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Explosion rocks Wisconsin town after natural gas main struck

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  • SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — An explosion rocked a Wisconsin community after a contractor struck a natural gas main in a downtown area filled with bars and other businesses, injuring two firefighters and a police officer, authorities said.

    Firefighters and police officers responded to a reported gas leak, and an evacuation was underway when the blast happened Tuesday, said Sun Prairie police Lt. Kevin Konopacki. He added that lives were likely saved as a result of the evacuation.

    No deaths were reported, but Konopacki said buildings would be searched in the Madison, Wisconsin, suburb of about 30,000 once the flames were out. Firefighters were still battling flames more than three hours after the explosion.

    The powerful blast around 7:15 p.m. sent a plume of smoke and flames into the air.

    Konopacki said the firefighters were taken to a hospital, while the officer was treated at the scene. He said some civilians suffered minor injuries, but none required hospitalization. He didn’t know the exact number of civilians hurt.

    WE Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns said workers for a contractor apparently punctured a 4-inch natural gas main, sending gas leaking into a building ahead of the explosion. All 12 gas lines in the area were shut off by about 9:30 p.m.

    The blast about half a block from City Hall appeared to be centred on the Barr House, a pub. Authorities evacuated a half-mile radius and set up a shelter at Sun Prairie High School.

    Steve Owen, 60, who owns Sun City Cyclery and Skates in downtown Sun Prairie, said he saw firefighters and police officers on the street and then the explosion happened. He said the building across from his shop “literally lifted up.”

    He said the force of the blast knocked him back in his chair and that he ran outside and saw a ball of fire.

    “People were scrambling,” said Owen, who lives above his shop.

    Jill Thompson, 56, who lives about two blocks from where the blast occurred, said, “It shook the whole building. I thought someone had hit the building with their vehicle. We seen the smoke immediately.”

    Todd Richmond, The Associated Press










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    Freeland says Khashoggi case not closed; but Trump says facts may never be known

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  • OTTAWA — Canada will use the upcoming G20 summit to push for answers in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says.

    Freeland said Tuesday Canada considers his murder to be very much an open case, a contrast to a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump that the facts surrounding Khashoggi’s death might just never be known.

    “Canada very much does not consider the Khashoggi affair to be closed,” Freeland said, hours after Trump released a statement that attempted to bring the controversy to a close for the U.S.

    Freeland said she expects the Khashoggi case to be an issue during the talks among leaders of the world’s 20 top economies in early December in Argentina, and says Canada will persist with its push for a transparent international investigation.

    “It is very clearly Canada’s position that those responsible for this horrendous murder must face full responsibility for it,” she said.

    “We certainly imagine that the Khashoggi murder will be an issue, which we discuss with many of the partners who we will be meeting with.”

    The kingdom is a member of the G20, and the Saudi-owned television station Al-Arabiya says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto leader, will attend the summit.

    U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that bin Salman ordered the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

    “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a written statement.

    “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”

    Regardless, Saudi Arabia remains a “steadfast” partner of the U.S. and has helped keep oil prices stable, Trump said. He also said he doesn’t want to jeopardize US$450 billion in Saudi investment in the U.S., including $110 billion to buy American-made military hardware.

    Trump said the U.S. has already sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals under its Magnitsky Act, and isn’t planning any further action.

    Freeland, meanwhile, has said Canada is contemplating similar sanctions, but she gave no indication why that has yet to happen or what is taking so long.

    A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations, said any decision on sanctions will be made by federal cabinet, and will be part of a larger process that will see Canada working in co-ordination with its allies.

    The process includes a consideration of sanctions, a co-ordinated push for an international investigation and an assessment of the Turkish recording of Khashoggi’s death, the official said.

    Freeland has not heard the recording, but has been briefed on its contents by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who travelled to Turkey to hear it, said the official.

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press



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    Ride-hailing group says B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry

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  • VANCOUVER — A coalition of businesses and interest groups advocating for ride-hailing in British Columbia says legislation introduced yesterday will just create an expanded taxi industry, not the ride-hailing services that customers expect.

    Ian Tostenson of Ridesharing Now for BC says members are “bewildered” that the future of ride-hailing in the province remains uncertain and the government hasn’t committed to a start date for the service.

    Tostenson, who also represents the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, says the coalition is especially concerned that the Passenger Transportation Board would have power to limit the number of drivers on the road, where they can drive, and also set rates.

    He says the organization was expecting to see legislation that more closely matched the customer-driven supply and demand model that exists in other jurisdictions.

    Tim Burr of ride-hailing company Lyft says the company sees legislation introduced Monday as a “procedural step forward” but the regulation and rule-making process will come next.

    He says the company is used to rolling up its sleeves to work with legislators and regulators in many jurisdictions and remains committed to working with the B.C. government to bring the service to the province.

    The Canadian Press


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