Archive for August 2019

Soldier’s shooting of Palestinian sets off uproar in Israel

JERUSALEM – Amateur video appearing to show an Israeli soldier killing an already wounded Palestinian sparked uproar in Israel on Sunday, reflecting the deep divisions in the country following six months of violence.

As the Israeli military pressed on with an investigation, nationalistic politicians accused the army of abandoning the soldier, while political doves bemoaned the erosion of the nation’s morals. Palestinians, meanwhile, said the shooting proved their claims that Israel is guilty of using excessive force and carrying out extrajudicial killings.

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The shooting took place last Thursday in Hebron, the volatile West Bank city that has been a focal point of the latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The military said two Palestinians stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops shot and killed the pair.

READ MORE: US condemns Israel expanding boundary of settlement bloc in the West Bank

In a video released by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, one of the attackers appears to still be alive after the initial shooting. The video, taken by a Palestinian volunteer for the group, shows the wounded attacker lying on the ground, slowly moving his head. About a minute later, a soldier raises his rifle, cocks the weapon and fires. Blood is then seen streaming from the Palestinian’s head.

The Israeli military quickly arrested the soldier and opened an investigation into what it said appeared to be a “grave breach” of its values. A military court has ordered the soldier to remain held until Tuesday while the investigation continues.

Military officials also have cast doubt on the soldier’s claim that he believed the Palestinian was carrying explosives.

On Sunday night, B’Tselem released a second video it says shows the same soldier at the scene shaking hands with Baruch Marzel, a well-known ultranationalist, after the shooting.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said a preliminary investigation found the soldier arrived on the scene some six minutes after the initial incident, and that the second shooting occurred several minutes after that. “There was no apparent threat from the Palestinian that was incapacitated,” Lerner said.

READ MORE: Kerry’s ‘one state’ comments cause consternation in Israel

He said that commanders had already reported the shooting to their superiors before the video emerged. “There was already a military police investigation. We already knew the behaviour was not in line with the code of conduct and ethics,” he said.

The Israeli media, citing military officials, quoted the soldier as saying the Palestinian “deserved to die.”

Lerner said three officers at the scene were reprimanded for not giving medical attention to the wounded Palestinian, as is required under military policy.

The sister of the soldier, who was not identified, accused the military of publicly convicting her brother, and several nationalistic lawmakers came to his defence, accusing detractors of abandoning him before he was given a fair hearing.

“Have we lost our minds? We’re at war. War against vicious terrorism,” said Naftali Bennett, leader of the hardline Jewish Home party. He said the shooting should be investigated, but criticized politicians and the media for rushing to condemn the soldier.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the right-wing opposition party Yisrael Beitenu, asked to meet the soldier in prison and accused the prime minister of looking for the support of the “bleeding hearts.”

WATCH: Israeli officer filmed overturning Palestinian’s wheelchair

Over the weekend, hundreds of people protested in support of the soldier outside the prison, and posters surfaced denouncing his critics, including the military chief and defence minister.

In a Facebook post, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon accused unnamed politicians of “a campaign of incitement” against the military leadership. “The sane elements in Israel, on the right and the left, must unite against this evil wind and stop it,” he said.

Sima Kadmon, a commentator for the Yediot Ahronot daily, criticized the social media posts defending the soldier, and also lashed out at the apparent apathy shown by soldiers in the video after the Palestinian was shot.

But she said “the most troubling thing is the politicians who rushed to the defence of the shooter, even though top military officials, who are far more familiar with the circumstances of the incident and the findings of the inquiry, have called this for what it is: murder.”

Addressing his Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the shooting was not reflective of the military’s conduct and rejected criticism of the armed forces’ morals as “outrageous and unacceptable.” But he also defended the military against its right-wing critics. “We must all support the IDF chief of staff, the IDF and our soldiers, who safeguard our security,” he said.

READ MORE: Israeli forces ‘seal shut’ home of West Bank man believed to be responsible for car attack

The shooting came amid a six-month wave of Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks that has killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. Over the same time, at least 188 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire. Israel says most were attackers, and the rest died in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Israel blames the attacks on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media. Palestinians say the violence stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli military occupation.

The Palestinians have also accused Israel of using excessive force and killing assailants who have already been stopped or wounded. A handful of amateur videos supporting the Palestinian claims have emerged in recent months, but Thursday’s killing of Palestinian Abdel-Fattah al-Sharif was perhaps the clearest so far.

“The way al-Sharif was killed is very common, but this time we had the camera to film the extra-judicial killing,” said Jamal Zakout, director of Al-Ard, a Palestinian think-tank in the West Bank town of Ramallah. He said the Palestinians could use the killing as a “good example” in their appeal for “international protection” from Israel.

Ben Caspit, a liberal commentator with the Maariv daily, said Israel must protect its “moral backbone.”

“The Israeli army is not an army that carries out extrajudicial executions,” he said. “It must not be such an army. On that day, we will know what we have lost. Unfortunately, we are not far off from that loss.”

CP Rail blocking Golden whitewater raft groups from popular run

In eight weeks, activity on the Kicking Horse River will roar to life.

The offshoot of the Columbia River is renowned for its whitewater rafting, bringing around 40,000 tourists every year.

And the most popular area to raft is the Lower Canyon route, which winds its way through treacherous terrain before ending in the town of Golden, B.C.

“They spend time in our community, they do rafting, and the Lower Canyon is the jewel,” says Golden Mayor Ron Oszust.

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But now, the Lower Canyon route – and a key part of Golden’s economy – is in jeopardy.

Canadian Pacific Rail has told six rafting companies they can no longer use loading area between the railway and the river.

“These companies will not be allowed to trespass on CP property to access the Kicking Horse River,” wrote CP spokesperson Salem Woodrow in a statement.

The decision came several months after a Transport Canada rail safety inspector noticed too many people were moving supplies across the railway tracks, and told CP Rail to come up with a solution.

For months, CP Rail and the rafting companies had talked about installing a crossing, to be paid for my the rafting companies.

But at a meeting last week, CP Rail told the community no crossing would be considered.

“It was our expectation going into the meetings was look at some specific short-term measures that would be acceptable to give time for a long-term solution to be put in place,” said Oszust.

“We were quite surprised shocked and disappointed when the CP reps stated they don’t believe there is a safe crossing at that location, and they’re not prepared to take the risk.”

Ryan Johannesen, owner of Glacier Raft Company, said a de facto ban of rafting the Lower Canyon would have a serious impact on their business.

“Between all the companies, there’s about 15,000 that would raft this section alone. Not only for the companies it means less income, it means less income for our guide, potentially fewer employees, a lot of them support families in town, so the trickle down effect would be fairly large,” he said.

“The answer of no for this crossing is something for this town, for this industry, that can’t be the final result.”

CP Rail says that after investigating the area, a safe crossing would be impossible to implement.

“Given the track curvature and sightlines, the risk to the public is too great,” wrote Woodrow.

“CP understands the frustration that the community may have regarding this issue. CP had attempted to find a solution that would allow rafters to cross safely and legally, but unfortunately there is no solution that will meet CP’s legal, risk and regulatory requirements.”

Johannesen, who says there has never been an accident in the industry’s 40 years of operation in the area, believes that’s not the case.

“They said putting a crossing n there wouldn’t meet Transport Canada guidelines, but we’ve spoken with Transport Canada, and they say a solution can be reached. It just feels like CP doesn’t want to work with us on this one.”

CP will meet with the companies again this week, as the town of Golden rallies around an industry they hope can continue unabated this year.

“They safely commercially raft some of the most dangerous whitewater rafting in the province. They’ve been doing that for 40 years, they’ve been getting people to do the river and down the river, and there’s never been an injury or accident at the railroad crossing,” said Oszust.

“Our interpretation was this is the final comment and stance [CP] was taking. As a community that’s not acceptable.”

‘You just have to start’: Edmonton woman shares her 147-pound weight-loss journey

It’s not easy to be candid about your weight. It’s also not easy to overhaul your eating habits and start working out. However, an Edmonton mother did all those things.

After losing 147 pounds, Shannon Mozak is sharing her story in hopes of inspiring others.

It wasn’t an easy start for Mozak, who at 335 pounds, was obese.

“I had four small kids at home and I wasn’t keeping up with the kids,” she said.

The fear of not living to see them grow up pushed her to step foot in a gym.

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    “In the beginning, when I was coming to the gym, everything hurt all the time,” Mozak said.

    She started taking group classes five times a week, but a year passed and she wasn’t seeing the results she wanted, so she asked for help. That’s when personal trainer Shauna Walton stepped in.

    “Her transformation was all emotional from the start,” Walton said. “All I needed her to do was break down.”

    “We sat in the back room and cried for two hours together and I think that was our big ‘ta-da’ moment. I knew Shannon was prepared to change and she knew she was ready to change.”

    READ MORE: N.S. man loses half his body weight, now hoping to inspire others 

    Walton asked her to do three things: drink more water, be open with her husband about how she was feeling, and write down everything she ate. That helped Mozak change her diet and her workout plan. One year later?

    “I feel like a night-and-day difference,” Mozak said. “Kind of like I woke up.”

    She’s lighter and stronger and it’s changed her life.

    “I can keep up with my kids,” Mozak said. “I wake up and can’t wait to come to the gym. I have energy.”

    READ MORE: What to eat before and after a workout to fuel your body 

    Her trainer calls her an inspiration.

    “People see Shannon around the gym and they know where she came from,” Walton said. “It’s really inspirational to see that eating healthy and exercising every single day, you get results.”

    “Some days, it had nothing to do with the exercises we were doing; it had everything to do with attitude.”

    Mozak admits it takes hard work to maintain her progress but she doesn’t want others to be discouraged from taking that first step.

    “You don’t have to wait to be ready,” Mozak said. “You just have to start.”

    Follow @Emily_Mertz

UBC release of uncensored information an ‘honest mistake’: report

VANCOUVER – The release of uncensored details about the departure of a former University of British Columbia president was an honest mistake, says a new report.

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Former B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis reviewed the university’s conduct and policies after hidden attachments containing uncensored personal details about Arvind Gupta’s abrupt resignation were released to the public in January.

The review determined that the attachments were left in because a step was missed when the documents were processed.

“The incident occurred because of a simple mistake,” the report said.

“The disclosure was an accidental result of UBC’s good-faith attempt to be open and transparent.”

The report noted that the university has made changes in the wake of the incident on how it releases information, including implementing a checklist for access to information requests, revamping how embedded information is removed from documents and requiring a second staff member to check releases containing sensitive information.

Extended interview: Ex-UBC president Gupta talks about his departure

Loukidelis recommended the school take extra care when preparing documents to be released online and look at whether additional resources are needed in the department that handles access to information requests.

The university responded to the report with a statement saying they accept the findings and have passed the report on to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for review.

The statement also said the school will devote more staff resources to handle access to information requests.

UBC released 861 pages of documents in response to a series of Access to Information requests after Gupta abruptly relinquished his post last August.

Included were meeting agendas, receipts, emails and an agreement dated Aug. 6, 2015 that shows UBC agreed to top-up Gupta’s $446,750 salary until Jan. 31, 2016, and that he would be given a year’s leave of absence from Feb. 1, 2015 to Jan. 31, 2017, plus a $130,000 research grant.

Also included were emails showing UBC board of governors chair John Montalbano wanted to have a “confidential discussion, not captured on email” with Gupta just days before board members received notice about a meeting where they would discuss the president’s resignation.

Montalbano himself stepped down last October after an investigation into a professor’s claims that she was intimidated after writing a blog post suggesting Gupta lost a “masculinity contest” with the school’s leadership.

But the documents did not reveal why Gupta left the position one year into a five year term.

The former president said in a statement that the documents were a “one-sided representation” of what happened in the months before he left.

7-year-old Penticton girl celebrates being cancer-free

PENTICTON – It’s 7-year-old Myla Ganzeveld’s favourite day and this year, Easter Sunday is a little extra special for the Penticton girl.

“Because I’m out of the hospital,” says Myla. “Last year I had to be in the hospital for Easter.”

She was in hospital, battling cancer.

“It was terrifying,” says her mother Jennifer Ganzeveld.

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Jennifer says it was about a year and a half ago that Myla was misdiagnosed with an earache that kept getting worse. After four months, her pain became unbearable. That’s when doctors discovered she had a tumour.

“By February 6, [2015], they diagnosed her with Rhabdomyosarcoma,” says Jennifer.

“It’s a very aggressive form of cancer so they started chemo three days after her diagnosis.”

The active kindergartener, who loved gymnastics, had to go back and forth to hospitals in the Okanagan, the Lower Mainland and Seattle for almost a year.

“I had to go to a lot of different places to have the cancer go away,” says Myla.

It was a difficult time for the entire family, and Myla lost a significant amount of weight and much of her energy.

“It was to the point where the tumour was pushing on to her eardrum and down on to her throat and closing her airway,” says Jennifer.

Then a few months ago, the family got some great news.

“We had three month scans and it showed there is no evidence of disease so we are super happy,” says Jennifer.

After a long, hard fight, Myla is cancer-free.

“I’m happy now that it’s done,” says Myla.

Which means she can get back to being her active self. This year, for the first time she tested her skills on the ski hill and the ice rink. But what she’s looking forward to most is her upcoming trip to Disney World.

“I’m so excited…I can’t wait to meet Belle at Disney World,” says Myla.

The children’s wish foundation is granting Myla’s wish. As the excitement builds for what’s ahead for the now healthy girl, she takes time to reflect on her challenging year and wants to give some advice to any other child who is battling cancer.

“Stay strong like I did,” says Myla.