The Thursday briefing: Top news at-a-glance

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Evening News Break

Highlights from the news file for Thursday, March 2nd:

CABBIE ACQUITTED OF SEXUALLY ASSAULTING INTOXICATED WOMAN: A Halifax judge has found a taxi cab driver not guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman who was found passed out in his cab. Judge Gregory Lenehan ruled in provincial court this week that the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the woman did not consent to having sex with the driver. The case has sparked renewed debate over how Canadian courts react when the issue of consent is mixed with heavy drinking. Last week a jury in St. John’s, N.L., acquitted a police officer of a sexual assault charge involving an inebriated woman he was driving home from a bar while on duty.

ONTARIO POWER BILL REDUCTIONS WILL COST MORE IN THE LONG RUN: Ontarians will start getting a break in their hydro bills this summer, but in the long run those savings will cost ratepayers billions in extra interest payments. Premier Kathleen Wynne, who faces re-election next year, announced Thursday that Ontarians’ power bills will be reduced by an average 17 per cent starting this summer. She acknowledged that the bill for the across-the-board-relief will eventually come due for ratepayers but it’s more fair because it doesn’t ask the current generation of hydro customers alone to pay the freight for everyone before and after.

SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS BET ON POKER PROGRAM: A computer program has learned to win at one of the most complex poker games by copying a very human impulse — playing a hunch. The Alberta computer researchers who have developed Deep Stack say it trains its instincts through repetition — in this case, 10 million poker hands played against itself. In December, Deep Stack played a tournament of 3,000 hands with 30 poker professionals from around the world. The program beat all 11 professionals who completed all 3,000 hands.

MANITOBA AID AGENCIES PREPARE FOR NEW WAVE OF REFUGEES: Aid Agencies in Manitoba say they’re becoming inundated with dozens of refugees crossing the U.S. border this year. And one of the groups says it’s likely to become worse. Immigration Partnership Winnipeg says the 169 people who have crossed the border so far is unprecedented and a co-ordinator predicts the flow of people will increase once the weather gets better.

INDIGENOUS LEADERS BLAST TRUDEAU OVER MERCURY CONTAMINATION: Indigenous leaders and human rights advocates are criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for saying mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows First Nation is “very much” an Ontario issue. Trudeau said the federal government is supporting provincial efforts to address contamination in the northwestern Ontario community. Grassy First Nation Chief Simon Fobister says Trudeau is letting his people down by failing to lead on solving the reserve’s mercury crisis.

MILITARY HAS TRUDEAU ON THE RUN IN B.C.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the navy’s Pacific naval base Thursday, taking a morning run along with service personnel. He is also to meet B.C. Premier Christy Clark in Vancouver. Trudeau continues his visit to the west coast on Friday with a roundtable discussion on opioids with first responders and health care professionals.

TRUDEAU GOVERNMENT PLEDGES MILLIONS FOR ABORTION-RELATED PROJECTS: The federal government is promising up to $20 million to fund sexual health and abortion-related projects as part of an international campaign to fill a gap created by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to ban American funding for abortion-related programs. The money will go to several organizations and will be spent in the coming 12 months on contraceptives, family planning and comprehensive sexuality education, abortion services where they are legal and access to post-abortion care.

CANADIAN ECONOMY USHERS OUT 2016 ON A HIGH NOTE: Statistics Canada says the economy grew 2.6 per cent in the final quarter of 2016. The agency says the biggest factor was household spending, which also climbed 2.6 per cent. Analysts also said growth was driven by contributions from quarterly increases in spending on housing and by government, which was perhaps a sign that Ottawa’s infrastructure program has started to kick in.

TD BRINGS IN HEFTY PROFIT: TD Bank is reporting profits of $2.53 billion in its first quarter ended Jan. 31. It’s a 13.9 per cent improvement from a year ago and better than analyst expectations. In all, Canada’s five big banks earned $10.46 billion during the quarter, up from $8.53 billion a year ago.

U.S. TOP COP TO REMOVE HIMSELF FROM PROBE INTO ELECTION INTERFERENCE: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 White House election. Sessions faced mounting pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to step aside after revelations that he had twice talked with Moscow’s U.S. envoy during the presidential campaign. Sessions’ conversations with the ambassador seem to contradict his sworn statements to Congress during his confirmation hearings. The Justice Department said there was nothing improper about the meetings. Sessions insisted he never met with Russian officials to discuss the campaign.

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