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TOPSTORIES

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    New York’s Parks Commissioner, Mitchell Silver, has a theory that there are two kinds of cities when it comes to how they are built: plan-making cities and deal-making cities.

    He mentioned this during a panel discussion in Toronto at the Economic Club of Canada luncheon last November.

    Some places have these rules laid out in a plan that people follow. In other places, the rules amount, in effect, to a proposal to “make us an offer.”

    Toronto’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, was on the panel. She immediately nodded as if he’d crystallized something elusive and essential.

    Toronto, she said, is totally a deal-making city.

    And the concept does seem to crystallize a lot about how Toronto development happens (or doesn’t) and the flare-ups in the news we hear about it along the way.

    I was reminded of this exchange this week as I followed the arguments about a proposed eight-storey condo building on Davenport, opposed by Margaret Atwood, Galen Weston and some other high-profile Annex residents.

    The contours of the arguments are by now familiar: “Developers running roughshod over the rules that protect our neighbourhoods” on one side versus “entitled NIMBYs hate new housing” on the other.

    We know this fight because we have it all the time.

    It can be fun! It plays to our snobberies and assumptions.

    The one-liners are already written.

    “This is an illegal assault on our community!”

    “This is just what the city needs in a housing crisis and what our guidelines call for!”

    “Which developer greased your palms?”

    “Why do you hate those less fortunate than you?”

    If some nuance is lost about what people really want or don’t want, that’s just standard operating procedure.

    In fact, I think the system we have — call it Let’s-Make-a-Deal city-building — virtually ensures we have these fights, again and again.

    I don’t know if that’s for better or for worse.

    But it’s certainly not for easy understanding.

    Let’s go back to Silver’s point: Toronto does have a plan. Officially. It’s called the “Official Plan.”

    And it calls for intensification — more units for people to live in — on main streets, such as Davenport. Specifically, it says we need to accomplish this by getting developers to build mid-rise buildings.

    An eight-storey building on a street such as Davenport is something we want to encourage.

    That’s the plan.

    But that isn’t the rule.

    The rules, laid out in the zoning bylaws, say that you cannot build anything higher than two storeys, unless you get a specific exemption from the bylaw. Any neighbour could look at that and plainly see: an eight-storey building on that street is a violation of the bylaw! It’s against the rules!

    So our plan says we want to encourage something, and our rules seem to say that same something is forbidden.

    What’s that all about?

    Deal-making.

    The zoning bylaws are not intended to be interpreted as rules that explain what the city wants and expects. In fact, many of the homes and businesses that have been standing for generations in our most apparently successful and beloved neighbourhoods do not conform to the zoning bylaws. These aren’t rules; they are the opening offer in negotiations.

    If you’re a builder, you can take them as they are and have no further fuss, or you can make a counter-offer.

    For instance, you could propose building something that the city, in it’s official plan, says it wants to encourage.

    And then the negotiations continue: neighbours get to weigh in and ask for changes; the city might ask for cash for community benefits through Section 37 of the planning act; the developer might offer to trade one thing (a floor of height or a certain number of parking spots) for another (giving cash for a park, or changing the building materials, or including some affordable units).

    And, if no one can come to a deal, then the Ontario Municipal Board can rule for one side or another. The OMB has long stood as the ultimate judge in this adversarial framework.

    There are benefits to the city, and city councillors, from this system: they get to be involved, site-by-site in designing any proposed building and can extract dollars to build community amenities.

    Councillor Gord Perks has explained, on Twitter, that the zoning bylaws and accompanying process shouldn’t be interpreted as forbidding anything, but as identifying a threshold at which community consultation and approval is needed.

    It’s a threshold at which you need to get democracy involved in development . . . if you look at it from a certain perspective.

    But there are drawbacks; it’s natural that people who live in a neighbourhood will object to changes to it, especially changes that might give them less privacy, or create more traffic on their street, or spoil their view, or bring down their property values.

    Very often they are right that the change will have some negative effect on them, even if it benefits the city.

    Now, if there were clear rules saying that something was allowed to be built, then those objections might be washed away as just the way things work in the big city.

    But the existence of zoning bylaws that depict the proposal as “illegal” will only tend to harden their conviction that they are being wronged by a shady developer, and give fuel to their rhetorical depiction of the change as unjustified.

    And, in the meantime, the deal-making nature of the process gives incentives to everyone involved to begin at more extreme ends of the spectrum than they otherwise would, so that any compromise that they settle on ends up closer to what they actually want.

    Developers have often said it can be as hard, long and expensive to negotiate a midrise building as it is a highrise — and much less profitable.

    So why not go up, up, up, if you’re going to endure the hassle anyway?

    Would we be better off with clear plan-based rules, than with case-by-case deal-making? I don’t know. Silver said unequivocally that New York, where he works, is a deal-making city. But I see online that he’s given lectures saying plan-based cities can be most successful, because of the clarity they offer, and that, in deal-making cities, plans “lose credibility and public trust.”

    What does seem obvious to me is that the Selfish NIMBY vs. Greedy Developer headline battles we usually see are a perhaps inevitable byproduct of the way the oppositional case-by-case development system is built. These fights are just part of the deal.


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    The 42nd Toronto International Film Festival is days away, but it already has its first show-stopper: Piers Handling is stepping down after nearly 25 years as head of the cinema giant that transformed both the city and its global image.

    His departure will be a slow credits roll rather than a sudden fade to black. Handling will remain as TIFF’s director and CEO until the end of 2018.

    This is to allow the TIFF board time to choose a successor and to get him or her up to speed on an organization that has grown from its 1970s spark as a week-long movie celebration running on brio and credit cards into one of the world’s top arts institutions, operating year-long in many guises with a $45-million annual budget that contributes an estimated $189 million annually to Toronto’s economy.

    The main event is still the annual 11-day fall festival, which this year runs from Sept. 7 to 17.

    “The timing feels right for me, it really does,” Handling said Friday in an interview.

    “I did a lot of thinking over the course of this year . . . I’m excited about what’s going to be in the future for me.”

    The urbane Handling, 68, has a lot planned for his post-TIFF life, including a book — something film-related but not personal memoirs — and more of the world travel and mountain climbing that have long been among his other passions. In all, the former film professor will have been at TIFF for 36 years, nearly half his life.

    “I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish when I started with this organization. It’s constantly surprised me in terms of the potential that was here and what I was allowed to do and what we could do, which was to dream large and just do big things.”

    Handling anticipates a “robust transition of power” and his most likely successor would seem to be Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s artistic director, who was for several years in the past decade the co-director of the fest with Handling.

    “He’d be more than an obvious candidate, but I certainly don’t want to comment because it’s not my job to actually choose my successor,” Handling said.

    “It’s the board’s job, and I’m sure they’ll go through a very detailed and exhaustive process to make sure they end up with the right candidate.”

    Whoever is chosen will have their work cut out for them. TIFF recently announced it is embarking on a five-year transformation plan called “Audience First,” in response to industry-wide drops in movie attendance, including a single-year drop of 49,000 people in 2016 over 2015 to showings on the five public screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox, the fest’s year-round headquarters at King and John Sts.

    TIFF plans to move from simply showing films to offering “transformative experiences through film,” which would include more hands-on involvement with online services and through such popular attractions as the digiPlaySpace interactive children’s exhibit.

    But Handling says he’s confident the organization can weather any storm, and he’s seen big ones in his time. They include the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which occurred midway through the 2001 festival and resulted in numerous red-carpet cancellations, although the films continued to screen.

    The biggest challenge of all, Handling said, was the SARS epidemic of 2003, which spooked so many Hollywood denizens, it looked for a time that there wouldn’t be any celebrities on that year’s red carpet, and maybe not even a festival at all. The logjam began to break when Canadian rocker Neil Young said he’d be coming to TIFF to premiere his film Greendale, SARS or no SARS.

    “It’s just been so rich and rewarding and all driven by being a complete and passionate cinephile,” Handling said of his time with TIFF, which has brought him numerous global honours that include the Order of Canada and France’s Chevalier des arts et des lettres.

    “So to be able to see film and to rub shoulders with all the creators and to think about it and curate it and bring it back to Toronto has been extraordinary.”


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    HOUSTON—One week after Harvey roared into the Gulf Coast, residents of a Texas city struggled with no drinking water, fires continued to erupt at a stricken chemical plant and funerals began for some of the mounting toll of victims.

    In Beaumont, Texas, home to almost 120,000, people waited in a line that stretched for more than a mile to get bottled water after the municipal system failed earlier this week.

    Thick black smoke and towering orange flames shot up Friday after two trailers of highly unstable compounds blew up at Arkema, a flooded chemical plant in Crosby, the second fire there in two days.

    And in Houston, friends and family gathered Friday evening to remember 42-year-old Benito Juarez Cavazos, one of 42 people whose deaths are attributed to Harvey. Cavazos came to Texas illegally from Mexico 28 years ago and was in the process of getting his green card.

    “It’s very unfortunate that right when he finally had hopes of being able to maybe go to Mexico soon to go see his family it all went downhill,” his cousin, Maria Cavazos, said. “Sadly, he’s going back to Mexico, but in an unfortunate way.”

    Read more:Houston residents, heading home, find scent of ‘mildew and death’

    Canada preparing to deliver relief supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims

    Harvey now the second most destructive after Katrina with $80B U.S. in damages — so far

    President Donald Trump announced plans Friday to make his second visit to the region devastated by Harvey. On Saturday, he will be in Houston and Lake Charles, La., to survey the damage. The White House said he would have time during the visit with the first lady to talk to residents.

    Earlier Friday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that ongoing releases of water from two reservoirs could keep thousands of homes flooded for up to 15 days. He told residents that if they stayed and later needed help, first responders’ resources could be further strained.

    Residents of the still-flooded western part of Houston were asked to evacuate due to the releases from two reservoirs protecting downtown. The ongoing releases were expected to keep some homes flooded that had been filled with water earlier in the week. Homes that are not currently flooded probably will not be affected, officials said.

    Some of the affected houses have several meters of water in them, and the water reaches to the rooftops of others, district meteorologist Jeff Lindner said.

    Turner pleaded for more high-water vehicles and more search-and-rescue equipment as the nation’s fourth-largest city continued looking for any survivors or corpses that might have somehow escaped notice in flood-ravaged neighbourhoods.

    Search teams quickly worked their way down streets, sometimes not even knocking on doors if there were obvious signs that all was well — organized debris piles or full cans of trash on the curb, for instance, or neighbours confirming that the residents had evacuated.

    Authorities considered it an initial search, though they did not say what subsequent searches would entail or when they would commence.

    Turner also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more workers to process applications from thousands of people seeking government help. The mayor said he will request a preliminary aid package of $75 million for debris removal alone.

    The storm had lost most of its tropical characteristics but remained a source of heavy rain that threatened to cause flooding as far north as Indiana.

    By Friday evening, Harvey had dumped more than 23 centimetres of rain in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee and more than 20 centimetres in spots in Alabama and Kentucky. Its remnants were expected to generate another 2.5 to 8 centimetres over parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia.

    National Weather Service meteorologists expect Harvey to break up and merge with other weather systems over the Ohio Valley late Saturday or Sunday.

    An estimated 156,000 dwellings were damaged by flooding in Harris County, or more than 10 per cent of all structures in the county database, according to the flood control district for the county, which includes Houston.

    Figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated that nearly 87,000 homes had major or minor damage and at least 6,800 were destroyed.

    Harvey initially came ashore Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days. The storm brought five straight days of rain totalling close to 1.3 metres in one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S.

    Far out over the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma was following a course that could bring it near the eastern Caribbean Sea by early next week. The Category 2 storm was moving northwest at nearly 20 km/h. No coastal watches or warnings were in effect.


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    Michelle Kungl was pulled from the womb with a broken neck and a grim prognosis.

    Limp and unable to breathe, nobody expected her to survive the difficult forceps delivery 34 years ago. Her parents and doctors were preparing to remove her from life support when suddenly, an elated nurse noticed something miraculous — Michelle’s tiny hand, twitching.

    It was the beginning of an astonishing journey that would see the bright-eyed baby — who had no movement below the neck and was attached to a ventilator to breathe — eventually learn to talk, sit up, walk and even ride a tricycle.

    Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Michelle became a media darling. The Star and other local newspapers wrote stories about the little dynamo at the Hospital for Sick Children who couldn’t go home because she relied on a ventilator. She was featured on CBC and CNN as a youngster determined to live like any other child.

    Michelle would spend the first seven years of her life at Sick Kids — the hospital’s longest in-patient — before she was transferred to Bloorview Children’s Hospital, where she was finally allowed to go home for the first time with a nurse. Another seven years would pass before the province’s health-care system provided the support for her to live at home full time.

    Doctors never thought she would live independently. But now 34, Michelle has her own apartment in Richmond Hill with on-site attendants. She drives a 2013 Dodge Caravan Crew SE, enjoys playing video games with her boyfriend, and earns more than $42,500 as a full-time credit card fraud investigator for a bank.

    Michelle overcame impossible medical odds as a child. But as an adult she is fighting her most frustrating and seemingly impossible battle yet — convincing Ontario’s narrow and rule-bound social assistance system that she is disabled enough to receive help to cover her extraordinary medical and disability-related expenses.

    “The impact this is having on her life is devastating,” says her lawyer Brendon Pooran, who specializes in human rights and financial security for people with disabilities.

    * * *

    It is early July and after 11 months of emails, phone calls and meetings, Michelle believes York Region’s Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) office has finally sorted out her monthly payments and extended health benefits.

    The bad news comes first thing in the morning on July 6, when Michelle’s ODSP worker calls to say her provincial support has been suspended for about the 50th time in almost 14 years.

    Today, it is because she received three bi-weekly paycheques in June and has — once again — exceeded the program’s monthly income threshold.

    “I don’t believe that they care at all about me — I’m just a number, a case file,” she writes in an email to her mother.

    “They give you as little as they possibly can and turn away from you like you are invisible.”

    Since she finished college in 2003, Michelle has had to choose between her health — even survival — and being an active and productive member of society.

    The irony is, she knows exactly what she could do to make these headaches disappear overnight.

    “Everything would be so much easier if I just didn’t work,” she sighs, placing her index finger over the tracheotomy tube in her neck to steady her voice.

    And yet Michelle, who achieved “top performer” status at work earlier this year, loves her job.

    “When you are working it helps your mental health. You have friends. You have something to look forward to,” she says. “You have more income — more than what you get on ODSP (alone.) You have activities where you meet new people. It’s better than staying home alone, isolated.”

    Working also keeps her moving, which is good for her overall health, especially her fragile lungs.

    While living in hospital, Michelle learned to breathe without her ventilator, a process that requires her to think about every breath she takes. But she still needs her ventilator when she sleeps and is at home relaxing, in case she nods off.

    “If I forget to breathe, I’m dead,” she says, only half joking.

    Every time her income crosses a certain threshold, Michelle’s benefits are suddenly cut off, leaving her scrambling.

    This day’s latest setback is particularly worrisome because her accessible van is being serviced and she is expecting a bill for more than $2,300. As she has explained dozens of times to ODSP workers who have questioned these expenses, she needs the van for work because accessible public transit doesn’t accommodate her hours.

    To make matters worse, July is when her tenant and auto insurance are due. Michelle pays these expenses annually to save on both premiums and paperwork.

    And it is a mountain of paperwork. Every year, Michelle collects scores of receipts and fills out dozens of forms to convince ODSP to help cover more than $25,000 in annual disability expenses that keep her healthy and able to work.

    Keeping up with the paperwork has become a part-time job for Michelle and a full-time job for her mother Lyn, a 62-year-old artist, retired gallery manager.

    “It’s hard watching your kid struggle,” says Lyn. “But this is beyond that. This is a human rights issue.”

    Michelle can’t work, save money for a vacation or even consider marrying her boyfriend without losing critical financial support, she notes.

    Michelle’s employer allows her to work set hours instead of the usual rotating shifts. Her Friday to Tuesday afternoon/evening work schedule accommodates the one-hour attendant care she receives every morning as well as an extra two-hour appointment every Wednesday when an attendant helps her do laundry or clean the circuits on her ventilator.

    Michelle’s days off are packed with household errands, medical appointments, trips to her wheelchair service technician or auto mechanic and the ever-present administrative burden of keeping track of expenses she must submit monthly to prove she needs ODSP to survive.

    Lost receipts mean lost support and more precious time fighting for reinstatement, so once a month she drives the documents to the ODSP office to ensure nothing goes missing in the mail.

    As of June, Michelle was approved to receive $767.24 a month to offset what she and her mother estimate are almost $1,700 in monthly work-related disability expenses that allow her to hold down a job and remain active in the community. Life-sustaining medical equipment related to her ventilator adds another $507 to Michelle’s monthly costs that she recoups through her company benefits plan and ODSP extended health benefits.

    But as the latest call from her ODSP worker shows, it is never a sure thing.

    From the time she moved into her own apartment and began receiving ODSP in 2003, Michelle’s support has been questioned. There were disputes over her supplies, such as the “trach tie,” a collar she wears around her neck that holds her tracheotomy tube in place. The only brand the program covered cut into her neck until it bled.

    When Michelle’s part-time work hours grew, the program would spit out form letters informing her she was cut off for earning too much.

    Finally, in 2007, while living in Toronto, Michelle’s local legal aid and ODSP workers devised a “creative solution” that ensured her extraordinary disability costs would be taken into account so the cut-off notices would cease.

    Her monthly income support and medical benefits remained relatively stable until last summer when she relocated to an apartment in Richmond Hill closer to work.

    “When she moved, the whole thing fell apart,” Lyn says.

    York Region ODSP didn’t recognize how her case was handled in Toronto, she says. “They told her go home. Deal with it on your own. You are making a salary and you should be able to look after this by yourself.”

    Complicating matters — and adding to the paperwork — was Michelle’s promotion to full-time last fall which entitles her to company benefits.

    Since ODSP is a “program of last resort,” Michelle can no longer submit an annual list of medical supplies to her local pharmacy, order what she needs every month, and have everything covered.

    Instead, she must pay upfront. To get her money back, she has to submit the bills to her company benefits supplier, which covers 80 per cent of most items. Then she has to bring the benefit statement toODSP to cover the balance. Wheelchair repair costs are handled the same way.

    It is an onerous process that usually takes two months and explains why Michelle carries 14 credit cards to juggle the costs. She figures she owes about $30,000.

    * * *

    Dr. Karen Pape was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sick Kids on Dec. 19, 1982, when Michelle arrived by ambulance from Women’s College Hospital, barely alive.

    And it was Pape’s ground-breaking use of electric stimulation to Michelle’s inert muscles about three years later that changed the course of the young girl’s life.

    But the neonatologist who has since retired from clinical practice, confesses she was shocked when she reconnected with her former patient several years ago while writing a book about innovative treatments for children with early brain and nerve injuries. After everyone worked so hard for Michelle as a child, public systems seem to have abandoned her as an adult, Pape says.

    “She has really been failed. She has chronic ventilatory dependence. This is not a joke. She will die a respiratory death.”

    As far as Pape knows, Michelle is the oldest person with a neonatal spinal cord injury who is partially ventilator dependent and living independently.

    Adults with Michelle’s level of injury are usually in institutions and costing the public hundreds of thousands of dollars, she notes.

    Instead of the constant paper chase and hour-long drive each way to Newmarket to submit her income statements and expense receipts every month to ODSP, Michelle’s time should be spent living her life and looking after her health, Pape says.

    She should have a massage and physiotherapy once a week, an athletic trainer to keep her mobile and an occupational therapist to monitor her for safety and medical aids, the doctor says.

    But none of this is covered by Michelle’s employer or ODSP. Her company benefits cover the equivalent of just one physiotherapy treatment a month.

    Pape was the catalyst for Michelle’s move to Richmond Hill last summer where she lives in an accessible, ground-floor apartment in a non-smoking building with underground parking. Second-hand smoke, which was common in Michelle’s subsidized apartment in Toronto where she lived for almost 13 years, is particularly dangerous for people on ventilators, she notes.

    “She was on the eighth floor of a building where the elevator used to break down. She couldn’t get up the stairs. Her father had to be called to carry her up,” she says, trying to control her exasperation. “She had to scrape the ice from her car in the outdoor parking lot in the winter.”

    Michelle’s new apartment is a huge improvement, Pape says. But even that arrangement comes with a hitch. Now that Michelle is working full-time, her subsidized rent of $352 a month is expected to spike to a “market rate” of more than $1,100 after her annual rent review this fall.

    * * *

    “Hope you weren’t expecting Driving Miss Daisy,” Michelle quips, as she roars out of her underground parking garage in her gold Dodge Caravan. When Michelle is behind the wheel, it is nothing like the 1989 film about an aging Jewish widow and her African-American driver.

    Her license plate — “Sparky8” — is a nickname from her years at Brother André Catholic High School in Markham. The blue butterfly tattoo on her left shoulder blade and an image of the moon and the stars inked on her lower back are also high school relics.

    “Why not look at the moon when you are looking at the moon?” she says with a smirk.

    The van, with a price tag of about $25,000, cost her more than $80,000 after accessibility modifications were installed to accommodate her electric wheelchair. Her 10-year, biweekly loan payments average about $941 a month, an expense that must be paid until 2022. Now that the warranty has run out, her service costs will escalate.

    But the van is Michelle’s life-line.

    Her first stop is almost always Starbucks drive-thru for a venti Caramel Frappuccino “no whipped cream, extra drizzle” or Tim Hortons for a large S’mores Iced Capp.

    Michelle frowns as she pulls into Costco and looks for a wheelchair parking spot. The specially designated spaces often don’t work for her van, which requires at least five metres of clearance for the electric wheelchair ramp that extends out the right-hand sliding door at the push of a button on her keychain. As a result, she parks in a regular spot at the far end of the lot to avoid getting boxed in.

    As she searches for a deal on plastic cups for a work pot-luck, she zips by startled shoppers in her electric wheelchair barking “careful now” in a “don’t mess with me” voice.

    “People just don’t look where they are going,” she says. “And I hate it when people see someone in a wheelchair and just assume you need help.”

    Michelle smiles in the check-out line where clerks greet her by name.

    Growing up amid hospital routines, rules and regulations have given Michelle an intense, if not extreme, respect for authority, confidentiality and protection of personal information in both her professional and private life.

    Punctuality and precision are also touchstones. “I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late,” she says describing how she allows 90 minutes for the 30-minute drive to work.

    “Wheelchair breakdowns, accessibility ramp glitches and difficulty finding wheelchair parking spots. Having a disability takes time,” she says wryly.

    * * *

    Lyn has spent more than three decades fighting for her eldest child’s right to live a normal life. While raising two younger boys, she pushed for Michelle to leave the hospital with a nurse so she could attend school with her peers. She insisted her daughter join the school choir, become a Brownie and a Girl Guide, take taekwondo, go to summer camp and go on family vacations.

    When Michelle became a young adult, Lyn insisted her daughter work part-time and attend college where Michelle lived in residence and learned to drive.

    Michelle credits her mother for her fierce independence.

    But her years of hospital life and Lyn’s constant advocacy have forged a difficult mother-daughter relationship.

    “My mom and I both have different ideas about how I should be conducting myself,” Michelle says diplomatically.

    Strong-willed and extremely private, Michelle refuses to introduce her mother to her boyfriend, a man with spastic cerebral palsy she has dated for more than two years.

    And she is annoyed by Lyn’s discomfort with suctioning.

    Because Michelle can’t cough, she carries a portable medical vacuum mounted to the back of her wheelchair that sucks the mucus from her lungs through a clear narrow catheter. When she sticks the catheter into her lungs through a tracheotomy tube in her neck, the machine whirrs and makes loud slurping noises.

    “I suction wherever I want. But for some people, it makes them feel sick, so Lyn feels I should do it in the bathroom.”

    As a teen, when she finally moved into the family home, Michelle was angry Lyn forced her to leave her wheelchair in the garage and walk or use her walker.

    “She thought it was better for me. Which of course it was,” Michelle concedes.

    Lyn loves her daughter. But she admits Michelle is sometimes hard to like.

    “Michelle’s point of view is f-you. I’m disabled. Get over it,” Lyn says.

    She frets about her daughter’s hygiene and diet. “I find it hard to go to her house and see bags of potato chips and packages of Mr. Noodle everywhere.”

    “Michelle feels I have never accepted her disability,” Lyn says. “And she is right. I’ve never had the luxury of feeling sad for my daughter because I’ve been so busy fighting. I’ve always been the difficult one. I had to be. Because feeling sorry for Michelle was never going to get her where she needed to go.”

    But Lyn knows she has to let go.

    “Michelle is an adult. I have to let her live her life. We all have to let her live her life. And that is what this fight is all about.”

    * * *

    “Hey there, whatcha doing for dinner?” Michelle texts.

    “Call me — easier that way.”

    Michelle’s dad Werner, 60, a bronzed and burley auto mechanic who came to Canada from Germany when he was 18, suggests they meet for dinner at The Keg at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night.

    As often happens when couples have a critically ill child, Werner and Lyn’s marriage collapsed under the stress of Michelle’s traumatic birth and a subsequent failed medical malpractice lawsuit. But as Werner is quick to point out “we are all friends now.”

    “Your mother deserves all the credit for getting you where you are at. It is all your mother,” he tells Michelle as he digs into his order of Baseball Top Sirloin. “She was always there for you. She is a very strong woman . . . Me? I’m just the comic relief.”

    The restaurant rings with Michelle’s distinctive chortle as Werner recounts the time he took her to summer camp, drove onto the highway shoulder and told her the noise from the rumble strip was a helicopter circling overhead.

    “I made you look,” he jokes.

    Werner pulls out his cellphone to share photos of Michelle in a bikini, marching in the gay pride parade and riding on the back of his black Harley Davidson motorcycle.

    Michelle is still laughing when Werner mentions he and his partner have just joined Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, a local nudist colony.

    “Maybe you want to join too,” he suggests.

    “Could I take my wheelchair?” she shoots back.

    “I can never say no to you,” her father replies. “Except when you ask for a Ferrari.”

    Michelle’s youngest brother, Dane, 30, runs a tow truck company and is often around her father’s Markham auto shop. “I know he will always be there if I need him, especially if my van breaks down on the road,” she smiles.

    But she is closest in both age and spirit to brother Ryan, 33, an electrical engineer, currently studying dentistry in Australia and about to apply to medical school.

    “When I see Michelle I don’t see her disability,” he says over Facetime from Brisbane. “She has never been defined by her disability and has never asked for any handouts.”

    Ryan, the peacemaker in the family, struggles to describe his frustration over his sister’s battles with bureaucracy.

    “What I would hope for Michelle is to see her be supported by a program that gives her a fighting chance at continuing to lead a normal life in the face of extraordinary circumstances,” he adds. “A program that covers her basic medical needs without all the hassle of endless paperwork and red tape.”

    Disability rights lawyer Pooran, is outraged by Michelle’s struggles with ODSP.

    “This constant flow of paperwork — the monitoring and compliance requirements — has had a devastating effect on her physically, emotionally and psychologically. And it has to stop,” he says.

    For more than two decades, Pooran and other disability advocates have been urging Queen’s Park to ease the onerous reporting requirements and strict income and asset rules that govern ODSP. He is accompanying Michelle and Lyn to a meeting with provincial officials early next month to discuss her case.

    Although Pooran acknowledges Michelle is somewhat unique — few with her level of disability work full time — her experience highlights the problem most people on social assistance face when they try to work or receive income from other sources. More than 900,000 Ontarians rely on social assistance, including more than 490,000 on ODSP. Barely 10 per cent of individuals receiving ODSP have employment income.

    It is a key issue Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek asked a provincial working group to address last summer as part of a review of Ontario’s income security system. The group’s 10-year blueprint for reform, is expected in October.

    In the meantime, a ministry spokesperson said the government has already increased the amount individuals and families can deduct from their earnings for disability-work related expenses from $300 to $1,000 a month.

    The ministry is also planning to ease the burden of monthly income and expense reporting by allowing people to submit records electronically.

    “We understand it can be inconvenient, onerous and at times a frustrating process for individuals,” said Kristen Tedesco. “We know we have more work to do and we look forward to the recommendations from the Income Security Working Group in order to further improve social assistance programs in Ontario.”

    * * *

    When the Kungls lost their medical malpractice lawsuit in 1989, it was a crushing blow to Michelle’s financial future.

    As the judge warned in his ruling: “I cannot help but feel that the law has failed the infant plaintiff Michelle. Society must not fail her.”

    The words echo as Lyn continues to battle for her adult child.

    “Our society should be looking after disabled people,” she says. “Our programs should be looking after Michelle’s medical expenses. If she was not working, it would all be covered. It doesn’t make any sense.”

    Lyn confesses she urged doctors to take her severely-injured baby off life-support.

    “I can tell you there were times when I wished for the pain of watching Michelle’s struggle to breathe to end,” she says.

    “She is a woman now. But the struggle to have a life — a life that you and I take for granted — has always been beyond her reach,” she continues. “This is the pain that I share with my child who lives.”


    0 0


    In the lead-up to a crucial vote during which city council flip-flopped on transit plans to approve a multibillion-dollar subway in Scarborough, Jennifer Keesmaat went on the warpath.

    In July 2013, the progressive chief planner — whose departure after five years at the helm was announced on Monday — was trying to make it known to anyone who would listen that a seven-stop light-rail line the province had already agreed to pay for, and the city had already approved, was still the better option.

    Hundreds of pages of emails obtained by the Star through freedom of information requests over the past two years show how Keesmaat became the subway’s strongest critic on staff and tried — but ultimately failed — to prevent what some have called the biggest boondoggle of Toronto transit politics.

    The number of reasons why the three-stop subway was a bad idea added up, Keesmaat agreed in one such email, to an “embarrassment of riches.”

    The push to build a subway in Scarborough was one of the most controversial projects advanced under Keesmaat’s tenure at city hall, one that has complicated her legacy as a progressive city-builder. A compromise plan she later moved under Mayor John Tory today continues to unravel.

    This is the untold story of how she tried behind the scenes to prevent the subway from being approved in the first place.

    By the first week of July 2013, the future of transit in Scarborough was in limbo.

    A surprise and illegal motion from Scarborough councillor and subway backer Glenn De Baeremaeker at an earlier May meeting during a completely unrelated debate — a move supported by then mayor Rob Ford — saw council sending mixed messages. They had endorsed a subway while having a signed agreement with the province’s transit agency, Metrolinx, to build an LRT.

    Metrolinx, unsurprisingly, demanded clarity, triggering another vote, which was scheduled for a July 16 council meeting.

    City staff began preparing a report to help council decide how to proceed, meeting nightly at one point to meet the tight deadlines.

    On July 2, Keesmaat emailed her superiors, then city manager Joe Pennachetti and deputy city manager John Livey.

    She noted media reports that said TTC CEO Andy Byford was meeting Metrolinx officials to review the costs for proceeding with the subway following De Baeremaeker’s motion.

    But Keesmaat was not convinced the subway should be built at all.

    “As we have discussed, there are different opinions as to the validity/relevance of these motions,” Keesmaat wrote, referring to the re-opening of the debate.

    “I am well aware of the issues,” Pennachetti responded, promising to convene a meeting of staff that day.

    The next day, Keesmaat forwarded a proposed outline for the council report to Livey.

    “This is the outline we are working with,” she wrote.

    Importantly, the outline included an example of what the planning department believed should be recommended: “For the reasons presented, subway is not the preferred technology to meet the future planning and transportation vision for this part of the city.”

    Several days later, Pennachetti asked a senior group of staff for further refinements to the draft report.

    Keesmaat responded to that request to make a point: “The subway option DOES NOT make the list of (ten) priority projects when compared with other projects across the city.”

    It was followed by a warning.

    “The quickness of the turn around has meant that we are struggling with a rationale, fair means of assessment,” Keesmaat wrote.

    Two days later, Keesmaat sent Byford an email with the subject line “LRT/Subway – URGENT.”

    “It is my understanding that your support of a subway for Scarborough is based on the projected increase in ridership,” she began. “I would like a more fulsome understanding of (how) you attained this number.”

    “I have not forecast more riders,” Byford responded. “We didn’t reopen this debate so (it’s) up to councillors to say if funds are available.”

    The emails reference a ridership number that would soon appear in the final version of the July report.

    Though earlier analysis estimated the number of subway rush-hour riders by 2031 would be 9,500. That number had suddenly grown to 14,000.

    That number was rarely discussed in any emailed conversations obtained by the Star before that report was tabled.

    But the increase came as a surprise to Keesmaat. She was unaware it had apparently come from her own planning department, not the TTC, as the final report would later state.

    Keesmaat declined to comment for this story. When asked previously about this exchange, the chief planner admitted the analysis leading up to the July vote was both “rushed” and “problematic”.

    Reached by the Star, Pennachetti said he was relying on Keesmaat, Byford and their teams to come up with the recommendations in the report. As for the ridership number, he said: “I don’t have an explanation for that number because it was a transportation planning key issue to determine.”

    By July 9, staff had a working draft of their report to council. A copy obtained by the Star shows that language warning against the perils of a switch to a subway was toned done significantly in the final report.

    For example, a line that said: “At present, there is insufficient information available at this early stage on the net cost of maintaining and operating a proposed extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway” was removed entirely.

    There were also several additions to the final report.

    An entire section on ridership projections, focusing on the 14,000 figure, was added.

    Importantly, this line was included in summary: “TTC staff have identified that either an LRT or subway can effectively serve the Scarborough RT transit corridor. Each technology option offers distinct advantages.”

    On July 10, Keesmaat emailed Pennachetti with the subject “Subway vs LRT” to offer more evidence of the LRT’s benefits.

    “Are you aware that the LRT travels through 3 priority neighbourhoods and the subway travels through one?”

    “Are you aware that this will double the city’s debt — the cost is 3 billion?”

    Pennachetti appears to not have responded by email.

    The next day, Keesmaat emailed Councillor Josh Matlow’s senior policy adviser, Andrew Athanasiu, who had asked for information to support an opinion piece he was drafting to send to the Star. Matlow had been strongly opposed to the push for a subway from the beginning.

    Keesmaat told him they were still working on the report to council, due the next day, and that it had been a “significant negotiation around the table.” She wanted to know what kind of material he needed.

    Athanasiu responded that the piece had already been submitted. “That’s fine,” he said. “There’s an embarrassment of riches as to why this is a bad idea.”

    “It is an embarrassment of riches,” Keesmaat replied. “It is a significant overbuilding of the needed infrastructure.”

    She also noted the cost for a subway, as spelled out in the report, would be “mind boggling” — much higher than anticipated.

    “Has this changed Joe P’s mind at all?” Athanasiu asked, inquiring about the city manager.

    Keesmaat didn’t answer that question in her subsequent email.

    Emails also show that in July staff were monitoring Keesmaat’s tweets and printing them out for her superior, Livey, to see.

    In an email this week, Livey said: “Since I did not access Twitter regularly, I asked staff to print them for me. Staff regularly receive media and social media updates/clippings from strategic communications to help better inform us of the coverage on topics of high interest to the public.”

    When the report was finalized, the recommendations were not at all what Keesmaat had earlier envisioned.

    Instead, it gave council a choice, presenting the subway and the LRT as potential equals, with some caveats. In doing so, staff told council to choose instead of making a firm recommendation as the original outline had done.

    The 45-member council convened on July 16 to discuss the report and make a choice.

    It wasn’t even close. Council voted instead to build a subway, 28-16 (one councillor was absent).

    The subway was again confirmed in a subsequent vote in October, which approved a tax increase to help cover the more than billion-dollar increase in costs. In the years that followed, Keesmaat worked to create a compromise that Mayor John Tory, who campaigned on building the subway, and his allies could support.

    It involved reducing the number of stops from three to one and pitching that the savings could be used to build an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus.

    In presenting the idea she argued an “express” subway — a favoured term of Tory’s — could be beneficial in the context of a network plan.

    But since that plan was unveiled, mounting costs related to the subway have meant the funds already set aside may not even cover the cost of the subway, let alone the LRT.

    And a recently published study on the subway estimates that in 2055, trains will still be two-thirds empty at rush hour — which would mean steep costs for the city to operate it.

    Announcing she’ll decamp from her post at the end of September this year, Keesmaat will be long gone before any of it is hashed out at council and construction green-lighted.

    At that July debate, Matlow, fighting to keep the LRT plan in place, asked Keesmaat to address the bigger question directly, out in the open. Which would be better for the city?

    Keesmaat, on her feet in the cavernous council chamber, tried to make it clear.

    “Based on the criteria that we have for great city-building, looking at economic development, supporting healthy neighbourhoods, affordability, choice in the system, the LRT option is, in fact, more desirable.”

    “I just want to make sure that my colleagues heard that,” Matlow said as his time to question ran out. “So, you’re saying that all of the evidence-based criteria that you’re using, the LRT for this specific route is the preferred option for Scarborough and Toronto.”

    “That’s correct,” Keesmaat said.


    0 0


    As Canadians, what is it about the image of a dying child that moves us so?

    You may remember the harrowing pictures of Ethiopia’s starving children 30 years ago during their historic famine. Their plight spurred Canadians on to lead the world in famine relief.

    Or how about the heartbreaking photo two years ago of the lifeless body of tiny Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach? It encouraged Canada to become a world leader in welcoming Syrian refugees.

    Yes, what is it about the image of a dying child that moves us as Canadians — except, it seems, if these children come from Yemen, the scene of what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

    What else are we to conclude?

    According to the UN, Yemen is on the brink of famine. Nearly two million Yemeni children are starving and many have died or have been seriously injured in bombing attacks by the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

    Dramatic photos of these children finally became public this week — and have gone viral around the world on social media — in spite of sweeping Saudi efforts to block media coverage.

    As Canadians, we should stare at these pictures and be ashamed. This time, unlike in Ethiopia and Syria, Canada is no innocent bystander. Our support of this criminal Saudi action may not be as direct as that of the United States and Britain. But our hands are as bloodied.

    By becoming a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, Canada is very much complicit in the war crimes being waged against Yemeni civilians by the Saudi military.

    Like most everywhere in the Arab world, the story of this conflict is not a simple one – and blame for what is happening should be widely shared.

    In the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen’s conflict began as a domestic struggle between Houthi rebels sympathetic to Iran and a government supported by Saudi Arabia. It soon turned into a proxy war between the region’s two dominant rivals.

    For the past two years, the Saudi-led military coalition has taken the fight to the rebels, bombing civilians and blockading the besieged rebel-held areas. The impact of the conflict on the Yemeni population has been horrific.

    The death toll has surpassed 10,000 — with many of them children — and more than 40,000 people have been wounded. According to observers, most of the injuries and death can be traced to the Saudi coalition, and many of them come from direct Saudi airstrikes on civilians, which would constitute war crimes.

    What fuels Saudi Arabia’s regional ambitions is a massive military buildup in recent years. Like feeding drugs to an addict, the U.S. and Britain have led the way in arms sales to the Saudi military, and they have also provided logistical support and intelligence to the Yemeni mission.

    Canada is not officially a member of the Saudi coalition in Yemen but we have been an enthusiastic arms supplier to the Saudi military.

    A government report in June indicated that the Saudi government purchased more than $142 million of Canadian arms in 2016, and this made Saudi Arabia the biggest recipient of Canadian arms other than the United States.

    Although the government claims these sales impose restrictions on how the Saudis can use Canadian combat vehicles, there are indications that these limits are being ignored.

    Recent video disclosed by The Globe and Mail and the CBC suggests that the Saudis may have deployed Canadian vehicles against Saudi citizens. And in 2016, it appeared that Canadian-made armoured vehicles were operating in Yemen.

    Is this a surprise? Of course not. Only the naive and delusional would believe that Saudi Arabia would treat Canada’s “restrictions” seriously.

    So, if we look closely at the pictures of the Yemeni children being circulated this week, we have a choice as Canadians.

    We can admit our complicity in these crimes, and move on.

    Or we can remember what Ethiopia in 1985 and Syria in 2015 revealed about Canadians — and conclude that we can do better.

    A starting point would be to do what Amnesty international is urging of Canada: to call upon all states — including Canada — to stop supplying any weapons and military equipment to all the warring parties in Yemen.

    I wonder what these Yemeni children would want us to do.

    Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News. Reach him @TonyBurman or at tony.burman@gmail.com .


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    BIRMINGHAM, ALA.—When the Civil War was over, when the dead were buried and the union was reunited, it came time to tell tales and write history. In reunion gatherings and living rooms alike, differing versions of the causes of the conflict became as hardened as sun-baked Georgia clay.

    More than a century and a half later, those dueling narratives are with us still.

    Did 620,000 die, as Northerners would have it, in a noble quest to save the union and end slavery — the nation’s horrific original sin? Or was the “War Between the States” a gallant crusade to limit federal power, with slavery playing a lesser part, as Southerners insisted?

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    After all this time, it could be argued that it doesn’t matter, but the blood that was shed over a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, is powerful evidence that it does. The national dispute over the fate of stone and bronze monuments begs this larger question: How does one country with two histories move forward?

    The answer, some say, is by seizing a rare chance to build a shared history through small steps.

    “This is a moment to acknowledge the incredible change that we have seen among American people when they look at their past,” said Peter Carmichael, a history professor at Gettysburg College.

    Academics and others told The Associated Press the road to avoiding a more divisive future may be lined with discussions rather than shouting matches; more complete history lessons; local, rather than state or national action; and a renewed focus on individuals who fought and were impacted by the war, including the deprivations they endured.

    The drafting of men for the war, desertions in the Confederate and Union armies, political disagreements and dissent are among things not well represented in the memories of the conflict, especially not through monuments, said Stephen Rockenbach, history professor at Virginia State University. Americans can draw on primary sources, including writings of people who lived during that time period and their diaries to understand different viewpoints.

    “The danger occurs when you only look at one aspect, one person, one battle, even one time frame,” he said.

    Historians often don’t reach consensus on interpretations of the past and the general public can’t be expected to, either, Rockenbach said.

    “How then do we convey this huge experience that all kinds of Americans went through in meaningful way?” he said. “Statues do not do a very good job of doing that on their own.”

    Carmichael, the Gettysburg College professor, said some of the problems of today could be addressed by doing a better job of explaining the war and how it affected a group that generally was ignored by both sides after Appomattox Courthouse: black Americans.

    Rather than simply tearing down statues, interpretive markers should be used at Confederate monuments to show the systematic oppression of black people through lynching, the denial of voting rights, and segregation, he said. That way, Americans can understand that the system of slavery destroyed by the Civil War didn’t create equality but instead ushered in Jim Crow laws.

    Reconciliation won’t happen in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville, he said. The best change might be through local efforts where people who know each other can hash things out.

    “The more it’s done from far away, the more I think it’s likely to provoke resentment and anger, and not lead to anything wonderfully productive,” he said.

    Civil War veterans reunited on battlefields for years after the fight. But today, organizations composed of descendants of the armies that battled from 1861 to 1865 have few dealings with each other or conversations on a broad level.

    The head of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Mark Day, said opening a shared dialogue about the nation’s history might be a good start.

    “We’re Americans. We have an ability to hold different opinions and share different opinions,” said Day, the national commander. “I think it’s a national thing that we maybe have to talk to each other.”

    Thomas V. Strain Jr. is Day’s Southern equivalent, commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is more than three times the size of the Union group with some 33,000 members. Strain doesn’t mind talking to Union descendants — he recently attended a gathering of the Northern group — but he doesn’t know that discussions will help.

    “Until society as a whole changes and we start seeing things for what they are, I don’t think at any time we’re going to be able to sit down and reconcile,” said Strain, of Athens, Alabama.

    The Southern descendants’ group supports the preservation of Confederate monuments and members often espouse the traditional, Southern view of the war that minimizes the role of slavery in the conflict. But it didn’t officially participate in the Aug. 12 demonstration in Charlottesville that ended in multiple injuries and the death of a woman who was killed when a car allegedly driven by a man aligned with white supremacists plowed into a crowd.

    The group continues to memorialize its forebears; members were on hand for the dedication of a monument to unknown Confederate dead on private property in rural south Alabama on Aug. 24. The NAACP spoke out against the project, calling it a step backward.

    Bernard Simelton, president of the civil rights group’s Alabama chapter, said he’s not interested in coming together to reach a consensus on Civil War history while Confederate monuments are still going up.

    “The monuments have to come down before you can begin an honest conversation because as long as they are up and that flag is flying it leaves African Americans to say, ‘You don’t value our feelings, you don’t understand our pain,’” Simelton said.

    Strain said many on the pro-Confederate side just aren’t willing to budge after seeing monuments and Confederate monuments removed.

    “I think we have to stand firm at this point,” he said.


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    WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump has sent lawmakers an initial request for a $7.9 billion down payment toward Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

    The request, expected to be swiftly approved by Congress, would add $7.4 billion to rapidly dwindling Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid coffers and $450 million to finance disaster loans for small businesses.

    Republican leaders are already making plans to use the aid package, certain to be overwhelmingly popular, to win speedy approval of a contentious increase in the federal borrowing limit.

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    A senior House Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations were private, disclosed the approach. It ignores objections from House conservatives who are insisting that disaster money for Harvey should not be paired with the debt limit increase. Other senior GOP aides cautioned that no final decision had been made, and Democrats, whose votes would be needed in the Senate, are cool to the approach.

    For GOP lawmakers who support a straightforward increase in the debt limit, pairing it with Harvey money makes the unpopular vote easier to cast. Congress must act by Sept. 29 to increase the United States’ $19.9 trillion debt limit, in order to permit the government to continue borrowing money to pay bills like Social Security and interest. Failing to raise the debt limit would risk a market-shattering first-ever U.S. default.

    “Look, some members are going to vote against the debt ceiling under any circumstances and they want their ‘no’ vote to be as easy as possible,” said Rep. Charlie Dent. “The issue is not making the debt ceiling vote easier for the ‘no’ votes. The issue is making it easier for the ‘yes’ votes.”

    The government’s cash reserves are running low since the nation’s debt limit has actually already been reached, and the Treasury Department is using various accounting measures to cover expenses. Billions of dollars in Harvey aid are an unexpected cost that at least raises the potential that Congress would have to act earlier than expected to increase the government’s borrowing authority.

    The House is likely to pass the Harvey aid as a stand-alone bill, but GOP leaders are signalling that the Senate may add the debt increase to it. Then the House would swiftly vote again to send it to Trump. The plan is still tentative, but the White House signalled it’s on board with the idea. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney urged lawmakers in a letter outlining the aid request to “act expeditiously to ensure that the debt ceiling does not affect these critical response and recovery efforts.”

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    Meanwhile, despite threats from Trump that he would shut down the government if his U.S.-Mexico border wall is not paid for, lawmakers and aides say the White House has eased off that threat and any fight over the border wall will be delayed until later in the year.

    “I just don’t think a shutdown is in anyone’s interest or needed for anyone’s interests,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in an interview Friday with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    The initial package of Harvey aid would replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funds through Sept. 30.

    The initial Harvey package is just the first instalment for immediate disaster response like housing assistance, cleanup and FEMA-financed home repairs. The White House says more than 436,000 households have registered for FEMA aid. Estimates for longer-term rebuilding costs will take weeks or month to prepare, but the magnitude of the disaster could rival or exceed the damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which cost taxpayers $110 billion.

    An additional $5 billion to $8 billion for Harvey could be tucked into a catch-all spending bill Congress must pass in the coming weeks to fund the government past Sept. 30, according to the senior House Republican. The final rebuilding package would be far larger and is likely by year’s end.

    Ryan said nothing will stop a Harvey aid bill from getting through Congress and he didn’t foresee any problems with it passing, despite opposition to federal aid from some Republicans following Superstorm Sandy.

    “It’s going to take us time until we know the full scope of it,” Ryan said of Harvey’s toll. He said a storm the size of Harvey is unprecedented, and because of that it “deserves and requires federal response.”

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell concurred, issuing a statement Friday night promising that the “Senate stands ready to act quickly” on the measure.


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    WASHINGTON—After a summer of staff shakeups and self-made crises, President Donald Trump is emerging politically damaged, personally agitated and continuing to buck at the confines of his office, according to some close allies.

    For weeks, the West Wing has been upended by a reorganization that Trump has endorsed and, later, second-guessed, including his choice of retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as chief of staff. The president recently lashed out at Kelly after a boisterous rally in Phoenix, an incident relayed by a person with knowledge of the matter. In private conversations, Trump has levelled indiscriminate and harsh criticism on the rest of his remaining team.

    Seven months into his tenure, Trump has yet to put his mark on any signature legislation and his approval ratings are sagging. Fellow Republicans have grown weary of his volatility, and Trump spent the summer tangling with some of the same lawmakers he’ll need to work with in the coming weeks to pass a government funding bill, raise the country’s borrowing limit and make a difficult bid for tax overhaul legislation.

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    “He’s in a weak position,” said Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend. “A lot of the Republican establishment has not been supportive, his poll numbers are down and he has spent most of his early presidency appealing to his base while most presidents would be seeking more consensus.”

    That sentiment was echoed in interviews with 10 White House officials, Republican operatives and others with close ties to the president. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose private conversations with the president and his staff.

    Some White House officials believe Trump did find his footing during the response to Harvey, which they say has given him an opening to demonstrate presidential leadership. Trump has eagerly promoted the federal government’s response and recovery efforts, and on Saturday was making his second visit to the region in a week.

    The White House has asked Congress for an initial $7.9 billion in emergency aid, a request expected to win quick approval.

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    During an Oval Office event Friday, Trump struck a rare unifying tone: “As Americans, we know that no challenge is too great for us to overcome — no challenge.”

    But the government’s largely well-received handling of the storm has not soothed Trump’s own frustrations, according to those who speak with him regularly. Trump told one associate he missed his old life in New York. And he’s become increasingly focused on the prospect of losing support among his core supporters — the voters he once said would stick with him even if he shot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

    “I don’t think it’s a worry or a concern as much as it’s a reality,” Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to the president, said of Trump’s preoccupation with his base. “It’s a reality that he understands politically.”

    Polls show Trump losing a bit of ground with some of his core constituencies. A Fox News survey released last week put Trump’s overall approval rating at 41 per cent, and notably cited a 7 percentage point drop among conservatives and a 9 point drop among whites without a college degree, one of Trump’s strongest voting groups.

    The recent reorganization in the White House has done little to determine the ideological course of Trump’s presidency or shed light on how he will approach the looming showdowns in Congress.

    While strategist Steve Bannon, who repeatedly preached to Trump the importance of fulfilling his campaign promises, left the White House shortly after Kelly’s arrival, the president has made aggressive moves on some of the issues Bannon promoted. Trump said he would shut down the government next month unless Republicans give him money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and he issued a controversial pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. Trump is also considering rolling back deportation protections for young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, a step he previously intimated to top advisers that he would rather avoid.

    Some Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, are urging Trump to keep those immigration protections, and longtime allies are encouraging him to think beyond the wishes of the voters who pack Trump’s raucous rallies.

    “Steve Bannon got the president and a lot of people believing they had to fulfil a checklist number of promises I don’t believe his supporters require him to do that,” Ruddy said. He added that as long as Trump appeals only to that group of voters, he will be focused only on “a fraction of conservatives, a minority viewpoint.”

    Kelly’s mark on policy and the direction of the administration remains uncertain. He is not viewed as particularly ideological, though White House officials praised his work putting in place Trump’s travel ban and other immigration policies when he ran the Department of Homeland Security during the first six months of the administration.

    So far, Kelly has largely focused on tightening up West Wing protocols and ousting staff that he deemed problematic or unproductive. He moved quickly to limit the flow of information to Trump from some of the news sources Bannon promoted, including Breitbart News, where the conservative provocateur has returned after leaving the White House.

    Trump developed a deep respect for Kelly during his tenure at Homeland Security. But he’s chafed at some of Kelly’s attempts to limit his access to information or former campaign officials, who became accustomed to frequent, easy access to the president. Some Trump advisers outside the West Wing believe the relationship between Trump and Kelly is inevitably doomed, given their dramatically different personalities and styles.

    But there is no sign that another shakeup is imminent, and Trump has sought to quiet speculation in the media about an emerging rift.

    “General John Kelly is doing a great job as Chief of Staff,” Trump wrote on Twitter Friday. “I could not be happier or more impressed.”


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    BAGHDAD—At least three attackers entered a power station in Samarra Saturday and blew themselves up, killing seven workers and wounding eight security forces, Iraqi authorities said.

    Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool said two attackers disguised themselves as workers and a third wore a security forces uniform. Samarra is 125 kilometres north of Baghdad.

    Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, claimed responsibility for the dawn attack in an online statement, saying 10 “apostates” had been killed and another 20 wounded.

    Electricity Ministry spokesman Musaab al-Mudaris said seven employees were killed and eight security forces were wounded. He said there were four attackers.

    Al-Mudaris said one attacker was shot dead and the others blew themselves up.


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    WHITEHORSE—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poured nearly a quarter of a billion dollars into Yukon’s highway network Saturday in hopes it will lead to resource development, but some Indigenous leaders remain wary about environmental implications.

    Trudeau and Yukon Premier Sandy Silver announced their two governments will spend more than $360 million to improve road access to mineral-rich areas in the territory. The federal share amounts to $247 million of that total.

    The governments say the money will upgrade more than 650 kilometres of road and build or upgrade a number of bridges for highways leading into the Dawson Range in Central Yukon and the Nahanni Range in the southeast part of the territory.

    Trudeau says strong infrastructure is necessary to develop Yukon’s natural resources.

    “It’s an investment in the future of Yukon’s natural resources sector, more than that it’s an investment in its people,” he said.

    Trudeau and Silver stressed they’ll consult First Nations whose traditional territories will be affected by the highway work.

    Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Russell Blackjack said negotiations are ongoing and noted a main area of concern is the potential impact on the environment.

    “I believe there’s a lot of issues that we haven’t come to an agreement with yet, especially with regards to the environment,” he said.

    Chief George Morgan of the Liard First Nation also said an impact benefit agreement will be negotiated for the portion of the project that will run through Kaska traditional territory. He said the project will benefit the region and create jobs.

    “I really find this to be something to celebrate for the Yukon,” he said.

    Along the roadways highlighted in the project are several mines that have yet to receive regulatory approval. These include the Goldcorp Coffee Gold mine project and the Casino Mining Corp.’s open-pit mine project.

    But Samson Hartland, the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, said this is a forward-thinking commitment.

    “This is a visionary investment,” he said. “This is not about three or four specific mining projects. This is about unlocking Yukon’s mineral potential.”

    Trudeau made the announcement on the second day of his visit to Whitehorse, his first in the Yukon since becoming prime minister. On his first night he met with locals for refreshments at the Yukon River waterfront as he extolled the virtues of the territory and its people.

    Following Saturday’s announcement, he surprised many residents by walking down part of Main St., shaking hands and posing for selfies.


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    As Canadians, what is it about the image of a dying child that moves us so?

    You may remember the harrowing pictures of Ethiopia’s starving children 30 years ago during their historic famine. Their plight spurred Canadians on to lead the world in famine relief.

    Or how about the heartbreaking photo two years ago of the lifeless body of tiny Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach? It encouraged Canada to become a world leader in welcoming Syrian refugees.

    Yes, what is it about the image of a dying child that moves us as Canadians — except, it seems, if these children come from Yemen, the scene of what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

    What else are we to conclude?

    According to the UN, Yemen is on the brink of famine. Nearly two million Yemeni children are starving and many have died or have been seriously injured in bombing attacks by the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

    Dramatic photos of these children finally became public this week — and have gone viral around the world on social media — in spite of sweeping Saudi efforts to block media coverage.

    As Canadians, we should stare at these pictures and be ashamed. This time, unlike in Ethiopia and Syria, Canada is no innocent bystander. Our support of this criminal Saudi action may not be as direct as that of the United States and Britain. But our hands are as bloodied.

    By becoming a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, Canada is very much complicit in the war crimes being waged against Yemeni civilians by the Saudi military.

    Like most everywhere in the Arab world, the story of this conflict is not a simple one – and blame for what is happening should be widely shared.

    In the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen’s conflict began as a domestic struggle between Houthi rebels sympathetic to Iran and a government supported by Saudi Arabia. It soon turned into a proxy war between the region’s two dominant rivals.

    For the past two years, the Saudi-led military coalition has taken the fight to the rebels, bombing civilians and blockading the besieged rebel-held areas. The impact of the conflict on the Yemeni population has been horrific.

    The death toll has surpassed 10,000 — with many of them children — and more than 40,000 people have been wounded. According to observers, most of the injuries and death can be traced to the Saudi coalition, and many of them come from direct Saudi airstrikes on civilians, which would constitute war crimes.

    What fuels Saudi Arabia’s regional ambitions is a massive military buildup in recent years. Like feeding drugs to an addict, the U.S. and Britain have led the way in arms sales to the Saudi military, and they have also provided logistical support and intelligence to the Yemeni mission.

    Canada is not officially a member of the Saudi coalition in Yemen but we have been an enthusiastic arms supplier to the Saudi military.

    A government report in June indicated that the Saudi government purchased more than $142 million of Canadian arms in 2016, and this made Saudi Arabia the biggest recipient of Canadian arms other than the United States.

    Although the government claims these sales impose restrictions on how the Saudis can use Canadian combat vehicles, there are indications that these limits are being ignored.

    Recent video disclosed by The Globe and Mail and the CBC suggests that the Saudis may have deployed Canadian vehicles against Saudi citizens. And in 2016, it appeared that Canadian-made armoured vehicles were operating in Yemen.

    Is this a surprise? Of course not. Only the naive and delusional would believe that Saudi Arabia would treat Canada’s “restrictions” seriously.

    So, if we look closely at the pictures of the Yemeni children being circulated this week, we have a choice as Canadians.

    We can admit our complicity in these crimes, and move on.

    Or we can remember what Ethiopia in 1985 and Syria in 2015 revealed about Canadians — and conclude that we can do better.

    A starting point would be to do what Amnesty international is urging of Canada: to call upon all states — including Canada — to stop supplying any weapons and military equipment to all the warring parties in Yemen.

    I wonder what these Yemeni children would want us to do.

    Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News. Reach him @TonyBurman or at tony.burman@gmail.com .


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    Game in, game out, Mike Morreale always knew what was expected of him when he stepped onto the football field.

    His job as a receiver was to grab the tough yards, get the first downs and take the big hits in the middle of the field.

    Morreale played 12 years in the CFL — that’s 216 regular-season games — and he never missed one of them.

    Over his career, the Hamilton native says he was never diagnosed with a single concussion, which seems astonishing.

    Now that he can look back on his career, how many concussions does he think he suffered?

    “I would have had one every game,” said Morreale, now 46. “Every game.

    “Every game I would have seen stars. Every game I would have had light-headedness. Every game I would have had an issue for a few plays in the huddle after a big hit.

    “I just thought it’s part of the game, that’s what happens,” Morreale added. “I never missed a game my whole career, so add ’em up.”

    He doesn’t blame the team’s medical staff because he says he never told them about the damage he was absorbing.

    “There were many times — probably 30 or 40 games in my career — where I probably shouldn’t have played,” said Morreale. “But I did. You felt you had to be invincible.

    “And I was always scared of someone taking my job,” he added. “That’s the culture that existed in sports.”

    Every former player has at least one story of being knocked senseless on the field at some point and then picking up — or trying to — as if nothing had happened.

    “It was ‘Gladiators,’” said Ticat Hall of Fame linebacker Ben Zambiasi, known throughout his 11-year career as a ferocious hitter.

    “You wanted to eliminate as many of the other players as possible,” said Zambiasi. “The more guys you got out, the better.”

    Kerry Smith, a receiver who played six CFL seasons, including four with the Ticats in the late ’70s and early ’80s, said the tactic in those days was for a defender to wrap up the ball carrier and hold him upright, rather than trying to tackle him to the ground.

    That way, other defenders could take a run at the player, inflicting as much damage as possible.

    He remembers being held up one time by another player, completely defenceless, and having the left side of his head smashed at full speed by a tackler.

    “One of my fillings popped out,” he said.

    After a few plays, he was sent back in.

    He couldn’t see out of his left eye, he said, and the vision in his right eye was garbled “like when the vertical hold used to go in those old TVs.”

    Lee Knight spent 11 seasons in the CFL with the Ticats as a receiver and running back.

    He recalls a time playing in Winnipeg when he jumped to catch a pass and then a defensive back came from underneath and took his legs out. Knight landed on his head.

    One of the Winnipeg players guided Knight back to the bench and told the Ticats’ trainer that he “wasn’t right.”

    The next thing Knight remembers is being on the bench. He started giggling because a rush of childhood memories were flashing through his mind, like a video of his life.

    He tried to go back on the field, but someone had hidden his helmet as a precaution.

    Here are the stories from some of the players who took part in the Spectator’s concussion project:

    When Dan Ferrone watches football now and sees a vicious hit, he shudders.

    “Because I go ‘I did that?’ I can’t believe it,” he said. “I don’t normally watch highlights of myself but when I do, I go ‘Holy sh-t, what the hell was I thinking?’

    “When your aggressiveness is there, you don’t even recognize how you use your head,” Ferrone said. “Other than your hands, it’s probably your No. 1 weapon in the game of football.”

    As an offensive lineman, Ferrone said his head was taking punishment on virtually every play.

    “A running back might not get the ball or a receiver might catch six or seven balls and get tackled and that’s the extent of a great game,” said Ferrone. “Whereas, 60 or 70 offensive plays or however many offensive plays there were in a game, on 98 per cent of those plays as an offensive lineman you were hitting something.

    “And if you weren’t, you weren’t going to be on the team much longer.”

    Ferrone says he was diagnosed with one or two concussions, but suspects now he may have had as many as 10.

    “Do I remember having nausea? Yes,” he said. “Do I remember having the spins or not being able to stand or practice the next day? Yes.

    “Back then the remedy was to stay in a dark room,” he said. “But then when practice started, you had to come out and watch practice.

    “I can remember twice, once in college, once in the pros, that I had trouble standing and watching practice.

    “The concussions were something that could actually give you a break during the week,” he added. “You wouldn’t practice so you didn’t have to hit the rest of the week, so that was always a blessing.”

    Ferrone said he hasn’t experienced symptoms of depression or irritability and calls himself “a happy person.”

    “I don’t think I worry more than any other person,” said Ferrone.

    “The scenario of walking into a room and forgetting why you walked into a room is shared by many of my friends that never played any sport,” he said. “The issue that I fear is walking into a room and not knowing where that room is.”

    “Today, I’m confident that I’m not worse for wear but that could change very quickly.”

    It was just the second game of Bob MacDonald’s university football career when he suffered his only diagnosed concussion.

    He was an 18-year-old offensive lineman for McMaster during the 1986 season and lined up opposite him was a University of Guelph defender he describes as “giganto” — 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds.

    “I went out to cut him and I took his knee right to the side of my head,” said MacDonald. “I dropped and as I started to get up on my hands and knees and raised my head, everything was blue and green. It was just bizarre.

    “I started walking toward the bench and the guy who was playing guard beside me said ‘Bobby, where are you going?’ I said ‘I’m going to the bench.’ He said ‘We’re the other way.’”

    MacDonald played the second half of the game, but he doesn’t remember anything about it.

    After the game, he went back to his parents’ house in Burlington and spent most of the next day, a Sunday, vomiting.

    “But then Monday, I strapped them back on and was back at practice,” said MacDonald.

    Back then, MacDonald said, he was taught to employ three points of contact — punch out with two hands, and then he taps the middle of his forehead, “right here, where your cage and your helmet meet.”

    “I would try to knock snot out of my nose every single contact,” he said. “If I saw snot on my face mask, I thought ‘that’s fantastic.’

    “It’s craziness.”

    MacDonald, now a teacher at Saltfleet Secondary School, is also one of the coaches of the football team.

    He admits he’s really struggling with that role, particularly now that he has participated in this project.

    “It’s a real moral conundrum,” he said. “This might be the final straw.

    “When there are big hits, I’m almost triggered off, like a PTSD response,” MacDonald said. “Like, ‘Oh my God, what just happened to that kid’s brain?’”

    A retired Argonaut receiver, now in his 50s, spent 16 years playing football, starting at age 11, and he admits he now has concerns about the future.

    (As part of the research project protocol, participants were guaranteed anonymity if desired.)

    “Some of it may be natural aging of the brain, but a lot of it I’m wondering ‘Would I be forgetting this? Would I be acting this way if it wasn’t for football?’” he said.

    He was never diagnosed with a concussion, but he does recall a couple of times when he suffered short-term blackouts from hits.

    “Back in those days, you weren’t really seen by medical staff or kept out of play for long,” he said. “The old ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’ and then you’re back in within a few minutes.

    “I can’t even count the number of times where I had impacts where I didn’t necessarily black out, but you’re dazed and just kind of shake it off and get back in the huddle.

    “It was part of the culture,” he said. “The whole peer thing, the whole macho thing.”

    The player said he refused to allow his children to play football, and if he could turn back the clock, he probably wouldn’t have played either.

    “Had we known this information back when we were playing or thinking of playing, that would have changed a lot of our minds and certainly our parents’ minds,” he said.

    “What parent would want to have their kid participating in a sport where there’s a near certainty of having a brain injury if they played for a number of years?”

    It was 1975 and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, the “ordinary superstar” as he described himself, was electrifying the CFL with his long punt returns.

    “So what opposition defences would do is say ‘To hell with the penalty on no yards, we’ll just take him out,’” said Don Bowman.

    That was bad news for Bowman, who was playing his rookie season in Winnipeg and ended up returning punts himself.

    He was playing in B.C. and back waiting for a punt, with his head up. A B.C. linebacker came racing at him.

    “He’s run 50 yards, he has a towel taped on his arm, so it’s kind of like a cast, and as I’m looking up for the ball, he hits me in the face with a clothesline,” Bowman recalled. “I haven’t even touched the ball yet and I’m down.

    “My face mask is broken, my nose is broken,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I was out for a bit.”

    The trainer ran out and snapped Bowman’s nose back into place with a click. He went to the sideline, cotton swabs were jammed in his nostrils and he thinks he missed one series of plays.

    Then he played the rest of the game, “spitting and swallowing blood.”

    Bowman was never diagnosed with a concussion, but he now thinks in hindsight he may have suffered between six and 10 of them at all levels of football.

    As the interview concludes, Bowman asks a small favour.

    Despite the startling results from the Spectator’s concussion project, despite the damage he may have sustained from the violence of the game, he doesn’t want to be portrayed as being anti-football.

    He’s happy with the choices he’s made and he’s happy with his life.

    “The reality is, you make your decisions and they come with consequences — some good, some bad,” he said. “How you handle them is up to you.

    “You had a chance to excel at something you dreamed about doing and you made it. That’s pretty cool.

    “Out of that whole thing, you developed a personality and a drive or a discipline that helped you do other things in your life,” he added. “So why would you change all that?”

    Jokingly — maybe half joking — Rocky DiPietro says he’s going to post the findings of the Spectator’s concussion project on the fridge so then he can just point to it the next time he forgets something.

    The results, though, are no laughing matter, he admits.

    “Even though you hear about on the radio and read it in the paper, it’s still surprising to see the facts in front of you,” he said. “I didn’t know it was that bad.

    “If you knew the results would you do it all over again? I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s certainly sobering to see all the facts in front of you and know that there’s something to it.”

    DiPietro played 14 seasons, all with Hamilton, and became one of the CFL’s best-ever receivers. Despite absorbing hundreds of punishing hits, DiPietro thinks he managed to escape the sport relatively unscathed.

    “I’d like to look at the positive and think that maybe I’m one of the people who wasn’t affected too much, but I guess I don’t really know,” said DiPietro.

    “I think about it more and more,” he said. “You’re always questioning.

    “If I forget something is there more to it? But I also realize that I’m aging, too.”

    Like Morreale, DiPietro says he was never diagnosed with a concussion. Looking back, he now thinks he may have suffered as many as a dozen.

    “I had my head dinged quite a few times,” he said. “I never really lost consciousness but there were a few times I saw stars and saw black, or getting up wobbly because your head was kind of spinning.”

    For him, the expression “getting your bell rung” was accurate.

    “Hearing the bells, oh yeah,” he said. “Hearing that pitch and then just trying to shake it off as fast as you could and get back to the huddle.”

    DiPietro coached high school football for many years and he still enjoys watching the game, but it bothers him when he sees a violent collision on the field.

    “You get that feeling back when someone gets hit really bad,” he said. “When two guys collide, it kind of brings back some of those memories.

    “You kind of know almost what they’re feeling and it’s not a good thing. Especially now with slow motion — you can see the impact.

    “And I think TV likes that,” he added. “They like the viewers to see that.”

    A year and a half ago, Marv Allemang, 64, was watching Super Bowl 50 when they marched out all of the previous MVPs from Super Bowls past.

    “I remember saying ‘Hey, I’ve got something in common with all those Super Bowl MVPs — we all walk the same,’” Allemang said. “Everybody hobbled out there almost, or tried not to show it.”

    Allemang spent 14 seasons in the CFL, half of them with the Tiger-Cats. He then went on to have a second career as a firefighter, a profession that carries a different set of risks than football.

    “I feel blessed to have been able to be a professional football player and a professional firefighter,” he said, “but you also have to be aware that those are occupations that have side effects and dangers.”

    Allemang said he was never diagnosed with a concussion, but believes he may have suffered a couple from football. He says he was fortunate to have never lost consciousness on the field, but he does remember having headaches.

    “Sometimes I would think it was from wearing my helmet too tight but who knows?” he said. “I’d have headaches and sometimes a bruise on the outside of my skull from the helmet.”

    Allemang admits he worries about what the future holds for him but he tries not to dwell on it.

    “It’s not something I’m depressed about and it doesn’t really affect my mental state,” he said.

    “You ask yourself honestly ‘Would you still do it?’ and if the answer is yes, then you’ve just got to accept it.

    “That’s the decision you made and you go with it,” he added.

    Bob Macoritti, 66, remembers he had just booted a kickoff and was running down the field.

    It was the mid-’70s and he was playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders against Winnipeg, his former team. One of his friends was on the field for the Bombers.

    “He comes by me and goes ‘Boo’ and he just keeps running by,” Macoritti said. “I’m thinking ‘OK, he didn’t hit me, that’s good.’”

    Then the play changed direction and Macoritti turned to get in position to make a tackle.

    “Well, he’s come from behind me and he’s waiting for me and as I turn, he just lays me right out,” said Macoritti. “Blindsided me.

    “The guys had a good laugh at me going ass over tea kettle on the film.

    “He hit me so hard that my insides felt like they were moving around, like they weren’t part of me, for about three or four days,” he said. “I’ve never felt that before or since.”

    Macoritti thinks he’s had three other concussions — two as a kid and one when he was on the field lacrosse team at university.

    “It was a three-hour bus ride back to the university throwing up the whole way,” he said.

    “They dropped me off in the hospital and I was in the hospital for five days.”

    Like other players, he says he now has some concerns about his short-term memory.

    “I’ll get up and go to do something and in the middle of it ‘What was I going to do?’” he said.

    “Don’t even give me your phone number because I won’t remember it. Names are tough.

    “But I think I’m still functional,” Macoritti said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to ascertain if your injuries are causing this or if it’s just the normal process of aging.”

    Would he do it again? There’s a pause.

    “Ummm … ahhh … it offered me a lot of opportunities,” he hesitates, then tears begin to flow.

    “I don’t know,” Macoritti said, wiping his eyes. “It’s one of the issues I have — I’ve become very emotional. Overly emotional.

    “And I know that can be one of the effects of concussions, an imbalance of your emotions.”

    After a horrid 2-16 season the year before, Mike Morreale and the 1998 edition of the Tiger-Cats suddenly found themselves among the CFL’s elite.

    It was the first year in Hamilton for quarterback Danny McManus and receiver Darren Flutie and with three games to go in the regular season, the Ticats were trying to clinch first place in the East Division.

    They were playing in Saskatchewan and it was second down and 22 yards to go. As luck would have it, Morreale was about 20 yards shy of having 1,000 yards in receptions for the season.

    “Danny threw kind of a line drive over the middle and I went up to get it, left my feet and before my feet could touch the ground, I took a shot in the face,” said Morreale.

    He hung on to the ball, jumped up and stretched out his arm to signal first down.

    “Holy, I didn’t know where I was,” he said. “I could have pointed the other direction — I just happened to land in the proper direction.

    “It’s one of the most hellacious hits I ever took in the head.”

    But there were also lots of random hits, he said, that hurt just as much — a forearm to the face mask, a knee to the temple during a pileup, or his helmet bouncing off the turf during a tackle.

    “The back of the head was always the most painful for me because instantly you’d see stars,” said Morreale. “Everything goes dark and you just kind of shake it off.

    “Can you imagine? Shaking off a brain injury? That’s what you’d do.

    “It’s crazy,” he said. “How do you shake off something that’s already shook in the first place?”

    Now, Morreale says he can’t go on roller-coasters, he can’t spin his daughter around and he doesn’t like anything that involves a lot of motion.

    “There’s a lot of things I can’t do because they make me feel nauseous, so I just avoid them,” he said. “What does the future hold? I don’t know.”

    And yet despite all the “hellacious” hits, despite his estimate he suffered a concussion per game, if someone gave him a chance to strap on the pads again for one more series of plays on the field, Morreale says he’d be tempted to say yes.

    “Physically, I think I could manage one series,” he said. “But that one hit I take could ruin my life.

    “That’s scary,” he said. “Because I think I have a lot of life ahead of me.”

    RELATED

    Study shows ‘disastrous’ damage in brains of retired CFL players

    sbuist@thespec.com

    905-526-3226


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    SEOUL—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a new “super explosive” hydrogen bomb meant to be loaded into an intercontinental ballistic missile, Pyongyang’s state media said Sunday, a claim to technological mastery that some outside experts will doubt but that raises the possibility of an imminent nuclear bomb test.

    Photos released by North Korea showed Kim talking with his lieutenants as he observed a silver, peanut-shaped device that was apparently the purported thermonuclear weapon destined for an ICBM. What appeared to be the nose cone of a missile could also be seen near the alleged bomb in one picture, which could not be independently verified and which was taken without outside journalists present. Another photo showed a diagram on the wall behind Kim of a bomb mounted inside a cone.

    Aside from the factuality of the North’s claim, the language in its statement seems a strong signal that Pyongyang will soon conduct another nuclear weapon test, which is crucial if North Korean scientists are to fulfil the national goal of an arsenal of viable nuclear ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. There’s speculation that such a test could come on or around the Sept. 9 anniversary of North Korea’s national founding, something it did last year.

    Read more:

    U.S. flies bombers, fighters in show of force against North Korea

    North Korea has fired a ballistic missile from its capital South Korean military says

    As part of the North’s weapons work, Kim was said by his propaganda mavens to have made a visit to the Nuclear Weapons Institute and inspected a “homemade” H-bomb with “super explosive power” that “is adjustable from tens kiloton to hundreds (of) kiloton,” the state run Korean Central News Agency said.

    North Korea in July conducted its first ICBM tests, part of a stunning jump in progress for the country’s nuclear and missile program since Kim rose to power following his father’s death in late 2011. The North followed its two tests of ICBMs, which, when perfected, could target large parts of the United States, by threatening to launch a salvo of its Hwasong-12 intermediate range missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam in August.

    It flew a Hwasong-12 over northern Japan last week, the first such overflight by a missile capable of carrying nukes, in a launch Kim described as a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam, the home of major U.S. military facilities, and more ballistic missile tests targeting the Pacific.

    Vipin Narang, an MIT professor specializing in nuclear strategy, said it’s important to note that North Korea was only showing a mockup of a two-stage thermonuclear device, or H-bomb. “We won’t know what they have until they test it, and even then there may be a great deal of uncertainty depending on the yield and seismic signature and any isotopes we can detect after a test,” he said.

    To back up its claims to nuclear mastery, such tests are vital. The first of its two atomic tests last year involved what Pyongyang claimed was a sophisticated hydrogen bomb; the second it said was its most powerful atomic detonation ever.

    It is almost impossible to independently confirm North Korean statements about its highly secret weapons program. South Korean government officials said the estimated explosive yield of last year’s first test was much smaller than what even a failed hydrogen bomb detonation would produce. There was speculation that North Korea might have detonated a boosted fission bomb, a weapon considered halfway between an atomic bomb and an H-bomb.

    It is clear, however, that each new missile and nuclear test gives the North invaluable information that allows big jumps in capability. A key question is how far North Korea has gotten in efforts to consistently shrink down nuclear warheads so they can fit on long-range missiles.

    “Though we cannot verify the claim, (North Korea) wants us to believe that it can launch a thermonuclear strike now, if it is attacked. Importantly, (North Korea) will also want to test this warhead, probably at a larger yield, to demonstrate this capability,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

    North Korea is thought to have a growing arsenal of nuclear bombs and has spent decades trying to perfect a multistage, long-range missile to eventually carry smaller versions of those bombs.

    South Korea’s main spy agency has previously asserted that it does not think Pyongyang currently has the ability to develop miniaturized nuclear weapons that can be mounted on long-range ballistic missiles. Some experts, however, think the North may have mastered this technology.

    The White House said that President Donald Trump spoke with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan regarding “ongoing efforts to maximize pressure on North Korea.” The statement did not say whether the conversation came before or after the North's latest claim.

    A long line of U.S. presidents has failed to check North Korea’s persistent pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.

    The North said in its statement Sunday that its H-bomb “is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals.”

    Kim, according to the statement, claimed that “all components of the H-bomb were homemade . . . thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants.”

    In what could be read as a veiled warning of more nuclear tests, Kim underlined the need for scientists to “dynamically conduct the campaign for successfully concluding the final-stage research and development for perfecting the state nuclear force” and “set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes.”

    The two Koreas have shared the world’s most heavily fortified border since their war in the early 1950s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are deployed in South Korea as deterrence against North Korea.


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    WASHINGTON—An upbeat Donald Trump landed Saturday morning in Houston to get a firsthand look at a flooded and mud-choked metropolis devastated by Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall and storm surge, declaring himself “very happy” with rescue and recovery efforts.

    The U.S. president was in an optimistic, nearly exuberant mood during a stop at the NRG Center, a convention building converted into a temporary shelter housing 1,200 children and adults displaced by the waters. Touring the facility with television cameras in tow, Trump threw his arms around storm survivors — and they hugged him back — while posing for selfies and hoisting one young girl in his arms.

    “There’s a lot of love. As tough as it’s been, it’s been a wonderful thing to watch,” Trump said before heading into a room where he handed out cardboard boxes with hot dogs and potato chips to residents. “I’m going to do a little bit of help over here.”

    Trump, making his second trip to the region in the past week, also visited with emergency responders and others in Lake Charles, La., who helped during Harvey.

    At a Louisiana guard armoury, Trump thanked the emergency responders for their efforts.

    The trip to Houston and southwestern Louisiana, both of which were affected by Harvey, was part of an effort by the White House to highlight Trump’s empathy and personal connection with people in the region, after he was criticized for not meeting with hurricane survivors during his visit Tuesday.

    The president, wearing a broad smile and a blue windbreaker with the presidential seal Saturday, said shelter residents had given the recovery effort, and him, good reviews. “They’re really happy with what’s going on,” he told the reporters. “It’s something that’s been very well received. Even by you guys, it’s been very well received.”

    He added, “Have a good time, everybody!”

    Floodwaters are receding, and Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston declared his city, the fourth largest in the U.S., “open for business.”

    Still, many Houston streets remain more than a metre underwater after being pelted by 125 centimetres of rain over the past week. An estimated 100,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, with tens of thousands of displaced residents seeking shelter in local schools, in government buildings or on the couches of friends and neighbours lucky enough to live on higher ground.

    The reaction inside the shelter to Trump’s visit was mostly positive, with a quieter undercurrent of anxiety and skepticism.

    “Is he going to help? Can he help?” asked Devin Harris, 37, a construction worker. “I lost my home. My job is gone. My tools are gone. My car is gone. My life is gone. What is Trump going to do?”

    During his visit to Texas on Tuesday, the president met with emergency management officials in storm-brushed Corpus Christi and Austin, but he kept clear of nearby Rockport and other areas that bore the brunt of the storm, saying he did not want to interfere with early rescue and recovery efforts.

    A few days later, by contrast, Vice-President Mike Pence met storm victims when he joined Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas in clearing fallen tree branches and other debris on the Gulf Coast.

    On Saturday, Trump visited with families at the NRG Center, part of a complex that is home to the Houston Texans of the NFL. He chatted with parents and bent down to play with a few young children drawn to the president and his bustling entourage of Secret Service agents and camera-toting journalists.

    “I’m a Democrat. It raises the morale,” said Kevin Jason Hipolito, 37, an unemployed Houston resident who was rescued from the roof of his flooded Acura after fleeing his swamped first-floor apartment.

    “When he went to Corpus, I was like, ‘Man, he just forgot about us.’ This shows a lot of support,” Hipolito added.

    A largely supportive crowd of about 100 people waving U.S. flags and pro-Trump signs gathered outside Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base on Saturday morning to watch Air Force One land.

    But not everyone thought Trump should be making a visit — much less a second one — to an area still very much in disaster mode, where cities are still flooded, people are lining up for bottled water and homes are being evacuated.

    “This has taken a lot of resources from the emergency medical workers,” said Connie Field, 62, a retired oil accounting worker from Sugar Land, a Houston suburb, who voted for Trump. “We still need them out there.”

    Field, who waved a small U.S. flag at passing military vehicles, did not suffer any damage in the flood. She praised the flood response from local officials, especially Houston’s mayor. She said Texas did not need Trump on the ground.

    “Be at your command post,” she said. “The police need to be out watching these neighbourhoods.”

    White House officials, acutely conscious of such criticism, greenlighted Saturday’s trip after being given assurances by Texas officials that the visit would not disrupt recovery efforts, according to senior administration aides.

    The trip came hours after the administration submitted its initial hurricane recovery funding request to Congress, a $14.5-billion plan that is expected to be a down payment on a much bigger package that could exceed $100 billion, according to estimates by state and local officials.

    Trump was travelling to a region newly free of the storm’s clutches but still suffering in its wake. Flooding has knocked out the water systems of Beaumont, with a population of nearly 120,000, and local officials said they had no idea when service could be restored.

    Late Friday, a chemical fire tore through a plant near Houston, sending a huge column of thick, black, noxious smoke into a sky finally clearing of clouds after days of rain.


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    BALTIMORE—Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman was forced out of a contest against the Orioles after just two innings Saturday night, nailed in the elbow by a line drive from Mark Trumbo.

    Stroman, the most consistent starter in Toronto’s rotation this season, had retired five of six batters faced when he came up against Baltimore’s designated hitter in the bottom of the second. Trumbo’s single — which came off the bat a 107.5 miles per hour, according to Statcast — deflected off the outside of the right-hander’s pitching elbow and rebounded toward catcher Luke Maile.

    In a scary scene, Stroman immediately dropped to the ground and rolled off the mound, writhing in pain. Trainer George Poulis, bench coach DeMarlo Hale —filling in for manager John Gibbons for the nigh — and pitching coach Pete Walker were immediately out to the mound. Poulis examined the pitcher’s forearm for minutes on the field before walking off with the 26-year-old.

    Stroman had precautionary X-rays, which were negative. He was diagnosed with a right elbow contusion and is day-to-day.

    Left hander Matt Dermody replaced the starter on the mound following Stroman’s 1 2/3 innings, in which he allowed a pair of hits and amassed three strikeouts.

    The early injury meant a second taxing night for the Blue Jays’ bullpen, after Friday night’s 13-inning loss.

    The Jays added right-hander Luis Santos to the roster on Saturday and designated Nick Tepesch for assignment. Santos had a 4.16 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings pitched between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo this year. He entered Saturday’s game in the fifth inning.

    Toronto is expected to add more pitching depth —namely righty Chris Rowley, another rotation option— on Monday, once the minor-league season wraps up.

    Stroman has an 11-6 record with a 3.08 ERA this season.


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    Two men are dead and three others are seriously injured after a multi-vehicle collision in Vaughan on Saturday evening.

    York Regional Police said the collision occurred around 5:15 p.m. on Rutherford Rd. just east of Highway 50 and involved an Audi, a Honda CRV, and a commercial van.

    The passenger of the Audi, a 27-year-old man from London, was pronounced dead on scene and the driver was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

    The driver of the CRV, a 61-year-old man from Brampton, was pronounced dead in hospital, while the two passengers suffered serious injuries.

    The driver of a van was assessed for minor injuries and released.

    The road was closed past midnight for investigation.

    Inspector Dave Riches said it is currently not known what caused the collision and police are asking anyone with information to contact them.

    With files from Alexandra Jones


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    MEXICO CITY—Mexico “won’t accept anything that goes against our dignity as a nation,” its president said Saturday, a direct barb against Donald Trump’s repeated denigration of Mexican immigrants, threats against NAFTA and promises to have Mexico pay for a wall between the two countries.

    In the annual state of the union address, Enrique Pena Nieto defended free trade and said North American Free Trade Agreement must be strengthened. A second round of talks between Canadian, U.S. and Mexican trade negotiators to update the accord began on Friday in Mexico City, and will continue through Tuesday. Trump, who as a presidential candidate met with Pena Nieto in Mexico, again this week threatened to tear the deal up.

    “The relationship with the new government of the United States, like any other nation, must be based on irrevocable principles: sovereignty, defence of the national interest and protection of our migrants,” Pena Nieto said.

    “We won’t accept anything that goes against our dignity as a nation,” he told a crowd of politicians and the country’s elite gathered at the National Palace, who rose at that point to deliver the most vigorous standing ovation of his address.

    NAFTA is a necessary vehicle to integrate the region, Pena Nieto said.

    “The negotiating team has precise instructions to participate in this process with seriousness, good faith and a constructive spirit,” he said, “always putting first the interest of Mexico while reaching for a result where all three countries win.”

    On Saturday, Trump said he would discuss with his advisers this week whether to withdraw from a trade deal with South Korea that he has also long criticized. Such a move could stoke economic tensions with a U.S. ally at a time both countries confront a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

    If Trump withdraws from NAFTA, Mexico, which is Latin America’s second-largest economy, has indicated it would pull out as well.

    Among the thorny issues negotiators are dealing with are what are called rules of origin, which set what percentage of parts in goods need to come from NAFTA countries in order to get tariff breaks, according to a schedule.

    Trump seeks higher U.S. content in goods like automobiles made in Mexico.

    Pena Nieto defended free market reforms passed on his watch and also took a jab at the candidate who leads in polls to succeed him in June 2018 presidential elections: leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has espoused more statist, nationalist positions such as building more government refineries to replace U.S. imports of gasoline.

    “There are visible risks of going backward,” Pena Nieto said.

    “Mexico has not faced such a decisive and determinative crossroads in years,” he said, adding that the country must choose whether to continue down the path of trade and economic liberalization “or surrender to a model from the past that has failed.”

    Pena Nieto also called for Mexico to redouble efforts against violence, saying that restoring peace to the country is the biggest demand of society and top priority of his government.

    After falling in the first years of his administration, the rate of killings is on the rise again. That requires improvement in security forces at the local level across the country, Pena Nieto said. He urged the Mexican Congress to pass an overhaul to turn 1,800 local police forces into 32 state units, an initiative that has been stalled for years, saying Mexico can’t depend on federal forces to permanently provide security in towns and municipalities.

    “We still have much to do,” Pena Nieto said. “Today, a great part of homicides aren’t related to organized crime but with common crimes, for which states and municipalities are responsible. It’s imperative that we address this weakness and the historical lags that exist in our local security forces.”

    Homicides have soared this year, reaching the highest rate this century, as drug cartels spar over trafficking routes. The drug war has also spread to top beach resorts like Cancun and Los Cabos, triggering a U.S. State Department travel advisory for both resorts and endangering a tourism industry that generates $25 billion (Cdn) annually.

    The president’s reference to the spiralling violence signals the severity of the problem, and its likely importance in the upcoming presidential election to choose his successor next July.

    Although the Pena Nieto administration is credited with passing key economic reforms that have ended the state’s oil monopoly and triggered a plunge in prices for mobile-phone service, its record on security has been widely criticized. Successes at taking down drug kingpins like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman may have only backfired by triggering bloody battles among traffickers fighting to replace them.

    The Mexican president also voiced his support for immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children. Trump plans to announce on Tuesday whether he’ll scrap protections for them as he comes under new pressure from top congressional Republicans and hundreds of business leaders to keep the program. The young immigrants are known as “Dreamers” after a proposal to shield them from deportation.


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    WASHINGTON—North Korea on Sunday claimed a “perfect success” for its most powerful nuclear test so far, a further step in the development of weapons capable of striking anywhere in the United States. President Donald Trump, asked if he would attack the North, said, “We’ll see.”

    He also suggested squeezing China, the North’s patron for many decades and a vital U.S. trading partner, on the economic front, in hopes of persuading Beijing to exert leverage on its neighbour. Trump tweeted that the U.S. is considering “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”

    The latest military provocation from the isolated communist country reinforces the danger facing America, Trump said earlier in a series of tweets, adding that “talk of appeasement” is pointless.

    “They only understand one thing!” Trump wrote, without elaboration, as he prepared to meet later with his national security team, which he said would include John Kelly, his chief of staff, as well as Defence Secretary Jim Mattis “and other military leaders.”

    Sunday’s detonation by North Korea was the first nuclear test since Trump took office in January.

    After attending church near the White House, Trump made his “We’ll see” comment in response to a question from reporters.

    The precise strength of the explosion, described by state-controlled media in North Korea as a hydrogen bomb, has yet to be determined. South Korea’s weather agency said the artificial earthquake caused by the explosion was five times to six times stronger than tremors generated by the North’s previous five such tests. The impact reportedly shook buildings in China and in Russia.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was calling counterparts in Asia, and Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he was putting together proposed new sanctions for Trump to consider that would seek to cut off trade with North Korea.

    The action suggested in Trump’s trade tweet would be radical: The U.S. imports about $40 billion in goods a month from China, North Korea’s main commercial partner.

    It’s unclear what kind of penalties might make a difference. Lassina Zerbo, head of the U.N. test ban treaty organization, said sanctions already imposed against North Korea aren’t working.

    Trump warned last month that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely” and that the U.S. would unleash “fire and fury” on the North if it continued to threaten America. The bellicose words followed threats from North Korea to launch ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, intending to create “enveloping fire” near the military hub that’s home to U.S. bombers.

    The North’s latest test was carried out at 12:29 p.m. local time at the Punggye-ri site where it has conducted past nuclear tests. Officials in Seoul put the magnitude at 5.7; the U.S. Geological Survey said it was a magnitude 6.3. The strongest artificial quake from previous tests was a magnitude 5.3.

    “North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States,” Trump said in the first of a series of tweets.

    He branded North Korea “a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”

    Yet Trump appeared to be more critical of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has attempted to reach out to the North.

    “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!” Trump said.

    China’s official Xinhua News Agency said President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, meeting on the sidelines of a Beijing-led economic summit, agreed “to adhere to the goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, have close communication and co-ordination and properly respond” to the test.

    North Korea’s state-run television broadcast a special bulletin to announce the test and said leader Kim Jong Un attended a meeting of the ruling party’s presidium and signed the go-ahead order. Earlier, the party’s newspaper ran a front-page story showing photos of Kim examining what it said was a nuclear warhead being fitted onto the nose of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    Sunday’s detonation builds on recent North Korean advances that include test launches in July of two ICBMs that are believed to be capable of reaching the mainland U.S. The North says its missile development is part of a defensive effort to build a viable nuclear deterrent that can target U.S. cities.

    The North claimed the device it tested was a thermonuclear weapon — commonly called a hydrogen bomb. That could be hard to independently confirm. It said the underground test site did not leak radioactive materials, which would make such a determination even harder.

    At the same time, the simple power of the blast was convincing. Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said it might have been as powerful as 70 kilotons. North Korea’s previous largest was thought to be anywhere from 10 to 30 kilotons.

    “We cannot deny it was an H-bomb test,” Onodera said.

    North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and has been launching missiles at a record pace this year. It fired a potentially nuclear-capable midrange missile over northern Japan last week in response to ongoing U.S.-South Korea military exercises.

    It said that launch was the “curtain raiser” for more activity to come.

    Just before Sunday’s test, according to state media, Kim and the other senior leaders at the party presidium meeting discussed “detailed ways and measures for containing the U.S. and other hostile forces’ vicious moves for sanctions.”

    The photos released earlier showed Kim talking with his lieutenants as he observed a silver, peanut-shaped device that the state-run media said was designed to be mounted on the North’s “Hwasong-14” ICBM.

    The North claims the device was made domestically and has explosive power that can range from tens to hundreds of kilotons. For context, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the U.S. had a 15-kiloton yield.

    North Korea’s recent activity has been especially bold.

    The North followed its two ICBM tests by announcing a plan to fire intermediate range missiles toward Guam. Kim signed off on the plan, but is watching the moves by the U.S. before deciding when or whether to carry it out.

    Guam is a sore point for the North because it is home to a squadron of B-1B bombers that the North fears could be used to attack their country. The U.S. on Thursday had sent the bombers and F-35 stealth fighters to the sky over South Korea in a show of force — and North Korea strongly protested.

    The two Koreas have shared the world’s most heavily fortified border since their war in the early 1950s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea as deterrence against North Korea.

    Read more:

    Canada must join allies to solve North Korean crisis: Opinion

    Nuclear-armed N. Korea a reality to deal with: WalkomEND


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    The majority of homes in the Annex and Rosedale neighbourhoods are still without power after an outage that started around 6 a.m.

    Of the 7,000 homes originally impacted, Toronto Hydro said about 850 customers in the area have had power restored. They are still hoping to get power back to all customers by 1 p.m.

    The hydro distribution company, which serves over 750,000 customers in the Toronto area, tweeted the outage ranges from Mount Pleasant Rd. west to Ossington Ave., and from College St. north to St. Clair Ave.

    Toronto Hydro said the cause of the outage is not yet known.


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