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Cyclone Idai deaths could exceed 1,000 as need for aid grows

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BEIRA, Mozambique — As flood waters began to recede in parts of Mozambique on Friday, fears rose that the death toll could soar as bodies are revealed.

The number of deaths could be beyond the 1,000 predicted by the country’s president earlier this week, said Elhadj As Sy, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

In addition to worries about the number of dead, As Sy told The Associated Press that the humanitarian needs are great.

“They are nowhere near the scale and magnitude of the problem,” As Sy said. “And I fear we will be seeing more in the weeks and months ahead, and we should brace ourselves.”

Thousands of people were making a grim voyage toward the city of Beira, which although 90 per cent destroyed has become a centre for frantic rescue efforts throughout the region.

Some walked along roads carved away by the raging waters a week ago. Others, hundreds of them, were ferried in an extraordinary makeshift effort by local fishermen who plucked stranded people from small islands.

Helicopters set off into the rain for another day of efforts to find people clinging to rooftops and trees.

For those who reach Beira with their few remaining possessions, life is grim. Waterborne diseases are a growing concern as water and sanitation systems were largely destroyed.

“The situation is simply horrendous, there is no other way to describe it,” As Sy said after touring transit camps for the growing number of displaced. “Three thousand people who are living in a school that has 15 classrooms and six, only six, toilets. You can imagine how much we are sitting on a water and sanitation ticking bomb.”

What moved him the most was the number of children without their parents, separated in the chaos or newly orphaned.

“Yesterday (we) did a reconnaissance and we found another (inland) lake. So we are still very early in the phase of identifying what the scope of this is, for who is affected and how many are lost,” Emma Batey, co-ordinator for the consortium of Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children, told the AP.

Luckily, the area is a national park and less densely populated, she said. Still, “there were devastatingly small amounts of people.”

She estimated that another 100 people would be airlifted out on Friday: “We’re only picking up those in absolute dire need.”

No one is still clinging to roofs and trees, she said.

Pedro Matos, emergency co-ordinator for the World Food Program, said that what rescuers are seeing now is “sometimes it’s just a hut completely surrounded by water.”

“If islands are big enough, we can even see smoke coming out, meaning that they’re cooking,” he said, adding that it remains “super difficult” to estimate a death toll or even the number of missing.

For residents of Beira, life staggered on. People salvaged the metal strips of roofs that had been peeled away like the skin of a fruit. Downed trees littered the streets. And yet there were flashes of life as it used to be. White wedding dresses stood pristine behind a shop window that hadn’t shattered.

Zimbabwe was also affected by the cyclone and as roads began to clear and some basic communications were set up, a fuller picture of the extent of the damage there is beginning to emerge.

The victims are diverse: a mother buried in the same grave with her child, headmasters missing together with dozens of school students, illegal gold and diamond miners swept away by raging rivers and police officers washed away with their prisoners.

The Ministry of Information said 30 pupils, two headmasters and a teacher are missing.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Thursday that officers and prisoners were washed way.

In Mutare, fear gripped residents even though they are more than 140 kilometres (85 miles) from Chimanimani, the worst-hit part of Zimbabwe.

Maina Chisiriirwa, a city resident, said she buried her son-in-law, who had left the city to go to Chiadzwa diamond fields to mine illegally.

“There are no jobs and all he wanted was to feed his family. He was with his colleagues. They thought it would be easier to mine since the rains would keep the guards and the police away from patrolling,” Chisiriirwa said. His colleagues survived but her son-in-law was swept away, she said.

A man who travelled several kilometres (miles) to a reception centre for survivors in Chimanimani said several of his colleagues were swept away as they tried to cross a river while fleeing from a mountain known for rich gold deposits and frequented by hordes of illegal miners.

In downtown Beira, a sidewalk is Marta Ben’s new home. The 30-year-old mother of five clutched a teary child to her hip as she described the sudden horror of the storm.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said, barefoot, a cooking pot bubbling nearby. “We were not warned. Suddenly the roof flew away.”

She said she and neighbours in their home near the beach hurried their many children away but “we lost some of them.” Hers survived.

Now they claim a patch of sidewalk among others newly homeless. They beg passers-by for aid. They say they have received nothing from the government or aid groups, “not even bread.”

And yet she knows others have suffered more. She described seeing the ragged people who had been ferried by fishermen from communities outside the city. “They looked sad,” she said.

The survivors from inland Mozambique arrived by the boatload, some 50 at a time, mostly children, witnesses said.

“Some were wounded. Some were bleeding. Some had feet white like flour for being in the water for so long,” said Julia Castigo, who watched them arrive Friday morning.

The 24-year-old said the cyclone came as a surprise to her, her husband and two children. It blew away the roof, the door, the windows. Water filled the home.

She looked resigned. “We survived. We’re still here,” she said simply.

“The people didn’t even have clothes, nothing to cover them,” said Ignacio Dango, who watched them arrive on the beach. The 24-year-old boat builder said he saw sick, wounded and very young. “Like 5 years old.”

They came from Buzi, he said.

Residents of Beira muttered “Meu Dio!” (“My God” in Portuguese) as they went about the city and came across new scenes of destruction.

___

Farai Mutsaka reported from Mutare, Zimbabwe.

Cara Anna And Farai Mutsaka, The Associated Press













































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Crime up, homicide down: Five things to know about the 2018 crime statistics

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police tape

OTTAWA — New national crime data for 2018 was released Monday, courtesy of Statistics Canada, with big changes to some key indicators. Here are five things that stood out:

Crime up, but still near decades-long low

The national statistics agency says both the crime rate and its measurement of the severity of crime were up two per cent this year, the fourth straight year of increases since 2014.

StatCan cautioned the prevalence of crime and its severity remain 17 per cent lower than in 2008, reflecting a long decline in crime rates nationally. From its peak in 1991, the national crime rate declined more than 50 per cent until 2014.

The agency says the increase in the severity of crimes in 2018 was attributable to marked increases in fraud (up 13 per cent), one particular class of sexual assault (15 per cent), shoplifting (14 per cent) and theft of items worth over $5,000 (15 per cent).

Less homicide, but provinces may vary

The rate of homicides in Canada ticked down nationally by four per cent, with 15 fewer homicides in 2018 than in 2017.

But the statistics tell a different story when broken down by province. Much of the decrease in came from declines in Alberta (38 fewer) and British Columbia (30 fewer), but Ontario experienced an enormous increase in homicides — 69 more than last year.

Statistics Canada analyst Greg Moreau notes that several incidents in Toronto, including the Danforth shooting one year ago (in which two people were killed), the discovery of eight victims of serial murders, and the North York van attack (in which 10 people died) all elevated the number of homicides recorded in 2018.

The data also shows decreases in firearm-related (by eight per cent) and gang-related (by five per cent) homicides across the country, the first time they have decreased since 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Statistics Canada further notes Indigenous people continue to disproportionately be the victims of homicide. Though they make up five per cent of Canada’s population, Indigenous people were 22 per cent of homicide victims.

Sexual assault is up, and more left unreported

The rate of “Level 1” sexual assault — defined statistically as sexual assault without a weapon and without other physical harm — was up 15 per cent in 2018 over 2017. And in his article, Moreau says that rate remains “likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada.”

This is the fourth consecutive year this class of sexual assault increased, and it usually makes up around 98 per cent of all police-reported sexual-assault incidents. But since these types of crimes often go unreported, the actual incidence is likely not reflected in the statistics.

In 2014, another Statistics Canada survey estimated only five per cent of sexual assaults were reported to police.

Prince Edward Island reported an increase in sexual-assault reports by over half (55 per cent, though with the number of incidents provincewide in the dozens) while Nova Scotia (42 per cent), Yukon (20 per cent) and Ontario (18 per cent) all reported increases above the national average for 2018.

Hate crimes down from 2017 peak

After the rate of hate crimes spiked in 2017 by almost 50 per cent, there was a reduction of 13 per cent in 2018. Still, hate crimes occurred at a higher rate last year than in any other year since 2009, Statistics Canada says.

Statistics Canada notes the decline is almost completely attributable to reductions in Ontario, and the number of hate crimes against Muslims halved year-over-year.

Both violent and non-violent hate crimes decreased, and hate crimes that targeted black people and hate crimes targeting people over sexual orientation both fell by double digits. The share of hate crimes aimed at Jews also fell, by four per cent.

More fraud, more extortion

Statistics Canada notes the world of scams and extortion is increasingly moving online, with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre flagging schemes in which scammers pretend to be from the Canada Revenue Agency as well as gift-card scams.

Overall, the rate of fraud increased by 12 per cent, and sits almost 50 per cent higher than in 2008, after growing for seven years in a row. There were over 129,400 incidents of fraud reported to police in 2018, StatsCan says.

StatCan does say the increasing ease of reporting fraud online could have contributed to the higher numbers.

There was an even more dramatic increase in extortion from 2017 to 2018 — a 44-per-cent leap, Statistics Canada says. The dynamic is the same across the country, and the rate has been increasing since 2012.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

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Court dismisses challenge of deal that helps U.S. nab tax cheats in Canada

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Supreme Court

OTTAWA — A Canada-U.S. deal allowing Canadian financial institutions to send customer information to U.S. authorities to help find tax cheats does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a judge has ruled.

Federal Court of Canada Justice Anne Mactavish dismissed an appeal from two American citizens, Gwendolyn Louise Deegan and Kazia Highton, who now live in Canada and have no real ongoing connection with the United States.

The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, requires banks and other institutions in countries outside the United States to report information about accounts held by U.S. individuals, including Canadians with dual citizenship.

Deegan and Highton challenged the constitutionality of Canadian provisions implementing a 2014 agreement between the countries that makes the information-sharing possible.

They argued the provisions breach charter guarantees that prevent unreasonable seizure and ensure the equality of people under law.

Mactavish concluded in her decision released Monday that although the provisions do result in the seizure of the banking information of Americans in Canada, the affected people have only “a limited expectation of privacy” in their data.

She also ruled that the provisions do not violate the charter guarantee that every person is equal under the law without discrimination based on national origin.

Under the tax arrangements, Canadian financial institutions are legally required to provide the Canada Revenue Agency with data concerning accounts belonging to customers whose information suggests they might have American citizenship. The revenue agency then hands the information to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Nearly all countries levy income taxes based on residency, while the U.S. system is based on citizenship.

The U.S. considers all American citizens to be permanent tax residents in the United States for federal income-tax purposes, taxing the worldwide income of “specified U.S. persons” regardless of whether they live, work, or earn income in the United States.

“The result of this is that every Canadian resident who is an American citizen is subject to U.S. federal taxation on all of their income from all sources, wherever that income may be derived, even if he or she is also a Canadian citizen,” Mactavish says in her decision.

“Canada clearly found itself in an extremely difficult position as a result of the enactment of FATCA by the American government.”

U.S. law requires extensive financial and asset reporting, with the threat of significant penalties for failure to meet the obligations.

However, Mactavish notes, the U.S. government estimates that fewer than 10 per cent of all people who file American tax returns from outside the United States ultimately owe any taxes to Washington.

In addition, a tax treaty between Canada and the United States allows residents of Canada to receive credit for some taxes paid to the federal and provincial governments that would otherwise have been owed to the U.S. revenue service.

Deegan and Highton unsuccessfully argued the provisions require Canadian banks to transfer the information of potentially hundreds of thousands of people annually to the federal revenue agency in Ottawa without judicial authorization or any state oversight.

They said this amounts to “a massive fishing expedition and a seizure that offends every core precept of the citizenry’s … right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Mactavish pointed out that the Supreme Court of Canada has found that taxpayers’ privacy interest in records that may be relevant to the filing of income-tax returns is “relatively low.”

The method used to collect this information is “minimally intrusive” and the data shared with the U.S. revenue service is afforded protection under the tax treaty between the two countries, she added.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

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