overview | FindTheData

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长沙桑拿 24/06/2019

Bradley Cooper’s appearance at the DNC riles up U.S. conservatives

Bradley Cooper, who played conservative hero Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in 2014 movie American Sniper, has riled up Republicans by making an appearance at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Cooper attended the convention with his Russian model girlfriend, Irina Shayk.

READ MORE: Chris Kyle, American Sniper, lied about his military records

Some irate 桑拿会所 users plan to boycott Cooper’s future films over his presence at the convention. Another commented that they thought his experience playing Kyle would have rubbed off on him.

The complaints have been mocked by others who say Cooper was simply acting a role when playing Kyle, and conservatives shouldn’t be surprised.

Cooper earned an Oscar nomination for American Sniper, which became a blockbuster partially because of an enthusiastic reception among conservative moviegoers.

Cooper was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, and before this convention appearance has not been very vocal about his political leanings.

With files from The Associated Press

Follow @CJancelewicz
Bradley Cooper Timeline | PrettyFamous

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长沙桑拿 24/06/2019

Fact or fiction? Fact checking Donald Trump and Obama’s DNC speech

WASHINGTON – It’s hot out there, politically speaking, with Hillary Clinton’s convention going full steam and Donald Trump refusing to stay quiet while Democrats put on their big show. Reality is sometimes getting warped in the process.

FULL COVERAGE: U.S. Presidential election 2016

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A look at some claims Wednesday and how they compare with the facts, on a day packed with a lengthy news conference by Trump and evening convention speeches by high-powered Democrats, capped by President Barack Obama:

OBAMA: “After a century of trying, we declared that health care in America is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.”

THE FACTS: Obama’s health care overhaul does guarantee that people with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied health insurance, but it also made coverage an obligation for everybody. People must have coverage or face fines from the IRS. That mandate remains highly unpopular.

The law provides subsidies to help low- to middle-income people purchase a private plan. But even so, some find their premiums too high. And nearly 29 million remain uninsured, according to government estimates. Health care as a “right for everybody” may better describe Bernie Sanders’ idea of a government-run system for all. That system also entails obligations: the higher taxes that would be collected to pay for it.

WATCH: Obama backs Hillary Clinton at DNC

VIRGINIA SEN. TIM KAINE, Clinton’s running mate: “You can go to HillaryClinton长沙桑拿 right now and find out exactly how she’ll make the biggest investment in new jobs in generations.”

THE FACTS: It’s the biggest in generations only if you don’t count Obama’s $814 billion 2009 stimulus, a curious omission for a Democrat.

Clinton promises to spend $275 billion over five years on roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Obama’s stimulus was more of a hodge-podge and included tax cuts as well as aid to state and local governments. But all of it was intended to boost the economy and hiring.

TRUMP: “I never met Putin, I don’t know who Putin is. … I’ve never spoken to him.” – Miami news conference, during a discussion of whether Russia had hacked into emails of the Democratic National Committee.

THE FACTS: Not so long ago, Trump bragged about how well he knew Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now he says he doesn’t know him at all. That appears to be closer to the truth.

In November, when he was trying to burnish his foreign-policy credentials during a GOP primary debate, he said of Putin, “I got to know him very well because we were both on ’60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates, and we did very well that night. “

That claim was debunked at the time because Trump’s only connection to the Russian leader was that they both appeared on the same show. He was interviewed in New York, Putin in Moscow and they weren’t even in the same segment on the program.

WATCH: ‘Putin does not have respect for Clinton, Obama,’ says Trump

OBAMA: “By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started.”

THE FACTS: That progress doesn’t include much of an increase in household income, the yardstick people generally consider their most important measure of prosperity. The typical household now earns $57,206 a year, according to Sentier Research. That’s 2 percent higher than in June 2009, when the recession ended and six months into Obama’s term. (All figures are adjusted for inflation). But it has barely budged since it was $57,147 in December 2007, when the recession began.

KAINE: “I want to tell you why I trust Hillary Clinton. First, she’s consistent.”

THE FACTS: Not always – not on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example. She promoted the deal as the “gold standard” of trade agreements when she was secretary of state, then turned against it as a candidate who was facing a stiff contest from a primary rival who fiercely and consistently opposed the deal, Bernie Sanders.

Clinton hasn’t been consistent in her explanations of why she had her own email server as secretary of state, changing her story as investigations revealed more about her email practices. That issue has contributed to public distrust of Clinton, a problem Kaine was trying to address in broaching the subject of trust in his remarks.

WATCH: Trump ‘hopes’ Russia will find missing hacked DNC emails

TRUMP: “I never had a second thought in my life.”

THE FACTS: He may want to have a second thought about that thought.

In April, Trump told The New York Times that he should not have retweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, wife of GOP primary rival Ted Cruz. “Yeah, it was a mistake,” he said. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sent it.”

Then in May, he had a third thought.

READ MORE: True or False? Fact checking Trump and other GOP candidates dubious claims

He told Fox News that “I’m not walking it back” after all, and Mrs. Cruz was fair game because she was so involved in the campaign.

Then in the same interview, he had a fourth thought that was much like the second one: “I wish I didn’t do it.”

KAINE: “She’ll make it possible to graduate from college debt-free.”

THE FACTS: Hillary Clinton’s plans would certainly reduce costs, but many students would probably still have to borrow. She has proposed that families who earn less than $125,000 a year will be able to go to in-state colleges and universities tuition-free. Yet many students would still have to pay for room and board, which can make up at least half the cost of attending college.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, on Trump: “I know he’s trying to be tough but he’s going to go out and carpet bomb. You want to make friends and influence people in the Middle East? So you’re going to go carpet bomb innocent people and bad people at the same time, and that’s going to help us fight against ISIS?” – on MSNBC.

TRUMP: “I never said I wanted to carpet bomb. That was Ted Cruz.”

THE FACTS: Trump is right. It was his former Republican rival who said repeatedly he would carpet bomb Islamic State targets.

Carpet bombing, by its nature, risks killing large numbers of innocent civilians because it is indiscriminate.

Trump has indeed talked tough about IS, vowing to “bomb the hell” out of the group, level the oil facilities it controls and “blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.” He didn’t say what there would be nothing left of: an IS encampment, for example, or a city? But he did not call for carpet bombing; Biden put Cruz’s words in Trump’s mouth.

LEON PANETTA, former CIA director: “Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who has laid out a comprehensive plan to defeat and destroy ISIS and keep America safe.” – Democratic convention speech.

THE FACTS: Clinton has been touting her plan for months. It’s hardly comprehensive.

The three-part strategy, as described in November, involves crushing IS “on its home turf” in the Middle East, disrupting terrorist infrastructure on the ground and online, and protecting America and its allies. All are elements already included in Obama’s anti-IS strategy. And none addresses the biggest gaps in the U.S.-led response to the Islamic State over the last two years, such as the lack of effective local troops to defeat IS in Syria.

WATCH: Leon Panetta says ‘it’s inconceivable to me that a presidential candidate could be so irresponsible’

At what point should U.S. ground troops step in? What levels of civilian deaths are acceptable? How exactly does she propose to end Iraq’s age-old Shiite-Sunni divisions?

She hasn’t said. She’s expounded further, but mostly to reject suggestions by Trump and other Republicans.

TRUMP: “I am a person that believes in enhanced interrogation, yes. And by the way, it works.”

THE FACTS: While some intelligence officials still maintain the torture of terrorist suspects thwarted plots, none has pointed to a specific instance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report in late 2014 concluded that no actionable intelligence was gained from the detainees who were put in ice baths, threatened with death, kept in cages, waterboarded and subjected to sleep deprivation, booming music and other forms of psychological torture.

READ MORE: Obama explains what scares him about a Donald Trump presidency

TRUMP: “Hundreds of people walked out of the Democrat convention last night. I didn’t even hear about it. Nobody showed it. “

THE FACTS: If he didn’t hear about it, how does he know about it?

The walkout by disenchanted supporters of Bernie Sanders was widely reported at the time.

Did hundreds walk out in protest? That’s conceivable but impossible to know with precision because this happened at the same time as people were leaving for dinner.

KAINE: “Don’t take it from me. Take it from … John McCain’s chief economic adviser in the ’08 race, who estimates Trump’s promises would cause America to lose 3.5 million jobs.”

THE FACTS: That’s a reference to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, who did advise McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, though in only a minor role. His analysis concluded that Trump’s tax cuts and trade policies would plunge the U.S. into recession and eliminate 3.5 million jobs. But Zandi has supported other presidential campaigns: In this election cycle, he donated to Clinton.

KAINE: Contractors Trump hired to build his casino in Atlantic City “did the work, hung the drywall, poured the concrete. But a year after opening, Trump filed for bankruptcy. He walked away with millions. They got pennies on the dollar.” And people in Florida paid deposits on condos, “but the condos were never built. He just pocketed their money and walked away.”

THE FACTS: Trump did stiff contractors on the casino. In Florida, he licensed his brand to a condo developer and appeared in marketing materials, attracting buyers. He was paid licensing fees, but condo buyers lost their deposits when the actual developer canceled the project.

WATCH: Kaine pokes fun at Trump during DNC speech

TRUMP: “I have nothing to do with Russia, yes… I built an unbelievable company but if you look there you’ll see there’s nothing in Russia.”

THE FACTS: Trump staged the Miss Universe competition in Russia, traveled there for it and boasted that it drew “almost all the oligarchs.”

There’s no evidence, though, that he has financial ties to Russia. He has neither developed properties nor licensed his name to buildings there, though he’s tried.

He has sold property to Russians, such as a $100 million Palm Beach, Florida, home in 2008.

– Associated Press writers Ricardo-Alonso-Zaldivar, Deb Riechmann, Jim Drinkard, Bradley Klapper and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report.

长沙桑拿 24/06/2019

Traffic accidents are 30 per cent higher without red-light cameras: study

WASHINGTON – Red-light cameras are widely hated, but a new study says getting rid of them can have fatal consequences.

Traffic deaths from red-light-running crashes go up by nearly a third after cities turn off cameras designed to catch motorists in the act, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The institute is funded by auto insurers.

While cities continue to add cameras at intersections with traffic signals, at least 158 communities have ended their red-light camera programs in the past five years, the study said.

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READ MORE: Calgary photo radar tickets up 47% since 2014: cash grab or useful tool?

Researchers compared trends in annual crash rates in 14 cities that had ended their camera programs with those in 29 cities in the same regions that continued their camera programs.

They found that, after adjusting for other factors, red-light-running crashes went up 30 per cent.

Further, all types of crashes at intersections with traffic signals went up 16 per cent. That finding suggests that red-light cameras deter other behaviour by motorists, not just red-light running, said Wen Hu, co-author of the study.

WATCH: Red light tickets increase in Saskatoon 

A second part of the study compared fatal red-light-running crashes in 57 cities with camera programs to 33 cities that haven’t introduced cameras, finding that the rate of such crashes was 21 per cent lower in cities with cameras. The rate of all types of crashes at intersections with traffic signals was 14 per cent lower when cameras were present.

“Debates over automated enforcement often centre on the hassle of getting a ticket and paying a fine,” said the institute’s president, Adrian Lund. “It’s important to remember that there are hundreds of people walking around who wouldn’t be here if not for red-light cameras.”

Dozens of communities have ended their red-light camera programs in recent years amid complaints that they are designed primarily to raise money through tickets rather than to enhance safety. Courts in some states have sided with motorists against camera programs.

Jake Nelson, the AAA automobile club’s research director, said the club supports the use of red-light cameras if they’re used properly, meaning data show the need for them at particular intersections – usually, a high number of fatalities. And money collected through the program should be used exclusively for traffic safety programs, he said. But when those tests aren’t met, AAA has joined with opponents in some communities to oppose them.

READ MORE: Photo radar ticket increase expected to boost revenue for Winnipeg police 

Otherwise, Nelson said, “you have to question what are we really doing here? Are we saving lives or are we raising money?”

A motorist who runs a red light risks a T-bone crash where the front of one vehicle slams into the side of another. Those crashes are among the most likely to result in death or serious injury.

Other studies have shown that red-light cameras increase the likelihood of rear-end crashes as motorists race through yellow lights only to run into the back of a vehicle on the other side of the intersection. But rear-end crashes are more likely to be minor, with far fewer fatalities and injuries than T-bone crashes.

It’s not surprising that the institute study found a large increase in fatal crashes after cities turned off their cameras, given the lethality of T-bone crashes, Nelson said.

长沙桑拿 24/06/2019

World’s deepest underwater sinkhole discovered in South China Sea

Researchers in China have declared a blue hole off the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea to be the world’s deepest.

Sansha Ship Course Research Institute for Coral Protection researchers used an underwater robot and depth transducer to determine the depth of the underwater sinkhole hole, named “Dragon Hole.” Its depth? About 300 metres.

READ MORE: Massive sinkhole forms in Oregon town

Traditionally known as Longdong, locals call the phenomenon the “eye” of the South China Sea.

In areas beyond the reach of the divers, the robot was able to measure the temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen level of the water.

Though the robot found more than 20 fish species and other marine organisms present in the first 100 metres, no oxygen was detected further than that, meaning life below is unlikely.

The 202-meter-deep Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island in the Bahamas was considered the world’s deepest known blue hole prior to the new findings.

Visualization by Graphiq

A blue hole is a circular sinkhole, with the name reflecting the colour contrast between the dark blue inside the hole compared with the light blue water surrounding it.

The Paracel Islands are claimed all or in part by China, Vietnam and several other Asian countries.

Visualization by Graphiq

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长沙桑拿 24/05/2019

Destructive blaze at Calgary auto recycling facility under investigation

A massive blaze at an automotive recycling facility in northeast Calgary is under investigation by the Calgary Police Service Arson Unit.

Crews were called to the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday.

The first arriving fire crew discovered two separate buildings on fire, as well as numerous cars.

Calgary Fire Department Battalion Chief Alan Ball said additional help was requested due to the size of the blaze.

“Our first on-scene officer encountered two separate buildings just about fully involved, then requested additional apparatus.”

Responding crews also had to deal with numerous small explosions from the gas tanks in vehicles on the property.

The Calgary Fire Department responds to a building fire in the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. at around 1 a.m. on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Global News

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“[Firefighters] made a decision early to divide their resources and attack both buildings from a defensive position simultaneously,” Ball said.

Crews used an elevated platform and large volumes of water to contain the blaze to the business where it originated.

As of 9 a.m., firefighters hadn’t yet been able to carry out a search of the interiors or either building.

“Searches of the buildings will be done when it is deemed safe to do so,” the Calgary Fire Department said in a news release.

The fire department said the fire is considered suspicious, and an investigation is underway to determine how it started.

“We’ve actually asked the Calgary Police Service arson investigation team to come in and assist us with this,” Ball said.

The lease holder is cooperating with the investigation.

According to Ball, one firefighter had to be transported to hospital after sustaining a cut on his hand.

GALLERY: Damaged caused by a fire in the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. 

Significant damage was caused by a fire in the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Global News

Significant damage was caused by a fire in the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Global News

Significant damage was caused by a fire in the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Global News

Significant damage was caused by a fire in the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Global News / Doug Vaessen

Significant damage was caused by a fire in the 2700 block of 5 Avenue N.E. on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Global News / Doug Vaessen

长沙桑拿 24/05/2019

Bavarian officials to hire more police, use tougher background checks after terror attacks

BERLIN – Bavarian officials on Thursday pledged to hire hundreds of extra police officers and urged tougher background checks on asylum-seekers as they presented an anti-terror plan following four deadly attacks in the country in a week.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said his state – where three of the four attacks took place – would hire some 2,000 additional police officers by 2020, improve police officers’ equipment and create new offices to fight Muslim extremism and cybercrime.

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He also called for tougher background checks on asylum-seekers and new strategies to deport criminal asylum-seekers more easily. Three of the four attacks were committed by asylum-seekers.

READ MORE: Authorities raid mosque in northern Germany

“The threat of Salafist terrorism has arrived in Europe, in Germany, but also in Bavaria,” Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback said at a news conference with Herrmann.

Two of the attacks – an axe attack near Wuerzburg that wounded five and a suicide bombing that injured 15 outside a bar in Ansbach – were the first in Germany to be claimed by the Islamic State group. Both of the attackers were killed.

In two other attacks – a mass shooting in Munich that claimed 10 lives, including the attacker’s, and the stabbing of a woman at a restaurant in Reutlingen – the motive is still unclear but Islamic extremism is not suspected.

READ MORE: Munich shooter, Ali Sonboly, had been planning attack for a year

Investigators say the 18-year-old German-Iranian responsible for the Munich rampage left a several-pages-long document about his psychiatric illnesses, his school situation and his neighbourhood. However, Munich prosecutors and the Bavarian state criminal police office said in a joint statement Thursday they were still evaluating which parts of the document were fiction and which were based on reality.

The attacks have brought Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of welcoming refugees under renewed criticism. More than 1 million came to Germany last year, though the influx has since slowed dramatically.

Also Thursday, Germany’s commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration called on mosques across the country to be more pro-active when it comes to preventing extremism among Muslim youths.

READ MORE: Islamic State magazine claims Ansbach attacker fought for group before coming to Germany

“We need to hold mosques more responsible when it comes to prevention among teenagers,” Aydan Ozoguz told the daily Heilbronner Stimme.

On Wednesday night, police raided a mosque believed to be a “hot spot” for Islamic extremists in the northern German city of Hildesheim. The raid didn’t appear to be connected to the recent attacks.

Germany has been on the edge since the recent string of attacks and since recent deadly attacks in neighbouring France.

长沙桑拿 24/05/2019

Russia and Syria agree on humanitarian operation for embattled city of Aleppo

MOSCOW – Russia and the Syrian government will open humanitarian corridors in Syria’s embattled city of Aleppo and offer a way out for opposition fighters wanting to lay down their arms, Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Thursday.

The announcement came as Syria’s President Bashar Assad offered a general amnesty for rebels who give up their weapons and surrender to authorities over the next three months.

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Syrian government forces and allied troops have encircled the main rebel enclave in the city of Aleppo, urging fighters there to surrender. Humanitarian groups have warned of a major catastrophe if the siege on the rebel-held parts of Aleppo continues. Some 300,000 residents are trapped in the eastern part of the city that is controlled by rebels, according to the United Nations.

READ MORE: Beheading of Syrian boy ‘appalling’, State Dept. ‘seeking more information’

Shoigu said in televised comments that President Vladimir Putin has ordered a “large-scale humanitarian operation” that will be launched outside Aleppo to help civilians as well as allow fighters who wanted to lay down the arms to surrender.

“Together with the Syrian government we will open three humanitarian corridors in order to help civilians who were kept hostage by the terrorists as well as the fighters who want to lay down their arms,” he told a meeting in Moscow.

Moscow welcomes international aid organizations which operate in Syria to join the Russia-lead humanitarian operation, he added. The fighters who want to surrender will be able leave the city via a corridor to the north, Shoigu also said.

READ MORE: Syria’s cease-fire strengthening al-Qaida branch

Assad, meanwhile, issued a decree offering an amnesty to armed opposition fighters who surrender within three months and urging all detainees to be freed. The decree, which was published by the state-run news agency SANA, said that those who might set free their captives will be exempted from punishment if they turn themselves in within a month.

Assad has issued amnesty offers several times in the past in the course of Syria’s civil war, now in its sixth year. The offer is largely seen by opposition fighters as a publicity stunt and psychological warfare against the rebels.

More than a quarter of a million people have died and millions have been displaced since March 2011, when Syria’s conflict erupted.

—;

Issa reported from Beirut.

长沙桑拿 24/05/2019

TD Bank coin-counting scandal prompts Loblaw to review its machines

TORONTO – Canada’s largest grocery chain says it’s trying to verify the accuracy of the coin-counting kiosks in its stores after TD Bank got rid of similar machines from its branches over allegations that they’ve been nickel-and-diming customers.

“We are aware of the concerns recently raised about coin-counting machines,” Kevin Groh, the vice-president of corporate affairs and communication for Loblaw, said in an email.

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“We have been working with Coinstar to confirm the accuracy of the coin-counting machines located in our stores and have no current plans to remove the machines. Should customers have a concern with any of the coin-counting machines in one of our stores, please contact our customer service team to let us know.”

The coin-counting machines located in Loblaw stores are owned and operated by U.S.-based Coinstar, the same company that owned and operated the machines that TD Bank pulled from its Canadian branches in May.

READ MORE: TD Bank to retire coin-counting machines amid error reports in the U.S.

Last month, a class-action lawsuit was filed against TD on behalf of everyone who used the coin-counting machines at the bank’s branches between Jan. 1, 2013, and May 25, 2016.

Grocery store chain Metro also has Coinstar machines in its stores. A spokeswoman said the company has not received any complaints about the machines and therefore has no plans to remove them.

But Metro will continue to monitor the machines to “ensure our customers’ satisfaction,” Genevieve Gregoire said in an email.

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit is Lisa Ram, a woman from Kitchener, Ont., who says she counted her coins before depositing them in a machine at a TD Bank in the city.

Ram says she had a total of $854.25, but was shortchanged by $159.50. She alleges that she complained to the bank but they failed to do anything.

READ MORE: Man cashes in over $5K in pennies after collecting them for 45 years

A statement of claim filed by Toronto-based law firm Sotos LLP alleges that the bank knew about accuracy issues with its machines south of the border, but still proceeded with a national rollout across Canada in January 2013.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

In order to proceed as a class-action, the suit requires certification from the Ontario Superior Court.

TD Bank declined a request for comment, saying it could not comment on the pending litigation.

Coinstar said in an email that it aims to provide customers with “convenient, reliable and accurate” service and that its machines have processed more than one billion transactions over the last 25 years.

Any customer who has questions or concerns should contact customer service staff, the company added.

长沙桑拿 24/05/2019

Indonesia to carry out executions of death row inmates despite global appeals

CILACAP, Indonesia – Indonesia rebuffed appeals from distraught relatives, rights advocates and foreign governments to abandon plans to execute 14 people for drug crimes as preparations intensified at the prison island holding death row inmates.

ChangSha Night Net

A convoy of ambulances, most of them carrying coffins, arrived Thursday morning at the port town nearest to the Nusa Kambangan prison island, where the mostly foreign drug convicts will be executed by firing squads. Officials began tightening security at the prison several days ago, with more than 1,000 police sent to Cilacap, the port town, and the island.

The European Union and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Indonesia to impose an immediate moratorium on executions and the Indian and Pakistani governments said they were making urgent efforts to save two nationals among the condemned.

READ MORE: UN human rights office calls Indonesia executions ‘incomprehensible’

Indonesia has not released an official list of those to be executed but the country’s attorney-general said 14 people would be put to death. Community Legal Aid Institute, which is involved in some of the death row cases, has given names for four Indonesians, six Nigerians, two Zimbabweans, one Indian and one Pakistani.

Lawyers and rights groups have raised serious doubts about the legitimacy of the convictions in several drug cases, including that of Pakistani Zulfikar Ali, Indonesian Merri Utami and Nigerian Humphrey Jefferson.

But Muhammad Rum, a spokesman for Indonesia’s attorney-general, said the executions are the “implementation of our positive laws” and will not be delayed or stopped. All the cases have gone through a long legal process including appeals, he said. “They all have been given chances at all stages.” The foreign ministry also defended the use of capital punishment and the legal process.

In Cilacap, the sister-in-law of Michael Titus, a Nigerian sentenced to death, said his Indonesian wife was returning to Indonesia from West Africa in the hope she would be able to see him a final time. “We will keep fighting to seek justice for our family,” said the relative, Nila, who used one name. “Michael is not alone. He has a wife, kids.”

READ MORE: Indonesia executes 8 for drug offences, leading to international outrage

From Pakistan, a sister of Ali made an emotional appeal to the Indonesian authorities to review his case. Family members said the Indonesian government had arranged a final meeting between Ali and his wife and mother, who travelled to Indonesia.

“My brother is not a drug smuggler. I swear he is innocent,” said Sajida Bibi. “I want to see my brother alive,” she sobbed. “Don’t send his body to us.”

Justice Project Pakistan, a group that provides free legal representation, said Ali’s confession following his arrest in November 2004 was obtained by police torture. It said his case has not been properly reviewed by Indonesian authorities despite an internal government investigation casting doubt on the conviction for drug trafficking.

The Indonesian government says the death penalty is necessary for drug crimes because the country is facing a drug epidemic, particularly affecting young people. But critics argue capital punishment is not an effective deterrent and some have also questioned the accuracy of the government’s drug abuse statistics.

It would be the third set of executions under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who campaigned on promises to improve human rights. His 2-year-old administration will have executed more people than were executed in the previous decade. Fourteen were put to death last year.

READ MORE: Indonesia ignores protests, approves executions of 9 foreigners

Cap. Bintoro Wasono, a Cilacap police spokesman, said two burial sites, one for Muslims and the other for Christians, have been prepared for inmates whose bodies would not be taken by their families.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement he’s “deeply concerned” by death penalty cases in Indonesia that lack transparency and compliance with the right to a fair trial, including the right to an appeal.

The EU called on Indonesia to “consider joining the wide community of over 140 states that have abolished the death penalty entirely or have adopted a moratorium.”

The government of Jokowi’s predecessor did not carry out executions between 2009 and 2012, but resumed them in 2013.

Worldwide, China is believed to the country with the highest number of executions but it does not release figures. Amnesty International estimates several thousand people are executed in China each year. Of the more than 1,600 publicly announced executions last year, Amnesty says nearly 90 per cent of them were in three countries: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran.

—;

Wright reported from Jakarta. Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Ali Kotarumalos and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta contributed to this report.