Man jailed again for molesting young step-granddaughter a second time

SINGAPORE – A man who had been jailed once before for molesting his young step-granddaughter outraged her modesty again just months after his release.

On Thursday (Nov 8), the cleaner, 55, who cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the girl’s identity, was sentenced to 2½ years’ jail after pleading guilty to a molestation charge. He will spend another six weeks behind bars in lieu of caning as he is over 50 years old.

The court heard that in 2014, the man was jailed for 2½ years for molesting the girl. He was released early last year.

On Oct 27 last year, the 13-year-old girl went to his flat in Lengkok Bahru in Bukit Merah at around 1pm. She planned to stay there for the weekend to be with her siblings.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Amanda Han said that the girl’s younger sister and older brother lived with the cleaner while she and her father lived somewhere else.

The teenager did not want to be alone at home while her father was working, the DPP added.

That night, she slept on a mattress in the living room. At around 3am, the cleaner went up to her and touched her inappropriately.

DPP Han told District Judge Kan Shuk Weng: “He did this for a while until he felt satisfied, then stopped and returned to his area to lie down.”

In the afternoon, the girl told her grandmother about what had happened. Later, she and her father went to the police to make a report.

As he stood in the dock on Thursday, the cleaner, who was unrepresented, pleaded for leniency. He told Judge Kan that he committed the offence as his wife was unable to “satisfy” him.

For molesting the girl, he could have been jailed for up to five years and fined. He cannot be caned as he is above 50 years old.

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Duck Boat Captain in Missouri Is Indicted in 17 Deaths

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted the captain of a duck boat that sank in July during a violent thunderstorm on a Missouri lake, killing 17 passengers, including nine from the same family.

The captain, Kenneth Scott McKee, 51, faces 17 counts of misconduct, negligence or inattention to duty by a ship’s officer resulting in death.

The indictment accused Mr. McKee of failing to adequately assess the weather conditions before the duck boat set off on a tour of Table Rock Lake in southwestern Missouri, near the tourist town of Branson. It also said that he did not immediately head for the shore once severe weather approached and that he neglected to tell passengers to put on their life vests.

“Today’s indictment alleges that the misconduct, negligence and inattention to duty by the ship’s captain caused or contributed to the loss of those lives,” Timothy Garrison, United States attorney for western Missouri, said at a news conference.

Mr. McKee’s lawyer, James R. Hobbs, said Thursday that his client would soon turn himself in.

“We received the indictment and anticipate that a not-guilty plea will soon be entered and are working with court and counsel for a self surrender and bond hearing,” Mr. Hobbs said.

The July 19 accident was one of the deadliest involving a duck boat — modeled after the amphibious trucks used in World War II to move along land and water — in United States history.

When the duck boat entered the lake, the waters were calm, but there had been numerous warnings of an approaching storm. Wind speeds picked up suddenly, increasing to more than 70 miles an hour. Fierce waves buffeted the boat, which took on water. Within minutes, the vessel had sunk. Fourteen people survived, including Mr. McKee.

The vehicles have had several fatal accidents on both water and land, including in May 1999, when 13 people were killed when a duck boat sank in Hot Springs, Ark.

After that accident, a National Transportation Safety Board report made several nonbinding recommendations, asking operators to add flotation equipment and equip the vehicles with sufficient pumping power to keep them afloat when they begin to take on too much water. The Coast Guard and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are responsible for regulating the crafts because they run on land and in water.

Ripley Entertainment, the company that operated the boats in Missouri, suspended operations on the lake after the accident. The company did not respond to a request seeking comment on Thursday.

The accident killed nine members of the Coleman family, who had traveled from Indianapolis for their annual vacation. Two family members on the boat survived. The Colemans and other victims’ relatives have filed lawsuits against Ripley Entertainment.

The Missouri Attorney General’s office has also filed a lawsuit against Ripley, claiming that the boat’s operators and owners had neglected to address decades of accumulated safety concerns related to the vessels.

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Texas Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Killing Man in Chokehold Case

The husband of a former sheriff’s deputy in Texas has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for fatally choking a man during a confrontation outside of a Denny’s restaurant near Houston last year, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Terry Bryan Thompson, 42, was convicted of murder on Monday in Harris County District Court for killing John Hernandez after putting him in a chokehold outside of the restaurant in the Crosby area in May 2017. A bystander recorded part of their confrontation on a cellphone, which shows Mr. Hernandez kicking his legs as Mr. Thompson lies on top of him, pinning him to the sidewalk while he has him in a chokehold.

Mr. Hernandez, 24, died three days later of strangulation and chest compression, a medical examiner ruled.

Mr. Thompson’s wife, Chauna Thompson, who was an off-duty sheriff’s deputy for Harris County at the time, appears on the recording pinning Mr. Hernandez’s arm to the ground. Ms. Thompson, 46, goes on trial in April on murder charges; an attorney for her did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. The couple was indicted in June 2017, not long after Mr. Hernandez died.

Ms. Thompson faces the same charge of murder. If convicted, she would face a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of life.

On Wednesday, Mr. Thompson closed his eyes and slumped briefly while standing for the jury’s announcement of the sentence, video footage from local news organizations showed.

The authorities in Harris County, which includes Houston, had faced pressure to bring charges against the couple. Protesters marched through downtown Houston demanding justice for Mr. Hernandez, a glass installer, and questioning the handling of a case that involved a law enforcement official.

Outside of the courtroom on Wednesday, the Harris County district attorney, Kim K. Ogg, said she hoped the decision would give comfort to the family of Mr. Hernandez and others who cared about him.

“There are no second-class victims in Harris County,” she said, speaking to reporters after the sentencing. “Everybody gets treated equal.”

In an interview on Thursday, Ms. Ogg said that the sentence would send a message that crimes committed against people in “historically disenfranchised” communities were dealt with fairly, even when law enforcement officials or their family members were involved.

“This verdict was a reflection of my administration’s policy and commitment to equal protection of everyone, regardless of their economic or racial status,” Ms. Ogg said.

“It is not historic,” she added. “But it is a sign that times are changing for the better.”

On Thursday, Maria Toral, Mr. Hernandez’s wife, declined to comment when reached by telephone. In court on Wednesday, Ms. Toral told the court that she visits Mr. Hernandez’s grave with their daughter, according to The Houston Chronicle. “She stands on one foot and looks up to the sky and says, ‘Look at me, Daddy, I’m a big girl now,’” Ms. Toral said, in tears.

Scot Courtney, who was Mr. Thompson’s lawyer at trial and has filed a notice to appeal, said in court on Wednesday that his client was a “good man” who “absolutely” made a bad decision, according to The Chronicle. “You need to give him a sentence that will allow him to, one day, return to his family and the responsibilities that he has taken care of,” he said.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Courtney said he had sought a two- to 20-year sentence based on a “sudden passion” argument, which suggests Mr. Thompson’s actions were spontaneous as a reaction to being hit by Mr. Hernandez first.

“Race had nothing to do with this case,” he said.

Mr. Thompson confronted Mr. Hernandez on May 28 last year at around 11:40 p.m. after pulling into the Denny’s parking lot with his children about 17 miles from downtown Houston, the authorities said. Mr. Thompson approached Mr. Hernandez, who was intoxicated and urinating outside the restaurant, which led to the fight that left Mr. Hernandez lying face-first on the sidewalk, the Harris County sheriff’s office said.

The recording, which was obtained by a lawyer for the Hernandez family, shows Ms. Thompson, who arrived in a separate car, yelling at Mr. Hernandez to stay on the ground, screaming an expletive at him and driving her right knee into his side.

“Do you want me to hit you again?” Mr. Thompson shouted at Mr. Hernandez, his arm wrapped around his neck.

As The Times reported last year, Mr. Hernandez grunted and struggled. Melissa Trammell, a Denny’s employee who was waiting on Mr. Hernandez and his wife, said she ran outside after seeing Mr. Thompson holding Mr. Hernandez against the ground. At least two people blocked view of the scene and confronted the person recording, saying such documentation was illegal.

“We begged this man, me and my manager, begged this man for him to stop,” Ms. Trammell told reporters. “He was turning purple. He was kicking for his life.”

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'The last call': Searching for missing relatives on migrant route

Tens of thousands of US-bound migrants and refugees have gone missing while crossing borders, rights groups say.

    Puebla, Mexico – Edgar Rodolfo Xon Ajanel called his mother just before he was set to cross the border from Mexico into the United States more than 10 years ago.

    The call came from Matamoros, just south of the border from Brownsville, Texas, on July 22, 2008.

    “He said he was minutes away from crossing,” Sofia Sebastiana Xon, one of Edgar’s younger sisters, told Al Jazeera.

    “That was his last call.”

    Xon was only nine years old when her brother left the family home in Chichicastenango, a mostly Indigenous Maya Kiche town in the Quiche department in Guatemala. Edgar, then 22, wanted to find work in the US to support his five younger sisters and their mother.

    Before leaving, Edgar worked as a street vendor in Chichicastenango and all over Quiche. But sometime after his father abandoned the family, he became the sole breadwinner and his earnings were not enough to feed the family.

    Edgar paid a smuggler to take him over the border but they never found out whether or not he made it into the US, Xon said, speaking softly while fidgeting with the large laminated photograph of her brother she wore around her neck.

    The photo was one of many worn by family members in Puebla this week as part of an annual caravan of Central American Mothers of Disappeared Migrants. 

    Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees have disappeared while travelling north through Mexico to the border with the US, according to human rights and migrant support groups.

    Many Central American migrants simply lose contact with their families along their northbound journey, but others are believed to have died either at the hands of organised crime groups or security forces or from dehydration or exposure to the elements, among other conditions.

    In most cases, families of the disappeared never find out what happened.

    Every year since 2004, Central American mothers and other relatives spend two weeks travelling thousands of kilometres in Mexico to search for their loved ones, raising awareness, and speaking out for radical changes in border and immigration policies. 

    This year was Xon’s second time participating in the mothers’ caravan.

    She stepped off the group’s bus in Puebla to cheers, drumming and applause from members of dozens of local activist collectives, migrant support groups, feminist and student associations, and others who arrived at a city market to hear from the women from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua searching for their loved ones.

    The caravan is organised by the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, a grassroots network coordinated in Mexico but with ties throughout Central America.

    Much of the network’s work is focused on attempting to locate migrants and refugees who have disappeared in Mexico and reunite them with their families. Sometimes they succeed. But often, they do not. 

    The movement also coordinates Puentes de Esperanza (Bridges of Hope), a project in which Mesoamerican Migrant Movement members travel the migrant trail in Mexico, find Central American migrants who have lost contact with their families, and then attempt to track down the relatives in Central America.

    This year’s caravan participants met mothers of disappeared migrants from Mauritania, Senegal, Morocco and other countries, forming global network.

    Ruben Figueroa, the movement’s coordinator for Central America and southeastern Mexico, called the meeting significant, adding that the group issued a declaration, which stated that the “process of forced displacement all over the world has obligated people to leave their place of origin, their country, and their loved ones behind”.

    ‘Just want to cry’

    The mothers of disappeared migrants from the Americas, Africa and Europe urged governments worldwide to respect international law with regard to asylum, refugees and the treatment of migrants. 

    “Nothing can stop a mother who is searching for her son or daughter. Mothers will bring down all the barriers and cover all the kilometres they need to until they arrive at the truth,” the mothers noted in the declaration.

    Siblings often do the same. Like Xon, Marcela Melchor has been searching for her sister for a decade. Her sister Izabel Melchor Ramos called home to wish their mother a Happy Mother’s Day in May 2008. It was her last call.

    “She always communicated by phone, but from public phones in Mexico,” Melchor told Al Jazeera.

    The Indigenous Maya Kiche sisters are from Ixcan, in the northern reaches of the Quiche department of Guatemala.

    A single mother, Izabel first left home to work in a garment factory near Guatemala City to support her three children, but it became unsafe.

    “There is a lot of crime. When she would leave work, she was followed and hassled,” said Melchor, wearing her sister’s photograph at the mothers caravan event Tuesday in Puebla.

    Izabel came home and then set out in January 2008 for Mexico to search for a job. She worked at a restaurant in Cancun for a while, but her last call home in May of that year was from the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico.

    At the time, Izabel’s three daughters were eight, 10 and 12 years old. She left them in her sister’s care.

    “They call me mama tia [mom-aunt]. I raised them,” said Melchor. 

    The entire family continues to search for Izabel. They found help from local associations in Ixcan, then from a Guatemala City organisation, and then from the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement.

    Melchor feels good to be with other women in similar positions on the mothers caravan, but focusing on so many stories and cases of disappeared migrants while covering more than 5,000km from home to and around Mexico and back is hard, she said.

    “Sometimes there are moments of smiles, but sometimes you just want to cry,” said Melchor.

    ‘Looking to survive’

    This year the mothers caravan overlapped with the ongoing exodus of thousands Central American migrants and refugees, in large groups also called caravans, heading north through Mexico to the US. Aware of the stories of violence and disappearances, the migrants and refugees are sticking together for safety in numbers.

    An initial wave of more than 1,000 Hondurans left their country last month, mainly fleeing violence, repression, poverty and unemployment. The group quickly grew to more than 5,000 people,

    Thousands of Central Americans, mainly Hondurans and Salvadorans, have left in subsequent caravans and are heading north behind the first group, which is currently in Mexico City. An estimated 12,000 Central Americans are making the trek north en masse in large, visible groups.

    The caravan of Central American relatives of disappeared migrants first met up with the first group of thousands of migrants and refugees in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico at the outset of the mothers caravan.

     Sofia Sebastiana Xon, sister of missing migrant, Edgar Rodolfo Xon Ajanel

    Both Melchor and Xon told Al Jazeera they felt sadness when they witnessed the size and conditions of the group and heard some of the individual stories of participants. For Xon, it reminded her of her brother Edgar and why he left a decade ago.

    “They’re looking for a way to survive,” said Xon, noting the insecurity and violence in many Central American countries.

    Asked if she wanted to add anything before the mothers caravan took off from Puebla to its next stop in Oaxaca on the way home to Central America, Xon began reeling off the basic details that could help identify her brother.

    It was clear she has had practice reciting the litany of information.

    Edgar is 1.62 metres tall. He was 22 when he went missing, so would now be 32. His last known location was Matamoros. He has birthmarks on his nose and cheek, both on the left side, Xon continued.

    “If anyone has heard of my brother, if anyone knows him,” she pleaded. “Please tell us.”

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    Employees In Nairobi Rank Affordable Housing As The Most Important Factor When Deciding Where To Live & Work

    Landmark Mercer Study

    • The study reveals six critical findings, including a disconnect between employers and employees in terms of what motivates people to move to a city and to stay there – which is vital to realizing economic opportunities and growth.
    • City leaders and infrastructure planners should incorporate the “voice of the employee” into their planning processes in order to better incorporate the human and social factors that drive residency decisions.
    • Kenya ranks affordable housing, safety and security, and air and water quality as the most important factors when deciding where to live and work

    Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and career, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (NYSE: MMC), today announced the results of an extensive study that examines the needs of workers in the world’s fastest-growing cities across four key factors – human, health, money and work.

    The study found that employees in Nairobi rank affordable housing as the most important factor when deciding where to live and work. This is followed by safety and security, air and water quality, transportation and traffic, and finally life satisfaction. “With this in mind, governments and large businesses have a role to play in making cities more attractive in meeting the top needs of employees,” says Francis Omanyala, Associate at Mercer Africa. 

    The study provides critical insight into the motivations of workers against the backdrop of fierce competition for highly-skilled talent. It also provides practical advice for companies and municipalities to help them accelerate their talent strategies and realize commercial gains.

    Entitled “People first: driving growth in emerging megacities,” the study surveyed 7,200 workers and 577 employers in 15 current and future megacities across seven countries, namely Brazil, China, India, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco and Nigeria. As defined by the United Nations[1], these 15 cities will have a combined population of 150 million people by 2030 and share strong, projected GDP.

    “There are unprecedented opportunities in growth markets, yet they come with inherent challenges. The rapid growth of next-generation cities sees them poised to leapfrog larger markets but, in order to do so, they need to attract and keep highly-skilled people,” said Martine Ferland, Group President at Mercer.

    “We learned that employers misunderstand what motivates people to move to a city and stay there. Moreover, cities are not performing well when it comes to addressing many of the more human and social factors that are listed as important among key employee groups. This dynamic creates natural tensions between what people value most and a city’s ability to deliver,” Ms. Ferland added.

    Key findings 

    The study explored 20 critical factors across four people-based pillars – human, health, money and work. Respondents were asked to rank five factors, based on how important they were in affecting their decision to stay in or leave a city. The most compelling finding was that for cities and businesses to attract the right talent to do the work of the future, human and social factors are the most important.

    Most cities are underperforming

    In one of the most significant findings of the study for local governments, most workers say their cities are underperforming. The biggest tension between worker expectations and city performance is in safety and infrastructure. Pollution, personal stress, affordable housing, transport and mobility, and safety and security represent major gaps between what a city is able to deliver and what the employees surveyed value, presenting a major opportunity for making vast improvements in meeting workers’ needs and expectations in the future.

    The study did reveal some good news, however, with many respondents saying the cities they live and work in do quite well in terms of cultural and economic factors, and with other areas including life satisfaction, career opportunities, proximity to airports and green spaces already meeting expectations.

    Clear call for collaborative action

    Although the study’s 15 current and future megacities share some commonalities, some key differences were revealed. Based on performance against the four pillars of human, health, money and work, the cities were grouped into advanced, progressing or approaching in terms of whether they meet worker’s expectations. Advanced cities score well in all four factors, with a small-to-medium gap between workers’ expectations and the city’s performance.

    Cities classified as progressing have a mid-size gap between expectations and performance. Nairobi is ranked among approaching cities which receive low scores across all four dimensions, with the biggest gap in expectations versus city’s performance, and the lowest general life satisfaction among the three groups.

    “We believe one of the most important imperatives emerging from the study is the need for effective public-private partnerships to facilitate the necessary improvements,” said Mr. Anderson. “To accelerate progress at scale and create the environments in which workers and their families can thrive, and in order to underpin sustainable economic growth for everyone, companies and governments must work together to address the future needs of the employees they are trying to attract.”

    Employees are looking to big institutions with the requisite resources and authority to effect real change. Ultimately, no one group can or should be responsible for addressing systemic issues.

    The study reveals people do not expect any one group to be responsible for addressing the systemic issues of their city. According to the study, workers expect their city or local government (79%), national or federal government (74%) and large businesses (57%) all to play a role in making cities more attractive and in meeting their needs for overall life satisfaction, safety and security, and income.

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    Opinion | What the Working Class Is Still Trying to Tell Us

    I was ready for massive Democratic turnout for the election on Tuesday. But I was surprised how massive the Republican turnout was in response.

    The Republicans who flooded to the polls weren’t college-educated suburbanites. Those people voted for Democrats this year.

    They weren’t tax-cut fanatics. Half of the Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee either left Congress, ran for other offices or were defeated.

    They weren’t even small-government Republicans. The same red states that elected conservatives to office also — in Nebraska, Idaho and Utah — approved ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid. The same red states that elected conservatives also approved initiatives — in Arkansas and Missouri — to raise the minimum wage.

    These were high-school-educated, working-class Republicans.

    A lot of us pundits said Donald Trump should run a positive campaign bragging about all the economic growth. But Trump ran another American carnage campaign. That’s because American life still feels like carnage to many.

    This is still a country in which nearly 20 percent of prime-age American men are not working full time. This is still a country in which only 37 percent of adults expect children to be better off financially than they are. This is still a country in which millions of new jobs are through “alternative work arrangements” like contracting or consulting — meaning no steady salary, no predictable hours and no security.

    Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond.

    One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, “The Once and Future Worker.” The first part of the book is about how we in the educated class have screwed up labor markets in ways that devalued work and made it harder for people in the working class to find a satisfying job.

    Part of the problem is misplaced priorities. For the last several decades, American economic policy has been pinioned on one goal: expanding G.D.P. We measure G.D.P. We talk incessantly about economic growth. Between 1975 and 2015, American G.D.P. increased threefold. But what good is that growth if it means that a thick slice of America is discarded for efficiency reasons?

    Similarly, for the last several decades American, welfare policy has focused on consumption — giving money to the poor so they can consume more. Yet we have not successfully helped poor people produce more so that they can take control of their own lives. We now spend more than $20,000 a year in means-tested government spending per person in poverty. And yet the average poverty rate for 2000 to 2015 was higher than it was for 1970 to 1985.

    “What if people’s ability to produce matters more than how much they can consume?” Cass asks.

    The bulk of his book is a series of ideas for how we can reform labor markets.

    For example, Cass supports academic tracking. Right now, we have a one-size-fits-all education system. Everybody should go to college. The problem is that roughly one-fifth of our students fail to graduate high school in four years; roughly one-fifth take no further schooling after high school; roughly one-fifth drop out of college; roughly one-fifth get a job that doesn’t require the degree they just earned; and roughly one-fifth actually navigate the path the system is built around — from school to career.

    We build a broken system and then ask people to try to fit into the system instead of tailoring a system around people’s actual needs.

    Cass suggests that we instead do what nearly every other affluent nation does: Let students, starting in high school, decide whether they want to be on an apprenticeship track or an academic track. Vocational and technical schools are ubiquitous across the developed world, and yet that model is mostly rejected here.

    Cass also supports worker co-ops. Today, we have an old, adversarial labor union model that is inappropriate for the gig economy and uninteresting to most private-sector workers. But co-ops, drawing on more successful models used in several European nations, could represent workers in negotiations, train and retrain workers as they moved from firm to firm and build a safety net for periods of unemployment. Shopping for a worker co-op would be more like buying a gym membership. Each co-op would be a community and service provider to address a range of each worker’s needs.

    Cass has many other proposals — wage subsidies, immigration reforms. But he’s really trying to put work, and the dignity of work, at the center of our culture and concern. In the 1970s and 1980s, he points out, the Emmy Award-winning TV shows were about blue-collar families: “All in the Family,” “Taxi,” “Cheers,” “The Wonder Years.” Now the Emmy-winning shows are mostly about white-collar adults working in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, New York and Washington.

    We in the college-educated sliver have built a culture, an economy and a political system that are all about ourselves. It’s time to pass labor market reforms that will make life decent for everybody.

    Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

    David Brooks has been a columnist with The Times since 2003. He is the author of “The Road to Character” and the forthcoming book “The Committed Life: When You Give Yourself Away.”

     

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    Lethbridge art exhibit highlights ‘beyond human-centric’ perspective of climate change

    A new art exhibit that opened on Nov. 8 at the University of Lethbridge is displaying ideas of climate change in a unique way.

    “The exhibition is important because one of the things art can do is shift the conversation,” said Josephine Mills, director and curator of the University of Lethbridge art gallery.

    “I’m hoping this exhibition will open up conversation and new ways of thinking.”

    Refugio artist Sarah Fuller said she aims to showcase the issue of climate change in a new light by highlighting two insects unique to specific parts of the world.

    The Lord Howe Stick insect from Australia and Rock Crawlers found in the Rocky Mountains each need cold climates to survive.

    Fuller said providing more information on these often-overlooked creatures and the ever-changing weather affecting their habitats provides an insight into glacier melt that isn’t always seen.

    “I’ve lived in the mountains for the past 11 years, and I have a special connection to that landscape and that environment,” said Fuller.

    “I’m trying to shift the perception and way of looking at that landscape and other landscapes beyond a human-centric way.

    “I’m interested in the tiny things, the organisms and plants that live in this beautiful, sublime environment.”

    Refugio is part of a research partnership at the University of Lethbridge that encourages the public to find new ways of thinking about the future of the environment.

    The exhibit will be displayed in the art gallery until Jan. 10, 2019.

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    U.S. pot firm Harvest eyes listing at $1.5 billion valuation: sources

    TORONTO (Reuters) – U.S. cannabis retailer Harvest Enterprises Inc is set to raise $230 million (C$303 million) in a deal that would value the company at about $1.5 billion when it goes public in Toronto as early as next week, people familiar with the situation told Reuters on Thursday.

    The Tempe, Arizona-based company had initially targeted $50 million through the offer, but increased the deal value to $230 million in response to strong demand, the people said. The offer, which is set to be priced at $6.55 per subscription receipt, is expected to close as early as this week. A subscription receipt can be exchanged for shares when the company goes public.

    An external spokesman for the company declined to comment on the details of the offering. The sources declined to be identified as the information is not public.

    Harvest plans to list on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) through a reverse takeover (RTO).

    “The level of interest is high,” the company’s chief executive, Steven White, a former lawyer who helped found Harvest in 2011, told Reuters.

    While federal illegality currently casts a shadow over the U.S. market, “everybody understands that the U.S. market is going to be the biggest market globally in the foreseeable future,” he added.

    The United States is expected to account for over three-quarters of global legal cannabis sales over the next three years, according to Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics.

    A raft of U.S-based cannabis retailers and producers have opted to go public in Canada to fund their rapid growth as access to capital remains tight for the industry in the United States.

    Harvest’s competitors, including Medmen Enterprises (MMEN.CD), Green Thumb Industries (GTII.CD) and Curaleaf Holdings (CURA.CD), have all listed on the CSE this year through reverse takeovers.

    An RTO allows a company to go public by rolling into a listed shell corporation, which typically has a faster timeline than a traditional initial public offering.

    Harvest expects to have about 16 stores open by the end of 2018 and 50 by 2019, from nine now, according to a confidential investor presentation document reviewed by Reuters.

    Harvest projects earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $226 million on revenue of $559 million in 2020, the presentation showed. Its valuation multiple, at about 6.7 times the projected 2020 EBITDA, is lower than some of its peers.

    Curaleaf’s offering last month valued it at $4 billion, or 12.4 times its projected 2020 EBITDA.

    Cannabis stocks received an added boost this week on voter approvals of medical cannabis in Missouri and Utah and recreational marijuana in Michigan, and on the firing of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of federal legalization.

    Eight Capital, GMP Securities and Canaccord Genuity are the lead banks advising Harvest.

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    Yemen peace talks 'pushed back to end of year'

    Plan for peace talks pushed back amid renewed Hodeidah offensive, spokesperson for UN’s Yemen envoy says.

      The United Nation’s envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is no longer aiming to convene the country’s warring parties for peace talks this month and will instead try to bring them together by the end of the year, according to a UN spokesperson.

      Addressing reporters on Thursday, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said Griffiths’ goal was to hold consultations before the end of the year.

      “There is always different challenges to bringing the parties together,” Haq said.

      “What we’re trying to do is clear up any issues so that we can get a successful round of talks as soon as possible.”

      Griffiths, who is due to brief the Security Council on November 16, is trying to salvage the peace talks that collapsed in September.

      He said in a statement last week that he hoped to bring the parties to the negotiating table within a month.

      Years of war

      The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country and home to an estimated 28 million people, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi rebels, who toppled the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

      Concerned by the rise of Houthis, believed to be backed by Iran, a US-backed Saudi-UAE military coalition intervened in 2015 with a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government. 

      According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition entered the conflict. The death toll has not been updated in years, however, and is likely to be far higher.

      Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded an “immediate” halt to the fighting, warning that the country stands on a “precipice” and could face the world’s “worst famine” for decades if violence continues unabated.

      About 22 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

      Fragile peace efforts

      International powers including the US and Britain have also stepped up calls for an end to the nearly four-year war in recent weeks.

      The calls came after an earlier attempt to hold peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva in September was abandoned when Houthi representatives refused to attend, saying the UN had failed to meet the group’s pre-summit demands.

      Following the collapse of the talks, which would have been the first of their kind in nearly two years, the coalition announced it was relaunching an assault on Houthi-held Hodeidah, a strategically important Red Sea port city.

      “There’s always different challenges to bringing the parties together,” Haq said.

      “What we’re trying to do is clear up any issues so that we can get a successful round of talks as soon as possible,” he added.

      On Thursday, dozens of combatants were killed as pro-government forces closed in on rebel forces in the heart of Hodeidah, hospital sources said.

      Medics at hospitals inside the city reported 47 rebels had been killed in overnight ground fighting and air raids by a Saudi-UAE coalition supporting the government.

      Sources at hospitals in government-held areas on the outskirts said 11 soldiers had also been killed.

      Aid agencies have long warned that fighting in Hodeidah, the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and aid supplies, risks escalating the country’s dire humanitarian crisis.

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      Recounts, runoffs loom over high-profile elections in Florida, Georgia

      (Reuters) – High-profile U.S. elections in Georgia, Florida and Arizona remained unresolved on Thursday, two days after the vote, with the prospect of legal challenges, recounts and ballot reviews setting the stage for possible weeks of uncertainty.

      The still-undecided races will not tip the balance in either chamber of Congress, but include contests in parts of the country important to the futures of both parties and potentially to President Donald Trump’s re-election chances in two years.

      In Georgia, where Republican Brian Kemp declared victory in the governor’s contest on Wednesday on a narrow lead, campaign officials for Democrat Stacey Abrams on Thursday vowed to pursue litigation to ensure all votes are counted.

      In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, a lawyer for Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson said a recount could still deliver him a victory despite a slim lead for Republican Rick Scott.

      The Florida governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum also appeared headed for an automatic recount, after DeSantis’ lead narrowed on Thursday, despite Gillum having already conceded.

      The hotly contested U.S. Senate race in Arizona between two congresswomen, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, appeared days away from a final call, with hundreds of thousands of ballots yet to be tallied and McSally holding a small edge.

      Democrats on Tuesday won their first majority in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2010, while Republicans appeared likely to expand their two-seat advantage in the U.S. Senate.

      Another cluster of races in the lower house where votes are still being finalized could add to the Democrats’ new majority, strengthening their hand as they seek to counter Trump’s policies.

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      • Factbox: Democrats pick up net 32 seats in U.S. House, with some races still undecided

      Republican U.S. Representative Karen Handel conceded defeat to Democrat Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate, in a suburban Atlanta district on Thursday.

      Democrats also picked up two Republican districts in Washington State and New Mexico on Wednesday night, though Republicans held onto an open North Carolina district in a close race.

      According to media outlet calls and the data company DDHQ, Democrats now have flipped 32 seats – nine more than they needed to take over the House – with seven Republican-held districts still too close to call, including four in California, where many ballots are yet to be counted.

      ABRAMS STILL FIGHTING

      Abrams is vying to become the first black woman elected to serve as governor of a U.S. state.

      The Georgia contest came under national scrutiny because of Kemp’s role as the state’s top election official. Voting rights groups and prominent Democrats accused the Republican of using his position to suppress minority votes, an allegation he strongly denied.

      Kemp on Thursday said he had resigned as Georgia’s secretary of state, saying the move would ensure “public confidence” in the final results, while freeing him to focus on preparing for his new role as governor.

      The Abrams campaign told reporters that there were enough uncounted ballots to force a runoff. Under state law, if no candidate reaches 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers advance to a second vote in December. The election included a third-party candidate.

      Kemp’s vote count stood at 50.33 percent as of Thursday morning, according to unofficial results.

      “We are in this race until we are convinced that every vote is counted,” the Abrams campaign’s chairwoman, Allegra Lawrence Hardy, told a news conference. The campaign said it would file the first of what could be a wave of legal actions on behalf of voters in one county who had difficulty voting absentee.

      The Kemp campaign accused Abrams of trying to “steal” the election.

      “Stacey Abrams can’t accept the fact that Georgians rejected her radical agenda at the ballot box, so now she’s desperately trying to steal this election in the courtroom,” said campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney, in a statement.

      In Florida, Scott’s lead was narrowing on Thursday. Nelson trailed by around 17,300 votes, or 0.21 percent, below the state’s 0.25 threshold for a hand recount.

      “The results are unknown,” said Marc Elias, an attorney for Nelson’s campaign. Historically, Democrats tend to pick up votes in recounts, especially hand recounts, he said.

      Elias also pledged legal action if the campaign found that rejected ballots due to signature mismatches were disproportionately hurting minority voters.

      Scott’s campaign on Thursday also accused Nelson of trying to “steal” the race.

      “It is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics,” a campaign statement said.

      In the Florida governor’s race, DeSantis’ lead had winnowed to about 38,500 votes on Thursday afternoon, or 0.47 percent of the vote. The state conducts an electronic recount when the margin falls below 0.5 percent.

      Gillum’s campaign said it was prepared for any outcome, including a recount.

      “We want every vote counted,” Gillum said in a video posted to Facebook on Thursday. “In spite of the fact that we’re a little bit down in the numbers, we’re hopeful that every single vote will be counted in this race.”

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