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Toronto now counting the deaths of homeless people|
Toronto’s top public health official says the city’s new program to track all homeless deaths will provide invaluable data to better assist and house vulnerable populations.“The full scope of this problem has been unknown,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, speaking at the Church of the Holy Trinity.“What we needed was information from the many health and social service agencies which work closely with individuals experiencing homelessness or who are marginally housed.”The initiative, which began Jan. 1, was officially launched Tuesday with a press conference at the church, the site of the Toronto Homeless Memorial where an unofficial list is kept of more than 800 GTA homeless people who died since the mid-1980s.The tracking system will collect information such as age, gender, unofficial cause of death and the location of the death, and whether the deceased is of indigenous heritage, said Yaffe. Names will be kept confidential.Until now, the city has only tracked the deaths of people who lived in city-administered shelters.The initiative comes 11 months after a Star investigation found that the province and most Ontario municipalities have no mandate to track homeless deaths comprehensively.The investigation revealed that the Office of the Chief Coroner does not record all homeless deaths, nor is there any provincial registry to which hospitals, shelters and social agencies can report deaths that these are aware of.Spurred by the Star’s investigation, Toronto Councillor Paul Ainslie tabled a motion that passed at city hall in April asking city staff to gather data on the deaths of homeless people in an effort to tackle the problem.Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ainslie said the information is “the tool we need to begin influencing decision-making at all levels of government to bring purposeful policies and legislation to help the homeless and sick who live on the streets of Toronto.“The collection of data is significant in effecting how governments work cohesively to address the issues and provide the very necessary supports required to prevent the unfortunate circumstances of our homeless dying on Toronto streets,” Ainslie said.The expanded program will not require additional money as public health staff “will absorb” the data-collection duties, Yaffe added.She noted there were 30 shelter-related deaths in 2016, “but we know this is an underestimate, for sure.”Yaffe said that Toronto Public Health will work with around 200 partners, such as hospitals, community health centres and shelters, so “we will be able to more fully measure the scope and scale of the toll that homelessness has had on our community and help to inform solutions to improve the health of our most vulnerable residents.”Tuesday’s announcement was a long-time coming for Toronto street nurse Cathy Crowe, who has been calling for the tracking of the deaths of homeless people for more than 30 years.In her remarks to reporters at the city’s news conference, Crowe noted that an inquest into the 1985 death of Drina Joubert, who froze to death in a truck in downtown Toronto, resulted in a jury recommendation that the provincial coroner track homeless deaths.That recommendation was not followed.“Others have died of overdose. Others have been murdered,” said Crowe, who is a distinguished visiting practitioner in Ryerson University’s politics and public administration department.“I remember a man who was run over by a car in Yorkville. There are those who died alone in Allan Gardens. So the deaths we know are traumatic, they’re violent and they’re never natural,” she added.“I am happy to say that, after all these years, we are finally going to get hard data on these atrocities.”In the wake of the Star’s investigation, the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario has called a public inquest into the deaths of two homeless Toronto men: Brad Chapman and Grant Faulkner.Chapman collapsed in an alley near a hotel and later died.Faulkner perished when his makeshift hut caught fire on a bitter winter night in a Scarborough field.The coroner is aiming to begin the inquest by the end of 2017 and advocates hope recommendations will be made that will help prevent deaths of homeless people.
Trump received unsubstantiated report that Russia has explosive information about him|
WASHINGTON — The chiefs of U.S. intelligence agencies last week presented President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.The summary is based on memos generated by political operatives seeking to derail Trump’s candidacy. Details of the reports began circulating in the fall and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington.The summary was presented as an annex to the intelligence agencies’ report on the Russian hacking of the election, the officials said. The material was not corroborated, and The New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims. But intelligence agencies considered it so potentially explosive that they decided Obama, Trump and congressional leaders needed to be told about it and that the agencies were actively investigating it.Intelligence officials were concerned that the information would leak before they informed Trump of its existence, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the summary is classified and talking about it would be a felony.The decision of top intelligence officials to give the president, the president-elect and the so-called Gang of Eight — Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress and the intelligence committees — what they know to be unverified, defamatory material was extremely unusual.The appendix summarized opposition research memos prepared mainly by a retired British intelligence operative for a Washington political and corporate research firm. The firm was paid for its work first by Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals and later by supporters of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Times has checked on a number of the details included in the memos but has been unable to substantiate them.The memos suggest that for many years, the government of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has looked for ways to influence Mr. Trump, who has traveled repeatedly to Moscow to investigate real estate deals or to oversee the Miss Universe competition, which he owned for several years. Mr. Trump never completed any major deals in Russia, though he discussed them for years.The former British intelligence officer who gathered the material about Mr. Trump is considered a competent and reliable operative with extensive experience in Russia, American officials said. But he passed on what he heard from Russian informants and others, and what they told him has not yet been vetted by American intelligence.The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.The memos also suggest that Russian officials proposed various lucrative deals, essentially as disguised bribes in order to win influence over the real estate magnate.The memos describe several purported meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump representatives and Russian officials to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta.The first hint of the F.B.I. investigation came on Tuesday in a Senate hearing in a series of questions from Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, to the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey.Mr. Wyden, trying to draw Mr. Comey out on information he may have heard during a classified briefing, asked whether the F.B.I. had investigated the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. Mr. Comey demurred, saying he could not discuss any investigations that may or may not be underway. Mr. Wyden kept pressing, asking Mr. Comey to provide a written answer to the question before Mr. Trump’s inaugural on Jan. 20 because he feared there would be no declassification of the information once Mr. Trump took office.After the hearing, Mr. Wyden posted on Twitter: “Director Comey refused to answer my question about whether the FBI has investigated Trump campaign contacts with Russia.”In fact, the material in the opposition research dossier had been given to the F.B.I. before the election. But the F.B.I. itself apparently struggled to confirm it, according to federal officials familiar with the investigation.
Veteran Crown prosecutor calls serial rapist 'most dangerous person'|
A veteran Crown prosecutor says authorities must make certain Toronto serial rapist Selvah Kumar Subbiah is immediately deported and turned over to Malaysian authorities when he’s set free from prison at the end of the month.“I think he’s the most dangerous person that I ever prosecuted in 23 years,” retired Crown counsel Paul Normandeau said in an interview.“I did hundreds of sexual assault cases and child abuse cases and I still think he’s the most dangerous person I’ve ever seen,” said Normandeau, who for seven years was the lead prosecutor on the child abuse team in downtown Toronto.Prison staff who have worked with Subbiah, 56, consider him a high risk to rape again or kill if he’s given the opportunity, his parole records state.Subbiah is due to be released from prison on Jan. 29 when he has completed his full sentence of more than 24 years, even though prison authorities have said he’s likely to reoffend or even kill.Authorities won’t say whether he’ll be deported to his native Malaysia or returned to the streets of Toronto, where he sexually assaulted more than two dozen women.A spokesperson said the Immigration Act “clearly defines reasons for inadmissibility including involvement in criminal activity, in human rights violations, in organized crime, security, health or financial reasons.”“All foreign nationals and/or permanent residents accused of committing criminal acts are subject to the due process of the law,” Derek Lawrence of the CBSA in Toronto said in an email. “When convicted, they must serve their sentence before the removal from Canada can take place.”The law does allow for the removal of serious criminals without an appeal.One of Subbiah’s victims said she deserves to know if he’s back in Toronto.“He doesn’t have the right for a quiet exit,” she said in a telephone interview. “People should be all over this.”The Star agreed not to reveal her identity because of her security concerns.Court heard that Subbiah sometimes posed as a model agent or movie talent scout and occasionally pretended to be a professional dancer, lawyer or diplomat. He also lured victims through ads offering to sell exotic pets.He offered victims a drink, which he would drug to immobilize or knock them out. Then he would rape them.“When I got to the bottom of the glass, I realized there was powder in it,” his victim said. “I was fighting and fighting not to pass out.”She said she was able to remain conscious but lacked the strength to ward off his attack.Normandeau said he wasn’t surprised to hear that prison officials consider Subbiah an extremely high risk to sexually assault or kill women, if he returns to the streets.Subbiah was told in a June 2016 parole hearing that prison hasn’t made him less dangerous, according to records obtained by The Star. Similar comments were made by prison officials in previous parole hearings.“The CMT (case management team) believes that you are likely to commit an offence causing death or serious harm to another person prior to the expiration of your (parole) and therefore, is recommending that your detention order be confirmed,” the parole record from that June hearing states.“File information indicates that you continue to struggle in the areas of victim empathy, remorse and your inability to take full responsibility for your personal choices which results in your lack of mitigation in risk.”Normandeau said he has been dreading the day of Subbiah’s release ever since he was sent to prison back in 1992.“Are they going to deport him?” asked Normandeau, who retired five years ago. “How are they going to deport him? This is the guy to worry about.”Normandeau said there’s only one way for authorities to properly handle Normandeau’s release – escort him with two police officers to Malaysia, and turn him over to authorities there, along with a thick file on his crimes.Normandeau said that he never saw Subbiah show any remorse for his crimes or hint at why he preys upon women.He said he has no doubt that Subbiah will reoffend, if given the opportunity.“The only way he wouldn’t is if he’s double escorted to Malaysia and he’s turned over to Malaysia with a file,” Normandeau said.Normandeau said that in the early 1990s, the federal Minister of Immigration declared Subbiah an undesirable person, subject to deportation.Officials from Canada Border Service wouldn’t say definitively if he would be immediately deported.“CBSA should be there for the release and should be taking him into custody under a warrant from the ministry of immigration,” Normandeau said.Normandeau said that simply flying Subbiah out of the country isn’t enough, and that he must be turned over to authorities in Malaysia.Canada Border Services declined to discuss Subbiah’s case specifically. But a spokesperson said the Immigration Act “clearly defines reasons for inadmissibility including involvement in criminal activity, in human rights violations, in organized crime, security, health or financial reasons.”Normandeau said that authorities were sure exactly how many women Subbiah raped. Subbiah was carrying a black book containing the names of 170 women when he was arrested Aug. 7, 1991. The women were rated on a scale of 0 to 10.Court heard one of his victims was just 14.
Donald Trump's 'first attempt to ignore the law': his son-in-law|
President-elect Donald Trumpintends to name his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser to his White House — a move that would put to the test a 1967 anti-nepotism law and provide a Trump White House already rife with ethical questions a bona fide legal showdown.In fact, this amounts to Trump’s “first attempt to ignore the law,” according to Washington University government ethics expert Kathleen Clark. And she says it has huge implications not just for Kushner, but for the rest of the presidency.Clark speaks about anti-nepotism laws, why they exist, and how Kushner and Trump might get around this particular one. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.A casual observer may wonder why Trump’s son-in-law serving in his administration is a big deal. Why do such anti-nepotism laws exist, and why is nepotism a problem?The U.S. has anti-nepotism laws in the federal government and in lots of state governments, because the practice of hiring relatives undermines public confidence that the government official is actually finding best person for the job. What are the chances that the best person for the job just happens to be a relative, right? In addition to the problem of public confidence, hiring a relative also causes problems within the government organization. It can undermine the morale of government officials. It can cause confusion about what the lines of authority are; in other words, the relative may have a particular title, but many may perceive the relative’s role as even more important than the title would suggest. It may be very difficult to say, ‘That’s a bad idea’ to the president’s son-in-law, in a way it would be easier to say those things to someone whom the president hired but isn’t related to — someone who’s not the father of his grandchild or grandchildren.The anti-nepotism law on the books is supposedly a reaction to the Kennedys. But was there an era in politics in which nepotism was a particularly bad problem? What I can tell you is that the federal statute is by no means unique. Almost all states have anti-nepotism laws. A review of state anti-nepotism laws in 2000 found only seven states lacked such laws. So it’s widely perceived as a problem that needs to be addressed by prohibiting the hiring of relatives.The Trump team and Kushner believe a 1993 appeals court decision gives them a way to make this happen, but you’ve noted the section in question is “dicta.” Can you explain that? The crux of that decision was that the presidential spouse is a de facto officer or employee for purposes of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. And then, after (Judge Laurence) Silberman said that, he added dicta where he said, “We doubt Congress intended to include the White House under the anti-nepotism statute.” Judge (James L.) Buckley on the D.C. Circuit concurred in the judgment, but refused to concur in the opinion, and specifically called out that passage and objected to it. So that part of the opinion, on which I suspect the Trump advisers will be relying, is absolutely dicta, and it’s, as I said, rejected by Judge Buckley.So basically, it’s not the law?Judge Silberman, who has rarely found a limitation on executive power appropriate, who has rarely met an executive power of the president that he hasn’t embraced, used this case to assert that Congress’s anti-nepotism statute shouldn’t apply to the White House — even though the statute names the president. And Judge Buckley said the argument that the anti-nepotism act applies only to departments and not to the White House is a weak one. That’s probably one of the legal arguments the Trump team will rely upon, and it’s a very weak argument.From what you have seen of his efforts, do you think Kushner is going to be able to get around this law? In your question, you asked is Kushner going to be able to get around this. And I want reframe the question: Is Trump going to be able to get around this, because I see this as Trump’s first attempt to ignore the law, act in violation of the law, and he’s going to see if he can get away with it. We have a statute that names the president, that names the son-in-law relationship, that Congress identified a problem and enacted a statute prohibiting a president from hiring a son-in-law. President-elect Trump, in my view, is testing the waters to see if he can get away with violating what I would call this government ethics provision. And whether President-elect Trump gets away with this depends, it seems to me, in part on the public response as well as the congressional response ...We’ll see whether President Trump is required to follow the law or not. And so, I think this is enormously significant, because it’s an initial test of whether — we’ve seen as a candidate, Donald Trump has violated norms, and now we’re going to see whether he also plans to violate the law.a
Police arrest suspect in 'lunchtime bandit' bank robberies|
A suspect police dubbed the “lunchtime bandit” who allegedly has an appetite for cash has been arrested. Police say the robberies occurred between Nov. 21 and Dec. 17 at banks located along Yonge St. between Lawrence Ave. and Davisville Ave.Four of the five robberies took place at around 12:30 p.m. said police. In each case, police say a man posed as a customer and then passed a note to bank tellers in which he politely demanded money and indicated he was armed with a gun.He would then flee with the cash.“He has a pattern of some sort, maybe he is on lunch break between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., in that area,” Staff Insp. Mike Earl told media on Dec. 20.The undisguised “preppy punk” was seen on surveillance cameras of a nearby subway station police said. Social media users and critics had plenty to say about the suspect police dubbed the “lunchtime bandit.” “What a cute nickname for someone who is ‘putting the fear of God into bank employees’ ” Twitter user @mcsammer said.“Maybe the lunchtime bandit is leaving a trail of bread crumbs?” said Twitter user @TorontoBruce.Michael Lilly, 20, of Toronto, has been charged with five counts of robbery.He was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday morning.With files from Evelyn Kwong
Two men surrender in alleged kidnapping of downtown Toronto woman|
Two suspects in an alleged kidnapping and sex trafficking attempt of their 25-year-old female victim in December have surrendered to police.Police say they responded to a call for a kidnapping on Dec. 19 after four men forced their way into the victim’s home in the Lake Shore Blvd. west and Bathurst St. area.The victim was kidnapped by the suspects “who were unknown to her,” Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu of Toronto Police told the Star on TuesdayThe men drove her to various hotels and held her captive in different hotel rooms for more than eight hours in an attempt to force her into the sex trade, according to Sidhu.The suspects also stole her identification, debit and credit cards. After holding the victim captive, the suspects decided to bring the victim back to her home, Sidhu said. The reason behind this decision remains unknown, she said. “I guess they had some sort of heart,” said Sidhu.“The victim did not suffer from any physical injuries but was traumatized by the incident.” After being returned to her home, the victim called police and notified them of the kidnapping. Shortly after the incident, Liam Durham, 26, and Alex Fredericks, 26, both from Toronto, were arrested and faced charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement, robbery, trafficking people and withholding documents.Two suspects remained at large.On Sunday, police say Kirk Hosten-Alexander, 23, surrendered to police. A day later, Rayan Graham, 26, also surrendered.Both men, who are also from Toronto, face charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement, robbery, trafficking people and withholding documents.Police is asking anyone with information to contact police at 416-808-1400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).
Trump asks leading anti-vaccine advocate to chair commission on 'vaccine safety'|
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a vocal vaccination skeptic, says president-elect Donald Trump has asked him to chair a commission on vaccine safety.“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policy, and he has questions about it,” Kennedy said, speaking to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday. “His opinion doesn’t matter, but the science does matter, and we ought to be reading the science, and we ought to be debating the science.”Kennedy is an advocate for the belief that trace amounts of minerals in vaccines cause autism — a claim for which there is no evidence.Spokesmen for the transition did not immediately provide additional details about the commission.Trump has also voiced doubts about vaccinations, notably expressed support for the theory at a Republican presidential debate in 2015.“You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump . . .” he said of vaccinating children. “We had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, a beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”The comments were widely denounced by medical professionals who say that there is no evidence that vaccines lead to autism. In fact, the study that popularized the idea has been retracted and discredited as fraudulent. Multiple high-quality studies have found no link between vaccines and autism.Trump has tweeted in the past that he knew a child who developed autism after receiving immunizations. He did not supply evidence for that claim.He also has advocated for children to get smaller doses of vaccines spread out over time.Kennedy, son of former Attorney General and New York Sen. Robert Kennedy, has advocated for parents to be allowed to opt out of vaccinations for their children, arguing that mercury-based additives in vaccines explain the purported link to autism.“They get the shot. That night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said at the premier of an anti-vaccination film screening in California in 2015. “This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”With files from Star wire services
Asbestos 'spy' targeted Canada, court documents claim|
A man posing as a sympathetic journalist was paid to spy on workers’ rights groups campaigning against asbestos with a key focus on activities in Canada, court documents allege.According to testimony in the English High Court, a British man identified as Rob Moore was paid more than $700,000 to conduct a four-year espionage campaign against key figures in the global movement to ban asbestos, gathering confidential information about its “funding, aims and strategies, including litigation strategies.”The subterfuge was designed to pass information to a corporation with interests in the asbestos industry, the documents claim.The court heard that Moore identified anti-asbestos groups’ plans for Canada, as well as Thailand and India, as “key areas of focus” as early as 2012, when he was contracted through an intelligence consultancy firm called K2 on behalf of a corporate client believed to be based outside the U.K. There is currently a publication ban on that client’s identity.The claimants, who are prominent figures in the international anti-asbestos movement, are seeking aggravated damages for breach of confidence and misuse of private information. Moore, K2 and the anonymous client are all defendants in the civil suit. The allegations have not been proven in court. The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported in December that K2 is expected to argue that the amount of confidential information collected was tiny and was only intended to better understand the anti-asbestos movement.In an email to the Star, Moore called the legal dispute “unfortunate and complicated.” He said he would be able to address any allegations when more details of the case were presented by the claimants.“When I can do that, my role in the issues contained in the claim should become more clear. In short, this case has not even properly begun and the full facts are not yet known,” he said.“I intend to follow the court’s process and procedure. Meanwhile, it would not be right to argue the case through the press. Any further comment would be premature.”Laura Lozanski, the Health and Safety Officer for the Canadian Association of University Teachers and anti-asbestos advocate, told the Star she was contacted by Moore and met with him in September in her Ottawa office. She said he claimed to be a filmmaker with an interest in producing a documentary about the campaign against asbestos, even sending her a link to a short film on YouTube about asbestos victims in India he apparently made for the World Health Organization. “He seemed to be quite legitimate, so we didn’t think anything more of it,” said Lozanski, who subsequently referred him to other Canadian anti-asbestos campaigners. It was a key period for the movement, as it ramped up political pressure that ultimately resulted in the federal government banning the cancer-causing substance in December. “We’ve seen and heard about the tactics and corruption that take place to keep this product circulating so in a way it wasn’t a surprise — but it was certainly not something we had experienced,” Lozanski said.The Star has previously investigated the impact of asbestos exposure on former factory workers who used it in a variety of manufacturing processes. The negative health effects of the carcinogen, a lucrative Canadian export until the last mine closed five years ago, were well-known by the 1920s and linked to lung cancer by 1955. Asbestos has been linked to the deaths of 2,000 people in Canada each year, according to studies funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.Russia is now by far the world’s largest producer of the carcinogenic mineral, followed by China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan.Lozanski said she and her colleagues had talked to Moore generally about their campaign to ban asbestos. In December, she said she received a tip that there was “somebody going around interviewing people that was now being sued in the U.K. for being a corporate spy.”“It was him, it was the same person,” she said. Linda Reinstein said she felt personally betrayed when she learned of the allegations against Moore, who she met in her capacity as the founder of the U.S.-based Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. She established the group after her husband Alan was diagnosed with mesothelioma — an aggressive form of lung cancer that is almost always caused by workplace exposure to asbestos. Reinstein told the Star she invited Moore, who she then believed to be a journalist, to attend ADAO’s annual conference in 2013 and 2015, even paying $1,000 toward his flight and waiving his registration fees. Reinstein and Lozanski both said they did not know what Moore or his client could have gained from his alleged spying. “It doesn’t really make sense. We’re not hiding anything and everybody knows what we’re doing” said Lozanski. The claimants in the U.K. case include Laurie Kazan-Allen, co-ordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, and a lawyer working with asbestos victims in a developing country who has been granted anonymity because he fears for his safety.According to a witness statement provided to the High Court in November by Richard Meeran, a partner at the prestigious British law firm Leigh Day, Moore appeared to be trying to “uncover information that could be used to suggest the (anti-asbestos) network was being funded by those with a vested financial interest in it — namely lawyers and/or those in the asbestos substitute market.”The aim, Meeran’s statement said, was to “smear and discredit the network in the eyes of the states and organizations it sought to influence.”The witness statement also quotes from a report allegedly written by Moore about the plan, codenamed Project Spring.“I’ve been able to identify several news stories, angles, pegs and themes that would be of genuine interest to a documentary filmmaker, and I am confident that I can enter this world relatively easily and with a high level of legitimacy and credibility,” he writes. He also suggests approaching the groups with a number of documentary themes to “make my entry seem less deliberate and less suspicious.”“If you read the IBAS website you very quickly detect a degree of (justified) paranoia about the underhand tactics deployed by the asbestos industry to undermine and harass its critics.”According to the Guardian, lawyers for the intelligence firm that hired Moore told the High Court that anti-asbestos campaigners could also be ruthless, and argued there was a need “to counter the impression that this is a contest between virtue … and vice.”Lozanski said her network of Canadian campaigners was a broad and inclusive coalition made up of labour groups, health experts, and asbestos victims. She said the encounter with Moore was a lesson to be “a little more cautious in the future about someone we’re not familiar with.”“But it’s not going to stop our work,” she added. “It’s not going to have an impact on us continuing to do what we need to do.”
OPG identifies most of Ontario as alternate 'location' to bury nuclear waste: Jennifer Wells|
Ryden’s Border Store, located about 800 metres from the U.S./Canada border in Grand Portage, Minn., has been run by the Ryden clan since 1947 and still does a brisk business in currency exchange, parcel pickup, beer and T-shirt sales and such.Two years ago Larry Ryden’s daughter, Lori Boomer, took over the place. Everyone calls her Sam. Summertime is super busy with fishermen headed north to the “wild blue yonder,” she says. (Canadian beer is expensive, she notes.) Christmases are always crazy with thousands of parcels needing to be processed for pickup.Here’s a question Ms. Boomer is ill-equipped to handle: if Ontario were to ship 150,000 cubic metres of low level and intermediate level nuclear waste her way, would she have a place to bury it? “Well, one, I’m not going to accept it obviously. Two, my government’s not going to accept it. It’s absurd.”The hunt for an appropriate site for a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) to house waste from Ontario’s nuclear facilities is not a subject to be taken lightly. Everything from mops to materials close to the reactor core, such as ion exchange resins that bear a “significant amount” of Carbon-14, a radionuclide that has a half life of more than 5,700 years, is slated for permanent burial.And let’s be clear — Ms. Boomer has not been contacted on a whim. A report recently released by OPG cites Ryden’s GPS co-ordinates as one of the plot points in one of two contemplated alternate locations for the DGR. Equally curious, the co-ordinates for the second alternate include a stately two story brick home in Chaplin Estates, near Yonge St. and Davisville Ave.This is worth digging into.On Dec. 28, Ontario Power Generation submitted the results of its federally mandated assignment to present technically and economically feasible alternate locations for the DGR — alternate, that is, to OPG’s preferred strategy to inter the waste from the Bruce, Darlington and Pickering nuclear power plants at Bruce Nuclear near Kincardine.The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will take until Jan. 16 to determine “whether OPG’s information is complete and that it conforms to the Minister’s information request.” A 30-day public comment period will follow.When the federal Environment Ministry requested the study, 11 months ago, it sought details as to “specific reference to actual locations.” While OPG responded in April that it intended to assess two feasible “geological regions” in the province, “without providing specific reference to actual locations,” it says now that in this document and the main submission it is using specific references to actual locations.The common reader may see the word “location” to mean, as it is conventionally defined, a particular or exact place.OPG has provided something quite different and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna now must decide whether the power giant has come up with an evaluation that is good enough.Let’s remember that the proposed Bruce site will be dug nearly 700 metres deep in limestone host rock a distance of 1.2 km from Lake Huron. The town of Kincardine is on side. Opposition voices on both sides of the border have been loud, particularly as it concerns protecting the Great Lakes.The dominant question: is Bruce the best spot? And a corollary: wasn’t granite — the Canadian Shield in northern Ontario — discussed long ago as potentially the appropriate geology for toxic waste? The issue may pertain not just to low and intermediate waste, but ultimately the disposal of spent fuel rods, a headache for the generations that has yet to be effectively addressed.OPG has defined two alternate locations — one a “crystalline” rock location, which OPG has used interchangeably with granite, and the other a sedimentary rock location. Fourteen GPS co-ordinates, including Ryden’s Border Store and a spot in Lake Erie, have been provided to define the first of these. When mapped, the 14 form the perimeter of this so-called “crystalline alternate location.” Plotted by the Star’s Matthew Cole, the result is a 726,052-square-kilometre land mass covering roughly 73 per cent of the province.OPG makes the accurate assertion that taken to a finer decimal point, which is not noted in the report, the location perimeter moves just a titch this side of Canadian border. So Ryden’s is off the hook. What this should spur in McKenna’s office is an examination of how carefully OPG undertook the assignment and whether the vast result is of much use.Jerry Keto, the OPG vice-president who signed off on the reports, was unavailable for comment. In his stead, OPG spokesperson Kevin Powers responded to the question as to whether OPG has fulfilled its mandate. “We do believe we have met the minister’s expectations,” Powers says. “The minister asked for a study of the environmental effects of two technically and economically feasible alternate locations. We distinguish between sites and locations. A site would be identified through a multiyear, multiphase, consent based exercise, which would be the equivalent of starting over again to find a willing host community. Instead we approached this as we would as if this were the early screening step of a siting process, so what geological locations are technically and economically feasible. But ultimately it will be up to the minister to determine whether or not this has met her expectations.”In making its case for the Bruce site, the report estimates that it could take two decades to secure an alternate location, a process of marrying evidence-based science to a willing host community. It additionally projects increased costs should an alternate site be chosen, including transportation costs, depending on distance, of between $380 million and $1.4 billion.As to the geology, the report raises the possibility that a crystalline location could be more fractured and thereby more permeable than Bruce. This is of particular importance with the intermediate waste, concluding that a “likely” result would be sooner groundwater contact, releasing, by example, Carbon-14 “sooner than expected in sedimentary rock.”Yet a companion report on the potential environmental effects prepared by Golder Associates states that “the deep bedrock zones are expected to exhibit very low permeability.” Just like the Bruce site.Rod McLeod, provincial deputy environment minister in the David Peterson government and the province’s chief Crown prosecutor before that, is a director of SOS Great Lakes, the group that has been loudest in its opposition to the Bruce DGR. “OPG has never answered the question,” McLeod says of the years-long location discussion. He spools all the way back to 2003. “They didn’t answer it then, they didn’t answer it at the first hearing in 2013, they were given a second chance at a new hearing in 2014. They are simply stalling.”Will McKenna ultimately relieve OPG of the traditional requirement to identify, study, analyze and reject alternate options? And if so, on what basis, besides expediency?Rod McLeod’s view is that it’s “absolute madness” to “dig this hole beside the drinking water source for 40 million Canadians and Americans.”OPG insists that, at least according to its own social media analysis, Ontarians aren’t bothered. “The topic is not a popular one, nor is it generating large volumes of curiosity,” the report states, adding that interest in the DGR has “flatlined.”The public now has little more than a month to change that perception, should it care firstname.lastname@example.org
Ontario French teachers' union second to ink tentative deal to extend contract|
The union representing Ontario’s French teachers has become the second in three days to reach a tentative agreement with the province that would extend its current contract by two years — until after the next election.The news Tuesday about a deal with L’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) follows a similar tentative agreement struck Saturday between the government and CUPE, which represents 55,000 school support staff.Talks that preceded the current three-year contracts expiring this August were protracted and costly, resulting in work-to-rule job action and some local strikes. The new two-tiered bargaining process took so long that some contracts weren’t even settled until last summer.But if the proposed two-year extensions until 2019 are ratified, that would give the Liberal government a bigger shot at ensuring labour peace through the 2018 election.“We are in the process of confirming additional dates with other groups over the coming weeks to continue our discussions on remedy and the possibility of contract extensions,” Ministry of Education spokesperson Heather Irwin said in an email.“As discussions are ongoing with other unions, and until members have had an opportunity to review and vote, we are unable to provide specifics at this time.”In addition to CUPE and AEFO, the province has reached extension agreements with several locals in the Windsor and Stratford areas representing custodial, maintenance and school support staff, she said.Last fall, the province quietly broached the issue of contract extensions with several teacher unions, including the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. However, talks with the OSSTF broke off in early November after two days and none have taken place since.At the time, a union bulletin to members said “we do not expect discussions to resume.”But the union representing elementary school teachers does anticipate having discussions with the government about a potential extension, a spokesperson for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said Tuesday, adding that “such talks will remain confidential.”Details of the tentative agreements with AEFO and CUPE have not been released.
Trudeau defends controversial vacation, calls Aga Khan 'longtime family friend'|
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s looking forward to answering questions from the federal ethics commissioner about his Christmas vacation to a Caribbean island owned by the Aga Khan.The prime minister and his family spent the holiday at the wealthy religious leader’s private retreat on Bell Island in the Bahamas.Conservative leadership candidate and Opposition MP Andrew Scheer has asked ethics commissioner Mary Dawson to look into the trip.Scheer says he wants to know if Dawson thinks it appropriate for the prime minister to accept the hospitality of someone whose foundation receives funds from the Canadian government.The Aga Khan Foundation has been the beneficiary of tens of millions of dollars in government contributions to international development projects.In his first public remarks on the controversy since media reports emerged last week, Trudeau characterizes the trip as a family vacation to spend time with an old family friend, but says he’s happy to discuss it with Dawson.“The Aga Khan has been a longtime family friend,” Trudeau told a news conference. “He was pallbearer at my father’s funeral, he has known me since I was a toddler and this was our family vacation.“As for the conflict of interest commissioner, the ethics commissioner, I look forward to answering any questions she may have.”Trudeau’s office said the prime minister and his family flew in a government jet to Nassau on their way to the island getaway and will reimburse the return airfare costs.The Aga Khan is the hereditary spiritual leader of the world’s approximately 15 million Ismaili Muslims and a renowned philanthropist.In 2009, then-prime minister Stephen Harper made him an honorary citizen of Canada.
Dylann Roof sentenced to death for Charleston church slayings|
CHARLESTON, S.C.—An unrepentant Dylann Roof was sentenced to death Tuesday for fatally shooting nine black church members during a Bible study session, becoming the first person ordered executed for a federal hate crime.A jury deliberated for about three hours before returning with the decision, capping a trial in which the 22-year-old avowed white supremacist did not fight for his life or show any remorse. He served as his own attorney during sentencing and never asked for forgiveness or mercy or explained the massacre.Hours earlier, Roof threw away one last chance to plead for his life, telling jurors: “I still feel like I had to do it.”Every juror looked directly at Roof as he spoke for about five minutes. A few nodded as he reminded them that they said during jury selection they could fairly weigh the factors of his case. Only one of them, he noted, had to disagree to spare his life.“I have the right to ask you to give me a life sentence, but I’m not sure what good it would do anyway,” he said.When the verdict was read, he stood stoic. Several family members of victims wiped away quiet tears.Roof told FBI agents when they arrested him after the June 17, 2015, slayings that he wanted the shootings to bring back segregation or perhaps start a race war. Instead, the slayings had a unifying effect, as South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its Statehouse for the first time in more than 50 years. Other states followed suit, taking down Confederate banners and monuments. Roof had posed with the flag in photos.Malcolm Graham, whose sister Cynthia Hurd was slain, said the jury made the right decision.“There is no room in America’s smallest jail cell for hatred, racism and discrimination,” he said from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The journey for me and my family today has come to an end.”Roof specifically picked out Emanuel AME Church, the South’s oldest black church, to carry out the cold, calculated slaughter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said.The 12 people he targeted opened the door for a stranger with a smile, he said. Three people survived the attack.“They welcomed a 13th person that night ... with a kind word, a Bible, a handout and a chair,” Richardson said during his closing argument. “He had come with a hateful heart and a Glock .45.”The gunman sat with the Bible study group for about 45 minutes. During the final prayer — when everyone’s eyes were closed — he started firing. He stood over some of the fallen victims, shooting them again as they lay on the floor, Richardson said.The prosecutor reminded jurors about each one of the victims and the bloody scene that Roof left in the church’s lower level.Nearly two dozen friends and relatives of the victims testified during the sentencing phase of the trial. They shared cherished memories and talked about a future without a mother, father, sister or brother. They shed tears, and their voices shook, but none of them said whether Roof should face the death penalty.Jennifer Pinckney testified about huddling under a desk with her 6-year-old daughter, her hand clasped over the girl’s mouth to keep her quiet, as Roof started firing.Not knowing for certain if the danger had passed, Pinckney dialed 911 and breathlessly told an operator she had heard shots inside the church.“I think there’s been a shooting. I’m in the closet, under a desk,” Pinckney told the operator. “Please hurry.”On the call, Pinckney tries to comfort her daughter Malana, who had been watching cartoons in her father’s office as he participated in Bible study.“Daddy’s dead?” Malana asks.“No, baby, no,” the mother says. But at that moment, Pinckney said, she knew her husband, church pastor Clementa Pinckney, had been killed.The prosecutor reminded jurors that Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator, would be remembered for singing goofy songs and watching cartoons with his young daughters. In a sign of perhaps how important that testimony was, jurors rewatched a speech by Pinckney in which he talked about the history of Emanuel and its mission.The jury convicted Roof last month of all 33 federal charges he faced, including hate crimes. He never explained his actions to jurors, saying only that “anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.”Roof insisted that he was not mentally ill but did not call any witnesses or present any evidence.In one of his journals, he wrote that he didn’t believe in psychology, calling it “a Jewish invention” that “does nothing but invent diseases and tell people they have problems when they don’t.”His attorneys said he did not want to present any evidence that might embarrass him or his family.After he was sentenced, Roof asked a judge to appoint him new attorneys, but the judge said he was not inclined to do so because they had performed “admirably.”“We are sorry that, despite our best efforts, the legal proceedings have shed so little light on the reasons for this tragedy,” the attorneys said in a veiled reference to the mental health issues they wanted to present.A judge will formally sentence him during a hearing Wednesday.The last person sent to federal death row was Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in 2015.MORE ON THESTAR.COMThe Emanuel 9: The stories of Dylann Roof’s victimsJury convicts Dylann Roof in Charleston church slayingsDylann Roof had a ‘cold and hateful heart’ during church shooting, prosecutor saysDylann Roof displaying racist symbols even during trial, FBI agent testifiesCharleston shooter Dylann Roof says he doesn’t plan to offer evidence to spare his lifeCharleston shooter Dylann Roof says ‘nothing wrong with me psychologically’
Three Toronto-area MPs promoted in Trudeau cabinet shakeup|
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given his cabinet not just a shuffle but a big second-year shakeup by placing trusted players on key foreign files and dropping or demoting weak elements of his governing team.It means big promotions for three Toronto-area MPs.Chrystia Freeland, the rookie international trade minister who closed the Canada-EU free trade deal, moves to Foreign Affairs replacing Liberal veteran Stéphane Dion, to steer Canada’s relationship with a newly unpredictable ally and trading partner under Donald Trump as U.S. President. Trudeau said in a statement she will have responsibility for the Canada-U.S. relations file, including trade relations. Dion, said to be unhappy about the shift, is out of cabinet altogether. The man who used to name ambassadors has been offered the ambassador post of not one but two of Canada’s significant foreign partners — the European Union and Germany, according to the CBC, and not to France as long rumoured. However, he had not yet accepted the offer and was still mulling his future Tuesday afternoon. Trudeau said in a written release Dion “has served his country in many different roles over the last 21 years with integrity and a fierce love of Canada. I, and all Canadians, owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his service. I know I will be able to continue to count on his wisdom and his tireless service, and look forward to the next chapter of Mr. Dion’s contributions to our country.”Immigration Minister John McCallum, a former bank economist, leaves a 16-year political career as the MP for Markham-Thornhill to become Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, a politically important shift at a time when Trudeau is launching exploratory talks towards free trade with China. Maryam Monsef, the embattled 31-year-old minister who muddled the electoral reform file, shifts portfolios, moving out of democratic institutions to take over the status of women file.Patty Hajdu, 50, the minister for the status of women who recently made headlines for approving a million-dollar office renovation, is promoted to become minister of employment, workforce development and labour. A Thunder Bay activist who worked on homelessness, mental health and addictions services, Hajdu holds a master's degree in public administration, and has a steady manner that impressed the prime minister.She replaces MaryAnn Mihychuk, a former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister whose brusque and complaining manner rubbed many the wrong way, and not just her critics across the aisle. Mihychuk is dropped from cabinet altogether.Several backbenchers are on the move.Ahmed Hussen, the first Somali-Canadian elected to the House of Commons and MP for York South-Weston, will replace McCallum as minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. It’s a big promotion for the rookie backbench MP who sat on the justice committee. A refugee who came to Canada at about age 16, he became a strong advocate for his Regent Park community. A lawyer and president of the Canadian Somali Congress, he practiced criminal, immigration and refugee law and under the former Conservative government sat on the cross-cultural roundtable on national security.Jason Kenney, who served as immigration minister under the Conservatives, tweeted his praise of Hussen.“Congratulations to my friend @AhmedHussenLib on being named minister of immigration. Ahmed is a thoughtful, intelligent & dignified leader,” Kenney said, before the official announcement.François-Philippe Champagne, 46, is promoted from parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance to international trade, replacing Freeland as the point person for trade negotiations from NAFTA to the not-yet ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership, both of which Trump has threatened to ditch.Champagne, rookie MP for Saint-Maurice, is a former businessman, lawyer, and international trade specialist. He is quick on his feet, a good communicator and clearly ambitious, enthusiastically defending Trudeau’s economic plans in the face of criticism of mounting deficits. Burlington MP Karina Gould, 29, is a relative unknown even more than a year after the election. She moves from parliamentary secretary for international development and the Francophonie to take on the democratic institutions portfolio — stickhandling changes to how Canadians will vote in the next election, and how the government will move its bills through a reformed Senate and its newly independent ranks under Trudeau appointments.Gould has had a low-profile since entering the Commons. The Liberal party’s website profile of her says she volunteered at an orphanage in Mexico for a year, worked at the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. on migration issues before completing a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford. She worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican trade commission before running in the 2015 election. During that campaign she made news when she deleted a three-year-old tweet that said: “It’s time to landlock Alberta’s tarsands” and which urged the rejection of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.But it is Trudeau’s tapping of Freeland, 48, a journalist and author who lived in New York and Moscow, to replace Dion that will largely set the tone for several big files in the New Year. Dion, the former Liberal leader, had a professorial personality and high-handed approach to criticism that was seen as ill-fitted for challenging diplomatic times.Foreign Affairs is now more than ever a key role as the Trudeau government navigates the U.S.-Russian dynamic to unfold. Freeland has in-depth knowledge of both countries and speaks Ukrainian, Russian, French and Italian. A potential hurdle is that Russian President Vladimir Putin blacklisted Freeland as persona non grata in retaliation after Canada slapped sanctions on Moscow in 2014 after it annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine.As Foreign Affairs minister, Freeland will also lead the decision-making process on where to deploy Canadian personnel in support of UN peace operations.The cabinet makeover is more substantial than many guessed was coming, and his moves to shuffle out Dion and Mihychuk once again show Trudeau’s coldly focused decision-making style. In opposition, he summarily dismissed senators from caucus and MPs alleged to have sexually harassed opposition colleagues. In government, he dropped from cabinet and caucus his former fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo for an inappropriate personal relationship that crossed office boundaries.And while Trudeau has made a point of appointing career public servants to diplomatic posts, the shuffle nevertheless shows he will not shy from putting political advisers into key positions, just as governments before his.Before Tuesday’s move of McCallum to Beijing and Dion to Germany and the EU, Trudeau dispatched his Ontario campaign co-chair David MacNaughton to Canada’s embassy in Washington. He posted Marc-André Blanchard, a former president of the Quebec Liberal Party and member of Trudeau’s transition team, as Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations. Patrick Parisot, a former aide to past Liberal leaders Jean Chrétien nd Michael Ignatieff, was made ambassador to Cuba last year, returning to the diplomatic corps he left to join Ignatieff’s office.
U.S. Congress to quiz top intelligence official on Russia hacking report|
WASHINGTON—The nation’s top intelligence official faces questioning on Capitol Hill on Tuesday about a report that fingered the Kremlin in hacking during the presidential campaign.James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is appearing before the Senate intelligence committee, where lawmakers’ questions will expose the underlying debate over the future of U.S.-Russian relations. Clapper also addressed the Russian interference when appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week ahead of the report’s release.The declassified report explicitly tied Russian President Vladimir Putin to the hacking of email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats like Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, the report said, although there was no suggestion such operations affected the actual vote count.The report lacked details about how the U.S. learned what it says it knows, such as any intercepted conversations or electronic messages from Russian leaders, including Putin. It also said nothing about specific hacker techniques or digital tools the U.S. may have traced back to Russia in its investigations.Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that the Kremlin still believes the U.S. accusations of election hacking have no substance.“They are amateurish and are hardly worthy of the high professional standards of top intelligence agencies,” Peskov said. “We categorically rule out the possibility that Russian officials or official bodies could have been involved. We are tired of such accusations. This is beginning to remind us of a full-fledged witch hunt.”According to U.S. intelligence agencies, Russia provided the emails to WikiLeaks. The website’s founder, Julian Assange, denies that is the case, but Democratic and Republican members of Congress have largely backed the accusation and many have demanded a sterner response.On Monday, Assange called the report on hacking a politically motivated “press release” and said it provided no evidence that Russian actors gave WikiLeaks hacked material.President Barack Obama struck back at Moscow in late December with penalties aimed at Russia’s leading spy agencies, the GRU and FSB, that the U.S. said were involved in the hacking. The GRU is Russia’s military intelligence agency. The FSB is the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.On Monday, the U.S. levied economic sanctions against five Russians in connection to a 2012 U.S. law punishing Russian human rights violators. Americans are now banned from doing business with the men and any assets they may have in the United States are now frozen.The most prominent individual targeted by the new sanctions is Alexander Bastrykin, who heads Russia’s main investigative agency and is close to Putin. The two attended the same university together.The Investigative Committee under Bastrykin investigated Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky’s death in prison in 2009, but closed the case after determining there was no evidence of a crime.Two of the other Russians placed on the Treasury Department’s list have been accused of trying to help cover up Magnitsky’s death. Britain blames the two others for the London murder of a former Russian intelligence agent.Forty-four Russians have now been subjected to U.S. sanctions under the so-called Magnitsky law, the State Department said.s
California woman arrested in Craigslist 'rape fantasy' hoax was 'innocent victim': official|
SANTA ANA, CALIF.—A Southern California woman has been exonerated of charges that she responded to “rape fantasy” ads on Craigslist in order to get men to attack her ex-boyfriend’s new wife. Prosecutors now say that it was the alleged victim in the case who was trying to frame her husband’s ex by responding to the ads.Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced Monday that charges will be dropped for 30-year-old Michelle Susan Hadley of Ontario, California, calling her “the innocent victim of a diabolical scheme.”Prosecutors instead have turned around and charged 31-year-old Angela Diaz of Arizona with kidnapping, false imprisonment and perjury. She was arrested in Phoenix on Friday and is awaiting extradition.Court records show that the man who links the two women is an agent with the U.S. Marshals service.
Montreal man who killed Olympic swimmer Victor Davis back in court over new death|
MONTREAL—A Montreal man who killed Olympic-champion swimmer Victor Davis in 1989 will appear in court Tuesday in connection with the death of a man at a bar last fall.Glen Crossley, 46, was sentenced to 10 months in jail after a Nov. 11, 1989 hit-and-run incident in the Quebec town of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue that resulted in the death of the Guelph, Ont.-born Davis. The 25-year-old athlete died after suffering a severe skull fracture as well as brain and spinal damage, according to news reports from the time.Crossley turned himself in Monday after Montreal police issued a warrant for his arrest in the death of a 70-year-old man at a bar in September 2016.He is charged with manslaughter in the death of 70-year-old Albert Arsenault. Arsenault was a married father of two children, and grandfather of two. Arsenault’s death was originally considered an accident by investigators — the result of a fall down a flight of stairs. Officers reportedly changed their opinion of the incident after viewing surveillance video obtained from the bar.“He was pushed. They saw in the video what had happened,” Arsenault’s wife, Lise Hurtubise, told Montreal radio station 98.5FM.Crossley’s lawyer, Gilbert Frigon, said his client will appear Tuesday afternoon at the Montreal courthouse.Davis, one of Canada’s most celebrated swimmers, had just retired from competition when he was run down following an argument with Crossley and several of Crossley’s friends at a nightclub. Davis won a gold medal in the 200-metre breaststroke and silver in both the 100-metre breaststroke and the 4x100-metre medley relay at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Four years later, at the Seoul Games, he won a bronze medal in the 4x100-metre medley relay. He also broke three world records over the course of his career.
Hostage standoff reported near University of Alabama campus|
TUSCALOOSA, ALA.—Police are responding to reports of a hostage standoff near the University of Alabama campus.Campus officials sent an alert on twitter Tuesday saying police from the university and city received a report of a robbery and hostage situation at an Alabama Credit Union branch.The bank is located across the street from the UA law school.Lt. Teena Richardson, a Tuscaloosa police spokeswoman, told al.com that a gunman entered the building and took the employees inside hostage.However, she said it wasn’t initially reported as a robbery.News photos and video show multiple officers around the scene and a roadblock on Bryant Drive, a main campus thoroughfare.Officers have closed the area, and video and photos show police in military-style vehicles and tactical gear. A police helicopter is overhead
Ontario needs to trim health spending by $2.8B to balance budget, watchdog says|
Ontario must trim health spending $2.8 billion by 2019 to meet its balanced budget targets, the province’s financial accountability office warns in a new report.The 59-page analysis released Tuesday also cautions that “cost drivers” in the system — such as aging baby boomers — raise questions as to whether current service levels can hold if growth in spending is kept to 2 per cent a year.Citing controls on the province’s $51.8 billion health budget as “critical” to meeting Premier Kathleen Wynne’s promise to balance the books by 2018, the watchdog says pressures on health spending could, in fact, increase to 5.3 per cent a year by 2020.“Ultimately, the growth rate of health sector expense after 2018-19 will depend on whether program changes made to date have resulted in efficiencies and quality improvements or simply delayed expenses that will need to be incurred to maintain quality and service levels,” says the report.Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Wynne have repeatedly said the Liberal government will balance its budget as promised by 2018, when the next provincial election is scheduled.Health Minister Eric Hoskins could not immediately be reached for comment on the report, which suggested the government find “efficiencies” in health programs but did get into specifics or the policy implications of any cuts. The budget watchdog, however, commended the government for efforts to reduce growth in health care spending in recent years — including pay curbs on doctors and reducing drug costs — from a 12 per cent increase in 2003-04 to about 2 per cent last year.Health spending was forecast in last February’s provincial budget to increase 1.4 per cent in the current fiscal year ending March 31, up to 1.9 per cent next year and 1.8 per cent in 2018-19.The financial accountability office said cuts of $400 million are needed this year, $900 million next year and $1.5 billion the following year.
Obama's farewell speech to be 'bigger than politics' and include Trump voters|
WASHINGTON—Now an elder statesman, Barack Obama is returning to Chicago where he launched his unlikely political career to tell Americans not to lose faith in their future, no matter what they think about their next president.Obama’s final speech as president, before thousands who will gather at McCormick Place, is his last chance to try to define what his presidency meant for America. It’s a fitting bookend to what he started eight years ago. It was in Chicago in 2008 that the nation’s first black president declared victory, and where over the years he tried to cultivate his brand of optimism in American politics.“I’ll be thinking back to being a young community organizer, pretty much fresh out of school, and feeling as if my faith in America’s ability to bring about change in our democracy has been vindicated,” Obama said in a White House video previewing his speech.Obama said he’s leaving his eight years in office with two basic lessons: that Americans are fundamentally good, and that change can happen. “The system will respond to ordinary people coming together to try to move the country in a better direction,” he said.The system did respond, in November, to Americans who by and large rejected Obama’s policies by electing Republican Donald Trump.Obama and the Democrats had warned against a Trump presidency in apocalyptic terms. So now Obama’s daunting task — the closing act of his political career — is to explain how his vision of America remains relevant and achievable for Democrats in the Trump era.No stranger to high-stakes speeches, Obama rose to national prominence on the power of his oratory. But this speech is different, White House officials said.Determined not to simply recite a history of the last eight years, Obama directed his team to craft an address that would feel “bigger than politics” and speak to all Americans — including those who voted for Trump.His chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, started writing it last month while Obama was vacationing in Hawaii, handing him the first draft on the flight home. By late Monday Obama was immersed in a fourth draft, with Keenan expected to stay at the White House all night to help perfect Obama’s final message.In his weekly address Saturday, Obama acknowledged that the chaos of Washington makes it easy to lose sight of the role American citizens play in democracy. He said that while he leaves office with his work unfinished, he believes his administration made the U.S. “a stronger place for the generations that follow ours.”Seeking inspiration, Obama’s speechwriters spent weeks poring over Obama’s other momentous speeches, including his 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention and his 2008 speech after losing the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton. They also revisited his 2015 address in Selma, Alabama, that both honoured America’s exceptionalism and acknowledged its painful history on civil rights.Former aides were brought back to consult on the speech, including advisers David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, and former speechwriter Jon Favreau, said the officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the private discussions.The president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden will all travel to Chicago for the speech at McCormick Place, a sprawling convention centre along Lake Michigan. For Obama, it will be his final trip aboard Air Force One as president, though he’ll use the plane to depart Washington for an unspecified destination next week just after Trump is inaugurated.In his hometown of Chicago, the prospect of witnessing Obama’s last presidential address brought thousands out in single-digit temperatures over the weekend in hopes of securing tickets. They showed up well before sunrise and waited in lines that stretched for blocks.Though he and his party were dealt a devastating blow in November’s elections, Obama leaves office as a relatively popular president viewed favourably by 57 per cent of Americans, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released the day before his speech. That puts Obama on par with former President Bill Clinton’s popularity as he left office.Yet Americans remain deeply divided over Obama’s legacy, with fewer than half saying they’re better off eight years later — or that Obama brought the country together. Two in three Americans said he didn’t keep his promises, though most of those Americans said he tried to, but could not.“He acted very presidential, but he just couldn’t get things done,” said Dale Plath, 86, a retired sales manager from Mason City, Iowa. He said he voted for Obama the first time, voted against him the second, and this year, Plath said: “I voted for change, frankly” — in the form of Trump.Follow Josh Lederman on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
Late-night hosts mock Trump for calling Meryl Streep 'overrated' on Twitter|
As you may have heard, Meryl Streep called out Donald Trump in her Golden Globes acceptance speech on Sunday night for the Cecil B. DeMille Award — and the president-elect responded with a series of tweets calling her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”On Monday night, late-night hosts did not miss an opportunity to mercilessly mock Trump for this tweet. Here’s how they handled it:1. Made fun of the idea that Streep, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actresses, is overrated.Stephen Colbert: “Wait a second, I’m sorry, what? What? What did you just say? Meryl Streep, overrated? Have you seen Sophie’s Choice? Have you seen The French Lieutenant’s Woman? Have you seen that one with the dead people, that she’s even funny in that one? Look, Mr. Trump. You can refuse to release your taxes. You can call to ban an entire religion. You can play footsie with a dictator. But calling Meryl Streep overrated? No! No! Too far!”Seth Meyers: “Overrated? She’s so good, people use her to compliment people in other professions. Like LeBron James is the Meryl Streep of basketball. Or Donald Trump is the Meryl Streep of having thin skin.”James Corden: “Truth is, this was actually good news for Meryl — because ‘most overrated actress in Hollywood’ was literally the only award she hadn’t won yet.”And then there was this exchange on Jimmy Kimmel Live.Ben Affleck: “If there’s one thing truly in the world that we know it’s not true, it’s that Meryl Streep is overrated. If you look up in the encyclopedia ‘great actress,’ it’s a picture of Meryl Streep. It’s like ‘Gandhi, terrible leader!’”Kimmel: “In fairness to Donald Trump though, the nicest insult he can give someone is that they’re overrated, you know, in a way.”Affleck: “I guess. But pick a better shot rather than the person whose photograph actually companies ‘great actress’ in the dictionary.”2. Pointed out that Trump could be focused on more pressing issues.Colbert: “Of course, President-elect Trump was too focused on defeating ISIS and creating jobs to pick a fight with a celebrity. Just kidding! He tweeted, ‘Meryl Streep, one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood ...’”Corden: “In a tense exchange yesterday, a U.S. navy destroyer fired warning shots at fast-approaching Iranian naval ships. So, of course, our president-elect tweeted about how overrated Meryl Streep is.”Meyers: “Now, whether these tweets are calculated distractions or just the ramblings of an unhinged narcissist, it’s clear Trump would much rather talk about his feud with Meryl Streep than, say, the fact that intelligence officials believe Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to help Trump win the election.”Kimmel: “This must have been tough for Donald Trump. This must have been a Sophie’s Choice. Because he could do the presidential thing and ignore this. Or — he could go on Twitter.”3. Assumed Trump is a fan of ... other actors.Corden: “I mean, sure, she’s no Scott Baio.”On Conan, during a bit that had a fake phone call between President Obama and Trump:Voice of fake Trump: “You see my tweet about Meryl Streep?”Voice of fake Obama: “Yes, it was ridiculous. She’s a beloved figure and an incredibly talented actress.”Voice of fake Trump: “She’s no Tara Reid.”4. Brought up that Trump tweeted a denial that he made fun of a disabled reporter, which Streep mentioned in her speech.Trevor Noah: “Well, Donald Trump says he didn’t do it, but we have him doing it on tape. I guess we’ll never know the truth ... You know, one thing we’re all going to have to get used to over the next four years is Donald Trump and his people saying that things we saw with our own eyes didn’t happen. And not, like, in a cool way — you know, how gangsters are like, ‘Hey, you didn’t see nothin’, you hear?’ That would be cool because if Trump gave us $50 (U.S.) each every time, we would be, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we didn’t see anything.’ But he didn’t do that.”Colbert: “This morning, Trump spokeswoman — and future award-winning Meryl Streep role — Kellyanne Conway weighed in on the reporter controversy, by explaining we shouldn’t get hung up on little things like what Donald Trump says and does. (Clip of Conway saying, “You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”) Yes, stop listening to his mouth and stop making fun of what’s in his heart. It would be cruel because his heart is severely disabled. It is medically incapable of empathy.”Meyers: “Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said today that the media should not focus on what Donald Trump says, and instead report on what is in his heart. Although, really, how much is there to report about chicken grease?”
School bus cancellations pile up around GTA as winter weather hits|
The snow might have started later than expected Tuesday morning — but a big dump is still on the way.As of 6 a.m. there was a dusting of snow in Toronto, not the 5 cm that commuters may have expected.Still, many school bus services have been cancelled, including for the York Region District School Board, York Catholic District School Board, Peel District School Board, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, Durham District School Board, Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, and the Holy Trinity School in Richmond Hill.Environment Canada issued a winter weather travel advisory, advising drivers to give themselves extra time and to prepare for slippery conditions.Despite the slow start, Environment Canada is still expecting 5 to 10 cm of snow to accumulate before it turns into rain in the afternoon. They say that the snow’s intensity will pick up at around 7 a.m.Environment Canada says that the snow will transition into rain at around 4 p.m. in Oakville and Mississauga, between 5 and 6 p.m. for Toronto, and at around 7 p.m. in Pickering and Oshawa.Sorry Toronto kids, the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board busses are running as per usual, although there could be some delays due to the weather.
Tory MP calls for ethics probe of Trudeau's Aga Khan island trip|
Conservative leadership candidate Andrew Scheer has asked Parliament’s ethics commissioner to decide whether Justin Trudeau’s secret family vacation to the Aga Khan’s private island was an improper “gift” that constitutes a conflict of interest for the prime minister. In a letter dated Sunday, the Saskatchewan MP pointed out that the Aga Khan’s foundation in Canada has received tens of millions of dollars in international development contracts from the federal government, as well as funds for the organization’s headquarters in Ottawa. Scheer wrote that the family vacation was a “private gift” from the billionaire religious leader — who is listed in charity returns as the foundation’s chairman — that may have breached the Conflict of Interest Act. Fellow Tory leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch also called for an investigation on Twitter. “The prime minister of Canada must be held to the highest standard,” Scheer said in a statement on Monday. “We need to know if it is appropriate for Trudeau to accept gifts from someone whose foundation receives funds from the Government of Canada.” Last week, after days of public pressure to reveal where Trudeau was vacationing, the Prime Minister’s Office admitted he, his family and a few friends had accepted an invitation to stay at the Aga Khan’s private Bell Island in the Bahamas during the holidays. The PMO defended the trip’s secrecy, stating it was necessary to protect the Trudeau family’s privacy. The office also put out a statement describing the Aga Khan, the 80-year-old Ismaili Muslim leader, as a longtime Trudeau family friend.That same day, the PMO announced that Trudeau had cancelled plans to attend the World Economic Forum this month, an annual gathering of global financial elites in Davos, Switzerland. The prime minister will instead embark on a tour over the next three weeks, stopping in at coffee shops and church basements to meet with the public in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and the Prairies, Trudeau’s communications director told The Canadian Press. On Monday, Dawson’s office confirmed they had received the request for an investigation from Scheer, who is vying for the Conservative leadership in a crowded field that could soon include celebrity business man Kevin O’Leary. Margot Booth, communications manager for the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, declined to provide more details on when or if an investigation would take place. Since 2004, Aga Khan Foundation Canada has signed 16 international development contracts with Global Affairs. In total, the aid work in African and Asian countries is worth more than $300 million, according to the department’s website — including $46.8 million received in the most recent financial year. Foundation representatives have also met with public officials more than 100 times since 2011, according to the lobbying commissioner’s online registry. Trudeau’s island getaway comes on the heels of a months-long controversy over the Liberal party’s routine cash-for-access fundraisers, where wealthy businesspeople have reportedly paid $1,500 — the legal maximum for a party donation by an individual — to go to an event and meet the prime minister. In early December, Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose asked both the ethics and lobbying commissioners to investigate whether the fundraisers are illegal. In his own rules delivered to cabinet ministers after the 2015 election, Trudeau spelled out that even the “appearance” of a conflict of interest or preferential access is unacceptable.
How big brewers call the shots at Ontario Place: Cohn|
Toronto, “This Bud’s for you.”Like it or not, drink it or not, you’ll soon hear it a lot. Not Budweiser’s old commercial jingle, but its commanding branding.Budweiser Stage is taking centre stage at Ontario Place — in place of the old Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.Two decades after Molson made its mark on the concert venue, it has been outbid — outliving its claim to waterfront fame. Too bad for Molson.Tough luck, too, for the rest of us. We must master a new corporate place name as Toronto loses another piece of its history, geography, memory.The winner of this corporate bidding war gains branding rights and bragging rights. The loser is not merely Molson, but all of us — disempowered by powerful corporate interests who can redraw the map of Toronto at will.Naming rights — and wrongs — are nothing new. The powerful have long imposed their dynastic names on important buildings, cast in stone as a quid pro quo for their munificence.The difference: Once upon a time, naming rights were timeless. Today they seem meaningless, because they are time-limited.Are we ready to rename the Eaton Centre, Massey Hall, or Roy Thomson Hall, merely because their namesake’s time has come and gone? Are these destinations not destined to endure?Perennial name changes minimize the importance of place, while magnifying the ambitions and pretensions of the bidder. Which brings us back to Budweiser versus Molson.When the beer fits, it doesn’t feel so bad. Molson had a storied history as a Canadian brewery, bankrolling the Montreal Canadiens and profiting from the nationalistic appeal of its “I Am Canadian” anthem in those corny commercials of decades past.Budweiser, by contrast, is as American as apple pie. For most of the 2016 presidential campaign year, its flagship beer was renamed “America” and its labels redesigned to include patriotic phrases from the Pledge of Allegiance.Both beers wrap themselves in their respective flags, but bear in mind that Budweiser’s ownership is now more Brazilian than American, while Molson is as much American as Canadian since becoming Molson Coors. Americana aside, Budweiser now boasts of being Canada’s best-selling brand, while Molson Canadian is going flat.Is the name change an inevitable sign of the times? Beers come and go, and the names can fizzle out with them. Carling O’Keefe was once a Canadian brewing powerhouse, but after Molson swallowed it up, the O’Keefe Centre marquee on Front St. soon faded to black. No longer a good fit, it flitted about briefly as the Hummingbird Centre before metamorphosing into the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.Brace yourself for more confusion. If the proudly Canadian Four Seasons hotel chain is one day gobbled up by, say, the Marriott monolith, shall we endure the spectacle of its namesake Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts being transmogrified into the Marriot Music Suites?Good corporate citizens pay good money for naming rights. But if the objective is to convey a sense of corporate social responsibility, why not aspire to more corporate social sensitivity?Name it. Pay for it. And stick with it. Don’t stick it to us every few years by changing your mind with name changes that should remain on public places in perpetuity.After all, we didn’t change Queen’s Park to King’s Park when Queen Victoria died.Consider the SkyDome debacle. Built at public expense, it was rechristened the Rogers Centre — sparking enduring public resentment.As for Ontario Place, it is a public trust. True, the actual concert facility is owned by Live Nation Entertainment, which sealed the deal with Labatt (brewer of Budweiser and subsidiary of foreign-owned Anheuser-Busch InBev).But the land beneath it is leased from us, from Ontarians. When the deal was announced amid much public opprobrium, the provincial government tried to argue that it had nothing to do with it.“The re-naming of the amphitheatre was an independent business decision by Live Nation and Labatt Breweries Canada,” a spokesperson said last week.But it turns out that the government was in on the change. A spokesperson for Live Nation told me Monday they “informed Ontario Place of the new agreement with Labatt Breweries Canada with regards to the venue name changing.”Upon further questioning, a government spokesperson later provided confirmation: “The decision to re-name the venue was subject to the approval of Ontario Place Corporation in its capacity as landlord. Its board of directors, when consulted, acted reasonably and promptly to approve the re-name.”Given the government’s earlier evasions, the old Budweiser jingle has a certain resonance:“This Bud’s for you . . . . You know it isn’t only what you say, it’s what you do.”Despite what it said about the renamed suds at Ontario Place, we now know what our government did. This dud’s for us.Martin Regg Cohn's political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. email@example.com , Twitter: @reggcohn
School fundraising has limited impact on student test scores: Study|
School fundraising has sparked much controversy for creating have and have-not schools in Toronto, but has little impact on how students perform academically, says a new report.The paper from the C.D. Howe Institute measures the money raised by elementary schools in the Toronto District School Board against students’ standardized test scores in reading, math and writing administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).When the authors compared schools of similar backgrounds and grades, they found little difference in test results between students from big fundraisers and those with no capacity to raise extra money.“If those funds really mattered we would expect to see those resources generate better results, and they don’t,” said David Johnson, economics professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and co-author of the think-tank’s report, released Tuesday.In other words, they authors didn’t find an “unfair advantage.” Instead, they cite “a small but statistically significant” relationship between fundraising and test scores, with an extra $100 raised per student associated with a 1.5 percentage point increase in test pass rates by Grade 6.“When comparing similar schools there is only a weak association between funds raised and academic outcomes,” they conclude.The issue of fundraising by parent councils and school communities has been hotly debated, with many groups arguing it is dividing the city into have and have-not schools. While those dollars can’t be spent on essentials like staff, more affluent schools may use them for library books, playgrounds or extra music and art programs, while needy schools are barely able to support badly-needed meal programs.The difference in experiences for those students — and not their test results — is the reason for rising concern over the inequity created by fundraising, says Annie Kidder, executive director of the advocacy and research group People for Education.“I’m not sure anybody has ever said fundraising has an impact on EQAO scores,” she adds.The difference is seen “in overall quality of education rather than a score in one grade in reading, writing or math.”The C.D. Howe report shows that moving a student from a school with no extra funds to a similar school that raises roughly $300 per student would predict an improved test score of between 3 and 4.5 percentage points.While the authors call that minimal, Sean Meagher of Social Planning Toronto says the overall findings reinforce his belief that fundraising does play a significant role.And while the authors say $100 per student has a small impact on academics, Meagher noted that amount translates to an extra computer for every 10 kids, which would be a big deal in many inner-city schools.But Johnson said the research shows that while there is lots of inequity in the system and that fundraising can enrich education, that’s only half the story.He said rather than dwelling only on the disparity between schools, it’s important to look into why there are differences in academic outcomes for kids in schools of similar backgrounds that raise different amounts of money, and the potential causes.
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Husband's death leads to widow's immigration snafu|
Yulia Shifrin was thrilled when her parents received their immigration visa to join her in Canada from Israel after a five-year wait.The elderly couple was given six months to move to Canada but Alim Shifrin, a family doctor, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and was too sick to travel, leaving his wife, Sofia, in limbo as a “dependant” applicant.When the family asked immigration officials to extend their immigration visa and replace the wife as the principal applicant, they were told no extension could be granted and advised getting in touch with the embassy in Tel Aviv with an update only after the man died.“While we sympathize with your situation, it is not possible to have your mother replace your father as principal applicant,” the Immigration Department said in an email to their daughter in Thornhill last March.“Your parents’ file is now closed and nothing can be done. We suggest that you contact us again after the loss of your father, and we will then review the case.”The processing times for parents’ sponsorship applications are much shorter nowadays anyway, the email added.After the senior Shifrin passed away at the end of August, officials sent the family an email stating that the widow’s file could not be reopened and they must reapply even though the information pertaining to the application would be the same.“As you can imagine, this is devastating news. The cruelty of the situation is mind-boggling. Not only were we repeatedly told to wait patiently for my father to die before anything can be done, we are now talking about a 70-year-old widow, who had been approved, having to go through the whole lengthy sponsorship process again,” said Yulia Shifrin, a researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.“Nothing changed in the paperwork. Her birth certificate is still the same. The place of work didn’t change because she is retired. The whole issue could’ve been resolved by simply reopening the file, asking my mother to undergo another medical examination and issuing her a new visa.”Immigration officials said visa officers can use their discretion when deciding if the principal applicant who has passed away may be replaced with the individual identified on the application as the accompanying spouse.“In this case, the application had been finalized and the permanent resident visas had already expired at the time of the sponsor’s request to reopen the file and the officer decided that the file would not be reopened,” department spokesperson Rémi Larivière explained in an email.The elderly couple’s permanent resident visa was issued in December 2015 and expired on August 1, 2016, and Shifrin’s father, the principal applicant, died on August 29, at 75. Approved applicants must arrive in Canada while their visa is still valid.Immigration officials do not have statistics on the number of requests they get on replacing a deceased principal applicant with his or her dependant.After the Star inquired into the matter, the Immigration Department contacted the family this month and agreed to process the application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. However, they must fill out new forms to create a new application with the mother as the applicant. No new application fee is required.Yulia Shifrin said she still does not understand why officials couldn’t just replace her father with her mother as the principal in the first place but insisted on looking into the file only after the man’s death.“I am happy they are finally doing the right thing. They told me nothing could be done, but all they needed was to use some common sense,” said Shifrin. “We still need to file a new application. Immigration said they would do their best to expedite the process, but why more delay in bringing my widowed mother here? It is a waste of time and government resources.”