Toronto senior found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in death of long-term care home resident

TORONTO – A Toronto senior who used his cane to attack a fellow long-term care home resident more than three years ago was found guilty late Thursday of second-degree murder in the woman’s death.

Peter Brooks, 76, had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 72-year-old Jocelyn Dickson.

He was also charged with the attempted murder of another fellow resident, 91-year-old Lourdes Missier, but was found not guilty on that charge.

Brooks, who has been in custody and attended his trial in a wheelchair, had testified that a spirit in a dream had told him to “beat the crap” out of the two women and insisted he didn’t actually intend to harm anyone.

WATCH: Toronto senior testifies at second-degree murder trial (Oct. 18)

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A second degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence. A sentencing hearing is set for January to determine parole eligibility.

His trial heard that late one night in March 2013, Brooks used his cane to attack Dickson and Missier in their beds at the Wexford Residence in Toronto’s east end.

Brooks’ defence lawyer had urged jurors to find the elderly man not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, arguing that Brooks has dementia and was unable to appreciate the nature of his actions.

But the Crown argued Brooks was not delusional and knew his actions were not only legally wrong, but morally wrong as well.

The trial heard Brooks, who came to Canada from Jamaica decades ago, had testy relations with both Dickson and Missier, who he described as “annoying” and aggravating him constantly.

The jury heard Brooks attacked Missier first, swinging his cane at the head of the woman who was awake at the time and raised her hands to protect herself. She was left with fractured fingers, bruises and lacerations on her face.

READ MORE: Toronto senior on trial for murder says spirit told him in a dream to beat up 2 women

While staff were responding to what happened to Missier, Brooks quietly made his way to another floor, where Dickson, a woman who was paralysed on one side of her body, was asleep in her bed, the trial heard.

Using his cane once more, Brooks delivered at least seven distinct blows to Dickson’s head causing “massive” injuries that led to the woman’s death, the Crown has said. The force of the blows was strong enough to break off the top of Brooks’ cane.

The trial heard that Brooks then tried to make his way to the room of another woman he had a rocky relationship with but was stopped by staff who, only after a violent struggle, were able to wrestle away his cane.

Brooks’ lawyer had argued that his client believed residents at the Wexford were “conspiring against him” and consequently felt justified in his actions because of his delusional belief.

The defence lawyer also suggested staff at the nursing home completely mishandled the situation on the night of the attacks, calling them “incompetent and ill-equipped.”

READ MORE: Lawyer says Toronto senior charged with murder should be found not criminally responsible

Brooks testified he believed the women who were attacked were united in an alleged attempt to have him moved out of the facility.

Two forensic psychiatrists who testified at the trial found Brooks had dementia, though they disagreed on the level of the condition, with one saying it was mild and the other saying it was moderate.

Both psychiatrists also agreed Brooks has damage to the frontal lobe of his brain – which deals with impulse control, emotional regulation and perspective – appeared disinhibited, and did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of the proceedings against him.

The psychiatrists disagreed, however, on the extent of the dementia’s effect on Brooks and his actions – one found it was only probable that Brooks was acting on a delusion on the night of the attacks while the other said it was possible.

READ MORE: How seniors’ home safety changed since cane-beating death of resident

The trial also heard from a geriatric psychiatrist who assessed Brooks a year before the attacks and found the senior represented a “chronic risk” to the home’s frail residents.

Dr. Stephen Barsky told the trial that he examined Brooks in April 2012 after receiving reports of three incidents of aggression by the man against other residents at the home and found the man somewhat irritable, sarcastic and not fully co-operative.

Barsky said he had concerns about Brooks’ level of judgement and felt the senior would be better off in a psychiatric group home where there might not be other frail elderly people he could prey on.

Anxiety, depression lessened after a dose of magic mushroom hallucinogen: studies

The magic mushroom may have another magical property.

The hallucinogen psilocybin, which is found in magic mushrooms, has been linked to a lift in anxiety and depression in cancer patients.

READ MORE: Future uncertain for many HIV/AIDS networks after Liberals defund dozens

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New studies from John Hopkins and New York Universities show a majority of people who have cancer-related depression found “considerable relief” after consuming the hallucinogen.

Even more remarkable – the effects continued six months after the last treatment.

Both studies showed similar results: around 80 per cent of participants showed significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.

“The most interesting and remarkable finding is that a single dose of psilocybin, which lasts four to six hours, produced enduring decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms,” Dr. Roland Griffiths, lead researcher and a professor of behavioural biology at John Hopkins said.

READ MORE: Planning to grow legal pot? Check real estate rules first

“This may represent a fascinating new model for treating some psychiatric conditions.”

It’s an important subject, he said, because people with cancer can be “psychologically challenging.” In fact, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network reports that up to 40 per cent of people diagnosed will experience a mood disorder.

“People with this kind of existential anxiety often feel hopeless and are worried about the meaning of life and what happens upon death,” Griffiths said in a news release.

Researchers at New York University (NYU) said the results were nearly instantaneous. In comparison, antidepressants can take weeks to have an effect, Dr. Stephen Ross, who led the NYU study told the New York Times.

And the effects are life changing, according to one patient.

READ MORE: Could a simple blood test predict whether you’ll be alive in 5 years?

Octavian Mihai, who had lymphoma in 2013, told the Times he participated in the NYU study and had an epiphany during his session.

He asked himself:  “Why are you letting yourself be terrorized by cancer coming back?”

“That’s when I saw black smoke rising from my body. And it felt great.”

Three years later, Mihai says he still isn’t anxious about his cancer, and he attributes it to the session.

The studies were both conducted in safe environments, with staff members supervising the sessions. Researchers say they  don’t condone using mushrooms for “self-treatment,” the NYT reports.

Both studies were funded in part by the Heffter Research Institute.

‘Fawlty Towers’ star Andrew Sachs dead at 86

Actor Andrew Sachs, best known for his role in iconic British sitcom Fawlty Towers, has passed away at age 86 after a four-year struggle with Alzheimer’s.

“My heart has been broken every day for a long time,” Sachs’ wife Melody told The Daily Mail, adding that her late husband faced the disease without complaint.

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“I never once heard him grumble,” she said.

Fans of Fawlty Towers will recall Sachs in his signature role as bumbling Spanish waiter Manuel, whose tenuous grasp of the English language resulted in hilarious misunderstandings — punctuated by what became his catchphrase: “Que?” The response typically earned him a smack on the head from lunatic hotelier Basil Fawlty, series star and creator John Cleese, who explained his waiter’s mishaps with the catch-all: “He’s from Barcelona.”

READ MORE: Monty Python’s John Cleese Blasts Editor After ‘Daily Mail’ Mocks His ‘Beer Belly’

Sachs was born in Berlin in 1930 to a Catholic mother and Jewish father, but moved to Britain at age eight with his family as they fled Nazi Germany. According to Sachs’s autobiography, he pleaded with Cleese to make the character German “because I’m not sure I can do a Spanish accent.” Luckily, Cleese prevailed and one of TV’s all-time great comedy characters was born.

While Fawlty Towers remains his best-known project, Sachs enjoyed a long and prolific career in the U.K., primarily on television, appearing in such TV series as The Saint, Doctor Who, Coronation Street and EastEnders, in addition to the 2012 feature film Quartet.

Upon learning of his former co-star’s passing, Cleese paid tribute to “a sweet, gentle and kind man and a truly great farceur” in a series of tweets.

Okanagan ski hill opens after closure

Ski hill openings are pretty normal at this time of year but Thursday’s opening at one Okanagan mountain is especially significant. After two and half seasons of being closed. Mt. Baldy near Oliver is finally opened.

“I’m speechless, big grin that’s all I can say,” skier Charles Wood said. “I am very happy to be here.”

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Other than a short and partial opening in 2015, the south Okanagan skil hill has been closed since 2013. The resort was owned by an American group but it had been struggling financially for some time. It went into receivership several years ago after the owners declared bankruptcy.

“It’s incredible,” Baldy Mountain Resort’s Managing Director Joey O’Brien said. “150 days ago we took this thing out of bankruptcy.”

O’Brien is part of a Calgary group that purchased the resort. He says the group has already spent a million dollars giving the resort a facelift.

“We have cleaned up a huge amount,” O’Brien said. “We spent gobs of money on all the lifts and the buildings. You would not believe how bad that building [day lodge] looked when we arrived, it belonged in a horror movie.”

The new owners are now breathing new life into the resort hoping to secure its future.

“We are spending the first two years stabilizing this business at a much higher user level than it ever had before.” Said O’Brien.

Part of the plan to attract more business includes keeping the resort open on weekdays unlike the past and offering deals like the one for seniors, who only pay $19 dollars for an entire season.

The ski hill celebrates its grand opening on Friday, Dec. 2 with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and all kinds of activities.

Evergreen SkyTrain Line launched

The new Evergreen Line between Burnaby and Coquitlam has officially been launched.

The first train took off from Lougheed Town Centre Station en route to Lafarge Lake Douglas Station in Coquitlam at noon on Friday.

It is a total of 11 kilometres and will connect the Tri-Cities to Downtown Vancouver. About 70,000 passengers will ride the route each day by 2021, TransLink expects.

READ MORE: WATCH: Global BC gets exclusive sneak peek at soon-to-be-opened Evergreen SkyTrain line

The Evergreen Line was supposed to start operations in 2014. However, a series of construction problems forced the opening date to be pushed back.

While Clark’s government insists that the $1.4-billion project has been delivered between $70 million and $85 million under the budget set in 2008, NDP MLA for Vancouver Point Grey David Eby questioned the numbers.

The launch of the new line led to significant changes to the existing Millennium and Expo Lines.

READ MORE: TransLink rolling out large service change on Dec. 19, customers urged to plan ahead

The Millennium Line will no longer run to Waterfront Station, it will take you from VCC-Clark to Lougheed Town Centre and will continue onto the Evergreen Line extension when it opens.

The Expo Line will now have two routes: One travelling between Waterfront and King George stations and a second between Waterfront and Production Way-University stations.

Due to the opening of the Evergreen Line, 22 bus routes in the Tri-Cities will change as well, including the C24, 97 B-Line, 160, 188 and the 143.

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Seniors facility staff rally in Salmon Arm

Staff at six B.C. seniors facilities, including locations in the Okanagan and Shuswap, have voted in favor of strike action.

So far that type of job action remains only a threat. Their union, the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), is still focused on reaching a settlement at the bargaining table.

On Thursday workers held a rally in Salmon Arm aimed at putting pressure on their employer, The Good Samaritan Society, ahead of upcoming talks.

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The workers’ previous contract expired at the end of March and so far the two sides haven’t been able to reach a deal.

The union complains that staff are leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere and the society is either taking a long time to replace departing workers or not filling their positions at all.

“We are looking for a wage increase so we are closer to what the hospital gets and therefore we don’t keep losing staff to the hospital,” said HEU negotiator Debbie Kamal Ali.

In a statement The Good Samaritan Society said it remains committed to bargaining in good faith. The society, a registered charity, wouldn’t comment on the specific issues raised by the union saying it won’t bargain through the media.

The two sides are headed back to the negotiating table on Dec. 12. The union says it hopes a new collective agreement can be reached on that date.

The nearly 700 staff members impacted by the talks work at Heron Grove in Vernon, Hillside Village and Pioneer Lodge in Salmon Arm, Village by the Station in Penticton, Victoria Heights in New Westminster and Christenson Village in Gibsons.

Mountain View Village in Kelowna is also operated by The Good Samaritan Society but workers there are not part of these negotiations.

If staff did take strike action, they would still be required to maintain essential service levels.

Alberta man has brand new house demolished after court finds he built it without proper permits

A brand new house in the village of Carmangay, Alta. was torn down in just hours Thursday morning, after a court order was issued to demolish the home.

The village claims the Carmangay man who built the house did so without the correct permits.

READ MORE: Readers react with acceptance, vitriol after town tears down Alberta man’s house

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    Kym Nichols, the mayor of Carmangay,  said a development permit was taken out, as was a building permit, but the building permit was for a garage, not a house.

    “He just figured he could build however he wanted, to build wherever he wanted to build,” Nichols said.

    The homeowner was then issued several stop work orders in addition to orders from bylaw officers and RCMP to cease construction.

    After the homeowner failed to comply, Nichols said she felt she was left with no other choice than to take the matter to court.

    “We went to court to get a court order to get him to stop building,” she said.

    “He continued to build and continued to ignore the court order.”

    Members of the community told Global News the man built the house himself.

    A new house in Carmangay is reduced to rubble after the town issued a court order to demolish the home.

    Christina Succi / Global News

    “He was hand-digging the basement at first, then I seen him slowly put the concrete up, the walls up, the roof go on,” village resident Jan Haake said.

    Neighbour Wyatt Dahl sympathizes with the property owner, but agrees with the town’s decision.

    “It’s a shame that his hard work and money went into this,” Dahl said. “But the law is there for a reason.”

    Nichols said the homeowner was given ultimatums to move the structure or dismantle it. The court order stated three separate deadlines were set to comply, none of which were met.

    “This was absolutely the last resort,” Nichols said. “None of us wanted to see it come to this.

    “We were hoping he would comply at some point.”

    Global News was unable to speak to the homeowner and he was not on the premises when the demolition began.

    Carmangay is about a 45 minute drive northwest of Lethbridge and about an hour and 45 minutes southeast of Calgary.

Toronto’s executive committee endorses road tolls, other new tax proposals

Members of Toronto’s executive committee have voted to ask the province for the power to toll local roads, such as the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and Gardiner Expressway, and to potentially impose several new taxes.

The move comes after Mayor John Tory, who chairs the committee, announced his plans to support tolling the DVP and Gardiner during a luncheon speech at the Toronto Board of Trade on Nov. 24 – a departure from previous comments against imposing tolls.

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The committee also voted to ask the province for authority to impose a hotel and short-term accommodation rental tax, an alcohol tax at LCBO stores and “clear authority” to require collection of taxes by other entities in 2017.

READ MORE: Toronto Mayor John Tory advocates for tolls on Gardiner, DVP

For the 2018 and future budgets, the committee asked for reforms to allow for graduated residential property tax rates, parking sales tax, municipal income tax and sharing the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) with other cities.

In addition to other possible taxation measures, councillors asked the budget committee to review several other initiatives to raise money in 2017, such as a dedicated property tax for capital projects and changes to the Municipal Land Transfer Tax.

“These are measures which do in fact represent what the city manager called today ‘a good start.’ And it’s a good start on the challenges facing our city,” Tory said Thursday, while reiterating his push for more money to fund transit and infrastructure.

The report outlining the potential new taxes had councillors speaking out on both sides of the issue.

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, who attended Thursday’s meeting with a pair of boxing gloves, said he is ready to oppose the proposed tax measures.

“I’m not going to budge on this and I will do what it takes to make sure the city of Toronto knows what’s going to hit them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Coun. Joe Cressy said the city needs a way to pay for investing in infrastructure.

“Torontonians cannot afford to continue having our transit fall further and further behind, or have our Toronto Community Housing fall further into a state of disrepair. If we’re going to build a strong city, we’re going to have to put our money where our mouth is and pay for it,” he said.

The recommendations approved by the executive committee on Thursday still need to be reviewed and voted on by City Council at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 13.

Mark McAllister contributed to this report

Ziferblat’s ‘coffee office’ model charges for time, not food

On a Monday afternoon, the narrow street outside the Ziferblat cafe is quiet; but inside, the 6,000-square-foot coffee shop is packed with dozens of customers.

The cafe first opened in Manchester, England in 2014, and now serves around 12,000 customers per month. Part of its recipe for success: all of the cafe’s food, drinks and 100 MB of wifi are free.

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“When we first opened this, we were terrified,” recalls Ben Davies, the cafe’s marketing manager. “But I think this is something that isn’t currently provided.”

Here’s the catch: The cafe’s name, Ziferblat, is Russian for “clock face.”

Ziferblat’s customers only pay for the time they spend: six pence, or around 10 Canadian cents, per minute.

READ MORE: Addicted to coffee? Your DNA may be to blame, study suggests

They check-in and check-out, like a hotel. And during their stay, customers can eat and drink as much they like.

An array of fresh, locally-baked cakes, cookies and sandwiches are spread across a table buffet-style. There’s also tea, espresso and coffee machines, and customers are encouraged to help themselves.

“We have had some people who come in here with a spoon and eat two full chocolate fudge cakes. But generally they’re few and far between. And normally they don’t come back,” Davies laughs.

He says their average customer spends 83 minutes here. And most consume far less than you might expect.

“The fact that you have the free choice makes you not want to ‘take the mick,’ or take the entire jar of biscuits,” says customer Luke Halliwell, while sipping a latte and playing a board game with a friend.

“I just have a few (biscuits), because I’m here to relax and enjoy my time.”

Ziferblat’s real secret to success isn’t the customers who play cards or catch-up with friends; it’s the people who come here to work.

Web designer Mark Butler’s head is buried in his laptop. He comes here five days a week; He used to work from home, he says, but “you get cabin fever and you miss human contact.”

So he tried working in traditional cafes; “In a coffee shop you tend to get that vibe where the staff, after half an hour, are glaring at you, waiting for you to buy something else. Whereas it’s a lot more relaxed here. And the wifi is better.”

READ MORE: Caffeine doesn’t tamper with heartbeat, study suggests

Unlike some coffee shops, Ziferplat has no minimum spend. And once you’ve paid for five hours, the rest of the day is free.

In the United Kingdom, around 16 per cent of workers are self-employed. In Canada, freelancers represent around 10 per cent of the workforce. And the number continues to rise.

“You see a lot of people working freelance nowadays,” says Davies, who estimates that half their business comes from customers who use it as an office.

“We’re trying to solve that coffee shop office problem. And people do treat us like a co-working space.”

And that “coffee office” — or “coffice” — business is booming. The Ziferblat cafe is now opening branches throughout the U.K. And the business model is being adopted across Europe and North America, feeding the growing appetite from self-employed workers.

Australian students make $2 version of malaria drug price-hiked by Martin Shkreli

In September 2015 biotech executive Martin Shkreli became one of the most reviled men on the internet after purchasing the rights to an anti-malaria drug that treats malaria and hiking the price of the drug from US $13.50 to $750 a dose.

Now a group of teenagers from Sydney, Australia have added on to the outrage by recreating the life-saving drug in their school lab for about US $2 per pill.

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Daraprim, a drug used to treat infections caused by parasites, saves millions of lives a year and is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines.

READ MORE: Martin Shkreli raffles off chance to punch him in the face

The grade 11 chemistry students at Sydney Grammar school worked on the project with the Open Source Malaria consortium, an organization with the goal of using publicaly available drugs and other medical approaches to cure the disease.

The student involved in the project, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the controversy surrounding medication was an initiative to make the experiment a successful one.

“The background to this made it seem more important,” said 17-year-old James Wood.

“Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic,” said another 17-year-old student, Austin Zhang.

READ MORE: Company behind 5,000% drug price hike being investigated by US Senate

The students made 3.87 grams of the active ingredient in Daraprim, which is normally worth about US $110,000.

However, because Touring Pharmaceuticals controls the sales and distribution of the drug, Shkreli’s former company would have to approve a trial comparing the drug with its patent to grant it a generic drug listing.

When Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim by more than 5,000 per cent the world reacted with outrage —; even former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton chimed in on the controversial move.

Shkreli then made the news for other non-flattering acts, including using profits from his business moves to purchase exclusive rights to Wu-Tang Clan album for US $2 million. Shkreli was also charged with fraud over a hedge fund he ran.

Shkreli has since responded to the attention the Australian students have been receiving by lashing out at the media for reporting a “dumb story.”