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    Tenants of Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood say they have won several significant concessions from their landlord, MetCap Living Management Inc., concluding a rent strike that began May 1.

    Tenants had claimed their units in 12 Parkdale buildings were badly in need of repairs and they were facing repeated and unfair rent hikes intended to force out low-income tenants. Many tenets had withheld their rent payments in response. The final agreement will see lower rent increases at the buildings, according to a Saturday press release from a tenant group.

    MetCap president and chief executive officer Brent Merrill, has maintained throughout that many efforts were made to address tenant concerns at all the buildings, including setting up special hotlines for tenants to report repair issues. He also, he says, reached out personally to tenants who complained about unfulfilled work orders.

    Withholding rent was just one of several actions taken by tenants. There were several rallies and marches through Parkdale, the brief occupation of a lobby and stairwell, outside a MetCap office and the short-term shutdown of a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

    “We won this strike because we refused to play by the rules,” said Bryan Daley, who lives at a seven-story building at 90 Jameson Ave., in the press release. “Parkdale came together as a community and organized to defend our homes and we came out on top.”

    The number of people who participated in the actual strike was never entirely clear. Parkdale Community Services said as many as 200 tenants withheld rent in May and up to 300 in June, across the 12 buildings. The headcount was an estimate, based on public meetings and information from tenant representatives.

    “The organizing of hundreds of working class people in Parkdale, including us and our neighbours, has shifted the balance of power between landlords and tenants in Parkdale in our favour,” said a statement on the Parkdale Organize website from the Rent Strikers’ Negotiating Committee.

    In early February, MetCap applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board to raise rent 3 per cent above provincial guidelines, each year for three years, due to renovation costs.

    This is legal, though an above guideline rent increase must be approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board.

    A 1.5 per cent rent increase has already been approved for 2017.

    The dispute took a frightening turn at the end of May, when a supporter stepped in front of Merrill’s moving truck and was forced to back-peddle, then jump to the side. Merrill told the Star he did a rolling stop to pick up a badly frightened building manager who had been chased by tenant supporters.

    Merrill confirmed that in June, several hundred tenants in buildings across Parkdale were sent notices warning them to pay rent, or potentially face a hearing before the Landlord Tenant Board. But, said Merrill, there was no way to know how many were participating in the strike and that volume of notices was not unusual for Parkdale.

    Vic Natola, a community legal worker, with Parkdale Community Legal Services said MetCap staff reached out at the end of June “to talk about tenant demands and what needs to happen to end the rent strike,” and negotiations began shortly after.

    “The demands have been constant and consistent through the entire negotiations and the strike. No more Above Guideline Increases and fix our buildings,” said Natola. “It was pretty much all hands on deck to help support the tenants through that,” said Natola. “We continued to provide legal support because tenants don’t know the law inside and out and we do.”

    The meetings included tenant representatives from several buildings taking part in the rent strike, MetCap staff and Brent Merrill and staff from AIMCO, and Parkdale Community Legal Services. All sides agreed to not talk about the details, until a resolution was reached.

    “Nobody had any interest of putting the negotiations at risk,” said Natola.

    With files from Emily Mathieu

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    The remnants of all four of my grandparents’ early lives are scattered across the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Growing up in the home they rebuilt in Karachi, Pakistan, a home they named after the village they left behind, we’d sometimes hear the echoes of their past lives, from a time when Pakistan didn’t exist.

    Within the walls of their new two-storey home, they’d remember the seven-storey building in the village where they all lived in Bihar. The garden in front of their new home couldn’t compare to the courtyard they gathered in every evening for big communal dinners in India. The long walk or bike ride they took every day was forgone for a shorter walk to the neighbourhood mosque or the nearby market.

    Monday, Aug. 14 marks 70 years since they migrated westwards to Pakistan. The future leaders of the Muslim-majority country demanded independence in 1947 just as colonialism was leaving India and a deep-seated conflict between Hindus and Muslims was taking root, violently.

    Seventy years on, their children and grandchildren would move westwards again, leaving everything behind once more, to suburban Canada — this time for reasons relating to social security and economic prosperity. We carry a legacy with us of a country the generation before struggled to live in, a legacy we’re just starting to understand.

    After my paternal grandfather, S.G.M. Badruddin, died, my father found some unpublished essays of his — the personal experience of a journalist who had to flee from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the early 1970s, where he worked as a news editor, to West Pakistan (now just Pakistan). Therein was a story of a man I didn’t know — someone who had conversations with leaders, who escaped through secret paths and covert car rides with Christian missionaries across the subcontinent.

    In a memorable essay, my grandfather describes the six-week journey he took from Dhaka in Bangladesh, to Calcutta and Patna in India, to Kathmandu in Nepal, and then to Bangkok in Thailand, all the way to Karachi. While reading it, I mapped out my own journey from Karachi to Riyadh, Al Khobar and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, to Dubai, to Mississauga.

    His was a harrowing tale of struggle. Mine is less so. But we both lost homes. We both made new homes. We both changed our identities.

    No one spoke of Partition when I was younger. My grandparents were quiet about the experience, and no one asked. Yet it was always a part of us. Every Aug. 14, the televisions would be turned to the parade at Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s tomb — the burial place of the father of the Pakistani state.

    We commemorated their migration by wearing green and draping flags on our cars, across our balconies, across our chests. Back then it was tradition, a fun thing to do that connected me and my sisters to my cousins in Pakistan.

    It stayed a tradition until we immigrated to Canada more than seven years ago. The fact that we would start celebrating with red and white and not the familiar green and white suddenly made us hyper-aware of the evolving fabric of my identity.

    I wasn’t alone. Sarah Qidwai, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, has been hearing stories of Partition from her grandmother, Kamni Siddiqui, for as long as she can remember. But it took an undergraduate history course for her to sit down and record, in detail, her grandmother’s experience of it.

    Siddiqui, a retired professor of chemistry, was 9 in 1947. Her father told her they were “going to a land where (you) will be free to practise your own culture and religion, but there will be hardships and surprises.”

    Like me, Qidwai found parallels in this. “As a family, we moved to Canada in 2004 and it was a lot more peaceful than what Grandma experienced in 1947,” said Qidwai. And now that Siddiqui has applied for Canadian citizenship, the history seems more poignant — this time her choice had fewer hardships and surprises.

    If the history of Partition is complicated, its legacy is even more so. Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi children grow up knowing the names of the leaders of Partition and their roles in the creation of the three countries. First came the British man who arbitrarily drew a border that separated India into East and West Pakistan. Second came independence, the constitutions, the death of a founder. And then, almost 15 years later, East Pakistan had another independence movement to become Bangladesh.

    The fluctuating borders led to new identities that continue to be defined by the memories of their creation. To this day, the violent history is romanticized, the idea of a new state for Muslims to just be Muslims is lauded, the fact of independence is idealized.

    The reality for our grandparents, however, was very different — and it took me 25 years and a journey to Canada to figure that out. As I became more comfortable in my hyphenated identity, I started asking more questions and reading more about the country we, metaphorically, left behind.

    It was the same for Seemal Saif, an employee at the Ontario ministry of infrastructure, who was 19 years old, and studying in Canada, when she finally understood the weight of her grandmother’s history.

    Before Partition, Saif’s grandmother lived in Jalalabad, India — a state right at the border with newly formed Pakistan. At 7 years old, Saif’s grandmother wasn’t aware of the severity of the riots between Hindus and Muslims — reports of rapes and murders of Muslim women were increasing rapidly.

    All the women and children in the village, including Saif’s grandmother, were locked up as they awaited an opportune moment to escape. In the event that theycouldn’t, if the riots reached their home first, the family would burn down these rooms, women and children inside. It was deemed to be more honourable for them to be killed by their family members than raped by a Hindu mob.

    By 1948, more than 15 million people had been uprooted, and estimates suggest between one and two million died, with death and suffering on all sides. The 1951 census of Pakistan alone identified the number of displaced persons in Pakistan at more than seven million.

    “These were communities that lived together for centuries, they had been neigbours for generations,” said Saif. “Being in Canada, there’s a lot of talk about diversity but it’s also a fragile concept … I value it a lot more knowing this history than I would’ve just living in Pakistan.”

    There is a generation of new immigrants that is just starting to draw these parallels, myself included — a process complicated both by the deaths of our grandparents who experienced it and the fading memories of our uncles and aunts who moved with them, just children at the time.

    Partition’s ghosts continue to affect us; our grandparents’ past continues to follow us. The legacy of their migration continues to influence the reasons we immigrate: the right to freely and safely be the way we want to be.

    The one constant in both our journeys, though, as even my grandfather notes in his essay, is our personal identification with the places left behind. For him it was Dhaka and Patna. And while, I may be building a life in the streets of the 6ix, I’m pulled to the lives that used to be in the streets of Karachi, the roads through India, and the journeys across new borders.

    My experience of Partition is just starting.

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    A professor of dentistry and his colleagues have published a theory that seeks to explain why Inuit who encountered members of the doomed Franklin Expedition in the 19th century noticed the men had hard, dry and black mouths.

    Russell Taichman at the University of Michigan says several explorers who interviewed Inuit who encountered the British sailors after they had abandoned their icebound ships noticed strange dental symptoms.

    Taichman, who is from Toronto and has long been fascinated with Sir John Franklin’s failed mission to locate the Northwest Passage, said the symptoms didn’t seem to fit other theories about what befell the crew, such as scurvy, lead poisoning or spoilage in the tinned food they carried.

    Read more:

    Toenail clipping sheds light on Franklin Expedition deaths

    Nunavut questioning whether Franklin Expedition explorers had approval to search

    Accidents, not illness, may have killed many officers in Franklin expedition, says Scottish study

    So, he and a librarian at the university, Mark MacEachern, began combing through medical literature to figure it out.

    “What kept coming up several times was tuberculosis,” said Taichman in an interview from Ann Arbor, Mich.

    “It was pretty common in British sailors at the time, living in close quarters.”

    Taichman, who typically examines how tumours spread to bone marrow, said he discussed the finding with an oncologist and hematologist Frank Cackowski, who explained that tuberculosis can cause adrenal deficiency, or Addison’s disease.

    Addison’s can produce the symptoms that were observed by the Inuit, Taichman said, although he noted it rarely progresses to that point in modern times.

    He said that long term, it can be fatal.

    The theory was published earlier this year in the journal Arctic.

    Franklin left England in 1845 with 129 men to search for a northern sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. No one from the two ships ever returned, and search missions determined that both ships became icebound and were abandoned.

    Remains of some of the sailors have been found. The ships weren’t located until 2014 and 2016.

    Taichman said the descriptions of the Inuit are particularly valuable because he believes they would have noticed and remembered small details.

    “They’d never seen white guys before. So any weird looking things besides their skin would have been picked up. They were keen observers of nature,” Taichman said.

    “It would be like seeing Martians. They weren’t functioning like the people you normally knew. So it would have stuck in their minds really clearly.”

    Taichman said Addison’s is often a side-effect of steroid use today, but it was mostly caused by tuberculosis in the 19th century.

    Evidence of tuberculosis was noted in three Franklin crewmember’s bodies that were exhumed near where the ships were abandoned.

    Taichman said people with adrenal deficiency can’t regulate sodium well and have dry mouths from dehydration. They also have trouble keeping weight on.

    “The Inuit couldn’t understand why (the men) were so thin because they were carrying with them cans of food,” he said. “And the Inuit opened it up and tasted it and said, ‘Hey, it tasted pretty good.’”

    The Addison’s theory isn’t perfect. Even though tuberculosis may have been common in the close quarters of ships at the time, Taichman said Addison’s disease wasn’t widespread.

    However, he said medical literature indicates tuberculosis combined with scurvy or lead poisoning, can bring on Addison’s.

    High lead concentrations were observed in the recovered bones, which could have come from lead that was used for the tinned food, as well as from lead pipes on the ships that distilled drinking water.

    Taichman said the men were also likely suffering from scurvy and that Addison’s could have been brought on by a combination of factors.

    “It adds another dimension about what could have possibly happened,” Taichman said.

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    MONTREAL—Both floppy-haired boy-band blonds.

    Both sons of Russian émigré parents.

    Both the youngest players ever into a semifinal of a Masters 1000 ATP event, in their debut seasons.

    Both free-swinging millennials, fearless and freewheeling and flamboyant.

    Send in the clones.

    Looks like the start of a beautiful rivalry for Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev, the 18-year-old Canadian and the 20-year-old German.

    Zverev the man in black, a headband holding back his thick tresses; Shapovalov in his signature white ball cap, spun around backwards.

    But only one would get to square off against Roger Federer on Sunday in the men’s final of the Rogers Cup.

    To the chagrin of a nation — this one, which has suddenly quickened to tennis again — it won’t be sensational Shapo.

    Under a starless sky, and with the sellout crowd lustily encouraging but ultimately helpless, as spectators always are, the magic ran out for the teenager from Richmond Hill, falling in straight sets: 6-4, 7-5.

    Well, straight but zigzag sets, as momentum swung back and forth, with Shapovalov hanging in tough — that’s one thing we’ve learned this past week, this kid has got sand — through a final game that went to deuce five times, the homeboy fighting off two of three match points but unable to convert three break chances of his own, before a wide forehand and long return settled the matter.

    “It’s an unbelievable week for me, a completely life-changing week for me,” Shapovalov said on court immediately afterwards, even as the audience at Uniprix Stadium — nee Jarry Park — embraced him in a standing ovation. “I just hope to take this confidence and keep going forward.”

    The kid did not quit, which certainly was a hallmark of his tennis gumption throughout the past week in Montreal.

    The other kid, a bit less of a kid, was just that smidgen better.

    Graciously, Zverev paid tribute immediately to his vanquished opponent.

    “Today is not about me. It’s about Denis.

    “He will probably win this tournament one day. We will play a lot more times and probably some really great matches.”

    It’s the message — promise — he conveyed to Shapovalov as they met at the net to shake hands at the end of their one-hour, 43-minute encounter. “I’m looking forward to this rivalry,” said Zverev.

    Not as dramatic a tilt, perhaps, as some of the Canadian’s earlier matches, most especially his stunning upset of top-seeded Rafael Nadal. But it had its moments, some of which Shapovalov will likely be seeing in his dreams, or nightmares, for a while to come.

    There were evident nerves on both sides, too, with an affliction of double-fault yips. More damaging to Shapovalov, however, as he dropped the first set after Zverev backhanded a return from a lofty height, smashing a winner, then benefitting from a Shapovalov DF in the fifth game. Zverev served out for the set efficiently, despite a whiff swipe at one ball.

    The crowd did its best to lift Shapovalov back up, especially after he was broken in the first game of the second frame, again on double faults. And he did break right back, utilizing a series of nervy volleys that passed and froze and even drew racquet-tapping applause from Zverev.

    Shapovalov had said, earlier in the week, that he was learning new things about himself through this dizzying experience. Learning new things about the game too, and how the matches can go longer, unsettled, compared to juniors. Because stuff keeps happening.

    On this night, though, too much of that stuff was breaking against the teenager, even as he battled hard to hold service, even as he let Zverev off the break hook after some remarkably long rally points. Recovered from 0-30 in game 11 of the second set, as Zverev put increasing pressure on his serve, then had Zverev’s back to the wall in game 12 before it went down as most experts had predicted it would.

    Shapovalov had taken out No. 1. He couldn’t take out No. 4.

    “It was a dream week for me,” the drained teenager said afterwards. “Obviously I didn’t expect it. Saved four match points the first round. Just played loose after that, just went with it. I mean, beat one of my idols.”

    Yeah, still awestruck over that Nadal match.

    What’s the difference, what was the tipping point this past week, he was asked. Except Shapovalov couldn’t put a finger on it.

    “I’ve kind of seen that I’m capable to push these guys,’’ he said, harking back to grass-court season. “Maybe the serve is getting bigger.’’ New racquet, bigger pop. “But also, I just think I’m improving every week. I’m playing a lot but I’m also working a lot (with his coach). This is still a transition year for me. I’m really trying to improve my game so that I can anchor myself in the top 50, top 20, top 10.”

    Some nine hours he’s spent on the court over four days. Maybe a bit of the energy had seeped out by Saturday night.

    But the kid’s name seemed to be on everyone’s lips across the city, his memorable moments replayed on TV screens in the subway.

    “I wasn’t expecting, like, to hear my name every two minutes,” he laughed. “It’s like, all right guys, enough, enough.’’

    And here’s a rarity: The Fed Express was shunted into the afternoon slot with centre court given over to the duelling young guns for the night spectacle.

    Which maybe indicates a generational shift in tennis, the eve of a new era dawning, now that vintage tennis is starting to get a tad old as a compelling narrative.

    Can’t remember the last time a Federer semi got short-shrifted on the live broadcast. Though he too seemed a bit bemused by his gentle nudging away from the prime-time spotlight. Endlessly chivalrous, of course, because that’s the Federer brand, and apparently genuinely delighted by young’uns seizing the public’s imagination. He can take the avuncular view — 1,113 match wins. Shapovalov? Um, seven, on the big boys circuit.

    “To have a player at 18 or 20 years old in the finals of a Masters 1000 is not something we’ve seen very often, very rarely, except when Andy, Novak and Rafa were coming up.” Murray, Djokovic and Nadal.

    “They were such great teenagers that maybe we saw it more often. Not even I probably achieved finals of Masters 1000 at that age.”

    Federer set aside his overmatched semi opponent, Dutchman Robin Haase, in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(5).

    “It’s the biggest stage we have in the game on the ATP Tour,’’ noted Federer, who quietly celebrated his 36th birthday in Montreal. “To have young guys like this be there, it’s a good opportunity for them.”

    Shapovalov and Zverev will doubtless be going mano-a-mano on the big courts for years to come. Maybe even at the U.S. Open, ’round the corner. Hasn’t yet been invited to Flushing Meadows. Surely there’s a wild card in the offing though for a guy who began the year ranked No. 1,132, began the week ranked No. 143 and will skyrocket to the mid-60s in the next wheel-spin.

    His head’s spinning too.

    “My whole life has changed in the past five days,” marvelled Shapovalov. “It’s crazy. I mean, I go from being not known to being so known in the tennis world, in Canada in general. It’s going to be a little bit of a change to me. I’m going to have to adapt.”

    Disappointed by the outcome but hardly crushed, after all.

    “Sascha played too good in the big moments. I don’t think I played that well in those moments.’’

    Head to head now: 1-0 for Zverev.

    Just the beginning.

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    He owned a four-bedroom house with a pool in a ritzy York Mills neighbourhood and enjoyed all the perks of the affluent: winters luxuriating at his family’s two-storey beachfront condo in Palm Beach, idyllic summers at an island cottage in Parry Sound, a ski chalet, a golf club membership and so many trips to Las Vegas, he was on a first-name basis with casino executives.

    Cash wasn’t just his nickname, it defined him; he came from money and his own annual earnings topped $400,000.

    Michael (Cash) Pomer even had some prominence in Toronto, certainly within the city’s gambling community, due to his frequent appearances on television and radio as an NFL handicapper. In the ’90s and early 2000s, he could be seen trading quips with Jim Tatti on Sportsline or heard on The Fan on Sunday mornings, hosting his own two-hour gambling show.

    Now the money, and some $6 million in assets, is gone. All of it.

    Cash Pomer is penniless.

    Even if you don’t recall Pomer as a quirky on-air personality, his is a remarkable story of loss; a tale of how the grip of drug addiction can cause a man who seemingly had everything to squander it all.

    But it is also a story for which Pomer — with the help of some loyal but exasperated friends — is trying to write a final, redemptive chapter.

    At 60, after a lifetime of careening from one dependency to another, Pomer is trying to rebuild his life and be an inspiration to other addicts.

    The Star met Pomer several times through the spring and summer, interviews framed around a rehab stint at a Toronto treatment centre. It was his fourth try at becoming clean and sober but, this time, he believes he might be giving himself a chance.

    “I haven’t gone this long without drugs or booze in my life, since I was 17,” he said, six weeks out of rehab and emanating a hopefulness that was once as absent as his wealth.

    “I feel great. I’m getting my swagger back. I learned the tools (to stay sober). I didn’t care before. You’ve got to want it, plain and simple. I want it.”

    Pomer once lived the high life as the charming, fun-loving epicentre of every party. And if there wasn’t a party, he’d make his own. Opioid painkillers and a few rocks of crack cocaine always took him where he wanted to be.

    But when he first sat down with a Star reporter in May to share his story, it was a gambit by a desperate man flailing for a quick remedy to a complicated situation. Pomer was living on welfare and his application and subsequent appeal for disability support had both been rejected. He’d also been cut off by a private social service that had been helping.

    Five months behind in his rent and just days before eviction from his North York apartment, he hoped exposing his dependencies to the world might elicit sympathy and that could, in turn, lead to public support. Friends, though skeptical of this latest Pomer scheme, offered to establish a GoFundMe web page.

    At that first meeting, the former broadcaster seemed distracted. He would drift to the next story before the first was completed; the details often muddled. Over lunch at a North York diner — a meal Pomer said was, other than some fruit, his first in three days — he outlined how he had gone from gadabout to down and out. He then asked if he could order a bacon burger to go. That way he’d have something to eat the next day.

    When Pomer walked there was a shuffle in his stride because of an arthritic left ankle. Even sitting, he frequently shifted uncomfortably due to chronic back pain. Anger roiled just below the surface.

    After rehab, however, Pomer seemed a different person. His grey pallor was gone. He was more focused, remembering details of his life quickly and clearly. Pomer was less agitated, less beaten down, less bitter. He said he was no longer interested in applying for disability. He wanted to find work. He said he is getting control of his life. He joked often.

    The primary motivation for sharing his story now, he said, was in hopes it might encourage other addicts to seek treatment or talk to their family doctor.

    It was a remarkable transformation especially when you consider the heights from which Pomer had fallen.

    “How many people have everything and lose everything?” wondered his childhood friend Steve Simmons.

    Indeed, how does a smart, affable rich kid — the kind of free spirit who would fly his mother to Hawaii on a whim — become a broken man surviving off welfare and handouts from friends, their kindness really all that’s keeping him from living on the streets?

    The high life

    “I was a functioning addict,” said Pomer. “I never thought I’d end up this way but I point fingers at nobody except myself. I’m not proud of it.”

    Pomer said he started using drugs the way a lot of kids did in the early ’70s, experimenting at middle school and then at York Mills Collegiate Institute, where he was on the varsity wrestling and track teams.

    “Some kids smoked pot, I loved black hash,” he recalled. “I was into sports but I still liked to smoke my hash late at night. When my parents went to bed, I’d crawl out the front window, have a couple of puffs and crawl back in and go to bed.”

    But while the other kids grew up to have jobs, families and mortgages, Pomer, who had girlfriends but never married, was unfettered by those day-to-day demands. He had no responsibilities and no need for self-control. His hard-driving father, who died in 1994, built a fortune through fashion retail, owning John Pomer Menswear stores and Bi-Rite outlets. At one point he had 34 stores.

    Pomer’s casual drug use escalated to a dependency at some point in his 20s. Then, until he was 50, he was high virtually every day — even when he was on air.

    Pomer figures he spent $3 million on recreational drugs. That number, he concedes, may be low. For years, the dependency cost him between $500 and $800 daily.

    In his heyday, Pomer spent his winters in Florida golfing or hanging out with his mother. He’d fly to Tampa for his TV hits and do his radio show remotely from Palm Beach. He didn’t need a regular job, though he did work at times both for his dad and for a computer company in those early days. His engaging personality made him an excellent salesman.

    So glib and charismatic was Pomer that, as a 15-year-old, he once showed up unannounced at the hotel suite of Muhammad Ali — in Toronto to do TV commentary — carrying a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and talked his way in to interview the champ.

    Pomer shared his wealth and good nature and collected friends easily. Some of them — even those that disapproved of his habits — stuck with him.

    Twice the Simmons family took Pomer into their home after he’d been booted out of other lodging.

    “All along people have supported him,” said Sheila Simmons, Steve’s wife. “People didn’t give up on him because he was charming and fun and they remember him as this kid; this 19-year-old who was just full of piss and vinegar … there is something in him that these people feel the need to look after him.”

    With those pals, in those younger years, Pomer revelled in being the fun-loving smart-ass at the centre of things.

    “Then it became the late ’70s and early ’80s and all hell broke loose — that’s when cocaine really hit its peak — if you brought coke to a party and dumped it on the table, you were the coolest guy at the party,” he said.

    “It was so popular, so loved, so status.”

    And Pomer couldn’t resist the high it gave him.

    “I enjoyed drugs. I loved drugs. I found my equilibrium in drugs,” he said. “I never blacked out. I never woke up and said, ‘Gee, I don’t remember what I did last night.’ Ever. I never had shaky hands. I never missed a show.”

    Pomer’s cravings went from hash and marijuana to cocaine to painkillers to crack, with plenty of overlap and mixing and matching. It was crack cocaine, though, with its quick hit of euphoria that became his go-to.

    “I enjoyed it better. It took the edge off,” he recalled. “I took a piece and crunched it up, mixed it with tobacco and rolled it in an Export paper. Put a filter in, lit it up and it was … yowser.”

    Along with the crack, Pomer said there were days when he would take as many as 20 Percocets — which contain an opioid pain medication — sometimes kickstarting his morning by washing down three of them with orange juice.

    So dependent was Pomer, he said his dealer would hide five days’ worth of purchases in five spots around his house. That way he could just phone his supplier to find out where that day’s stash was cached. Eventually, Pomer was making the call before breakfast. Once, when he unexpectedly decided to extend a stay at the Parry Sound cottage, his dealer made the drive north with a $2,000 supply of painkillers.

    “I had a drug dealer I trusted; he never did me wrong,” said Pomer. “He bought himself a cottage and a motorcycle off me.”

    A high school friend, Sheldon Jafine, believes that because Pomer came from money, there was never any motivation for him to be serious about education or career building. He did graduate from York University but his passion for sports and a knack for sports wagering put him in a position where he only had to work, Jafine figures, about 10 hours a week doing his broadcasting hits and phone line recordings. That downtime mixed with large amounts of disposal income and a lack of obligations allowed Pomer to live behind a veil of drugs.

    But even as his drug use continued unabated, he managed to function in the real world. He made frequent appearances on Global-TV’s Sportsline. His football prognostications (“he was very good,” said Simmons) were a weekly fixture. He operated a popular 1-900 tout line for which punters paid $5 a minute for his football insights; some years he said that line earned him $400,000. He also had private clients to whom he’d provide gambling advice. He hosted a local charity golf tournament to raise money for an electric wheelchair sports association. The likes of former Blue Jay Buck Martinez or radio personality John Derringer stepped in to MC.

    “I guess I had control of an out-of-control situation, if that makes any sense,” he said.

    But while Pomer said he “loved every minute of it,” his life began to unravel. Even though he was bringing in big money, he never paid taxes. Eventually, he said, Revenue Canada came after him for $1.7 million, and he settled with a $540,000 payment. That still meant he had to sell assets, including his home, during a down market.

    He got fired by The Fan in 2001 — the Globe and Mail reported he was canned for complaining on the air about the disappearance of intro music, a rights issue he’d been told not to mention — and then Sportsline was cancelled in 2006. That eroded his public profile, which dramatically hurt the popularity of his 1-900 phone line as did the growth of internet gambling websites and online wagering information.

    “As I try to weave through this maze of drugging, everything came down,” he said. “I didn’t pay my taxes. I didn’t care. I didn’t give a s---. I was an idiot. I was an addict. I was irresponsible and that’s that.”

    Even his mother, Camilla, who now lives in a nursing home, sold family assets to help her son.

    Jafine said another friend put it perfectly: “Every time you think Mike’s hit bottom, he finds a way to get lower.”

    Pomer tried rehab three times but twice found an excuse to bail. After completing one session — paid for by a friend when he was 50 —Pomer was clean for a while and took up marathon running. A broken ankle put him back on painkillers, to which he again became addicted.

    Pomer’s income eroded to a monthly welfare cheque for about $700. His rent was $1,150 a month. The math wasn’t working. Friends chipped in with some cash now and again. Or they gave him grocery store vouchers or TTC tickets, to help control how the money was being spent; sometimes, though, he’d use those vouchers to gamble on Pro-Line. A friend once gave Pomer his wife’s car but he sold it to pay rent.

    While he still smoked the occasional joint, his latest dependency was alcohol. It’s what he could more readily afford. Some mornings he’d have a $2.99 breakfast at Wendy’s and then wait for the LCBO to open.

    Pomer said the alcohol abuse started last year when, while working the last job he had as a clothing salesman, he got into the habit of buying a bottle after work. He soon left the job but not the booze.

    “Within five minutes of getting home, the shots were being poured — vodka or Southern (Comfort). One ounce shots; I’d have four of them. Then another and another …”

    Pomer said he drank almost every day for nine months — a 750-millilitre bottle would typically last two days — and on the rare day he didn’t have any booze, he’d think about how much he wanted a drink.

    Jafine said Pomer was always hitting friends up for money and they started to abandon him.

    “I was ready to walk from him,” said Jafine, a veterinarian who owns five animal hospitals in the Toronto area. “I told him if he didn’t go to rehab and straighten his act up and try to rebuild his life, I’m done.”

    Though he pushed back, saying he didn’t need it, Pomer began a four-week rehab stint paid for by OHIP in May.

    Pomer asked his landlord to delay his eviction for a few days so he could go directly to the treatment centre. He had no idea where he’d live once he got out.

    Clawing back

    Pomer said the counsellors viewed him as a long shot for rehab success and someone who was a master manipulator with his friends.

    “As an addict, we all lie, we connive, we cheat,” said Pomer. “I don’t want to say steal but I lied a little and embellished a lot. ‘I need this for groceries.’ Well, I’ll be damned if I spent it all on groceries. I’d make sure there was a bottle, then the groceries.”

    Some of his friends resent that Pomer, with his fortune gone, still maintains a sense of entitlement and an expectation that his pals will look after him.

    Simmons, a newspaper sports columnist and broadcaster in Toronto, said at one point, several of Pomer’s friends put together a pool of money to cover his expenses and one of them administered it.

    “What happens is, after a while, you get tired of paying because you’re not really accomplishing anything,” Simmons said. “All we were doing really was enabling.”

    Once at the treatment centre, Pomer said his attitude was different from previous stints. He wanted to earn back the respect of people he cared about.

    Before morning and afternoon classes — where addicts learn the 12-step program to overcome their dependencies — Pomer said he would complete the assigned reading, typically an inspirational story about someone working through trying circumstances to beat alcohol or drugs. Previously, he’d just as likely sit and read the newspaper sports section.

    In the evenings, when patients go off site to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous meetings, he said he found those gatherings captivating.

    So at night, when he would normally be partying, he was now getting “a spiritual high” from guest speakers. Pomer continues to vigilantly attend meetings, often going seven nights a week and occasionally doubling up at lunchtime. He’s been asked to become a speaker at those gatherings.

    Pomer is now walking 10 to13 kilometres a day and sleeping better because of it. He said he “got his skinny little legs in shape again” and he is ready to work. Pomer said his priority is to stay active. He said he did little, other than drink and watch TV, in the months leading up to rehab.

    “I was just a stupid loser, isolated and feeling sorry for myself.”

    Jewish Family and Child is helping, too, he said. It gave him 20 $10 gift cards for groceries and a TTC Metropass for August, which is helpful for job hunting. Pomer also reconnected with his older brother, Henry — a relationship he described as wavering between strained and estranged — and said he has been “incredibly supportive.”

    Pomer hopes to eventually find an affordable basement apartment in the Bloor and Spadina area, walking distance to most of his meetings. For now he has no home and is staying with friends.

    Jafine said Pomer, who rarely thought beyond his immediate desires, is finally acknowledging he needs an aftercare program. That would give him accommodation, two meals a day, counselling and drug testing for the next two or three months.

    While Pomer said he didn’t go through physical withdrawal in rehab or afterwards, he did have one slip-up. One afternoon, 23 days after graduating, he bought a bottle of Southern Comfort. He took a couple of sips, and said he cursed himself and then dumped the rest down the drain. Pomer said he went back to the treatment centre, explained what had happened and received encouragement for his response.

    Pomer has been looking at getting work as a waiter but as his self-confidence returns, he’s thinking about how he can use his handicapping skills again. He said he had an interview and believes he has a chance to land a job with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., working as a sports wagering adviser. He’s also going to look at trying to get back into broadcasting in some capacity.

    “I don’t envy his situation, at age 60 trying to start from square one again,” said Jafine.

    “But think of the alternative. If he didn’t do what he did in terms of getting help, going to rehab and trying to turn his life around, he wasn’t going to make it another five years. He was going to be homeless, in the street with nobody to help him. He would have probably died between 60 and 65.”

    Pomer recently spent a day with his old friend, Steve Simmons.

    “I thought it was the best I’d seen him in years, the most realistic,” said Simmons. “I just thought he was mature about what he was dealing with, which he hasn’t always been.”

    “I think this probably was rock bottom for him, losing his home and going into rehab. I think it’s a pretty stunning change of life. You either deal with it and accept it or you continue on your path. It looks to me that he’s in a better place than I’ve seen in for a very long time.”

    Despite being keenly aware of everything he’s lost, Pomer said he — and he knows many won’t understand this — looks back with no regrets. He remembers his “fun in the sun” with fondness.

    “Most people would say, ‘C’mon, you’d take back all that money.’ No, I wouldn’t change a thing. That’s who I am. That’s who I was,” he said.

    “I’m still Pomer. The only difference is, I don’t live in a big home with a pool or a tennis court or anything like that. I don’t have my Palm Beach place. I’m generous psychologically now. I listen better. I don’t have my wealth but I don’t care. I’ve been there, done that. I had my time.”

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    WASHINGTON—While the U.S. president trashes NAFTA as a one-sided, job-killing disaster possibly worth scrapping, the man who will lead the American negotiating team when talks start this week is an old proponent of the accord.

    U.S. chief negotiator John Melle has sung NAFTA’s praises in the past.

    He’s a career bureaucrat and unlike the boss in several ways: mastery of details, encyclopedic knowledge of Canada and Mexico, understated sense of humour and a work vocabulary that forgoes talk of good guys versus bad.

    Read more:

    NAFTA negotiations threaten a system that helped Mexico become a top exporter

    Canada’s hope to get climate change into NAFTA could be a struggle

    Whisky, shouting matches and cigarette ashes: What history tells us about NAFTA talks

    Melle’s worldview, according to friends, is that nobody’s a saint when it comes to free trade; everyone’s a bit of a protectionist sinner, and, if their mutual interests align, they just might get along to a get a deal.

    He once praised the three-way pact with Canada and Mexico before the U.S. Congress.

    “NAFTA partners today are not only better customers of one another, but better neighbours, more committed partners and more effective colleagues,” Melle told a Senate hearing on NAFTA’s 12th anniversary, in 2006.

    He listed positive developments in the United States since NAFTA, which he worked on earlier in his career at the office of the United States Trade Representative.

    He cited a major unemployment drop — from 7.1 per cent in the dozen years pre-NAFTA, to 5.1 per cent in the years after; a near-doubling in the growth rate of U.S. industrial production; even a five-fold increase in the growth rate of manufacturing output.

    The first round of negotiations for a new NAFTA begins Wednesday in Washington.

    A Canadian friend says both countries are lucky Melle is at the table. Laura Dawson said talks will be less problem-prone than under someone with superficial knowledge of the trade file who needs a primer on every issue.

    Melle apparently carries a trade encyclopedia in his head.

    “I’ve been doing trade for 20 years,” said Dawson. “And John has forgotten more than I ever knew. On an issue like softwood lumber when I would be like, ‘How does this work? And what happens there?’ he could go back through all the iterations of softwood and explain how this worked, and that, and why. Just a depth of knowledge.”

    A former supervisor says the depth of experience gives him hope the countries might achieve the otherwise impossible mission handed them: completing a trade negotiation in just a few months, before the Mexican election.

    The negotiators know their files and each other and can start working quickly, said Robert Holleyman, a former deputy U.S. trade representative.

    “John Melle is a great guy — a longtime hand,” said Holleyman, now president at C&M International in Washington.

    “There’s less posturing (with these professionals); they can roll up their sleeves, get down to business. ... They can avoid the small talk and get down to, ‘Okay, how do we work this out?’”

    Chris Sands, a Canada-watcher at Johns Hopkins University, said Melle won’t mind being tough with Canadians.

    Sands said the northern neighbour has a habit of resorting to the victim card in talks with the U.S., arguing for a better deal because it’s friendly or harmless to the U.S.

    That won’t work on Melle, Sands said.

    Unlike some in the U.S. government, he said, Melle does not see the neighbour through rose-coloured glasses. Rather, he’s a clear-eyed realist for whom nations act in their own perceived interest.

    Sands says he sees all countries as guilty of hypocrisy on trade — preaching open commerce, while practising protectionism. That includes the northern neighbour, with Canada’s import controls in dairy, telecommunications, banking and alcohol.

    “He’s a bit of a cynic on that kind of thing — I think, with justice,” Sands said.

    “Every deal is transactional (to him like), ‘If you do that, it’s because it’s in your interest. If we do this, it’s because it’s in ours. We’ll try to do a deal.’ But from the position that nobody’s innocent here ...

    “You almost have to do that with the Canadians. Because if you fall for their lovability they had you at, ‘Hello’.”

    Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Mark Warner employs a more vivid metaphor: “He knows where all the bodies are buried.”

    When Canadians claim to be free-traders, Warner said, Melle can quickly point to restrictions on U.S. wine in Canadian stores.

    “You’re not going to put one over on him.”

    In addition, the most sensitive decisions won’t be made by the negotiators. They will turn to their bosses, the ministers responsible for trade. The ultimate sign-off on any deal, eventually, comes from the big boss.

    In Melle’s case, that means Trump.

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    This is it, then.

    We can officially drop the pretence of equality after violent protests by white supremacists, “heritage” groups, neo-Nazis, KKK members and armed white terrorists slammed that charade this weekend.

    Their deadly brand of racism was effectively endorsed by the United States president when he failed to call out supremacists, anti-Semites, xenophobes and homophobes and instead rebuked the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

    On many sides. Which sides would those be, Mr. President, when there were just two: white supremacy — and equality.

    Donald Trump wants to “study it,” he said, “to see how such things can happen.” He might want to start with studying the “many sides” of injustice at play.

    Read more:

    Trump breaks silence on Charlottesville: ‘No place for this kind of violence in America’

    Chanting ‘blood and soil’ and ‘white lives matter,’ white supremecists march in Charlottesville

    Take a moment to think about what these people were protesting as they marched through the University of Virginia campus Friday night carrying torches and breaking into fisticuffs. And again, whey they showed up Saturday morning, waving Confederate and Nazi flags, carrying semi-automatic weapons, helmets, spears and shields, throwing punches, water bottles and spraying chemicals. A car plowed through counter-protesters flinging bodies in the air, killing one person and injuring dozens.

    These savage people were not protesting white lives lost to police brutality. They were not protesting disproportionate incarceration of white people, or stricter sentencing than people of other races, or being denied housing or education for the colour of their skin. They were not protesting any of that because it is not their reality.

    They were not protesting. Period.

    They were rioting.

    Their tempers were inflamed by the possibility of the removal of a statue of Civil War-era Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The city council voted for the removal in April, but it is pending litigation.

    Not only was Lee the general who led a war to defend the ownership of Black people as property, he was also one of its more cruel enforcers — breaking up families and hiring them to other plantations, ordering the enslaved to be whipped and brine poured on their backs, as detailed in an eye-opening profile in the Atlantic in June.

    The Saturday protesters had gathered at Emancipation Park, the new name of what was once Lee Park, where the statue stands.

    Jason Kessler, a right-wing blogger, told media the protests were also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”

    This, they believed, entitled them to chant things such as “White power,” “White Lives Matter,” “You will not replace us” and “Jew will not replace us.”

    It was a mind-boggling show of white fragility, by people threatened not because their rights are being trampled by any measurable means but because a few voices of those they historically oppressed are starting to be heard again.

    Where were the police ominously beating back protesters in the numbers they did in Ferguson, in Chicago, in Charlotte, in Baltimore, in Cleveland among other places when Black people protested deaths at the hands of police? Where are the calls for white people to denounce this disgusting display of hate in their name? Why is the driver of the car that plowed into people not being called a terrorist? Will we now ask that white people be the eyes and ears on the front lines of white hatred?

    Remember Mark Hughes, the armed Black man called a suspect by Dallas police during protests in July last year? They called him a suspect even as he was helping them evacuate people and they did not take down their tweet with his photo even after it was established he was innocent.

    In this gathering, white men armed to the teeth roam freely, with the privilege of knowing their rights will be protected.

    The flags they were waving signify death and devastation to significant groups of Americans. Yet, they were allowed because, democracy. Would these democratic rights be granted to anyone wanting to wave the equally reprehensible Daesh (ISIS) flags?

    Trump, a normally avid tweeter who releases foreign policy details in 140 characters, was silent until later in the day when he tweeted out a vague denunciation of the events and gave his insipid speech.

    In all fairness, his blandness was not a surprise. Why would he disavow his friends?

    Former KKK “imperial wizard” David Duke said, “This (protest) represents a turning point. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfil the promises of Donald Trump. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”

    Over at the Daily Stormer, the white supremacist website, there was jubilation. “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us.... No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

    Not all Trump’s buddies were pleased with his speech, though. Richard Spencer, the founder of the “Alt-Right” hate group, who was not shot at, not beaten, not punched, but maced by police, was miffed.

    “Trump should not have praised the state and local police,’ he tweeted. “They did the opposite of their job. Total disaster.”

    Total disaster. Never thought I’d agree with anything that revolting man said.

    Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar

    0 0

    Katerina Davies was just a kid when she broke her arm cartwheeling off a bench. But the 17-year-old still remembers a few things about the hospital. Throbbing pain. Hazy moments before surgery. And a lot of time spent staring at a blank white ceiling.

    So when she and fellow students at Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts were asked to brighten the view for hospital patients lying face up, she was captivated.

    “I thought it would be an amazing way to use our art,” says Davies, one of 65 visual arts students who created hand-painted tiles that now adorn the ceiling of the emergency department at North York General Hospital.

    “I felt like it would be helpful to patients to realize, ‘Someone else was thinking of me.’ ”

    Davies’ tile, created with a partner, depicts flowers and butterflies on a turquoise background, because “nature soothes so many people.”

    The 50 pieces of ceiling artwork, roughly two feet by two feet in size, range from classical to impressionistic in style and include scenes from a starry night sky to underwater seascapes.

    “I learned that doing something little can make a big impact,” says Davies, who saw her tile in its permanent place for the first time on Friday — in a gynecological examination room.

    In a nearby hallway, a woman receiving oxygen on a gurney glanced up amid her distress to see a glowing landscape of a mountain and sky reflected in a lake. It was a moment’s distraction in the middle of a bustling hospital.

    Around the corner, patients gazing upward got other visual treats: snowy evergreens and birch trees, and, a few paces away, palm trees on a beach and a deer and fawn in the forest.

    The notion of collaborating on a ceiling tile project with local students was hatched earlier this year by Andrea Ennis, nurse and clinical team manager of North York’s emergency department.

    She’d seen a tile painted by a volunteer years ago “and it got me thinking,” she says.

    Ennis was determined to lift the spirits of the nearly 400 patients who come to the ER every day and to bring warmth to the stark hospital environment. After talking to a relative who taught art, she approached nearby Cardinal Carter, an arts-based school in the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

    A month later, Ennis presented her idea directly to students, who were moved by descriptions of patients she had seen — an elderly woman with hours to live who longed to see the outdoors, a distraught woman whose pregnancy was at risk lying on an examination table, and a frightened young child who had to be held down while being sutured.

    As the students listened, “you could hear a pin drop,” says Aurora Pagano, one of two visual arts teachers overseeing the project.

    The hospital provided the fire-retardant tiles; the school provided the primer, acrylic paint — and talent.

    In June, the creations were strategically mounted where they will have the most impact.

    On a busy night, staff can tell patients “you may not get a room, but you get a tile,” says Ennis, who was blown away by what the students delivered.

    “My idea of what they were going to do was not even close to what they produced,” she adds. “I thought we’d get cute little drawings. These are works of art.”

    Not only do they calm and distract, but they can also be conversation starters between patients and staff, “reminding us there’s always a person behind the diagnosis.”

    One elderly man recently brought in by ambulance was quickly intrigued by a tile depicting legs dangling from a dock with a view of a lake beyond. For a few minutes his misery gave way to his memories, as he recounted his summers spent in the outdoors.

    “This gruff man came in uncomfortable and we started talking and when I walked away he wasn’t gruff anymore,” says Ennis.

    The idea of enhancing hospitals with art — including “healing ceilings” — has caught on in recent years, in line with research that has found positive images can reduce anxiety and stress among patients.

    A ceiling tile project that started 15 years ago at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre turned into a fundraiser, with sponsors paying for specific tiles painted by volunteers.

    Similar projects have sprung up in Scarborough, Kingston and elsewhere in Ontario.

    The unique idea of partnering with local students made sense to Ennis and was also in line with Pagano’s commitment to encouraging community involvement among her budding artists.

    Their techniques and concepts were evaluated as class work. But marks weren’t a motivating factor for Phyllis Lam, 17. She was more interested in the opportunity to make a difference.

    “This definitely stands out as one of my favourite projects and one of the most meaningful,” says Lam. All the students put their hearts and souls into it, she adds, sometimes staying in the studio for hours after school to polish every detail.

    She and her partner created a soft scene with a kitten, recognizing that pets can be a huge source of comfort. That tile is now placed in a corridor where seniors are treated, many of whom don’t have families and are devoted to their animals, says Ennis.

    Lam says when the completed tiles were assembled as a gallery, “I was really amazed to see how everyone could come up with something so different, yet unified as a whole.”

    For Eve-Lareine Dandan, 16, there was a special poignancy to the project. She’s been treated at North York General for broken bones and more recently pneumonia, and stared at that same ceiling.

    The playful tile she co-created of two dolphins swimming above a vibrant coral reef is seen by about 120 adults and children a day, Ennis tells her.

    “Hopefully it’s just making things a little easier for someone,” says Dandan.

    Meanwhile, Ennis is dreaming big. She wants the partnership to continue and grow, possibly involving other schools down the road.

    “I’m really hoping to fill every space of the emergency department,” she says. “And I’d like this to cross over to the operating rooms, post-anesthetic care unit, the ICU (intensive care unit) and eventually the whole hospital.”

    0 0

    Demand for mental health services at Ontario universities and colleges has reached an all-time high.

    With another wave of students about to begin a new academic year, the pressure on campus health providers shows no signs of diminishing. And schools are struggling to keep up.

    More than ever before, students are being referred by campus health staff to services off-campus.

    School and government officials say it’s a necessary step to handle the volume and complexity of student needs. But mental health advocates and students themselves say transitioning from on-campus to off-campus mental health services can leave major gaps in care, forcing students to navigate a confusing system in a sometimes strange city, often with the added barriers of long wait times and high financial costs.

    For many of those involved, the solution is for university staff to provide strong support and guidance to students as they access off-campus resources. But that kind help is often missing during the transition process, critics say.

    “We will fill in the gaps where we can, but we’re not a treatment facility,” said Casey Phillips, assistant vice-president of students at Nipissing University in North Bay. “We’re meant for that brief therapy, we’re meant to handle some of that lower level. (For) more complex cases we are reliant upon the community.”

    Beginning post-secondary school often means moving away from home for the first time, and being far from family and friends.

    The majority of mental health issues begin to surface during a person’s teens or 20s. But age restrictions on youth programs force many young people to abandon the mental health services they have accessed for years around the age of 18 — leaving them on their own to find new sources of help in the adult health-care system.

    In May, the Ontario government pledged to boost annual funding for college and university mental health services by $6 million per year — bringing the total provincial investment in campus mental health services from $9 million to $15 million, to be split by approximately 45 institutions.

    A decision has not yet been made about how much each school will get of this new money. But, if the total $15-million budget were apportioned equally between all universities and colleges in Ontario, each would receive a little over $333,000, a paltry sum compared to overall university budgets.

    Despite the cash injection, campus services will not be able to meet everyone’s mental health needs, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews said in a statement to the Star.

    “Mental illness is a spectrum,” Matthews said. “For some students, on-campus resources such as counselling and/or peer support may be the best and most helpful provision of care. For students with more complex mental health needs, the institution can serve as a point of referral or information in helping that student access the appropriate community supports and get the help that they need.”

    The growing demand for mental health services has sparked a debate about universities and colleges’ level of responsibility when it comes to caring for their students.

    Some argue schools should take an almost parental role, guiding and advising their students as much as possible. Others, however, argue that universities are educational institutions and should not be called upon to help students with personal or health-related problems, particularly once students leave campus.

    Markham native Alicia Raimundo began struggling with anxiety and depression in childhood, but it wasn’t until she went away to the University of Waterloo that she was able to really pursue face-to-face help on a consistent basis.

    Mental health staff at the university referred her off-campus, but did not help with the transition, she said.

    “They gave me a number and a pamphlet and said good luck.”

    It can be daunting for students in need of help to venture off-campus, Raimundo said.

    “Schools are their own communities, especially ones that have huge populations of students that move to that city or town for that school. When you refer somebody out . . . it’s basically like referring somebody to another town.”

    To ensure students follow through and get the help they need, mental health staff on-campus should have strong relationships with off-campus care providers, and take the step of booking students’ first appointments with off-campus services, said Raimundo, who graduated in 2012 and now works as a peer support provider at Stella’s Place, a mental health organization for people in their teens and 20s.

    Other students, however, say the logistics of leaving campus at all can be difficult for those balancing a full course load, a part-time job, or other commitments.

    “A long transit ride somewhere isn’t necessarily possible . . . and a student who is in crisis is probably unlikely to go to great lengths to reach these services if they are a 45-minute bus ride away,” said Alyssa Logan, a University of Guelph student who has looked for mental health services through the school.

    To make access easier for students, off-campus mental health professionals should make regular visits to campuses to supplement school resources, said Taryn MacDonald, a recent graduate of the University of Guelph who sought on-campus mental health services while a student.

    “Just like there are dental and medical outreach programs that will come to schools, we need mental outreach programs to come to schools,” MacDonald said. “Having psychologists, professional counsellors, or even social workers come in once a week to hold walk-in sessions for students who need the help — but aren’t getting it at school — would be beneficial.”

    University and college staff must understand what community services are out there so they can properly inform the students they refer, said Erik Labrosse, director of student life at Laurentian University in Sudbury.

    “(We must) be knowledgeable about the services, understand what the waiting times are and make sure that we’re giving good advice and making good referrals to the community,” he said.

    Universities in smaller, more remote parts of the province face their own challenges and benefits in the collaboration with community mental health services.

    Nipissing University, a school of about 5,000 students, has fewer options when referring students off-campus, as compared to schools in large cities, where multiple hospitals and community resources exist, said Phillips.

    The advantage of being a smaller school in a smaller town, though, is the ability to build relationships with the community resources that do exist, and really understand what services they provide, Phillips added.

    “We might do a really good job of being able to collaborate and make those referrals out but . . . we might not have as many community resources to refer them out to, and so sometimes you’re trying to fit that circle into the square to provide the service as best we can.”

    The fact that more students are coming forward and asking for help is a positive development said Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of student affairs at Queen’s University.

    But the increase in demand has forced universities and colleges to rethink the way they work with outside services to address students’ mental health needs.

    “I see it as a partnership role,” Tierney said. “Certainly we have resources on campus but there are times when the student needs some expertise that is best available off-campus. Those community services are really key.”

    0 0

    This summer, when it rains, it pours — and the wet conditions have left many Ontario farmers struggling.

    Beginning with a rainy spring that in some areas delayed planting and then flooded crops, the full extent of the damage won’t be fully known until the fall harvest — but the Ontario Federation of Agriculture estimates it will easily be in the “hundreds of millions” across the province, especially in eastern Ontario and the Holland Marsh area.

    “This is the second year in a row” of volatile weather, said president Keith Currie. “The areas most hit with drought last year are getting hardest hit with rain this year.”

    The back-to-back bad conditions have prompted PC MPP Jim Wilson to call on the government to provide additional aid to farmers. He toured affected properties in his Simcoe-Grey riding with staff from the agriculture minister’s office, but said he was “very, very disappointed” to hear that no new funds are forthcoming, especially when about one-third of farmers have no crop insurance.

    Years ago, after a tornado, the then-agriculture minister started a special program to help apple growers replant all their uprooted trees, Wilson said, and he wonders why something similar is not now in the works.

    “There is great uncertainty and it is far too early for the Wynne government to be turning its backs on farmers,” Wilson said. “There are billions available when there’s trouble or there’s a Liberal scandal, and they have nothing for what, in the big picture, is (one of) the backbones of our economy.”

    This year eastern Ontario in particular has suffered, with the region on its way to record precipitation after 705 millimetres of rain from April 1 to the end of July. Last year, during the same time period, it was 193 millimetres, and the normal amount is 340 millimetres. Toronto has seen 388 millimetres of rain, compared to 160 millimetres last year during that same four-month period, and an average of 291.

    “I don’t know what’s happening in Ottawa,” said David Phillips of Environment Canada. “We think it’s wet here, but it’s nothing compared to Ottawa. It’s almost as if it’s become a monsoonal climate.”

    North of Toronto, Beeton farmers Barry and Bonnie Dorsey lost hundreds of acres after a torrential storm in late June, estimating $2.5 million in damages to crops including potatoes, onions and carrots.

    “That morning, we had 20 to 30 acres under water,” said Barry Dorsey. Hours later, “we had 500 acres two feet under water” as overloaded local rivers and drainage ditches flowed onto their property.

    There was so much, his nephew went kayaking across the fields. When the water was finally drained, workers found a number of fish. A farmer nearby lost 100 of 175 acres.

    “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Barry Dorsey, who has farmed for decades. “I’ve never had this ever happen to me.”

    The government says it is “too soon to determine the full impact this year’s unpredictable weather will have on crops across the province” and Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal plans to continue to keep a close eye on the situation.

    “Farmers have a tough job but they do it well, even during difficult times,” he said via email to the Star. “This season, several parts of the province have been hit with unseasonable weather which has impacted planting and growing conditions for some Ontario farmers. I have been monitoring this situation and recognize the stress that severe weather events cause for our farm families.”

    He said the government has programs available, including insurance, spending “more than $230 million every year … to help producers cover loss and damage due to risks that are beyond their control, like extreme weather.”

    There are provincial and federal programs that can help some farmers, and while they may take time to pay out, “there are opportunities that they can take advantage of, and every little bit helps,” said Currie of the agriculture federation.

    But extra measures wouldn’t have to mean “a cheque in the mail,” he added, but maybe letting financial institutions give farmers a break on interest payments “to help them get back on their feet.”

    Currie also said farmers should be included in the government’s climate change action plans, given the impact of the weather changes on their livelihood.

    When crops are harvested this fall, the impact of the rain could show up in the quality and quantity of the yield, said Professor Dave Hooker of the University of Guelph, a field crop agronomist who is in continual contact with farmers across the province.

    In April and May, too-moist soil in the east half of the province meant corn and soy bean crops could not be planted — though areas west of Toronto continue to be “exceptionally dry,” he said. That delay pushes the season later, as does replanting fields after rain damage, “and results in a number of different consequences,” he said. Later planting can make crops more susceptible to flooding, and root rot can set in affecting growth or even killing them.

    Too much water can also lead to a loss of nutrients, in particular nitrogen, considered crucial for high crop production, Hooker added.

    “It’s clearly been night and day compared to last year … last year, it was all about ‘where is the rain?,’ this year it’s all about too much rain,” said Phillips of Environment Canada.

    “ … That is the thing, this is what just upsets farmers, dismays them, how do we deal with this back to back?”

    And it’s not just rain, but a lack of warmth this summer. In terms of days above 30 degrees, Ottawa has had six this year, compared to 26 in 2016; Toronto just eight, and 29 last year.

    Phillips said while the focus is typically the extremes of climate change, “but another mark is variation” in weather. While weather forecasts have become more accurate, he said, farmers rely on typical seasons with few outliers, and now, “you can’t count on it being a normal season or a normal year.”

    0 0

    Barrie teacher Cheryl O’Keefe doesn’t know how she would have survived the stress-induced sleepless nights of July had school not been out for the summer.

    O’Keefe is among Toronto region home buyers and sellers who got caught in the spring real estate downturn.

    When the sale on her house finally closed a month past the originally agreed-upon date, it was the end of an expensive nightmare for O’Keefe.

    Others who sold their homes in this year’s once frenzied real estate market, are still struggling to complete their transactions.

    Lawyers, realtors and mortgage brokers report a surge in calls from distressed sellers whose buyers purchased in the heat of the market, only to find that the subsequent drop in the home’s value is more than the cost of walking away from a deposit.

    Others, who bought unconditionally, have discovered they can’t get the financing to meet their purchase obligation. In some cases, the bank appraisal has come in at a value below what a purchaser agreed to pay, leaving the buyer scrambling to make up the difference.

    O’Keefe’s real estate agent, Peggy Hill of Keller Williams, says closings have been stalling since the end of June. Barrie home prices may not be as high as some closer to the city, but the drop has been precipitous.

    “Our average price for a home in Barrie is $471,822 for July. In March it was $570,199. We’re talking about a $100,000 difference,” she said.

    That is still $40,000 above the average price of July 2016. But back then, 208 of the 260 homes listed sold. “This July we have 201 sales so the sales are still there but with 683 active (listings),” said Hill. “That’s the real picture.”

    The GTA-wide picture is similar. When the regional market peaked in April, the average home price — including every category from condos to detached houses — was $919,449. By July, it had fallen to $746,216, although prices were still up 5 per cent year over year.

    There were 9,989 sales among 11,346 active listings in July of 2016, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. This July, listings soared to 18,751 listings, with only 5,921 sales.

    O’Keefe had lived in her bungalow for only about two years when she decided to sell it in February, about the time property prices were peaking. Her basement apartment was standing empty and she wanted to downsize.

    The real estate frenzy in Barrie mimicked Toronto’s and most of the 43 showings of O’Keefe’s house were, in fact, people from Toronto.

    Like many homes at the time, O’Keefe’s sold in about a week for more than the listed price. The buyer put down a $25,000 deposit and requested a longer-than-usual four-month closing date of June 28.

    “That was fine. It just gave me more time to do what I had to do,” said O’Keefe.

    What she had to do was find a new home for herself in the same fiercely competitive market. She lost a couple of bidding wars and turned her back on a century home she loved because she knew it would go at a price she could never justify.

    When she happened on an open house that fit her needs, O’Keefe bought it with a May 28 closing — a month ahead of when her own home sale was to be finalized. She arranged bridge financing to cover both mortgages for that month.

    It all looked good on paper. But as the spring wore on, O’Keefe grew uneasy. The buyers of her house had not requested the usual pre-closing visit. Usually, excited new owners want a look around.

    O’Keefe got her realtor to call. No response.

    A week from closing, she had still heard nothing. At 4:50 p.m. on closing day, her lawyer talked to the purchaser, who admitted he was having difficulty with the closing.

    By then, O’Keefe had been living in her new place a month and was paying two mortgages.

    She agreed to extend the closing to July 14. When that didn’t happen, O’Keefe agreed to a second extension to July 31. The date came and went. Finally on Aug. 2, her lawyer called to say the buyer closed.

    “Every step of the way everything that could be a headache has been a headache,” she said.

    O’Keefe’s realtor says that so far, in her office, even problematic closings have been finalized. But some have been disappointing.

    “There have been deals where we’ve had to take less commission. The seller had to take less money to make it close because at that point they’re euchred.

    “It’s usually $40,000 to $50,000 because of our price point. In other areas I know it’s in hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Hill, referring to areas such as Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Aurora, also hard hit by the market’s downward slope.

    Some buyers have requested extensions on new home purchases because their old places didn’t sell, said Hill.

    “That’s understandable,” she said. “In March, you wouldn’t dare go in with an offer conditional on the sale of a home. The problem is, in April, when all hell broke loose, everybody started putting their houses on the market fearing they had missed the top.”

    Many have arranged bridge financing and moved on. But others haven’t been as fortunate, said Toronto lawyer Neal Roth.

    He has been getting about five calls a week since mid-May from home sellers struggling to close on transactions.

    “There is this horrendous domino effect going on where people in the spring were rushing into the market for a variety of reasons, committing to prices that in some instances were well beyond their means,” he said.

    Most of his callers represent one of two scenarios.

    First, there’s someone paid $1.5 million for a house that has since become worth $1.4 million, so they want to get out of the purchase.

    “The other type of person says, ‘The bank promised me 60 per cent financing. Now that I’m at $1.5 million I should still get the same 60 per cent, not realizing that you have to come up with the 40 per cent of your own cash, or that the bank said 60 per cent when you were at $1.2 million, not $1.5 million,” said Roth.

    While he thinks some sellers got greedy and some buyers should have been more careful, he hasn’t encountered anyone who got caught playing the property market.

    “They’re all average people. None of them have been speculators as far as I know,” he said.

    It’s not uncommon for mortgage brokers to hear from home buyers struggling with financing, said Nick L’Ecuyer of The Mortgage Wellness Group in Barrie

    “But what we’re getting now is people who are in sheer turmoil. They don’t know what to do at all,” he said.

    Some sellers, who planned to use their equity to put down 20 per cent or more on another home, don’t realize they can’t get bridge financing from a bank if they don’t have a firm purchase agreement on their old house.

    Then there’s the hard truth that the house they’re selling isn’t likely to go for as much as they expected earlier in the year.

    They can put down just 5 per cent and apply for a government-insured mortgage, but that’s more complicated and costly, said L’Ecuyer.

    The Appraisal Institute of Canada doesn’t have statistics on the number of lender-commissioned appraisals that come in short of the agreed-upon price of a home.

    But based on anecdotal accounts, it’s happening more now in the GTA, said institute CEO Keith Lancastle.

    “Any time you go into a situation where you make an abrupt change from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market — where you see a slowdown for whatever reason — you can encounter this situation,” he said.

    The role of an appraiser is to provide an unbiased opinion of a property’s value at a given point of time.

    “A heated market does not automatically translate into a true market value. When you take away the heat, all of a sudden it settles down into something that is perhaps more reflective of what true market value is,” said Lancastle.

    He says he’s still surprised by how emotional what is routinely now a million-dollar home buying experience can be.

    “It’s arguable that mortgage lending should not be underwriting that emotion and that notion of a sober second thought is really important, not only for the purchaser, but also for the lender,” he said.

    Buyers tempted to walk away from a deposit need to realize that they may still face a lawsuit, says L’Ecuyer. If you bought a house for $500,000 and decided to forfeit the deposit, and the seller gets only $450,000 from another buyer, you can be sued for the difference, he said. There is also the possibility of being sued by a realtor who isn’t getting a commission, and for additional legal and carrying costs.

    Roth said there are people who don’t even realize that when they back out of a sale, their deposit is automatically lost.

    O’Keefe believes that because she priced her home on the low side, it hasn’t lost any value. “You start talking to people and this is happening to so many,” she said. “I’m lucky that my house closed.”

    0 0

    When Hyeon Soo Lim walked through the front doors of the Light Presbyterian Church and looked at a crowd he hadn’t seen since he was taken captive in North Korea in early 2015, the room erupted into applause and chants of “our pastor” in Korean. Lim, dressed in a black suit and tie with his hair closely shorn, raised both hands and smiled. And the crowd yelled louder, craning for a photo or a glance of the pastor they had been praying for.

    “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Junghwe Kim had said minutes before, positioning herself next to a potted tree in the hopes of taking a photo of the 62-year-old Lim. “Oh my god,” she said expectantly, clutching her phone and smiling, as all around her, people held hands and waited, giddy and excited. She talked of her prayers and her fears, and how happy she was that North Korea, which normally “does everything bad,” did a “very good” thing in releasing her pastor. “I hope he’s recovering.”

    More than an hour before Lim arrived, church members stared out the window at the parking lot where Lim was due to arrive, waving at the phalanx of photographers and reporters who stood underneath a banner with their pastor’s smiling face and a message: “Welcome home Rev. Lim”

    Anna Shin, who has been praying for Lim since the church found out he was captured during mission work in North Korea in January 2015, said she was “way too excited” for Sunday’s reunion with the congregation. She said the pastor is known for his sense of humour and his ability to connect with all ages.

    Lim will not give the Sunday church service, but is expected to thank the congregation, according to church spokesperson Richard Ha.

    Outside the church before the service, Lim told a group of reporters that he’s proud to be a Canadian.

    “We are extremely happy,” said Lim’s son, James, addressing the media at the church on Saturday. “We’re ecstatic and joyful that my father is home. It was surreal in the beginning to witness my father coming off of an airplane after 2 ½ years.”

    While he was in prison, Lim had only ever seen his not yet 1-year-old granddaughter in pictures, James Lim said. “It’s been amazing to see him hold my daughter for the first time.”

    James Lim said his father is in good health and is recovering after the “ordeal.”

    The elder Lim arrived in Toronto in the morning hours on Saturday. A spokesperson wouldn’t specify his route back to the city from North Korea.

    “Everyone was excited when we heard the news” that he was freed, said Sam Shim, operations manager at Lim’s church, Saturday afternoon. “There was crying, joyful crying.”

    After Lim was detained he was sentenced to life in a labour camp, with the regime there saying he had been conducting subversive actions against leader Kim Jong Un.

    “He loved North Korea,” said Shim, adding that the congregation was “shocked” when Lim was detained.

    Lim’s charitable work in North Korea was focused on food security and sustainable farming, the younger Lim said at the news conference.

    North Korea’s Central Court granted Lim “sick bail” on humanitarian grounds on Wednesday.

    Sweden helped facilitate his release as Canada does not have an embassy in North Korea.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Lim’s freedom Thursday afternoon in a written statement: “The Government of Canada was actively in engaged on Mr. Lim’s case at all levels. In particular, I want to thank Sweden, our protecting power in North Korea, for assisting us.”

    It has been reported that Lim was in poor health and had lost a lot of weight.

    In a video provided by a spokesperson Saturday, a thin-looking Lim can be seen exiting what appears to be a government jet, smiling and hugging his family.

    A photo also provided by family shows him hugging his granddaughter on the tarmac.

    At the press conference, James Lim joked that his father welcomed the weight loss, adding that he is “in good spirits and is excited to come to church tomorrow. He hasn’t seen the congregation in many years”

    With files from Julien Gigna, Mary Ormsby and The Canadian Press

    0 0

    James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio was charged with second-degree murder in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday after he smashed a car into a line of cars in an episode that left a 32-year-old woman dead and injured at least 19 other people who were protesting a rally staged by white nationalists.

    What we know

    — Fields, 20, was born in Kenton, Kentucky, to Samantha Lea Bloom.

    — He was living with his mother until “five or six months ago” when he moved to his own apartment in Maumee, Ohio, according to an interview that Bloom gave to The Toledo Blade. They moved to Ohio from Kentucky about a year ago because of her job, she said.

    — Fields’ father died before he was born, an aunt, Pam Fields, said on Sunday.

    — Pam Fields said she had not seen her nephew, whom she remembered as a “very quiet little boy” more than five times in the past 10 years.

    — Military records show that James Alex Fields Jr. entered the Army on Aug. 18, 2015, around the time his mother wrote on Facebook that he had left for boot camp. Less than four months later, on Dec. 11, his period of active duty concluded. It was not immediately clear why he left the military.

    — Fields had been photographed hours earlier carrying the emblem of one of the hate groups that organized the “take America back” campaign. In a photo taken by the New York Daily News, Fields stands with a handful of men, all dressed similarly in the Vanguard America uniform of khakis and white polo shirts.

    — Vanguard America denied on Sunday any association with the suspect.

    “The driver of the vehicle that hit counterprotesters today was, in no way, a member of Vanguard America,” the group said in a statement on its Twitter account. “All our members had been safely evacuated by the time of the incident. The shields seen do not denote membership, nor does the white shirt. The shirts were freely handed out to anyone in attendance.”

    Read more:

    Charlottesville victim: ‘She was there standing up for what was right’

    Woman killed in Charlottesville white supremacist rally identified

    15 photos that show Charlottesville’s stunning descent into violence

    — Fields was driving a Dodge Challenger “at a high rate of speed” in downtown Charlottesville at about 1:45 p.m., a spokesperson for the city said in a statement. He drove the car into a sedan, which hit a minivan that was in front of it.

    The impact of the crash pushed the sedan and the minivan into a crowd of pedestrians. Fields fled the scene in the Challenger but was stopped a short time later by the Charlottesville police.

    — The city identified the dead woman as Heather D. Heyer of Charlottesville.

    — Caitlin Robinson, who attended Ockerman Middle School in Florence, Kentucky, with Fields, suggested that his interest in far-right ideologies dated back years.

    “On many occasions there were times he would scream obscenities, whether it be about Hitler or racial slurs,” Robinson wrote in an email on Sunday.

    She said Fields “mostly kept to himself” and “didn’t start fights or try to fight,” but she described him as “exceptionally odd and an outcast to be sure.”

    “He wasn’t afraid to make you feel unsafe,” she said.

    With files from The Associated Press

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    Aug 13 is International Left Handers Day — the day when lefties can celebrate their unique trait while also raising awareness for the inconveniences they face in a world made for right-handed people.

    About 10 per cent of the world’s population are left-handed, which can be tough since more than 95 per cent of products sold in North America are designed for right-handers.

    If you’re a part of the 10 per cent, that means awkwardly handling digital cameras and scissors, smudging the ink from your pen as you write, being told you should be creative because you’re “right-brained” and being forced to sit in right-handed desks.

    But that also means you have at least one thing in common with former U.S. president Barack Obama, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Canadian musician Justin Bieber.

    Lefties are also called “southpaws” after left-handed pitchers: baseball diamonds are designed to have the batter facing east to avoid the sun, and if a pitcher was left-handed his pitching arm would face south.

    Some television characters are also left-handed, including Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, who decided to open a store that sells exclusively left-handed products in a 1991 episode. He later found himself in debt.

    Other famous southpaw characters are Tiana from The Princess and the Frog and Link from The Legend of Zelda.

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    TTC subway service has resumed in all directions from Bloor-Yonge Station after it was briefly suspended Sunday afternoon due to a police investigation into reports of a man uttering threats.

    “The call was for a male person threatening to use explosives on the subway train,” wrote Toronto Police Sgt. Murray Barnes in an email.

    Just before 2:30 p.m. subway service was suspended on Line 2 from Broadview to St. George stations and on Line 1 from Union to Eglinton stations.

    Barnes said a TTC passenger alerted staff about the threats at Bloor-Yonge Station. The train was shut down and the station was evacuated. The suspect fled during the evacuation, Barnes wrote.

    Police said they are searching for a man wearing dark shorts, rolled up sleeves, a baseball hat, and a black backpack. Police urged people not to approach the suspect.

    “The threats were real, whether or not the suspect actually possessed the capability to detonate anything remains to be investigated,” Barnes wrote.

    Police said the entire Bloor-Yonge station was evacuated while the emergency task force conducted the investigation.

    With files from Victoria Gibson and Emily Fearon

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    There was no love lost when the Blue Jays ditched their red jerseys on Sunday, a uniform that has seen the team go 3-4 with a negative 37 run differential.

    “We should probably shred ‘em, burn ‘em, I don’t know. Give them away to charity, something. They need to go,” shortstop Ryan Goins said after Toronto beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1, earning a second win in as many days and its first back-to-back series victories since late May.

    It was a collective decision to move on from the red, worn on for the better part of Sunday home games this year in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Who knows whether the colour of their shirts spurred the Blue Jays to a four-run first inning or a quality start from lefty J.A. Happ, but with six teams between Toronto and a wild-card spot, the club will take what it can get.

    “We’re not that far out of it,” Goins said. “We’re only four games back right now so if we can put together a good stretch, we might have a chance at the end.”

    The Blue Jays stormed to a decisive lead early in Sunday’s rubber game, after the Pirates went up by one when starter J.A. Happ allowed three back-to-back singles from Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and David Freese.

    Josh Donaldson’s longest homer of the season, a 452-foot dinger, scored two in his first at-bar of the day, turning the momentum in Toronto’s favour. A Justin Smoak double and a walk from Ezequiel Carrera set the stage for Mr. RISP, Goins — batting a team-high .348 with runners in scoring position — to cash in another two RBIs. The shortstop added more flair to the frame two batters later, notching a delayed steal of home as catcher Raffy Lopez struck out to make it 5-1.

    “We’ve been known to do that, especially in good times,” manager John Gibbons said. “We scored early and gave the starter a little breathing room, that always helps.”

    Darwin Barney and Justin Smoak added two solo shots over the final eight innings, Toronto’s offence backed by Happ’s ninth quality start of the season.

    The Blue Jays, 4-2 in their current 10-game homestand, have benefitted from steady starting pitching recently, their rotation allowing one run or less in five of those six games while lasting 36 1/3 innings between them.

    If Toronto wants a chance at the post-season, Gibbons, who notched his 700th win on Sunday, admitted maintaining that consistency on the mound will be key. It won’t be easy, what with Nick Tepesch and Chris Rowley making just the second starts in Toronto next series, a four-game contest against the Tampa Bay Rays.

    “You need to slug it out at times but the teams that win — and, of course, they combine it — but it’s pitching that gets you there, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

    An obvious improvement the Blue Jays must make over the final seven weeks of the season is to their record against fellow American League teams. Toronto is 47-53 against teams in its league and 19-28 against divisional rivals. With 13 of its final 14 series against AL teams — nine of them against clubs from the East — a winning record could go a long way to contending come season’s end.

    Either way, don’t expect to see Toronto in red for its final three Sunday home games.

    “They’re probably going to be done for the year. Save your red, just start wearing blue every day.”

    He hopes there will be a reason to do so in October.

    0 0

    On a sunny Wednesday evening outside the Rogers Centre, that familiar deep tone continues to ring out.

    “Baseball tickets? Buy, sell, upgrade!” shouts a tall, imposing man, waving a stack of slightly crumpled pieces of very expensive paper.

    Despite the last-place Blue Jays’ ongoing struggles, it’s one of the final marquee series of the year. The New York Yankees are in town.

    And two hours before game time, there they are — scalpers — dressed in rugged clothes and smoking cigarettes on three of the Rogers Centre’s four corners.

    On its south-east corner, opposite Bremner Blvd., one group of men (there are no women) manage the busiest gates, handing off their cash to a slightly-better-dressed manager who shakes hands and greets his minions as they arrive for work. On the north side of the Rogers Centre, two teams of scalpers man the bridge and steps that run off of Front St. and over the railway corridor.

    By 5:30 p.m., an hour and a half before the first pitch, they’ve already sold their entire inventory and have begun trying to acquire more tickets.

    “I’ll carry on, thanks,” says one man, shaking his head and laughing as a scalper tries to offer him half of face value for his set of outfield seats.

    “Name your price then!” responds the scalper, the man now a few metres away.

    Most others, too, blow past them. But some stop, already dressed in Blue Jays jerseys, convinced they’re going to the game and willing to pay top price for mediocre seats. So the scalpers keep coming back.

    Even as massive online third-party sports ticket retailers such as StubHub, Fan Exchange and Vivid Seats take over a larger share of the market, Toronto’s wealth of small regional scalpers and brokers are surviving — and growing.

    The Canadian Ticket Brokers Association lists 23 of its 27 members as headquartered in the GTA. The brokers, ranging from independent online retailers to family-run businesses, have sustained loyal clientele while continuing to acquire (and sell) more tickets. Some are broker-scalper hybrids who attempt to sell their tickets through privately-run online websites or phone numbers, and show up at the gates to sell their excess.

    What started as selling off a pair of tickets when they couldn’t attend every game has emerged as a close-knit community of buyers and sellers who share and redistribute swaths of thousands of licenses.

    One Toronto ticket broker who owns more than 30 seat licences for each of the Leafs and Blue Jays claims his business is “skyrocketing” and did $2.23 million in sales last year (up nearly a million on 2015) on an average profit margin of 15 per cent.

    “Where we make our money is sheer volume,” the broker, who didn’t want to be named for the story, said. “We deal with thousands of tickets every month.”

    In the last decade, these season seat holders-turned-brokers have made accessing tickets to Toronto’s pro sports franchises more expensive, according to Tom Pistore, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s (MLSE) vice-president of ticket sales.

    “The new secondary platforms coming online, albeit some of them operating in a completely non-legal format up until a couple of years ago — like StubHub — really just changed how consumers buy,” he said. “Buying direct and/or now buying on a secondary platform, there really isn’t any difference in many consumers’ minds.”

    Some teams and markets have clamped down on these season seat monopolists. In 2015, StubHub sued the Golden State Warriors for mandating all resale be done through its Ticketmaster platform. Other teams have required season seat holders live in the state or province of their team, forcing license owners to return their tickets or launch futile lawsuits.

    The Blue Jays recently told season ticket holders they should expect a 17 per cent hike in prices for 2018. In the past, Toronto’s sports franchises have said price hikes were aimed at biting into broker-scalper profits.

    MLSE has identified markers — ranging from credit card numbers to purchase addresses or ticket postage — that alert them when licence holders control dozens of tickets.

    They’re also considering options to combat the sometimes hundreds of fraudulent tickets sold to ignorant buyers from independent sellers.

    Still, MLSE must provide early access at a discounted rate to all of its season seat holders for events at the Air Canada Centre, according to Pistore.

    That can mean ticket brokers get their hands on as many as 50 per cent of all lower-bowl seats before they even hit the presale market, according to one Toronto broker.

    MLSE began operating on a dynamic pricing scheme in the early 2010s. Weather, a recent trade, opponent, a do-or-die game, and a win streak can raise or lower prices — even on the day of a game.

    At the end of the 2016-2017 season when the Leafs found out their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was a win-and-your-in scenario, they jacked up the prices for the game, according to Pistore.

    Some professional sports teams now price their tickets as far as a seat-to-seat basis, making aisle options more expensive than three or four chairs in.

    “We haven’t gone that granular yet. There are teams that, if you have 24 rows in each section, they have 24 prices and if you have 24 rows and two aisles they have a multiple of those 24 prices,” Pistore said.

    “We’re evaluating the benefit of whether that seat is actually more valuable. First rows and aisles, those are the easy ones. There’s a lot of best practices that are going to come out of this and we’re interested in seeing the outcome.”

    Until then, the same men buying seats before you can get them will continue offering them to you at above face value.

    The yelling is free of charge.

    0 0

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J.—The White House, under siege over U.S. President Trump’s equivocal response to this weekend’s bloody white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday condemned “white supremacists” for inciting the violence that led to one death.

    The statement — issued more than 36 hours after the protests began — came in an email sent to reporters in the president’s travelling press pool, and was attributed to an unnamed spokesperson. It was not attributed directly to Trump, who often uses Twitter to communicate directly on controversial topics.

    The statement was sent “in response” to questions about Trump’s widely criticized remarks, in which he blamed the unrest “on many sides” while speaking on Saturday before an event for military veterans at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., where the president is on vacation.

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

    The criticism of Trump intensified on Sunday, with lawmakers from both parties calling on him to explicitly condemn the role of white racists and agitators affiliated with the so-called alt-right, some of whom brandished pro-Trump banners and campaign placards during violent protests over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a Charlottesville park.

    “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together,” the White House statement on Sunday said.

    Trump will continue to receive regular updates from his team, according to the official to whom the statement was attributed, and Thomas Bossert, the White House homeland security adviser, was in Bedminster monitoring the situation.

    Bossert, in an interview Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, dismissed any suggestion that the president had failed to adequately condemn white supremacists.

    Bossert praised the statement the president made on Saturday — which denounced the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” — saying that Trump had appropriately criticized an event that “turned into an unacceptable level of violence at all levels.”

    “This isn’t about President Trump — this is about a level of violence and hatred that could not be tolerated in this country,” Bossert told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I was with the president yesterday, and I’m proud of the fact that he stood up and calmly looked into the camera and condemned this violence and bigotry in all its forms. This racial intolerance and racial bigotry cannot be condoned.”

    Tapper responded by citing a white nationalist website that described Trump’s remarks as “really, really good.” He then asked Bossert: “Are you at least willing to concede that the president was not clear enough in condemning white supremacy?”

    Bossert replied that Trump “didn’t dignify the names of these groups of people, but rather addressed the fundamental issue.”

    Read more:

    Critics slam Trump after he declines to call out Charlottesville white supremacists, some of whom are his supporters

    Torontonians plan Monday rally against white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

    15 photos that show Charlottesville's stunning descent into violence

    Trump consulted a broad range of advisers before speaking on Saturday, most of whom told him to sharply criticize the white nationalist protesters. The president listened attentively, according to a person familiar with the discussions, but repeatedly steered the conversation back to the breakdown of “law and order,” and the responsibility of local officials to stem the violence.

    Two Virginia state troopers who were involved in the response to the violence died when their helicopter crashed in a wooded area near the campus on Saturday.

    The man who organized the rally that sparked violent clashes tried to hold a news conference Sunday, but a crowd of several hundred booed him, forced him away from the lectern and assaulted him.

    As Charlottesville-based blogger Jason Kessler came out to speak near City Hall, he was surrounded by cameras. Some people chanted and banged drums, chanting: “You’re wearing the wrong hood,” a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

    Kessler mimicked looking at his watch and indicated he’d wait to speak.

    A few people approached, crossing the line of TV cameras.

    One man pushed Kessler. A woman tackled him.

    Kessler asked officers on the scene for help, and they eventually they escorted him off. No arrests were reported.

    With files from The Associated Press

    0 0

    A leading neo-Nazi website is losing its internet domain host after its publisher posted an article mocking the woman who was killed in a deadly attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.

    GoDaddy tweeted late Sunday night that it had given The Daily Stormer 24 hours to move its domain to another provider because the site has violated the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company’s terms of service.

    The site was later registered through another hosting that is itself a client of Toronto-based company Tucows, according to Michael Goldstein, Tucows’ vice-president of sales and marketing. Tucows offers a “contact privacy feature” that conceals websites’ ownership information. Goldstein told the Star that Tucows would strip the third-party hosting company’s access to this service if it did not ban the Daily Stormer — which Goldstein said the company would do.

    Tucows said in a tweet that it was never the domain host of the Daily Stormer.

    “We hate Nazis, I guess would be my statement on record,” Goldstein said. “I wish I never read Daily Stormer, which I spent like 20 minutes of my day today scanning articles that say that this woman deserved to die.”

    “It’s like you die inside, knowing that that much hate exists.”

    GoDaddy spokesperson Dan Race said their move was prompted by a post on the site about Heather Heyer, who was killed Saturday when a man plowed his car into a group of demonstrators in Charlottesville. The post called her “fat” and “childless” and said “most people are glad she is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness.”

    Read more:

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    “Given their latest article comes on the immediate heels of a violent act, we believe this type of article could incite additional violence, which violates our terms of service,” Race said in an emailed statement.

    Shortly after GoDaddy tweeted its decision, the site posted an article claiming it had been hacked and would be shut down. It wasn’t immediately clear if hackers had truly taken over The Daily Stormer or if that was just a prank post from a website known for its trolling tactics.

    Andrew Anglin, the website’s publisher and author of Sunday’s post about Heyer, said he couldn’t immediately comment Monday on GoDaddy’s move.

    “I don’t have time to talk, we’re trying to regain control of the site,” he said in an email to The Associated Press.

    Auernheimer, known online as “weev,” said GoDaddy hadn’t contacted The Daily Stormer to explain its decision. He said the site has an alternate domain name that it can use if GoDaddy cancels its service.

    “We’ll get it taken care of,” Auernheimer said. “If we need a new domain, we’ll get a new domain.”

    GoDaddy isn’t The Daily Stormer’s host, which means the site’s content isn’t on the company’s servers, according to Race. “Only the domain is with GoDaddy,” Race added.

    Anglin’s site takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda. The site includes sections called “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.”

    The Daily Stormer is infamous for orchestrating internet harassment campaigns carried out by its “Troll Army” of readers. Its targets have included prominent journalists, a Jewish woman who was running for a California congressional seat and Alex Jones, a radio host and conspiracy theorist whom Anglin derided as a “Zionist Millionaire.”

    In April, a Montana woman sued Anglin after her family became the target of another Daily Stormer trolling campaign. Tanya Gersh’s suit claims anonymous internet trolls bombarded Gersh’s family with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin published their personal information in a post accusing her and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, of engaging in an “extortion racket” against the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer

    The Daily Stormer used a crowdfunding website, WeSearchr, to raise more than $152,000 in donations from nearly 2,000 contributors to help pay for Anglin’s legal expenses.

    Other internet services have taken similar action against The Daily Stormer since Anglin founded it in 2013. In 2015, Anglin said PayPal had permanently banned him from using the service. And he complained in January that a Ukrainian advertising company had banned them, leaving an Australian electrician as the site’s only advertiser.

    With files from Victoria Gibson

    0 0

    Drug charges against three men have been thrown out after a judge ruled that a Toronto police officer had been “deliberately misleading” in his testimony and notes in an attempt to “strengthen the case” against one of the accused.

    Const. Bradley Trenouth “falsely attributed” a large piece of crack to Toronto man Jason Jaggernauth, Judge Katherine Corrick wrote in her Aug. 8 decision, staying the charges against Jaggernauth.

    Because of Trenouth’s actions, Corrick excluded evidence gathered by him and other officers from the trial of Jaggernauth’s co-accused, leading the judge to find them not guilty in the same decision.

    “The false attribution of evidence to an accused’s possession, and false testimony by a police officer constitute precisely the type of state misconduct that undermines the integrity of the judicial process,” Corrick wrote.

    Jaggernauth, Jordan Davis and Jimal Nembrand-Walker were charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime in 2014, after police found them in a Scarborough apartment that contained multiple types of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

    Police officers found several grams of crack on Davis and crack, powdered cocaine and other drugs in Nembrand-Walker’s pockets at the time of the arrest, Corrick wrote in her decision.

    Police did not find any drugs on Jaggernauth, Corrick said.

    Trenouth testified in a pretrial hearing that he saw a large piece of crack fall from Jaggernauth when officers got Jaggernauth to stand up from his chair — testimony that was backed up by the notes Trenouth said he took at the time of Jaggernauth’s arrest, according to the judge’s decision.

    But at the trial several months later, Trenouth told the court that he did not see the crack fall from Jaggernauth, Corrick wrote. Instead, Trenouth testified that he found the piece of crack on the floor near Jaggernauth and assumed it had fallen from him.

    Corrick noted other discrepancies between Trenouth’s pretrial and trial testimonies in her decision.

    At the preliminary hearing, Trenouth said he picked the large ball of crack off the floor after forensic officers had taken photos of the scene. But the photos taken do not include images of that specific piece of crack, Corrick wrote.

    Trenouth told the court that might be because the piece of crack had been moved or stepped on before the photos were taken.

    The large piece of crack was also missing from evidence photos taken by police about three hours later, in Trenouth’s presence, the judge said.

    Trenouth’s story changed at trial, where he said there were no photos of the piece of crack because he had already picked it up and put it in his pocket before the photos were taken, Corrick wrote.

    Corrick ruled on Aug. 8 that Trenouth did not find the crack near Jaggernauth, as the police officer had claimed.

    “I have concluded that Officer Trenouth was deliberately misleading when he prepared his notes and testified at the preliminary hearing, in an effort to strengthen the case,” Corrick wrote.

    It is unlikely that Trenouth, who has eight years of police experience, would pick up unwrapped drugs and put them in his pocket at a crime scene, Corrick said.

    And if Trenouth had merely been mistaken in his pretrial testimony, he should have informed the Crown before the case went to trial, the judge added.

    An investigation should be immediately opened into Trenouth’s conduct in the case, Jaggernauth’s lawyer Chris O’Connor said in an interview.

    “The bottom line is . . . an officer falsely attributed an exhibit to my client that never was on my client,” O’Connor said.

    Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said she “can’t say whether (Trenouth) will face any discipline.” All disciplinary matters are confidential until the officer in question has appeared before a police services tribunal, Gray added.

    “Generally speaking an investigation into allegations of an officer providing false evidence in court could lead to criminal charges (such as) perjury or (internal) discipline under the Police Services Act,” Gray said.

    Corrick was scathing in her decision about the effects of Trenouth’s false testimony.

    “It is difficult to imagine how public confidence can be maintained in the rule of law when police officers present false evidence against accused persons,” Corrick wrote. “Our justice system cannot function unless courts can rely on the willingness of witnesses to . . . tell the truth.”

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