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    An Ontario Superior Court has issued an interim injunction. A hearing for a permanent injunction is scheduled for December 2018 —months after recreational marijuana is set to be legalized in Canada.

    Toronto given the go-ahead to shut down Canna Clinic pot dispensariesToronto given the go-ahead to shut down Canna Clinic pot dispensaries

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    Police say a 27-year-old woman was allegedly defrauded by the suspect, 33, after responding to an online ad to rent an apartment.

    Brampton man hit with six charges in alleged online rental scamBrampton man hit with six charges in alleged online rental scam

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    The finance minister wants to look ahead, but he can’t erase his dubious financial dealings of the past two years.

    Bill Morneau does the right thing two years too late: Tim HarperBill Morneau does the right thing two years too late: Tim Harper

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    Andrew Kinsman was last seen in June near Winchester and Parliament streets and Selim Esen was last seen in April near Bloor and Yonge streets.

    Toronto police continue search for two menToronto police continue search for two men

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    Name a Hip song, there’s probably a memory to go with it. This is our life, and Downie was there for it, helping define it.

    Downie was one of us, part of us, with us, even for those of us who were never really fans: KeenanDownie was one of us, part of us, with us, even for those of us who were never really fans: Keenan

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    Although the former president did not name Trump by name during his remarks, his warning about the current U.S. chief executive was clear.

    Former U.S. president George W. Bush slams Trump’s ‘America first’ policy in scathing speechFormer U.S. president George W. Bush slams Trump’s ‘America first’ policy in scathing speech

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    Three tenants, paying between $575 and $750 in rent, don’t want to leave, despite their landlord’s plans for major repairs and renovations

    ‘I don’t want to leave’: Parkdale tenants protest eviction as landlord says renovation is needed‘I don’t want to leave’: Parkdale tenants protest eviction as landlord says renovation is needed

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    “They are close enough now in their capabilities that from a U.S. policy perspective we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving” their objective of being able to strike the United States, Pompeo said.

    North Korea months away from perfecting nuclear weapons capabilities, CIA director saysNorth Korea months away from perfecting nuclear weapons capabilities, CIA director says

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    America’s turbulent political climate could doom — or potentially boost — the Toronto region’s shot at landing a mammoth new headquarters of the world’s biggest online retailer.

    “When you look at just the pure political situation in the United States, Amazon has to make a major decision,” Janet Ecker, vice chair of the Toronto Global inter-government agency that crafted the regional bid, told reporters Thursday — Amazon’s deadline for bid submissions.

    “Are they serious about looking outside of the United States” for a second headquarters? “If they are, we think we have a very, very strong chance. If they’re not . . . ,” Ecker said with a shrug, adding the 185-page bid book, packed with statistics and flattering comparisons with U.S. tech hubs, will serve as Toronto Global’s “calling card” to other companies who could move or expand here.

    More than 100 bids, most of them from U.S. cities and regions, are expected to flood Amazon’s inbox in response to the company’s Sept. 7 call for “Amazon HQ2” proposals— a co-headquarters of equal stature with its Seattle complex. Amazon says the host could win, over time, investments of up to $5 billion and 50,000 jobs.

    Reuters reported Thursday that U.S. cities are offering Amazon a total of many billions of dollars in tax credits and incentives. New Jersey alone says its pitch for HQ2 in Newark could enrich the retail giant by as much as $7 billion in credits against state and city taxes.

    The Toronto region is taking a different tack. The bid offers “no secret promises or sweetheart incentives,” said Toronto Global chief executive Toby Lennox. “Frankly, we feel we don’t need to play that game.”

    The core of Toronto’s pitch is the Toronto-Kitchener corridor’s ability to grow tech talent with public education, attract foreign skilled workers, and keep them in the region with internationally recognized virtues including ethnic diversity, culture, sports, public safety, urban vitality and a clean environment.

    Mark Cohon, Toronto Global’s chair, pointed to a chart in the bid book showing 51 per cent of Torontonians are foreign-born, and 39 per cent of people across the region, as a huge benefit to a huge and growing company with an insatiable need for highly educated employees.

    “We welcome more new immigrants to the Toronto region than Chicago, New York and L.A. combined every year,” Cohon said.

    Lennox said the U.S. political climate and President Donald Trump’s immigration policies could work against U.S. cities’ talent capacity.

    “We know that Amazon’s issue, and question, over the next little while is their ability to grow their talent base,” he said. “Which is why they can’t do that in the United States, they’re having a hard time doing it which makes us (Amazon’s) logical choice. At the end of the day they’re looking for a pipeline for talent.”

    The Toronto region’s bid also argues that, while incentives are not on the table, the dollar difference and corporate tax rates could save Amazon $1.5 billion per year, plus another $600 million in foregone health costs thanks to universal health care.

    The bid document does not include a comparison of Toronto house prices to U.S. tech cities, or a map of the city’s subway system. Cohon conceded the city has some disadvantages, but noted Amazon workers could live outside Toronto and then transit expansion is underway.

    James Thomson, the Canadian ex-head of Amazon Services, called the Toronto region bid a persuasive document.

    “If you look at those numbers,” he said of the many statistics, “Toronto looks like it should be a top 3 contender, all other things being equal.

    “There are going to be two very different philosophies fighting against each other to make the choice for Amazon. ‘Do we take the money and run, or do we go somewhere that has a very sizable pipeline for future talent and growth? No city, I would argue, has offered both.

    “You can’t just take money and turn it into 1,000 extra engineers. Money doesn’t solve the head-count issue Amazon has right now.”

    Toronto’s tech talent being used to woo AmazonToronto’s tech talent being used to woo Amazon

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    Almost 70 per cent of refugees who illegally cross the U.S. border into Canada are granted asylum here, despite the widespread public view that these border-crossers are not real refugees in need of protection.

    The data was released this week by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

    Since January, The RCMP have intercepted more than 15,100 people entering through unguarded border entry points from the United States, after President Donald Trump came into power and issued a series of executive orders to expedite deportation of foreign nationals and ban immigration from certain countries.

    Of the 10,790 asylum claims received from March to September of this year, the refugee board has processed 592, or 5.4 per cent. Of those claims 69 per cent, or 408 cases, were granted asylum, while 141 were rejected. Forty-three other claims were either abandoned or withdrawn.

    The acceptance rate for the border-crossers is even higher than the 63-per-cent overall rate for asylum-seekers in 2016.

    One expert said the group’s high acceptance rate could be skewed if the refugee board is prioritizing cases from countries that tend to have stronger claims.

    However, academics and refugee advocates also emphasize the data show the border-crossers have a legitimate need for protection.

    “The numbers show that the majority of the so-called border-crossers have genuine asylum claims. The message I take is that the Canadian refugee system is working. It is doing its job,” said Queen’s University immigration and refugee law professor Sharry Aiken.

    Aiken and others are concerned that only a small fraction of the claims have been processed so far.

    “The refugee board is under-resourced despite the spike in the number of claims. With the U.S. temporary protection of the Haitians in the country ending in January, Canada will see another spike of border-crossers and we need to be ready for it,” she said.

    The experts also question the validity of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which is based on the assumption the two countries have comparable asylum systems and bans refugees from seeking asylum in both.

    The agreement doesn’t apply to those who cross into Canada at unmarked points along the border, which critics say encourages asylum-seekers to make dangerous treks through no man’s land, most commonly in Quebec, B.C. and in Manitoba.

    A recent Ipsos poll found many Canadians doubted if border-crossers are legitimate refugees, with 67 per cent saying these migrants were trying to bypass the legal immigration process.

    A separate poll by Angus Reid found that 57 per cent of respondents disapproved of Ottawa’s handling of the border-crossers, with 53 per cent of the participants in the survey saying Canada was being “too generous” to the asylum-seekers.

    In recent months the majority of the border-crossers have been Haitians, who have been staying in the U.S. under a special immigration designation by the Department of Homeland Security. However, their special status is due to expire by the end of the year and the 58,000 Haitians there must leave the U.S.

    The refugee board has been pushing for additional resources to deal with surge in claimants, a request that so far has been ignored by Ottawa. On Wednesday the board took the unusual step of publicizing the processing data of the “irregular” border claims.

    “Whether a refugee is admitted at a border crossing or makes a refugee claim after having entered Canada is irrelevant to whether she is in danger in her country,” said Raoul Boulakia of the Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario.

    “It is troubling that public discourse has fallen into discussing these refugee claimants as if they are different. They are refugee claimants. That means the refugee claimant’s case must be adjudicated fairly and impartially, and the question for the refugee board to answer is whether she is at risk in her country.”

    According to the refugee board, 160 of the 10,790 border-crossers have been detained because they are deemed a danger to the public, are unlikely to appear for examination or are “inadmissible” on grounds of security and criminality, or simply for failing to provide proper identification.

    Among the 61 people who were deemed inadmissible, 34 have been ordered to be removed from Canada; one was prohibited from seeking asylum; three were allowed to stay in the country; and six withdrew their claims. One person failed to show up for the admissibility hearing. The rest are awaiting a final decision.

    Janet Dench, of the Canadian Council for Refugees, believes the relatively high acceptance rate is likely the result of the refugee board’s policy to expedite claims from certain priority countries, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

    However, so far, the data do seem to the vindicate border-crossers, who are viewed as illegal economic migrants by some Canadians. “The statistics highlight the fact that the majority of those crossing the border for asylum need our protection,” Dench said.

    Critics have been calling on Ottawa to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which was introduced in 2004 to limit refugees to making an asylum claim in the first of the two countries they arrive in, in order to avoid duplicate claims that would clog both systems.

    “The agreement is not functional. Guarding irregular border-crossing is straining our resources,” said Queen’s University’s Aiken. “If the government wants to have a grip of the (refugee) flow, they should suspend the agreement and have people come through the regular port of entry.”

    Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The refugee board declined to comment about the Safe Third Country Agreement, but said it currently has 40,800 claims in the backlog, in addition to 5,300 pending cases filed under the old rules before December 2012. Claimants are expected to wait 17 months for an asylum hearing.

    New data show 69% of illegal border-crossers are being granted asylumNew data show 69% of illegal border-crossers are being granted asylum

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    The number of hospital beds occupied by patients who don’t need to be there and are waiting to receive health care elsewhere could fill 10 large hospitals, according to an annual report by the agency that monitors the performance of Ontario’s health system.

    Tabled in the Legislature on Thursday, the report by Health Quality Ontario (HQO) confirms that “hospital capacity” is a significant problem in the province.

    It reveals that in 2015-16, an average of 3,961 Ontario hospital beds per day were occupied by patients, most of them elderly, waiting for long-term care, rehabilitation or home care.

    The proportion of inpatient days which hospital beds were occupied by these patients rose to 13.9 per cent that year, up from 13.7 per cent from the previous year.

    That equates to an increase of 25,000 in the number of days that hospital beds were occupied by patients who did not need to be there.

    “Hospital capacity is an important indicator of how the health-care system as a whole is functioning,” said HQO president Dr. Joshua Tepper, adding that the system is clearly “under pressure.”

    When inpatient beds are full, it means patients coming into the emergency department must wait for these to be freed up before they can be admitted.

    The report shows that patients spent on average 90 minutes longer in the ER this past year before being admitted to inpatient beds.

    The organization’s 100-plus page report, Measuring Up 2017, states that fewer people are getting hip-and-knee replacement surgery within maximum wait-time targets.

    HQO found that one in 12 Ontarians reports having trouble paying for expenses that are not covered by public or private health insurance. This includes prescription drugs and dental care.

    Variations in access to care is a big concern for the agency, which compares performance among 14 geographic regions known as “local health integration networks” or LHINs.

    For example, the proportion of people who had high “continuity of care” ranged from 66.5 per cent in the South East LHIN (based in Belleville) to 49.8 per cent in the Central West LHIN (based in Brampton).

    This measure looks at after-hours care and continuing consistent care over time with the same primary care physician.

    A comparison of premature mortality rates reveals that the potential years of life lost is 2.5 times higher in the North West LHIN than the Central LHIN (located mostly above Toronto). There are 7,647 potential years of life lost per 100,000 people in the northwestern part of the province, compared to 3,026 years in the central part.

    “We think a publicly funded health-care system would be inherently equitable, but our data shows that certain groups have clearly poorer health outcomes,” Tepper said.

    An assessment of how caregivers of home-care patients are faring revealed they are under increasing pressure. About one in four family members or friends who serve as main, informal caregivers feels continuing, increasing distress.

    “This is an important, almost hidden workforce that we don’t acknowledge enough,” Tepper said.

    This is the eleventh year that HQO has reported on the performance of the province’s health system, but it is the first time it has provided data on how long cancer patients wait for their first appointment with a surgeon.

    It found that six out of seven patients who had cancer surgery had their first surgical appointment within target wait times in 2016/17.

    This report also marks the first time HQO reported on patient involvement in the development of home-care planning. It shows only 56.7 per cent of patients felt strongly involved in this planning.

    Ontario is providing “excellent care for many, but not all,” the report states.

    The good news is Ontarians are living longer, more are getting cancer-screening and more are seeing the same family doctor with regularity.

    In addition, residents of long-term care homes are receiving better care, with fewer experiencing daily pain, receiving unnecessary antipsychotics and being physically restrained.

    The bad news is access to help for people with mental illness and addictions remains problematic, as do smooth transitions for patients moving from one care setting to another.

    Far too many hospital beds occupied by patients who don’t need to be there: reportFar too many hospital beds occupied by patients who don’t need to be there: report

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    It would have been nice to start the season against an NBA team, but you work with what you have. The Toronto Raptors opened their season against the Chicago Bulls, or some reasonable facsimile, and the result was promising if you didn’t look too close. The Raptors killed ’em. Everything worked.

    Well, almost everything. Jonas Valanciunas was a horse. Norm Powell gunned. The bench was an amusement park. Easy win, though they dithered over a precise final score, finally settling on 117-100.

    Most everyone looked comfortable, really, except for Toronto’s two all-stars. They did combine for 14 of Toronto’s 25 assists, but also nine of their 17 turnovers. DeRozan’s first field goal came with two minutes left in the third quarter, and he overpassed at times. He finished with a quiet 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists on 2-for-9 shooting. Lowry played an easy game we’ve seen before from him: 12 points, nine assists, four rebounds, seven shot attempts. They didn’t carry the weight, but this is OK. It’s an adjustment.

    Read more: Raptors’ kids all right in opening win over Bulls

    “It’s fine for me,” Lowry said. “I had the opportunity to sit on the bench and watch, cheer, have fun, and get a win. It was a game for me to see what type of things . . . can happen. But every game will be a different game. Next game will be a different game. So maybe I need to shoot more, maybe DeMar will have to shoot more. We’ll have to figure it out. But a game like tonight was fun to be a part of, because everyone was involved, and everyone did their job.”

    “The second unit has to play that way,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of his team’s approach. “If you’ve got that one-on-one ability, and you’ve done that for your whole career, three-time all-star, Olympian, we’re asking (DeRozan) to do something that’s against his nature, which he’s trying to do for the team. Where other guys, they have to play that way.

    “So we may have two different styles, or semi-styles. I love the way we’re playing, we’ve got to play that way, but we’ve got to find a niche for (DeRozan), to find his scoring niche. Kyle is a great three-point shooter, so it’s easier for him.”

    The bench was what made it a blowout. Veteran C.J. Miles made three-pointers like he was alone in the gym; backup point guard Delon Wright slithered around, inventing passes, playing like the game was slow; rookie OG Anunoby showing that he is more than a bouncing superball. Backup Fred Van Vleet said the new system would be more challenging for Toronto’s stars than anybody else, and he appeared to be right.

    In fairness, it was hard to read too much into this because the Bulls are running out a team that was clearly signed out of a hobo basketball league. Seriously, you can see why some of their players are punching other ones and getting suspended. It’s like shooting off your own toe in wartime.

    Lowry, for his part, says the Raptors’ adjustment is not much of a change for him, really.

    “I mean, you think about it, the first four, five years of my career I was a role player, trying to figure it out and make a difference,” said Lowry, who counted seven separate NBA systems in his career. “I played in a system under Rick Adelman (in Houston) where it was all cutting and movement, so it’s nothing new to me.

    “People think I’m an iso, ball-dominant (player) — that was the system that we were put in. Me and DeMar have been put in this situation the last couple years to be what we’ve been. And now they want to do something different, so we’ll adjust and be what they want us to be.”

    It’s true that Lowry wasn’t always a star. Neither was DeRozan. They became stars, and now are being asked to become different kinds of stars. Lowry was asked why he was embracing it, and he said, “We got to be better. We want to get wins, we want to win big, and we don’t want to keep losing in the first, second, third round. We want to go to the championship.”

    He didn’t say win the championship, which you can take as either casual wording or a realistic appraisal. Golden State owns the league. Cleveland owns the East. That’s how it’s been, and barring some dramatic changes, how it is.

    So what’s left? Self-improvement. Building for a better future. Trying a new path in the present. Sure.

    “It’s a fine line,” said Casey. “Because we’re not Golden State, we’re not Houston, and we’re not trying to be. We’re trying to be the best Toronto Raptor team that our skill set allows us to be, if that makes sense.”

    So there are two intersecting tracks for this season. The veterans — Lowry and DeRozan most of all, but the glaciating Valanciunas as well — becoming different sorts of veterans, or stars. That’s one.

    And the other is the kids seizing opportunity and becoming real assets, real players. The future of this team depends on it. And maybe the kids can hit on something and evolve into the next stars who will find out how big they can become, how high they can fly, how rich they can get, how many accolades they can accumulate, before they too realize they have to change and evolve and reshape themselves, to find another way to win.

    Raptors taking another route up the mountain: ArthurRaptors taking another route up the mountain: Arthur

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    VANCOUVER—A British Columbia woman plagued by bedbugs on a nine-hour flight to London is a victim of the explosive growth in the critters globally, but travellers shouldn’t worry they’ll become a common feature on planes, says an entomologist.

    Heather Szilagyi was on a British Airways flight with her seven-year-old daughter and fiancé Eric Neilson on Oct. 10 when she said they noticed what appeared to be bedbugs crawling out of the seat in front of them.

    She said the flight attendants couldn’t move them because there were no other available seats on the plane. After landing, Szilagyi discovered they were covered in bites.

    “To actually see them pouring out of the back of the T.V. on the seat, that was actually really gross,” she said. “Once we arrived at our Airbnb . . . we put everything through the washing machine on the hottest heat we could, put everything in plastic bags, sanitized everything that we could.”

    Murray Isman, a University of British Columbia professor of entomology and toxicology, said with the increase in personal travel and the spread of the insect globally, it’s not surprising bedbugs are finding their way onto commercial aircraft.

    “One of the ways bedbugs travel is in hand luggage and personal luggage,” said Isman, who also works with a company that develops bedbug repellents. “Where there is a lot of movement of people in and out, sooner or later someone is going to transfer these things in something they’re carrying, and this is how they get spread from hotel to hotel to hotel and this is how people bring them home.”

    Changes in local insecticide use and climate change are other factors contributing to the spread of bedbugs, he said.

    But travellers shouldn’t be too worried there will be more incidents of bedbugs biting passengers on planes, Isman added.

    “If you think about the normal situation, which is someone sleeping in a hotel bed or a bed at home, the bedbugs don’t like a lot of disturbance or movement. They like it quiet, dark,” he said, adding the critters would first have to get out of luggage and onto a plane’s chairs and upholstery to even reach people.

    Szilagyi took to Twitter to share photos of her daughter’s bites after she said her calls to British Airways failed to guarantee they would not be on the same plane.

    “What we both would have been satisfied with was if it was possible to just have us on a partner line, not to fly back with British Airways,” she said, having been left unsettled by the experience.

    In a statement, British Airways spokeswoman Caroline Niven said the airline has been in touch with the customer to apologize and will investigate the incident further.

    “British Airways operates more than 280,000 flights every year, and reports of bedbugs onboard are extremely rare. Nevertheless, we are vigilant and continually monitor our aircraft. The presence of bedbugs is an issue faced occasionally by hotels and airlines all over the world,” the statement said.

    Niven added that any reports like Szilagyi’s are taken seriously, and the aircraft would be subject to any checks and treatment necessary.

    A statement from the Vancouver Airport Authority said it took immediate steps when learning about the incident to work with its cleaning and pest control partners to ensure YVR remains clean and sterile.

    Isman said exterminating the bugs is the best option for airlines since treating people and luggage before they get on an aircraft isn’t feasible.

    With travellers increasingly aware of the problem, he said more people are at least taking preventive measures by carrying insecticides or repellents to hotels to reduce the spread.

    British Airways apologizes after Canadian family bitten by bedbugs on planeBritish Airways apologizes after Canadian family bitten by bedbugs on plane

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    A woman believed to be in her 60s is dead after a stabbing overnight in Toronto’s Thorncliffe neighbourhood, police say.

    The woman was found suffering from multiple stab wounds, and was pronounced dead on scene.

    The incident occurred at an apartment building on Thorncliffe Park Dr. in East York. Residents in the building heard a commotion and alerted to police to the incident.

    Police arrested one suspect in relation to the stabbing.

    Homicide Detective Andy Singh told reporters that the victim and the suspect are known to each other and the incident appears to be isolated. Police have not commented on the relationship but indicated they are not a married couple.

    This is Toronto’s 51st homicide of 2017.

    With files from The Canadian Press

    Woman dead after stabbing at East York apartment buildingWoman dead after stabbing at East York apartment building

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    A firefighter was whisked to the hospital in critical condition after crews brought down a five-alarm blaze at a Humber Bay condo unit Thursday night, paramedics said.

    Flames started spreading through the three-storey building at 2067 Waterfront Dr., near Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Park Lawn Rd. in Etobicoke, about 6:20 p.m. Although crews brought the fire under control, paramedics at the scene did CPR on the firefighter, a district chief.

    Speaking outside St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the situation was “about the worst-case scenario for any fire chief” but he was proud of how his team responded.

    “This is what we train for,” Pegg said.

    “The crews did a magnificent job fighting this fire.”

    No one else was injured. At about 10 p.m., Pegg said the hospitalized firefighter’s condition had been upgraded to stable.

    Toronto paramedics said they weren’t sure if the firefighter’s collapse was related to the fire. Pegg said the man suffered a “medical event” but wouldn’t speculate on the cause.

    Meanwhile, fire crews remained at the scene.

    “We’re slowly doing our due diligence and making sure the fire’s out,” said Toronto Fire Services Capt. David Eckerman, adding that crews would remain overnight.

    The Office of the Fire Marshal and the Ontario Ministry of Labour will be notified, Eckerman said. The fire marshal will also be at the scene late Thursday or Friday morning to investigate.

    Paramedics said no other injuries were reported at the fire. Roads were blocked off in the area, and TTC buses were called to shelter residents who had to leave the building.

    Firefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in Etobicoke Firefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in EtobicokeFirefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in Etobicoke Firefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in Etobicoke

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    Joy Henderson was shopping for Wolverine claws for her son’s Halloween costume last month when she saw a row of costumes at an east end store depicting her and her ancestors.

    “Dream Catcher Cutie” and “Rising Sun Princess” were being sold at the Party City alongside accessories such as Indigenous headdresses and headbands, fringe shirts and plastic tomahawks.

    “I was shocked. I expected some, but this was like a whole aisle’s worth,” says Henderson, a Scarborough child and youth worker whose family heritage can be traced to the Indigenous Lakota people of North and South Dakota. “Ceremonial wear is not a costume taken lightly,” she says.

    Incensed, she left the store deciding to find the signature X-Men claws elsewhere. She posted on Facebook about the costumes, tagged the store and called for others to do the same. 

    “We are still here, we are not costumes,” she wrote. She has not heard back from Party City and the store did not respond to the Star’s requests for comment. 

    For many people of colour such as Henderson, it’s yet another season of visual assaults like this. Year after year, Black, Indigenous and other people of colour are confronted by Halloween revellers and retailers wearing and selling racist costumes depicting a culture that is not their own. This affront is not on colour necessarily, but on cultures and ethnicities.

    “When people dress up as ‘dream catcher girls,’ they’re not appreciating the culture, they’re just commodifying it,” says Henderson.

    Over the years, Henderson admits she became jaded with the concept of native dress-up for Halloween, but she was caught off guard by the sheer number of items on the racks at Party City at a time when cultural sensitivity is peaking.

    “It’s getting old. I’m surprised people still do it,” she says.

    Each year, new photographs from parties around the world go viral on social media showing celebrities and drunk college students dressed in everything from Native American Warbonnets and Mexican serapes to geisha makeup and blackface.

    In 2012, Toronto Maple Leafs Centre Tyler Bozak was photographed during Halloween wearing dark makeup and defended it as a “tribute” to Michael Jackson. Last year, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth dressed in a “cowboys and Indians” themed costume and then added his regrets to a slew of celebrity costume apologies. 

    Disney has faced public ire since last fall when it released a brown bodysuit costume online based off the tribal-tattooed Polynesian demigod Maui depicted in the 2016 film Moana. Last month, a mommy blogger on set off the debate again, questioning whether her daughter should dress as the title character, the daughter of an Indigenous Polynesian chief.

    An op-ed published this month in the Star proclaiming it a young girl’s right to dress as a Pocahontas-style “native princess” received criticism on Twitter.

    And earlier this week, online retailer pulled a costume from its website that depicted young Jewish Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

    Read more:Anne Frank, Harvey Weinstein Halloween costumes call for drastic measures: Teitel

    While supporters cry “political correctness” and argue for free expression and “cultural appreciation,” critics denounce the costumes as racist cultural appropriation that perpetuates stereotypes. 

    It’s a recurring cultural conversation that is not going away.

    “It keeps happening because there’s some fundamental misconception around what people understand to be either scary or a collectively shared public joke,” says University of Toronto professor and cultural critic Rinaldo Walcott.

    If these costumes are “jokes” then it is clear they’re not landing, particularly for the Black and Indigenous groups so often depicted in the most controversial of costumes.

    “They are harmful and they are hateful,” says Walcott. “We understand them as not just images from a history and a past gone. Many Black and Indigenous people are still living that history today.”

    When people dress up as Pocahontas, they ignore the current struggles of Indigenous people that stem from a history of colonization in favour of a whitewashed Disney narrative that presents the character as a princess among savages. When people wear blackface, they ignore the history of white minstrel performers who used the theatrical makeup in their racist depictions of slaves, and they ignore racism that still exists today, which NFL stars and Black Lives Matter activists continue to protest around the world, including in Toronto, says Walcott. 

    “When we see people engage in blackface, dress up in fake Indigenous costumes and so on, we know that these things are meant to denigrate those groups,” he says. “We know deep in our cultural consciousness, those groups have been seen to be less than or not civilized.”  

    Intention doesn’t matter, he says. We should know better in our highly “visual culture,” that wearing a cowboy costume can’t be separated from the colonizing history of North America, says Walcott, and that widening your behind and bust for a Beyoncé costume at Halloween isn’t respect as much as racism.

    “Even when the claim is being made that it is somehow an appreciation, what it’s actually doing is reproducing stereotypes and degradations of the people that they claim they’re paying homage too,” he says.

    While some stores that sell an array of these costumes have remained mum on the subject, many educational institutions have attempted to address the issue. The Toronto District School Board’s Aboriginal Education Centre provides advice to principals each year, including having further classroom discussion around Indigenous issues. “While dressing as a super hero is one thing, dressing in a way that reduces culture to caricature suggests that the culture being portrayed is less important than others,” reads a document provided by the Centre to principals. 

    Earlier this month, the French school board Conseil scolaire Viamonde, which encompasses central-southwestern Ontario, circulated a memo asking “Is My Costume Appropriate?” Walcott calls the attempt to quell racist attire “admirable,” but takes issue with the language such as “urban ghetto dwellers” to describe certain costumes.

    It’s an issue that stays with students well into the education system. University and college students are often the worst offenders during the season. Students unions across the country have been trying to get ahead of ill-informed costume ideas for a while now. The students union at Waterloo’s University of Laurier is in its fourth year of its “I am not a costume” campaign. Last year, they included transgender issues in the project when they became aware of people wearing costumes mocking Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympian who had recently revealed she is transgender.

    “Those costumes aren’t jokes for people who have those lived experiences,” says Jaydene Lavallie, volunteer and community engagement director with the Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group. Lavallie’s Indigenous heritage comes from her father, who is Michis-Cree from Northern Saskatchewan. For people of colour, Lavallie says, culture is not a costume.

    “It’s not a fun thing they get to put on and take off whenever they want,” she says.

    At the University of Toronto, student union vice-president of equity Chimwemwe Alao says the costume gaffes often come out of a lack of empathy and understanding, which the union’s new campaign hopes to remedy.

    “Part of it comes from people not understanding how wearing an outfit that represents another person’s culture as a costume can be insulting,” says Alao, 22, who still remembers seeing someone wearing blackface in Texas when he was trick or treating as a young kid just 11 or 12 years ago. “It was fully unabashed. The person who did it had no understanding of the historical connotations.”

    It shouldn’t take a history lesson to understand that these costumes are wrong if even young kids can grasp the issue, says Scarborough mom and youth worker Henderson.

    Some of the Indigenous kids and teens she has worked with have taken offence to costumes meant to represent their own people, from “Native Chief” imitations to sexualized “Pocahotties.”

    She’s discussed racism and cultural appropriation with her own children, who are dressing as some of their favourite film and comic book characters: Wolverine, Guardians of the Galaxy critter Rocket the Raccoon and Batman’s nemesis the Joker. It’s been instilled “from the get go,” she says, not to dress up as specific cultures and ethnicities.

    “Those Halloween costumes are not depicting cultures. They’re making mockeries of them,” she says. “Kids are picking up on this. Maybe adults should listen.”

    Racist Halloween costumes are still being sold in Toronto storesRacist Halloween costumes are still being sold in Toronto stores

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    The Ontario government is investigating allegations that a drug company offered pharmacies “illegal” payments to stock its opioid medications fentanyl and oxycodone.

    Reacting to the findings of a Star investigation, Health Minister Eric Hoskins said he has ordered a probe into drug giant Teva.

    The Star has obtained emails showing a Teva corporate accounts manager offering to pay an Ontario-based pharmacy group a rate of 15 per cent of the drug price if it stocked the company’s prescription opioids.

    In seeking comment from the government as part of its investigation, the Star provided a summary of the Teva manager’s emails, but to protect the source of the information the Star did not share the actual documents.

    Payments to induce a pharmacy to stock a company’s drugs are known in the industry as rebates and can come as financial payments, gift cards and free trips. They are illegal in Ontario.

    Teva’s conduct is already under scrutiny after professional misconduct charges were laid last year against two Costco pharmacy directors who are accused of accepting unlawful rebates from Teva, which makes generic drugs, and four other pharmaceutical companies.

    “Rebates provided by drug manufacturers to pharmacies are illegal. I take any allegations of non-compliance with these rules very seriously and have asked the Ministry to look into these allegations,” Hoskins said in a statement, responding to the Star’s questions about the Teva emails.

    A Teva spokesperson would not comment on specific allegations, but said the company follows all laws and regulations in places it does business.

    “We prohibit the offering of product-related rebates to Ontario-based customers and provide ongoing training to all employees to ensure we continue to operate our business in a legal and ethical manner,” the spokesperson said.

    “Teva Canada Ltd. will co-operate fully with any investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Health and remains confident the company is operating in compliance with regulations.”

    The company prides itself as a responsible distributor of controlled substances such as prescription opioids, the spokesperson said.

    Ontario has struggled to combat its growing opioid epidemic, which has been fuelled in part by addictive prescription narcotics.

    Drugs such as oxycodone and fentanyl — the latter is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and given as a patch that slowly releases the painkiller — make their way from pharmacies to the streets in a variety of ways, including robberies, fake prescriptions and patients selling their legally obtained medication on the street.

    Ontario pharmacies overwhelmingly stock and dispense Teva’s versions of oxycodone over its competitors, according to data from Ontario’s Drug Benefit program. The program covers drug costs for Ontarians on disability, financial assistance and seniors. The Star was unable to obtain similar data for those with private insurance.

    Since 2012, Ontario has paid more than $50 million to cover the cost of Teva’s oxycodone medication, six times more than all other generic versions of the drug combined.

    Ontario’s drug plan covers two oxycodone products made by Teva: oxycocet, a mix of 5 milligrams of oxycodone with a regular dose of Tylenol; and oxycodan, a blend of oxycodone and Aspirin.

    The Ontario Pharmacists Association, in a statement made through the crisis-management firm Navigator, said it believes oxycocet’s popularity “is related to the frequency at which it is prescribed.”

    “Pharmacists are the patient’s last line of defence when it comes to prescription oversight, and this is particularly true with opioids. We’re ready, willing and able to do more to help tackle the opioid crisis that has claimed far too many lives,” said the association, which represents more than 9,500 pharmacists, pharmacy students and pharmacy technicians.

    Pharmacies often stock just one generic version of a medication. If a patient brings a prescription that says “Percocet” (the drug’s original brand name) or “oxycodone and acetaminophen” without specifying a preferred product, a pharmacist will probably supply the version that’s on hand.

    The emails obtained by the Star are from the past two years and show a conversation chain between representatives of an Ontario pharmacy group and Alex Mishos, a corporate accounts manager at Teva.

    In the emails, Mishos said Teva can offer a rate of 15 per cent on the price of its oxycodone and fentanyl prescription products, and more than 60 per cent on high-revenue drugs such as atorvastatin, the generic form of Lipitor, a cholesterol medication.

    In the emails, Mishos also said it is Teva policy not to pay for supplying medications sold over the counter.

    When the Star reached him by phone, Mishos said, “You’re talking to the wrong guy, buddy. I’m not in that business,” before politely hanging up. He did not respond to a follow-up email from the Star.

    The emails were provided to the Star by a former employee of the pharmacy group on the condition the retailer remain unnamed.

    In announcing that he was asking the government to look into the matter, Hoskins said he remains “committed to increasing transparency across our health care system so that patients can have as much trust as possible in the quality of care they receive.”

    The province banned direct rebates in 2006 because the payments artificially inflated the cost of generic medications. Under the old system, a rebate worked like this: If the pharmacy bought a pill from a pharmaceutical company for $1, the drugmaker could rebate the pharmacy 80 cents to stock its product. This would make the actual cost to the pharmacy 20 cents, about a fifth of what would ultimately be charged to a consumer or their insurance company.

    Four years later, in 2010, the province cracked down on indirect “professional allowances,” payments the then health minister called part of a “scheme to enrich pharmacies.”

    Rebates from drug companies to pharmacies are still legal in most other provinces.

    This is not the first time Teva’s alleged payments to pharmacies have been probed by the government.

    In 2011, a Teva-owned generic brand, Novopharm, paid the Ontario government just over $10,000 in a “rebate penalty” to cover improper payments the province found the company had given out to pharmacies years earlier. The payments were not deliberate attempts to undermine Ontario’s rebate laws, according to a copy of the provincial rebate order obtained through Access to Information. Rather, the company blamed an administrative error that caused it to pay more than the acceptable limit at the time.

    The province is also looking into an alleged kickback scheme involving the wholesale chain, Costco, and five generic drug makers, including Teva.

    In November 2016, Ontario’s College of Pharmacists charged two Costco pharmacy directors with misconduct, alleging that they accepted illegal rebates from drug companies.

    Costco has maintained that the contentious payments were not rebates but rather “advertising fees” and were not connected to its decision to buy specific medications from the drug company.

    At a July hearing before the College of Pharmacists, Costco’s lawyer argued that these kinds of payments are common.

    “This is not a Costco-specific issue. This is an industry-wide issue in terms of these payments,” said lawyer Randy Sutton.

    He asked the College to put its ongoing disciplinary process on hold until the government made a decision on the whether the payments were improper, rather than rush ahead on something “which will impact industry and pharmacists as a whole.”

    The disciplinary hearings are scheduled for January.

    The Ministry of Health has known about the allegations against Costco since the fall of 2015. Two years later, the ministry recently wrapped up its preliminary inspection into the matter and is reviewing its findings to determine its next steps.

    Teva refused to comment on either the Costco allegations or the rebate penalty its Novopharm branch paid in 2011.

    The Star could not confirm if either involved opioid products.

    Contact the reporter at or 647-215-4370

    Drug giant to be investigated over payments to pharmaciesDrug giant to be investigated over payments to pharmacies

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    Highway 401 eastbound is closed at Guelph Line following a vehicle fire.

    All eastbound lanes into the city are blocked because of cleanup efforts. The OPP are estimating that the area will be closed for approximately two hours while emergency crews work to have the highway reopened.

    Traffic is only able to pass the scene on the left shoulder of the highway.

    Motorists are being advised to find alternative routes.

    Highway 401 eastbound closed at Guelph Line after car fireHighway 401 eastbound closed at Guelph Line after car fire

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    Motherisk’s flawed hair-strand tests tainted thousands of child protection cases across Canada, but was every parent who tested positive for drugs or alcohol potentially harmed in some way? How much is that harm is worth? And what’s the best way to determine who should pay?

    These are among the complex questions that were debated in a Toronto courtroom this week in the high-stakes battle over the fate of a proposed national class-action seeking millions in damages for families affected by the litany of failings uncovered at the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory.

    Whether the class-action will proceed is now in the hands of Superior Court Justice Paul Perell, who reserved his ruling on Thursday. His decision will play a key role in shaping what promises to be years of legal wrangling in the fallout from the problems at Motherisk. Already, some 275 plaintiffs are named in a series of individual lawsuits against Sick Kids and the major players at the lab, the court heard.

    “This class-action is for the thousands of families who have received an apology but no compensation,” Rob Gain, a lawyer for the plaintiff, told the court, at the outset of the two-day hearing to determine whether the case meets the bar for class-action certification.

    The proposed class includes anyone who had a positive Motherisk hair test between 2005 and 2015, the period during which a government-commissioned review by retired judge Susan Lang concluded Motherisk’s results were “inadequate and unreliable” for use in legal proceedings. (Close family members of those who tested positive are also included.)

    Gain argued that a class-action is the best way to ensure access to justice to a vulnerable group of people who suffered a shared harm due to Motherisk’s faulty tests, ranging from parents who briefly came under the scrutiny of a child welfare agency to cases where children were removed permanently.

    “When you’re dealing with the child protection regime . . . and there’s a test result from the lab showing drug or alcohol abuse, it is not discretionary what a Children’s Aid Society does. They must act,” he said. “That act is common to the entire class.”

    However, that rationale was rejected by the defendants, who include Sick Kids, Motherisk’s founder and longtime director, Dr. Gideon Koren, and former lab manager Joey Gareri, who argued that a class-action is not appropriate because the circumstances in each case are highly individualized.

    Koren’s lawyer, Darryl Cruz, told the court that his client “obviously opposes certification.”

    Cruz said a negligence claim may be valid in some individual cases, but only if the plaintiff proves there was a false positive Motherisk result, and that result led to negative consequences.

    “The link between what happened at Motherisk and these outcomes . . . is absolutely crucial, and not simple,” he said. “In each and every claim, one needs to consider, who are the various players? How do they relate to one another? How does the outcomes flow from the various players?”

    Sick Kids lawyer Kate Crawford said the hospital is “very willing to engage in discussions about compensation with the appropriate people in appropriate circumstances,” but does not accept that there are “any common issues” that could be litigated through a class-action.

    Although much of Motherisk’s hair-testing was performed at the request of child welfare agencies, some of the lab’s tests were ordered by physicians for clinical purposes, which shows the relationships between the lab and the proposed class members are “different in every case,” Crawford said.

    Complicating matters further, the lab’s practices were “not consistent” and changed over time, as did the internationally accepted standards for hair-testing, which evolved as the science advanced, she said.

    The proposed lead plaintiff is a mother whose access to her son was “repeatedly interfered with as a result of unreliable (Motherisk) hair tests” from 2009 to 2012, according to the plaintiff’s written arguments.

    If the class-action is certified, the members of the class, however it is defined, will have to choose whether they want to pursue individual claims or join the class proceeding.

    The hearing did not deal with the merits of the case. In a statement of claim, the plaintiff argues the defendants were “negligent in (their) operation and supervision” of Motherisk, and were responsible for the consequences that followed. In his statement of defence, Koren denied the claims, arguing the tests were “accurate and reliable for their intended purpose” of providing clinical information “relevant to the medical care and safety of children.” In a joint statement of defence, Sick Kids and Gareri also disputed the claims, and said that if custody decisions were based on the tests, which they denied, children’s aid societies were responsible.

    Queen’s Park appointed Lang to probe Motherisk in late 2014 after a Star investigation exposed questions about the reliability of the lab’s hair tests. Sick Kids initially defended the reliability of Motherisk’s testing, but reversed course in the spring of 2015 after the hospital learned it had been misled about Motherisk’s international proficiency testing results, and closed the lab.

    Sick Kids CEO Michael Apkon issued a public apology in October 2015. Koren retired in June of 2015, and is now working in Israel.

    An independent commission is now probing individual child protection cases in Ontario to determine whether Motherisk’s hair tests had a significant impact on individual decisions to remove children from their families.

    Rachel Mendleson can be reached at

    Motherisk hair test was thrown out by  a Colorado judge — 22 years before the scandal blew up in OntarioMotherisk hair test was thrown out by a Colorado judge — 22 years before the scandal blew up in Ontario

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    In this, the half-century of Julia Roberts, you can pretty much take your pick of her zeitgeist-prickling moments.

    The Julia, say, who puts a Rodeo Drive store clerk on notice with the words “Big Mistake. Big. Huge!” when her character in Pretty Woman gets the snooty treatment. The Julia who later sublimates her own celebrity in Notting Hill when she so solemnly declares, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Or even the Julia who — in a moment out of her real-life sizzle reel — winds up leaving Kiefer Sutherland a few days before their wedding in what remains one of Hollywood’s most notorious arcs of disengagement.

    For me, a career-defining moment came in the not-talked-about-enough Mike Nichols flick Charlie Wilson’s War. It’s the movie in which Roberts pulls out her Texas twang playing the role of real-life socialite and power-broker Joanne Herring (helping to persuade a congressman played by Tom Hanks to arm Afghanistan’s resistance against occupying Soviet forces). In what is one of her all-time best scenes, the actress — long saddled with the title of “America’s Sweetheart” — sits in front of a mirror, carefully combing the mascara from her eyelashes . . . with a harrowing-looking safety pin.

    It’s quintessential Julia because she’s not only wholly insouciant about the de-clumping procedure (she makes it all look easy!), but also because she’s just so cavalier using the sharp end (the sharpness of Julia being the key to her spitfire persona, rather than the aforementioned glucose). And with the actress’s 50th birthday shuttling towards us fast — on Oct. 28 — it’s the one scene I’ve preferred to have looping in my head.

    The first woman to reach $1 billion at the box office. Heck, the first woman to reach $2 billion at the box office. The first actress to command a $20 million paycheque per film (the equivalent at the time of the highest paid actor). The first actress to sign a beauty contract worth $50 million (thank you, Lancome). One of a very few to be nominated for an Oscar in three consecutive decades.

    What’s left to say about Ms. 1967 that hasn’t already been amply combed through with the eye of a safety pin?

    For a solid half of her life, she’s been first-name-only famous, an all-American entity every bit as brand-able as Mount Rushmore and Big Mac and “Beat It.” From the vantage point of 2017, what’s perhaps even more remarkable? That the unmatched stretch she enjoyed between 1990 and the early aughts is one she mounted — unlike female toppers of the moment — without ever glomming onto a franchise tentpole (think: Jennifer Lawrence and the ensemble-hedging X-Men films) or relying on the obligatory two-step with a congruous male star (think: Emma Stone’s fame-frisson with Ryan Gosling in La La Land).

    The only thing Julia was leveraging as she made her climb was her Julia-ness, with the men in her movies (think: a Campbell Scott or a Dermot Mulroney) merely ponds with which to reflect that Julia-ness.

    Speaking of the latter, here’s some trivia: in 1997, after a gap that’s sometimes referred to as her “period” period (the actress then taking on mopey roles in films like Michael Collins and Mary Reilly), she doubled down on Brand Julia by breaking a record with My Best Friend’s Wedding, which earned $21.7 million in its opening weekend (toppling a prior record held by Sleepless in Seattle), and ultimately making worldwide bank of $300 million.

    The movie not only “made” Cameron Diaz, but it cemented the cultural precept of the “Gay Best Friend” a la Rupert Everett and is further notable today for two reasons.

    One, the movie hangs on the idea of a pact that Julia’s character has made with her straight male best friend that if they’re still single at all of 28, they’ll get hitched. TWENTY-EIGHT! I repeat: TWENTY-EIGHT. Using the spectrum of Julia Roberts movies as a lens into demographics, what’s even crazier, when you consider it in this post-Girls culture, is that a presumably “old maid” Julia was exactly 28, too, when she filmed the project. Age has clearly become so much more nebulous, even in the last 20 years.

    Two, My Best Friend’s Wedding remains one of the more subversive rom-coms because it dared to make its female protagonist a crackbrained anti-heroine and even, at times, a rhymes-with-witch.

    It’s an on-screen tension that’s often been at the heart of Julia’s best performances — a quality keyed in via a Daily Beast article around the time of one her meatier recent turns, August: Osage County opposite Meryl Streep. “Roberts,” the writer opined, “has always been at her acting best when she gets combative, flipping two birds to our perception of her. Much as in Erin Brockovich (the film that brought her an Oscar) or Closer, her turn in August: Osage County is a brilliant riff on her squeaky-clean image. . .”

    Many have tried to un-pretzel the idea of Ms. Mystic Pizza, chiefly among them David Edelstein of New York magazine, who when writing about her debut some years back on Broadway, argued that the very reason she’s magnetic on film (“the close-up is her voodoo”) is why she underwhelmed, relatively, on-stage. Other critics, he said, sometimes “discuss Julia Roberts with a certain amount of condescension. No one claims she’s not a true movie star, but is she much of an actress? Her industry colleagues gave her an Oscar for Erin Brockovich, but Laura Linney snagged all the critics’ prizes that year for You Can Count On Me. To critics, Julia was just being, you know, Julia. . .”

    Going on to call her a “thoroughbred,” he mused, “It’s not that she’s an icon of glamour. This is a woman who was once married in bare feet, and part of her charm is that she doesn’t move especially gracefully. It’s not that her features are refined, either. They’re outsize, even freaky: that friendly, un-patrician nose . . . that smile that’s wider than most people’s heads. It’s that somehow those clown-princess features coalesce into one of the best faces ever captured on the big screen. She’s plainly gorgeous in still photos, but it’s in motion that the real magic happens. She can entrance you with the tiniest shifts in expression. And does she know it!”

    It’s that “magic” that’s been hooking us for years now — a crack algorithm of both dizzying expression and knowing self-possession. Two-plus decades of scene-cuts, on-screen and off. Remember her alliterative marriage to Lyle Lovett? Her equally alliterative Benjamin Bratt phase? Or how about the greatest straight-up embrace of herself as a icon when she nabbed that Academy Award in 2001 — dressed in Valentino vintage — during which she all but declared that the rules didn’t apply to her, telling the rising orchestra trying to shoo her off to shush. She even threatened the conductor.

    Practiced in the hokum of being a celebrity, she once told Oprah that her status is “all a projection, and projection is very changeable. Projection comes not so much from what I’m doing but from the point of view of the person perceiving me. So it’s like a joining of two things, one of which I have no control over or understanding of.” (Smart — or what?) Julia came to fame pre-social media, of course. And it’s funny to imagine what the chute of internet outrage would have made of her during the years when she was loving and leaving.

    “I’ve never seen Facebook,” she remarked a little while back with a smidgen of pride, “but I did see The Social Network. I’ve never had Twitter.”

    Having drifted some from the blue-flame of her fame in recent years — partly because aging is circuitous for any woman in Hollywood, but mainly because the mother of three seems to be focused on Hazel, Phinnaeus and Henry — Mrs. Danny Moder has had her share of clunkers (Larry Crowne, anyone?), but also become a more interesting actress (how urgent was her performance in the HBO’s The Normal Heart?).

    Of course, that ginormous, almost ridiculous, beam endures — rising from the collective skyline as surely as the Empire State Building. Happy 5-0, lady.

    Julia Roberts at 50 makes us smile a little wider: GovaniJulia Roberts at 50 makes us smile a little wider: GovaniJulia Roberts at 50 makes us smile a little wider: GovaniJulia Roberts at 50 makes us smile a little wider: GovaniJulia Roberts at 50 makes us smile a little wider: GovaniJulia Roberts at 50 makes us smile a little wider: Govani

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