Russian official calls on US and Europe to act against ‘terrorism’ – National

DAMASCUS, Syria – Russia’s deputy foreign minister called on the United States and Europe to take “serious” steps to combat terrorism during a visit to Damascus on Saturday, warning that several Middle Eastern countries are threatened.

“Russia will not stand idle toward attempts by terrorist groups to spread terrorism in regional states,” Sergei Ryabkov told reporters, apparently referring to the rapid advance of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant across eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

VIDEO GALLERY: Violence in Syria

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Raw video: Truck bombing in central Syria kills 34

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Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main allies since the start of an uprising against him in March 2011. Moscow has used its veto power four times at the U.N. Security Council to prevent international sanctions on Syria.

Both Russia and Assad’s government have portrayed the civil war in Syria as a struggle against foreign-backed “terrorists,” the word Damascus applies to all rebels fighting to end the Assad family’s four-decade reign.

Nearly two hours after Ryabkov’s comments, a car bomb exploded in a busy market in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, activists said. It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or wounded.

The activists said the market was crowded as many people went shopping a day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and feast in the evenings.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion caused extensive damage. The Observatory and an activist in the nearby suburb of Saqba who goes by the name of Abu Yazan said the Islamic State is believed to be behind the blast, because of a rivalry with other rebel groups in the area.

“Hospitals are full of wounded people,” Abu Yazan said via Skype.

Douma, one of the most populous suburbs of Damascus, has been under rebel control for more than two years.

The Islamic State has been fighting against rival rebel factions, including al-Qaida’s official affiliate, the Nusra Front, since January in battles that have left more than 6,000 people dead, according to the Observatory.

Ryabkov called for confronting terrorism by “taking integral measures against radicalism and by searching for a solution to prevent the influx of fighters from abroad,” adding that terrorism will have “catastrophic repercussions” on the entire region.

Thousands of foreign fighters, including hundreds from the former Soviet Union, are fighting against Assad’s forces in different parts of Syria, mainly on behalf of the Islamic State, which has carved out a sprawling enclave astride the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Ryabkov praised Damascus’ “responsible” decision to give up its chemical weapons, saying that doing so has boosted Syria’s security.

READ MORE: Conflict in Syria

On Monday, Syria finished handing over to Western powers 1,300 tons of chemical weapons it acknowledged possessing, completing a deal reached last fall under threat of U.S. airstrikes.

Ryabkov held talks a day earlier with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and his deputy, Faisal Mekdad.

According to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, Ryabkov congratulated al-Moallem on removing “all chemical material” from the country.

©2014The Associated Press

Discrimination continues for seniors in LGBTQ community

WATCH ABOVE:  The celebration is bitter sweet for many visitors taking in the festivities. The acceptance and support a reminder of what life isn’t like back home. Cindy Pom reports.

TORONTO – For 85-year-old Alf Roberts, Canada’s largest gay pride celebration is a chance to celebrate an identity he only felt comfortable sharing in his old age.

“At last, after all these years I don’t have to be careful when people ask me if I’m gay,” Roberts said. “I just say yes, I am.”

VIDEO GALLERY: Word Pride 2014

WorldPride is this weekend and businesses along the parade route are gearing up for a massive party.

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WorldPride is this weekend and businesses along the parade route are gearing up for a massive party.

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Roberts came out when he was 80, shortly after moving into Fudger House, a long-term care facility for seniors in Toronto.

“I was a church organist for years and a music teacher, and you are very careful in those positions,” he said. “You don’t want everybody to know.”

For most of his life, Roberts would remain vague about his identity, responding “I am who I am,” when people asked him if he was gay.

Then, relief came when he realized that Fudger House touted a gay-positive environment.

Bill Ryan, a social worker and professor at McGill University, said it’s rare to be openly gay in a seniors home.

Ryan, who has conducted research on the elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for more than a decade, said stigma persists because residents in seniors homes lived in an era when homosexuality was considered a criminal act or mental illness.

Canada decriminalized homosexual acts in 1969.

“They grew up at a time when the only coping strategy that was allowed to them was to hide and camouflage themselves,” Ryan said, adding that most seniors don’t have the benefit of political activism over the last 30 years.

He added the baby boomer generation will be entirely different when they enter long-term care facilities.

“Those growing into their 50s and 60s would go to the courts and tribunals to claim their rights,” he said.

During his research on long-term care facilities, Ryan heard from one gay couple who would go into the senior centre’s bathroom to hold hands instead of showing affection in front of centre staff.

“He would visit during non-family visiting hours, and he would take his partner out of bed, help him into the bathroom and close the door behind him. Then they would hold each other for as long as they could and hug, and then he would open the bathroom door, put him back in bed, and not touch him again.

“It’s a powerful metaphor of what a lot of people experience,” Ryan said.

He added that the cohort of LGBT seniors in long-term care are particularly vulnerable, and are at higher risk of isolation and depression.

“The generation of those who haven’t had HIV or AIDS are dealing with a lot more isolation because many of their friends have died,” he said.

Donna Turner, spokeswoman for Rainbow Health Ontario–an organization that focuses on the health of the LGBT community –said changing the culture in seniors homes is an “uphill battle.”

Her organization is one of several that provides training to staff members in the hopes of quelling discrimination across Ontario.

“Long-term care facilities are particularly tough because there are some people who might already have pretty strong convictions, whether it’s residents or staff,” she said.

For the most part, care centres will ask for training after there has already been a “negative incident,” she said.

And while seniors homes in urban areas such as Toronto may be LGBT-friendly, she said, that’s not the reality across Canada.

Marie Robertson has been a counsellor and an activist for the LGBT community for more than four decades.

As a senior herself, Robertson, 61, said she has a “vested interest” in training staff to be LGBT-friendly at Canada’s senior care centres.

“So that when my generation needs care, we’re not going in the closet to access service,” she said, adding that she helps to train people in Ottawa.

Robertson said members of the elderly LGBT community lived most of their lives facing high risks of personal and professional discrimination.

“It was a very frightening time,” she said.

“Even in the last years of their lives, these people will die there and stay in the closet. That just breaks my heart.”

She added that while “some of this is their mind-set,” homophobia is still a problem in many seniors homes.

In the United States, this has led to the creation of centres marketed specifically to the LGBT community, however Robertson said in Canada that would be “a fantasy.”

She added that instead of isolating LGBT seniors, the answer is to address discrimination head on.

“I’ve been paying taxes all my adult life, and my taxes have gone into building the facilities that exist today,” she said.

With World Pride in Toronto wrapping up in a rainbow haze of revelry, Fudger House will be one of many organizations in Sunday’s parade.

Roberts — who has ridden in the parade since he came out at 80 — said it’s a chance to celebrate being true to yourself.

“If there are any young people who have someone they can talk to, they shouldn’t be afraid to come out,” he said. “That’s the message.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Survivor of fatal drunk driving crash shares her story

Getting into the car with a drunk driver behind the wheel almost killed 23-year-old Alyssa Alanis four years ago when the sedan carrying seven people she was in lost control, struck a light standard, flipped in the air and rolled over in Burnaby.

As Alanis copes with her decision to ride with a drunk driver, and struggles with her recovery, she wants others to learn from her mistake.

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“The consequences of one simple choice,” said Alanis as she broke down in tears, “can change not only your life but it can change others. Not only change it, but it can end it.”

The crash left the drunk driver, Baldip Chandi, uninjured, but two other passengers, including Alanis’s boyfriend died. He was sentenced on March 1, 2012, to three years in prison for drunk and dangerous driving. Alanis was thrown from the vehicle and was not expected to survive.

Corporal Robert McDonald, spokesperson for RCMP Traffic Services, was at the scene of the crash four years ago, and remembers being told that Alanis had a zero chance of survival.
“It took about a week before she finally changed her status from zero chance of survival to stable,” said Corporal McDonald.

February 2010 crash that killed two young men and injured three other youths.

Global BC

Alanis’s mother, Gigi, stands by her daughter’s side and desperately pleads for people not to drink and drive. She wants others to know about the struggles her daughter will face every day for the rest of her life.

“She may look normal physically but cognitively it’s very difficult for her,” said Gigi ” she can’t make decisions , she can’t go to school, she can’t go to work.”

“I used to be able to play the guitar,” said Alanis.

Alanis used to be a musician but her life has clearly changed forever.

“I used to be able to play the piano and I used to write my own music and perform it,” said Alanis “unfortunately I’ve forgotten all of that.”

RCMP officers across the province have launched their summer Counter Attack campaign, and both mother and daughter are using the occasion to warn others about the dangers of drinking and driving and the deadly risk of getting into a car with a drunk driver behind the wheel.

“It could change your life,” said Alanis “it could literally end people’s lives.”

R&B singer Bobby Womack dies at 70

Bobby Womack, a colorful and highly influential R&B singer-songwriter who influenced artists from the Rolling Stones to Damon Albarn, has died. He was 70.

Womack’s publicist Sonya Kolowrat said Friday that the singer had died, but she could provide no other details.

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With an incomparable voice few could match, Womack was a stirring singer and guitarist in his own right and a powerful songwriter whose hits like “Across 110th Street,” ”If You Think You’re Lonely Now” and “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much” captured the imagination of future stars in rock ‘n’ roll and R&B.

“He had a style that nobody else could ever capture,” longtime friend, gospel singer Candi Staton, said in a statement. “I loved him and I will miss him so, so very much.”

In a statement, musician Peter Gabriel said: “I’m very sad to learn of Bobby Womack’s death … His songs and his voice have been so much a part of the fabric of so many musical lives. In recent years, it was great to see Richard Russell and Damon Albarn bringing his music back into our attention. He was a soul legend. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this time.”

Womack’s death comes as something of a surprise. Though he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago and overcame addiction and multiple health issues, including prostate and colon cancer, recently, he seemed in good health and spirits when he performed earlier this month at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

He told the BBC in 2013 the Alzheimer’s diagnosis came after he began having difficulty remembering his songs and the names of people he had worked with.

And there have been many. The soul singer cut a wide path through the music business as a performer and songwriter in a career that spanned seven decades.

“I must have listened to Facts of Life for months, what an influence, what a voice, so long Bobby!!” Rod Stewart said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, long after he’d lost his fortune and his career to addiction.

He spoke of kicking his substance abuse problems in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press and all the friends he’d lost to drugs over the years.

“I think the biggest move for me was to get away from the drug scene,” Womack said. “It wasn’t easy. It was hard because everybody I knew did drugs. … They didn’t know when to turn it off. So for me looking at Wilson Pickett, close friends of mine, Sly Stone, Jim Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and I can go on and on and on, and I say all of them died because of drugs.”

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, Womack was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and sang gospel music at a young age, performing with his brothers in The Womack Brothers. Under the influence of gospel and R&B legend Sam Cooke, who signed the group to his personal label, Womack moved into secular music. In the early 1960s his group recorded “It’s All Over Now,” which was covered and by the Stones and became the band’s first number-one hit.

His songs have been recorded by multiple artists, and he played as a session musician in Memphis in the 1960s.

Albarn and XL Recordings president Richard Russell helped Womack regain his career with 2012 comeback album The Bravest Man in the Universe. The album was a departure for Womack, full of electronic music and beats. But it was lauded by critics for a simple reason: That distinctive voice of his still brought chills.

“I don’t think he ever really thought that he would do anything again,” Albarn said of Womack in March. “Watching his rehabilitation and watching his ability to confront new material and new challenges was nothing short of miraculous at the time, and he still today continues to battle his demons and his illness. But he’s a beautiful person and when he opens his mouth and that voice comes out, it is something that is somehow touched by God.”

AP Music Writer Mesfin Fekadu in New York and Don Schanche contributed to this report.

©2014The Associated Press

Egypt to restrict Ramadan sermons, further stifling political speech – National

CAIRO, Egypt – Egypt will restrict Ramadan sermons to the topics of faith and morality, in the latest move aimed at limiting political speech in the deeply polarized country.

Religious Endowments Minister Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa said Sunday the decision should ensure that sermons during Islam’s holy month of fasting “unite people, not divide them.”

The measure, announced on the first day of Ramadan, is the latest attempt by the state to control religious speech following last year’s overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. In recent months Egypt has banned Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which it considers a terrorist organization, and passed a new law restricting protests.

The ministry had already restricted preaching in mosques to state-authorized clerics.

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©2014The Associated Press

2 directors detained and questioned for building collapse in India

WATCH: Rescuers pull woman from rubble of collapsed building

NEW DELHI – Police in southern India detained two construction company directors Sunday as rescuers using gas cutters and shovels searched for dozens of workers believed buried in the rubble of a building that collapsed during monsoon rains. It was one of two weekend building collapses that killed at least 22 people.

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The 12-story apartment structure the workers were building collapsed late Saturday while heavy rains and lightning were pounding the outskirts of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Police said 31 construction workers had been pulled out so far and the search was continuing for more than a dozen others.

Four of the workers died on the spot and another seven succumbed to injuries in a hospital, said police officer George Fernandes.

Fourteen workers remained hospitalized, while six others were discharged, Fernandes said.

Police officer Kanan said two directors of the construction company, Prime Sristi, have been detained for questioning as authorities began investigating the collapse. The officer uses one name.

WATCH: Rescue teams search for survivors after building collapse in India

Balaguru, one of the builders, said the structure collapsed possibly due to the impact of lightning.

“Usually, once the construction gets over we install the equipment to prevent the building from a thunder strike. It was nearing completion,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Balaguru, who uses one name, as saying.

Nearly 300 police and fire service workers worked overnight, looking for survivors in the debris. They used gas cutters, iron rods and shovels to reach those trapped in the rubble, after cranes lifted concrete blocks to clear the way for the rescuers.

“Removing debris is a major challenge. It may take two to three days to clear the rubble,” said S.P. Selvam, who is heading the rescue operation.

Earlier Saturday, a four-story, 50-year-old structure toppled in an area of New Delhi inhabited by the poor. Eleven people died and one survivor was being treated in a hospital, said fire service officer Praveer Haldiar.

Most homes in that part of the capital were built without permission and using substandard materials, police officer Madhur Verma said.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the New Delhi collapse was triggered by construction work on an adjacent plot.

Building collapses are common in India, where high demand for housing and lax regulations have encouraged some builders to cut corners, use substandard materials or add unauthorized extra floors.

In April last year, 74 people were killed when an eight-story building being constructed illegally in the Mumbai suburb of Thane in western Maharashtra state caved in. It was the worst building collapse in the country in decades.

©2014The Associated Press

Despite large sockeye forecasts, Feds wary of repeating 2009 blunder

VANCOUVER – Predictions for this year’s salmon fishery on British Columbia’s Fraser River are so massive there’s no historical data to use to forecast the many millions of sockeye expected to return.

But no one involved in the fishery would dare celebrate early as the ghost of the disastrous 2009 Fraser River fishery continues to haunt their memories.

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Five years after the collapse of the run that prompted a $26-million federal inquiry, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is forecasting a summer return ranging from a low of 7.3 million to a high of 72.5 million, settling for planning purposes on 23 million.

In contrast, the department forecast that some 10 million sockeye would return to the Fraser River in 2009, but only about 1.4 million showed up.

Ken Malloway, grand chief of the Sto:lo Nation, which fishes a stretch of the river starting in Surrey, B.C., said federal officials have made some big blunders over forecasts in the past.

He said there have always been concerns, uncertainty and mistakes about sockeye predictions and returns.

“People remember it and people are concerned about it, but you know people don’t want to dwell on it,” he said of the 2009 season. “People are mostly optimistic.”

Malloway said he believes federal officials may even be too conservative by settling on 23 million.

Jennifer Nener, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s area director for the lower Fraser River, said the figure of 23 million is based on what’s known as a 50-per-cent probability. At 23 million, there is a 50 per cent chance of the returns being higher and a 50 per cent chance of returns being lower, she said.

“The forecast is just that: it’s a forecast, and there is a lot of uncertainty in that forecast ” she said.

Complicating the forecast, though, are the facts that sockeye return to the Fraser in four-year cycles, and there was a large return in 2010 – almost 30 million.

“We had such high numbers of spawners in 2010,” she said. “We’re well outside the range of historical data that are used to actually model the forecast returns.”

Officials have broken the run up into four different management groupings.

The smallest group is known as the early Stuart run, named after the watershed from where they come, and the forecast is for 300,000, she said.

Nener said the early summer and the summer runs are next two groups and the predictions are for 4.1 million and 5.6 to 5.7 million.

The final group is the late run, and Nener said that forecast is set at 12.8 to 12.9 million.

While a test fishery began on the river June 20, there is no current commercial or recreational fishery on the Fraser, said Nener, adding it will be weeks before officials make a decision on when to open a fishery.

“Openings for First Nations’ food and social, ceremonial, as well as recreational and commercial fisheries really depend upon what’s actually happening out there in the environment,” she said.

Rob Morley of the Canadian Fishing Company, a firm that harvests, processes and markets seafood, said much has changed since 2009, and sockeye survival rates have improved in the past three years thanks to better ocean conditions.

Yet uncertainty is a constant in the industry, he added.

“Obviously, you’re always concerned that things can go wrong, and in the fish business you have to expect the unexpected, but, you know, we think those conditions are behind us at this point, given what we have seen.”

Even if 20-million sockeye return, it will still be a good fishery, he said, noting that in 2010 fish processors were scrambling to handle what was available.

This year, though, Morley said he’s concerned with the hype associated with the upper end of the forecast, the numbers past 70 million.

“If only 20 or 25 million show up … somehow people will say we’ve lost a bunch of fish again,” he said. “I think if we get a run of 20 or 25 million we should be very happy.”

Sockeye have dark red coloured meat and a high oil content. They range in weight from 2.2 to 3.1 kilograms, but can reach over six kilograms.

When the fish return to the river they’re know for turning a brilliant shade of red with green heads.

©2014The Canadian Press

B.C. government scores minor victory in teachers strike – National

VANCOUVER – The B.C. government has scored a victory in its dispute with striking teachers.

The provincial labour board has ordered teachers to show up for summer classes for high-school students who failed a course during the year.

The board says teachers must hold classes for students from Grades 10 to 12 who can’t take the failed course during the next school year.

The board is also asking the government to lift its lockout conditions, such as reduced pay, for teachers who work this summer.

But the board didn’t rule on a second government request concerning a small number of schools that don’t break for the summer and have classes year around.

It has put off a decision until a later date.

Teachers went on strike on June 17th, meaning an early summer holiday for more than a half million students.

Class size and pay are among the issues that remain unresolved.

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©2014The Canadian Press

Angelo Tsarouchas comes home for Just For Laughs – Montreal

TORONTO — Two weeks before he’s due to take the mic at the Just For Laughs festival, Angelo Tsarouchas is already in Montreal.

“I brought my family to Montreal because my mom is here and she wanted to see her granddaughter,” explains the L.A. resident, referring to his two-year-old with second wife Alina.

Tsarouchas says he has to “hit all the places I miss” when he is back in the city where he was born.

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“I go to Le Jardin de Panos because it’s got the best Greek food ever. And I will eventually hit Schwartz’s or Reuben’s. Definitely go to St. Viateur Bagels. I’ve got to bring four or five dozen on the plane when I go back.”

In addition to Montreal, Tsarouchas has called Ottawa, Toronto and London, England home before he settled in Los Angeles.

Tsarouchas says his act has changed because he’s got a different perspective. “I’m a Canadian who lives in America who’s got parents from Greece,” he says. “I still have that Canadian sensitivity, which is good.”

He says stand-up comedy is about relating one’s life to an audience of strangers.

“I always try to find the humour in everything. Most (comics) like it when there’s pain,” says Tsarouchas. “When there’s pain, there’s comedy. Now, I don’t feel like I’m in pain — unless you want to call marriage pain.”

READ MORE: Full coverage of Just For Laughs

The comedian says he hopes audience members will keep their mobile devices in their pockets and purses.

“I get it. We live in an age where everybody wants to take pictures, Instagram, 桑拿会所, Facebook, whatever and it’s cool,” he says. “But I always tell people if they try to tape at the show, ‘tape a couple of minutes but do me a favour and keep it for yourself or show it to your friends, but don’t post it on the Internet.’”

Tsarouchas says it’s difficult to try out fresh material if people are posting it online.

“Someone films your set and then all of a sudden it’s on YouTube. Well, that’s the new stuff I was working on. This is how we earn our living.”

At Just For Laughs, Tsarouchas is part of The Ethnic Show, which will be hosted by Maz Jobrani and will also showcase Elon Gold, Erik Griffin, Paul Varghese and Mike Marino.

“The common thread is that everyone is funny. Visibly, it’s an ethnic show but these are headliner comics who work all around the world,” explains Tsarouchas. “It’s easier to put guys together and say, ‘Hey it’s The Ethnic Show.”

He says he believes anyone can make an ethnic joke.

“Why not? We have to get over that,” he says. “By not saying that you’re making it seem like it’s dirty. It doesn’t have to be hurtful. It can be funny.”

Tsarouchas has, obviously, never hidden his ethnic background. He says he never considered changing his surname to make himself more marketable.

“My dad left the war in Greece to come here and build a life for us and I’m going to dishonour him by changing my name just because a couple of people in Hollywood can’t pronounce it? F*** them,” he says.

It wasn’t until the death of his father that Tsarouchas was able to visit Greece.

The result is a comedy special, One Night in Athens, that is set for a September release.

He’s also the subject of a documentary entitled Back To Sparta.

“I opened up my life for it. There was nothing hidden in that doc,” he says. “I exposed everything. I felt that was a story we needed to tell.”

In the film, he remembers finding himself inside an Ottawa jail cell.

“You’ll find out in the film why I was in jail, falsely accused. That doesn’t matter, I was still in jail. And whether I had a revelation or an epiphany — whatever you want to call it — I decided that I’m going to do what I want in my life. And I did.”

He also decided to make some life changes.

“I’ve dropped about 40 pounds. I’ve still got to drop more weight. It’s hard,” he admits. “I enjoy eating. A lot of people do. A Big Mac at 2 in the morning is f***ing delicious. It’s not good for you, but it is delicious.

“But yes, now being married and having a daughter I’m very aware of that and I’ve made an effort to eat much better. I have a two-year-old daughter. I want to be around to see her.”

The Ethnic Show, part of Just For Laughs, runs July 17-23 at Metropolis. Click here for ticket information.

Just For Laughs veteran Dom Irrera hosts All Star Show – Montreal

TORONTO — Dom Irrera hopes people who come to The All Star Show at this year’s Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal will check their sensitivities at the door.

“You’re always hurting somebody,” he says. “It’s comedy. It’s a joke. If you don’t get it, get out.”

The veteran stand-up comic recalls a 2012 show at the Laugh Factory in L.A. in which Daniel Tosh responded to a heckler with a joke about rape. The comment sparked outrage online (and inspired an episode of Law & Order: SVU).

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“It was partially my fault because I harassed him to go on stage and he was not ready,” Irrera recalls. “But because he’s so famous they scrutinize him more. I don’t really care. I’m not afraid of any of that.”

This is not to suggest Irrera doesn’t have limits.

“I’m not going to do anything that’s going to hurt children,” he says. “I mean, I don’t really want to hurt anybody. I just like to make fun of anybody. I like to be an equal opportunity ball-buster.

“If you do it right, I think people like having their chops busted a little. They feel a part of it.”

READ MORE: Full coverage of Just For Laughs

Irrera is hosting The All Star Show from July 16 to 19 at Club Soda and July 24 at Metropolis featuring festival favourites Alonzo Bodden, Ryan Hamilton, Adam Hills, Robert Kelly and Judy Gold.

The 65-year-old Philadelphia native has been a fixture at Just For Laughs and is equally popular at the annual Cat Laughs festival in Kilkenny, Ireland and at festivals in Australia and Scotland.

Irrera says he never feels out of place performing for international audiences.

“I feel more like a foreigner in the American South than I do in Kilkenny,” he explains.

Irrera says his act has evolved over the years. “There was a time where I was more of an Italian comedian,” he says. “Now I’m a comedian who happens to be Italian.”

He shares fond memories of the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who gave him his big break.

“All joking aside, man, he worked hard. He never stopped,” recalls Irrera. “I learned about work ethic from Rodney.”

He also learned it wasn’t all about work for Dangerfield.

“Rodney was like Rasputin. You couldn’t kill him. Rodney was 83 and that body had been through it. He did coke and pot — the man could party,” he says.

“I was at his 80th birthday and he goes ‘Hey kid, you want to get f’ed up?’ I go, ‘Rodney, I don’t smoke pot.’ He was going out to smoke some weed with some other comedians.”

Irrera was also a friend of David Brenner, who passed away in March.

“Brenner was just a very smart guy,” he remembers. “I don’t know how the heck he wrote all those sets. Where did he get all that material?”

Irrera, once a regular on the late-night talk show circuit, says he doesn’t pay much attention to comedy on television anymore.

“The real comedy fans want to listen to podcasts rather than television. Late night shows don’t have any of the clout they used to have,” he explains. “When I started out, if you did The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, man, that was a big deal. But there weren’t 700 channels then.”

He’s a fan of Last Comic Standing but hopes viewers realize they’re not laughing at undiscovered talent.

“Those guys have been doing stand up for 30 years and the reason they’re on Last Comic Standing is nobody knows who they are and they’re trying to get some exposure — and good for them if they do,” says Irrera. “It’s not like you’re getting some green kid out of Winnipeg and he never did stand-up and he’s unbelievably talented. They’re pros. They’re only new to the public. They’re not new to stand-up comedy.”

On 桑拿会所, Irrera shares his thoughts on everything from basketball (“I am so f***ing sick of LeBron James”) and soccer (“F*** soccer) to politics (“With all his education Obama is a joke not a good one like i tell but a bad one sad”).

“I express myself in the tweets,” he says. “Sometimes it gets feedback that can be pretty heavy but most of the time people know that it’s tongue-in-cheek, a lot of it.”

Irrera quickly explains that, in fairness to Obama, he doesn’t like anyone with the ego to want to be U.S. president.

“I wish they would go to Boise State and find this woman who’s like the best political scientist in the world and she would be president, but she didn’t want to be,” he says.

Montreal’s love affair with Irrera is mutual.

“I just love Montreal,” he says, citing “those hot French Canadian babes” and the ease of getting a taxi as his favourite things about the city.

“It’s the most European city in North America. It’s just a cool city,” says Irrera, who plans to arrive in Montreal a few days before his Just For Laughs shows to spend time with an ex-girlfriend and her family.

He’ll also find time to enjoy the local cuisine.

“I love that poutine place where they have different kinds of poutine. It’s all they sell,” he says.

“It must be a cardiologist’s dream, that place, but it’s delicious.”

The All Star Show, part of Just For Laughs, runs July 16 to 19 at Club Soda and July 24 at Metropolis. Click here for ticket information.

Bobby Slayton is back to do the ‘Nasty’ at Just For Laughs – Montreal

TORONTO — Bobby Slayton has a good reason for going to Montreal every summer to host The Nasty Show at the world-famous Just For Laughs festival.

“A paycheque,” Slayton says. “I don’t like the show. I don’t like Montreal. Never did.”

He’s kidding, of course.

The 59-year-old L.A. comic has been doing The Nasty Show — a collection of stand-up comedians working as blue as they want to — for more than two decades.

“It’s one of the few shows that I really enjoy doing,” he says.

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Related

  • Angelo Tsarouchas comes home for Just For Laughs

  • Just For Laughs veteran Dom Irrera hosts All Star Show

Slayton says he also enjoys spending time in Montreal, which he describes as “a great walking town” that provides fodder for his act.

READ MORE: Full coverage of Just For Laughs

In an interview with Global News from his L.A. home, Slayton recalls being “stuck” in Calgary in May.

“The audiences are great, the club was great, but after a day in Calgary it’s, ‘OK, enough already.’ So I just love coming to Montreal,” he explains. “It’s a great eating town. Montreal has always had that European flair and that great food. It’s just a place I love.”

Slayton has performed at Just For Laughs galas — the shows that are edited into hour-long TV specials — but he says he prefers the freedom of The Nasty Show.

“The galas are great but you do 10 to 15 minutes of nice, clean material for television,” he says. “The thing about The Nasty Show is you say whatever you want and do whatever you want.”

He corrects himself. “Actually, I can’t do whatever I want.

“I come up with a lot of good clean jokes and I say, ‘this isn’t the place for it.’ This is one of the few places where you can’t do clean material. They don’t want that.”

This year’s edition, featuring Ari Shaffir, Derek Seguin, Hailey Boyle, Kurt Metzger and Nick DiPaolo, runs July 9 to 13 at Club Soda and July 24 to 26 at Metropolis.

“I know most of the comics and they’re all A+ comics so it should be great,” Slayton says. “It’s a great line-up.”

Known as the Pitbull of Comedy, the gravel-voiced comedian and actor doesn’t pull any punches on stage. He figures people know what to expect when they come to one of his shows — especially one with the word “nasty” in the title.

“I think they’re trying to get away from political correctness,” says Slayton.

“If, God forbid, there’s someone in the front row who looks offended or pissed off, then I make sure to really go after them because they picked the wrong show to come to.”

Has anyone ever gone beyond heckling at The Nasty Show?

“There was one a**hole one time, many years ago. I was making fun of his girlfriend,” Slayton recalls. “He stood up and threw something at me. He didn’t hit me. But then I went backstage and [Just For Laughs co-founder] Andy Nulman had just come back from a hockey game and gave me his goalie mask. I went back out there in a goalie mask. It was pretty funny.”

Slayton, who cites Don Rickles, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce as role models, doesn’t seem concerned about negative reactions to his act.

“When people don’t like it they generally don’t say anything,” he says. “But I can’t worry about that. John Lennon was shot and people liked him. Anything can happen. It’s a crazy world out there and I can’t worry about it. I’m not going to hold back.”

Is any topic off limits?

“Anything’s fine as long as it’s really funny,” Slayton replies. “If you do a Holocaust joke or an AIDS joke or a child molesting joke, it better be a really great joke.”

He’ll even use the N-word, he says, but “the joke better be damn good.”

Slayton says he’s also not worried about audience members who post something he said in his act on social media in hopes of causing a furor.

“Let it go global. What do I care?,” he says. “If you want to tweet something or write something about the show, whether it’s good or bad, I don’t think it’s going to affect anyone coming to the show.”

Slayton knows he has to tone down his act for different venues.

“I’m doing The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon [in July] and I’m going to do a complete 180 from The Nasty Show,” he says. “I was in Israel a few weeks ago, I did a tour of the country, and I had to do 25 clean minutes.

“I’ve been doing this long enough. You’ve got to do it.”

Even though Just For Laughs gives Slayton an opportunity to cut loose on stage, he doesn’t get to see many of his fellow comedians perform.

“If I have a minute I’ll watch a guy like Lewis Black or Bill Burr. I’ve seen Don Rickles enough times where I don’t really need to see him again,” he says. “When I’m working, I don’t have time to see anybody and when I have five or six days off between my two weeks I fly back to Los Angeles.

“I mean, I love Montreal but it’s nice to be home for a week.”

The Nasty Show, part of Just for Laughs, runs July 9-13 at Club Soda and July 24-26 at Metropolis. Click here for ticket information.

South Korea says rival North Korea fired 2 short-range missiles – National

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired two short-range missiles into its eastern waters Sunday, a South Korean official said, an apparent test fire that comes just days after the country tested what it called new precision-guided missiles.

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The Defence Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules, said the missiles were fired from Wonsan in Gangwon Province and are presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles. The official said North Korea fired the missiles without designating no-sail zones, which the South Korean military views as a clear provocation. South Korean media quoted officials as saying the projectiles appeared to be Scud missiles.

North Korea regularly test-fires missiles and artillery, both to refine its weapons and to express its anger over various developments in Seoul and Washington. North Korea has expressed anger in recent days with alleged South Korean artillery test-fires near a disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea.

READ MORE: North Korea test-fires 3 short-range projectiles into Sea of Japan

As it unleashed a torrent of rhetoric in state media condemning annual U.S.-South Korean military drills earlier this year, Pyongyang also conducted series of missile and artillery tests that boosted tensions with rival Seoul. The North says it considers its rivals’ annual springtime drills as preparation for an invasion.

The country said Friday that leader Kim Jong Un guided test launches of a newly developed precision-guided missiles, in a likely reference to three short-range projectiles South Korean officials say the North fired a day earlier.

There’s virtually no way to independently confirm whether North Korea has developed such high-tech missiles. North Korea has frequently bluffed and exaggerated about its military capability, and its army, though one of the world’s largest, is seen as running on outdated equipment and short supplies amid the nation’s chronic economic problems, according to foreign analysts.

Still, the impoverished North devotes much of its scarce resources to its missile and nuclear programs, which subsequently pose a serious threat to South Korea, Japan and tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the region. Outside analysts say North Korea has developed a handful of crude nuclear devices and is working toward building a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, although most experts say that goal may take years to achieve.

READ MORE: South Korea captures soldier accused of killing 5

The South has said that North Korea has been trying to upgrade its large-calibre multiple-rocket launch systems in recent years and that those weapons’ range has been slightly and gradually increased in each test-launch.

North Korea has in recent months threatened South Korea’s president, calling her a prostitute, and the South has vowed to hit North Korea hard if provoked. North Korea also test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles and exchanged artillery fire with South Korea near the disputed boundary in the Yellow Sea.

On Thursday, North Korea’s army accused South Korea of firing shells into the North’s waters near the sea boundary.

Both Koreas routinely conduct artillery drills near the maritime boundary, a scene of several bloody skirmishes in recent years. A North Korean artillery attack in 2010 killed four South Koreans on a front-line Yellow Sea island.

The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. The United States keeps about 28,500 troops in the South.

©2014The Associated Press

Samsung Galaxy Tab S sets new mark on tablet features

*Steve Makris is a technology expert who does a weekly Tech Talk segment during Edmonton’s Sunday Morning News. You can watch it above.

Good morning folks. Today on GlobalTV’s Sunday Morning News I featured two stunning Samsung Galaxy 8.4” $419.99, and 10.5” Tab S $519.99, tablets. They are showing up in stores now and can be pre-ordered. Both feature brilliant and the most up-to-date colour accurate Super AMOLED screen display, are lighter and thinner, have a fingerprint scanner, power saving mode and much more.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S has impressive engineering and features

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So where do I begin? From the company who makes more tablets than you can shake a stick at, the Samsung GalaxyTab S fires a few volleys across Apple’s top tabs, the iPad Air and iPad mini retina for 99 cents more respectively.

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We were able to hardware compare the Tab S side-by-side with the mini Retina at the New York launch a few weeks ago and the Tab S wins hands down on several counts: light at 4.6 g, screen display colour quality and sharper, much sharper at WQXGA 2560×1600 resolution. The Tab S 8.4 has an impressive 360 DPI resolution, as sharp as the best smartphones but on a much larger piece of glass.

This makes photos, videos and some 30 content providers Samsung Canada worked with for free limited time trials, a joy to see on a virtually dot-less screen. Check out Next Issue, Kindle for Samsung (one free book/month), Cineplex and more. Amazing visuals. Same for the Tab S 10.5 which us also thinner and lighter than the iPad Air, more than one credit card thinner. The Tab s 8.4” also ups the ante with an 8 megapixel rear camera and 2.1 MP front…much improved on both models. The Tab S has a micro SD slot making storage memory upgrades much cheaper than the profitable iPad incremental $100 memory model upgrades. It comes in included 16 GB or 32 GB models.

I love the sequential 20-frame frame busrt, great for sports events. The video is equally impressive with responsive auto focus down to your favourite flowers. The speaker quality is amazing, bring out a third dimension to movies. Still, compared to cameras, tablets are tougher to shoot pictures and videos with because they are awkward to hold, but the Tab S fared well as portable recording device.

Battery life is appreciably longer with 11 hours of 1080p video playback. Nice. The Ultra Battery Saving Mode switches to black and white closing down all other apps, to give you those precious few extra minutes. The ten Multi-user feature with individual fingerprint scanner keeping each user’s settings and looks, is awesome. You can even make your own files invisible to anyone else.

Samsung who is actively dabbling with its own OS for future use, offers an array of additional features and apps on top of the Android OS the Tab S runs on.

The most impressive is Side Sync 3.0 which lets you run your smartphone on the tablet screen, including  making and receiving calls.

The Tab S might seem pricey but in view of what you are getting in a 6 credit-card thick slab of glass, and a real alternative to the iPad folks, is worth looking at.

Logitech Type S keyboard cover for the Galaxy Tab S 10

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Which size to get? Look at your user habits and what you use now. If you do a lot of late night bed reading, I prefer the smaller screen. In fact using the Galaxy Note 3 with one hand in bed is tough to beat for portability. But if you want to be productive, check out the Tab S 10.5” with optional Samsung keyboard cover or Logitech’s smartly designed Logitech Type-S $99.99. It protects both sides of the Tab S, folds under for tablet use and puts it to sleep when closed over. It works with the Tab S new snap on features, finally putting an end to unreliable magnet cover attachments. It keyboard quality is well designed and springy.

WATCH YOUR CELLPHONE MANNERS

July is Cellphone Courtesy Month. A recent Google Consumer Survey commissioned by TELUS reveals just how bad our cellphone etiquette is.

What’s worse than whipping it out during a eulogy?

o   Put the phone down and pass the popcorn. When asked “when or where is it completely unacceptable for others to use their smartphone”, more people said movie theatre mis-use is a bigger sin than pulling it out at a funeral (11.8 per cent vs.10.4 per cent, respectively).

Flashing a smartphone is a tremendous turn-off.

o   More than half (53.9 per cent) of respondents said that if their counterpart whipped it out on a first date, there wouldn’t be a second one, and 16.5 per cent said they would end the date early if their companion couldn’t keep it in their pants.

Toying with it can be a slap in the face.

o   What’s more offensive than being told to “shut up”? Nearly half (49.6 per cent) of Canadians said that interrupting a conversation to check their smartphone is worse.

Polite? Canadians can be downright rude!

o   Survey participants indicated overwhelmingly that they have used their smartphone to tune someone out, or avoid conversation. It’s true – 75 per cent of people said they purposefully use their smartphone to tune people out and 30 per cent even admitted to doing so TODAY!

We grab it more around loved ones.

o   The survey found that we’re twice as likely to whip out our phones around family and friends (82.6 per cent) than we are when at work (40.6 per cent).

Who, me? 

o   While 9 in 10 Canadians think others are annoying when they use their smartphone in public, 40 per cent of us don’t believe our own smartphone use bothers others. Which leads us to the next interesting finding…

Canadians aren’t sorry!?!

o   In fact, when told by someone else that their smartphone use was inappropriate, 38 per cent of respondents said they didn’t care – only 10 per cent said they regretted their behaviour.