FIFA bans Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini for 8 years

Written by admin on 15/08/2019 Categories: 长沙夜网

ZURICH – Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were each banned for eight years by the FIFA ethics committee on Monday in a stunning removal of world soccer’s most powerful leaders.

FIFA President Blatter and his one-time protege Platini were kicked out of the sport for conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA in a $2 million payment deal that is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland.

In a defiant news conference shortly after the verdict was announced, Blatter said he would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, insisting he had done nothing wrong.

‘I will fight,” Blatter said. “I will fight until the end.’

His last words on leaving the conference were “I’ll be back.”

WATCH BELOW: Blatter explains “gentleman’s agreement” with Platini

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    Blatter’s FIFA career is ending in disgrace after more than 17 years as president and 40 years in total with the scandal-hit governing body.

    Platini’s bid to succeed his former mentor in the Feb. 26 presidential election is now likely over. Platini, a FIFA vice-president and head of European governing body UEFA, is also expected to appeal.

    Blatter made it clear he regretted his current position but declared he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

    “I regret, but I am not ashamed,” he said. “”I am sorry that I am a punching ball. I am sorry for football… I am now suspended eight years, suspended eight years. Suspended eight years for what?”

    FIFA’s ethics judges decided that Blatter and Platini broke ethics rules on conflicts of interest, breach of loyalty and offering or receiving gifts.

    Both denied wrongdoing in 2011 when Platini took $2 million of FIFA money approved by Blatter as uncontracted salary for work as a presidential adviser from 1999-2002.

    In Monday’s verdict, Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs ($50,250) and Platini 80,000 Swiss francs ($80,400).

    READ MORE: FIFA ethics court asks for sanctions against Blatter, Platini

    “Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr. Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment,” the judges said. “By failing to place FIFA’s interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA’s interests, Mr. Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA.

    “His (Blatter’s) assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber.”

    Blatter hit back at that conclusion during his news conference, portraying the ethics committee as saying: “He’s a liar and I’m a liar.”

    “This is not correct,” Blatter said.

    Responding to a reporter’s question, he said in French: “I’m sad. It can’t go on this way. It’s not possible. After 40 years, it can’t happen this way. .. I’m fighting to restore my rights.”

    Platini, the judges said, “failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities.”

    Blatter, who turns 80 in March, said he wants to preside over the FIFA congress on Feb. 26 where his successor will be elected.

    The 60-year-old Platini wants to clear his name, pass a FIFA integrity check and be declared an official candidate in the election he had been favoured to win.

    READ MORE: Corruption scandal grows for FIFA as new acting president Issa Hayatou has first day in office

    Platini’s campaign has stalled since he was questioned on Sept. 25 in a Swiss federal investigation of suspected criminal mismanagement at FIFA.

    Switzerland’s attorney general has opened criminal proceedings against Blatter for the suspected “disloyal payment” of FIFA money to Platini and selling undervalued World Cup TV rights for the Caribbean.

    Platini’s status in the criminal case is “between a witness and an accused person,” attorney general Michael Lauber said in October.

    In recent media interviews, both men have said Platini asked Blatter for a salary of 1 million Swiss francs. He got a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs annually, in line with FIFA’s then-wage structure, plus a “gentleman’s agreement” to get the rest later. Swiss law obliged FIFA only to pay the deferred money within five years.

    Platini was paid in February 2011, just before Blatter began campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Platini’s UEFA urged its members weeks before the June 2011 election to back Blatter, who was elected unopposed when Bin Hammam was implicated in bribery.

    Few FIFA officials knew of the Platini payment which emerged during a wider Swiss probe of the governing body’s business affairs, including suspected money laundering in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

    Platini was an icon of French football, a former national team captain and coach, when the newly-elected Blatter offered him a job in 1998.

    He had led the organization of a successful 1998 World Cup, won by host France, and on the eve of the tournament had campaigned to help Blatter win the FIFA presidency.

    Blatter appeared to see Platini as a protege in FIFA politics who could add ideas and credibility to his presidential office.

    Their friendship cooled after Platini was elected UEFA president in 2007. It became strained when Blatter reneged on a 2011 promise to step aside in four years’ time, which could have left Platini a clear run at the FIFA top job.

    Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term in May, beating Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan two days after American and Swiss investigations of bribery and corruption were unleashed on FIFA. Platini had urged Blatter to resign immediately but was ignored.

    Just four days later, Blatter announced his resignation plans – provoking the Feb. 26 election – under pressure from the corruption crisis.

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Driver who deliberately plowed into people on Las Vegas Strip identified

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– 35 injured, including five Canadians.
– 3 remain in critical condition, suffering from head injuries.
– Lakeisha Holloway to be charged with one count of murder with deadly weapon.
– No sign of alcohol, blood and drug tests pending.
– As of now, police don’t believe it’s an act of terrorism.
– Holloway told police she was unable to rest because she kept being run off casino properties.
– More charges pending.

A woman with her 3-year-old daughter in the car smashed into crowds of visitors on the Las Vegas Strip, then drove to a hotel and told a valet to call 911 after killing a woman from Arizona and injuring at least 35 others, including at least five Canadians, police said.

People jumped on the car and banged on its windows, but Lakeisha N. Holloway, 24, would not stop driving on the sidewalk, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters. Video appeared to show the crash in front of the Paris and Planet Hollywood casino-hotels was intentional, he said.

READ MORE: Homeless suspect in Vegas crash said she was stressed by living in car

The 1996 Oldsmobile sedan was fully on the sidewalk twice Sunday night, including once when it traveled for 200 feet, police said. The child in the car was not hurt.

The 24-year-old told police told she was homeless and tired, and denied using drugs or alcohol. Holloway also told police she had been unable to rest or sleep because security officers kept running her and her daughter and her car off casino properties.

Booking photo of suspect Lakeisha Holloway, arrested following deadly crash on Las Vegas Strip.

Las Vegas Police/Handout

At least two of the injured Canadians, a man and a woman, were from Montreal, and were in need of French translators.

Man gets emotional describing Las Vegas crash that injured Canadians


Man gets emotional describing Las Vegas crash that injured Canadians


Canadians confirmed among injured in Las Vegas rampage


Police identify driver in Las Vegas strip rampage that killed 1, injured 35


Motive behind Las Vegas Strip rampage unknown


Police not ruling out Las Vegas strip rampage as terrorism


Driver in Las Vegas rampage charged with murder

Anthony Hamel was celebrating a birthday with his family from Montreal when the car mounted the sidewalk.

“Why did this girl run over the sidewalk and injure a lot of people? You can’t really know the consequences unless you live it,” Hamel told KTNV News. “The pain. She won’t be able to feel the pain that she gave to a lot of people.

“Honestly I’m not the worst, there’s people there who had like big problems. I’m wondering if they’re good, what their life will be, just because of this,” the Quebec native said.

Hamel was taken to hospital and treated for a knee injury. His mother remains in hospital.

A hospital spokeswoman said two Canadians are among five people in either critical or serious condition. Danita Cohen of the University Medical Centre of Southern Nevada could not elaborate on the health of the two Canadians.

The crash happened on a busy stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard across from the dancing water fountains of the Bellagio hotel-casino where visitors crowd sidewalks as they head from one casino to another. The Miss Universe pageant was being held nearby at Planet Hollywood.

Holloway was believed to be from Oregon and had been in Las Vegas for about a week. He says investigators believe she was homeless and living in the car, police said on Monday.

Holloway drove a few blocks to a hotel, parked and asked a valet to call police, saying she had run over some people on the Strip, Lombardo said. She was stoic when she was arrested, he said.

Lombardo said police did not have a definitive motive but that they believe she had a falling out with the father of her child before the crash. A drug recognition expert on the scene determined Holloway was under the influence of a “stimulant,” but blood test results were pending.

She faces a charge of murder with a deadly weapon and is being held without bail, prosecutors say. District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he also is considering a slew of other charges.

The vehicle was in the northbound lanes of Las Vegas Boulevard near Bellagio Way when it drove up onto the sidewalk about 6:30 p.m. in front of the Paris Hotel & Casino and struck pedestrians, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Peter Boffelli said.

Police and emergency crews respond to the scene of a car accident along Las Vegas Boulevard, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas.

Danita Cohen, spokeswoman for University Medical Center, said 11 of the crash victims, including at least five Canadians, were brought to its trauma centre. Cohen said a Canadian was among three victims listed in critical condition.

Cohen noted the crash victims were being treated for head injuries, cuts and broken bones.

Justin Cochrane, a property manager from Santa Barbara, California, said he was having dinner at a sidewalk restaurant outside the Paris Hotel and across the street from the famous Bellagio Fountain when the incident took place.

The car appeared to be going at least 30 mph (48 kph) when it first hit the pedestrians on Las Vegas Boulevard, Cochrane said. “It was just massacring people,” he said.

The vehicle then went farther down the road and drove back into another crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalk, he said.

Cochrane said he couldn’t understand why the car went into the crowd a second time. “Why would it slow to go around and then accelerate again?” he said. “I thought it’s a crazy person.”

Cochrane said he saw children and adults injured and on the ground as the car drove away.

Police and emergency crews respond to the scene after a car drove up onto a sidewalk along Las Vegas Boulevard, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. A woman intentionally swerved her car onto the busy sidewalk two or three times Sunday and mowed down people outside a Las Vegas casino.

AP Photo/John Locher

Police were reviewing video from casino surveillance cameras to get details of what occurred. The pedestrians were not in the road and were not at fault, police said.

Joel Ortega, 31, of Redlands, California, said he and his wife, Carla, were visiting for the weekend and found themselves blocked from walking on the sidewalk toward the Paris hotel. They could see police investigating about a block away from the crash.

“At first, I thought it was a movie shoot,” he said. “I thought maybe we’d see someone famous.”

But then they learned that it was a crash scene. Ortega said it made them remember how their Redlands neighborhood was disrupted after the Dec. 2 mass shooting in nearby San Bernardino, California.

The crash comes months after another woman was accused of driving into a crowd during Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade. Four people were killed and more than 40 were hurt Oct. 24.

In September 2005, three tourists were killed and nearly a dozen injured when a car barreled through the crowd on the Las Vegas Strip and crashed into a cement barrier in front of Bally’s hotel-casino.

With files from

ChangSha Night Net

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Syrian refugee trying to bring rest of his family to Canada

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These days, Mohammed Alsaleh has only one mission.

“We are trying to sponsor my Mom, two sisters and brother,” said Alsaleh. By “we” he means he and Deana Brynildasen, the New Westminster woman who read about Alsaleh in the New Westmisnter Record and felt compelled to reach out. When she finally met him in person, Brynildasen said his family was top of mind.

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“He talked about finishing the course, get a job and save his money and then in six or seven years, he was going to sponsor his family and I thought why not now?” she said.

Alsaleh has been separated from his family for about two years. He fled Syria after he says he was detained and tortured by Syrian state forces. A year later, he’s settled in the Lower Mainland, where he now has a job and is going to school. He said he wants the same for his siblings.

“My family has suffered a lot through this whole crisis. During the last four years they had to lose family members. My siblings who are students have lost their schooling,” said Alsaleh.

GoFundMe campaign launched

Less than two weeks ago, the pair launched a GoFundMe campaign to come up with the $30,000 dollars needed for private sponsorship.

(You can donate here)

“I’d never even heard of GoFundMe. But you know we did a little bit of research because we wanted to do something before Christmas,” said Brynildasen

Over $9,000 has been donated so far.

According to the crowdfunding site, over $250,000 has been raised in Canada through GoFundMe for the Syrian refugee crisis. In the British Columbia, three campaigns have raised over $60,000 in less than 30 days.

“We’re so happy to be able to provide a platform that allows people to come together online to support loved ones when they need it most,” said Kelsea Little, Media Director at GoFundMe, via email.

More Syrian families in need of help

The Syrian Canadian Council of BC said there are many more in this province and across the country like Alsaleh, who are anxious to reunite with their families in Canada. However, their options are limited to private sponsorship unless they come from certain areas.

“Right now, it seems that the criteria is those refugees have to come from a specific refugee camps,” said Rahim Othman, the council’s spokesperson.

“We think that setting aside some of this number for family reunification is probably a good approach.”

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Host Steve Harvey crowns wrong Miss Universe

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LAS VEGAS – The Colombian contestant was already wearing this year’s Miss Universe crown when host Steve Harvey returned to announce on live television that he had mistakenly read from a cue card, and that the contestant from the Philippines was actually this year’s winner.

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In the following moments, the crown was removed and placed on the head of a mystified Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach of the Philippines, other contestants rushed to console Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo of Colombia and a sheepish Harvey felt compelled to apologize on 桑拿会所 and to reporters assembled backstage.

“I feel horrible for this young woman,” he said.

Harvey said it was his mistake and that he would take responsibility for not correctly reading the card, which said that Wurtzbach was this year’s winner and Colombia was actually the first runner-up.

WATCH: The contestant from the Philippines was declared this year’s winner by host Steve Harvey, but not before some rather confusing and chaotic moments on live television. Don Champion reports.

He held up the card for Fox network cameras to see up close afterward. Talking with reporters afterward, Harvey and an executive for pageant owner WME-IMG called it human error.

“Nobody feels worse about this than me,” he said.

READ MORE: Canadians among the injured after car crashes into pedestrians on Las Vegas Strip

Wurtzbach appeared stunned as she walked to the front of the stage alongside the crown-wearing Arevalo before last year’s Miss Universe from Colombia removed the crown and placed it on Wurtzbach’s head.

Wurtzbach later said she felt conflicting emotions as the mistake happened: joy when she was told she had indeed won, concern for Colombia contestant Ariadna Gutierrez Aravelo and confusion at the whole situation.

Wurtzbach said she tried to approach Aravelo onstage afterward, but the Colombian was crying and surrounded by a crowd of women. She said she realized it was, “probably bad timing.”

WATCH: Steve Harvey explains mistaken Miss Universe announcement, dismisses need for training

“I did not take the crown from her,” Wurtzbach told reporters after the pageant concluded, saying she wished the contestant from Colombia well and hoped the Latin American community understands that “none of this was my fault.”

“None of this was done on purpose. It was an honest mistake,” she said, apologizing on behalf of the organization she now represents. She said Harvey told her afterward that she “should just enjoy the moment.”

Harvey also apologized on 桑拿会所, but at first misspelled the home countries of both contestants before also fixing that. “I’d like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia & Miss Philippines for my huge mistake,” he wrote. “I feel terrible.”

Harvey, who was hosting the contest for the first time, said he re-read the card and noticed it said “first runner-up” next to the Colombia contestant’s name before he asked producers if he had made a mistake.

An executive with pageant owner WME-IMG, Mark Shapiro, said Harvey caught the mistake and corrected it on his own, saying he wanted to make a wrong into a right.

“It was humiliating for the women. It was humiliating for him,” he told reporters after the pageant.

WATCH: Miss Universe says crowning moment was confusing

As all this was unfolding, a car drove up onto a sidewalk and struck dozens of people just outside the Planet Hollywood hotel-casino where the pageant was taking place. The Las Vegas Strip was soon jammed with ambulances and fire trucks, and authorities said at least 30 people were taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries and one person was killed.

READ MORE: Canadians among injured as woman crashes car into pedestrians on Las Vegas Strip

Even before Sunday night’s oops moment, the pageant was involved in another controversy when a backlash against the pageant’s former owner Donald Trump led Univision to pull out of the broadcast and the businessman to sell it in September.

The competition started with women representing 80 countries between the ages of 19 and 27. For the first time, viewers at home weighed in, with their votes being tallied in addition to four in-person celebrity judges.

NBCUniversal and Donald Trump co-owned the Miss Universe Organization until earlier this year. The real-estate developer offended Hispanics in June when he made anti-immigrant remarks in announcing his Republican presidential run.

That led Spanish-language network Univision to pull out of the broadcast for what would have been the first of five years airing the pageants and NBC to cut business ties with Trump.

WATCH: Miss Colombia reacts after controversial crowning of Miss Universe

The former star of the “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show sued both companies, settling with NBC in September, which included buying the network’s stake in the pageants.

That same month, Trump sold the organization that includes the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to entertainment company WME-IMG.

Shortly after Sunday night’s confusion, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted a message on his official account to Ariadna Gutierrez. “For us, you will continue being miss universe! We are very proud!”

Philippines presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda didn’t address the controversial win but said, “in bagging this victory, Ms. Wurtzbach not only serves as a tremendous source of pride for our people, but also holds up the banner of our women and of our country-as a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve.”

It’s the third time a contestant from the Philippines has won the title. It could have been the second win in a row for Colombia.

The pageant’s contestant from the United States, Olivia Jordan, was named second runner-up.


Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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Rush lacrosse championship pedigree starts in goal

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SASKATOON  – He’s one of the best lacrosse goaltenders in the world, but Aaron Bold’s career could have taken a much different path. The Saskatchewan Rush netminder had no plans to play the position when he first took up the sport.

“My buddy had just moved to a new school and he got me into lacrosse. I reluctantly put up my hand when we needed a goaltender and I’ve been a goaltender ever since,” Bold laughed.

ChangSha Night Net


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    That reluctant decision is looking pretty good these days. After winning the National Lacrosse League Champions Cup with the Rush last season Bold went on to capture the Mann Cup as a member of the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association, then capped off an incredible year by helping Canada win the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship.

    “It was great of course, winning three championships. But it’s not all about personal accolades,” said Bold. “I had great teams to play behind.”

    READ MORE: Jerseys unveiled for Saskatchewan Rush lacrosse team

    Rush head coach Derek Keenan knows how important the 10-year NLL veteran is to his team.

    “He gives the guys a lot of confidence. When you have a competent guy back there who has experience in winning championships, (it’s) a calming influence on the guys. They know if they do make a mistake a lot of times they’re going to get help back there,” he said.

    In fact it was Keenan who drafted Bold in 2006 when he was with the Portland Lumberjax, seeing in the Victoria, B.C. native the potential to become a special player.

    “Since then he’s grown a lot. It took a while for him to become a number one (goaltender), until he got with (the Rush), but I was pretty sure he had the makeup to be that guy.”

    All three of the championships he won this year are special to Bold, but he doesn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. Like any good goaltender his focus is squarely on the next challenge: winning an NLL title in Saskatchewan.

    “I’m really looking forward to opening night and all the fans coming out to support us. I know it’s going to be a growing situation and we all know that, so I’m just really looking forward to hopefully bringing another championship back here,” he said.

    The once-reluctant goaltender is now eager to face whatever comes his way.

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BALDREY: Paris climate change goals a long way from reality

Written by admin on 16/07/2019 Categories: 长沙夜网

There was a lot of high-fiving and celebratory handshakes when the world’s countries reached that “historic” deal last weekend to fight climate change, but the harsh truth is that the ambitious goals of the deal are going to be hard to reach.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to achieve them, but the road to success is going to be a very difficult one to navigate in the years ahead (if the world can actually agree to stay on that road).

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  • How will the Paris climate change deal affect you?

  • Canada won’t feel immediate impact from Paris climate agreement: experts

    The “Paris agreement” commits countries to keep the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 to below a further 1 C (temperatures have already risen by 1 C since the industrial age began). In practical terms, to reach that goal would mean a complete halt to all greenhouse gas emissions (from the burning of any oil, coal and gas) over the next 50 years, according to scientists.

    READ MORE: How will the Paris climate change deal affect you?

    While it may seem noble that 195 countries could actually agree on anything —; let alone a plan that may theoretically “save the world” – the lofty goals they’ve reached consensus on are not necessarily entrenched in reality (despite that, it appears much of the environmental movement seems to think the deal should have gone much further, and therefore be even more unrealistic).

    First of all, the countries agreed to “voluntarily” act to reach the new target, but there are no sanctions to be imposed on any country that throws in the towel and decides that weaning itself almost completely off of the use of oil or gas is simply too problematic a goal to strive for.

    Second, while some jurisdictions —; notably right here in B.C., home to a carbon tax —; are indeed taking steps to slow down greenhouse gas emission levels, the fact is that many are not and will not anytime soon, even with the Paris agreement.

    In the larger scheme of things, places like B.C. really don’t matter much in reaching any kind of world target. We simply aren’t a big player on the world stage (we contribute 0.1 per cent of the world’s GGEs), so even reaching the targets this government has set out may be a laudable goal, but it’s still almost irrelevant compared to the bigger problem.

    READ MORE: What you need to know about the landmark Paris climate agreement

    Unless places like China (28 per cent of the world’s emissions), the United States (16 per cent) India (six per cent), and Russia (six per cent) take drastic steps to curb their own GGEs, the accomplishments of less populated countries may count for nothing.

    But China continues to burn coal (seen any pictures of the smog in Beijing recently?) in huge amounts, and they are consuming more natural gas than ever before. Russia’s own climate plan has been criticized for still allowing a 40 per cent increase in GGEs over the next 15 years.

    And despite turning its back on the Keystone oil pipeline, the United States still remains very much wedded to its gas guzzling automobile culture.

    We can debate, in this province, whether we should indeed raise our carbon tax (as the climate leadership team advocates) or not, but the reality is we’re just a little fish in a very large pond.

    In fact, if other jurisdictions show little evidence of taking measurable, concrete steps in fighting climate change, raising the carbon tax in this province may become a non-starter for any of our politicians.

    For now, Premier Christy Clark has taken the position that any increase in the carbon tax could only occur with a corresponding reduction in some other kind of tax. NDP leader John Horgan seems to favor Alberta’s approach, which is to take any new carbon tax revenues and invest them in renewable energy sources.

    But if B.C. is seen as going it alone, I doubt either party leader will advocate a carbon tax increase as part of their next election campaign in 2017.

    Now, this skepticism doesn’t mean throwing in the towel of course. But it does mean shedding some romantic notions arising from the Paris agreement, and recognizing how tough a job keeping temperatures down is going to be.

    Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC

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Calgary police investigate violent sexual assault in downtown core

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CALGARY – Calgary police are investigating a violent sexual assault in the city’s downtown core.

Officers were called to a parkade in the 200 block of 6 Avenue S.W. at around 3:45 a.m. on Sunday by security guards. The guards had found a woman who had been severely beaten and sexually assaulted in one of the parkade stairwells.

The victim, in her 40s, was rushed to hospital with serious injuries.

“Physically, she will recover but she’s in rough shape,” said Staff Sgt. Bev Voros with the Calgary Police Service.

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It’s believed the woman met her attacker around 3 Street and 7 Avenue S.W. and agreed to go with him to meet a friend. After meeting the friend, the group dispersed, with the suspect and woman continuing to the stairwell where the woman was allegedly beaten and sexually assaulted.

“They were strangers, they had just met,” Voros said. “There was no relationship at all.”

“The victim did not ask for this, it’s not her fault. No one ever asks to be sexually assaulted.”

Police describe the first suspect as a dark-skinned man between 5’6″ and 5’8″ tall with a slim build. He was wearing a toque, a brown sweater, black jacket and blue jeans. His jacket had fur around the hood and he was wearing runners.

Officers are also hoping to speak with a second man who is considered is a person of interest. Police describe him as having a slim build. He was wearing a track suit and a red coat.

Calgary police are hoping to speak to this man, who was captured on video surveillance in the vicinity at the time of the offence.

Calgary Police Service handout

Anyone with information about this case or the persons involved is asked to call police or contact Crime Stoppers.

– With files from Doug Vaessen

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Search called off for roaming cheetah in B.C.

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VANCOUVER – Conservation officers have called off the search for a cheetah last seen roaming a highway in British Columbia’s Interior late last week.

Insp. Joe Caravetta of the Conservation Officer Service said Monday that there have been no reported sightings of the stray cat since it was originally spotted in the Kootenay region last Thursday.

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“We haven’t found the cheetah. Whether it’s at large or not, we can’t confirm,” he said.

“At this point in time we don’t feel there’s a present, immediate safety risk to the public.”

RCMP sent out a release Thursday evening that the big cat had been seen wandering along Highway 3 near Crawford Bay, about 50 kilometres northeast of Nelson in the Kootenay region.

The witness who happened upon the cheetah took several pictures of it walking along the gravel shoulder between the highway and a snow-covered field. The witness said the animal was wearing an orange coloured cloth collar.

Officials have spoken to one person of interest since the investigation began, Caravetta added, but didn’t elaborate on why they talked with that person.

WATCH: Conservation officer discusses unusual search for cheetah

“Obviously somebody brought it here, it didn’t just walk from Africa,” he said. “So who brought it, where did they have it and where is it now?”

Caravetta also stressed that conservation officers were not interested in killing the animal.

“We will not destroy this cheetah,” he said.

“We understand that these animals are threatened and endangered. The last thing we want to do is shoot a cheetah.”

Last week the province asked the Calgary Zoo to house the animal, if found, until a more permanent, licensed facility could be located.

Zoo spokeswoman Trish Exton-Parder said the Alberta facility has the proper permits and expertise to care for a cheetah and would be happy to help.

READ MORE: Cheetah on the loose in the Kootenays

B.C.’s Forests Ministry received a permit application currently under review to possess a cheetah in the Kootenay region, according to a ministry statement.

“However, ministry staff advise there is no indication or information as to whether the cheetah on the loose is or could be related to the above permit application,” the statement said.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo currently holds the only permit to possess a cheetah in B.C., said the statement.

As for the condition of the missing African cat, Caravetta couldn’t say if the animal might have died from exposure in an area where temperatures overnight Thursday reached minus 16.

B.C.’s provincial veterinarian says it would be difficult for a cheetah to survive any length of time in cold weather without food, said Caravetta.

“It doesn’t look good for it if somebody hasn’t already found it.”

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Blue Jays’ infield getting a dirt makeover

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The changes keep on coming for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Following their upgraded level of play in the 2015 season, and the recent rehaul of upper management, the infield at the Rogers Centre will also be undergoing a makeover.

According to the Blue Jays’ senior-vice president of business, Stephen R. Brooks, the Rogers Centre will be getting an all-dirt infield.

The news broke in an unexpected fashion.

London, Ont. native Andrew Goodfellow asked Brooks on 桑拿会所 when the team would be switching to a dirt surface.

Brooks then responded.

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An all-dirt surface will help make the ballpark more aesthetically-pleasing but could also have an impact on the Jays all-star infielders.

Having dirt underfoot in the infield may be easier on the body for third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Troy Tulowitzski, potentially preventing injuries. The new dirt surface could also be less painful to slide on.

The installation of the dirt infield may be one of many renovations in the next few years. The University of Guelph signed a contract with the Blue Jays in February to research different strains of grass under lighting similar to the artificial light in the Rogers Centre.

Out of all the stadiums with retractable roofs, only the Rogers Center still maintains an artificial surface.

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Spain ruling party could be out with big vote for upstarts

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MADRID — A strong showing Sunday by a pair of upstart parties in Spain’s general election upended the country’s traditional two-party system, with the ruling Popular Party winning the most votes but falling far short of a parliamentary majority and at risk of being booted from power.

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Days or weeks of negotiations may be needed to determine who will govern Spain, with the new far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos parties producing shockwaves because of strong support from voters weary of high unemployment, a seemingly endless string of official corruption cases and disgust over the country’s political status quo.

If forced out of government, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his Popular Party would become the third European victims this year of a voter backlash against austerity — following elections in Greece and Portugal seen as ballot box rebellions against unpopular tax hikes and spending cuts invoked during the eurozone’s debt crisis.

In past Spanish elections, the Popular Party and the main opposition Socialists were the established powerhouses and only needed support from tiny parties to get a majority in parliament when they didn’t win one from voters.

READ MORE: Spaniards vote in historic election

But Podemos came in a strong third place and Ciudadanos took fourth in their first election fielding national candidates — setting up a period of uncertainty as parties negotiate with each other to see which ones may be able to form a governing alliance.

“Spain is not going to be the same anymore and we are very happy,” said a jubilant Pablo Iglesias, the pony-tailed leader of Podemos.

With 99.9 percent of the vote counted, the Popular Party won 123 seats in the 350-member lower house of Parliament — far below the 186-seat majority it won four years ago after beating the Socialists in a landslide.

The Socialist Party received 90 seats, while Podemos and allies won 69 and Ciudadanos got 40.

Analysts said the outcome will make it extremely difficult for the Popular Party to form a government because it cannot get a majority of seats in parliament by allying with Ciudadanos, its most natural and closest ideological partner. Spain has never had a so called “grand coalition” that would bring the Popular Party and the Socialists together.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told cheering supporters shortly after midnight Monday that he would try to form a government but didn’t provide any details of how he might accomplish that goal.

WATCH: Spain general election voters hope for change

“This party is still the No. 1 force in Spain,” Rajoy declared.

But Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez said the result clearly shows “Spain wants a move to the left,” adding that he and his party are ready for talks that could lead to a governing accord.

The Socialists could try to team up with Podemos and Ciudadanos in a three-way “coalition of losers” similar to an electoral outcome that happened in neighboring Portugal last month. Also possible for the Socialists is a deal with Podemos plus smaller regional parties that won just a few seats each — not requiring the support of Ciudadanos.

“It looks like a Socialist government,” said Federico Santi, a London-based analyst with the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy.

“Reaching a deal between the Socialists, Ciudadanos and Podemos is not going to be straightforward. … But if the alternative is leaving the country without a government, the pressure will be on the parties.”

Podemos and Ciudadanos both gained strength by portraying the Popular Party and the Socialists as out-of-touch behemoths run by politicians who care more about maintaining their own power than citizens’ needs.

Miguel Redondo, a 19-year-old Madrid university student, said he voted for Podemos because “it’s the party that best understands the difficulties that young people are going through” in a nation where joblessness for people under 25 is more than double the country’s overall 21 percent unemployment rate.

Spain’s 36.5 million registered voters elected representatives to the lower house of parliament and to the Senate, which has less legislative power. Voting was brisk with lines outside some polling stations and voter participation of 73.2 percent, up from 68.9 percent in the 2011 election.

Francisco Herrera, a 43-year-old porter in Madrid, said he was disappointed with Rajoy’s leadership, but voted for the Popular Party because it “defends the economy and the type of government that suits us right now.”

The nation’s devastating economic crisis, non-stop corruption scandals and a separatist drive in the northeastern region of Catalonia have dominated Spanish politics over the past four years. Rajoy has boasted about his handling of the economy, done his best to skirt the corruption minefield and has vowed to halt the independence push.

READ MORE: Landmark election gives Spaniards chance to weigh in on state of nation

His administration’s biggest success has been in pulling Spain back from an economic abyss in 2012 and returning the economy to steady growth, but the jobless rate has come down slowly and salaries for people entering the workforce are 30 percent lower than they were in 2008. This fueled claims by Ciudadanos and Podemos that the Socialists plunged Spain into an economic crisis and the Popular Party failed to fix the problem.

Rajoy’s party adopted unpopular austerity measures and labor and financial reforms that are credited with creating jobs but blamed for damaging the country’s social welfare system. Although Spain’s economy is now one of the fastest-growing in the 28-nation European Union, its unemployment rate is the second-highest in the EU after Greece.

Rajoy’s administration has also been hurt by his U-turn on a promise not to raise taxes and by cuts to national health care and public education. And many Spaniards are angry about what they perceive as the impunity of politicians and business leaders amid incessant corruption cases.

The question of independence for economically and politically powerful Catalonia has divided that region and soured political ties with the rest of Spain. Rajoy vows to quash what is seen as the biggest threat to Spanish unity in recent decades. Other parties favor negotiations to devolve more power to Catalonia, and Podemos wants to let Catalan separatists hold a secession referendum.

Rajoy, 60, championed conservative social policies, siding with the Roman Catholic Church against abortion. But he raised questions about his future as the Popular Party leader by including his deputy, 44-year-old Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, on campaign posters.

Sanchez, a 43-year-old former university economics professor, was unknown to most Spaniards until he was elected leader last year of the Socialists.

Iglesias, 37, and his radical left Podemos party want to break the mold of Spanish politics. Podemos, or We Can in English, was born from massive Madrid street protests in 2011 that drew mainly young Spaniards weary of corruption.

Ciudadanos, which means Citizens, has the media-savvy Albert Rivera as its leader. At 36, he is the youngest candidate, and his moderate, business-friendly policies plus a pledge to crack down on corruption attracted voters.

After casting his ballot in a Barcelona suburb, Rivera said the election marks the start of a new era — especially for young Spaniards like himself, born after the nation’s 1939-1975 dictatorship.

“Those of us who didn’t experience the first democratic transition are experiencing a second one,” Rivera said.

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