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Court drops fraud, breach of trust charges against former senator Mac Harb

OTTAWA – Charges of fraud and breach of trust have been dropped against former senator Mac Harb, a Liberal appointee and central figure in the Senate expense scandal whose housing expenses were deemed unjustifiable by the upper chamber.

One month after the sensational acquittal of Sen. Mike Duffy, prosecutors made it official Friday that Harb, 62, would not face a criminal trial because the Crown did not see a reasonable prospect of conviction.

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The charges stemmed from living expenses Harb, a one-time Liberal MP from Ottawa, filed for a secondary home in the city while claiming his primary residence was far from the national capital.

A Senate audit raised doubts about the veracity of his claims and Harb ended up repaying the Senate about $231,000 in housing expenses going back years.

Harb, who retired from the Senate three years ago, had been set to face a criminal trial later this year.

READ MORE: No charges against Pamela Wallin

In a statement, Harb’s lawyer Sean May said his client has “steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the arduous process” of the RCMP investigation, one in which he co-operated fully.

“The withdrawal of the charges is a complete vindication of Mr. Harb, legally and ethically,” May said.

Last month, the 31 expense-related criminal charges Duffy had been facing were dismissed in sensational fashion by an Ottawa judge, including counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

And on Thursday, the RCMP abruptly announced that it wouldn’t pursue charges against Sen. Pamela Wallin, closing her file after three years of poring through her travel expenses.

Friday’s decision makes it clear that investigators and the Crown have been reconsidering their options since the Duffy verdict.

The decision on Harb’s case leaves only one senator still facing a trial: Conservative appointee Patrick Brazeau, who is – for the moment, at least – scheduled to face trial next year on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

READ MORE: Judge dismisses all charges against Duffy

Harb entered politics as an Ottawa alderman in 1985. He served as deputy mayor before making the leap to federal politics in 1988 as the member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre. He held that seat through four consecutive federal elections.

In 1994, Harb was appointed parliamentary secretary for international trade. He was named to the Senate in September 2003 by then-prime minister Jean Chretien.

In early 2013, the Senate began taking a closer look at the living expenses of Harb, Duffy and Brazeau amid concerns that all three, who lived in or close to Ottawa, were improperly charging the Senate for housing allowances.

Senate rules allow senators to claim expenses for two homes if their primary residence is more than 100 kilometres from Parliament Hill. Harb claimed his primary residence was in a home just beyond that limit, qualifying for the annual subsidy of about $20,000 for his years in the Senate.

The Senate committee charged with oversight of spending ordered outside auditors from Deloitte to review the trio’s spending.

For Harb and Brazeau, the auditors argued the spending rules were unclear, making it difficult to tell if they’d been broken. That same refrain would be echoed by the company that audited the Senate’s financial statements and from witnesses at Duffy’s criminal trial.

Even before Harb’s trial, his lawyer had publicly suggested those findings that the rules were unclear

Harb’s audit suggested he didn’t spend a lot of time at his primary residence outside the city, even though that wasn’t part of the rules, and senators decided that was enough to order him to pay back the money.

An RCMP investigation into Harb’s spending made sweeping allegations that Harb’s primary residence was allegedly “uninhabitable” for three years, and that he maintained a 0.01 per cent ownership stake in the house after selling the rest to a diplomat from Brunei who subsequently left Canada.

But the Mounties said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Harb with mortgage fraud when they laid the fraud and breach of trust charges in February 2014.

Government says agreement in principle reached with Doctors Nova Scotia

An agreement in principle has been reached between the Nova Scotia government and 2,850 voting members of Doctors Nova Scotia.

The doctors have been operating under an expired contract since March 2015, and negotiations have been ongoing for about a year.

Doctors Nova Scotia says more details need to be confirmed before it will officially become a tentative agreement and then the information on the deal will be sent out to its members across the province.

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READ MORE: Liberals could push doctors out of province: Doctors Nova Scotia

“We’re pleased to have reached this agreement in principle,” Doctors Nova Scotia spokesperson Barbara Johnson said.

The agreement is for a four year period.

No details of the tentative deal will be released until the decision is ratified by members. A vote on the deal is scheduled for late June.

Johnson said to the best of the organization’s knowledge, a tentative deal has never been rejected by membership.

Premier Stephen McNeil said he’s “grateful and thankful to reach a tentative agreement,” with the doctors. He said the deal is within the government’s fiscal plan but wouldn’t elaborate further on what that means for any increases in billing rates for doctors.

In December, the Liberals pushed through wage legislation for all public sector workers that if enforced would impose a two-year wage freeze followed by a one per cent raise in the third year, 1.5 per cent at the start and 0.5 per cent at the end of the fourth year. The doctors association was exempt from the wage pattern in the bill but lost its right to arbitration.

If the agreement in principle is approved it will be retroactive to April 1, 2015.

– With files from .

Google patents sticky glue to catch pedestrians hit by self-driving cars

Google has come up with a strange way to help pedestrians should they be hit by one of the company’s self-driving cars – sticky glue.

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The idea is pretty simple – the self-driving car would have a sticky glue-like adhesive layer positioned on the front hood, front bumper and the sides of the vehicle, according to a recently published patent application from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

That way, if the car were to hit a pedestrian, they would “stick” to the hood of the car instead of bouncing back onto the road.

READ MORE: Google files patent for smart teddy bear that would watch, listen to users

“In the event of a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian, injury to the pedestrian is often caused not only by the initial impact of the vehicle and the pedestrian, but also by the ensuing, secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object,” reads the patent.

“The adhesive bonds the pedestrian to the vehicle so that the pedestrian remains with the vehicle until it stops, and is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby preventing a secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object.”

Handout/U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

The adhesive is described like a double-sided duct tape in the patent filing.

READ MORE: Airbus files patent for bizarre ‘stacked’ passenger seating

While this sounds like a great way to coat your car in road debris and bugs, Google notes that the adhesive portion of the hood would be coated until impact with a pedestrian, exposing the sticky layer.

Although the patent filing was published this week, Google applied for the patent back in 2014. A patent filing does not necessarily mean that Google plans to use this strange safety feature.

However, there are still a number of outstanding questions regarding this safety contraption. For example, what if the car was to lose control after the collision and the person was left stuck to the hood of the car?

John Berry, founding member of the Beastie Boys, dies at 52

DANVERS, Mass. – John Berry, a founding member of the Beastie Boys who left the group before it found major label success, has died. He was 52.

Berry died Thursday morning at a hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts, following a long battle with frontotemporal dementia, according to his stepmother, Louise Berry, of Stamford, Connecticut. He had been in declining health and spent the last three to four years in medical facilities, she said.

Frontotemporal dementia is a progressive disease that has no cure, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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READ MORE: Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47

Berry’s interest in music blossomed as a teen after he moved to New York City, his father, John Berry III, told The Associated Press. Berry met future bandmate Michael Diamond at the Walden School in Manhattan. The pair founded the Beastie Boys as a punk outfit in 1981 along with Adam Yauch and Kate Schellenbach.

Berry III’s Manhattan loft was an ideal practice space for the fledgling band, he said. Yauch paid tribute to Berry and those early practice sessions in a letter read at the group’s 2012 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The letter fondly recalled his former bandmate using expletives to describe the group’s early music.

Berry left the group shortly after playing guitar on its 1982 debut EP, “Polly Wog Stew.” As the band became a more professional outfit, Berry “wasn’t up for that rigour,” according to his father.

“He was not amenable to authority,” he said.

READ MORE: Plane Talk: NDP MP Nathan Cullen hopes to slip Beastie Boys lyric into Commons speech

Berry “remained friendly” with Yauch and Diamond after leaving the group and continued to pursue his interests in both music and art, his father said.

“He had a very good artist’s way of looking at the world,” he added.

Co-founding member Yauch, also known as MCA, died at 47 after a battle with cancer four years ago this month.

Berry is survived by an adult son. His family plans a celebration of his life in the fall.

Beastie Boys – Studio Albums | PrettyFamous

City to Commonwealth-area resident: your yard is not a parking lot

With Beyoncé kicking off Commonwealth Stadium’s event season Friday night, the City of Edmonton is issuing a reminder to area residents that selling or providing parking spaces for stadium-goers on private property is illegal.

Allowing drivers to park in their driveway or on their lawn for a fee — usually $10 or $20 — was a common practice up until the early 2000s, when the city kiboshed the practice.

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  • Council approves new Commonwealth Stadium Jumbotron

    Commonwealth Stadium ticket tax under consideration

  • Watch where you park during special events in Edmonton

    The city reminds residents that selling private parking spaces violate two bylaws and can be issued two fines: $450 for operating without a business licence, and $1,000 for operating without a development permit.

    As well, on-street parking is limited during major stadium events and only vehicles displaying a valid permit can park in the residential areas around the stadium. Vehicles parked illegally will be fined $75 and may be towed. To get your vehicle back, drivers will have to pay $120, plus a $35 per day storage fee.

    WATCH: Beyonce’s new world tour kicked off in Miami and if the first show is any indication, expect all her hits, tons of “Lemonade”, and a shout-out to Jay Z. ET Canada has the latest.

    Those going to the Beyoncé concert are encouraged to take the bus or LRT.

    READ MORE: Beyonce announces world tour stop in Edmonton

    Starting at 6p.m. Friday, Park & Ride service will be available from six locations around the city. Regular ETS fares apply.

    Stadium gates open at 5:30 p.m. with the opening act set to begin at 7:30 p.m.