Australia charges woman with using needles to contaminate strawberries

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian court on Monday ordered a 50-year-old farm supervisor charged in a strawberry needle contamination case that sparked a major food scare to stay in custody until she next appears in court.

The strawberry industry, worth A$160 million ($116 million), was rocked in September following nearly 200 complaints of sewing needles found in strawberries and other fruits.

Several major supermarkets withdrew the fruit as shoppers abandoned purchases, forcing some growers to dump fruit amid warnings of widespread bankruptcies.

On Monday, police said they had charged the woman, identified as My Ut Trinh in court lists, with seven cases of contamination, the first charges laid in the case.

“This has probably been one of the most trying investigations that I’ve been part of,” Jon Wacker, a police official in the largest strawberry producing region of Queensland, where the crisis was first reported, told reporters.

Police said the woman was a former supervisor at a berry farm of one of the brands affected, but did not say which one.

Prosecutor Cheryl Tesch opposed bail, citing concerns of witness interference and public retribution, broadcaster ABC said.

Trinh’s legal representative withdrew a bail application, the Brisbane Magistrates’ Court told Reuters. She is to remain in custody ahead of her next appearance on Nov. 22, court officials said.

Trinh’s legal representative declined to comment to Reuters in response to Monday’s ruling.

She faces jail for up to 10 years if found guilty after the conservative government toughened sentencing in a bid to contain the crisis. Australia also criminalized hoax claims.

Wacker said police received 186 complaints of fruit contamination, 15 of which proved to be hoaxes.

Strawberry growers welcomed the charges but blamed social media for the crisis.

“It was a crisis driven by social media and the only real victims were the strawberry growers, and to some extent other Australian fruit growers and exporters,” the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said in a statement.

Queensland will set aside A$1 million ($722,400) to help farmers make it through the season, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

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Semi-trailer truck collides with stray straw bale on Highway 21: Camrose RCMP

No one was injured after a semi-trailer truck crashed into a bale of straw five kilometres south of New Serepta, Alta., on Saturday.

Camrose RCMP responded to a bale vs. semi-trailer call on Highway 21 near Township Road 492 at around 5:30 p.m.

Police said a flat-deck truck was travelling southbound on Highway 21 when it lost a straw bale. An oncoming northbound semi-trailer collided with it, police said, which caused damage to the vehicle.

No one was injured after a semi-tractor crashed into a bale of straw five kilometres south of New Serepta, Alta., on Saturday.

RCMP took the opportunity to remind drivers to secure any items they are transporting.

Camrose RCMP are looking for the owner of the flat-deck truck carrying bales in the incident. Meanwhile, police are asking drivers who were in the area or have dash cam video to contact them at 780-672-3342, or to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or online.


Teen killed in 6-vehicle crash northwest of Camrose

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Macron, Merkel defend multilaterism as Trump avoids peace forum

PARIS (Reuters) – The leaders of Germany and France called for a unified approach to fostering world peace at a forum in Paris on Sunday that was attended by dozens of heads of state and government with one notable exception: U.S. President Donald Trump.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the Paris Peace Forum, which followed a ceremony in the French capital to mark the centenary of the end of World War One, with a warning that “blinkered” nationalism was gaining ground in Europe and beyond.

Echoing comments made by Macron, she said there was a worrying readiness by some to promote self-interest and ignore ties that have underpinned peace since the end of World War Two.

“Most of the challenges today cannot be solved by one nation alone, but together. That’s why we need a common approach,” Merkel told the audience. “If isolation wasn’t the solution 100 years ago, how can it be today in such an interconnected world?”

Macron hopes the forum can lead help avoid falling into the traps of the past by promoting multilateralism. He wants it to demonstrate the power of reconciliation a century after Europe was torn apart by one of history’s bloodiest conflicts.

Leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan were among those who listened as Merkel, Macron and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutteres lauded the U.N. and institutions like it that seek multilateral solutions to global problems.

Trump, who champions a policy of ‘America first’ and has said he is proud to be a nationalist, snubbed the event. Air Force One departed Paris for Washington shortly after the peace forum opened.

Macron has repeatedly called for “collective action” to tackle crises ranging from the environment, Islamist militancy and nuclear proliferation to anti-Semitism.

“Will today be a symbol of lasting peace or a last moment of unity before the world falls into more disorder?” The French leader Macron asked the gathering. “It depends solely us.”

Earlier on Sunday, Macron led a solemn ceremony to commemorate the centenary of the armistice that brought the Great War to an end, and appeared to take aim at Trump as he warned of the perils of resurgent nationalism.

Justin Vaisse, who organized the forum, told Reuters it was not intended to mediate solutions to existing conflicts, but seek ways to create strengthen multilateral organizations.

It is designed to be held annually and bring together a mixture of politicians, foreign policy experts, non-governmental organizations and representatives of civil society, he said.

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Sri Lanka PM, 44 ex-MPs defect from party led by president ahead of election

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s new prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers have defected from the party led by President Maithripala Sirisena, splitting with the president barely two weeks after he installed Rajapaksa in office.

Sirisena dissolved parliament on Friday night and called a general election for Jan. 5 in a move that has drawn international criticism as it is likely to deepen the country’s political crisis.

An intense power struggle has erupted in Sri Lanka in the past two weeks following Sirisena’s sudden sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the appointment of former leader Rajapaksa, a pro-China strongman, in his place.

Rajapaksa and 44 former lawmakers of the Sirisena-led center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on Sunday joined Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP), a political party formed in 2016 by Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil, a former economy minister.

An SLPP source said 65 out of 82 former SLFP MPs will eventually join the new party.

Namal Rajapaksa, an ex-lawmaker and son of Rajapaksa, said the SLFP’s policies had not been pursued by Sirisena in the coalition government with the Wickremesinghe-led center-right United National Party (UNP).

“We all decided that this is the right time to join the SLPP,” he told Reuters.

The SLPP recorded a landslide victory in local polls in February after Rajapaksa backed it. He did that while remaining in the SLFP.

Sirisena’s allies have told Reuters that he wants a SLFP-led government. However, the defections will weaken Sirisena’s more than seven-decade old party, they say.

Rohana Piyadaya, the SLFP secretary general declined to comment on the defections.

Sirisena’s move to sack the parliament has drawn international criticism.

Farhan Haq, the spokesman for United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, said in a statement that Guterres has underlined the utmost importance of respecting democratic processes and institutions and resolving differences in accordance with the rule of law and due process.

“He renews his call on the Government to ensure peace and safety for all Sri Lankans and uphold its commitments to human rights, justice and reconciliation,” the spokesman said.

Sirisena previously defected from the SLFP, then led by Rajapaksa, in 2014 to join an opposition coalition that ousted Rajapaksa.

Later Sirisena rejoined the SLFP, took over its leadership and formed a national government with Wickremesinghe’s party.

However, a rift developed over policy towards China and India – Wickremesinghe has favored Indian investment as a counter to Chinese inroads in Sri Lankan infrastructure projects – and over Sirisena’s intention to contest the 2020 presidential election under Wickremesinghe’s party.

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4,000 NB Power customers in the dark as windy weather continues in New Brunswick

Roughly 4,000 NB Power customers have been left in the dark as of Sunday morning due to windy weather that has continued to whip across New Brunswick.

According to NB Power’s outage map, the outages are scattered throughout the province, with a large number of them in southern New Brunswick.

Northern New Brunswick is set to grapple with gusts of wind on Sunday that could reach speeds of 90 km/h over exposed areas and along parts of the coast, according to Environment Canada.

The wind speeds will gradually diminish below warning criteria over Sunday but will remain gusty through most of the province until at least Tuesday.

Much of New Brunswick has been issued a special weather statement by the federal agency.

Snow is set to arrive in New Brunswick on Tuesday morning before changing to rain over the course of the afternoon.

Northern New Brunswick is expected to receive the bulk of the snowfall, with amounts set to exceed 10 cm in some areas.

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'A II II 18': Franz Ferdinand's prophetic number plate

The prince was shot in his car in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, which in turn triggered a series of events leading to the First World War.

Ferdinand had survived an assassination attempt earlier that same day, escaping a bomb, but was shot when he went to visit some of the men who were injured in hospital.

He and his wife Sophia travelled in a car bearing the number plate “AIII 118”, which some have read as the date the eventual Armistice was signed.

:: Armistice Day: ‘Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn’

Pulling the digits apart differently can be interpreted as 11 11 18. The Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918.

Sky’s royal commentator Alistair Bruce tweeted: “Thinking of irony that car in which Archduke Frank Ferdinand was shot in #Sarajevo (catalyst to #1WW) bore number plate ‘A111118’ – Armistice 11 11 18 #spooky.”

However it is important to note the first digits are letters, and not numbers.

Writing for the Smithsonian Institute,Mike Dash says the date link first came to light when it was spotted by historian Brian Presland visiting the Vienna museum, where the car is on display, in 2004.

Speaking to the Daily Echo at the time, Mr Presland said: “While researching at the Vienna Military Museum, I was accompanied by one of the directors.

“I mentioned the significance of the registration number. At first he could not believe it.

“We both immediately went to another part of the museum to where the car was on display and confirmed the registration number.

“He informed me that he had worked in the museum for 20 years and was unaware of the connection.”

While in English the “A” on the plate takes on a greater significance because of the word Armistice, Mr Dash points out the same word in German is Waffenstillstand, perhaps indicating why it had not been noticed before Mr Presland spotted the connection.

Austria-Hungary also surrendered a week earlier than Germany, on 4 November 1918.

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Central American migrants resume their march toward U.S. border

QUERETARO, Mexico (Reuters) – Hundreds of Central American migrants resumed their march north through Mexico on Saturday, en route to the U.S. border where President Donald Trump has effectively suspended the granting of asylum to migrants who cross illegally.

Trump’s Friday order, which went into effect on Saturday, means that migrants will have to present themselves at U.S. ports of entry to qualify for asylum and follow other rules unveiled on Thursday that seek to limit asylum claims.

“It doesn’t matter what rules (Trump’s) government imposes we cannot go back to our countries. I have a bullet in my arm and another in my shoulder. If I go back home, it’d be better for me to go with a casket,” said 30 year-old Julio Caesar from Honduras, who declined to give his last name.

The caravan, made up mostly of Hondurans, started north again on Saturday morning following a rest of four days in Mexico City.

They carried backpacks, blankets, food, many with children in tow, and took the metro and then walked to the town of Tepotzotlan. There they were helped onto buses and trucks by authorities, who stopped traffic to ask motorists if they would take the migrants to the city of Queretaro, where a shelter was set up at a stadium.

Some of the migrants are set to arrive to the border city of Tijuana on Monday, while others later in the week to Reynosa and other border towns, according to migrant shelters.

“These (U.S.) policies leave migrants even more vulnerable, because they will be stranded in northern Mexico, with human traffickers lurking, because the Mexican government does not have the capacity to help them,” said Oscar Misael Hernandez, researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Trump made his hard-line policies toward immigration a key issue ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections. He has vowed to deploy troops at the border to stop a caravan of migrants, who say they want to seek asylum in the United States, citing violence in their own countries.

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Colombia's Cano Limon pipeline hit by new bomb attack

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s state-run oil company Ecopetrol said on Saturday it was mounting another cleanup operation after a bomb attack on the Cano Limon pipeline.

The attack is the 78th this year on the 485-mile (780-km) pipeline, which has been out of service for much of 2018 because of bombings and illegal taps.

The pipeline, which can transport up to 210,000 barrels per day, was not functioning at the time of the attack. It was also bombed on Thursday.

The latest bombing took place in Toledo municipality in Norte de Santander province, Ecopetrol said on Twitter.

The company did not say who it held responsible, but military sources have blamed previous attacks on the pipeline on fighters from the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group.

The ELN, considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, has about 1,500 combatants and opposes multinational companies that its leaders accuse of seizing natural resources without benefiting Colombians.

Colombian President Ivan Duque has demanded the group free all its hostages and cease criminal activities before he will consider restarting peace talks that began last year under his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos.

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Four UK ministers on verge of quitting, EU rejects latest plan: Sunday Times

LONDON (Reuters) – Four British ministers who back remaining in the European Union are on the verge of quitting Theresa May’s government over Brexit, the Sunday Times reported, as pressures built on the prime minister from all sides.

The newspaper also said that the European Union had rejected May’s plan for an independent mechanism to oversee Britain’s departure from any temporary customs arrangement it agrees. The newspaper sourced the development to British sources, and not sources in the EU team.

May is trying to hammer out the final details of the British divorce deal but the talks have become stuck over how the two sides can prevent a hard border from being required in Ireland.

Britain has proposed a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement with the EU to resolve the issue but Brexiteers in her party want London to have the final say on when that arrangement would end, to prevent it from being tied indefinitely to the bloc.

A senior cabinet minister was quoted in the paper as saying: “This is the moment she has to face down Brussels and make it clear to them that they need to compromise, or we will leave without a deal.”

An EU diplomat told Reuters earlier on Saturday that they were cautiously hopeful that an EU summit could happen in November to endorse the deal but that the volatile situation in Britain made it very difficult to predict.

Other EU diplomats said several issues remained unresolved.

May is expected to meet with her cabinet this week to set out her plans for the divorce deal. She was dealt a blow on Friday when junior minister Jo Johnston, who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, quit over her plan.

To add to the pressure, a leading member of a group of Brexiteer lawmakers in parliament joined with the Brexit spokesman for the small Northern Irish party that props up May’s party in government to warn that they could not vote for the deal as it currently stands.

Steve Baker, a former junior Brexit minister who resigned over May’s so-called Chequers proposals on Brexit, and Sammy Wilson of the DUP wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that they could not back a deal if it treated Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the country.

May had been expected to hold a vote in parliament on her deal before the end of the year.

A spokeswoman for May’s Downing Street office said the talks were going down to the wire. “The prime minister has always said these negotiations are tough and toughest in the final stages.

“The prime minister has told colleagues this week we should aim to conclude the withdrawal agreement as soon as possible but we will not do that at any cost.”

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Citizen group marches in Montreal for government action on climate change

Quebec celebrities, politicians and citizens joined forces in Montreal Saturday afternoon by the thousands, taking part in a march to draw attention to climate issues.

The Montreal event was one of several marches held across Quebec and organized by The Planet Goes to Parliament.

Organizers are calling on the government and all elected officials to put in place measures to address climate change and the decline in biodiversity.

The Planet Goes to Parliament describes itself as a citizen-led movement that was created on Sept. 7 in response to “the almost complete absence of climate issues in the Quebec election campaign.”

The group says now is the time to act and points to this summer’s deadly heat wave — in which several dozen people died — as a sign of things to come if climate change is allowed to go unchecked.

More specifically, organizers want the government to develop an action plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body of the United Nations tasked with assessing the science related to climate change.

The Planet Goes to Parliament is also asking the government for accountability, by publishing annual reports tracking its progress when it comes to meeting those targets.

The group is also calling for a ban on new oil and gas explorations and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.

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