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    WASHINGTON—CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday that North Korea is months away from perfecting its nuclear weapons capabilities.

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

    But he said there’s a difference between having the ability to fire a single nuclear missile and the capability of producing large amounts of fissile material and developing an arsenal of such weapons.

    Read more:

    ‘A nuclear war may break out any moment,’ North Korea says

    U.S., South Korean troops begin naval drills amid North Korean threat

    Tensions between Trump and Tillerson persist amid North Korea, Iran crises

    Speaking later at the same event, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said, “We are in a race to resolve this short of military action.”

    “We are not out of time,” he told the forum, organized by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think-tank. “But we are running out of time.”

    North Korea, which started its nuclear program decades ago, has accelerated its weapons tests. Twice in July, it launched a long-range missile that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland. In September, it conducted its most powerful atomic explosion yet.

    Dire threats traded by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have further stoked fears of war.

    John Brennan, who was Pompeo’s predecessor as CIA chief, voiced concern late Wednesday about Trump’s tweets and said the prospects of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula “are greater than they have been in several decades.”

    “I don’t think it’s likely or probable, but if it’s a 1-in-4 or 1-in-5 chance, that’s too high,” Brennan said at Fordham University in New York.

    Both of the Trump administration officials stressed that while military force was a last resort, the president was prepared to use it if necessary to ensure Kim is not able to put America at risk with a nuclear weapon.

    Independent experts differ on just how advanced Pyongyang’s program is in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile and in mastering how to make a missile re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and strike a target.

    Pompeo said intelligence on North Korea and the current state of its weapons capabilities is imperfect, and “when you’re now talking about months, our capacity to understand that at a detailed level is in some sense irrelevant.”

    “We are at a time where the president has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that capacity,” Pompeo said.

    With tough international sanctions now in place, Pompeo said China has done more than expected to reduce trade with its wayward ally but can do more. Beijing has also communicated around the world it is intent on helping the U.S. resolve the issue, he said.

    McMaster said China has the vast majority of economic power over North Korea, controlling 90 per cent of its external trade, but Russia has considerable influence too.

    He urged Moscow to use that influence to convince Kim to move toward denuclearization “as a last chance to avoid severe consequences” against the North.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Flames started spreading through the three-storey building at 80 Marine Parade Dr., near Park Lawn Rd. and Lakeshore Rd. E., at about 6:20 p.m. Though crews brought the fire under control, paramedics at the scene did CPR on a firefighter who collapsed.

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

    Toronto paramedics said they weren’t sure if the firefighter’s condition was related to the fire.

    Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg and two deputy chiefs are at St. Joseph’s Health Centre with the firefighter, said Eckerman. Toronto Fire Services won’t provide further updates on the firefighter’s condition until Pegg has spoken with the family.

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

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

    Firefighter in critical condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber Bay Firefighter in critical condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber BayFirefighter in critical condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber Bay Firefighter in critical condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says a variety of fish products from two grocery stores in the Toronto area are being recalled due to a risk of botulism.

    The agency says the affected products were sold at Yummy Market stores in northern Toronto and Maple, Ont., and include the store’s brand of smoked herring, lesch, mackerel, rainbow trout, salmon and sturgeon.

    The CFIA says the recall was issued last week after a consumer complaint and was recently expanded after a food safety investigation.

    It says there have been no other illnesses reported that have been linked to the recalled fish products.

    The CFIA advises people to throw out the recalled products or return them to the store where they were purchased.

    Food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled, but can still make you sick.

    Symptoms in adults can include facial paralysis or loss of facial expression, unreactive or fixed pupils, difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelids, blurred or double vision and difficulty speaking.

    Symptoms in children can include difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, generalized weakness and paralysis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    A mother’s desperate search for answers over what led to her 23-year-old son’s sudden death in Toronto has resulted in what experts are calling an unprecedented court order for Facebook, Apple and Google to hand over his passwords.

    Maureen Henry wants to know what her son Dovi was doing, and who he was in contact with, in the weeks leading up to his death.

    “I am at a loss because I love my son, absolutely adore him,” Henry, 55, said from her Ottawa home. “I have to find out what happened to him so I can put that part to rest and I can cherish him. The grief doesn’t go, but I will be able to carry it better.”

    So little remained of Dovi’s body, when it washed up on rocks near the Ontario Place marina one late summer afternoon in 2014, that the coroner couldn’t determine how he died.

    Henry, who was representing herself, secured the court order Oct. 11 for the three tech giants to release Dovi’s passwords for his accounts and iPhone as well as data including messages and emails. The companies have yet to comply.

    Judge Martin James also ordered Bell Mobility to turn over phone and text records, which it has done.

    Henry’s case is unprecedented in Canada, said Ann Cavoukian, executive director of Ryerson University’s Privacy and Big Data Institute and former Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner.

    “It could set a precedent that theoretically, parents could access their kids’ data even in non-tragic events, not involving a death,” Cavoukian said. “I honestly don’t know which way this could go.”

    Toronto estate lawyer Daniel Nelson, who focuses on digital legacy, said Henry’s case will demonstrate, for the first time in Canada, how social media and technology companies deal with individuals who are investigating a family member’s death.

    “I’d be shocked if these companies didn’t appeal this court order,” Nelson said. “The nub here is the judge ordered disclosure of passwords and that’s going to be a big problem.”

    Dovi’s passwords for his accounts are equivalent to his signature on a contract or cheque. From the perspective of Facebook, his death is not reason enough for his mother to have access to his “signature,” Nelson said.

    Facebook, Apple Canada and Google Canada can move to vacate Henry’s order, arguing the court’s endorsement is overbroad, Nelson said. If they don’t respond at all, Henry could bring a motion for contempt. If they’re found in contempt, a judge could impose a jail sentence or fine, although the latter is more likely.

    Henry said Apple Canada told her that it is processing her request, while Facebook and Google Canada have yet to respond. None of the three companies appeared at the hearing earlier this month in the Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa.

    They also declined to comment to the Star.

    “These entities (Apple Canada, Google Canada, Facebook and Bell Mobility) are rightly concerned that they have a responsibility to protect personal information even when the customer is dead,” James wrote in his endorsement. “In the circumstances here, however, I think the applicant has demonstrated a reasonable basis for requesting access to the records.”

    * * *

    Toronto police said the case is listed as a sudden death occurrence, not a homicide cold case. Henry said they told her Dovi’s death was by suicide, but she wants proof.

    “I know he wouldn’t just jump in Lake Ontario. He’s not somebody who’d have the idea of suicide. He didn’t have any mental health issues growing up,” Henry said. “The only thing that could’ve happened is an accident or foul play.”

    A couple years before his body was found, Dovi was studying linguistics at the University of Toronto. A budding poet, he was passionate about his writing.

    “He loved life and was a curious person, intellectually gifted,” Henry said. “I used to tell him, ‘I love you as far as the sky and as deep as the ocean.’ ”

    Dovi did not make friends easily at the University of Toronto and, as a Black man, felt like he did not belong, Henry said. By 2012, Dovi had dropped out of university and moved back and forth between Toronto and his hometown Ottawa, working as a tutor.

    He stayed briefly with his aunt in Toronto, but abruptly left at the beginning of March 2014, leaving his iPhone plugged into the wall. His uncle saw and spoke to him in Ottawa mid-May. That was the last time anyone heard from him.

    Dovi’s body was found July 24, 2014, but was not identified for two years. In that time, Henry frantically searched for her son — in jails, shelters and morgues. She gained access to his bank records, and followed up on leads as far away as Germany.

    Finally, on April 27, 2016, Henry saw a posting on the Ontario Provincial Police website about an unidentified body in Toronto that matched her son’s description. Henry sent in Dovi’s dental records. Two days later, OPP officers knocked on her front door.

    It was Dovi.

    “I was in shock, it’s really hard to understand, even now,” Henry said. “A part of me is still in shock.”


    In two instances reported by media, Apple reset iPads, belonging to deceased individuals, to their factory settings so their family members could set up new accounts. But it did not release passwords or account data.

    When Apple was asked by the U.S.’s Justice Department to unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, Apple quickly resisted, the Washington Post reported. Apple argued unlocking the phone would violate the company’s constitutional rights and weaken privacy for users.

    Cavoukian has a similar mind set. While she said she feels for Henry, she also views this case as “a slippery slope.” If Apple releases Dovi’s phone password, it would make room for parents to request similar access for less serious reasons — to find out more about a boyfriend or girlfriend they don’t like, for example — which in Kevorkian’s view would be “completely unacceptable.”

    Facebook has also been reluctant to hand over data from accounts. In 2013, a family from Virginia implored Facebook to allow them to access their 15-year-old son’s account, after he died by suicide, the Washington Post reported. Facebook refused to give his family his password, but released some data.

    Companies like Facebook, Apple and Google need to come up with processes for dealing with unique requests like Henry’s, said Nelson, the estate lawyer. Having a judge sign off on companies releasing private information of deceased clients might be the right way to go, to balance competing interests of protecting user privacy versus helping loved ones.

    But ultimately, these companies are going to protect passwords, Nelson said.

    “If I was advising Dovi’s mom, I would have sought an order that didn’t ask for his passwords,” Nelson said. “Why get into that fight?”

    Mother takes tech giants to court to get passwords for her dead son’s social media accountsMother takes tech giants to court to get passwords for her dead son’s social media accountsMother takes tech giants to court to get passwords for her dead son’s social media accountsMother takes tech giants to court to get passwords for her dead son’s social media accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The disciplinary hearings are scheduled for January.

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

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

    The Star could not confirm if either involved opioid products.

    Contact the reporter at or 647-215-4370

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

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    WASHINGTON—Two more U.S. government workers have been confirmed to be victims of invisible attacks in Cuba, the United States said Friday, raising the total to 24.

    The tally has inched upward since the U.S. first disclosed in August that embassy workers and their families in Havana had been harmed by unexplained, mysterious incidents affecting their health. The Trump administration later said it had determined the incidents were “specific attacks” that are ongoing, but investigators have not yet identified a weapon or a culprit.

    The disclosure that 24 people have been harmed suggests that nearly half the American government workers serving in Cuba have been attacked. The U.S. had roughly 50 personnel posted to the Embassy in Havana until earlier this month when, in response to the attacks, the State Department pulled out roughly 60 per cent of the staff. Yet some of the victims were spouses of U.S. workers, and several were temporary workers who rotated in to Cuba for short-term stints.

    State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the two additional victims “do not reflect new attacks.”

    “The assessments are based on medical evaluations of personnel who were affected by incidents earlier this year,” Nauert said.

    Nauert said the most recent attack is still believed to have been near the end of August. A U.S. official told The Associated Press previously that attack occurred Aug. 21. The official wasn’t authorized to disclose the exact date and requested anonymity.

    “Our personnel are receiving comprehensive medical evaluations and care,” Nauert said. “We can’t rule out additional new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community.”

    The United States “can’t rule out additional new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community,” Nauert added.

    Read more:

    Tourists to Cuba wonder if they were also targeted by mysterious sound attacks

    Trump says Cuba ‘is responsible’ for attacks on U.S. personnel in Havana

    U.S. to ask Cuba to cut embassy staff by 60% following mysterious health attacks

    The attacks started last year and affected American diplomats, intelligence officials and their spouses in Havana. They began in staffers’ homes in Havana, but the AP disclosed in September that they later occurred in hotels as well. The attacks in hotels began after the U.S. complained to President Raul Castro’s government, and Cuban security officials dramatically increased patrols around the U.S. workers’ homes, officials said.

    Cuba has vehemently denied any knowledge or involvement in the attacks, emphasizing its eagerness to co-operate with the investigation being led by the FBI. The United States hasn’t blamed Cuba or any other actor of perpetrating the attacks, but has faulted Castro’s government for failing to stop them, arguing it’s Cuba’s responsibility under international law to protect foreign diplomats on its soil.

    “I do believe Cuba’s responsible. I do believe that,” U.S. President Donald Trump said last week. “And it’s a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible.”

    A few Canadians were also affected by the attacks, which caused a variety of physical symptoms. The U.S. has said that vestibular, cognitive, vision and other problems have been reported by the victims, with some experiencing memory and balance issues, headaches and ringing in the ears. The union that represents American diplomats has said some have been diagnosed with permanent hearing loss and mild traumatic brain injury, known as concussions.

    Some of the cases involved mysterious, blaring sounds that led to investigators to consider whether a sonic weapon was involved. The AP last week released a recording of what some American workers heard.

    U.S. says 2 more government workers hurt in Cuba attacks, raising the total to 24U.S. says 2 more government workers hurt in Cuba attacks, raising the total to 24

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    DUNEDIN, FLA.—Sheriff’s deputies conducting a child porn raid on a Florida home on Wednesday found an arsenal of guns and explosives and a homemade silencer, along with a note promising “bloody revenge.”

    Investigators found the weapons — including an AK-47 assault rifle, a 50-calibre pistol, a baseball bat with nails jutting out and 2,300 rounds of ammunition — in a locked closet in the Dunedin, Florida, home where 24-year-old Randall Drake lived with his parents, said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

    During a news conference on Thursday night, Gaultieri said that even more “troubling” is that investigators found aerial images of two schools and a water treatment plant in nearby Tampa. There was also the note written by Drake that promised he’ll have his “bloody revenge” and “the world will burn burn.”

    “I don’t know what his plan was,” the sheriff said. “He had all kinds of books and all kinds of gun powder and if he had taken those devices put them in something else and put a bunch of nails and screws and other things, he could have caused some serious damage. Because it’s the shrapnel that hurts and kills everybody.”

    The sheriff said he notified law enforcement and school officials in Hillsborough County, but so far investigators believe Drake was working alone.

    His parents told authorities they didn’t know what he kept in his locked closet, the sheriff said. Drake had no criminal history. He was fired in 2015 from Florida Firearm Academy in New Port Richey after he came to work with guns strapped to his thighs, officials said. He also was an Explorer with the Tampa Police Department when he was younger.

    Drake’s parents told deputies he was home-schooled.

    Gualtieri compared Drake to Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock in the way he seemed to be acting alone.

    “These are the people who are most concerning to us,” he said. “What we call the lone wolves, the sleepers who are out there, the people who are not on our radar, the people who have fallen under the radar or off of it. You don’t know about them until they engage in devastating acts and kill a whole bunch of people.”

    The note deputies found in Drake’s bedroom read: “My fury at those who imprisoned me shall be vast and without mercy. I shall have my bloody revenge, and then the world will burn burn.”

    The child porn investigation that led to the search warrant this week began in January, the sheriff said.

    Drake faces felony charges of possessing destructive devices. He left jail on a $20,000 bond, but an attorney isn’t listed on jail records.

    Police discover an arsenal of guns and a note promising ‘bloody revenge’ in a Florida homePolice discover an arsenal of guns and a note promising ‘bloody revenge’ in a Florida home

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    A judge has decided not to allow the testimony of a retired American physician brought to court by the family of a Brampton woman who was declared dead in September but has remained on life support.

    Dr. Paul Byrne, a specialist in pediatrics, was brought in by Taquisha McKitty’s family to serve as an expert. He has written about brain death and has testified in court in cases about brain death in the U.S.

    Judge Lucille Shaw ruled on Friday that she would deny Byrne’s testimony over his lack of understanding of the Canadian medical guidelines, and his “lack of independence, partiality and bias” on the subject of brain death, which constitutes death in Ontario.

    “Dr. Byrne cannot be an independent witness . . . when he opposes the concept of brain death,” Shaw told the court.

    Byrne is the president of Life Guardian Foundation, a Christian organization he co-founded, which disagrees with the concept of brain death.

    Byrne told court earlier this week he thinks brain death is a made-up concept meant to facilitate the collection of organ donations.

    He testified that he would never pronounce someone dead solely because their brain has stopped functioning, even though he recognized that is a respected medical opinion and legal standard in the U.S.

    Shaw ruled that Byrne has never reviewed the Canadian medical guidelines on determination of death before the case, and has never applied them.

    Brain death in Canada, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, requires “the irreversible loss of the capacity for consciousness combined with the irreversible loss of all brain stem functions . . . including the capacity to breathe.”

    McKitty, a 27-year-old mother of a young daughter, was declared dead on Sept. 20 by Dr. Omar Hayani at Brampton Civic Hospital after he determined that her brain had ceased functioning.

    Shaw granted a two-week injunction to keep McKitty on life support on Sept. 28.

    McKitty’s family argues that she is moving voluntarily, and that she is not brain dead, and hopes to have her death certificate revoked.

    Hugh Scher, the lawyer for McKitty’s family, intends to seek another expert, ideally a Canadian neurologist.

    With files from The Canadian Press

    Judge dismisses doctor’s testimony in legal battle to revoke death certificate for Brampton woman on life-supportJudge dismisses doctor’s testimony in legal battle to revoke death certificate for Brampton woman on life-support

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    The mystery of the overwhelming stench in Toronto has been solved, according to a city councillor, who says the smell is not an accident.

    People have taken to Twitter in the past 24 hours asking why Toronto smells like poop. Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) tweeted that organic fertilizer is being applied to sports field across the city.

    Layton, who jokingly identified himself as the “poop-councilor” explained that the city regularly fertilizes sports fields with manure, in anticipation for the upcoming spring season.

    “I am no manure laying expert, but I know that ward 19 is doing this in Christie Pits Park, Hamilton Park, Trinity Woods Park, the sports field at George Ben and Stanley Park — so all the huge corridor parks in the west end have had fertilizer applied,” said Layton.

    A Reddit user says that they left their office at Yonge St. and Bloor St. and it “stank.”

    “Got off the subway at Davisville, and it still smelled like crap…so glad it wasn’t just me,” they wrote.

    Complaints online regarding the smell came from users living in the downtown core, to Thornhill and Mississauga.

    Layton said that his recent visit to Christie Pits Park on Friday morning was successful in that he could no longer smell the manure.

    Toronto councillor explains reason behind ‘poop smell’ in the cityToronto councillor explains reason behind ‘poop smell’ in the city

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    ALMA, QUE.—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again waded into the debate on Quebec’s Bill 62 on Friday, saying governments should not be telling women what to wear and what not to wear.

    “I will always stand up for Canadians’ rights,” he said in Alma, Que. “I will always stand up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is what Canadians expect of me.

    “As I’ve said a number of times as well, I don’t think it should be the government’s business to tell a woman what she should or shouldn’t be wearing.

    Bill 62, which was adopted in the Quebec legislature Wednesday, bans people from providing or receiving public services in the province with their faces covered and is widely seen as an attack on Muslim women.

    It also prohibits people from taking public transit if their face is covered.

    “We know there is going to be many weeks and many months of discussions on this, on what the implications are,” Trudeau said as he campaigned ahead of a federal byelection Monday.

    “And as a federal government, we are going to take our responsibilities seriously and look carefully at what the implications are.”

    Asked if that means taking the law to court, Trudeau replied, “this means looking carefully at the implications of this law and how we continue to stand up for Canadians’ rights.”

    Read more:

    Quebec and its niqab legislation should have stayed out of women’s closets: Paradkar

    Quebec lawmakers pass religious neutrality bill banning face coverings

    Ontario MPPs denounce Quebec law targeting Muslim women

    On Thursday, Trudeau asserted it is not up to the federal government to challenge its constitutionality.

    The law, meanwhile, has been unanimously condemned in the Ontario legislature, with Premier Kathleen Wynne calling religious freedom “part of our identity.”

    “Forcing people to show their faces when they ride the bus, banning women from wearing a niqab when they pick up a book from the library will only divide us,” she said Thursday.

    Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has defended the law by saying it is necessary for reasons related to communication, identification and security.

    Trudeau says Quebec shouldn’t tell women what to wear and what not to wearTrudeau says Quebec shouldn’t tell women what to wear and what not to wear

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne has served Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown with a libel notice after he said she was on “trial” in the Sudbury byelection bribery case.

    Having given Brown the requisite six weeks to apologize for his statement on Sept. 12, the premier’s lawyers served the Tory leader with the legal papers on Friday at his Orillia constituency office.

    “You have refused to retract or apologize for those defamatory statements and have made further defamatory statements about Premier Wynne,” lawyers Jack Siegel and Sheldon Inkol of Blaney McMurtry LLP said in a four-page letter.

    The notice is the next step toward a lawsuit being filed in court.

    It stems from Brown’s claim in a Queen’s Park media scrum that Ontario had “a sitting premier sitting in trial” and that Wynne “stands trial” in Sudbury.

    His comment was made the day before the premier testified as a Crown witness in a Sudbury courtroom where Patricia Sorbara, her former deputy chief of staff, and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed are on trial for alleged Election Act violations.

    “Your statements above are false and defamatory. The express meaning of these statements is that Premier Wynne was on trial for bribery, which was not the case,” wrote Siegel and Inkol, adding Brown had the “intention of further harming Premier Wynne’s reputation.”

    “A further implied meaning of these statements is that Premier Wynne is unethical and was under investigation by the police for a criminal act.”

    The lawyers said Wynne would seek an “award of aggravated and punitive damages” if the case gets to court.

    Brown, a lawyer by training, was not immediately available to respond Friday.

    But he has repeatedly refused to withdraw his comments and has dismissed her legal threats as “a sorry spectacle.”

    “Her baseless lawsuit will be ignored,” Brown said on Sept. 14.

    Two Star reporters and a columnist were in the press scrum along with journalists from CBC, Radio-Canada, The Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail, QP Briefing, Global, CP24, CTV, TFO, Queen’s Park Today, Fairchild, CHCH, and Newstalk 1010.

    Prior to the 2014 election, Wynne launched a similar libel action against former Tory leader Tim Hudak and MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton). That matter was settled out of court in 2015.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has called on Brown to “absolutely” say sorry to Wynne.

    “People are human beings. You make a mistake, you apologize. There’s not enough of that in politics,” Horwath said last month.

    Kathleen Wynne serves Patrick Brown with libel noticeKathleen Wynne serves Patrick Brown with libel notice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rachel Mendleson can be reached at

    ‘I just wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out’‘I just wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out’

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    The Peloponnesian War (Athens vs. Sparta): 27 years.

    Punic Wars (Rome vs. Carthage): 118 years.

    Wars of the Roses (House of Lancaster vs. House of York): 32 years.

    Hundred Years War (England vs. France): 1337 to 1453.

    Thirty Years War (most of Europe): 1618 to 1648.

    Conflicts around the planet that claimed at least 1,000 lives in 2016: 14.

    The War on Terror: World without end.

    One may not agree with the war on terror, its claims and its objectives, but there’s no doubt that such a global waging exists, with civilians, as always, caught in the crossfire.

    And we won’t see the end of it in our lifetime, probably our children’s lifetime.

    It’s certainly not possible to strike ISIS off the list following this past week’s recapture of Raqqa — de facto capital of the Islamic State caliphate — by U.S.-backed forces.

    Indeed, even as ISIS (Daesh, ISIL) sank to its knees as a territorial power in northeast Syria, radiating into Iraq, a sideways dilemma erupted with Iraqi troops driving Kurdish forces out of the contested city of Kirkuk — crucially, the disputed oilfields — which Kurdish separatists had held for three years. Took it back after Iraqi forces fled the region in the face of a lightning strike onslaught by ISIS jihadists.

    Twenty-four hours earlier they’d been allies, Kurds and Iraqis. Without the Kurds, there would have been no Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition of 69 countries which has smashed ISIS to smithereens, at least as a self-declared pseudo-state.

    But Kurds are the sadsacks of history, endlessly betrayed, their aspirations for independence — the ethnic Kurd population estimated as about 35 million spanning four countries — repeatedly and violently suppressed.

    So, Baghdad wasn’t having any of it, especially following another referendum last week by the Kurdistan Regional Government, with 93 per cent casting votes for independence. Turkey, which is petrified of its own Kurdish population, wasn’t having any of it. Iran, with nearly 7 million restive Kurds, wasn’t having any of it.

    Change coalition partners and dance, although for now most of the peshmerga troops, outgunned and outmanned by the Iraqi military, evacuated peacefully, along with tens of thousands of fleeing civilians jamming the road from Kirkuk to Erbil.

    Kirkuk, in the past decade, has been claimed both by the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional authority in Erbil.

    It’s the oil of course: the region had been earning about $8 billion (U.S.) a year from oil exports since 2014.

    Oil is power. Geopolitics is stomach-turning.

    The ambiguous fate of Kurds is but one reason — not even the main one — why the liberation of Raqqa and the purported death throes of ISIS does not merit a victory lap. There were lessons learned by president George W. Bush’s premature “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003 from the flight deck of the USS Lincoln, in which he declared an end to major combat in Iraq. In November, 2015, president Barack Obama similarly declared that the pushback campaign against vast territorial gains by ISIS had “contained” the terrorist organization. Next day, gunmen who pledged fealty to ISIS killed 120 people in Paris.

    Having transformed terrorism as a global entity, there’s no reason to think ISIS will turtle, regardless of triumphalist proclamations.

    The four-month Raqqa offensive, with the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces at its pointy end, supported by heavy air coverage, tactically advised by U.S. special forces on the ground, has left the city in ruins. We are encouraged to believe that ISIS is ruined also.

    “Overall, ISIS is losing in every way,” Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We’ve devastated their network, targeted and eliminated their leaders at all levels. We’ve degraded their ability to finance their operations, cutting oil revenues by 90 per cent. Their flow of foreign recruits has gone from about 1,500 fighters a month down to near zero today. ISIS in Iraq and Syria are all but isolated in their quickly shrinking territory.”

    Al Qaeda, from which death cult ISIS emerged in Iraq and later became a rival, had warned the Islamic State about the perils of declaring a territorial caliphate. A geographic target could be kinetically attacked and defeated. Ideology can’t. And ideology is the oxygen for terrorism. Which is why the world needs to brace itself for the next reminder from ISIS that it’s still here, can still deploy acolytes, can still unleash horrors. It may no longer command a quasi emirate, enforcing its austere version of Islamic law upon a subjugated populace — beheadings, stoning, crucifixion, sexual slavery and genocide against religious minorities. But it hasn’t sheathed its sword. It retains active franchises operating from Libya to Yemen to Afghanistan.

    Thus the wisely subdued reaction internationally, almost anticlimactic, to a coalition war which has gone widely undocumented by media.

    What remains to be seen is whether the blow ISIS has absorbed has blackened its propaganda lure among recruits. On the surface it certainly looks like they backed a loser. The epic battle between good and evil which ISIS avowed — supposedly foretold by seventh century Islamic prophecies — never happened. But even amidst the rubble of thwarted glory, the Islamic State has emerged as a transnational organization, with battle-hardened leaders who arrived from various jihadist battlefields across the globe, joined now by enthralled naïfs who made their fighter stones in the last three years. Zealotry is remarkably enduring.

    With no co-ordinated political strategy to blunt Daesh’s fundamental ideology — the Americans will doubtless lose interest now, just as they did in Afghanistan with appalling consequences — the remnants of ISIS, like the remnants of Al Qaeda, the remnants of the Taliban — can regroup, recalibrate and re-envision with deadly impact. The animosities that animated ISIS haven’t been uprooted. Unlike the Islamic State, the cycle is unbroken.

    Meanwhile Al Qaeda, left largely ignored as the counter-insurgency efforts focused on ISIS, appears well situated for a comeback, expert analysts fear. On the eve of Sept. 11, there were only about 400 Al Qaeda members in Iraq. Now their numbers are estimated at 20,000 in Syria alone. And the quagmire that is Syria will continue to inspire rebel-rousers from around the globe.

    Just what the world needs: Retro Al Qaeda.

    “Al Qaeda will try to unify the global jihadi movement under its command,” Ali Soufan, the former FBI special agent who led the investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole and supervised counterterrorism investigations surrounding Sept. 11, told National Public Radio a few days ago. “And I believe they have a strategy to do so.”

    And they’ve got a charismatic millennial leader to coalesce around for Al Qaeda 2.0: Hamza bin Laden. Son of.

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

    Daesh has been beaten on the battlefield, but the war on terror is far from over: DiMannoDaesh has been beaten on the battlefield, but the war on terror is far from over: DiManno

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    Wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with swastikas, Randy Furniss, hands in his pockets, walked slowly through a crowd Thursday that had largely gathered to protest white nationalist Richard Spencer, who was delivering a speech at the University of Florida.

    Days before Florida Gov. Rick Scott had warned in an executive order that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, where the University of Florida is located, noting that prior speaking engagements involving Spencer have sparked protest and violence.

    The event was Spencer’s first public speech on a college campus since he led hundreds of torch-bearing white supremacists, white nationalists and others through the University of Virginia in a far-right rally in August that preceded a weekend of violent protests in Charlottesville. More than 500 law enforcement officers were deployed, with snipers positioned on the rooftops of nearby buildings.

    Read more:

    White nationalist Richard Spencer greeted by chants of ‘Black lives matter’ and ‘Go home, Spencer’ at Florida speech

    University of Florida students rally against speech from Richard Spencer

    Florida declares state of emergency ahead of Richard Spencer speech, white nationalist rally

    “Go home, Nazi scum!” the crowd chanted, jeering at Furniss, of Idaho.

    Suddenly, an individual in a green hoodie punched Furniss in the face, before quickly disappearing into the crowd. Furniss recoiled, but carried on walking. Blood trickled from his lip down his chin.

    Then something unexpected happened.

    A man went up to Furniss and gave him a hug, wrapping an arm around the Nazi’s shoulders, and another arm around his shaved head.

    “Why don’t you like me, dog?” the man asked Furniss.

    The man, identified by the New York Daily News as Aaron Courtney, is a 31-year-old high school football coach in Gainesville, Florida. He said he wanted to show Furniss some love.

    “I could have hit him, I could have hurt him ... but something in me said, ‘You know what? He just needs love,’” Courtney told the Daily News.

    The hug may have been a small act, but Courtney thinks it can speak volumes.

    “It’s a step in the right direction. One hug can really change the world. It’s really that simple,” he said.

    Courtney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Furniss, a self-described white nationalist, explained his views to News4Jax.

    “They want what we have. And we just want them to shut up and get on with life,” Furniss said. “They’re being raised up and it’s getting to the point where they want to push us down. That’s not right.”

    Furniss could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Courtney hadn’t originally planned on attending the protest. But he was surprised when he received a state of emergency notification on Monday, ahead of Spencer’s planned appearance, the Daily News reported.

    Courtney didn’t recognize Spencer’s name, and decided to do some research.

    “I found out about what kind of person he was and that encouraged me, as an African-American, to come out and protest,” Courtney said. “Because this is what we’re trying to avoid. It’s people like him who are increasing the distance ... between people.”

    Courtney was about to leave the protest, having already spent almost four hours at the scene, when he saw Furniss causing a scene in the crowd, the Daily News reported.

    “I had the opportunity to talk to someone who hates my guts and I wanted to know why. During our conversation, I asked him, ‘Why do you hate me? What is it about me? Is it my skin colour? My history? My dreadlocks?’ “ he said.

    Courtney repeatedly asked Furniss for an answer, only to be met with silence and a blank look.

    Exasperated, Courtney asked Furniss for a hug. He was initially reluctant, but as Courtney reached over the third time, Furniss reciprocated, wrapping his arms around Courtney.

    “And I heard God whisper in my ear, ‘You changed his life,’ “ Courtney said.

    “Why do you hate me?” Courtney asked Furniss one last time.

    “I don’t know,” Furniss finally answered, Courtney said.

    For Courtney, that was a good enough answer.

    “I believe that was his sincere answer. He really doesn’t know,” Courtney said.

    Inside the school, Spencer’s speech was repeatedly disrupted and drowned out by people shouting at him.

    After the speech, three men were arrested and charged with attempted homicide after arguing with protesters and firing a shot at them, police said.

    A Black protester hugged a white supremacist at a Florida rally and asked: ‘Why do you hate me?’A Black protester hugged a white supremacist at a Florida rally and asked: ‘Why do you hate me?’

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    Jeremy Diamond, the high profile personal injury lawyer and face of Diamond & Diamond law firm, is appealing a decision by Ontario’s legal regulator to reprimand him for engaging in professional misconduct.

    Late last month, the Law Society Tribunal reprimanded Diamond and ordered him to pay $25,000 in costs for failing to co-operate fully with an investigation into his financial books.

    Diamond’s notice of appeal, filed Friday, called the tribunal’s decision “unreasonable.” It also said that the tribunal “erred in its approach to the meaning of co-operation in that it failed to recognize that the appellant was acting in an honest, and open, and helpful manner in his dealings with the law society.”

    The tribunal decision flows from an investigation by the Law Society of Upper Canada into Diamond that began in October 2016. Law society investigators were looking into a number of allegations, including that Diamond failed to adequately inform clients about referral fees and engaged in improper/misleading advertising, according to documents filed as part of Diamond’s disciplinary hearing this past summer.

    In September, the tribunal reprimanded Diamond for engaging in professional misconduct during the course of the investigation. In his decision, tribunal adjudicator Raj Anand noted that Diamond “failed to co-operate” with law society investigators and that it took five formal requests over several months to get him to hand over financial documents.

    A spokesperson for the law society told the Star the lawyer remains under investigation despite the appeal.

    Diamond’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, told the Star this week that adjudicator Anand made “numerous errors” when it came to the laws surrounding whether Diamond failed to co-operate with investigators and that “what occurred here does not amount to any professional misconduct.”

    “Mr. Diamond has always co-operated with the law society fully in any inquiries they have made and will continue fully in any inquiries made by the law society,” he said. “He has always had full, frank disclosure of any questions they’ve ever asked.”

    In December 2016, a Star investigation revealed that Diamond’s firm had for many years been attracting thousands of would-be clients and then referring them out to other lawyers for sometimes hefty fees. Former clients the Star spoke to said they were often unaware they had been referred out, or that a fee had been paid. Diamond & Diamond has told the Star it has a growing roster of in-house lawyers to handle cases.

    Diamond’s appeal comes about a month after the tribunal decision was handed down — and about three months after Diamond’s lawyers at the hearing, Robert Centa and Kris Borg-Olivier, argued before the tribunal that their client didn’t try to hide anything during the investigation. They said Diamond didn’t fully understand what the law society was asking for until April, about six months after requests were first made.

    Once he understood, his lawyers argued at the hearing, Diamond complied and turned over the requested information and documents.

    In the appeal, Greenspan lists nine reasons why the tribunal’s decision should be overturned. One is that the tribunal failed to consider that all requests to Diamond for documentation went through his lawyers, who “repeatedly and consistently emphasized” Diamond’s willingness to co-operate.

    Another reason, the appeal states, is that the tribunal either failed to consider or ignored how Diamond’s lawyers “did not understand the law society’s request for documentation” and sought clarification.

    The appeal also said that the tribunal failed to consider that while they were providing responses to the law society, Diamond’s lawyers asked, in one case, how it was best to provide the information, but were never given an answer.

    The appeal also states that the tribunal failed to consider whether Diamond acted in “good faith.”

    Lawyer Jeremy Diamond appeals professional misconduct reprimandLawyer Jeremy Diamond appeals professional misconduct reprimand

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    Concerned students and parents gathered near a Scarborough school on Friday, looking for answers after news emerged that three teenage boys had been stabbed in a fight, one of them critically.

    Paramedics said they transported the victims to hospital, one in life-threatening condition, and the two others with serious injuries.

    The incident occurred just after 3:30 p.m. near Lawrence Ave. E. and Brimley Rd., police said.

    Paramedics said the incident unfolded both on and near the grounds of David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute, which was placed on hold-and-secure. This was lifted around 4:30 p.m.

    “One guy was stabbed, bleeding all over,” said a Grade 10 student who requested that his name not be published.

    Many of the students had gone home by the time of the stabbing, but there were still a few waiting to be picked up by parents or friends, the student said.

    Across the street, long strips of yellow hazard tape cordoned off a section of parking lot and sidewalk, where all that remained of the earlier crime scene was an abandoned pile of clothing and large brown paper bags.

    The Toronto District School Board tweeted that they notified the parents of a 17-year-old male victim, who is a student at the school, that he had been stabbed.

    TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said it was unclear whether the other victims are students and how events unfolded.

    Bird said it’s possible that the initial incident happened at the plaza nearby and the victims came onto school property.

    In the emergency room of Sunnybrook Hospital around 7 p.m., a handful of people feverishly pressed one of many police officers for information about the victims. Some translated the officer’s updates for the others.

    “As you know, there were hundreds of people there. It was chaos,” the officer said.

    Armad Mouyed, 23, told the Star he’d tried to break up the fight after it started outside the McDonald’s.

    But someone pulled a knife.

    “I don’t know what happened,” he said. “This guy took a knife, stabbed my friend, stabbed the other friend, stabbed the other friend. And the other people, they came, all of them.”

    A second friend in the hospital waiting room, who was also there at the time, clarified that a group of people had come from around behind the MacDonald’s and swarmed them after the fight began.

    Though both declined to share the names of the victims, one described them all as “like family.”

    The three victims were all in okay condition, their friends reported.

    “We have to wait,” Mouyed said of any further information.

    Three people stabbed near school in Scarborough, one is in critical conditionThree people stabbed near school in Scarborough, one is in critical condition

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