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    A valuable pink diamond is nestled among stolen cars and baggies of seized drugs in a cavernous Toronto police warehouse, waiting for its rightful owner to take it home. That much, everyone can agree on.

    But the family of its now-dead original owner and the pawnshop that later bought it from a convicted jewel thief bitterly disagree on nearly every other detail of the story: how much the gem is worth, who it truly belongs to and even whether it was actually stolen.

    Ownership of the diamond is now at the centre of a court battle that’s lasted two years and counting, with both sides viewing the situation as a miscarriage of justice. On one side is a pawnshop owner who says he bought it fair and square; on the other is a family who says it belongs to them. Think of it as a custody dispute, with a tiny pink stone at the centre of it.

    “I’ve chosen to pursue it because I don’t think it’s fair,” said Howard Green, owner of the H. Williams and Co. pawnshop, which possessed the jewel before Toronto police seized it in 2012. “This has gone on far too long.”

    The saga began in 2011, when Martin Winberg bought the diamond from a Toronto-area gold and gem dealer for $40,000. The jewel is an orange-pink colour — the quality that makes it valuable, according to Green — and weighs in at 0.59 carats.

    Winberg suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and a leg injury that left him essentially homebound, according to his statement to police, taken over the phone. His family declined to speak with the Star or share photos of him, citing a desire for privacy.

    Winberg asked the salesman who sold him the diamond to store it on his behalf, along with another gem he’d purchased, according to the statement he gave police. The man agreed to do so as a friend, but later left the jewels with a colleague he thought he could trust, the statement said.

    “In or around April 2012, Martin’s acquaintance informed him that it had been stolen by a thief named Brian Colyer,” alleges an argument submitted to the Ontario Court of Appeal by Winberg’s estate.

    “Mr. Colyer had stolen several pieces of property in and around the same time, including the diamond and another diamond belonging to Martin. Martin Winberg had never met or heard of Mr. Colyer before, and had never authorized him to have possession of the diamond, much less to steal and convert it.”

    The allegations in the filing haven’t been proven in court. When reached by the Star, Colyer didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    In 2015, however, he pleaded guilty to the theft of gold bars, coins and gems valued at more than $800,000 from several other of the dealer’s clients — though the pink diamond was not among the items he was convicted of stealing.

    Colyer was a regular customer at H. Williams and Co., Green said. The store, a mainstay on Church St. in downtown Toronto, is exactly what you’d imagine a pawnshop to look like — rows of jewels lie in display cases beneath shiny guitars, while a safe with a heavy metal door sits open at the back of the room.

    Colyer was a regular customer at the pawnshop and staff had no reason to suspect anything untoward about the diamond, Green said. To illustrate his point, he pulled out a box of receipts he said were Colyer’s, flipping through them as he listed the dollar values of items the man pawned, all in the thousands. The shop gave Colyer $5,000 for the Winberg diamond in April 2012.

    Winberg reported the diamond stolen. In his statement to Toronto police, Winberg said he’d never met Colyer, let alone given him permission to pawn the diamond.

    Green told the Star he believes the diamond was never stolen, and that Winberg gave Colyer the diamond to sell on his behalf (Green wouldn’t say why he thought so). Green’s lawyers argue that since Colyer wasn’t convincted for this particular theft and Winberg isn’t alive to answer questions, the former owner’s estate can’t prove a claim to the gem.

    “This particular diamond, it should be returned to me,” Green said. “They think we’re crooks . . . I’ve done nothing wrong.”

    The Winberg estate’s lawyer, Paul Adam of Wise Law Office, strongly disagrees with that version of events.

    “We haven’t seen a single scrap of evidence that that is the case,” he said.

    In July 2012, police seized the diamond from the pawnshop after several of the dealer’s employees complained about Colyer. Investigators held onto the gem while the case moved through the courts.

    But Winberg died in February 2015, two months before Colyer was sentenced to two years less one day in jail. Colyer pleaded guilty to eight charges, but the Crown dropped the counts related to Winberg after his death, saying it wasn’t in the public interest to pursue them.

    Though the criminal case was closed, the conflict was far from over.

    In June 2015, after the trial, police told Winberg’s estate and the pawnshop that investigators no longer needed the diamond. Green applied to have the diamond returned to H. Williams and Co. An Ontario Superior Court of Justice judge ordered police to return the diamond to Green.

    Before Green actually received the diamond, however, Michael Winberg — Martin Winberg’s brother, who had been made a trustee of the estate — asked for an appeal, saying the judge who made the order was mistaken.

    The Ontario Court of Appeal set aside the order. No timeline has yet been set for any upcoming proceedings, and Adam declined to comment on what happens next with the case.

    And so the diamond remains in the hands of police.

    Adam said his client maintains that the Winberg estate is the true owner of the diamond since the pawnbroker has no right to stolen property.

    Green strongly disagrees, saying neither Winberg nor his family tried to claim the jewel in the years after it was pawned, and the court gave it to him fair and square.

    “There’s nothing to argue about,” Green said. “We’re out the money, we’re out the diamond and at one point a court ordered it be returned to us.”

    Green said he’s now spent far more on legal fees than he did on the diamond. Adding to Green’s frustration, he said he believes the diamond isn’t even worth $40,000.

    “I wish it was,” he said with a chuckle, adding that he believes it’s worth closer to $15,000.

    Adam said the estate had no comment on the value of the diamond, or how much it has spent in legal fees.

    “They could make it go away real quick if they just give me my $5,000 plus costs,” Green said, adding that the Winberg estate declined such a deal.

    Adam said it would be inappropriate for him to comment, but said the case presents an interesting dilemma — one for which there is little legal precedent.

    “I guess there haven’t been many cases where a judge has had to puzzle over this,” he said.




    August 2011— Martin Winberg buys the diamond from a dealer for roughly $40,000. He leaves it with the employee who sold it to him.

    April 2012— The employee allegedly tells Winberg that his coworker, Brian Colyer, has stolen the diamond. Colyer had pawned the gem at H. Williams and Co.

    May 2012— Colyer is fired from the dealer after several clients complained to management.

    June 2012— Toronto police charge Colyer with a series of thefts, including Winberg’s diamond.

    July 5, 2012— Toronto police seize Winberg’s diamond from H. Williams and Co.

    Feb. 19, 2015— Winberg passes away.

    April 7, 2015— Colyer pleads guilty to eight charges related to thefts of gems, gold and coins and is sentenced to two years less a day in jail. Prosecutors drop the charges related to Winberg’s diamond.

    June 2015— Toronto police inform Winberg’s estate and the pawnshop that investigators no longer need the diamond, as the criminal case against Colyer is over.

    September 2015— H. Williams and Co. applies to a court to get the diamond. A judge awards the diamond to the pawnshop.

    June 2, 2017— Ontario’s top court allows the estate to appeal the lower court order, sending the case back to trial court. The diamond remains in police custody.

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    ALTHORP, ENGLAND—Diana is entombed and enisled, eternally out of reach.

    And yet, two decades after the death of a princess, the world is still grasping at her.

    Who was she? What is her place in history? How did this gauche naïf, transformed into a woman of glamour steeped in misery, change the British monarchy?

    Because she did, if only, ultimately, by taking her leave of it. Just as she’d predicted that she would never be queen.

    Because she is the mother of a future king who has more of his mother — and his grandmother — in him than the king he will succeed.

    Because, for a moment in time, the world stood shock-still in grief and disbelief.

    It has become easy to mock the unprecedented torrent of public and “performative” mourning triggered by that middle-of-the-night news bulletin that Diana, Princess of Wales, had been killed with her summer-fling boyfriend in Paris, casualties of a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997.

    The paparazzi were there to record it, contributed to it in a foolish chase to the death, although a lengthy French judicial investigation blamed the single-vehicle accident on the driver, Henri Paul, drunk at the wheel and speeding.

    Conspiracy theorists still claim nefarious murder plots afoot. Just as some insist Diana is not actually buried here, on the tiny island in the middle of an ornamental lake known as the Round Oval within the gardens of Althorp Park, the 500-year-old ancestral estate where Diana grew up.

    Diana was buried here on Sept. 6, 1997, in a black Catherine Walker dress, with the rosary given to her by Mother Teresa only two months earlier tucked into her hand. There have been four vandalism attempts upon the island in the years since, her brother, Charles — the current Earl Spencer — told the BBC last month. “There are some odd people out there, and keeping her here is the safest place.”

    A place, however, that had fallen into shabby neglect, for which Spencer was sternly rebuked until a massive rehabilitation of the estate grounds was undertaken over the past year. Althorp reopened to the public in July. There is no public access to the island, but visitors can reflect in a Grecian-style temple on the edge of the lake.

    On July 1, which would have been Diana’s 56th birthday, Princes William and Harry were graveside with Diana’s two grandchildren in a private rededication and remembrance service. Her former husband, Charles, the Prince of Wales, was fortuitously touring Canada at the time. He would not have belonged in the melancholy group.

    Remembering Diana, unforgettable Diana.

    Except an entire generation has grown up without her. And it’s unlikely she’s being taught in the history texts.

    For insight into the Princess of Wales — she lost her HRH status upon divorcing (the young William promised her he would restore it) — one would have to turn to the pop library of biographies and glossy celebrity trash and first-person accounts written by an inner cadre (they claim) who professed intimate knowledge of the aristocratic arriviste who stood the House of Windsor on its head. Who just about broke it in a fight to the modernizing finish.

    Scores of books, many reissued for the “anniversary” of Diana’s death — the “Untold Stories” told time and time again — and dozens of documentaries that have been broadcast in recent weeks. From Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, an encomium featuring rare interviews with William and Harry and wherein, interestingly, their father is never mentioned, nor the tumultuous marriage the boys observed, nor Charles’s subsequent marriage to his longtime mistress, Camilla, the asp at Diana’s breast; to an NBC special interview with her former bodyguard Ken Wharfe on Dateline: The Life and Death of Princess Diana; to ABC’s Martin Bashir entry, The Last 100 Days of Diana; to a National Geographic Diana-logue, Diana: In Her Own Words, narrated entirely by the princess and taken from the taped conversations she provided to journalist Andrew Morton, who authored the 1992 bestseller Diana: Her True Story, the tell-all that cracked open the fraud of the Windsor marriage.

    “It started life as 150 pages and now it’s 450 pages,” says Morton, of his updated book of the same name. “Contains all of Diana’s words from the tapes. It’s now the historical record. This is the stuff historians and biographers will go back to 100 years from now.”

    Those tapes were recorded by an intermediary, Diana’s friend Dr. James Colthurst. Portions of the tapes originally indecipherable have been rescued by enhanced modern technology.

    Those tapes take their place alongside the infamous and impetuous TV interview Diana gave to Bashir in 1995, a broadside against Charles and Camilla that banged the final nail into the coffin of a mutually loathing spousal mismatch, and the scandalizing — albeit candid — recordings of conversations between the princess and her voice coach, Peter Settelen, packaged as controversial documentary for Channel 4. Tapes that were never intended to be seen publicly (the program drew record viewership) and which were the subject of lengthy legal battles.

    One more ghoulish profiteer.

    Diana is the gift that keeps on giving.

    So that’s one question answered: Diana clearly continues to beguile, possibly even more so than had she not died so tragically young, had she been now a middle-aged grandmother, doubtless still chic and captivating but also a relic from Malice in the Palace days. Frozen in time, like Marilyn Monroe, she won’t ever grow old, marginalized and irrelevant. She’s a cipher, a prism through which to marvel upon a mosh pit era of frenzied royalty splashed daily across the tabloids and broadsheets.

    Diana moves more covers dead than alive and doing who-knows-what as a humanitarian dilettante. The public’s infatuation has never cooled, with viewership demographics showing young people just as fascinated.

    “How would she be today?” Morton muses. “It’s difficult to say but I would have thought that by now she would have remarried. She always wanted more children, especially a girl. She was eager to find another partner at some point. It wasn’t going to be Dodi. I have in mind some kind of American billionaire with all the toys, the British equivalent of Jackie O.”

    Someone to keep her safe — as the hapless Dodi Fayed did not — and to underwrite all her decidedly un-royal humanitarian interests, which ran the gamut from AIDS to leprosy to land mines as Diana cast about for a purpose post-HRH.

    And to think that all that drenching Diana coverage — the most famous woman on Earth, both hounded by the press and expertly manipulating of it; oh yes, she honed cunning — occurred in a pre-social media universe.

    “Would she be tweeting her sorrows?” Morton wonders.

    Certainly she heated up the phone lines, spilling her rage and her hurt to anybody who would give a listen, her circle of intimates morphing, friends un-friended, allies alienated when they dared to gently remonstrate, or when they just couldn’t bear the burden of supporting Diana any longer. Only a handful stayed resolute, saw her maddened side and didn’t blink, never betrayed her.

    How unprepared she was for the caged craziness of royal life and a fussy, hidebound husband — a mere dozen or so times they saw each other before the fairytale nuptials at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which Diana, typically melodramatic, afterward described as “the worst day of my life.” Still just 19 and nubile, baby-fleshy — before the bulimia — when formally stepped into the limelight for the first time after the blue sapphire and diamond engagement ring had been placed on her finger. A charity affair at Goldsmiths’ Hall four months before the wedding, and she’d picked an off-the-shoulder cleavage-revealing black taffeta gown by designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel.

    “I remember being very excited,” Diana says on the Colthurst tapes. “I got this black dress from the Emanuels — I thought it was OK because girls my age wore this. I hadn’t appreciated that I was now seen as a royal lady.”

    Charles allegedly scolded her for it.

    “I remember walking into my husband-to-be’s study and he said, ‘You’re not going in that, are you? But it’s black. Only people in mourning wear black.’

    “Black to me was the smartest colour you could have at the age 19 — it was a real grown-up dress.”

    It was the first time she put her foot wrong. She would do so again and again, though the public remained unaware of the reprimands and reproofs behind closed doors, the chafing, the despondency and violent clashes with Charles, the escalating bitterness that found release in mutual infidelity, the ashes of a marriage as Charles returned to the mummy-embrace of Camilla.

    What she couldn’t scream out loud to the world, Diana wore on her person, a dog-whistle of fashion as she segued from frilly and sometimes old-lady frumpy to regimental suits à la Michael Jackson, to Dynasty silhouette costume gowns, to sleek, to sheaths, and finally to the F-U revenge ensemble, a statement dress, black and figure-hugging and trailing a hip veil, worn to a Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery on the same night in June 1994 Charles’s tit-for-tat TV interview with Jonathan Dimbleby — confirming his affair with Camilla — aired.

    The dress said: see what he rejected for that hag.

    Her evolving fashionista chops — frocks hanging on bones during the eating disorder years — guaranteed perpetual cameras-on for Diana, as her wardrobe and hairstyles launched countless copycats, just as they’d rushed to imitate her voluminous wedding gown. But there was always more to the public fascination than that, even before the truth of the warring Windsors emerged.

    There was Diana the debutante royal, Diana the giggler in very early days when Charles couldn’t keep his hands off her, Diana the baby-mama, Diana the crowd-thrilling performer on tours, Diana of the tender touch, Diana at first unintentionally eclipsing Charles and then deliberately casting him into shadow — crowds audibly disappointed when the Prince of Wales worked their side of a walkabout — Diana the dour, Diana the tearful, Diana the deranged, according to the Charles loyalists.

    Really, Charles & Diana was the highest-rated reality TV show in history, played out for 15 years of wedlock deadlock and no connubial relations, apparently, after the birth of Harry. “As suddenly Harry was born, it just went bang, our marriage,” Diana says on the tapes. “The whole thing went down the drain.”

    Surely it said something about us, too, how in thrall to them — to her — we were. Royalty had no mystery after all, further vulgarized by ascent and descent of Sarah, Duchess of York — The Real Wives of Kensington Palace. They were just like us but worse, their adulteries seamier, their sulks gloomier, their naughtiness more sensational, if often downright juvenile. All the privileges in the world and they were just another man and woman behaving badly, wounding each other as spectacle.

    But Charles was always assured of his place in the venerable order of things. Diana was not.

    So there was a beguiled pity for her and she worked it deftly, which didn’t make the suffering any less real.

    In the present age, would she have risen above the Kardashians or the Duck dynasts or Donald Trump (who once tried wooing Diana) as dysfunctional celebrity? Or was it all about that touch of magic bestowed by real royalty upon a kindergarten teaching assistant and sometime char elevated to within a heartbeat of the throne?

    Something, however indefinable, made Diana the People’s Princess, her loss so wrenching that mourners didn’t know what to do with their grief, as if something bigger than one woman’s tragic death had been ripped from their hearts. In spontaneous tribute, they piled up bouquets and wreaths outside Buckingham Palace — an estimated 60 million blooms — and they sobbed as the gun carriage that bore Diana’s casket made its dolorous passage to Westminster Abbey, passing by a million mourners lining the streets. Forcing even a stubbornly resistant Queen to bow her head. Some 2.5 billion people worldwide watched the funeral on TV, as Earl Spencer memorably lambasted the Royal Family in his eulogy.

    Her devastated sons, 15 and 12, made to walk behind the casket, was a grotesquerie.

    “My mother had just died and I had to walk a long way behind the coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” Prince Harry told Newsweek this summer. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.” In the princes’ documentary, essentially a tribute, Harry also says: “It was very, very strange after her death, the sort of outpouring of love and emotion from so many people that had never even met her.”

    But they felt as if they had, such was her chimerical presence in their lives.

    Diana’s legacy is highly debatable. In a realm devoted to statuary and monuments, there’s hardly a trace of the princess in 2017 — a faltering memorial fountain at Hyde Park, a bronze statue of Diana and Dodi at the bottom of the escalator at Harrods. A Thames garden bridge originally conceived by the actress Joanna Lumley, to be largely financed by a trust, collapsed this year amid acrimony because London Mayor Sadiq Khan would not commit to further public funds for the project.

    In April, a temporary White Garden — flowers and foliage inspired by the princess — was opened in the Sunken Garden of Kensington Palace. A statue commemorating Diana, commissioned by her sons, was also to have been unveiled at Kensington this month, although it’s unclear if it had been finished.

    At Buckingham Palace, which Diana hated, a state room has been transformed as anniversary tribute into a recreation of the princess’s sitting room at Kensington, featuring the desk at which she wrote letters. William and Harry chose the personally cherished items, including: family photos, favourite music cassettes and the ballet slippers that had hung on her sitting room door. As well, an exhibition of her iconic wardrobe — Diana: Her Fashion Story— has been mounted at Kensington. (Recall that many of her outfits were auctioned for charity shortly before her death at William’s suggestion.)

    The commemorative newspaper stories are coming fast and furious as the anniversary date approaches. But only a month ago, many of those same papers ran fawning spreads about Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, marking her 70th birthday, clearly orchestrated. “They were part of a long-term plan to make Camilla acceptable as Queen Consort,” Morton says, although Camilla has allegedly insisted she has no interest in elevation to the title when Charles becomes king.

    “It’s interesting that Edward VIII gave up the throne for the woman that he loved and then forever more was bitter about the fact they never gave Wallis (Simpson) the title Her Royal Highness. It’s something that does matter to members of the Royal Family — status and title. Prince Charles is a notorious stickler for status as titles.”

    William and Harry certainly appear fond of Camilla, yet Morton suggests their palpable exclusion of father or stepmother — not even a mention — in their documentary was an unsubtle statement.

    “They’ve had to learn to tiptoe around their father’s sensibilities, especially William. He’s second in line. They are developing separate courts and separate ways of doing things. That documentary, intentionally or unintentionally, is a broadside across Charles’s ambition to make Camilla queen. In the affection they have for their mother, they reminded the British people of what we had lost and, obviously, the two elephants in the room were Charles and Camilla.”

    As adults, Morton continues, the princes are very much still a creation of their mother, especially William, who was so keenly aware of the tumult in his parents’ marriage, with Diana leaning on him heavily for support.

    “You don’t need to be a psychologist to work it out. What did Prince William want? He wanted stability and he wanted family.”

    This, Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, gave him. “Stability, family and an eager preparedness to play second fiddle. Stable to the point of boredom. It’s notable that the world talks about William and Harry as a double act more than William and Kate. These were two children from a broken home. The eldest one’s married a partner who will provide stability and adoration. Prince Harry is probably keen to get hitched as well, he’s virtually said as much.”

    As future king — which he’s described as a job rather than a vocation — William would bring evident qualities of a natural reserve, like his grandmother, but also the “humanity and accessibility that his mother had,” Morton says. “He is very much the duality of Spencer and Windsor.”

    We can all speculate on what Diana would have thought of Kate. No woman is good enough for a beloved son. But she would certainly have been over the moon with those adorable grandchildren.

    “Diana remains relevant for the causes that she championed, as an echo of the impact she had when she was alive,” Morton says. “But her greater relevance is in her living legacy: Prince William and Prince Harry, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.”

    In a BBC poll, Diana made the Top 5 of the greatest Britons ever, alongside Churchill and Shakespeare.

    “That shows she does have an enduring place,” Morton says. “If the monarchy is a reflection of the changes in society, which it often is, then the abdication (of Edward VIII) in 1936 was a step-change in the monarchy and Diana’s death in ’97 was a step-change in the monarchy. Her impact will continue, not just through William and Harry but also through Charlotte and George. It’s no coincidence that Charlotte’s middle name is Diana.”

    Twenty years come and gone since Diana’s death. That, too, provides a point of reflection for the rest of us.

    “We all know where we were when she died,” Morton says. “God, is it that time already? Twenty years have gone by in a heartbeat.

    “Like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean, she never gets old. She looked glamorous, she looked sleek, she looked like she’d got her act together after years of kind of meandering. And she seemed pretty happy. She was filled with the bright hope of morning promise.

    “Her life was short, but, like a firework, it burned bright.”

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    CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS—Hurricane Harvey rolled over the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, smashing homes and businesses and lashing the shore with wind and rain so intense that drivers were forced off the road because they could not see in front of them.

    The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 48 kilometres northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 209 kph winds. It weakened overnight to Category 1.

    But the storm’s most destructive powers were just beginning. Rainfall that will continue for days could dump more than a metre of water and inundate many communities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

    Read more: Menacing Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in Texas with rain, heavy winds

    Donald Trump braces for a new test of his presidency — Hurricane Harvey

    “Our focus is shifting to the extreme and potentially historic levels of flooding that we could see,” said Eric Blake, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

    No deaths were immediately reported. High winds kept emergency crews out of many places, and authorities said it could be hours before emergency teams are able to fully assess damage.

    By dawn, nearly 300,000 consumers were without power in the coastal region, and nearly 0.5 metres of rain had fallen in some places.

    The mayor of Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm’s path, said his community took a blow “right on the nose” that left “widespread devastation,” including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.

    Mayor Charles “C.J.” Wax told The Weather Channel that the city’s emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.

    About 10 people were taken to the county jail for treatment after the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed, television station KIII reported.

    On Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling the station that people who chose not to evacuate should mark their arm with a Sharpie pen, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.

    In the storm’s immediate aftermath, the Coast Guard sent two helicopters to try to rescue the crews of three tugboats reported in distress in a channel near Port Aransas. And about 4,500 inmates were evacuated from three state prisons in Brazoria County south of Houston because the nearby Brazos River was rising.

    By late morning, Harvey’s maximum sustained winds had fallen to about 120 kph and the storm was centred about 40 kilometres west of Victoria, Texas. It was moving north at 3 kph, according to the hurricane centre.

    The system was expected to become tropical storm by Saturday afternoon.

    The hurricane posed the first major emergency management test of President Donald Trump’s administration. The president signed a federal disaster declaration for coastal counties Friday night.

    Trump commended the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his handling of the storm.

    In a tweet Saturday morning addressed to FEMA head Brock Long, Trump said: “You are doing a great job — the world is watching! Be safe.”

    In a separate tweet, Trump said he is monitoring the hurricane closely from Camp David. “We are leaving nothing to chance. City, State and Federal Govs. working great together!”

    The president also tweeted, “We have fantastic people on the ground, got there long before #Harvey. So far, so good!”

    In Corpus Christi, the major city closest to the storm’s centre, wind whipped palm trees and stinging sheets of horizontal rain slapped against hotels and office buildings along the seawall as the storm made landfall.

    Daybreak revealed downed lamp posts and tree limbs and roof tiles torn off buildings. The city’s marina was nearly unscathed, save an awning ripped from a restaurant entrance and a wooden garbage bin uprooted and thrown.

    Along Interstate 45 leaving Galveston, motorists had to stop under bridges to avoid driving in whiteout conditions.

    In Houston, rain fell at nearly 76.2 millimetres an hour, leaving some streets and underpasses underwater. The many drainage channels known as bayous that carry excess water to the Gulf were rising.

    Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the chief administrator of the county that includes the city of 2.3 million, said flooding so far was a “minor issue,” but warned that “we’re not out of this.”

    Fuelled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, Harvey grew rapidly, accelerating from a Category 1 early Friday morning to a Category 4 by evening. Its transformation from an ordinary storm to a life-threatening behemoth took only 56 hours, an incredibly fast intensification.

    Harvey came ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

    The storm’s approach sent tens of thousands of people fleeing inland. Families who escaped Rockport were worried about neighbours and whether their homes are still standing.

    Johanna Cochran was panicking over whether her house or the McDonald’s where she works survived the storm. She and her boyfriend evacuated to a San Antonio shelter.

    Another Rockport resident, Pamela Montes, said she knew many people who stayed behind because “no one felt like it was going to hit.”

    Just hours before the projected landfall, the governor and Houston leaders issued conflicting statements on evacuation.

    Gov. Greg Abbott urged more people to flee, but Houston authorities recommended no widespread evacuations, citing greater danger in having people on roads that could flood and the fact that the hurricane was not taking direct aim at the city.

    The last Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Charley in August 2004 in Florida. Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled New York and New Jersey in 2012, never had the high winds and had lost tropical status by the time it struck. But it was devastating without formally being called a major hurricane.

    Harvey is the first significant hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 177 kph to the Galveston and Houston areas, inflicting $22 billion in damage.

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    Surrounded by police at a Willowdale residence, a man wanted for attempted murder evaded inevitable arrest by slamming his car into a police cruiser and speeding away.

    Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said police had been searching for Tyrell Evans, 28, since an incident in April. When police received information that he was at an address in the Yonge St. and Avondale Rd. area, they surrounded the house late Friday.

    “We were in the process of getting the proper warrants to go in,” Hopkinson said. “While we were doing that, he was able to escape.”

    Hopkinson asid Evans got into a black Maserati and rammed it into police vehicles blocking his path in order to get away.

    “What if somebody was walking in front of the house as he’s leaving and doing all this stuff, right?” Hopkinson said. “He has absolutely no regard for our rule of law, human life. That’s what he’s showing, that’s what he’s exhibiting.”

    The dramatic scene was a culmination of police efforts after an initial warrant for Evans’ arrest was placed on April 9, when police received a report of a person with a gun in the Queen St. W and John St. area. Police said a man was involved in an altercation with a group of people when he pulled out a handgun and aimed it at a 33-year-old man. The trigger was pulled twice, but the gun did not fire, possibly due to jamming. The man, allegedly Evans, then fled the scene.

    “It wasn’t a fight, I believe it was just verbal,” Hopkinson said. “Over an argument, he was willing to shoot a stranger.”

    The gun was never recovered from the first incident. Police believe it may still be in his possession.

    Evans faces ten charges including attempted murder, assault with a weapon, possession of a firearm obtained by crime, and failure to comply with probation. He is now also wanted for dangerous driving after Friday’s incident.

    Police describe him as six foot, with a muscular build, a beard and a shaved head. His car’s license plate is CBBH 661, and it should have damage to the driver’s-side door after the collision with police vehicles.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact police, but police are urging people to be cautious.

    “If anybody sees (him), we absolutely do not want them to approach. They see the car—and let’s face it, a Maserati is not a common car—they see the car, call 911 immediately.” Hopkinson said. “He is going to harm someone if we don’t catch him.”

    0 0

    It had been more than two decades since a white man had won the world heavyweight boxing title.

    The eccentric promoter Don King knew not only that, but that the United States was still a country with deep racial divisions. So when Gerry Cooney — a stout, white New Yorker with a punishing left hook — agreed in summer 1982 to face the reigning champion, Larry Holmes, who was Black and from the Pennsylvania rust belt, King knew what he had to do.

    “If it’s an antagonistic fight between two Blacks, it’s one thing,” King said in a recent interview. “But if it’s an antagonistic fight between a white and a Black, then you can play the race card tremendously and get an overwhelming return.”

    Such deliberate racial themes, long a tradition in boxing, might not be laid out quite as starkly Saturday night when boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is Black, and mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor, who is white, square off in Las Vegas in a boxing match.

    But race has certainly influenced this spectacle of a bout between two titans of their respective sports in ways both stark and subtle.

    Both fighters have flung racially tinged barbs at each other — McGregor told Mayweather to “dance for me, boy” and said he himself was half black “from the bellybutton down”; Mayweather said he was fighting “for all the Blacks around the world.”

    The racial animosity cuts deeper than a few comments.

    Mayweather had spent more than a decade embracing his status as the undisputed king of fight sports villainy: brash, derogatory and eager to flaunt his money, while trying to brush aside a record of domestic violence convictions.

    Then along came McGregor, a mixed martial artist from Ireland, who used a boldness that rivalled Mayweather’s to reach the peak of stardom in the fast-growing Ultimate Fighting Championship universe, in which fighters use their fists and feet and can wrestle opponents down. Even though the two men competed in different sports, they became fast rivals.

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    Now, as they prepare to fight, McGregor is claiming most of the fan support, while Mayweather is asking a pointed question: Is there a racial double standard?

    “He’s arrogant, he’s cocky, he’s this, he’s that, he’s unappreciative,” Mayweather told reporters of how his antics have been received, while McGregor has exhibited similar behaviour “and they praise him for it.”

    To some, the very fact that McGregor has an opportunity to make nine figures in his first professional boxing match speaks to a racial double standard.

    Mayweather, 40, has compiled a 49-0 record since his professional debut in 1996. Although McGregor, 29, has proved to be a devastating striker en route to a 21-3 mark in mixed martial arts, this will be his first professional boxing match.

    Holmes, the defending champion and the victor in the 1982 fight, drew a comparison to the $10 million purses that he and Cooney — each undefeated entering their bout — received when they met in the ring.

    “If it wasn’t for the white guy that I was fighting, we wouldn’t have gotten $10 million,” Holmes said. “If I would have fought five brothers, we wouldn’t have got that much money.”

    McGregor’s earnings might have come down to his marketability.

    “McGregor is in many ways a cheap imitation of Floyd’s ‘Money Mayweather’ persona,” Todd Boyd, a professor who studies race and pop culture at the University of Southern California, wrote in an email. “But McGregor is white, he’s younger, and his clowning comes with an Irish accent. All of this seems to have endeared him to some in the media and many fans as well. McGregor is being celebrated for the same things that Floyd has been denigrated for.”

    But one important difference between Mayweather and McGregor, Boyd noted, is that Mayweather has been in serious trouble with the law related to domestic violence and has served jail time. And even though the crowds at promotional events have leaned heavily in McGregor’s favor, Mayweather has welcomed — and made plenty of money from — people who cheer against him.

    So it is difficult to quantify how much of the support for McGregor is from people who like him as opposed to those who just want to see Mayweather lose.

    McGregor said he did not believe that there was a double standard in how he was treated compared with Mayweather, and he noted that he had his fair share of detractors.

    McGregor has been criticized for some of his racial remarks during the promotion of the fight. He gyrated on stage during a promotional event, calling it “a little present for my beautiful, Black female fans.” In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, McGregor seemed to refer to Black boxers in a scene from Rocky III as “dancing monkeys.”

    McGregor insisted that he was not making race an issue in this fight.

    “I’m not saying that there are not people on both sides that have this mindset where it’s Black versus white, and this type of thing,” he said. “But it’s certainly something I do not condone. I’m disappointed to hear the way sometimes it’s been portrayed. But I suppose it’s just the nature of the game, with the way things are going on in the world at the moment.”

    His comments came before white nationalists’ protests over the planned removal of a Confederate statue led to violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 and subsequent disputes across the country.

    Stephen Espinoza, general manager of Showtime Sports, which is broadcasting the Mayweather-McGregor bout, said the fight was primarily about two athletes at the top of their disciplines proving who was best, but he acknowledged that such events were often seen through the trends of the time.

    “The interesting thing to me personally about boxing is it’s always been a mirror of society,” Espinoza said. “The sport has always been reflective of everything from U.S. immigration trends to socioeconomic and demographic trends.”

    The diversity of boxing has been reflected in Showtime’s audience. The network said its boxing telecasts attract a viewership that is, on average, 35 per cent Black and 30 per cent Hispanic.

    The UFC, on the other hand, tends to attract a whiter audience, in both viewership and attendance at matches.

    For the Mayweather-McGregor meeting, the combined disciplines may attract a more diverse audience, though as a boxing match, it may have to pull more of the weight in any effort to unify racial and ethnic groups.

    “Ultimately, when you get these disparate groups that end up enthusiastically rooting, you get sometimes a combustible environment,” Espinoza said. “Generally, these are national and ethnic rivalries, which are confined to the sport. One of the things that boxing does well is that it brings together a multicultural, multigenerational audience in a way that can be a bonding experience.”

    0 0

    If there’s one thing I thought I could count on in this life it was the feeling of sheer and utter horror that swept over me every time I watched Game of Thrones with my parents. Horror not necessarily because the show is full of monsters on horseback and characters disemboweling each other left, right, and centre, but because everyone and their loyal servant was getting naked and getting it on. And I mean everyone: Queens and concubines, pirates and priestesses, brothers and sisters — even Hodor, the dependable oaf famous for shouting his own name ad nauseam like a human Pokemon, made a surprise appearance in the buff. In other words, like most HBO fare, GOT was not a show you wanted to watch with mom and dad.

    Until today, that is. It appears as though things have changed on Game of Thrones. Now in its seventh season, I find myself watching the show every Sunday night, sitting next to my family, utterly horror-free. Horror-free, and kind of disappointed.

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    This is because the gratuitous nudity and sex I thought I could count on has all but disappeared from the fantasy world of Westeros. Everyone is wearing so much clothing on GOT these days I sometimes doze off and come to wondering if I am watching Downton Abbey (Daenerys Targaryen, a.k.a. Khaleesi, once the most consistently naked woman in all the Seven Kingdoms is now consistently bundled up, not unlike the Dowager Countess, a.k.a. Maggie Smith, on Downton). What the hell happened?

    Either a), someone turned up the AC on the set. Or b), (more likely), critics of the show’s bacchanalian bent finally got their way.

    In a recent piece in the Guardian called “Game of Thrones has finally, thankfully ditched the sex for good” journalist Graeme Virtue (his actual name, no kidding) writes, “Sexposition was the stick used to beat Game of Thrones in the show’s early running, and it always felt like some HBO executive hedging their bets: if we’re going to let these fantasy characters discuss the detailed history, weirdly messed up seasons and absurdly tangled royal lineage of some made-up quasi-medieval continent, best throw in some titillation to stop bored viewers tuning out.”

    Mr. Virtue isn’t alone in damning the titillation tactic. For some time, culture writers have been decrying gratuitous nudity on GOT, many of them in the name of feminism. Here’s writer Rebecca Bohanan bemoaning Khaleesi’s birthday suit in the women's magazine, xoJane, last year: “I hated the way the first season ended with a long, lingering shot of the “powerful” dragon queen’s boobs.” (And here, I thought it didn't linger quite long enough.)

    Feminist writers have taken issue not only with the show’s previous habit of portraying women naked for the simple sake of portraying naked women; they dislike its tendency to portray women raped in graphic detail. I understand the latter criticism, but I have a lot of trouble with the former.

    Yes, there are historically more naked breasts than penises and male torsos on GOT and yes this is a double standard, but why must the popular response to this one-sidedness be a complaint about sex and nudity in general? Why not advocate for more equal-rights exploitation instead? In other words, why not advocate for men and women (and giants and white walkers) in the buff! I am a big-tent feminist, or you could say, a big naked-tent feminist. My feminism includes not less gratuitous nudity, but more, as long as it’s egalitarian gratuitous nudity — which in a way makes it less gratuitous. Maybe this is because I’m gay, and my idea of what’s sexy does not involve Ryan Gosling reciting poetry and baking cookies in his underwear. Nor does it involve a scene in which a beautiful straight woman beds a gentle eunuch with rock hard abs. This latter happens to be the only GOT sex scene heterosexual feminists appear to be celebrating online. Meanwhile, had this female character gone to bed with Khaleesi, say, instead of the gentle eunuch, I’d bet a large lode of dragon-glass that the scene would have been denounced in multiple feminist think pieces as sexist BS and food for the “male gaze.”

    Well, I believe in food for everybody’s gaze.

    And I believe that in times of political unrest and uncertainty such as these, we can all benefit from a little gratuitous nudity on television — be it a “lingering shot of a powerful dragon queen’s boobs” or the naked backside of a gentle eunuch. Bring it on, GOT. The people are counting on you.

    0 0

    Inside the fence lies two community gardens, a play structure, cement pathways and a banner that reads, “Friends of Watkinson Park demands a nature park for the people. Down with gentrification.”

    Outside the fence, community organizers in the Junction, which sits in between St. Clair Ave. W. and Bloor St. W. just north of High Park, worry about the rapid development of their west-end neighbourhood and the loss of its green space.

    On Saturday, their fight was expected to bring roughly 200 people to the Dundas-Watkinson Parkette for a sleepover protest.

    Development of Keele St. has been encroaching on what has always been a low-income area, driving out the poor and reducing access to affordable rental spaces, they say.

    “Gentrification is spreading from Toronto’s downtown core to outlying neighbourhoods,” said Angela Browning, the spokesperson for Friends of Watkinson Park, a collection of community organizers attempting to preserve one of the last green spaces in the area.

    In recent months, the group has stewarded two gardens in the park in its ongoing efforts to work alongside Six Nations elder Donna Powless.

    “Watkinson park is an important restorative space for the low-income community who do not have yards,” Browning said. “We want to network with people who are environmentally concerned with the global warming issue and take up a movement.”

    The protest is just the first step in a movement to empower low-income communities to take ownership of their neighbourhoods, added Browning.

    “The Junction is being gentrified at a rapid rate,” she said. “There are condos going up. People are being evicted from rental housing.”

    The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, or OCAP, is among the other organizations working with Browning.

    “They were having issues with poor people in the park facing harassment from police, mainly for being told they couldn’t smoke in the park at that point,” said spokesperson Randy McLin.

    “Since then we’ve been collaborating specifically around issues of access to public space.”

    This weekend’s sleepover was inspired by the controversial campout OCAP organized at Toronto Mayor John Tory’s condo last April.

    “It was really important for us to support this action because we need similar actions and resistances happening across the city,” McLin added.

    After the city redesigned the parkette last year, Browning and other community organizers were disappointed that the final plans opted for cement and a playground, rather than the “nature-based” space they petitioned for.

    Browning said the group wishes it had more support from the police and their local councillor.

    They were unsure how police were going to respond to the campout.

    “We’re just going to have to play it by ear,” Browning said ahead of the protest.

    The campout was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday and run until Sunday morning.

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump Sunday renewed his pledge to make Mexico pay for a border wall between the U.S and Mexico, days after threatening to trigger a government shutdown if congressional Republicans don’t include funding as they take on a spending bill due Sept. 30.

    “With Mexico being one of the highest crime nations in the world, we must have THE WALL,” Trump posted on Twitter. “Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other …”

    The president did not elaborate on how Mexico would cover the cost.

    Trump has asked for $1.6 billion to begin border wall construction, but not all congressional Republicans agree about the merits of a fight to spend potentially billions of dollars more on a border barrier as they seek for tax cuts.

    At a rally last week in Phoenix, Trump said, “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” and that “one way or the other, we’re going to get that wall.”

    A leading House conservative said Friday that he could support a short-term bill to fund the government after Sept. 30 and delay the fight over wall funding until December.

    “I’m willing to do it whenever it makes sense,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. House Speaker Paul Ryan also has suggested a better time for a stand would be when the House and Senate negotiate final fiscal 2018 spending bills later in the year.

    Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert said on ABC’s This Week Sunday that he was confident Congress would meet Trump’s budget request and wouldn’t speculate on whether the president would veto a measure without it.

    Asked about Mexico paying for the wall, Bossert said the initial effort is on getting an appropriation to build the barrier.

    “As we work with the Mexicans in other policies and trade policies and such, we’ll determine ways for us to make that right,” he said.

    Trump, a week into his presidency, indicated to Mexico’s president Enrique Pena Nieto that he understood the Mexican government would not outright pay the U.S. to build a border wall. But he implored him to stop saying so publicly, according to transcripts of the Jan. 27 call obtained by the Washington Post.

    The president said that “we are both in a little bit of a political bind” but that he knew the funding would work out “somehow” and “come out in the wash.” At the same time, according to the report, he said, “If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”

    Read more: Growing rift between Trump, GOP leaders could make it difficult to raise the debt ceiling

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    LONDON—Police detectives on Sunday arrested a second man in London in connection with what they called a terrorist incident near Buckingham Palace, when a man drove up to a police van then reached for a 1.2-metre sword.

    Three police officers were slightly injured Friday night as they confronted a 26-year-old man who approached a police van in a restricted area outside Queen Elizabeth II’s London residence then reached for the sword in his car. The man, who repeatedly shouted “Allahu akbar!” (“God is great” in Arabic), was arrested on the scene.

    Scotland Yard said a second suspect, a 30-year-old man, was detained Sunday in west London on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. Officers were searching an address in the area as part of the probe.

    The force added that a warrant has been granted to detain the first suspect until Sept. 1.

    Police had said Saturday they believed the man was acting alone and were not looking for other suspects.

    Palace officials declined to comment. British media reported that no members of the royal family were in the palace in London at the time.

    Read more: British police investigating man arrested with ‘four-foot sword’ outside Buckingham Palace

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    It’s been nearly one week since Toronto opened its first city-run site for people to use illegal intravenous drugs and so far three dozen people have used the controversial service.

    “We are thrilled to be offering this life-saving service to the community,” Dr. Rita Shahin, Toronto Public Health’s associate medical officer of health, said Saturday.

    “The very first client that we had when we opened our doors, to us, represents a potential life that we may have saved. We had 36 visits in just five days, which . . . represents a great success. We look forward to more people becoming aware of the service and helping more people in our community.”

    The temporary clinic, located at Victoria and Dundas Sts. in a building that already houses The Works needle-exchange program, has been open since Monday.

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    In a plain clinical room, up to three people at a time can inject pre-obtained drugs with clean needles. Staff — two trained nurses, two counselors and a manager — can keep an eye on up to nine drug users per hour and hope each will stay at least 15 minutes for rest and observation and signs of overdose.

    The site is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

    City staff did not deal with any overdoses this week at the temporary site, Shahin said. Nor was there need to administer Naloxone, an antidote for the powerful opioid fentanyl, a drug responsible for a growing number of overdose-related deaths.

    Health Canada had previously approved three larger permanent safe injection sites for Toronto: one in the building where the temporary site is now located, as well as one in South Riverdale and one in Parkdale. They were expected to open this fall.

    But after local harm reduction advocates, concerned about an increasing number of overdoses, many of which are apparently related to the highly toxic painkiller fentanyl, opened their own unsanctioned “pop up” safe injection site in a tent in Moss Park, the city pushed ahead with its temporary site.

    That “pop up” site in Moss Park has been operating for two weeks, from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. About 20 to 25 people inject on site each day and an additional 20 people smoking crack or methamphetamine, Nick Boyce, a volunteer at the site, said on Saturday.

    The Moss Park site has stopped or reversed 12 overdoses, and volunteers (80 in total, 25 of them medically trained) have closely monitored many more at risk people, according to Boyce. “These are all people who would have died, ended up in emergency costing thousands of dollars, or would have been prone to assault.”

    Boyce said some of the same people come every day and there are no plans for the “pop up,” funded by donations from a Go FundMe page, to shut down now that the city site is up and running. In fact, Boyce said organizers of the Moss Park site are exploring implementing a program for people to check their drugs for fentanyl.

    For some people, the downtown city-run site may be too far for them to travel, Boyce said. And for others, who are used to injecting in alleyways, they feel more comfortable in the tent in the park rather than the more sterile clinic-like environment, he added.

    Toronto Police have so far allowed the unsanctioned site to operate. Last week, a department spokesperson, Mark Pugash, said police have met with the organizers and agreed on “a number of conditions which we think go a long ways towards minimizing risks to public safety.”

    “We’ll continue to operate on a day-by-day basis, but we have no plans to change our position,” Pugash said.

    Police in Ottawa are also monitoring an unsanctioned safe injection site that opened Friday.

    As for the city-run site, which has had fewer visitors in its first week than the Moss Park “pop up,” Shahin said that because the site opened so quickly there wasn’t a lot of time or opportunity to promote the service.

    “Over the coming weeks we will be conducting street outreach to notify more people of the service,” she said.

    “We . . . remain optimistic that, with more time, more people in need will become aware of this vital health service and use it. The more people that use it, the more potential we have for people to avoid injecting alone and to potentially save lives.”

    Shahin said staff have been debriefing at the end of each shift, sharing lessons learned among themselves and with colleagues in other Canadian cities and abroad.

    Safe injection sites currently operate in Montreal and in B.C. cities of Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna and Kamloops, with other cities including Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton planning or considering them.

    With files from David Rider and Betsy Powell

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    DALLAS—A young girl’s repeated attempts to dial 911 went unanswered as her mother lay dying from stab wounds in a Texas hotel room. She didn’t know she had to dial 9 first to get an outside line.

    Under a measure nearing final approval in Congress, businesses would be required to include direct-dial 911 on any new telephone system they install. That means there would be no need to dial an access code or additional digit to reach emergency assistance.

    “Kari’s Law” was named after Kari Hunt Dunn, who was slain in 2013 when her estranged husband stormed into her hotel room and stabbed her multiple times while her children watched. The 9-year-old girl who tried four times to dial for help sat on her grandfather’s lap in the police station after the attack, and he promised to find a way to simplify nation’s the 911 system.

    “A little girl did what she was taught to do, and adults prevented her from doing it,” said Hank Hunt, the girl’s grandfather and Kari Hunt Dunn’s father. “Adults should be the one to fix it. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I had my daughter with me.”

    The legislation Hunt has championed through Congress would amend the 1934 Communications Act to mandate both direct-dial 911 and software that automatically alerts first responders and on-site personnel. Both the House and Senate passed versions of the bill this year without opposition, but they both must approve an identical version before sending it to President Donald Trump.

    “I know with my own children, we taught them to call 911, so I think a lot of people identified when they heard about this situation,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who introduced the House bill. “When it became clear that a law was not going to be an over ominous demand, then that’s what we put together.”

    Most multi-line telephone systems, like the ones installed in hotels, offices and universities, can be made compliant with a programming or software upgrade that is reasonably priced, said Mark Fletcher, the chief public safety architect at the communications technology firm Avaya. Fletcher, who has helped Hunt push for the passage of Kari’s Law, said many systems already have settings that meet compliance standards that can be enabled for free.

    Businesses will have two years to comply before being penalized with a fine, but many have already begun making voluntary changes.

    More than 70 per cent of major hotel chains are in the process of requiring their franchises to have direct-dial capabilities to emergency services, which extends access to approximately 7,800 properties, according to a 2015 Federal Communications Commission report.

    A year earlier, none of the chains required direct-dial access to 911. And only 25 per cent of multi-line telephone system vendors shipped products that allowed direct access to emergency services in the default settings.

    “The industry wants to be responsible,” Gohmert said. “They did the reasonable thing of getting ahead of the law, but there’s always going to be some that don’t comply. The sooner this gets signed into law, the better.”

    Legislators have passed state versions of Kari’s Law in Illinois, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas. But advocacy organizations such as the National Emergency Number Association say a national law is needed to standardize requirements and provide people with a common approach to accessing 911.

    Until it becomes a federal mandate, Hunt said he will keep pushing for change at the state and local level. When the Texas legislation passed, his granddaughter stood beside Gov. Greg Abbott and received the pen he used to sign the bill into law. She wants to do the same in Washington.

    “I made that promise to a 9-year-old, and I wasn’t giving up until it got signed,” Hunt said. “People kept telling me it would be 10 to 15 years down the road. I said, ‘We’ll see.’”

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    A reunion 72 years in the making took place last week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — and it’s all thanks to the Waterdown District High School Museum.

    On Aug. 16 Tom van Roon and Ralph Berets met for the first time since 1945 — when van Roon’s parents Johannes and Caterina van Roon hid the then-four-year-old Berets and his sister Marion in their home in German-occupied Holland.

    The van Roons, who had seven children of their own, hid the young Jewish siblings in their Amersfoort home for about three weeks. The house had a secret trap door in a second floor closet, with a ladder to reach the home’s rafters.

    This spring, 17-year-old Waterdown student Matthew Lang needed a project for his Grade 11 history class, which runs the museum.

    Lang had heard the story about his great-grandparents from his mother and set to work tracking down Berets in May. While they knew Ralph and his sister Marion’s first names, they had the wrong last name. After three weeks of searching, Lang got his grandfather involved and a call to his great-uncle put them on the right track.

    Shortly after, Lang found himself calling Berets’s number. Berets, now 77, lives in Arlington, Va. and was an English professor at the University of Missouri — Kansas City before retiring in 2002. His sister Marion, 80, lives in the Netherlands.


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    The research led to last week, when van Roon was able to meet Berets in Washington, D.C.

    Lang said when he started the project, he never expected to be able to set up a reunion.

    “Everybody is really happy with the outcome and getting to meet him was even better,” he said, adding the reunion with Berets was documented by a local NBC affiliate at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. “I’m really happy for my opa to get this experience.

    “I’m really happy it turned out the way it did, because it started as just a school project and became a lot more than that.”

    Lang noted the final piece of the project is to get his great-grandparents recognized as Righteous Gentiles.

    A program of the Israeli government, Righteous Gentiles is the phrase used for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Righteous Gentiles are honoured at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem.

    Lang noted the process involves having four witnesses pledge that his grandparents did harbour the Beretses.

    “We sent the paperwork in and we’re just waiting now,” he said, adding just recently the family learned the application is being reviewed.

    Van Roon, 79, said it was great to be able to meet Berets.

    The Blind River, Ont., resident said when he found Berets’s testimony online, it didn’t mention his family by name, but noted they hid on the second floor, above an ice cream parlour.

    “That was my dad’s,” he said. “From then on the story just unfolded. It’s just amazing.”

    Van Roon said it would be fantastic to have his parents recognized as Righteous Gentiles.

    “I still have two brothers left out of the six siblings I had and I think they would be really happy for our parents if that happened,” he said.

    “I’m really happy that I had the opportunity to meet Ralph and his wife,” he said. He added now that he knows Marion lives in the Netherlands he’ll try to visit the next time he’s in the country.

    “It’s almost like an extended family now.”

    Lang noted while his great-grandparents weren’t looking for recognition for their actions, it would be nice to have. In fact, one of his mother’s cousins even hired a private investigator to track Berets down, but they had the wrong name, so they came up empty.

    “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it,” he said of tracking down Berets. “I’m just a high school kid. But I didn’t give up on it.”

    0 0

    CORNWALL, ONT.—Their lives changed in an instant that July day when the government letter arrived telling them that her work permit was not being renewed.

    For five years, Sheila Francois lived, worked and paid her taxes in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to help support her three teenage children. When she and husband, Frank, read that letter — no renewal and no explanation — they knew their life in the United States was over.

    “If you have status and you see that immigration stops it, right away you think one thing — deportations,” says 44-year-old Frank Francois.

    “The minute we saw that happen and as we are watching the news, we saw Canada taking people, we said, ‘we might as well take a chance’.”

    The Francois family are among nearly 7,000 asylum seekers — most of them Haitian — who have flooded across the Quebec-New York state border since mid-July when the Trump administration announced it might end their “temporary protected status,” which was granted following Haiti’s massive 2010 earthquake. They are among the first few hundred the government has relocated to this eastern Ontario processing centre.

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    Few here have heard of Justin Trudeau and no one says they saw his now-controversial January Twitter message welcoming immigrants facing persecution. The tweet was heavily criticized by the Conservative opposition for sparking the American exodus.

    But many here say they uprooted their new American lives because of something more primal: they were driven by fear of the anti-immigration politics of President Donald Trump.

    “I decided to come to Canada because the politics of migration in the United States changed,” says Haitian-born Justin Remy Napoleon, 39. “I was scared. I came here to continue my life.”

    Like Frank Francois, Napoleon says he feared deportation over Trump’s policy shift, so he left his adopted home in San Diego, flew to the eastern seaboard and boarded a bus for the northern border. It wasn’t the first time he decided to start over in another country. He left Haiti in 2006 for the Dominican Republic and then went to Brazil.

    Napoleon says he dreamed of coming to Canada from as far back as his time in Haiti. When he crossed the border earlier this month, “I thought I was entering a paradise.”

    Jean-Pierre Kidmage, 43, took a three-day bus ride from Miami to New York before taking a taxi across the border. He says he doesn’t know much about Canada but he’s heard good things. He hit the road because he was worried the Trump administration would deport him.

    He’s been here less than two weeks, but he wants to stay. “I sleep well here. Better here than in the U.S.”

    Lingering unease is palpable outside Cornwall’s Nav Centre, where they are being temporarily housed. Young men and women, some with children, pace the grounds, their eyes trained on mobile phones. More than a dozen adults politely decline interviews.

    Some await taxis to take them into town to shop. A few roll suitcases towards a handful of cars and minivans bearing Quebec licence plates that periodically arrive during the day. The new arrivals here are free to go once they have registered their claims, and officials say most are headed to Montreal.

    Now, more than a month and 2,550 kilometres after leaving his most recent home, Frank Francois sits on a bench in warm sunshine. He won’t be photographed, but he’s happy to discuss what has been a life of epic migration. It has been a life of running — from his native Haiti in 1997 to the Bahamas and from America to Canada.

    He grew up on a farm in Port-de-Paix, the oldest of three brothers and four sisters. He yearned to become a doctor after high school, but there was no way his family could afford the $13,000 in tuition, so he got a visa to the Bahamas.

    Soon, he began working construction jobs, sending some of his earnings home.

    “Once you make money to pay your bills, you can help the people that you left behind in Haiti.”

    He built his own family in the Bahamas. That’s where his three teenagers were born. His family spent a decade and a half there until more bad news arrived in the mail: the government informed him of a new law that called for the immediate expulsion of anyone who had been in the country as a visitor for more than 10 years.

    “Hard! Everywhere,” he laughs.

    His family re-established itself in Fort Lauderdale, near Miami, where Sheila had relatives. She went first with the three children, got visas, her work permit and set the kids up in school. Her husband got a visa and joined them in 2012.

    He stayed after it expired and periodically found under-the-table work in construction, but it wasn’t easy. “It’s hard when you don’t have a legal status, to survive and work for your families.”

    The children went to school, made friends and the family got on with life in a rented apartment. Now, aged 13, 14 and 15, the Francois children have become extremely aware of the changing political climate in the U.S.

    “Every day, they say, ‘Daddy, every time we watch the news we don’t see any policy that the president (has) that’s in our favour.’ They were afraid to face deportations.”

    Then, when their mother’s rejection letter came, the kids weighed in again.

    “My children said, ‘Daddy, we were born in the Bahamas’ — this is their words — ‘we think Canada can help us.’

    “They said, ‘Daddy, let’s go to Canada — find our way out’.”

    Now, his family’s fate rests on receiving one more piece of official government correspondence: a notice that they qualify to have their asylum claim heard. That would start a process that will allow his children to go to school and for him to get a work permit.

    “All I want Canadians to know about me is I am a working man,” he says.

    “I’m looking for work and I’m looking for better education for my children. I want my children to be educated so they can help themselves. You understand?”

    0 0

    Bruno Mars at the Air Canada Centre, Aug. 26, 2017

    4 stars

    He had razzle. He had dazzle.

    And on Saturday night, for the first of two hotly anticipated Air Canada Centre sell-out concerts, Bruno Mars had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with a superlative 90-minute set that combined old-school influence with new-school originality.

    Peter Gene Hernandez, a.k.a Bruno Mars, has obviously learned by osmosis from his past influences, as you didn’t have to look too far into his performance style to recognize glimpses of Motown, Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Prince.

    Adorned in a red pin-striped jersey emblazoned by the word “Hooligans;” a “XXIV” baseball cap (in reference to his most recent album 24K Magic,) a pair of track pants and sneakers, Mars embodied all of them in his soulful singing, stellar choreography, guitar solos and unflappable confidence.

    Although he is only three albums deep into what promises to be a remarkable career, Mars’ impeccable compositions have revealed a gifted intuition for pop music that embrace the finest tenets of the art form: universally catchy melodies, ridiculously hummable refrains, potent arrangements and refreshing lyrical takes on the age-old subject of love, albeit at times with a more lusty and explicit libido.

    That’s the reason every R&B-scented number in the 16-song set that Mars and his stellar seven-piece paraded before the celebratory ACC crowd sounded like a Top 10 hit and visually why the whole ordeal seemed so effortless and natural.

    And from the moment that Mars sashayed to the microphone with “Finesse,” much of the 24K Magic of the evening had a lot to do with that amazing band of his: sporting identical costumes, although with different coloured jerseys, the performers very much gave the impression of a “Team Bruno” approach rather than that of hired guns.

    In an era where practically every entertainer trots out a well-rehearsed ensemble with sophisticated dance moves that have little visual connection with the music that’s being presented, Mars’ men kept it relatively simple, almost hailing back to the days of doo-wop, and the dancing tandem of guitarist Phredley Brown, monster bass player Jamareo Artist, trombonist Kameron Whalum and trumpeter James King added strongly to the overall visual component.

    Mars also had an effective foil with singer (and his Smeezingtons writing partner) Philip Lawrence, playing the buddy/best friend role and taking up the slack for the boss when it came to spouting raps or initiating call-and-response. One really got the impression that everyone on stage were neighbourhood pals and that was one of the concert’s most intangible strengths, along with the displayed complex and disciplined musicianship.

    As for the song selection, the Hawaii-born Mars - who in his first speaking break asked the rhetorical question “Are you ready to sweat with me, Toronto?” - front-loaded the show with 24K Magic selections, save for a brief Doo Wop & Hooligans detour into the funky “Treasure.”

    Show highlights up to that point being a fervent “That’s What I Like” and a seductive “Versace On The Floor,” as the audience chimed in with a sing-a-long - and then it was time to bring out some of the big guns of the Bruno Mars catalogue: “Marry You,” with Mars injecting a few measures of Prince’s memorable “Purple Rain” guitar solo into the arrangement; the playfully frenetic “Runaway Baby” and the uplifting “Just The Way You Are,” every word echoed back to Mars by his adoring and engaged onlookers.

    The fabulous evening was capped by “Locked Out of Heaven” and Mark Ronson’s exuberant “Uptown Funk” - and if there were any doubters of Mars’ wunderkind abilities, they were put to rest by the end of the show.

    The future of pop music is in great hands. What a bunch of Hooligans.

    0 0

    A video of a brawl involving a crowd of people in a residential Mississauga parking lot that went viral has prompted a police investigation into the incident.

    The video, posted on World Star Hip Hop’s Instagram account, has racked up over 1.2 million views. Shouting and expletives can be heard as several people physically clash, some of them carrying what look like poles or bats.

    Peel Police Const. Bancroft Wright said the fight broke out around 6 p.m. on August 14 near Highway 10 and Queensway West. They responded to the area over reports of a disturbance with “10 to 15 people fighting,” Wright said.

    When police arrived on the scene, everyone scattered.

    Police managed to locate and speak to a few of the people involved, but were unaware of the details of the brawl until a video filmed by a woman in a nearby building was brought to their attention.

    In the video, the brawl takes a turn for the worse when a dark sedan backs up a couple lengths and accelerates toward the people still clustered in the fight.

    Two men can be seen diving out of the way, narrowly avoiding being pinned between two vehicles as the sedan smashes into the front of a silver vehicle as people scream in the background.

    The sedan pulls away and a man who was standing near the silver car briefly crumples to the ground — it isn’t clear whether he was struck by the silver car’s open door or merely blown back by the impact of the collision.

    No weapons were recovered from the initial scene and no injuries were reported, Wright said.

    “Police are hoping to speak to the driver of an older-model four-door black Cadillac that was shown driving into a silver Honda,” he said. The video footage of the scene suggests the possibility that several charges could be incurred, he added.

    “The car looks as if it’s being used as a weapon, and then there was failing to remain at the scene, (so) there’s potential for multiple charges.”

    An investigation is ongoing, but Wright noted police can only do so much when the individuals involved don’t remain on scene.

    “It’s one thing if people are coming in, speaking — ‘yes, this happened to me and here’s the information’ — but if nothing’s coming in then (we’re) a bit behind the 8-ball to find the information.”

    0 0

    Matt Morgan meets me at the Cineplex elevator wearing an easy smile and a red flannel shirt with the collar cropped off.

    “The coffee’s not as good as Alchemy,” he said, with a grinning reference to a popular nearby brunch joint, but at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Markham, “at least it’s coffee.”

    Around us, skinny-jean-clad 20-somethings mingle, coffees in hand, while Tom Cruise gazes from a movie poster on the wall. Sugary Christian pop-rock echoes into the hallway.

    Soon everyone files into the movie theatre as the rock band ramps to a crescendo. Sweeping vistas of clouds, rushing rivers and doves flash across the giant screen as dozens of outstretched arms and upraised voices praise Jesus in song.

    Welcome (or “Welcome Home,” as the official slogan goes) to Vantage Church, Toronto’s up-and-coming extension of the Hillsong phenomenon.

    For the uninitiated, Hillsong Church is the millennial generation’s answer to the “stuffy” Christianity of the past, as senior Vantage pastor Damian Bassett puts it.

    Once a week Bassett brings his high-charisma preaching to not one but two Vantage congregations — the first in Markham on Sunday mornings, and the second in a hotel basement near Yonge and Dundas in the evenings.

    In total, Bassett says Vantage has about 500 frequent worshippers across both campuses. It’s growing, though Vantage isn’t the only game in town. The Toronto branch of Christian City Church has a similar esthetic, and a congregation of around 800, also mostly millennials.

    “A lot of young people want something different than what they currently have in a church,” Bassett said. “We’re not seeking to be ‘cool,’ but we do want to be relevant.”

    Instead of the stereotypical Sunday best, you’re more likely to see Hillsong worshippers in thrift-shopped bohemian threads. Converse Chuck Taylors proliferate.

    Services are more like rock concerts, with stage lights and charisma instead of solemnity and choral hymns.

    It’s all very flash and hip and photogenic. Even the coffee station is adorned with a string of bare tungsten light bulbs. It’s big-tent revivalism for the Instagram age.

    Founded in 1983 by Brian and Bobbie Houston in Sydney, Australia, Hillsong has become a mega-church of global proportions. It’s active in 19 countries on five continents, and claims a global attendance approaching 100,000 worshippers weekly.

    It’s got its own record label and its most popular band, Hillsong United (fronted by the Houstons’ son Joel) has cranked out 16 albums since 1998, topping the Christian rock charts and selling millions of records translated into more than 100 languages.

    Along the way it has attracted millennial celebrities like Justin Bieber, who recently cancelled part of his world tour and is often seen palling around with Hillsong New York’s tattooed pastor Carl Lentz.

    Bieber has been open on social media about his faith and — more recently — his personal relationship with Jesus. In 2015 a GQ feature article described in detail the moment Lentz baptized the often-troubled pop singer in NBA veteran Tyson Chandler’s basketball star over-sized bathtub.

    Another NBA star, Kyrie Irving, has also been connected to Lentz and Hillsong in media reports. Some have speculated there was a connection to his trade this past week.

    Vantage Church’s senior pastors — Damian Bassett and his wife, Julie Bassett — are a long way from the paparazzi and the wild speculation.

    “We’re just trying to reach people,” Damian said.

    “Maybe the church has been stained in the past by trying to tell people what to do and how to live their lives. I think what the church is called to do is just to love people.”

    Damian, originally from New Zealand, and Julie, from Toronto, fell in love with each other in Sydney, while attending Hillsong’s bible college. They both come from Pentecostal backgrounds, and spent 10 years in the Australian city, working with the church and raising the first two of their three daughters.

    “But I’m from here,” Julie said. “We just felt really strongly that we were called to come back and start a church similar to Hillsong in Canada.”

    But it isn’t exactly a Hillsong Church. Vantage is a member of the “Hillsong Family” — a collection of 30 autonomous churches around the world that take their spiritual inspiration and guidance from Hillsong, but are free to run their affairs as they see fit.

    “We have connections,” Julie said. “We go to conferences. We position ourselves close to Brian and Bobbie because they are our senior pastors. They were our pastors for 10 years in Sydney, and we still need pastors ourselves, people we can look to and call on.”

    But that closeness to the Houstons occasionally also means being close to controversy. Like any mega-church, Hillsong has faced storms, sometimes of its own making.

    Earlier this year in New York, it was a row over whether gay marriage was OK with the church. Two openly gay members of Hillsong New York’s choir gave a media interview in which they said they were planning to marry, and claimed they had the church’s blessing.

    That drew backlash from the church’s more conservative members, and Brian Houston was pressured into writing a blog post titled “Do I Love Gay People?” The takeaway message was that gay people are welcome in the church; they just can’t hold a leadership role.

    For the Bassetts and Vantage, the issue is a tricky one.

    “You’ve got years and years of the church thinking a certain way, and some people being idiots about it and others being quiet about it,” Damian said.

    “I think there’s got to be grace on both sides. At the end of the day, I think it’s something that’s going to change in our culture and it’s not something that I’m going to fight against.”

    Openly gay people are 100 per cent welcome at Vantage, Damian said, as is anybody. He doesn’t preach about it or anything else political from the stage, and won’t push his beliefs on anyone unless he’s asked directly for guidance.

    “We would much rather build a relationship with people and talk about it with them behind closed doors,” Julie said, “the way that we would deal with any other issue, if someone struggles with alcoholism or any other issue that they may be struggling with.”

    In Australia, the church has faced far worse.

    In 1999, revelations surfaced that Hillsong founder Brian Houston’s father, Frank, himself a pastor at the Sydney Christian Life Centre, had sexually assaulted at least one boy for years in the 1970s, beginning when the child was 7.

    Brian, who was president of the Assemblies of God in Australia at the time, confronted his father, who confessed to the abuse. Frank was removed from the ministry, and the church was told in private correspondence he’d committed a grave “moral failure,” but Brian never went to the police.

    He also helped his father pay the victim $10,000. The payment was agreed upon at a meeting in a McDonald’s, where the victim was given a dirty napkin to sign in exchange for the money, according to the findings of a 2004 royal commission. The commission found that Brian had been in a conflict of interest while attempting to deal with the controversy.

    The scandal has followed the Houstons ever since.

    For Tanya Levin, one of Hillsong’s long-standing and most vocal critics, Brian’s handling of the abuse allegations constituted a cover-up.

    “He never named it,” Levin said. “He never apologized for it. He never guaranteed anybody’s safety — none of that. It was: pray for us. My dad’s a pedophile, pray for us.”

    Levin has been a thorn in the church’s side for years. She grew up in Hillsong in Australia, but left as a teenager over what she said was rampant hypocrisy in its teachings. Decades later as the abuse revelations began to unfurl, she landed a book deal to write about the church. When she approached the Houstons for an interview in 2005, she got a letter from their lawyer asking her to refrain from attending any more Hillsong meetings.

    When she showed up with a camera crew in 2015, she was arrested and charged with trespassing.

    Generally, Levin said Hillsong is less about the Bible and more about making money.

    “It’s no different than Scientology,” she said, “it just looks less kooky. It’s a very subtle form of brainwashing. The Bible, at this point, is kind of peripheral to the whole thing.”

    Hillsong proper rakes in millions of dollars a year from its congregants around the world. Last year it brought in nearly $131 million (Canadian), 56 per cent of it from donations, according to its annual report.

    Compared to Hillsong’s income, Vantage Church is much more modest. It had about $353,000 in revenue last year, 84 per cent from donations, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.

    But with the sepia-toned appeal of Hillsong’s hipster cred as a road map, Vantage Church is setting out on a similar journey.

    Vantage services typically start with four or five rousing songs of praise, followed by a reading of prayer requests and a short message encouraging donation.

    On a Sunday morning earlier this month, Laura Montgomery stood on stage in the Markham Cineplex, extolling the virtues of investing.

    She began by telling the assembled how earlier this summer, she took the scary first steps into the world of mutual funds and stock markets, GICs and TFSAs.

    But you know what’s superior to investing in the world economy? she asked. “Investing in the Kingdom of God.”

    “Your stock might go up, or it might go down. But investing in the Kingdom of God guarantees an amazing return on investment,” Montgomery said.

    She went on to say that for people who donate, they’ll be rewarded with the treasure God is saving for them in heaven.

    As she spoke, volunteers passed around collection buckets before Damian took the stage to deliver the sermon proper.

    One hundred per cent of the donations Vantage brings in are used by Canadian organizations. On this, Damian is very clear. “We don’t send money out of the country unless it’s for, say, the charity we support called Watoto, which works in Uganda but it’s run by Canadians and registered here.”

    With Hillsong providing a global template, Vantage Church is about to embark on a season of expansion. In September it will be moving the downtown campus from its current location in the basement of the Bond Place Hotel to a larger space in a former Anglican church nearby.

    It will also start honing its social media game, and church officials hope to issue a couple of musical EPs from the tiny recording studio at the church’s office in Markham.

    “We’ve never really marketed ourselves,” Damian said. “We’ve been flying under the radar for a long time.”

    The Bassetts spent the first few years of Vantage’s eight-year history building towards a stronger church — refining the product, so to speak. Now, it’s time to take that product to the masses.

    “Marketing serves what we do, but we don’t serve marketing,” said Julie. “Marketing is a tool to bring people in the door but at the end of the day our purpose isn’t marketing. Our purpose is to love people and to glorify God.”

    0 0

    LAS VEGAS—As UFC president Dana White addressed a news conference following Floyd Mayweather’s 10-round dismantling of UFC champ Conor McGregor, the boxer emerged from the locker room with his retinue and mounted the stage.

    The 40-year-old Mayweather hugged Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza, then embraced Leonard Ellerbe, his long-time ally and CEO of Mayweather promotions. He even hugged White, whose most marketable star he had just throttled in the richest combat sports event in history.

    When Mayweather took the dais and started talking, the World Boxing Council’s “Money Belt” rested on a chair beside him.

    But it wasn’t beside the point.

    Most observers expected Mayweather, now 50-0 and a future hall-of-famer, to deal McGregor a painful boxing lesson — and that happened. But McGregor made a guaranteed $30 million for a fight organizers expect to break pay-per-view records. For Mayweather, the payday started with a $100 million guarantee and could swell to $350 million once pay-per-view and other revenue sources are tallied.

    With numbers like those available for facing an MMA fighter with no pro boxing experience, Mayweather says the decision to end his two-year retirement was simple.

    “We all do foolish things,” Mayweather told the post-fight news conference. “But I’m not a damn fool.”

    McGregor, 29, entered the ring with a 21-3 mixed martial arts record and a noticeable size advantage over Mayweather. He also brought an awkward, aggressive style that troubled the undefeated Mayweather early. McGregor even landed the bout’s significant blow, an authoritative first-round uppercut.

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    “I’m so proud of Conor,” White said. “It was a completely different fight than I expected. He went 10 rounds with arguably the greatest to ever do it.”

    One judge awarded the UFC star each of the first three rounds, but in their corner before the fourth Mayweather and his trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., shared a laugh.

    Then Mayweather, widely regarded as the best boxer of his generation, switched gears. Instead of moving and counterpunching, he pressed forward with hands high, whacking McGregor’s body with straight right hands. As the fight progressed Mayweather diversified his attack and stepped up his pressure.

    The tactical switch left McGregor — who had bragged about his conditioning before the bout — tired, confused and vulnerable.

    “I didn’t anticipate the three game changes,” said McGregor, who strolled into the news conference sipping whiskey. “That’s what a champion does.”

    By round nine McGregor, who weighed in at 153 ½ pounds but entered at near 170, was in full retreat. And by the 10th Mayweather was landing concussive right hands with ease. When a salvo drove an exhausted McGregor to the ropes, Mayweather looked to unload more blows, but referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight.

    In the week preceding the fight Mayweather promised he’d initiate the action and fight McGregor at close range. Afterward he said he hoped to finish the bout within six rounds, but the 10th-round stoppage still fit the template.

    According to CompuBox, Mayweather landed 170 of 320 total punches, and connected on 20 of 26 punches in the final round.

    McGregor landed more punches (111) and a higher percentage (26) than elite boxers like Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez did against Mayweather, but he boxer says his game plan precluded pitching a no-hitter.

    “When you come straight forward, you’re going to take contact. I understand that,” he said. “(I planned to) let him shoot heavy shots from the beginning (then) take him down the stretch and do what we do best.”

    What both fighters do best is generate attention and revenue.

    After reports that several stateside cable operators couldn’t keep up with the surge of customers ordering the pay-per-view, promoters decided to delay the main event to allow servers to come back online and consumers to spend more money.

    The bout drew 14,623 spectators to T-Mobile arena, well below the venue record set during the showdown between Alvarez and fellow Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in May.

    But the same high ticket prices that depressed attendance may have helped set a ticket revenue record. Where Mayweather’s 2015 win over Pacquiao earned $72 million at the gate, Mayweather said Saturday’s fight brought in $80 million.

    But the folks behind the most lucrative fight ever staged realize slightly lower ticket prices would have made the event still more money.

    “You’re not always going to get it right,” Ellerbe said. “(But) we get it right more often than not.”

    As of Saturday afternoon StubHub listed more than 300 seats, ranging from $1,350 to nearly $20,000.

    The intense fascination sprung from seeing how a dominant mixed martial arts fighter would fare when challenging an elite boxer on the boxer’s terms.

    McGregor rode a string of spectacular knockouts to world titles in two UFC weight classes. More importantly, he’s a self-marketing showman who has headlined the UFC’s best-selling pay-per-view shows. And he’s a master trash talker who goaded Mayweather for more than a year before finally securing the fight and its gigantic payout.

    Boxing isn’t McGregor’s sport. Aside from short videos of him sparring pro boxers Paulie Malignaggi and Chris Van Heerden, solid evidence of McGregor’s pedigree as a pure boxer is before the fight.

    But that’s not the point.

    Since defeating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather has grown into boxing’s biggest draw. For boxers, landing a fight against him is like hitting the lottery, the pay raise making his opponents winners even if they lose.

    Saturday night the biggest, brashest opponent of all hoped to alter the outcome of that equation.

    He lost, too, but will deposit a bigger cheque than everyone who lost before him.

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    HOUSTON—The remnants of Hurricane Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into the nation’s fourth-largest city Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

    Helicopters, boats and high-water vehicles swarmed around inundated Houston neighbourhoods, pulling people from their homes or from the turbid water, which was high enough in some places to gush into second floors.

    The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their homes to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

    As the water rose, the National Weather Service offered another ominous forecast: Before the storm passes, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could receive as much as 1.3 metres of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

    “The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.

    Average rainfall totals will end up around 1 metre for Houston, weather service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

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    The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Brock Long, said the government expected to conduct a “mass care mission” and predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

    “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.

    Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many displaced families to fend for themselves. The city’s main convention centre was quickly opened as a shelter.

    Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke Sunday to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

    “When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Leho said.

    Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez used Twitter to field calls for assistance. Among those seeking help was a woman who posted: “I have 2 children with me and the water is swallowing us up.”

    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in pet carriers.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off flooded roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

    The mayor defended his decision not to ask residents to evacuate before the heavy rain from Harvey swamped roads and neighbourhoods. He said there was no way to know which areas were most vulnerable.

    “If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” he said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

    Rainfall of more than four inches per hour resulted in water levels higher than in any recent floods and higher than during Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, said Jeff Linder of flood control district in Harris County, which includes Houston.

    Rescuers came by land, water and air.

    On Interstate 45 south of downtown, television video showed people climbing over concrete dividers to get to a high-wheel dump truck that appeared to be wheels-deep in water on a service road. They clambered up the side of the truck to get into the dump box.

    In Friendswood near Houston, authorities asked people with flat-bottomed airboats or fuel for them to help rescue people.

    Jesse Gonzalez, and his son, also named Jesse, used their boat to rescue people from a southeast Houston neighbourhood. Asked what he had seen, the younger Gonzalez replied: “A lot of people walking and a lot of dogs swimming.”

    “It’s chest- to shoulder-deep out there in certain areas,” he told television station KTRK as the pair grabbed a gasoline can to refill their boat.

    The Coast Guard, which received more than 300 requests for help, deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

    Staff at a Houston television station broadcasting live coverage of the floods had to evacuate after water started to gush into the building. The anchors and news operations at KHOU moved first to a second floor before finally abandoning the station.

    Rainfall totals climbed by the hour. Since Thursday, South Houston had received nearly 63 centimetres and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 69 centimetres.

    President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday morning that he would visit Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.”

    The rescues unfolded a day after the hurricane settled over the Texas coastline. It was blamed for killing at least two people.

    One person was killed in Aransas County in a fire at home during the storm, county Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills Jr. said.

    Another person — a woman who tried to get out of her vehicle in high water — died in flooding in Harris County, where Houston is located, though authorities had not confirmed a cause of death, said Gary Norman, a spokesperson for the Houston emergency operations centre.

    The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 48 kilometres northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 209 kilometre/hour winds.

    Harvey weakened Saturday to a tropical storm. On Sunday, it was virtually stationary about 40 kilometres northwest of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of about 72.42 km/hr., the hurricane centre said.

    The system was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

    0 0

    Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr returns to court this week to ask that his bail conditions be eased, including allowing him unfettered contact with his controversial older sister, more freedom to move around Canada and unrestricted internet access.

    In support of his request, Khadr notes the conditions originally imposed two years ago were necessary as a graduated integration plan following his 13 years in American and Canadian custody. No issues have arisen since his release and the various restrictions have been revised several times — most recently in May last year, he says.

    Currently, Khadr, 30, can only have contact with his sister Zaynab if one of his lawyers or bail supervisor is present. The condition is no longer necessary, he says.

    “I am now an adult and I think independently,” he says in an affidavit. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

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    Widow of U.S. soldier seeks enforcement of Utah judgment against Omar Khadr in Alberta

    Former PM Paul Martin regrets government’s early handling of Omar Khadr case

    Zaynab Khadr, 37, who recently had a fourth child in Egypt, according to court filings obtained by The Canadian Press, was detained in Turkey a year ago for an expired visa. She and her fourth husband subsequently moved to Malaysia but are now said to be living in Sudan and planning to visit Canada.

    “I would like to be able to spend time with her and the rest of our family when she is here,” Omar Khadr states. “As far as I am aware, Zaynab is not involved in any criminal activities and is frequently in contact with the Canadian embassy in order to ensure that her paperwork is up to date.”

    Zaynab Khadr, who was born in Ottawa, was at one point unable to get a Canadian passport after frequently reporting hers lost. She was also subject to an RCMP investigation in 2005, but faced no charges. Her third husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, is reportedly still a Taliban hostage along with his American wife and children in Afghanistan. In 2008, she went on a hunger strike on Parliament Hill to draw attention to her brother’s plight as an American captive in Guantanamo Bay.

    Several years ago, she and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing pro-al-Qaida views. Omar Khadr told The Canadian Press last month that he saw no point in decrying their views.

    “I’m not excusing what they said. I’m not justifying what they said,” Khadr said. “They were going through a hard time. They said things out of anger or frustration.”

    Khadr, who recently married, says a college in Red Deer, Alta., about a half-hour from where he spent time in maximum security after his return from Guantanamo Bay, has accepted him into its nursing program. He says he plans to leave his Edmonton apartment at the end of September and find new accommodation.

    In another bail-variation request the court in Edmonton will consider on Thursday, Khadr asks for an end to a condition that he provide his supervisor notice about his travel plans within Alberta, and that he obtain permission to travel outside the province. Requiring him to remain in Canada would be sufficient, the documents state. He also wants restrictions on accessing computers or the internet lifted.

    In May 2015, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross granted Khadr bail pending appeal of his conviction by a widely maligned U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes. The appeal in the States has stalled through circumstances outside his control and nothing has changed since his release, his filing says.

    Khadr found himself at the centre of a fierce political firestorm amid word last month that the Canadian government, which apologized to him for breaching his rights, had paid him $10.5 million in compensation. He says he just wants to get on with his life.

    “I wish to become independent and to put my legal matters behind me,” he says in his affidavit. “I am a law-abiding citizen and I wish to live free of court-imposed conditions.”

    American soldiers captured a badly wounded Khadr, then 15 years old, in July 2002 following a fierce assault on a compound in Afghanistan in which a U.S. special forces soldier was killed. Khadr later said he pleaded guilty before the commission to throwing the deadly grenade as a way out of American detention. He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.

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    ATLANTA—For many people, Aug. 28, 2017, marks the return to the work week. Nothing special. Just another Monday.

    But for Black America, and by cosmic happenstance, Aug. 28 is much more — even if they don’t know it.

    On this date in 1955, a 14-year-old black boy was lynched in Mississippi, awakening the country to the horrors of racism.

    In 1963, more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington to hear a young preacher talk about freedom, jobs and a dream.

    In 2005, hundreds of thousands of people fled the Gulf Coast as a killer hurricane was about to make landfall.

    In 2008, a Black man stood on a stage in Denver and accepted his party’s nomination for president.

    And in 2017, Georgia will unveil a statue of an African-American hero on the grounds of the state capitol.

    “The 28th of August shows two sides of America,” said former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. “There are examples of when we were at our best and lots of people were engaged. And examples of us at our worst as a country.”

    Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay put the pieces together with her short film August 28: A Day in the Life of a People, which debuted in 2016 at the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

    “In my eyes, August 28 tells so much about black history through the lens of one date,” DuVernay said at the time.

    • Aug. 28, 1955: Money, Miss.

    In the early morning hours, two white men and a woman arrived at the home of Mose Wright in Money, Miss.

    They wanted Wright’s 14-year-old nephew, Emmett Till, who had arrived from Chicago seven days earlier. Till, they said, had flirted with and whistled at a white woman. Three days later, his mutilated body washed up in the Tallahatchie River.

    His mother, Mamie Till, insisted on an open casket at her son’s funeral. She wanted the world to see her son’s battered and bloated corpse, and Jet magazine and the Black press shared the unforgettable images.

    Shirley Franklin was 10, growing up in Philadelphia. She remembers sitting around the dinner table with her mother and grandmother, talking about the murder. Talking about Mamie Till’s decision. Talking about what it all meant.

    “His death impacted me and radicalized me,” Franklin said. “Those discussions and his death were touchstones for me.”

    Rita Dove celebrated her third birthday on the day Till was killed. She has no direct recollection of it, but by the time she was 7, she was an avid reader of Jet and its “On This Date” column.

    Dove, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1987 and became poet laureate of the United States in 1993, the youngest person and first African-American poet to do so.

    “I remember being totally shocked beyond measure at what I saw,” Dove said. “I suddenly realized that there was a larger world out there.”

    • Aug. 28, 1963: Washington

    Franklin was an 18-year-old freshman at Howard University when 250,000 people marched on Washington.

    Her mother and aunts wanted to go to the march as a family.

    “It was important because my mother and aunts were following the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.,” Franklin said. “No one knew if it was going to be peaceful, because we had seen the horrific things on television. We didn’t know what would happen.”

    Rita Dove was in Washington but had to watch the march on television. Because her birthday falls in late summer, the family generally took a trip to celebrate it. This time they went to Washington.

    Dove’s father, Ray, wanted to march but was concerned about the safety of his children. So he joined the march while Rita and her brother stayed with relatives.

    “I was already fascinated with words and poetry, so the repetition in King’s speech was mesmerizing,” said Dove.

    After the march, her father returned, and they cut her birthday cake.

    “It was a special day,” Dove said. “But at 11, I didn’t quite understand how special it was.”

    • Aug. 28, 2005: New Orleans

    On Aug. 27, the day before New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city to evacuate as hurricane Katrina drew near, Christan Theresa Poret took her 1-year-old daughter, Meah, to a pool party.

    “I kinda blew it off as just another warning,” Poret said. “We got hurricanes all the time.”

    Katrina was different — even if Poret didn’t know it. Instead of leaving, Poret and her mother and daughter went uptown to stay with her then-fiancé, Mark.

    “We woke up and the sky was so clear,” Poret said. “Then we noticed that the water was coming to us.”

    In no time, the flood breached the home, which was at least four feet off the ground.

    With Meah on her back, they walked a half-mile to the Super Dome through brown water, dodging snakes and wires. The Super Dome was the last refuge for people who couldn’t get out of town. But by the time they got there, the dome wasn’t accepting anybody else.

    They walked back.

    At length, a helicopter came and rescued them from the roof of the complex and dropped them off on the highway. They waited for another 16 hours, with no food or bathrooms, for a bus to take them to Houston.

    Then on Aug. 31, four days after the pool party, a relative in Atlanta pooled together enough frequent flyer miles from her friends to fly eight family members to Atlanta.

  • Aug. 28, 2008: Denver
  • Shirley Franklin was not keen on taking her family to Colorado for the Democratic National Convention. She was co-chairing the event and it was going to be a mess dealing with tons of people, security and booking hotels and transportation.

    But Democrats were poised to make Barack Obama the first Black presidential candidate to represent a major political party.

    Dove’s day was notably quieter. Because she travelled so much as a child, she is content on spending her birthday at home, watching television with her husband.

    “It is a day of contemplation,” Dove said.

    But on this birthday she was nearly giddy.

    “I was at home trying not to split my face with my grin because I was so happy,” she said. “But I was also a little frightened. I did not think that the country had grown up enough to see that this man was ready for this job.”

  • Aug. 28, 2017: Atlanta
  • A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. will be unveiled on the State Capitol grounds, in effect replacing the statue of segregationist Thomas Watson.

    “I don’t assign any great sense of things aligning, but human beings being human beings, we will try to assign significance to things falling on the same date. So it is important,” said Dove, who is working on a new book. “What that does is, it allows us to make comparisons. You can see the best of mankind and the worst. The best of nature and worst. These are these bookends that are very useful to us.”

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