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TOPSTORIES

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    DUTTON, ONT.—A woman and child were killed and two other people were taken to hospital following a collision on Highway 401 in southwestern Ontario on Tuesday afternoon.

    Elgin County OPP say the crash occurred near the town of Dutton at about 4:30 p.m. when a pickup truck heading east crossed the centre median and struck a westbound van.

    Two people in the van, 42-year-old Sarah Payne and five-year-old Freya Payne of London, Ont., died of their injuries.

    A six-year-old boy in the van, William Payne, and the 56-year-old Cambridge, Ont., man driving the pickup were in stable condition.

    Provincial police say charges are pending.

    Highway 401 had been shut down because of the crash but was re-opened in both directions at about 11 p.m.


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    Kathleen Wynne doesn’t want to be your friend; she just wants to be your premier.

    Languishing at historic lows in personal popularity polls, even as her government’s initiatives appear to be gaining traction, Wynne says Ontarians don’t have to love her when they vote on June 7, 2018.

    Asked earlier this week by CP24’s Cristina Tenaglia why Liberal policies are popular while polling suggests she, herself, is not, the premier smiled gamely and interjected.

    “You know what, you’re going to have to determine what it says about me,” Wynne said at a campaign-style event Tuesday at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

    “Here’s what I do in the morning: I get up. I read the newspaper. I listen to you guys. I go for my run and then I come to work and I do my job,” she said.

    “And my job is about creating a fair Ontario, creating an Ontario where kids and adults, seniors have the opportunity to live a life that is the very best life that they can live.

    “That’s my job.”

    That moment of candour at first seemed as though it may have been a slip of the tongue.

    But Wynne and her aides have retweeted video of her response to Tenaglia to tens of thousands of people on Twitter and posted it on Facebook.

    The Liberals have done so because they want voters to be thinking about policies, not personalities, when casting their ballots nine months from now.

    “Whether people like me or not, I’m really glad that people think that free tuition for kids who live in low income families is a good idea,” said Wynne.

    “I’m really glad that people think that having free medications for kids from zero to 25 is a really good idea,” she said.

    “I’m really glad that people think that increasing the minimum wage is a good idea, and that that makes for a fairer Ontario.”

    The premier, who trails both Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in personal approval ratings, indicated she has no illusions about winning a popularity contest.

    “The people who love me are my family and I go home to them.

    “My job is to make sure that the people of Ontario have the best opportunity possible.”

    Internal government polling obtained by The Canadian Press through a Freedom of Information request suggests the Liberals are rebounding thanks in part to support for increasing the $11.40 hourly minimum wage to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.

    Last month, 71 per cent of respondents said they supported the policy, which is opposed by many business groups concerned about labour costs.

    “Increasing the minimum wage, along with protection for temporary and part-time workers, serves to increase confidence in government even more than increases to health care spending,” the Gandalf Group pollsters wrote.

    Gandalf, which is headed by David Herle, Wynne’s campaign manager, also found Ontarians like the 25 per cent cut in consumer electricity rates, which is being paid for through increased borrowing.

    One insider confided Wednesday that Liberals still have an uphill climb to ensure the premier, herself, is seen as the face of popular policies.

    “It’s great that people like the minimum wage, the hydro plan, and pharmacare, but we aren’t yet getting much credit for it,” said the senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.

    “We still have a long way to go.”


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    Psssst! Want a smart thermostat . . . for free?

    Ontario is offering them, installed, also at no cost, along with free home energy reviews to 100,000 households in a bid to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    Environment and Climate Change Minister Chris Ballard unveiled the $40-million program Wednesday through the new Green Ontario Fund, which was launched with $377 million in revenues from the province’s cap-and-trade program.

    Aside from saving on the retail cost of a smart thermostat — this falls within the range of $200 to $350, depending on the model — Ballard said parents will want to get in on this to cut their heating and air-conditioning costs, which kids often have a hand in increasing.

    There’s also the pure joy of putting one over on their offspring.

    “I’ve had one for about three years, and it’s really cool,” he told a news conference at the Artscape Wychwood Barns on Christie St.

    “My kids would come home on a hot, sweaty spring day, and, you’ll note, there’s more and more hot, sweaty spring days.

    “I’d be at work and they’d immediately crank up the air-conditioning,” Ballard added.

    “I would get a notification on my smartphone about some activity going on and I would quietly dial back down the air-conditioning numbers. No fuss, no muss. There was no arguing. There were no problems. They didn’t even know what had gone on.”

    Read more:The new wave of products laying a foundation for smarter homes

    Smart heating controls save energy

    The free smart thermostats and installation will “help (households) reduce their carbon pollution and save money,” Ballard said.

    Homeowners and tenants can register now for the program, which will begin in the fall after more details have been worked out. They can do this online on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Ministry officials said households can save as much as 15 per cent on their energy bills by adjusting the temperature a couple of degrees when no one is home.

    “When you’re saving energy, you’re saving money,” said Green Ontario Fund chairman Parminder Sandhu.

    The program is open to people in detached and semi-detached homes, townhomes or row homes.

    Residents of multi-unit buildings do not qualify.

    Ballard said the free home-energy reviews will provide “personalized suggestions to help save money and help fight climate change.”

    He also advised Ontarians to go to the web site to learn details of other programs available to help save money and energy, and promised more programs to come, once the thermostat offer is underway.

    “There will be larger-ticket initiatives coming forward.”

    Sandu said the government is still making arrangements to purchase and hire installers for the 100,000 smart thermostats.

    “This is a big job.”

    The plan now is to allow homeowners to pick, which model they prefer, Sandu said.

    (Products from Nest, Honeywell and Toronto-based Ecobee are available.)

    Ontario held the second auction in its cap-and-trade program in June in a sell-out of emission allowances. It raised $504 million. An earlier auction raised $472 million.

    Under the cap-and-trade, there is a limit or cap on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries can release into the air, and they must purchase allowances if they exceed those limits.

    This can be done through auctions or from companies that produce less pollution than their limit.

    The idea is to create a financial incentive for businesses to be cleaner.

    In total, cap-and-trade is forecast to add $1.8 billion to government coffers this fiscal year.


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    A man was acquitted of a drunk driving charge after a Newmarket judge found his rights were violated when police allowed a TV camera operator to film him giving breath samples and speaking to a lawyer on the phone.

    Ontario Court Judge David Rose wrote that there was no evidence to suggest York Regional Police placed any restrictions on a Global News TV crew on the night in question in 2016 after approving their presence at a RIDE check in Richmond Hill.

    Concluded that Kunal Gautam’s rights to counsel and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure were infringed, Rose threw out the breath samples and acquitted him.

    “What is regrettable in this case is that otherwise reliable evidence of blood alcohol content of a motorist is excluded because York Regional Police saw apparent wisdom in giving Global News access to the RIDE truck (where the breath samples were taken),” Rose wrote in a decision released last week.

    “An effort to publicize a fairly routine police alcohol driving interdiction program will result in an acquittal. The irony is not lost on me.”

    York Regional Police have often stated that the region has a serious problem with drinking and driving. It was something that was also raised by the Crown attorney in the hearing before Rose. Police reported there were more than 1,200 drunk driving incidents in 2016.

    “Despite our efforts, the problem of impaired driving continues to exist, as you can see in the impaired driving media releases that we issue on a weekly basis,” said York police spokesperson Const. Andy Pattenden.

    The issue was put front and centre when a drunken Marco Muzzo slammed into another vehicle in Vaughan and killed three children and their grandfather in 2015. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2016, about two months before Gautam was arrested.

    Gautam had provided two breath samples showing results of 152 and 146 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood — nearly twice the legal limit.

    The judge wrote that the rights violations were “particularly serious” because the order to allow Global News to film came from an unknown police official.

    “What aggravates the seriousness of the charter violations in this case is that there appears to have been no input from the actual officers on scene about what might happen if a TV news crew were allowed inside the RIDE truck,” Rose wrote.

    “The presence of Global News that night appears to have been an order ‘from on high.’ No witness personally took responsibility in the evidence to explain the rationale for Global TV being in the RIDE truck.”

    A segment that aired in May 2016 shows Gautam being taken into the RIDE truck by police, providing breath samples and telling officers he had only one drink. He spoke briefly to a Global reporter afterward.

    The segment caused him embarrassment at work and came as a surprise to some of the officers who worked the RIDE check that evening, Rose wrote in his ruling.

    Pattenden, the police spokesperson, told the Star that the ride-along was set up by the corporate communications department to demonstrate how serious a problem drunk driving continues to be. He did not say who gave approval.

    “The case that you specifically mentioned was dealt with by the courts and we respect the decision,” Pattenden wrote in an email. “Since that time, corporate communications has made changes in policy to ensure media is more closely supervised while on ride-alongs.”

    A Global executive said in a brief statement to the Star that Global’s journalists are trained to balance the rights of accused persons with the public’s right to know.

    “We operated in plain sight with police authorization, keeping as low a profile as the environment allowed,” said Ron Waksman, vice-president of digital and editorial standards and practices for Global News and Corus Radio.

    Gautam testified that while he spoke to duty counsel — the free legal advice hotline — in a phone booth in the RIDE truck, the Global camera operator placed his camera at the window looking into the booth.

    Rose wrote that he found Gautam’s testimony to be truthful, and that Gautam didn’t feel comfortable asking the lawyer questions because of the camera. His rights to counsel were therefore violated, the judge found.

    He also concluded that his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure had been infringed because he had a privacy interest while he was in the breath room area of the RIDE truck.

    “Justice Rose did an excellent analysis and decided it was in the long-term best interests of justice to exclude the evidence,” said Gautam’s lawyer, Ken Anders.


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    AUSTIN, TEXAS—A federal judge late Wednesday temporarily blocked most of Texas’ tough new “sanctuary cities” law that would have allowed police to inquire about people’s immigration status during routine interactions such as traffic stops.

    The law, SB 4, had been cheered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration but decried by immigrants’ rights groups who say it could force anyone who looks like they might be in the country illegally to “show papers.”

    The measure sailed through the Republican-controlled Legislature despite months of protests and opposition from business groups who worried that it could cause a labour-force shortage in industries such as construction. Opponents sued, arguing it violated the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling in San Antonio keeps it from taking effect as planned Friday — allowing the case time to proceed.

    Read more:

    Mexico, San Antonio police chief slam Texas’ sudden ‘sanctuary city’ ban

    Texas governor signs ban on ‘sanctuary cities’ in Facebook live video

    ‘Are you here illegally?’: Minneapolis transit officer asks about rider’s immigration status

    In a 94-page ruling, Garcia wrote that there “is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighbourhoods less safe” and that “localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, will harm the state of Texas.”

    “The Court cannot and does not second guess the Legislature,” he continued. “However, the state may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution.”

    Garcia’s order suspends the law’s most contentious language while suggesting that even parts of the law that can go forward won’t withstand further legal challenges.

    The law had sought to fine law enforcement authorities who fail to honour federal requests to hold people jailed on offences that aren’t immigration related for possible deportation. It also would have ensured that police chiefs, sheriffs and constables could face removal from office and even criminal charges for failing to comply with such federal “detainer” requests.

    The four largest cities in Texas — San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas — have joined the lawsuit, saying the law is vague and would have a chilling effect on immigrant communities. Their attorneys told Garcia that his ruling could determine if other states pursue copycat measures. Lawyers for the Texas attorney general’s office responded that the new law has fewer teeth than Arizona’s 2010 “Show Me Your Papers” measure that was partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Top conservatives say an immigration crackdown is necessary to enforce the rule of law. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has maintained that only lawbreakers have anything to worry about.

    On the final day of the legislative session in May, tensions boiled over when Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi told Democrats that he had called federal immigration agents to report protesters in the Capitol who held signs saying they were illegally in the country. One Democratic legislator admitted pushing Rinaldi, who responded by telling one Democrat that he would “shoot him in self-defence.”

    The Trump administration has made “sanctuary cities” a target. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to pull federal money from jurisdictions that hinder communication between local police and immigration authorities and has praised Texas’ law.


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    HOUSTON—Harvey’s floodwaters started dropping across much of the Houston area and the storm weakened slightly Wednesday but major dangers remained for the U.S. Gulf Coast area, including the threat of an explosion at a stricken Texas chemical plant and major flooding further east near the Texas-Louisiana line.

    The scope of the devastation caused by the hurricane came into sharper focus, meanwhile, and the murky green floodwaters from the record-breaking, 1.3-metre deluge of rain began yielding up bodies as predicted.

    The confirmed death toll climbed to at least 31, including six family members — four of them children — whose bodies were pulled Wednesday from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.

    “Unfortunately, it seems that our worst thoughts are being realized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said after the van that disappeared over the weekend was found in 3 metres of muddy water.

    As the water receded, Houston’s fire department said it would begin a block-by-block search of thousands of flooded homes. Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann said the searches were to ensure “no people were left behind.”

    While conditions in the nation’s fourth-largest city appeared to improve, another crisis related to Harvey emerged at a chemical plant about 40 kilometres northeast of Houston. A spokesperson for the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas, said late Wednesday that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.

    “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature,” said Janet Hill, spokesperson for the French company.

    The last of the plant’s employees evacuated on Tuesday and residents within 2.4 kilometres were told to leave, Hill said.

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

    Tropical storm Harvey makes landfall again, this time in Louisiana

    Harvey causes chaos in Houston, 6 family members feared dead after van swept away

    Shivering girl, 3, found clinging to drowned mom in Harvey aftermath

    Another threat was east of Houston where conditions deteriorated close to the Louisiana line as Harvey again reached land.

    Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, struggled with rising floodwaters and worked to evacuate residents after Harvey completed a U-turn in the Gulf of Mexico and rolled ashore early Wednesday for the second time in six days. It hit southwestern Louisiana as a tropical storm with heavy rain and winds of 72 km/h.

    Forecasters downgraded Harvey to a tropical depression late Wednesday from a tropical storm but it still has lots of rain and potential damage to spread, with 10 to 20 centimetres forecast from the Louisiana-Texas line into Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Some spots may get as much as a foot, raising the risk of more flooding.

    For much of the Houston area, forecasters said the rain is pretty much over.

    “We have good news,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. “The water levels are going down.”

    Houston’s two major airports were up and running again Wednesday. Officials said they were resuming limited bus and light rail service as well as trash pickup.

    At Hermann Park, south of downtown, children glided by in strollers and wagons, joggers took in midday runs and couples walked beside cascading fountains and beneath a sparkling sun. People pulled into drive-thru restaurants and emerged from a store with groceries.

    At the same time, many thousands of Houston-area homes are under water and could stay that way for days or weeks. And Lindner cautioned that homes near at least one swollen bayou could still get flooded.

    Officials said 911 centres in the Houston area are getting more than 1,000 calls an hour from people seeking help.

    In Houston’s flooded Meyerland neighbourhood, hundreds of families emptied their homes of sodden possessions under a baking sun as the temperature climbed into the 90s. They piled up couches, soggy drywall and carpets ripped out of foul-smelling homes where the floodwaters had lingered for more than 24 hours.

    The curbs were lined with the pickup trucks of cleanup contractors and friends.

    For Harry Duffey, a 48-year-old computer security specialist, this was flood No. 3 in as many years. Just before the flood, he got a notice that his flood insurance premium had nearly doubled to $5,300 a year.

    “Everywhere we look this water has cost me money after money after money. It just does not end,” he said. But he said he has no intention of moving: “This is in my blood. This is where I’m from.”

    Altogether, more than 1,000 homes in Texas were destroyed and close to 50,000 damaged, and over 32,000 people were in shelters across the state, emergency officials reported. About 10,000 more National Guard troops are being deployed to Texas, bringing the total to 24,000, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

    Confirmed deaths from the storm include a married couple who drowned after their pickup truck was swept away while they were on the phone with a 911 dispatcher asking for help, officials said.

    Others among the dead include a woman whose body was discovered floating in Beaumont, a man who tried to swim across a flooded road, and a woman who died after she and her young daughter were swept into a drainage canal in Beaumont. The child was rescued clinging to her dead mother, authorities said.

    When Harvey paid its return visit to land overnight, it hit near Cameron, Louisiana, about 72 kilometres from Port Arthur.

    Port Arthur found itself increasingly isolated as floodwaters swamped most major roads out of the city.

    More than 500 people — along with dozens of dogs, cats, a lizard and a monkey — took shelter at the Max Bowl bowling alley in Port Arthur after firefighters popped the lock in the middle of the night, said the establishment’s general manager, Jeff Tolliver.

    “The monkey was a little surprising, but we’re trying to help,” he said.

    In Orange, Texas, about 48 kilometres east of Beaumont, residents of a retirement home surrounded by thigh-deep water were rescued by National Guardsmen and wildlife officers, who carried them from the second floor and put them aboard an airboat.

    Harvey initially came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on Friday, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston.

    Harvey’s five straight days of rain totalled close to 132 centimetres, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S.


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    Dissatisfied with commercial radio, Andrew O’Connor decided to shake it up by tapping into Toronto airwaves to broadcast what is, in his opinion, righteous, underappreciated music.

    Every Thursday the 38-year-old radio guru does just that with Disco 3000, a homespun show that’s been in operation for three years — his tag line: “Good music on the radio.”

    “Nobody puts together a thoughtful program of music anymore, something that reflects a time in place, an emotion,” he said in his modest apartment. “There’s this notion that we have to coddle people’s ears and never challenge them.”

    Pirate radio is rare in Canada and is more commonly found in remote areas, like First Nations reserves, O’Connor said.

    He operates without a license, making his work illegal, technically, but because the range is so limited, he doesn’t see a problem.

    “I’m under the radar,” he said. “It’s small enough that nobody really notices. The main things that will cause trouble are interfering with somebody else’s signal or broadcasting hate speech, neither of which I come anywhere close to doing.”

    According to the Radiocommunication Act, interfering or obstructing radio signals is prohibited.

    “Unauthorized radio broadcasting, including pirate radio, can cause interference to public safety radio operations and aeronautical radio navigation and communications and jeopardize the safety of Canadians,” said a spokesperson in a written statement.

    O’Connor’s show, which can be found on frequency 87.5 FM between 9 and 11 p.m. every Thursday, was chock-full of genre-defying music. Sun Ra and Harry Partch were played — artists that fit within the experimental, avant-garde vein. Punctuated between sets was O’Connor’s crooning voice, guiding listeners through each song.

    Last Thursday, O’Connor played Sun Ra’s “Unknown Kohoutek,”a song about a comet that was spotted in our solar system in the 1970s.

    “If I had to describe it,” O’Connor said, “I’d call it polyrhythmic spiritual jazz, with Sun Ra’s classic organ wizardry.”

    The broadcast is exclusive to Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. A Star reporter walked around the area with a hand-held radio that evening to determine how far O’Connor’s signal would reach — feedback choked it out along Roncesvalles Ave., Marion St., Jameson Ave. and south of King St. West. If you find yourself within these parameters, however, the transmission will most likely be clear. O’Connor said there are many variables that can affect the broadcast, like weather and quality of the receiver.

    He said that no night is average, adding that he plays Motown and contemporary hip-hop at times, too.

    Martin Watson, 34, has been tuning into Disco 3000 since its inception — he listens to it whenever he has a chance, he said.

    “I get to hear all of these fantastic bands that I’ve never heard on (commercial) radio, outside a few college shows,” he said. “The other thing is the freedom of the format.”

    Watson added that he enjoys the pure “physicality” of the experience.

    “I’ve never felt the same sense of immediacy with anything online,” he said. “An analog radio show, you have to be ready at a specific time.”

    O’Connor prefers his analog rig over the internet because of its old-school way of reaching people.

    “The fact that I can sit in a room listening to records and this magic box can take it to the antenna, shoot it out into the air and people around me with a different magic box can pull it out of the air and listen with me is a beautiful thing,” he said.

    He’s been working in the radio arts industry for 20 years freelancing and working on commissioned art projects around the country, which could help explain why he considers his show to be a “community art project.”

    “I’m interested in someone who’s gonna come along for the ride,” he said.


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    Residents of Houston have been rescued by helicopter, boat and now by Jet Ski.

    An older couple was rescued from their home earlier this week by a man on a Jet Ski after the pair was forced to stay on the second floor of their house for a few days as water levels rose as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

    A photo posted to Reddit shows Karen Spencer half way out her front door looking back at the camera smiling and sitting on the back of the Jet Ski, the floodwater filling up the house around her.

    An ABC news report on Wednesday identified the rescuers as Keith Christensen and Winston Savice Jr., and showed footage of the Spencers reuniting with the men and thanking them.

    The photo, which has been viewed about 768,000 times and received hundreds of comments, was taken by Karen’s husband, J.C. Spencer, their granddaughter Ivy James told the Star.

    Read more:

    Shivering girl, 3, found clinging to drowned mom in Harvey aftermath

    Tropical storm Harvey makes landfall again, this time in Louisiana

    J.C. told ABC News they called their local Chick-fil-A restaurant, where they are regulars, and ordered a boat along with their favourite food.

    “I ordered two grilled chicken burritos with extra egg and a boat. And can you believe that one of the managers of Chick-fil-A, she sent her husband to pick us up and we are so grateful,” J.C. said to ABC News.

    He said the managers sent two separate jet skis for them.

    “I can’t believe I’m leaving my flooded house in a Jet Ski,” Spencer told ABC, adding that they had abandoned most of their belongings.

    James said her grandparents had weathered the flood upstairs and “couldn’t do very much” as the water kept rising.

    The hurricane has forced thousands of people to flee to higher ground and rooftops in and around Houston.

    Authorities have confirmed more than 20 deaths, including six members of a single family, including four children, who were found dead in a submerged van after their vehicle was apparently swept off a bridge.

    About 13,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area.

    Thanks to their Jet Ski rescuers, the Spencers are now safe and staying at a friend’s apartment.


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    If you’re looking for a simple answer to the question “Why do so many people hate the media?” all you have to do is turn your attention to this week’s hullabaloo over Melania Trump’s shoes.

    On Tuesday, the first lady of the United States boarded an airplane bound for Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas, rocking sky-high snakeskin pumps. Not surprisingly, minutes after photos of this spectacle hit the internet, thousands of observers wondered why the first lady didn’t don a getup a little more practical for the purpose of entering a disaster zone. What kind of person, Twitter wanted to know, wears stilettos into the eye of a storm? The Trump kind, of course.

    In addition to sheer disbelief, the first lady’s flashy footwear provoked something else: catty condemnation from journalists. For example, Vogue magazine, a publication I would have pegged as a natural ally to the first lady on a subject like this, was one of many outlets to make the case that not only are heels impractical in a disaster context: they are insensitive, too.

    “But what kind of message,” wrote Lynn Yaeger in Vogue, “does a fly-in visit from a First Lady in sky-high stilettos send to those suffering the enormous hardship, the devastation of this natural disaster?” Here’s Robin Givhan in the Washington Post, no less judgmental about Trump’s footgear. “And for her trip to Texas,” Givhan writes, “the first lady offered up a fashion moment instead of an expression of empathy.”

    Read more:

    First lady Melania Trump praises ‘strength and resilience’ of Texans

    ‘Texas can handle anything’: Trump offers reassurances on Harvey recovery

    Melania Trump thanks Chelsea Clinton for defending Barron after website criticizes his clothes

    At the risk of defending a woman who stands for nothing I like, I have to ask, why can’t a person offer up both things — fashion and empathy — at the same time? Why are fashion and empathy mutually exclusive? Is it really impossible to help people, dressed your best? (I guess Princess Diana never got the memo.)

    But more to the point, I think it’s time we finally laid to rest the expectation that leaders and their spouses dress for a part they will never realistically play. Does anyone honestly expect that a head of state and his wife are going to enter the fray, as relief workers, swimming down the street plucking stray cats from the floodwaters?

    Though she did change into tennis shoes upon arrival in Texas, I’m pretty sure that Melania Trump is perfectly capable of doing in five-inch heels what most politicians and their spouses do in disaster zones: hand out blankets and juice boxes and occasionally pose for photos with traumatized people who would rather be anywhere else.

    It’s no wonder so many people on social media have come to the first lady’s defence, cursing the mainstream media and leaving angry comments under editorials mocking her shoes. Some on the left appear incapable of recognizing that it is media preoccupation with the first lady’s shoes — not the shoes themselves — that many people find repulsive. They are repulsed because devoting so much space to Trump’s lack of sensible footwear implies that hurricane victims whose belongings are literally swimming away actually give a crap about wardrobe etiquette.

    Of course, it would be a different story entirely if the Washington Post were on the ground in Texas asking local residents “How are you holding up?” and the general consensus was: “We’d be a whole lot better if Melania Trump was wearing galoshes.” But to my knowledge no one has said this, which makes the media condemnation of the first lady’s footwear appear cynical, spiteful and disingenuous.

    So why do we — the media — do it? Why do journalists appear to turn every meme and every series of irreverent tweets into a full-blown news cycle? We do it because we think we have to. We do it because our industry is facing a disaster all its own (extinction) and editors are pressured to latch onto anything and everything “people are talking about” in hopes of racking up clicks and squeezing whatever revenue they can from a viral moment.

    This situation isn’t helped by the fact that the president of the United States regularly devalues our work and labels it false and irrelevant, a.k.a., “Fake News!”

    But when we take the viral bait, when we make fun of his wife’s shoes under the guise that we are expressing genuine concern for disaster victims, we make it way too easy for him to devalue us. And the end result is that we are, in fact, less relevant, and more loathed than before.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.


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    Mohammed Shamji, a Toronto neurosurgeon charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, was denied bail Wednesday.

    Shamji is accused of killing his wife, Elana Fric-Shamji, a family physician found dead inside a suitcase by the West Humber River in Vaughan on Dec. 1.

    At the time, police said they believed Fric-Shamji had been strangled and suffered from blunt-force trauma. The pair were married for 12 years and had three children together. Days before her body was found, Fric-Shamji had filed for divorce.

    Shamji’s trial is expected to begin in fall 2018.

    He’s also charged with indignity to human remains.

    Read more:

    ‘We miss her greatly’: Slain doctor’s family thanks public for support

    Toronto doctor accused of murdering wife was charged with assaulting her in 2005

    Toronto neurosurgeon charged with murder of family doctor wife

    Speaking to media after the bail decision, Shamji’s lawyer, Liam O’Connor, said he wasn’t disappointed with the decision but was surprised, given the “level of support out there” for his client.

    “I haven’t seen a story where there wasn’t a second side,” he told reporters outside court. “That story will be told, I assure you.”

    Shamji, dressed in a blue button-up shirt and a dark grey suit, looked nervous, staring straight ahead throughout the proceedings. The 41-year-old had a faint five o’clock shadow, his hair neat and trimmed short.

    Details of what happened in court are covered by a publication ban.

    At one point, as the judge detailed the allegations against him, Shamji shook his head. He didn’t display any emotion as Justice Michael Brown read his decision.

    Members of Shamji’s family sat behind the prisoner’s box, with some holding onto each other for support. At least one dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she left the courtroom.

    Members of Fric-Shamji’s family didn’t appear to be present.

    If he was granted bail, Shamji would not have been permitted to practise medicine “in any capacity,” said Kathryn Clarke, spokesperson at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).

    Shamji’s profile with the college shows the former neurosurgeon’s registration expired on Aug. 10 due to a failure to renew his membership. His privileges to practise at the University Health Network were previously suspended in December 2016.

    Since his arrest in 2016, he’s been held at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton.

    In 2005, when the pair were newlyweds living in Ottawa, Shamji was charged with uttering threats and assaulting Fric-Shamji. The charges were dropped after he signed a peace bond.

    With files from Vjosa Isai


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    A blockade by members of Six Nations has barred a portion of Argyle Street, the main road in Caledonia for the past 21 days.

    The protest is connected to a parcel of land that was put into a federal corporation in March by Six Nations’ elected band council, allegedly reneging on an Ontario promise to return it to Six Nations people in 2006 to ameliorate the Caledonia Standoff — a protest that saw a group of Indigenous people occupy a housing development called Douglas Creek Estates. The blockade is situated near the site where violence broke out over 10 years ago.

    It concerns a disagreement between the elected band council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, a traditional government system comprised of five First Nations. The latter says it has been responsible for the lands for over 10 years.

    A letter penned by former Ontario premier David Peterson in 2006 states that “The title of the Burtch lands will be included in the lands rights process of the Haudenosaunee/ Six Nations/Canada/Ontario. It is the intention that the land title be returned to its original state, its status under the Haldimand Proclamation.”

    Ontario honoured the 2006 commitment by transferring the land into the corporation, said a spokesperson with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

    “We are hopeful that all of the parties involved will be able to work together in a spirit of mutual respect to ensure the land benefits all the people of Six Nations,” said Antoine Tedesco in a written statement. “As this matter is before the courts right now, any further comment would be inappropriate.”

    This summer, Mohawk farmer Kristine Hill was evicted from the Burtch lands— about 380 acres west of the reserve line — after an injunction was filed against her, despite the Confederacy issuing a five-year lease to her. A decision on this case, along with a contempt of court charge, will be delivered in an Ontario court on Sept. 22, said Hill.

    “The government needs to sit down and talk,” said Hill. “They can’t make unilateral decisions, pan-Aboriginal decisions and expect individual nations to be happy with that.”

    Hill did not want to comment about the blockade or Burtch lands because her court case is ongoing.

    “Ontario defaulted on the original agreement,” she said, adding that the elected band council is carrying out the province’s bidding. “The province is responsible for what’s happening here because it did not live up to its obligations, in terms of that letter and the promises they made. They broke their promise.”

    The land is being held in trust until it becomes designated reserve land. The Confederacy is at odds with this concept — it wants the area to be independent from the Canadian government.

    The Confederacy has been invited to sit on the board of the corporation, Tedesco said.

    In a press released dated June 4, a Confederacy chief says the offer relegates the council from a government to an individual on the board.

    Elected band council staff did not respond to requests for comment.

    On Tuesday, members of Six Nations addressed the media on the outskirts of Caledonia, south of Hamilton, providing site updates. Independent interviews were refused and no photographs of people at the barricade were permitted.

    “We the Onkwehonwe of Kanonhstaton are still standing strong,” said Ronda Martin, in front of the blockade decorated with Haudenosaunee and Mohawk Warrior flags, built of what appeared to be part of a decommissioned electrical tower. “We ask again for the public’s patience as we work on some very complicated issues.”

    In a YouTube video uploaded by Turtle Island News on Aug. 17, a woman identified as Doreen Silversmith lists off three demands of Six Nations people at the barricade. They include that the province and the Canadian government return to the negotiation table with the Confederacy, that Ontario honour its promise encapsulated in the 2006 letter and that Six Nations elected band council withdraw its injunction against Hill.

    A camp has been established behind a gate — surrounding a small hut were tents, lawn chairs and a small crowd.

    A Caledonia resident who lives close to the blockade called the demonstration an “inconvenience” because it obstructs the thoroughfare.

    “The local businesses, they’re being impacted severely,” said Sean Sullivan, 45. “It’s a land dispute, but it has nothing to do with Caledonia. This is in the wrong place.

    “I’m supportive of their claims, but let’s compensate them and deal with it,” he said.

    OPP cruisers are stationed at opposing stretches along Argyle St. around the clock, said OPP spokesperson Rod Leclair.

    “Our only role is preserving the peace,” he said. “There has been no problems. It’s been peaceful.”

    Martin said that First Nations people have been corresponding with Indigenous councils this month to raise awareness and gather support.

    “We continue to put pressure on the Canadian government to honour our treaties and respect our jurisdiction over our sovereign lands, people and water.”


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    When Diana, Princess of Wales left Toronto in October 1991, after a trip with both sons and her husband in the last year of their marriage, a treasure now worth thousands of dollars was tucked away underground at King and Church Sts.

    This week — which marks 20 years since her death on Aug. 31 — St. James Cathedral archivist Nancy Mallett rifled through shelves in their basement to find the non-descript box it was filed away in.

    At first, even she didn’t know for sure where it was.

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    Once located, the box was opened to reveal a bible: time-worn since it was gifted to the church in 1860, with gilded pages and thin red lines hemming in large-font verses. As per tradition, its pages bears over 100 years of signatures from visiting royals and dignitaries.

    But, among the splendor, one page in particular stands as a historical rarity.

    The signatures of Diana, her husband Prince Charles, and their two boys — all in a neat line down one page. Pen met paper on Oct. 27, 1991, when the entire family attended a 10:40 a.m. service at St. James, just hours before sailing away on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

    “Nobody really thought about the children signing the bible, but Harry had just learned to write his name, as the story goes,” Mallett explained. “When he saw his father signing, he wanted to sign his name.”

    William, she said, just had to sign after his little brother had been allowed to. Both boys mimicked their father’s straight line beneath the signature, with a deliberate period after their names. Diana’s famous, loopy script came last, with the same punctuation but the line below distinctly ajar.

    The royal couple would separate just one year later. Mallett believes that left the St. James’ bible and one other in England as the only copies of the entire family’s autograph in existence.

    Daniel Wade from Paul Fraser Collectibles valued the single page, not even factoring in the bible as a whole, at $8,000. “Royal signatures are in general scarce because royal protocol forbids signing autographs,” he said, adding that William and Harry’s were “extremely rare,” even alone.

    Documents as simple as an old go-kart waiver, signed by Diana, William and Harry, have been listed on online auction sites for thousands of dollars.

    But in that moment, in a Toronto cathedral, all four willingly penned their names into a register that the church has held for hundreds of years. “You know, there’s a very sweet picture of everyone signing it,” Mallett added.

    Though the royal visit seemed to be snapped from every possible angle, only cathedral photographer Michael Hudson was privy to that moment.

    “I was shadowed by a Scotland Yard security officer on my shoulder,” Hudson recalled via email. “Charles and Diana seemed to chat a little bit together but mostly she was attentive to William and Harry.”

    “I wasn’t listening, just trying to get the shots” — he confirmed that there was a moment when the entire family began to laugh at something the pint-sized prince either said or did.

    Some details of the moment are clearer in his memory. Nine-year-old William signed with his left hand. Diana was wearing the now-famous blue sapphire ring.

    Other, vibrant details were preserved in film. Diana was enveloped in the dual colours of the Canadian flag, all ivory and scarlet. Standing to the right of the family in golden-hued vestments, Rev. S Duncan Abraham, dean of Toronto, looked over their shoulders as they autographed the holy book.

    On the phone from his cottage, Abraham remembers how many people wanted to come to the service that day. Police estimated as many as 2,500 people swelling through the streets outside the cathedral during the service.

    Complicating things further, the church had already booked a special service that day for the 150th anniversary of Trinity College.

    “One of the things that’s always stuck in my mind when we were planning for that service was in picking the hymns,” Abraham said. One called “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation,” played at Diana and Charles’ wedding, seemed appropriate at the time.

    “We didn’t know about the stresses and strains on their marriage at this stage,” Abraham said. “We made a boo-boo on that one, I’ll tell you.”

    But any strain on the royal marriage didn’t stand out to those who attended the Sunday morning Matins service. Parishioner Gloria Weibe has seen her fair share of royal visits to St. James, but that day sticks out in her mind.

    “I think this was very special, because it was the family,” she said. She called Diana “such a presence, really,” recalling her physical beauty and sense of fashion. But in the church, they were a family like any other.

    “Once you’re seated the service just carries on. For me, that’s the way it should be,” Weibe said. “You feel a connection with them in that they’re coming to worship and attend church with us.”


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    Portrait of a mother’s misery: Downcast face, eyes firmly shut throughout, each hand clasped by a supportive woman to the right, a supportive woman to the left.

    But she couldn’t have shut her ears to what was being said in court, a quite detailed account from the bench of her daughter-in-law’s harrowing life and brutal death.

    A son, Dr. Mohammed Shamji, charged with first-degree murder.

    Such an accomplished family, the Shamjis: father a prominent thoracic surgeon, mother a now retired child psychiatrist, two doctor sons.

    Dr. Mohammed Shamji, the accused, a renowned Toronto neurosurgeon beloved by his patients.

    The victim, Elana Fric-Shamji, a doctor too, family physician at Scarborough Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Her body was discovered stuffed in a suitcase in the Humber River in Kleinburg on Dec. 1, 2016. She had been, police said at the time, strangled and beaten.

    The dead woman’s mother was not in court on Wednesday, to hear the decision on a two-day bail hearing held earlier this month. Doubtless she would have looked just as stricken and sad.

    It took Justice Michael Brown more than an hour to get to the critical point, as he reviewed the interim evidence and legal admissions which had been put to him, the Crown objecting to Shamji’s release on surety — to be put up by his parents and other relatives — the defence mounting arguments to convince the bench otherwise.

    In a word: No.

    Shamji would be returned to Maplehurst jail to await trial. His lawyers have said he intends to plead not guilty.

    It is extremely rare for a person charged with first-degree murder to be allowed back into the community, even under stringent conditions.

    Yet there was doubt in the downtown courtroom — hope, let us say, for his family — as Brown wove through the legal thresholds that must be met under a Section 522 application: primary, secondary and tertiary grounds.

    These would be the same for anyone applying for bail: Primary, the flight risk factor, whether an accused can be reliably expected not to flee the jurisdiction; secondary, risk to the public if the defendant is allowed back in the community; tertiary, the necessity to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.

    The hearing was under an automatic publication ban.

    Shamji wore a blue shirt, no tie and a charcoal suit.

    When the proceeding was over, he turned to his father and mouthed: “I love you.”

    There is plenty on the media record already, however, in the public domain before the bail hearing began.

    The couple, married in 2004, had three children, the oldest only 11 when her mother was killed.

    From the outside, they certainly appeared to be a couple blessed by good fortune, enviable professional success and a lovely family. Their social media accounts over recent years were replete with mutual pride and professions of love. But close friends would later tell reporters that the marriage was not as it seemed and Fric-Shamji had confided she wanted to end it.

    Police have alleged Fric-Shamji was killed at the couple’s upscale home, located in the Bathurst St.-Sheppard Ave. area, sometime between the evening of Nov. 30 and the morning of Dec. 1.

    Eleven years earlier, Shamji had been charged with one count of assault and two counts of uttering death threats against his wife, when the couple was living in Ottawa. Those charges were dropped when Shamji agreed to a peace bond that required him to not come within 200 metres of their residence without his wife’s consent.

    It’s unclear what happened in subsequent months but the couple clearly reconciled, moving to Toronto in 2012.

    And then, four years later, she’s dead in a suitcase.

    Shamji was arrested at a Mississauga coffee shop where he was meeting with his lawyer Liam O’Connor on Dec. 2.

    Outside court following the hearing Wednesday, O’Connor characterized Brown’s ruling as “a good legal judgment.”

    “I don’t have a problem with it and I won’t be discussing how my client is feeling or what he’s told me.”

    Adding, though: “I’m surprised given the level of support out there for Dr. Shamji … Dr. Shamji has an enormous amount of support out there. I can tell you from the day this charge was laid I’ve been inundated with support for the doctor from friends, from family, from patients, from people who don’t know him.”

    The children, said O’Connor, are now living in Windsor.

    “There’s three children suffering in Windsor, I have no doubt about that. But I haven’t seen a story where there wasn’t a second side to the story and that story will be told, I assure you.”

    That trial is not expected to begin before the fall of 2018.

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.


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    Mayor John Tory is urging the province to fix the way commercial property taxes are calculated after skyrocketing bills forced some small businesses on Yonge St. to shutter, and others to threaten to follow suit.

    The current assessment methodology used by the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC) is “often distorted” and does not account for the current use of a property, nor the “undue pressure that its valuations place on tenants,” Tory wrote in an Aug. 30 letter to Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

    “We require a fairer model of assessing property taxes for our small businesses and I would encourage you to review options,” Tory wrote.

    “MPAC is not working when it comes to small businesses in Toronto and I am willing and anxious to work with you to find ways to fix it before more jobs are lost.”

    The current model looks at the potential market value of the land and assesses it according to its “highest and best use.” That can mean a mom-and-pop store is assessed at the same tax rate as a nearby glass condo tower.

    “The corresponding sticker shock led many businesses to consider closing their doors. Some business did close their doors,” Tory wrote.

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    John Anderson, president of the Yonge Street Small Business Association, said Wednesday evening he is pleased Tory has taken this “first step” — but is not impressed with his timing.

    Small businesses started receiving their property tax bills with the dramatic increases in May, so the mayor’s office knew or should have known this was a “very major problem,” Anderson said.

    “This was the largest tax increase in the city of Toronto and (Tory) was silent” for too long, he said, adding, “It’s good that he has woken up.”

    Anderson’s tax bill jumped from $155,000 to $280,000 for his furniture store, Morningstar, on Yonge St., south of Isabella St. Some small business owners saw their tax bills rise by up to 500 per cent.

    Anderson believes what finally got the mayor’s attention were signs he placed up and down Yonge St. that say: “Stop Mayor Tory’s 100 Per Cent Tax Increase” or “Call Mayor Tory Tell Him He’s Putting Us Out of Business.”

    “The signs aren’t coming down off of Yonge St. unless I see a very serious effort,” he said.

    While Anderson acknowledged that MPAC — an independent, not-for-profit corporation — is accountable to the province, not the city, he said change “requires the mayor and co-operation of the province.”

    Tory spokesperson Don Peat disputed Anderson’s contention that the mayor’s office had ignored the issue.

    He pointed to an Aug. 2 email, sent to the Star, saying the mayor’s office had asked city staff to examine why the owner of House of Lords hair studio was hit with a steep tax hike, forcing him to close on Oct. 1.

    The mayor’s staff also took part in a meeting at city hall on Aug. 18 to discuss the issue, and the topic is on the agenda of Thursday’s meeting with the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Peat said.

    Tory is also sending separate letters to business owners putting the blame squarely on the province’s shoulders.

    “These increases are entirely the result of the reassessments that were done by the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. which reflect higher market values observed in the area, and are not the result of tax rates set by Toronto city council,” he wrote.

    “MPAC is an entity entirely within the jurisdiction of the province of Ontario,” the letter stated. “The city has no role in the assessments that are undertaken.”

    However, while the city “cannot affect the property assessments,” city staff have been in discussions with MPAC to “strongly register concerns about the growth in property tax bills for businesses along Yonge St.,” he wrote.

    MPAC is responsible for assessing and classifying property in Ontario for the purposes of municipal and education taxation. In Ontario, property assessments are updated on the basis of a four-year assessment cycle.


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    MUMBAI, INDIA — Torrential rains caused a five-story apartment building to collapse Thursday in the West Indian financial capital of Mumbai, killing 16 people and possibly burying more than a dozen under debris, police said.

    Rescuers, residents and police officers managed to pull 30 injured people from the rubble. Still, more than a dozen were missing and feared trapped beneath a huge mound of mud, broken concrete slabs and twisted steel girders.

    The building was one of thousands in Mumbai that are more than 100 years old, with foundations that have been weakened by years of heavy monsoon rains. Last month, another four-story building toppled in the city’s suburb of Ghatkopar, killing 17.

    Thursday’s tragedy occurred in a congested area of Mumbai’s southern Bhendi Bazaar area, following the city’s heaviest rainfall in 15 years.

    Authorities were advising people living in an adjacent building to vacate after it developed cracks following Thursday’s early morning collapse.

    It was not immediately clear how many people might be trapped in the toppled building.

    “We are asking people to check if their family members are safe and accounted for,” officer Manoj Sharma said at the scene.

    The building had housed nine families in apartments above a first-floor nursery school, but the collapse occurred before the toddlers had arrived for the day, police said.

    Nearby resident Amina Sheikh tightly held her 4-year-old grandson’s hand as they watched the rescue efforts from a safe distance.

    “This is my grandson. He used to go to school in that building,” she said, tearfully pointing at the rubble.

    She had been getting the boy ready for school Thursday morning when she heard a loud boom and saw the building had crashed down. It was “an hour before his class began. That’s why my grandson’s life was saved,” she said.

    Hours later, rescuers used earthmoving machines to lift concrete slabs and cement blocks as they searched for survivors.

    Building collapses are common in India during the monsoon season, which is June to September. High demand and lax regulations encourage some builders to use substandard materials or add unauthorized extra floors.

    Property prices and rents are among the highest in India as Mumbai has expanded manifold in the past five decades.

    Meanwhile, the city was slowly limping back to normalcy after it was paralyzed by heavy downpours for two days.

    Train services and public transport were halted and airports shut on Tuesday as roads turned into rivers and floodwaters seeped into many low-lying buildings. In many places, people had to abandon their vehicles and wade through waist-deep water to reach their homes.

    Schools, colleges and offices that were shut Wednesday opened Thursday, but attendance was sparse.

    Every year the city struggles to cope with the annual monsoon deluge, drawing criticism about its poor planning.

    Since the start of the season, devastating floods across South Asia have killed at least 1,000 people and affected close to 40 million across northern India, southern Nepal and northern Bangladesh.

    The rains have led to wide-scale flooding in a broad arc stretching across the Himalayan foothills in the three countries, causing landslides, damaging roads and electric towers and washing away tens of thousands of homes and vast swathes of farmland.


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    Under the lights and lights out.

    Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov just keeps rocking and rollicking through — up and over — the meat of the men’s tennis entrée.

    The 18-year-old has been picking top seeds out of his teeth for the past month.

    At Arthur Ashe Stadium, centre court of the U.S. Open, the kid from Richmond Hill took out eighth seed Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, and a 7-3 tiebreak.

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    Which puts him into the third round for the first time ever at Flushing Meadows.

    Tsonga, admittedly struggling this season — he hadn’t won a match since Wimbledon until his opener in New York against Romanian Marius Copil — is nevertheless a three-time U.S. Open quarter-finalist, immensely experienced at age 32, and never out of the world top 25 since the Australian Open in 2008. Also a huge favorite ‘round the world for his showman personality and showman shot-making.

    None of it, not the savvy and not the buoyant character, could blunt the energy, athleticism and precocious tennis IQ of his opponent on Wednesday evening.

    Shapovalov, in the past fortnight, has knocked off World No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, before losing in the semis to eventual champion Alexander Zverev — No. 28 Juan Martin del Potro and No. 34 Adrian Mannarino.

    This from a Richmond Hill lefty in his first full year on the tour circuit as a senior who had to elbow his way into the main draw for the Grand Slam by negotiating the qualifier on-ramp; three matches in the bag before merging onto the Queens majors highway. Ahead of Tsonga, ‘El Shapo’ dispatched No. 54 Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the Round of 128.

    Fourth-seeded Zverev, meanwhile — the 20-year-old German perceived by most observers as New Gen heir to Roger Federer eventually — crashed out shockingly Wednesday to Croatia’s Borna Coric.

    Togged up in all-black, ball cap turned backwards on his head, wisps of blond hair sticking out, Shapovalov showed tremendous maturity and poise against Tsonga. He broke him at love in Game 1 of the first set, waiting out a video review on match point in the tiebreaker — the Frenchman’s return was out — and then threw up his arms in triumph as a packed house, clearly on the upstart’s side, rose to its feet in raucous applause.

    Tapped his hand to heart in appreciation.

    “I played loose from the beginning,” Shapovalov said at his press conference afterwards. “I mean, I broke him first game. I mean, obviously it’s intimidating, it’s so big, there’s so much going on. The screens are working during the points. There’s a lot of people moving and talking. It’s not easy to play in.’’

    There’s something about instant rapport, though, between an athlete and the public, especially at this most un-sedate of tennis venues.

    Shapovalov, in his short and very recent spin in the limelight, has palpably made that connection effortlessly. Or maybe it’s that his tennis effort has been so favourably received.

    The kid has presence galore and has been absolutely humming along, catapulting from No. 250 at the start of the year to his current No. 69 ranking.

    But they do tennis-watching distinctively in the Big Apple, all that buzz and razzmatazz.

    “It was pretty funny. I noticed a couple of guys had a little bit too much to drink. I mean, some of them were standing and, like, just talking to me as if we’re buddies. I was up a break in one game, I think it was probably 40-15, I just miss a backhand. He’s like, “aaah, no!”

    “I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, man. I got this.’”

    Indeed he did.

    Tsonga seemed to have no idea how to counter his opponent’s speed and pace, his deft ability to reach and return what looked like put-away shots, aggressive net play hugely improved just since Montreal — 23 for 32 on net points — domination on first serves in (67 per cent compared to 51 per cent for Tsonga) and, crucially, the inability to lure Shapovalov into unforced errors; a mere 19 for the match compared to 28 for his opponent.

    The edge in play was wider than the score suggested, Shapovalov taking a break off Tsonga in each of the first two sets. Tsonga’s gave him the second one in the middle frame on a double fault.

    Shapovalov’s emerging panache with a racquet — which really is quite sudden, though he did win the Wimbledon junior title last year — was most evident in deft hooks, audacious backhand volleys, billiards-like placement of balls, darts down the line, cunning angles and leaping forehands, all limbs splayed, with extraordinary torque and spin.

    This was fearless tennis that had Tsonga talking to himself in the crossovers.

    The only wobble, perhaps a bit of looking too quickly ahead, occurred in the third set when Shapovalov, serving for the match, fell 0-40 and was broken in a last-gasp pushback by Tsonga. Tsonga held serve at 6-5, forcing Shapovalov to hold his own service game — which he did to love — and bringing them to the deciding tiebreak. Tsonga launched that segment with a double fault, found himself in an 0-3 hole, laid down an ace at 3-5, but came no closer to extending the match.

    “I don’t know why but I just managed to stay loose and go for my shots the whole match,’’ said Shapovalov, “except a little bit at 5-3 or 5-4, serving for the third set. Got a little bit tight, stopped moving my feet on a couple of shots, sailed some forehands. He did a good job to break me. He stayed mentally tough there. I just stayed calm and just waited for my next chance and took it.”

    Staying calm has not necessarily been Shapovalov’s strong suit in the past, he admitted.

    “No, it’s been a long process. I don’t think I was always mentally solid as I am today.’’

    He’s been working on that aspect of his game too, with coach — and Davis Cup captain —Martin Laurendeau.

    Far from serene, off course, in that Federer way. But he’s only 18 and quite pinch-me agog with his own Roman candle success.

    “Like I said before the match, I was going in with nothing to lose. I was having fun on the court. There were a couple of times during the match I was just smiling, having a good time. I was enjoying the atmosphere. It’s a dream come true for me to play a night match on Arthur Ashe. I mean, I grew up wanting this.”

    The subject of Shapovalov’s occasional fits of temper came up post-match too, especially since he now goes on to face Kyle Edmund of Britain. It was Edmund he was playing in a Davis Cup match this past February – playing badly, two sets down – when Shapovalov took a wild, frustrated swing at a ball that hit the chair umpire in the eye. That resulted in a disqualification for Canada and $7,000 fine for Shapovalov.

    “I’ve come a long way from that incident,” he assured last night. “I’ve apologized constantly before and I continue to apologize for my actions. It’s something I have to live with. But for me it’s in the past and I’m a different person and a different player now.’’

    More recently, Shapovalov defeated Edmund, British No. 2, just before Wimbledon, which was also the Canadian’s first Slam.

    With seeds falling fast and furious, the bottom half of the Open draw is wide open, albeit with Wimbledon finalist and 2014 U.S. champion Marin Cilic the cream of the crop in Shapovalov’s quarter bracket.

    He wouldn’t be coaxed into looking too far ahead.

    “Maybe for a guy like Zverev or Federer, you could say it’s open a bit. For a guy like me, every match is tough and I’m going to have to battle it out.”

    Perhaps he hadn’t heard yet that Zverev is gone.

    And look who’s still standing.

    “This win, it’s definitely another confidence boost. It shows that Montreal wasn’t a fluke week.”

    Who said so?


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    OTTAWA—The economy surged past second-quarter expectations with growth at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent, giving the country its best start to a calendar year since 2002, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

    Household spending and exports, particularly in the form of energy products, drove the increase in real gross domestic product, the agency said.

    The sturdy GDP data provides the latest evidence the 2017 momentum has continued to build and arrives with the Bank of Canada widely expected to once again hike its benchmark rate in the coming weeks.

    Citing the strengthening economy, the central bank raised its rate to 0.75 per cent from 0.5 per cent in July. That was its first rate hike in seven years. Its next rate announcement is scheduled for next week.

    The report Thursday showed exports expanded 2.3 per cent from April to June, up from 0.4 per cent in the first three months of the year. Exports in goods and services rose 2.3 per cent, while the export of energy products increased 9.2 per cent.

    Households spent 1.9 per cent more on goods in the second quarter — the strongest gain since 2007.

    Overall, the quarterly increase came even though housing investments contracted 1.2 per cent during a period that saw the introduction of a new Ontario tax on foreign buyers in April. In comparison, residential real estate expanded 2.9 per cent in the first quarter.

    A consensus of economists had predicted Canada to deliver a second-straight growth reading of 3.7 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters. The Bank of Canada had predicted second-quarter real GDP to expand by 3 per cent in its latest forecast, released in July.

    Combined with the 3.7 per cent expansion over the first three months of 2017, Statistics Canada said the country saw its strongest six-month start to a calendar year in 15 years. The data also shows the last time quarterly growth climbed as high as 4.5 per cent was in the third quarter of 2011 when it hit 5.7 per cent.

    The second-quarter acceleration was fuelled by an eighth-consecutive monthly increase in June that included a two per cent expansion in the construction sector — its largest gain in four years. The report said 14 of 20 industrial sectors saw growth in June.


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    A man was struck by a UP Express train east of Weston GO Station in Etobicoke around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday.

    Service was suspended both on the UP Express and the Kitchener GO but resumed on both the UP Express and the Kitchener GO just before 8:30 a.m.

    Police said the man was rushed to hospital and he is in serious condition.

    “Wishing the person a full recovery. Thinking about the family & our crew & staff,” tweeted Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins.


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    CROSBY, TEXAS—A Houston-area chemical plant that lost power after Harvey engulfed the area in floods was rocked by fires and two explosions early Thursday, but local authorities said the resulting smoke presented “no danger to the community at all.”

    Arkema Inc. said in a statement on its website that the Harris County Emergency Operations Center reported two explosions and black smoke coming from the plant in Crosby, about 40 kilometres northeast of Houston, at about 2 a.m.

    At a news conference Thursday, Assistant Harris County Fire Chief Bob Rayall said different grades of organic peroxides in a semi-trailer caught fire not long after midnight. Rayall said the fire emitted a 9- to 12-metre flames and black smoke.

    Rayall did not refer to any blasts, but Harris County Fire Marshal spokeswoman Rachel Moreno said there had been “small explosions.”

    Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says some deputies suffered irritated eyes from the smoke but insisted it wasn’t dangerous.

    “It is not anything toxic,” Gonzalez said. “It is not anything that we feel is a danger to the community at all.”

    At a separate news conference in Washington, D.C., FEMA administrator Brock Long told reporters that “by all means, the plume is incredibly dangerous.”

    A plant spokeswoman said late Wednesday that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators due to the flooding, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.

    Read more:

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    Gonzalez said the fire would burn itself out. Rayall said the fire service was not monitoring the fire — “that’s industry’s responsibility” — and that the company hired a contractor to do aerial monitoring of the smoke to see which direction it was going.

    An AP photographer at a roadblock about 3 kilometres from the scene could see no sign of a blaze in the direction of the chemical plant as the sun rose Thursday morning.

    Arkema had warned that a fire was going to happen, saying it was inevitable because of the loss of power in the floods.

    “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature,” spokeswoman Janet Smith told The Associated Press late Wednesday.

    There was “no way to prevent” the explosion, chief executive Rich Rowe said earlier Wednesday.

    Arkema manufactures organic peroxides, a family of compounds used for making a variety of products including pharmaceuticals and construction materials.

    “As the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire,” Smith said. “So the fire is imminent. The question is when.”

    Harvey struck Southeast Texas last week, slamming into the coast as a Category 4 hurricane, then weakening to a tropical storm that dumped record amounts of rain on the state, in particular the Houston area. The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression late Wednesday.

    The company shut down the Crosby site before Harvey made landfall, but a crew of 11 had stayed behind. That group was removed and residents living within a 2.4-kilometre radius were told to evacuate Tuesday after the plant lost power.

    Moreno said late Wednesday that the 1.5-mile radius was developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other subject-matter experts.

    “The facility is surrounded by water right now so we don’t anticipate the fire going anywhere,” she said.

    The plant falls along a stretch near Houston that features one of the largest concentrations of refineries, pipelines and chemical plants in the country.

    Arkema was required to develop and submit a risk management plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, because it has large amounts of sulphur dioxide, a toxic chemical, and methylpropene, a flammable gas. The plans are supposed to detail the effects of a potential release, evaluate worst-case scenarios and explain a company’s response.

    In its most recently available submission from 2014, Arkema said potentially 1.1 million residents could be impacted over a distance of 37 kilometres in a worse case, according to information compiled by a non-profit group and posted on a website hosted by the Houston Chronicle.

    But, Arkema added, it was using “multiple layers of preventative and mitigation measures” at the plant, including steps to reduce the amount of substances released, and that made the worst case “very unlikely.”

    Daryl Roberts, the company’s vice-president of manufacturing, technology and regulatory services in the Americas, did not dispute that worst-case scenario but said that assumed all the controls in place failed and strong winds blew directly toward Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

    “We have not modelled this exact scenario but we are very comfortable with this 1.5-mile radius,” Roberts told the AP. He added that it mostly resembled less serious scenarios that would affect a half-mile radius and a few dozen people.

    Roberts said the vessels containing the organic peroxide are equipped with controls to slow the release of chemicals. He said the chemicals will quickly vaporize because of the water, reducing the size and scope of the fire.


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    The Toronto District School Board has voted in favour of temporarily removing police officers from secondary schools as part of the contentious Student Resource Officer program.

    The SRO program was implemented following the death of Jordan Manners in 2007 after he was shot on school grounds.

    Read more: Police in schools don’t make kids safer: Mochama

    Do armed, uniformed cops belong in Toronto high schools?

    “It was not a unanimous vote,” said Robin Pilkey, TDSB Chair of the Board. “There was quite a bit of debate whether this would be an appropriate action. Eventually at the end of the discussion, trustees decided they would suspend the program until the completion of the review in November.”

    The program will be reviewed by TDSB executives. The call to vote on a suspension was not included within the Aug. 30 agenda and was instead brought to the floor by trustees after the motion to review was voted upon.

    “It was felt that the presence of SROs during the review when we were asking people to talk about them might be intimidating and create a potential bias,” said Pilkey.

    Activist and journalist Desmond Cole, who has been outspoken about the harms of the SRO program, tweeted that the suspension was “a huge victory.”

    An independent academic study of the uniformed and armed officer presence within 75 Toronto high schools has never been done in the nearly decade-old program.

    The program was almost suspended this past May following a Toronto police board meeting where teachers and school workers addressed the negative impacts of police presence in schools, such as racialized students feeling harassed, undocumented students being asked for citizenship status and situations becoming unnecessarily criminalized.

    TDSB staff members will report their findings from the review during November meetings.

    A separate academic review, paid for by a “Special Fund” of the Toronto Police Board, is being conducted by Ryerson University, to be completed in June 2018.

    With files by Wendy Gillis


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