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    Immediately before Toronto police Const. Gregory Browne took a 15-year-old into a North York police station for booking on a November 2011 night, the teen — who had just been arrested for assaulting another police officer — asked if he could tell Browne something.

    “I don’t know what happened . . . I learned from a lawyer program how to talk to police,” Browne recalled the young boy said, in testimony Tuesday at the Toronto police tribunal.

    The ongoing misconduct hearing of two Toronto police officers in the so-called Neptune Four case resumed with an account from Browne, the officer who transported one of the teens to the police station after the four boys were stopped then arrested.

    Const. Adam Lourenco and his partner Const. Scharnil Pais are accused under Ontario’s Police Services Act of unlawfully arresting the main complainant in the case, his twin brother, and two of their friends — boys all 16 or under at the time.

    Lourenco also faces two other charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly using unreasonable force, one for punching the main complainant and another for pointing his gun at three of the teens.

    The officers pleaded not guilty, and none of the allegations against them have been proven at the tribunal.

    Because the teens faced criminal charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Star is not identifying them.

    Read more:

    Lawyer contradicts teen’s testimony in ‘Neptune Four’ case

    Teen tells police tribunal he looked to other officers for help — and no one stepped up

    Teen allegedly punched by cop in ‘Neptune Four’ case finally gets to tell his tale: DiManno

    The hearing stems from a 2011 incident when four boys were on their way to an after-school learning program in a Lawrence Heights public housing complex on Neptune Dr. The group was stopped by Lourenco and Pais, both with the now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit.

    According to police records, the officers were at the Neptune Dr. buildings to enforce the Trespass to Property Act on behalf of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

    When they were approached by police, one of the boys attempted to exercise his constitutional right to walk away.

    Last month, the tribunal heard from that boy — now the main complainant — who alleged he was punched and had a gun pointed at him after he attempted to stand up for his rights to walk away.

    The young man then testified that Lourenco handcuffed him and violently placed him into the car of another unit called for backup. Once inside the car, he tried to explain what happened to a Black officer who had not witnessed the original interaction.

    “He was Black and I was trying to appeal to him,’” the witness said of the officer, identified Tuesday as Browne.

    The witness went on to say that the officer was respectful but told him to “forget about the rights stuff,” in reference to defending his constitutional right to walk away from police under certain circumstances.

    “He said . . . basically don’t use it. It’s not going to work in real life,” the witness said last month.

    But Browne testified Tuesday that while he did give the teen some advice, it was only after the teen told Browne he understood that he didn’t have to speak to police under any circumstances.

    Browne told the tribunal he’d gotten the impression that the teen had told Lourenco and Pais to “f--- off immediately on contact.” The officer then gave the teen advice, saying “I don’t think that’s a good idea anywhere in life.”

    While Browne had made some notes about the conversation — which took place outside of North York’s 32 division, according to Browne — he hadn’t written down that the teen or anyone else in the group had told the officers to “f--- off.”

    When asked why he hadn’t made a note of that, Browne said that he was inexperienced at the time — he’d only been with TAVIS for a month — and had felt “some stupid reason” that he could not write curse words in his notes.

    Browne also maintained that he would not forget someone stating that they’d told an officer to “f--- off,” so he didn’t need to make a note of it.

    The four teens were charged with assaulting police, and the young man who did not want to answer police questions was charged with threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest. All of the charges were later withdrawn.

    The charges against Lourenco and Pais came after an investigation by Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director, spurred by the four teens complaining to the watchdog. One of the four teens has since withdrawn his complaint and is not participating in the hearing.

    With Star files


    Police tribunal puts spotlight on Black teen’s interaction with officer in cruiser in Neptune Four casePolice tribunal puts spotlight on Black teen’s interaction with officer in cruiser in Neptune Four case

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    A proposed drain feature at the St. Lawrence Market north redevelopment is now being reconsidered after the city said they cannot justify the expense.

    The proposal for a glass “viewing portal” looking onto an 1831 central drain was headed to the government management committee next week.

    But Mayor John Tory said in a statement Wednesday morning that he “cannot justify spending an additional $1.96 million for a ‘drain feature’ in the St. Lawrence Market redevelopment.”

    Tory said he spoke to Paul Ainslie, chair of the city’s government management committee Wednesday morning.

    “He agreed with me that the Committee should send this back to City staff to find a better way.”

    Tory noted that the heritage of Toronto is important.

    “As Mayor, I believe it is my duty to ensure we do what we can to protect our city’s heritage within the limited resources we have.”

    A portion of the near-$2 million cost could be funded within the current redevelopment budget of $91.5 million, but $1.64 million in additional funding would be required.

    The current redevelopment plan includes 250 underground parking spaces, a five-storey atrium, a market hall and mezzanine, court services and courtrooms.


    ‘Find a better way,’ Tory says of $1.64M drain feature at St. Lawrence Market‘Find a better way,’ Tory says of $1.64M drain feature at St. Lawrence Market

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    Cheri DiNovo is leaving politics for her own parish.

    The well-known NDP MPP, who has represented Parkdale—High Park for 11 years, said that as of Jan. 1, she will be minister at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Arts and Justice in downtown Toronto.

    “I’m in fact returning to my true love: theology, advocacy and ministry,” said DiNovo, a United Church minister, who wore her white clerical collar for the announcement at Queen’s Park.

    DiNovo has been a champion LGBTQ rights and a supporter of improvements to the minimum wage, and was successful in pushing the Liberal government on legislation and introducing her own private member’s bills.

    Before making the move to politics, she said she was “privileged to perform the first legalized same-sex marriage,” and later became the only LGBTQ critic in the history of the Ontario legislature.

    “Trinity-St. Paul’s is, and will be, a centre for all non-binary, queer, lesbian, bisexual, trans and gay people,” she said, adding the centre will focus on “queer theology and spirituality for all those fleeing oppression based on race, class, immigration status and poverty as well.

    “I’m thrilled. It is a place, one of the few, where women’s leadership is extolled and encouraged.”

    While DiNovo is leaving Queen’s Park, she’s not going far — and pledged to be there for her political colleagues and their spiritual needs.

    The Legislature “will be a part of my parish and I intend to continue fighting for those who are marginalized, but also provide pastoral care for those who are in need in the political sphere, both here and in Ottawa,” she said.

    “Political work is non-stop, exhausting and demanding. I intend to be here and there for anyone who needs someone who can listen and someone who can pray.”

    DiNovo will continue her “Radical Reverend” radio show on CIUT.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the MPP’s career has been stellar. “She has really made a difference in the lives of all kinds of people from the work she’s done.”

    DiNovo had, many years ago, put forward a massive bill on employment standards, Horwath added, containing “things the government is just getting around to now.”

    During Wednesday’s question period, Premier Kathleen Wynne lauded DiNovo for her work “on so many social issues. She has always been a champion.”

    In 2016, DiNovo decided not to pursue the leadership of the federal NDP because she needed time to recover after suffering two mini-strokes.

    Late last year, the province passed the All Families are Equal Act, updating parentage laws and giving same-sex parents legal recognition, legislation that was inspired by a private member’s bill put forth by DiNovo.


    ‘Radical reverend’ NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo is leaving politics for the church‘Radical reverend’ NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo is leaving politics for the church

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    A woman who allegedly left Canada some 17 months ago for the purpose of participating, facilitating, instructing or harbouring a terrorist group was indicted Wednesday morning on 14 terrorism-related charges.

    Rehab Dughmosh, 32, appeared in person in the Scarborough courtroom following several earlier video-link appearances.

    Wearing a green tunic tracksuit and black veil that covered all of her face except for the eyes, Dughmosh immediately informed Judge Kim Crosbie that she would not stand in the dock, as is customary when being spoken to.

    “I want to stay seated.”

    Occasionally speaking English for herself but mostly communicating through an Arabic interpreter, Dughmosh made it clear she had no intention of pleading guilty or of co-operating with the court in this procedure.

    “You told me you wished to plead guilty,” said Crosbie, apparently referring to an earlier communication.

    Dughmosh, through her interpreter: “Tell her I am still a supporter of the Islamic State.

    “I am not guilty and I don’t want to go to bail court.”

    Dughmosh was arrested in June after allegedly trying to attack employees at a Canadian Tire in Scarborough with a golf club and a knife. She has pledged allegiance to Daesh, also known as the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL, in court and declared that “if you release me, I will commit these actions again and again and again.”

    Read more: Toronto woman charged with assault at Scarborough mall

    Mental health assessment ordered for Toronto woman facing terror charges

    Toronto woman accused of terror-related assault again refuses to appear in court

    Because Dughmosh refused to make her preference known for the next legal step Wednesday, Crosbie “deemed” that the defendant would be transferred to Ontario Superior Court for a trial before judge and jury.

    Following a psychiatric assessment earlier ordered, Dughmosh was found mentally fit to stand trial.

    Afterward, Dughmosh made another little speech.

    “I say to all you who don’t believe, I do not believe what you believe.

    “Tell her I will always be a supporter of the Islamic State until the last day of my life.

    “If you allow me to go out and leave, I will do exactly what I tried to do last time and failed.”


    Woman accused in Canadian Tire attack indicted on 14 terror chargesWoman accused in Canadian Tire attack indicted on 14 terror charges

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    OTTAWA—As promised, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer brought the battle against the Liberals’ fiscal reform plan to Parliament Hill this week.

    With the prime minister present Monday, Scheer himself rose a dozen times to launch verbal volleys at the government. On the first day of the fall sitting of the House of Commons, the tax changes were the sole issue on the Conservative radar.

    On Tuesday, every official opposition question again dealt with the proposal to curtail some of the tax benefits enjoyed by individuals who set up private corporations. But in that instance the Conservatives set their sights on the half-dozen ministers whose departments deal with constituencies that could be affected by the changes. Wednesday featured variations on the same theme.

    Read more: Justin Trudeau defends tax reforms aimed at small businesses

    Trudeau, Scheer spar over Liberals’ small business tax proposal as Parliament returns

    Plan to rein in ‘income sprinkling’ a welcome tax reform: Wells

    To put the Conservative single-minded focus on tax reform in perspective, on the day in 2003 when then-prime minister Jean Chrétien declined to have Canada join the U.S.-led offensive on Iraq, the official opposition did not devote its entire question period time to the issue.

    As a rule, it takes more than a few weeks in any given sitting of the House of Commons for opposition attacks on the government to reach fever pitch. In this case that level has already been reached. The next few months promise to test the vocal chords of the Conservative caucus — and the nerves of everyone else.

    But if Scheer’s hope was to fan the flames of discontent within Liberal ranks the results are inconclusive. And if the plan was to ignite a public opinion firestorm against the government, it may be backfiring.

    There is discomfort with Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s proposed plan on the government benches. A handful of MPs have gone public with their reservations.

    But for all the Conservative prodding there has so far been little evidence of the kind of cracks that once surfaced on the Conservative cabinet frontline on policy matters such as — for instance — the wisdom of pursuing Stephen Harper’s election promise of extending income splitting to families with children or the need to put the future of the senate to a referendum.

    Some of Harper’s most senior ministers, not his backbenchers, were the main protagonists in those public rifts.

    Until the House opened this week, the Conservative narrative along with that of the many constituencies that oppose the Liberal plan dominated the air war. There were times when it seemed they owned the battlefield.

    In spite of that, the polls done since the controversy erupted all concur: the Liberals are well ahead of the federal pack and enjoy a double-digit lead on the Conservatives. Worse from the Conservative perspective, there are more Canadians who profess to support Trudeau’s party than at the time of his election victory two years ago.

    That begs the question of whether Scheer has engaged in a losing battle.

    For, along with the return of Parliament, other voices are joining the government chorus.

    Take Quebec where the Conservatives will be testing their post-Harper strength in a byelection involving their Lac-St-Jean seat next month.

    The Fonds de Solidarité FTQ supports more than 2,000 small businesses in the province. It is one of Quebec’s biggest economic players. On Wednesday, its president Gaétan Morin signed an open letter in support of Morneau’s fiscal reform. So did Alexandre Taillefer — one of Quebec’s rising entrepreneurial stars and economist Jean-Martin Aussant. He is a former Parti Québécois MNA who is often seen as former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau’s spiritual heir.

    These are not Quebec names one usually associates with the federal Liberals. Ditto on the national scene in the case of the Broadbent Institute. The progressive think-tank that many New Democrats see as an extension of their party is backing Morneau in this battle against the Conservatives.

    It was Ed Broadbent in his days as federal leader of the NDP who cast the choice between his party and its two main rivals as one between Main Street and Bay Street. Then as now the former tended to be more crowded with voters than the latter.

    So far polls have found that most Canadians have been giving the fiscal reform debate a pass. That may change as more and more so-called influencers engage in the debate. Scheer may come to regret having captured their attention.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.


    Tory leader Andrew Scheer may regret wading into the tax reform debate: HébertTory leader Andrew Scheer may regret wading into the tax reform debate: Hébert

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    There aren’t many insult comics who are better than Donald J. Trump.

    Whatever you think of his leadership style, his put-down style is without peer in global politics. After deciding to run for public office, Trump elevated his dig-and-jibe game, moving past such generic nouns as “losers” and “haters.”

    The genius of this evolving invective was in how he, almost instinctively, reduced an adversary to caricature by magnifying perceived defects and weaknesses. Trump created tweet- and meme-friendly nicknames by prefacing his enemies with demeaning adjectives and intransitive verbs:

    “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Little Marco” Rubio.

    “Crooked Hillary” Clinton, “Crazy Bernie” Sanders.

    These insults were effective because they were offensive to the target. They worked because they could, under no circumstance, be interpreted as compliments.

    NBC’s Chuck Todd isn’t bragging to friends about how Trump calls him “Sleepy Eyes.” Elizabeth Warren’s blood pressure must spike whenever she sees the word “Pocahontas.”

    But during a speech at the United Nations this week, in which Trump casually threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, his capacity to verbally debase an opponent was called into question when he referred to Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.”

    First of all, if you’re going to start an insult war with North Korea, you better bring your A-game. These guys don’t screw around in the theatre of scornful rhetoric. As a Fox News story pointed out this spring, North Korea has a history of going all Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on America.

    The dictatorship has referred to former president Barack Obama as a “juvenile delinquent” who “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being.” George W. Bush, meanwhile, apparently looks “like a chicken soaked in the rain.”

    I think we can agree: those are some sick burns, as is calling Dick Cheney a “blood-thirsty beast,” or suggesting Hillary Clinton resembles “a pensioner going shopping.”

    Within the international realm of insult, North Korea is a superpower.

    By sharp contrast, and as combat branding goes, “Rocket Man” is a failure.

    If Trump wanted to use an Elton John song title, he should have called the homophobic Kim Jong Un “Tiny Dancer” or “Nikita.” “Daniel” might have conveyed unwanted sibling sentiment, forcing the North Korean dictator to drop his binoculars and contemplate some of his monstrous decisions.

    And now that Elton has inspired the template for this escalating tension, what happens if there is a war? Will the American military action be called Operation Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Will we end up singing “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” or “I’m Still Standing”?

    I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.

    For crying out loud, “Rocket Man” is not even an insult. In this context, it’s a statement of fact. Kim Jong Un refuses stop firing missiles. That is the problem. He is openly threatening the world. That is the crisis.

    “Rocket Man” won’t deter this lunatic. It will only egg him on because it accidentally glorifies his obsession with ICBMs and nuclear warheads by validating his self-concept. Trump might as well have called him “The Terminator.”

    That’s why it was baffling on Wednesday morning to hear members of this administration celebrate the “Rocket Man” tag, including Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN.

    I tell you, George, it worked,” she told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.“I was talking to a president of an African country yesterday and he actually cited Rocket Man back to me. This is a way of getting people to talk about (Kim Jong Un). But every other international community now is referring to him as ‘Rocket Man.’ ”

    Or they are wondering why the U.S. president is referring to him as “Rocket Man.”

    Over on Fox & Friends, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a similar observation: “Look, (“Rocket Man” is) a President Trump original. As you know, he’s a master in branding.”

    Leaving aside the obvious — maybe “branding” shouldn’t be the central concern when the threat of nuclear war hangs in the balance — Sanders has completely missed the point.

    To the eyes and ears of Kim Jong Un, “Rocket Man” will land as a compliment. He will probably have it sewn onto his lapel before the next missile test. He’s probably listening to Honky Château right now while swapping boastful emails with Dennis Rodman: “Your idiot president finally understands that I am indeed the Rocket Man. America is ready to bow down and accept its imminent defeat.”

    The world needs Trump to solve the North Korean problem with clear eyes.

    And I think it’s gonna be a long long time until we understand how this ridiculous nickname helps.

    vmenon@thestar.ca


    ‘Rocket Man’ shot a rare and risky misfire for Trump: Menon‘Rocket Man’ shot a rare and risky misfire for Trump: Menon

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    Volkswagen Group Canada’s offices in Ajax have been raided as a pollution charge was laid against its parent company in the international emissions scandal that broke two years ago.

    The action by Ontario Ministry of Environment investigators took place Tuesday, four days after Volkswagen AG of Germany was charged with causing or permitting the operation of vehicles that did not comply with provincial emissions standards.

    “The execution of the search warrant is part of the ministry’s continuing investigation into this matter,” Environment Minister Chris Ballard said in a statement Wednesday.

    He declined to release further details, saying “the case is before the courts.”

    Volkswagen Canada officials said the company “is cooperating with the ministry in its investigation and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

    Ballard did not explain the time lag in the charges; Volkswagen pleaded guilty in the United States last March to defrauding the U.S. government in a scheme to cheat diesel emission rules.

    The company agreed to pay $4.3 billion (U.S.) in penalties, on top of billions more to buy back cars.

    In April, Ontario Superior Court ruled members of a $2.1-billion class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen could begin submitting claims for reimbursement.

    About 105,000 Canadians who bought or leased some Volkswagen or Audi vehicles with two-litre diesel engines will each get between $5,100 and $8,000.

    They also have the option of returning their vehicle at a buyback price set at September 2015 levels before the so-called “defeat device” was made public, or they can keep their cars and get an emissions system modification approved by government regulators.

    Worldwide, 11 million cars were equipped with software that detected when cars were being tested and turned off environmental controls during normal driving.

    In the U.S., for example, this resulted in pollution of 40 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxide.


    Volkswagen’s Ajax offices raided after environmental charge laid in emissions scandalVolkswagen’s Ajax offices raided after environmental charge laid in emissions scandal

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    WASHINGTON—Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has asked the White House for documents about some of U.S. President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and FBI director, according to White House officials.

    Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the FBI director had relieved “great pressure” on him.

    The document requests provide the most details to date about the breadth of Mueller’s investigation, and show that several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Trump’s behaviour in the White House.

    Mueller’s office has questioned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as it probes the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

    Read more: FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s home

    Special counsel Robert Mueller using grand jury to help probe Russian meddling

    Trump’s attacks on Sessions, Mueller raise concerns about ‘authoritarian’ tactics

    It is not clear exactly when the conversation took place, or how long it lasted, but Rosenstein is relevant to Mueller’s investigation because he authored a memorandum in May that the White House initially held up as justification for Comey’s firing.

    The fact that Mueller’s team would speak with Rosenstein is not surprising given his direct involvement in Trump administration conversations that preceded the May 9 ouster and the evolving White House explanations of it.

    But the questioning is nonetheless an indication of investigators’ continued interest in the circumstances surrounding Comey’s ouster, and whether it constituted an effort to obstruct an investigation into potential co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. Mueller’s team of investigators is expected to interview current and former White House aides in coming weeks as part of that investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The people who discussed the conversation with Rosenstein, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Mueller’s team of investigators reports to Rosenstein, who oversaw the Justice Department’s Russia investigation following the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Rosenstein told The Associated Press in June that he would recuse from oversight of Mueller’s investigation if necessary and warranted, though he has not done so as of Wednesday and it was not clear when or if he intended to.

    “As the Deputy Attorney General has said numerous times, if there comes a time when he needs to recuse, he will,” the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday night.

    Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel one week after Comey’s firing, and one day after it was revealed that Comey had alleged in an internal memo that President Donald Trump had asked him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    The White House initially explained Comey’s firing by saying Trump was acting on the recommendation of Rosenstein, who wrote a scathing memo about Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

    But that narrative was muddled days later when Trump, in a television interview, said he would have fired Comey regardless of the Justice Department’s recommendation. It was revealed earlier this month that Trump and aide Stephen Miller had drafted, but not sent, an earlier memo that sought to justify Comey’s firing. That document is now in Mueller’s possession.

    Rosenstein has said he stands by the memo and his assessment that Comey mishandled the Clinton email investigation by publicly announcing the FBI’s findings instead of ceding that authority to the Justice Department. But he has also said he did not intend for his memo to be used as a justification for firing.

    In recent weeks, Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 different areas that investigators want more information about. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mueller’s requests.

    One of the requests is about a meeting Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James Comey, the FBI director, was fired. That day, Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Trump had said that firing Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.

    Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.

    Ty Cobb, the lawyer Trump hired to provide materials related to the Russia investigation to the special counsel and Congress, has told Mueller’s office that he will turn over many of the documents this week.

    “We can’t comment on any specific requests being made or our conversations with the special counsel,’’ he said.

    With files from The Associated Press


    Special counsel Mueller questions deputy AG, asks for documents on Trump’s firing of ComeySpecial counsel Mueller questions deputy AG, asks for documents on Trump’s firing of ComeySpecial counsel Mueller questions deputy AG, asks for documents on Trump’s firing of ComeySpecial counsel Mueller questions deputy AG, asks for documents on Trump’s firing of Comey

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    MEXICO CITY—Rescuers found a surviving child on Wednesday in the ruins of a school that collapsed in Mexico’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake, one of many efforts across the city to try to save people trapped in debris under schools, homes and businesses toppled by the quake that killed at least 225 people.

    Helmeted workers laboured throughout the day, sometimes calling for silence to listen for any voices from the wreckage as they tried to reach the girl at the Enrique Rebsamen school in southern Mexico City. AP journalists at the scene saw three rescuers entering the rubble.

    Rescuers spotted the girl and shouted to her to move her hand if she could hear them, and she did, according to Foro TV. A search dog was then sent into the wreckage to confirm she was alive.

    Read more:

    Hundreds of volunteers frantically work to rescue, comfort Mexico’s quake victims

    Death toll rises in Mexico after powerful earthquake: ‘The disaster is potentially widespread’

    Tuesday’s quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours before it hit, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date.

    One of the most desperate rescue efforts was at the primary and secondary school, where a wing of the three-story building collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete slabs. Journalists saw rescuers pull at least two small bodies from the rubble, covered in sheets.

    Volunteer rescue worker Dr. Pedro Serrano managed to crawl into the crevices of the tottering pile of rubble at the school. He made it into a classroom, but found everyone inside dead.

    “We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults — a woman and a man,” he said. All were dead.

    “We can hear small noises, but we don’t know if they’re coming from . . . the walls above, or someone below calling for help,” he said.

    Neighbourhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school’s ruins. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received WhatsApp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.

    Rescuers brought in wooden beams to shore up the fallen concrete slabs so they wouldn’t collapse further and crush whatever air spaces remained.

    The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children. It was not clear whether those deaths were included in the overall death toll of 225 reported by the federal civil defence agency. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto had earlier reported 22 bodies found at the school and said 30 children and eight adults were reported missing.

    In a video message released late Tuesday, Pena Nieto urged people to be calm and said authorities were working to restore power and other services to the 40 per cent of Mexico City and 60 per cent of nearby Morelos state that lost electricity. But, he said, “the priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people.”

    “Every minute counts to save lives,” the president tweeted.

    People across central Mexico already had rallied to help their neighbours as dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of broken concrete. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 sites in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed and twisted and hundreds of thousands of panicked people ran into the streets.

    The huge volunteer effort included people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers stood alongside construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.

    Even Mexico City’s normally raucous motorcycle clubs swung into action, using motorcades to open lanes for emergency vehicles on avenues crammed with cars largely immobilized by street closures and malfunctioning stoplights.

    Economist Alfredo Coutino, Latin America director for Moody’s Analytics warned Wednesday of economic disruption to several central states and the capital in particular.

    “Though it is too early for authorities to have an estimate of the damage as rescue work continues, it is certain that economic activity . . . will continue to be disrupted for some time,” Coutino wrote.

    The official Twitter feed of civil defence agency head Luis Felipe Puente said there were 94 dead in Mexico City and 71 in Morelos state, which is just south of the capital. It said 43 others were killed in Puebla state, where the quake was centred. Twelve deaths were listed in the State of Mexico, which borders Mexico City on three sides, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca.

    At the site of a collapsed apartment building in Mexico City, rescuers stood atop a three-story pile of rubble, forming a human chain that passed pieces of rubble across four city blocks to a site where they were dumped.

    Throughout the day on Tuesday, rescuers pulled dust-covered people, some barely conscious, some seriously injured, from about three dozen collapsed buildings. At one site, shopping carts commandeered from a nearby supermarket were used to carry water to the rescue site and take rubble away.

    As night fell, huge flood lights lit up the recovery sites, but workers and volunteers begged for headlamps.

    Where a six-story office building collapsed in Mexico City, sisters Cristina and Victoria Lopez Torres formed part of a human chain passing bottled water.

    “I think it’s human nature that drives everyone to come and help others,” Cristina Lopez said.

    “We are young. We didn’t live through ‘85. But we know that it’s important to come out into the streets to help,” said her sister, Victoria.

    Ricardo Ibarra, 48, did live through the 1985 quake and said there hadn’t been anything like it since.

    Wearing a bright orange vest and carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag strapped to it, he said he and his friends just wanted to help.

    “People are very sensitive because today was the 32nd anniversary of a tragedy,” he said.

    Buildings also collapsed in Morelos state, including the town hall and local church in Jojutla near the quake’s epicenter. A dozen people died in Jojutla.

    The town’s Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill held in the morning came in handy.

    “I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared,” Anzures said of the drill. When the quake came, she said, children and teachers rapidly filed out and nobody was hurt.

    Many people spent Tuesday night on the streets next to homes that were severely damaged or flattened outright, wrapped in blankets on mattresses dragged outside. In the morning they walked past shattered buildings and picked through what was left.

    At a wake in Jojutla on Wednesday for Daniel Novoa, a toddler killed when his home collapsed, family members bent over a white child-size coffin surrounded by a crucifix and images of Mexico’s patron, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Alongside was a larger open coffin for the child’s aunt, Marta Cruz.

    In Atzala in Puebla state, villagers mourned 11 family members who died inside a church when it crumbled during a baptism for a 2-year-old girl. People at the wake said the only ones to survive were the baby’s father, the priest and the priest’s assistant.


    Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades leaves at least 225 deadMexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades leaves at least 225 dead

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    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and triggered heavy flooding Wednesday in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis.

    Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 250 km/h.

    It was expected to punish the island of 3.4 million people with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours.

    “Once we’re able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed,” said Abner Gomez, Puerto Rico’s emergency management director. “The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything in its path.”

    It was the second time in two weeks that Puerto Rico felt the wrath of a hurricane.

    There was no immediate word of any deaths or serious injuries.

    As people waited it out in shelters or took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria brought down cell towers and power lines, snapped trees, tore off roofs and unloaded at least 50 centimetres of rain.

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    Putting hurricanes and climate change into the same frame

    Widespread flooding was reported, with dozens of cars half-submerged in some neighbourhoods and many streets turned into rivers. People calling local radio stations reported that doors were being torn off their hinges and a water tank flew away.

    Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press that 80 per cent of the 454 homes in a neighbourhood known as Juana Matos were destroyed. The fishing community on San Juan Bay was hit with a storm surge of more than 4 feet, he said.

    “Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this,” he said.

    As of 2 p.m. EDT, Maria had weakened to a Category 3, with winds of 185 km/h. It was off Puerto Rico’s northwest coast, moving at about 20 km/h, and was expected to pass off the coast of the Dominican Republic late Wednesday and Thursday.

    Even before the storm, Puerto Rico’s electrical grid was crumbling and the island was in dire condition financially.

    Puerto Rico is struggling to restructure a portion of its $73 billion debt, and the government has warned it is running out of money as it fights back against furloughs and other austerity measures imposed by a federal board overseeing the island’s finances.

    Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged people to have faith: “We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild.”

    He later asked U.S. President Donald Trump to declare the island a disaster zone, a step that would open the way to federal aid.

    Many feared extended power outages would further sink businesses struggling amid a recession that has lasted more than a decade.

    “This is going to be a disaster,” said Jean Robert Auguste, who owns two French restaurants and sought shelter at a San Juan hotel. “We haven’t made any money this month.”

    More than 11,000 people — and more than 580 pets — were in shelters, authorities said.

    Along the island’s northern coast, an emergency medical station in the town of Arecibo lost its roof, while communication was severed with several emergency management posts. A hospital and a police station reported broken windows, and a tree fell on an ambulance.

    The heavy winds and rain and the noise of things crashing outside woke many across Puerto Rico before daybreak. At one recently built hotel in San Juan, water dripped through the ceiling of a sixth-floor room and seeped through the window.

    “I didn’t sleep at all,” said Merike Mai, a vacationing 35-year-old flight attendant from Estonia.

    As the storm closed in on the Dominican Republic, about 4,000 tourists in the Bavara-Punta Cana area on the eastern tip of the island were moved to hotels in Santo Domingo, the capital.

    Maria posed no immediate threat to the U.S. The long-range forecast showed the storm out in the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of miles off the Georgia-South Carolina coast by Monday morning.

    Previously a Category 5 with 281 km/h winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., based on its central pressure. It was even stronger than Hurricane Irma when Irma roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.

    Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, causing no deaths or widespread damage on the island but leaving more than 1 million people without electricity. More than 70,000 still had no power as Maria approached.

    The last Category 4 hurricane to blow ashore in Puerto Rico was in 1932, and the strongest ever to hit the island was San Felipe in 1928 with winds of 250 km/h.

    As Maria closed in, Trump offered his support via Twitter: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you - will be there to help!”

    The storm’s centre passed near or over St. Croix overnight Tuesday, prompting U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp to warn people to sleep in their street clothes and shoes just in case. St. Croix was largely spared by Irma.

    There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries on St. Croix, but it was still too dangerous Wednesday to venture out and conduct a thorough check, said Nykole Tyson, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Virgin Islands Emergency Operations Center.

    On the island of Dominica, which got slammed late Monday, Hartley Henry, an adviser to the prime minister, reported at least seven deaths and a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings.” He said the country was “in a daze,” with no electricity and little to no communications.

    “The situation is really grave,” Consul General Barbara Dailey said in New York.


    Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power as heavy flooding continues Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power as heavy flooding continues Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power as heavy flooding continuesHurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power as heavy flooding continues Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power as heavy flooding continues Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power as heavy flooding continues

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    BEIJING—China rebuked U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday after he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary, a warning that may have undermined the chances of peace but also gave Beijing an easy opportunity to seize the moral high ground.

    Beijing has consistently blamed not just Pyongyang but also Washington for what it sees as its hostile policies toward the regime. It argues that U.S. hostility has helped to pushed North Korea’s rulers into a corner and talk of total destruction only reinforces that narrative.

    “Trump threatens DPRK with ‘total destruction’, while China calls for peaceful settlement,” the online English-language edition of the People’s Daily newspaper headlined an op-ed, referring to the county’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    “Trump’s political chest-thumping is unhelpful, and it will only push the DPRK to pursue even riskier policies, because the survival of the regime is at stake,” it wrote.

    China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was more restrained, but nevertheless conveyed a similar message.

    In imposing economic sanctions on Pyongyang, the United Nations Security Council has agreed that the North Korea issue should be solved through “political and diplomatic means,” he said.

    “The Peninsula situation is still in a complex and sensitive state,” he said. “We hope that relevant parties could maintain restraint while completing United Nations Security Council resolutions, and take more correct actions which are helpful in easing the situation.”

    More than 80 per cent of North Korea’s foreign trade is with China, while both Beijing and Moscow have been blamed for helping North Korea develop its missile program. Although Trump thanked both countries for agreeing to sanctions at the UN, he also appeared to rebuke one or both of them.

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    In his most aggressive warning to date, Donald Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea

    “It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict,” he said.

    But China is uncomfortable with the idea that it should shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, and for Pyongyang’s refusal to back down, experts explain.

    “They don’t like the idea that the international community sees this as a China problem,” said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing. “To a certain extent, this kind of talk at the UN plays right into their hands.”

    Yanmei Xie, a China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing, made a similar point.

    “Trump’s bellicose rhetoric does add urgency to how China views this issue,” she said. “But it also reinforces China’s view that both sides are to blame for the tension.”

    China has become extremely frustrated with Pyongyang, but does not believe that sanctions will ever force it to abandon its nuclear program, which the regime sees as central to its survival.

    It has resisted pressure to cut off North Korea’s oil imports, which it believes would only serve to alienate the regime from Beijing, and leave China facing an nuclear-armed enemy state on its border.

    “They believe that there is nothing we can do at this point to prevent Kim Jong Un from reaching his goal (of developing an intercontinental nuclear missile capability,)” said Haenle. “And they don’t want to cross the threshold where they become North Korea’s enemy.”

    So while Trump has convinced China to turn the screw on North Korea, he will struggle to convince it to act more forcefully.

    François Godemont, director of the Asia/China Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations said Trump may suffer a “credibility” problem in Chinese eyes by also threatening the governments of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, rather than showing a resolute focus on a single issue.

    But do Trump’s words presage armed conflict?

    The nationalist Global Times newspaper took a pessimistic view, arguing in an editorial that Trump’s speech head “reduced hope of peace” on the Korean Peninsula.

    “Facts prove Pyongyang won’t yield to pressure. Pushing North Korea to its limit may eventually trigger a bloody war,’ it warned. “If a nuclear war broke out, that would be a crime against Chinese and South Koreans by Pyongyang and Washington.”

    However, several other experts said they were not worried.

    “China and Russia have a common stance on this — they want to prevent war even if there is only a one per cent chance of it,” said Wang Sheng, a North Korea expert at Jilin University in Changshun. As a result of their joint resolve, he said, “the United States could not easily start a war.”

    Military expert Song Xiaojun agreed.

    “What he said is a tactic, it doesn’t mean he will really start a war,” he said. “The U.S. army is concerned about other things, such as China’s rise and Iran. Since the atomic bomb was developed, the United States has never started a war with a nuclear-armed country.”

    Last month, the Global Times newspaper warned North Korea that China would not come to the country’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil, although it would intervene if Washington strikes first.

    That statement was meant to deter Pyongyang from crossing any red lines, experts say.

    In the event of war, it is unlikely Chinese troops would fight alongside or on behalf of North Korea soldiers to defend the regime, as they did in the 1950-53 Korean War, but they could enter the country to secure nuclear weapons sites, and prevent U.S. troops from crossing into the North and installing a U.S.-friendly puppet government, some experts say.

    In Pyongyang, the government will also have taken very clear note of Trump’s angry disavowal of the nuclear deal with Iran, where that country agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program under international supervision in return for a lifting of sanctions.

    Trump called that deal “an embarrassment to the United States” and threatened to pull out of it. Saying “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever,” he also called for the Iranian people to change their own government.

    North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has already seen Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein agree to surrender their efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction only to end up ousted from power and killed. Trump’s talk will only reinforce that lesson.

    “How can Kim not conclude from this that Americans will not rest until his regime is topple and that giving up nuclear weapons is suicidal?,” asked Xie at Dragonomics.


    China to Donald Trump: Your North Korea speech was really unhelpfulChina to Donald Trump: Your North Korea speech was really unhelpful

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    Ontario’s biggest weed dealer is considering a retail price of around $10 a gram in a system that could bring a tax windfall of more than $100 million a year.

    That $10 fee — estimated after New Brunswick signed deals with two suppliers last week — is on the radar as officials here determine a price for recreational marijuana when it becomes legal next July 1, says Finance Minister Charles Sousa.

    “It’s certainly something we’re giving consideration to,” Sousa told reporters Wednesday.

    “We’re trying to work with all of our colleagues across Canada,” Sousa said, noting federal and provincial finance ministers will meet later this year on pricing and taxation levels.

    “The intent is to have some uniformity with these prices across Canada.”

    It’s crucial to have prices in line with neighbouring jurisdictions and to “ensure it’s not overly expensive” to avoid fuelling illegal sales in the underground economy, Sousa added.

    Critics have warned the government monopoly on pot sales will not kill the black market.

    Sousa would not speculate on how much the sale of recreational cannabis could bring to provincial coffers.

    That’s because the cost of a new LCBO-run system of standalone pot stores, public education about the impacts of marijuana, and the costs of enforcement and policing will have to be factored in.

    But Sousa conceded gross revenues of more than $100 million annually are possible given that Ontario will have a larger customer base than many U.S. states with legalized marijuana.

    “It’s not a ridiculous number to consider because, as you’ve seen in other parts of North America, the numbers have actually been even higher.”

    Eight U.S. states, including California, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana.

    CNN has reported that Colorado, for example, has brought in $506 million in taxes and fees since retail sales began in 2014, with $200 million last year alone.

    The finance minister suggested sales will be brisk when the government’s shops and website begin filling orders for cannabis next summer.

    “Demand across Canada is actually pretty high…you can see it by the number of shops that already are there illegally.”

    The government has signalled those illegal shops will be shut down as the government opens 40 of its stores next July, rising to 150 within two years. The LCBO will get its cannabis products from medical marijuana producers licenced by Health Canada.

    Ontarians will have to be 19 to purchase cannabis — the same age of majority as with alcohol — and can only consume it legally at home.

    The government says it chose the LCBO to run the pot distribution system because it already has staff trained to refuse underage drinkers and has a tightly controlled distribution channel.

    Earlier this week, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced tougher penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana.

    There will be a “zero tolerance” policy toward young drivers 21 and under, novice drivers and truckers caught behind the wheel under the influence of cannabis or alcohol.

    There will be three-day suspensions and $250 fines for young drivers and all G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders convicted of a first offence.

    A second conviction comes with week-long suspensions and fines of $350, which rise to 30-day suspensions and $450 fines for subsequent convictions.

    Commercial drivers will face three-day suspensions any time they are caught and fined up to $450.

    The penalties are in addition to Criminal Code charges for impaired driving, which can include loss of licences, fines and jail sentences.

    Cannabis impairment tests that measure THC levels in saliva are awaiting approval from the federal government, although their effectiveness in cold weather has been questioned. Most U.S. jurisdictions use blood tests.


    Ontario considers pricing pot at $10 a gram when it's legalized next yearOntario considers pricing pot at $10 a gram when it's legalized next year

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    Police have released a video showing the suspect in the fatal shooting of a real estate agent at a Toronto restaurant on Saturday.

    Simon Giannini, 54, was sitting at a table in Michael’s restaurant on Simcoe St. when a man in a hoodie came into the restaurant just before 9 p.m.

    Restaurant owner Michael Dabic said the shooter told his manager he was there “looking for a friend.”

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    When the manager confronted him again, the man bolted towards Giannini’s table and opened fire.

    The shooter fled amid the chaos, driving west along Pearl St. in a white SUV. A waiter dashed outside to write down its license plate number.

    At a news conference Wednesday, Det. Shannon Dawson asked the public for help in identifying the suspect, who was wearing jogging pants and a hoodie with a large “B” on it.

    “Witnesses have described the suspect as male, black, medium build, approximately 5 ft. 7 to 5 ft. 1,” said Dawson.

    She mentioned that there was no indication Giannini was involved in anything suspicious to cause the shooting, and that it appears he has no affiliation to his brother, who is a “well-known criminal over seas.”

    Two years prior, a shooting took place within Michael’s restaurant, however Dawson stated that police have no reason to believe the two shootings are related.

    “We’re contacting all of the people that worked at the restaurant, all of the members of staff that night,” she said.

    Giannini died in hospital, becoming Toronto’s 41st homicide victim of 2017.


    Video shows suspect in Michael’s restaurant shootingVideo shows suspect in Michael’s restaurant shooting