US election: ‘Cruel’ Trump claim dismays dead soldier’s family

US Election

BBC News

Republican Donald Trump has been criticised by the family of a dead US soldier after saying as president he would have kept him alive.

“Had I been president, Captain Khan would be alive today. We wouldn’t have been in this horrible, horrible mistake, the war in Iraq,” he said.

The soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, said it was a “cruel” remark.

He is campaigning for Hillary Clinton, who is making her first appearance with First Lady Michelle Obama.

The two shared a stage at Winston-Salem in North Carolina.

Introducing Mrs Obama, the former first lady said her voice was needed in this election “more than ever”.

Clinton and Obama embrace as they arrive in Winston-Salem
Clinton and Obama embrace as they arrive in Winston-Salem

Mrs Clinton referred to Mr Trump’s ongoing feud with the Khans and accused him of “rubbing salt into the wounds of a grieving family”.

Mr Khan’s son Humayun was killed by a car bomb in 2004 in Iraq at the age of 27.

Their grief became part of the presidential campaign in July when Khizr Khan made an emotional speech at the Democratic Convention attacking Mr Trump for anti-Muslim rhetoric, as his wife stood next to him.

The Republican candidate’s reaction, in which he implied the mother was not allowed to speak up, attracted strong condemnation from within his own party.

Speaking to ABC News in an interview aired on Thursday, Mr Trump repeated his insistence that their son would be alive, but added he believed the soldier was a “great hero”.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Million Air Orlando in Sanford, Florida.
Image caption Mr Trump continues to draw attention to his clash with the Khans

In response, Mr Khan said: “This is the most cruel thing you can say to grieving parents, that if I was there this would not have happened.”

In other campaign developments:

  • Mr Trump complained again about media bias, saying it was “the greatest pile-on in American history”
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz has said Republicans may decline to fill the vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court
  • Voting problems in Texas have been reported on social media but put down to human error by officials
  • A former Republican congressman has said he will take up arms if Mrs Clinton wins

Former Illinois Representative Joe Walsh tweeted: “On November 8th, I’m voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?”

He later said he was speaking metaphorically about “acts of civil disobedience”.

Mrs Clinton’s campaign is dealing with more questions arising from hacked emails published by Wikileaks.

The Trump campaign has seized on the latest dump to suggest the line between Bill Clinton’s personal income and the donations for the Clinton Foundation has been blurred.

Doug Band, a top aide to Mr Clinton, said in an email that he had solicited donations to the foundation and also generated personal income for him through gifts and paid speeches.

Texas college student takes topless selfie, hits police car, gets arrested

A 19-year-old Texas A&M University student taking a topless selfie while driving slammed into the rear of a stopped police car and was arrested, police said on Thursday.

The student, Miranda Rader, also had an open bottle of wine in a cup holder next to her, the Bryan Police Department said.

The accident on Wednesday, near the university about 100 miles northwest of Houston, caused the airbag to deploy. Police said that when the officer whose car had been hit approached Rader, she was trying to put on her blouse.

“I asked her why she was not dressed while driving and she stated she was taking a Snapchat photo to send to her boyfriend while she was at a red light,” the arresting officer wrote in an affidavit.

Rader did not respond to an email seeking comment.

She was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and released on a bond of $2,000, police said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz)

The Ivanka boycott: Trump’s problem with women could tarnish his daughter’s million-dollar brand

Danielle Paquette, Washington Post

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign hasn’t exactly enhanced his brand. Over the last year, bookings for Trump hotels in New York, Las Vegas and Chicago plummeted 58 per cent. Foot traffic to Trump properties fell 17 per cent year-over-year in March, April and June. The National Hispanic Media Coalition asked businesses in July to cut ties with the Republican presidential nominee. Protesters cried boycott outside the Wednesday grand opening of the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

But his eldest daughter’s retail ventures appeared to dodge the ire – until the conversation shifted to his treatment of women. Now thousands of social media users are urging others to avoid stores that carry her namesake goods. Even some shoppers who haven’t seen the hashtags – #GrabYourWallet, #BoycottIvanka – say they’re spurning her office-wear.

 “I just don’t want that name in my closet,” explained 31-year-old graphic designer Jessie Newman, as she shopped at T.J. Maxx in Washington, D.C.

Ivanka Trump, 34, has painted herself a champion of bread-winning mothers and harnessed Trump’s White House bid to buoy that image. As she rallied to close the gender pay gap during her speech at the Republican National Convention in July, she sported one of her own designs, a $157 pink dress. The next morning, she linked to the look on Twitter.

This pairing of business and politics seemed to initially pay off. Google searches for her clothing brand spiked in the hours after her RNC debut and soared again following a September stump speech, in which she helped unveil the GOP nominee’s child-care plan.

Then the Washington Post published a 2005 tape on Oct. 7, showing Trump bragging about kissing and grabbing women without their permission. Ivanka continued to support her dad after the White House labeled such behaviour sexual assault, after 11 women accused the candidate of making unwanted advances on them, and after Trump suggested the accusers weren’t attractive enough for him to pursue.

“My father’s comments were clearly inappropriate and offensive,” she said of the 2005 tape in an interview with Fast Company magazine, “and I’m glad that he acknowledged this fact with an immediate apology to my family and the American people .”

That wasn’t good enough for Shannon Coulter, 45, who runs a marketing firm near San Francisco. A male boss had groped her once. Trump’s remarks reminded her of the pain.

“She puts women’s empowerment at the centre of her brand,” she said, “and is still campaigning for someone who is an alleged serial assaulter.”Coulter shared her thoughts with the Internet, and they sparked a trend that, by Wednesday, had reached the feeds of more than two million Twitter accounts: Boycott Ivanka.

Ivanka Trump clothing generated roughly $100 million in revenue last fiscal year, according to G-III, the contractor that produces her apparel. It’s too early to tell if the web call to reject her goods has hit her bottom line.

Surveys suggest consumers have mixed feelings. A Brand Keys survey of 950 millennial woman, taken a week after the 2005 video was released, found that 51 per cent of respondents were “extremely” or “very” willing to buy her office-wear.

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)Donald Trump and Ivanka

“Ivanka’s brand does not appear to have suffered the same fate as her father’s,” said Brand Keys President Robert Passikoff in a written statement. “There may be an ‘I Hate All Things Trump’ backlash going on at the moment, but as it regards Ivanka, we’re estimating that it will be relatively small and short-term.”

But in a national survey of 1,983 voters, conducted last week by polling firm Morning Consult, 57 per cent of women said they would not purchase clothing from Ivanka’s namesake line, while less than a quarter said they would. The mogul’s presidential run made 35 per cent of the survey respondents “much less likely” to buy or use a Trump-related product. Another 4 per cent are “somewhat less likely.”

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty ImagesIvanka Trump attends Ivanka Trump Fragrance Launch at Macy’s Herald Square on February 19, 2013 in New York City

Seventeen per cent, meanwhile, said they are “much more” or “somewhat more” likely to buy or use Trump products in light of the campaign.

That does not bode well for Ivanka’s clothing line.

“Brands are affected by what they’re associated with,” said marketing strategist Karen Leland, author of “The Brand Mapping Strategy, “And most people who shop for women’s clothing are women.”

Some shoppers, she said, appear to be associating Trump with casual disrespect toward women. Leland recalls shopping recently with a friend in New York who snatched a blouse out of her hand. “I didn’t realize what I was holding,” she said, “but my friend say, ‘That’s Ivanka. You’re not allowed to buy that.”

On Wednesday afternoon, three blocks from Trump’s new hotel in the nation’s capital, Candace Steele, 34, browsed through blouses at T.J. Maxx. She touched a black Ivanka Trump top with white butterflies, on sale for $19.99.

“I just can’t do it,” she said. “I can’t bring myself to buy it.”

Steele, who identifies as Republican and an undecided voter, saw nothing wrong with the shirt itself. She doesn’t dislike Ivanka, either.

“I know she can’t control her dad but. . .” she trailed off. “Ivanka’s in a hard position.”

‘The takeover of Venezuela’: Officer killed as major cities gripped by anti-government protests

 CARACAS, Venezuela — Anti-government protesters filled the streets of Venezuela’s capital and other major cities in a show of force against Presidential Nicolas Maduro, whose allies enraged the opposition by blocking a recall referendum against the socialist leader.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators shut down Caracas’ main highway on Wednesday, many chanting “Democracy yes! Dictatorship no!” And police clashed with protesters in other cities in what opposition leaders called “the takeover of Venezuela.”

Nationwide at least 140 people were detained by police, according to the Foro Penal human rights group. A police officer was shot and killed, and two others injured, under unclear circumstances in central Miranda state.

Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images

Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty ImagesLilian Tintori, wife of prominent jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, waves a Venezuelan national flag during a rally against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on October 26, 2016

“Maduro has shown how scared he is that the people will express themselves,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said.

The protests come after electoral authorities blocked a recall campaign against Maduro last week. The faceoff escalated on Tuesday when the opposition-led legislature voted to put Maduro on trial, accusing him of effectively staging a coup.

Opposition legislators argued that Venezuela’s leader has effectively abandoned the presidency by neglecting his job. And many Venezuelans blame him for the country’s triple-digit inflation, free-falling economy and shortages of food, medicines and other basic goods.

Government supporters staged a much smaller rally attended by Maduro downtown.

Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press

Rodrigo Abd / Associated PressCarolina Moreno poses as “Lady Justice” during a protest against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro

Opposition leaders ended Wednesday’s national day of protest with call for a general strike on Friday. They also threatened to march on the presidential palace in the heart of the city on Nov. 3 if the government doesn’t reverse its decision to block the recall effort.

The opposition has not been allowed to protest in front of the presidential palace since a massive march there helped precipitate a short-lived coup against former President Hugo Chavez in 2002.

On Wednesday, police fired tear gas and clashes with police in provincial capitals that left several wounded. In the border state of Tachira, the windows of the heavily-guarded regional electoral office were broken and anti-government slogans spray-painted on the entrance. In a video widely circulating on social media, a young man shouted in the face of soldier in riot gear maintaining a line against a crowd of masked protester.

George Castellanos / AFP / Getty Images

George Castellanos / AFP / Getty ImagesOpposition activists clash with National Guard members during a protest in San Cristobal

“I’m going hungry! If you’re going to shoot me because I’m hungry, shoot me,” the protester said.

In Caracas, students casually sat on the country’s main highway. One protester dressed as Lady Justice, with a scale and white blindfold.

Victoria Rodriguez, 18, said she hopes to cast her first vote for the campaign to recall Maduro. A recent high school graduate, she said she feels like she’s living in an emptying country; 15 of her 25 classmates have already left since graduating in July.

She said she is frustrated that opposition leaders haven’t called for more dramatic action, like sleeping on the highway overnight or attempting to paralyze the capital for days at a time.

George Castellanos / AFP / Getty Images

George Castellanos / AFP / Getty ImagesOpposition activists clash with National Guard members during a protest in San Cristobal

“People are tired of going to the streets and then going home,” she said. “The opposition is letting the streets go cold. They are giving the government too much time to manoeuvr.”

Congress was expected to take up the issue of Maduro’s responsibility for the country’s worsening political and economic crisis Thursday. The result of that debate is unlikely to have much impact, however.

Frederico Parra / AFP / Getty Images

Frederico Parra / AFP / Getty ImagesPeople demonstrate against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas

Unlike other countries in Latin America such as Brazil, where Dilma Rousseff was removed from the presidency in August, Venezuela’s National Assembly can’t impeach the president. That power lies with the Supreme Court, which has never voted against Maduro.

The government and opposition have agreed on an attempt at dialogue to defuse the crisis.

Talks sponsored by the Vatican and other South American governments are set to begin Sunday in the Caribbean island of Margarita. Maduro, who met with Pope Francis privately at the Vatican on Monday, said he will travel to Margarita to personally launch the talks.

But the two sides have tried dialogue during previous crises, and the opposition has scant hope for a breakthrough. Although Venezuelans overwhelmingly blame Maduro for their economic woes the ruling party is in firm control of institutions like the military and has shown no interest in yielding to the opposition.

With files from Luz Dary Depablos

Parliamentary Budget Office Report Shows Liberals’ Infrastructure Spending is Failing to Create Jobs

OTTAWA, ON – Dianne Watts, Critic for Infrastructure, Communities and Urban Affairs, and Member of Parliament for South Surrey-White Rock, said a report released by the Parliamentary Budget Officer today reveals that the Liberal government’s ballooning deficit and plan to create new jobs through infrastructure spending isn’t working.

Between Q3 2015 and Q3 2016, the Canadian economy created only 96,000 net jobs – a figure that is just half the average job creation rate over the past five years, which typically generated gains of 192,000 per year. Even more disappointing, the job gains were part-time, with full-time and public sector employment contracting.

“The Liberals promised Canadians that their massive deficit and increased infrastructure spending was going to create jobs and grow the economy,” said Watts. “Today’s PBO report demonstrates that it’s not working, and the Liberals really have no plan to get Canadians back to work. New infrastructure dollars announced in Phase 1 concentrated only on road repairs, maintenance, and data collection, and these projects created minimal jobs.

“Furthermore, last week a report commissioned by the Finance Minister revealed that the Liberals are looking to spend $40 billion to create a new Canada Infrastructure Bank,” added Watts. “Communities are worried about where this money is going to come from and who is going to pay for it. Will the Liberals burden working Canadians with even more taxes, or will communities not receive the important infrastructure funding they were promised?”

Watts added that the Liberals promised that $48 billion in Phase 2 funding would be provided for community infrastructure projects. Now, this report is suggesting that the Finance Minister use that money to create this bank instead.

“So far, the Prime Minister has announced over $7 billion in overseas spending,” noted Watts. “He has also committed Canada to the Chinese-backed Asia Infrastructure Development Bank that will cost Canadians $2.9 billion for infrastructure projects in Asia. Meanwhile, here at home, Albertans are still waiting on the bulk of the $700 million for infrastructure that the Prime Minister promised he’d fast track in February. So far, the Liberals have only managed to approve four projects worth just two percent of the funds promised to Alberta, despite having a list of proposed projects since March.”

The Minister of Finance will be providing a Fiscal Update early next week that is expected to include new infrastructure measures. “Clearly what they’re doing is not enough, and I look forward to seeing a plan that will invest in the kind of infrastructure projects that our communities need, and that will get Canadians back to work,” said Watts.

Trump: I’ll run America like my business. Clinton: Let’s not

WASHINGTON — His presidential dreams increasingly in question, Donald Trump pushed his business empire to the centre of his political campaign Wednesday. Taking a break from battleground states, he made the case at his newest hotel that all Americans should look to his corporate record for evidence of how well he’d run the country.

Hillary Clinton agreed, but not the way he meant it. She used campaign events in Florida to attack the GOP nominee for having “stiffed American workers,” saying he built his empire with Chinese-manufactured steel, overseas products and labour from immigrants in the country illegally.

“Donald Trump is the poster boy for everything wrong with our economy,” she told several thousand supporters in Tampa, Florida. “He refuses to pay workers and contractors.”

Trump’s political aspirations have long been deeply intertwined with promoting his corporate goals. He announced his campaign in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan and has held dozens of campaign events at his own properties. His remarks at his new Washington hotel, which has struggled to fill rooms amid the controversy surrounding his presidential bid, followed a visit Tuesday to his Doral golf course outside Miami.

“Under budget and ahead of schedule. So important. We don’t hear those words so often, but you will,” said Trump, linking the hotel redevelopment — just blocks from the White House — to his promised performance as president. “Today is a metaphor for what we can accomplish for this country.”

Though the GOP nominee focused his remarks on his political message, the event was heavy with marketing, too. Standing under glittering chandeliers, top company executives, including his daughter, touted the hotel. And after his brief speech, Trump and his family headed to the hotel’s grand lobby where they cut a wide red ribbon with golden scissors before he flew to North Carolina for what his campaign billed as an urban policy speech.

In Charlotte, Trump unveiled what he billed a “New Deal for black America” in front of a mostly white crowd. Trump, who has struggled to earn the support of minority voters, bemoaned that “too many African-Americans have been left behind and unveiled a handful of new proposals aimed at revitalizing impoverished urban areas.

They included new tax incentives for inner cities, new micro-loans for African Americans to start companies and hire workers and reinvesting money from suspended refugee programs in inner cities.

He also wants cities to be able to seek federal disaster designations to help them rebuild infrastructure, demolish abandoned buildings and invest in law enforcement.

As Trump cut the ribbon, Clinton was slamming his business practices in Florida, a state he must win to have any chance on Nov. 8. In Tampa, she was introduced by restaurateur Jose Andres, a naturalized U.S. citizen who pulled out of the Washington hotel to protest Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump and Andres are currently locked in litigation over the deal.

Trump’s unusual travel schedule, coming amid signs that the controversy surrounding his campaign has hurt his corporate brand, raises questions about whether the GOP nominee has begun to turn some of his focus to postelection plans.

Rooms at the overhauled $212 million hotel that bears his name at Washington’s Old Post Office Pavilion have been heavily discounted and smartphone data suggest fewer people are visiting his properties compared to rival venues nearby. A new Facebook live show produced by his campaign has heightened speculation that he may try and offset any losses with advertising revenue from a new a media network — a plan he denies.

Trump supporters defended his strategy, blasting critics for not making as big a deal of Clinton’s decision to attend an Adele concert Tuesday night. Trump took a break from campaigning to see the singer perform during the GOP primaries.

“I can’t take one hour off to cut a ribbon at one of the great hotels of the world? I mean, I think I’m entitled to it,” he said, in an interview with ABC News. He was more defensive in a CNN interview in which he called questions about his time away from swing state campaigning “insulting” and “rude.”

Trudeau defends Iraq mission secrecy, accuses Tories of endangering lives

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government’s clampdown on information about Canada’s mission in Iraq is necessary to protect Canadian soldiers on the ground.

But interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose says the government is trying to hide the fact the troops are engaged in combat with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The heated exchange in the House of Commons came after military officers revealed recently that Canadian soldiers are spending more time on the front lines and engaging in more firefights with ISIL.

But neither the officers nor the government would provide specific details.

Speaking in question period, Ambrose said the military held more briefings and provided more information about Canada’s role in the fight against ISIL under the previous government.

She also said Canadians shouldn’t have to learn about the mission from Twitter.

But Trudeau accused the Conservatives of putting Canadian soldiers in harm’s way with their openness while they were in power.

He said that unlike the previous government, the Liberals would not endanger soldiers for a communications exercise.

The Canadian Press

Bains will consider targets if no improvement to diversity on corporate boards

OTTAWA — The Liberal government hopes that proposed legislation requiring publicly traded companies to disclose the gender composition of their corporate boards and senior management will lead to greater diversity, but will consider imposing specific targets if the new measures don’t work.

“We want to send a clear signal that diversity is important and you need to explain what your diversity policies are and we feel that will start moving the needle,” Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said in an interview Wednesday, adding that changes happened when the United Kingdom and Australia brought in voluntary measures.

“But in a few years, if we don’t see progress — in a few years, if we don’t see meaningful results — then we will re-evaluate our position and look at all other options at that time,” Bains said.

Last month, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-25, which would, among other things, amend the Canadian Business Corporations Act to require publicly traded companies to disclose to their shareholders the number of women on their corporate boards and in senior management, as well as their policies on diversity — or explain why they do not have any.

The Canadian Business Corporations Act affects nearly 270,000 companies, but these changes would only affect those that also issue shares and report to a securities commission — including about 600 companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange, a government official said last month.

The bill, developed following consultations that began under the previous Conservative government, came up for a second reading debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The legislation will not include targets, which is something that Catalyst, an international non-profit organization that pushes for the advancement of women in the workplace, has been calling for as the most effective way to improve the numbers.

“The rationale is simple: it’s impossible to measure progress without first having something to measure it against,” Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of Catalyst, wrote in the foreword to a June report on the issue.

The Ontario government adopted that recommendation, setting a gender diversity target for businesses to have 30 per cent of their directors be women by 2017 and 40 per cent by 2019.

There is a long way to go.

The Catalyst report showed that in 2014, women filled 20.8 per cent of the board positions at Canadian stock index companies.

The Canadian Securities Administrators, which represents provincial securities regulators, has said that despite new rules in 10 participating jurisdictions that are aimed at improving corporate gender equity at companies traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, women occupied only 12 per cent of the positions last year.

And of the 677 companies included in the sample, the review found that 45 per cent of them did not have a single woman board member.

Bains said the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is doing what it can to set a good example in the public sector, such as committing to gender parity in cabinet.

“We also wanted to send a clear message to corporate Canada, to businesses, that look, diversity is good for business and we need you to step up and show leadership,” Bains said.

He acknowledged, however, that even his own department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has work to do.

More than half the members of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council are women, but two boards within the portfolio —the Competition Tribunal and the Copyright Board — have no women among their combined total of seven positions.

“We know government can and must do better,” he said.

The Canadian record on gender equity also came under some international scrutiny on Wednesday, as the World Economic Forum released a report showing that Canada was ranked 35 on the overall global index, sharing a first-place ranking when it comes to educational attainment, but coming in 36th place for economic participation and opportunity.

Bains said promoting diversity and increasing the number of women on corporate boards is the right thing to do, but it can also have a positive impact on the bottom line.

“Innovation is all about having diversity of thoughts, ideas and perspectives,” Bains said.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

2 quakes rattle Italy, crumbling buildings and causing panic

ROME (AP) — A pair of strong aftershocks shook central Italy late Wednesday, crumbling churches and buildings, knocking out power and sending panicked residents into the rain-drenched streets just two months after a powerful earthquake killed nearly 300 people.

But hours after the temblors hit, there were no reports of serious injuries or signs of people trapped in rubble, said the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio. A handful of people were treated for slight injuries or anxiety at area hospitals in the most affected regions of Umbria and Le Marche, he said.

“All told, the information so far is that it’s not as catastrophic” as it could have been, Curcio said.

The temblors were actually aftershocks to the Aug. 24 quake that struck a broad swath of central Italy, demolishing buildings in three towns and their hamlets, seismologists said. Several towns this time around also suffered serious damage, with homes in the epicenter of Visso spilling out into the street.

The first struck at 7:10 p.m. and carried a magnitude of 5.4. But the second one was eight times stronger at 6.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Because many residents had already left their homes with plans to spend the night in their cars or elsewhere, they weren’t home when the second aftershock hit two hours later, possibly saving lives, officials said.

“It was an unheard-of violence. Many houses collapsed,” the mayor of hard-hit Ussita, Marco Rinaldi, told Sky TG24. “The facade of the church collapsed. By now I have felt many earthquakes. This is the strongest of my life. It was something terrible.”

Rinaldi said two elderly people were rescued from their home, where they were trapped, and appeared to be in good condition. Some 200 people in Ussita were planning to sleep in the streets, given the impossibility of putting up tents so late at night.

Calling it “apocalyptic,” he said the town and its hamlets were “finished.”

A church crumbled in the ancient Perugian town of Norcia, famed for its Benedictine monastery and its cured meats. A bell-tower damaged on Aug. 24 fell and crushed a building in Camerino, the ANSA news agency said. Elsewhere, buildings were damaged, though many were in zones that were declared off-limits after the Aug. 24 quake that flattened parts of three towns.

“We’re without power, waiting for emergency crews,” said Mauro Falcucci, the mayor of Castelsantangelo sul Nera, near the epicenter. Speaking to Sky TG24, he said: “We can’t see anything. It’s tough. Really tough.”

He said some buildings had collapsed, but that there were no immediate reports of injuries in his community. He added that darkness and a downpour were impeding a full accounting.

Schools were closed in several towns Thursday as a precaution and a handful of hospitals were evacuated after suffering damage.

Premier Matteo Renzi, who cut short a visit to southern Italy to monitor the quake response, tweeted “all of Italy is embracing those hit once again.”

Italy’s national vulcanology center said the first quake had an epicenter in the Macerata area, near Perugia in the quake-prone Apennine Mountain chain. The U.S. Geological Survey put the epicenter near Visso, 170 kilometers northeast of Rome, and said it had a depth of some 10 kilometers (six miles).

The second aftershock struck two hours later at 9:18 p.m. with a similar depth.

Experts say even relatively modest quakes that have shallow depths can cause significant damage because the seismic waves are closer to the surface. But seismologist Gianluca Valensise said a 10-kilometer depth is within the norm for an Apennine temblor.

The Aug. 24 quake that destroyed the hilltop village of Amatrice and other nearby towns had a depth of about 10 kilometers. Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said residents felt Wednesday’s aftershocks but “We are thanking God that there are no dead and no injured.”

The original Aug. 24, 6.2-magnitude quake was still 41 percent stronger than even the second aftershock.

Wednesday’s temblors were felt from Perugia in Umbria to the capital Rome and as far north as Veneto. It also shook the central Italian city of L’Aquila, which was struck by a deadly quake in 2009. The mayor of L’Aquila, however, said there were no immediate reports of damage there.

 A section of a major state highway north of Rome, the Salaria, was closed near Arquata del Tronto as a precaution because of a quake-induced landslide, said a spokeswoman for the civil protection agency, Ornella De Luca.

The mayor of Arquata del Tronto, Aleandro Petrucci, said the aftershocks felt stronger than the August quake, which devastated parts of his town. But he said there were no reports of injuries to date and that the zone hardest hit by the last quake remained uninhabitable.

“We don’t worry because there is no one in the red zone, if something fell, walls fell,” he said.

In Rome, some 230 kilometers (145 miles) southwest from the epicenter, centuries-old palazzi shook and officials at the Foreign Ministry evacuated the building.

The quakes were actually aftershocks of the magnitude 6.2 earthquake from two months ago. Because they were so close to the surface, they have the potential to cause more shaking and more damage, “coupled with infrastructure that’s vulnerable to shaking,” said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle.

“They have a lot of old buildings that weren’t constructed at a time with modern seismic codes,” he said.

Given the size, depth and location of the quakes, the USGS estimates that about 24 million people likely felt at least weak shaking.

This original quake was about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the original shock, which puts it on the northern edge of the aftershock sequence and two months is normal for aftershocks, Earle said.

Take a shot at protecting yourself and others from the flu

All British Columbians are encouraged to get immunized and reduce the chance of getting the flu and passing it on to others.

Health Minister Terry Lake and provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall rolled up their sleeves for the flu shot today and announced that the influenza vaccine will be available throughout the province by early November at public health clinics, physicians’ offices, travel clinics and pharmacies.

“It doesn’t take long to stop and get your flu shot,” said Lake. “By getting immunized, you’re not only protecting yourself, but also anyone who may be vulnerable to complications from the flu, which can cause serious illness, and even hospitalization. I get the flu shot every year to protect myself, my family and everyone around me.”

The flu shot is free in B.C. to people at risk from complications, and their close contacts:

  • children between six months and five years;
  • seniors 65 and older;
  • pregnant women;
  • Aboriginal people;
  • individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems;
  • anyone who lives with any of these people; and
  • visitors to long-term care facilities and hospitals.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine is provided free at public health clinics and physicians’ offices to children from two to 17 years of age who are at risk of serious illness from influenza or who live with someone who is at risk.

“Influenza causes more deaths than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined,” said Kendall. “The flu can be a serious disease and is highly contagious. Getting your flu shot early and washing your hands frequently, you can to protect yourself and others and prevent spreading the flu.”

“As someone battling cancer and as the mother of an immunocompromised child, I can personally attest to the importance of doing everything you can to protect your family,” said Victoria breast cancer patient Jacqueline Zweng. “That’s why the flu shot is so important. Getting sick might seem like an inconvenience to some people, but to others it can be life or death.”

Each year, about 3,500 Canadians die from influenza and its complications across Canada. Hospitalized patients and seniors in residential care are more vulnerable to influenza than healthy adults.

To help protect them, all health authority employees, students, physicians, residents, contractors, vendors, volunteers and visitors to health-care facilities must get immunized by Dec. 1, or wear a mask when in a patient care area. The vaccine is offered free for these groups as well.

“The annual flu vaccine is the single-most effective way to reduce the spread of influenza,” said Dr. Alan Ruddiman, president of Doctors of BC. “By protecting yourself, you also protect the people around you who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illness – the young, the elderly, and physicians themselves who care for patients already in compromised health situations. I strongly encourage all British Columbians to receive their annual flu shot.”

“Pharmacists are a convenient and accessible option for getting your flu shot this year,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. “More than 95 per cent of pharmacies in communities across B.C. have pharmacists who are trained and authorized to give immunizations.”

To find the nearest flu shot clinic, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or visit the Influenza Clinic Finder: http://www.immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu#8/49.246/-123.116