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    Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr returns to court this week to ask that his bail conditions be eased, including allowing him unfettered contact with his controversial older sister, more freedom to move around Canada and unrestricted internet access.

    In support of his request, Khadr notes the conditions originally imposed two years ago were necessary as a graduated integration plan following his 13 years in American and Canadian custody. No issues have arisen since his release and the various restrictions have been revised several times — most recently in May last year, he says.

    Currently, Khadr, 30, can only have contact with his sister Zaynab if one of his lawyers or bail supervisor is present. The condition is no longer necessary, he says.

    “I am now an adult and I think independently,” he says in an affidavit. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

    Read more:

    Widow of U.S. soldier seeks enforcement of Utah judgment against Omar Khadr in Alberta

    Former PM Paul Martin regrets government’s early handling of Omar Khadr case

    Zaynab Khadr, 37, who recently had a fourth child in Egypt, according to court filings obtained by The Canadian Press, was detained in Turkey a year ago for an expired visa. She and her fourth husband subsequently moved to Malaysia but are now said to be living in Sudan and planning to visit Canada.

    “I would like to be able to spend time with her and the rest of our family when she is here,” Omar Khadr states. “As far as I am aware, Zaynab is not involved in any criminal activities and is frequently in contact with the Canadian embassy in order to ensure that her paperwork is up to date.”

    Zaynab Khadr, who was born in Ottawa, was at one point unable to get a Canadian passport after frequently reporting hers lost. She was also subject to an RCMP investigation in 2005, but faced no charges. Her third husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, is reportedly still a Taliban hostage along with his American wife and children in Afghanistan. In 2008, she went on a hunger strike on Parliament Hill to draw attention to her brother’s plight as an American captive in Guantanamo Bay.

    Several years ago, she and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing pro-al-Qaida views. Omar Khadr told The Canadian Press last month that he saw no point in decrying their views.

    “I’m not excusing what they said. I’m not justifying what they said,” Khadr said. “They were going through a hard time. They said things out of anger or frustration.”

    Khadr, who recently married, says a college in Red Deer, Alta., about a half-hour from where he spent time in maximum security after his return from Guantanamo Bay, has accepted him into its nursing program. He says he plans to leave his Edmonton apartment at the end of September and find new accommodation.

    In another bail-variation request the court in Edmonton will consider on Thursday, Khadr asks for an end to a condition that he provide his supervisor notice about his travel plans within Alberta, and that he obtain permission to travel outside the province. Requiring him to remain in Canada would be sufficient, the documents state. He also wants restrictions on accessing computers or the internet lifted.

    In May 2015, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross granted Khadr bail pending appeal of his conviction by a widely maligned U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes. The appeal in the States has stalled through circumstances outside his control and nothing has changed since his release, his filing says.

    Khadr found himself at the centre of a fierce political firestorm amid word last month that the Canadian government, which apologized to him for breaching his rights, had paid him $10.5 million in compensation. He says he just wants to get on with his life.

    “I wish to become independent and to put my legal matters behind me,” he says in his affidavit. “I am a law-abiding citizen and I wish to live free of court-imposed conditions.”

    American soldiers captured a badly wounded Khadr, then 15 years old, in July 2002 following a fierce assault on a compound in Afghanistan in which a U.S. special forces soldier was killed. Khadr later said he pleaded guilty before the commission to throwing the deadly grenade as a way out of American detention. He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.

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    Ryerson University students who moved into their residences Sunday will be the first cohort to experience the school’s new “all gender” student housing option — the first known of its kind in Canada.

    This month, in a move to introduce housing that accommodates all gender identities, Ryerson announced it is no longer requiring students to identify a gender on its residence application.

    Students had the option of choosing “all gender” housing or not. If they chose that option, they could be assigned roommates from a different gender. If students preferred to disclose their gender and be paired with someone from the same gender, they had that choice as well.

    The school also expanded its gender categories on the application.

    Nearly half of the 750 incoming students who moved into their new dorm rooms this weekend chose the all gender option, according to school officials.

    Camryn Harlick, vice-president of equity for the Ryerson Student Union and a third-year trans student who does not identify as male or female, remembers what it felt like to fill out the old housing application, when there was only the option of selecting one of the two genders.

    “I felt like it was an othering process,” Harlick said Sunday afternoon as students hauled suitcases and bedding into their new homes.

    “I felt like my experience at university was going to be that, continued.”

    Last year, Harlick, 19, and other members of Ryerson’s Trans Collective — a group that focuses on support for trans people on campus — spoke to school officials about having more equitable student housing.

    Ian Crookshank, director of housing and residence life at Ryerson, told the Star on Sunday that the school listened to the concerns about the old “mandatory and binary” system. Crookshank said that while conventionally schools have been accommodating individual students who might have different needs around gender, Ryerson decided instead to change the system altogether. This way, Crookshank said, students wouldn’t feel discouraged upon application, like Harlick did.

    “The system works for everyone now, whereas before, it worked for a lot of students, but not for everyone,” Crookshank said.

    “We’ve put that first question of identifying their gender back on the student,” he said. “It’s a choice rather than being told.”

    Students now identify their gender if they have a need they would like to be met, such as having their gender taken into account for room assignments.

    “We don’t need to ask it because it isn’t important to us. But it may be important to you,” Crookshank said of that shift in priorities, adding he had not received any complaints from students or parents about the changes.

    The move to “all gender” residence was a natural next step, said Sophie Lafleur, president of Ryerson’s residence council. Residences had already been mixed with genders and Ryerson moved to all gender washrooms two years ago.

    By not forcing students to identify a gender on the application, they don’t have to “out themselves” if they don’t want to, said Lafleur, 19.

    “(This) can be students first time in the city, their first time moving away from home . . . It’s a way for students to feel more included and have a safe space on campus.”

    Harlick, who uses the pronouns they and them, added that the fact that this new “all gender” option now exists will also help improve campus culture.

    “I think it sets the tone that transphobia won’t be accepted,” they said.

    “You at least know that if you go to somebody, they’re going to kind of know what you’re talking about.”

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    An elderly woman has died following a collision near Markham Rd. and Steeles Ave. E.

    Toronto police tweeted around 9 p.m. that a pedestrian had been struck. Paramedics said that they transported one person to hospital in cardiac arrest.

    Just over an hour later, police confirmed the victim had died.

    The driver remained on scene, police from Traffic Services confirmed.

    Steeles Ave. E. is closed in both directions from Markham Rd. to Tapscott Rd.

    Police did not have an estimated time when the road would reopen. Traffic Services is on scene investigating.

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    BERKELEY, Calif.—A small group of right-wing demonstrators who gathered in a Berkeley park Sunday to rail against the city’s famed progressive politics was driven out, often violently, by an army of anarchist counterprotesters in black clothing and masks whose tactics overwhelmed a huge contingent of police officers.

    Hundreds of officers tried to maintain calm in and around Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park before the 1 p.m. “No to Marxism in Berkeley” rally, putting up barricades, searching bags, and confiscating sticks, masks, pepper spray and even water bottles. The goal was to head off the type of clashes that sprang from similar rallies in the city earlier this year.

    But once again, counterdemonstrators frustrated police efforts. As the crowd swelled, officers stepped aside and allowed hundreds of people angered by the presence of the right-wing rally to climb over the barriers into the park, said officer Jennifer Coates, a spokesperson for Berkeley police.

    The masked counterprotesters, often referred to as antifa or anti-fascists, significantly outnumbered the people who had come for the rally, many of whom wore red clothing supporting U.S. President Donald Trump. The anarchists chased away the right-wingers, in some cases beating them with fists and sticks. They also attacked reporters who documented their actions.

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    Police arrested 14 people and briefly detained Joey Gibson, the leader of the conservative group Patriot Prayer, who had cancelled a rally Saturday at Crissy Field in San Francisco after city leaders criticized the event plans as inciting white nationalists. Officials said police did not arrest Gibson on Sunday but instead rescued him after he was chased and pepper-sprayed by his opponents.

    Saturday had been a day of mostly peaceful anti-hate demonstrations across San Francisco. Sunday was different in Berkeley, even though thousands of people who came out to speak against the right-wing rally were not part of the anarchist mob.

    “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA!” crowds chanted early in the day at Civic Center Park, voicing opposition to the policies of Trump, which many people said had buoyed white nationalists across the country.

    Also early in the day, hundreds of mostly local residents converged at Berkeley’s Ohlone Park to oppose hate speech, racism and white supremacy. They carried signs reading “Berkeley stands united against hate,” “Queers against hate” and “End white supremacy.”

    Jeff Conant, 50, of Berkeley, who helped organize the anti-hate rally, said, “It’s important for people to show up and make it unacceptable for right-wing white supremacists to spew hate and incite violence.”

    He praised Saturday’s “tremendous victory in San Francisco” and said Sunday was about “galvanizing a movement to oppose white supremacy and the structures that support it.”

    Berkeley denied a permit to the organizer of the anti-Marxist rally, Amber Cummings, saying her application was late and incomplete. Cummings later asked supporters not to show up because she feared violence.

    The swamping of right-wing political ideas by left-wing demonstrators has become a recurring theme in Berkeley and other California cities. The tension rose Aug. 12 when a Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Va., that had been protesting a white supremacist rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Trump blamed the violence in Charlottesville on “many sides.”

    Left-leaning demonstrators dwarfed a right-wing rally in Boston on Aug. 19.

    In Berkeley on Sunday, some observers derived satisfaction from watching the counterprotesters beat up and chase off a young man who was apparently at the rally in support of Trump.

    “It’s a good time,” said Tom Martell, 70, of Crockett, who was at Civic Center Park with his girlfriend, Lisa Argento, 53.

    “They’ve got to be chased out,” Argento said. “I moved to the Bay Area and pay good money to live here. I don’t want these people here. They need to leave us the f--- alone.”

    Argento said she has mixed feelings about the idea of ignoring members of the political right who rally to drum up support for their views.

    “What are we waiting for?” she asked. “They already hold the White House. They are already dragging people away in the middle of the night.”

    But others thought the actions of the counterprotesters were shameful.

    Linda Fuentes Rosner, 69, a Spanish-language interpreter from Vallejo, stood near the park’s dry fountain glaring at a group that was holding a “Teachers for Thought” banner and chanting anti-Trump slogans.

    “What hypocrites,” Fuentes Rosner said. “They don’t know what they’re talking about. You think it’s OK that a Trump supporter gets beat up? It’s embarrassing. The left has prevented the right from speaking. That’s not American, that despotism.”

    Fuentes Rosner, a Republican, came to Berkeley for a conservative meetup that didn’t happen. Event organizers told her that members of the small group left because they felt intimidated.

    Jay Pino, 23, said he came to Berkeley from New Mexico to protest the right-wing rally, but peacefully.

    “This doesn’t have to be about violence,” he said. “The aggressive people here, I get it. It’s hard to express their anger and it’s also hard to keep it in. I’m here to try to keep the peace. No matter how bad the other side is, we have to pray for them as well.”

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    History is littered with lost civilizations: the Khmer empire that created Angkor Wat, the Mayans who left behind a magnificent step pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Nabataeans who carved breathtaking Petra out of solid sandstone, the mysterious inhabitants of Eastern Island whose enormous enigmatic head monuments delight and puzzle.

    To name just a few.

    They abandoned their great cities and disappeared into the dust.

    But they built things.

    The Taliban have built nothing. Their claim to historical notoriety will be the wilful, pious destruction of precious shrines and statuary.

    Their rabidly puritanical culture will collapse because it cannot stand in a world of modernity that has encroached even into the isolated crevices and defiles of Afghanistan. Cellphones and satellite dishes have brought the outside inside. Afghans understand what they do not have and what the Taliban aspire to take away. There is nowhere for forced ignorance to hide anymore.

    This is the real long war the Taliban are destined to lose.

    What they have in their favour, at this moment in time, is that Afghans, however much they may loathe the Taliban — overwhelmingly they do, even in the Pashtun south — they detest their endlessly corrupt and incompetent national government even more, a government that survives only with propping up by the West.

    Oh, they’ve indeed embraced bureaucracy — how Canada’s then-Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, commanding officer, described the nation-building aspect of the mission to me in 2006 — which is why hardly anything ever gets accomplished as ministry orders and security manifests pass through a multitude of hands, each generously greased, billions of dollars disappearing sideways. That too is Afghan culture, thieving, which is viewed as outwitting.

    The vanishing money is a chronic and losing battle fought by donor nations.

    The other long war — 16 years and counting, a “forever war” that the sons and daughters of today’s deployed solders may still be waging a generation from now — can yet go either way. We don’t even have any idea what “winning” would look like, as the mission keeps changing from White House administration to administration.

    President George Bush, contrary to pillars of Republicanism, talked about nation-building after the Taliban had been trounced. That’s what sold Canada’s troop commitment (apart from special forces, in the unfussy business of killing) to the public; we were redeveloping, winning over hearts and minds. Except that’s never a good fit for any military — they’re soldiers, not diplomats and not humanitarian aid providers.

    But the profile played well to Canadians still in thrall to a Pearsonian peacekeeping ideal: useless when there’s no peace for the blue berets to keep. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embodies this anachronism.

    It was Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said of Afghanistan in 2008, “we can’t kill our victory.” However seductive the proposition, that’s never been the goal. Bombing the Taliban to the negotiation table has been the goal. With the insurgents — more hardcore militant than ever, merging with the Pakistan-based Haqqani network (the Taliban No. 2, head of military operations, hails from Haqqani) — making significant territorial gains, there’s scarcely any reason to talk peace and reconciliation.

    The Taliban have scuttled back to reclaim much of the territory vacated during the post 9/11 coalition military campaign. Crucially, however, they haven’t been able to get a toehold in Kabul. Or Herat. Or Mazar-e Sharif.

    In broad strokes, the situation is nevertheless grim. Sangin, the strategic town in Helmand that a hundred British troops died trying to defend during the International Security Assistance Force era, fell to the Taliban in March. Vast swaths of Kandahar province, where 137 Canadian combat deaths were recorded, are now controlled by the insurgents.

    According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “control or influence” of the central government dropped to 65.6 per cent by May 1 from 70.5 per cent a year before. The Taliban “controls, contests or influences” 171 of 400 Afghan districts, mostly in rural areas and superficial in others. They’ve not been able to take and hold provincial capitals.

    That’s the big picture and the Taliban take immense sustenance from it, as if their ascendancy is written in the stars. Because Afghanistan is where empires go to die. Except the Taliban are no more indomitable than invading empires, though they certainly are accommodating to vilified fanatical revolutionaries from Al Qaeda to, in its death throes, Daesh.

    So this is what the Taliban — via spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid — had to say about President Donald Trump’s oratorical doubling down last week on U.S. recommitment to the wars in Afghanistan:

    “Donald Trump is just wasting American soldiers. We know how to defend our country. It will not change anything. . . . For generations, we have fought this war. We are not scared. We will continue this war until our last breath. If the U.S. does not pull all its troops out of Afghanistan, we will make this country the 21st century graveyard for the American empire.”

    The usual rhetoric, conveniently leaving out the part where the Taliban were routed from Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

    “For now,” Mujahid continued, “I can tell you there was nothing new in his speech. It was very unclear.”

    On that point, at least, we are agreed.

    The finest minds in the Pentagon have not been able to figure out how to take the Taliban off the board for keeps, in what has become America’s longest war, though it would indisputably involve some kind of political reconciliation for the insurgents and right now they’re hardline not-in-the-mood. Yet even a child’s mind could grasp how foolishly — in his palpable reluctance — president Barack Obama waged the war during his two terms in the White House, even with his 2009 troop surge, virtually providing the Taliban with a timeline for troop reduction and eventual withdrawal.

    In his speech last week, the otherwise incoherent and quite maddened Trump at least got this much right: “I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military operations. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

    The thing is, it does not appear that the generals or the president have a clue about their plans either, beyond the 3,900 troops that will be added to the U.S. existing military presence of 8,500 U.S. service members, about half involved in training and mentoring Afghan defence forces and the other gunning for terrorists.

    Trump claimed the American objective in Afghanistan was not nation-building, which comes as jaw-dropping news, given the billions spent on aid to do precisely that.

    I don’t know what “principled realism” means. I don’t know what “our commitment is not unlimited” means. I don’t know what “we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society” means, unless women are to be driven back into their cloistered homes, away from education, and beaten with a stick, as the Taliban did when they ruled Kabul.

    “We are killing terrorists,” Trump said.

    Except kill a Taliban fighter and another will replace him, maybe five more.

    “We want (Afghanistan) to succeed but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.”

    Well, not in this America’s image, as she has presented herself over the past eight months or so.

    It is indeed a vague strategy, albeit better left in the hands of the generals than this irrational president.

    There is one solid bottom line: Eventually, even if decades from now, the U.S. will leave Afghanistan, hopefully better than they found it.

    But the Taliban or its descendants and derivatives can wait out even that multi-generational war: They live there.

    It’s Afghans who will ultimately have to conquer Afghans.

    That’s called civil war, which will draw in regional neighbours and non-regional (China, Russia) interests.

    Déjà vu all over again.

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    SAN FRANCISCO—Uber has selected the chief executive of Expedia, Dara Khosrowshahi, as its new leader, a surprising turn after board members considered two other stalwarts of industry, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Sunday.

    The move comes after a weekend of frantic meetings with two other final candidates, Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprises, and Jeff Immelt, the departing chief executive of GE. Immelt made it clear the job would not be his in a tweet Sunday. And a divided board shifted between Whitman and Khosrowshahi throughout the weekend, the people said, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings.

    Khosrowshahi an Iranian-American who has run Expedia since 2005, was an unexpected and lesser-known choice; his interest in the position was largely kept secret until today. The agreement came together only in the last few days, such that even family members and friends close to Khosrowshahi were surprised by the news.

    But within Silicon Valley, Khosrowshahi is well liked and respected. He has presided over a huge expansion of the online travel company to over 60 countries. Khosrowshahi is also a vocal critic of U.S. President Trump, particularly his travel ban against Muslim Americans.

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    People who know him said Khosrowshahi brings two assets to Uber. For one, he is considered even-keeled and low-key — a sharp contrast to Uber’s former chief executive and co-founder Travis Kalanick, who has been known to fly into fits of anger. (In one infamous episode that was caught on video earlier this year, Kalanick unloaded onto an Uber driver who criticized the company’s wages).

    “My whole life, anytime I’ve faced a high-pressure decision, my model for mature behaviour has been, ‘What would Dara do?’ He’s one of the humblest and most even-keeled people I know,” said Ali Partovi, an entrepreneur and technology investor, who is Khosrowshahi’s second cousin. The two went to primary school together in Iran.

    Khosrowshahi’s other asset is his skill as a dealmaker in the highly competitive market for online travel. He has expanded Expedia into an even larger online travel conglomerate by acquiring other consumer brands, such as bookings sites Travelocity and Orbitz, and home rental site Homeaway.

    That instinct for honing in on competitors in related or similar businesses may serve Uber, which faces brutal competition from rival Lyft as well as other ride-sharing startups in developing countries, and the taxi industry itself, which in some cities have created copycat ride-sharing apps. Uber is already leveraging its network of drivers to expand into trucking and food delivery. Uber is the most highly-valued start-up Silicon Valley has produced over the past decade, and it is expected to move toward a massive public stock offering in the coming year or so.

    Khosrowshahi will face a company in crisis. He is tasked with transforming the company’s culture, while shoring up the company’s business in the wake of lawsuits and competition, analysts say. Morale at Uber has plummeted in the wake of eight months of controversy, including reports of widespread discrimination and sexual harassment, lawsuits that threaten the company’s future, a leadership vacuum, and the ouster of Kalanick.

    The executive search has lasted all summer long and been marred by infighting among board members. After Kalanick was pushed out, he scrambled to find allies who would help him make a comeback, the people with knowledge of the matter said. That led one of the company’s largest investors, Benchmark Capital, to sue Kalanick for breach of contract and fraud, arguing in court filings that Kalanick was seeking to entrench himself in the process for his own “selfish ends.”

    Kalanick fired back in his own legal filings, calling the Benchmark suit a baseless and “personal attack.” Meanwhile, the board itself disagreed with the Benchmark suit, releasing a statement signed by all members except Benchmark representative Matt Cohler that it was “disappointed that a disagreement between shareholders” has resulted in litigation.

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    WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is preparing to restore the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies under a program that had been sharply curtailed amid an outcry over police use of armoured vehicles and other war-fighting gear to confront protesters.

    Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to the gear that includes grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms and ammunition.

    Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a Monday speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tenn., a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.

    The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.

    National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armoured vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

    In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.

    Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear when during protests in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs and armoured vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

    Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armoured vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-calibre or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.

    Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

    “In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.

    The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature” intended to protect officers from danger.

    The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.

    Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

    “It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armoured vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.

    Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street. Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.

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    MONTREAL—The four NDP leadership hopefuls trod carefully on Sunday when they were asked to weigh in on Quebec’s ongoing discussion over religion and identity during a French-language debate in Montreal.

    Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Ontario legislature member Jagmeet Singh were asked about the Quebec government’s proposed legislation that sets guidelines for accommodating religious requests.

    The bill attempts to enshrine into law the policy that all people giving or receiving a service from the state must do so with their face uncovered.

    Caron chose to tackle the issue in his opening statement, saying it was important to fight racism and Islamophobia but also to support Quebec’s right to make its own decisions on the issue.

    “Rejecting secularism because we believe it’s just racism is fundamentally misunderstanding Quebec,” he told a packed room at Montreal’s Club Soda.

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    Singh, who has said he is against the bill, said he doesn’t believe the state should be able to dictate what people wear, but added he believes the province has laws in place to ensure rights are protected.

    In his opening statement, he also appeared to acknowledge critics’ fears that Quebec voters will reject him due to his own visible symbols of faith.

    “I’m not here to convince you to accept my turban, nor my beard,” said Singh, who is Sikh. “What I want to convince you is that I’m someone who shares the same values as you.”

    Ashton and Angus also disagreed with the idea that the state should be able to dictate what a person wears but refrained from criticizing the Quebec government.

    “It’s absolutely essential that we stand up for human rights and the people’s freedom. It’s also important we respect Quebec,” Ashton said.

    Angus expressed a similar sentiment, saying it was important to understand’s Quebec’s fight for the separation of church and state during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.

    “I’m confident that the conversation in Quebec will result in a balance between the rights of individuals and the need to maintain the secularism of society,” he told reporters after the debate, while declining to state exactly where the line should be drawn.

    The question of religion and identity was a thorny issue for the NDP in the last federal election, and one that may have contributed to the party’s slide in a province that had previously helped vault it to official Opposition status.

    Thomas Mulcair’s insistence that women should have a right to wear a veil at citizenship ceremonies is believed by some to have cost the party crucial support.

    The NDP holds 16 seats in Quebec, well below the 59 it claimed in its historic breakthrough in the province in 2011 under Jack Layton’s leadership.

    Early questions focused on the wave of asylum seekers crossing from the United States, the government role in supporting the province’s aerospace industry, and Premier Philippe Couillard’s plan to restart cross-country discussions on Quebec’s role in Canada.

    All four candidates criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for rejecting any possibility of reopening the constitution, with Caron and Singh accusing him of “slamming the door” on the province.

    All of the candidates expressed themselves fluently in French, with Singh and Angus occasionally having to search for words.

    Caron is the race’s only francophone and the only candidate from Quebec.

    Members of the NDP will vote for the successor to Mulcair on Sept. 18.

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    WASHINGTON—While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.

    As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

    The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating—both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.

    Sater wrote to Trump Organization executive vice-president Michael Cohen, “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’ ” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated to the United States from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 8 and grew up in Brooklyn.

    Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.

    Nevertheless, the details of the deal, which have not previously been disclosed, provide evidence that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president and in a position to determine U.S.-Russia relations. The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.

    White House officials declined to comment for this report. Cohen, a longtime Trump aide who remains Trump’s personal attorney, and his lawyer have also declined to comment.

    In recent months, contacts between high-ranking and lower-level Trump aides and Russians have emerged. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator and campaign adviser, twice met Sergey Kislyak when he was Russian ambassador.

    Donald Trump Jr. organized a June 2016 meeting with campaign aides Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer after the president’s eldest son was promised the lawyer would bring damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the campaign.

    Internal emails also show campaign adviser George Papadopoulos repeatedly sought to organize meetings with campaign officials, including Trump, and Putin or other Russians. His efforts were rebuffed.

    The negotiations for the Moscow project ended before Trump’s business ties to Russia had become a major issue in the campaign. Trump denied having any business connections to Russia in July 2016, tweeting, “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia” and then insisting at a news conference the following day, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

    Discussions about the Moscow project began in earnest in September 2015, according to people briefed on the deal. An unidentified investor planned to build the project and, under a licensing agreement, put Trump’s name on it. Cohen acted as a lead negotiator for the Trump Organization. It is unclear how involved or aware Trump was of the negotiations.

    As the talks progressed, Trump voiced numerous supportive comments about Putin, setting himself apart from his Republican rivals.

    By the end of 2015, Putin began offering praise in return.

    “He says that he wants to move to another, closer level of relations. Can we really not welcome that? Of course we welcome that,” Putin told reporters during his annual end-of-the year news conference. He called Trump a “colorful and talented” person. Trump said afterward that the compliment was an “honor.”

    Though Putin’s comments came shortly after Sater suggested that the Russian president would speak favorably about Trump, there is no indication that the two are connected.

    There is no public record that Trump has ever spoken about the effort to build a Trump Tower in 2015 and 2016.

    Trump’s interest in building in Moscow, however, are long-standing. He had attempted to build a Trump property for three decades, starting with a failed effort in 1987 to partner with the Soviet government on a hotel project.

    “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” he said in a 2007 court deposition.

    “We will be in Moscow at some point,” he promised in the deposition.

    Sater was involved in at least one of those previous efforts. In 2005, the Trump Organization gave his development company, the Bayrock Group, an exclusive one-year deal to attempt to build a Moscow Trump Tower. Sater located a site for the project—an abandoned pencil factory—and worked closely with Trump on the deal, which did not come to fruition.

    In an unrelated court case in 2008, Sater said in a deposition that he would personally provide Trump “verbal updates” on the deal.

    “When I’d come back, pop my head into Mr. Trump’s office and tell him, you know, ‘Moving forward on the Moscow deal.’ And he would say, ‘All right,’ ” Sater said.

    In the same testimony, Sater described traveling with Trump’s children, including joining Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. on a trip to Moscow at the future president’s request.

    “They were on their way by themselves, and he was all concerned,” Sater said. “He asked if I wouldn’t mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow.”

    Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told the Washington Post last year that Sater happened to be in Moscow at the same time as Trump’s two adult children. “There was no accompanying them to Moscow,” he said.

    Neither Sater or his attorney responded to requests for comment.

    Trump has repeatedly tried to distance himself from Sater, who served time in jail after assaulting a man with the stem of a broken margarita glass during a 1991 bar fight and then pleaded guilty in 1998 to his role in a organized crime-linked stock fraud. Sater’s sentencing was delayed for years while he co-operated with the federal government on a series of criminal and national security-related investigations, federal officials have said.

    During that time, Sater worked as an executive with Bayrock, whose offices were in Trump Tower, and brokered deals to license Trump’s name for developments in multiple U.S. and foreign cities. In 2010, Trump allowed Sater to briefly work out of Trump Organization office space and use a business card that identified him as a “senior adviser to Donald Trump.”

    Still, when asked about Sater in 2013 court deposition, Trump said: “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” He added that he had spoken with Sater “not many” times.

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    A competitive drama showcase for high schools across Ontario that has run for 71 years faces an uncertain future after learning that main sponsor Sears Canada is pulling out.

    “Knowing how easily dramatic arts get swept under the rug in secondary schools, I just feel sad for future students,” said Taryn Dougall, a theatre artist based in Toronto who took part in the Sears Ontario Drama Festival as a teen.

    The festival, founded in 1946, helped launch the careers of numerous Canadian actors, including such celebrities as Rachel McAdams and Keanu Reeves.

    Since the loss of support became known, “students have come out of the woodwork” to express their dismay, citing their experiences as a highlight of their childhood, said Wayne Fairhead, the festival’s executive director.

    “Funding sponsorships is, unfortunately, not something that we can consider while under operating under (creditor) protection,” Vincent Power of Sears Canada wrote in an email.

    The festival’s organizers were alerted to Sears’ decision at the end of June, Power said. The festival is considered an after-school program and not part of any theatre or drama programs taught in schools.

    “We hope the festival itself can continue at some future time with alternative support,” Power wrote.

    In seven decades, the festival that was originally sponsored by Simpsons department store has grown from three shows to now bringing together 12,000 students annually to perform, compete and take part in workshops. It was the inspiration for sister showcases in B.C. and the Atlantic provinces and offered scholarship money for students aiming to get into performing arts schools.

    Fairhead said the festivals in other provinces have also taken the funding hit.

    The drama festival “has such a track record, being one of the oldest cultural institutions in the country,” Fairhead said. “It’s pretty important for thousands of kids.”

    This isn’t the first charitable program for youth that has suffered since Sears’ financial decline. The company also cut funding for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada after almost 50 years of support.

    For teenagers interested in drama, the Sears festival offered a taste of what it was like to perform in front of big crowds and be professionally judged. It was also an opportunity for students from all economic backgrounds, whether their schools could afford fog machines and elaborate set designs or had only a few chairs and a group of aspiring actors.

    Fairhead described the festival as a “lifeline” for those who grew up in smaller communities where art was not a priority, a sentiment Dougall shared.

    “All of our productions used the same repainted flats and whatever props and costumes we had on hand,” Dougall said. “The only reason we got to put on a single spring show each year was due to the immense dedication of our drama teacher.

    “The opportunities afforded to our drama program were very small.”

    She said her school was able to put on more shows after attending the Sears festival and that participating was “definitely” a huge factor in her decision to pursue a career in drama.

    Current theatre performer and administrator Angela Sun, who was involved as a teenager in one of the first Sears plays chosen to be featured in the SummerWorks Festival, also appreciated the escape.

    “I came from an immigrant family of colour that wasn’t very familiar with or embraced by the Canadian theatre scene at the time, so (the Sears festival) was my only introduction to being a part of a full production,” she said.

    Both women stressed that, above all else, the Sears festival fostered a real sense of community.

    “(It) gave me the opportunity to see art made by other young artists and begin this process of learning and networking, which is very important when you start thinking about having an artistic career,” Sun said.

    “The young people that I met from other schools participating in the festival are now the young adults shaping the Toronto indie theatre scene,” Dougall said. “The people I met from other schools at Sears remain my friends to this day.”

    Sears Canada was given creditor protection on June 22 and is in the process of cutting 2,900 jobs and 59 stores. Since then, it has been criticized for offering bonuses worth millions of dollars to keep key employees while not paying severance to laid-off workers, and experienced plunging share prices and shakeups in executive positions within the company.

    It is still hoping to find a buyer.

    Sears had always been a “very good” supporter of the festival, said Fairhead, who added that he didn’t want to ruin anyone’s summer by revealing the news until now.

    The drama festival is not giving up just yet. Smaller competitions held in each school district are expected to go ahead while the festival scrambles to find a sponsor.

    “We were all pretty devastated about it, but we’re quite optimistic that we will find a new sponsor and that we’ll continue in some format,” Fairhead said. “Because it’s just too important.

    “I’m sure we’re going to find someone, I really am.”

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    LAS VEGAS—Undefeated superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather and UFC champion Conor McGregor sold roughly $80 million worth of tickets for their boxing match, while a surge of buyers overwhelmed capacity at some U.S. pay-per-view providers. Factor in spectators in sports bars and cinemas, and Saturday’s bout will become the most-watched fight ever.

    Creating demand like that requires selling something besides a fistfight. It means selling characters, and Mayweather and McGregor are the most outlandish in their sports.

    It also means selling seductive ideas, like the enduring and lucrative notion that Mayweather, a brash braggart who spent a summer in jail for domestic assault, had incurred a karmic debt only defeat could repay.

    Or that McGregor’s mixed martial arts acumen would transfer to the ring and befuddle a boxing specialist.

    And the idea that McGregor — the walking, trash-talking embodiment of the Great White Hope cliche — would succeed where a roster of elite, mostly Black and Latino boxers had failed at taming Mayweather’s ego.

    Mainstream sports fans should have figured Mayweather, the master boxer, would teach the newbie McGregor a bruising lesson in the sweet science, but viewership numbers and betting lines suggested they believed something besides skill could propel McGregor to victory.

    The two fighters cultivated record revenue in the space between what the public believed, and what it should have known.

    Mayweather has exploited that formula since 2007, when good guy Pretty Boy Floyd rebranded as a heel nicknamed Money ahead of a win over Oscar De La Hoya. With each outclassed opponent, hope would grow that the next one — Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley or Manny Pacquiao — could humble Mayweather and ruin his perfect record.

    And with each win, the obsession with seeing Mayweather suffer any type of defeat deepened.

    That’s why apocryphal tales of his massive gambling losses gain social media traction after sports upsets, an old photo of him beside a stack of cash repurposed with fake reports that he had bet big on the loser. And it’s why the internet gleefully spread rumours Mayweather couldn’t read after he stammered through a radio promo, even though threatening text messages to his ex-girlfriend prove he is literate.

    Mayweather has, in fact, lost outside the ring.

    For years he accrued domestic violence accusations but dodged serious consequences. But in 2012 he pleaded guilty to beating up ex-girlfriend Josie Harris, and spent two months in county jail.

    Many of the fighter’s supporters stuck with him, while detractors felt he deserved further retribution. If Pacquiao couldn’t deliver it in 2015, maybe McGregor could, especially since he’d face a 40-year-old Mayweather coming off a two-year retirement.

    At 29, with size and reach advantages, the Dublin-born McGregor promised he’d knock Mayweather senseless. After all, he had flattened several mixed martial artists in winning his UFC titles.

    Bettors bought in.

    Odds that opened at 25-to-1 in Mayweather’s favour had shortened to 3½ -to-1 by Saturday, with a reported 90 per cent of wagers at in Vegas backing McGregor.

    The groundswell of McGregor support, along with earnest speculation he could actually win, recalled the optimism surrounding Irish-American heavyweight Gerry Cooney heading into a 1982 title fight against Larry Holmes promoted along nakedly racial lines.

    Holmes, the 8-to-5 favourite, pummelled Cooney in a 13-round TKO win.

    It also echoes the way white Americans rallied behind Jim Jeffries when the former champ unretired in 1910 to challenge Jack Johnson, the first Black fighter to hold the heavyweight title. Johnson’s win over Canada’s Tommy Burns spurred a scramble to find a white contender to dethrone him, and introduced the term “Great White Hope” into the lexicon.

    Johnson toyed with the favoured Jeffries before finally stopping him in the 15th.

    The social media feud leading to Saturday’s bout started in early 2016, when Mayweather said racist double standards led media to praise McGregor’s grandstanding while demanding Black athletes remain humble.

    And race lingered at the periphery of a fight that ended with Mayweather pounding McGregor into a 10th-round TKO.

    The UFC fighter belittled Mayweather with the racially-freighted term “boy,” while Mayweather pledged to win for “all the Blacks” insulted by McGregor’s antics.

    Though Mayweather attracted a multicultural group of supporters to Las Vegas, African-American fans formed the core of his fight week constituency. Most of McGregor’s fans, meanwhile, were white.

    Pre-fight marketing didn’t position the bout as a Johnson-Jeffries type proxy race war, but the power of the Great White Hope archetype helps explain why so many people thought McGregor could prevail in a fight that facts suggested he’s lose badly.

    Add in the long-standing fixation with seeing Mayweather humbled, and organizers hit on a formula for record sales and fighter paydays.

    Promoters expect Saturday’s fight to eclipse the 4.6 million pay-per-view buys Mayweather and Pacquiao attracted in 2015. And the fighters split an unprecedented $130 million purse, with $30 million for McGregor and the rest going to Mayweather. His haul can more than triple thanks to ancillary revenue.

    While a 50-0 record and $350 million payout complete Mayweather’s legacy as boxing’s greatest moneymaker, the desire to see him whipped remains unrequited.

    Saturday night reporters asked Mayweather if he’d consider yet another comeback. He thwarted those queries as forcefully as he did McGregor’s challenge.

    Normally the notion of a 40-year-old fighter retiring with rich and healthy wouldn’t merit questioning, but Mayweather leaving unbeaten galls a sports public heavily invested in seeing him crushed.

    For a decade, fans who don’t normally follow boxing have tuned in, hoping somebody would make him pay for his arrogance, misogyny, and refusal to humble himself.

    Canelo Alvarez couldn’t collect on that debt. Neither could Mosley or Pacquiao. McGregor didn’t come close. Faith in Great White Hopes and karmic avengers might sell fights, but skill and execution win them.

    Since 2015 Mayweather has grossed more than half a billion dollars because he understands both sides of that equation.

    One day sports fans might get it, too.

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    HOUSTON—Tropical storm Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into the fourth-largest city in the U.S. on Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

    The incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, grey-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

    Volunteers joined emergency teams to pull people from their homes or from the water, which was high enough in places to gush into second floors. The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

    Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties. It was blamed for at least two deaths.

    As the water rose, the National Weather Service issued another ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 1.3 metres of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

    Some areas have already received about half that amount. Since Thursday, South Houston recorded nearly 63 centimetres, and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 69 cm.

    “The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said.

    Average rainfall totals will end up around one metre for Houston, weather service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

    The federal government is promising a muscular response, with 5,000 federal employees — including members of the coast guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department — on site in Texas and Louisiana to assist state and local officials.

    “We’re setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on CNN’s State of the Union program Sunday. “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event.”

    Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And rising waters forced the evacuation of several hospitals in the Houston area.

    Tom Bartlett and Steven Craig pulled a rowboat on a rope through chest-deep water for a mile to rescue Bartlett’s mother from her home in west Houston. It took them 45 minutes to reach the house. Inside, the water was halfway up the walls.

    Marie Bartlett, 88, waited in her bedroom upstairs.

    “When I was younger, I used to wish I had a daughter, but I have the best son in the world,” she said. “In my 40 years here, I’ve never seen the water this high.”

    It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.

    Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.

    Officials in Dallas said they would open the city’s convention centre to about 5,000 people who are fleeing from the hurricane-ravaged southern part of the state. Dallas has three shelters currently open for evacuees, but the convention centre will serve as a “mega shelter.”

    The storm also blew through key areas for the U.S. oil and gas industry and was already causing some disruption of production. Exxon Mobil said on its website Sunday that it was shutting down operations at its huge Baytown refining and petrochemical complex because of flooding, while heavy rain prompted Royal Dutch Shell to close a large refining facility at Deer Park.

    Shell, one of the largest producers in the Gulf of Mexico, said it had closed two offshore production platforms, Perdido and Enchilada Salsa, and evacuated most of the workers.

    Still, the Gulf produces substantial quantities of oil and gas, and analysts say it is likely that the effect on energy prices and supplies will be limited by the substantial stocks of oil available, and products like gasoline that are on hand because of a long period of booming global output.

    In the long term, Texas is likely to face a massive, multibillion-dollar rebuilding effort that may affect a generation — and what is sure to be daunting and sometimes depressing era of government trailers, red tape and fights with bureaucrats and insurance companies.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

    The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.

    The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.

    “Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott, a Republican, said in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

    The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, saying there was no way to know which parts of the city were most vulnerable.

    “If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Turner said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

    Jesse Gonzalez, and his son, also named Jesse, used their boat to rescue people from a southeast Houston neighbourhood. Asked what he had seen, the younger Gonzalez replied: “A lot of people walking and a lot of dogs swimming.”

    “It’s chest- to shoulder-deep out there in certain areas,” he told television station KTRK as the pair grabbed a gasoline can to refill their boat.

    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

    The coast guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

    The White House announced that President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday. He met Sunday by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

    The rescues unfolded a day after Harvey settled over the Texas coastline. The system weakened Saturday to a tropical storm.

    On Sunday, it was virtually stationary about 40 kilometres northwest of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of about 72 km/h), the hurricane centre said.

    Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

    Read more:

    FEMA director says Harvey is probably the worst disaster in Texas history

    Photos: Dramatic scenes from Houston as Harvey floodwaters wreak havoc

    With files from the New York Times

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    What do you do if you are the U.S. president and one of your major cities is under water?

    Well, you’d want to start your day promoting a book by a Milwaukee county sheriff who has called Black Lives Matter a hate group, is a known racial profiler and, naturally, is a big Donald Trump supporter. The book foreword was written, of course, by your best bud forever in the media, Sean Hannity.

    Then you would turn your attention to tropical storm Harvey, congratulating yourself on how you saved so many lives — a victory lap even as the water kept rising in Houston and area — but you wouldn’t want to dwell on that, so you would move on to your 2016 electoral success in Missouri, take a shot at the crime rate in Mexico and again vow that it will somehow pay for a border wall, then move on to trade negotiations.

    “We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

    Uh-oh. Trump’s thumbs are now typing “Canada” on Sunday mornings.

    Last week, in an infamous stream-of-consciousness meltdown in Phoenix, he said the same thing, telling supporters he would probably end up “terminating the deal at some point,” because “we have been so badly taken advantage of.”

    One can get permanently lost down a rabbit hole trying to make sense of the various tweets and pronouncements from Trump, but the shout-out to Sheriff David Clarke, Trump’s coming rally in Missouri, his ongoing fantasy about a Mexican-financed wall and his continued threats to tear up NAFTA actually do have a common thread.

    They are all campaign preoccupations from a man who has never stopped campaigning and who never really became president.

    The Trump tweet is the cyber-equivalent of the boss walking past the negotiating room banging on a frying pan with a hammer and squeezing an air horn.

    But it is nothing more than that. This is no Art of the Deal. This is the Rant of the Attention-Seeker.

    It’s not about us. It’s all about him.

    Texans, at least those not scrambling atop their homes to save their lives, may want to be reminded that almost 50 per cent of their exports go to their top two trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and they import about 42 per cent of their goods from their NAFTA partners.

    While you’re trying to stay above rising floodwaters, it’s good to know your president is musing about ripping up a trade deal so vital to your state.

    At least a couple of Canadian politicians couldn’t help themselves Sunday.

    “The only thing that needs to be terminated is your presidency,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger wrote. “Save yourself and your country. Resign and you will be popular everywhere.”

    NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus was somewhat more poetic: “A poor player struts/frets his hour on the stage and then is heard no more. A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

    He moderated his comments later in the day, pushing the government to keep its eye on the ball.

    That’s what it’s doing.

    Adam Austen, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, is becoming quite practised at tossing out the political equivalent of Xanax.

    “We will work with our partners at all levels in the United States to promote Canada-U.S. trade, which supports millions of jobs across the continent,” he said.

    “As we have said before, trade negotiations often have moments of heated rhetoric. Our priorities remain the same, and we will continue to work hard to modernize NAFTA, supporting millions of middle-class jobs.”

    Even if Trump did, in a fit of pique, seek to terminate NAFTA, it’s not certain he could do it.

    Congress, not Trump, is ultimately responsible for giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to any renegotiated deal. There is also legislation on the books that enshrines NAFTA and there could be enough pro-trade, had-enough-of-Trump Republicans to decide the 24-year-old legislation overrides any presidential attempt to kick the pact into the ditch.

    All three countries have agreed to fast-track talks, but the first negotiating session has just ended and the second, in Mexico, doesn’t begin until Friday.

    They have to ignore the bully in the corridor banging on his campaign-era frying pan.

    If you’re Canadian and Trump thinks we’re being “difficult,” there’s only one sane reaction: Good. And pack a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

    Read more:

    Trump tweets threat to pull out of NAFTA talks, calling Canada “very difficult”

    Mexico to Trump: We don’t ‘negotiate’ on social media

    Mexico a tough-minded amigo in NAFTA talks: Olive

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. Reach him at or on Twitter: @nutgraf1

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    A year ago, Reena Lal had a typical high school summer job. She made subs for hungry customers who requested “no onions” or complained “you didn’t toast my bread enough!”

    But this July and August, the Bloor Collegiate student had the kind of work most teens hoping for a career in science or health care dream of.

    Instead of taking food orders, Lal learned interactions of a far more sensitive nature — with patients, doctors and researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital where she was part of a team developing a peer support program for men with prostate cancer.

    “It’s a really valuable experience,” says Lal, 17, who last week completed an eight-week pilot project called the summer student clinician scientist program.

    The initiative, launched by the University Health Network, which includes Princess Margaret, and the Toronto District School Board, gave nine Toronto teens a chance to assist a research team in a hospital setting while also earning a paycheque.

    “High school is the time you’re deciding what you want to do, and this gives you more insight into different (career) possibilities,” Lal says.

    The program was “everything I expected and more,” adds Lal, who learned how to gently approach overwhelmed patients and offer them a chance to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences by shadowing her supervisor.

    “I wasn’t expecting to be thrown into clinic and to talk to patients. I was expecting to be put on the sidelines and watch. But they really believed in me.”

    Unlike most summer opportunities for teens in high school, the clinician scientist program is a paid job rather than a volunteer position, which is a first for the hospital. Students earn minimum wage, funded through the Princess Margaret Foundation.

    “They’re learning and earning at the same time,” says Leeanne Bouteiller, who runs the UHN-TDSB partnership, which has placed 2,000 students in school-year co-op placements and summer programs over the last 23 years.

    The first year has been such a success, Bouteiller says she has high hopes the program will continue and expand.

    For many Toronto students, working without pay is not an option, says Bouteiller. This gives those who can’t afford to spend the summer volunteering a shot at valuable experiences on-site.

    “We didn’t want the need for employment to be a barrier,” adds radiation oncologist Dr. Meredith Giuliani, director of cancer education who oversees the hospital’s many educational programs.

    Students this summer came from Bloor Collegiate and Newtonbrook Secondary School. School staff approached teens who’d expressed interest in pursuing health care careers and who they thought would flourish in the pilot.

    Under the tutelage of supervisors at Princess Margaret, they participated on research in such diverse subjects as MRI-guided radiotherapy for liver cancer, cervical cancer biology and the role of family physicians in palliative care.

    The goal was to expose them to the many career paths available in hospitals, which have grown to include medical physicists, wellness chefs, librarians, bioethicists and public health experts, says Giuliani.

    The fresh perspective and energy that youth bring is good for the hospital and “an investment in the future of our specialty,” she adds.

    “Fostering the next generation is very rewarding.”

    In addition to working with a research mentor on a supervised project, they attended weekly seminars and mingled with many medical and graduate students at different phases of their career paths.

    They also participated in a summer student research day, presenting a research poster they had created to a panel of judges.

    “The program was amazing because it was tailored for high school students,” says Kelly Jesalva, who embraced the opportunity and was one of the winners in the research poster competition.

    The 17-year-old Newtonbrook student spent her summer in the world of molecular biology assisting researchers exploring the link between nasopharynx cancer and the Epstein Barr Virus. She got to don a lab coat, peer into microscopes and collect data through a complex lab application that amplifies DNA.

    Jesalva had been thinking about becoming a doctor, and a research job wasn’t on her radar. But after two months at Princess Margaret, it is.

    “It requires a lot of perseverance and compassion,” says Jesalva, citing the dedication, long hours and refusal to give up that she observed in staff. “It touches a part in my heart to be part of the research.”

    Newtonbrook classmate Pooja Parkash worked on a project perfectly suited to a generation raised on social media.

    She spent the summer combing through different online platforms to better understand the perspective and needs of patients with brain tumours called meningiomas.

    “Patients go through their own journeys that doctors aren’t necessarily a part of,” says Parkash, who combed through Facebook posts and comments, Twitter feeds and YouTube accounts to gather data about what patients shared and what they believed might help them.

    She learned how to do a literature review and also spent time in the lab, where cancer cells were stored in liquid nitrogen to keep them alive for research.

    “Not a lot of teenagers can say ‘I worked in a lab and studied brain tumours.’ I learned a lot, made connections and got to see first-hand what working in a health care setting is like.”

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    Mexico “will not negotiate” via social media, the government told U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday, after he accused Mexico and Canada of being “difficult” in negotiations on changing the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    “Mexico will not negotiate NAFTA, nor any other aspect of bilateral relations through social media or news media,” the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    A first round of negotiations for a new NAFTA framework ended last week.

    Trump regards NAFTA as having hurt the U.S. economy, referring in particular to the U.S. deficit in its trade relations with Mexico.

    On Sunday, Trump posted on Twitter: “We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

    A statement from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo after last week’s negotiations was quite different in tone from Trump’s remarks.

    The statement said that the volume and breadth of discussions reflected a common desire to produce “an ambitious outcome.”

    The next round of talks will take place in Mexico Sept. 1-5, followed by meetings scheduled this year.

    As of 2015, the NAFTA zone includes almost a third of the world’s gross domestic product.

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    Jadine Baldwin is 17. She’s smart, confident and has big goals for her future.

    But sometimes, she’s treated like she’s five years old.

    “I’ve dealt with stigma my whole life because of my cerebral palsy — I’ve dealt with people doubting my intelligence,” she said.

    Now, the young advocate is taking a stand.

    Baldwin and other youth with disabilities are working with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital on a five-year campaign to end the stigma around disabilities and make Canada more inclusive.

    The Dear Everybody campaign, which launched Aug. 28, gives young people with disabilities a platform to raise awareness about the stigma and barriers they face everyday, focusing on issues such as employment, bullying, friendship, education and health care.

    People often say Holland Bloorview is a “bubble” of inclusivity, said Julia Hanigsberg, the hospital’s CEO.

    “Of course that makes me very proud of Holland Bloorview. On the other hand, that is a huge indictment of the rest of society because what that really speaks to is how outside of these walls they’re not feeling included,” she said.

    Fifty-three per cent of kids with a disability have only one or no close friends and are two to three times more likely to be bullied, according to statistics provided by Holland Bloorview. As they get older, they continue to face barriers. Just 49 per cent of Canadians who have disabilities between 25 and 64 are employed, compared with 79 per cent of Canadians without disabilities.

    Even when a disability isn’t clearly visible, stigma can lead to frustrating barriers, an issue Maddy Hearne understands all to well.

    Hearne, 17, has had six concussions— the latest was just 18 months ago.

    Alongside dizziness, headaches, nausea, tiredness, confusion and trouble concentrating, Hearne has also had to face down stigma.

    At school, she’d walk around with headphones and sunglasses trying to protect herself from the overstimulation of the hallways, but that often left her socially isolated.

    “I looked different and the kids thought I was crazy and they wouldn’t talk to me just because of how I looked and what accommodations I had,” she said.

    At the same time, she dealt with people who didn’t believe her when she said she needed accommodation for her invisible injury.

    Hearne hopes the Dear Everybody campaign will help increase people’s understanding of disabilities and help normalize accommodation.

    Too often, people assume disabilities are the problem, when the problem is in fact us, Hanigsberg said.

    “We put the stumbling blocks in the path of the person with the disability rather than taking those stumbling blocks away,” she said.

    “What needs to be fixed is the stigma,” Baldwin said.

    “I believe that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle and I was built to be here and to live in this different and amazing body because now, I can educate people.”

    Dear Everybody will give Baldwin a larger platform for lessons that she’s already been teaching — that a disability is “just a limitation,” and that’s something we all have.

    “We were made to be different. If we were all the same, the world would be boring and we’d never learn anything,” she said.

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    OTTAWA —The federal government is promising to create 10,000 paid student work placements in key industries over the next four years through a new $73-million program set to be unveiled Monday in Toronto.

    The funding was originally announced in the 2016 budget, but details of how the government plans to create these connections between students and employers haven’t been released until now, just in time for the 2017-18 school year.

    Read more:High school students ‘learn and earn’ through hospital summer jobs

    Patty Hajdu, minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, told the Star the goal is to provide incentives to companies to hire students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, as well as the business sector.

    “There does tend to be a bit of a lag between students graduating and getting a position in their field,” Hajdu said.

    “This allows us to try to address that and to close that gap.”

    Starting this school year, the program will provide wage subsidies to participating companies to host active students who need to finish work placements to complete their post-secondary programs. According to Hajdu’s office, the government will pay 50 per cent of the student’s wages — up to $5,000 — and 70 per cent of the wages, totalling up to $7,000, for first-year students and “underrepresented groups” such as women in male-dominated programs, Indigenous students and people with disabilities.

    Hajdu said the placements are meant to be flexible and could include anything from three-month contracts to part-time work a couple days per week.

    “It’s designed in that way so that a variety of different programs and courses of study can take advantage of this,” she said.

    The government has inked deals with five industry groups that include companies willing to take on students through work placements, in fields including information and communication technology, aerospace and aviation, the environment, and biotechnology and business.

    Hajdu said work continues to link more sectors to the program, and the department is pushing for one with financial services.

    “This is really around incenting employers to take on students and then having that fringe benefit of them saying, ‘I’ve invested some time in this person, this could be a real asset to me to hire this person,’ ” she said.

    “We think it’s a really effective way of playing matchmaker, if you will.”

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    HOUSTON—Officials released more water from Houston-area reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey early Monday in a move aimed at protecting the city’s downtown from devastating floods but that could still endanger thousands of homes, even as the nation’s fourth-largest city braced for more rain.

    Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday. The rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said during a news conference Monday that 50 counties in Texas are affected by the flooding and that a tremendous amount of rainfall is in the cards for southwest Louisiana. The rain has been blamed in at least two deaths.

    Residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs — that were designed to prevent flooding in downtown Houston — were warned Sunday that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. Rising water levels and continuing rain was putting pressure on the dams that could cause a failure without the release. Harris and Fort Bend county officials advised residents to pack their cars Sunday night and wait for daylight Monday to leave.

    “The idea is to prepare . . . pack up what you need and put it in your vehicle and when the sun comes up, get out,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District. “And you don’t have to go far, you just need to get out of this area.”

    Read more:

    FEMA director says Harvey is probably the worst disaster in Texas history

    Photos: Dramatic scenes from Houston as Harvey floodwaters wreak havoc

    The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing dramatically at a rate of more than 15 centimetres per hour, a Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said. The timetable was moved up to prevent more homes from being flooded, Townsend said.

    Meanwhile, officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, late Sunday issued widespread mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts. County officials were preparing for the river to reach major flood stages late Sunday. County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were predicting that the water could rise to 18 metres, 90 centimetres above 2016 records and what Herbert called an “800-year flood level.” Herbert said that amount of water would top the levees and carries a threat of levee failure.

    On Sunday, incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, grey-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

    Volunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

    Police Chief Art Acevedo said Monday that drainage remains a concern.

    “I’m not sure where the water is going because it’s just so much that we can’t really absorb more in the ground at this point. ... We have way too much water and not enough places for it to drain,” Acevedo told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

    And on the possibility of the rain subsiding, he said: “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed”

    As the water rose, the National Weather Service issued another ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 1.3 metres of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

    FEMA’s Long predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

    “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.

    Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

    It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.

    Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.

    Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke Sunday to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

    “When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Leho said.

    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

    The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.

    The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.

    “Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott, a Republican, said at a news conference in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

    The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, saying there was no way to know which parts of the city were most vulnerable.

    “If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Turner said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

    The Coast Guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

    The White House announced that President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday. He met Sunday by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

    The rescues unfolded a day after Harvey settled over the Texas coastline. The system weakened Saturday to a tropical storm. By early Monday, Harvey had shifted a little closer to Texas, hovering about 30 kilometres east of Victoria, with sustained winds of about 65 kph. The National Hurricane Center said it continued to edge in a southeasterly direction at 4.8 kph.

    Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

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    The provincial transportation ministry pressured Metrolinx leadership to approve a new $100-million GO Transit station in the minister’s riding, according to documents obtained by the Star.

    The ministry, led by Liberal MPP Steven Del Duca, also intervened to secure support for a new station that is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan and that would cost the public $23 million to build.

    As the Star has previously reported, analysis commissioned by Metrolinx, an arm’s length agency of the provincial government, determined that both stations would have a negative effect on the rail network and recommended they not be built.

    However, documents obtained through a freedom of information request reveal the behind-the-scenes story of how Metrolinx ignored this analysis and approved the two contentious stations after Del Duca’s ministry interceded.

    The documents, which include more than 1,000 pages of emails sent by Metrolinx and ministry officials as well as draft agency reports, show that on the advice of agency staff, the Metrolinx board approved, at a closed-door meeting in June 2016, a list of new stops that did not include Kirby or Lawrence East.

    A day later, Metrolinx officials were shocked to receive copies of draft press releases from the ministry indicating that the following week Del Duca would announce that stations the board hadn’t approved were going ahead.

    In the ensuing days, following conversations between Metrolinx executives and ministry officials, agency staff revised a board report to support Kirby and Lawrence East.The board then reconvened in public and voted to build the two stops.

    The Star emailed a list of questions to Del Duca’s office, which included questions about whether he overstepped his authority to ensure Metrolinx approved the stations.

    Del Duca did not directly respond to the questions, but in an emailed statement said the approval of all the new GO stations was based on “initial business case analysis, extensive consultation with municipal and regional representatives, community engagement, and collaboration between the ministry of transportation and Metrolinx.”

    He said he believed the population density around Kirby justified a station but that all the new stations require further analysis before they are built.

    In an emailed statement, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said station selection “is a collaborative process that requires many inputs, including from public servants and elected officials, which must be blended together in final judgments.”

    She said agency officials changed their recommendations before the final vote after receiving new information that showed the two stops were justified.

    Kirby, which is on the Barrie line in Del Duca’s riding of Vaughan, as well as the Lawrence East stop on the Stouffville line in Scarborough, were two of dozens of sites Metrolinx spent a year-and-a-half analyzing for potential inclusion in GO Transit’s $13.5-billion regional express rail (RER) expansion program.

    Analysis commissioned by Metrolinx recommended that neither Kirby nor Lawrence East be considered for at least 10 years in part because they would lead to decreased ridership on the GO network.

    That’s because adding stops to the rail lines increases travel times for other riders on the network, discouraging some from taking transit. The initial business cases conducted for Kirby and Lawrence East determined that while the stops met some strategic planning objectives, neither would attract enough new riders to offset the passengers lost to the longer travel times.

    Draft board reports from early June 2016 show that Kirby and Lawrence East were not on Metrolinx’s shortlist of 10 stations proposed for approval.

    On June 9, 2016, three weeks before the board was scheduled to vote on the stations, Metrolinx briefed Del Duca about the stations.

    In an email later that day to Metrolinx board chair Rob Prichard, then-president and CEO of Metrolinx Bruce McCuaig reported that the meeting with the minister was “so-so.”

    “My interpretation is that he is disappointed” that Kirby wasn’t on the list, McCuaig wrote.

    The emails show McCuaig asked Metrolinx staff for an “alternative analysis” of the stops. He told Prichard he was “trying to see if there is a credible way to improve the business case” for stations in Vaughan.

    Even in the “alternative” analysis, however, Kirby still performed badly and McCuaig wrote that staff would recommend it be left off the list.

    McCuaig resigned from Metrolinx in April to take an advisory role at the federal government’s Canada Infrastructure Bank. He declined to answer questions for this story. Prichard also declined to answer questions. The Metrolinx spokesperson replied on his behalf.

    The emails obtained by the Star detail how, on June 15, 2016, Metrolinx board members, who are appointed on the recommendation of the minister, convened a special closed-door meeting to discuss the new stops.

    A public vote was scheduled for June 28, but in an email to the board Prichard explained that the earlier meeting was necessary because Tory and Del Duca wanted to announce SmartTrack stations the following week.

    “We did not want the minister doing so without the input of the board in advance,” he wrote. The board would “revisit the same issues” at the public session, Prichard explained, but he stressed that “the real substantive meeting is this one” on June 15.

    Metrolinx has never previously acknowledged the meeting took place. But the documents indicate the board voted to support the staff-recommended list of 10 stations, which did not include Kirby or Lawrence East.

    But the day after the meeting, Metrolinx received draft copies of press releases that the ministry planned to use to unveil the new stations. Agency officials were taken aback to see that they indicated the minister would announce Kirby, Lawrence East, and two other stations the board hadn’t approved.

    “Are you hearing anything like this?” Metrolinx chief planning officer Leslie Woo wrote to McCuaig after learning of the ministry’s plan.

    “Nope,” he shot back.

    McCuaig wrote to a policy adviser at the ministry to ask why unapproved stops were in the announcements. “Has a decision been made that I’m not aware of?” he asked.

    On the afternoon of June 17, McCuaig wrote to Prichard to say he had spoken to the adviser again. “M apparently wants us to include Lawrence…Kirby” and two other stations, McCuaig wrote.

    McCuaig would not confirm to the Star that “M” referred to Minister Del Duca, or the ministry.

    Prichard replied that Lawrence East “will probably be ok” — city of Toronto staff had performed their own analysis that showed the station performed better — but, he asserted “deferral is right for Kirby.”

    Prichard wrote that he told the ministry adviser that “we would need a call with the minister if they can’t accept the deferral.”

    Whether that call took place is not clear.

    However, two days later, on June 19, McCuaig emailed agency officials with a “proposed revision” to the report that would go to the board at the public meeting on June 28. Kirby and Lawrence East were now recommended for approval.

    In a series of news conferences the week of June 20, 2016, Del Duca announced that the Ontario government intended to build 12 new GO stations, including Lawrence East and Kirby.

    The following week, the board met in public and approved all 12 stops.

    Metrolinx didn’t release the business case analyses for any of the potential new GO stations until last March, almost nine months after the board vote. The conclusion of the public version of the Kirby analysis was altered from earlier drafts to remove references to its “poor results.”

    The agency never publicly released a separate report drafted before the board vote that explicitly recommended against proceeding with Kirby and Lawrence East. The Star obtained a copy in June.

    In an email, Aikins, the Metrolinx spokesperson, said the Metrolinx board is permitted by legislation to meet behind closed doors to discuss certain issues.

    She said that, at the closed-door meeting, “the board received management's preliminary advice including advice that there might be updated information following further stakeholder consultations.” During the public meeting management provided its final advice, she stated.

    “All of this was done in accord with the board’s governance procedures and the Metrolinx Act.”

    According to Aikins, the agency’s leadership recommended Lawrence East be approved after Toronto city officials made the case that “it was an important part of the city’s overall transit network plans.”

    She said Metrolinx leaders recommended Kirby after “municipal officials, community stakeholders and Minister Del Duca collectively made the case” that the area around the stop would exhibit higher population growth than the numbers contemplated in the Metrolinx business case.

    Aikins said it was a precondition for proceeding with both stops that the respective municipalities enact policies to encourage greater density around the station sites. She said all the proposed new stations will undergo further analysis before they are built to ensure they’re warranted.

    In June, Prichard told reporters that to his knowledge Metrolinx had never analyzed the higher growth figures for Kirby.

    The Star asked Del Duca’s office if he could provide any Metrolinx or ministry analysis to support the position that Kirby would benefit the transit network. He did not.

    Tory’s office said, “City staff have recommended Lawrence East as a stop for SmartTrack and as an important part of the Scarborough transit network plan.”

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    A Toronto man is facing three charges after allegedly threatening to blow up a train earlier this month.

    Toronto police said they responded to a call for a bomb threat on Aug. 13 at Bloor-Yonge station, where a man allegedly announced to the people on board a southbound train that he had a bomb and would blow up the train.

    The train and station were evacuated. The suspect was believed to have fled the scene along with the crowds leaving the station.

    Subway service was suspended on Line 2 from Broadview to St. George stations and on Line 1 from Union to Eglinton stations.

    Jonathan Fox, 30, was arrested and charged with threatening death and two counts of mischief: interfering with lawful use of property under $5,000, and interfering with lawful operation of property over $5,000.

    He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

    With files from Star staff.

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