15 killed after gunmen open fire on protesters in Baghdad

At least 15 people have been killed and around 60 others wounded after gunmen opened fire on protesters in Baghdad, Iraqi security and medical officials have said.

Protesters fearing for their lives ran from Khilani Square to nearby Tahrir Square and mosques to take cover.

Security sources said they could not identify the gunmen and no group has claimed responsibility.

The attack came as anti-government demonstrators occupied parts of Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahar bridges in a stand-off with security forces.

All the bridges lead to or near the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.

“We are under live fire now with electric power cut, the wounded and martyrs are here and the bullets were fired in Sinak Bridge,” one protester told Reuters.

The attack on Friday came a day after a series of suspicious stabbing incidents targeting protesters left at least 13 wounded in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Iraq’s protest movement.

Those attacks, carried out by unknown perpetrators, occurred as demonstrators supporting political parties and Iran-backed militias withdrew from the square.

At least 400 protesters and a dozen members of the security forces have died since the uprising started on 1 October, with thousands of Iraqis taking to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shia southern Iraq.

The protesters are calling for an end to corruption, poor services, lack of jobs and the political system that was imposed after the 2003 US invasion.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s top Shia Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani has said a new prime minister must be chosen without foreign interference in an apparent nod to Iranian influence.

It comes a week after Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, said he would resign over the protests.

In his Friday sermon in the city of Kerbala, Mr al Sistani said “we hope a new head of government and its members will be chosen within the constitutional deadline” of 15 days since Mr Mahdi’s resignation was formalised in parliament on Sunday.

“It must also take place without any foreign interference,” he added.

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Rockets Hit 2 Iraqi Air Bases Where U.S. Forces Stationed

Rockets have been fired at two Iraqi air bases this week where American military forces are stationed, a U.S. official said on Friday night.

The attacks, on the Al Asad base on Tuesday and Balad on Thursday were believed to be the work of militants with ties to Iran, according to the official, who was granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

Seven rockets struck the perimeter of the Al Asad base, and five projectiles landed inside Balad. At Al Asad, the Iraqi army later found a truck rigged to fire rockets with seven empty tubes and eight unfired projectiles.

No personnel were injured in any of the attacks, nor was there significant damage to facilities, the official said. Still, there were several particularly troubling aspects of these attacks such as that they followed eight rocket attacks on or in the vicinity of other Iraqi facilities that host U.S. troops in the last five weeks, the official said.

The previously undisclosed attacks occurred during a week when Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, signaled increased concerns about Iranian aggression to the media and Congress.

Multiple credible sources indicate the Al Asad attack was likely conducted by an Iran-aligned Shia militia group. The attack featured the use of longer-range 122mm rockets launched from sophisticated, improvised rail systems, the official said. Previous attacks used shorter-range and less powerful rockets than the 122mm model, the official said.

Smuggling Munitions

The weapons in question are unguided rockets and the most recent indication that Iran in the last few weeks has been covertly sending munitions into Iraq. Al Asad is located west of Baghdad in Anbar province. Balad air base is 40 miles north of Baghdad, and the attack there remains under investigation.

Iraq has been shaken in recent weeks by widespread protests against the government that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. More than 400 people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters since Oct. 1, according to Iraq’s independent High Human Rights Commission. Iraqis, mostly from the Shiite majority population, are protesting against corruption, poor services, and wide-ranging Iranian political influence.

A new Defense Intelligence Agency report referred to Iran’s Shia-backed militia as “one of Tehran’s strongest levers of influence in Iraq.” Iran has provided financial backing for some of these groups for decades, including the Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hizballah. The U.S. official said the Kataib group was suspected to be behind the Al Asad attack.

These proxy groups “have long served as reliable partners for Tehran, including conducting attacks on U.S. military personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 using Iranian-provided munitions,” according to the DIA report.

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Referee Mark Clattenburg called time on lover as her brother died of cancer

A divorcee who had an affair with ex-Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg revealed the love rat called time on their relationship as her brother was dying of cancer – and that he got the sack from Saudi Arabia after bosses found out.

Andrea Hodgkinson, 52, got to know the controversial pundit, 44, after renting one of his flats in Newcastle in February 2017.

Mark never told her about his wife Claire or daughter, and they would meet up for monthly romps from May – exchanging X-rated messages daily while he was in Saudi Arabia.

The affair eventually ended when the story went public in December 2017.

Andrea told Daily Star Online: “One of the first things I did when I found out was say to him, ‘you should have told me you were married’.

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“I was in the northeast and one of his wife’s friends started to spread a rumour around the place that I was mentally unhinged and I’d made it all up.”

Andrea’s younger brother Damien was diagnosed with cancer back in 2016 and tragically passed away this year.

She added: “It nearly destroyed me at a time when I was already very concerned about my younger brother who I was very very close to.

“Mark knew about it, knew that we were raising money.

"In fact, he put a thousand pounds into the fund to send my brother to have immunotherapy treatment overseas.”

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Andrea, who works as a construction health and safety specialist, lost her job because “everybody was gossiping” about her at work.

Random people would also approach her on the street and scream abuse, while others demanded selfies.

On New Year’s Eve, Mark’s legal team also announced he’d be taking out an injunction – despite the story already being public.

Andrea said: “He tried to blackmail me because I wanted to leave the flat. It had a tenancy agreement, he was going to hold me to it or he was going to take me to court.

“My solicitor just kept going back, it went on until March and it cost me £10,000, there was a letter every day.”

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Clattenburg eventually backed down and sent her a text reading: “You win.”

He was appointed by the Saudi Arabian football federation in April 2018 to “educate” referees but got the sack from the £325,000-a-year post just 18 months later.

Andrea reckons his bosses sent him packing after they found about the affair.

She said: “In February or early March this year I was bombarded with tweets and DMs in Arabic which were saying I was partly the reason (for his sacking).

“Some were from journalists. I blocked and deleted them after I translated them.”

Asked if it was due to the country’s implementation of sharia law, she responded: “Yeah, I think so.

“Eventually it got through to them that we’d been seen together in Dubai when he was on one of his trips.”

Despite their history, Mark – who now works in China – bizarrely got back in touch with Andrea in May to wish her a happy birthday.

In late summer, he gave her a call and then messaged saying: “We must catch up soon.”

Andrea has cut off all contact with him and is now back at work.

She added: “I kept quiet, I didn’t say anything, I didn’t go on social media even though I was getting battered.

“I kept quiet but I thought, you know, I didn’t do anything wrong.

“And yet, I was the one who suffered.”

Daily Star Online has approached Clattenburg’s representative for comment.

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‘I lost my £193,000 inheritance – with one wrong digit on my sort code’

It is the stuff of financial nightmares. You get one digit wrong on the sort code, and send a huge amount of cash to the wrong person. They refuse to return it, and the bank washes its hands of the matter, blaming you for the mistake.

That’s what happened to Peter Teich in a case that reveals shocking lapses in Britain’s banking system. Just hours after a solicitor sent the Cambridge resident his £193,000 inheritance after the death of his 100-year-old father, it became apparent that a terrible mistake had been made.

Teich had given his correct name, address and Barclays account number in Cambridge to his solicitor – but the wrong sort code. The money went straight to another Barclays customer, also in the Cambridge area who, alarmingly, had an account with the same number as Teich, though a slightly different sort code. Worse, the person refused to return the money. Barclays knew where his £193,000 was sitting and, Teich says, knew when the recipient dishonestly began to withdraw the cash.

What is confirmation of payee?

From the end of March next year, name checks will be carried out when UK bank customers send money to other people.

The move is designed to tackle the rapidly-growing problem of bank transfer fraud. But there has been criticism of the fact that it has been delayed – it was originally set to start last summer, according to reports.

At the moment, anyone wanting to transfer money is asked for the recipient’s account name, account number and sort code. However, it’s typically the case that the bank does not check if the account name is correct.

The so-called “confirmation of payee” system that is being introduced from 31 March 2020 will mean customers can check they are paying the right person. When a customer sets up a new payment, their bank etc will be able to check the name of the person or organisation they intend to pay against the actual name held on the account.

There will be three possible outcomes. If they used the correct account name, they will receive confirmation that the details match, and can proceed with the payment.

If they used a similar name to the account holder, they will be provided with the actual name to check. They can then update the details and try again, or contact the intended recipient to check the details.

But if the customer enters the wrong name for the account holder, they will be told the details do not match and advised to contact the person they are trying to pay.

The mistaken transfer – called “misapplied funds” in banking parlance – could not have occurred if UK banks matched up sort codes and account numbers with the account holder’s name. But they do not. A recipient’s name could be given as Mickey Mouse and the bank would still process the payment, using the sort code and account number alone.

The banking industry promised that from mid-2019 name checks would be carried out when customers sent money to other people, largely to halt a rising tide of bank transfer fraud. But the timetable was delayed, and it will now not come into force until the end of March next year.

An oddity in Teich’s case is that Barclays also appeared to have identical account numbers for two different customers, both in the Cambridge area.

Teich realised the error almost immediately. His father’s estate was divided with his sister, who emailed him at noon on the day of the transfer, 26 April, to say she had received her £193,000. Teich checked his account, found nothing there, and contacted his solicitor. Only then did he discover he had given the solicitor the wrong sort code. The solicitor immediately contacted Barclays, which said the money would be restored within a week, according to Teich. But in late May, Teich received a bombshell letter from Barclays: “Due to an error on your part, the funds were applied to another customer … clearly you were mis-advised about the funds being restored to your account, and in recognition of this, I have credited your account with a small token gesture of £25.”

Barclays said it asked the person who received the cash for permission to return the money, but he refused. In a letter a few days later to Teich’s solicitor, it said: “Regrettably we have not been able to gain permission from the recipient of these funds for them to be returned to you. As there has been no error here on the part of the bank, we cannot just simply return the funds.”

No one is legally entitled to keep money that has been wrongfully credited to their account. But compelling them to return the money, particularly if it is spent, is another matter. Barclays, in common with other banks, will not even provide the name of the person who has received the cash, unless it is instructed by a court.

Some Guardian readers may recognise Teich’s surname, as his father, Mikuláš – from whom he inherited the £193,000 – was the subject of an obituary in the paper in April. Mikuláš escaped from Nazi-held Czechoslovakia in 1939, although his parents perished in the Holocaust. He later became a renowned historian of science at Cambridge.

Despite being 74 and disabled, Peter Teich was left on his own to recover his father’s £193,000. “Barclays insisted that I bear the full and sole responsibility of pursuing their own dishonest customer,” he says. He hired lawyers and went through an expensive and laborious two-stage legal process. In June, after £12,000 in legal and court fees, he got the other Barclays customer’s name. Armed with this, he then went to the high court to obtain a freezing injunction – at a cost of £34,000. Finally, after an “unnecessary, expensive and stressful process”, the court order forced the other Barclays customer to repay the cash.

“I freely acknowledge my mistake in this unhappy saga: I provided the sort code of the wrong Barclays branch. But my error fades into near insignificance when considered in the context of Barclays’ conduct,” says Teich.

The saga did not stop there. Teich asked Barclays to refund the £46,000 in legal costs he racked up simply to recover his own money. Barclays refused. Angered by the bank’s reply, Teich contacted the Guardian for help. We asked it to reconsider his case, and in an almost immediate U-turn, it has now agreed to pay all his legal fees, and has offered him £750 in compensation.

In a statement the bank said: “It is evident that on this occasion we have failed to meet the high standards that Mr Teich can expect to receive from Barclays, and for this we have offered our sincere apologies. After taking a closer look at this situation, we can confirm that Mr Teich can expect the fees he has incurred to be refunded in full with interest, together with a payment for the distress and inconvenience this matter has caused.”

Teich is jubilant he will now no longer be out of pocket. But he regrets Barclays’ behaviour. “It could have taken Barclays a few days to recover the misdirected funds, but instead they did nothing. They could have saved me and everyone else all this stress and anxiety. Had the confirmation of payee measures been in place at the time of the transfer, I would not have gone through the costly process of recovering my funds. All the same, Barclays could have done the right thing and intervened when there was still time to do so.”

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What makes Sourav Ganguly the brand that he is

‘The question that Ganguly and brands now need to consider, say experts, is that as the person responsible for maintaining order in the flock, can he be as breezy about issues of conflict?’

Sohini Das reports.

His typical insouciance was in full display when Sourav Ganguly, newly appointed chief of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), tweeted during the recent India-Bangladesh match: “Will #TeamIndia keep up the winning streak or will Bangladesh bounce back? Beat my team on @My11Circle & Win Big. Make Your Team Now!”

With that one tweet, @SGanguly99 had lit a flame on his timeline.

How could the BCCI chief endorse a brand that rivals the Board’s official partner, Dream11?

Conflict of interest screamed many, while some defended a man’s right to choose his endorsements.

Ganguly was nonchalant.

His support for the league was a personal matter and had nothing to do with his role as administrator-in-chief heading the country’s richest sports bodies, he told television reporters chasing him for a soundbyte.

For someone who has played with fire and ice, in his long cricketing tenure, Ganguly is no stranger to controversy.

His outspoken remarks about coaches and captaincy earned him as many admirers as it did, detractors.

He drew outrage and admiration for his behaviour, while he played and has continued to do so, even after he retired from the game.

His brashness and  consistent brush with controversy led to the making of a unique brand, one that did not fit the mould set by the likes of M S Dhoni and Virat Kohli.

Experts say Ganguly has managed to get the brands to play by his rules.

For instance, after his retirement, he  crafted an independent image of himself as the host of a popular Bengali game show Dadagiri.

This made him an attractive proposition for brands looking to tap into consumers in Bengal and also the diaspora.

Hence, he is the face of Senco Gold & Diamonds, a brand that was associated with a single city and community before he helped take it national.

Ganguly also endorses Essilor (lenses) and Puma, among other brands.

Brands do not love anyone who is controversial, says Indranil Das Blah, founding partner and co-chief executive of celebrity management agency Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions.

But, he adds, there is a difference between being controversial and outspoken.

“Ganguly has never really been controversial, he is outspoken and forthright in his views.

“Brands want someone who is relevant.

“As BCCI president, he is all over the news and is very relevant,” he says.

Ganguly has always been openly emotional about his attachment for the game.

For instance, he wore a 19-year-old blazer, given to him in the year 2000 as captain of the India team, on the day he officially took charge as the BCCI president.

Advertisers are drawn to such personalities, especially when they look to appeal to a younger demographic.

Ad veteran Sandeep Goyal, founder of Mogae Media, says Ganguly has been able to create a distinct identity for himself.

Brands look for characters like him as he brings his own sensibilities to the storyline.

As BCCI administrator, Ganguly is poised for greater achievements, Goyal believes.

“He could well be a candidate for chief minister tomorrow.

“I see his brand moving out of the endorsement trajectory.

“He is a more evolved and rounded brand than other Indian cricketer,” Goyal says.

Blah, too, thinks his administrative role makes Ganguly an attractive endorser.

“Nothing in the BCCI charter says that the president cannot do endorsements.

“It is an honorary position, no payments involved.

“Do not see any reason why he cannot endorse brands, especially if there is no conflict with existing BCCI brands,” Blah says.

Ganguly, however, has not really paid heed to conflict of interest issues in the past.

Be it endorsement of a rival fantasy league or holding three positions at once, president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, commentator on TV, and mentor of IPL franchise Delhi Capitals.

When BCCI’s ethics officer asked Ganguly to choose one post, the former India skipper chose to remain the president of the CAB.

The choice seems to have paid off, making him head of the most powerful administrative bodies in Indian cricket.

However, the question that Ganguly and brands now need to consider, say experts, is that as the person responsible for maintaining order in the flock, can he be as breezy about issues of conflict?

Keeping the balance will be the key to his future as a brand, they say, as Ganguly slips on his endorser robe over the BCCI blazer.

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This teenager was making $4,000 a month reposting memes on Instagram — until he got purged

Instagram is going after meme accounts — which post pictures with slogans — often created by other social-media fanatics and, on many occasions, reposted without giving credit.

On July 26, 15-year-old Ben was surprised to find he couldn’t log into five of his eight Instagram FB, +0.85% accounts. The meme curator, who goes by the pseudonym “spicymp4” and chose not to give his last name to MarketWatch, owned multiple popular comedy accounts.

One such account, @spicy.mp4, had more than 500,000 followers. Others, like @bnjee and @memeextraordinaire, each had over 20,000. “I made sure to credit everything as I used to be a content creator myself and I know the frustration of not being credited,” Ben said.

Ben wasn’t the only victim of Instagram’s latest meme-page purge. Late last month, Instagram banned more than 30 highly popular pages. The accounts, some of which have millions of followers, repost funny memes and videos.

Some meme accounts are both original and wildly popular. Grumpy Cat, who died earlier this year, was named meme of the year at the 2013 Webby awards, beating out “Gangnam Style” and “Harlem Shake.” Some social-media trackers consider Grumpy Cat to be the first viral meme. (Grumpy Cat’s account has 2.7 million followers.)

But Instagram is targeting other sites that it regards as poaching other people’s content. Meme accounts are often accused of stealing content from creators without giving proper credit. Elliot Trebele, the creator of a still-active meme page, was forced to apologize last year

Read MarketWatch’s Moneyist advice column on the etiquette and ethics of your financial affairs. This week: ‘I earn twice what my husband makes and pay all the bills, but have no idea how much money he’s saved?’

“These accounts were disabled following multiple violations of our policies, including attempted abuse of our internal processes,” an Instagram spokeswoman told MarketWatch. The alleged violations included attempts to buy and sell accounts and attempts to improperly obtain usernames.

The purge has cost some users thousands of dollars. Ben told MarketWatch his pages earned him $4,000 a month and were his only salary. He made the money through selling shoutouts: Users looking to grow their pages paid Ben to promote those pages on his account.

“I don’t have another job as Instagram paid in one week what I would get in one month of an actual job,” Ben said. He did not think it would last forever, however. Ben saved most of the money he earned from his page, but is now looking for another source of income.

“It is becoming increasingly challenging to build a business where your sole revenue comes in from third-party social-media platforms,” social media expert and commentator Kris Ruby. Compared to some, Ben was small potatoes. Ruby said some of these frivolous meme accounts could earn up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Five years ago, the idea that Instagram could be your job was unheard of. Now, it’s becoming increasingly common. Influencers and page admins like Ben can bring in thousands of dollars from ads and promotions on their pages. And if you’re as popular as reality TV star Kylie Jenner, who has 142 million followers on Instagram, you can bring in more than $1,000,000 with just one post.

The July meme page purge isn’t the first time Instagram has deleted dozens of popular comedy accounts. On Christmas day 2018, Instagram deleted some of its most popular meme pages, including @God, @SocietyFeelings, @Deep, and @ComedySlam. The founder of @ComedySlam, 17-year-old Declan Mortimer, said he made $200,000 each year with his 11-million-follower page before it was disabled.

Instagram did comment on those bans, claiming that some of the usernames were “stolen or traded.” “We do not allow people to buy, sell, or trade aspects of their account, including user names. We are consistently taking steps to disincentivize and stop this behavior, including removing accounts that violate our policies,” an Instagram spokesperson said at the time.

Like Ben, multiple banned users disputed the charge, saying they never violated Instagram’s terms. The recently deleted meme accounts are incredibly popular with their followers and drive significant traffic to Instagram’s platform.

But some people on Twitter TWTR, +0.50% are bidding a not-so-fond farewell to these pages:

Ben says these critics are simply jealous. They “would 100% take the opportunity to make thousands a month, or even a week,” he said. He and others have started a petition to get their accounts back, but Instagram has called such purges “final.”

Ben hasn’t yet decided if he will start another meme on Instagram. First, he wants to hear what he did wrong from the company. “I’ve had no explanation from Instagram at all,” he said. “I’ve reached out multiple times and not heard back from an actual person, just a bot.”

In the meantime, he’s looking looking for a new job.

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Exclusive: U.S. says drone shot down by Russian air defenses near Libyan capital

(Reuters) – The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone reported lost near Libya’s capital last month was in fact shot down by Russian air defenses and it is demanding the return of the aircraft’s wreckage, U.S. Africa Command says.

Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow’s increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya’s civil war.

Haftar has sought to take the capital Tripoli, now held by Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads Africa command, said he believed the operators of the air defenses at the time “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft when they fired on it.”

“But they certainly know who it belongs to now and they are refusing to return it. They say they don’t know where it is but I am not buying it,” Townsend told Reuters in a statement, without elaborating.

The U.S. assessment, which has not been previously disclosed, concludes that either Russian private military contractors or Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army were operating the air defenses at the time the drone was reported lost on Nov. 21, said Africa Command spokesman Air Force Colonel Christopher Karns.

Karns said the United States believed the air defense operators fired on the U.S. aircraft after “mistaking it for an opposition” drone.

An official in Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) told Reuters that Russian mercenaries appeared to be responsible.

Russian authorities deny using military contractors in any foreign military theater and say any Russian civilians who may be fighting abroad are volunteers. The LNA denies it has foreign backing.

One current and one former Russian contractor told Reuters that since September the LNA had received ground support from several hundred private military contractors from a Russian group.

Military officials linked to the GNA and Western diplomats have also confirmed the presence of Russian contractors in Libya.


Haftar, who claims to be fighting to rid Tripoli of Islamist-leaning armed groups, has received support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and, most recently, from Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials

Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the Russians’ contributions of advanced capabilities — everything from snipers to precision weaponry — could be felt on the battlefield, boosting the morale of Haftar’s forces.

“It’s giving Haftar a real technological edge,” said Wehrey, who recently returned from Libya.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in an interview with Reuters earlier this week, declined to comment directly on the drone but said he believed Russia was trying to “put their finger on the scale” in Libya’s civil war to create a situation that was advantageous to Moscow.

Townsend voiced deep concern about Russia’s growing role in the country, including how it would affect Libya’s “territorial sovereignty and AFRICOM’s counter-terrorism mission.”

“This highlights the malign influence of Russian mercenaries acting to influence the outcome of the civil war in Libya, and who are directly responsible for the recent and sharp increase in fighting, casualties and destruction around Tripoli,” Townsend said.

Mohammed Ali Abdallah, advisor for U.S. affairs in Libya’s GNA, said the U.S. drone had come down near the pro-LNA stronghold of Tarhuna, 65km (40 miles) south-east of Tripoli.

More than 1,400 Russian mercenaries were deployed with the LNA, he said.

“Only the Russians have that ability – and they were operating where it happened,” Abdallah said, in written comments sent to Reuters.

“It’s our understanding that Haftar was asked by his Russian partners to claim responsibility, despite not having the capability or equipment to shoot down a US drone.”

More than 200 civilians have been killed and more than 128,000 displaced in the fighting since April, according to U.N. figures. 

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Over $240K raised for charity during 770 CHQR’s annual Pledge Day radiothon

Over $240,000 was raised during Global News Radio 770 CHQR’s annual Pledge Day radiothon on Friday.

The money raised goes to the Calgary Children’s Foundation which helps out small children’s charities in the Calgary area.

“For us to hit this, and to be able to get people to donate, there’s a real undercurrent of generosity in this city,” said foundation chair John Vos.

The 13-hour radiothon happens on the first Friday of December each year.

The 2019 event featured appearances from Calgary’s mayor, the police chief, Calgary Stampeders alumni and local businesses.

“We have really found our way in being big and helping the small,” Vos said. “There’s so many small initiatives and charities in the city and they don’t have the wherewithal — they don’t have the ability to raise money or funds, so we’ve stepped into that gap.”

In 2019, the foundation granted funds to 30 children’s charities, with grants ranging from $1,000 to $20,000.

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Federal workers could win parental leave in space force swap

US Space Command to launch amid Trump’s Space Force push

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) on how the Trump administration is moving closer to launching a military branch that focuses on space.

WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill leaders are nearing agreement in negotiations on an annual defense policy bill that would extend 12 weeks of paid parental leave to federal workers, both military and civilian, in exchange for establishing President Donald Trump's space force initiative.

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The agreement would trade a major expansion of benefits to federal workers for a legacy initiative of Trump's. Federal workers currently can take unpaid leave.


Democratic and GOP aides confirmed the developments. The agreement is not finalized and comes after extensive behind-the-scenes battling on the annual defense measure, which has passed Congress every year since the Kennedy administration. Further details were not available.

The parental leave provision is a victory for federal workers, who would face benefit cuts under Trump's budget submissions. Those cuts have always been ignored by Congress, though pension changes were approved under GOP control of the House. The parental leave issue was a priority for Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who weighed in forcefully this week.


Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, said Friday that such a provision would “mark a HUGE step forward towards making paid leave a reality for all Americans."

Numerous details regarding the space force program remain to be worked out and funding for the program would be delivered through separate spending legislation that's also taking shape behind the scenes.

The aides requested anonymity because the agreement is not finalized.

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Subdivision plans for North Vancouver waterfront delayed, developer says

A B.C. property developer says it has run into a maze of red tape in trying to transform a waterfront property on the North Shore.

Wesbild owns a 27-acre property in North Vancouver located between Lonsdale Quay and the Lions Gate Bridge.

In 2018, the company applied to subdivide the land.

“On the district website it says that it will take four to six weeks,” said Wesbild VP of real estate Steve Forrest.

“It’s now been 15 months and we haven’t received an answer yet.”

Forrest says Wesbild’s plan would open the site to a number of new businesses in an area where there is less than a one per cent vacancy rate for industrial space.

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