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    MAFRAQ, JORDAN—Married at 15 and divorced at 16, a Syrian teen says she regrets having said yes to a handsome suitor — a stranger who turned into an abusive husband.

    Yet the reasons that transformed her into a child bride have become more prevalent among Syrians who live in Jordanian exile because of a six-year-old civil war back home. More families marry off daughters to ease the financial burden or say marriage is the way to protect the “honour” of girls seen as vulnerable outside their homeland.

    Figures from Jordan’s population census document the long suspected increase for the first time. In 2015, brides between the ages of 13 and 17 made up almost 44 per cent of all Syrian females in Jordan getting married that year, compared with 33 per cent in 2010.

    With Syrians expected to remain in exile for years, it’s a harmful trend for refugees and their overburdened host country, U.N. and Jordanian officials say.

    More Syrian girls will lose out on education, since most child brides drop out of school. They typically marry fellow Syrians who are just a few years older, often without a steady job — a constellation that helps perpetuate poverty. And they will likely have more children than those who marry as adults, driving up Jordan’s fertility rate.

    “This means we will have more people, more than the government of Jordan can afford,” said Maysoon al-Zoabi, secretary general of Jordan’s Higher Population Council.

    The figures on early marriage were drawn from Jordan’s November 2015 census and compiled in a new study.

    The census counted 9.5 million people living in Jordan, including 2.9 non-Jordanians.

    Among the foreigners were 1.265 million Syrians — or double the number of refugees registered in the kingdom since the outbreak of the Syria conflict in 2011. The other Syrians include migrant labourers who came before the war and those who never registered as refugees.

    The figures on early marriage include all Syrians in Jordan, not just registered refugees.

    Many came from southern Syria’s culturally conservative countryside, where even before the conflict girls typically married in their teens. Still, the study shows a higher rate of early marriage among Syrians in exile than in their homeland.

    The teen divorcee fled Syria’s Daraa province in 2012, along with her parents and four siblings. The family eventually settled in a small town in the northern Mafraq province.

    The parents and the teen, now 17, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the stigma of divorce. They said they wanted to speak out, nonetheless, in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistake.

    Child brides are traditionally shielded from outsiders, and the family provided a rare glimpse at what drives early marriage.

    “When we came here, our lives were disrupted,” said the teen’s mother, sitting on a floor cushion in the living room of their small rented home. “If we had remained in Syria, I would not have allowed her to get married this young.”

    The family scrapes by on small cash stipends and food vouchers from U.N. aid agencies, along with the father’s below-minimum-wage income as a labourer.

    Worse, the family feels adrift.

    The parents, fearful their children would be harassed, especially the girls, did not enrol them in local schools, typically overcrowded to accommodate large numbers of Syrians.

    In such a setting — girls sitting at home without a seeming purpose — the push to have them get married becomes stronger.

    An older sister of the teen also married as a minor. The mother said she often feels regret about her daughter having been robbed of her childhood.

    The younger girl spent most of her time at home, brooding. She had no girlfriends since she didn’t go to school and was only allowed to leave the house with her mother, in line with traditions. In any case, there was nothing to do in the small desert town.

    Two years ago, a young Syrian man asked for the teen’s hand, after introductions had been made by a go-between. The intermediary talked up the stranger, saying he had job prospects and could afford his own apartment.

    The teen, 15 at the time, accepted. “I was bored and sad,” she said. “I wanted to get married.”

    The parents said the young man seemed immature, but that their daughter insisted. The wedding took place a month later, and the bride wore a white dress.

    The marriage contract was sealed by a Syrian lawyer, not a Jordanian religious court judge, meaning it was not officially recognized in Jordan.

    Local law sets the minimum age of marriage for girls at 18, though Jordanian judges often allow exceptions for brides between the ages of 15 and 17.

    In 2015, 11.6 per cent of Jordanian females who married that year were minors, compared to 9.6 per cent in 2010, indicating a slight rise that al-Zoubi believes is down in part to Jordanians being influenced by Syrian customs.

    After marriage, the Syrian teen moved to a different town with her husband, and his promises quickly evaporated. The couple moved in with his extended clan, and the teen turned into a maid, according to her parents. The teen said her unemployed husband beat her.

    Despite the abuse, she said she wanted to stay in the marriage, fearful of the shame of divorce. Her father eventually insisted on divorce to extract her from what he felt was a harmful situation.

    After returning home, the teen briefly attended an informal education and children’s support program called Makani that is run by the U.N. child welfare agency and other aid groups at centres across Jordan. She started making friends, but stayed away again when a new group of students signed up.

    Robert Jenkins, the head of UNICEF in Jordan, said that by the time girls are married, it’s often too late to get them back to education.

    “Our absolute first line of defence is prevention (of early marriage),” he said, adding that the agency tries to support families and teens so they won’t opt for early marriage.

    In the Zaatari refugee camp, such intervention appears to have had an impact, said Hussam Assaf, 32, who rents and sells white bridal gowns and colourful engagement dresses in the local market.

    Assaf said the typical age of his customers in Zaatari is 16 or 17, compared with 14 or 15 in his hometown in rural Syria, crediting counselling programs by aid groups with the change.

    The young divorcee, meanwhile, hasn’t ruled out marriage in the future. She said it’s unlikely she’ll ever go back to school because she has already missed five years of learning.

    Still, she thinks about what could have been.

    “If I had continued my education, it would have been better,” she said. Her trauma of her brief marriage “has made me weaker,” she said.

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    BRIDGEWATER, N.J.—U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence has pushed back against a news report suggesting he is laying groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2020 if President Donald Trump does not run.

    In a statement released by the White House, Pence said Sunday’s story in the New York Times“is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team.” He added that “the allegations in this article are categorically false.”

    The formal rebuttal of a news report by the vice-president was an unusual move. In it, Pence also said his team will “focus all our efforts to advance the president’s agenda and see him re-elected in 2020.”

    Read more: Read the New York Times story that prompted Mike Pence’s response

    The report details efforts of several Republicans looking ahead to 2020, calling it a “shadow campaign.” It notes Pence’s political schedule and active fundraising, though it also says unnamed advisers have signalled that he’d only run if Trump doesn’t.

    Trump, meanwhile, insisted his support is stronger than ever. In a flurry of early morning tweets Monday, Trump says “the Trump base far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phoney Fake News polling).” He specifically criticized the “failing @nytimes.”

    The New York Times article noted Pence has set up a fundraising committee. Called the Great America Committee, it can accept checks of up to $5,000 U.S. from individual donors. Pence raised about $1 million at a Washington fundraiser last month, attended by dozens of lawmakers and featuring remarks from White House adviser Ivanka Trump.

    Trump has not suggested he won’t seek a second term. But his first six months in office have been turbulent, marked by staff infighting, legislative struggles and a series of investigations.

    White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway also dismissed the report and said Pence is readying to run in 2020 “for re-election as vice-president.”

    “Vice-President Pence is a very loyal, very dutiful, but also incredibly effective vice-president, and active vice-president, with this president,” said Conway on ABC’s This Week. “He is a peer to the president in the West Wing.”

    New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said in an emailed statement: “We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting and will let the story speak for itself.”

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    Step inside a stadium or club on a concert night and you’re usually inundated with cellphone-armed fans blocking your view in pursuit of grainy video, or libation-laden crowds aggressively jostling to be nearest the stage.

    But that didn’t happen when Toronto-born flamenco artist Tamar Ilana took to the floor at the newly opened Broadview Hotel’s Lincoln Hall event space on a recent Sunday afternoon.

    About 130 music lovers sat enraptured by her Sephardic love songs, so engaged that few reached for their phones — an impressive feat considering they had flocked to the spot never having heard her music and not even knowing who would be performing.

    They were there because they had scored an invitation to a secret show put on by Sofar Sounds, a global organization that has quietly crept into Toronto, arranging clandestine performances in living rooms, community centres and offices, and attracting local phenoms Royal Wood, Great Lake Swimmers and Donovan Woods.

    It works like this: music lovers apply online to attend a show, knowing only the date and neighbourhood it will be held in. Guests are selected from a pool of 100 to 400 applicants and, a day or two before the show, those chosen are sent an address. They don’t find out who will hit the stage until showtime.

    The secrecy element — popularized by Prince and Mumford and Sons — means attendees get to brag about their exclusive night of music, while up-and-coming artists still struggling to build a fan base get connected with crowds they haven’t be able to attract on their own.

    “It’s not a shtick,” says Sofar Sounds Toronto director Jon Campbell. “We’re trying to get people to experience their city as much as possible, and we take that to mean both geographically and artistically. The motto is to put the magic back into live music.”

    To date they’ve attempted to conjure up that magic at dozens of spots, once even bringing guests to the centre of the Woodbine Racetrack to jam. Their performers have been an eclectic bunch, including indie rockers, rappers, spoken-word performers and gypsy singers who dabble in beatboxing.

    They’ve taken their cues from the movement’s founders, two Brits who became annoyed at a London gig in 2009.

    “The noise around them was distracting their ability to actually see the show at a bar somewhere, and so they just said this is crazy and they brought the show to their home, where people would sit down, shut up and listen,” said Campbell.

    Now the U.K. chapter hosts three intimate shows a night almost every day of the year and the initiative has expanded to 366 cities, including Bogota, Lima, Brussels, Sydney and Shanghai. (Plans are underway to bring it to Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo soon.)

    The Sofar Sounds movement (an acronym for “sounds from a room”) has even been credited with giving the National, Hozier, James Bay, Leon Bridges, Bastille and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a platform before they became radio regulars.

    “It’s not easy to get access to big names. It’s a money thing and it’s a scheduling thing,” says Campbell, of why you’re more likely to see an emerging artist than Beyoncé at Sofar Sounds.

    But he insists the events are still of value because “you’re going to be among the next generations of big artists.”

    He and the other volunteers behind Sofar Sounds Toronto often discover potential performers at their day jobs in the music industry or through agents pitching new artists, but the Broadview Hotel show’s second act, duo The Visit, requested their slot after performing at one of the organization’s previous shows.

    “They bring out great crowds, and it’s a good and rare opportunity to connect with the audience. You can talk with them and get to know them,” said The Visit’s cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne.

    After The Visit came Catriona Sturton, a contact from Campbell’s university radio show days and the former bassist for Halifax teen-rockers Plumtree, whose 1997 song “Scott Pilgrim” helped inspire the cult favourite books and movie.

    She had the audience giggling as she blew on her bedazzled harmonica and sang short ditties about the “romance of poutine” and a time when a friend gave her a sweater riddled with moth-chewed holes that the pal’s mom covered up with bee stitching.

    As she capped the evening, a handful of guests approached the artist merchandise table with wallets in hand, while others murmured about wanting to add some of the performers to their Spotify rotations.

    Many, including IT worker Murugi Murai, vowed they’d be back.

    Murai attended her first Sofar Sounds show at a condo in Nairobi last month. It took no coaxing for her to get her bartender pal Christopher Smith to join her at the Broadview Hotel show.

    “I’m an adrenalin junkie, so I was really attracted to it being a secret. I am already thinking about people I know that are interested in doing something off the beaten track that I can invite next time,” said Smith.

    Ilana also predicted she would come back, though she griped that performers were offered so little to play that her group Ventanas decided to send just her and one other member.

    “I considered even not doing it. It is a lot of artists performing for almost free, but we love playing so we will almost always do it in the end,” she said, requesting the Star not publish her earnings.

    Tickets for the Toronto shows, which last around three hours and include three sets, cost $15. The artist’s take is a function of the small audience, the affordable cover and the equipment, crew and venue costs, said Campbell.

    Still, not having to book the venue, sell tickets, set up light and sound equipment, and arrange filming on top of performing was a treat for Ilana, who like most burgeoning artists takes on most of those responsibilities herself. She added that the audience was a perk, too, because Ilana often plays festivals and for crowds that skew much older than her.

    “We were playing to our peers. It was a new audience for us and you really feel the difference,” she said. “It was impeccable. Cellphones were away, everyone listening and the focus was really on the music.”

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    OTTAWA—U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has an issue with getting agricultural products to Canada, and it might not be the ones you think.

    “It’s an extraordinary problem for those people who are affected,” Lighthizer said June 22 when he appeared before the House of Representatives ways and means committee to talk about trade priorities. “And there is no justification for it.”

    Much of the spotlight on Canada-U.S. trade leading up to the new North American Free Trade talks has been on dairy products.

    This time, though, Lighthizer was not talking about cheese, but what you pair it with: wine.

    Two days before President Donald Trump entered the White House, the U.S. launched an aggressive trade challenge by asking the World Trade Organization to examine how the B.C. government was allowing only wine produced within the province to be sold in grocery stores.

    Lighthizer told the committee in June that WTO consultations — the first stage of the process — had not resolved things, so the administration was thinking about whether to press ahead with a dispute settlement panel in Geneva.

    Then he mentioned another, perhaps friendlier, way to go: the new NAFTA.

    “In this case it would make more sense to negotiate and do it in a less hostile way,” he said.

    A month later, Lighthizer published the list of goals the Trump administration has for a renegotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico, in advance of the first round of talks on Aug. 16.

    Canadian wine got a mention in the accompanying news release.

    The move to allow only B.C. wines to be sold in B.C. grocery stores, which the U.S. argues is discriminatory, is not the only issue the Trump administration has with the way Canada imports and sells wine.

    The U.S. government’s annual report on trade barriers highlights a complaint that would be shared by many Canadian consumers who have long chafed at limited access: in many parts of the country, province-run liquor control boards restrict the sale of wine, beer and spirits.

    Restrictions on listings, cost-of-service mark-ups, maximum or minimum price points, distribution policies, labelling requirements and making suppliers discount their prices to meet sales targets were all mentioned as things getting in the way.

    The report said the U.S. government is reviewing the situation in Ontario, where about 70 grocery stores are now allowed to sell both domestic and imported wine, under certain conditions that include country of origin.

    It also suggested a recent move to allow Quebec wine to be sold in Quebec grocery stores could give craft wineries an unfair advantage.

    The fledging Canadian wine industry won some concessions in the 1987 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA), which meant they were allowed to grandfather in some protectionist measures to support domestic wines in exchange for opening up the Canadian market to more U.S. wines.

    Those protections were integrated into NAFTA.

    Tom LaFaille, the vice-president and international trade counsel for the Wine Institute, an advocacy organization for the California wine industry, argued the Canadian wine industry is now big enough that it should not be able to get away with such supports.

    “We just feel that it’s important to end those practices, some of which may have been imposed when Canadian wine was in its infancy,” said LaFaille.

    The Canadian Vintners Association, meanwhile, is treading carefully when it comes to NAFTA.

    Asha Hingorani, the director of government and public affairs for the industry association, said the organization is keeping the details of its position secret until talks begin, but said the complaints coming from the U.S., which has a $450-million wine trade surplus with Canada, should be put into perspective.

    “Our industry generates $9 billion in economic impact to the Canadian economy and we produce 37,000 jobs, but compared to the size of the U.S., it’s like a David vs. Goliath scenario,” she wrote.

    She said the U.S. wine industry has a 67-per-cent share of its home market while Canadian wines have a 32-per-cent share of the market here.

    And while U.S. wines have a 14.2-per-cent share of the wine sales in Canada, up from 6.5 per cent the year before the CUSFTA took effect, Canadian wines have practically none of retail sales market share below the border.

    “It’s important we have a fair deal that benefits both,” she said.

    Global Affairs Canada did not respond to a request for comment on the role it expects wine to play in the NAFTA talks, but Hingorani said her association has been “in constant contact” with departmental officials working on the wine file.

    Miles Prodan, president and CEO of the British Columbia Wine Institute, expressed some anxiety that the small size of the Canadian wine industry could end up meaning Canadian products get lost in the shuffle.

    “I guess our concern is that with all the stuff on the table, wine isn’t used as a bargaining chip somehow,” he said.

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    LONDON—Chloe Ayling’s ordeal sounds like a tale spawned by nightmares of the evil that lurks online.

    The 20-year-old British model says she was lured to Italy with the promise of a photo shoot, then drugged, stuffed into a suitcase, transported to an isolated farmhouse and held, at times in handcuffs, for almost a week.

    Ayling has told police the “terrifying experience” ended when her captor, who had threatened to hold her for ransom or advertise her as sex slave on the criminal “dark web,” decided instead to drop her off at the British consulate in Milan.

    As made-for-the movies as the young woman’s account sounds, Italian police have arrested a suspect: a 30-year-old Polish man who claimed to be a paid killer for a group called the Black Death.

    Ayling’s lawyer while the case is under investigation — standard procedure in Italy — acknowledged Monday that aspects of the case seem bizarre. He said investigators initially had “more than understandable doubts” about the model’s story.

    “It seems incredible,” lawyer Francesco Pesce told The Associated Press — “a man kidnaps, together with others, a girl, and after a week, citing particular reasons, accompanies her inside a consulate . . . (and) practically hands her over to police.”

    “This at first was doubted also by investigators — but the story later turned out to be true,” he added.

    Pesce, Ayling’s agent, and Milan police have all given broadly the same account of the sensational events.

    The model — whose nascent career includes topless shoots for British tabloid newspapers — went to Milan on July 11 for a photo shoot at what her agent, Phil Green, said was “a recognized studio in the city centre.”

    When she got there, her lawyer said, a man grabbed her by the neck while another injected her with a dose of the anesthetic Ketamine “strong enough to knock her to the ground.”

    “Then she was stuffed in a black sports bag, like she was an object, and then transported over winding, unpaved roads for more than two hours . . . bound hand and foot and with tape across her mouth,” Pesce said.

    Milan police said Ayling was taken to a rural house near Turin in northern Italy, where she was kept handcuffed to a wooden dresser.

    They said the suspect in custody, Lukasz Pawel Herba, advertised her “sale” online, while at the same time demanding $300,000 ransom from her agent. Authorities said as far as they know, no ransom was paid.

    Then, on July 17, Ayling was dropped off at the British consulate in Milan. The next day, police arrested Herba, a Polish citizen with British residency.

    Milan police officer Lorenzo Bucossi said Herba described himself as a “paid killer” for a mercenary organization. Others have suggested he is a fantasist.

    According to Italian media reports, Ayling said she was released when her captor discovered she had a small child. He said abducting a mother was against the rules of his shadowy criminal organization.

    Britain’s National Crime Agency said British police are working with Italian authorities and searched a house in central England linked to Herba.

    On Sunday — almost three weeks after she says she was released — Ayling returned to Britain.

    Green said Italian police held Ayling’s passport and wouldn’t let leave the country until she gave evidence at a pretrial hearing and visited the crime scene with detectives last week.

    “I’ve been through a terrifying experience,” Ayling told reporters on the doorstep of her home in south London on Sunday. “I’ve feared for my life, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.”

    Green, who runs the Supermodel Agency with which Ayling is affiliated, said Monday that she was undergoing “debriefing” with government officials and the police and could not speak further to the press.

    He asked the media to “respect the fact she does need some time alone.”

    Pesce said he had “never seen such strength and such courage in a girl of 20 years,” describing how Ayling accompanied detectives to the farmhouse and recounted her ordeal.

    “The most beautiful moment was to see her emerge with a real smile” after showing investigators what happened in the house, he said.

    Pesce said Ayling was able “to describe exactly the places she was held, to recount everything, barely shed a tear, and then feel finally free.”

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    In the past month, Roxanne messaged more than two dozen Ontario women on Facebook to warn them that their photos had surfaced on the image-sharing site Anon-IB.

    It’s something the Toronto resident has been doing on and off since she learned four years ago that her own photos had cropped up on the site — a place where users gather to share images, many of which are sexually explicit.

    “Part of me felt like a little bit of a creep doing this,” said Roxanne, who didn’t want her full name published out of concern her experience would affect her career in social work. “But … if I can track them down this easily, somebody with a worse motive can too.”

    Roxanne, 24, typically finds the women she warns by searching on Facebook for their first names, the first letter of their last name and the community they’re believed to live in — all information that accompanies the photos posted on Anon-IB, which boasts the tag line “Best Anonymous Image Board.”

    The site — which did not respond to a request for an interview — has sections for various countries, including Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and pages specific to cities and even universities. The level of detail can allow users to come across images of people they may actually know.

    The Canada forum on Anon-IB is currently 15 pages long, with threads for women at various universities and more than 30 Ontario communities.

    The website has rules prohibiting the posting of images of minors and a ban on the posting of “personal details like addresses, telephone numbers, social networks links, or last names.” But some users work around the rules by posting messages like, “(first name) L anyone? Surname rhymes with mammoth.”

    The photos of Roxanne that appeared on the site in 2013 were taken in 2011, she said. She had sent two photographs — taken in a crop top and underwear — to someone who befriended her on Facebook.

    Roxanne thought the person was a woman named Mary, who described herself as a queer feminist, a survivor of sexual violence and a women’s studies student. But when she began badgering Roxanne for explicit photos, Roxanne said she grew suspicious. After an internet search revealed that Mary’s profile photo appeared to be that of a pornography performer, Roxanne blocked the person.

    Nearly two years later, Roxanne said the photographs she sent to that person appeared in the Ontario sub-forum on Anon-IB, where users were specifically requesting “wins” — slang for nude photos — of her.

    Roxanne said she found out about the images only after an acquaintance pointed them out. The photos had been up for two days by that point, she said.

    “I (was) in shock,” she said. “Then terror and a sense of dread set in.”

    Roxanne tried to get her photos taken down by filling out a form on the website, but said her request was ignored.

    Under the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, it’s a crime to post or distribute an “intimate image” of another person without their consent.

    Roxanne decided to go to York regional police in Newmarket, Ont., a month after learning of her photos on Anon-IB.

    She knew it was unlikely they could get the images removed but she wanted to have a police record in case the matter escalated. She also wanted police to look into what she said were images of underage girls on the website.

    “The (officer) just looked bewildered,” she said.

    York regional police said they are aware of Roxanne’s case, that her file is still under investigation and no charges have been laid.

    Other police forces have also received the occasional complaint related to the website — RCMP in Antigonish, N.S., said they’ve been conducting an investigation related to Anon-IB since April, and police in Peterborough, Ont., said they became aware of the site after one complaint in the last two years. In both cases, no charges have been laid. Hamilton police said they had one investigation that involved the website but not a direct complaint against it.

    Ontario provincial police, Toronto police and Ottawa police said they have not received complaints about Anon-IB.

    Read more:

    Education, not litigation, needed to address revenge porn

    We can do more to fight 'revenge porn': Editorial

    Sex trafficking case turns on whether websites can be held liable for content created by users

    Toronto lawyer Gil Zvulony said Roxanne’s photographs would not be considered “intimate” under the Criminal Code because they do not appear to depict any explicit sexual activity or nudity. He said women who find themselves on Anon-IB should still go to the police but noted that it’s unlikely charges would be laid if those who post the images remain anonymous on the website.

    Roxanne’s photos stayed on the site for about a year, she said, until it went offline briefly in 2014. When the site came back online, her images were gone.

    After her experience, Roxanne continued to think about what happened to her.

    “My coping mechanism was to go back on the website, find as many girls as I could, tip them off and go to bed,” she said.

    Katelyn, 23, was one of the women Roxanne messaged. She said she was 16 and 17 in most of the photos that she learned were on the site in August 2013.

    Katelyn said she has no idea who took photos from her Facebook and Plenty of Fish dating profile and edited them to make her shirts appear see-through, which was possible because she was wearing light-coloured tops without a bra, she said.

    After learning about her images, she asked the site to take them down. The photos were removed within 24 hours, she said, which is why she didn’t go to police.

    “I’m grateful that Roxanne reached out to me,” she said. “It’s important for women to keep mobilizing and looking out for one another.”

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    There’s a tall brick building between Richmond and Queen, just west of Spadina, where Darwin the Ikea monkey climbs the CN tower to reach Drake, who’s perched on top Views-style. Meanwhile, ”crane girl” hovers overhead.

    The newest mural in Toronto’s ‘graffiti alley,’ an established haunt for local photographers and artists, reads like a smorgasbord of Toronto stories.

    Monday, passerby Kelly Sveinson chuckled as he recognized the iconic Sam the Record Man sign in the corner. But other more obscure local references — like “dart guy” or red touring helicopters — were lost on Sveinson, his wife Susan and their daughter Kya, who were in visiting from Vancouver.

    Stella Hsu, who hustled through the alley with headphones on, paused her music to consider the mural. “There are a lot of elements,” she mused, her eyes darting up and down, left then right. A few feet away, a group of teenagers stopped to snap photos with the bustling references as a backdrop.

    The wall is a Where’s Waldo of Toronto’s stories. But the real secret comes from the artist himself — an east-coaster who goes by the moniker Uber 5000. The city is the final piece of a larger concept, which began in 2012 when he also painted two other sides of the same building.

    The original murals are washed over with technicolour fish. But to Uber 5000, images of a coral reef and images of Toronto go hand-in-hand.

    “Originally the idea of the reef section of the wall was it was sort of a metaphor for the city,” he said. While reefs make up a tiny fraction of ocean space across the earth, they’re home to enormous populations of marine life.

    The same ideas apply to the city, and especially Toronto, he explained. When he sat down to talk to the owner of the building about how to tackle the third side, a depiction of the city seemed to tie everything together.

    The process, which is still underway with a strip left to paint at the bottom, took place largely upon a 15-by-six foot lift that the owner of the building rented, and hoisted into the air with the artist aboard.

    Making art is Uber 5000’s full time job, he explained over the phone from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia — where he’s just completed a mural for a local waterfront festival. His work didn’t start with murals — in fact, it began while taking a political studies class, when he took to scrawling political slogans he learned on the school walls.

    After school, he moved to Vancouver, where a more experienced artist taught him more about mural art. His first mural there was a 3-storey high depiction of the Ewok Village from Star Wars near Granville Island. After it was finished, he was hooked.

    After a year in Vancouver, he moved back to the east coast, where he was approached by a local group in Halifax to do a mural for them. But, neither he nor the group had enough money to fund it. On his way back from that meeting, he passed a wall in the city he’d always thought would look nice as a mural.

    Mustering up his courage, he walked in and asked if he could paint it. “And if I got shot down, I already got shot down once today,” he reasoned.

    But, to his surprise, the answer was yes.

    The building housed an engineering firm, so he set his mind on a “photorealistic” image of Halifax’s Angus L. Macdonald Bridge. “They would come out and smoke, and just point out all the mistakes,” he said.

    But with another mural under his belt, Uber 5000 began to build a portfolio. Earlier this year, he worked on a piece for Toronto’s Humane Society, and now has several commissions from local businesses.

    The work was exhausting, he said, noting that on the last day he worked on the Toronto city mural, he worked through the night, then had to deal with a broken lift so he didn’t get to sleep until 3 p.m. He woke up that evening, packed everything up, and met his 5 a.m. flight to paint more in Cape Breton.

    To him, it’s worth it to live the life he does. “I like zipping around and renting equipment and jumping up on stuff,” he said happily. “And leaving a big, colourful picture in my wake.”

    Can you spot the references?

    Dart Guy

    Crane Girl

    Sam the Record Man

    Darwin the Ikea Monkey

    Drake on the CN Tower (“Views”)

    Queen Street West

    Blue jay flipping the bat

    Red touring helicopters

    Canada 150 airplane

    Wayward fish from the 2012 murals

    Bonus: Uber 5000’s real-life dog Hubble, who appears in nearly all his murals!

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    A little girl, a stuffed animal and the social media campaign to reunite them.

    Calling her daughter “heartbroken,” a mother’s Facebook post imploring for help to locate a stuffed pink dog has been shared on the social media site over 7,130 times.

    The family of four visiting Toronto from the U.K. was killing time in the Eaton Centre on Aug. 4 before their flight back home to Exeter.

    Phoebe, 6, had her beloved stuffed animal, Sleepy Dog, with her, wrote Julie Letton, Phoebe’s mother, in an email.

    When Phoebe noticed her toy was missing, Letton said her stomach flipped. The family retraced their steps and searched the mall. “Phoebe was with me and was inconsolable. She cried constantly for about two hours,” Letton said.

    The family had to leave without finding Sleepy Dog, despite their search and speaking with staff at the Eaton Centre.

    In the taxi on the way to the airport, Letton made her Facebook post, and has since made a Facebook group.

    One of the people aiding in the search is Toronto Police Sgt. Wendy Drummond who enlisted the help of Twitter users. “We are all pulling together to bring this little guy home,” she tweeted.

    Drummond was inspired to tweet after she saw Letton’s online post. She has children of her own and said she knows what this situation is like with toys that carry meaning.

    “As adults we’ve all experienced heart break at some point in our lives, so we know what it feels like, and it’s awful to see (Phoebe) going through such an emotional time,” Letton said. “Sleepy Dog has been her number 1 since he came into her life when she was less than a year old.”

    “Phoebe is amazed by the amount of people who are trying to help her,” Letton continued. “We are all very grateful.”

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    NEW YORK—Stung by onerous new sanctions from the UN Security Council, North Korea has threatened retaliation “thousands of times” and hinted at a possible attack on the United States.

    In its first major response to the sanctions drafted by the United States and adopted Saturday, North Korea said Monday it would never relinquish its missile and nuclear arsenals, and called the penalties a panicky U.S.-led response to its growing military might.

    The North Korean response, in statements from its official news agency, foreign minister and UN mission, suggested that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was doubling down on his goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile that could hit the continental United States.

    The warnings began with a statement from North Korea’s official news agency, threatening to make the United States “pay the price for its crime thousands of times,” referring to the new sanctions.

    “There is no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean,” the news agency said.

    Read more:

    Japanese PM stirs angst about North Korea during Hiroshima memorial

    China calls on North Korea to halt missile tests day after new UN sanctions

    UN Security Council approves tough new sanctions on North Korea

    North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, echoed the hostility later in a statement released at an annual meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila that was attended by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

    Ri described North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons as defensive measures against what he called the threat of annihilation by the United States.

    “We will, under no circumstances, put the nuclear and ballistic missiles on the negotiating table,” Ri said in the statement released to reporters at the conference.

    “Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the U.S. against the DPRK are fundamentally eliminated,” Ri said, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

    Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, said the comments by the North demonstrate how angry it is over the UN sanctions, but that the country is not likely to launch a pre-emptive strike against the United States. He said the North could still carry out further missile tests or a sixth atomic bomb test in the coming months under its broader weapons development timetable.

    Pyongyang’s UN mission also issued a lengthy statement denouncing the sanctions, which were meant to dissuade North Korea from pressing ahead with its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

    The statement called the sanctions, which include prohibitions on North Korean exports of coal, iron and seafood, “a flagrant infringement upon its sovereignty.”

    The response came two days after the Security Council approved the measures in a 15-0 vote that basically left Kim bereft of any powerful supporter on the issue, including China, which helped the United States draft the new penalties.

    If enforced, the measures could lop an estimated $1 billion (U.S.) annually off North Korea’s meagre export revenue of $3 billion. The resolution also bans countries from giving any additional permits to North Korean labourers, another source of foreign currency for the North, and prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korean companies.

    The resolution was a direct response to North Korea’s successful tests last month of two intercontinental ballistic missiles that for the first time demonstrated an ability to reach the U.S. mainland.

    The sanctions are the toughest of the seven Security Council resolutions adopted since 2006 aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear militarization.

    North Korea’s UN mission said the sanctions revealed that the United States and its allies, instead of accepting North Korea and learning to coexist with it, had become “more frenzied and desperate” over the country’s growing military strength.

    Lim, the North Korea expert, said the North will probably squeeze its ordinary citizens to help finance its nuclear and missile programs. Shin Beomchul of the Seoul-based Korea National Diplomatic Academy said sanctions that can force a change from North Korea would include a ban on China’s annual, mostly free shipment of 500,000 tons of crude oil to North Korea and the deporting by UN member states of the tens of thousands of North Korean workers currently dispatched abroad.

    With files from The Associated Press

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    A “loud, thunderous noise” was all Christopher Palumbo heard before the water started rushing down Albion Falls toward him and his five buddies Monday afternoon.

    The 19-year-old Vaughan man road tripped to Hamilton on the long weekend to hike the trails and shoot some photos of the falls, but a quick turn in the weather changed those plans.

    Thunder and rain prompted the group to take cover under a rock ledge, and that’s when the water came.

    “We heard a loud, thunderous noise, and we all looked up and saw that all the water had started rushing down the waterfall,” he said. “It was like this water had come out of nowhere.”

    At first, they were amazed by the beauty and power of the flow, he said.

    “Then we realize, this thing’s coming right towards us.”

    The friends picked up their gear and fled downstream. The flooding started, and people got split up from one another and stuck on cliff sides, he said.

    He and his friends managed to cross the water and get to high ground but then he got stuck. While looking for ways to get back on the trail and find his way out of the falls, he ran into a couple of people stuck on the same side as him.

    “We all kind of stayed together just to figure out how we were going to get across,” he said. “Some people were from out of the province, so they were really unfamiliar with the area.

    “They had no idea what they were walking into.”

    About 30 people were down at the base of the falls when the water started rushing, Palumbo noted, including a man who got stuck in the water as it was flowing.

    Palumbo said the man managed to hold on to his dog despite getting washed down shore.

    With the help of emergency personnel, Palumbo was walked to safety. Neither he nor his friends suffered any injuries, he said.

    Immediately after the misadventure during his first visit to Albion Falls, Palumbo said he was shocked. But a few hours later, that initial panic had already subsided.

    “We’re all calmed down,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something we’ll let bother us in the future.”

    But he did have a few words of advice for anyone thinking of travelling down the sleep slopes anytime soon: “Be prepared. Plan … Know what you’re getting yourself into.”

    Hamilton fire prevention officer Steve McArthur said a total of 10 hikers needed assistance getting out of Albion Falls after an “excessive amount of water” came Monday afternoon. No one was injured, he said.

    Albion Falls has been at the centre of the public and political backlash lately over people ignoring safety warnings and trespassing.

    This has led the city to bolster safety features, including adding $75,000 worth of fencing and increasing ticketing enforcement of trespassers.

    Palumbo, who was informed afterwards that he was in a restricted area, said he didn’t receive a ticket. He said bylaw told him that was because there was “no signage” in the area he was in.

    Monday’s rain also prompted another rescue at Lower Chedoke Falls about a half hour before crews were called to Albion Falls.

    At Chedoke, a family of five — three adults and two kids — became stranded on rocks because of fast moving water, McArthur said. No one was injured, he added.

    Hamilton Police Service’s marine unit was called in to help with that rope rescue using a portable water rescue craft because of their “swift water” training, said Const. Ben Rushton.

    “The rapids were quite swift when we first got there,” said Rushton.

    People need to be aware of the potential hazards around them, Rushton said.

    “When they’re hiking, especially when they’re near steep cliffs obviously you need to stay back from that and obey any signage and fences and stay on marked trails,” he said. “And then when there’s rain, definitely stay away from water’s edge.”

    The Hamilton Spectator

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    Canadian health officials have extensive plans to ensure people survive a future influenza pandemic, but they’ve also made macabre recommendations for the nation’s funeral homes for those who don’t.

    “In a pandemic, each individual funeral home could expect to handle about six months’ work within a six- to eight-week period,” the Public Health Agency of Canada warns on a web page about the management of mass fatalities during a pandemic flu.

    “That may not be a problem in some communities, but funeral homes in larger cities may not be able to cope with the increased demand.”

    One of the agency’s recommendations is that funeral homes make advance plans for what to do if their staff get sick, including making arrangements with volunteers from service clubs or churches to dig graves.

    Storage space for corpses could also be a problem, the agency notes, and it says refrigerated trucks or ice rinks could be pressed into service if needed.

    “Funeral service providers, I can assure you, throughout their history, have responded to these sorts of tragedies and would do so again to the very best of their ability,” said Allan Cole, a board member with the Funeral Services Association of Canada and president of MacKinnon and Bowes, a company that provides services for the funeral industry.

    But finding a funeral home that’s willing to talk about its own pandemic planning is difficult. The Canadian Press reached out to numerous funeral homes in several Canadian cities and asked whether they were prepared for a pandemic, but not one returned the calls.

    Cole has been serving on committees for about a decade that deal with infectious diseases and how they affect the funeral profession.

    He said interest in planning rises when diseases such as SARS or Ebola are in the news, but wanes when pandemics fade from the headlines.

    Cole said it’s also difficult for funeral homes to stock many of the extra supplies they would need if business unexpectedly picked up.

    “Anything that you buy and save for some horrible eventuality, these are items that have a shelf life. You couldn’t buy, for instance, latex gloves, put them on the shelf and expect 15 years later that they’re in good condition. They simply aren’t,” Cole said.

    “Subsequently, for a private enterprise to go and undertake that sort of an investment for a potential community requirement would be hugely onerous and, as a result, I don’t think many really embarked on any sort of a program to upgrade their inventories for some sort of potential requirement.”

    The public health agency’s 2015 guide for the health sector on planning for a pandemic notes that historically, pandemics have occurred three to four times per century. However, it says there is no predictable interval.

    It says the last four pandemics demonstrated that the effect on the population can vary from low to high.

    The agency says that during a pandemic, some families could experience multiple deaths at the same time, straining financial resources for high-end funerals. It recommends funeral homes stock an extra supply of inexpensive caskets.

    Diseases like Ebola can spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of victims or corpses. During the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, traditional funerals, in which mourners touch the body, were a source of virus transmission.

    The Canadian agency says special infection control measures are not required for the handling of people who die from influenza, as the body is not contagious after death. But mourners who attend funeral homes could be contagious, and it says it would be up to provincial health officials to decide if restrictions are needed on the type and size of gatherings.

    The agency notes the average attendance at a visitation in Prince Edward Island is 1,000 to 1,400 people.

    No special vehicle or driver’s licence is needed for transportation of the deceased, the agency states.

    “Therefore, there are no restrictions on families transporting bodies of family members if they have a death certificate.”

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    The heart wants what it wants. Bachelor Nation’s hearts mostly wanted Peter Kraus to end up with Rachel Lindsay on the Bachelorette season finale. Rachel’s heart wanted Bryan Abasolo.

    Not only was it one of the more disappointing finales from a fan’s point of view, ABC killed whatever suspense might have persisted about the final result by revealing who the winner was long before the actual proposal.

    In an average season you don’t know for sure who the Bachelorette is going to choose — spoilers notwithstanding — until you see her reject the runner-up just ahead of the winner’s proposal.

    On Monday night, because ABC had Rachel watching the finale with a live studio audience, commenting on everything we were seeing, we knew a good 35 minutes before the proposal who the last man standing was going to be.

    Not fun, ABC, not fun.

    Here’s a rundown of the finale highlights.

    Fantasy Suite Hangover: The start of the finale was actually the end of the fantasy suite episode from two weeks ago.

    We picked up where we left off with Peter and Rachel on a standoff on a date in Rioja, Spain: Peter wasn’t ready to propose; Rachel would accept nothing less than a proposal. But they also said they had deep feelings for each other and weren’t ready to give up fighting for the relationship so they ended up spending the night together in the fantasy suite, ostensibly to have more time to talk things over. By the morning, Peter said his doubts were starting to fade and he was feeling really good about the relationship.

    Next up was Bryan’s date, which involved a horseback ride through a vineyard. Bryan surmised, correctly, that he didn’t have Rachel’s full attention; she said her mind was still stuck on what happened the night before with Peter. But by evening Rachel had apologized to Bryan for being distracted and went happily with him to the fantasy suite. Unlike Mr. I Can’t Propose, Bryan assured Rachel he loved her and would love her forever.

    The Last Rose Ceremony: The narrative propelled by Rachel’s voice-over was that she was sure of both Bryan’s and Eric Bigger’s feelings for her but not of Peter’s. However, it seemed to me fairly obvious she was more into Peter than Eric and Eric was indeed the one sent home. Nonetheless, Rachel issued a warning to Peter in her rose ceremony speech: “I want a proposal. I didn’t come here to have a boyfriend, I came here to cultivate a relationship that is moving toward the common goal of marriage.”

    Eric was all class in his departure. Rachel explained that she had stronger feelings for the other two men: “I do love you. I’m just not in love.”

    Eric thanked Rachel for allowing him to be open and to express his love for her. “I’ll always love you, that’s just the truth.”

    Reunited on the live part of the finale, looking dapper in a new beard and suit, Eric thanked Rachel again. “Prior to that experience my heart was broken, I never had love in my heart. I just want to say thank you for giving me that. I was a boy and became a man.”

    Eric talked and looked like a potential future Bachelor. Although it was unspoken, Rachel also seemed to think so. “You’re gonna be so great for someone else,” she said. “You are such a beautiful person, so glad America got to see that.”

    Last Date With Bryan: Rachel was still talking about Peter in voice-over before meeting Bryan for a hot-air balloon ride, so nice fake-out on the producers’ part to make us think she was struggling between the two. But Bryan was just as decisive about her as always. Not only was he ready to propose there and then, he told Rachel she’d be making a mistake if she didn’t choose him. We got a little respite from the cockiness that has so annoyed fans when Bryan at least acknowledged he wasn’t sure if Rachel would say yes.

    Last Date With Peter: During the day, when Rachel and Peter visited a monastery, it was all hugs and kisses and advice about marriage from a monk: “Sometimes couples become separate for little things that are no important,” he told Rachel and Peter in accented English in a line that sounded like it was fed straight from producers.

    That night it was Round 2 of the “will Peter propose” debate. Peter admitted he was in love with Rachel, but the feelings were too fresh for him to propose the next day.

    “I get so confused by you, Peter,” Rachel said. “You’re talking to me about our future and vacations and dogs, and where we would live and what size bed we’re gonna have, and it’s like fantasizing this future that we can have together that you want, with a wife, but then when it comes to the reality of this and where we are right now you don’t want to face it.”

    And so it went, round and round. Peter eventually offered to propose just so he wouldn’t lose Rachel, but she rejected that, saying he’d be doing it under pressure and not because he wanted to.

    Rachel left, but only after crying copious tears — she told host Chris Harrison she cried her false eyelashes off — and kissing Peter deeply and repeatedly. Peter cried too when she’d gone, asking, “What is wrong with me?”

    If this had been an ordinary finale we Peter fans would have held out some hope, no matter how deluded. Maybe Peter would change his mind in the morning. Maybe Rachel would. Maybe there’d be a Jason Mesnick-style reversal on After the Final Rose.

    Instead, we had Harrison interviewing Rachel about the breakup and Peter waiting backstage to talk to her for the first time since that night.

    An emotional Peter, with tears in his eyes and “shaking like a leaf,” admitted he still struggles with what happened between them and still cares for Rachel.

    But Rachel seemed to nullify everything we thought we were watching: two people falling in love and parting only because their backs were against a wall. In fact, Rachel said she had noticed “deep-rooted issues” with Peter before they got to Spain and that the emotion she showed the night of their breakup came from her memories of a past relationship.

    She also told Peter, “I just don’t think this world, this process, this journey, this show, I just don’t think it’s for you,” seeming to throw cold water on fan hopes he’ll become the next Bachelor.

    And finally, we learned that Peter tried to reach out to her after shooting ended and she refused.

    The thing is, as much as those of us watching wanted Peter to put aside his scruples and propose to Rachel, it’s a damn good thing he didn’t because Rachel would have turned him down.

    She told Harrison she knew Bryan was the one for her after she found herself defending him to her family in Dallas. So all her protestations of loving Peter aside, he didn’t stand a chance.

    The Proposal: Given how windy it was when Bryan reached Rachel atop a hill on the grounds of a castle I’m mystified as to why they didn’t just move the whole operation inside the castle.

    Bryan said what he’d been saying for weeks, that he’s head over heels in love with Rachel.

    After a preamble in which she talked about her past tendency to go for complicated relationships that were easier to run from, Rachel told Bryan, “I always said that I would know that the person I’m supposed to be with is someone I could never picture my life without. . . . And I just want to tell you that I love you and I’m in love with you and I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else.”

    So there you have it. Once onstage together, Bryan got back down on one knee to give Rachel back her engagement ring and they couldn’t seem to stop kissing each other, which is par for the season.

    They haven’t set a wedding date, haven’t even decided which city to live in yet, but they say they couldn’t be happier.

    The same, alas, cannot be said for Bachelorette fans.

    Meanwhile, Bachelor in Paradise debuts next Monday at 8 p.m. on City and I’ll have more to say about that in the days ahead.

    You can email me at ; tweet me @realityeo or visit my Facebook page.

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    One man has been seriously injured after a shooting during a robbery in Toronto’s Entertainment District Tuesday morning.

    Police got the call at 3:18 a.m. about reports of gunshots in the area of King St. W. and Portland St., said Toronto police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook.

    When police arrived on the scene, officers located one man believed to be in his 20s with a gunshot wound in the leg. Paramedics say he was rushed to a local hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

    Douglas-Cook said three men attempted to rob the victim. Following the shooting, they fled the scene with a car but collided with a TTC service truck shortly after.

    The group then attempted to flee on foot but the officers were able to arrest them.

    “There was a brief pursuit of the suspects who were then caught and arrested,” Douglas-Cook said. “The officers did recover a firearm.”

    Police have arrested all three men who are in their late 20s and 30s. Douglas-Cook said there is no indication the victim was targeted.

    King St. W. was closed between Bathurst St. and Spadina Ave. for investigation but has since reopened.

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    The only thing more worrisome than giving Toronto more power would be not giving it more power. Do we really want a dysfunctional city hall to have more control? On the other hand, do we really want to leave the city in the hands of a usually distracted province? Neither scenario is terribly reassuring.

    Toronto may be the most important city in Canada, generating 10 per cent of the country’s GDP. But that hasn’t stopped its tendency to self-destruct. Neither does it cut much ice at Queen’s Park, where Toronto is seen as a cash cow that can be safely ignored when convenient and thwarted when necessary.

    These questions have once again become the subject of discussion under the mayoralty of John Tory. For the first time since David Miller was chief magistrate, civic empowerment is on the table. But since former premier Dalton McGuinty brought forth the City of Toronto Act in 2006, little has changed. Though Tory has fumed famously about being “a little boy going up to Queen’s Park in short pants” to ask for more money, the hard truth is there’s not much he can do. The governance structure under which Canadian cities operate gives all the cards to the provinces.

    Premier Kathleen Wynne made that painfully clear in January when she abruptly reversed direction and nixed Tory’s plan to toll the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. Though doing so ran contrary to the city’s wishes — and her own progressive impulses — she opted to stick it to Toronto rather than risk suburban ire.

    Tory’s frustration was understandable; but more important, Wynne’s decision once again raised the question about the wisdom of leaving Toronto, the country’s single most dynamic economic, cultural and social force, to the whims of its otherwise preoccupied provincial masters. Even when municipal and provincial politicians see eye to eye — as they do on the ruinous $3.4-billion Scarborough subway extension — the results are disastrous for the city.

    The real issue, of course, is the raising and spending of money. Forbidden to impose personal income or general sales tax, Toronto must rely on property and land transfer tax, user fees and, of course, “handouts” from the province and, when lucky, Ottawa. At a time when the municipal infrastructure is suffering from severe lack of investment and decades of neglect, the city’s financial needs are greater than ever. To make matters worse, political leaders, especially those at the civic level, focus on little more than keeping property taxes low. That was as true for Toronto’s first post-amalgamation mayor, Mel Lastman, as it is for the current office-holder.

    Sadly, though predictably, years of political banality have left the city more reliant than ever upon provincial funding. To make matter worse, Toronto’s leadership has squandered valuable capital — political and economic — on schemes that will leave Toronto poorly served and debt-ridden.

    The choice between city and province is not a happy one. It’s a bit like the proposed revamp of the Ontario Municipal Board. Though much despised by city officials, the OMB has also enabled those same councillors and bureaucrats to avoid responsibility for development projects Torontonians fight tooth and nail.

    Underlying these issues is the deep-seated suspicion Ontarians and many Torontonians feel for the big city. Official Toronto’s reluctance to accept its cosmopolitan fate, its race to impose suburban standards and continued fealty to car culture keep the city from realizing its potential. Yet at a time of backlash — Rob Ford and Donald Trump — the city’s role as a centre of innovation and intellectual and economic leadership is more crucial than ever.

    The truth is that neither provincial nor municipal governments are up to the challenge of running a 21st-century metropolis. As long as political decisions are made — as they are in Toronto — out of fear of Ford Nation, the city will remain a civic underachiever.

    Toronto’s best hope is probably the millennials, who have first-hand experience of how their parents’ generation has failed them. They will be the ones who take this city to the next level. They understand without being told that the urban agenda must address more than gridlock and downtown expressways and double-parked cars and low taxes.

    They expect more from the city. They just need the power to get it.

    Christopher Hume’s column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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    A car was left completely underwater after the driver made a wrong turn into Ashbridge’s Bay Monday night.

    Police were called just before 10 p.m. about an incident in the area of Ashbridge’s Bay Park, near Woodbine Beach, Toronto police Const. Caroline de Kloet said.

    When emergency crews arrived, they found a car fully submerged in water. The two female occupants got out of the car without any injuries, de Kloet said.

    The driver of the car told crews on scene that she thought she was driving onto a ramp to Lake Shore Blvd.

    de Kloet said crews have successfully pulled the car out of the water.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    Ottawa is treating minors like adults when it comes to charging them for their citizenship applications.

    Although recent changes to the citizenship act allow those under age 18 to make an application without their parents, they must pay the same fee as adults — $530.

    By contrast, the fee is $100 for minors who apply for citizenship together with their parents.

    Critics say children applying for citizenship on their own are probably unaccompanied minors who came to Canada alone for asylum or are estranged from their family and in such difficult situations that they can’t afford the application fee.

    When the Liberal government tabled the motion to move forward with the Senate-amended citizenship bill that was passed in June, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen highlighted this particular change on minors, saying easier pathway to citizenship helps newcomers “build successful lives in Canada.”

    “The government . . . supports the amendment to make it easier for children to obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent and has made changes to clarify who can apply for citizenship on behalf of the child,” the minister said at the time.

    Conservative Senator Victor Oh, who put forward the amendment in the Senate to allow children to apply for citizenship on their own, said no fee-specific provisions were made in his motion at the time because he was told setting processing fees did not require legislative changes and fell within the immigration minister’s discretion.

    “I was advised that would take a simple regulatory amendment by the minister, who has the authority to do that,” the Ontario senator told the Star.

    Oh said he sent a letter to Hussen in early July and asked him to lower the fee to no more than $100, but he has yet to hear back from the minister.

    “We can’t discriminate and penalize the minors who apply on their own,” Oh said. “These children are the most vulnerable and they are not making it easier for them to become citizens.”

    Immigration officials said the $530 application fee was put in place to reflect the increasing cost of processing. Over the past three years, an average of 29,740 children under age 18 applied for citizenship per year, the majority of them with their parents.

    “As part of its ongoing review of the impact of changes to the citizenship program, consideration will be given to this processing fee difference created by the amendment,” said Julie Lafortune, a spokesperson for the Immigration Department.

    Immigration lawyer and policy analyst Richard Kurland said the government should make public the cost to process a minor’s citizenship application before setting the fee.

    It is meaningless for Ottawa to relax the rule on one hand but impose a higher fee on the other, Kurland said. “What is that about?” he asked.

    Andrew Griffith, retired director general of the Immigration Department, said the hefty citizenship application fee for independent minors defeats the purpose of the citizenship amendment.

    “It was likely driven by somebody thinking bureaucratically without thinking about the policy’s intent to make it easier for minors to become citizens independently,” Griffith said.

    “That’s a lot of money, particularly for this vulnerable population. The government has removed the legal barrier to citizenship for them but has now set up a new financial barrier. Theoretically, more young people could become citizens. In practice, they will find it a lot harder.”

    Passport Canada currently charges those 16 or older $160 for a 10-year passport and $57 for children younger than that for in-Canada applications. Immigration lawyers expect the number of unaccompanied minors applying for citizenship to be fewer than a couple hundred a year.

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    Researchers say genetic testing should be standard practice when diagnosing cerebral palsy after a new study found that genetic variations could be a factor in hemiplegic cerebral palsy, the most common form of the motor disability.

    Standardizing a genetic workup for children with cerebral palsy, though, would depend on government funding.

    “There should be genetic testing that happens as soon as possible; that’s the take home message in this study,” said Stephen Scherer, director of the Centre for Applied Genomics at SickKids and one of the authors of the study, which was done by researchers at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children.

    For families, genetic testing could help explain why their child developed cerebral palsy. For researchers, it offers new directions for research aimed at preventing and treating the condition, which affects three out of every 1,000 children born in Canada each year.

    “The impact of this I think is going to be very, very significant,” Scherer said.

    Sitting in the kitchen of his east-end home, Julian Cappelli, 16, is wearing a red Toronto FC T-shirt. Soccer’s his favourite sport and TFC is his favourite team.

    Julian has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which affects all four of his limbs. His family received that diagnosis when he was one year old. Julian said if he had the chance to have genetic testing done, he’d take it. Even 15 years later, he wants to know why he has a motor condition that, for him, means he won’t get the chance to try for a professional soccer career.

    His mom, Donna, doesn’t spend much time anymore wondering why he has cerebral palsy. “We’re kind of just moving forward and dealing with what we have,” she said.

    But that doesn’t mean she’s not excited about the new research. She is.

    She remembers what it was like 15 and 16 years ago, wanting answers.

    “It was so overwhelming and you do want to know: Why did this happen? Was it something that you did?

    “It’s good to see that they’re still looking into the reasons why this is happening and trying to help prevent it and make these kids’ lives better,” she said.

    Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in children, said Dr. Darcy Fehlings, a senior clinician scientist at Holland Bloorview specializing in cerebral palsy research and another of the study’s authors.

    Although it is a permanent disability that affects children’s motor movements, it manifests itself differently in every child. In some cases, children may have difficulty using their hands or walking. In other cases, they may have trouble communicating or might need to use a wheelchair.

    Though cerebral palsy is often thought to be caused when a baby doesn’t get enough oxygen before, during or after birth, causing damage to their brain or other organs, by stroke or infection in a child’s brain, researchers found a significant genetic link in hemiplegic cerebral palsy, which affects only one side of the body.

    The study, published in the Genetics in Medicine journal and promoted by, outlines the results of DNA analysis on 97 children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy and their parents compared with more than 10,000 population control samples.

    The researchers found that structural variations to the DNA that affect the genes for brain development and function were factors in 20 per cent of hemiplegic cerebral palsy cases and probably the major cause in five per cent of cases.

    “We didn’t even look for this before,” Scherer said. “In retrospect, we should have.”

    Diagnosing cerebral palsy can be difficult, especially in children, who aren’t fully developed. In about 10 per cent of cases, children diagnosed with cerebral palsy may actually have a different disorder, he said. A genetic workup can help confirm the diagnosis and make sure the best treatment plan is developed.

    In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the ministry recognizes the importance of genetic testing in providing patient care.

    “Generally, with new or emerging tests, the test would undergo evidence-based evaluation that would guide decisions whether or not the test is used as part of routine standard of care, and making the best use of public healthcare resources.”

    Genetic testing is already used to help diagnose and develop treatment for cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. More recently, it is being used to help diagnose and develop treatment for autism spectrum disorder.

    “There’s way more data here than we had in our early autism studies,” Scherer said.

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    Authorities in Toronto have seized a dog that police say was seen in an online video being hit by its owner while on a subway train.

    The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took the dog after executing a search warrant on Monday, OSPCA spokeswoman Alison Cross said Tuesday, noting that charges are pending in the case.

    “This is a concerning video that we wanted to have an opportunity to investigate,” Cross said.

    The alleged incident caught on video took place on Friday afternoon.

    Police said they were called to St. George Station in downtown Toronto for a report of a dog being abused.

    Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said officers interviewed a woman and witnesses and ultimately issued her a warning, releasing her with the dog.

    “We couldn’t do anything because the dog appeared to be unhurt and we didn’t have access to any video of the incident at the time,” Douglas-Cook said.

    A video appearing to show the incident surfaced later that day, Douglas-Cook said.

    In the video, which has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube, a woman appears to hit, pull and bite a small dog sitting on her lap on a subway train.

    “You hear me? Stop it, stop it right now,” the woman yells at the dog, which is on a leash and is seen trying to move away several times.

    “You’ve got to stop hitting your dog,” a man is seen saying to the woman when the train is stopped and its emergency alarm is going off.

    “Stop what? Pardon?” the woman says to the man before hurling expletives.

    Roxy Huang, who said she shot the video and posted it online, said she watched the incident unfold as she sat on the subway train.

    “I was terrified and worried she might punch me in the face if she noticed I was recording her,” Huang said in an email. “I have heard too many stories about abused animals, I know it is important to have evidence, that is why I started to record her.”

    Huang said she left the train as its emergency alarm went off and didn’t immediately see any police, so she uploaded the video to YouTube.

    Police said they grew concerned for the dog after watching the video and notified the OSPCA, which opened an investigation.

    The OSPCA said the dog, a Chinese crested dog, has seen a veterinarian and is doing well.

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    A man stabbed in Vaughan. A passenger mirror smashed in with a baseball bat on Lake Shore Blvd. A truck ramming into another car in the Port Lands.

    Each incident fell in the last few weeks, joining a growing list of road rage incidents in the GTA.

    On Sunday night, a 29-year-old-man was stabbed in Vaughan, after a verbal altercation with another driver while both were stopped at a red light near Highway 27 and Ashbridge Cir. No arrest had been made as of Tuesday afternoon, and the victim has been released from hospital.

    On Friday, the occupants of two vehicles at a red light at Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Strachan Ave. also got into a verbal altercation. One of the drivers then left his white Acura with a baseball bat and slammed it into the other car’s passenger mirror. Police have video and are looking for a suspect.

    On July 17, an extended confrontation was caught on video in the Port Lands. A pickup truck can be seen turning and accelerating head-on into a car in the oncoming lane.

    Further outside the GTA, some headlines may prompt a chuckle — like the 58-year-old Kingston motorist accused of biting the nose of a pedestrian who yelled at him.

    Others, though, are deeply distressing. On Sunday night in Cleveland, a four-year-old boy was shot in the head, moments after his mother had honked her horn to pass another car.

    While ‘road-rage’ isn’t explicitly tracked by Toronto or Ontario Provincial Police — it’s often listed as a factor in other classifications like negligence, dangerous driving, mischief, traffic offences, collisions or other criminal offences — both forces have seen an uptick in aggressive driving recently.

    In Toronto, there were 191 serious or fatal collisions involving aggressive driving in 2015, according to the police force’s data portal. Last year, that number rose to 213.

    Fatalities related to speed, which the OPP classifies as a form of aggressive driving, are up nearly 45 per cent from last year, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said. Their 2017 death count is 42. On this day last year, there had only been 29.

    The road rage incidents are happening in plain sight.

    This week, Schmidt said he himself was driving down Highway 400 when, suddenly, a vehicle cut in front of another driver and intentionally slowed down to around 40 km/hr.

    “I’m watching this, in my police vehicle, like ‘what’s going on?,’ ” Schmidt said.

    Clicking into business, he pulled the driver over. The driver’s son was also buckled into the vehicle at the time.

    “He just goes ‘well, he cut me off on the exit ramp and I wanted to show him that that was not appropriate.’ Well, excuse me, what you’re doing is actually just aggravating the situation. It’s completely uncalled for,” he said.

    Schmidt cited a “arrive-just-in-time mentality” on the part of drivers, instead of preparing to get there a few minutes earlier than scheduled, as a contributing factor to the cases he’s seen on the job.

    “Anytime you’re being delayed by anything, you’re feeling violated,” he said. “Everyone thinks they’re anonymous out on the highway, they can do whatever they want, and that was certainly not the case.”

    For Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe, the issue of road rage can be far more personal, and therefore more difficult to untangle and pinpoint.

    An incident that took place several years ago has stuck with him. Two vehicles were coming in eastbound on the Gardiner Expressway when one, seemingly without realizing, cut the other off during a lane change.

    “The vehicle didn’t do it erratically, he didn’t do it quickly,” Stibbe said. “He turned on his signal, and clearly had not seen the vehicle that he cut off. I was right there; I watched the whole thing happen.”

    But the cut-off driver reciprocated and cut off the original driver. The first driver, unaware why the second driver was upset, cut them off again. In the end, two drivers with completely clean records — one in their mid-50s and the other in their late-30s — were convicted of stunt driving.

    Neither knew what came over them, Stibbe said. He urged anyone discussing solutions to road-rage to consider the bigger picture.

    “You and I are speaking right now. I know nothing about you, you know nothing about me. I could go home to a house that’s just a nightmare. Stress, money, personal life, whatever. Maybe you’re going home to that,” he said.

    “You have to look at it a little further outside just the vehicle event.”

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    SAINT JOHN, N.B.—Six Americans have been charged with bringing handguns across the New Brunswick border so far this summer, as a Canadian prosecutor says it’s proving difficult to let otherwise law-abiding people know they can’t bring firearms on vacation.

    “The offences continue to occur with alarming frequency during the summer months,” federal prosecutor Peter Thorn said from Hampton, N.B.

    Five men — three from Florida, two from New England — pleaded guilty and were fined between $1,500 and $2,000, he said.

    Thorn, who has prosecuted these cases for years, said most of the people caught are "respectful and law abiding citizens of the U.S.A." who are unaware handguns are either restricted or prohibited in Canada.

    He said many don’t realize they can legally declare firearms and leave them behind as they enter the country. Many of the tourists are 60 and older, and from the South.

    The Canadian government has issued travel advisories, and there is signage at the border, but some Americans keep bringing their guns and lying about it, he said.

    Thorn said each time he handles a case, he asks the judge for a sentence that will deter others from travelling armed, but word doesn’t seem to filter back to the U.S.

    “Unfortunately, whereas the offenders reside in the U.S.A., it is highly unlikely that the sentencing message will ever reach those who could take heed or notice of the message,” Thorn said in an email to The Canadian Press.

    Read more:

    Canadian government to American tourists: Leave your guns at home

    2 Texans who brought guns across Canadian border are fined, sent home

    The first case at St. Stephen, N.B., this summer came May 20. A 69-year-old New Hampshire man admitted he had a .357 Magnum in his glove compartment as border guards inspected his SUV. He was fined $1,500.

    Two days later, a 27-year-old Maine woman was charged with failing to declare a prohibited handgun at St. Stephen. She has pleaded not guilty and will face trial in Saint John, N.B., on March 23, 2018, Thorn said.

    On June 9, a 66-year-old Tavernier, Fla., man denied having a gun in his motor home — until border officers found a Smith & Wesson 9 mm in a locked safe. He was fined $1,500.

    On June 23, a Hampton, Fla., man arrived with two undeclared guns, including a prohibited .25 calibre Raven Arms handgun. He was fined $2,000.

    On July 11, there were two cases within hours.

    A 59-year-old New Hampshire man heading for Roosevelt Campobello International Park denied having guns while entering Campobello, N.B., from Lubec, Maine, and was targeted for a search.

    He told officers he wanted to return to the U.S. but it was too late. Officers found a .38 in a storage case in his motor home, as well as undeclared alcohol and two grams of suspected marijuana. He was fined $2,000.

    That same day, a handgun was seized from a 64-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., couple at St. Stephen. It was found, undeclared, in the woman’s suitcase, where her husband had hid it without telling her, Thorn said.

    “(The woman) stated that she specifically told her husband not to bring his handgun into Canada,” said Thorn.

    The man pleaded guilty, telling Judge Andrew LeMesurier of the New Brunswick provincial court they were coming to Canada to escape the heat.

    The judge joked the “heat” found him — and that he should know by now to listen to his wife. The Jacksonville man was fined $2,000.

    The Canadian Border Services Agency said such seizures are common.

    In 2015, the agency seized seven guns in St. Stephen, up from five the previous year, it said. Nationally, it seized 671 firearms in 2015, 313 of which were prohibited in Canada, mostly in Ontario and B.C.

    Last summer, Thorn said border agents seized a gun about once a week at St. Stephen.

    On one weekend in August last year, two Texas men separately tried to bring hidden guns across at St. Stephen. On one October weekend, two retirees in their mid-60s from southern states arrived hours apart, both carrying weapons and both denying it.

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