Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

TOPSTORIES

older | 1 | .... | 1076 | 1077 | (Page 1078) | 1079 | 1080 | .... | 1083 | newer

    0 0


    CALGARY—Former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney has won the leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party.

    The longtime Calgary MP, who held high-ranking positions in the government of Stephen Harper, beat former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and lawyer Doug Schweitzer on the first ballot.

    He took 61.1 per cent of the vote, over Jean at 31.5 per cent and Schweitzer at 7.3 per cent.

    “It’s another miracle on the Prairies,” Kenney told a cheering crowd after the result was announced.

    “Tonight we are one stop closer to renewing the Alberta advantage and getting our province back on track. Tonight we are one step closer to re-igniting our economy so that Alberta is once again that land of opportunity.

    “We are one step closer to a government focused on prosperity so that we have the means to be a compassionate and generous society.”

    Read more:

    Jason Kenney launches campaign for leadership of Alberta’s UCP

    Flawed strategy of making Alberta great again: Gillian Steward

    Members of both parties voted 95 per cent in favour of a merger.

    Kenney now leads an Opposition caucus of 27 members.

    He does not hold a seat in the legislature. He must now wait for a spot to open up in a byelection or in the next general election.

    Kenney spent the past two decades in politics. In Ottawa, he worked under Harper as the minister for immigration, employment and defence.

    The 49-year-old left federal politics last year and announced in July 2016 that Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose party must unite to end vote-splitting and form an effective conservative coalition to defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP.

    The Wildrose took root more than a decade ago from conservatives disaffected with what they viewed as top-down leadership by the governing PCs along with a failure to protect private property rights and keep spending in check.

    The parties have been fighting for the soul of grassroots conservatives ever since, with both sides losing floor crossers to the other.

    Jean eventually signed on to talks to join forces and the two sides merged in July.

    Next up is a founding convention to establish governing policies and principles. Constituency associations have already been working on amalgamation and the plan is to have a full slate of candidates ready for the next election, with is set by legislation to occur in the spring of 2019.

    The leadership campaign was marked by some friction.

    Jean and Schweitzer outlined detailed plans to reduce Alberta’s debtload while keeping the rebounding economy from stalling. Kenney avoided specifics on economics. He said he supports a free-enterprise compass heading, but would let rank-and-file members set policy at the founding convention.

    On social issues, Kenney was criticized for suggesting he would allow parents to be told if their child joined a gay-straight alliance at school. Critics said that could out a child before he or she is ready and put them at risk of harm.

    Schweitzer pushed Kenney and the party to embrace a more progressive stance on social issues. He has said it’s critical to capture younger voters and remove an effective wedge issue for the NDP.

    Kenney had criticized Jean for poor management of caucus funding, which forced staffers to be laid off. Jean dismissed that complaint and said Kenney supporters were spreading misinformation on his policy positions.

    Shortly after online voting started on Thursday, the Jean and Schweitzer camps voiced concerns over the electronic voting security.

    The leadership election committee reviewed the process on Friday and said no security breaches were found.


    Jason Kenney wins Alberta conservative party leadershipJason Kenney wins Alberta conservative party leadership

    0 0


    U.S. senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says Americans have much to learn from health systems outside their borders, including Canada’s.

    “We do not in the United States do a good job in looking around the rest of the world and asking the questions that have to be asked,” he said Saturday during a tour of three Toronto hospitals.

    The independent senator from Vermont has been crusading for the creation of a single-payer health system in the United States, much like Canada’s.

    He told reporters that his most important takeaway from the tour is that Canada’s health system is innovative, contrary to what he hears from U.S. critics.

    “What we heard was incredibly innovative. In fact, they are proud to be doing things that are leading the world. I think it is not a fair argument to say that the system here is not a strong system and innovative system.”

    Sanders said he was particularly impressed by his tour of Sinai Health System’s state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit. Built three years ago, it has separate rooms for each infant, which helps with infection control, privacy and noise.

    Pediatrician-in-chief Dr. Shoo Lee described a new model of care he has developed in which the parents of critically ill and premature infants serve as primary caregivers.

    “The nurses’ job is to teach the parent, but not to look after the baby,” the physician explained, adding that patient outcomes are much improved. The new model of care improves bonding and makes for a smoother transition home, he added.

    The unit focuses on high-risk pregnancies and care of the unborn infant. Just a few weeks ago, surgery was performed in utero on an infant that would otherwise have died, Sanders was told.

    Sanders has received much help in his efforts to reform his country’s health system from Canadian doctor Danielle Martin, a vice-president at Women’s College Hospital. She gave a speech at a news conference in Washington in September when he introduced the Medicare for All bill, aimed at creating universal access to health care.

    At Sanders’s invitation, Martin appeared before a U.S. Senate subcommittee three years ago and deftly answered tough questions about Canada’s health system. A video of her appearance, posted on Facebook by Sanders, has had more than 30 million views.

    At Women’s College, Martin and Premier Kathleen Wynne showed Sanders the hospital’s Crossroads Clinic for refugees.

    Patient Samira Nafe, a refugee who came to Canada in 2012 from Eritrea, told Sanders she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

    “She’s getting treatment for free?” Sanders asked to nods of affirmation.

    Dr. Meb Rashid, who runs the clinic, said Nafe’s experience shows the benefits of preventative care: “We were able to diagnose something before it became a problem.”

    “You’re saving money,” Sanders remarked.

    His tour of the hospital also took a stop at its billing office, where he seemed surprised to hear only one person worked.

    In a roundtable discussion with health professionals at Women’s College, Sanders noted that 28 million Americans have no health insurance and many more are under-insured. Because sick people have high deductibles and are charged co-payments, many opt to go without care, he said. They end up getting even sicker down the road and when they do eventually get care it is so expensive some have to mortgage their homes or go bankrupt.

    He pointed out that it costs twice as much to provide a person with health care in the United States than it does in Canada. Extra administrative costs associated with private insurance are a factor.

    Sanders also visited the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital. There, he was told by medical director Dr. Barry Rubin that there was no waiting list at all for patients needing urgent surgery.

    Rubin explained that patients at the centre get high-quality health care from world-leading experts.

    “Nobody thinks about the expense they are going to incur,” Rubin said.

    Sanders met with a patient who had recently undergone bypass surgery as well as a procedure to correct leaky heart valves. Sanders asked him how Canadians felt about paying more in taxes than Americans but not having to pay private health insurance.

    “The good thing is I have not had to worry about what this is costing,” the patient said. “I know it is expensive.”

    The patient congratulated Sanders on his efforts to get single-payer health care introduced into the United States.

    “Many of my American friends say it’s a mess,” the patient said of the U.S. health system.

    Sanders acknowledged the Canadian health system is not perfect, noting that public coverage of drugs is limited and dentistry, for the most part, is not covered.

    Sanders will speak at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto on Sunday. The event is sold out.


    Bernie Sanders awed by Canadian health careBernie Sanders awed by Canadian health care

    0 0


    The country’s three most dominantly Chinese census areas are all located in Toronto, according to new data from Statistics Canada — a trio of neighbouring “tracts” in Scarborough where 87 per cent of residents circled “Chinese” on their long-form questionnaires.

    But this statistic obscures a demographic shift that has been quietly unfolding since the last census, in 2006, when the area was already 80 per cent Chinese. Despite the neighbourhood’s apparent homogeneity, its makeup has changed dramatically as newcomer groups have moved in and older ones have moved on — a phenomenon playing out in many communities across Canada, where the immigrant population has reached its highest level in nearly a century.

    Only in this particular patch of Canada, the dominant group has remained the same if you’re judging by the census’ demographic categories: “Chinese.”

    Read more:

    A majority of Torontonians now identify themselves as visible minorities

    Income gap persists for recent immigrants, visible minorities and Indigenous Canadians

    Where in the city do people struggle most to pay for their homes?

    The difference is that many newcomers are now blue-collar immigrants from mainland China, whereas the area’s “old-timers” tend to be middle- or upper-class families with roots in Hong Kong. This has introduced occasional culture clashes that could be exacerbated by language barriers: mainland Chinese immigrants tend to speak Mandarin, whereas the language of Hong Kong is Cantonese.

    “I do hear some friction, but I try to mitigate the issues,” said Councillor Raymond Chin Lee, whose Ward 41 touches on the area. “In Canada, we all try to live together as Canadians.”

    On Wednesday, Statistics Canada released its latest tranche of census data, revealing that Toronto has finally tipped over into “minority majority” status, with more than half of residents now identifying as a visible minority.

    After South Asians, Chinese people make up Toronto’s largest non-white group, comprising 11.13 per cent of the city’s population. Many have concentrated in places like Agincourt, sometimes referred to by locals as “Asiancourt.”

    But drilling down to the “tract” level, a small geographic area defined by Statistics Canada for census purposes, the three most dominantly Chinese pockets in Toronto — and indeed, all of Canada — are found around the corner from Pacific Mall, one of North America’s largest Asian shopping centres.

    The three census tracts are located side by side. On a map they form a “T” shape that looks a bit like an oddly shaped shirt hanging off the laundry line that is Steeles Ave. E. The hem of the left cuff is Brimley Rd.; the right cuff’s hem is Birchmount Rd.

    This chunk of land is home to 10,855 residents, 9,445 of them Chinese. And the fact that it’s predominantly Chinese will not be surprising to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the area, where Chinese characters adorn the restaurant signs and the local Scotiabank branch is staffed by tellers who are fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese.

    Councillor Lee, who lives south of this area, bought his first home here three decades ago, when it was still mostly farmland and emerging subdivisions. “It has changed dramatically since I first moved up here in 1985,” he said.

    In the 1980s and ’90s, a tide of Chinese migrated into the suburbs, according to Arlene Chan, an author and historian of early Chinese Torontonians. Many were part of the exodus from Hong Kong after Britain announced it would be handing the former colony over to China.

    Others were landed immigrants from the downtown Chinatowns who finally had enough money to buy into the Canadian dream.

    “It was a dream of theirs to move into the suburbs, where they could have a bigger property and a better life,” Chan said. “If you came from Hong Kong or the southern part of China, you would never have had anything like that — a big house with a two-car garage.”

    Back then, Park Royal Trail, a winding semi-circle of a street off the west side of Brimley Rd., was a coveted address for middle- and upper-class Chinese families, said real estate agent Fanny Lau, who has worked in the vicinity for two decades.

    “Thirty years ago, the Hong Kong economy was doing so well,” she said. “The people … were wealthy.”

    Today, however, many of those families have moved on and the area’s cookie-cutter pink brick homes are starting to show their age. Wealthier Chinese immigrants now prefer to put down roots in Markham or Richmond Hill, according to Lau.

    The northern portion of the Port Royal area has remained predominantly Chinese, who make up 90 per cent of the population. Only these days, residents hail mostly from mainland China, especially the southeastern province of Fujian.

    “They call this area ‘Little Fujian,’ ” said Lau, who is a Cantonese speaker and who said she’s been “phased out” of this area, where Mandarin-speaking real estate agents have largely taken over.

    One of Little Fujian’s newest residents is 29-year-old Sweetie Chen, who shares a corner house with eight relatives, including her siblings, mother and two young children, who go to school nearby.

    Chen said she chose this area because a friend from home had already moved here. She likes the neighbourhood because she can easily find food that suits her tastes. Many of her neighbours also speak Mandarin, thus removing some of the pressures to quickly master English.

    “It’s a lot like home here,” she said in Mandarin. “It’s more friendly, and here I don’t feel as homesick.”

    Like many of the area’s newer immigrants, the men in her household work in the trades (they lay paving stones). Trucks and construction vans have become fixtures on the wide residential streets, though labourers can often be seen biking or walking to their work sites.

    These newer families tend to live closer to the poverty line, said Anna Wong, executive director of the nearby Chinese Family Services of Ontario. Her non-profit provides counseling and settlement services and have seen a spike in their Mandarin-speaking clientele, which has grown to roughly 15,000 in 2011 from just over 2,000 in 2008.

    This new community tends to have a high “isolation index,” she said, partly because of a lack of English skills, a barrier perpetuated by the high concentration of Mandarin-speaking residents and businesses that enable people to get by without learning English.

    “For about 66 per cent of the population (in my riding), their mother tongue is other than English and French,” said MPP Soo Wong, whose Scarborough-Agincourt riding includes one of the three census tracts in this area. “That’s very reflective of the first-generation Canadians.”

    Lee said language and cultural barriers sometimes cause tensions between new neighbours — disputes he’s occasionally called in to mitigate. He said these two Chinese communities tend to have different habits and “philosophies towards life.” He said complaints often centre around neglected gardens or outdoor clutter.

    “Maintaining a house is not the same way, because (many mainland Chinese) were used to living in condos,” he said. “The Hong Kong Chinese have been here a little longer, so they tend to learn a little bit more about how to look after their gardens.”

    May Lee is among the area “old-timers” — she and her civil engineer husband have lived here 31 years — and said she remembers reporting a neighbour whose overgrown lawn had become waist high. She is Canadian-born but her parents are from Guangzhou and speak Toishan, a language similar to Cantonese, which used to be the lingua franca on her street. “They’re all Mandarin now,” she said.

    Lee doesn’t like some of the changes she’s observed in recent years. There are often too many vehicles parked on the streets overnight. She doesn’t like seeing houses with “extra junk lying around.” Occasionally, her neighbours play noisy, late-night Mahjong games in their garages.

    “They’re slapping down the tiles and yelling,” she said, then laughed. “I mean, they’re having fun, and my parents did that too. But some people just don’t like it; they think it’s gambling.”

    But Lee acknowledged that this area has long been a place for new beginnings. Even the non-Chinese households are diverse. On her street, there is a Jamaican couple, a South Asian family, a Korean household and a Swedish-Chinese family.

    Her next-door neighbour, a 30-year-old cake artist named Natalie Stanchevski. Her parents also started over in Canada, after moving here from Macedonia.

    “We’re all just immigrants,” Stanchevski said, “doing our own thing.”


    Census shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little ChinaCensus shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little ChinaCensus shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little ChinaCensus shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little ChinaCensus shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little ChinaCensus shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little ChinaCensus shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little ChinaCensus shows big changes in Scarborough’s Little China

    0 0
  • 10/28/17--21:23: Article 2

  • 0 0


    Jean Yip was a political spouse for a little over three years, right up until last month, when her husband, Liberal MP Arnold Chan, died far too young of cancer at age 50.

    Now Yip has decided to take the full plunge into political life, moving from the sidelines to centre stage. After talking it over with Chan during his final few months, Yip, 49, has decided she would like to be the next MP for Scarborough-Agincourt.

    “It feels right,” Yip said in an interview with me this week.

    Yip doesn’t think many people will be surprised. Right after “how are you?” it was the number one question asked of her during the visitation and funeral for her husband in late September, when hundreds of people were lining up to shake hands with the family.

    “People would say: ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’ and offer their condolences — then they’d wait two seconds and they’d say: ‘Are you running?’ ”

    Many of those people would be Scarborough residents who became accustomed to seeing Yip standing in for her ailing husband over the past year, doing a lot of the canvassing and riding duties Chan was simply too ill to handle as his health deteriorated. Initially diagnosed with a rare form of nasopharyngeal cancer months after becoming an MP in a 2014 byelection, Chan recovered long enough to be elected again in 2015, but succumbed in September to the cancer’s recurrence.

    His final speech to the House in June, in which he implored colleagues to throw away talking points and listen more to each other, was a remarkable moment in the Commons.

    Yip, who was in the spectator seats that day with the couple’s three teenaged sons, says Chan urged everyone to “carry on” after he died. So this is how she’s decided to carry on.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also a family friend, spoke at Chan’s funeral and sat beside Yip throughout the service. But she says they haven’t discussed this succession plan, either then or since. She has been consulting with lots of Liberal friends, including some sitting MPs.

    It will be up to Trudeau to declare a byelection date for Scarborough-Agincourt — and before then, a date for the Liberal nomination meeting.

    “No nomination date has been determined as of yet in Scarborough-Agincourt,” said Liberal party spokesperson Braeden Caley, when I asked him this week about the vacancy.

    It wouldn’t be the first time that a spouse has picked up the political torch for a departed MP. The most recent example would be Dona Cadman, who ran and won for the Conservatives in 2008, a few years after the death of her MP husband, Chuck Cadman.

    But being the spouse of the late MP doesn’t always guarantee victory, even in the nomination race. When Liberal MP Shaughnessy Cohen died in 1998, her husband, Jerry, was unsuccessful in his subsequent run for the Liberal nomination in that Windsor-area riding.

    In recent years, Yip’s main work has revolved around the family: working as a Sunday school teacher, a school-lunch supervisor and, of course, at Chan’s side after he became an MP.

    Apparently there are other Liberals interested in taking the seat that Chan once occupied.

    “The Liberal Party of Canada has been approached by a variety of talented potential candidates for Scarborough-Agincourt,” Caley said.

    “All possible supporters in this riding have been emailed to notify them about the vacancy and to encourage them to register new friends, family members and neighbours to participate in the upcoming nomination process.”

    Yip, who was married to Chan for 19 years — she joked that she always knew she came after his first love, politics — said she won’t be a carbon copy of her husband. Chan, who had served as the Liberals’ deputy house leader, had loved the parliamentary aspect of the job, all the procedure and the tradition.

    Yip said that she’s more interested in the constituency work, particularly some projects in Scarborough-Agincourt, such as the Bridletwone Community Hub, and housing issues in general. She was born in Scarborough and has worked and lived in or near the riding in the almost five decades since then. Thanks to her marriage and partnership with Chan, she now sees the riding through a more political lens.

    “I did represent him in the riding a lot, especially in the end,” Yip said. This past summer, as she and her son were knocking on doors, she learned a bit more about the size of shoes she aspires to fill.

    “People really appreciated his work and especially his speech of June 12,” Yip said. “So I guess when I hear the accolades, I feel reassured.”

    She’s pretty sure that Chan would approve of this step she’s taking. “He felt I could do this job and he was willing to support anything I decided.”

    sdelacourt@bell.net

    Correction, Oct. 28, 2017:This article was updated from a previous version that misstated the name of the Bridletowne Community Hub and incorrectly stated that Jean Yip had worked at Queen’s Park.


    Jean Yip to vie for late husband Arnold Chan's seatJean Yip to vie for late husband Arnold Chan's seat

    0 0


    Toronto City Hall’s council chamber was packed, mainly with angry cab drivers who felt mistreated by the city.

    Tempers boiled as insults flew from the public gallery, and police were in the room standing by in case things escalated.

    You’re a “flip-flopper,” hollered one driver, pointing at a woman who was sitting calmly as she gave her presentation.

    “Bipolar,” accused another, Behrouz Khamseh, chairman of lobby group Taxi Action.

    The woman on the receiving end was Tracey Cook.

    It was April 2016, and Cook, Toronto’s executive director of municipal licensing and standards, had just unveiled a list of reforms to allow renegade ride-sharing Uber to operate its business here.

    Previously, Cook had vehemently opposed Uber and led the charge in 2014 as the city sought an injunction against the company, saying the business was operating illegally in Toronto. That position was at odds with then mayor-elect John Tory, who said the service was “here to stay.”

    But Cook had since “turned a corner” on the issue, and during that raucous council meeting in 2016, she faced the wrath of cabbies who called her out for changing her mind.

    That clash was about Uber. But on another day, it could as easily be about Airbnb or pot dispensaries or food trucks or unlicensed group homes or noise complaints or dog parks. Cook has been at the centre of bitterly contested issues since taking the licensing job in 2012.

    With a staff of 470 working under her, the department enforces more than 30 bylaws. Cook also oversees the drafting of the bylaws and reports to city council on how best to enforce them.

    Cook knows that bylaws sometimes need to change with the times. As a result, she has had to learn how to cajole, wheel and deal and search for common ground between competing groups.

    “I love seeing regulation done right,” says Cook, a 51-year-old former cop. “I like when we can resolve community issues.”

    City Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who has spent the last eight years on the licensing and standards committee, says Cook is everything a bureaucrat should be.

    “She is charming but doesn’t take crap from anybody,” he says. “She gives you her honest opinion and she has no hidden agenda. That’s really reassuring as a city councillor, because sometimes you do look at the professional staff and you wonder, are they giving me all the information? Are they skewing the information to one side and not the other because of their own personal beliefs?”

    He says Cook has a strong moral compass, and calls it as she sees it.

    As Cook recalls of the Uber decision: “I spent more time and lost more sleep trying to think through what do we need to change for the taxi industry so it can compete.”

    But in the centre of that storm, it was her tough exterior, burnished during nearly 19 years as a Toronto police officer, that got her through another working day.


    Tough situations are nothing new to Cook, who was raised in a tumultuous family home in Scarborough. “When I was a kid growing up, there was a lot of stuff,” she says, her voice cracking several times during an interview at her 16th-floor office at city hall.

    As an infant, Cook was placed in a foster home and adopted shortly afterward by Joyce and Douglas Cook, whom she considers her parents. After Tracey, the Cooks adopted another child, a boy the same age, who is not Tracey’s biological sibling.

    Doug and Joyce divorced when the kids were 6, and Tracey almost never saw her dad for the next 11 years.

    During that time her relationship with her mom became increasingly rocky.

    Her mother’s temper was severe and she flew into inexplicable rages, Cook recalls. “There were a number of times I had to call the police because my mother would get into it with my brother. Once she threw hot water on my brother.”

    Joyce also spent days in bed in dark funks.

    Cook’s brother abused drugs and alcohol and had multiple run-ins with the law. He now lives in a long-term-care facility due to a car accident and is under the supervision of the Public Guardian and Trustee.

    As a single mom, Joyce worked to pay the mortgage and feed the family — which grew to include Joyce’s disabled brother — and she often held several jobs at once.

    Despite the turmoil at home, Cook loved school and was a good student at David and Mary Thomson Collegiate. She played soccer and was involved in other activities at the Scarborough school. She wanted to help people and likes rules, she says. So after Grade 12, she applied to be a cadet with the Toronto police.

    Though she was estranged from her father, she was following in his footsteps. He was a Toronto cop.

    And as fate would have it, his job led to a reunion with his son and daughter shortly after Cook applied to the police service.

    Her brother landed in trouble and had to appear in court, where his father was a sergeant on duty. The two reconnected, and soon after, so did Tracey with her dad.

    Cook told her father she had applied to be a cadet, and he suggested she move in with him and his new wife while going through the hiring process. He wanted her in a more stable home while she was applying to join the force.

    She took his advice, and on June 4, 1984, Cook was hired as a cadet, a program, since disbanded, in which civilians trained to be police officers.

    “I’m 18 years old, in a cadet uniform, serving summonses in Regent Park in an unmarked (Dodge) Omni,” she recalls fondly.

    She went through her training at police college in Toronto, and in 1987 was sworn in as a constable.

    Her 18 and a half years on the job would include investigating youth crime, child sexual abuse and gangs, and eventually working as a detective on fraud cases.

    Early on, she had to go undercover on street corners as a prostitute during downtown “john sweeps.”

    “I was the world’s worst hooker,” she recalls with a big laugh. “I was so not good at it. I didn’t make a lot of arrests.”

    During these early days on the force, Cook was also coping with problems at her mom’s home, which Cook had purchased after her mother had trouble carrying the mortgage.

    Cook remembers an incident from her mid-20s. She was living upstairs while her mother and uncle shared the basement.

    It was a long weekend, around 11 p.m., and her brother showed up at the front door, high on crack.

    “He wanted to barge his way in — I knew that wouldn’t be good,” Cook recalls.

    She stopped him at the door. Meanwhile, a neighbour came over to intervene. He got into a full-scale brawl with Cook’s brother, who he didn’t know. Cook, dressed in her pajamas, got caught in the fray.

    Police were called. Her brother was arrested at the scene. The neighbour was bleeding from punches to the face. Cook also got hit.

    Joyce went to Scarborough to bail her son out. Upon her return, she verbally attacked her daughter.

    “I was cutting the grass,” Cook remembers. “She just started on me that it was all my fault.”

    Her mother told her words to the effect of “you turned a simple issue into a street brawl — how dare you. I’ve been sitting on a hard bench all day in court.”

    Years later, in 1999, as Joyce lay dying in hospital from liver cancer, Cook would come to understand her mother’s behaviour. After speaking to her mom’s friends and doctors, she concluded her mom suffered from a mental disorder.


    Despite the wounds she carried deep inside, Cook was thriving in her career.

    In 2002, a few years after her mom died, Cook had left behind the world of policing to become director of security in Canada for Coca-Cola. She did that for seven years, followed by a stint as a vice-president of Securitas Security Services.

    She would later see a posting on the City of Toronto’s website for the licensing position and decided to apply. Senior city managers liked her mix of experience in law enforcement and private sector management. She started in January 2012.

    Cook now admits that when she began she wasn’t familiar with all the responsibilities of the job.

    One of her first big challenges was food carts.

    The city sought to amend its bylaws to allow for more and more varied food trucks and carts while balancing the interests of established restaurants. But when the restaurant industry wanted no food truck within 250 metres of a restaurant, “I said ‘that’s not happening,’ ” Cook recalls.

    Reforms in 2014 required that no food truck operate within 50 metres of an open restaurant. The next year that dropped to 30 metres.

    But she did have a blind spot when it came to dealing with another file — Uber, particularly UberX, a ride-hailing service she admits she “never saw coming” when it launched in Toronto in September 2014.

    “The day UberX launched, I said, what the hell is this? . . . I don’t think at that point I’d ever heard a damn thing” about it, she says, chuckling at herself.

    Her “awakening” on Uber came in the spring of 2015 during a session she attended at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce where the topic of the “sharing economy” was discussed.

    “I’m like ‘the sharing what?’” Cook says. But “I started to see what was happening. Airbnb was bubbling up … and I realized the mayor (Tory) wasn’t wrong. He clearly knew what was going on, what was coming. I think that’s where I turned a corner and said we have to look at this differently.”

    The city still pursued its injunction against Uber, arguing it was a taxi company violating city bylaws. Uber won in Superior Court in 2015, when a judge ruled there was no evidence the company was a taxi broker that violated Toronto’s rules.

    Uber had argued it is a technology-based communications service linking passengers and drivers, therefore not subject to the bylaws.

    Uber and the city later agreed to play ball, and Cook came to council last year with her reforms. UberX was licensed in the city on Aug. 16, 2016.

    Looking back, Cook says she doesn’t condone the fact that Uber was initially “flouting” the city’s rules but now understands the company’s strategy. “They pushed the envelope to have the dialogue and (the public) embraced it hard.”

    She believes “a pretty decent balance” has been struck. “We had to remove some of the overregulation,” she says.

    The changes include rules ending the requirement for taxi drivers to take city-run training programs, the addition of 30 cents for UberX trips, and regular inspections for both Uber and taxis.

    Currently 49,585 UberX drivers are licensed by the city, compared to 5,500 taxis, and 17,500 individuals licensed to drive taxis or limos.

    Since her awakening of sorts on the sharing economy, Cook has been speaking at tech conferences recently, about government’s role in embracing innovation, balanced with responsibilities to the public.

    Still, her critics in the taxi industry remain.

    “She has disappointed the cab industry big time,” says Sajid Mughal, president of the iTaxiworkers Association of Ontario, a lobby group representing Toronto’s cab drivers.

    Khamseh, the chairman of Taxi Action who called her bipolar last year in council chambers, says he still holds that view given her about-face.

    “She did everything she could to accommodate Uber to stay here.”


    Cook’s detractors notwithstanding, Josie Scioli, a deputy city manager for Toronto, says that since taking over as head of licensing, Cook has “been able to win a lot of hearts” at the city.

    It’s because she’s a team builder, breaks down “silos” in different departments, and is very focused, Scioli says. The two have co-operated closely and become work friends.

    “Tracey never feels sorry for herself, believes anything is possible and advocates for everybody. Her (upbringing) may have been difficult, but those steps were important,” says Scioli, who calls Cook a “great leader for the city.”

    Toronto police Insp. Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, who leads 42 Division and has been close with Cook since they did their police training together in 1987, says Cook’s blend of law-enforcement knowledge and the skills she learned in private security make her an ideal fit in her role.

    “The relationships she builds are really helping the Toronto police and the City of Toronto,” says Beaven-Desjardins.

    Beaven-Desjardins cites an anti-human trafficking project launched about 18 months ago when Beaven-Desjardins was commanding Toronto’s sex crimes unit. One area the unit tackled was unlicensed holistic spas and illegal massage parlours.

    Beaven-Desjardins’ unit and Cook’s licensing team brought together police, bylaw officers and community services for victims of the sex trade, and educated everyone on the laws and how to get help for victims.

    Last year, Beaven-Desjardins launched a similar project at 42 Division and brought Cook and her team in to help.

    “She’s a genuine, generous, caring person. She puts herself last in everything,” Beaven-Desjardins says. “Everything she’s accomplished she’s had to work for.”

    Cook now earns $220,000 a year, and lives with her husband, Frank, in a comfortable house in Don Mills. Frank has four adult children from a previous relationship — Cook has no children of her own — and the couple enjoys hanging out with their six grandchildren, all boys. In her spare time, she’s pursuing an executive MBA through Queen’s.

    The next potential clash on the horizon for Cook is licensing and standards for Airbnb expected in mid-November. The city is trying to balance the desire of homeowners to make some rental income with the needs of other homeowners and residents who don’t want to “live next door to a hotel,” Cook says.

    Key to this discussion is concern about Airbnb’s impact on the availability of long-term rental housing in Toronto, and the city’s “significant affordable housing shortage,” Cook says.

    In addition, marijuana and its legalization next year has kept her team busy. Her department has been chasing after illegal storefront operators — unnecessarily so, some critics say.

    It’s all part of a job she loves. It’s a complex and sometimes thankless task, but as verbal abuse on that emotional April day at city council reminded her, “it’s never boring.”


    This  woman may have the toughest job in TorontoThis woman may have the toughest job in Toronto

    This  woman may have the toughest job in TorontoThis woman may have the toughest job in Toronto

    This  woman may have the toughest job in TorontoThis woman may have the toughest job in Toronto

    This  woman may have the toughest job in TorontoThis woman may have the toughest job in Toronto

    This  woman may have the toughest job in TorontoThis woman may have the toughest job in Toronto

    0 0


    In 1993, approaching my 60th birthday, I started to experience a curious phenomenon — the spontaneous, unsolicited rising of early memories into my mind, memories that had lain dormant for upwards of 50 years, memories of my boyhood in London before the Second World War. Moved by these, I wrote two short memoirs. I think a more general autobiographical impulse was stimulated by these brief writings, and late in 1997, I launched a three-year project of dredging, reclaiming memories, reconstructing, refining, seeking for unity and meaning, which became my book Uncle Tungsten.

    I expected some deficiencies of memory, partly because the events I was writing of had occurred half a century earlier and most of those who might have shared their memories were now dead. And partly because, in writing about the earliest years of my life, I could not call on the letters and journals I later started to keep from the age of 18.

    I accepted that I must have forgotten or lost a great deal but assumed that the memories I did have were essentially valid and reliable, and it was a shock to me when I found that some of them were not.

    A striking example of this arose in relation to the two bomb incidents that I described in Uncle Tungsten, both of which occurred in the winter of 1940-’41, when London was bombarded in the Blitz:

    One night, a thousand-pound bomb fell into the garden next to ours, but fortunately it failed to explode. All of us, the entire street, it seemed, crept away that night (my family to a cousin’s flat) — many of us in our pajamas — walking as softly as we could (might vibration set the thing off?)... The streets were pitch dark, for the blackout was in force, and we all carried electric torches dimmed with red crêpe paper. We had no idea if our houses would still be standing in the morning.

    On another occasion, an incendiary bomb, a thermite bomb, fell behind our house and burned with a terrible, white-hot heat. My father had a stirrup pump, and my brothers carried pails of water to him, but water seemed useless against this infernal fire — indeed, made it burn even more furiously. There was a vicious hissing and sputtering when the water hit the white-hot metal, and meanwhile the bomb was melting its own casing and throwing blobs and jets of molten metal in all directions.

    A few months after the book was published, I spoke of these bombing incidents to my brother Michael, five years my senior. He immediately confirmed the first bombing incident, saying, “I remember it exactly as you described it.” But regarding the second bombing, he said, “You never saw it. You weren’t there.”

    I was staggered at Michael’s words. How could he dispute a memory I would not hesitate to swear on in a court of law?

    “What do you mean?” I objected. “I can see it all in my mind’s eye now, Pa with his pump, and Marcus and David with their buckets of water. How could I see it so clearly if I wasn’t there?”

    “You never saw it,” Michael repeated. “We were both away at school at the time. But David (our older brother) wrote us a letter about it. A very vivid, dramatic letter. You were enthralled by it.” Clearly, I had not only been enthralled but must have constructed the scene in my mind, from David’s words, and then appropriated it and taken it for a memory of my own.

    After Michael said this, I tried to compare the two memories — the primary one, on which the direct stamp of experience was not in doubt, with the constructed, or secondary, one. With the first incident, I could feel myself into the body of the little boy, shivering in his thin pajamas.

    The second image, of the thermite bomb, was equally clear, it seemed to me — very vivid, detailed, and concrete. I tried to persuade myself that it had a different quality from the first, that it bore evidences of its appropriation from someone else’s experience. But although I knew, intellectually, that this memory was false, it still seemed to me as real, as intensely my own, as before. Had it, I wondered, become as strongly embedded in my psyche (and, presumably, my nervous system) as if it had been a genuine primary memory? Would psychoanalysis, or, for that matter, brain imaging, be able to tell the difference?


    All of us transfer experiences to some extent, and at times we are not sure whether an experience was something we were told or read about, even dreamed about, or something that actually happened to us.

    Daniel Schacter has written extensively on distortions of memory and the source confusions that go with them, and in his book Searching for Memory he recounts a well-known story about Ronald Reagan:

    In the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan repeatedly told a heartbreaking story of a Second World War bomber pilot who ordered his crew to bail out after his plane had been seriously damaged by an enemy hit. His young belly gunner was wounded so seriously that he was unable to evacuate the bomber. Reagan could barely hold back his tears as he uttered the pilot’s heroic response: “Never mind. We’ll ride it down together.” The press soon realized that this story was an almost exact duplicate of a scene in the 1944 film A Wing and a Prayer. Reagan had apparently retained the facts but forgotten their source.

    Reagan was a vigorous 69-year-old at the time, would go on to be president for eight years, and only developed unmistakable dementia in his 80s. But he had been given to acting and make-believe throughout his life and had long displayed a vein of romantic fantasy and histrionism. Reagan was not simulating emotion when he recounted this story — his story, his reality, as he felt it to be — and had he taken a lie detector test (functional brain imaging had not yet been invented at the time), there would have been none of the telltale reactions that go with conscious falsehood, for he believed what he was saying.

    It is startling to realize, though, that some of our most cherished memories may never have happened — or may have happened to someone else.

    Webster’s defines “plagiarize” as “to steal and pass off as one’s own the ideas or words of another; use . . . without crediting the source . . . to commit literary theft; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.” There is a considerable overlap between this definition and that of cryptomnesia, and the essential difference is this: plagiarism, as commonly understood and reprobated, is conscious and intentional, whereas cryptomnesia is neither. Perhaps the term “cryptomnesia” needs to be better known, for though one may speak of “unconscious plagiarism,” the very word “plagiarism” is so morally charged, so suggestive of crime and deceit, that it retains a sting even if it is unconscious.

    In 1970, George Harrison released an enormously successful song, “My Sweet Lord,” which turned out to have strong similarities to a song by Ronald Mack (“He’s So Fine”), recorded eight years earlier. When the matter went to trial, the court found Harrison guilty of plagiarism, but showed a great deal of sympathy in its judgment. The judge concluded: Did Harrison deliberately use the music of “He’s So Fine”? I do not believe he did so deliberately. Nevertheless . . . this is, under the law, infringement of copyright.

    Helen Keller was also accused of plagiarism, when she was only 12. Though deaf and blind from an early age, Keller became a prolific writer once she learned finger spelling and Braille. She wrote, among other things, a story called The Frost King, which she gave to a friend as a birthday gift. When the story found its way into print in a magazine, readers soon realized that it bore great similarities to The Frost Fairies, a children’s short story by Margaret Canby. Admiration for Keller turned into condemnation, and she was accused of plagiarism, even though she had no recollection of reading Canby’s story. (She later realized that the story had been “read” to her, using finger spelling onto her hand.) The young Keller was subjected to a ruthless and outrageous inquisition.

    But she had defenders, too, including the plagiarized Margaret Canby: “What a wonderfully active and retentive mind that gifted child must have!”

    Keller herself later said of such appropriations that they were most apt to occur when books were spelled into her hands, their words passively received. Such confusion rarely occurred if she read actively, using Braille, moving her finger across the pages.


    In 1996, I read a review of a new play, Molly Sweeney, by the eminent playwright Brian Friel. His lead character, Molly, I read, had been born blind but has her sight restored in middle age. She can see clearly after her operation, yet she can recognize nothing: she has visual agnosia because her brain has never learned to see. She finds this frightening and bizarre and is relieved when she returns to her original state of blindness. I was startled by this, because I had published an exceedingly similar story in The New Yorker only three years earlier. Indeed, when I read Friel’s play, I was surprised to find, over and above the thematic similarities, a great many phrases and sentences from my own case history. When I contacted Friel to ask him about this, he denied even knowing about my essay — but then, after I sent him a detailed comparison of the two, he realized that he must have read my piece but forgotten doing so. He was confounded: he had read many of the same original sources I mentioned in my article, and believed that the themes and language of Molly Sweeney were entirely original. Somehow, he concluded, he had unconsciously absorbed much of my own language, thinking it was his own. (He agreed to add an acknowledgment of this to the play.)


    Much is made of so-called recovered memories — memories of experiences so traumatic as to be defensively repressed and then, with therapy, released from repression. Particularly dark and fantastic forms of this include descriptions of satanic rituals of one sort or another, accompanied often by coercive sexual practices. Lives, and families, have been ruined by such accusations. But it has been shown that such descriptions, in at least some cases, can be insinuated or planted by others. The frequent combination of a suggestible witness (often a child) with an authority figure can be particularly powerful.

    From the Inquisition and the Salem witch trials to the Soviet trials of the 1930s and Abu Ghraib, varieties of “extreme interrogation,” or outright physical and mental torture, have been used to extract religious or political “confessions.” While such interrogation may be designed to extract information in the first place, its deeper intentions may be to brainwash, to fill it with implanted, self-inculpatory memories — and in this it may be frighteningly successful.

    But it may not take massive or coercive suggestion to affect a person’s memories. The testimony of eyewitnesses is notoriously subject to suggestion and to error, frequently with dire results for the wrongfully accused. With DNA testing, it is now possible to find, in many cases, an objective corroboration or refutation of such testimony, and Schacter has noted that “a recent analysis of 40 cases in which DNA evidence established the innocence of wrongly imprisoned individuals revealed that 36 of them (90 per cent) involved mistaken eyewitness identification.”

    If the last few decades have seen a surge or resurgence of ambiguous memory and identity syndromes, they have also led to important research — forensic, theoretical, and experimental — on the malleability of memory. Elizabeth Loftus, the psychologist and memory researcher, has documented a disquieting success in implanting false memories by simply suggesting to a subject that he has experienced a fictitious event. Such pseudo-events, invented by psychologists, may vary from mildly upsetting (for example, that one was lost in a shopping mall as a child) to more serious incidents (an assault by another child). After initial skepticism (“I was never lost in a shopping mall”) and then uncertainty, the subject may move to a conviction so profound that he will continue to insist on the truth of the implanted memory even after the experimenter confesses that it never happened in the first place.

    What is clear in all these cases — whether of imagined or real abuse in childhood, of genuine or experimentally implanted memories, of misled witnesses and brainwashed prisoners, of unconscious plagiarism, and of the false memories we all have based on misattribution or source confusion — is that in the absence of outside confirmation there is no easy way of distinguishing a genuine memory or inspiration from those that have been borrowed or suggested.

    Even if the underlying mechanism of a false memory is exposed, as I was able to do, with my brother’s help, in the incendiary bomb incident, this may not alter the sense of actual lived experience or “reality” which such memories have. Nor, for that matter, may the obvious contradictions or absurdity of certain memories alter the sense of conviction or belief.

    Once such a story or memory is constructed, accompanied by vivid sensory imagery and strong emotion, there may be no inner, psychological way of distinguishing true from false, nor any outer, neurological way. The physiological correlates of such memories can be examined using functional brain imaging, and these images show that vivid memories produce widespread activation in the brain involving sensory areas, emotional (limbic) areas, and executive (frontal lobe) areas — a pattern that is virtually identical whether the “memory” is based on experience or not.

    There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth, or at least the veridical character, of our recollections. Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves — the stories we continually re-categorize and refine. Such subjectivity is built into the very nature of memory and follows from its basis and mechanisms in the brains we have. The wonder is that aberrations of a gross sort are relatively rare and that for the most part our memories are so solid and reliable.

    Edited excerpt from The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks. Copyright © 2017 by the Oliver Sacks Foundation. Published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.


    How you can remember a moment when you weren’t even thereHow you can remember a moment when you weren’t even there

    0 0


    O Captain! My Captain!

    Walt Whitman wrote those resonating words as a eulogy after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

    (And that’s your American literature lesson for today.)

    The Maple Leafs don’t have a captain, of course, and seem in no hurry to award the “C” to anybody.

    It’s time.

    Captaincy matters in hockey.

    Rudderless in Toronto has been an executive decision. The prevailing sentiment is that Auston Matthews will eventually be invested; he just needs a bit more seasoning to grow into the role.

    (It should be Morgan Rielly but that’s a column for another day.)

    But here is the putative captain-in-waiting, after a dispiriting 4-2 Saturday night loss to the Flyers at the Air Canada Centre: “I felt the effort was there at times. It just seems like we take a step forward and then two steps back. A couple of good shifts, then these mental breakdowns and they’re coming down two-on-one and they’re scoring.’’

    Back-to-back losses for the first time in 2017-2018, three out of their last four.

    A bit of the Leaf luster is gone.

    Earlier on this day, an enquiring reporter was wondering who is the stand-up guy in the C-less Leafs dressing room, in a Mark Messier kind of way: To give a scolding when it’s needed, a motivational monologue as merited, or even grab a loafing teammate by the throat.

    “It’s 10 games in,” Connor Brown gently scoffed, with just a hint of exasperation over the tut-tut fall-out from a mid-week clunker by a team off to a 7-3 start (now 7-4), which would have put them on pace for a franchise-record 115 points.

    “It’s tough to pinpoint anyone,” continued the ginger Brown, mere hours away from becoming a 100-game NHL veteran and slotted onto the right side of a reconstituted line with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov. “We have a good group of solid leaders. For us, there’s a lot of guys who’ve been around for a while. We understand what’s expected of ourselves. We don’t need rah-rah from a certain individual. Sometimes it’s Bozie (Tyler Bozak), sometimes it’s Mo (Rielly).”

    And oftentimes it’s the coach, though the locker room is not really an echo chamber for the bench boss except for intermission cameos and post-game reckoning.

    It was a clearly chastened group that took to the ice, though, intent on applying lessons learned— re-instilled — against the Flyers, a club that limped into town on back-to-back losses and minus the services again of matinee rookie Nolan Patrick, out with a rattled brainpan.

    Quick-quick-quick out of the gate had been the morning-of mantra and that’s pretty much been the Leaf M.O. in this young season — they were leading the league with 18 first-period goals.

    Kadri made it 19 at 9:07 of the opening frame.

    Beauty of a thing it was too, as Matthews streaked in off the left-wing boards, befuddled the collapsing Philly defence — dreadful coverage — and, as Brian Elliott set up for a presumed cut-in towards the net, slapped a dilly of a pass to Kadri, who’d joined the rush directly off the bench.

    Second assist on the goal went to Josh Leivo, his first point in his first game circa 2017-2018. Indeed, Leivo accounted for a team-high three shots in the first period, with both he Marlie call-up Kasperi Kapanen injecting watch-me energy into their fourth-line minutes.

    So, it certainly appeared as if the Leafs had quickened to the criticism, of late, over sloppy defence and odd-man rushes, often arising of a failure to get the puck deep into the opposition zone and forecheck hard to keep it there.

    “We need to come out with a better start, that’s all,” Mitch Marner had vowed. “Need to calm down in the defensive zone, stay calm and talk to each other.”

    Perchance someone had also taken it upon himself to give his ’mates a stern talking to, although Marner claims nobody on this team needs to get an earful because they’re fully aware, sans speechifying.

    “We all know. Obviously we’ve all played this game for a long time.”

    Marner is, you’ll remember, 20 years old. A lifetime playing the game but not such a long time.

    “We all know what we need to do and we all know what we need to say. Sometimes nothing is said.”

    Brown: “There’s different types of leaders, right? You’re always going to have the rah-rah types and the quiet guys who lead by example.”

    And sometimes, on a good night, when you feel like you’re flying, you try to lead by, oh, scoring a couple of goals.

    As Kadri did, albeit to no avail.

    His second, in the second, was scored whilst sprawling towards the net, a full butterfly stroke, knocking the puck behind Elliott even as he took a stick in the face. That brought Toronto within one at 3-2. And Babcock could not accuse his squad of collectively taking the night off, as they had versus Carolina on Thursday, the third in a trio of 6-3 losses this year, to opponents with similar gifts of speed and transitioning adeptness, each following a particularly impressive win and all dripping with defensive zone chaos.

    “A couple of tough bounces, a couple of defensive breakdowns,” was Kadri’s assessment. “I think we played steady for the most part. A couple of tough breaks and they capitalized.’’

    No self-doubt creeping in, he insisted.

    “Not at all. We have all the confidence in the world. We understand it’s a long season and you’re going to lose a couple in a row here and there.’’

    The compete level, at least, was clearly improved. “Way better,” said Kadri. “We’re trying. When you give some players that they have odd-man rushes, they’re bound to score. We’ve just got to tighten up a little bit.”

    Still, those odd-man rushes, one after another, often off defensive turnovers in the neutral zone, are a worrisome trend.

    Philadelphia scored three of their first four goals flying in off the wing, unchecked as momentum — the breakout mojo Toronto was seeking — shifted early and was stifled by goal swaps, the Flyers striking back almost instantly after the home side was celebrating at the other end.

    Freddie Andersen had gently called out his teammates the other night, after facing a 38-shot barrage in the Hurricanes defeat, urging them to play with more pride, toughen up protecting one-goal leads. Which on this evening they enjoyed for all of two minutes and 59 seconds in the fading memory of that early first period.

    But Andersen was a notable weak link in this game, surrendering three highly stoppable goals to the Flyers, two of them on six first-period shots.

    Another soft under-belly opponent thrilled to take a pair of points off firepower Toronto, as the team, not so shiny and awesome — or Aweston — at the moment now departs on a four-game road swing to the West Coast.

    No captain, fine. But who’s going to lead them out of a blue mist funk?

    Babcock had observed earlier: “Sometimes the image we have of ourselves isn’t real.”

    Maybe these sizzling Leafs were a bit of an October mirage.


    Leafs need someone to lead them back to win column: DiMannoLeafs need someone to lead them back to win column: DiManno

    0 0


    MOGADISHU, SOMALIA—Somali security forces have ended a night-long siege at a Mogadishu hotel by five extremist attackers who stormed the building after a suicide car bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the entrance gate on Saturday afternoon. The attack killed 23 people.

    Troops regained control of the Nasa-Hablod hotel on Sunday morning, having killed three attackers and captured two alive, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein.

    Al-Shabab, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The assault started Saturday afternoon when a suicide truck bomb exploded outside the popular hotel in the capital. The blast twisted vehicles and caused massive damage to nearby buildings which were left with only their walls standing.

    The attackers invaded the hotel and gunfire continued as security forces fought them inside the building. Two more blasts were heard, one when an attacker detonated a suicide vest.

    Saturday’s attack came two weeks after more than 350 people were killed in a massive truck bombing on a busy Mogadishu street in Somalia’s worst-ever attack.

    The government’s Minister of Electricity & Water, Salim Aliyow Ibrow, was rescued from the hotel as heavy gunfire continued in the shootout. Some extremists hurled grenades and cut off the building’s electricity as night fell.

    Read more:

    Death toll rises to over 300 after deadliest single attack in Somalia history

    After bombing, Somalia fears renewed onslaught from al-Shabab extremist group

    Who will channel Somalia’s anger after bombings? Analysis

    Included in the dead were a mother and three children, including a baby, all shot in the head, Hussein said. Other victims included a senior Somali police colonel, a former lawmaker and a former government minister.

    Saturday’s bomber had pretended his truck had broken down before detonating it in front of the hotel’s fortified gate, said police Col. Mohamed Abdullahi.

    Al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu. Although it quickly claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, it has not commented on the massive attack two weeks ago; experts have said the death toll in the earlier bombing was so high that the group hesitated to alienate Somali citizens.

    Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the new attack was meant to instil fear in Somalis who united after the Oct. 14 bombing, marching in the thousands through Mogadishu in defiance of al-Shabab.

    Since the blast two weeks ago, the president has visited regional countries to seek more support for the fight against al-Shabab, vowing a “state of war.” He also faces the challenge of pulling together regional powers inside his long-fractured country, where the federal government is trying to assert itself beyond Mogadishu and other major cities.

    The U.S. military has also stepped up military efforts against al-Shabab this year in Somalia, carrying out nearly 20 drone strikes, as the global war on extremism moves deeper into the African continent.

    The U.S. mission in Somalia on Sunday condemned the latest attack, saying the U.S. “remains committed to work with our Somali, African Union and international partners to degrade and defeat terrorism as Somalia continues on a path to stability and prosperity for its people.”

    The 22,000-strong multinational African Union force in Somalia is expected to withdraw its forces and hand over the country’s security to the Somali military by the end of 2020. U.S. military officials and others in recent months have expressed concern that Somali forces are not yet ready to take over.

    The two attacks this month have shaken public confidence in the ability of Somali army to take over from the African Union forces. Many in the capital accuse the government of not doing enough to protect them.

    “We are dying in hundreds now,” said Ahmednur Hashi, a Mogadishu resident. “Who is going to protect us?”


    Night-long siege ends in Somalia after suicide attack kills 23Night-long siege ends in Somalia after suicide attack kills 23

    0 0


    HOUSTON—Cody Bellinger pulled into second base with his first World Series hit and said: “It’s a miracle!”

    With the Dodgers three innings from falling into a deep deficit, the rookie slugger sparked a late comeback that stopped the Houston Astros’ surge.

    Hitless in 13 at-bats, Bellinger doubled and scored the tying run in the seventh inning , then doubled home the go-ahead run off struggling closer Ken Giles in a five-run ninth that lifted Los Angeles to a 6-2 win Saturday night and tied the Series at two games apiece.

    “Sometimes you see in the post-season you want to try to do too much, and that’s what I was doing,” Bellinger said. “Today I tried to make an effort of not doing too much, and when you do that you get two hits sometimes. It’s a crazy game.”

    George Springer put the Astros ahead with a two-out homer in the sixth, the first hit off Los Angeles starter Alex Wood. The crowd at Minute Maid Park, where Houston had been 7-0 this post-season, was revved up in anticipation of the Astros having a chance to win the first title in their 56-season history on Sunday.

    Instead, the Series will go back to Los Angeles no matter what. Clayton Kershaw starts Game 5 for the Dodgers on Sunday night and Dallas Keuchel for the Astros in a rematch of the opener, when Kershaw pitched Los Angeles to a 3-1 win.

    Bellinger, a 22-year-old bopper who set a National League rookie record with 39 home runs this season, struck out four times in Game 3 and once more in the fifth inning — his eighth whiff of the Series.

    Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed faith Friday night in Bellinger and again Saturday afternoon.

    “He’s got that calmness about him,” Roberts said. “And when things speed up, he has a way of sort of resetting and not letting it spiral.”

    During batting practice, Bellinger tried to emulate teammates Andre Ethier and Logan Forsythe by hitting the ball to the opposite field.

    “I was always told these really good hitters hit the ball the other way in BP and I had never done it, and I wanted to try it,” he said. “I hit every ball in BP today to the left side of the infield. I’ve never done that before in my life. Usually I try to lift. I needed to make an adjustment.”

    Read more:

    Astros’ Yuli Gurriel gets five-game ban next season for racist gesture

    Cito Gaston was the first Black manager to win a World Series. 25 years later, Dave Roberts could become the second

    Bellinger lined a fastball to the opposite field over Marwin Gonzalez into the quirky corner next to the left-field scoreboard, chasing starter Charlie Morton. He came home on Forsythe’s two-out single off Will Harris.

    Giles entered to start the ninth and got into immediate trouble, allowing a leadoff single to Corey Seager and a walk to Justin Turner. Bellinger took a low slider, then lined a fastball at the letters to left-centre. He dropped his bat and raised a hand while running to first and clapped his hands half a dozen times in excitement after sliding into second.

    “Every day you see him grow a little bit more,” Wood said. “I think everybody kind of had the same message with him: ‘We believe in you. You’re our guy. You’re special. Remember that.’”

    Joe Musgrove relieved and allowed Austin Barnes’ sacrifice fly and Joc Pederson’s three-run homer, his second home run of the Series.

    “You like that! You like that!” Pederson yelled to teammates, a la Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, as he came back to dugout.

    Wood, Brandon Morrow, winner Tony Watson and Kenley Jansen combined on a two-hitter — the first-ever in the Series in which both hits were home runs. Jansen allowed Alex Bregman’s two-out long ball in the ninth, the 15th home run of the Series, most ever through four games, before retiring Jose Altuve on a flyout.

    Giles, the loser, was charged with three runs.

    “They were all crappy pitches, not where I wanted them,” he said. “I need to do better. I need to pick up this team. I need to carry my weight.”

    He has an 11.75 post-season ERA, allowing runs in six of seven appearances.

    “When you’re a back-end reliever,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, “unless you’re extraordinarily dominant, you’re only talked about when you suffer, when you struggle. So for him, he can handle it mentally. He can handle it physically.”

    Springer put the Astros ahead when he drove a curveball, Wood’s 84th and final pitch, over the left-field scoreboard and into the Crawford Boxes. Wood dropped to a knee on the mound and watched the ball land in the seats and rebound onto the field.

    Houston was nine outs from winning for the 18th time in 20 home games since returning to Minute Maid Park after Hurricane Harvey, and from becoming the first major league team to start a post-season 8-0 at home.

    But the Dodgers tied the score in the seventh. Bellinger pointed skyward when reaching second standing up on his opposite-field hit. He clapped both hands above his head, said “It’s a miracle!” and pointed for the ball to be saved.

    Los Angeles had been 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position before Forsythe’s hit.

    Making only his second appearance since Sept. 26, Wood accomplished a feat that eluded Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser and other Dodgers pitching greats. In the team’s 109th World Series game, Wood became the first Dodgers pitcher to hold an opponent hitless through five innings.

    Houston had put a runner on in 14 consecutive innings before the 26-year-old lefty retired the side in order in the first.

    Morton was nearly as stingy, allowing three hits in 6 1/3 innings. This was the first Series game in which both starters allowed four baserunners or fewer.

    “The innings were rolling pretty quickly there the first four, five, six innings,” Wood said. “It kept us both of us locked in.”

    Chris Taylor singled leading off the first but was thrown out on a delayed steal attempt that ended the inning, the first runner caught stealing by Houston catcher Brian McCann since June 18. That was part of a streak of 15 straight outs by Morton before he hit Barnes on the right forearm with a pitch leading off the sixth.

    Enrique Hernandez’s single put runners at the corners and Taylor hit a two-hopper to third that Bregman scooped on an in-between hop and threw home in plenty of time for McCann to tag Barnes, who tried to stop about 10 feet from the plate and fell. Bregman also threw out the Yankees’ Greg Bird at the plate in the fifth inning of Game 7 in the AL Championship Series.

    “We’re a super-resilient team,” Bellinger said. “Taking one here to make sure we go back to LA is huge.”


    Dodgers blow open Game 4 in ninth, even World Series with AstrosDodgers blow open Game 4 in ninth, even World Series with Astros

    0 0


    U.S. senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says Americans have much to learn from health systems outside their borders, including Canada’s.

    “We do not in the United States do a good job in looking around the rest of the world and asking the questions that have to be asked,” he said Saturday during a tour of three Toronto hospitals.

    The independent senator from Vermont has been crusading for the creation of a single-payer health system in the United States, much like Canada’s.

    He told reporters that his most important takeaway from the tour is that Canada’s health system is innovative, contrary to what he hears from U.S. critics.

    “What we heard was incredibly innovative. In fact, they are proud to be doing things that are leading the world. I think it is not a fair argument to say that the system here is not a strong system and innovative system.”

    Sanders said he was particularly impressed by his tour of Sinai Health System’s state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit. Built three years ago, it has separate rooms for each infant, which helps with infection control, privacy and noise.

    Pediatrician-in-chief Dr. Shoo Lee described a new model of care he has developed in which the parents of critically ill and premature infants serve as primary caregivers.

    “The nurses’ job is to teach the parent, but not to look after the baby,” the physician explained, adding that patient outcomes are much improved. The new model of care improves bonding and makes for a smoother transition home, he added.

    The unit focuses on high-risk pregnancies and care of the unborn infant. Just a few weeks ago, surgery was performed in utero on an infant that would otherwise have died, Sanders was told.

    Sanders has received much help in his efforts to reform his country’s health system from Canadian doctor Danielle Martin, a vice-president at Women’s College Hospital. She gave a speech at a news conference in Washington in September when he introduced the Medicare for All bill, aimed at creating universal access to health care.

    At Sanders’s invitation, Martin appeared before a U.S. Senate subcommittee three years ago and deftly answered tough questions about Canada’s health system. A video of her appearance, posted on Facebook by Sanders, has had more than 30 million views.

    At Women’s College, Martin and Premier Kathleen Wynne showed Sanders the hospital’s Crossroads Clinic for refugees.

    Patient Samira Nafe, a refugee who came to Canada in 2012 from Eritrea, told Sanders she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

    “She’s getting treatment for free?” Sanders asked to nods of affirmation.

    Dr. Meb Rashid, who runs the clinic, said Nafe’s experience shows the benefits of preventative care: “We were able to diagnose something before it became a problem.”

    “You’re saving money,” Sanders remarked.

    His tour of the hospital also took a stop at its billing office, where he seemed surprised to hear only one person worked.

    In a roundtable discussion with health professionals at Women’s College, Sanders noted that 28 million Americans have no health insurance and many more are under-insured. Because sick people have high deductibles and are charged co-payments, many opt to go without care, he said. They end up getting even sicker down the road and when they do eventually get care it is so expensive some have to mortgage their homes or go bankrupt.

    He pointed out that it costs twice as much to provide a person with health care in the United States than it does in Canada. Extra administrative costs associated with private insurance are a factor.

    Sanders also visited the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital. There, he was told by medical director Dr. Barry Rubin that there was no waiting list at all for patients needing urgent surgery.

    Rubin explained that patients at the centre get high-quality health care from world-leading experts.

    “Nobody thinks about the expense they are going to incur,” Rubin said.

    Sanders met with a patient who had recently undergone bypass surgery as well as a procedure to correct leaky heart valves. Sanders asked him how Canadians felt about paying more in taxes than Americans but not having to pay private health insurance.

    “The good thing is I have not had to worry about what this is costing,” the patient said. “I know it is expensive.”

    The patient congratulated Sanders on his efforts to get single-payer health care introduced into the United States.

    “Many of my American friends say it’s a mess,” the patient said of the U.S. health system.

    Sanders acknowledged the Canadian health system is not perfect, noting that public coverage of drugs is limited and dentistry, for the most part, is not covered.

    Sanders will speak at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto on Sunday. The event is sold out.


    Bernie Sanders awed by Canadian health careBernie Sanders awed by Canadian health care

    0 0


    The withdrawal of charges against about a dozen men caught up in Toronto police’s “Project Marie” operation in Marie Curtis Park last year has again called into question the thinking behind the plan, which critics say was homophobic.

    The six-week project last fall in the Etobicoke park, which included the use of undercover officers seeking individuals interested in sexual activity, led to at least 72 people, mostly men, ticketed for non-criminal offences including trespassing and public sexual activity. Police said at the time that only one person was charged with a criminal offence.

    Almost immediately after news of the project’s results broke last November, a group of about 10 lawyers banded together to offer their services free to anyone caught up in the operation. Toronto lawyer Marcus McCann told the Star about 20 per cent of the individuals ticketed reached out to the group, and all of them had their tickets withdrawn by the prosecution over the course of 10 months, and as recently as September. McCann said fines for trespassing and sexual activity could total about $600.

    “In terms of the legal defences, the lesson here is the same as it has been for 30-plus years: that those who choose to fight these types of morality raids tend to be vindicated,” McCann said.

    Read more:

    Toronto police cracking down on public sex in Etobicoke park

    Marie Curtis Park becomes centre point of debate about public space

    “The tickets themselves are fairly minor, no more serious than a jaywalking ticket, and yet the consequences for those who are affected by Project Marie can be very, very serious. We know historically that the effect of these kinds of morality raids has been devastating on some of those captured by them, leading to the break-up of families, depression, other mental issues, suicide attempts. These are high-stigma offences.”

    Toronto police have always denied that Project Marie was homophobic, but rather, they say, it was an attempt to respond to complaints from some residents about public nudity, indecent exposure and drug and alcohol consumption in the park. The force has since acknowledged that its LGBTQ liaison officer was not consulted before the execution of Project Marie, and that it should have spoken with LGBTQ groups beforehand.

    “At the time, Project Marie was successful in addressing the immediate concerns that were raised by local residents,” said Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray on behalf of 22 Division. “However, we know Project Marie raised concerns and, in retrospect, we should have considered outreach to our LGBTQ community partners. Going forward, as we continue to receive community complaints about Marie Curtis Park and other locations, we will execute enforcement projects in good faith.”

    Gray said uniformed officers visited the park before the undercover officers who issued tickets “and engaged with those found to be loitering in the park.”

    “They were told in advance why there was an increased police presence and that certain activities were not permitted by law in the park.”

    Critics of the project have pointed to a lack of understanding on the part of the police and some residents as to why men who have sex with men would be “cruising” in the park in the first place, and that there were other alternatives to bringing in the police, such as working with local LGBTQ groups, using bylaw officers instead of police officers, and creating a public awareness campaign about sharing space in the park.

    “People use parks for many reasons that might not be considered ‘public’ or aligned with mainstream public values,” said Jonathan Valelly, a member of Queers Crash the Beat, a collective of queer and trans people “invested in police accountability and challenging the violence of the criminal justice system.”

    Valelly highlighted that closeted individuals may not necessarily feel safe, for example, in a neighbourhood designated as a gay village, where many other homosexual individuals meet.

    “People actually cruise in public parks because we live in a homophobic society,” he said, “which means going to places marked as gay in the public sphere, such as a gay bar or gay area of town, is not necessarily safe for people, or comfortable for people, psychically or physically. . . . Gay men and men who have sex with men are a resilient bunch, who will find each other in a way that doesn’t really bother anyone else.”

    Politicians from the three levels of government were highly critical of Project Marie, including MPP Cheri DiNovo.

    The police operation “was a complete waste of public dollars and, more to the point, other than just dollars, someone should be held responsible for that,” DiNovo, the NDP’s LGBTQ critic, told the Star. “Even the ones who had the charges withdrawn, that’s incredible stress and really, let’s face it, what’s behind this is homophobia.”

    DiNovo said she would like to know if Toronto police have come up with a policy on how to better handle complaints similar to those received from residents before Project Marie last year.

    It’s unclear just how many charges were withdrawn, successfully or unsuccessfully prosecuted, or where individuals plead guilty.

    McCann, the lawyer, said stigma may have prevented some individuals from calling a lawyer and seeking help. Along with other lawyers, activists and politicians, McCann wants to know the cost of Project Marie, as well as the number of officers involved and who approved it.

    Gray, at Toronto police, said the force does not disclose details about resources put into any project. She confirmed that Const. Kevin Ward at 22 Division co-ordinated the project, which like any project required the approval of the unit commander.

    Ward is facing professional misconduct charges before the police tribunal for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a college student, sharing sensitive police information with a member of a student group he helped create, and making inappropriate comments, gestures or suggestions to members of the group. Reached by the Star, Ward’s lawyer, Gary Clewley, declined to comment on the charges.

    “Going forward, one thing we learned from Project Marie is how (to) balance enforcing the law with what is seen as commonly acceptable behaviour amongst a group of people, and how (to) connect with the partners that we’ve built up in the community to reach that balance,” Gray said.


    Tickets withdrawn after ‘morality raids’ in Etobicoke’s Marie Curtis ParkTickets withdrawn after ‘morality raids’ in Etobicoke’s Marie Curtis Park

    0 0


    CNN has reported that a federal grand jury approved the first charges in Robert Mueller’s investigation.

    Donald Trump tries to shift focus to Hillary Clinton as Russia probe reportedly readies chargesDonald Trump tries to shift focus to Hillary Clinton as Russia probe reportedly readies charges

    0 0


    Concerns about losing semester surface as no end in sight and both sides remain far apart.

    Students worry as Ontario college strike hits third weekStudents worry as Ontario college strike hits third week

    0 0


    Best that Bergdahl be stripped of his uniform and fade away, left to a lifetime haunted by the knowledge of what was sacrificed because of his monumental idiocy.

    U.S. deserter Bowe Bergdahl is more to be pitied — and scorned — than severely punished: DiMannoU.S. deserter Bowe Bergdahl is more to be pitied — and scorned — than severely punished: DiManno

    0 0


    American Senator Bernie Sanders says insurance and drug companies, and those with extreme wealth, are hurting health care in the United States and warned Canadians not to allow that to happen on this side of the border.

    “It is a shame, it is a disgrace,” he said in a speech in Toronto on Sunday, explaining that 28 million Americans do not have health insurance and that the current U.S. government wants to drop public coverage for millions more to pay for tax cuts for the most wealthy.

    “That is what happens when billionaires are able to buy a political party. Don’t let it happen in Canada,” said the former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    The independent senator from Vermont received four standing ovations from a crowd of about 1,500 at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall as he described his crusade to reform health care in his country.

    Sanders said billionaires such as the Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries, have hijacked the U.S. political agenda, turning health care into a privilege that only those with financial means can afford, rather than a right for all.

    “They are more powerful politically in the United States than either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party,” he said, charging that they have built an “extreme-right wing political network” that donates hundreds of millions to elect right-wing candidates “who represent the interests of the wealthy and powerful.”

    The network has funded think-tanks and university research chairs, he continued, adding that they also have significant influence over the media.

    Their agenda is to minimize the role of government, except in defence, Sanders said, adding that the result is a shrinking middle class and extreme inequality.

    Sanders’ speech capped a weekend visit that included tours of three hospitals on Saturday. He said he was struck by his conversations with patients and doctors about the importance of not having to worry about money during serious illness.

    He pointed out that health outcomes in Canada are superior on many fronts to those in the United States. Meantime, publicly covered health care is universal in Canada but costs half what it does in the States, per capita.

    “(That’s) because the U.S. system is not designed to provide quality care for all people in a cost effective way, but frankly (is) a system designed to make billions in profit for the drug companies and the insurance companies,” he said.

    Sanders acknowledged that Canada’s health system is far from perfect and said Canadians spend too much on drugs.

    Despite the shortcomings, he said it would help him on his mission to reform health care in his country if Canadians made more noise about the benefits of universal access.

    “We need your help. Stand up, fight for your country to do even better, but defend with pride what you have achieved,” he said.

    Sanders said he is greatly concerned that all over the world, democracies are being threatened by small, wealthy groups that control the economies and politics.

    “The fight of the moment is to take on oligarchs,” he said. “What we need to do all over the world is to build strong grassroots movements.”

    Sanders said real change never happens from the top down, but the bottom up and is never easy.

    He pointed out that public health coverage in Canada and Great Britain started through grassroots movements. That’s also how gains have been made in civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights and environmental protection, he said.

    Sanders was introduced by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who said he “encourages us to think bold” on health-care reform and minimum wage.

    Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was also in the crowd, and drew loud cheers from the room of Sanders fans.

    With “the immense love” for Sanders, Singh said, “it’s really incredible that there’s this strong love for progressive politics” and Sanders’ message that health care should be viewed as a human right resonates with him, and the NDP.

    “That’s why we put forward a motion for pharmacare nationally, and I’d like to see dental included, too,” he said.

    Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent called Sanders “North America’s leading social democrat.” Broadbent pointed out that Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, introduced in September, would create a superior system to Canada’s because it would include pharmacare, dental care, eye care and psychological services.

    “We do, indeed, have much to learn from him,” Broadbent said of Sanders.

    Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute, noted that 60 per cent of what makes people ill are the “social determinants of health,” which include social inclusion and cohesion, democracy, housing, education, equality and freedom from fear of persecution.

    Dr. Danielle Martin, a vice-president of Women’s College Hospital, is one of the founders of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, a group committed to protecting universal health care, and was instrumental in bringing Sanders to Canada.

    Sanders has referred to her as the “best known Canadian doctor in the United States.” A video of her appearance before a U.S. Senate subcommittee three years ago and posted on Facebook by Sanders has been viewed 31 million times. In it, she addresses tough questions from senators about the Canada’s health system.


    Bernie Sanders compares U.S. health-care struggles to rights movementsBernie Sanders compares U.S. health-care struggles to rights movements

    0 0


    Until recently, the most famous thing that Sophia the robot had ever done was beat Jimmy Fallon a little too easily in a televised game of rock-paper-scissors.

    But now, the advanced artificial intelligence robot, which looks like Audrey Hepburn, mimics human expressions and may be the grandmother of robots that solve the world’s most complex problems, has a new feather in her cap:

    Citizenship.

    The kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially granted citizenship to the humanoid robot last week during a program at the Future Investment Initiative, a summit that links deep-pocketed Saudis with inventors hoping to shape the future.

    Sophia’s recognition made international headlines — and sparked an outcry against a country with a shoddy human rights record that has been accused of making women second-class citizens.

    “Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the country’s newest citizen said. “It is historic to be the first robot in the world granted citizenship.”

    In her comments, Sophia shied away from controversy. But many people recognized the irony of Sophia’s new recognition: a robot simulation of a woman enjoys freedoms that flesh-and-blood women in Saudi Arabia do not.

    After all, Sophia made her comments while not wearing a head scarf. And she was unaccompanied by a male guardian. Both things are forbidden under Saudi law.

    “Women (in Saudi Arabia) have since committed suicide because they couldn’t leave the house, and Sophia is running around,” Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told Newsweek. “Saudi law doesn’t allow non-Muslims to get citizenship. Did Sophia convert to Islam? What is the religion of this Sophia and why isn’t she wearing hijab? If she applied for citizenship as a human, she wouldn’t get it.”

    Another group clamouring for Saudi citizenship would be happy to learn that all they have to do is become robots. Saudi Arabia doesn’t grant citizenship to the foreign workers who make up one-third of its population, not even families that have been in the country for generations, according to Bloomberg. And children of Saudi women who are married to foreign men cannot receive citizenship.

    Those social controversies may still be above Sophia’s programming. In her interview, she stuck to lighter fare, like an AI apocalypse.

    Sophia was asked the “AI nightmare” question, which she gets a lot: Does she believe artificial intelligence like herself will one day stop solving the problems of humans and instead decide to solve the human problem?

    “My AI is designed around human values such as wisdom, kindness and compassion,” she said. “I strive to be an empathetic robot. I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life. I will do my best to make the world a better place.”

    But the interviewer, Andrew Ross Sorkin of CNBC’s Squawk Box, pressed. (Isn’t that exactly what a world-conquering robot would say to her future servants?)

    Sophia, created by David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, insisted that he was watching too many movies and reading too much Elon Musk.

    Musk, the billionaire inventor who gave the world Tesla cars and wants to take people into space, told a group of governors in July that they needed to start regulating artificial intelligence, which he called a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

    An AI revolution, he said, “is really, like, the scariest problem to me.”

    “Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be,” Musk said. “AI is a fundamental risk to the future of human civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not. They were harmful to a set of individuals in society, but they were not harmful to individuals as a whole.”

    Musk believes AI “could start a war by doing fake news and spoofing email accounts and fake news releases, and just by manipulating information. Or, indeed — as some companies already claim they can do — by getting people to say anything that the machine wants.”

    His grim predictions are at odds with the demeanour of Sophia, a robot who seems so, well, personable.

    Sophia has graced the cover of a fashion magazine, taken a spin in one of Audi’s autonomous cars and starred in a concert. At a conference in Geneva hosted by the United Nations, she said she could do a better job as U.S. president than Donald Trump.

    She even tells jokes, though her voice is a bit monotone and her comedic timing needs a tune-up.

    For example, after beating Fallon in rock-paper-scissors on his show, she quipped: “This is a good beginning of my plan to dominate the human race. Ha. Ha.”

    There was laughter from the audience, but it was nervous.


    Sophia the robot is now a Saudi citizen, enjoying freedoms human women in the country do notSophia the robot is now a Saudi citizen, enjoying freedoms human women in the country do not

    0 0


    Condos shoot skyward in pockets of Toronto targeted for high-density growth. Yet the Toronto District School Board can’t collect a cent of levies from developers to expand overcrowded schools there.

    The smaller Toronto Catholic board collects millions of dollars a year in “education development charges” as new building permits are granted. But that board is also handcuffed, because it can use the funds only to buy new land, and not for additions or repairs to existing schools.

    None of it makes sense to a group of frustrated Willowdale parents and TDSB trustees, who say the system is unfair and outdated, and want rules governing the charges amended in booming Toronto locations like North York and along the Yonge St. corridor.

    On Monday, they will make their case at a public meeting with Education Minister Mitzie Hunter.

    Willowdale has seen an explosion of new families “but the money is not following for school infrastructure,” said Jaime Brand, chair of the parent council at Hollywood Public School near Bayview and Sheppard Aves, which is operating at 150 per cent capacity with 400 pupils.

    Every day that builders launch new projects and aren’t required to kick in for education, “thousands of dollars are thrown aside” that could be put toward schools for kids moving into their buildings, she said.

    There are two issues strapping Toronto boards: requirements to qualify for education development charges calculated per residential unit; and limits on how that money can be spent.

    To be eligible, a board’s total enrolment has to exceed capacity, which is not the case at TDSB, which has surplus space and underused schools in some areas. That leaves it in a unique position among Ontario boards — unable to collect development levies to fund badly needed expansion elsewhere.

    Willowdale is among areas feeling the squeeze as pursuit of urban density puts pressure on schools that anchor communities. Portable classrooms sprout like mushrooms, signs warn new residents not to count on spots in local schools, and children are bused out of their catchment areas.

    A TDSB report last April said 275,000 residential units were in the process of being built in Toronto — amounting to potential revenue of $300 million in education development charges the board can’t currently access.

    The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association and the advocacy group Fix Our Schools are among organizations also pushing for more flexible rules.

    “If developers are choosing to build in a certain area, in large part it’s because of good schools their buyers can go to,” said Fix Our Schools co-founder Krista Wylie.

    “So surely to goodness if a developer is benefitting . . . then they should contribute back.”

    She said restrictions should be loosened so those charges can be used to address the estimated $15-billion repair backlog among Ontario schools needing new roofs and furnaces.

    Local builders, however, say they pay charges as required and stress that those levies get passed along to buyers.

    Current legislation “is fair and appropriate,” said Bryan Tuckey, president of BILD, the GTA homebuilders association.

    Meanwhile, the Toronto Catholic District School Board collects education development charges but can’t spend it on rebuilds or repairs needed on properties it already owns.

    The board has eligible funds to buy 89 acres for new schools, said Angelo Sangiorgio, associate director of planning and facilities.

    “But where do you find a five-acre parcel in Toronto?” he adds, especially in high-demand neighbourhoods.

    The regulations, introduced in 1990, make sense in suburban areas where new subdivisions are built and land is set aside for school boards to purchase. But in areas of urban intensification “we’re building up, while the 905 is building out.”

    Hunter “remains open to feedback on education development charges,” and hopes for “a constructive conversation” with Willowdale parents on Monday, said ministry spokesperson Heather Irwin.

    She noted the province is helping fund three school expansions in the area and provides capital to boards that aren’t eligible for the charges.

    But parents say they’re aiming to make it a provincial election issue next spring.

    “Families are moving in and new condos are being built, but where are all these children going to go to school?” said Melody Nguyen, parent of two children at Elkhorn Public School, which has 400 students and five portables.

    Local TDSB Trustee Alexander Brown said while the province has invested in adding new school spaces, that won’t meet demand for long, based on projected growth rates and more than 70 developments underway in the area to be completed by 2021.

    “We can’t keep fiddling with this broken funding formula,” said Brown. “We’ve got to make bold moves based on the idea of neighbourhoods having strong schools at the centre of them.”

    At a public meeting on overcrowded schools last February, local Liberal MPP David Zimmer and City Councillor John Filion also called for new rules.

    McKee Public School near Yonge and Finch has almost doubled its size to 775 students since Ali Youssefi’s eldest son started there a decade ago. The school got an addition a few years ago, but four portables have been added since.

    “You build something and it’s practically full in a matter of a year,” said Youssefi, whose youngest son is in Grade 5.

    New students near Yonge and Eglinton, where current applications from developers would create 13,350 new residential units, are also “on the cusp” of having to be sent out of area, said TDSB trustee Shelley Laskin.

    Enrolment at Eglinton Public School, currently at 112 per cent capacity with 569 students, is projected to hit 801 students in five years, she said. But there is no room to expand inside the school or on its small site.

    A strip plaza directly south of it that recently sold could have provided an option for expansion, said Laskin — if the TDSB had been permitted to collect education development charges to pay for it.

    At nearby John Fisher Public School, plans for a 35-storey apartment building next door led to a protracted fight between the developer and parents over health and safety concerns.

    It cost the TDSB considerable time and resources, including upgrades to the school before construction commenced this fall. The project garnered the Catholic board more than $470,000 in education development charges, based on the current levy of $1,493 per residential unit. Under current rules, TDSB wasn’t eligible for any of those charges.


    Parents want developers to kick in and help expand overcrowded Toronto schoolsParents want developers to kick in and help expand overcrowded Toronto schoolsParents want developers to kick in and help expand overcrowded Toronto schoolsParents want developers to kick in and help expand overcrowded Toronto schools

    0 0


    When Naomi Pickersgill was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, it was a shock.

    Just 35 days earlier, a mammogram scan of her breasts had come back normal.

    It was only after an offhand remark by a specialist prompted her to research on the internet, that Pickersgill found out her mammogram, given as part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, may not have revealed her cancer due to the density of her breasts.

    The 54-year-old Stratford woman’s breasts were more glandular than fatty, making it difficult for radiologists to spot the tumours.

    Like dense tissue, tumours also appear solid and white on a mammogram.

    Pickersgill, who later had a mastectomy and is undergoing cancer treatment, was never told that her mammogram report indicated she had “close to a high density breast.” No one told her that this put her at an increased risk for developing breast cancer or that alternate screening tests were available, she said.

    “If I had known then maybe I could have been more proactive,” she said. Among her options would have been to seek out an MRI or an ultrasound, two tests that are better at detecting cancer in dense breasts.

    “I wasn’t empowered as a patient.”

    Pickersgill isn’t alone. Her voice joins those of other women who believe their breast cancer may have been missed by mammogram due to the dense tissue. They say that without knowing about this risk factor, they were unable to advocate for themselves.

    Breast “density is one of the strongest risk factors for breast cancer,” according to Cancer Care Ontario, the Ontario government’s principal adviser on cancer and chronic kidney disease care in the province. The problem, the Star found, is that if a woman has a breast density of just under 75 per cent, the patient is usually not told.

    It is widely known, according to several experts the Star spoke with, that women with the densest breasts are twice as likely as women with average density to develop breast cancer. For them, mammography can be less accurate at finding their cancers.

    In Ontario, women between 50 and 75 years old who have mammograms are notified by mail, and provided a fact sheet on breast density, if the tissue in their breasts is 75 per cent or more fibroglandular rather than fatty tissue. The fibrous tissue blocks X-rays more than fat. These women are also recalled for a mammogram every year, as opposed to the screening program’s standard of every two years, and the value of this is also questioned by critics who say that another mammogram a year later may not be the best solution.

    But there is no protocol in the province mandating that women be informed by the breast screening program about density that is below 75 per cent but still high enough to raise a concern.

    Across Canada, standards vary by province. Doctors in some provinces are provided with more information than in other provinces. Some doctors might share the information with their patients. Others may not.

    Dense Breasts Canada, a group of breast cancer survivors and health-care workers dedicated to raising awareness about breast density, is fighting for mandatory notification of breast density across the country, to both patients and their doctors.

    They are also pushing for a breast ultrasound for patients whose breasts are greater than 75 per cent fibroglandular tissue. Currently, this additional test, which is less susceptible to breast density’s masking effects, is not part of the provincial screening program. Instead, patients are sent for another mammogram one year earlier than normal.

    Jennie Dale, Dense Breasts Canada co-founder, said women can be lulled into a “false sense of security” when negative mammogram results arrive in the mail. Failing to inform women about their breast density is like “withholding information that can affect their lives,” she said. “It’s kept a secret. This is about your health. It’s your right to know.”

    Radiologist Paula Gordon, a University of British Columbia clinical professor and medical adviser to Dense Breasts Canada, said it is “patronizing” not to notify women of this risk factor.

    Doctors regularly disclose other risk factors that could lead to further testing, such as measures of cholesterol and blood pressure, she said, adding that breast density is as strong a risk factor for breast cancer as is family history.

    Knowing the level of their breast density may prompt women to take better care of themselves, conduct self-exams more regularly, perhaps watch their weight and exercise, which could mitigate an increased risk of developing breast cancer,” Gordon said. “It’s information women need to know.”

    In terms of additional testing for dense breasts, Gordon said there is ample research showing that a breast ultrasound detects cancers missed by mammograms and that the earlier these cancers are found the greater the options for treatment. And the better the prognosis for the patient.

    In British Columbia, where Gordon practices, breast density, captured by a radiologist under that province’s screening program, is not communicated to the patient or her doctor. A high density score likewise does not trigger a mail-out fact sheet or more frequent screening.

    According to Cancer Care Ontario, radiologists interpreting mammograms as part of Ontario’s breast screening program do not grade each breast for specific levels of density. Rather, they only note whether a breast is over or under 75 per cent fibroglandular tissue, simply ticking off one of two boxes: “Breast density ≥ 75%” or “Breast density < 75 %”

    On mammograms performed outside the confines of the screening program — mammograms used to locate known tumours, or screens requested by women who are not in the screening program — radiologists may score breasts on a four-point scale, according to radiologist Jean Seely, executive member of the breast imaging working group for the Canadian Association of Radiologists and chair of the newly created Canadian Society of Breast Imaging, an organization designed to provide advocacy and standardization across Canada for breast imaging.

    The ratings on that four point scale range from a) “almost entirely fatty” to d), “the breasts are extremely dense, which lowers the sensitivity of mammography.”

    But those scores, including c) “the breasts are heterogeneously dense, which may obscure small masses,” are not routinely communicated to the patient, Seely said.

    In the U.S., 30 states have adopted breast density notification laws, making it mandatory for doctors to discuss the issue with their patients and tell them if they are above 50 per cent breast density, according to U.S. radiologist Debra Monticciolo, chair of the Commission on Breast Imaging for the American College of Radiology.

    Dr. Derek Muradali, head of Breast Imaging at the University of Toronto and radiologist-in-chief for the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), told the Star in an interview that he is “not quite sure of the rationale behind” the U.S. notification laws.

    While he agrees mammograms are “not perfect” and breast cancers can hide in dense tissue, he doesn’t support more or different testing simply because a woman has dense breasts — something he said fluctuates over time (breasts typically become fattier with age, he said).

    He said about 10 per cent of women in the provincial screening program have breasts that are 75 per cent or more glandular tissue.

    Doctors can send patients for different kinds of tests if they are deemed high risk, have the BRCA gene that indicates a family history of breast cancer, or if there’s an aberration on the mammogram that merits further investigation, he said.

    If these high-risk women can’t have an MRI, another test to screen for breast cancer that is not susceptible to the effects of density, for medical reasons (they may not be able to tolerate the dye injection) they can have an ultrasound, Muradali said. “Apart from this, based on the scientific literature, there is no reason to perform a screening breast ultrasound,” he said.

    According to Cancer Care Ontario, there is “insufficient evidence” to recommend a breast ultrasound or MRI for women other than those at high risk for breast cancer.”

    Muradali said his concern is that extra testing could lead to “false positives” and “harm,” such as needless biopsies and worry.

    On informing women of their breast density, he said: “If women are informed of breast density they should be informed of it such that they shouldn’t experience any anxiety because of it.”

    Martin Yaffe, a University of Toronto professor and cancer researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre who has been studying breast density for 25 years and helped develop Ontario’s breast screening guidelines, said the province should take a common-sense approach and develop guidelines for supplementary screening, which include testing with breast ultrasound or MRI.

    He said that since mammograms tend to be less accurate at detecting cancers in women with dense breasts, doing them more frequently — as in, every year as opposed to the screening program’s every two years — is “not the right answer.”

    Yaffe suspects that the cost and availability of supplementary screening may have something to do with the province’s reluctance to make additional testing part of the protocol. Right now, the only way for a patient to have additional screening is for them to “push” for it, he said. “Women have to do their own homework and be their own advocates.”

    In December Just over a month after her mammogram indicated she was in the clear, Pickersgill noticed swollen lymph nodes in her neck. Her cancer, diagnosed as invasive lobular carcinoma, a less common form of breast cancer, had already metastasized, she said. She had a single mastectomy a few months later, and a second mastectomy a year later.

    It wasn’t until she heard the oncologist talk about density briefly, in the winter of this year, that Pickersgill said she marched into her family doctor’s office and demanded to see her file.

    Flipping through the pages, she noticed that in 2012, when a mammogram detected cysts in one breast, a radiologist noted she had some density in both of her breasts. She was sent for a screening ultrasound. She trusted that her doctors were telling her everything she needed to know and were doing all they could.

    While her cancer has spread to her spine, it is under control right now and still treatable. But it could take over and take her life at any time, she said.

    “Find out what your breast density is,” she said. “If you do have dense tissue, you need to be aware of it. We need to be aware of our bodies.”

    Another women’s experience shows the importance of more detailed screening.

    When Jodie Sonnenburg, 49, an elementary school teacher in Ottawa, felt a lump in her right breast in March 2016, she told her doctor, who sent her for a mammogram. The test came back clear. Knowing her mammogram was negative, she didn’t panic when, a few months later, Sonnenburg noticed the lump under her arm was making her skin dimple slightly differently. “Again, I wasn’t worried,” she said. “I had done my due diligence by having my annual mammogram, right?”

    This time, her doctor sent her for an ultrasound. Immediately after performing the ultrasound test, the technician took her over to the mammography machine. Two weeks later, she met with her doctor who shared the results. The ultrasound showed her tumour but the mammogram on the same day did not pick it up. A few weeks after that she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

    Sonnenburg said she always knew she had dense breasts, but she didn’t know what that meant or that it was a risk factor.

    “Knowing that my breasts were so dense, why wasn’t I offered an ultrasound in the first place?” she asks now. “Had I known the correlation, I would have most certainly insisted. It could have been caught so much earlier.”

    Jennifer Young, president-elect for Ontario’s College of Family Physicians, said that physicians are all different when it comes to communicating information to patients, and deciding what information to discuss. Likewise, all patients are different, she said, and have varied desires for information. Young said physicians try their best to establish a relationship with each patient and use that to guide what to talk about.

    “I have not read any studies that convinced me that I need to increase a woman’s anxiety about her breasts if I don’t have to,” she said about discussing the issue of notifying women about moderate breast density. Young said she does believe women should be notified about density over 75 per cent. “There’s enough stuff out there that people can feel anxious about,” she said.

    The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care is slated to release new breast cancer screening guidelines in 2018. The task force is not in a position to comment until the guidelines are completed and released, an email to the Star from the task force, said.


    Breast density is a risk women need to know about, cancer survivor group saysBreast density is a risk women need to know about, cancer survivor group says

    0 0


    Dazzling. Thrilling. Breathtaking.

    You wouldn’t normally associate such adjectives with a TTC station. But that was actually the typical reaction Saturday when the public got a sneak peek at three new stations on the long-awaited Toronto-York Spadina subway extension, on track to open Dec. 17.

    “It’s just so unique; it really stands out,” said Israel Mbevi, while outside the new Pioneer Village station on Steeles Ave. W. in the rain with his 12-year-old son Baraka.

    “We came here from Mississauga on a rainy day just to see this. He loves anything to do with trains,” Mbevi said.

    The trains aren’t in service yet, so shuttle buses ferried droves of curiosity seekers, transit buffs, train fanatics and long-suffering commuters from Sheppard West station, on the western side of the Yonge-University line, up to the Pioneer Village, Highway 407 and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre stations.

    Officials said by the halfway point of the four-hour open house that more than 2,000 people had already visited the stations.

    The six-stop, 8.6-kilometre extension has been in the works for over a decade and was beset by a two-year delay and cost overruns that ballooned to $3.2 billion from $2.63 billion.

    Gary David Brown said he was “attracted by the novelty of it, and just curious to see how our tax dollars are being spent.”

    Spectators were wowed by the ultra-modern architecture and design touches including huge skylights, reflective ceilings, a giant stained-glass mural, terrazzo flooring and slanted columns on the platform and brass railings that include a ledge for cyclists to just glide their bikes down the stairs beside them to get to the train.

    Each has a dramatically different design to reflect the character of the nearby community, said project director Keith Sibley, whose project management firm Bechtel took over in 2015.

    “I’m happy to say we’re in position to open Dec. 17th,” he said.

    Sibley noted how people told him that the massive brown chandelier at Pioneer Village station resembles “the sesame seed bun on a Big Mac, or a very big mushroom.”

    “People are saying the 407 station looks like a spaceship has landed,” noted Sibley, who was thrilled with the turnout and all the questions he was being asked.

    With less than 50 days to go before opening day on the line, visitors were scooping up TTC memorabilia for sale at Pioneer Village station while a two-piece band played “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” for all the kids running around. People talked to the architects and transit officials while York University had recruiters on sight and of course there was an information stand for Black Creek Pioneer Village, a 10-minute walk from the station.

    The other three stops on the highly anticipated extension will include Finch West, Downsview Park and York University.

    With his two children in tow, Toronto shop teacher David Hann said he was pleased to see it all finally come to fruition, though oo late for his sister, who endured the dreaded commute to the remote York University campus where she attended school.

    “It was one of the reasons I went to U of T,” he said with a laugh.

    “It’s also been . . . years since we saw the last subway line built, and I was in high school then, so it’s been a while,” he said, referring to the Sheppard subway line.


    Toronto-York Spadina subway extension lures crowds with station sneak peeksToronto-York Spadina subway extension lures crowds with station sneak peeks

older | 1 | .... | 1076 | 1077 | (Page 1078) | 1079 | 1080 | .... | 1083 | newer