Retired Mountie headed to US prison for smuggling narwhal tusks

first_imgBANGOR, Maine – A retired Mountie accused of smuggling narwhal tusks was sentenced Wednesday to five years and two months in a U.S. prison for related money-laundering counts.Gregory Logan, 60, of Saint John, N.B., smuggled about 300 tusks valued at US$1.5 million to US$3 million into Maine in false compartments in his vehicle, U.S. prosecutors said. They were shipped from a post office box in Ellsworth, Maine, to buyers across the U.S.Narwhals, protected in the United States and Canada, are known for their spiral tusks that can grow longer than eight feet and are valued for their use in carvings and jewelry-making.According to the indictment, Logan was working as a Mountie when he began bringing narwhal tusks across the border into the U.S. in 2000. He retired from the police force in 2003.Prosecutors said he asked his U.S. co-conspirators what they wanted in terms of size and quantity, and then contacted “Inuit co-operatives” in the Canadian north for the tusks.“Unlawful wildlife trade like this undermines efforts by federal, state, and foreign governments to protect and restore populations of species like the narwhal, a majestic creature of the sea,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.Logan was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock on money-laundering and conspiracy counts to which he pleaded guilty under an agreement in which smuggling charges were dropped.He has already served four months of home detention and paid a $350,000 fine in Canada after pleading guilty to a related wildlife-smuggling crime.Logan was charged along with two U.S. residents. Andrew Zarauskas, of Union, New Jersey, was convicted and sentenced to 33 months. Charges against a Tennessee man were dismissed.Prosecutors said Logan was the “organizer of this enterprise.”“He directed and organized the way in which the tusks were smuggled and shipped as well as the ways in which the proceeds would ultimately be laundered into Canada. In sum, (Logan) was the ‘hub’ without whom the ‘spokes’ could not have succeeded in their joint criminal enterprise,” they said in court documents.Logan has spent 18 months in custody in the U.S after being extradited from Canada in March 2016. The extradition agreement with Canada limited the charges to the money-laundering counts.A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice detailed how the scheme worked:“Logan knew that his customers would re-sell the tusks for a profit and in an attempt to increase that re-sale price, Logan would occasionally provide fraudulent documentation claiming that the tusks had originally belonged to a private collector in Maine who had acquired them legally,” it said.“In addition to shipping the tusks from Maine, Logan maintained a post office box in the Ellsworth shipping store as well as an account at a bank in Bangor. Logan instructed his customers to send payment in the form of cheques to the post office box, or wire money directly to his Maine bank account.“Logan then transported the money to Canada by having the shipping store forward his mail to him in Canada, and by using an ATM card to withdraw money from his Maine bank account at Canadian ATM machines. At times, Logan also directed his customers to send funds directly to him in Canada.”last_img read more

With wind in her sails Steeltown Scrapper eyeing Ontario premiers office

first_imgST. CATHARINES, Ont. – Sitting behind a small table at the back of her campaign bus as it rumbles down the highway, Andrea Horwath ponders the winding road that has led her to the very doors of the premier’s office.If polls are even close to right, the leader of Ontario’s New Democrats has for the first time a real chance at crossing the threshold after Thursday’s provincial vote.Life, the Hamilton politician says, has prepared her for this moment.“They don’t call me the Steeltown Scrapper for nothing,” Horwath says. “As a cocktail waitress for 10 years, I know how to hold my own. I do know how to go to the mat.”She appears to have gained more confidence and mastery of the issues since the 2014 campaign, when she skewed to the right in an effort to bleed centrist Liberal votes — merely angering many long-time supporters.Some voters are concerned about Horwath’s current platform that, among other things, promises significantly more spending to end “hallway medicine,” $12-a-day childcare, as well as dental and drug coverage for most people.“I’m afraid that she’s promising all this free stuff,” said Helen Petrou, watching from across the road as Horwath visited a Toronto ice cream parlour. “Where’s she going to get the money?”It’s a question uppermost in many minds — particularly those who have come to view New Democrats as a party not to be trusted with the keys to the provincial vault.Horwath, no stranger to the criticism, makes no apologies for her platform.Unlike her Progressive Conservative rival Doug Ford, Horwath says she is at least upfront about where the money will come from: by raising taxes on the wealthiest Ontario residents and corporations.“Our vision is more balance in terms of the sharing of the prosperity,” Horwath says. “The only way you can do that is with these kinds of public policies and tax measures.”Encouraged by the polls, Horwath has been canvassing Liberal and Tory ridings, engaging the crowds, hugging babies, and picking up dogs.“She’s really developed this kind of folksy thing,” says Peter Graefe, an associate professor of political science at McMaster University. “She strikes me as someone who always tries to rein herself in because she’s not confident that she will be able to give the right answer in the moment, (but) this time she just has a bit more confidence that she’ll be able to say what’s right.”Horwath herself chalks up her evolution from four years ago to factors that include what the party is promising this go round.“There’s a sense that everything has matched up,” Horwath says. “It’s easy to talk about those things when they’re ingrained really in who I am. That’s part of the energy that I have.”The daughter of a Slovakian immigrant who became an auto worker and a French-Irish mother, Horwath did labour studies at Hamilton’s McMaster University — waitressing to make ends meet — and worked at a legal clinic. She ran unsuccessfully for federal office in 1997 before winning a seat on Hamilton council, where she served three terms.Horwath jumped to provincial politics in a byelection in 2004, becoming NDP leader in 2009. She helmed a strong showing in the 2011 election that left the NDP holding the balance of power but disappointed in 2014, resulting in a bruising leadership review. Dragging a party she says was mired in the past into the competitive present has been “quite demanding.”“I’ve been in politics for 20 years,” says the single mother of a 25-year-old son. “I haven’t had a life.”What has helped sustain her, she says, are those times she has made a positive difference in people’s lives.“It’s all of the wins if you will — w-i-n,” she says punning on her rival’s name, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne. “That helps you keep going.”Given the pressure-cooker of a campaign, Horwath for the most part retains her affability. She says she’s finally learned the “art of the nap” — something her dad was big on — and tries to ensure she gets six hours of shut-eye a night.“I just take my makeup off and go to sleep — ear plugs in so that I don’t have any distractions,” she says.When she wants to escape for a bit or needs a reality check, Horwath turns to her son or brother. Or she picks up the phone and chats with a few long-time friends.“They get the drill,” she says. “Every time I call, it’s top secret, confidential and goes nowhere.”As the polls indicate, Horwath undoubtedly has the wind in her sails.Ironically, perhaps, the electoral mood is similar to the sentiment that propelled the Liberals under former leader Dalton McGuinty to office in 2003 after eight years of Progressive Conservative government. His campaign slogan back then: “Choose Change.”Myer Siemiatycki, who teaches political science at Ryerson University, says Horwath has been able to portray herself as the change candidate.“She’s very much signalling that she hears the mood of the public that wants something different and she’s played that very effectively,” Siemiatycki says. “She’s a lot steadier in her messaging, in the signals that she’s sending, of being a trustworthy architect of change.”Had Ford’s predecessor Patrick Brown not been forced to resign on the eve of the campaign, McMaster’s Graefe says Horwath might well have found herself sidelined again. Brown had a costed platform with promises that would have played better to Wynne’s policy strengths, he says.Instead, Graefe says, Ford’s determination to run a bumper-sticker campaign based on cutting taxes and making life more affordable for the “little people” has created a popularity contest that suits Horwath.“It’s a personality campaign,” Graefe says. “It’s a populist campaign.”If the NDP does win the big prize on Thursday, voters can expect Horwath to start implementing her ambitious set of promises right away, she says.For now, though, an exhausting but exhilarating campaign has a couple more critical days, and if Horwath has any self-doubt or fear, it’s well hidden.“I do have a very positive, optimistic personality,” she says. “That’s just who I am.”last_img read more

Candidates vying to lead Assembly of First Nations call for stronger bonds

first_imgVANCOUVER – Candidates vying to lead the Assembly of First Nations are calling for stronger alliances between nations across Canada to deal with outstanding issues such as land claims.Perry Bellegarde, the incumbent at the helm of the country’s most influential advocacy group for First Nations, said legal, political and activist measures must be taken by First Nations to assert their sovereignty.“You’re going to have a heck of a time with the premier of Ontario now, so you have to look at a legal fight, no question,” Bellegarde said Tuesday about the recent election of Doug Ford in response to a question from a delegate at the annual general assembly of the Assembly of First Nations.Bellegarde said putting pressure on the federal government via the United Nations would be a way “to embarrass Canada as a nation state.”Chiefs from 634 First Nations communities are set to elect a national chief Wednesday.The other candidates running for the top job are Russ Diabo from Quebec, Sheila North of Manitoba, Miles Richardson from British Columbia and Katherine Whitecloud of Manitoba.Bellegarde, who has been accused by other candidates of being too cosy with the federal government during his leadership role since December 2014, earlier told delegates that First Nations must find ways to better their relationship with the Crown as they look to improve the social determinants of their people, including health and education.Richardson told delegates that building alliances is the only way for First Nations to create change and assert sovereignty, as was done by the Haida Nation, which occupies the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, 100 kilometres west of the northern coast of B.C.“Over the last 15 years the Crown governments have had to come forward and affirm our legislation. We led that initiative,” he said, adding he would use that experience to lead the Assembly of First Nations.“The key for us, in the AFN as a leadership role, is to define our rights and title, our treaty rights, according to our view, to build our governance institutions and our capacity to implement those and stand together.”Richardson said First Nations are dealing with a federal government that doesn’t recognize their rights or nationhood, leaving them to establish respectful nation-to-nation relationships.“If the Crown doesn’t honour existing treaties what’s the point of negotiating new ones?”“We know who we are. We need to define who we are in effective terms, in a modern way and stand up and exercise that,” he said, calling on chiefs to “throw off the oppression of the Indian Act,” which was established in 1876 to control land, resources and other aspects of First Nations life.“I’m here to tell you that is a dead end,” Richardson said, adding the “colonial” act keeps First Nations dependent on the federal government as they “continue to take crumbs off their table in our own territories.”Whitecloud told delegates nationhood begins with them taking responsibility for themselves and their own future.“Establish a new relationship,” she said. “Don’t allow (the federal government) to tell you how you can govern yourself and your people.”Diabo, from Quebec, said reforming land-claims policies requires legal action in order for First Nations to exercise their rights.He said the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which has yet to be ratified, gives First Nations the right to their traditional lands, territories and resources.“If they want to challenge us we should have political support to back up our people to exercise their rights to our land.”Diabo said the federal government’s commitment of $17 billion to Indigenous priorities in the last three budgets is “pennies to the dollar” when it comes to the needs of First Nations, which need sustainable economic development.“If I get elected, Ottawa’s not going to like it,” he said.North, of Manitoba, said she would build a more united Assembly of First Nations if elected to head the organization.“The AFN needs to become the legal advocate that our communities need right now,” she said, calling for the group to be revitalized.“We don’t need an AFN that makes deals with the government,” she said, adding the organization is currently too close to Ottawa.“It should support your decisions rather than make them for you,” she said.“We need a national chief who can sit at the table with the Liberals, without becoming one.”— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Russ Diabo’s last name.last_img read more

Provincial police say three dead two seriously injured in Port Perry Ont

first_imgPORT PERRY, Ont. – Three people were killed and two others were seriously injured in a collision northeast of Toronto, provincial police said Saturday.Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said the crash happened in the early hours of Saturday morning, when an SUV crossed into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a car in Port Perry, Ont.“The scene was absolutely devastating,” he said.The 59-year-old man driving the car and two female passengers, aged 55 and 44, were pronounced dead at the scene, Schmidt said, adding that a 41-year-old woman who was also in the car was in hospital in critical condition.He said the 68-year-old man driving the SUV is also in hospital with serious injuries.“This is an absolute tragedy,” said Schmidt. “In this case everyone was wearing their seatbelt, and so we’re investigating any factors that might have led to this collision.”Schmidt said no charges have been laid, but police are still investigating the cause of the crash.last_img read more

Calgary lights up to raise awareness about plebiscite

first_imgCALGARY (660 NEWS) – Tourism Calgary has arranged to have some Olympic landmarks light up over the next few days in hopes of raising awareness about the city’s plebiscite. In less than a week, Calgarians will be going to the polls to decide whether the city is interested in putting forth a bid for the 2026 Olympic Games. There are only two other cities in the running. Calgary’s three Olympic cauldrons will be lit for 20 minutes and 26 seconds at 8:26 pm each evening except for November 11, which is Remembrance Day. “It’s a nostalgic look back to ’88 and what that looked like in our city,” said Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady, whose looking at this as a once in a generation-type vote. “It’s very rare that we vote on something that’s yes/no and I say we’re going to chart the future for the city of Calgary.” More than 54,000 Calgarians have already cast their ballot in the advanced polls and all other eligible voters will be asked to weigh in on the decision on November 13, 2018. The move is being funded by the Calgary Hotel Association along with private donors who agreed to sponsor the lighting in hopes of encouraging votes. “The Calgary Hotel Association is pleased to demonstrate its support for the Calgary 2026 bid in such an iconic and public way,” said Richard Main, chair of the Calgary Hotel Association in a statement. “They called us and said it was an important component and we agreed but said we can’t be using any public dollars for it,” said Ady. The Calgary Tower will also be lit red and white every night between November 7 to 13 and on Vote Day, it’ll be joined by Telus Spark, Olympic Plaza, Arts Commons, Glenbow Museum, and Reconciliation Bridge.last_img read more

CF18 fighter pilot fined 2000 after pleading guilty to flying too low

first_imgThe Canadian Press COLD LAKE, Alta. — A fighter pilot has been fined $2,000 after pleading guilty at a court martial to flying his CF-18 jet too low during a training mission in which his wingman died in a crash.Capt. Christopher Mileusnic was the leader of a two-aircraft formation on Nov. 28, 2016, that was practising dropping bombs on targets near the Cold Lake weapons range in northeastern Alberta.The rules for the low altitude mission required that the aircraft have a working heads-up-display — a device that shows flight information that the pilot can read by looking forward at the canopy.According to the agreed statement of facts, the pilots were under pressure to drop all of their bombs before returning to base.Mileusnic’s heads-up-display was flickering, not showing consistent altitude information as required by flight rules.Despite the problem he continued making bomb runs with his wingman, Capt. Thomas McQueen.“During the last target run, Captain McQueen flew the target run-in at 450 feet AGL with Captain Mileusnic in a three mile trail position. While conducting the safe escape manoeuvre, Captain McQueen inadvertently flew into terrain and died instantly,” reads the statement of facts.“The actions of Captain Mileusnic during the Swift flight are in no way alleged to have contributed to the crash and death of Captain McQueen.”At Monday’s court martial Mileusnic pleaded guilty to flying an aircraft at a height less than the minimum height authorized in the circumstances.He was also charged with negligently performing a military duty imposed on him and negligently committing an act deemed dangerous to life.A military spokesman said the prosecutor decided not to proceed with the other charges following the guilty plea on the first charge.The court martial judge then accepted a joint submission by the prosecutor and defence and sentenced Mileusnic to the fine.An accident report released last April into the fatal crash suggested that McQueen was distracted and trying to see where a practice bomb had landed just before his CF-18 hit the ground.The report said flight rules have since been changed to raise the acceptable altitude for such training to more than 300 metres and to underline safety standards for low flying.“The low-level environment is an inherently hazardous and unforgiving region where only a few seconds of distraction can mean the difference between life and death,” the report said.A military publication says Mileusnic is an experienced pilot who has taken part in missions intercepting Russian Bear aircraft over the Arctic. He also once served with the Royal Air Force.last_img read more

Police say no danger to the public after arrests in Kingston Ont

first_imgThe Canadian Press KINGSTON, Ont. — The RCMP has arrested two people in what media outlets say is part of a national security investigation in Kingston, Ont.RCMP confirmed the arrests on Twitter, adding that more information will be released on Friday.Kingston police also took part in the operation and tweeted that there are no concerns for public safety.Neither police department could be reached for comment and no other details have been released.The CBC and CTV quoted unnamed officials and sources as saying the arrests are related to national security.last_img read more

Cop who arrested McArthur in 2016 accused of breaching police policy lawyer

first_imgTORONTO — A Toronto police officer involved in a 2016 arrest of serial killer Bruce McArthur is accused of breaching the force’s policy on how to handle reports of domestic violence.Sgt. Paul Gauthier’s lawyer says the disciplinary charges against his client relate to allegations that while he obtained a statement from a man complaining about McArthur, he did not record it on video as the policy requires.Lawrence Gridin says it’s also alleged Gauthier failed to take photos of the man’s injuries within 72 hours, which is another requirement. He says the injuries were documented, however.Gauthier is charged with insubordination and neglect of duty, but the allegations against him had not previously been released because the officer was not present for what was meant to be his first appearance before the police tribunal on Tuesday.Gridin has said he is confident the evidence will show his client helped identify McArthur as a serial killer and did not hamper the investigation into his crimes.The lawyer has also argued the case should be heard by a judge rather than a high-ranking officer appointed by Chief Mark Saunders. But the prosecution and the superintendent who oversaw Tuesday’s hearing said it was too early in the process to make submissions on that issue.McArthur pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of men with ties to Toronto’s gay village.He was arrested in January 2018 and shortly afterwards, the force’s professional standards unit launched an internal investigation related to the case.The review was sparked when the detective leading the probe said he came across some “concerning” information while reviewing two previous investigations into five missing men from the gay village.McArthur had been interviewed by police a few years ago in a separate, unrelated incident.The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Trudeau Goodale Sajjan visit Halifax to survey Dorian recovery efforts

first_imgHALIFAX – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and two federal cabinet ministers visited Halifax Tuesday to survey the damage caused by Dorian, the hurricane-strength post-tropical storm that slammed into the Maritimes on the weekend.Trudeau, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan met with local officials and Canadian Forces representatives at a Halifax armoury for a briefing on relief efforts.The prime minister said the federal government has closely monitored the storm’s impact throughout the region.“I’m here today to thank the first responders and all the people who’ve been working very, very hard on something that has been an ongoing effort over the past few days,” he told reporters.“I know crews have been working around the clock to restore power throughout Nova Scotia, and there’s a lot more work to do, and the federal government is here to support in any way we can.”Goodale and Sajjan later visited Herring Cove, N.S., a coastal community south of Halifax near where Dorian made landfall on Saturday night.As the storm approached the coastline, it lashed the area with driving rain and gusts reaching almost 150 kilometres per hour _ approaching the power of a Category 2 hurricane.There have been no reported injuries, but roofs were torn off and trees were snapped like twigs, pulling down power lines across a wide swath of the Maritimes.At one point, more than 500,000 electricity consumers in the region were without power, representing 80 per cent of the homes and businesses in Nova Scotia and 75 per cent in Prince Edward Island.In New Brunswick, about 80,000 homes and businesses — 20 per cent of NB Power’s customers — were left in the dark at the height of the storm.As the recovery effort entered Day 3, those numbers have dropped considerably. However, more than 100,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were still without electricity Tuesday morning, and the company said it would be Thursday before everyone is reconnected.The company says it has found about 3,700 trees on power lines that stretch across 32,000 kilometres, and repairs are being made to 300 broken or leaning utility poles.As well, about 4,500 outages across Nova Scotia represent individual customers, which means one repair will bring electricity back to only one customer.During a news conference Tuesday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said teams were working to restore power, phone and cell phone service.“I think it’s fair (to say) that all Nova Scotians have not seen a weather event like this for quite some time. The physical infrastructure damage from one end of the province to the other is unprecedented,” McNeil said. “Everyone is working to best ability to restore that power as quickly as possible, to restore telecommunications as quickly possible.”The premier assured that a post-mortem would be conducted to see what went right with the storm response and what went wrong.He said he understands the frustration of those still waiting for power to be restored. Nova Scotia Power CEO Karen Hutt said she hopes the number of customers still without power would be cut in half by Wednesday and eliminated by Thursday.A Canadian Forces representative said troops have accomplished tasks in the greater Halifax area and will now extend their mission to elsewhere in the province.Capt. Guillaume Lafrance, chief of staff, Joint Task Force Atlantic, said the 380 assigned troops will be augmented by 70 reservists from Nova Scotia, bringing the total number of troops to 450.“Our next objective is to really spread throughout Nova Scotia to help out the entirety of the province,” he said.Light armoured vehicles were spotted patrolling the streets as soldiers with chainsaws were ready to clear the streets of fallen trees. However, they were prevented from removing some trees because limbs were still tangled in power lines, which meant an electrician was needed to ensure safety.Power crews from Quebec, Ontario, Florida and Maine have been called in to help.In Halifax, experts were brought in to see how a crane that toppled at the height of the storm could be taken down safely.Many schools across Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were closed Monday, and emergency officials have been urging people to stay home for their own safety and to give cleanup crews the room they need to work.Public schools in Nova Scotia remained closed Tuesday.last_img read more

Sexual predator Shrubsall fails in bid to have US jail time reduced

first_imgMichael Tutton, The Canadian Press HALIFAX — A New York judge has dealt a setback to William Shrubsall’s bid to reduce his jail time — to the relief of a detective who ended the offender’s spree of violence against Nova Scotia women.A State Supreme Court justice ruled Monday that Niagara County prosecutors didn’t deny Shrubsall’s constitutional right to a speedy trial after he jumped bail and fled to Canada to avoid sentencing on sexual assault charges in 1996.The decision means the 48-year-old American will stand trial for bail jumping — and if convicted that would add a minimum of two years and four months to the similar sentence he’s currently serving.Shrubsall was deported to New York on Jan. 22 after he obtained a controversial release from the Parole Board of Canada based on its view he stood to serve “many more years” in American penitentiaries. Tom Martin, a former Halifax detective who helped track and arrest Shrubsall, says he’s “very pleased” that Shrubsall hasn’t had his bail-jumping charges thrown out.Martin’s investigation was instrumental in having Shrubsall designated a dangerous offender in Canada in 2001 after the American fugitive committed a series of brutal attacks against women in Halifax.The crimes Martin probed included the fracturing of one victim’s skull with a baseball bat in 1998 to the point she spent five days in a coma and almost died.“They were by far the most extreme instances of violence against women I saw in my entire career,” the veteran investigator said in an interview.Martin has called the parole board decision “absurd” because it was based partly on assumptions regarding jail time Shrubsall might face in the United States for lesser crimes.He has followed Shrubsall’s recent legal proceedings with concern.“He was saying there was an undue delay in his trial so the charges should be delayed. It’s ridiculous because he was arrested here, gave a false name and false identity and had to serve time in Canada,” said Martin.“So the delay was his own doing.”In his written decision, Justice Richard Kloch of the Niagara County Supreme Court said he refused Shrubsall’s argument because “the reason for the delay is the defendant absconding the state.”He also said the possibility of an extradition of Shrubsall to face the lesser charges in the United States was always, at best, “uncertain.”The defence lawyer had argued there was little evidence that Canada ever refused a request for Shrubsall’s extradition, and therefore New York’s district attorneys had failed in their duty to prosecute.In addition, public defender Jenelle Faso Messer said that witnesses and evidence are no longer available.Public prosecutor Caroline Wojtaszek said that initially U.S. authorities simply didn’t know where Shrubsall was after he suddenly disappeared on the third day of his sexual abuse trial, leaving a suicide note.In Canada, Shrubsall — who has changed his name to Ethan Simon Templar MacLeod — used a series of aliases as he first stalked a woman he’d met and then went on to commit brutal crimes against three others.In February 1998, he inflicted the baseball bat assault on a clerk in a Halifax waterfront store.Three months later, he beat, robbed and sexually assaulted a 19-year-old university student in a south-end Halifax driveway. And in June 1998, he choked and confined a 26-year-old woman.That came on top of his American crimes, which included beating his mother to death when he was 17 in their home in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He told the court at the time that his mother had abused him.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 2, 2019. last_img read more

Jordin Sparks To Host Divas AfterParty For VH1 Save The Music Foundation

first_imgOn Sunday, December 16th, superstar Jordin Sparks will host the official VH1 Divas after-party in Los Angeles to benefit the VH1 Save The Music Foundation.This year’s Divas, hosted by Adam Lambert, will celebrate the dance-inducing music that is the vibrant soundtrack to every major blowout bash, unforgettable party and night out on the town. VH1 is bringing together Ciara, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Jordin Sparks to pay homage to the greatest divas of dance music with performances featuring current and classic dance hits.Immediately following VH1 Divas, the official after-party will commence just steps away from live show including special guest DJs, The Dolls: Mia Moretti and Caitlin Moe. As in previous years, funds raised through exclusive ticket packages that offer premium seating to the live VH1 Divas concert and admission to the official after-party, the VH1 DIVAS DANCE PARTY, will support the Foundation’s mission to restore public school music education nationwide. Attendees at the after-party will experience a one of a kind dance party that will feature music from past and present Divas.Guests will responsibly enjoy a premium bar featuring Smirnoff’s new Kissed Caramel and Iced Cake Flavored vodka, an exquisite wine bar hosted by William Hill Estate Wines, all natural, unsweetened flavored water from HINT and HINT Fizz, and great food all in celebration of this historic evening. For tickets or more information please visit“I’m thrilled to be hosting the official after-party for VH1 Divas,” said Jordin Sparks. “With the proceeds going to benefit the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, an amazing organization that helps keep music programs in school, I know we’re going to have a great night while raising funds for a wonderful cause! I know none of us ‘divas’ would be the same had it not been for those musical programs and options in our schools.”VH1 Divas is one of televisions most-watched and beloved franchises. Premiering for the first time on VH1 in 1998, VH1 Divas instantly became synonymous with some of the most memorable live female vocal performances in television history – while raising essential funds for the VH1 Save The Music Foundation.The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education programs in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education. To date, VH1 Save The Music has provided more than $49.5 million in new musical instruments to 1,850 public schools in more than 128 school districts around the country, impacting the lives of over 2.1 million children. Get involved at and follow them on twitter @vh1savethemusic.Source:VH1 Save The Music Foundationlast_img read more

Reese Witherspoon Attends StarStudded Beat The Odds Awards

first_imgThe Children’s Defense Fund – California hosted their 22nd Annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony last week, December 6, 2012, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.The celebration honored five Los Angeles high school “stars” in recognition for their excellence in academic achievements, despite the overwhelming obstacles that stand in their way. The meaningful evening began with cocktails at 6:30pm, followed by a dinner and inspirational awards ceremony at 7:30pm.The momentous occasion was hosted by the Children’s Defense Fund President, Marian Wright Edelman, along with supporters from Hollywood’s elite community and co-chairs, Katie McGrath & J.J. Abrams, Jurnee Smollett & Josiah Bell, Carol & Frank Biondi, Ruth-Ann Huvane & Kevin Huvane, Stacey & Charles King, Liza & Conan O’Brien, Reese Witherspoon & Jim Toth, and Laura & Casey Wasserman.Celebrity guests at the event included Melissa Beoist, Alexis Bledel, Miranda Cosgrove, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Greg Grunberg, Mary McCormack, Michelle Monaghan, Holland Roden, Zoe Saldana, Elisabeth Shue, Hannah Simone and Trey Thompkins, among others.Hollywood celebrities and supporters paid tribute to five inspirational high school students who “beat the odds” in achieving success in academic performance and accomplishments, while overcoming the tremendous challenges and personal hardship present in their daily lives. After remarks from actress Michelle Monaghan, Conan O’Brien presented Richard Kent of Belmont High School his award; Reese Witherspoon presented Yahydia Iñiguez of Helen Bernstein High School in Los Angeles her award; Elisabeth Shue presented Roneisha Pugh of St. Mary’s Academy in Inglewood award; and Zoe Saldana and Trey Thompkins presented fraternal twins Jade and Jalen Woods of Frederick K.C. Price III School in Los Angeles their awards respectively.Thanks to generous support, each student honoree received a $10,000 college scholarship and other services including mentoring, internship placements, leadership and job training, general support from the Children’s Defense Fund–California, college counseling, SAT prep and a weeklong college tour provided by the Fulfillment Fund.Since its inception in 1990, the Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds program serves to identify and reward remarkable high school students who have achieved excellence in their overall academic performance, community participation and personal goals. These impressive scholars have clearly demonstrated the qualities necessary to become future leaders. The Beat the Odds program further enhances student’s leadership abilities by awarding them through support, training and the honor of recognition at this high profile event.ABOUT THE STUDENTSThe first recipient is Yahydia Iñiguez of Helen Bernstein High School in Los Angeles, California, who, at the age of 13, became homeless with her mother. Yahydia was forced to transfer schools several times. Though Yahydia had always been a focused student, the instability and constant displacement made academic success and extracurricular involvement very difficult, but Yahydia was not deterred. “While I was homeless, I felt like I had no control over anything in my life. I used every ounce of my being to keep it together and to do well in school,” says Yahydia. Despite the challenges of poverty and homelessness, Yahydia remains committed to academic success and maintains a 3.9 GPA. Though she was diagnosed with chronic asthma, Yahydia has beaten the odds as a successful three-sport student athlete in basketball, football, and track & field. Additionally, Yahydia serves her community as a member of the “Punk Rock Marthas,” a community service club that raises money and feeds the homeless through St. Francis Center in Los Angeles. She’s also the president of the Robotics Club and the Student Body President of her class. Because of her personal health challenges and those of her mother, Yahydia dreams of becoming the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college in pursuit of a degree in medicine. Yahydia hopes that her life will serve “to inspire others to succeed no matter what obstacle is placed in front of them.”The next recipient is Richard Kent of Belmont High School in Los Angeles, California. Richard was born in the small fishing village of Los Cobanos in El Salvador. At the age of twelve, Richard came to the United States to live with his English speaking father whom he barely knew and communication was a struggle. Moreover, the separation from his mother and sister with whom he was very close was extremely difficult. Though he’d had very little schooling in El Salvador, Richard was placed in a 6th grade classroom and struggled to learn the English language. Richard acknowledges, “I worked so hard every single day because I felt as if this were my opportunity to become someone in life.” Though he had to repeat the 6th grade, Richard focused on his studies, attended tutoring sessions, and had a successful academic year. When Richard’s mother, sisters, and step-father moved to the United States, the family was separated again when his mother and step-father decided to divorce. Richard’s mother left her children in the care of her ex-husband, and Richard became the primary caregiver for his younger siblings. Though caring for his sisters is a major responsibility, Richard’s college advisor reports he is “one of the top students in at Belmont High School.” Richard’s determination, work ethic, and maturity have drawn the attention of adults, peers and his community. Richard was selected to serve on Belmont High School’s “School Site Council,” and works with the faculty, staff, administrators, and parents to make the best decisions for the Belmont High community. When Richard attends college, he will be the first in his family. Richard is certain that academic achievement is the key to his future success in his life and feels very lucky “to have access to an education.”The evening’s third recipient, Roneisha Pugh of St. Mary’s Academy in Inglewood, California faced the harsh realities of both life and loss at an early age. As a newborn, Roneisha was placed in the care of a grandfather who cared for her for three years until he met an untimely death due to complications from AIDS. Roneisha and her brothers were sent to live with an aunt who cared for her until 2007 when she lost her life to cancer. Though Roneisha enjoyed a close and loving relationship with her aunt, she admits that the physical, mental, and emotional abuse that she and her brothers suffered at the hands of her aunt’s alcoholic husband created an unforgettably volatile living environment. Left in the care of her uncle after the passing of her aunt, Roneisha recalls the escalation of violence and abuse, and acknowledges that her life “started spiraling out of control.” With her grades slipping, her confidence shattered, and her dreams of becoming a doctor fading, Roneisha grew tired of her domestic situation and finally reached out to family for safe harbor. Now living with extended family in a loving and supportive home, Roneisha has become an exceptional role model for others in her community. Recently she won an award for completing 100+ service hours. She was also selected to be the ambassador at her school for her grade level. She is excelling academically and is resilient and insightful. Though Roneisha is proud of her decision to eliminate the violence surrounding her, she lives each day with the guilt of leaving her older brothers who chose to remain in the home with their abusive uncle. Although Roneisha worries about the toll the abuse has taken on them, she acknowledges that “getting out of that situation was the best thing that has happened to me.” Roneisha understands, “I wouldn’t have been able to protect them because I couldn’t even protect myself.” Inspired by the loss of her grandfather and aunt to incurable diseases, Roneisha’s three goals in life are “to go to college, become a doctor, and to be successful”. “Every day,” says Roneisha, “I am beating the odds and becoming one step closer to my goals.”Fraternal twins Jade and Jalen Woods of Frederick K.C. Price III School in Los Angeles, California, are the evening’s fourth and fifth recipients. At the age of 4, Jade and Jalen’s parents separated, forcing their mother to move the fragmented family to a shelter in Arizona. When they returned to California, Jade and Jalen were bounced between a mother and father who struggled to remain civil for the sake of their children. The divorce, the displacement, and the acrimony between their parents made focusing on school very difficult, but their strong faith and resilient spirits helped pull them through periods of great sadness and depression. Jade is the Chairperson for the Children’s Defense Fund-Los Angeles Youth Policy Advisory Committee. Jade and Jalen both excel in athletics, but a broken growth plate in Jalen’s knee threatened to deter his dreams of pursuing athletics in high school.Through hard work and perseverance, Jalen worked to restore his knee. To the surprise of his doctors, Jalen’s bones healed and began to grow. To date, the star athlete has earned over 45 trophies and MVP awards for basketball. Not to be outdone, his sister Jade serves as 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013 Captain of the Frederick K.C. Price School Varsity Volleyball team and is shining in her sport as well. Despite a strained relationship with their father, Jade and Jalen have relied on each other and a committed network of family and community members for support. They both maintain 4.0 grade point averages and are admired for their leadership abilities. Having lost three grandparents in short period of time, Jade and Jalen do not take life for granted. Each has crafted a plan for success that includes maintaining their current GPA’s and remaining at the top of their class. Through their trials, Jade and Jalen have learned “to no longer be the victim, but the victor!”last_img read more

Sunny Leone Birth Control Dogs Need It Too

first_imgWith an infectious smile on her face and posing with rescued dog Kaali next to the caption “Birth Control! Dogs Need It, Too. Sterilise Your Dogs and Cats”, Jism 2 and adult-entertainment star Sunny Leone appears in a brand-new ad for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India.Sunny Leone’s New PETA AdLeone – who was named the 2003 Penthouse Pet of the Year and made her Bollywood debut last year – wants her legions of adoring fans to know that the only way to fight the worldwide crisis of homeless cats and dogs is always to have companion animals sterilised. The stunning ad was shot by leading photographer Gaurav Sawn, and Leone’s hair and make-up were done by Ayesha Wadiwala.In an exclusive interview for PETA India, Leone says, “I believe that every single dog should be spayed and neutered. You don’t want to continue the cycle of homeless dogs or cats. And spaying and neutering also keeps them healthy. It prevents them from having different diseases that they can get if they are not”.In India, tens of millions of homeless dogs struggle to survive on the streets. Many of them go hungry, are injured or killed, are hit by vehicles or are abused by cruel people. Countless others are kept in animal shelters because there aren’t enough good homes for them. Every time a dog has a litter, it means fewer homes for the dogs who are languishing in animal shelters or roaming the streets. The answer is simple: always have your dog sterilised. PETA India’s homeless-dog adoption campaign encourages all prospective dog guardians always to adopt from an animal shelter or take in a homeless animal from the streets and never to buy from a breeder or a pet shop – both of which only add to the problem.Leone, who shares her home in Los Angeles with two rescued dogs, has also signed on to star in the sequel to the horror-thriller film Ragini MMS, one of the most talked about sleeper hits of 2011.For more information about the animal homelessness crisis, please visit UKlast_img read more

Jude Law And Kim Cattrall Share Their Special Places For The National

first_imgCelebrities are used to life in front of the lens but this spring stars from the world of sport, film and TV are taking a turn behind the camera to help with a National Trust initiative.Actor Jude Law, chefs The Fabulous Baker Brothers and England rugby ace Austin Healey are among those who have shared photographs of the places that mean the most to them as part of a nationwide scheme that was launched at the end of March by the National Trust to celebrate the importance of special places in people’s lives.The campaign follows research undertaken by the charity which found that 84 per cent of Brits have a favourite place they go to which positively affects their wellbeing and happiness.Photographs by the celebrities are being showcased on a new app created by the National Trust to encourage people to share their favourite place and why it means so much to them. The app will also feature places that are important to National Trust staff and volunteers and members of the public.Included on the app are well-known names such as Nell McAndrew with photographs of Ham House in London, whilst Kim Cattrall shares memories of Blickling Estate in Norfolk. Other celebrities involved include The Fabulous Baker Brothers, Tom and Henry Herbert, who chose Dyrham Park near Bath after family picnics there and its spectacular views across the South Gloucestershire countryside.Meanwhile, musician Gary Kemp – from Spandau Ballet – chose the Lake District as the special place for a perfect day after summers spent holidaying in the heart of National Trust countryside, sharing a picture of his son topping a Lakeland Fell.Top model David Gandy commented: “I wanted to share my favourite photograph of Melford Hall as I have such fond and affectionate memories here, from visiting the beautiful grounds and rooms on school trips with all my school friends to family outings. Luckily my parents live very close to Melford Hall and so we tend to visit together quite often.”“I particularly enjoy the fun event held on fireworks night, as this is when the gardens and park really come to life. Lots of people have special places that evoke happy memories so I think it’s great that the National Trust is encouraging people to share their love and give these places the importance they deserve.”According to the National Trust study, four out of five people (81 per cent) said visiting their favourite place had a bigger impact on their well-being than shopping or going to the cinema. Nearly a third of those surveyed (31 per cent) said their favourite place was where they grew up, while 30 per cent chose a recent holiday spot and one in four (25 per cent) the location of a childhood family outing.One in ten (ten per cent) are romantically-minded and admitted that their special place was where they were married and five per cent where they were proposed to. 87 per cent said their special place made them happy just thinking about it, with three quarters of those surveyed (75 per cent) revealing the place they love the most reminded them of their family.Source:PRWeb.comlast_img read more

Elisabeth Rohm Announces Exciting Therafit FootwearRed Cross Initiative

first_imgActress, author and activist Elisabeth Rohm has teamed up with women’s sneaker and sandal brand Therafit to drive funds for the American Red Cross.Video: Elisabeth Rohm on The American Red Cross & Therafit partnershipDuring the month of September, for every purchase of Therafit’s red athletic sneaker, Therafit will donate $20 to the Red Cross. Additionally, Therafit is offering a $20 discount to consumers.Through her ongoing relationship with the Red Cross, Ms. Röhm has seen first hand the good the organization has accomplished. Each year, the American Red Cross immediately responds to approximately 70,000 natural and man-made disasters in the U.S. It’s initiatives like this that make it possible for the Red Cross to fulfill its humanitarian mission.Order the shoes here.last_img read more

Kristen Bell Donates Baby Items To New Mothers

first_imgKristen Bell has donated $91,500 worth of Bravado nursing bras and Medela breast pumps to mothers in need.The announcement was made during an event for Baby Buggy earlier this week.“I understand the importance of having the essential tools necessary to provide for a newborn,” said Bell, who was unable to attend the event due to her own pregnancy. “Greater still, I am aware of the immeasurable value of having support systems in place to ensure success on this journey of motherhood. Anything I can offer in support and care to new moms in need remains a huge priority to me.”Read more here.Source:ABCNews.comlast_img read more

Steve Earle To Host Benefit Show

first_imgSteve Earle and The Dukes are hosting a benefit concert in NYC on December 14 to help raise important funds for children diagnosed with Autism.John Henry’s FriendsThis will be the first show in New York City since Steve Earle and The Dukes’ new album Terraplane.Joined by Jackson Browne, Justin Townes Earle and The Mastersons, this evening of amazing music is sure to be a memorable one.All net proceeds raised by ticket sales will be donated to the McCarton School, which provides year-round individualized instruction to children with Autism, ages 3 to 21. McCarton specializes in teaching students the academic, social and motor skills needed to lead full and productive lives as they integrate into their communities. This is a topic dear to Steve as his 5-year old son, John Henry, attends the school.For details about the event, click here.last_img read more

The Elders Demand Israel Respects International Law To Stop Further Gaza Protest

first_imgThe Elders today called on the Israeli Government to fully comply with international humanitarian law and respect the right to peaceful protest of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.Their call follows the killing of 48 demonstrators and injury of almost 7,000 others, many of them children, by the Israeli army in the past month.They warned of the danger of more casualties in the run-up to 15 May, when Palestinians mark what they call the “nakba”, or catastrophe – a day after Israel commemorates the 70th anniversary of its independence. Two-thirds of Gaza’s residents are classified by the UN as refugees, having been expelled from or fled nearby Arab towns and villages in 1947 and 1948, or else are their descendants.Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, said:“This is a sensitive – and important – anniversary for Israelis and Palestinians alike. But Israel’s heavy-handed military tactics are inflaming the situation needlessly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government should exercise the utmost restraint and care over the coming weeks, to avoid further deaths.”Mary Robinson, Elder and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, added:“International humanitarian law prohibits the use of deadly force against unarmed demonstrators. We should remember that despite Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, under international law Gaza remains occupied territory and the occupying power has a legal duty to protect its population – not endanger their lives.”Lakhdar Brahimi , Elder and former Algerian Foreign Minister, said:“Palestinians have the right to fight for their rights with all the legitimate means available to them. This includes peaceful protest; Palestinians in Gaza are just as entitled to exercise this right as Israelis in Tel Aviv or Americans in Washington.”last_img read more

Kimberly Elise Asks Kraft Heinz to Offer Families a Healthier BOCA Brand

first_imgActor Kimberly Elise (Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Manchurian Candidate) has penned a letter to the CEO of Kraft Heinz, writing as one parent to another to urge his company to offer families a healthier and more compassionate BOCA Foods by dropping dairy from the brand.Kimberly Elise Asks Kraft Heinz to Offer Families a Healthier BOCA BrandSending her powerful note, the mother of two joins a Compassion Over Killing campaign that in 2010 prompted Kraft Heinz to remove eggs from the meatless BOCA line. Though the promising step impacts the lives of millions of hens, and new vegan BOCA falafel bites recently debuted, cruel dairy remains in the majority of BOCA products.Elise writes to Kraft Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees, “I’m reaching out as a fellow parent to encourage you to make healthy, sustainable, and kinder foods accessible to families like mine everywhere by dropping dairy from your BOCA brand.”“More and more moms are choosing to forego dairy products and feed their families vegan food, but unfortunately, we can’t enjoy most of BOCA’s product line — yet,” Elise adds. “In offering a veggie burger, you’ve already recognized that consumers want less violence and more nutrition on their plates. Please, catch up with your competitors and offer a 100% vegan BOCA brand.”Once a household name, BOCA now trails behind its massively successful competitors like Beyond Meat that are already 100% vegan. As Elise points out to Hees, the soaring plant-based market is expected to reach $3.5 billion by 2024. A recent Nielsen report even found that plant-based sales are outpacing those of other foods and beverages.“Compassion Over Killing is thrilled to team up with Kimberly Elise, who is shining a spotlight on the cruelty of dairy and lighting the way for Kraft Heinz to seize a golden opportunity: serving the thousands of consumers hungry for a vegan BOCA brand,” says Laura Cascada, Director of Corporate Outreach at Compassion Over Killing.More than 46,000 people have signed COK’s petition calling on Kraft Heinz to kraft a better BOCA by ditching dairy.Time and again, investigative videos have exposed rampant animal abuse in the dairy industry, which relies on a systemic cycle of exploitation of gentle cows and their calves. As Elise puts it, the heartbreaking truth of dairy is “a reality far removed from the ‘happy’ dairy cow we see in children’s books.”last_img read more