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- 09/24/17--03:00: _With ‘John injustic...
- 09/24/17--09:36: _Angela Merkel’s blo...
- 09/24/17--10:44: _Trump expected to a...
- 09/23/17--12:18: _Kim envoy says Nort...
- 09/23/17--19:28: _‘You’re not just he...
- 09/24/17--04:00: _Meet the researcher...
- 09/24/17--06:14: _NFL owners say they...
- 09/24/17--15:48: _Top-of-the-line pro...
- 09/24/17--17:58: _Jared Kushner used ...
- 09/24/17--15:51: _Canada’s top NAFTA ...
- 09/25/17--03:00: _Cap on refugee spon...
- 09/24/17--11:31: _Joey Bats makes gra...
- 09/25/17--04:37: _Toronto-bound lanes...
- 09/25/17--03:00: _Ontario Superior Co...
- 09/25/17--03:00: _Why the Pittsburgh ...
- 09/24/17--17:00: _NFL chooses sides i...
- 09/24/17--15:03: _Malaika was 6 years...
- 09/25/17--03:00: _Questions raised ab...
- 09/26/17--03:00: _How amalgamation el...
- 09/25/17--20:06: _Thunder Bay reels a...
- 09/24/17--03:00: With ‘John injustice’ a global problem, we need potty parity: Teitel
- 09/23/17--12:18: Kim envoy says North Korea strike on U.S. is 'inevitable'
- 09/24/17--04:00: Meet the researcher uncovering the mysteries of ancient hurricanes
- 09/24/17--15:48: Top-of-the-line prosthetic devices have improved by leaps and bounds
- 09/24/17--11:31: Joey Bats makes graceful exit from Jays’ home base: DiManno
- 09/24/17--17:00: NFL chooses sides in the divisive world of Trump: Arthur
- 09/25/17--03:00: Questions raised about the company Toronto-born rapper Drake keeps
- 09/26/17--03:00: How amalgamation eliminated Toronto's ambition: Hume
- 09/25/17--20:06: Thunder Bay reels as body of Indigenous man pulled from river
There is a feminist revolution brewing in Amsterdam right now that has nothing to do with gender parity in the workforce but something arguably far more important: public toilet parity in the city square.
That is, a woman’s right to relive herself as quickly and as comfortably as any member of the male gender when she is outside her own home. (After all, you can’t exactly beat a man for a promotion at work if you’re forever waiting in line for the can.)
It turns out that going to the bathroom in the Netherlands’ capital isn’t always an easy thing to do for women, because while the city is home to 35 public urinals for men, it boasts only three public toilets designated for women. According to a story in the Guardian this week, Amsterdam’s loo-dearth led to the recent punishment of 23-year-old Geerte Piening, who was out one night with her friends when she had to pee. Unable to locate a nearby women’s bathroom, Piening did what thousands of men do every day: she relieved herself on a side street.
Her friends acted as lookouts for her, but to no avail: Piening was caught popping a squat in public and fined by police. The judge in her case is reported to have criticized Piening for failing to use a men’s urinal if she wasn’t within reach of one of the city’s few women’s restrooms. “It would not be pleasant but it can be done,” the judge told her.
Needless to say, the toilet-deprived women of Amsterdam were not pleased with this verdict and have since launched a series of social media protests (that some have vowed to bring to the streets) demanding that the city build more public restrooms for women.
But Amsterdam women aren’t the only women in the world who have reason to complain about John injustice. We all do.
While ladies’ lavatories are particularly scarce in Amsterdam, this kind of scarcity is by no means unique to that city. Women’s restrooms are in short supply all over the world; a reality known to pretty much every woman who has ever been to a professional sports game or a concert.
This isn’t a theory I came up with after waiting in line to pee for 25 minutes at the Air Canada Centre. It’s a documented fact. According to a paper published in 2007 by planning researchers Kathryn H. Anthony and Meghan Dufresne, called Potty Parity in Perspective: Gender and Family Issues in Planning and Designing Public Restrooms,“The lack of potty parity can be readily seen at places of assembly such as sports and entertainment arenas, musical amphitheaters, theaters, stadiums, airports, bus terminals, convention halls, amusement facilities, fairgrounds, zoos, institutions of higher education, and specialty events at public parks.”
While men appear to walk into public restrooms and exit them practically in a single breath, women’s bathrooms are notoriously crowded and the waits to enter them interminably long.
And no woman is immune to this experience, no matter how high and mighty she appears to be. Take former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was late to the podium after a commercial break during one of the 2016 debates because the women’s bathroom was located farther from the stage than the men’s one, and was occupied at the precise moment she needed it.
The reason for the women’s bathroom shortage is usually patriarchal hangover: most of the people who designed the public spaces we frequent today were men, who did not consider or even possess basic facts about how women function.
For example, it takes women longer to go to the bathroom. According to the paper by Anthony and Dufresne, a graduate student named Sandra K. Rawls at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University stood outside public restrooms in the 1980s and “timed those who entered and exited, and surveyed users about their restroom habits. Her research painstakingly documented the obvious: women take about twice as much time as men to use restroom facilities. Whereas men took a mere 83.6 seconds, women took almost three minutes.”
We take almost three minutes not because we love gossiping in the ladies’ room as the stereotype goes, but for other less fun reasons. Some of us are menstruating, which may involve frantically searching through a purse for a tampon; others are accompanied by crying kids.
But overall, perhaps the greatest contributing factor to our taking longer to pee is the simple fact that we generally like to sit down, which involves removing clothing. And if there are no hooks or shelves present in the bathroom stall, we balance our belongings (purse, shopping bags, toddlers, etc.) on our laps while we do our business, which can be a difficult task with often disappointing results.
It would be nice, then, not only in Amsterdam but everywhere, if urban planners allocated more restrooms for women, not less. This isn’t merely a feminist argument. Last I checked, women go places with men and men have to wait for women when they’re walking far away or waiting in line to use the facilities. The women’s washroom shortage is an equal-opportunity discriminator: it inconveniences people of both genders.
But city planners shouldn’t just double or even triple the number of female public restrooms in any given neighbourhood; they should supply every facility with adequate hooks, recessed shelves and reliable and affordable tampon and sanitary napkin machines to dramatically cut down on wait times.
In the absence of these changes, we — womankind that is — should take our bloated bladders to the streets and do in unison as Geerte Piening did. We should pop a squat for equality.
Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.
With ‘John injustice’ a global problem, we need potty parity: Teitel
BERLIN—Germans headed to the polls in a federal election that will determine whether Angela Merkel scores a record-equalling fourth victory, with the big question being which other party or parties will join the chancellor’s Christian Democrats in her new government.
Merkel’s bloc, which includes her Bavarian allies in the Christian Social Union, had the support of about 36 per cent of voters in the final opinion polls during the campaign. That’s about 14 percentage points ahead of its main challenger and current coalition partner, Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats.
Four other parties — the pro-business Free Democrats, the Greens, the anti-capitalist Left and, for the first time ever, the populist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, are poised to win seats in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.
Amid overcast skies and rain in much of Germany, turnout was little changed from the previous election in 2013, reaching 41.1 per cent at 2 p.m. Berlin time, four hours before the close of voting.
Victory would crown a remarkable comeback for Merkel from a plunge in her popularity amid the 2015-16 refugee crisis that saw 1.3 million migrants flood into Germany. Early this year, she was equal in the polls with Schulz, a fresh face in German domestic politics, but the Social Democrat’s challenge has faded in recent months and his party threatens to post its worst result since The Second World War.
Merkel, 63 and chancellor for 12 years, has portrayed herself during the campaign as a beacon of stability in a world buffeted by crises.
“Despite everyone saying this election is boring, it’s actually crucial from a geostrategic point of view,” Judy Dempsie, a senior associate at Carnegie Europe, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. The result will determine what kind of a partner the U.S. has in Europe on issues such as North Korea, she said. “Whoever wins the election on Sunday will have to become far more involved in these major geostrategic issues that are outside Europe.”
The outcome is also being closely watched in Paris, where President Emmanuel Macron is proposing measures to deepen integration in the euro area that depend on the support of Germany, Europe’s biggest economy as well as its dominant country under Merkel.
Once voting ends, television exit polls — historically generally accurate — will reveal if the chancellor has managed to outperform expectations as she did in the previous election in 2013. If the CDU/CSU and the FDP can get to a combined 48.5 per cent or so — a level they’ve not managed in polling since late August — that would allow Merkel to reprise the business-friendly coalition she led from 2009 to 2013.
If not, she will have two alternatives: The first is to try to add the environmentalist Greens to that coalition with the FDP, but it’s a combination previously untested at national level. The easier option might be to continue the “grand coalition” with the SPD, though that would face resistance among grassroots Social Democrats who would prefer to go into opposition. While agreement on a CDU-FDP coalition might take just a few weeks, other options could see talks dragging on for months.
The joker in the pack is the AfD, set to become the first far-right party to enter the German parliament since the immediate aftermath of the war. Polling in the final stretch has shown it gaining as much as 12 per cent support, possibly enough for third place, as voters have drifted away from the traditional mainstream parties to the extremes of both right and left.
The AfD has been targeting former industrial cities in western Germany that have fallen on hard times as well as the chancellor’s own district in the east. Investors are likely to be concerned if the AfD were to poll in the region of about 15 per cent.
Both main candidates used their final pitch to voters to denounce the political extremes.
“Everybody feels that we’re living in uneasy times, in a time of great challenges,” Merkel told a crowd of several thousand in Munich late Friday. “That’s why I think we need a policy that has always made Germany successful — one of measure in the centre.”
Schulz placed the AfD alongside France’s Front National, Italy’s Northern League and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.
“You are our enemies,” he told a rally in central Berlin, referencing his party’s history of opposing the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s. “Social Democracy has always been the bulwark of democracy, and we’re going to stand in your way.”
The German vote is the culmination of a 2017 electoral calendar in Europe that saw strong support for anti-immigration, European Union-skeptic populists in the Netherlands and France, only for them to be defeated as the centre held. In Britain, Theresa May’s campaign on a platform of an abrupt break from the EU led to the loss of her majority but saw the collapse of the U.K. Independence Party.
A fourth election victory for Merkel, western Europe’s most powerful political leader, would equal those for her CDU predecessors Konrad Adenauer, the first postwar chancellor, and Helmut Kohl, who oversaw German reunification in 1990. She’s said she plans to serve a full four-year term, which would equal Kohl’s record 16 years in office.
The broadcasters will update their forecasts for the results through the evening, with the official result due in the early hours of Monday.
Angela Merkel’s bloc remains front-runner as Germans head to the polls
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump is expected to announce new restrictions on travel to the United States as his ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries expires Sunday, 90 days after it went into effect.
The Department of Homeland Security has recommended the president sign off on new, more targeted restrictions on foreign nationals from countries it says refuse to share information with the U.S. or haven’t taken necessary security precautions.
Officials haven’t said which — or how many — countries will be affected by the new restrictions, which could take effect as soon as Sunday.
“The acting secretary has recommended actions that are tough and that are tailored, including restrictions and enhanced screening for certain countries,” said Miles Taylor, counsellor to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke.
The current ban bars citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” from entering the U.S.
Unlike Trump’s first travel ban, which sparked chaos at airports across the country and a flurry of legal challenges, officials said they have been working for months on the new rules, in collaboration with various agencies and in conversation with foreign governments.
The recommendations are based on a new baseline developed by DHS that includes factors such as whether countries issue electronic passports with biometric information and share information about travellers’ terror-related and criminal histories. The U.S. then shared those benchmarks with every country in the world and gave them 50 days to comply.
The citizens of countries that refused could now face travel restrictions and more stringent screening measures that would last indefinitely, until their governments complied.
Trump last week called for a “tougher” travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway.
“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” he tweeted.
Critics have accused Trump of overstepping his authority and violating the U.S. Constitution’s protections against religious bias. Trump had called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during his campaign.
Trump expected to announce new restrictions as 90-day travel ban expires
WASHINGTON—Pyongyang’s top envoy told the UN General Assembly on Saturday that a strike against the U.S. mainland was “inevitable” after Donald Trump insulted the North Korean leader by calling him a “little Rocket Man.”
While Ri Yong Ho, the North Korean foreign minister, spoke, U.S. B-1 bombers, escorted by fighter jets, were flying along North Korea’s eastern coastline in a predawn “show of force” that was closer to the rogue nation's border than any other mission this century.
The Pentagon said the mission showed how seriously President Donald Trump takes North Korea’s “reckless behaviour.”
“This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” a Defence Department spokesman, Dana White, said in a statement.
“North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies,” White said.
At the United Nations, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said his country’s nuclear force is “to all intents and purposes, a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion, and our ultimate goal is to establish the balance of power with the U.S.”
He also said Trump’s depiction of Kim as “Rocket Man” makes “our rocket’s visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.”
Ri called the U.S. president “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency” with his finger on the “nuclear button.” And he said Trump’s “reckless and violent words” had provoked “the supreme dignity” of North Korea.
Ri said that during his eight months in power, Trump had turned the White House “into a noisy marketing place” and now he has tried to turn the United Nations “into a gangsters’ nest where money is respected and bloodshed is the order of the day.”
Kim has said Trump would “pay dearly” for threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. was forced to defend itself or its allies against a North Korean attack. Ri told reporters this past week that the North’s response to Trump “could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific.”
North Korea has said it intends to build a missile capable of striking all parts of the United States with a nuclear bomb. Trump has said he won’t allow it, although the U.S. so far has not used military force to impede the North’s progress.
B-1 bombers are no longer part of the U.S. nuclear force, but they are capable of dropping large numbers of conventional bombs.
U.S. Pacific Command would not be more specific about how many years it had been since U.S. bombers and fighters had flown that far north of the DMZ, but a spokesperson, navy Cmdr. Dave Benham, noted that this century “encompasses the period North Korea has been testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.”
Trump on Friday had renewed his rhetorical offensive against Kim.
“Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!” the president tweeted.
On Thursday, Trump announced more economic sanctions against the impoverished and isolated country, targeting foreign companies that deal with the North.
“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said as he joined Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a meeting in New York.
Hours later, Kim responded by saying Trump was “deranged.”
In a speech last week at the United Nations, Trump had issued the warning of potential obliteration and mocked the North’s young autocrat as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission.”
Trump’s executive order expanded the Treasury Department’s ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea, and to ban them from interacting with the U.S. financial system.
Trump also said China was imposing major banking sanctions, too, but there was no immediate confirmation from the North’s most important trading partner.
If enforced, the Chinese action Trump described could severely impede the isolated North’s ability to raise money for its missile and nuclear development. China, responsible for about 90 per cent of North Korea’s trade, serves as the country’s conduit to the international banking system.
Kim envoy says North Korea strike on U.S. is 'inevitable'
The 500 wounded veterans who will be competing in Invictus Games events for the next week will doubtless inspire many: fellow veterans, current servicemen and women, spectators, and people both disabled and able-bodied.
But that’s only the half of it.
“You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in welcoming the athletes during the opening ceremony at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
“You will show the world that illness and injury can actually be a source of tremendous strength.”
Trudeau added, “We know that no one leaves a battlefield unchanged, and that not all scars can be seen. Asking for help when you have physical and mental injuries, that’s hard for everyone. But it’s especially tough for people like you who have dedicated your lives to helping others.”
Team Canada was met with enthusiastic applause at the opening ceremony. Led by flag-bearer Phil Badanai, the team of 90 athletes capped off the introduction of the 17 countries competing at the Games. Sunday kicks off a week of adaptive sport for military members who became ill or injured during service.
About 550 competitors from countries as far-flung as Afghanistan, Italy, Ukraine and New Zealand are taking part in 12 sports in the annual event, which was created by Prince Harry and aims to help the war wounded, many grievously, with their recovery.
Harry said “the direction of (his) life changed forever” after serving in the military, between 2005 and 2015, and he knew he had to use his “great platform to advocate for servicepeople.”
“Some of you have cheated death, and come back even stronger than before ... You are all winners,” he said. “You are Invictus, let’s get started.”
Mike Myers, a Canadian comedian and ambassador for the Games, spoke about his military family as both parents served in the Second World War.
“Those who serve our country deserve our utmost respect, and so do the families,” Myers said. “My dad would talk about the unbreakable bond he had with those who served, they were brothers.”
The ceremony was replete with speeches and entertainment, starting with Luca “Lazy Legs” Patuelli, a Montreal break dancing performer with arthrogryposis, a neuromuscular disease that affects the use of his legs.
“Today, we are honouring servicepeople around the world,” Patuelli said, addressing the crowd before his performance. “There are no limits to what we can accomplish in our lives.”
The Tenors performed the national anthem, dedicating it to servicemen and women. Among other performers were Sarah McLachlan, Alessia Cara, of Brampton, and Quebec folk group La Bottine Souriante.
Prince Harry sat next to U.S. first lady Melania Trump during the ceremony, sitting a row above Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and near Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The prince’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, was also in the crowd, but away from the prince and with her friend Markus Anderson.
Trudeau and Harry met at a downtown Toronto hotel earlier in the day where they exchanged laughs and pleasantries and Harry told Trudeau the Games had created “a real buzz around Toronto.”
Trudeau, in turn, thanked Harry for founding the Games and creating opportunities for veterans.
Harry then met Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife, Sharon, before attending the star-studded opening ceremony at the Air Canada Centre.
“Welcome to our humble country,” Johnston told the prince.
“It’s fantastic to be back,” Harry answered. “Always, a pleasure to be in Canada, my home away from home.”
Celebrity-watchers might try to read something into that and try to catch a glimpse of Harry and Markle, a Toronto-based American actress with whom he has never been seen with in public.
There will be plenty of non-sporting activities during the week, including a career summit for veterans.
Earlier in the day, a crowd of a few hundred strong whooped when Harry entered the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and clamoured for his attention when he emerged more than hour later.
The prince did not disappoint, crossing the road after his tour to talk to children, meet a pup and shake hands with the crowd as they waited in unseasonably warm, sunny weather.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so happy, he shook my hand,” said a dazzled Robinowe Bukirwa, who wondered if she was dreaming even as the prince faded into the distance.
“I don’t think I’m going to wash my hand today. I’m so very excited.”
The prince’s tour of the centre included two roundtables — one with nine senior staff members focused on research, the other on dealing with youth coping with mental illness.
Describing the complex issue as one requiring a “massive team effort,” Harry, who served in the military from 2005 to 2015, listened attentively to staff discuss their work, and anecdotes from patients who sought treatment for mental health and addiction struggles at the facility in downtown Toronto.
The prince stressed the importance of mental health research and treatment — a topic he has championed. There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to dealing with the problem, he said.
“You need options,” he said.
One person in attendance told Harry she still cherished a visit decades before from his mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The prince also met privately with teenage in-patients of the mental health facility.
The 2017 Invictus Games will feature 550 competitors from 17 countries participating in 12 sports. An estimated 1,500 volunteers are also on board.
Events include athletes of all genders, and those who are able-bodied and disabled will compete side-by-side in sports like sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, powerlifting and swimming.
The inaugural Invictus Games, aimed at helping the war wounded with their recovery, were held in London in 2014. The Toronto Games run until Sept. 30.
Tickets to individual events are $25 while admission is free to a few events like wheelchair tennis, cycling, golf and archery. Those watching at home can tune in to TSN to see the competition.
With files from The Canadian Press
‘You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win’: Trudeau to athletes at Invictus Games opening ceremony‘You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win’: Trudeau to athletes at Invictus Games opening ceremony‘You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win’: Trudeau to athletes at Invictus Games opening ceremony
It was 1996. Florida was still recovering from hurricane Andrew, then the costliest storm ever to batter the United States. A consortium of reinsurers — the insurance companies for the insurance companies — had a question for Jeffrey Donnelly, a coastal geologist.
How often have intense hurricanes occurred throughout history?
That may sound like a simple question, but it isn’t. The first century of records from the Atlantic is a hodgepodge of ship logs and newspaper stories. Consistent cataloguing of tropical cyclones — hurricanes and typhoons — only began with the advent of satellites, around 1970.
But Donnelly had different resources at his disposal: sediment cores, the metres-long plugs of compressed organic material extracted from coastal marshes, or what scientists call the “paleo record.”
Trapped inside those sediment cores was evidence of the chaos wrought by major storms.
The historical record — those logs and newspaper articles — “is far too small,” said Donnelly, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. “What the paleo record allows us to do is extend that back centuries and even millennia.”
The reinsurers have since moved on. But 20 years later, Donnelly is still trying to reconstruct the ancient history of hurricanes, collecting sediment cores from Newfoundland to Brazil. This research — known as paleotempestology — is useful to scientists who want to understand why some years and decades are thrashed by frequent, destructive storms while others are quiet.
Surprising insights about today’s hurricane patterns have already emerged. But one of the most critical questions is how those patterns might change, especially as the climate warms.
“The biggest challenge is using what we know of just the past 100 years to say very much because it’s a very limited sampling of not only hurricanes but climate itself,” Donnelly said.
The gold-standard database of Atlantic hurricanes is maintained by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The database starts with information from 1851 and comes with a warning: “It is far from being complete and accurate for the entire century and a half.”
“It’s really a poor record,” said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before 1943 —
“the first year we flew an aircraft into a hurricane” — the record consists of the hurricanes that lucky ships survived and reported, that happened to make landfall in populated areas, or, very rarely, that passed over a research station without destroying all the instruments.
After the Second World War, aircraft began undertaking routine reconnaissance of storms in the Atlantic. For more than a decade, however, those aircraft couldn’t measure wind speed.
“You would be, I think, shocked at what was being done,” Emanuel said.
Aside from the danger of flying directly into hurricanes, “the pilot would look at the sea surface and say, ‘Oh, I think it’s 100-mile-an-hour winds.’ I mean it was very, very rough — just looking at the waves. And they were trying to impress their girlfriends back home and God knows whatever other biases were creeping in.”
Consistent global cataloguing of cyclones began in roughly 1970, when the development of satellite technology made it possible to account for the hurricanes that formed and died in the middle of the ocean. Instruments to estimate a storm’s intensity were developed in the 1980s and are still selectively deployed — usually in storms that threaten the U.S. coastline. “Everywhere else, it’s by guess and by golly,” Emanuel said.
So when the consortium of reinsurers wanted to know how often storms as destructive as hurricane Andrew occur, it didn’t have much data to work with. At the time, Donnelly was using sediment cores to study rising sea levels — and in those cores, he said, “we were coming across sand layers.”
These sand layers, they believed, were episodes when huge storm surges lifted material from the beach and the sea floor and deposited it into the marshes, where they were buried by more organic sediments until another storm occurred. Donnelly told the reinsurers he could try to analyze the sediment cores for the occurrence of major storms. But coasts are dynamic systems and he wasn’t sure that these environments were stable enough to record ancient history.
After some “hit and miss” at different sites, Donnelly identified a salt marsh in Rhode Island, extracted cores, and began mapping and dating the sand layers.
The top bands of sand corresponded with known hurricanes from the 20th century. But the cores extended the storm record back 700 years. Subsequent research has shown that only significantly large storms, typically a Category 2 hurricane or higher, would be energetic enough to leave an impact.
The reinsurers got their numbers and went on their way. Donnelly and his team continue to extract cores from across the North Atlantic basin and beyond, hoping to reconstruct more ancient hurricane history.
Other than salt marshes, they have extracted cores from coastal sink holes and “blue holes,” or marine caverns. Most are about 2,000 years old, but one from Vieques, a small island off Puerto Rico that was devastated by hurricane Maria last week, represented 5,500 years of history.
The historical hurricane record shows a lull between the 1960s and the ’80s. Researchers are still arguing about whether it represents a reoccurring cycle or an anomaly. To tell the difference, “you need a lot of data,” said Gabriel Vecchi, a professor at Princeton University who studies climate science and extreme weather events.
“So we either have to commit ourselves to not knowing the answer until we make hundreds of years of observations in the future, or we can go back in time. Those are really the only two options.”
But one of the most surprising findings that has emerged from the field is that we are living in centennial, rather than decadal, hurricane lull. The first millennium, to 1000 AD, was an incredibly active period for hurricanes. The next millennium saw major regional variability, with the Caribbean and the eastern North American seaboard firing up in different centuries.
All of this evidence helps tease apart natural cycles from variability caused by climate change. “Being able to go back hundreds of years allows us to better quantify these natural cycles, and it gives us a working range of how much things can vary without human contributions. Then if things fall out of that range in the modern era, we have more confidence that it’s not all natural,” said Jim Kossin, an atmospheric research scientist at NOAA.
Another way that this deep history can help us understand hurricane patterns in the era of human-caused climate change is by testing models that predict hurricane variability. By seeing how well they can predict hurricanes we now know occurred in the past, we can be more confident about their performance in the future. It can also help us understand what climate and ocean conditions are drivers for hurricane activity.
“We’re invested in actually making that one of our top priorities: to look at the last few 2,000 years, understand why the hurricanes have changed the way the paleo record suggests they have changed, and then interpret what that means for the coming century,” Vecchi said.
“As we’re getting more and more records, I think we’ll be able to ask tougher and tougher questions.”
Kate Allen was a 2017 Ocean Science Journalism Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. WHOI paid for airfare, room and board for the one-week residency, which is designed to introduce science journalists to the fields of oceanography and ocean engineering.
Meet the researcher uncovering the mysteries of ancient hurricanes
The owners of the Baltimore Ravens, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and other teams on Sunday joined a chorus of NFL executives criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion they fire players who kneel for the national anthem.
The statements, including those from Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, contrasted a morning tweet from Trump and further escalated the political drama of the league's game day, which was expected to be one of the most-watched for non-sporting reasons in years.
Bisciotti said he “100 per cent” supports his players' decision to kneel during the national anthem. At least seven of them did, joined by more than a dozen Jacksonville Jaguars, before the teams played at Wembley Stadium in London.
Other players linked arms — and Jaguars owner Shad Khan joined them, standing between tight end Marcedes Lewis and linebacker Telvin Smith. He called it a privilege to do so.
Kraft, who has been a strong backer of the president, expressed “deep disappointment” with Trump and said politicians could learn much from the unifying spirit of a competitive, team-oriented enterprise like football.
“Our players are intelligent, thoughtful, and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful,” Kraft said in a statement.
Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam wrote that they didn't want to let “misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify,” and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS his team wouldn't be on the field when the anthem plays before the Steelers game in Chicago. He doesn't want his players to be divided between those who kneel and those who stand, he said.
“We're not going to be divided by anything said by anyone,” Tomlin said. “We're not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
Haslam's brother, Bill, is the Republican governor of Tennessee.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the kneeling movement last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of black people by police. Kaepernick became a free agent and has not been signed by a new team for this season.
Without identifying Kaepernick, Trump aimed a Friday talk at a Huntsville, Alabama, rally at those players who have knelt for the anthem.
“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired,'“ he said to loud applause.
Again in a Sunday morning tweet, Trump urged his supporters to take action: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin followed up Sunday on ABC's “This Week” defending Trump, saying the NFL has many rules governing what players can and cannot do.
“I think what the president is saying is that the owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem,” Mnuchin said. “They can do free speech on their own time.”
Trump's remarks provoked team owners and the NFL to stridently defend the sport and its players. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has taken heat for Kaepernick's struggle to find a team, quickly condemned Trump's comments.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we've experienced over the last month,” Goodell said.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
At least seven team owners donated $1 million each to Trump's inaugural committee. But Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos , Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank , New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, Tennessee Titans' controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford and San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York were among the league power brokers who issued condemning statements through their clubs.
“The callous and offensive comments made by the president are contradictory to what this great country stands for,” York said.
“Our players have exercised their rights as United States citizens in order to spark conversation and action to address social injustice. We will continue to support them in their peaceful pursuit of positive change in our country and around the world.”
Added Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy: “We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely.”
This weekend's games were sure to bring more protests, with Tampa Bay receiver DeSean Jackson promising to make “a statement.”
“I know our players who kneeled for the anthem, and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone,” Ross said.
“They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other.”
NFL owners say they support players responding to Trump’s ‘misguided, uninformed and divisive comments’
Steve Murgatroyd can walk up stairs normally, run in the rain and, soon, he’ll be able to ride his motorbike again with his prosthetic leg.
He has an Ottobock X3, an advanced microprocessor leg that uses high-tech sensors to mimic what his nerves and muscles used to do naturally, and it’s the leg he thinks will let him return to frontline service in the Canadian infantry.
For now, he’ll use it to compete in Toronto at the Invictus Games, an eight-day sporting competition for ill and injured armed forces members and veterans from 17 countries.
With 550 athletes competing in 12 sports as diverse as running, swimming, powerlifting and wheelchair rugby, it’s an inspiring display of athleticism and the human drive to overcome adversity.
But, in reality, the hardest thing that Murgatroyd and many of the competitors will do this week is walk to their competition venues.
Regular life, with all its variables — tripping over kids’ toys in the living room, walking on an uneven sidewalk or running to catch the bus — demands much more from a prosthetic leg than sprinting 100 metres down the track.
“It looks fine, minute to minute, but any distance of walking is extremely difficult,” says Murgatroyd, who competes in archery and the precision driving challenge.
It’s a similar story for the co-captain of Canada’s team, Maj. Simon Mailloux, who will swap out his X3 for a running blade when he competes on the track, or plays sitting volleyball without a prosthetic.
That just walking can be hard with a leg that costs $100,000 and looks strong enough to kick a car across the parking lot is not what many people expect to hear.
Top-of-the-line prosthetic devices have come so far — the materials they’re made of and the sophisticated technology embedded within them — that people raised on action movies and science fiction easily leap to the conclusion that they’re as good as, or perhaps even better, than what most of us are born with.
“Kids, especially, they see my leg and they think I’m Iron Man and I can fly and things like that and part of me wants to let them believe that,” Mailloux says with a chuckle.
“Technology will come to a point, I truly believe in my lifetime, where we exceed our capacity, but we’re not there yet. Now, my leg almost does what it used to.”
Prosthetics have come light years from the days of Terry Fox, who used an awkward skip-hop stride during his 1980 run across Canada because of the limitations of his prosthetic leg and old-style mechanical knee.
But the misconception that prosthetics are so advanced that they’re nearing the scenarios played out in Hollywood is something that Gary Sjonnesen deals with all the time. He’s the director of clinical services at the Canadian headquarters of Ottobock, the German-based company that manufactures the X3 and provides technical services at this week’s Invictus Games.
He remembers the controversy around whether South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius had a superhuman advantage because of his carbon-fibre running blades and so shouldn’t have been allowed to run with able-bodied athletes in the 400-metre event at the 2012 London Olympics.
He shakes his head and goes on to explain that a sprinter’s natural foot and leg is far more efficient at storing and transferring energy than any mechanical spring currently in production.
“If we could develop a machine that could give back 250 per cent over what we put in, we’d be millionaires,” Sjonnesen says.
And, closer to home, he overheard his young son telling his friends it didn’t matter if he lost a leg or an arm because his dad could just make him a new one.
At Ottobock’s Burlington facility, with the cupboards and shelves full of titanium and carbon-fibre prosthetic devices that would look at home on the set of a Terminator movie and a lab designing silicone overlays that can match real skin right down to freckles and scars, it’s easy to see why people expect so much.
Sjonnesen picks up a bebionic hand that looks like it could crush steel just by making a fist. It can’t. It also can’t be used to write normally with independent finger movement.
But it’s an enormous advance in prosthetics because, among other things, it can grasp keys to unlock a door and when holding a glass, it knows to tighten the grip as the glass fills and gets heavier.
Those are the sorts of everyday life challenges that upper limb amputees actually face and getting a hand like this one can be life transforming.
It’s the same thing with the X3.
It’s so advanced compared with the mechanical knee that Murgatroyd was first fitted with when he lost his leg two summers ago after a car crashed into his motorcycle that he remembers exactly when he got it: Oct. 26, 2016.
“That’s a day I won’t forget. It makes such a huge difference in everything,” says the infantryman, who works in recruiting in Truro, N.S.
“It makes me feel a bit normal again. I know that leg won’t let me fall down.”
The X3, thanks to its five sensors including a gyroscope and accelerometer, knows exactly where Murgatroyd’s leg is in space and how fast it’s moving. It’s constantly assessing and computing every hundredth of a second so it doesn’t just know where the leg is now, it knows where it should be going and what to do if something goes wrong.
“If something happens that is not anticipated like a stumble then it reacts really quickly to change its function,” Sjonnesen says.
The knee can lock down the hydraulics to increase resistance just like a quad muscle would do to stop a fall.
Murgatroyd hopes to return to frontline service with his prosthetic leg — something that Mailloux has already done.
He lost his leg in Afghanistan in 2007 when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. In 2009 he returned there for another tour of duty, becoming the first Canadian soldier with a prosthetic leg to return to frontline service.
It wasn’t easy. Ask Mailloux what is the hardest thing he does with his prosthetic leg and the answer has nothing to do with sport.
“Anything I do in the infantry: walking on uneven ground, walking over a branch or rocks requires my foot not being stuck and trusting that my knee will understand what I’m doing,” says Mailloux, who commands a company of 110 soldiers and 15 armoured vehicles.
“I did the same job, I wasn’t as fast as or as strong as I used to be but the job was done for sure and I had a better understanding of the consequences of our actions and our decisions.”
The X3, the original version of which was developed in collaboration with the U.S. military, is waterproof and comes with programmable modes for activities such as running, biking and golf.
But, overall, the biggest advance with microprocessor knees and the reason they were designed in the first place is that they reduce falls — the biggest problem for amputees.
In a 12-month period, about 4 per cent of able-bodied people will fall; it’s 66 per cent for amputees, Sjonnesen says.
That’s a big deal because the vast majority of amputees bare little resemblance to the competitors at the Invictus Games or the even more elite athletes who compete in the Paralympics.
“They’re the ones that get the press and it’s good to expose people to it,” Sjonnesen says of the educational benefit of para sport.
“It does create some misconceptions mind you (because) 80 per cent of amputees are diabetics and they’re just trying to live day-to-day in their house,” he says.
“The other thing that really drives me nuts is when I’m talking to funding agencies or even lay people and they talk about X3 and say, ‘Well, that’s a Cadillac or Mercedes,’ No. it’s not. It might be a bicycle compared to what they lost.”
Top-of-the-line prosthetic devices have improved by leaps and bounds
U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has used a private email account to conduct and discuss official White House business dozens of times, his lawyer confirmed Sunday.
Kushner used the private account through his first nine months in government service, even as the president continued to criticize his opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for her use of a private email account for government business. Kushner several times used his account to exchange news stories and minor reactions or updates with other administration officials.
Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, set up the private account before Donald Trump moved into the White House and Kushner was named a senior adviser to the president in January. Once in the White House, Kushner used his private account for convenience from time to time — especially when he was travelling or using a personal laptop, according to two people familiar with his practice. A person who has reviewed the emails said many were quickly forwarded to his government account and none appear to contain classified information.
Clinton offered a similar explanation in 2015 when it was revealed that she set up a private email account as her exclusive means of email communication when she was secretary of state. Clinton also said she opted for private email “as a matter of convenience.” She insisted that she never shared classified information on her private account or tried to sidestep the federal law that requires that official government communications are preserved. She said nearly all of her communication was stored by the government because she was communicating with other officials on their government accounts.
Kushner’s use of a private account was first reported Sunday by Politico.
Trump repeatedly blasted Clinton during the 2016 campaign for her email practices — and has continued to do so for many months after defeating her in the race to the White House.
“What the prosecutors should be looking at are Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails,” Trump said in West Virginia in early August. He made the comment just hours after news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was using a grand jury to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.
The president had a similar refrain in mid-July, when his son Donald Trump Jr. faced questions about a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer during the campaign after he was offered incriminating information about Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?” Trump tweeted on July 13.
Kushner’s use of a private account, however, does appear to differ in degree from the former secretary of state and Democratic nominee, according to the descriptions provided Sunday. Kushner and his wife didn’t set up a private server, two people familiar with their email account said. Kushner’s lawyer said his client used official White House email to conduct much of his official government business, and the private email was incidental.
“Fewer than a hundred emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account,” Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell said Sunday. “These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal, rather than his White House, address. All non-personal emails were forwarded to his official address and all have been preserved in any event.”
These dozens of emails typically discussed media stories about the Trump White House, planning for coming events and some reactions and logistics. A person who has reviewed the emails said several contained nothing more than links to news stories.
Lowell declined to answer questions about how it was determined that none of the emails contained classified information. Clinton also claimed none of her emails contained classified information, but later reviews founds hundreds contained secret information and a small handful contained top secret material.
Lowell declined to specify if Kushner routinely forwarded all of his private emails to his government account, but said that all have since been forwarded for preservation.
Kushner’s use of a private account mirrors a broader trend within the Trump White House. He is not alone in communicating about official business over private channels.
Many senior White House officials and others in the administration regularly correspond with journalists about government business on their personal cellphones, as opposed to using their official lines. People familiar with his communications said former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former senior adviser Stephen Bannon also used private email accounts from time to time, including in their exchanges with Kushner. It’s unclear if these officials forwarded emails to their White House accounts, said one White House official.
Bannon could not be reached for comment Sunday.
William Burck, an attorney for Priebus, declined to comment.
A person familiar with Priebus’ email use said his general practice was to use his White House account but confirmed he used a personal account from time to time, particularly to respond when other people emailed him using the account. This person said such exchanges were rare, but more common at the start of Trump’s term, particularly since Priebus had been using the account during the presidential transition. The account was one he had held for a number of years.
Clinton was the subject of a massive FBI investigation last year that focused on whether she or her aides had mishandled classified information when she set up a private server to handle all of her work discussions on email. Clinton has since blamed her loss of the presidential race on the flawed explanations and hyperbolic reaction to her use of a private email account. She said that then-FBI Director James Comey’s decision to publicly announce he was reviving the investigation in the final days of her campaign battle tipped the election to Trump.
Clinton’s choice to entirely sidestep government emails during her tenure while also using a private server was unprecedented. But Congress has lambasted other government officials who appeared to be trying to shroud their communications from public view. Republicans criticized former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson for using a dummy account name — “Richard Windsor” — on an EPA government email account for some of her personal communications.
They also criticized Jonathan Silver, a Barack Obama appointee to the Energy Department, when one of his emails showed him warning his subordinates amid a discussion of government business: “Don’t ever send an email on doe email with private email addresses. That makes them supoenable.”
The Federal Records Act requires government officials and agencies to create systems and practices so that they preserve all records, memos, correspondence and other documents that detail their government work.
The use of personal email to conduct government business potentially puts those messages beyond the reach of congressional investigators and the media requesting public information. Private accounts can also open security risks if the email service used is lax on password security or doesn’t regularly patch its software — weaknesses that hackers can exploit to gain access.
Jared Kushner used private email account for some White House business, his lawyer admits
OTTAWA—Canada’s lead NAFTA negotiator doesn’t expect the United States to make demands for the dairy sector during the third round of talks this week, and said American officials still haven’t proposed changes to some of the thorniest issues of the agreement, including on car manufacturing and dispute resolution mechanisms.
Steve Verheul, chief trade negotiator with Global Affairs, said there is still “plenty to work with for the time being” but stopped short of expressing confidence that the shared goal of a new deal by the end of the year can be met.
“We’ll make good progress for the next few rounds, I think. But the endgame is always the hardest part, and impossible to predict,” he told reporters Sunday afternoon, as Ottawa hosted the third round of talks on the 23-year-old trade deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
“As in any negotiation, there are moments when things get a little heated, but for the most part, I’d say it’s quite constructive,” Verheul said. “We’re making good, solid progress.”
The U.S. government signalled this week that one of its top priorities in the agreement is to increase the rules-of-origin for auto parts — essentially pushing to get more American content in the components of cars made in North America. U.S. President Donald Trump has also criticized Canada’s supply management system that protects its domestic dairy industry, which Ottawa has vowed to support, while the American government stated this summer that one of its goals is to ditch the Chapter 19 dispute panel from NAFTA.
Yet so far, U.S. negotiators have not made specific demands in those areas at the negotiating table, Verheul said.
“We have made a detailed proposal on Chapter 19; we have not seen a U.S. proposal,” Verheul said. One of Canada’s priorities is to preserve that chapter, which dictates how disputes between the trading partners are resolved.
Verheul added that of the 28 negotiating groups working on areas of the agreement, there are a “couple” that could be resolved before the third round of negotiations wraps up on Wednesday, but he would not specify which ones.
The lack of specificity from the U.S. in key areas for Canada had union leaders on the sidelines of the talks accusing the Americans of not taking the renegotiations seriously. For the second day in a row, Jerry Dias, the president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, predicted the talks would fall apart in the coming weeks, with Canada and Mexico walking away from an intransigent American administration.
“It looks as if the tactics (for the U.S.) are: We’re the big player and we’re going to force the agenda and if you don’t like it, too bad. So my guess is that everybody walks away,” Dias said.
“You can go through the charade and see how this thing unfolds, and I believe everybody has to do that, but I’m not expecting anything meaningful by any stretch of the imagination.
“This is a political discussion, not an economic discussion.”
Christopher Monette, director of public affairs for Teamsters Canada, called on the U.S. to engage more seriously with Ottawa’s proposals to bring tougher labour standards into the 23-year-old trade deal.
“The Canadian government is not kidding around in terms of their labour proposals. This is strong stuff that our union both in Canada and the United States strongly supports. We think this needs to be taken more seriously by American negotiators,” Monette said.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to drop out of NAFTA, citing concern about American trade deficits and the loss of manufacturing jobs in his country. Trump has also predicted the renegotiation will fail to produce a new deal, while officials from Canada and Mexico have stated that it is still early in the process that continues in Ottawa until Wednesday, before returning to the U.S. for a scheduled fourth round of talks.
“We’re just starting,” Kenneth Smith Ramos, the lead Mexican negotiator, told reporters here on Saturday.
The agenda for the third round of negotiations, which was obtained by the Star this week, showed that negotiators were scheduled to talk about customs, digital trade, the environment, government procurement, state-owned enterprises and other issues on Sunday.
Key points surrounding the Ottawa round of negotiations include the American demand to change NAFTA’s rules-of-origin component, which dictates how much of certain products must be made in North America to qualify for free trade under the deal. The U.S. has signalled that it wants more American-made content in auto parts, though it has yet to say exactly by how much.
The current North American content rules for auto parts under NAFTA is 62.5 per cent.
Dias, whose union represents autoworkers in Canada, said Sunday that he’s not against raising rules-of-origin in that industry, but cautioned that doing so without bringing tougher labour standards into a new NAFTA could simply mean more manufacturing jobs leave Canada for lower-wage jurisdictions in the U.S. and Mexico.
“There won’t be a trade deal unless Mexico takes Canada’s proposals on elevating the standard of living for Mexican workers in a very serious way,” he said.
He added that despite his doomsaying on the prospects of the renegotiation, he has faith in Canada’s negotiating team and said he’s more hopeful that a deal can be reached sometime next spring, once the U.S. begins to put proposals on the table and is willing to compromise with its NAFTA partners ahead of elections in Mexico and the U.S. next year.
“Ultimately, the U.S. business community is going to need what Canada has to offer. We’re in a very good position, so we should make sure that we carve a deal that’s in the best interest of Canadians,” Dias said.
Canada’s Liberal government has proposed bringing labour and environmental agreements between the three countries, which are currently side deals to NAFTA, into the main body of the accord. Ottawa has also called for an updated NAFTA to be a “progressive” deal with chapters on Indigenous Peoples and gender rights, while reserving the right to pass regulations “in the public interest.”
That last bit is why Rob Cunningham, a lawyer for the Canadian Cancer Society, was on hand Sunday to tout his demand that tobacco products be exempted from the trade deal. That would prevent cigarette companies from using NAFTA to challenge Canada’s health laws as a barrier to fair competition, he said — something that was first threatened in 1994 when Ottawa floated the idea of plain cigarette packaging.
He said Canada should push hard to drop tobacco products from the deal, to protect the government’s ability to pass health regulations for cigarettes and other tobacco goods.
“There’s a very strong case to do this exemption,” he said, pointing out that Canada, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to cut tobacco out of the now-stalled Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.
“It’s not like this is an economic protection measure. It’s an absolutely pure health measure.”
With files from Tonda MacCharles
Canada’s top NAFTA negotiator says U.S. hasn’t proposed changes to thorny issues
Shadi Alkhalifeh was full of guilt when he, his wife and three children were picked to resettle to Canada last year, leaving behind their loved ones in Turkey and Syria.
Almost a year after arriving in Uxbridge, the family lives comfortably in a modest three-bedroom apartment; the children are in school and learning; and Alkhalifeh, a former surgical nurse, works as a personal support worker in a mental health facility in Newmarket.
Since coming to Canada, Alkhalifeh has been tirelessly looking for ways to help bring his loved ones here, including his parents. The Uxbridge sponsorship group that brought the Alkahlifehs to Canada is already sponsoring his younger brother, Mohamad, in Turkey.
“That is our dream,” said Alkhalifeh, 39. “Life is miserable in Turkey and Syria for my family. We think of them all the time. We are happy we have the opportunity for a new life in Canada but we are missing our families a lot. Our new life is incomplete without them.”
However, the journey of family reunification won’t be easy because Ottawa limits the number of refugees that can be resettled by sponsorship groups each year.
After welcoming more than 48,000 Syrian refugees into the country over the last two years, Canada is faced with a new challenge known in the refugee sponsorship circles as the “echo effect” — the surge in demand to sponsor the families and relatives of recently resettled refugees, said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for refugees.
In 2017, there are only some 16,000 private sponsorship spots for refugees. Separately, there are 7,500 spots for government-assisted refugees and 1,500 for those referred by visa offices, who are selected by authorities and prioritized for the most vulnerable. The spots must accommodate refugees from around the world.
A spokesperson for the Immigration Department said the government has to limit the number of applications so officials can “work through large inventories and reduce wait times.”
While asylum-seekers must typically obtain a refugee determination certificate from United Nations to be eligible for resettlement in Canada, Ottawa exempted all Syrians and Iraqis from the requirement in 2015 and 2016. However, this year, only the first 1,000 are not required to get the UN designation.
As a result of the “echo effect,” the Immigration Department currently is having problem finding community groups to sponsor refugees to fill the visa-office-referred refugee spots because community sponsorship groups would rather focus on bringing in those connected with their sponsored families.
“When you resettle refugees, there are family members that they are concerned about,” said Dench. “You hear them talk about their parents, brothers and sisters somewhere else. It is hard for sponsorship groups to sponsor somebody else and turn your back on a real situation before you.”
Rob Shropshire, who works on refugee sponsorship and special projects at the Presbyterian Church in Canada, said his sponsors only picked up 10 refugees referred by Canadian officials this year, less than a third of the 33 total in 2016 when sponsorship groups were desperate to match with just about any Syrian family.
“Last year we had a lot of interest for the (visa-office) referred cases, but not this year,” said Shropshire, whose group has been allotted only 77 spots for refugees from all countries this year. “There is a big demand for named sponsorships for Syrians.”
Colleen Colman, a volunteer with Ripple Effect, the sponsorship group that brought the Alkhalifeh’s to Canada, said getting their loved ones out of harm’s way has preoccupied the family’s mind and affected their full settlement.
“They have a lot of guilt being safe and away, and not able to help. Part of the heartache is they need to establish themselves before they can sponsor their family members,” said Colman. “It occupies a lot of their waking thoughts. It’s like a piece of them is not in Canada yet.”
In addition to the annual cap, Canada’s refugee sponsorship program only allows resettlement of those displaced outside of their country of origin. In Alkhalifeh’s case, his parents, Mahmoud and Sabah, and a younger sister, Ataa, are still stranded in Syria.
The only option for Alkhalifeh is to bring them to Canada on his own under the family reunification program, which only allots 10,000 spaces for parents and grandparents this year through lottery. However, as a family of five persons, he would need to make $66,654 a year to be eligible to sponsor his parents; he now makes only $14 an hour while working 42 hours a week — less than half of what he needs.
Alkhalifeh said he and his family last saw his parents in 2010 before civil war erupted in Syria. Since then, they only communicate through WhatsApp and Skype when internet service is available in Damascus.
“My kids miss their grandpa and grandma, and all their cousins. We just feel so sad,” said Alkhalifeh, who has lost some 3,000 precious family photos that were on his smartphone after it was infected with viruses. “If you can help us to see our family, we would be really grateful.”
Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants said Ottawa must remove its caps on refugee resettlement and put more resources into processing sponsorship applications.
“Family reunifications for refugees should be a priority. The government needs to lift the caps and beef up the processing time,” she said.
Between November 2015 and this past July, Canada welcomed 25,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees, as well as 19,000 by private sponsors and 4,400 under the joint government-and-private sponsorships. There are some 5,000 government-supported and 16,000 privately-sponsored applications in process.
Cap on refugee sponsorships means Syrians in Canada remain separated from family members
Go on, twist his arm.
Wrench it up nice and tight, where the emotional scapula lies.
Make Jose Bautista’s eyes leak.
And they did, oh yes, because those weren’t just sweat beads on his lashes after the game Sunday, once finally he’d removed the wraparound shades.
It was the crescendo, the climax, of a heartfelt week, after Bautista had steadfastly refused to go with the sentimental flow. Because he’s still a Blue Jay, for at least six more games, and maybe come next Sunday we’ll be doing this all again. But not at the ballpark the swaggering slugger has called home for the past decade.
So it was time for the fans to say goodbye, those who sold out the Rogers Centre Sunday for a team 18.5 games back of the American League East-leading Red Sox, a club that has never been out of last place in 2017.
Even before the first pitch was thrown it became clear this was going to be Joey Bats Day, with small poignancies and larger public displays of affection.
The way his teammates had connived to let him take the field alone, rest of the Blue Jays holding back on the steps of the dugout as Bautista trotted unknowingly to his regular spot in right field.
“I wasn’t initially (aware) but then I kind of took a peek back and I noticed,” No. 19 would say later. “But I just kept going because I didn’t know what else to do.’’
We wanted our chunk of soulful exhibitionism, for Bautista to expose his inner self. And we, they — his teammates most especially — wanted to show that they honoured him.
From starter Marcus Stroman donning Bautista’s predominantly black 2010 jersey to play catch in the outfield before warming up in the ’pen — a historical article, plucked from a display cabinet.
“I had seen a highlight of him hitting his 50th homer off of Felix (Hernandez) back when they used to wear the black jerseys,” Stroman — who, by the by, racked up his career-high 13th W in Sunday’s 9-5 thumping of the Yankees — explained. “I wanted to warm up in it. I told one of the clubbies, Moose, to go hunt it.
“It’s authenticated. They took it out of a showcase and let me wear it,” added the pitching ace, who also took the mound to Bautista’s walk-up music, “Trophies.”
Just a small grace note. And there were many.
Bautista, not entirely comfortable with the adulation that came raining down around his head, doffed his cap to the crowd, for the first time on this afternoon, but not the last.
Every time he stood in the batter’s box, the cheering cranked up and the audience rose to its feet, the familiar JOSE cheer sweeping around the park, like an auditory wave.
Not a bad day at the plate either, which likely counts the most for Bautista, snapping out of an 0-for-18 slump with a pair of singles, a walk, a run, an RBI and a disputed out at the dish when he was sent home in the fourth inning. Video review confirmed he’d been tagged. But a bit of controversy was fitting in what was likely — everybody says so — Bautista’s final home game in a Blue Jays uniform.
We wanted more, of course. We’ve always wanted more from Bautista — something memorable, evoking the game-changer he once was before this season of discontent for himself and for the club. A bases-loaded jack over the left-field wall — that would have been perfect. But a single had to suffice.
Manager John Gibbons appreciated the sense of occasion. So he removed Bautista with one out in the bottom of the ninth, replacing him with Ezequiel Carrera, precisely to give him that exit montage in the sun.
On his way in, Bautista hugged just about every teammate as Roberto Osuna stepped away from the bump. Another doff of the cap, a modest gesture for the crowd. But the skipper pushed him out again for a curtain call.
When the lovely Hazel Mae from Sportsnet corralled Bautista for a live interview immediately after the game, urged him to say something from the heart, he lost his composure briefly, ducking his head and mumbling he just couldn’t, not yet. A man who has always worn his heart on his sleeve, eschewing robotics even when it might have been wiser to still his tongue, seemed frozen by emotional stage fright. Or maybe, more accurately, he didn’t want to rip himself open for the camera.
Later still — much later, because that’s his M.O. — Bautista kept the media waiting and waiting in the clubhouse, until nearly all his teammates had finished packing up their dolls and dishes, since most will not be heading back this way when the season is over.
Good, this reporter thought. Be prickly. Be high-handed. Don’t let the pith of you be mutated by cheap sentimentality. Don’t give a bloody inch. Be Bautista.
He was gracious. And, from this corner of the media universe, he always has been.
“A lot of good emotions,” he said, when asked to articulate the torrent of feelings he’d experienced on this day. “It’s good to be recognized and it’s good to feel the love. So I appreciate everything that happened today.”
For the first time, he directly addressed the reality of his situation, that his days as a Jay are drawing to a close. “It is a possibility that I might not be coming back. I guess those decisions will be made when they are and we’ll see what happens.”
Yet on an afternoon when Bautista lifted his batting average out of a franchise-low nether region — though it should be noted his 22 home runs equal last year’s production; he’s no long-ball sad-sack even amidst these terrible offensive numbers — it was so palpably apparent how much he longs to return, if the Jays would pick up his option.
“I know that I want to come back. I’ve always been clear about that. That’s not going to change. I’ve said it before — I’d be stupid not to. But other than that I can’t really control anything else. Time will tell.”
We continued to prod and poke. Come on Jose, give it up, with pathos preferably.
Except Bautista, a proud Latin male, doesn’t do pathos.
“A lot of feelings. It’s hard to narrow it down. A lot of things that go through your head quickly, at that moment,” he acknowledged of the stirring homage from the fans. “I don’t quite remember all the things that I was thinking. It was kind of a blur to me, but I enjoyed it.”
The moments. His moments.
“Today, yeah, they kind of crept in and out of my mind. It was, I guess, fitting given the environment that was at the stadium today.”
Here’s another moment which for many passed unnoticed. In that eighth inning, as the Jays took the field, Bautista stopped to have a few private words with Teoscar Hernandez, the 24-year-old who might replace him in right field next year. Hernandez, a fellow Dominican, had blasted his third home run in three consecutive days. But he’d struck out to end the seventh with Russell Martin standing on third.
“He just told me that it’s okay after I struck out. That there was nothing to worry about.”
That too is Bautista, a player who would want to set a young teammate’s mind at ease.
And what Hernandez accomplished over the weekend — three jacks, three games in a row — Bautista has done 10 times.
Hernandez, who was 14 years old when he first saw Bautista play winter ball in Santo Domingo, smiled: “He’s done a lot of things in a row.”
Bautista would probably like to say goodbye just the once, if ever. But however reluctantly, even awkwardly, he did step out of the dugout for that bittersweet farewell.
“I think the fans were expecting it. And you’ve got to give them what they want.”
Joey Bats makes graceful exit from Jays’ home base: DiManno
A motorcyclist is dead following a collision on the east-bound Burlington Skyway Monday morning.
Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said it was a multi-vehicle collision, but was unable to disclose age or gender details of the victim.
Jim Summers, spokesperson for the Hamilton Paramedic Service, said the one person was pronounced on the scene.
The collision occurred around 6:15 a.m. at the QEW and North Shore Blvd., blocking all Toronto-bound lanes.
The OPP said they’re uncertain when the highway will reopen again.
Toronto-bound lanes on Burlington Skyway closed after fatal collision
The Superior Court of Justice is warning that it “desperately” needs more judges to keep up with an increasingly heavy and complex caseload.
The court, which handles all civil and some family matters, as well as the most serious criminal cases such as murder, has requested that federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould immediately add an extra 12 judges to Ontario’s judicial complement.
Whether that will actually happen anytime soon remains to be seen, although it doesn’t appear that Ontario will get all 12 judges in one round. Wilson-Raybould’s office said she is considering the request, as other provinces also put forward business cases for increases in their number of judges.
Courts across the country have been grappling since last year with the effect of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case known as R v. Jordan, which set strict timelines to bring criminal cases to trial.
The Jordan rulinghas left understaffed courthouses, including in Ontario, scrambling to redeploy judges to criminal matters at risk of being tossed due to delay, to the detriment of non-urgent civil and family matters.
“In addition to the court’s criminal workload, an immediate addition to Ontario’s Superior Court judicial complement is desperately needed to deal with families in crisis and urgent child protection cases,” Mohan Sharma, counsel in the office of Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Heather Smith, told the Star in an emailed statement.
Ontario’s population has increased by 3.4 million since 2000, Sharma said, “but over the last 17 years, the Superior Court of Justice has not received a proportionate increase to its judicial complement.”
The last time an increase was made to the complement was in 2008, when the court received eight additional judges, Sharma said. There are currently about 330 Superior Court judges allotted to Ontario.
The court’s request is supported by leaders from the associations that represent criminal, civil and family lawyers, who point out the additional of judges is just one way to speed up the justice system post-Jordan.
“There’s no question that the Toronto courts have been plagued with too many cases and not enough judges for them to be heard,” said Michael Lacy, a vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.
“If there’s going to be a meaningful response to Jordan and a meaningful approach to ensuring that people get a trial in a reasonable time, the obvious thing to do is add more judges.”
While praising the Superior Court’s request, the chair of the Family Lawyers Association pointed out that the bulk of family matters are heard at the lower level in the Ontario Court of Justice, which also requires more resources.
“I just don’t want the Ontario Court of Justice to be forgotten, that we need to be aware that that court requires resources,” said Katharina Janczaruk.
“I think we need to be particularly concerned because of the population that utilizes the Ontario Court of Justice are, by and large, low-income individuals. They're entitled to have their matters heard on a timely basis.”
Sharma, at Superior Court, said the court was “unable” to provide a copy of the business case sent to Wilson-Raybould because communications between the chief justice and minister are treated as confidential.
But Sharma said the business case identified the Toronto, Central West and Central East regions, which cover the GTA, as well as the East region, which includes Ottawa and Kingston, “as being in the greatest demand for additional judicial resources.”
The court is looking to get its hands on some of the new judicial positions created in this year’s federal budget, which proposed spending $55 million over five years, and $15.6 million per year thereafter, to cover the costs for 28 new judges.
The government has already said that 12 would be allotted to Alberta, and one to Yukon, while the remaining 15 would be assigned across the country depending on need. Two have since been allotted to Quebec, which leaves 13 positions in the pool, of which Ontario wants 12.
“The appointment of 12 of the 28 new judge positions to Ontario should be viewed nationally as a fair apportionment,” Sharma said.
Ontario initially requested six positions last October, but revised that request to 12 following the budget announcement in March.
A statement from Wilson-Raybould’s office sent to the Star said Ontario’s “subsequent request for additional judges will be evaluated in a separate round, funding for which may be sought in Budget 2018.
“The minister of justice has not yet made appointments in Ontario using the pool positions. We anticipate that such appointments will be made in the coming months, although we cannot confirm in advance exactly how many pool positions will be allotted to Ontario.”
The judge shortage also highlights the fact that while criminal matters carry a constitutional right to a trial in a reasonable time, no such right exists in civil and family matters.
Civil lawyers, for example, have complained of their cases being pushed even further down the road because the judge hearing the matter has had to be redeployed to a criminal case.
“As somebody who represents very seriously injured people, you sort of wonder why a woman whose back is broken by the negligent act of someone else is treated differently than an alleged criminal who needs to have their case tried, even for just a minor criminal offence,” said Ron Bohm, president-elect of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, which represents lawyers acting for plaintiffs.
In Ontario, all criminal cases begin at the lower level of the court system, in the Ontario Court of Justice. In some cases, criminal matters that then head to Superior Court first go through a preliminary hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice to determine if there’s enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Heather Smith, chief justice of the Superior Court, has said that the addition of 13 judges to the Ontario Court of Justice by the provincial government to respond to Jordan has meant that cases are now making their way to her court even faster. But there are simply not enough Superior Court judges to deal with the influx.
“The great efforts of our dedicated judges have held the line in criminal cases until now,” Smith said in remarks at the opening of the courts ceremony in Toronto earlier this month. “But, nothing short of a very immediate increase to the judicial complement of the Superior Court will allow this court to maintain control of its very heavy and highly complex criminal caseload.”
Ontario Superior Court warns federal government it ‘desperately’ needs more judges
In times of great moral crisis, says the poet Dante, “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality.”
That threat of heat apparently failed to melt the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins when they took a stand against racial justice on Sunday by claiming not to take any.
They accepted an invitation to the Donald Trump White House one day after the U.S. president said the NBA champion Golden State Warriors were not welcome to visit.
It’s just business as usual for the Penguins, as if it were 2016, as if they were operating in a vacuum oblivious to the rising tide of anger washing all around them.
A little over a year ago, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to first sit, then kneel, during the national anthem to protest police brutality against Black people, his peaceful protest became a lightning rod of controversy, an act of dignity conflated with lack of patriotism, insult of the flag and of American troops.
By and by, other players faced off booing spectators and knelt, so riling the country’s president that he put aside less pressing matters such as war and natural disasters to exhort team owners to fire or suspend them. On Sunday, that unleashed a reaction that transformed one man’s gesture into a powerful symbol of solidarity reaching out to include basketball and baseball players, and singers including Stevie Wonder.
Then came this hockey team’s chance to bring the NHL into the conversation.
“We attended White House ceremonies after previous championships . . . with presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama — and have accepted an invitation to attend again this year,” the Penguins said in their statement.
“Any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways.”
What “other ways,” would the Penguins approve of? Nodding solemnly after their commissioner speaks of inclusivity?
After spending hours hoping the team had had a rethink and change of heart — and exploring my implicit bias linking Canadian presence on the team with social conscience — I gave up my rather foolish hope they might still use the opportunity to voice their discomfort with the president’s support of racist policies.
This is not a president one reasons with.
“He’s now using sports as a platform to divide us,” said a sombre LeBron James about Trump on a video he posted online.
The Penguins say they respect the institution of the Office of the President. You can’t respect an office by supporting the president who disrespects it utterly.
Trump calls the mostly Black athlete protesters, “sons of bitches” but has labelled white extremist protesters in Charlottesville, “very fine people.”
“This has nothing to do with race,” Trump told reporters Sunday about his criticism of the athletes. “I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.”
He wants us to believe his vicious disagreement with a protest against racial injustice has nought to do with race, just like the Penguins want us to believe that theirs is a dispassionate separation of sports and politics.
They did not, as a CBC headline said,“set politics aside” to accept Trump’s invitation.
Saying no to celebration at this White House celebration makes a statement. Saying yes to a celebration at this White House also makes a statement.
Neutrality in a battle for human rights is a statement of support for the status quo that props up the powerful at the cost of the powerless.
Leaving aside the marginalized for a moment, what statement is this team making to the sprinkling of their NHL colleagues that don’t look like them — P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Joel Ward, or Evander Kane, for instance?
My colleague, Kevin McGran, wrote that “hockey has largely stayed out of the protests, partly because of citizenship. The NFL and NBA are manned mostly by Americans, while pro hockey has a large percentage of Canadians and Europeans on rosters, who may feel uncomfortable criticizing the country that is hosting them. Also, the large majority of NHL players are white.”
To those uncomfortable players: dissent is not disrespectful. Not taking a stand against racial injustice is, for it knows no borders and indeed abounds in your home countries too. Like the NFL players, like the NBA players, you, too, have a platform. You, too, have a voice.
This isn’t about the Penguins’ freedom to make their choice. Rather it’s what that choice says about them.
There come moments in public life when certain decisions are plucked out and pinned on to an arc of history.
When that happens to this moment, when the future gazes back, where does this team want to see itself placed?
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
Why the Pittsburgh Penguins should reconsider meeting Trump: Paradkar
Sports, like everything else, lives in the world. It can be tempting to believe sports is a shiny, ridiculous bubble of wins and losses and dingers and dunks. It’s like closing your curtains and pretending the stadium down the road was built by magic. It’s one of many comforting illusions. Stick, as they say, to sports.
And then Sunday the sports world found itself more enmeshed with politics and protest than at any point in modern history. A little over one year ago then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the American national anthem before a pre-season game to protest against systemic racism in the United States. Nobody even noticed at first. He kept kneeling. He left the 49ers after last season, and was not signed by any NFL team. He isn’t a top-10 QB, but he’s being blackballed without shame.
One year later, the argle-bargle-belching president of the United States decided to play to his canker-sore ego and his racism-fuelled base by attacking the athletes of the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, which by sheer and utter coincidence are the two pro sports leagues in North America with the most Black players. At a rally in Alabama — another coincidence! — he called players who kneel to protest during the national anthem “sons of bitches,” and said they should be fired. Then, after Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry said he didn’t want to visit the White House to celebrate their NBA championship, Donald Trump rescinded the invitation. Sunday, on the only Twitter account in the world that may start a nuclear war, he called for a boycott of the NFL.
Suddenly sports hadn’t been this political since Muhammad Ali. LeBron James called Trump, with devastating precision, “U Bum.” Jim Harbaugh, the football coach at Michigan, said, “Read the Constitution.” People across the NFL criticized Trump: Even former coach Rex Ryan, on ESPN, said: “I supported Donald Trump . . . and I’m reading these comments and it’s appalling to me, and I’m sure it’s appalling to almost any citizen in this country. And I apologize for being pissed off, because right away I’m associated with what Donald Trump stands for.”
Ryan was mighty late to the party on this one, but at least there was a party. There were sideline protests and demonstrations during anthems across the NFL, some of which were booed by fans in the stadiums. It had already spread: Saturday night, Oakland A’s rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during an anthem. During the anthem before Game 1 of the WNBA final Sunday, the Los Angeles Sparks stayed in their locker room. In the NFL, anthem performers knelt. It’s a hell of a day when Terry Bradshaw takes time on the Fox NFL pre-game show to explain that the president might not grasp the concept of freedom of speech.
And every piece of it became, thanks to the howling unquenchable ego of the most powerful man in the world, a choice. Seattle and Tennessee stayed in their locker rooms during the anthem, and so did the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Seattle cited “the injustice that plagues people of colour in this country”; Pittsburgh tried to make it about avoiding politics, even as Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a decorated army veteran, left the locker room to stand for the anthem.
“People shouldn’t have to choose,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS. “If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his teammate who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today.”
But that’s not how things work anymore. Trump is a human lie detector, revealing what you are, and he divides people as naturally as he breathes. And as much as anything, Trump is a force for white nationalism and white supremacy. You can’t find a middle ground on white supremacy: When you try, there are suddenly very fine people among the KKK and Nazis. As former NFL player Charles Woodson said on ESPN, “This is choose-your-side Sunday. It really is. And what side are you on?”
This is the era of everything is politics, and sports has been pulled into the ever-widening gyre. NASCAR owners threatened to fire drivers who protested during the anthem. The Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins put out a statement that said they would indeed visit the White House and that “any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways. However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit.” It was so mealy-mouthed and tin-eared it could have sung, “If I only had a heart.” Now the Penguins get to stand next to Trump after he trumpets what can now be considered, in the wake of the protests, their support.
It might not seem like it, but Kaepernick didn’t kneel to protest Trump, or the military, or the anthem itself, any more than Gandhi’s hunger strike was about protesting food. Last year, Kaepernick explained himself by saying, “I have great respect for men and women who have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have fought for this country . . . they fight for liberty and justice for everyone, and that’s not happening.”
He talked about police brutality, systemic racism, empathy for those who didn’t have his platform. He wasn’t protesting America. He was protesting racism in America. That’s what it was about, and is about, and the real conversation here. Other players joined him, but only a few. And Donald Trump dumped rocket fuel on the spark because that’s the only thing he knows how to do.
Stick to sports, as an idea, was always a childlike fantasy or a disingenuous barb, and it is as dead as it has ever been. That, along with humiliating Chris Christie, might be the only good thing Trump has ever done. Everyone picks a side now. Sports is part of the fight, and there’s no turning back.
NFL chooses sides in the divisive world of Trump: Arthur
OTTAWA—When Malaika was 6, she travelled with her family on an airplane for the first time, on a summer vacation to Somalia to see her aunts, uncles and cousins.
While there, she was rounded up with other girls in the village and taken into a stranger’s living room, where her genitals were cut with a razor blade.
Now in her early 20s and pursuing a post-secondary degree, Malaika, who was born and raised in the Ottawa area, says she was told by family members to not speak about the cutting. For about 15 years she kept the secret.
“I just felt really, really lonely,” she says.
That was until two months ago, when she read Yasmin Mumed’s story, published in the Star. Yasmin is a 24-year-old recent graduate of the University of Guelph who was subjected to female genital mutilation in her native Ethiopia when she was 6. Three years later, she emigrated to Canada.
On a recent day in August, the women met and spoke about their shared experiences and desire to see other girls spared from the same fate.
The Star is not revealing Malaika’s real name and has withheld some details that could identify her. She asked that her identity be concealed because she is not comfortable sharing intimate details publicly. She has also never addressed what happened with her family and is concerned about receiving criticism from her community.
She worried that photographs showing even the colour of her nail polish or the hijab she often wears could offer clues to her identity to those closest to her.
“A lot of women praise the procedure despite its negative health-related side effects,” she says. “I don’t agree with what happened to me or the practice being done to millions of women across the globe. (But) I feel like coming out not agreeing with it would be like siding against my community.”
A continuing Star investigation has revealed the federal government is aware of cases in which Canadian girls have been sent abroad and subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). The term often used to describe what happens to these children is “vacation cutting.”
There is no reliable data on the prevalence of the problem here, but officials from Global Affairs Canada say “a few thousand” Canadian girls could be at risk, “some of whom will be taken overseas for the procedure,” according to a 2015 internal email obtained by the Star.
Recent evidence also suggests FGM may be happening on Canadian soil, including a report that found two women from a small Muslim sect called the Dawoodi-Bohras who reported being cut here.
Since 1997, it has been illegal in Canada to subject a child to FGM. It is also illegal to remove them from the country for the same purpose.
Although federal government ministers have called the practice “abhorrent and unacceptable,” experts say Canada lags behind other developed countries, like the United Kingdom, which has dedicated charities and government agencies collecting statistics, administering education campaigns and taking other proactive measures, such as programs designed to identify potential victims at the airport.
“It just makes me the most mad,” says Malaika. She is measured and thoughtful with her words.
“There was a possibility for this to not happen to me. It doesn’t mean that just because you were born in a westernized country that it’s not going to happen.”
FGM has no health benefits. It can cause severe bleeding, problems with urination and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths, according to the World Health Organization. It can also deny women sexual pleasure.
It varies from partial removal of the clitoris to its most severe form, a procedure known as infibulation, in which the clitoris and labia are excised and the vulva stitched together, leaving only a small opening.
Today, Malaika remembers little about her cutting.
She knows it happened without any explanation or warning. She remembers only that other girls in the village were coming in and out of a living room in someone’s home, one at a time. She’s blocked out her memory of the procedure, except pain. Afterward, she recalled, the family continued with the vacation as if nothing happened.
She doesn’t know for certain, but she believes her mother did not plan to have her cut before they left. “I think it’s just something in the moment. That it was a pressure thing,” she says. “And maybe other girls . . . were doing it as well, so I guess it would look kind of weird if they didn’t.”
She has never spoken with her father about what happened, and does not know if he is aware.
FGM is known to be practised in 29 countries — most commonly in Africa, but also in other places like Indonesia and India. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. It occurs in both Islamic and Christian communities, but is largely a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years. In many areas, there is huge social pressure on families to have their daughters cut.
When Malaika returned to Canada from her summer vacation, she pushed any memories aside until high school, when students in her class began to learn about and discuss FGM and “how it was done in specific areas in Africa.”
“That’s when I realized it had happened to me,” she says.
“It just made me more sad. I was always saying, ‘Why am I being punished for this?’. . . On my confidence I think it hit the most there because you’re constantly reminded that you’re not like everyone else. This is something that’s going to follow you for the rest of your life.”
In August, around the same time Malaika was working up the courage to confide in a close girlfriend, she found Yasmin’s story in the Star. She read that Yasmin had made some peace with her cutting and that she is now pursuing reconstructive surgery in the United States. Malaika decided to confide in her friend.
“It took my whole life to tell her about it,” she says, adding that her friend encouraged her to reach out to Yasmin, so she could speak with someone who had been through the same thing.
Malaika got in touch with Yasmin on Instagram and the pair connected by phone. Their first conversation lasted more than two hours. About two weeks later, they met, after Yasmin drove, along with two Star journalists, to Ottawa to meet her.
Just talking to Yasmin and “(knowing) there is a way we can move on from this and also help other people deal with it” has been helpful, said Malaika as they chatted on the bank of the Ottawa River, the Parliament buildings in the background. “I felt like someone understood me for the very first time.”
Their stories have striking similarities.
Like Malaika, Yasmin kept her cutting a secret from those closest to her. She, too, buried the memories until her teens, when she started having flashbacks of women holding down her arms and legs, of a brand-new pink embroidered dress her grandmother had bought her covered in blood.
Like Malaika, she felt alone. She searched for services in the Toronto area where she grew up: a support group, specialized health-care professionals, an organization that focuses on FGM. She found nothing and had a negative experience with a local gynecologist, who she says told her she didn’t need reconstructive surgery because she had not been cut enough to cause problems with going to the bathroom or giving birth.
The federal Justice Department recently gave $350,000 to a small Quebec organization to fight FGM in at-risk communities. Other than that, experts say there are few support services available for women living with the physical and psychological effects of FGM, regardless of when and where it happened to them.
Recent data from the province’s Ministry of Health offers a glimpse into the prevalence of women living with the effects — it shows Ontario doctors have performed 308 surgeries to reverse infibulations in the past seven years.
There is no medical procedure in Canada that aims to give women back sensation. Yasmin and Malaika are now pursuing a reconstructive surgery offered by a doctor in California. The surgery, which is controversial because some medical professionals have questioned whether it works, removes the scar tissue from the clitoris and cuts ligaments around it, allowing it to descend, in the hopes of giving the woman back some feeling.
Both are clear about why they want the surgery. They want to make their own decisions with their bodies. They want to try to get something back that was taken away without their consent.
Yasmin, who after much deliberation decided to speak publicly about what happened to her, says she did not do so to demonize her family (her beloved grandmother, who took her to be cut, believed it was what was best for her), but to take the issue out of the shadows.
About a week after her story was published, a man from her Oromo ethnic group recognized her at an Ethiopian restaurant. He’d been carrying around a copy of the Star and pulled it out to show her. He told her he was proud of her for speaking out.
Recently, she received a message from her mother, who read her story and called to say that she supports her and wants to travel with her to California when she gets the surgery.
Yasmin says the main reason she spoke out, though, was to reach young women like Malaika.
“I thought . . . I’m going to do it even if I reach one person,” she says to Malaika as they sit on the river bank. “I was like ‘there is somebody out there like me who grew up here who feels so different than like her peers’ . . . When you reached out to me I was like ‘this is it. This is what I did it for.’ ”
Malaika hopes that by sharing her story, she can do the same.
“I definitely think me reaching out to Yasmin will pave the way for other girls,” she says. “As Yasmin told me, this is not something that defines us.”
Jayme Poisson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 814-2725
Malaika was 6 years old when she was forced to undergo FGM. This is her story
Two hooded and masked killers brandishing semi-automatic pistols sprayed their target with bullets as he was trapped inside a Scarborough apartment foyer waiting to be buzzed in.
The images of Anthony Soares’ brutal execution Sept. 14, captured by a surveillance camera and released last week by Toronto police, were shocking, as was the revelation that the victim was a close friend of rap superstar Drake.
No one disputes the Toronto-born rapper’s worldwide success as an international recording artist, producer and former teen actor in the TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation.
But senior police officials are privately expressing dismay that “Toronto’s biggest champion” — as a city press release called him last year — has so far ignored a homicide detective’s request to encourage witnesses to step forward to help solve his friend’s killing.
It was a case of déjà vu. Two years ago, after two people were shot to death during a Drake-hosted after-party at Muzik nightclub at Exhibition Place, the hip-hop singer was under intense pressure to denounce gun violence and appeal for witnesses.
“Drake we need your voice to help #StopTheViolence in #Toronto,” said a post from CrimeStoppers.
A statement posted 10 days later on his website was slammed on social media for not calling for an end to gun violence or urging potential witnesses to co-operate with police, fuelling online speculation that Drake wanted to keep his “street credibility” intact by not appearing to condone “snitching,” considered heresy in the hip-hop world.
Some cited the lyrics in his song “No Tellin’ ” as a possible explanation. “Yeah, police comin’ round lookin’ for some help on a case they gotta solve, we never help ’em.”
Drake has spoken against violence. In 2013, he tweeted his condolences to the family of the victims who died in a mass shooting at a barbecue on Danzig St., adding that senseless violence in Toronto has to stop.” He also rapped “told you no guns and you didn’t listen,” in a reggae tracked “No Guns Allowed.”
On Tuesday, Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux, who is in charge of the Soares’ homicide investigation, released the horrifying video at a news conference where he appealed to Drake to send out a tweet asking for people to come forward with information to help solve the murder.
“Many of the family members have met Drake,” the veteran cop told reporters.
“I certainly would encourage him through his tweets to encourage anybody within the community to come forward with regards to any information they have that may assist in solving his friend’s murder.”
A few days later, there was still no mention of the homicide on Drake’s Drizzy Twitter feed.
“I would hope if Drake was a real and true friend that he would encourage anyone with information that pertains to the murder of a close friend to share that information with the police with a mind to protecting the community and bring justice to the deceased’s family,” Giroux said in an emailed statement to the Star.
It wasn’t that Soares’ death went unacknowledged by Drake, born Aubrey Graham.
Soares’ photo appeared on the rapper’s Instagram account, with a message referring to him as “one of our family members.” Soares, who was 33, had a rap sheet with three gun possession convictions.
“It was a honour to have shared years together and I will always keep your memory alive,” read the post beside the photo along with Fif, Soares’ nickname.
Drake was one of the pallbears at Soares’ funeral on Saturday.
Tattoo artist Inal Bersekov posted a photo of his tattoo of the dead man’s face, writing beside it he was “honoured to pay tribute tattooing FIF on my brother,” beside Drake’s Instagram handle.
Asked to comment on Drake’s silence, Mayor John Tory said “every citizen” has a duty to help police solve crimes and keep our city safe. He pointed out a tweet was a “fairly simple request.”
Last year, Tory stood at centre court at the Air Canada Centre to “proudly award the key to the city” to Drake, saying it was recognition of his role in drawing the eyes of the world to Toronto and for his contribution “to the city’s social harmony and well-being, especially as it relates to youth.”
This year, a senior Toronto police officer, now retired, questioned why Drake had invited a young rapper who is facing firearms, assault and kidnapping charges along as his opening act on the European leg of his Boy Meets World tour.
“I find it troubling,” now retired inspector Mike Earl told the Toronto Sun. “Here’s a guy (who’s) supposed to be on bail on serious charges. Why is he permitted to leave country and tour with somebody who is a literal mentor for the city’s youth?”
The Jane and Driftwood rapper, who performs as Pressa, is 21-year-old Quinton Gardner. Last week he appeared in an online interview talking openly about his criminal history, including selling crack at his mother’s house. He returns to court Oct. 30.
In January, Drake signed rapper Baka Not Nice, a longtime member of his inner circle, to his record label, OVO Sound.
His real name is Travis Savoury, and he has convictions for armed robbery and assault. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman, drawing a six-month sentence. Procuring and human trafficking charges were dropped.
After Savoury’s release, Drake again took to Instagram.
“Something in the air today … a lot of good things happening at once. But this one means the MOST!!! Been waiting for 11 months!! Baka finally home!!!!!”
Some online commentators weren’t impressed.
“Do the Raptors know this is the company you keep?” read one posting, apparently referring to his involvement with the Toronto Raptors organization. In 2013, Drake was named the team’s “global ambassador.”
“Drake supports a domestic abuser and criminal? Maple Leaf Sports must be so proud of their Raptors ambassador. What an example for today’s youth,” wrote another anonymous poster.
A spokesperson for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment declined to comment on anything to do with Drake. Repeated attempts to contact Drake’s New York-based publicist, Melissa Nathan of Hiltzik Strategies, and his Toronto lawyers were unsuccessful.
Members of Drake’s security detail have also been accused of using heavy-handed tactics.
Toronto pop sensation Shawn Mendes “recently learned one crucial lesson: Don’t mess with Drake’s security,” People magazine’s website reported.
The 19-year-old singer recalled on the Tonight Show this month how he tried to approach Drake at a recent Toronto concert by the Weeknd.
“Next thing I know I’m in the middle of the Weeknd show with my arm hooked behind my back. Drake’s security guard has me completely at his mercy,” Mendes told host Jimmy Fallon.
Mendes said he managed to make eye contact with Drake who ordered his hulking body guard to let go of Mendes.
Two years ago, also in Toronto, an autograph seeker sued Drake alleging he had been assaulted by members of the star’s entourage. The lawsuit was “resolved” and no further details will be released, the man’s lawyer said in an email to the Star.
Last year, Matt Small, a city worker and hobby photographer, was taking pictures of the cityscape on Toronto’s Polson Pier when he came into conflict with Drake and a member of his entourage when the pair demanded he erase photos of them leaving a helicopter.
“He was in my face, saying, ‘You need to delete those pictures out of respect,’ ” Small told the Star in 2016. “I said, ‘You’re not respecting me right now, man, you’re in my face harassing me.’ ”
A family doctor, who witnessed the heated encounter, corroborated the account with the Star.
Questions raised about the company Toronto-born rapper Drake keeps
Twenty years is not long in the life of a city, but two decades after amalgamation, Toronto isn’t the place it used to be. Even if then premier Mike Harris’s intentions were good — highly doubtful — the results are anything but.
Its post-amalgamation politics dominated by suburban careerists, its bureaucracy demoralized, its residents cynical and hunkered down, Toronto has chosen to fight against the global shift to more progressive and humanistic forms of urbanism. The city, historically an agent of change — cultural, social, intellectual, economic — now tries to avoid it.
Though our mayor depends on the “old city” to get elected, amalgamation allows him to ignore downtown and the urbanism it embodies and instead wrap himself in the mantle of Fordism and its right-wing agenda of car dependency and suburban resentment. His main focus is congestion. His greatest hope is to eliminate double parking during rush hour.
So who better to manage Toronto’s long decline into civic obsolescence than the current mayor? With the last remaining jot of ambition now carefully squeezed from city hall, Toronto has reached a point where few seem bothered about the city’s march toward self-induced irrelevance.
The metaphor for our time is a discredited subway to Scarborough. For those who keep track, it’s actually the city’s second exercise in transit futility on such a grand scale. The first, the Sheppard line, which loses money with every passenger, opened in 2002 under Toronto’s first post-amalgamation mayor, Mel Lastman.
The obvious transit priority, of course, is the downtown relief line. It was first proposed more than a century ago but won’t get built because it doesn’t run through Etobicoke, Scarborough or North York. Though it would enhance transit across the whole city, it is seen as favouring downtown Toronto, which gets all the goodies while our postwar bedroom communities languish in low-density isolation.
When elected mayor of Toronto, Lastman’s only promise was not to increase property taxes. After serving 10 terms as mayor of North York, he knew that would be enough to get elected. With the exception of David Miller, mayor from 2003 to ’10, that strategy has served our chief magistrates well. But you get what you pay for; in Toronto, that’s not much.
It doesn’t help that the city is controlled by a provincial government unable to distinguish its crass political interests from those of the larger community. There’s no better example than the careful excision of reality from transit planning in Toronto. Municipal and provincial politicians see transit as a vote-getting scheme.
Cash cow one day, sacrificial lamb the next, the city lurches from crisis to crisis. Though the mayor has spoken bitterly of having to go to Queen’s Park like a boy in short pants asking for more, he has been conspicuously unwilling to look to Torontonians for those funds.
Mostly, though, politicians’ response to a proposal depends on where they come from. Last year, when the possibility of building a park over the railway tracks south of Front St. W. was raised, downtowners loved it, suburbanites didn’t. Local Councillor Joe Cressy said it was, “well worth the investment.” Scarborough Councillor Jim Karygiannis wondered, “what is it going to do for my constituents and the people in Scarborough?” North York’s Giorgio Mammoliti dismissed it as “a glorified dog poop park . . . (where) the rich can walk their dogs.”
Recent suggestions that the city find a way to display an important archeological find almost two centuries old prompted municipal bean counters to sputter and grow red in face.
No surprise, then, that Toronto’s relationship with mediocrity has been internalized by the public, politicians and pundits alike. The city that prides itself on civic parsimony has forgotten the difference between expenditure and investment, cost and value. Besides, Toronto is too poor to pay the price of excellence.
Amalgamation has achieved its unspoken purpose; the elimination of civic ambition. Dominated by city-deniers like the late Rob Ford and his dubious older brother, Doug, Toronto has grown so suspicious of its own urbanity that it can’t build a six-storey condo, or install a bike lane or a traffic light without the sky falling in. Little wonder Toronto remains dependent on infrastructural investments made between the 1950s and ’80s.
Ironically, while Toronto is busy suburbanizing, suburban communities from Markham and Mississauga to Burlington and Brampton are trying desperately to transform themselves into cities. They can see the future, even if Toronto can’t.
Christopher Hume’s column appears weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com
How amalgamation eliminated Toronto's ambition: Hume
THUNDER BAY—Sometimes the sorrow seems endless, but the city of Thunder Bay came together on Monday at an unprecedented meeting to express their thoughts on racism, policing and fear in their community.
The body of Dylan Moonias, a 21-year-old First Nations man, was pulled from the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway in Thunder Bay on Saturday, according to Pearl Achneepineskum. His body has been flown to Toronto for a post-mortem.
“The worst part is the unknown. Not knowing what happened,” Achneepineskum said from her home in Ogoki Post, Marten Falls First Nation, about 500 km north of Thunder Bay on the Albany River.
Achneepineskum is the sister of Chanie Wenjack, who was 12 years old when he ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora in October 1966 only to be found frozen to death on the railway tracks as he tried to walk home, a journey of nearly 1,000 kilometres.
Wenjack is the inspiration behind musician Gord Downie’s multimedia project, Secret Path, which includes an album and graphic novel.
Moonias — the grandson of Pearl’s sister, Lizzie — had recently just returned from Agnes Wenjack’s funeral in Geraldton, Ont. Agnes, who died Sept. 1, was the mother of Chanie, who inspired a generation of Canadians 50 years after his death to learn about Canada’s devastating residential school history.
The discovery of Moonias’ body came just days before the Office of the Independent Police Review Director held a public meeting in Thunder Bay Monday night to discuss its ongoing investigation into allegations of systemic racism into the policies, practices and attitudes of the Thunder Bay Police Service as they relate to death and missing person investigations involving Indigenous people.
OIPRD director Gerry McNeilly told the crowd of nearly 200 people that the investigation they were conducting was “unprecedented” in scope and breadth. The OIPRD review, which began last November, was prompted by a complaint by the family of Stacey DeBungee, a Rainy River First Nation man whose body was discovered in the river in 2015.
Both DeBungee’s family and Rainy River Chief Jim Leonard felt his death was not properly investigated and the police were too quick to dismiss the case with no foul play suspected. Private investigators later discovered DeBungee’s bank card was used hours after his death.
Questions about how the police handle missing persons and death investigations have been swirling since the deaths of seven First Nations students who died from 2000 to 2011 while living hundreds of kilometres from home so they could attend high school. An inquest into the students’ deaths wrapped up at the end of June 2016, and 145 recommendations were made on how to, among other things, make Thunder Bay safer for Indigenous students.
But this past May, Thunder Bay was jolted by the deaths of Tammy Keeash, 17, and Josiah Begg, 14, whose bodies were also found in the city’s waters. Their deaths are currently being investigated by York Region police, at the behest of the Ontario Chief Coroner’s office as Indigenous leaders say they have lost trust in the Thunder Bay police.
McNeilly said his review team has met with 100 individuals, First Nations leaders and communities, members of police and police leadership. “The Thunder Bay Police Service has co-operated fully with our review and I thank them,” McNeilly said.
“As part of our investigation we are conducting a detailed death review of 30 case files. These cases mostly involve Indigenous people but we are also looking at deaths of non-Indigenous people for comparative purposes,” he said.
Another nine cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls are also being re-examined by the OIPRD.
At the meeting, McNeilly said he asked everyone . . . to talk about the problems in Thunder Bay so we can get some resolution so Thunder Bay can move forward.”
Round tables were set up in the community hall and citizens were given time to discuss a series of questions they want answered by the OIPRD review.
One Indigenous man at the meeting, which the OIPRD asked the media not to record, said “How can we solve the problem? It is not us.”
Another man asked the room to give a round of applause for the Thunder Bay police because they are working hard to earn trust and work together with Indigenous people, not against them.
“Sometimes you don’t what it feels like to put on that uniform, it’s a very brave thing to do,” he said.
Another Thunder Bay Indigenous resident said those living on the streets and in the shelters need to have a private meeting with the OIPRD. “My heart has always been on the ground . . . the politicians need to stand back and let our people talk,” she said.
Thunder Bay reels as body of Indigenous man pulled from river