Monday, August 31st15.8°C

Ancient ruins ruined

A satellite image on Monday shows that the main building of the ancient Temple of Bel in the Syrian city of Palmyra has been destroyed, a United Nations agency said. The image was taken a day after a massive explosion was set off near the 2,000-year-old temple in the city occupied by Islamic State militants.

Earlier, Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, said there was conflicting information about the fate of the temple, one of the most prominent structures in a sprawling Roman-era complex, because eyewitnesses were unable to approach the site.

But Einar Bjorgo, manager of Geneva-based UN satellite analysts UNOSAT, said a satellite image taken Monday "unfortunately shows the destruction of the temple's main building as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity." UNOSAT based its findings after comparing the image with one taken on Aug. 27 which showed the main building and columns still intact.

Bjorgo said the images were important so the UN cultural agency UNESCO could have "objective information" about the situation in Palmyra, which UNESCO has designated a world heritage site.

The IS group, which captured Palmyra from forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in May, destroyed the smaller Temple of Baalshamin in the complex last week and posted images of the destruction days later. UNESCO condemned the act as a war crime.

Activists, including a Palmyra resident, said earlier that an Islamic State bombing extensively damaged the 2,000-year old temple Sunday. The resident described a massive explosion, adding that he saw pictures of the damage but could not get near the site.

An Islamic State operative told The Associated Press over Skype on Monday that militants detonated explosives near the temple, without elaborating on how much of it was damaged. He spoke on condition of anonymity because members of the extremist group are not allowed to speak to journalists.

Residents in Palmyra told the official Syrian state news agency that IS militants destroyed large parts of the temple and booby trapped other parts of it, expressing concern that they plan to destroy the rest soon.

Amr al-Azm, a former Syrian antiquities official who now is a professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio, said he believed a very large amount of explosives was used and the damage to the Temple of Bel was likely extensive.

"This is the most devastating act yet in my opinion. It truly demonstrates ISIS's ability to act with impunity and the impotence of the international community to stop them," al-Azm said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

Abdulkarim said he was waiting for pictures to emerge in the coming days to determine the extent of the damage.

Earlier this month, relatives and witnesses said that IS militants had beheaded Khaled al-Asaad, an 81-year-old antiquities scholar who devoted his life to understanding Palmyra.

The Islamic State group, which has imposed a violent interpretation of Islamic law across its self-declared "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq, says such ancient relics promote idolatry.

It already has blown up several sites in neighbouring Iraq, and it is also believed to be selling looted antiquities.

The Temple of Bel, dating back to 32 AD, shows a unique merging of ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman architecture. It is dedicated to the Semitic god Bel and is considered one of the most important religious buildings of the first century. The temple consisted of a central shrine within a colonnaded courtyard with a large gateway, within a complex that has other ruins, including an amphitheatre and some tombs.

It stood out among the ruins not far from the colonnades of Palmyra, which is affectionately known by Syrians as the "Bride of the Desert."

Palmyra was an important caravan city of the Roman Empire, linking it to India, China, and Persia. Before the outbreak of Syria's conflict in March 2011, the UNESCO site was one of the top tourist attractions in the Middle East.

The Canadian Press


Self-help guru Dyer dies

Wayne W. Dyer, who became the pied piper of the self-help movement with the 1976 publication of his runaway bestseller, "Your Erroneous Zones: Step-By-Step Advice for Escaping the Trap of Negative Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life," has died at age 75.

Dyer, who published more than 40 books, including such bestselling titles as "I Can See Clearly Now" and "Pulling Your Own Strings," died Sunday at his home in Hawaii. The cause was a heart attack, his publicist, Lindsay McGinty, told The Associated Press.

Although he had been diagnosed with leukemia, Dyer remained active until his death, recently lecturing in Australia and New Zealand.

"Wayne has left his body, passing away through the night. He always said he couldn't wait for this next adventure to begin and had no fear of dying," his family said in a statement posted on his Facebook page. "Our hearts are broken, but we smile to think of how much our scurvy elephant will enjoy the other side."

The prolific author and avuncular public speaker counted such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and fellow self-help- guru Tony Robbins among his friends, and tributes from them and others poured across the Internet.

"The world has lost an incredible man," said TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who posted a photo on Twitter of Dyer officiating at her wedding to Portia de Rossi.

Winfrey, who interviewed him often, said, "It was always a pleasure to talk to Dr. Wayne W. Dyer about life's big questions."

He was also a popular figure on public radio and television programs, and his website said 10 PBS specials he took part in over the years raised more than $250 million for public television.

A Detroit native, Dyer earned a doctorate in educational counselling from Michigan's Wayne State University before going on to teach at St. John's University in New York.

He would later say it was his teaching and work as a clinical psychologist that inspired him to write his first book, "Your Erroneous Zones," in which he exhorted readers to believe in themselves, take chances and not be afraid to risk failure in pursuit of happiness.

He believed so strongly in its content that he drove across the country selling it out of the trunk of his car until it caught on and topped The New York Times bestseller list. To date it has sold 60 million copies, according to Hay House, making it one of the most popular books of all time.

Dozens more books followed, many of them also bestsellers. Among them were "Wishes Fulfilled," ''Excuses Begone" and "The Sky's the Limit."

He also co-authored a handful of children's books.

In more recent years, the focus of Dyer's books shifted from what he called the practical psychology of self-improvement to more spiritual matters. Some early fans dismissed those later works as too "New Agey," but Dyer believed strongly in their importance.

"My purpose is to help people look at themselves and begin to shift their concepts," he said. "Remember, we are not our country, our race or religion. We are eternal spirits. Seeing ourselves as spiritual beings without label is a way to transform the world and reach a sacred place for all of humanity."

Hay House said a public tribute is scheduled next month in New York, and McGinty said there will be a private memorial service for family members only.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

The Canadian Press

Kanye West for 2020?

Kanye West for 2020? The White House says it is anticipating the rapper's potential bid for president.

West claimed he would run for president while accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Sunday.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says he looks "forward to seeing what slogan (West) chooses to embroider on his campaign hat." Earnest was travelling to Alaska aboard Air Force One with President Barack Obama.

This isn't the first time the outspoken rapper has dabbled in talk of politics. West is noted for criticism of President George W. Bush and the federal government's response after Hurricane Katrina.

He has also compared the world's fascination with his wife, Kim Kardashian, to its interest in first lady Michelle Obama.

The Canadian Press


2-day crawl to survive

Authorities say determination, strength and a two-day crawl to a stream for water helped a 62-year-old woman survive while she was lost in the Sierra Nevada for nine days with a broken leg.

Fresno County sheriff's Deputy Jason Vinogradoff said Monday that Miyuki Harwood blew a whistle signalling her location to searchers in the wilderness.

She had become separated from fellow hikers and slipped on a rock, breaking her left leg. Vinogradoff says she described crawling for more than two days to lifesaving water in a stream.

She said she decided to find water rather than dying where she fell.

Vinogradoff says Harwood had warm clothing that got her through nighttime temperatures that hit freezing.

She talked and joked with rescuers while they put her on a helicopter.

The Canadian Press

Grenade blast at parliament

A grenade exploded outside Ukraine's parliament during a nationalist protest against a vote to give greater powers to separatist regions in the east, killing one police officer and injuring more than 100, the interior ministry said.

The clashes marked the worst outburst of violence in the capital since the government took power in February 2014.

The decentralization of power was a condition of a truce signed in Minsk in February aimed at ending the fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed separatists that has left more than 6,800 dead since April 2014. But some Ukrainians oppose changing the constitution, saying that it would threaten the country's sovereignty and independence.

In a televised address, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the bill, which was adopted on Monday as "a difficult but a logical step toward peace," and insisted that it wouldn't give any autonomy to the rebels.

The officer who was killed in the clashes on Monday was a 25-year-old conscript, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told reporters. He said that 122 people were hospitalized — most are officers, but the number also includes Ukrainian journalists and two French reporters.

No injuries were immediately reported among several hundred protesters including 100 die-hard activists, most of whom were members of Svoboda, a nationalist party that holds only a handful of seats in parliament. The protesters were carrying sticks and truncheons. Some of them were masked.

Avakov said that about 30 people have been detained, including the person who threw the grenade. Avakov identified the grenade thrower as a Svoboda member who fought in the east in one of the volunteer battalions which are loosely controlled by the government.

Poroshenko described the clashes outside the parliament as an attack on him and pledged to prosecute "all political leaders" who were behind the clashes.

"There's no other way to describe what occurred outside the Rada other than a stab in the back," he said of the clashes outside parliament.

Poroshenko said the vote confirmed Ukraine's "position as a trusted partner which fulfills its international obligations" and the country would have risked losing the support of the West and being left "alone with the aggressor."

A total of 265 deputies in the 450-seat parliament gave preliminary approval Monday to the changes proposed by President Poroshenko. Three parties that are part of the majority coalition in parliament, however, opposed the constitutional changes.

"This is not a road to peace and not a road to decentralization," said the leader of one of those parties, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. "This is the diametrically opposite process, which will lead to the loss of new territories."

Parliamentary speaker Vladimir Groisman denied that the changes would lead to the loss of the Donetsk region, where there have been clashes with separatists.

With the decentralization bill, Poroshenko found himself in a tight spot. While Ukrainian nationalists fear that the bill would incite separatism, Russia-backed rebels in the east and Moscow say the bill doesn't give regions enough powers and is short of the pledges Kyiv made in Minsk.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in a live address on television, called for life imprisonment for the person who threw the grenade and said the right-wing protesters were "worse" than the separatist rebels because they are destroying the country from within "under the guise of patriotism."

"The cynicism of this crime lies in the fact that while the Russian federation and its bandits are trying and failing to destroy the Ukrainian state on the eastern front, the so-called pro-Ukrainian political forces are trying to open another front in the country's midst."

He called on all Ukrainian political parties to rally around the government and condemn the violence.

A final vote on the constitutional changes will be held during parliament's fall session, which begins on Tuesday. No specific date has yet been set.

The Canadian Press

Flood of migrants rescued

Greece's coast guard picked up nearly 2,500 migrants from the sea in dozens of search and rescue operations, part of a relentless flow of people seeking the safety of Europe after facing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The coast guard said Monday it had rescued 2,492 people in 70 operations off the eastern islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonissi, Farmakonissi, Kos and Symi from Friday morning until Monday morning.

The coast guard also rescued another 13 people in the water near Chios. One person was unconscious and hospitalized.

Greece has been overwhelmed by record numbers of migrants this year, the vast majority from Syria and Afghanistan, reaching its eastern Aegean islands from the nearby Turkish coast. More than 200,000 have arrived. Nearly all head to Greece's northern border with Macedonia, cross into Serbia and Hungary and go toward more prosperous European countries.

On Monday, Greek police fired one stun grenade to prevent a stampede and keep back a crowd who attempted to rush the border after Macedonian authorities briefly stopped the flow of those allowed to cross. The situation calmed a short while later and crossings resumed.

On the islands, authorities have struggled to cope with the sheer numbers of migrants. A government-chartered ferry on Monday brought 2,500 migrants to Piraeus, the main port near Athens, from Kos and Lesbos.

"It's very bad in Mytilene," the main town on Lesbos, Mohamad, a Syrian Kurd who would only give his first name, said as he disembarked. "I stay five days in (the) street. No food, no anything."

Another Syrian, Basar, who would also only give his first name, said the situation wasn't that dire but many people from other countries were claiming to be Syrian to take advantage of the refugee status Syrians automatically receive.

The Canadian Press

Facebook prayer outcry

Egyptians in a Nile Delta province are outraged after a cleric allegedly changed a line in the traditional Islamic call to dawn prayers to mention Facebook.

Instead of saying "prayer is better than sleep" twice, as he was supposed to, Shiekh Mahmoud Maghazi of Beheira province allegedly said: "Prayer is better than Facebook." The issue drew nationwide attention when he defended himself against shouted accusations on one of Egypt's most-watched television talk shows, called 10 PM, on Sunday.

The country's Religious Endowments Ministry suspended Maghazi after locals complained last week, prompting him to launch a hunger strike and deny that he made the reference.

With over a quarter of the population plagued by illiteracy, Egypt's talk show hosts play a major role in leading public opinion.

The Canadian Press

More bomb materials found

Thai police said Monday they discovered bomb-making materials during a raid of a second apartment on the outskirts of the capital, as authorities widened their search for suspects behind Bangkok's deadly bombing.

National police spokesman Prawuth Thavornsiri said that police found fertilizer, gun powder, digital clocks and remote-controlled cars whose parts can be used for detonation, among other items, during a raid over the weekend at an apartment in Bangkok's Min Buri district.

"These are bomb-making materials," Prawuth said. "Nobody would keep urea fertilizer and gunpowder unless they wanted to make a bomb."

Min Buri is near the neighbourhood where police on Saturday arrested an unnamed foreigner and seized a trove of bomb-making equipment that included detonators, ball bearings and a metal pipe they believe was intended to hold a bomb.

Prawuth said police were looking to issue three or four more arrest warrants but declined to give more details.

Saturday's arrest was the first possible breakthrough in the investigation into the Aug. 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine, which killed 20 people, more than half of whom were foreigners, and injured more than 120 others.

Much remains unknown about the suspect, including his nationality, his motive, his relationship to the alleged bombing network or if he was plotting an attack, Prawuth said, adding that another attack was "possible" because police found 10 detonators.

"We still have to work out the details," he said. "But we are very certain he's part of the network" that carried out the bombing.

On Sunday, Prawuth said that that the interrogation was proceeding slowly.

"He is not co-operating much. From our preliminary investigation, we think he isn't telling us the truth," Prawuth said, declining to elaborate. "He told us how he entered Thailand but we don't believe everything he says."

He said police were working with "a number of embassies" and interpreters to try to establish the man's nationality, adding that he did not speak Thai but spoke some English.

Authorities have dodged questions about whether the suspect is believed to be Turkish, saying that he was travelling on a fake passport. Images circulated online after his arrest of a fake Turkish passport with the apparent suspect's picture.

"We don't know if he is Turkish or not," Prawuth said Saturday.

The Turkish Embassy in Bangkok could not immediately be reached for comment. A Turkish government spokesman contacted over the weekend in Istanbul said he had no information on the suspect or any possible Turkish link to the attack.

The blast at the Erawan Shrine was unprecedented in the Thai capital, where smaller bombs have been employed in domestic political violence over the past decade, but not in an effort to cause large-scale casualties.

The Canadian Press

Titanic's last lunch menu

The Titanic's last lunch menu — saved by a passenger who climbed aboard the so-called "Money Boat" before the ocean liner went down — is going to auction, where it's estimated it will bring $50,000 to $70,000.

The online New York auctioneer Lion Heart Autographs is offering the menu and two other previously unknown artifacts from Lifeboat 1 on Sept. 30. The auction marks the 30th anniversary of the wreckage's discovery at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Abraham Lincoln Salomon was one of a handful of first-class passengers who boarded the lifeboat — dubbed the "Money Boat" or "Millionaire's Boat" by the press because of unfounded rumours one of them bribed seven crew members to quickly row the boat away from the sinking ship rather than rescue others.

The menu, which listed corned beef, dumplings and other savory items, is signed on the back in pencil by another first-class passenger, Isaac Gerald Frauenthal, who escaped on another lifeboat. It's believed the two men lunched together that fateful day in 1912.

Salomon also took away a printed ticket from the Titanic's opulent Turkish baths, which recorded a person's weight when seated in a specially designed upholstered lounge chair. It bears the names of three of the five other first-class passengers with him on Lifeboat 1. One of four weighing-chair tickets known to exist, it's estimated it will bring $7,500 to $10,000.

The third artifact is a letter written by Mabel Francatelli to Salomon on New York's Plaza Hotel stationery six months after the disaster. She had climbed into the No. 1 lifeboat with her employer, aristocratic fashion designer Lucy Duff-Gordon and her Scottish husband Lord Cosmo Duff-Gordon, who it was alleged bribed the crew to row them to safety in the boat that had a capacity of 40.

The Duff-Gordons, who were the only passengers to testify about the disaster, were cleared by the British Wreck Commissioner's inquiry, which determined that they did not deter the crew from attempting to rescue other people but that others might have been saved if the boat had turned around.

A letter by Lady Duff-Gordon grumbling about the "disgraceful" treatment they received from the press and public upon their return to England sold at an auction in Boston earlier this year for nearly $12,000.

"We do hope you have now quite recovered from the terrible experience," Francatelli wrote to Salomon. "I am afraid our nerves are still bad, as we had such trouble & anxiety added to our already awful experience by the very unjust inquiry when we arrived in London." It's estimated it will sell for $4,000 to $6,000.

Lion Heart Autographs says the seller is the son of a man who was given the items by a direct descendent of one of the survivors of Lifeboat 1.

The Canadian Press

New name for tallest mtn

President Barack Obama will change the name of North America's tallest mountain peak from Mount McKinley to Denali, the White House said Sunday, bestowing the traditional Alaska Native name on the eve of a historic presidential visit to Alaska.

By renaming the peak Denali, an Athabascan word meaning "the high one," Obama is wading into a sensitive and decades-old conflict between residents of Alaska and Ohio. Alaskans have informally called the 20,320-foot mountain Denali for years, but the federal government recognizes its name invoking the 25th president, William McKinley, who was born in Ohio and assassinated early in his second term.

"With our own sense of reverence for this place, we are officially renaming the mountain Denali in recognition of the traditions of Alaska Natives and the strong support of the people of Alaska," said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The announcement came as Obama prepared to depart early Monday on a three-day visit to Alaska, becoming the first sitting president to travel north of the Arctic Circle. As part of his visit, Obama is attempting to show solidarity with Alaska Natives, and planned to hold a round-table session with a group of Alaska Natives just after arriving Monday in Anchorage.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who had pushed legislation for years to change the name, said Alaskans were "honoured" to recognize the mountain as Denali — a change in tone for the Alaska Republican, who had spoken out against Obama's energy policies in anticipation of his visit to her state.

"I'd like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honour, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska," Murkowski said in a video message recorded atop the mountain's Ruth Glacier, with cloudy snow-capped peaks behind her.

The state of Alaska has had a standing request to change the name dating back to 1975, when the legislature passed a resolution and then-Gov. Jay Hammond made a request to the federal government. But those efforts and legislation in Congress have been stymied by members of Ohio's congressional delegation.

It was unclear whether Ohio leaders or others would mount an effort to block the change. There was no immediate response to inquiries seeking comment from House Speaker John Boehner and other Ohio lawmakers.

The White House cited Jewell's authority to change the name, and Jewell issued a secretarial order officially changing it to Denali. The Interior Department said the U.S. Board on Geographic Names had been deferring to Congress since 1977, and cited a 1947 law that allows the Interior Department to change names unilaterally when the board fails to act "within a reasonable time." The board shares responsibility with the Interior Department for naming such landmarks.

The peak got its officially recognized name in 1898, when a prospector was exploring mountains in central Alaska, the White House said. Upon hearing the news that McKinley, a Republican, had received his party's nomination to be president, the prospector named it after him and the name was formally recognized.

The White House noted that McKinley never visited Alaska, and said the site is significant culturally to Alaska Natives and central to the Athabascan creation story.

The Canadian Press

Fallen firefighters honoured

Several thousand people gathered Sunday to honour three U.S. Forest Service firefighters killed battling wildfires in Washington state.

"They dedicated their lives to protecting our national forests and the people in the communities surrounding them," Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in a eulogy. "And for that we should be grateful."

The memorial service for 20-year-old Tom Zbyszewski, 26-year-old Andrew Zajac, and 31-year-old Richard Wheeler took place in Wenatchee. That's about 90 miles south of where they died Aug. 19 near Twisp in eastern Washington when flames consumed their crashed vehicle.

More than 80 vehicles took part in a procession leading to the memorial service Sunday where more than 100 firefighters stood at attention. Dozens of civilians also took part, many holding U.S. flags and others with signs that said "You are heroes!"

Tom Zbyszewski followed in his father's footsteps as a firefighter. He was the youngest of the three who died, and a physics major at Whitman College with an acting bent. He was due to return to school in about a week.

"Tom was the light of my life," his father, Richard Zbyszewski, said in his eulogy. "My path I'm afraid will always be a little bit darker because I miss him so much."

Zajac was the son of a Methodist minister from Downers Grove, Illinois. He was in his second year as a professional wildland firefighter for the Forest Service and earned a master's degree in biology last year from the University of South Dakota. Zajac and his wife, Jenn, were married last year after hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Coast Trail together in 2013.

Jenn, in a statement read by Zajec's mother, Mary, said, "Andrew was my calm and my strength; my belay (climbing) partner, my fishing buddy, my hiking companion, my love. Just under a year ago we made a promise until death do us part. I just never imaged it would come so soon. I'll miss him forever."

Wheeler, "Wheels" as his friends called him during their eulogies, was a fourth-generation firefighter as well as an avid fisherman, hiker and hunter.

This was Wheeler and his wife Celeste's second year living in Wenatchee after he graduated in 2013 from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He was a seasonal worker with hopes of becoming a permanent wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was out of the country, so his wife, Trudi Inslee, presented each of the families with state flags. The families also received Forest Service flags, small statues, and a Pulaski, a firefighting tool still in use today but also heavy with symbolism. When a person becomes a wildland firefighter, they are said to "pick up the Pulaski."

"Without men like Tom and Richard and Andrew, we would not be able to protect and care for the lands they devoted their lives to," Tidwell said.

Daniel Lyon, who sustained burns on more than 60 per cent of his body in the fire that killed the three firefighters, on Sunday remained in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he's had two successful burn surgeries. A spokeswoman said the 25-year-old is scheduled to undergo another operation this week.

The Canadian Press

Silver for Heather Wurtele

While Trevor Wurtele was taking second spot in the Valley First Challenge Penticton half triathlon, Sunday, Heather Wurtele took second place halfway around the world.

Heather was competing in Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Austria, where she took second place in her division with a time of 4:23:07.

“I definitely left it all out there today! @danielaryf = brilliant & Anja pushed me super hard 2 the finish. What a great race,” tweeted Heather.

The Ironman 70.3 World Championship was created in 2006 and held in Clearwater, Fla., until 2011. It then moved to Henderson, Nev., where athletes were treated to a much more challenging course.

In 2013 and 2014, the event took place in Mont-Tremblant, Que., its first stop on a new "global rotation" for the championship. 2015 put the event on European soil for the first time.

More than 1,800 athletes from around the world (who qualified at another Ironman 70.3 event) competed.

More than 130,000 athletes participate in a season of qualifying races for the championship, a series which consists of over 85 events in locations such as Australia, Germany, South Africa and Switzerland.

Ruck wins gold

Kelowna product Taylor Ruck earned three medals, including two golds and was part of the record-beating relay during the World Junior Swimming Championships in Singapore.

Ruck started with the 200-m back where she came up with a great finish, but was 0.05 seconds shy of the silver medal – but good enough for a bronze.

She then returned to the blocks and won the 100-m free with a championship record time of 53.92. It was a 1-2 for Canada as Penny Oleksiak came second, trailing by 0.73sec.

Just 15 minutes later, they stood on the podium with their well-deserved medals, but as soon as the anthem was finished they ran along the pool deck, together with Russia’s bronze medallist Arina Openysheva, as they were all involved to the day-ending 4x100m mixed free relay.

Oleksiak passed everyone and Ruck never looked back on the home-coming leg. She had another sub-54 second effort (the only one in the field), and that was enough to beat the world junior record, by more than a full second (3:27.71).

- with files from

Miley in spotlight at VMAs

The M in MTV will stand for Miley tonight.

Miley Cyrus is set to host the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards — two years after she stole the show with a risque, but memorable performance with Robin Thicke, and a year after winning the top prize for "Wrecking Ball."

There has been much speculation on whether Cyrus will push the boundaries again this evening.

The 22-year-old will be in good company. Justin Bieber will perform his new single, "What Do You Mean." Taylor Swift, the leader with 10 nominations, will attend, and Nicki Minaj will open the show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles — just like she did last year.

Kanye West will receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, and Pharrell, the Weeknd and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will perform during the two-hour show, starting at 5 p.m. PST.

The Canadian Press

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