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    OTTAWA—A recent court decision should come as a warning to the federal government to stop playing fast and loose with airline passenger safety rules, says the head of a union that represents thousands of flight attendants in Canada.

    In the wake of the ruling last week by the Federal Court of Appeal., the Canadian Union of Public Employees is urging the Liberal government to make changes to federal aviation rules about the ratio of crew to passengers on planes.

    The court disagreed with Transport Canada’s conclusion that there was no impact on passenger or crew safety when it allowed Sunwing Airlines to increase the ratio of passengers to flight attendants on its aircraft.

    Under federal rules at the time, flights originating in Canada were required to have one attendant for every 40 passengers, unless the transport minister granted an exemption.

    In 2013, Sunwing asked to raise the ratio to 1-50 on its Boeing 737-800 aircraft — each of which can seat 189 passengers, according to seating charts on the company’s website. That ratio is now the threshold for all carriers in Canada.

    Sunwing also sought permission to change procedures for flight attendants during an emergency evacuation.

    However, the airline failed three separate tests of the new system, in which crews were required to perform a partial evacuation in just 15 seconds. A Transport Canada inspector was on hand for those tests.

    The inspector suggested the crew could save time by foregoing “blocking” orders, which calls for a passenger to block the aisle to allow a crew member to open an emergency exit. The advice worked; the crew passed the test.

    However, before the government could sign off on the change, Sunwing was told to provide a risk assessment showing that dropping the blocking order from its procedures wouldn’t compromise safety.

    The resulting risk assessment said that it would be unlikely that passengers would block emergency exits during an evacuation.

    CUPE took the government to court over the decision to increase the ratio on Sunwing flights. The union represents more than 11,500 flight attendants at nine airlines.

    The ruling, dated Aug. 4, said the risk assessment was “cursory and provides no indication of how this conclusion was reached.” The judge also felt that testimony at trial showed that “no reliable testing was conducted to verify the accuracy of the conclusions.”

    The inspector didn’t review the assessment before giving his seal of approval, the judge added.

    The Supreme Court’s test for government decisions requires that they be transparent, intelligible and justifiable; this decision met none of those benchmarks, the judge continued, saying there was no way to determine how the inspector reached such conclusions.

    “Not only did the inspector fail to review Sunwing’s risk assessment, there is in addition no evidentiary basis to substantiate the assumption that passengers would not likely block a Sunwing flight attendant who needs to open an emergency exit to evacuate the aircraft,” the ruling said.

    “It is impossible to see how the inspector could have been satisfied that the proposed amendment ... did not compromise safety.”

    The government was also ordered to cover the union’s legal costs of $3,000.

    “This is a major wake-up call for Transport Canada. The safety of passengers and crew must come first, before any other consideration,” CUPE national president Mark Hancock said in a statement.

    A Transport Canada spokesperson said officials are reviewing the ruling.

    A June report from the House of Commons transport committee recommended the government review the 1-50 ratio with an eye to safety and security.

    The union wants the Liberal government to require all airlines to use the lower ratio of passengers to crew to promote safety.

    Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

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    How will Canadians be living in 2018? They will be “together apart” within their homes, surrounded with blues and greens, natural materials and glitzy metallic embellishments.

    The predictions come from Ikea Canada, which is releasing its 2018 furniture and design catalogue August 14. Widely considered a predictor of lifestyle shifts, the catalogue will reach seven million homes across Canada by August 25.

    This year’s theme is “Make room for life” and it’s centred around the living room — one of the hardest working spaces in the home, said Kathy Davey, the interior design head of Ikea Canada.

    “The influences there are urbanization and technology, those are really two big trends we’re seeing,” she said.

    Movement to city centres has people living in smaller spaces, Davey said, which means the spaces have to be more fluid, since they’re used for a variety of activities.

    Technology has influenced a trend Davey called “together apart,” where people can be together in the same room but using different devices, such as a tablet and a phone, putting them essentially a world away from each other.

    Key to that is showing people they don’t have to have their sofa along a wall, or anchor it to a TV set, Davey said.

    “Just enabling people to really have this custom space that we’re not seeing today, that we really want people to be bold and brave and have a new take on their living room, especially because it’s a much more multi-functional space,” she said.

    Ikea carried out market research in Canada, customer surveys and home visits to figure out how people behave in their homes and what activities take place in them. The company also noticed people have been bringing nature into their homes — from herb gardens to flowers.

    “Greenery is becoming important in the home and people want to see more natural materials,” Davey said.

    “People are feeling they need more and more to reflect their own personal style. They’re getting so many different influences out there, but in their home they really want to put a stamp on their own space — it’s the one environment they can control,” she said.


    This brass-coloured 20-piece flatware set does the double duty of being both chic and dishwasher safe.



    Champagne coupes bring a touch of The Great Gatsby to a get-together, unlike their fluted counterparts.

    $2.99 each


    The metallic base is on trend right now and, Davey said, “they really bring, I would say, the accent to the home.”



    This table lamp looks like a fishbowl over a light bulb and is one of the many “shiny glass objects” featured in the new catalogue. “You could say it’s the jewelry to the wardrobe,” Davey said of accessories.



    This decorative hourglass is one of the elegant accessories in the catalogue. “These things add a level of detail and quality, I think, to be warm and inviting and inspiring,” Davey said.



    This sofa has storage on all sides and can be placed in the middle of a room, not up against a wall. “Sofa, of course, is the soul of the living room,” Davey said. “It’s about comfort and quality but it doesn’t have to be lining the walls anymore and your sofa doesn’t need to be in front of a TV.”



    These colourful office chairs come in blue, grey and green and let your living room stay trendy and bright, even if it’s doing double duty as a study. “We really want people to be bold and brave and have a new take on their living room, especially because it’s a much more multi-functional space,” Davey said.



    These shiny bowls, plates and side plates made of tempered glass add a bit of glitz to dinner.


    This brass-coloured frame can hold anything from mail to keys to help keep a small space organized and stylish.


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    The province’s most influential business group wants Queen’s Park to slash corporate tax rates to 10 per cent to offset the impact of the higher minimum wage.

    In a submission to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges a reduction in the current 11.5 per cent tax rate as well as other relief measures.

    The chamber, which represents 60,000 members, would also like to see Ontario’s small business tax reduction rate lowered from 4.5 per cent to alleviate “the pressure placed on their revenue streams from increased labour costs.”

    It warns that increasing the $11.40-an-hour minimum to $14 in January – and to $15 in 2019 – “will have extremely harmful consequences, the scale of which will be largely unknown until the full force of the legislation is brought into effect.”

    Wynne has said she will soon unveil an aid package for small business owners and farmers coping with higher wage costs.

    At the same time as businesses are sounding alarm bells, the New Democrats are calling on the Liberals to bolster the labour reforms to help workers.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Thursday disclosed her party’s proposed amendments to Bill 148, which is currently being studied by a legislative committee.

    “Kathleen Wynne’s labour bill falls far short of what’s needed,” Howarth told reporters at Queen’s Park.

    “Clearly, she doesn’t get what workers are dealing with every day,” she said.

    To improve the forthcoming law, Horwath wants a universal minimum wage for all classifications of workers, including bartenders and wait staff.

    As part of the Liberal government’s labour reforms, liquor servers, who make most of their money from tips, will see their minimum hourly wage jump from $9.90 now to $12.20 on Jan. 1, and $13.05, the year after that.

    Horwath said no such exemption should be allowed.

    The New Democrats would also like to see five days of paid emergency leave days for all workers — up from the Liberals’ proposed two — and an additional five unpaid days. The Grit plan says after two paid days, workers should be allowed to take eight days off for an emergency without pay.

    As well, the NDP is calling for three weeks of paid vacation after one year of employment. The Liberals have promised that much holiday time after five years at the same job. Currently, workers are entitled to two weeks off.

    “Workers should have a sense of security at their jobs and working people should be able to get ahead of the bills and join the middle class,” said Horwath, who supports measures to make it easier for workers to unionize.

    With an election set for June 7, 2018, the NDP chief took aim at another political rival, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

    Horwath castigated Brown for his role as an MP in former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s caucus.

    “He’s a cut-and-privatize politician who supported anti-worker legislation,” she said, referring to his record on Parliament Hill.

    “They were attacks — direct attacks — on unionized workers.”

    In a statement, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said the government “will carefully consider the amendments that are brought forward by the NDP.”

    “We sent the bill to committee after first reading and travelled the bill across the province so that we could hear feedback from Ontarians that will make the bill stronger,” said Flynn.

    “Our government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act is landmark legislation that provides new protections and rights for hard-working Ontarians. The Ontario economy is strong right now, but while business is expanding and creating wealth, not everyone is feeling it.”

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    MONTREAL—Only people who can speak French should be allowed to immigrate to the province, Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said Thursday in reaction to 2016 census data.

    Lisee said if his party wins the 2018 election, it will introduce a new, stricter language law to stem what called a worrying trend in the use of French in Quebec.

    “We say if we are in power, in the first 101 days we will table legislation to make sure all new immigrants will have to show knowledge of French before they can come to Quebec,” he told reporters.

    Read more: Quebec researcher doubts census data citing major increase of anglophones

    Refugees are an exception, said Lisee, who explained people who claim asylum can learn French once they arrive.

    The 2016 census data on language released last week indicated the percentage of people in Quebec who listed French as a mother tongue decreased to 78.4 per cent in 2016 from 79.7 per cent in 2011.

    Census data also suggested the percentage of Quebec anglophones increased significantly across the province.

    “If we keep going in this direction, it will bring us to a tipping point,” the PQ leader said. “We never want to see that tipping point.”

    Lisee said his legislation would be called Bill 202, a reference to the legislation passed in the 1970s that is known informally as Bill 101.

    “We saw this before,” Lisee said. “In 1976, the indicators were very negative. We brought in Bill 101 and the trend turned over. And we feel it’s time again to take measures to make the trend turn over.”

    Lisee added a future Bill 202 would force all companies in Quebec with 25 employees or more to conduct all business in French, which is currently the case for firms with 50 people or more.

    Quebecers who attend English universities and junior colleges would also need a degree in French proficiency before being allowed to graduate, even if they intended on moving outside the province.

    “They can move any time they wish,” Lisee said. “But if you want to have a degree of higher education in Quebec, it’s just basic decency to give you the tools for your success. And one of these tools is for you to be proficient in French.”

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    Watching your favourite shows on Netflix Canada just got a little more expensive.

    The popular video streaming service is hiking prices for new members effective immediately. It will do the same for existing users after notifying them by email in the coming weeks.

    Netflix’s standard plan will now cost a dollar more — or $10.99 a month — to watch content on two screens at a time.

    The basic plan, which does not offer high definition video and only permits one streaming screen at a time, also goes up a dollar to $8.99 a month.

    Premium plan subscribers will pay $2 more for up to four simultaneous streams and ultra high-definition 4K content. It will now cost $13.99 monthly.

    It’s the first price increase in nearly two years that affects subscribers in Canada.

    Netflix says it made the decision in an effort to bolster its content and services. The price change only impacts Canadian subscribers.

    “From time to time, Netflix plans and pricing are adjusted as we add more exclusive TV shows and movies, introduce new product features and improve the overall Netflix experience, to help members find something great to watch even faster,” it said in a statement.

    Read more:

    Disney to pull children’s programming from Netflix to launch own streaming service

    CBS All Access plans to launch in Canada next year

    Cable, satellite TV providers lost $185M in 2016 amid shift to online entertainment: CRTC

    Netflix has invested heavily in producing its own original content in recent years, including House of Cards, Ozark and a slate of feature films bought at international film festivals.

    The company also faces a growing number of other competitors who are seeking the Canadian rights for buzzworthy TV series and movies, and potentially driving up the acquisition costs.

    CraveTV, which is owned by Bell Media, holds the rights to Showtime TV shows and some content from U.S. streaming site Hulu, while Amazon Prime Video acquired streaming licences for Mr. Robot and Starz cable series American Gods.

    Netflix purchases the Canadian rights to U.S. network shows as well, including ABC’s Scandal and the CW’s Riverdale.

    But earlier this week CBS Corp. announced plans to dive into the Canadian marketplace with its CBS All Access streaming service early next year. At once it’ll be vying to attract its own subscribers, while also competing for streaming rights and valuable library content.

    Netflix generally raises its prices by country based on the local market. In June, the company bumped up the monthly bill for Australian users by a few dollars, saying it was responding to a local tax increase.

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    The OPP is asking for the public’s help in identifying an “organized motorcycle mob” that was seen driving dangerously on major highways over the long weekend.

    OPP said they received numerous complaints about a group of motorcycles traveling as a group on Highways 409, 401, 403, the QEW, Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner on Sunday between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

    “Not only were they driving dangerously and aggressively, at sometimes they came on a dead stop on the highway causing congestion, chaos, frustration for other motorists and really putting everyone at risk on the highways,” said OPP Sgt Kerry Schmidt.

    Schmidt also said that officers were rebuffed when they tried to pull over riders on the 401.

    "That officer was swarmed by riders," he said. "They all flippantly took off from the officer at high rates of speed."

    Schmidt that type of behaviour is "not cool."

    "These guys may think they're showing how powerful they are by hiding in a group, but this is something that is serious and could result in serious consequences," he said.

    According to Schmidt, the motorcyclists could have easily caused accidents.

    “There is no place for groups like this to hijack our highways that are used for commerce, for transportation, for a shared community of drivers that are trying to get around the GTA especially on a long weekend. This will not be tolerated,” said Schmidt.

    Provincial police laid charges in March following similar incidents on Toronto-area highways in 2016.

    A man died on July 23, 2016 when he collided with a transport truck as a group of motorcyclists travelling together on Highway 401 slowed traffic while performing stunts.

    A group of motorcyclists also slowed traffic and performed stunts on Highway 427 on Sept. 22, 2016.

    OPP is asking anyone with information, photos, videos, or dash cam footage of the riders to contact them or call Crime Stoppers.

    Schmidt says if anyone involved in the “motorcycle mob” wants to come forward, they can do so.

    With files from the Canadian Press

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    A 77-year-old woman who went to court to clarify the assisted dying law for people who are in excruciating, incurable pain but who do not face imminent death has died with medical assistance.

    The woman, known as AB due to a publication ban, had severe osteoarthritis but her doctor would not perform the end-of-life procedure because he was concerned she did not meet the “reasonable foreseeable death” requirement.

    In documents filed with the court, the woman’s lawyer Andrew Faith stressed the chilling effect a lack of clarity in the legislation had on access to medical care.

    In a ruling in June, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell said that a person does not need to have a terminal condition or be likely to die within a specific time frame to access medical assistance in dying.

    The death of the woman last week was confirmed by a news release Thursday from Dying with Dignity Canada.

    “After AB died, her daughter said it was the first time in decades that she had seen her mother in a pain-free state,” the release said.

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    BRIDGEWATER, N.J.—Not backing down, President Donald Trump warned Kim Jong Un’s government on Thursday to “get their act together” or face extraordinary trouble, and suggested his earlier threat to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea was too mild.

    “Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said, in the latest U.S. salvo in an escalating exchange of threats between the nuclear-armed nations.

    A day after North Korea laid out plans to strike near Guam with unsettlingly specificity, there was no observable march toward combat, despite the angry rhetoric from both sides. U.S. officials said there was no major movement of U.S. military assets to the region, nor were there signs Pyongyang was actively preparing for war.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    Trump declined to say whether the U.S. is considering a pre-emptive military strike as he spoke to reporters before a briefing with his top national security advisers at his New Jersey golf resort.

    The president insisted the North had been “getting away with a tragedy that can’t be allowed.”

    “North Korea better get their act together, or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble,” Trump said, flanked by Vice-President Mike Pence. Accusing his predecessors of insufficient action, Trump said it was time somebody stood up to the pariah nation.

    Though tensions have been building for months amid new missile tests by the North, the pace has intensified since the U.N. Security Council on Saturday passed sweeping new sanctions Trump had requested. The sanctions prompted the new heated volley of rhetoric.

    In the latest move by North Korea, its military announced a detailed plan to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters around the tiny U.S. territory of Guam, home to two U.S. bases and 160,000 people.

    North Korea said its military would finalize the plan by mid-August, then wait for Kim’s order. U.S. allies Japan and South Korea quickly vowed a strong reaction if the North were to follow through.

    Trump echoed that threat Thursday, insisting if North Korea took any steps to attack Guam, its leaders would have reason to be nervous.

    Read more:

    Did Donald Trump accidentally threaten nuclear war out of a penchant for hyperbole?: Analysis

    Trump’s warning to North Korea suggests he may be ready to strike first, but is that self-defence?

    Why North Korea is threatening Guam with its ballistic missiles

    Trump says North Korea will be met with ‘fire and the fury like the world has never seen’ if it doesn’t stop threatening the U.S.

    “Things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?” Trump said. He did not specify what they might be.

    Military analysts said it was unusual for Pyongyang to give such a precise target for a military action. Still, there were no signs that North Korea was seriously mobilizing its population for war, such as by pulling workers from factories or putting the army on formal alert.

    “There’s a lot of theatre to this whole thing,” said Bob Carlin, former Northeast Asia chief for the State Department’s intelligence arm.

    Similarly, the U.S. military gave no indications it perceived a seriously escalating threat from Pyongyang, such as moving to evacuate American personnel or their families from Guam, where there are 7,000 U.S. troops, or South Korea, where there are 28,000.

    And U.S. officials insisted no significant number of troops, ships, aircraft or other assets were being directed to the region, beyond any that had been previously scheduled. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss military planning publicly and requested anonymity.

    Trump said he would soon announce a request for a budget increase of “billions of dollars” for anti-missile systems.

    But as it is, the U.S. has a robust military presence in the region, including six B-1 bombers in Guam and Air Force fighter jet units in South Korea, plus other assets across the Pacific Ocean and in the skies above. Washington’s vast military options range from nothing to a full-on conventional assault by air, sea and ground forces. Any order by the president could be executed quickly.

    Current and former U.S. officials said if war did come, the U.S. and its allies would likely hit hard and fast, using airstrikes, drone operations and cyberattacks aimed at military bases, airbases, missile sites, artillery, communications, command and control headquarters and intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities.

    Key threats would be North Korea’s small but capable navy, including its submarines that can move quietly and attack. And Pyongyang also has significant cyber abilities, although not as sophisticated as America’s. The North has also been preparing for ground war for decades, and would be a formidable force on the border.

    “Do I have military options? Of course I do. That’s my responsibility,” Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday. But he said the Trump administration wants “to use diplomacy.”

    To that end, Trump said he “of course” would always consider negotiations with North Korea, but added that talks have failed for the last 25 years. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Asia this week, said North Korea could signal it was ready for such talks by halting any missile tests for an extended period.

    North Korea’s specific threat affecting Guam said it would involve the Hwasong-12, an intermediate-range ballistic missile first revealed at a military parade in April and believed to have a radius of more than 3,700 kilometres. The North said four of the missiles would hit waters 30 to 40 kilometres from Guam.

    “We keep closely watching the speech and behaviour of the U.S.,” read a military statement carried by official state-run media.

    Guam lies about 3,400 kilometres from the Korean Peninsula, and it’s extremely unlikely Kim’s government would risk annihilation with a pre-emptive attack on U.S. citizens. It’s also unclear how reliable North Korea’s missiles would be against such a distant target, given that its military has struggled to target effectively in the past.

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    When Ken Hirschkop moved into historic Cabbagetown in 2005, he didn’t expect a tourist site to pop up behind his backyard. But he says that’s what the house a 2 St. James Ct. has become.

    It’s not because, among the rows of Victorians adorned with official heritage conservation district plaques, this house possesses particular charm. It’s because its box-like exterior and perpetual state of partial-construction makes it seem out of place.

    “It looks like it’s landed from space,” Hirschkop said, noting that Cabbagetown visitors regularly make detours to catch a glimpse of the unusual building.

    The house belongs to 78-year-old Norm Rogers, and its redevelopment has been the subject of a 10-year-old battle between neighbours , first over proposals for a bigger house on the lot, then over damage and inconvenience caused by the construction.

    Now, construction of a house that Rogers, neighbours, and the city agreed upon (resemblance to spacecraft aside) in 2014 is well underway, but those plans are being held up by neighbours who accuse Rogers of neglecting to stick to their agreement.

    Rogers’ house was supposed to be completed last December, and complaints about property damage have mounted steadily since construction recommenced about a year ago.

    “It’s such a colossal waste of everyone’s time,” Hirschkop said.

    Rogers agrees, and says that, after the long slog to build his home, he no longer plans to live there; the stairs of the three-storey house would be too much for him to manage at his age.

    “All I want to do is build the house,” he said in an interview Thursday. Then he’ll move out of the city.

    Rogers is now in a standoff with Laura Allen, Hirschkop’s neighbour, whose backyard Rogers needs to access in order to complete the work.

    “We’re prepared to finish it, and finish it so it looks really good,” Rogers said.

    He warned Allen that, without permission to enter her backyard, he will have to paint the concrete wall facing her backyard — black, because that’s the colour of paint he has handy.

    “If she thinks she’s going to hold us up for ransom, that doesn’t work with me,” Rogers said.

    Allen, who moved into the neighbourhood in 2011, says she’s determined to block workers from entering her backyard until she has a guarantee that her property will be protected.

    She estimates thousands of dollars worth of backyard furniture has been destroyed as a result of the work. Rogers has refused to compensate her, saying that she overestimated the value of what’s been damaged.

    “It has been devastating,” said Allen. She now plans to sell her house, but says she can’t as long as the disruption continues.

    Allen thinks the city, which granted Rogers his building permit, should intervene to make sure the neighbours’ property is protected.

    “If you’ve given someone permission to build something that size, there was always the possibility of damage,” she said.

    The city said that it has regularly inspected Rogers’ building site for compliance with the building permit, and that damage to adjacent property is the responsibility of the permit owner. Disputes over damage are “civil matters,” a Mario Angelucci of Toronto Building, said.

    Martin Rendl, a Toronto-area planning professional, who argued to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2008 that Rogers’ plans were not appropriate for the neighbourhood, said it is not common for development disagreements to go on for so long.

    “A new house you can put up in a couple of months, not over a decade,” he said.

    Part of the reason the construction missed the December 2016 deadline is because Rogers did not receive his heritage permit from the city until June 20, 2016. He now has until September 2017 to complete the work.

    Hirschkop says he’s grown accustomed to construction delays, and run-ins with Rogers have been a fact of life as long as he’s lived in Cabbagetown. He’s making do; last year he put up a shed in his backyard to block out the view of Rogers’ unfinished concrete wall. (“We needed a shed anyways.”)

    Hirschkop still worries the drawn-out building of Rogers’ house will set a precedent for developers to change the landscape of their neighbourhood, if the city doesn’t step in to support him and his neighbours.

    “It’s the most beautiful neighbourhood I’ve lived in by a long shot,” Hirschkop said. “It won’t stay beautiful if you let people do whatever you want.”

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    A video has surfaced showing Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim walking across the tarmac of a U.S. military base in Fussa, Japan, Thursday, the day after he was freed from a North Korean prison. The 62-year-old Lim is with members of the Canadian government delegation sent to Pyongyang this week to negotiate his release, according to Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi.

    While on a humanitarian mission to a northern region of North Korea in January of 2015, Lim was picked up and detained by North Korean authorities. Lim was convicted in late 2015 of purportedly scheming to overthrow the authoritarian regime of Kim Jong Un. He was given a life sentence in a hard labour camp.

    Read more:

    Freeing of Hyeon Soo Lim is a bright spot in Korean crisis: Editorial

    Trudeau confirms release of Mississauga pastor imprisoned in North Korea

    Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim released over health reasons, says North Korea

    Lim is the pastor of the Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, which has a congregation of about 3,000.

    Lim is expected to be reunited with friends and family in Canada shortly.

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    Mayor John Tory says it is up to Chief Mark Saunders to determine if three Toronto police officers face internal discipline after being acquitted in criminal court of sexual assaulting a colleague.

    “I’m not going to pre-judge what the police chief does,” Tory said Thursday. “Understand my role as the mayor and/or as a member of the police services board is to oversee what the chief does. The chief is in charge of the police service. He will reach whatever decision he chooses to reach.”

    On Wednesday, a judge acquitted three 51 Division constables, Leslie Nyznik, Sameer Kara and Joshua Cabero, accused of sexually assaulting a female parking enforcement officer in a downtown Toronto hotel room Jan. 17, 2015. The complainant’s identity is protected under a publication ban.

    “It is simply not safe to convict,” Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy wrote in her 45-page ruling.

    Molloy, however, said she did not “necessarily believe” Nyznik, the only one of the three officers who testified and “freely” acknowledged “many things that were not to his credit.”

    For example, “the amount of drinking that was going on, the extent of the free food and drinks and privileged treatment provided by the bars they attended, his familiarity with the Brass Rail and its staff,” the name of the Yonge St. strip bar the officers attended before going to the hotel.

    Nor was Molloy impressed with the ease with which Nyznik (and the others) “lied to the stripper at the Brass Rail about being a pornographic movie crew,” the judge wrote in her ruling. She also upbraided him for showing “shocking insensitivity and cruelty… of finishing with the complainant and then asking the two men if they should still call the ‘hooker’ to come over.”

    The officers have been suspended with pay since the criminal charges were laid.

    “The chief has not revoked their suspension as yet. He is reviewing the case with professional standards from a Police Services Act perspective,” Meaghan Gray of TPS corporate communications said Thursday.

    A lawyer familiar with police tribunal matters, but who is not authorized to speak publicly about the case, says the service faces “significant” legal hurdles if it finds discreditable conduct charges are warranted.

    Under the Police Services Act, charges must be laid within six months from when the complaint was made, which was more than two years ago. The investigation was carried out by the service’s professional standards unit. The criminal charges were laid in Feb. 2015.

    However, the act allows the service to issue a PSA “notice of hearing” on the officers if the police board accepts the delay was “reasonable.” The source said defence lawyers for the officers are likely to argue it was not because Toronto police did the investigation, laid the charges and “should have known the evidence.”

    The police service could conceivably get around the six-month time restriction by basing charges on contents found in the judge’s ruling. Yet it’s questionable whether it would be legally permissible if the charges relied on Nyznik’s testimony, the lawyer said.

    Tory said Thursday that what he “expects from all of our public servants, and I include in that first and foremost police officers, people who work for the transit system, a high standard of behavior. Whether you’re on or off duty, you are a public servant,” Tory said.

    Read more:

    The slogan ‘believe the victim’ is popular but has no place in a criminal trial, says judge, ruling 3 cops not guilty: DiManno

    ’It is simply not safe to convict,’ judge rules after Toronto officers accused of sex assault found not guilty

    Prosecutor says complainant in police sex assault trial had good reason to ‘remain silent’

    “I can’t say ‘I am not the mayor’ when I leave work at the end of a long day. I’m the mayor all the time. Police officers, while they may be off duty, are police officers all the time. I just hope people take from this that message, most importantly.”

    He repeated police officers “have to exercise good judgment” and respect the position they hold.

    “And even though you may not be on duty, you are a person representing the transit commission or the police service or city council. I think people have to think more carefully than they sometimes do,” he continued.

    “Everybody, when it comes to the relationship between men and women and showing proper respect for one another and proper care – both in terms of the sort of kinds of events they go to, how they behave, how much they have to drink and how they treat each other, most importantly.”

    Tory said the situation is difficult because Molloy rendered not guilty verdicts, “on the other hand there are some real concerns that exist out there of people saying ‘well what if those officers, for example, were to be involved in a future case of this kind?’”

    Tory added people “have to behave in a manner that would stand the test of public scrutiny that is inevitably applied either during, or in many cases after events happen.”

    0 0

    You’re a Black teenage male just crossing the road. You haven’t done anything wrong but a belligerent cop is suddenly in your wheelhouse.

    And before the day is over, you will be charged with assaulting police, threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest.

    All of those charges will subsequently be withdrawn.

    Nearly six years go by.

    On the morning of Aug. 10, 2017, you — one of the “Neptune Four” as the quartet of Black youths arrested in the incident that night have become known — finally get to tell your story in front of a police disciplinary tribunal.

    Because the officer who allegedly arrested you unlawfully, who allegedly pointed a gun in your stunned face, who allegedly dropped you with a punch in the head, who allegedly smeared blood from a cut finger across the back of your vest — a cut you did not inflict — has himself been charged under the Police Act with unlawful arrest and two counts of disorderly conduct.

    That’s Const. Adam Lourenco, who has pleaded not guilty.

    Read more:

    Teen testifies he stood up for himself, then got punched by a cop

    Another officer, who purportedly stood by as all of this was going on, deliberately turning his back on the scene and ignoring pleas for help, is Const. Scharnil Pais. He also has pleaded not guilty on one count of unlawful arrest.

    Oddly, on Day 2 of this hearing, the prosecutor, Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, does not ask the witness how Lourenco cut himself on his utility belt.

    Perhaps that will come later. Lord knows this entire matter has moved like molasses, with preliminary excursions to Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and pre-hearing arguments (rejected) for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to get a place at the table on the grounds that an exploration of racial profiling was intrinsic to the hearing, and even a motion (brought by Lourenco) that the adjudicator, the judge in other words, be removed over the “optics” of an old misconduct allegation. Insp. Richard Hegedus, the hearing officer, cleared himself of reasonable perception of bias and an application for judicial review was quashed.

    Got all that?

    So now, on Thursday, we reached the meat of the thing with the first of the four Blacks youths — three, actually, because one of them formally withdrew from the collective complaint — sworn in to testify. Not a youth anymore, aged 21, but his identity remains protected because he’d been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act — even though those charges no longer exist.

    The young man unspooled his tale and then did so again as commentary for the Toronto Community Housing surveillance video which captured most of the encounter.

    Four teens on their way from a Neptune Dr. public housing project, in the Lawrence Heights area, to a Pathways to Education meeting across the street.

    There they are on the video, exiting the building. And before you can say who’s-your-daddy an unmarked black police car pulls into the parking lot.

    “Very aggressive, as far as their body language,” the witness says, recalling how Lourenco and Pais — both members of the now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit approached the group. Lourenco got in front of them, Pais behind.

    It was Lourenco who told them there had been a robbery in the area and they matched the suspects’ description.

    He demanded to see ID. “I’m 15 years old. I don’t have ID on me. I said, you can call my mom. She lives in that building.”

    But this youth, he’d earlier attended an Ontario Justice Education program and knew that he wasn’t compelled to identify himself.

    “I asked him, ‘am I under arrest?’ He said no. ‘Am I free to go?’ He didn’t answer.”

    Instead, the complainant testified, Lourenco began berating him. “He was calling me names, that I was being a smart-ass. He was trying to provoke me.”

    Lourenco, the witness said, steered him away from the three other youths — which seems evident on the grainy video. Hits him with a couple of uppercuts in the midsection, then a hard “shot to the head and I fall down.”

    The other youths implore Pais to intervene but he tells them to sit down on the ground, then turns the other way, steadfastly not looking at his partner.

    “When I was on the ground . . . he’s still calling me names, bitch, wannabe thug, smart-ass . . . ”

    Lourenco, while cuffing the youth, uses one hand to pull out his gun — points it at the three other teenagers, points it at him.

    To the others, threatens: “Don’t move or I’ll f----- kill you.”

    To the handcuffed teenager: “He says, ‘I’ll kill you as well.’”

    Asks if the cuffs are too tight. The teenager says yes. “So he tightens them more.”

    It was at this point, the witness testified, that Lourenco cut himself on his utility belt. “Look, you’ve just assaulted a police officer.”

    As he’s lying on his stomach, the witness continued, Lourenco wipes his bleeding thumb along the teen’s back. “He was kneeing me and scraping my face on the sidewalk.”

    He was shoved violently into the back of a squad car that had just arrived on the scene. “Throws me in, slams the door on my legs.”

    Sinopoli: “Did you ever assault Police Constable Lourenco?

    Witness: “No.”

    Sinopoli: “Did anyone in your group?”

    Witness: “No.”

    Sinopoli: “Did you spit?’’

    Witness: “No.”

    He was taken to the station, booked, dumped in a cell — no food, no phone call. He was 15 years old.

    He spent nine months on bail.

    None of the allegations against the officers have been proved at the tribunal.

    Lourenco and Pais were charged under the Police Act in September, 2014.

    In unrelated matters, Lourenco has also twice been criminally charged with drunk driving: One stay of charges, one guilty plea.

    The hearing continues.

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    Transport Canada is being urged to make it mandatory for flight attendants to take training to spot potential signs of human trafficking, similar to what U.S. airlines must do.

    Activists say an incident earlier this year points to the need for widespread training.

    Shelia Fedrick was working on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco when she noticed a dishevelled girl aged 14 or 15 sitting beside a well-dressed older man on the flight, NBC reported.

    Fedrick tried to make conversation with the pair, but the man answered for the girl and became defensive. When the girl went to the bathroom, she wrote “I need help” on a piece of paper for Fedrick to see. The flight staff called law enforcement, who met them at the gate when the flight arrived. It turned out she was a human trafficking victim.

    People who are being trafficked, or are at risk of being trafficked, may not speak English, may not know where they are going or who is picking them up, might show signs of physical abuse, look fearful or nervous, or have someone who is in possession of their documents and insists on speaking for them, activists say.

    When Timea Nagy, a Hungarian-Canadian, got on a plane by herself to fly to Toronto from Budapest in 1998, she didn’t know who would be picking her up at the airport. But Nagy, 20 at the time, had been promised a well-paying job so she came to Canada anyway. Upon arrival at Pearson, she was immediately taken to a motel where she was forced into the sex trade for nearly three months until she escaped.

    Her ordeal was investigated by Toronto police, and she has since become a speaker and activist.

    Nagy believes that by asking a few questions and watching out for key behaviours, flight attendants could determine when an individual is being trafficked and intervene.

    “Education of the flight attendants can prevent a girl from turning into me,” Nagy said this week in an interview.

    Marie-Anyk Côté of Transport Canada said training to spot signs of human trafficking is at the discretion of the airlines.

    Out of four major Canadian airlines that the Star contacted, only Air Canada said their employees are given trafficking awareness training when they are hired. WestJet said their staff is trained to report suspicious activity to corporate security. Air Transat and SunWing weren’t available for comment.

    “I believe Canadian flight attendants should have more training on how to recognize and address human trafficking,” said Marie-Hélène Major, president of the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

    Nancy Rivard, the president and founder of Airline Ambassadors International, an American organization that trains airline personnel to identify and address instances of human trafficking, said their training has helped in the U.S.

    The group’s training takes about and hour and a half and is split into three parts, Rivard said. In the training, the flight attendants get an education on the issue, the effects of trafficking on victims and the indicators that flight staff should look out for.

    The U.S. is more advanced in anti-trafficking measures than Canada, with initiatives that are supported by Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and non-governmental organizations, Rivard said.

    Rivard’s group worked with several members of Congress and succeeded in getting regulations into the FAA last year to make the training mandatory for flight attendants. They are working to expand the guidelines to cover all flight personnel.

    The group started the training in 2011 and they have since trained about 5,000 personnel. Rivard said the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t share data with them on whether the training has increased the number of incidents that are reported, but she believes there are “more and more reports every day,” based on a survey that AAI recently sent out to flight attendants working in the States.

    Rivard said she’s interested in bringing the training to Canada.

    “We’re really hoping to inspire Canada to take a more proactive approach when it comes to training in the transportation industry,” Rivard said. “This is a solution that won’t cost a lot of money, there’s infrastructure in place to train all airline staff, adding the subject of human trafficking awareness won’t cost anything basically.”

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    BEDMINSTER, N.J.—U.S. President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will regret it fast” if he continues his threats to U.S. territories and allies, in another warning that the U.S. is willing to act swiftly against the nuclear-armed nation.

    In remarks to reporters, Trump issued the threat directly at Kim, who is also known for his bellicose rhetoric, and all but drew a red line that would trigger swift U.S. action.

    “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat — which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years — or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast,” Trump said.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    The words followed an early morning tweet in which Trump declared the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” if the isolated rogue nation acts “unwisely.”

    The compounding threats came in a week in which the long-standing tensions between the U.S. and the isolated nation seemed to abruptly boil over. North Korea threaten to launch an attack on the U.S. territory of Guam, while Trump vowed to deliver “fire and fury” if threatened.

    Read more:

    As Trump ramps up tough talk on North Korea, U.S., South Korea plan to go ahead with war games

    Trump’s warning to North Korea suggests he may be ready to strike first, but is that self-defence?

    Guam caught in Donald Trump’s war of words with North Korea

    Tough talk aside, there was scant sign the U.S. military was preparing for imminent action and an important, quiet diplomatic channel remained open. The Associated Press reported Friday that talks between North Koreans and a U.S. official continue through a back channel previous used to negotiate the return of Americans held in North Korea. The talks have expanded to address the deterioration of relationship, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. They weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Still, Trump on Friday sought to project the military strength.

    Trump tweeted Friday: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

    He later retweeted a posting from U.S. Pacific Command that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to fulfil USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so.”

    Such declarations, however, are not necessarily indicators of new more aggressive posture. “Fight tonight” has long been the motto of U.S. forces in South Korea to show they are always ready for combat on the Korean Peninsula.

    U.S. officials insist that there have been no new significant movement of troops, ships, aircraft or other assets to the region other than what has already been long planned for previously scheduled exercises.

    American and South Korean officials said they would move forward later this month with the exercises, which North Korea claims are a rehearsal for war.

    The days of war rhetoric have alarmed international leaders.

    “I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She declined to say whether Germany would stand with the U.S. in case of a military conflict with North Korea and called on the UN Security Council to continue to address the issue.

    “I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer,” Merkel added.

    Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, estimated the risk of a military conflict between the U.S. and North Korea as “very high,” and said Moscow was deeply concerned.

    “When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink,” Lavrov said Friday.

    Trump’s rhetoric, however, stands in stark contrast to an ongoing back channel for negotiations between the United States and North Korea. People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation.

    Despite tensions and talk of war, life on the streets of the North Korean capital remains calm. There are no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as was the case during previous crises.

    North Koreans have lived for decades with the state media message that war is imminent, the U.S. is to blame and their country is ready to defend itself. State-run media ensure that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but don’t convey any sense of international concern about the situation.

    As it is, the U.S. has a robust military presence in the region, including six B-1 bombers in Guam and Air Force fighter jet units in South Korea, plus other assets across the Pacific Ocean and in the skies above. U.S. military options range from nothing to a full-on conventional assault by air, sea and ground forces. Any order by the president could be executed quickly.

    The U.S.-South Korea exercises are an annual event, but they come as Pyongyang says it is readying a plan to fire off four Hwasong-12 missiles toward the tiny island, which is U.S. territory and a major military hub. The plan would be sent to Kim for approval just before or as the U.S.-South Korea drills begin.

    Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. Washington and Seoul say the exercises are defensive in nature and crucial to maintaining a deterrent against North Korean aggression.

    The exercises were scheduled well before tensions began to rise over Trump’s increasingly fiery rhetoric and North Korea’s announcement of the missile plan, which if carried out would be its most provocative launch yet. Along with a bigger set of manoeuvers held every spring, the exercises are routinely met by strong condemnation and threats of countermeasures from North Korea.

    The heightened military activity on the peninsula this time is a concern because it could increase the possibility of a mishap or an overreaction of some sort by either side that could spin into a more serious escalation. North Korea has been increasingly sensitive to the exercises lately because they reportedly include training for “decapitation strikes” to kill Kim Jong Un and his top lieutenants.

    The possibility of escalation is made even more acute by the lack of any means of official communication across the Demilitarized Zone, though there has been no easing of the barrage of inflammatory comments in the U.S. and the North since new sanctions against North Korea were announced last week.

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    As a Toronto police officer stood over him with a pointed gun, a Black teen who just minutes before was en route to an after-school mentorship program lay face down on the ground “very scared and shocked,” a police tribunal heard Thursday.

    Nearly six years after the young man, his brother, and two friends were arrested at gunpoint outside their Lawrence Heights housing complex in an incident known as the “Neptune Four’ case, the now 21-year-old man detailed his account of the November, 2011 night at the ongoing police misconduct hearing stemming from the case.

    The teen is the central complainant. That evening, he’d spoken up for himself and the others when two officers suddenly approached, saying the boys fit the description of suspects in a robbery. Fresh off a seminar where he’d learned his rights during police interactions, the teen asked the officers if he was under arrest and if he was free to go.

    The questions, he testified, quickly led to thrown punches by one officer, who then drew his weapon.

    “After this point in time I gave up speaking,” the young man said in testimony that painted a picture of one aggressor cop, Const. Adam Lourenco, and his bystander partner, Const. Scharnil Pais.

    Read more:

    Teen allegedly punched by cop in ‘Neptune Four’ case finally gets to tell his tale: DiManno

    Both officers stand accused under Ontario’s Police Services Act of unlawfully arresting the four boys — all 16 or under — immediately after they left their homes inside a Toronto Community Housing Corp. complex on Neptune Dr. and walked toward an after-school program called Pathways to Education.

    Lourenco faces two additional charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly using unreasonable force — one for punching one of the boys and for pointing his gun at three of them.

    The officers have pleaded not guilty to all charges. None of the allegations have been proven at the tribunal.

    Following the incident the four boys faced charges, including assaulting police. All were later withdrawn. Because the teens faced criminal charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Star is not identifying them.

    According to the teen’s witness testimony, he and the others saw an unmarked black vehicle pull up nearby, then two officers got out and approached the group, yelling.

    The officer he later learned was Lourenco had especially aggressive body language, young man said, and his tone was “hostile.” The cops told them there had been a robbery and that they fit the suspect description.

    The witness said he told the officers they had just come from his mom’s house and offered his cellphone to call her to confirm. But he was instead asked for ID, which was wasn’t carrying — “I was 15,” he said.

    He then asked Lourenco: “Am I under arrest?” Then later, “Am I free to go?” The officer did not respond, the witness said.

    At this point, the witness says he began to step away, then alleges Lourenco grabbed him, pushed him away from the group and started searching him, all the while insulting him — “he was calling me a bitch, that I wanted to be a thug, a smart ass,” he said.

    Then, in a move that was picked up on grainy TCHC surveillance footage, Lourenco punched him. The young man alleges the officer punched him multiple times, including once to the head, dropping him to the ground.

    When the young man’s brother and friends moved in to stop the attack — asking the officer: “what are you doing?” — Lourenco pulled his gun, the witness testified. Pais, meanwhile, turned his back and stopped looking, the witness said. “I could see that he was not interested in helping us,” he said.

    Officers called for backup. The witness, then on the ground, alleges Lourenco stood over him and cut his thumb on his belt, drawing blood.

    “And he said: ‘You just assaulted a police officer,’” the young man testified.

    The witness alleges he was kneed in the back and handcuffed; when Lourenco asked if the cuffs were on tightly, the young man said they were, prompting the officer to tighten them, the complainant testified.

    When backup arrived, the young man testified, Lourenco roughed him up as he was placed in the back of the car, the officer still calling him names and saying: “that’s why you don’t play these games.”

    He was taken to the police station and only then told he was facing charges, including assaulting a police officer, threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest. When he was asked in the station if he understood the charges, he said yes, even though he didn’t.

    Asked by Toronto police Insp. Dominic Sinopoli why he wrongly claimed to understand the charges, the young man responded: “You have to say yes.”

    The young man said he was held over night and strip-searched, the officers all the while making “uncomfortable comments,” the witness said.

    The young man’s testimony continues Friday.

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

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    Jamoneisha Merritt, 11, went to sleep Sunday night, near another young girl she believed to be her friend. Now the young girl doesn’t know what she looks like anymore.

    Her shoulders and neck are scarred and bulbous. In one photo from a hospital bed, Jamoneisha’s eyes are shut, her face pink from a layer of skin vapourized by scalding water.

    She’s still beautiful to her mother.

    Jamoneisha was allegedly attacked by another girl at the sleepover in the Bronx, N.Y., with a cup of boiling water, her mother Ebony Merritt said to local media stations.

    Merritt told NY1 that her daughter, who she affectionately calls “Monie,” is wounded not just physically but emotionally after the 12-year old poured the water over Jamoneisha as she slept. Now she is recovering in serious but stable condition, according to police.

    Merritt told local media Jamoneisha is not ready to see the full extent of her potentially lifelong injuries, so she has limited her daughter’s ability to look at herself.

    A New York Police Department statement released to The Washington Post said the 12-year old girl was arrested Monday night and charged with second-degree assault.

    “She don’t understand why they did that to her. She thought they was her friends,” Merritt told the station. “I was told that they didn’t like her. And they just been bullying her.” Merritt also took to Facebook to tell other parents to discourage children about following social media challenges.

    It was not immediately clear if the alleged attacker told police she was inspired by internet videos.

    Yolanda Richardson told the local NBC affiliate that her cousin Jamoneisha and the other girl argued the night before the attack.

    “[The other girl] told her if she goes to sleep they were going to do something to her,” Yolanda said.

    Merritt believes her daughter is the victim of a social media-fuelled prank called the hot water challenge, a potentially dangerous dare in which teenagers and kids boil water and throw it on an unsuspecting victim.

    Ki’ari Pope, an 8-year old girl from Florida, died in late July, months after she drank boiling water from a straw after she and a cousin watched a video of a similar act on YouTube, the Associated Press reported. Her mother, Marquisia Bonner, said Ki’ari had problems breathing after a tracheotomy removed scar tissue from her windpipe.

    The pair of incidents are wrinkles of an old digital phenomenon — kids egged on by social media missions created on the dark corners of the web, provoking them to do something incredibly dangerous to themselves or others.

    Suicides, assaults and accidents have been traced back to internet fads like the blue whale challenge, which purportedly asks participants to complete a list of mundane and dangerous activities ranging from watching a horror film and self-mutilation.

    One Texas teenager allegedly killed himself last month as part of the challenge, his parents say.

    Other apparent criminal acts do not have a clear connection between online challenges and real world violence. The so-called knockout game, which called for kids to attack unsuspecting people from behind in an effort to knock them unconscious, sent parents, teachers and cable news into a frenzy.

    It was also found to mostly be a hoax, a scary sounding and Facebook-ready phenomenon grafted onto random assaults, a report found.

    But Jamoneisha’s life-altering burns are very real. And her mother has reason to believe digital taunting transformed into real violence, she told NY1.

    “They’ve been on Snapchat. It’s been going on several times. The girl admitted it. ‘I don’t like her. I wanted to do it,’” she said.

    Jamoneisha’s family, who could not be reached by The Post, has been at her bedside through the recovery process, in an update with NY1.

    “She seemed to still have the same energy like nothing ain’t change her. She’s still smiling, joking. laughing, yeah she’s doing good though,” Starshanae Nixon, Jamoneisha’s cousin, told the network.

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    The men guiding CP Rail train 235 through pre-dawn Toronto found themselves scrambling to get to work with less sleep than they had wanted.

    On the night of Aug. 20, 2016, the locomotive engineer had gone to bed at 10:15 p.m., requesting that he be woken at 5:30 a.m. so he could join a train scheduled to leave the yard in Scarborough at 7 a.m. Instead, he was called at 3:15 a.m. and ordered to work just 90 minutes later.

    His co-worker, a conductor, had it even worse. He was living in Smiths Falls, outside Ottawa, and was told to report to work in Toronto. He slept in his car for a few nights. On the evening of Aug. 20, he dozed in his car for 90 minutes before reporting for duty just before midnight. He hadn’t had a solid night’s sleep for days.

    The two men headed west from Scarborough at 5 a.m. Their train, which consisted of just two locomotives, passed through the quiet streets of Leaside and Rosedale to midtown Toronto. Fourteen minutes later, while travelling at 77 km/h on the north track, it rounded a right-hand curve and passed by a signal warning of a stop signal just ahead.

    Seconds later, the crew saw an eastbound train — CP 118 — on the south track and didn’t notice immediately that the tail end of this 3,000-foot-long train was on a crossover linking the north and south tracks with its last cars still on the north track about half a mile away.

    When the engineer on train 235 did notice what was going on, he hit the emergency brakes. It was too late. His train clipped four of train 118’s cars before the two locomotives derailed and came to rest near Howland Ave. just off Dupont St., and spilling 2,500 litres of diesel fuel. It was 800 feet past the signal ordering it to stop.

    Annex residents jolted awake that morning had cause to wonder what had happened on their doorstep. A recent report by the Transportation Safety Board provides little comfort that this was an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime incident. Indeed, the board shows a sense of weariness that issues on its “watchlist” are not being dealt with.

    • It suggests that fatigue from unpredictable sleep patterns likely played a part in the accident and it notes that Transport Canada is not doing enough to deal with train crews operating without adequate rest.

    • Additional physical fail-safe defences have not been implemented to ensure railway signals are recognized and followed. (The TSB notes that technologies for ensuring that signals are following — some dating from the 1920 — have been implemented in the United States but are not in use in Canada.)

    Transport Canada, which is in the midst of a review of the Railway Safety Act, needs to determine why Canada’s railways have made only marginal progress on safety in the past 30 years despite a succession of reports that said the system for shipping dangerous goods needs improvement.

    The derailment on Howland Ave. should serve as a wake-up call.

    The CP Rail corridor through midtown Toronto is the route on which tens of thousands of tank cars carrying flammable liquids, such as ethanol and other dangerous goods, are shipped.

    Relocation of the midtown CP Rail line to a less densely populated area was first recommended in a royal commission report that investigated the derailment and explosion of a CP train in Mississauga in 1979.

    But relocation, while it may assuage residents of midtown Toronto, is not an answer to the challenge of moving dangerous goods across Canada. Shipment by rail will never be completely without risk but there are a number of measures the government could mandate that would reduce this risk.

    In the shorter term, for example, the phase-out of inadequate tank cars currently set for 2025 should be accelerated and better braking systems mandated. As well, trains carrying dangerous goods should be shorter and travel at lower speeds.

    The authors of the TSB report are too cautious to call out successive governments for their inattention to rail safety but they make it clear that it remains a critical issue that urgently needs to be addressed.

    Correction – August 11, 2017: This article was edited from a previous version to update an incorrect photo caption.

    Claire Kilgour Hervey and Henry Wiercinski are co-chairs of Rail Safety First (, which advocates for safe, transparent and accountable rail traffic.

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    It’s a hot topic when it’s hot outside; it’s a hot topic when it’s cold outside.

    Ontarians love to complain about their hydro bills.

    But are ratepayers in Canada’s most populous province really getting ripped off?

    And, if so, who or what is to blame for that?

    Here are some answers to questions that have long perplexed and vexed consumers:

    How did we get to where we are today? In 2003, when the Liberals took power, we were dealing with brown-outs because there wasn’t enough power. Now we have too much. What happened?

    The government undertook major upgrades to improve and modernize the electricity system, making it more reliable, adding generating plants and transmission lines to keep the lights and air conditioners on. Later in the decade, there was a push toward green energy as a way to create manufacturing jobs here in solar panels and wind turbines given forecasts that electricity demand would keep rising rapidly. But along came the 2008-09 global recession, and demand forecasts proved too high as manufacturing trailed off. However, lucrative contracts to green energy producers were already in place. The government has since cancelled some, but others keep coming on stream because contracts were signed.

    Is electricity more expensive in Ontario than in neighbouring provinces and states?

    More expensive than some, not as high as others. According to a 2016 Hydro Quebec survey, average electricity prices for residential customers per kilowatt hour in selected major North American cities in April 2016 were (not including taxes, all figures in Canadian dollars.):

    Adjusting for the most recent rate cuts in Ontario, the Ministry of Energy calculates that Ontario now averages 14.12 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers, higher than the Canadian average of 12.84 cents.

    One kilowatt hour of electricity is enough to power an LED television for 10 episodes of a typical program.

    What’s the deal with Premier Kathleen Wynne’s claim that hydro bills have gone down 25 per cent this year?

    In response to complaints that electricity costs were too high, the province began instantly rebating the 8 per cent provincial portion of the HST on electricity Jan. 1. That was followed by another 17 per cent reduction in electricity costs, for most ratepayers, by July 1 as the government decided to do two things: First, costs of hydro subsidies for the poor, and for rural and remote residents who pay high delivery fees, were switched from hydro bills to the broader tax base of all Ontarians; second, the cost of billions of dollars in hydro system improvements from the last decade is being spread over the next 30 years.

    How much will I save?

    The government says the average monthly household bill will drop $41 to $121 this summer.

    How can the province afford that?

    The government plans to borrow billions and make hydro ratepayers foot the bill in the long run. Wynne has compared it to extending a mortgage on a house to enjoy better cash flow with lower payments now. The additional debt interest will cost $25 billion over the next 30 years.

    Opposition parties say the Liberal plan doesn’t fix underlying problems that have made electricity expensive and simply borrows money to spread the costs over a longer period of time.

    Wynne argues it’s reasonable to do that because the hydro system improvements will benefit coming generations of Ontarians, making it unfair to force consumers to pay the full costs now.

    What’s the long-term cost of subsidizing electricity?

    In May, the province’s financial accountability officer (FAO) warned the hydro rate cut will cost the province in the long run — some $21 billion over the next 30 years. The FAO also warned that if the province is unable to produce a balanced budget at any time over the next 29 years, the cost of the cut could actually balloon to as much as $93 million because the government would have to borrow to pay for it.

    And while electricity costs will be lower over the next decade, they will be slightly more expensive after 2027.

    What are all those charges on our hydro bills?

  • The electricity charge, which is simply for the amount of power used in your household.

    • Delivery charge, or the cost of getting the electricity into your home. It is based on how many customers are in a particular area and how far it is from generating stations. Residents of Toronto and other cities generally enjoy much cheaper delivery costs than people in remote or rural areas.

    • Regulatory charges are a smaller portion of the bill. They are to cover the costs of administering the wholesale electricity system, to maintain the reliability of the provincial grid and to fund energy conservation efforts.

    • The HST or harmonized sales tax of 13 per cent, of which the 8 per cent provincial portion is now instantly rebated on bills. The other 5 per cent goes to the federal government.

    • Customers who are not on time-of-use rates will see a separate “global adjustment” charge on their bills. While that is included in time-of-use rates, it is listed separately for residential and other customers who have signed retail contracts for their electricity.

    (The global adjustment, in place since 2005, is the cost of paying for electricity that is produced from non-market agreements, including contracts with private generators, the regulated output of Ontario Power Generation and from other arrangements, such as renewable power contracts. Those sources now make up the vast bulk of Ontario’s power supply.)

    For more tips on how to read your hydro bill, the Ontario Energy Board has an explanation on its website.

    Where does Ontario get its electricity?

    The vast majority of the province’s electrical generation — 61 per cent per cent last year — is produced at nuclear reactors at Bruce, Darlington and Pickering. Only about a quarter — 24 per cent — actually comes from “hydro,” meaning it is generated from hydroelectric generating stations such as Niagara Falls, where fast-moving water flows over turbines that generate power. Another 9 per cent is from plants fuelled by natural gas or oil and 6 per cent is from wind and less than 1 per cent each from solar and biofuels.

    How much electricity does this province use in winter versus summer?

    The winter record of 24,979 megawatts was set Dec. 20, 2004. But more power is used in the summer due to air conditioning. The highest use in Ontario history was during a heat wave on Aug. 1, 2006 when the load demand was 27,005 megawatts. Put in context, Ontario now has an installed generation capacity of 36,130 megawatts, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator’s latest figures. That means there is a surplus of power and the risk of blackouts and brownouts is lower, though those can still occur in extreme weather conditions or if there are technical problems.

    If nuclear power is so efficient, why don’t we just build more reactors?

    There are few more expensive things in the world than nuclear reactors. Building new nukes is costly and time-consuming while refurbishing old stations is also financially daunting. That’s because nuclear projects are almost always plagued by cost overruns caused by lengthy environmental assessments and engineering hurdles. And once they are built, getting rid of radioactive waste is challenging. Currently, Ontario Power Generation is undertaking a 10-year $12.8 billion refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear station just east of Oshawa.

    Why do ratepayers bankroll “green energy producers” with long-term contracts to purchase wind and solar power for more than the market price?

    In 2009, former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty announced a sweeping green energy strategy, including the feed-in tariff (FIT) that would pay companies and individuals a premium for generating clean electricity. It was an economic development tool to encourage manufacturers to build wind turbines and solar panels here in Ontario. To create a market for such equipment, the government encouraged farmers and others in rural Ontario to install wind turbines by guaranteeing them a fixed price over 20 years for the power they generate. That’s why there are so many turbines and solar panels in the countryside.

    Why did the Liberals sell off the majority share in Hydro One and will privatization increase electricity bills?

    Over the past year or so, Wynne’s government has sold more than 51 per cent of the provincial transmission utility, making some $9 billion — $5 billion to pay off Hydro One’s debt and $4 billion to bankroll transportation infrastructure such as public transit, roads and bridges. Critics charge the sell-off was so the Liberals could balance the books before the 2018 election.

    But Hydro One cannot unilaterally increase electricity rates. Those are set by the independent Ontario Energy Board and, like all private and public utilities, Hydro One needs the board’s permission to hike rates.

    Still, both the Tories and the New Democrats insist privatization will lead to higher costs while the Liberals claim the company could be better run and actually save ratepayers money.

    Just how unhappy were Ontarians with their hydro bills?

    Before Hydro One was privatized, Ontario’s ombudsman was looking into 10,500 complaints about billing errors, including some cases where Hydro One had mistakenly gone into customers’ bank accounts and withdrawn thousands of dollars. As well, a new computer system meant about 100,000 customers received no bills over several months, while others got “estimates” which meant many were faced with huge makeup payments when actual usage was calculated. Then customers were threatened with losing power, even in the winter.

    Faced with mounting criticism, the Liberal government in February quickly enacted a bill to outlaw winter disconnections across the province.

    The ombudsman’s office lost the authority to handle consumer complaints once it was no longer 100 per cent publicly owned. Complaints are now handled internally by Hydro One.

    How efficient is Ontario’s hydro system?

    In 2015, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said consumers were being hit with billions of extra dollars in costs because of overpriced green energy, poor government planning and substandard service from Hydro One. Her value-for-money audit estimated that from 2006 to 2014, Ontarians paid $37 billion more than necessary, a figure that would balloon to $133 billion by 2032.

    “Hydro One’s customers have a power system for which reliability appears to be worsening while costs are increasing,” Lysyk said at the time.

    Her analysis did not take into account the health benefits and savings as a result of phasing out cheaper, dirty coal-fuelled generation. Smog warnings and smog days are now rare.

    Isn’t there a lawsuit aimed at stopping the sale of Hydro One shares?

    Yes. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has filed a $1.1 million civil suit in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which held a hearing in June to hash out arguments from the union and the government as to whether the case should proceed. The government — which has already sold all the intended shares in Hydro One — has asked for the suit to be dismissed, calling it a political stunt. The union alleges the government “knowingly structured” the sale to reward investors and the Ontario Liberal Party through fundraising with investment bankers. Ontario’s integrity commissioner has ruled there was no wrongdoing with the fundraising events. The judge in the lawsuit has reserved his decision as to whether it should go ahead.

    What about the “gas-plants email” trial that starts in September?

    Before the 2011 election, McGuinty cancelled two gas-fired power plants that were to be built in Oakville and Mississauga because they were unpopular with local residents and could have led to the defeat of five Liberal MPPs in those areas.

    Lysyk has estimated the cancellation will cost ratepayers $1 billion over 20 years in terms of compensating the companies behind the scrapped plants and building replacement plants near Napanee and Sarnia.

    In 2013, as McGuinty was handing the reins of power to Wynne, his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff were implicated after computer hard-drives were deleted in the premier’s office. Ontario Provincial Police launched an investigation in response to a complaint from the Progressive Conservatives that said emails related to the gas plants could have been deleted. Charges were laid in 2015.

    Both David Livingston and Laura Miller go to trial Sept. 11 for criminal breach of trust. They deny any wrongdoing. McGuinty, who co-operated with police, was never under investigation.

    When will we learn more about the direction hydro rates are headed in Ontario?

    Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the latest version of the government’s long-term energy plan, which is updated every four years, will be released soon. He has pledged to find ways to remove more costs from the system.

    What have the opposition parties at Queen’s Park promised to do about hydro?

    • New Democrats: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath insists she can chop hydro bills by up to 30 per cent by keeping the Wynne government’s instant rebate of the 8 per cent provincial HST, asking the federal government to scrap its remaining 5 per cent HST, eliminating time-of-use pricing, capping profits of private power producers and buying back shares in Hydro One. Rival parties have scoffed at the multibillion share buyback plan, saying it isn’t feasible, and cast doubt that the feds would forego their HST on electricity. Since the buyback promise was announced, Hydro One announced it is spending $6.7 billion to buy U.S.-based Avista, raising further questions about the viability and affordability of that pledge.

    • Progressive Conservatives: Despite promising to unveil a hydro plan earlier this year, Tory Leader Patrick Brown has yet to deliver his party’s policy and may not until just before the June 7, 2018 election.

    • Green Party: Green Leader Mike Schreiner wants to phase out nuclear power and use that money to help Ontario families and businesses conserve energy. Instead of Wynne’s 25 per cent across-the-board hydro rate cut, the Green Party would target price reductions to the poor who need help the most. Any further privatization of Hydro One would be stopped. The Greens would conduct an independent, public review of electricity generation costs to guide future choices.

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    CRANBROOK, B.C.—A former husband and wife from the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., are going to jail for taking a 13-year-old girl into the United States to marry the now-imprisoned leader of their sect.

    A B.C. Supreme Court judge has sentenced Brandon Blackmore to a year in jail, while his ex-wife, Gail Blackmore, has been handed a term of seven months.

    Both have been ordered to serve 18 months’ probation.

    Read more:

    Prosecutor urges strong message with sentence of 18 months in child-bride case

    Two of three convicted in B.C. child bride case

    The pair were found guilty in February of the charge of taking a child under the age of 16 out of Canada for sexual purposes.

    “In my view a term of imprisonment is warranted in this case,” Justice Paul Pearlman said during Friday’s sentencing.

    Their trial heard the girl was taken into the United States in 2004 to marry Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who is now serving a life sentence for assaulting two of his child brides.

    Pearlman said it was important to “send a clear message to others, including members of the FLDS community” by imposing the jail term.

    Pearlman said Brandon Blackmore’s “degree of culpability was high,” and the man didn’t express any remorse for taking the girl to the United States to marry a man who was 49 years old at the time.

    The judge said Gail Blackmore was a willing participant in the girl’s removal from Canada.

    Special prosecutor Peter Wilson told a sentencing hearing last month that 71-year-old Brandon Blackmore should serve a jail sentence of 12 to 18 months, while Gail Blackmore, 60, should get six to 12 months.

    Wilson said Brandon Blackmore is more culpable than his ex-wife, but both were present at the wedding of the girl and knew what would happen.

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    The Ontario Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for a member of the notorious Galloway Boys, who was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder in 2009 after a multi-million-dollar, high-profile gang trial.

    While the province’s highest court allowed Jason Wisdom’s appeal, it dismissed the appeals of Tyshan Riley, leader of the east-end Toronto street gang, and of Philip Atkins.

    The three men were convicted of murder, attempted murder and murder to benefit a criminal organization in the shooting death of Brenton Charlton and Leonard Bell, two innocent men ambushed on Mar. 3, 2004, while they were stopped at a red light at a busy Scarborough intersection.

    The three men, serving life sentences, appealed their convictions on various grounds, including concerns about the fairness of the jury selection process, the judge’s charge to the jury and admissibility of some evidence.

    The court rejected the grounds of appeal.

    But the court agreed with Wisdom’s argument that bad character evidence about his involvement in an attempted theft/robbery of a Money Mart store, four months after the shooting, should not have been admitted at trial.

    “The trial judge significantly underestimated the evidence’s potential prejudicial effect,” the judges wrote in their 48-page decision.

    The judges didn’t feel the admission of the evidence brought the same prejudice to Riley and Atkins, therefore “the trial judge’s error in admitting the Money Mart evidence does not justify ordering a new trial for either of them.”

    The trial judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Dambrot, allowed the Crown to call evidence about an attempt to steal $100,000 from a Money Mart in Pickering. The robbery never happened. After gang members went to the wrong Money Mart, they arrived at the right location to find police waiting. The police had been tipped off by wiretaps.

    When police arrested the suspects, including Wisdom, they found no firearms or weapons. Riley and Atkins were in jail at the time.

    The appellate judges wrote that Dambrot allowed the evidence because it demonstrated the organized nature of the gang and found the prejudice for Wisdom was not “terribly discreditable” and that a jury was not likely to “infer from his participation in a botched robbery that he committed a murder.”

    But the appellate court disagreed.

    “It had nothing more than marginal value, consisting, as it did, of evidence of unrelated criminality that formed no part of the narrative of the Charlton and Bell shooting,” reads the decision released Friday by Court of Appeal Justices Harry LaForme, David Watt and Gary Trotter.

    “Far from showing a deep level of organization and trust, this evidence primarily demonstrated that Wisdom and his compatriots were quick to take advantage of a perceived opportunity to make easy money through low-level criminal activity. In other words, it primarily proved they were the sort of people willing to commit crimes.”

    This is the second time this month Ontario’s top court has ordered a new trial in a street gang case.

    Last Friday, the court ordered a third trial in the same first-degree murder case after finding an expert witness’s about gang members with teardrop tattoos contained “inaccuracies” and even “falsehoods.”

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