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    WASHINGTON—The first day of NAFTA talks, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said, was just about “setting the table.”

    Well, the host welcomed his guests by smashing some dishes.

    U.S. President Donald Trump’s top trade official opened the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations on Wednesday with aggressive criticism of the deal, declaring that it has “fundamentally failed many, many Americans” and promising to seek “major” change rather than marginal tweaks.

    U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s opening statement stood in sharp contrast to the friendly language of Freeland, who called NAFTA an “engine of job-creation and economic growth,” and Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, who said the agreement had fostered continental harmony.

    “We cannot ignore the huge trade deficits, the lost manufacturing jobs, the businesses that have closed or moved,” Lighthizer said at a hotel in Washington.

    Freeland shrugged off Lighthizer’s words, saying Canada was prepared for “moments of rhetoric” during the talks. And trade experts were divided on whether Lighthizer’s public aggressiveness suggested the actual negotiating would be contentious.

    Lighthizer’s audience for the statement was not Canadian or Mexican negotiators but Trump himself, said Bob Fisher, a U.S. negotiator in the original NAFTA talks and now managing director of Hills and Co.

    “There are public statements and there are private negotiations. And most negotiators will tell you, you don’t negotiate in public, you negotiate in private. The dynamics between the two can be very different,” Fisher said.

    Mickey Kantor, U.S. commerce secretary and trade representative under Bill Clinton, said Trump’s team “has a tendency to say things that are either not correct or political positioning.”

    “I’m not saying that’s what Bob Lighthizer was doing. All I’m saying is you can take all of this with a grain of salt and sit down at the table,” Kantor said in an interview.

    But Lawrence Herman, a trade lawyer in Canada, said the administration was signalling that Canada is in for some “very tough and I think unsettling discussions with our American friends.”

    “When you open with a rather aggressive and somewhat unyielding demand, it’s somewhat hard to then walk away from those without appearing to have made concessions. And I don’t think the Trump administration is amenable to making many concessions,” Herman said in an interview.

    Freeland, who met with her two counterparts jointly and one one one, emphasized that the talks had not proceeded into the detailed “weeds” on any issue. She declined to discuss Lighthizer’s manner behind closed doors.

    “Our discussions at the table are private, and it’s important to be able to have private discussions,” she said at a news conference at the Canadian Embassy.

    The launch of the high-stakes negotiations was a major moment for the economies of the three countries and personally for Trump, who campaigned on a promise to transform or terminate the 23-year-old deal.

    But it was overshadowed in the U.S. by the continuing fallout from Trump’s inflammatory response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. Freeland condemned the racists in remarks before a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then again at the embassy.

    Trump did not speak or tweet about the negotiations. And they were not treated by the U.S. media as even the top Trump-related economic news: Trump’s primary advisory council of big-business chief executives decided on Wednesday to disband.

    There was broad agreement from the three countries that NAFTA needs to be updated for the modern digital economy. Beyond that, there were substantial differences – not only on policy but on the actual state of the trade relationship.

    Lighthizer, channelling Trump, railed Wednesday about trade deficits, suggesting they would be a major focus for him. Freeland said Canada-U.S. trade is “almost perfectly” balanced — and, echoing the views of most economists, said deficits are not a good method for measuring whether a trade relationship is working.

    “Canada is and always has been a trading nation. Our approach stems from one essential insight: we pursue trade, free and fair, knowing it is not a zero-sum game,” she said.

    There was one early substantive disagreement, on the subject of auto manufacturing.

    As Canada and Mexico expected, Lighthizer raised the issue of “rules of origin.” Trump’s administration would like to raise the percentage of cars and auto parts that must to be manufactured in North America for the product to be exempted from tariffs.

    But Lighthizer went beyond North America content requirements in his opening statement, floating the idea of introducing a U.S.-specific minimum. Freeland and Villarreal later said they opposed a national-origin rule.

    “Obviously, it will not be the best practice to introduce that type of rigidity,” Villarreal said.

    Jerry Dias, president of the Unifor union, which represents Canadian auto workers, said Lighthizer was probably just “loading up” his Day One list of demands, a common bargaining tactic. Dias said he was confident the U.S. would not punish Canada’s auto industry.

    “Ultimately, they will say unequivocally: When it comes to auto, the problem’s not Canada; the problem’s Mexico,” he said.

    Other remarks from the three officials hinted at further challenges to come. Lighthizer said the U.S. wants a system for resolving NAFTA disputes that respects its “sovereignty.” Canada, conversely, wants to preserve the independent “Chapter 19” tribunal system that exists outside of U.S. courts.

    The three countries are ambitiously attempting to conclude negotiations by the beginning of 2018, mindful of the mid-2018 Mexican elections. The first round of negotiations will run until Sunday; the second and third rounds will be held in Mexico and Canada.

    This round will run from Wednesday to Sunday.

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    Stephen Bannon, the White House chief strategist, seemed to take issue with U.S. President Donald Trump on North Korea, attacked white supremacists as “clowns” and “losers” and described his efforts against administration rivals in an unusual interview Wednesday with The American Prospect, a progressive magazine.

    The interview with magazine co-editor and columnist Robert Kuttner was initiated by Bannon, Kuttner said, in an Anthony Scaramucci-style phone call out of the blue in response to a column Kuttner had written on China.

    “Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize rivals at the departments of Defense, State and Treasury,” wrote Kuttner.

    “ ‘They’re wetting themselves,’ he said, proceeding to detail how he would oust some of his opponents at State and Defense.”

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    On North Korea, Bannon said: “ ‘Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.’ ”

    That comment seemed at odds with Trump’s “fire and fury” threats to use military force against North Korea.

    On China, Bannon told Kuttner that the United States was at “economic war” and warned that “one of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path,” according to the article.

    “On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow,” he said.

    Bannon was also asked by Kuttner to comment on the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend and President Trump’s reluctance to condemn the participants.

    “Ethnonationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element,” Bannon told the magazine. “I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, eh, help crush it more.”

    “These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

    The remarks were startling coming from Bannon, who spent more than four years running the far-right website Breitbart News before he was tapped to join Trump’s campaign.

    Bannon, the site’s former executive chair, has called the Breitbart “a platform of the alt-right,” referring to the small, deeply conservative movement that seeks a whites-only state. It was his strategy to use the site to channel white supremacist support for Trump and provide a mouthpiece for his populist message during the 2016 election, a move that helped secure him a senior role in the administration.

    In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, which left a counterprotester dead and others injured, civil rights leaders have called on Trump to fire Bannon over his ties to the white nationalist community, as The Washington Post has reported.

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    Asked by reporters Tuesday if he still had confidence in his chief strategist, Trump deflected.

    “He’s not a racist, I can tell you that,” Trump said. “But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”

    Kuttner wrote in Wednesday’s article that he was surprised when he got an email from one of Bannon’s assistants saying he wanted to arrange a meeting. The two ended up speaking by phone on Tuesday afternoon, according to the article.

    When the conversation turned to race and the events in Charlottesville, Bannon dodged questions about his role in cultivating the alt-right, according to the article. He also faulted Democrats for focusing on identity politics.

    “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ‘em,” he said. “I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

    Kuttner said he was puzzled by the fact that Bannon would call an editor at a progressive magazine and “assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism.”

    “The question of whether the phone call was on or off the record never came up,” he said. “This is also puzzling, since Stephen K. Bannon is not exactly Bambi when it comes to dealing with the press. He’s probably the most media-savvy person in America.”

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    Kathy Milsom, a professional engineer who has served in a variety of executive roles in the private and public sector, is the new president and chief executive officer of beleaguered Toronto Community Housing.

    “I appreciate the confidence the board of directors is placing in me to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who call Toronto Community Housing their home,” Milsom said in a statement released Thursday by the social housing agency.

    “I look forward to engaging tenants and key stakeholders, and working with the skilled and committed team at TCHC to transform Toronto Community Housing into a service-oriented and responsive landlord for its tenants, and an organization the entire city can be proud of.”

    Hired after an extensive global search, Milsom will step into her new role on Sept. 5 replacing interim president and CEO Kevin Marshman, TCHC Chair Bud Purves said in the statement. Purves himself is leaving the board after its Sept. 28 meeting.

    Marshman took over from Greg Spearn, who left the agency in April after repeatedly describing the state of social housing as a n ongoing crisis.

    “The board has found the best candidate in Kathy Milsom,” Purves said.

    “The time is right to make way for new leadership who can sustain the momentum for the transformational changes that will make Toronto Community Housing a better landlord that delivers better outcomes for tenants.”

    TCHC is Canada’s largest social housing landlord, managing 58,500 units across 2,200 buildings for nearly 110,000 Toronto residents.

    The corporation has been plagued with difficulties and scandals.

    Last year, a major report called “Tenants First” concluded the corporation was in turmoil, saddled with a “fundamentally broken” business model and organizational structure that failed to meet the various needs of tenants.

    City council is trying to do something about that, approving a plan to implement a housing task force’s recommendations aimed at making TCHC more manageable and focused on tenants.

    TCHC’s biggest challenge is a lack of money. The agency faces a $2.6-billion repair backlog and half of its developments will be in a critical state of disrepair in the next five years. As many as 1,000 units are at risk of closure by the end of next year.

    Mayor John Tory has spent much of 2017 trying to secure repair funding commitments from the province and federal government.

    His demands have so far been ignored.

    In a statement Thursday, Tory said Milsom is a “great fit” to lead TCHC during “this period of organizational change and renewed focus on tenants.”

    Milsom’s previous roles include president and CEO of both the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and Canada Lands Co. Ltd. A 2005 newspaper story said Milsom’s government experience included time as the City of Toronto’s director of facility planning, acting commissioner of city property and project manager for the province’s government services ministry.

    She will continue to sit on the board of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and Standards Council of Canada, of which she was a former chair.

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    GORAKHPUR, INDIA—It was around 6 a.m. last Friday, said Mohamed Jahid — the father of a very sick little girl being treated at a government hospital — when the oxygen stopped. The situation was desperate, but the parents of children in the intensive care unit did not panic, because they had no idea what was going on.

    Most were villagers like Mr. Jahid, who said they all thought it was normal procedure when the nurses unhooked the ventilators that had been helping keep their children alive, handed out small plastic hand-operated resuscitators and quickly showed the parents how to use them.

    With his daughter gasping for air, Mr. Jahid got right to work.

    “I pumped and pumped,” he said. He looked around the ward. All the parents were pumping and pumping. Unbeknown to them, the hospital’s supplies of oxygen had been steadily dwindling, after the supplier cut off shipments of liquid oxygen for lack of payment. On Friday, despite repeated warnings from the supplier and hospital technicians, the oxygen ran out.

    By the time the flow was stabilized, more than 60 children had died. Many were sick with Japanese encephalitis and other tropical diseases and may have died from other causes, but doctors admitted that the oxygen interruption is likely to have claimed at least several lives.

    The children’s deaths have become a national outrage, headlining front pages of all the major newspapers and marring celebrations this week of India’s 70th anniversary of independence.

    The government hospital, part of the larger Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, was considered the area’s best, a beacon to millions of people. It is now a symbol of India’s swamped, mismanaged and often corrupt public health care system. As this episode underscored, the system is so enormous and has so many people moving through it that mistakes are often not corrected until many lives are lost.

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    The medical college is a monument to that sense of scale. It is a hulking, sprawling network of buildings with nearly 1,000 beds and 3-metre-wide corridors a city block long. With such a deluge of patients, some coming from hundreds of miles away, doctors sometimes work 36-hour double shifts with just a six-hour break, and children are crammed two or three to a bed. Families are camped out everywhere, their bedrolls, blankets, water jugs and round steel food tins clogging the hallways.

    The case has cast a glare on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in no small part because Gorakhpur is the home turf of one of Mr. Modi’s most contentious allies, Yogi Adityanath. A divisive politician and Hindu ascetic, Adityanath recently became chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which, at 200 million, has more people than all but a handful of the world’s nations.

    The state government’s initial response to the oxygen fiasco was to imply that it was perfectly normal for 10 children to die every day at the Gorakhpur hospital, especially at this time of year, the rainy season, when swarms of mosquitoes spread deadly Japanese encephalitis, a virus that causes brain swelling and seizures.

    That explanation was widely criticized as the height of insensitivity. “Who have we become?” asked Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a leading commentator, in a recent column. “In our republic, poor children are fated to die.”

    The government response continues to be confused. Adityanath’s administration is adamant that the oxygen problem was not responsible for any deaths, even though no autopsies were performed. At the same time, it has suspended the head of the medical college and called for a full investigation.

    Lying just south of the India-Nepal border, Gorakhpur is very lush, especially now, during the monsoon. Some parts of it are beautiful, with dripping banyan trees, brightly painted houses and new shops. There’s even a Domino’s pizza place. But in other areas, stagnant water covers the roads and garbage is stuffed into every nook and cranny — between houses, along riverbanks, heaped up in vacant lots. Entire neighbourhoods seem to be sinking under piles of their own waste.

    The town is surrounded by wet green rice fields that during the rainy season are infested with mosquitoes.

    Brahamdev Yadav, a rice farmer, had never heard of Japanese encephalitis. But by putting his hand to the foreheads of his newborn twins, he could tell they were sick.

    He checked them into the hospital on Aug. 3, around the same time that the hospital’s oxygen supplier was issuing increasingly urgent pleas for payment. In a string of letters to the medical college, the Indian news media reported, the supplier insisted it had its own bills to cover and could not keep delivering liquid oxygen for the hospital’s central oxygen system unless a $100,000 bill was settled.

    In India, public officials often squeeze their vendors for “commissions.” It is widely acknowledged that even after public contracts are awarded, vendors have to grovel for payment, and that the best way to lubricate the bureaucracy is to give the officials in charge a 2 to 5 per cent cut. When asked whom they blamed for the tragedy, several parents of children who died in the oxygen shortage said simply, “corruption.”

    The head of the medical college, R.K. Mishra, who has resigned, was already under suspicion for misusing public money, Indian news outlets reported. In this same part of India, millions of dollars have vanished in other public health corruption scandals.

    The medical college clearly needs all the funds it can get. While a new Japanese encephalitis wing is state of the art, with its plate glass windows and beeping machines, other parts of the hospital are in chaotic disrepair. Giant holes have been punched in the walls, the wide corridors reek of urine, many lights have burned out and water drips from the ceiling, pooling on the floor.

    The hospital is “overburdened 10 times,” said Dr. K. P. Kushwaha, the former head of the medical college.

    Doctors said that many Indian hospitals are like this, often with deadly consequences. In 2011, 16 new mothers died at one crowded hospital in Jodhpur before it was discovered that many intravenous fluid bags were contaminated with bacteria. That same year, 22 babies died at another hospital over a four-day period, though the cause remains unclear.

    On Thursday night, Mr. Jahid arrived at the medical college with his 5-year-old daughter burning with fever and struggling to breathe. This was just hours after the Gorakhpur Newsline, a website featuring local news, published an article warning that the hospital’s oxygen supply was about to run out.

    Mr. Jahid, a jewelry salesman, had not seen that report. Like most others with children at the hospital, he had passed through several smaller facilities before getting there.

    “They told me, ‘Take her to the medical college, where there are good doctors and machines, and she’ll be O.K.,’” he recalled. He said the oxygen cut out five times on Friday.

    Around this time, Mr. Yadav’s newborn twins died. Both of them had been on ventilators. They were 10 days old, and did not even have names. “I thought about killing myself,” Mr. Yadav said.

    As news of the children’s deaths spread, the hospital scrambled to make a partial payment. Liquid oxygen was delivered on Saturday morning and hospital officials insist there was only a two-hour gap between 11:30 p.m. Thursday and 1:30 a.m. Friday without a central oxygen supply.

    They say they brought in cylinders of compressed oxygen during the shortage and kept the oxygen flowing to crucial areas, like the intensive care unit. But several parents disputed that, saying the oxygen flow had not been restored until Friday evening, when journalists with video cameras showed up.

    Several pediatricians interviewed at the hospital said it would be difficult to pinpoint a cause for each of the more than 60 child deaths last week, but that the oxygen cutoff by itself claimed at least two or three lives.

    Mr. Jahid is haunted by thoughts about what he could have done differently. Sitting at home, holding a picture of his daughter, Khushi, he said he had squeezed the manual resuscitator as best he could.

    “She was so affectionate,” said her grandfather, Ilahi. “She would bring me tea, she would bring me food, she would bring me water.”

    He gazed into the alleyway in front of the family home, seeming to see her out there again, walking toward him, and said softly, “She was like my hand.”

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    SAN FRANCISCO—When white supremacists plan rallies like the one a few days ago in Charlottesville, Va., they often organize their events on Facebook, pay for supplies with PayPal, book their lodging with Airbnb and ride with Uber. Technology companies, for their part, have been taking pains to distance themselves from these customers.

    But sometimes it takes more than automated systems or complaints from other users to identify and block those who promote hate speech or violence, so companies are finding novel ways to spot and shut down content they deem inappropriate or dangerous. People don’t tend to share their views on their Airbnb accounts, for example. But after matching user names to posts on social-media profiles, the company canceled dozens of reservations made by self-identified Nazis who were using its app to find rooms in Charlottesville, where they were heading to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.

    At Facebook, which relies on community feedback to flag hateful content for removal, the social network’s private groups meant for like-minded people can be havens for extremists, falling through gaps in the content-moderation system. The company is working quickly to improve its machine-learning capabilities to be able to automatically identify posts that should be reviewed by human moderators.

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    These more aggressive actions mark a shift in how companies view their responsibilities. Virtually all these services have long maintained rules on how users should behave, but in the past they’d mostly enforce these policies in response to bad behaviour. After the violence in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of a counter-protester, their approach has become more proactive, in anticipation of future events. While social-media companies have been grappling for years with how to rid their sites of hateful speech and images, the events of the last several days served as a stark reminder of just how real, present and local the threat posed by white supremacists can be.

    Uber told drivers they don’t have to pick up racists; PayPal said it has the ability to cancel relationships with sites that promote racial intolerance. Even Discover Financial Services, the credit card company, said this week that it was ending its agreements with hate groups. U.S. civil rights advocacy organization Color of Change said Wednesday that Apple Inc. had also moved to block hate sites from using Apple Pay. Facebook shut down eight group pages that it said violated hate-speech policies, including Right Wing Death Squad and White Nationalists United.

    “It’s one thing to say, we do not allow hate groups — it’s another thing to actually go and hunt down the groups, make those decisions, and kick those people off,” said Gerald Kane, a professor of information systems at the Boston College Carroll School of Management. “It’s something most of these companies have avoided intentionally and fervently over the past 10 years.”

    Companies historically have steered clear of trying to determine what is good and what is evil, Kane said. But given the increasingly heated public debate in the U.S., they may feel they need to act, he said.

    There’s some precedent. Globally, tech firms have been criticized by governments for their role in the spread of Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) ideology, particularly on Facebook and Twitter Inc. Both of the social-media companies have stepped up their efforts to remove extremist content, deleting hundreds of thousands of accounts, as well as group pages on Facebook.

    “People have wondered, why are they so focused on Islamic extremism, and not white nationalism or white supremacy in their own backyard?” said Emma Llanso, director of the Center for Democracy & Technology’s Free Expression Project. “Now extremists in the United States are getting swept up in the same policies.”

    Tech companies have no legal obligation in the U.S. to respond to calls to censor racist content online. Under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, intermediaries are immunized from most litigation that claims material on their pages is unlawful.

    That doesn’t mean these companies aren’t feeling the pressure from advertisers and users who fear that pages belonging to self-proclaimed alt-right publications such as the Daily Stormer could incite violence, said Daphne Keller, director of Intermediary Liability at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. The Daily Stormer’s web domain support was revoked this week by GoDaddy and then Google, and Twitter suspended several associated accounts. Technology companies are likely to be evaluating their options in consultation with organizations including the Anti-Defamation League before shaping their policy, Keller said.

    “What’s pushing them is probably a mix of people being revolted by the content, plus the public and advertising pressure,” said Keller, who is also former associate general counsel at Google. “Everything they’re doing is because they want to, or because of public pressure. But not because of the law.”

    In March, Google conceded to giving marketers more control over their online ads after a flurry of brands halted spending in the U.K. amid concerns about offensive content. The company also agreed to expand its definition of hate speech under its advertising policy to include vulnerable racial and socioeconomic groups. The policies marked a sharp turn for Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which had hewed to its position as a neutral content host.

    Google along with Twitter and Facebook continue to face increased pressure to amend their user terms to bring them into compliance with European Union law pertaining to illegal content on their websites.

    Facebook hired thousands more human moderators this year to try to help it tackle violent content, hate speech and extremism on its platform. Meanwhile, chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has in the past touted Facebook’s product for groups as a key to improving empathy around the world. But when groups are used to silence others or threaten violence, Facebook will remove them, he said Wednesday.

    “With the potential for more rallies, we’re watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “We won’t always be perfect, but you have my commitment that we’ll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe.”

    Because all the decisions are subjective, it’s going to be important for technology companies to make it clear what standards they’re applying when they’re reacting to public outrage, Llanso said.

    “When does extra scrutiny kick in, if there are other standards, or if it’s a special case?” she said. “They have a lot of leeway, but they still have a responsibility to their user base to explain, what are the terms, when is the company going to weigh in with a values-based judgment?”

    Cloudflare Inc., a web-security company that has protected the networks of several neo-Nazi sites, including the Daily Stormer, faced criticism in May from ProPublica for doing so, and has been one of the “worst offenders when it comes to protecting white-supremacist propaganda,” said Heidi Beirich, who monitors hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The company has defended itself by saying service providers shouldn’t be censoring content on the internet. But on Wednesday, Cloudflare decided to end its business with the Daily Stormer, saying it could no longer remain neutral because the neo-Nazi website was claiming the company secretly supported its ideology.

    “Maybe even they are waking up to this problem,” Beirich said. “Maybe this is a moment of reckoning and change — and it sure seems serious right now.”

    Still, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince warned that even as he chose to sever ties with the Daily Stormer, the move could set a dangerous precedent.

    “After today, make no mistake, it will be a little bit harder for us to argue against a government somewhere pressuring us into taking down a site they don’t like,” Prince wrote.

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    OTTAWA—Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Thursday he’ll do no further interviews with conservative news outlet the Rebel until it changes its editorial direction, following its coverage of last weekend’s protests in Charlottesville, Va.

    Scheer’s declaration he’ll stay away was followed hours later by Brian Jean and Jason Kenney, both running for leadership of the new United Conservative Party in Alberta, distancing themselves as well.

    While all three had condemned the violence in Virginia last weekend, they’d also previously stopped short of addressing the Rebel’s coverage, seen by some as sympathetic to the white nationalists who initially organized the event that later collapsed into clashes that killed one counter-protester and injured nearly 20 others.

    “I am disgusted by the vile comments made by hate groups this past weekend,” Scheer said in a statement Thursday.

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    “I believe there is fine line between reporting the facts and giving those groups a platform. I have a positive vision for Canada and I want to share that vision with Canadians and talk about issues that unite us all. Until the editorial directions of the Rebel Media changes, I will not grant interviews to the outlet.”

    Scheer is among many Conservative members of Parliament who’ve appeared on the outlet’s various online shows since it started up in 2015 following the demise of the conservative Sun News Network.

    It has long courted all manner of controversy, from a boycott of Tim Hortons when it pulled ads about the oil sands from its stores, to rallies that featured chants of “lock her up” about Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley to a piece by contributor Gavin McInnes originally titled “10 things I hate about Jews.”

    Former MP and cabinet minister Kenney noted on social media he hadn’t done an interview with the outlet in over a year and had “publicly condemned their alt-right editorial direction of recent months.”

    The alt-right is a term adopted by some white supremacists and nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, and the movement was the driving force behind the events in Virginia; they’d organized a rally originally billed as seeking to unite the right.

    But the violence that ensued and the hate-laced speech at and around the event has seen the mainstream right under pressure to differentiate their politics from those of that movement — including pressure to break with the Rebel because of its coverage.

    While it isn’t the role of the elected officials to dictate who is and isn’t media, the Rebel’s work is raising concerns, Jean suggested in his statement.

    “Recent events have me concerned with the commentary and editorial direction coming from Rebel Media,” he said.

    “I have not appeared on the Rebel in seven months and unless their direction changes in a significant way, I will not in the future.”

    Scheer’s statement Thursday came after days of requests for comment from his office. Jean and Kenney had been facing calls to do the same after another competitor in their leadership race, Doug Schweitzer, pledged to stay away from the Rebel earlier this week.

    Their delay in addressing the issue speaks to the delicate dance many conservatives do with the Rebel; with over 870,000 subscribers it has a wide reach among conservatives and is thought to wield considerable influence.

    Levant did not return a request for comment on Scheer’s decision. But the Rebel did seek earlier this week to clarify its editorial stance.

    Levant issued a staff memo saying what he once understood to be the alt-right had changed, morphing from “unashamed right-wingedness with a sense of humour,” to a term now associated with “racism, anti-Semitism and tolerance of neo-Nazism.”

    In his memo, Levant said the Rebel will still cover the alt-right, but with the same approach it takes to other groups on the left side of the spectrum.

    The Rebel’s coverage of the protests has prompted one of the site’s co-founders and two contributors to quit.

    A cruise planned for November that would feature Rebel contributors was also cancelled by Norwegian Cruise Line after apparent pressure from a U.K.-based advocacy group. Advertisers have also continued to pull their ads from the website as part of another ongoing advocacy campaign.

    But a near-daily increase in the number of subscribers to the Rebel’s YouTube channel seems to have continued since the controversy began — a sign that Levant has offered as evidence the outlet is not in trouble.

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    Two months after serial killer and former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison, lawsuits filed by the families of two of her victims seek to lay some blame at the feet of her employers.

    Filed in London, Ont., the suits allege that nursing homes Caressant Care Woodstock and Meadow Park were negligent in failing to stop Wettlaufer from murdering her nursing charges.

    “Obviously, the person who did it all was Ms. Wettlaufer. I don’t think that should be overstated,” said the lawyer for the families, William Brennan of Cohen Highley LLP.

    “But even though there was a guilty plea, there’s a lot of unknowns and unanswered questions about what happened, why this was allowed to go on for so many years and why no one picked up in what was going on.”

    Between 2007 and 2016, Wettlaufer killed eight patients and attempted to harm six others while employed as a nurse in the London area. She was arrested in October 2016 after she confessed to the crimes unprompted. She pled guilty to the crimes in June.

    The statements of claim include allegations not proven in court.

    No statements of defence have been filed.

    The Horvath and Silcox lawsuits were filed Aug. 1 and July 25, respectively.

    Much of the discussion so far has centered around Wettlaufer herself, now serving life in prison, and the system that, in effect, allowed her to continue killing.

    But now, Andrea Silcox, daughter of Wettlaufer’s first victim, Second World War veteran James Silcox, and Arpad Horvath Jr., whose father was the former nurse’s final murder victim, are suing for $250,000 each in separate lawsuits.

    The defendants in the Silcox case are Caressant Care, the nursing home where James lived, and Wettlaufer.

    The Horvath case is against Wettlaufer, Caressant, Meadow Park London Long Term Care and Jarlette Health Services, which operates Meadow Park.

    “Wettlaufer was able to operate undetected due to negligent oversight and management at Caressant Care and by fraudulently concealing her crimes,” reads Silcox’s statement of claim.

    “She utilized her position at Caressant Care to influence how the deaths of various residents were perceived and investigated by the coroner.”

    Horvath’s filings make a similar claim about Meadow Park and Jarlette, alleging Caressant should have stopped Wettlaufer before she killed Horvath.

    Both suits state that the families have suffered enormous trauma, which they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

    Filed in London, Ont., Silcox’s suit states that, as she works at a nursing home, her to return to work will be especially traumatizing for her.

    Brennan said he expects the cases to reveal who knew what about Wettlaufer’s crimes, and when.

    “I don’t think anyone knew that murders were occurring,” he said. “But how information was reported to the (College of Nurses of Ontario), what was said, even if they were keeping track or not keeping track of what was going on . . . , it could indicate that there are other serious issues.”

    The province ordered Caressant Care Woodstock to stop admitting new patients in January. The nurse killed seven of her eight murder victims at the facility before she was fired for a medication error in 2014.

    The home reported the firing to the College of Nurses of Ontario, which regulates the profession.

    The college has said it didn’t investigate Wettlaufer at the time because Caressant said it had no underlying concerns about her, an account the facility has disputed.

    The province has also launched an inquiry into the case. Its report is due in 2019.

    “There’s always a possibility, as we go forward, that we discover that the college didn’t do their job or Caressant Care didn’t do their job properly, which could change the nature of the lawsuit,” Brennan said.

    He said his clients aren’t likely to settle out of court. The “search for answers and truth and closure” is the main reason they wanted a civil case, he said.

    Caressant declined to comment, saying it hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit.

    Jarlette said its staff are reviewing the statement of claim and declined to say anything else about the case.

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    MANILA, PHILIPPINES—Philippine police killed at least 26 more drug and crime suspects in overnight gun battles in the capital, bringing to 58 the death toll in a renewed bloody crackdown in the last three days that received praises from the president.

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his satisfaction with the new spike in drug killings and reassured law enforcers Thursday they will not rot in jail if they get entangled in lawsuits.

    “If the police and the military get into trouble in connection with the performance of duty, you can expect, I really won’t agree for you to be jailed,” Duterte said to applause from police officers.

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    While he acknowledged it may be tough for him to bring the drug menace under control during the rest of his six-year term, Duterte said the deadly crackdown would continue without let up. He announced rewards of two million pesos ($49,000) for each drug-linked police officer who would be killed.

    “You policemen who are into drugs ... the bounty I’m offering for your head is two million. No questions asked. I will not ask who killed you,” Duterte told police officers in southern Ozamiz city. “I want you ... dead.”

    Twenty-six drug and crime suspects were killed and more than 100 others arrested across the congested city in overnight police assaults, said Manila police Chief Superintendent Joel Napoleon Coronel. Officials played down suspicions the slain suspects were victims of extrajudicial killings.

    The deaths followed the killings of 32 suspects in separate police anti-drug raids Tuesday in Bulacan province north of Manila. The police operations took place under Duterte’s notoriously bloody campaign that has horrified rights groups and sparked a complaint of mass murder against Duterte before the International Criminal Court. The complaint is pending.

    Police records show that since the nationwide crackdown started, more than 3,200 alleged drug offenders have been killed in gun battles with law enforcers. More than 2,000 others died in drug-related killings, including attacks by motorcycle-riding masked gunmen and other assaults.

    Human rights groups report a higher toll and demand an independent investigation into Duterte’s possible role in the violence.

    On Thursday, Duterte travelled under heavy security to congratulate officers in Ozamiz, where police fatally shot 15 people, including the city mayor, Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., who was among the politicians Duterte publicly linked to illegal drugs last year.

    Parojinog’s wife and followers were killed in the July 30 fight that police said erupted when the mayor’s men opened fire as they approached to search their houses. The mayor’s daughter, who is the vice mayor, and several others were arrested. The Parojinogs have long denied allegations of their involvement in illegal drugs and firearms trade and keeping armed followers.

    The involvement of politicians, even judges and police, in illegal drugs underscores how the problem has spiralled out of control, Duterte said. “Are we or are we not a narcotic country? Yes we are,” he said.

    Duterte also expressed disgust over an unfolding scandal when a huge amount of illegal drugs shipped from China slipped past the country’s ports. Senators are investigating officials of the Bureau of Customs, who Duterte has described as “corrupt to the core.”

    “So how can I finish it?” Duterte asked, referring to the drug problem and adding that even the U.S. couldn’t eradicate illegal drugs. “If America can’t do it, much more the Philippines now.”

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    The province’s worker compensation board has rescinded a decades-old policy that prevented Ontario miners from claiming for neurological diseases they believe were caused by years of exposure to toxic aluminum dust.

    The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will also commission an independent study to assess the development of neurological conditions resulting from exposure to the aluminum-based McIntyre powder, which was used extensively in the province’s northern mines between 1943 and 1980.

    As previously reported by the Star, miners were routinely forced to inhale the powder, which was sold as a miracle antidote to lung disease. Historical documents suggest it was created by industry-sponsored Canadian scientists bent on slashing compensation costs in gold and uranium mines across the north.

    “When a loved one becomes sick or gets hurt, it’s natural to ask why. We ask that question too, and we won’t leave any stone unturned until we are satisfied we have an answer based on evidence,” said Scott Bujeya, vice-president (health services) for the WSIB, which made the announcement Thursday.

    About 10,000 workers were forced to inhale dust, which was blasted into a sealed room before miners were sent underground. Some have since claimed they were treated as “guinea pigs” in a human experiment aimed at cutting company costs. Until now, potential victims were unable to make successful claims at the WSIB because of a policy formed in 1993 that said insufficient evidence existed linking aluminum exposure to neurological disease.

    “I’m glad some things are happening and moving forward,” said Janice Martell, who began advocating for workers two years ago after her own father, a former miner exposed to the dust, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He died from the disease in May.

    “The time that it’s taken for this is frustrating because so many of the workers are dying. My dad is the most recent one that I’m aware of.”

    In 2016, the WSIB commissioned an independent health consultancy to research existing science on aluminum powder. The review, published Thursday, did not find a link between aluminum exposure and the development of “adverse health conditions in general,” the board said.

    But as a result of the research compiled by Martell, the board has now engaged experts from the Toronto-based Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) to conduct a new study to investigate any connection between exposure to McIntyre powder and neurological disease.

    Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn said he was encouraged by the WSIB’s announcement.

    “Exposure to hazardous substances is a major cause of occupational illness. That’s why it is important to me, and everyone at the Ministry of Labour, that occupational diseases be treated with the same seriousness as traumatic injuries,” he said.

    Of the 397 former miners who contacted Martell, around one-third suffered from a neurological disorder — and she says 14 have developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative and incurable condition, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, that slowly kills the ability to swallow, speak and breathe.

    In Ontario, the prevalence of motor neuron disease, which includes ALS, is estimated at less than one in a thousand people.

    Research conducted in the United Kingdom found “strong evidence” linking aluminum to Alzheimer’s when absorbed into the blood stream.

    There are 53 pending WSIB claims for illnesses attributed to McIntyre Powder exposure. Because the 1993 policy is now revoked, the board says it will reach out to claimants to discuss next steps, including an option to have interim decisions made based on existing scientific evidence.

    That evidence is still evolving. The OCRC study will not be complete until 2019, and McMaster University has also launched a project to test aluminum levels in surviving miners’ bodies using a non-invasive technique called neutron activation analysis.

    Martell says more money is needed to help workers navigate the health care and compensation systems, including compiling evidence to help workers make claims. That effort is being spearheaded by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, which is still waiting for its funding proposal to be approved by the Ministry of Labour.

    “I’m certainly hoping that funding comes through very soon,” Martell said.

    “I think occupational disease is such an invisible disease. People die at home, they die in nursing homes and hostels. They may not even realize that what they were exposed to is what’s killing them,” she added.

    “I wanted to put a name and face to it. It’s brutal and ugly and people need to see that.”

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    CHARLOTTETOWN—Nine men affiliated with a Toronto-area Hells Angels chapter have been arrested by a new police task force targeting P.E.I.’s growing outlaw motorcycle gang presence.

    Police say the nine — reportedly aged 19 to 63 — are “hangarounds” with the Hells Angels in Woodbridge, Ont.

    They face charges relating to involvement in a criminal organization as well as lottery and gaming counts.

    Read more:

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    They were arrested early Thursday by the P.E.I. Organized Crime Task Force — a joint group including municipal forces and the RCMP.

    Members affiliated with the Hells Angels chapter set up shop on Prince Edward Island last December.

    The Angels were without a beachhead in the Maritimes since police disbanded the former Halifax chapter in 2001.

    But the gang has begun to reassert itself, strengthening its presence mainly through affiliate or so called “puppet clubs” in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.

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    OTTAWA—The tide of migrants crossing into Quebec in search of asylum has grown into a rolling wave, as the federal and provincial governments face pressure to deal with thousands of newcomers who have arrived in just the past six weeks.

    Newly released figures show the number of people crossing into the province has skyrocketed this summer. The RCMP intercepted nearly 3,000 people as they walked across the border in Quebec last month. A further 3,800 have come in the first half of August, the RCMP said.

    That’s a big jump from June, when there were 781 RCMP interceptions in the province. It’s also more than 10 times the 245 people intercepted by police there in January.

    Speaking to reporters Thursday in St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the government will open a new shelter for migrants in Cornwall, a city of 46,000 in eastern Ontario near the Quebec border. Hundreds of asylum seekers crossing from the U.S. have already been housed in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, as well as in emergency tents set up at the border by the Canadian military.

    Garneau also said there would be 20 new staffers in Montreal to help process asylum applications and that there will be a ministerial task force, which includes Quebec’s immigration minister, Kathleen Weill, her federal counterpart, Ahmed Hussen, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, to help manage the situation.

    “There’s no crisis, but it’s a situation that is extraordinary but is very well-managed,” Garneau said in French.

    “We actually responded very quickly under the circumstances… One cannot anticipate this kind of event, but one must respond.”

    The moves come as opposition critics continue to slam the government for being ill-prepared to deal with the rising number of people walking into Canada from the U.S. this year — many of them travelling through the country from all over the world, claiming to be fleeing the immigration policies of the Trump administration.

    Conservative MP Michelle Rempel accused the government of “attempting to put a band-aid on a giant hole in a dam that has already burst.” She told the Star that new housing for asylum seekers will only encourage more to come and blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for creating a perception that Canada will be more welcoming to refugees.

    She also said resources being taken up by the wave of people crossing from the U.S. — a country she pointed out is considered safe by the federal government — should be directed at more urgent asylum claimants.

    “I don’t understand why the government is making an effort to set up shanty towns and refugee camps when we’re about to go into the winter, instead of saying: ‘This is illegal — we’re going to use all of the resources and processes, that have been long in place, to ensure that only those with legitimate claims are entering Canada,” Rempel said.

    Jenny Kwan, an MP from B.C. and immigration critic for the NDP, said the government has failed to prepare for a situation it should have seen coming. For months, her party has called on the Liberals to abandon the Safe Third Country Agreement, which has a loophole that allows people coming from the U.S. to apply for asylum only if they avoid an official port of entry.

    She called on the government to give the Immigration and Refugee Board more resources so it can process the glut of applicants efficiently. She also wants temporary work permits to be given out more quickly so migrants don’t have to rely on government support while they wait to hear if they’re accepted as refugees.

    The government is “making people go through these irregular crossings, putting themselves at risk and putting the border communities in extremely stressful situations,” Kwan said.

    “Nobody does this for fun. They’re doing this because they feel that they’re at risk. So we need to face that reality.”

    She added, “The Liberals are more interested in looking like they’re progressive on refugees, than actually doing the hard work.”

    The government announced Tuesday that the 13 Canadian consulates in the U.S. would disseminate information about Canada’s immigration system to people thinking about walking into the country. After being arrested and screened for security by officials, they will go through the regular hearing process. The message, said Garneau, is that not everyone will be given refugee status in Canada; many could be deported to their home countries.

    Meanwhile, the Canadian Council for Refugees is also calling on Canada to withdraw from the Safe Third Country Agreement and boost resources for the refugee board. The group’s executive director, Janet Dench, said she’s concerned that the government is falling behind on eligibility claims, a process that typically happens within a day and that must be concluded before an asylum seeker can get in line for a hearing at the refugee board.

    “This is putting huge pressures on people because they’re left in legal limbo,” she said.

    According to the Immigration and Refugee Board, the current processing time for claimants — after they’ve been deemed eligible for a hearing — is six and a half months. As of March, there were more than 21,000 pending cases.

    Dench said the changes announced by the government have not done enough to speed up the process and address the backlog. New money is needed to address the spike in applicants, she said.

    “There’s only so much blood you can squeeze from a stone.”

    In Canada as a whole, there were 7,500 RCMP interceptions for the first seven months of the year — 6,366 of them in Quebec, according to the immigration department.

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    WASHINGTON—Returning to the anti-Muslim bigotry that was a hallmark of his campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump once again endorsed a fictional U.S. massacre of Muslim terrorists, with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, as an example of how to deter terrorism.

    It would be extraordinary even if the story were true: the president of the United States advocating extrajudicial killing, involving explicit religious animus, as an anti-terror tactic.

    But the story is fake. The president was asking the world to “study” an online hoax.

    “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday afternoon. “There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”

    Trump did not elaborate, this time, on what the late U.S. general John Pershing supposedly did. But he told a detailed (and false) story about Pershing’s actions at a campaign rally during the Republicans’ South Carolina primary in February 2016.

    He claimed then that Pershing had executed 49 Muslim prisoners during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines in the early-1900s, adding religious insult by dipping the bullets in the bloods of pigs, which Muslims are forbidden to consume.

    “This was a terrible problem. They were having terrorism problems just like we do,” Trump said then. “And he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and he took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. You heard that, right? He took 50 bullets! And he dipped them in pigs’ blood.

    “And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, OK? Twenty-five years there wasn’t a problem.”

    The myth-busting website Snopes found no evidence to support the story, which has circulated by email since at least 2001. Snopes found anecdotal accounts that Pershing or other military leaders had threatened to bury Muslims along with pig carcasses.

    This time, Trump said the non-massacre deterred terror for “35 years,” adding an extra 10 years to the original lie.

    The Thursday tweet came 45 minutes after he issued a conventional response to the terrorist attack in Barcelona. Trump has sometimes chafed at aides’ advice to adopt a more traditionally presidential manner.

    “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” he wrote in the original tweet.

    Trump reignited talk of his anti-Muslim bigotry as he continued to stoke the controversy over his general racial attitudes that has led to his greatest crisis as president to date, with Republican legislators continuing to denounce him Thursday for blaming “both sides” for the violence at a white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

    On Thursday morning, he issued a series of tweets in support of the preservation of Confederate monuments — describing them not only as part of U.S. historical but a “beautiful” part of U.S. “culture.”

    “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he wrote. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also … the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

    Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ripped Trump at an event in his home state, calling for “radical” changes in the White House saying “he has not demonstrated that he understands what makes this nation great and what it is today.”

    Read more:

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    The Muzzo family name will be emblazoned on a new Vaughan hospital wing after a joint multi-million-dollar donation from their charitable foundation was announced Thursday.

    The Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital received a $15-million joint gift from the De Gasperis and Muzzo families, which will go towards building a new 1.2 million square feet facility. Construction began last fall, and the new hospital is scheduled to open in 2020.

    The hospital’s west wing will be called the De Gasperis-Muzzo Tower in recognition of the families’ contributions.

    “We are very grateful for this generosity, which will benefit the people of Vaughan and neighbouring communities for decades to come,” Ingrid Perry, president and CEO of the Mackenzie Health Foundation, said in the release.

    The donation has been in the works for three years, and is the largest single contribution in the hospital’s history.

    Name tributes to the Muzzo family appear across the GTA, including the Marco Muzzo Senior Memorial Woods and Park in Mississauga, a titan in the construction and development industry who died in 2005. There’s also the Marco Muzzo Atrium at the University of Toronto Mississauga’s library and the Muzzo Family Alumni Hall on the downtown Toronto campus.

    The Muzzo name was in the news recently when Marco Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison following a drunk driving crash that killed three young siblings and their grandfather in 2015.

    All three children of Jennifer Neville-Lake — Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milagros, 2 — died in the crash with their 65-year-old grandfather, Gary.

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN — A van veered onto a sidewalk and sped down a busy pedestrian zone Thursday in Barcelona’s picturesque Las Ramblas district, swerving from side to side as it mowed down tourists and residents and turned the popular European vacation spot into a bloody killing zone. Thirteen people were killed and 100 were injured, 15 of them seriously, in what authorities called a terror attack.

    Victims were left sprawled in the street, spattered with blood or crippled by broken limbs. Others fled in panic, screaming or carrying young children in their arms.

    “It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible,” Josep Lluis Trapero, senior police official, told a news conference late Thursday.

    Daesh, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility, saying in a statement on its Aamaq news agency that the attack was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State (Daesh)” in response to the extremist group’s calls for followers to target countries participating in the coalition trying to drive it from Syria and Iraq.

    Authorities said a Belgian was among the dead and a Greek woman was among the injured. Germany's Foreign Ministry said it was checking reports that Germans were among the victims.

    After the afternoon attack, Las Ramblas went into lockdown. Swarms of police brandishing hand guns and automatic weapons launched a manhunt in the downtown district, ordering stores and cafes and public transport to shut down.

    Several hours later they reported two arrests, one a Spanish national from Melilla, a Spanish-run enclave in North Africa, and the other a Moroccan, but Trapero said neither of them was the driver of the van. The arrests took place in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll and in Alcanar, the site of a gas explosion at a house on Wednesday night. Police said they were investigating a possible link to Thursday’s attack.

    Global Affairs Canada is urging Canadians in Spain to let their “loved ones know you are safe.”

    “Canada condemns today’s terror attack in Barcelona — our hearts, sympathies & support are with the victims and their families,’ tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    Global Affairs says Canadians in the Spanish city should monitor local media and follow the directions of local authorities.

    There is no word yet on whether any Canadians are among the dead or injured.

    The attack occurred just over a kilometre from Canada’s consulate in Barcelona.

    Global Affairs officials said any Canadians in Barcelona with questions should direct them to consular staff or to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

    Barcelona is the latest European city to experience a terror attack using vehicle as a weapon to target a popular tourist destination, after similar attacks in France and Britain.

    Thursday’s bloodshed was the country’s deadliest attack since 2004, when Al Qaeda-inspired bombers killed 192 people in co-ordinated assaults on Madrid’s commuter trains. In the years since, Spanish authorities have reported arresting nearly 200 jihadists, but the only deadly attacks were bombings claimed by the Basque separatist group ETA that killed five people over the past decade.

    Hours after Thursday’s attack, the police force for Spain’s Catalonia region said that troopers searching for the perpetrators shot and killed a man who was in a car that hit two officers at a traffic blockade on the outskirts of Barcelona. However, Trapero said it was not linked to the van attack.

    Las Ramblas is a wide avenue of stalls and shops that cuts through the centre of Barcelona and is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. It features a pedestrian-only walkway in the centre while cars can travel on either side.

    A taxi driver who witnessed Thursday’s attack, Oscar Cano, said the white van suddenly jumped the curb and sped down the central pedestrian area at a high speed for about 500 meters, veering from side to side as it targeted people.

    “I heard a lot of people screaming and then I saw the van going down the boulevard,” another witness, Miguel Angel Rizo, told The Associated Press. “You could see all the bodies lying through Las Ramblas. It was brutal. A very tough image to see.”

    Jordi Laparra, a 55-year-old physical education teacher and Barcelona resident, said it initially appeared to be a terrible traffic accident.

    “At first I thought it was an accident, as the van crashed into 10 people or so and seemed to get stuck. But then he manoeuvred left and accelerated full speed down the Ramblas and I realized it was a terrorist attack. He zigzagged from side to side into the kiosks, pinning as many people as he could, so they had no escape,” Laparra said.

    Carol Augustin, a manager at La Palau Moja, an 18th-century former palace on Las Ramblas that now houses offices and a tourism centre, said the van passed right in front of the building.

    “People started screaming and running into the office. It was such a chaotic situation. There were families with children. The police made us close the doors and wait inside,” she said.

    Tamara Jurgen, a visitor from the Netherlands who had arrived in Barcelona just hours before the attack, said she and a friend were inside a clothing store steps from the scene. They were held inside until police swept the block.

    “We were downstairs when it happened and everyone was screaming and running. We had to run up to the roof and throw our bags over a wall,” Jurgen said. “We were all together along this wall and we were scared we were going to have to jump.”

    Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau announced a minute of silence to be held Friday in the city’s main square “to show that we are not scared.” The regional government announced three days of mourning.

    Leaders around the world offered their support to Barcelona after the attack. “London, Brussels, Paris and some other European cities have had the same experience. It’s been Barcelona’s turn today,” said Carles Puigdemont, the head of the regional government.

    U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”

    British Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.K. “stands with Spain against terror” while French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Thursday evening: “All my thoughts and solidarity from France for the victims of the tragic attack in Barcelona. We will remain united and determined.”

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker echoed other continental leaders, saying “this cowardly attack has deliberately targeted those enjoying life and sharing time with family and friends. We will never be cowed by such barbarism.”

    Spain has been on a security alert one step below the maximum since June 2015 following attacks elsewhere in Europe and Africa. Spanish police have also been involved in the arrests of more than 200 suspected jihadis since then.

    Cars, trucks and vans have been the weapon of choice in multiple extremist attacks in Europe in the last year.

    The most deadly was the driver of a tractor-trailer who targeted Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice in July 2016, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people died after a driver used a hijacked truck to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.

    There have been multiple attacks this year in London, where a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and stabbed an unarmed police officer to death in March. Four other men drove onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, unleashing a rampage with knives that killed eight people in June. Another man also drove into pedestrians leaving a London mosque later in June.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    At first glance, there are the visible signs marking the presence of a happy kid. A large height-marker with a cartoon giraffe plastered on a wall. Fourth, fifth and sixth birthday cards mounted side-by-side. Dozens of photographs of a young boy’s many silly faces, everywhere you look.

    Then there are the signs of loss you’d have to be looking for to notice. A bicycle with the training wheels still on. The pristine white floor that he used as his dry-erase-marker canvas. His most prized possessions — two paper models of TTC vehicles and a stack of identical transit route maps — packed in a plastic grocery bag.

    Everything about this simple, clean home points to the presence of an adored kid who should have grown many inches taller, celebrated many more birthdays and lived to express awe at the TTC subway.

    Simon, a healthy six-year-old boy, was taken from his mother when he died in an apparent murder-suicide on July 31.

    Simon and his father, Zlatan Cico, 58, were pronounced dead in Cico’s East York apartment last month. Though Simon’s parents were separated and he lived with his mom full time, he sometimes stayed with his father on weekends.

    Police said the day after they were found that they were not looking for any other suspects in the case. Neighbours who knew the father and son were shocked by the event.

    Simon’s mom, whose name the Star agreed not to publish to protect her privacy, dedicated every year of Simon’s too-short life to giving him every opportunity she could. Now she, with the support of her friend Glenn Watson, is trying to raise money to lay him to rest in a nice place.

    The pair recently launched a campaign on GoFundMe with the goal of raising $20,000 that they say will go to Simon’s burial costs. As of Thursday afternoon, they have reached about 15 per cent of their goal.

    “I just feel he is so innocent. I couldn’t protect him,” Simon’s mom told the Star in an interview this week at her dining table in the Scarborough home she shared with her son, while Watson sat beside her.

    “So I want to try my best to give him a nice place to rest.”

    Simon was his mom’s only family in Canada, and Watson described her devotion to the boy as absolute.

    “Everything is for Simon,” Watson said. “And, as she says, it was hard to protect him from a threat that you wouldn’t think he needed protecting from.”

    They want Simon to be remembered as the boy they knew: curious, sweet, and well-behaved.

    His favourite thing in the world was the TTC.

    “Every kid in his classroom, they all know Simon loves the subway, loves the TTC,” Simon’s mom said. He would pick up a new subway map whenever he could — no matter how many he already had — and used the floor in their living room to draw out the routes with dry-erase markers.

    “Sometimes I tolerate and I let him do it, and sometimes I just mop that,” she said.

    Simon’s memory for transit routes surprised even bus drivers, as he effortlessly rhymed off where each route was headed. His collection of route maps and paper TTC models will go with him in his coffin.

    Simon’s mom described him as an exceptionally gentle, well-behaved kid.

    “My friend had a little baby and the baby was five months, six months. Simon just like, touched the baby gently, looked at the baby,” she said.

    Even when she asked him to do something he didn’t want to do, he’d agree without protest.

    “Not like some children, who would say ‘no, I don’t want to do that.’ He just listened — he just understood.”

    She believes that we can learn from Simon’s simple, happy nature.

    “He’s happy easily,” she said. “Something — even just some small thing — can make him very happy. He’s not greedy.”

    He also came up with the code word ‘toy’ to ask Glenn to take him for ice cream — a treat his mom seldom allowed. She was undeceived.

    A meal from McDonald’s or a covert cup of ice cream was enough to put a huge smile on Simon’s face. The thought led the mom to think about life’s joys — large and small — that she wasn’t yet able to give Simon.

    Top of the list was a long-anticipated trip to China, scheduled for next month. He began to ask his mom to take him when his other Chinese friends told him stories about travelling there.

    “I said if you go to China, they have long trains — much faster much nicer,” Simon’s mom said. She and Simon would have made the long journey together, and visited her family for the first time since he was a baby.

    His ticket will go unused, and now she just hopes to be able to bury him somewhere close enough to her home to visit on birthdays and holidays.

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    HELSINKI—A man stabbed eight people Friday in Finland’s western city of Turku, killing two of them, before police shot him in the thigh and detained him, police said. Authorities were looking for more potential suspects in the attack.

    A suspect — a man whose identity was not known — was being treated in the city’s main hospital but was in police custody. Security was being stepped up across the Nordic country, Interior Minister Paula Risikko told reporters at a news conference.

    Police did not give any information on the two people killed or the conditions of those wounded in downtown Turku, 150 kilometres west of Helsinki.

    Finland’s top police chief, Seppo Kolehmainen, said it was too early to link the attack to international terrorism.

    “Nothing is known about the motives . . . or what precisely has happened in Turku,” he said.

    It was not known if Friday’s attack was somehow linked to a decision in June by Finland’s security agency to raise its threat assessment to the second level of a four-step scale. The Finnish Security Intelligence Service says the country’s “stronger profile within the radical Islamist propaganda” led to the change. It said the Nordic country is now considered part of the coalition against Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

    The Ilta-Sanomat tabloid said six people were injured in the attack, one man and five women, and that a woman with stroller had been attacked by a man with a large knife. Finnish broadcaster YLE said several people were seen lying on the ground in Puutori Square after the attack.

    Witness Laura Laine told YLE she was about 20 metres from where the stabbing took place.

    “We heard a young woman screaming. We saw a man on the square and a knife glittered. He was waving it in the air. I understood that he had stabbed someone,” Laine was quoted as saying.

    Finland’s government was closely monitoring the police investigation into the attack, Prime Minister Juha Sipila said.

    “Police have told us not to go to the city centre, so we are in this coffee shop a few blocks away,” said Vanessa Deggins, an American studying business at one of Turku’s three universities, told The Associated Press. She didn’t witness the attack, but heard sirens going past.

    “This is a safe country by American standards. I have gone home alone at 2-3 a.m . . . I feel safe,” she said.

    0 0

    Four years ago, a long-time Toronto justice of the peace was slapped with a seven-day suspension without pay for interfering with a health inspection of a close friend’s restaurant.

    Now, Tom Foulds finds himself once again in the crosshairs of the Justices of the Peace Review Council, this time facing allegations of intervening in an assault case where the complainant was his friend-turned-partner.

    The public discipline hearing is set for October, but Foulds, who presides at Old City Hall, is looking to put a halt to those proceedings.

    He’s filed an application for judicial review in Divisional Court, where he’s asking the judges to quash the decision of the council’s complaints committee to send his case to a discipline hearing. He also wants the court to order that a new complaints committee reconsider the complaint against him.

    His grievances with the complaints committee are numerous.

    “(The committee) exceeded its jurisdiction by making findings of fact and determinations of judicial misconduct, and did so prior to requesting a response from the applicant,” Foulds, who is representing himself in Divisional Court, argues in a factum recently filed in court.

    “The complaint committee failed to fully assess the evidence or consider the applicant’s response in a meaningful way.”

    Foulds, appointed in 1999, declined to comment to the Star through a court spokeswoman, who said Foulds is not currently presiding over cases.

    Foulds also argues there is an appearance of bias on the part of the committee, saying two of its members previously sat on a different complaints committee that investigated a complaint against him, which was ultimately dismissed. Foulds alleged that the previous committee did not follow certain mandatory procedures in its investigation.

    A council spokeswoman said the oversight body will argue that Foulds’ judicial review application should be quashed because it is premature.

    After conducting an investigation, which included interviews with a number of witnesses and hiring an external lawyer, the complaints committee decided to send Foulds’ case to discipline in 2016, ruling that his actions could be perceived “as an attempt to abuse the office of justice of the peace.”

    The allegations contained in the complaints committee decision, outlined in this story, have not yet been tested before a discipline panel.

    The complaint against Foulds dates back to 2014, when Mr. A was charged with assaulting Ms. X. Neither of their names are included in the council’s notice of hearing. Mr. A, whose charges were eventually stayed by the Crown, complained to the review council that Foulds had intervened in his case because Ms. X was Foulds’ partner.

    Foulds acknowledged in a response to the complaints committee that he “erred” in his approach to the case, but “vigorously” disputes much of the complaint against him.

    The committee said there’s evidence to support the allegation that Foulds signed the information charging Mr. A with assault, without informing the police officer that he was involved with Ms. X and without audio-recording the officer’s attendance before him.

    Foulds disputes that every routine attendance must be recorded. He admits in his factum to “mishandling a legal process” by allowing the information to be sworn before him, but that he viewed it as “a routine ministerial procedure, and he was simply a friend of (Ms. X) at that time.”

    The JP then went to the Crown attorney’s office to talk about the case, but only near the end of his conversation with Crown attorney Michael Callaghan did he say that he knew the complainant and that the case should not be scheduled in front of him, according to the complaints committee.

    “The committee notes that Mr. Callaghan’s perception was that His Worship was vague with respect to how he knew the complainant,” says the committee. “The evidence indicates that as he was leaving, he asked, ‘Oh, by the way, do you think it’s a problem that the information was sworn in front of me?’”

    The committee said the Crown then had a new information sworn before a different JP. Callaghan, who became widely known for prosecuting ex-radio host Jian Ghomeshi on sexual assault charges last year, declined to comment to the Star.

    Foulds says in his factum that he went to the Crown’s office to address the fact that the information was sworn before him, and that by that time, “the nature of (his) relationship with (Ms. X) had progressed beyond friendship.”

    The committee said there’s evidence that Foulds reached out to Callaghan several other times, including to ask for an update on the case and seeking legal advice, but that Callaghan found the encounters inappropriate and declined to provide any information.

    In his factum, Foulds also acknowledged his “mistake” in signing a subpoena to have Ms. X attend court and then discussing whether he could be present when she was served.

    “(Foulds) provided the context in which he made these decisions, regarding the desperate state of (Ms. X’s) mental health, and his concern about protecting her from self-harm,” he said in his factum.

    He argued he never sought to interfere in the case or direct Crown attorneys on what to do.

    “The evidence shows that His Worship did not distance himself from the (Mr. A) case and instead actively inserted himself into the criminal process,” said the complaints committee.

    “Further, the evidence suggests that His Worship’s involvement in the criminal case was calculated and deceptive. Specifically, His Worship only shared limited information at different stages to make it appear as though he was being up front when, in fact, he was not being completely honest or forthcoming.”

    The committee said the Crown had to deal with a number of disclosure requests from Mr. A’s lawyer, who wanted Foulds’ personal emails in order “to get to the true story of” whether there was indeed a personal relationship between Foulds and Ms. X.

    One Crown told the committee that Foulds was a “hindrance to the carriage of the case,” while Callaghan said that “for a very simple case, this became very complicated.”

    The complaints committee said the evidence suggests that the costs of Mr. A’s defence “escalated and the Crown’s resources were overtaxed directly as a result of His Worship’s involvement in the proceedings.”

    0 0

    Peel Regional Police are searching for a 59-year-old Mississauga man who was supposed to return from a trip to Japan on August 11.

    Russell Zurachenko’s family contacted police to report him missing after he failed to return as expected. He hasn’t been seen since Sunday, July 30.

    Const. Bancroft Wright said investigators were trying to “track his whereabouts through the airport.”

    “They believe he might be in Canada, but … (it) wasn’t determined whether or not he actually made it to Japan. The family believed that he was going to Japan. They don’t have any proof of that, that he either went or got back.”

    In a news release, police said they and the family were concerned for Zurachenko’s well-being.

    He is described as five-foot-nine, heavy build, with brown hair, a grey moustache and beard. He was wearing a black T-shirt and blue shorts the last time he was seen.

    Police are asking anyone with information on his whereabouts to contact them immediately.

    0 0

    The mother of Heather Heyer, the woman killed while protesting Saturday’s white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., said she won’t talk to U.S. President Donald Trump “after what he said about my child.”

    She had been so busy after her daughter’s death that she hadn’t watched TV news until Thursday night, Susan Bro told ABC on Friday.

    “I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters ‘like Miss Heyer’ with the KKK and the white supremacists,” Bro said. “You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m not forgiving for that.”

    Asked if she had something to say to Trump, Bro said, “Think before you speak.”

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    The White House said Thursday that it was “working on identifying a time that’s convenient for the family to speak with the president.”

    “We appreciate the unifying words that Heather Heyer’s mother spoke yesterday (Wednesday)” at her daughter’s memorial service, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

    “They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” Bro said at the service on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. “I’d rather have my child, but by golly if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”

    The first call on Trump’s behalf looked like it came during the funeral, Bro said on ABC.

    Read more:

    Man hit in Charlottesville rally attack pushed fiancée out of the way

    Trump often has vivid words for victims. Not for the woman killed in Charlottesville: Analysis

    Mother of Charlottesville attack victim speaks out: ‘I’m going to make her death worth something’

    Heyer, 32, was killed when a man whom police have identified as James Alex Fields, Jr., 20 drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters following the rally.

    The political fallout of Trump’s remarks about the white supremacists has spread this week, with key Republicans condemning him and CEO advisers abandoning him.

    Trump at a news conference on Tuesday said not all of the people protesting the removal of a Charlottesville statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee were neo-Nazis or white supremacists.

    “I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump said. There were also “very fine people” on both sides, he said.

    “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart” by the removal of statues honouring Confederate heroes, Trump added in a tweet Thursday.

    0 0

    HAMILTON—Accused Yahoo hacker Karim Baratov is waiving his Canadian rights, forgoing extradition, to go straight to the United States to face prosecution.

    During a brief court appearance in Hamilton Friday morning the 22-year-old Ancaster, Ont., man agreed to the waiver, which Superior Court Justice Andrew Goodman cautioned meant he’s also waiving any protections.

    Baratov agreed, signing three copies of the waiver in front of the judge, before being led away.

    “Good luck Mr. Baratov,” Goodman said.

    “Thank you,” Baratov replied, ending what is his last court appearance in Canada.

    Read more:

    Canadian accused in Yahoo hack posed ‘extremely high flight risk,’ documents say

    Parents of alleged hacker in disbelief over U.S. charges

    Inside a twisted tale of international cybercrime

    His lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo said outside court that waiving extradition is “the quickest route to the U.S. so we can continue our discussions there.”

    He couldn’t detail what is happening with negotiations in the U.S., which have been ongoing since March, but described them as “fruitful.”

    “I’m pretty confident the consent route was the wrong way to go and the waiver was the right way to go,” he said.

    Had Baratov, a Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, consented to extradition, that process would have taken longer but would have limited the U.S. to the initial indictment. By waiving his rights, he will head straight to the U.S., but is open to the risk of facing additional charges.

    A court order in the U.S. is already in place and a U.S. marshal is expected to come transport Baratov, to the State of California (likely San Francisco), as soon as possible, DiCarlo said.

    Baratov is “excited” for the change of scenery and to see progression on the case, he said.

    DiCarlo said he was forbidden from revealing any details of U.S. negotiations, but did say they’ve “narrowed down timelines.”

    There have been “suggestions (it) could take months and years, but that’s not going to happen,” he said, adding that everyone is working to resolve the matter faster.

    Baratov was arrested at his Ancaster home on March 14 after U.S. authorities charged him with aggravated identity theft and conspiring to commit fraud, in connection with a hacking scheme allegedly organized by Russian intelligence agents.

    He was denied bail in Canada because he is considered a flight risk. Unable to get Baratov out of jail, DiCarlo turned his focus to the U.S. negotiations.

    DiCarlo maintains Baratov is “a small fish” in the whole scheme, said to have involved breaching about 500 million Yahoo email accounts used for political or financial gain.

    By waiving extradition, Baratov is not admitting any guilt, he said.

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