TIME Canada

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Promises to Stay Sober

Toronto Mayoral TV Debate
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Lucas Oleniuk—Toronto Star/Getty Images

"I have begun the process of taking control of my life"

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford vowed to stay sober and continue to work for the people of Toronto on his first day back in office after a two-month rehab stint.

“I have begun the process of taking control of my life,” he said at an invite-only press conference Monday. “No matter what I do, I will never change the mistakes I have made in the past.”

Ford, who entered a rehab facility at the end of April, said he “deeply regret[s] some of the personal choices” he made in the past, which included smoking crack cocaine, using vulgar language and appearing in public while intoxicated.

“I want to to sincerely apologize not just to the people of Toronto, but every single person who was hurt by my words and my actions,” he said.

Ford called his commitment to living clean “unwavering” and said he has removed the negative influences from his life.

“I was blind to the dangers of some of the company I kept,” he said. “Those associations have ended.”

Ford thanked his family for their support, apologized to the city council for his embarrassing actions and thanked the media for giving him privacy during his stint in rehab.

Though the city council stripped him of most of his mayoral authority following revelations about his drug use, Ford, who was first elected in 2010, will continue to serve in office unless he is voted out of office on October 27.

“I am not asking for your forgiveness,” he said. “Substance abuse is a vert difficult thing to overcome, but I will keep battling this disease for the rest of my life.”

TIME Canada

Rob Ford Returns to Office After Rehab

Toronto Mayor Ford arrives at City Hall in Toronto
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at City Hall in Toronto June 30, 2014. Mark Blinch—Reuters

Toronto's notorious crack-smoking mayor is back — but for how long?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford returned to office Monday following a two-month stay in rehab for substance abuse, CBC reports.

Ford’s return comes after a year of scandalous behavior including public drunkenness, using obscene language and smoking crack cocaine. He agreed to attend rehab at the end of April, releasing a statement that said he had “a problem with alcohol” for which he was seeking help.
Toronto’s city council stripped him of most of his powers and budget following news of his drug-taking, rendering him mayor in name only. Nevertheless, Ford has refused to quit, saying voters will decide his fate in the municipal elections on October 27.

The mayor is due to speak to the media at 3:30pm ET, though what he’ll say remains a mystery. Ford’s main electoral opponents, John Tory and Olivia Chow, have scheduled media addresses directly after Ford’s, at 4pm and 4:30pm respectively.

Councillor Doug Ford, brother of the embattled mayor, has been playing his cards close to his chest. He said Sunday his brother was “looking forward to coming back, that’s for sure.”

The councillor added: “He looks the same, but a little lighter. He’ll be hungry and looking forward to meeting the people.”

[CBC]

 

TIME

Al-Jazeera Journalists’ Families Rail Against Egypt Sentencing

From left: Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed, appear in a defendant's cage in a courtroom in Cairo, on June 23, 2014.
From left: Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed, appear in a defendant's cage in a courtroom in Cairo, on June 23, 2014. Heba Elkholy—AP

The unprecedented trial of journalists on terror charges was tied up in the government's fierce crackdown on Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood since last year. Further fueling accusations that the trial was politically motivated is the Egyptian government's deep enmity with the Gulf nation Qatar, which was a close ally of Morsi and which owns the Al-Jazeera network.

(CAIRO) — An Egyptian court on Monday convicted three Al-Jazeera journalists and sentenced them to seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges after a trial dismissed by rights groups as a politically motivated sham. The verdict brought a landslide of international condemnation and calls for the newly elected president to intervene.

The ruling stunned the defendants and their families, many of whom had hoped their loved ones would be released because of international pressure on the case. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who a day earlier had discussed the case in a meeting with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, denounced the verdict as “chilling and draconian.”

The unprecedented trial of journalists on terror charges was tied up in the government’s fierce crackdown on Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood since the ouster last year of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi by el-Sissi, then the army chief. Further fueling accusations that the trial was politically motivated is the Egyptian government’s deep enmity with the Gulf nation Qatar, which was a close ally of Morsi and which owns the Al-Jazeera network.

Prosecutors had accused the three — Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed — of promoting or belonging to the Brotherhood and of falsifying their coverage of protests by Morsi’s supporters to hurt Egypt’s security and make it appear the country is sliding into civil war. The government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

The journalists, who were detained in December, say they are being prosecuted simply for doing their job and are pawns in the political rivalry. During the 5-month trial, prosecutors presented no evidence backing the charges, at times citing random video footage found with the defendants that even the judge dismissed as irrelevant. They depicted typical activity like editing as a sign of falsification.

Mohammed, the team’s producer, had three years added to his 7-year sentence for possessing ammunition, based on a single spent cartridge he picked up at a protest as a souvenir. A Dutch freelance journalist — who did not work for Al-Jazeera but met Fahmy once for tea at the hotel where the team lived and worked — received a 10-year prison sentence. She and two British Al-Jazeera journalists who got the same sentence were tried in absentia.

“They will pay for this, I promise,” Fahmy, who was Al-Jazeera English’s acting Cairo bureau chief, shouted angrily after the sentences were announced as guards pulled him by his already injured shoulder from the courtroom and his mother and fiancee broke into tears.

“Did anybody see any evidence against him? Did he do anything? Anything?” Fahmy’s mother, Wafaa Bassiouni cried.

His brother Adel said the family would appeal. But he had little hope, saying, “This is a screwed up system. This whole government is incompetent.”

Greste silently raised a clenched fist in defiance as mayhem erupted in the courtroom. An award-winning correspondent, Greste had only just arrived in Cairo to start work with Al-Jazeera English when he was arrested. He speaks no Arabic and relied on a translator during the proceedings.

In Australia, Greste’s father said his family considered the court’s decision “a slap in the face and a kick in the groin to Australia as well as all fair-minded people around the world.” Juris Greste told reporters in the family’s hometown of Brisbane on Tuesday that he was in a state of shock and was struggling to think straight.

“I have to say this morning my vocabulary fails to convey just how shattered we are,” Juris Greste told a news conference accompanied by his wife Lois. “You can never prepare yourself for something as painful as this.”

He told reporters, “Journalism is not a crime, or you should all be behind bars— it’s a simple as that. Our son Peter is an award-winning journalist, he is not a criminal.”

Australia’s Foreign Affairs department has called in Egypt’s deputy ambassador to make an official objection to the court ruling. The ambassador is currently in Cairo.

“We’re obviously shocked, dismayed, really bewildered by the decision of the court in Egypt,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters.

Abbott said Australia respects the legitimacy of the Egyptian government, its justice system and the need “to crack down on extremism including the Muslim Brotherhood, but … it is important that there be due process, it is important that decisions be made on a fair and just basis, so we will be talking to the Greste family, we will be talking to the Egyptian government about what we can do to try to ensure that Peter Greste comes home as quickly as possible.”

Abbott said he had a “very constructive discussion” about Greste over the weekend with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

He said that once the Egyptian court system has done its work, “there are options for presidential acts — presidential clemency, presidential pardons and so on — that’s why I’m not in the business of being critical of the government.”

Peter Greste’s brothers, Andrew and Mike Greste, were in Cairo to hear the decision, but have not yet been allowed to visit their brother, Lois Greste said.

The White House called on the government to pardon the defendants or commute their sentences “so they can be released immediately,” spokesman Josh Earnest said. El-Sissi has the power to do so. Legal experts say that would come only after appeals are finished, though the constitution does not specify that requirement. The appeals process could take months, especially since courts soon start a summer break. The defendants would remain in prison during an appeal unless the win a separate “suspension of verdict” ruling.

There were 17 co-defendants in the case — seven journalists, and the rest students arrested separately and accused of giving footage to the journalists. Four were sentenced to seven years each, two were acquitted, and the rest — tried in absentia — received 10-year sentences.

When the sentences were pronounced, the students — who unlike the journalists have not denied their support for the Brotherhood — chanted an anthem by Sayed Qutb, a Brotherhood ideologue executed in the 1950s, against the “army of darkness” and shouted, “God is great.”

The verdict deepened concerns over rights and civil liberties amid the anti-Islamist crackdown, in which security forces have killed hundreds and arrested thousands. In recent weeks, courts sentenced hundreds to death in mass trials with little evidence and little chance given for the defense.

The crackdown has expanded to dissent by non-Islamists as well, with tough prison sentences against activists convicted under a controversial law issued last year banning protests without prior police permit.

The White House said the rulings were the latest in a series of prosecutions “that are fundamentally incompatible with the basic precepts of human rights and democratic governance.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “appalled” and his office summoned Egypt’s ambassador to protest the verdicts.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “strongly rejects any comment by any foreign party shedding doubt on the independence of Egyptian judiciary and its fair rulings.”

The Egyptian prosecutors’ office said the sentences were a “deterrent.”

In part, the trial and harsh sentences show the vehemence of Egypt’s enmity with Qatar and Al-Jazeera. Egyptian authorities accuse the station of being biased toward Morsi and acting as a mouthpiece for the Brotherhood, a claim the network denies. The network’s Arabic-language Egypt channel in particular was widely viewed as giving favorable coverage for the pro-Morsi camp, though the English channel where the sentenced journalists worked was seen as more objective.

Further deepening dismay over the result was the thinness of the evidence.

Amnesty International’s observer at the trial, Philip Luther, said the prosecution “failed to produce a single shred of solid evidence” backing the charges. In a statement, he called the sentences “a travesty of justice.”

Greste, Fahmy and Mohammed were arrested in December in a raid on the Cairo hotel room they were using as an office. Police confiscated their equipment, computers and other items.

During the trial, prosecutors contended they would present fabricated footage aired by the defendants. They presented some footage showing clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and police, arguing it undermined state authority but without any indication it was faked. They also cited as evidence leaflets that the three had picked up at the protests.

Mostly, they presented video clips also found on the three that had nothing to do with the case — including a report on a veterinary hospital in Cairo, another on Christian life in Egypt and old footage of Greste from previous assignments elsewhere in Africa, including video of animals.

Shaimaa Aboul-kheir, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the verdict violates provisions in the constitution banning the imprisonment of journalists in connection with their work and shows “Egypt is one of the dangerous and more risky countries” of international and local journalists.

TIME Canada

Police Catch Canadian Fugitives Who Escaped Prison by Helicopter

From left to right: Denis Lefebvre, 53, Serge Pomerleau, 49, and Yves Denis, 35, who escaped from Orsainville Detention Centre using a helicopter in suburban Quebec City, Quebec June 7, 2014, in this undated handout picture released by Surete de Quebec on June 9, 2014.
From left to right: Denis Lefebvre, 53, Serge Pomerleau, 49, and Yves Denis, 35, who escaped from Orsainville Detention Centre using a helicopter in suburban Quebec City, Quebec June 7, 2014, in this undated handout picture released by Surete de Quebec on June 9, 2014. Reuters

An escape story worthy of Hollywood movies comes to an end

The three men who made a daring escape from a Canadian prison by helicopter earlier this month were arrested Sunday, according to police.

Yves Denis, Denis Lefebvre, and Serge Pomerleau were in a prison in Orsainville — located north of Quebec City in the Canadian province of Quebec — when a helicopter briefly landed in the courtyard on June 7 and took off with the men inside, NBC News reports.

Police pursued the men by land and air and sought them for more than two weeks. Authorities believe only one extra person piloted the helicopter, but more people could be arrested in relation to the break. Quebec police said the three were discovered and brought back into custody in Montreal.

The men were originally sent to prison in connection to drug-trafficking investigation Project Crayfish, which police say led to many arrests. The three are expected to appear in court on Monday.

TIME Canada

Rob Ford Will Return to the Toronto Mayor’s Office Once He’s Done Rehab

A mock "missing persons" poster with a picture of Toronto Mayor Ford is seen in Toronto
A mock "missing persons" poster with a picture of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is seen in Toronto on May 7, 2014. Ford, who said last month he would take time off to get treatment for an alcohol problem, described rehab as "amazing" and said he would return in time for the upcoming city election, a Toronto newspaper reported on Wednesday. Mark Blinch—Reuters

He'll face a fresh mayoral election in October, and while he's behind in the polls, not all hope is lost for the controversial politician

Not long after Rob Ford’s “come to Jesus” moment in November 2013, when he declared to the Canadian press that he would never drink again, a video surfaced online of the Toronto mayor in a diner called Steak Queen, drunkenly swearing in a Jamaican accent on the matters of counter-surveillance measures and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Then there was the incident at a Vancouver bar, and another involving security guards at a Toronto Maple Leafs game, and a second crack cocaine video — all set to the tune of calls for his resignation from the mayoralty, which he’s held for four frequently scandalous years.

Now Ford is on the tail end of an “amazing” two-month stint in rehab, and he fully intends to stay in office once he’s out, the BBC reported Tuesday.

“Kindly be advised that I will be returning to work at City Hall on Monday, June 30th, 2014, in the later portion of the afternoon,” Ford wrote in a letter to Ulli S. Watkiss, Toronto’s city clerk. “Please make the necessary arrangements for my locks to be restored to their state prior to my departure.”

He’ll return to a post he mostly only holds symbolically: Toronto’s city council has stripped him of most political authority over the course of his recent controversies. In October his constituents will return to the polls to decide whether to keep him in office or replace him with either a conservative businessman or an ex-member of the national legislature — both of whom have turned to the incumbent’s personal failings to bolster their own campaigns.

Olivia Chow, the onetime parliamentarian, was ahead in the polls last month, but hope isn’t necessarily lost for Ford. Some 32% of his surveyed constituents said they would vote for him if he got clean, and though a different poll says his latest approval rating is about the same fraction, it’s more or less on par with that of other Canadian politicians, including Prime Minister Harper.

TIME

Here’s How 9 Other Countries Celebrate Father’s Day

People around the world observe Father's Day.

Father’s Day as we know it in America emerged out of the efforts of a woman in Spokane, Wash. in the early twentieth century who believed that that there ought to be a mother’s day equivalent for America’s fathers. The holiday on the third Sunday in June has always taken a back seat to its May counterpart—Father’s Day only became an official holiday in 1972—but it has in fact taken root, in one way or another, in countries around the world.

After looking at how the world celebrates its mothers a month ago, here’s how 9 nations commemorate their fathers:

Brazil

The host of the World Cup will have something to celebrate even after the last goal is scored: Father’s Day is held on the second Sunday in August in honor of St. Joachim, the father of Mary.

Russia

The Father’s Day equivalent in Russia is a celebration that has evolved from a military commemoration to an unofficial tribute to all men. On Feb. 23, Defender of the Fatherland Day, parades celebrate the Russian Armed Forces while men can expect to receive small gifts from men receive gifts from the women in their lives.

India

Father’s Day in India is still an emerging holiday and, by those who observe it, is celebrated in much the same way and on the same day as in the United States.

France

Father’s Day in France is held on the third Sunday in June and can trace its recent history to a company that makes lighters and marketed them as gifts for smoking fathers. Today, lighters are typically replaced with drawings or small gifts. But the idea of honoring one’s father can also be linked to the much older celebration of Saint Joseph on March 19 (other countries, like Spain, still observe Father’s Day then).

Thailand

The Southeast Asian country celebrates mothers on the birthday of Queen Sirikit on Aug. 12—and fathers on the birthday of the widely admired King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The King gives an annual speech, while tradition has it that Thais give their fathers and grandfathers the Canna flower, which is considered to have a masculine association.

Australia

Aussies celebrate Father’s Day on the first Sunday in September, which is also the first Sunday of spring there.

Mexico

Just like it does for Mother’s Day, Mexico puts on more festivities to honor its fathers than its northern neighbors. On the third Sunday in June, though it’s not an official holiday, Mexicans give gifts to their fathers and celebrate with food and music. Some also participate in the 21 kilometer race in Mexico city, the “Carrera Día del Padre 21K Bosque de Tlalpan.”

Germany

Germany does things a bit differently. On the 40th day of Easter, Ascension Day, German men have a tradition of celebrating Father’s Day by organizing hikes and other gatherings—and making sure to be well-supplied with food and alcohol.

Canada

An American import, Father’s Day in Canada is an unofficial celebration held on the third Sunday in June.

 

TIME Canada

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Rob Ford The Musical

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reacts on the podium during his campaign launch party in Toronto
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reacts on the podium during his campaign launch party in Toronto in this file photo taken April 17, 2014. Mark Blinch —Reuters

Producers are holding a casting call in Toronto

Call it Crack Rock of Ages, perhaps.

Rob Ford the Musical: The Birth of a Ford Nation, about the inebriate Canadian politician, is holding an open casting call in Toronto next Monday, according to the production’s website.

Toronto’s mayor earned notoriety after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine last fall, with the somewhat self-defeating explanation, “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine… Probably in one of my drunken stupors.” Ford is currently taking a leave of absence, and has checked into rehab, but still plans to run for a second term as mayor.

In other words: His life story is crying out to be paired with song and dance.

Brett McCaig, P. Joseph Regan and Anthony Bastianon penned the book and lyrics. Bastianon has worked as a composer in Canada previously, and McCaig penned Nursery School Musical, though according to his LinkedIn page, he is also in real estate.

The auditions are being held at the resident performance space of famed comedy group Second City in Toronto, but a spokesperson for Second City told TIME that the improv group has nothing to do with the play—they are just renting out the audition space.

According to the casting call, the auditions will be “color blind,” so no resemblance to the robust mayor is necessary. The producers will cast the parts of Rob Ford, the mayor’s brother Doug Ford, as well as a character called “Tranny.” (Rob Ford once made offensive comments about transgender people.) The audition announcement boasts, “The media, the police chief and the city itself are not off limits.”

The musical is slated to open at Toronto’s Factory Theater on Sept. 16.

TIME technology

Teens Hack Into ATM Just to Let Everyone Know They Can

CA13476
Getty Images

They don't steal any money. Instead, they kindly inform the bank that it should tighten up its security

A pair of Canadian high schoolers decided to spend their lunch hour finding out if they could successfully hack into a nearby Bank of Montreal ATM. Turns out they totally could.

“We thought it would be fun to try it, but we were not expecting it to work,” one of the hackers, Matthew Hewlett, told the Winnipeg Sun. “When it did, it asked for a password.”

But the boys were so polite that once they gained control of the machine, they didn’t steal any money — instead, they went inside to inform the bank about the little security problem. Staff members didn’t believe them, so they went back to the machine to get proof. They printed off documentation about withdrawals, and even changed the surcharge amount to one cent.

The boys did manage to have a bit of fun, though. They changed the ATM’s home screen greeting from “Welcome to the BMO ATM” to “Go away. This ATM has been hacked.”

Eventually, the branch manager came out to chat with the teens and essentially treat them as one-time security consultants. Then he sent them back to school with a note excusing their tardiness because oh yeah they’re in high school and yet they’re so much smarter and more helpful than most adults we know.

(h/t Betabeat)

TIME Canada

3 Men Commandeer Chopper in Daring Prison Escape

Prisoners escape
Police cars are seen in front of the Orsainville Detention Center near Quebec City on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Three inmates have escaped from the center with the help of a helicopter, police said late Saturday. Francis Vachon—AP

The men were arrested on drug charges in 2010 and escaped in a helicopter parked in the detention center's courtyard

Three men hightailed out of a Canadian prison Saturday night via helicopter in a daring stunt that could only have been inspired by a Hollywood action flick.

Yves Denis Yvon Lamontagne, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49 were being held in a detention center in Quebec City at the time of their flight, CNN reports.

“A helicopter touched down briefly in the courtyard before taking off with the three prisoners,” Ann Mathieu, a spokeswoman for Quebec Provincial Police, told CNN.

The men were arrested in a 2010 drug bust and were awaiting trial at the time of their escape. Weapons, dozens of cars and a plane were found during the bust. A massive manhunt is underway to find the three men.

[CNN]

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