Dance (from Old French dancier, perhaps from Frankish) generally refers to human movement either used as a form of expression or presented in a social, spiritual or performance setting.

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Canadian Special Operations sniper shoots Daesh fighter from 3.5 kilometres away

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:55:04 EDT


A Special Operations sniper shot a Daesh fighter in Iraq from 3.5 kilometres away, the Canadian military confirmed Thursday.

The incident, according to a report in the Globe and Mail, happened within the last month. The Canadian Special Operations Command confirmed that one of its soldiers from the elite Joint Task Force 2 hit a human target from 3,540 metres away. The statement did not say exactly where the event took place.

“For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our coalition partners, we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place,” the statement said. “The (Special Operations Task Force) provides its expertise to Iraqi security force to detect, identify and defeat Daesh activities from well behind the Iraqi security force front line in Mosul,” it added.

If true, the shot — or multiple shots — would join the macabre ranks of the longest sniper kills in history.

The Globe and Mail said the shooter used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle. The U.S.-made rifle, chambered in .50 calibre, is known in the Canadian Armed Forces as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon and was responsible for multiple record-breaking shots during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002. The weapon has a maximum effective range of around 3,650 metres and weighs roughly 26 pounds.

The Tac-50 is billed as being able to shoot a 1.27 centimetre bullet group at 91 metres. Meaning at 3,539 metres, its grouping size would be somewhere around 20 inches. For the soldier to hit his target 3,540 metres he would need to account for every atmospheric factor available. Wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure, the bullet’s yaw and the rotation of the earth would all need to be considered before pulling the trigger. These variables, once harnessed from devices such as a hand-held weather meter and potentially range-finding equipment on the gun, would then be processed through a ballistic calculator that would let the shooter make the necessary adjustments on the rifle’s scope.

Evan McAllister, a former Marine sergeant who served multiple deployments as a sniper in Ramadi, Iraq and in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, said little is known about the capabilities of a unit like Joint Task Force 2. The unit was likely operating with an array of systems to help make the shot, he said.

“While the shot was possible with the outstanding ballistic properties of a match .50 (inch) projectile, a conventional rifle scope would make seeing the target at that range almost impossible, and it may be likely that the sniper team had some form of assistance either from an extremely advanced rifle scope or an overhead drone,” McAllister said. “There is also a chance that the sniper couldn’t exactly see the target or the impacts, but a spotter with an advanced optical device was able to verbally walk the sniper onto the target and correct his aim.”

The Canadian military maintains a robust special operations presence in Iraq in lieu of conducting airstrikes on behalf of the U.S.-led coalition. Much like their American counterparts, the units provide assistance for Iraqi forces and have been filmed on the front lines.


Donald Trump says he has no Comey tapes, was bluffing when he threatened the FBI director

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:13:50 EDT


WASHINGTON—He has no tapes.

U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged Thursday that he did not record his White House conversations with former FBI director James Comey, revealing that he was bluffing in May when he mentioned the possibility of tapes in a Twitter post.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” Trump said on Twitter.

Trump’s admission amounts to a rare public concession that his words were not based in fact. He will now face questions about why he appeared to threaten Comey with the prospect of imaginary recordings.

“ ‘Bluff’ is a generous term for it . . . sharper words also come to mind,” Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter.

Trump and his spokespeople had repeatedly refused to respond when asked if recordings existed. He provided the answer a day before a deadline set by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence Committee.

His May 12 threat set off a damaging chain of events. Comey said the tweet made him feel compelled to disclose his own memos of their exchanges in the hope that he could prompt the appointment of a special counsel. A special counsel, Robert Mueller, was indeed appointed, and Mueller appears to be investigating the possibility that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

Trump posted the fateful tweet three days after he fired Comey. He wrote on Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

He appeared to be responding to a New York Times article that included an account of a private dinner the two men had in January. The sources were anonymous, but Comey later acknowledged he had passed details of his exchanges with Trump to his friends.

Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, told The Associated Press that Trump was “instinctively trying to rattle Comey.”

“He’s not a professional politician. He doesn’t come back and think about Nixon and Watergate. His instinct is: ‘I’ll out-bluff you,’ ” Gingrich said.

The House committee had asked White House counsel Don McGahn in early June to say by Friday whether any tapes existed. The committee’s top Democrat said Wednesday that they would have considered issuing subpoenas if Trump refused to respond to the letter.

Comey has said he was always unfazed by the possibility of recordings. During the congressional testimony in which Comey accused Trump of improperly pressuring him to end the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, he said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

Comey provided detailed accounts of five of his conversations with Trump. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he kept written records of their interactions because he did not trust the president to tell the truth about them.

Trump has accused Comey of lying. Tapes could have assisted the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, whom the Washington Post says is now probing the question of whether Trump’s behaviour toward Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

No president since Richard Nixon is thought to have employed a taping system. Nixon’s system recorded him having incriminating conversations about the Watergate scandal.


761 CAMH patients still waiting for trans surgery referrals

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:46:16 EDT


The first of March last year read like a victory for transgender Ontarians.

Across the province, over 800 primary care physicians and nurse practitioners were granted the ability to assess patients for gender-confirmation surgery. The provincial change released a burden on Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, formerly the only site able to complete medical referrals. Their wait list had skyrocketed to 1,516 patients.

So why — over a year later — are there still 761 patients on the list?

Inside the halls of CAMH, Adult Gender Identity Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Chris McIntosh spoke to The Star on Tuesday, immediately following a lunch meeting about recruiting a new psychiatrist.

Though part of a $2 million sum the Ontario Ministry of Health’s slotted last year to clear the referral bottleneck went to hiring two social workers and a psychologist at CAMH, the clinic needs more physicians.

“We’re just trying to get some more folks to come and help us out,” McIntosh said. Despite all the changes over the last year — including an announcement on Thursday from Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins on genital procedures being expanded into Ontario — access to gender confirmation surgery is still a tangled process.

“Our role in a new system can be about doing the assessment for folks that might be more complicated from a mental health perspective,” McIntosh said.

While any healthcare professional trained in the World Professional Association for Transgender Health assessment criteria is now able to handle gender-confirmation surgery referrals, complicated — and often time-consuming — cases are still being funneled back to CAMH.

The way the process works depends on the patient. The first task is to assess for gender dysphoria, for which the diagnosis criteria changed in 2012. Previously, the diagnosis required a patient to identify with the opposite gender in a binary system. New criteria allows for identification with any gender that is different than the patient’s natal gender.

McIntosh then often has to consider a host of other psychiatric and social markers. Cases can be complicated by a lack of stable housing, for example, which would present a risk during recovery. Mental health conditions like depression or PTSD are factored in. The most problematic cases, McIntosh said, come when patients have intellectual disabilities and the clinic faces questions of informed consent.

“It can be more difficult to assess their capacity to understand what gender is,” he explained. The clinic has some psychologists with backgrounds in neuropsychology that can assess IQ, but the process is knotted with ethical dilemmas and often labours on for a while.

The time spent waiting for referrals has dropped by 33 per cent over the last year, but the CAMH website still warns that “as our clients have waited for a long time, our social worker calls all new clients a month or two before we’re ready to schedule your first appointment.”

For 761 patients, that limbo is their reality.

Once they’re in, the referral process can be anywhere from two appointments to a whole row, culminating in pre-approval paperwork sent to the Ministry. Four-to-six weeks later, patients must contact a clinic called GRS Montreal — which, until next year, remains the only clinic in Canada that does all gender-confirmation surgeries.

The first genital surgery outside Montreal is slated to take place in 2018 at Women’s College Hospital in Ontario, Hoskins’ Thursday statement announced. Until now, the province has been spending $4 million a year sending patients outside Ontario — $2.7 million for those headed to Quebec, and $1.2 million for operations outside Canada.

Across the border, San Francisco, California and Austin, Texas are frequent choices for patients who can secure a recommendation by an Ontario physician. Though the procedure is covered by OHIP for pre-approved patients, going to the U.S. can incur significant transportation and accommodation costs. The Ministry also confirmed they’ve sent patients to Belgium, Thailand, Serbia, England, Italy and Germany.

Staying north of the border, patients have had to wait anywhere from another three months to another year after Ministry approval — with particularly long holdups for a phalloplasty. “It’s a surgery that requires a high level of expertise, but at the same time, that should really mean that we’re starting to develop that expertise,” McIntosh said.

Hoskins’ announcement makes Ontario only the second Canadian jurisdiction with surgeons trained to provide genital transition surgery. Patients from all other provinces and territories are still forced to travel substantial distances.

Moving forward, the Trans Health Expansion — which partners CAMH with Women’s College Hospital, Sherbourne Health and Rainbow Health Ontario — is in the early stages of a “complex, long-term” reform process. The 2016 change and Hoskins’ Thursday announcement make a dent in the problem, but are far from a solution.

“One of the keys will be building surgical capacity in the system,” Trans Health Expansion wrote in an email to the Star. “However, surgery is just one issue; to sustainably improve trans health, the disparities in social determinants of health for this population – like housing, poverty and unemployment – will also need to be addressed.”

With files from Rob Ferguson


Full impact of Ontario's controversial 25-per-cent hydro rate cut to kick in on Canada Day

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:31:12 EDT


The full impact of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s controversial 25 per cent hydro rate cut will kick in July 1 after the Ontario Energy Board approved some final changes Thursday.

That means the average monthly bill will have dropped about $41 this year to $121, including the 8 per cent HST rebate on electricity bills that took effect in January and other measures in place since May 1, the board said.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault touted the price break as “real and significant relief” for Ontarians who have been hit hard by rising electricity costs as the system has been improved over the last decade.

Opposition parties have been highly critical of the plan as short-term gain for long-term pain because of the billions in extra costs to amortize those improvement costs over the next three decades.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has compared it to extending a mortgage to get lower monthly payments now.

The province’s independent Financial Accountability Office issued a report in May that found the government’s “Fair Hydro Plan” will cost the province $45 billion over the next 29 years while saving ratepayers $24 billion, for a net expense of $21 billion.

Under the changes, time-of-use electricity prices will drop July 1 to 13.2 cents per kilowatt hour, down from 18.5 cents now for peak pricing periods.

For off-peak hours — after 7 p.m. and on weekends and holidays — the price drops to 6.5 cents from 9.1 now.

Costs taken off hydro bills include the government’s rural and remote rate protection program and the Ontario electricity support program for low-income households.

Those costs will now be paid out of the general tax revenues.

Wynne has promised to keep hydro rate increases to no more than two per cent a year for the next four years, getting the government past next June’s provincial election.

But the Progressive Conservatives have warned hydro prices will rise more sharply after once the four-year promise of limited increases is over.

More will be known about the future direction of hydro rates when the government releases its long-term energy plan in the next few months.


Muslim leaders urge government to help protect mosques, schools

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:51:10 EDT


Some Muslim community leaders are urging the federal government to do more to help protect their mosques and schools amid an increase in hate crimes.

A Statistics Canada report last week showed hate crimes targeting Muslims rose by 60 per cent across the country in 2015.

“It’s quite concerning the number of reports that have been coming in,” said Amira Elghawaby, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “At our organization, we have definitely seen a spike just in the last week of people reporting to us.”

In April, Public Safety Canada announced it would double its annual funding for the Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program from $1 million to $2 million over each of the next five years.

The program allows not-for-profit groups linked to a community at risk of being victimized by hate crimes to apply for funding to help pay the costs of security improvements at places of worship, schools and community centres. Approved applicants can receive up to half the total project costs from the government to a maximum of $100,000 per project.

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But some, such as Imran Haq, executive director of the Al Huda Institute, were told this week their applications have been denied.

“I know a lot of different mosques and institutes that have applied — we did apply as well — but, unfortunately, we did not receive any funding,” said Haq, whose institute provides educational program primarily for women.

“Women are some of the most targeted people in our community so it probably would be really prudent for us to kind of take this a little seriously. We don’t want to have to wait until we’re getting extreme threats to have to qualify for this funding.”

Public Safety Canada said the call for proposals it issued that closed on March 31 brought 246 applications from various Canadian communities at risk. After rejecting applications that were incomplete or did not meet the criteria for the program, the value of the funding requested exceeded the money available. So it scored the applications and only those with the highest score were retained for further consideration. The rest can re-apply when further calls for proposals are issued.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims continues to monitor threats to the community, according to Elghawaby. The organization tracks these incidents, but encourages people to report them directly to police.

There have been 40 anti-Muslim incidents reported across Canada already in 2017, compared to 64 all of last year, according to the organization.

Elghawaby said the community is particularly concerned following events around the globe during the month of Ramadan, including an attack on a London mosque Monday.

At least one Toronto mosque has added metal detectors for tarawih prayers which occur in the late evening during Ramadan, she said.

“The problem is there’s so much hateful rhetoric against Muslims right now,” said Ibrahim Hindy, an imam at Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre in Mississauga. “People might be putting up hate videos just to get views, just to get popularity. It just needs one person to take it to heart, one person to find meaning in those words for something catastrophic to happen.”

In April, Hindy received death threats after speaking out in favour of accommodating Muslim prayer at Peel Region public schools.

One Facebook comment appeared to threaten to burn down the mosque, while a second threat, which appeared to have been sent by email, contained a photo of five Muslim men hanging from nooses, with the caption, “Islamic Wind Chimes.”

Following the threats, the mosque launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds for security infrastructure. Hindy said the mosque would need about $15,000 for equipment such as security camera systems to meet its immediate needs, but have so far raised just less than 10 per cent of that.

Hindy said there’s anxiety amongst members of the Muslim community, following incidents such as those in London and the Quebec mosque shooting in January, which left six people dead. Yet the notion of extra security is still a new concept, as mosques typically have open-door policies where everyone is welcome.

“Despite the attacks that happened, it’s hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact that there are people who go to a place of worship and kill people,” Hindy said.

“We don’t want to succumb to the fear, but there’s a lot of concern.”


Man badly beaten in Cabbagetown rooming house after Mayor Tory warned about conditions

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:57:44 EDT


A man was badly beaten inside a city-owned Cabbagetown rooming house Wednesday night just days after Mayor John Tory and his executive committee were warned about the dangerous and dreadful conditions there.

“This incident was inevitable. Others will follow,” Rick Keegan, who lives in the Toronto Community Housing complex, wrote in an email sent Thursday to Tory and other politicians and city officials.

Toronto police couldn’t confirm the victim’s identity, but Keegan believes he was a fellow tenant. An investigation into the aggravated assault is continuing, police said.

Keegan was part of a small delegation that came to city hall on Monday and shared with the politicians’ grim anecdotes about crime, violence, intimidation and lawlessness inside the row of Parliament Street buildings.

He was joined by Heather Wilberforce, president of the Winchester Park Residents’ Association (WPRA). She told the mayor and councillors about the continuing problems in and around the properties, including the robbing and stabbing of a tenant last week.

“What kind of life can these men have?” a clearly frustrated and upset Wilberforce asked Thursday.

She would like to TCH to install a manager on-site around the clock and security guards who will confront and eject troublemakers, many of whom do not live in the buildings.

“They need somebody with an iron fist to make people behave.”

TCH is “seriously investing in security at this building,” with many, in-house Community Safety Unit daytime patrols and third-party overnight security seven days a week, agency spokesman Brayden Akers wrote in email.

In addition, the CSU is available for backup when there are incidents, which is what happened Wednesday night, he wrote. TCH is also “taking an aggressive approach” to managing the building, with many active eviction applications underway.

On Monday, the mayor said he hoped the Cabbagetown delegation was aware of council’s request to the province to give the city more powers to evict tenants and keep them — and their lawbreaking “guests” — out of social housing.

Keegan told Tory it’s not that the law is inadequate; it’s that current laws aren’t being enforced.

The province argues the city already has the authority it needs.

Wilberforce and Keegan were among dozens of speakers invited to provide feedback on the city’s so-called Tenants First plan to restructure TCH, which includes transferring all TCH rooming houses to non profit, co-op and land trust sectors.

A pilot project, which goes to council for approval next month, is proposed for dilapidated and mainly vacant rooming houses at 13-15 Winchester St., around the corner from the Parliament St. rooming houses. Council is also being asked to authorize a request for expressions of interest for TCH’s 684 scattered social housing units.

The WPRA supports the plan for the non-profit Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services to provide housing for vulnerable, low-income women in the Winchester houses, Wilberforce says.

But it’s a slow process for the conversion of Winchester and all the other TCH rooming houses, so “what happens in the meantime?” she asked Thursday.

“We need an immediate, focused strategy to deal with the safety and security issues in all of these properties.”


Sears to cut 2,900 jobs, close 59 stores in restructuring

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:45:00 EDT


Sears Canada is no longer the colossus it once was, with 125 department stores across the country ringing up $6.7 billion a year in sales, but it is hoping to restructure under creditor protection granted Thursday and return to profitability with fewer locations.

The company has posted net losses every year since 2014 and plans to close 59 stores, including 20 full-line department stores as part of the restructuring.

The company’s 32 Corbeil stores will remain in business.

In all 2,900 jobs will be lost: 500 in administration, effective immediately, and 2,400 more jobs as stores close over the coming weeks.

Sears department stores in the GTA, many of them newly renovated as part of executive chairman Brandon Stranzl’s effort to rebrand the retailer, will remain open, including the stores at Fairview Mall, Oshawa Centre, Promenade in Thornhill, CF Lime Ridge in Hamilton, and Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket.

“The Sears Canada Group is entering these proceedings with the intention of emerging as a stronger, more focused competitor in the Canadian retail industry,” according to an affidavit filed on behalf of the company in court.

“Management expects that the company that emerges from this CCAA proceeding will be well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities that exist in the Canadian retail marketplace.”

The company listed assets of $1.187 billion and total liabilities of $1.108 billion.

Inventory at the stores being closed will be liquidated.

Most of the Sears stores are leased. Sears Canada Group owns properties where eight full-line department stores, two outlet stores and one Sears Home store operate. The majority of the other stores are held under long-term leases.

Sears Canada is pointing to increases in same-store sales in the past two quarters as evidence that a turnaround is possible, given enough breathing room.

It is conceivable that if Sears Canada has found the right formula it could succeed, said Marvin Ryder, professor of marketing at McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business. He wouldn’t bet on it.

“I would say that the odds are much higher that we’re going to see bankruptcy and liquidation. When your back is up against the wall and you have to make that much change that quickly, it’s very hard to do,” said Ryder.

“They’re going to have to move so far so fast, the odds are really against them.”

It didn’t help that the company cycled quickly through three leaders in four years before appointing Stranzl in 2015, said Arthur Fleischmann, president and chief executive officer of the advertising agency John St.

“I think they just started focusing on short-term returns and trying to shore up traffic declines,” said Fleischmann.

“My feeling is, I think the ship has sailed on Sears.”

Farla Efros, president, HRC Advisory, said that while losing an anchor tenant could be a problem for some malls, Sears has not been driving a lot of traffic and some properties may actually benefit from being able to fill the space with new tenants.

“I just think that we are tired of that brand and it doesn’t really have any more relevance to the Canadian consumer,” said Efros.

Numerous retailers stand to benefit as a result of Sears shrinking, including Canadian Tire, Walmart, Hudson’s Bay Company, Leon’s and Costco, said Maureen Atkinson, senior advisor, J.C. Williams Group.

While the new look of Sears, which includes fashion aimed at a young, hip customer base is an improvement, times are tough for department stores.

“I think it’s possible, but I think it’s a long shot,” Atkinson said, of the company’s potential for success moving forward.

In an attempt to transform the business, Stranzl founded an innovation hub to modernize the technological platform for Sears Canada and launched a new off-price retail business called “The Cut,” among other initiatives.

Sears Canada was incorporated in 1952, and in 2001 had revenues of $6.7 billion with 125 department stores.

Despite a long decline that has accelerated since 2011, the company still employs about 17,000 people across Canada – 6,500 full time and 10,500 part time. It operates 94 department stores, 23 Sears Home stores and 10 outlets.

There are 3,071 full-time employees in Ontario and 4,472 working part time and there are 65 Sears Canada retail stores in the province.

In addition to those directly employed by Sears Canada, businesses that do business with Sears stand to lose – Sears purchases its merchandise from about 3,300 domestic and international suppliers and the Sears Canada Group has relationships with about 775 independent contractors, according to the court documents.

It operates several subsidiaries, including a transportation business.

Sears Canada says it will continue to honour gift cards, warranties and its 30-day returns policy during the CCAA proceedings.

The company is seeking to stop making special payments to the defined benefit portion of the Sears Pension Plan and payments with respect to post-retirement benefits.

Ordinary pension payments will continue to be made.


600 buildings in England have cladding similar to Grenfell Tower, Downing Street says

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 07:38:00 EDT


LONDON—Tests so far have found that at least seven high-rise apartment buildings in England have combustible external panels like the ones believed to have contributed to a fire that killed 79 people in London, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said Thursday.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said 600 buildings in the country have “similar cladding” to that of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, which was destroyed by the June 14 blaze.

The Department for Communities and Local Government later said that figure refers to buildings with all types of cladding and that not all of them necessarily have cladding made from the same aluminum composite material as Grenfell Tower. Landlords are being asked to check what the cladding on their buildings is made from.

The tests are being urgently conducted as authorities try to determine whether cladding contributed to the rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower blaze, which engulfed the 24-story building in less than an hour. They still haven’t said where and how the fire started.

May told the House of Commons on Thursday that government facilities have so far found combustible cladding after local officials submitted samples in the wake of the fire.

“The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and, as I speak, they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe and to inform affected residents,” May said.

May encouraged the owners of both public and private tower blocks around the country to quickly forward samples of any similar material for testing. The government will work with local authorities to make sure any dangerous material is removed and residents are safe, she said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would not identify the buildings with combustible panels until landlords have had the opportunity to inform tenants.

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The local council in Camden, a borough of London, removed cladding from one of its buildings for further testing after initial tests showed some panels were “not to the standard that we had commissioned.”

It was unclear whether the Camden example was one of the seven mentioned by the government.

However, the company that fitted the cladding to the Camden property towers oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, a document posted on its website shows.

Rydon carried out the refit of the high-rises between May 2006 and October 2009, Britain’s Press Association reported.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.

In another area of north London, Tottenham, residents at the Rivers Apartments came home to notices advising them that experts were “carrying out an immediate review of the exterior cladding.”

Newlon, a non-profit that manages the complex and others in London, said fire officials “made some straightforward recommendations for the building, which we have already started work on.” It said the fire officials “were satisfied that Rivers Apartments is considered a low fire risk building.”

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called for urgent checks on around 4,000 buildings as Britain comes to grips with the potential ramifications of the disaster. Thousands need urgent assurances about their own safety, he said.

“At least 79 people are dead — it is both a tragedy and an outrage because every single one of those deaths could and should have been avoided,” Corbyn said.

Corbyn compared the tragedy to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people were killed in the crush of a crowded soccer stadium, and recent sexual abuse scandals involving vulnerable children, arguing that the government had long turned a blind eye to the needs of the poor.

“The pattern is consistent: Working-class people’s voices are ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power,” he said.

May has apologized for mistakes that were made in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and promised that “no stone will be left unturned” in a public inquiry into its causes.

“For any guilty parties there will be nowhere to hide,” she said.

May’s comments came after the resignation of the top administrative official in the local government that serves the community devastated by the fire. Local residents and the central government have criticized the response to the tragedy.

Nicholas Holgate, chief executive of the Kensington and Chelsea council, had come under intense pressure following last week’s blaze. The first few days after the fire were marked by chaos on the ground as local authorities struggled to deal with the hundreds of people who were displaced.

Survivors who had lost everything found it hard to get find information about missing loved ones or the services available to help them get back on their feet.


Transportation minister gave ‚??input‚?? on controversial GO station in his riding

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:03:55 EDT


Ontario’s transportation minister said he contributed “input” to the provincial transit agency’s decision to approve a new GO station that will be in his riding and which a secret internal report determined should not be built.

Minister Steven Del Duca also asserted that demand for the new station would be “off the charts.” But a government analysis found the stop would actually cause a net loss in transit ridership.

At a Wednesday event to mark the groundbreaking for a new downtown bus terminal and office complex, Del Duca was asked about his role in the approval of Kirby GO station in his Vaughan riding.

As the Star reported Sunday, an internal report commissioned by Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency, recommended that Kirby not be considered for construction for at least another 10 years. The report has not been made public, but a copy was obtained by the Star.

An initial business case for Kirby released in March determined the station’s negative effects on the transit system and the economy outweighed any potential benefits.

Despite those reports, the Metrolinx board approved Kirby last June, along with 11 other new GO stations as part of the province’s regional express rail program. The station is expected to cost $125.7 million to build and operate over the next six decades.

Asked whether he directed the agency to approve Kirby, Del Duca responded that the approval process was a “collaborative effort” between Metrolinx and him. “Throughout the deliberation process on this, I had the opportunity to provide input, and I did,” he said.

“I have been a long-standing supporter of the Kirby GO station, as the MPP for the community and (as) someone who understands not only what the current plans are in the community, but on a go-forward basis what those evolving plans are.”

Asked what his input was, Del Duca said: “My input was that, not just for Kirby but across the board, when you look at some of the circumstances that exist, that we have to take into account a holistic or an entire picture.”

He said that over the next 10 to 15 years “literally tens of thousands of new people” are expected to move into the Northern Vaughan area, and they will need access to transit.

Del Duca predicted demand for the Kirby stop would be “off the charts.”

Asked why the Metrolinx analyses didn’t reflect his prediction of high demand for Kirby, Del Duca said “there are other considerations that have to be taken into account in terms of the broader growth potential” around the station.

He suggested the reports commissioned by Metrolinx, which analyzed potential new stations according to a methodology developed by the transit agency, didn’t fully capture development potential near Kirby because they focused on the 800-metre radius around the station.

He said the city of Vaughan and York Region had provided information to Metrolinx about projected density in the wider area around the Kirby site, which showed it could support an express rail line in the future.

He said the government needs to ensure it isn’t building transit “for what we anticipate in this moment or in the next couple of years.

“We have to build for what we know is coming in the near and long-term,” he said.

“I don’t want to be in a position to say later on to individuals or to communities … ‘we missed an opportunity to provide you with that higher order transit access in relative proximity to where you live, so you’re going to keep taking your car.’”

The initial business case for Kirby station examined the potential performance of the stop over a 60-year period. It determined that by 2031 more than 5,100 people would use the stop every day, but more than half of them would be existing GO riders who currently use the nearby Maple and King City stations.

But the report predicted that the additional time it would take for trains to stop at Kirby would make GO service less attractive for “upstream” riders on the Barrie line and cause about 3 per cent of them to take their cars instead.

That would lead to a net loss of 188 daily riders on the line, which over 60 years would mean 688.1 million more kilometres driven on the region’s roads.

The business case determined that the “benefits which could be realized by a Kirby station are not large enough to outweigh the anticipated negative impacts to GO Transit and the economy” but didn’t make a recommendation about whether to proceed with it.

However, the internal report obtained by the Star recommended not proceeding with Kirby. Consultants hired by Metrolinx ranked all the stations under consideration and determined Kirby was one of seven stops that “should not be considered further during the next 10 years.” It found the projected density around the site didn’t support express rail service.

Kirby ranked last out of seven proposed new stations on the Barrie line. Two stations that ranked above it were not approved.

The Metrolinx board approved two of the seven stops the report recommended not be built: Kirby and Lawrence East, which is part of Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan.


Bill Cosby to give speeches on avoiding false sexual assault allegations

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:48:12 EDT


Bill Cosby is planning a series of town hall meetings this summer to educate people, including young athletes and married men, on how to protect themselves from false accusations of sexual assault, two of his representatives said Wednesday.

The announcement came just days after Cosby’s trial on sexual assault charges ended in a hung jury and while he is still battling several suits from other women who say he assaulted them too.

“This issue is bigger than Bill Cosby,” his representative Andrew Wyatt said on Good Day Alabama, a show on WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham.

Read more:

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“This issue can affect any young person — especially young athletes of today,” he continued, “and they need to know what they are facing when they are hanging out and partying when they are doing certain things they shouldn’t be doing.”

Wyatt said the issue “also affects married men.”

Ebonee M. Benson, who works with Wyatt and joined him on the program, said the need for awareness had grown because the statutes of limitations on sexual assault have extended in several states, in some cases aided by the efforts of women who have accused Cosby of molesting them.

“People need to be educated on a brush against the shoulder,” she said. “Anything at this point can be considered sexual assault.”

The Cosby announcement drew rebukes from several quarters, including the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN.

“It would be more useful if Mr. Cosby would spend time talking with people about how not to commit sexual assault in the first place,” said Jodi Omear, an organization spokesperson.

Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center said a number of organizations exist that would be far more appropriate choices to lead an educational program on this issue than Cosby, whom she described as “a person who has 60 allegations of sexual assault against” him.

Gloria Allred, a lawyer who represents several women who have accused Cosby of assault, said the “workshops appear to be a transparent and slick effort to attempt to influence the jury pool from which jurors will be selected for his second criminal trial.”

One of the town halls will be held in Alabama in July, Wyatt said on the show. In a later email, he said Cosby had received “hundreds of calls from civic organizations and churches requesting for Mr. Cosby to speak to young men and women about the judicial system.” He said the program would include a critique of the decision by prosecutors in Pennsylvania to charge him last year.

“Speeches will be free,” Wyatt said.

Cosby later thanked the television station for having his publicists on the show. He is free on bail while he awaits a retrial of his criminal case in which he is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with a 2004 encounter with a woman at his home outside Philadelphia. The woman, Andrea Constand, says Cosby drugged and assaulted her; Cosby and his lawyers say the sex was consensual.

The jury deliberated for 52 hours before a mistrial was declared because it was hopelessly deadlocked. On Thursday, The Associated Press and a Pittsburgh television station reported that jurors they had spoken to said the panel ended its deliberations almost evenly split between those supporting conviction and those favouring acquittal.

That depiction was at odds with that of a juror who spoke to ABC News earlier in the week and said that 10 members of the panel had voted to convict Cosby but were unable to persuade two jurors who would not budge.

Some jurors were concerned about the 10-year delay in prosecuting Cosby, and that politics had been involved, The Associated Press reported.

WPXI Channel 11 in Pittsburgh played a recording of a man it said was a juror who said the voting was evenly split.

“Whatever the man did, he has already paid his price, paid, suffered,” the voice in the recording said. “A case that was settled in ’05 and we had to bring it up in ’17.”

On Wednesday, the ABC News report, based on its own conversation with an anonymous juror, said the panel had voted 10-2 to convict Cosby on two of the three counts.

In one of the juror accounts that surfaced Thursday, the panelist agreed that there had been a 10-2 vote at one point but said the mood in the room changed in the later hours and was roughly split between those who sought a conviction and those who wanted to acquit Cosby.

Several jurors contacted by The New York Times have said they are unwilling to speak about their deliberations. In releasing their names Wednesday, Judge Steven T. O’Neill had warned the jurors not to discuss their deliberations.


Ontario Liberals embed 2019 minimum wage hike in new law

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:00:42 EDT


A Progressive Conservative government would be forced to change labour laws in order to derail the $15-an-hour minimum wage increase that takes effect six months after the June 2018 election.

In an unusual move, the Liberals have embedded the increase in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act being studied this summer by an all-party committee.

Under the legislation expected to pass this fall, the minimum wage, now $11.40 an hour, will jump to $14 on Jan. 1.

It will then increase to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2019, well after the June 7, 2018 election, before being linked to the inflation rate that October.

“Ontario’s economy is leading growth. A $15-minimum wage will help ensure families experience this growth in their own lives,” Premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted Thursday.

But Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, who leads Wynne in most public-opinion polls, has warned the increases are too much too soon for employers to bear.

“Do I think we should have a 32-per-cent increase immediately without a cost-benefit analysis? No,” Brown said three weeks ago.

“The way that the premier has announced it is too fast, too quick. It’s not giving proper notice to our job creators . . . so, yes, I have significant concerns,” the Tory leader said.

“I’m sure, right now, Kathleen Wynne is looking for distractions for the next election,” he said May 31, the day before the legislation was tabled.

“I get that Ontario right now is unaffordable. I get that it is difficult for people to live in Ontario right now — and frankly that’s Kathleen Wynne’s mess from the last 14 years — but do you need to do this 32-per-cent hike immediately? Or can you pace it out?”

In an interview with the Star last week, Wynne acknowledged the Liberals would campaign on the minimum wage increases as well as the new OHIP+ pharmacare plan that provides prescription coverage of 4,400 medications for everyone under 25, which launches Jan. 1.

That appears to be one reason that a timeline for the wage hikes is specified in the legislation.

“(Determination of minimum wage) is amended to increase the minimum wage on January 1, 2018. The minimum wage increases again on January 1, 2019 and is subject to an annual inflation adjustment on October 1 of every year starting in 2019,” the bill reads.

The premier said her party would remind voters that higher wages and better drug coverage could be lost if Brown’s Conservatives are victorious next June.

“That will be part of the subscript, obviously, because we’re different. We are different parties. We’re different people. We have different sensibilities and different values, as far as I can tell,” said Wynne.

“So, that’s obviously going to have to be part of the discussion.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose party is pitching a universal pharmacare plan for all ages, though it only covers the 125 most commonly prescribed medications, has long favoured a $15-an-hour minimum wage.


Meet the woman who stood up to the racist Mississauga clinic ranter

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:54:58 EDT


The person who interrupted a racist rant by a woman demanding to see a “white doctor” at a Mississauga clinic says she hopes her actions serve as an example to others.

“Your child clearly has more issues with you being his mother than him needing to see a doctor,” Sharon Samalia says to the woman in the confrontation captured on video. “You are extremely rude and racist.”

Samalia said bystanders who find themselves in these situations need to “be that someone instead of waiting for someone else” to speak up.

Samalia was working at the Rapid Access to Medical Specialists clinic Sunday when she heard the woman yelling that she wanted to see a doctor who “speaks English.”

“She used the word ‘paki,’” Samalia said. “My mouth dropped, I was literally so shocked.”

The confrontation was caught on video by Hitesh Bhardwaj, who was also in the waiting room. It shows a white woman insisting that she needs a “white doctor” who was “born here” to see her child.

Related stories:

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Others in the waiting room appear unsettled by the woman’s rant, Samalia said she “did not hear anyone say anything directly to her that could actually have gotten her to stop.”

Samalia said she understands the discomfort people have with speaking up. “I think a lot of it comes from being afraid, mostly for people of ethnic backgrounds.”

She was not.

“I was filled with way too many other emotions — I was disgusted and filled with so much anger.”

In the video, an employee can be heard telling the woman that a white doctor is “only available after four.”

Samalia said “playing along to (the woman’s) specifications just promotes her own thought process and encourages others (to have) the same mentality as her.”

“It is very different (than) an individual who is an immigrant … asking for someone who can speak their language. She asked for someone of a specific colour. It’s important to recognize those differences. I’ve seen so many of those kinds of comments on the video and it’s ridiculous to me. For her to say that she needs someone who is Canadian, as if (a person of colour) can’t be Canadian? As if Canadian equals white.”

Police confirmed that they responded to a “disturbance” at the clinic just after 12:30 p.m., and that the situation was resolved by finding a doctor for the woman’s child.

No charges were laid.


Pride festivities involve road closures

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:03:08 EDT


If you are coming out this weekend for the Pride festivities, you most likely won’t be able to take a direct route as major streets will be closed.

Those who are attending are advised to take the TTC. There won’t be any service disruption on Lines 1 and 2.

However, for people using the SRT, it won’t be in operation due to work on it. Shuttle buses will operate between Scarborough Centre and Kennedy stations.

All weekend (Friday to Saturday):

  • Church St. will be shut down from Carlton St. to Hayden St. from Friday at 6 p.m. to Monday at 6 a.m. for the Church Street Pride Festival. Wellesley and Alexander streets will also be closed from Church St. to Yonge St.

(Google has marked the closure for the street fair with rainbow colours on Google Maps.)

Friday, June 23:

  • The Trans* Pride March will start on Church St. and Hayden St. at 7 p.m. Road closures will include Church St. from Hayden St. to Bloor St., Bloor St. from Church St. to Yonge St., Yonge St. from Bloor St. to College St., and Carlton St. from Yonge St. to the Allan Gardens.

Saturday, June 24:

  • Pride and Remembrance Run will see Wellesley St. shut down from Jarvis St. and Queen’s Park Circle, and Queen’s Park between College and Bloor Sts. starting from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

  • The Dyke March will start at the intersection of Church St. and Hayden St. Road closures will be in effect on the march’s route from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. It will include Church St. from Hayden St. to Bloor St., Bloor St. from Church St. to Yonge St., Yonge St. from Bloor St. to College St., Carlton St. from Yonge St. to the Allan Gardens.

Sunday, June 25:

  • The annual Pride Parade will get going in the intersection of Church St. and Bloor St. from 2 p.m to 7 p.m. Road closures include Bloor St. from Church St. to Yonge St., Yonge St. from Bloor St. to Dundas St. The parade will conclude at Yonge and Dundas Square. A number of roads will be closed in the area will be closed from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.




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