New Delhi: Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) on Friday reported a 81.39 per cent decline in consolidated net profit at Rs 102.68 crore for the first quarter ended June 30, 2019. The company had posted a profit of Rs 551.96 crore in the same period a year ago. Revenue from operations declined to Rs 14,820.89 crore during April-June period as compared with Rs 15,907.53 crore in corresponding period last year, SAIL said in a regulatory filing. “The domestic steel industry has witnessed subdued demand during the first quarter of the financial year compared to corresponding period last year,” SAIL Chairman Anil Kumar Chaudhary said in a separate statement. However, he said, with the government announcing planned investments in steel intensive sectors including infrastructure and construction, a positive impact can be expected for the industry for the rest of the financial year. During June quarter, SAIL’s crude steel output was at 3.930 million tonne (MT) as compared to 4.945 MT in the same period of 2018-19.
Oslo: A Dutch WikiLeaks associate who went missing under mysterious circumstances a year ago probably had a kayaking accident, Norwegian police said Friday, adding that his body had not yet been found. Arjen Kamphuis, a cybersecurity expert then aged 47, had not been seen since he left his hotel in the northern Norwegian town of Bodo on August 20, 2018. His disappearance had triggered a wave of conspiracy theories on social media, ranging from CIA and Russian involvement to a mission to carry out a secret project for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USThen police discovered a kayak in the same area where a fisherman had found some of Kamphuis’s personal belongings floating in the waters about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Bodo. “The police have concluded that Mr Kamphuis most likely suffered an accident in the evening of August 20, 2018, while kayaking in the Skjerstad Fjord a few kilometres north of the village of Rognan in Nordland County in northern Norway, and was subsequently lost at sea,” the police said in a statement. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls”His body has still not been recovered,” they added. WikiLeaks, which published secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010, called Kamphuis’s disappearance “strange”. The mystery deepened when a phone linked to Kamphuis was briefly switched on in an area near the southwestern city of Stavanger, located 1,600 kilometres from Bodo, on August 30 last year. But on Friday, police explained that two truck drivers from eastern Europe had found the phone, a laptop and other items belonging to Kamphuis while they were fishing in the spot where his kayak was found and took the items with them. “The police have no reason to believe that the truck drivers were involved in the disappearance of Mr Kamphuis in any other way,” the police statement said.
Kolkata: A fifteen-year-old girl who was out on a cycle ride with her boyfriend was allegedly sexually assaulted by four local boys in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, the police said on Wednesday. “Based on the family’s complaint filed on Tuesday we have arrested Biswajit Patra, Samir Mondol, Saurav Dolui and another juvenile boy for sexually assaulting the girl. They have also blamed her boyfriend for taking her out late in the evening,” an officer of Kolaghat police station said. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja The police said that the incident took place on August 24 when the girl, along with her 16-year old boyfriend, went out around 7 p.m. The family initially tried to talk to the boy’s family and solve it through discussions. According to the girl’s statement, the accused boys saw them in the deserted field and threatened to tell everyone in the village. “Two of the boys held her boyfriend while others took turn in molesting her”, the officer said. “The medical examination has been conducted and the investigation is on,” the officer added.
New Delhi: Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar has showered praises on Steve Smith of Australia, who continued his brilliant run of form in the Ashes series by slamming a double century against England in the ongoing fourth Test in Manchester. On Thursday, Smith — who had to miss the third Ashes Test due to concussion — played an incredible knock of 212 to help Australia post a mammoth first inning total of 497/8 and take the driver’s seat at the Old Trafford. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh”Complicated technique but an organised mindset is what sets Steve Smith apart. Incredible comeback!” Tendulkar tweeted while praising Smith. While hitting his third ton, his 26th overall, in the five-match Ashes series, Smith also went past Tendulkar in an illustrious list led by Aussie great Don Bradman. The 30-year-old has now become the second fastest cricketer in the history of the game to hit 26 Test tons. The former Australian skipper pushed Tendulkar to the third spot as he reached the milestone in 121 innings, while the ‘Master Blaster’ got to this mark in 136 innings.
Kolkata: A fresh controversy has erupted over director Srijit Mukherji’s latest flick with 32 members of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s family claiming that the filmmaker has altered the movie’s name from ‘Gumnami Baba’ to ‘Gumnaami’ to get the Censor Board’s clearance. The upcoming film has already raked up controversies for delving into theories over Bose’s ‘disappearance’. The director, who had on Sunday screened the film’s trailer at the office of All India Forward Bloc – the party founded by Bose – termed the charges levelled by some of the descendants of the freedom fighter as “untrue”. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja The film, which got the CBFC clearance in the last week of August, will hit the screens on October 2. A statement, signed by Netaji’s niece Chitra Ghosh, his nephew Dwarka Bose and 30 other members of the Bose family, said on Monday, “For the past year, ever since Srijit Mukherji announced the film ‘Gumnami Baba’, he had said it is based on the book ‘Conundrum’ by Chandrachur Ghosh and Anuj Dhar and (he) had appeared with the authors (at events). Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway “Now he (Srijit Mukherji) has suddenly changed his stance to get past the Censor Board and says the film is based on the Justice Mukherjee Commission report. He has also changed the name of the film.” Denying the charge, Mukherji said in a Facebook post, “What absolute nonsense and a bunch of lies! The name of the film from day one was Gumnaami, in all announcements including the teaser poster. “And the decision to base the screenplay on the Mukherjee Commision report and not Conundrum, was made before the film was shot, “months before this controversy.” “Clearly the Bose family thinks one can overnight change the screenplay of a film and shoot it,” the award winning filmmaker said. Mukherji also iterated that the film without arriving at any conclusion refers to all three theories over Netaji’s ‘disappearance’ – his death in a plane crash in 1945, his death in Russia and the appearance of a hermit in Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad in the 1970s, who many believed was Subash Chandra Bose in disguise. “The third theory (Gumnami Baba’s appearance) only remains a theory even if it was negated by the Mukherjee Commission, in the absence of clinching evidence,” he said. Mentioning that people of the country “deserve to know the theory about Gumnami and its negation” along with the two other theories over Netaji’s disappearance, Mukherji said by issuing statements, the members of the Bose family were “resorting to fascist arm twisting” technique. The fresh statement by some of the members of Bose family also flayed the AIFB for having allowed screening of the trailer at the party office. “It is shocking that the Forward Bloc has been taken in by this and invited Srijit Mukherji to show a trailer in the presence of media,” the statement said. The statement, under the title ‘Majority members of Bose family’ demanded the film should not be screened on the scheduled date and said “It is imperative the AIFB immediately dissociate themselves from this and actively oppose the screening which is nothing but denigrating Netaji.” Mukherji had said on Sunday that senior AIFB leaders had seen the trailer and agreed to see the premier of the film. “A 20-member AIFB delegation will decide whether ‘Gumnaami’ hurt the sentiments of the people and followers of Netaji,” the filmamaker had said. Senior AIFB leaders Naren Dey, Haripada Biswas, Debabarata Biswas, Naren Chatterjee were present at the screening on Sunday at the state party headquarters. The party secretariat will take a call on the invite to attend the premier, Chatterjee had said. Last week, a statement signed by the 33 members of the Bose family had contended that “a misleading and defamatory campaign was being made to malign the image and legacy of the legendary leader”.
HALIFAX – Stephen McNeil is a soft-spoken man with a lower-register voice and a somewhat imposing 6-foot-5 frame. He doesn’t always exude warmth on TV, and he understands that.“Some might see me as a bit stiff and not as jovial as I really am,” said the 52-year-old Liberal premier. “For most Nova Scotians, that’s how they know me, through the television screen.”David Johnson, a political science professor at Cape Breton University, said that is McNeil’s biggest challenge as he seeks a second straight majority in the May 30 election: his image, as conveyed through the mainstream media.“I’ve always sensed that for a Nova Scotia premier to do well, they need to be seen as avuncular — everyone’s favourite uncle,” Johnson said.“If there’s an Achilles heel for Stephen McNeil … it’s that he comes off as being rather cold and aloof, and a bit condescending at times — some would say arrogant. If I was a campaign manager, I’d be telling him, ‘Be warmer, but more avuncular.’”In an interview with The Canadian Press in his seventh-floor office overlooking Halifax harbour, a more easygoing manner emerges as McNeil talks about growing up in the Annapolis Valley, the 12th of 17 children.He points to treasured items, including signed photos of NHL greats Sidney Crosby and Bobby Orr. Above those pictures are collages showing a jumble of photos of his two children when they were young. Colleen is now 27 and Jeffrey is 25.On another wall, there’s a picture of the 13th hole at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, where he and his son travelled to watch the 2010 Masters Tournament. The premier says he’s not much of a golfer, but his son is accomplished at the sport.On a shelf facing his desk, there’s a single, black-and-white photo of his father Burt, who choked to death while eating Sunday dinner when McNeil was eight years old.McNeil recalls how he and 13 other siblings were ushered out of the house that day, the youngest only 18 months old.“There’s a big gap in people’s lives when something like that happens,” he said, recalling how his mother Theresa suddenly faced the daunting task of raising so many young children on her own.“She had no driver’s licence and hadn’t worked outside the house … The next morning, she woke up and said, ‘We’re it.’ We were all looking at her.”She would later work in a factory before becoming Canada’s first female high sheriff, which made her responsible for court security in Annapolis County.McNeil studied refrigeration repair in Dartmouth, N.S., before opening his own appliance repair shop in Bridgetown, east of the family home in Granville Ferry. He ran the business for 15 years before winning his first provincial election bid in 2003.“I didn’t train to be the premier,” he said. “I was out working. I made my living carrying a tool box.”McNeil is a self-described fiscal conservative who has made it his mission to balance the province’s books.Throughout his first term, the premier has taken aim at public sector unions, saying members’ wages have increased 11.5 per cent over the past seven years, well above the increases seen in the private sector.“Most Nova Scotians who aren’t in the public sector would have liked to have that over the last seven years,” he said. “(But) we didn’t remove anything. We just said, ‘Let’s just slow down and let the economy catch up.’”Last February, McNeil’s government imposed a contract on 9,400 public school teachers, ending a two-month work-to-rule campaign.In April 2014, the government forced 2,400 striking nurses back to work by introducing legislation that requires all health-sector unions to draft essential services agreements before any job action can occur.It has made him some enemies, and harshened his public image, and both opposition parties have built much of their campaigns around that.The premier said he got a whiff of what was coming on April 19 when Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie took what McNeil felt was a personal shot at him.“His style of leadership, which has been to divide people, which has been to keep people down — like nurses and teachers who want to make the system better — is not getting us where we need to be,” Baillie told CBC.A few days later, NDP Leader Gary Burrill described McNeil as “morally deficient.”McNeil said he expects the campaign will be nasty.“I’m bruised up enough now that I can deal with all that stuff,” McNeil said. “But I worry about the slope we’re on.”In particular, he said the rise of social media has led to a debasement of political discourse, where reasoned debate has been replaced by taunts that reverberate through the Internet’s echo chambers.McNeil noted a recent online post from one of his own constituents referred to him as a latter-day Hitler.“There are people, that’s all they do. They sit there, and it’s their avenue to say whatever they want to say without ever having to be held accountable for it … And it’s becoming part of campaigns.”An opinion poll in March suggested voter support for the Liberals had declined sharply since the previous quarter, but the numbers still pointed toward another majority win for the governing party.Decided voter support for the Liberal party dropped from 56 per cent to 44 per cent, according to a survey of 1,210 adults conducted by Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates Inc. The Progressive Conservatives stood at 28 per cent, up eight points, and the New Democrats were at 23 per cent, up from 19 per cent, while five per cent supported the Green Party.McNeil said he wasn’t concerned about his party’s dip in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.He said the poll shows most Nova Scotians understand the tough decisions were for the right reasons.“There isn’t a four-year premier in Canada that wouldn’t take those numbers,” he said.—–TOMORROW: NDP Leader Gary Burrill
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Pope Francis discussed reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous peoples during a private meeting at the Vatican.In a statement, the Vatican said the pair also talked about conflicts in the Middle East, religious freedom and current ethical issues.Trudeau was also expected to bring up religious diversity and climate change during the meeting.At 1:04 p.m. on Monday, a bell rang, signalling the end of the private audience, which began in the Pope’s private quarters at 12:28 p.m.Trudeau then introduced his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, to the Pope along with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office.The prime minister gave the Pope a rare set of Jesuit Relations books, which have become an important source detailing the beginnings of Canada.Trudeau also presented the Pope with a Montagnais-French dictionary written by a French Jesuit in the 17th century.In return, the Pope gave the prime minister a gold medal marking the fourth year of his pontificate, an autographed copy of his message for World Peace Day and three papal letters about family, environment and evangelism. Watch the video below or click here. Trudeau was expected to ask the pontiff to issue a formal apology in Canada for the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system.His government has promised a call to action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s demand for a papal apology to survivors, their families and communities related to the dark legacy of residential schools.Related stories:Prime Minister Trudeau visits Italian town devastated by 2016 earthquakeTrudeau and Trump talk trade, security at G7 summitTop court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school recordsTrudeau, in Rome this week following his participation at the NATO and G7 summits, wants to promote trade and other ties with Italy, including the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.U.S. President Donald Trump met the pope at the Vatican last week.Monday morning, the prime minister took part in an event with the soccer team, A.S. Roma.His wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, has joined him on this part of the trip and the couple were to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a private dinner in Rome on Sunday evening.On Sunday, Trudeau appealed to the heart of the country by visiting Amatrice, a tiny town still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake. “It’s an opportunity to share our thoughts, our condolences, our sympathies, but also demonstrate our resolve to accompany our friends in this difficult time,” Trudeau said Sunday as he stood below a clock tower, the only structure standing on a street lined with rubble.That clock is stopped at 3:36 – the time in the morning the 6.2-magnitude quake hit the area in central Italy about 100 kilometres northeast of Rome on August 24, 2016. Some 300 people were killed, including one Canadian.Many of them were children, and signs of their presence, including an illustrated cloth book and a inflatable pool toy, could be seen among the rocks, dust and other rubble piled high.Efforts to rebuild the town, which includes many heritage buildings from medieval times, have been moving slowly.The Italian-Canadian community has been trying to bring more attention to that fact, raising money to help pay for things like medical vehicles needed to navigate the mountainous terrain.Those efforts got a boost May 12 when Trudeau appeared at a fundraiser that also featured Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler who was born in Italy but went to school in Canada.Trudeau announced there that the Canadian government would match up to $2 million in donations to the Italy Earthquake Relief Fund.That drew sharp criticism from Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who was nearing the end of the leadership race he ultimately lost to Andrew Scheer.At the time, Bernier took to Twitter to say that he loves Italy, but it is a rich country that can afford to rebuild without money from Canadian taxpayers, which he argued should have gone to help more victims of the floods in Quebec and eastern Ontario.The money will go toward humanitarian aid in the area, which is still experiencing tremors.The prime minister arrived in the town via an Italian government helicopter and he was greeted warmly with a long embrace by the local mayor, Sergio Pirozzi.In Amatrice, the Trudeaus surveyed the damage while wearing hard hats, spoke to residents, emergency responders and others working to rebuild the town.They also laid a bouquet of flowers at a memorial to the victims.Former prime minister Stephen Harper, who issued a residential schools apology on behalf of the Canadian government in 2008, did not raise the issue directly during a 10-minute audience with Pope Francis two years ago. Harper did mention the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.In 2009, the previous pope, Benedict XVI, did express “sorrow” on behalf of the Catholic Church for the “deplorable conduct” by some members of the church in their treatment of indigenous children in residential schools.The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report said this did not go far enough, especially since it was not made in public.
OTTAWA – If you’re planning to enjoy the great outdoors this summer, there are good reasons to stock up on bug spray.The latest edition of a national report on wild species in Canada shows there are 160 different species of blackflies and 80 different species of mosquitoes in the country and the majority of them are flourishing.Wild Species 2015, is the fourth version of a report on the general status of species in Canada which is required every five years under Species at Risk Act.The report collected data from provincial and federal departments which monitor wildlife, assessing nearly 30,000 of the country’s 80,000 known species, ranging from mammals and reptiles to lichens and insects.Dan Kraus, national conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, said the report is a pretty good check list on the status of about one-third of the wild species in Canada.“Which is pretty good although, you know, here we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we can’t even assess the status of over half the wild species that occur here,” he said. “It’s good progress but clearly there is a lot of work to be done.”The 2015 report assessed more than twice as many species as the 2011, report, when fewer than 12,000 species were looked at closely. In 2000, when the first version was completed, only 1,670 species were assessed.The 2015 report lists 122 species which are extinct or possibly extinct in Canada including the black footed ferret, Blanchard’s cricket frog and the frosted elfin butterfly.There are 39 insects on this list — three butterflies, two kinds of ants, 22 different beetles, and 10 grasshoppers.To every camper’s frustration, there are no mosquitoes or blackflies among them.There are 456 species in critical danger of going extinct in Canada including the common grey fox, the eastern prickly pear cactus, the spruce-fir moss tarantula and the Oregon spotted frog.There are 88 insects on the critically imperilled list but again no mosquitoes or blackflies. One species of blackfly is on the verge of being labelled critically imperilled, and four are imperilled, but 106 of the 160 species of blackflies are considered to be secure. Another 42 are unranked because there isn’t enough information about them to determined their status.Of the 80 types of mosquitoes, 65 are secure, while 12 are unranked.There are 11 yellowjacket wasps considered at risk, out of more than 100 different species of wasps.Threats to wild life in Canada take many forms including habitat encroachment, pollution and disease.According to the report, the American black bear is secure, but both the polar bear and the grizzly bear are vulnerable.Canada’s fabled beaver is also doing just fine.Of species which were given a ranking and are not extinct, they are assessed on a scale of one to five, with one being critically imperilled and five being secure. Level three is considered vulnerable.Kraus said one of the species that jumped out at him for its changed ranking was the early hairstreak butterfly, which is now considered imperilled. The butterfly feeds on beech trees and those trees are in trouble because of an invasive disease which is leaving the butterfly at risk, he said.-follow @mrabson on Twitter.
TORONTO – In the past month, Roxanne messaged more than two dozen Ontario women on Facebook to warn them that their photos had surfaced on the image-sharing site Anon-IB.It’s something the Toronto resident has been doing on and off since she learned four years ago that her own photos had cropped up on the site — a place where users gather to share images, many of which are sexually explicit.“Part of me felt like a little bit of a creep doing this,” said Roxanne, who didn’t want her full name published out of concern her experience would affect her career in social work. “But … if I can track them down this easily, somebody with a worse motive can too.”Roxanne, 24, typically finds the women she warns by searching on Facebook for their first names, the first letter of their last name and the community they’re believed to live in — all information that accompanies the photos posted on Anon-IB, which boasts the tagline “Best Anonymous Image Board.”The site — which did not respond to a request for an interview — has sections for various countries, including Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and pages specific to cities and even universities. The level of detail can allow users to come across images of people they may actually know.The Canada forum on Anon-IB is currently 15 pages long, with threads for women at various universities and more than 30 Ontario communities.The website has rules prohibiting the posting of images of minors and a ban on the posting of “personal details like addresses, telephone numbers, social networks links, or last names.” But some users work around the rules by posting messages like, “(first name) L anyone? Surname rhymes with mammoth.”The photos of Roxanne that appeared on the site in 2013 were taken in 2011, she said. She had sent two photographs — taken in a crop top and underwear — to someone who befriended her on Facebook.Roxanne thought the person was a woman named Mary, who described herself as a queer feminist, a survivor of sexual violence and a women’s studies student. But when she began badgering Roxanne for explicit photos, Roxanne said she grew suspicious. After an internet search revealed that Mary’s profile photo appeared to be that of a pornography performer, Roxanne blocked the person.Nearly two years later, Roxanne said the photographs she sent to that person appeared in the Ontario sub-forum on Anon-IB, where users were specifically requesting “wins” — slang for nude photos — of her.Roxanne said she found out about the images only after an acquaintance pointed them out. The photos had been up for two days by that point, she said.“I (was) in shock,” she said. “Then terror and a sense of dread set in.”Roxanne tried to get her photos taken down by filling out a form on the website, but said her request was ignored.Under the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, it’s a crime to post or distribute an “intimate image” of another person without their consent.Roxanne decided to go to York regional police in Newmarket, Ont., a month after learning of her photos on Anon-IB.She knew it was unlikely they could get the images removed but she wanted to have a police record in case the matter escalated. She also wanted police to look into what she said were images of underage girls on the website.“The (officer) just looked bewildered,” she said.York regional police said they are aware of Roxanne’s case, that her file is still under investigation and no charges have been laid.Other police forces have also received the occasional complaint related to the website — RCMP in Antigonish, N.S., said they’ve been conducting an investigation related to Anon-IB since April, and police in Peterborough, Ont., said they became aware of the site after one complaint in the last two years. In both cases, no charges have been laid. Hamilton police said they had one investigation that involved the website but not a direct complaint against it.Ontario provincial police, Toronto police and Ottawa police said they have not received complaints about Anon-IB.Toronto lawyer Gil Zvulony said Roxanne’s photographs would not be considered “intimate” under the Criminal Code because they do not appear to depict any explicit sexual activity or nudity. He said women who find themselves on Anon-IB should still go to the police but noted that it’s unlikely charges would be laid if those who post the images remain anonymous on the website.Roxanne’s photos stayed on the site for about a year, she said, until it went offline briefly in 2014. When the site came back online, her images were gone.After her experience, Roxanne continued to think about what happened to her.“My coping mechanism was to go back on the website, find as many girls as I could, tip them off and go to bed,” she said.Katelyn, 23, was one of the women Roxanne messaged. She said she was 16 and 17 in most of the photos that she learned were on the site in August 2013.Katelyn said she has no idea who took photos from her Facebook and Plenty of Fish dating profile and edited them to make her shirts appear see-through, which was possible because she was wearing light-coloured tops without a bra, she said.After learning about her images, she asked the site to take them down. The photos were removed within 24 hours, she said, which is why she didn’t go to police.“I’m grateful that Roxanne reached out to me,” she said. “It’s important for women to keep mobilizing and looking out for one another.”
HALIFAX – A hefty reward helped crack the cold-case deaths of two Halifax men at a burned-out camp outside the city, RCMP said Thursday.Elmer Percy Higgins, 65, and Karen Marie Higgins, 49, face charges of second degree murder and related firearms offences and were to appear Thursday in Dartmouth provincial court.The remains of Matthew Allan Hebb, 22, and 59-year-old Earle Clayton Stewart, both from Spryfield, were found after firefighters responded to a fire at the camp off Highway 374 near Sheet Harbour in December 2012.The homicides had stymied police over the years as they searched for evidence, and they issued several public appeals for help — authorities even offered a $150,000 reward.“Today’s charges represent over four years of tireless investigative work …. These investigators, they’ve worked around the clock,” Insp. Trudy Bangloy said.“Our investigators persevered and in the end it is our hope that we find answers for the Hebb and Stewart families.”In December 2015, police divers conducted searches in ponds and lakes near the crime scene around Sheet Harbour.The Mounties said they arrested two people in December 2012 and again in March 2017, but they were released without charges in both instances.The pair were arrested for a third time Wednesday at a home in Halifax without incident.“There may be enough evidence to arrest, but sometimes there’s not enough evidence to charge,” Bangloy explained to reporters.“When there’s a new charge, there’s always new information that comes forward in order to make that arrest. What I can tell you is yesterday’s arrest, we had new evidence that allowed us to lay those charges.”Cpl. Dal Hutchinson, an RCMP spokesman, declined to describe the nature of the evidence that led to police to the point where they could lay charges, saying it would be presented in court.However, he and Bangloy did confirm that police used information obtained as a result of the Department of Justice’s rewards for major unsolved crimes program.“The information . . . resulted in police laying charges,” Hutchinson said.Under the program, the reward money is only payable if the information leads to a conviction.Police would not discuss the relationship between the two accused, but said they knew the victims.In January 2016, when the reward was first offered, then-provincial justice minister Diana Whalen issued a statement saying the victims’ families deserved answers.
Canada Post says Santa won’t be sending as many personalized letters to kids this year, though he still wants to make sure he responds to every note he receives.The postal agency says many children write letters to Santa both from home and from school, which gave Santa and his elves a total of 1.6 million notes to reply to last year.To make sure kids don’t get inconsistent responses, Canada Post says its program will change for letters sent from school.Santa will sent a poster-sized group letter back to all classes that write him, with every child’s name included in the note.He’ll also include a “special package of seeds from the North Pole” that teachers can use to lead a class activity. Teachers are encouraged to get their students’ letters in the mail by Dec. 2.If kids still want a personalized reply from Santa, they can still write him from home. Canada Post says children will be sure to get a response before Christmas if they mail their letter before Dec. 11.The agency said letters written in class cannot receive a response sent to a child’s home since privacy legislation bars schools from sharing student addresses.Parents, teachers and kids wanting to write to Santa should direct their letters to Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0.
HUMBOLDT, Sask. – Fifteen people were killed and 14 others injured in a horrific crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team. Here is what we know so far about those who died:———Tyler Bieber:Bieber, 29, worked for Humboldt radio station CHBO and often travelled with the team as its play-by-play radio announcer.Steven Wilson, a co-worker in Weyburn, Sask., said it was Bieber’s first season announcing for the team. He also covered morning news.“He definitely had a natural talent,” said Wilson. “He was just passionate about sports.”Wilson said he filled in a few times for Bieber because he was also busy coaching the Humboldt high school’s basketball and football teams.“Having been with Golden West since the launch of Bolt FM in news and on-air, Tyler was a shining example of what it means to serve a community,” Lyndon Frieson, president of Golden West Radio, said in a statement posted on the station’s website.———Logan Boulet:The 21-year-old defenceman was from Lethbridge, Alta.Cousin Julie Kindt said on Facebook that he was on life support after the crash until his organs could be donated.“Logan had made it known, and very clear to his family, that he had signed his organ donor card when he turned 21 just a few weeks ago,” Boulet’s godfather, Neil Langevin, posted in a statement on behalf of the family.“Logan’s strong heart continues to beat,” he said. “All counted, six people will receive the gift of life from Logan … His other organs will be donated to science as he requested.“These actions alone give voice to the selfless and benevolent nature Logan possessed in life.”———Mark Cross:The assistant coach was from Strasbourg, Sask., where he was named most valuable player last year while playing with the Maroons in the Highway Hockey League.“I can honestly say I didn’t know a more kind-hearted, generous, caring and overall nice person,” cousin Graeme Cross said in an online tribute.“Mark was one of those people that just made you feel safe and brought a special spark when you were in his presence.”Assistant coach Chris Beaudry said Cross, 27, joined the Broncos’ staff last year and was one of the happiest people he’s ever met.“His first game, we found a tin of mints and ever since then it’s been alternating back and forth, buying mints for each other and sharing it as a joke. We’d end up going through a whole tin every game,” said Beaudry.“He was a beautiful guy to be around.”———Glen Doerksen:Doerksen, 59, is described by his employer, Charlie’s Charters, in a Facebook post as an “outstanding friend, husband, and father.”“In talking to him, he spoke at length of his time in rinks with his own family and now how much he enjoyed being able to take and watch other teams from minor, to senior to SJHL to their hockey games,” the Kinistino Tigers wrote of Doersken, who drove their team to and from playoff games.Police say he’s from Carrot River, Sask.“We will never forget the smile on your face as we left Allan after winning the Championship and got you to give ‘two honks for the Cup.’ Tonight Glen, we give two honks for you. Rest easy, Sir.”———Darcy Haugan:The president of the Humboldt Broncos, Kevin Garinger, said Haugan was an incredible coach who often talked about his vision for the team.“The Humboldt Broncos were about — not building hockey players — but creating amazing young men. And that’s what we had in our organization, amazing young men,” said Garinger.“That was Darcy’s belief and through that they would ultimately become great hockey players too.”Before becoming a coach, the 42-year old played junior hockey in the league in the 1990s.Steven Wilson, a radio play-by-play announcer in Weyburn, Sask., called Haugan “the classiest guy” in the league who always had time to chat.He said the last time he saw Haugan, the coach was playing video games in his office with one of his two young sons.“He was very dedicated to his family and at the same time he was a hockey guy.”Wilson said Haugan’s wife, Christina George-Haugan, worked as the team’s office manager.“He will always be a great man in our hearts,” Haugan’s sister posted on Twitter under the name Debbie Jayne. “The tears just keep coming.”———Adam Herold:The youngest member of the team, Herold would have turned 17 this week.He was also a new member of the team. Up until a few weeks ago, Herold was captain of the Regina Pat Canadians, manager John Smith said. But when the Regina team’s season wrapped up, Herold was sent to join the Broncos for their playoff round.“He was a wonderful young man. Never afraid to help his teammates. Always there for them. Good, typical Saskatchewan farm boy. Always load the bus, unload the bus, never afraid to roll up his sleeves and get work done,” Smith said.Smith said Herold is survived by his mom, dad and an older sister. He was from Montmartre, Sask.———Brody Hinz:The 18-year-old Hinz had recently started tallying the Broncos’ numbers for Humboldt radio station CHBO.“Brody had recently joined our Golden West family, mentored by Tyler and the Bolt FM team,” said company president Lyndon Frieson.“Tragedy has hit our community and it reaches into every corner of life in Humboldt.”Another company statement described Hinz as an intern still in high school.The night of the crash marked a double tragedy for the family. A relative said on Facebook that another family member lost a baby boy in Humboldt hospital shortly after he was born.———Logan Hunter:Hunter’s death was confirmed by his former team, the St. Albert Raiders in his Alberta hometown.The organization’s president, Kevin Porter, said he heard the news from Hunter’s mother.“He always had a smile on his face,” said Porter, who described Hunter as a “smart kid and a great hockey player” with a “great sense of humour.”He was an 18-year old forward with the Broncos.———Jacob Leicht:The 19-year-old, a forward with his hometown Broncos, is being remembered for his contagious laugh and bright smile.A family member posted on Facebook that her heart is broken.“Your laughter is so contagious and you had a smile that lit up any room,” Cassidy Tolley wrote in her public post.She says he wasn’t just family, but one of her favourite people and someone she could count on any time of day.Leicht was in his first season with the team.———Conner Lukan:Conner Lukan, 21, of Slave Lake played with the midget St. Albert Raiders and Spruce Grove Saints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League before joining the Broncos last year.The Raiders announced Lukan’s death on Twitter, along with three other alumni: Stephen Wack, Jaxon Joseph and Logan Hunter.“One of the best hockey players and an even greater guy off the ice,” Tyson Chizma wrote on Twitter.“I’ve known Conner for several years, playing against him throughout the majority of my minor hockey career and trying out for a handful of teams with him. I always looked up to him as a role model.”———Jaxon Joseph:The Edmonton native’s death was confirmed by the Surrey Eagles, his former team in the British Columbia Hockey League.The Broncos website says Joseph, 20, was among the leading scorers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs, playing on a line with Logan Schatz, another player who lost his life in the crash.In a profile published on the team’s website in January, Schatz paid tribute to Joseph and fellow linemate Conner Lukan.“I’ve really clicked with Joseph and Lukan. I can’t say enough good things about them,” Schatz said.———Logan Schatz:The team captain had played for the Broncos for just over four years and had served as team captain for the past 2 1/2 years, his father Kelly Schatz said.The native of Allan, Sask., played centre and was named the league’s player of the month in February after earning points in eight of nine games. He was 20 years old.Kelly Schatz said his family is seeking solace in one another.“It’s hard,” Kelly Schatz said. “I’ve got four other kids and they’re here, which is nice.”———Evan Thomas:Thomas, from Saskatoon, was the “kind of kid any dad would be proud to call his” own, said his father, Scott.“He was a self-driven, motivated, retrospective, quiet, confident and very self-assured young man.”It was the 18-year-old’s first season as a forward with the Humboldt Broncos.His dad says he was an athlete, playing both hockey and baseball, and a strong student.“He liked sports, but at times I think he tolerated sports so he could be a teammate,” said Thomas in an interview. “He just loved being a teammate. He loved his teammates and I think that was more important to him than the actual sport he was playing.“He loved those boys. He really loved those boys.”———Parker Tobin:Tobin, 18, of Stoney Plain, Alta., was the last of the deceased to be identified.This was the goalie’s first season with the Broncos after being traded from the Spruce Grove Saints.———Stephen Wack:The towering 21-year-old defenceman from St. Albert, Alta. had played with the Broncos for two seasons.Alicia Wack said her cousin made the best gingerbread houses and “absolutely lived and breathed hockey.”“Stephen has always been an amazing person, son, big brother, and cousin. He is one of the most adventurous, ambitious, and loving people that I have ever been blessed to know,” she said in a Facebook post.———Information compiled by CP reporters Adam Burns, Nicole Thompson, Michelle McQuigge, Morgan Lowrie, Chris Purdy and Colette Derworiz.
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The federal government is trying to sell its budget to Canadians by saying there’s something for everyone. The budget continues to contain a deficit, but includes a national pharmacare program and some help for first-time homebuyers.The first-time homebuyers’ incentive will see a reduction in the requirements for down payments under mortgage insurance. There is also an increase in the amount you can take out of your RRSP for a first-time home purchase, going up to $35,000.A tax expert says aside modest help for first-time buyers, there isn’t a lot of relief for the average Canadian, considering this is an election year.RELATED: Liberals offer ‘modest’ help for first-time homebuyersThom Armstrong, the executive director of BC’s Co-Operative Housing Federation, says it is important to remember more than half of all homes in Vancouver are occupied by renters. “A fifth of them pay more than 50 per cent of their gross income on shelter and utilities. So, it’s difficult to imagine that they will see themselves in a position to qualify for even the most generous first-time homebuyer plan.”He says the federal government’s challenge in B.C. is to match $7-billion worth of investments promised by the provincial government over the next 10 years.“The big impact on affordability is really going to come from provincial investments in housing. We can only hope the province and the federal government will figure out a way to coordinate their spending and investment in housing to get the maximum benefit for people who need it the most.”RELATED: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentivesRussell Crawford with KPMG says given it’s an election year, he was hoping there would be more tax relief for the average Canadian. “There are a few minor items that are included in the budget. I’m not sure there is anything overly significant, in that regard.”“There was some hope that you might see a decrease in certain tax rates, although that wasn’t expected,” Crawford added.“Currently — if you compare to the U.S. corporate rate, for example — we’re pretty competitive, here in Canada.”Meanwhile, Dane Eitel, a Vancouver-area real estate analyst, says he’s pleased there are no changes to the mortgage stress test introduced last year. “Real estate is supposed to be a free market. I wasn’t expecting to see anything — I’m kind of happy we didn’t see a knee-jerk reaction to taking thing out literally within a year or two of putting implements in.”“Now that we’re in this new reality, there hasn’t been enough of a drop across the nation … especially Vancouver and Toronto — to take the foot off of the pedal.”Although the feds are not making changes to the mortgage stress test, it says it will adjust, if necessary. – With files from Mike Eppel
QUEBEC — The Coalition Avenir Quebec government will table its secularism bill today, fulfilling an election promise to prohibit many public sector employees, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols at work.But even before the text is made public, one school board has declared its intention to disobey a law that it says will violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said the legislation will target teachers, judges, police officers, prison guards and other public servants in what the government considers to be positions of authority.Legault has signalled today’s bill will pre-emptively invoke the charter’s notwithstanding clause to block court challenges that invoke rights violations.Opposition to the government’s plan is growing. On Wednesday night, the English Montreal School Board adopted a motion declaring its refusal to implement legislation restricting the wearing of religious symbols.The government counters that it won a mandate last October to introduce the legislation, which it says is supported by a majority of Quebecers. Civil rights groups and religious organizations argue the bill is primarily aimed at Muslim women who wear the hijab.Julien Feldman, chairman of the EMSB’s human resources committee, said the board has never received a complaint from a student or parent about a teacher’s religious symbol.“This proposed legislation would be contrary to the values the EMSB teaches its children, in particular, values of diversity, acceptance, tolerance and respect for individual rights and religious freedoms,” Feldman said in a statement.The board’s resolution came a day after a major teachers’ federation spoke out against the planned legislation and filed a lawsuit to stop government attempts to count the number of teachers who wear religious symbols.Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Legault said the secularism bill would contain compromises, adding that his goal was to be “unifying.”The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Six Canadian individuals and groups involved in “organized hate” have been banned from having any further presence on Facebook and Instagram.Those banned include one-time Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy.Also banned are the Canadian Nationalist Front and its white nationalist chairman, Kevin Goudreau, Aryan Strikeforce, Wolves of Odin and Soldiers of Odin (also known as Canadian Infidels).Facebook is imposing the ban after concluding the six spread hate and urge attacks on or exclusion of others based on their identity, in contravention of the social media giant’s policy on dangerous organizations and individuals.Goldy provided sympathetic coverage for Rebel Media of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.; she was subsequently fired by Rebel Media for taking part in a podcast on a neo-Nazi group’s website.In February, Goldy was among those who spoke to a convoy of truckers protesting federal policies on pipelines and carbon taxation, but which also included anti-immigration and white nationalist messages; Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier also addressed the protesters.The Canadian Press
In today’s Big Story podcast, the oceans are clogged with plastics. Our recycling system is broken. Is it time to ban them wherever we can? The Liberal government’s new proposal to ban single-use plastics “as soon as 2021” could make that happen — but there’s an election in the way, not to mention that the proposal doesn’t have overwhelming public support.But as we do on The Big Story, we’ll attempt to explain what this would mean and how it would work for normal humans — the sort of people who have a plastic bag filled with other plastic bags under the sink, or go through a plastic fork and knife with every second workday lunch. Would this proposal actually help? Would it change behaviour? What are the alternatives to these plastic products? And what do the people who spend their lives fighting for cleaner oceans think of it?GUEST: Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s Oceans and Plastics campaignAudio Playerhttps://media.blubrry.com/thebigstory/s/rogers-aod.leanstream.co/rogers/thebigstory_dai/tbs_06132019_dai.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify.You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.
The Allstate Foundation and singer Austin Mahone are challenging teens to #GetThereSafe during Global Youth Traffic Safety Month this May and throughout the summer, the deadliest season for young drivers on the road.Austin Mahone – Get There SafeStarting today through August 8, teens across the country will have a chance to show where and how they get there safely by entering the #GetThereSafe Challenge. The winning high school will be determined by a random drawing and will receive a meet and greet with Austin in the fall.Car crashes continue to be the No. 1 killer of American teens, causing more teen deaths each year than homicide, suicide, and cancer. The Allstate Foundation’s #GetThereSafe program asks teens not to engage in three risky behaviors that cause teen crash fatalities: speeding, failure to wear a seatbelt and distractions caused by passengers in the car. To demonstrate smart driving and to enter the Challenge, teens must upload photos of themselves or their destination and select a specific driving behavior hashtag – #slowdown, #seatbelt and #nodistractions via the free #GetThereSafe app (available on iTunes and in the Google Play stores).“We should always have each other’s backs, and this program lets us do that when it really counts – behind the wheel,” said Mahone. “The fact that nearly eight teens die each day in car crashes motivated me to get involved so that my friends, family and fans can all get there safe every time they get into a car.”The #GetThereSafe program also encourages teens to flag the issue of teen safe driving in their schools and communities through social media conversations and raising a #GetThereSafe flag. High schools in the states with the highest number of teen crash fatalities – California, Texas and Florida – will highlight the teen driving issue during the month of May at #GetThereSafe flag raising events on school campuses. The flag serves as a symbol of solidarity and a visual reminder for teens to practice smart driving behaviors every time they get in the car as a driver or passenger.“We understand that driving provides teens with a sense of freedom and fun, but there is a serious responsibility that teens take on every time they get behind the wheel,” said Steve Sorenson, Allstate executive vice president of product operations. “We believe that small behavior changes, such as wearing a seatbelt and slowing down, can help teens focus on the critical task of getting to their destination safely.”According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: • Fifty–six percent of American teens in fatal car crashes were not wearing a seat belt. • Speeding is a factor in one out of every three teen fatal crashes. • For teens, adding one teen passenger to a car increases their crash risk by almost 50 percent and that risk grows exponentially as more teen passengers are added – 202 percent more likely to crash with two teen passengers and 439 percent more likely with three or more teen passengers.The #GetThereSafe program supports the commitment that The Allstate Foundation has made to help reduce teen crash fatalities. To learn more about the #GetThereSafe program, valuable tips for teen drivers, rules for the #GetThereSafe Challenge and to view social media conversations around this important topic, visit www.teensgettheresafe.com.
The 2014 winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award is the Colombian women’s rights group, Red Mariposas de Alas Nuevas Construyendo Futuro – or Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future (Butterflies), whose members risk their lives to help survivors of forced displacement and sexual abuse.Based in the Pacific coastal city of Buenaventura, Butterflies, who are all volunteers, have so far helped over 1000 women and their families.UNHCR’s special envoy Actress Angelina Jolie has praised the work of the winners. As a staunch advocate for ending impunity for sexual violence in conflict, Jolie says Butterflies’ work is life-saving.“The Mariposas draw on their strengths as women to help thousands of vulnerable people who would otherwise have no rights and no protection,” said Angelina. “By winning this award, I hope it helps more people everywhere to understand that we have to change attitudes to sexual violence, and to help end impunity for these crimes.”Colombia is second only to Syria in the number of internally displaced people globally. Nowhere in the country is the devastation of the five decade armed conflict felt as acutely as in Buenaventura. This industrial port city has some of the highest rates of violence and displacement due to escalating rivalries between illegal armed groups and women are often their targets. The groups violate women and children to demonstrate their power and strength and frequently torture, rape or kill to exact revenge.“These women are doing extraordinary work in the most challenging of contexts,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.” Each day they seek to heal the wounds of the women and children of Buenaventura and in doing so put their own lives at risk. Their bravery goes beyond words”.High Commissioner Guterres said, “The situation in Buenaventura illustrates the devastating impact of conflict on families and how essential the work of Butterflies is”.“In their battle to gain territory, illegal armed groups in Buenaventura aim to destroy the social fabric of communities. They violate the most vulnerable by sexual assault, kidnap and murder. Butterflies’ volunteers take the displaced and abused under their wing and help them to reclaim their lives and assert their rights,” he added.Drawing on only the most modest of resources, the women go about their work on foot or by bus or bicycle. As cautiously as they can, they move through the most dangerous neighbourhoods to help women access medical care and report crimes. It is this work deep inside the communities that helps them reach the most vulnerable women, but also brings with it danger and threats from the illegal armed groups.Women in the poorest areas of Buenaventura are often afraid to report sexual violence and the few women who do so remain unprotected because they often live alongside their aggressors. Building trust in this kind of environment is a slow and challenging process. Butterflies operates on the principal of “comadreo”, which has special significance in Afro-Colombian culture, uniting respect, trust solidarity and confidentiality.The cornerstone of the assistance Butterflies provides is the life skills and rights training workshops they organize. Here women come together, and realizing they are not alone in their suffering- slowly regain their self-esteem and strength.Butterflies will receive the Nansen Refugee Award Medal at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 September. The group will be represented by three women; Gloria Amparo, Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Mery Medina.The Award ceremony will feature a keynote speech from UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie (on video) and musical performances by UNHCR supporters, Swedish-Lebanese singer-songwriter Maher Zain and Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traorè. Acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela from Mexico will also perform at the ceremony.
Dallas Cowboys Linebacker and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame inductee Justin Durant hosted a private reception and toy drive at Olivella’s Neo Pizza Napoletana in Victory Park on December 15 to benefit The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas-Oak Cliff Club.The mood was decidedly merry and bright when 65 people donated more than 100 toys to Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas-Oak Cliff Club. Durant’s friend and two-time Superbowl Champion Bethel Johnson joined the festivities.Justin’s fondness for Boys and Girls Clubs dates back to his own youth when he was enrolled in his hometown Boys and Girls Club.“I grew up in the Boys and Girls Club in Florence, S.C., so I felt the need to give back,” Durant said. “I wanted to partner with chapters here in Dallas to try to give back and do something with the community. I should have been doing it before. Now I’m trying to make up for lost time.”Nearly 70 people attended, including Dallas Cowboy Justin Durant, former New England Patriot Bethel Johnson, Josh from 102.1 The Morning Edge, Jasmine Sadry from 102.1 The Edge iHeart Media, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Cowboys reporter Clarence Hill Jr. and, of course, representatives from Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas.“On behalf of over 6,000 youth served by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas, we are extremely grateful for the generous support provided by Justin Durant’s Toys for Tots at Olivella’s Neo Pizza Napoletana and now for Charity Giveback benefitting our Oak Cliff Club,” said Charles English, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas. “This holiday season will be especially bright and happy for the many families that have entrusted their children to us. Justin’s generous gift ensures that we can continue to provide critical and results-based programs. We are sincerely grateful.”Presenting sponsors included Macallan, Snow Leopard Vodka and Brugal Rum (Edrington America), Olivella’s Neo Pizza Napoletana, The Landings St Lucia with additional support provided by Robert Half International, D4SM, Luv Your Events, Nike, W Hotel, Yeroc Eyewear, Schuyler 4, Haupt Shirts, Phil’s New Money Friends, Jenny Meets Penny, Megan Averbuch, Fashion Stylist of Belles and Rebelles, Jen Abrams Style, Unity Vintage Jean Co. and Marlyn Schiff.
Recent research from The Kids & Family Reading Report indicates that 91% of kids say that their favorite books are the ones they picked out themselves – and summer is the perfect time for those fun books kids choose themselves.13 favorite children’s authors have written original short stories that kids can unlock as rewards in this year’s Scholastic Summer Reading ChaTo encourage kids to “Power Up and Read” throughout the summer, 13 favorite children’s authors have written original short stories that kids can unlock as rewards in this year’s Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.This free summer reading program, created by Scholastic and powered by Energizer, encourages kids around the world to log the minutes they spend reading in order to unlock more stories, earn rewards, and help set a new world record for minutes read – seeking to top the 304,749,681 minutes read in summer 2014. Children and families can sign up for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge starting today at www.scholastic.com/summer.The top children’s authors participating include: Blue Balliett, Patrik Henry Bass, Varian Johnson, Gordon Korman, Michael Northtrop, Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce, Roland Smith, R.L. Stine, Tui T. Sutherland, Lauren Tarshis, Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Jude Watson. Each of the authors has written a unique short story using the same opening sentence which is,“I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that no one had followed me into the shadowy library, then took a deep breath and opened the glowing book…”“We know that summer is the ideal time for kids to discover the power and joy of reading,” said Maggie McGuire, VP Scholastic Kids & Parents Online. “The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge creates an environment where kids are encouraged to choose their own books and read all summer, setting kids up to succeed when returning to school in the fall.”“I am a big believer in the power of choice when it comes to reading. In some cases, this freedom takes the pressure off reading, allowing a book to ‘just be a book.’ Other times, it allows readers to choose a book that serves as a mirror of their world or a window to a different perspective—or both! Whatever the reason, the power to choose gets us all reading, and the more we read, the more we grow,” said acclaimed author Varian Johnson, one of the featured authors in this year’s Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.SUMMER READING FOR KIDS • Ultimate goal of setting a new 2015 reading world record: Students read and log minutes, earn digital badges and rewards, and help set a new world record for summer reading. • Read along with original short stories: Each original short story has a “read along” audio component, inviting children of all ages and reading levels to enjoy these engaging stories. • Dynamic creative writing game: Students can play a new “Innovation Machine” story starter game, powered by Energizer. This game encourages kids to create a one-of-a-kind story with fun story starters and wacky vocabulary combinations and enter into a contest to win prizes. Twelve winners will each receive a set of 12 signed books from the participating authors.SUMMER READING FOR PARENTS • Free daily tips: Parents can find something every day on the new “daily digest” with articles and tips from Scholastic Parents Channel experts here. • 2015 summer book list: Curated by Scholastic experts, this list features books for children in Pre-K through Young Adults. • Weekly sweepstakes: Parents can enter to win a “Power Up & Read prize pack,” including a Scholastic tote bag, a copy of Reading Unbound by Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith, $10 gift certificate to Scholastic Store Online, Energizer® brand batteries, Scholastic books and more.SUMMER READING FOR EDUCATORS • Grand prize for top school: The top elementary school that logs the most minutes this summer will win a visit from bestselling author Michael Northrop and the top middle school that logs the most minutes will win a visit from bestselling author Varian Johnson. • Classroom library sweepstakes: Educators who pre-register their students before June 30th, 2015 will be entered to win a free classroom library of 50 books. • Free summer reading tools: Educators can track their students reading minutes through the “Educator Dashboard” and their school’s progress on a virtual map, send automated emails to parents and access bi-lingual resources and printables.For more information about the Scholastic Summer Challenge, click here.