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    WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said Sunday that “it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia” after his lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany. But he is still avoiding the question of whether he accepts Putin’s denial that Russia was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election.

    Speaking in a series of tweets the morning after returning from a world leaders’ summit in Germany, Trump said he “strongly pressed” Putin twice over Russian meddling during their meeting Friday.

    Trump said that Putin “vehemently denied” the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russian hackers and propagandists tried to sway the election in Trump’s favour. But Trump would not say whether he believed Putin, tweeting only that he’s “already given my opinion.”

    Trump has said he believes that Russia probably hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton staffers, but that other countries were likely involved as well.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov first told reporters in Germany on Friday that Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia hadn’t meddled — an assertion Putin repeated Saturday after the Group of 20 summit. Putin said he left the meeting thinking that Trump believed his in-person denials following their discussion, which lasted more than two hours.

    “He asked questions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was satisfied with the answers,” Putin said.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not answer directly when asked Sunday if Trump had accepted Putin’s denial. Tillerson was the only other American official in the room when Trump and Putin met on Friday.

    But White House chief of staff Reince Preibus took issue with Putin’s characterization. “The president absolutely didn’t believe the denial of President Putin,” Priebus said on Fox News Sunday.

    Priebus and other administration officials said Trump did not want Russian interference in last year’s election to prevent working with Putin’s government on other issues, including the civil war in Syria.

    “You know, the past, I don’t know if we will ever come to an agreement, obviously with our Russian counterparts on that. I think the important thing is how do we assure that this doesn’t happen again,” Tillerson told reporters in Kyiv, Ukraine.

    Tillerson said that, “In all candidness, we did not expect an answer other than the one we received” from Russia.

    But in a show of U.S.-Russian co-operation, officials announced during the trip that the two sides had brokered a ceasefire in southern Syria that went into effect Sunday. Trump tweeted that the deal “will save lives.”

    The two sides also agreed to create a cybersecurity task force to ensure that “election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded,” Trump tweeted.

    Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was among critics of the task force on Twitter and Sunday morning news shows.

    “It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close,” Graham said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

    Another Senate Republican, Marco Rubio of Florida, said on Twitter that “partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.’” Rubio was referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.

    Read more:

    Trump’s media-bashing keeps base happy but small: Daniel Dale

    Trump isolates U.S. on G20 climate change action


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    A motorcyclist rushed to a trauma centre after a collision near the Evergreen Brickworks Saturday night has died of her injuries.

    Police were called just after 8 p.m. about a crash between a motorcycle and a car in the area of Bayview Ave. near the Brickworks, Toronto police Const. Victor Kwong said.

    Paramedics say the motorcyclist was taken to hospital without vital signs, where she was later pronounced dead.

    Kwong said the driver of the car involved with the crash remained at the scene and was assessed for injuries.

    Police closed the Bayview Extension southbound at Pottery Rd. but the roads have since reopened.

    It was the second crash of the night involving a motorcycle.

    Just after 7 p.m., a 19-year-old male motorcyclist was taken to a trauma centre with serious injuries following a collision in Etobicoke that involved at least four other vehicles.


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    WASAGA BEACH, ONT.—Ontario Provincial Police say the bodies of two men have been found in the waters near Wasaga Beach.

    Police have identified the two Ontario men as Dilvinder Lakhanpal, 27, of Caledon and Nimit Sharma, 26, of Collingwood.

    Read more:Two men drown after boat capsized in rough water in Wasaga Beach

    Police say the pair, both in their twenties, were last seen in an inflatable boat at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River Saturday afternoon.

    Wasaga Beach Fire and Emergency Management reported that the men, each about 26 years old, were boating in “rough water conditions” on Georgian Bay when the boat capsized.

    “Witnesses on shore saw the two men struggling in the waves then disappear,” Fire Chief Michael McWilliam said in an email.

    The bodies were found Saturday after a search that lasted about an hour.

    OPP said neither of the men were wearing life jackets and their deaths are not being treated as suspicious.

    Alcohol was not a factor.

    With files from the Wasaga Sun


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    Hundreds of people gathered Sunday at a Toronto church to celebrate the life of longtime city councillor Pam McConnell, pledging to honour her legacy by continuing her work to help those in need.

    McConnell, a city councillor since 1994 and a champion of Toronto’s poverty-reduction strategy, died last week from health problems with her lungs. She was 71.

    Rev. Brent Hawkes told the crowd of dignitaries, family and constituents filling the pews of the Metropolitan Community Church that they must carry on McConnell’s fight for social justice.

    “Look around this city and see who is in need, to see who doesn’t have enough, and do what we can to make sure they do have enough,” Hawkes said in a communion address memorializing McConnell.

    “Let us also be committed to what she worked for, what she lived for.”

    Hawkes read aloud an email McConnell had sent him on June 23, notifying him that she would not be able to make his sermon at Toronto’s Pride celebrations because of health problems. She wrote the letter from her hospital bed, hooked to an oxygen mask, he said.

    “If I could write a letter back, I would say . . . ‘Pam, look around you and the city you helped build. You built it with your love, your tenacity and your strategic brilliance. But it is your love for us, our love for you, our love for each other, our love for this city, that will inspire us to continue,’ ” Hawkes said.

    Mayor John Tory attended the church service, as did several city councillors and former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall.

    “Her real legacy will be the work she did to help other people,” Tory said after the service. He appointed McConnell a deputy mayor in 2014.

    “We’ll have to move forward and I think it will be an extra impetus behind this knowing she would want us to implement (the poverty reduction strategy) as quickly and to do as much for people who are struggling as we can.”


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    A historical plaque that commemorated one of Sir Sandford Fleming’s great achievements is gone and almost certainly won’t be replaced.

    Unless someone steps up with a donation of $5,000, the Ontario Heritage Trust, which is responsible for 1,278 historical plaques across the province, says it doesn’t have the money for another.

    Back in 2011, we wrote about a plaque that went missing from the former location of a building on Berti St., where Fleming first laid out his concept for the standard time measurement system.

    Fleming, an engineer who helped build the transcontinental railway that stitched Canada together, understood the need for a common model of time measurement that ensured trains were more likely to run on time.

    He proposed a 24-hour clock, a model that was soon adopted around the world and remains the global standard for time measurement.

    A plaque marking it was put up on the side of the building where he first made his proposal to the Canadian Institute. When it was demolished, the plaque ended up in an ignominious location, next to the parking garage for co-op housing built on the site.

    We first contacted the Ontario Heritage Trust in June 2011, to ask if it would be replaced. At the time, we were told another would go up as soon as possible, but budget constraints might delay it.

    Bruce Gates, who first told us about it, recently wrote to us again to say the plaque has yet to reappear. That sent us back to the trust, which replied that it can’t afford to replace it.

    STATUS: Kimberly Murphy, a senior marketing and communications specialist with the trust, emailed to say “it’s unfortunate when plaques go missing. Sometimes they are misplaced or relocated by property owners, sometimes they are damaged by vehicles and in other instances they suffer from vandalism. Unfortunately, plaques are also often targeted by thieves who mistakenly assume the aluminum plaques are made from a more valuable material. In this case, moving the Standard Time plaque from its previous location made it more vulnerable to theft. The plaque was removed by the owner of the property and reinstalled on a post on the east side of Berti St. Since its inception in 1956, the Trust has unveiled 1,278 plaques. At any given time a large number are missing/stolen or were taken down due to severe damage. We would like to replace all missing plaques, but the Trust has no core funding for this activity. As a non-profit agency, over 65 per cent of Trust revenue is from donations, grants and sponsorships. We rely on external funding to support 100 per cent of our project costs. As funds are identified and/or raised for a particular topic by our funding partners, the Trust is able to replace missing plaques. Each new/replacement plaque requires $5,000 to cover the costs of manufacture and installation. The Trust would be pleased to work with partners in the community to replace the plaque to this provincially significant topic and we encourage interested parties to contact us for more information on how to help us achieve that goal.”

    What's broken in your neighbourhood? Wherever you are in Greater Toronto, we want to know. Send an email to jlakey@thestar.ca . Report problems and follow us on Twitter @TOStarFixer.


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    SANTA MARIA, CALIF.—Wildfires barrelled across the baking landscape of the Western U.S. and Canada, destroying a smattering of homes, forcing thousands to flee and temporarily trapping children and counsellors at a California campground.

    Here’s a look at the wildfires blackening the West.

    Southern California

    Southern California residents and campers were sent scrambling as two fires exploded in size at separate ends of Santa Barbara County.

    Crews were getting a break from slightly cooler temperatures and diminishing winds Sunday as they battled the pair of blazes that destroyed structures and closed a highway.

    One of the fires grew to nearly 31 square kilometres, traversing a mountain range and heading south toward coastal Goleta.

    “The plan is to hit it with air tankers to keep it from moving to the south and to the east,” said county fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni. “There’s less heat and less wind, which makes things a little easier.”

    There was minimal containment and flames shut down State Route 154, which is expected to remain closed for days. At least 20 structures burned, but officials didn’t say if they were homes.

    Sarah Gustafson, who moved from Washington to California seven months ago, was out running errands when she saw the pillar of smoke rising near her home. She rushed to retrieve her six cats and then spent the night at a Red Cross shelter.

    “It was terrifying,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “The sky was orange and black, you could see flames up on the ridge.”

    About 90 children and 50 counsellors were stuck Saturday at the Circle V Ranch and had to take shelter until they could be safely evacuated. Buildings have burned but officials weren’t yet sure if they were homes.

    Crews were also using an air attack against another blaze about 50 miles north that exploded in size to about 97 square kilometres. About 200 rural homes east of Santa Maria were evacuated after the fire broke out Saturday and was fed by dry gusts.

    Northern California

    In Northern California, a wildfire swept through grassy foothills in the Sierra Nevada and destroyed at least 10 structures and threatened more than 750 homes.

    The blaze about 95 kilometres north of Sacramento grew rapidly to more than 18 square kilometres and was nearly 20 per cent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    “It made a huge run last night,” fire spokeswoman Mary Ann Aldrich said Sunday. She said additional homes were destroyed, but that fire officials have not had a chance to assess the damage. Instead, they were focused on protecting structures while battling the fire in hot, sometimes windy conditions.

    “It’s far from out, we’re going to be here for several days if not more,” Aldrich said.

    The area burning was about 16 kilometres south of Oroville, where spillways in the nation’s tallest dam began crumbling from heavy rains this winter and led to temporary evacuation orders for 200,000 residents downstream.

    Authorities said the fire sent hundreds of people fleeing from their homes.

    Elsewhere in the west

    Firefighters have been able to build containment lines around about half the wildfire that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people near Breckenridge, Colorado. The fire has not spread since it broke out Wednesday and was still about one-third square kilometre Sunday.

    In rural Arizona, fire officials say three homes were among 10 buildings that were burned. The wildfire there has led to the evacuation of the entire town of Dudleyville, about 160 kilometres southeast of Phoenix.

    A wildfire burning in near Summer Lake in south-central Oregon has destroyed a hunting cabin and an outbuilding.

    And in Nevada, fire officials have ordered evacuations for a wildfire that is near the same area where another blaze has already burned for days.


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    Deborah Cross was just 56 years old when she left her Ottawa apartment and moved into a nursing home in Maple, Ont.

    Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis has limited her mobility, but her mind is still sharp. She does not consider herself to be in the final stages of her life, as so many other residents are. But moving into a home for seniors was her only option.

    Now 61, Cross estimates she is at least 15 years younger than nearly everyone else there. She loves her home, but it’s hard to be surrounded by people so much older, who function at a different level, and struggle with all manner of end-of-life illnesses and issues.

    “I kind of suck it up and I do my best to be happy because I know that I could be horribly unhappy if I gave myself half a chance,” Cross said.

    More than 90,000 people spent time in “long-stay” beds in Ontario long-term care homes last fiscal year, according to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

    Those residents’ average age was over 83. But about 6 per cent of them were under the age of 65, including nearly 2,500 in their early 60s, more than 2,300 people in their 50s, and about 500 in their 40s.

    Doctors and residents say they have seen people as young as 21 entering nursing homes, to live with people older than their grandparents.

    “Essentially it’s a default scenario because there is nowhere that a young person can go for long-term care, except a nursing home,” said Dr. Abraham Snaiderman, director of the Neuropsychiatry Clinic at the University Health Network’s rehabilitation institute.

    “As a society, we’re not prepared to deal with younger patients with cognitive or physical impairments.”

    David Jensen, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, confirmed to the Star that Ontario has no long-term care homes specifically geared to adults under the age of 65.

    Younger people end up in long-term care when they require ’round-the-clock assistance or can no longer cope in their own home, whether it’s the result of a stroke, a serious brain injury, developmental disability, progressive types of MS or other degenerative illnesses.

    “Long-term-care homes are required to do their best to meet the needs of their residents,” Jensen said, adding that every care home resident has a written “plan of care” based on their needs, which dictates medical treatments, personal support, diet, recreation, social activity and more.

    The problem, Snaiderman said, is that long-term care homes are designed for elderly residents. They are “suboptimal” places for treating conditions like MS.

    Even if the care and services of the home are perfect, there is a psychological toll to being decades younger than your peers.

    “Not only are you around people that aren’t like you, who don’t necessarily have the same capacity as you, but you’re also dealing with . . . a lot of grief, a lot of anger like, ‘Why did this happen to me?” said Julie Kelndorfer of the MS Society of Canada, which is lobbying governments across Canada to place patients in “age-appropriate” facilities.

    The challenges of care home life can be as basic as not wanting to eat breakfast at 6 a.m. when the seniors do, or wanting to have pizza instead of an old-fashioned dinner of roast beef on Sundays, Kelndorfer said.

    There are more serious considerations, too, like the lack of opportunity to form friendships or even romantic relationships with people your own age.

    Cross said the activities her home plans, like bingo games and very easy crossword puzzles, don’t stimulate her the way they do older residents.

    “I work really hard at finding things to keep my brain in gear,” said Cross.

    Most of her recreation comes outside the home, whether it’s going shopping, visiting friends at her church, attending an MS support group or seeing her family.

    Cross said she is close with the staff at her care home and makes a point of getting to know people. But it’s been difficult, she said, to befriend residents who are nearing the end of their lives.

    “I’ve watched friends that I’ve made pass away over and over again, and it’s really distressing,” she said. “I never wanted to get used to people dying, and it happens all the time. I can’t help but be aware of it, because it’s right there in front of me.”

    The reliance of young adults on long-term care is a problem for senior citizens, too, say representatives of the long-term-care industry.

    “Over the next 20 years, there will be a doubling of the seniors’ population across Canada and, by extension, increasing demand on long-term care homes for support,” said Candace Chartier, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association. “We believe that long-term care needs to be available to these seniors, to ensure that these resources are available at a time when they need may need it the most.”

    Chartier said her organization, which represents over two-thirds of the private, public and non-profit care homes in Ontario, “believes that long-term care is not the most suitable environment for those under 65.”

    For an alternative model for helping younger adults in need of care, Kelndorfer pointed to the Boston Home in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a long-term-care facility that caters specifically to people with MS and other progressive neurological illnesses.

    Billed as a place for “intellectually curious” adults who want to live “full lives not defined by their disabilities,” the Boston Home offers residents and outpatients exercise, recreation, rehabilitation and social programs. The average age of their clients is 58.

    “It’s the difference between a house and a home,” Kelndorfer said of the struggle faced by young care home residents. “A home is where there are people like you, where you have a sense of belonging, that you feel comfortable and safe. I think those are all challenges for young people living in long-term care.”


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    They were draped in flags and choking up as the strains of “O Canada” wafted over them, a history-making group of players and coaches trying to comprehend what they had done.

    It wasn’t easy.

    “I think everyone had chills . . . energy and pride,” coach Roy Rana said after Canada won the first FIBA gold medal in the country’s history.

    “It’s hard to describe.”

    Led by 17-year-old R.J. Barrett, the tournament’s most valuable player, Canada beat Italy 79-60 in Cairo on Sunday to win the under-19 world championship, marking the first time a Canadian team had mounted the top step of a global podium.

    It will take some time for the magnitude of the accomplishment to sink in for everyone involved, but the emotion of the moment was real.

    “They’re kids, they’re just having fun,” Rana said on a conference call. “It’s basketball. (But) it’s a very proud moment for this group of guys and our country.”

    Canada’s best global finishes before Sunday were a silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and bronze medals at the 1979 and 1986 women’s world championships and the 2010 men’s under-17 worlds.

    Barrett, the young phenom from Mississauga and the son of long-time national team standout Rowan Barrett, had 18 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the gold-medal game as Canada led from start to finish.

    Rana, the head coach of the Ryerson men’s team and a coach in the Canada Basketball system for almost a decade, lauded the high school sophomore for his maturity off the court and his ability to block out the noise that accompanies his lofty status among the long-term basketball prognosticators who peg him as a possible first overall NBA draft pick in two or three years.

    “He steps on the floor and he transforms himself,” the coach said. “It’s something really unique and unbelievable.”

    For Canada Basketball, the accomplishment is, of course, a gigantic step. While always a factor at global age-group championships for both men and women, Canada has always found it impossible to leapfrog the United States at the highest of levels.

    Beating the United States in Saturday’s semifinal was almost as significant as trouncing Italy for the gold medal.

    “They were mentally tough, they believed in themselves, and we found a way,” Rana said. “(An) incredible moment for our country, for these kids.

    “It’s unbelievable to be able to say that we’re the best team on the planet at the U-19 age level. It’s hard to express what we’re feeling right now as a group.”

    Abu Kigab, of St. Catharines, added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Canada while Nate Darling, of Sackville, N.S., chipped in with 12 points and four rebounds in the gold-medal game.


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    TERREBONNE, QUE.—A neighbour who rushed to the scene of a deadly fire in a Quebec seniors residence on Sunday said he could hear trapped residents calling out before he turned the corner and saw the building in flames.

    “There were police officers running, firefighters too, the house was in flames,” Terrebonne resident Nicolas Martel said in a phone interview.

    “There were two balconies and there was one person on each balcony who were trapped and who couldn’t get out through their doorways because of the fire.”

    Martel said the rescue went quickly as police and firefighters ran in and out of the Oasis seniors residence, carrying some residents and using ladders to reach those who were trapped on balconies.

    A 94-year-old woman died after being taken to hospital in serious condition.

    Police say the fire, which broke out about 1:30 a.m. at the facility northeast of Montreal, could be criminal in nature.

    Quebec’s minister responsible for seniors said the residence was in the process of installing a sprinkler system but could not say whether it had been activated during the fire.

    “We were a few days from doing the first water tests at the level of the residence,” Francine Charbonneau told The Canadian Press.

    Forty-three people were rescued from the home, and 12 were hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

    Two people remained in hospital on Sunday afternoon with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, according to a spokesman for the regional health centre.

    The surviving victims will be transferred to other residences or long-term care facilities in the area.

    The issue of sprinklers has previously come up in the province following another deadly seniors home fire in 2014.

    A coroners’ report into the fire recommended that all certified seniors homes in the province should be equipped with automatic sprinkler systems after 32 died in the blaze in L’Îsle Verte.

    On Sunday in Terrebonne, Martel said most residents remained calm despite the flames shooting into the night sky behind them and the sparks flying from nearby electrical wires.

    “They knew the firefighters were there, (so) they were agitated, but they knew they weren’t about to die,” he said.

    He said part of the building later collapsed, although the facade was relatively untouched.

    Police said preliminary information provided by firefighters suggests the fire may have been deliberately set.

    An investigation is underway to determine the exact causes of the blaze.

    According to information on the residence that is listed on a Quebec government website, the residence had smoke detectors and alarms but no sprinkler system when the information was last updated in April, 2016.

    At that time, all but five of the home’s 32 residents were aged 75 and over.

    About 70 firefighters fought the blaze, which appeared to be under control by 6 a.m.


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    Trouble With Talking

    The other day, when it was time to say “Thank you very much” to my helper for taking me out and bringing me safely home, the phrase that came out of my mouth was “Have a nice day!” I’ve been working on these verbal set-pieces for ages and ages, but I still can’t master such simple exchanges. Talking is troublesome for me. I’d like to work through what was happening in my head when I made the mistake with my helper.

    1) I wanted to say the correct thing to my helper. (In my head, “Thank you very much” is stored in the “Everyday Phrases” category.)

    2) As soon as I tried to express my thanks, my mind went blank.

    3) I floundered, having no idea what I needed to do next.

    4) So I looked down, and saw the shoes my helper was wearing as he stood in the small entrance hall of our house . . .

    5) . . . which reminded me of seeing my father’s shoes there earlier in the day in the very same place.

    6) The scene of me saying “Have a nice day!” to Dad flashed into my mind.

    7) I remembered that I needed to say something to my helper . . .

    8) . . . so I blurted out the phrase that was already in my head: “Have a nice day!”

    Can you imagine a life where you’re confronted at every turn by this inability to communicate? I never know I’m saying the wrong thing until I hear myself saying it. Instantly I know I’ve slipped up, but the horse has already bolted and people are pointing out my error, or even laughing about it. Their pity, their resignation, or their sense of So he doesn’t even understand this! make me miserable. There’s nothing I can do but wallow in despondency.

    The best reaction to our mistakes will vary from person to person, and according to his or her age, but please remember: for people with autism, the pain of being unable to do what we’d like to is already hard to live with. Pain from other people’s reactions to our mistakes can break our hearts.

    Friendlessness

    We are taught at school that it’s a good thing to make lots of friends. There are some kids, however, who are just no good at it. And because children with autism are poor at interacting with others, many of them have next to no friends, and we can safely assume that some of these get teased or bullied by their peers. The bullies don’t mean to cause serious harm: they just throw their weight around because it’s fun. Some grown-ups tell the bullied kids simply to put up and shut up, even admonishing the victims and telling them, “Hah, there’s worse than that waiting for you out in the big wide world!”

    As far as I’m concerned, there’s no need whatsoever to “practise being bullied.” Acquiring superpowers of endurance is not something children need to be learning before they enter society at large. It is only the person being bullied who understands the true cost of what they suffer. People with no experience of being bullied have no idea how miserable it is to grow up being picked on the whole time.

    I would like people to stop pressuring children to make friends. Friendships can’t be artificially created. Friends are people whose respect and mutual support occurs naturally, right? Whether or not we have lots of friends, every single one of us is the main protagonist of our own existence. Having no friends is nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s all follow and be true to our singular path through life.

    Laughing

    Even when somebody is laughing their head off in front of me, I find it very hard to laugh along with them. It’s not that I fail to find what they’re laughing at funny: it’s that I literally can’t do it, because the moment I see someone start laughing, I forget to join in — I become entranced by the sight of the other person’s laughing face. Then, when I’m not looking at the laughing person, I become ensnared by the sound of them laughing. In this way it slips my mind that I ever wanted to laugh. Not being able to laugh while everyone else is falling about the place is isolating enough, but what makes me feel even lonelier is that my inability to laugh along with others leads people to assume that I don’t share their feelings or humour.

    There are other times when I find the difference between an angry person’s face and their normal face utterly hilarious. I might even want to see the furious expression again so badly that I burst out laughing — despite the anger this generates. Over-the-top scoldings definitely backfire in my case …

    Hitting My Head

    When I fight the demands of my fixations, and when my urge to do what my fixation dictates and my determination to ignore it smash into each other, I can erupt into anger. When I erupt into anger, I start hitting my head. I want to take control of the situation, but my brain won’t let me. Neurotypical people never experience this, I guess. My rage is directed at my brain, so without thinking anything through, I set about punching my own head.

    Once I’ve mastered a fixation, I’m able to set its demands aside, ignore what my brain is saying and act according to my own wishes and feelings. If people try to tell me off while I’m hitting myself, or to forcibly stop me doing it, or yell, “What are you doing?” at me, I become utterly dejected. The more frantic and desperate I become, the more I punch myself: by now, it’s no longer about punishing my brain, it’s about punishing myself for having lost the plot so woefully.

    If, however, people don’t flip out at the sight of me and understand that I’m not fully in control at such times, their forbearance gives me the headspace to think that one way or another I have to stop myself. So the next time you see someone like me in mid-meltdown, I’d ask you to conduct yourself with this knowledge …

    Obstacles, Goals, Blessings and Hopes

    In my life so far, I’ve experienced any number of hardships arising from my autism. These hardships arise in turn from the fact that our society is made up of a large neurotypical majority. You’d be forgiven for assuming, then, that I feel nothing but envy towards the “normal” majority, but that’s not the whole picture, not by a long shot. More and more, I’ve noticed the positives about having autism. Two things make this outlook possible.

    The first reason is that my parents were never in a state of denial about my autism, nor did they ever consign me to a “special needs” pigeonhole. They just strove to help me get better at doing the things I was good at. Working towards independence is really important and is a necessary part of growing up for everyone, but independence — in and of itself — won’t dispel or dilute autism. I attribute the ease I feel in my “autistic skin” today to my parents’ unwillingness to swallow fixed ideas about autism and their resolve to provide whatever education was working the best for me at the time.

    The second reason is that I’ve become better at making decisions for myself. Deciding things for yourself is a vital part of self-esteem. I believe that because my parents have always respected my wishes and feelings, my self-confidence had space to grow.

    Whenever I hear the words “Ah, it’s because he’s autistic,” I feel dismay. That word “autistic” packs a negative punch and this negativity, I think, corrodes the position of people with autism. For sure, functioning in our society is difficult for neuro-atypicals, but encountering difficulties is not the same thing as being unhappy. How has it come about that the word “autism” invokes pity? A part of the answer might be that we see so few role models of people living contentedly with their autism. The fact is, we have no choice but to live in a society where autism is thought of exclusively as a sorrow and a hardship: a fact that triggers further sorrow and hardship.

    Even I, as a child, used to think, “Wow, if only I didn’t have autism, wouldn’t life be great?” No longer. I can’t really imagine myself as not having autism because the “Myself” I’d be wouldn’t be the same Myself that I am now. A Me Without Autism, even one who looked exactly the same, would have an entirely different set of ideas and way of looking at the world.

    It is unfair that even the personalities of people with autism get invalidated because of our differences from the norm. I take it as a given that if I’m no good at something, I’ll have to practise at it. The tough part is when people get riled and reproach us for taking ages to learn what neurotypicals pick up effortlessly. At times like these it really feels hammered into me that I’m a total waste of space. It seems to be not widely enough recognized that there are positives to be found in the neurologies of people with autism. If the world at large would take a deeper interest in how our brains work and research our uniquenesses — as opposed to focusing on our treatment and cure — we could take pride in our neuro-atypical natures.

    There are reasons why people with autism exist in the world, I believe. Those who are determined to live with us and not give up on us are deeply compassionate people, and this kind of compassion must be a key to humanity’s long-term survival. Even when the means of self-expression and/or intelligence are lacking, we still respond to love. Knowing we are cherished is a source of hope — and no matter how tough things get, you can always soldier on as long as there’s hope. Since I came into this world, I’ve benefited from many wonderful experiences. Thanks to friends, family and supporters, I can be grateful for what’s around me and keep a smile on my face.

    Life is precious, so we try to help each other; and as someone who tends to be on the receiving end of this mutual assistance, I feel especially heartened when people stay cheerful and positive as they assist me. Every single time someone treats me with kindness, my determination to live well from tomorrow is rejuvenated. This is how I feel empowered to give something back to my family and society, even if my contribution is modest. Thanks to the people who come to me with questions and ask for my opinions about things — never mind if I can’t always answer — I get to think about what I want. I feel blessed that I’m able to consider what kind of life would bring me contentment, and to exercise choices which might bring this about.

    I love nature, I have an interest in letters and numbers, and I’m fascinated by some things that other people have no interest in whatsoever. If these fascinations are rooted in my autistically wired brain and if neurotypical people are unable to access these wonders, then I have to say that the immutable beauties of autism are such that I count myself lucky to be born with the condition.

    Issues like our obsessions, fixations and panic attacks do need to be worked on, but rather than moaning about problems for which there are no quick fixes, I prefer to concentrate on my self-management skills, even if progress is gradual. To live a life where I feel blessed to have autism: that will be my goal from now on.

    Excerpted from Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 by Naoki Higashida and translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell. Copyright in the original Japanese text © 2017 Naoki Higashida and David Mitchell. English translation copyright © 2017 KA Yoshida and David Mitchell. Published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


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    President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

    The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Manafort and Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.

    The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.

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

    The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Trump clinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

    While Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son. It came at an inflection point in the campaign, when Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and a surrogate, was ascendant and Manafort was consolidating power.

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    It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, produced the promised compromising information about Clinton. But the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.

    When he was first asked about the meeting on Saturday, Trump Jr. said only that it was primarily about adoptions and mentioned nothing about Clinton.

    But on Sunday, presented with The Times’ findings, he offered a new account. In a statement, he said he had met with the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which his father took to Moscow. “After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

    He said she then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged President Vladimir Putin that he retaliated by halting U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

    “It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Trump Jr. said.

    Two people briefed on the meeting said the intermediary was Rob Goldstone, a former British tabloid journalist and the president of a company called Oui 2 Entertainment who has worked with the Miss Universe pageant. He did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

    Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lawyer, said Sunday that “the president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”

    Lawyers and spokesmen for Kushner and Manafort did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In his statement, Trump Jr. said he asked Manafort and Kushner to attend, but did not tell them what the meeting was about.

    Political campaigns collect opposition research from many quarters but rarely from sources linked to foreign governments.

    U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers and propagandists worked to tip the election toward Donald Trump, in part by stealing and then providing to WikiLeaks internal Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails that were embarrassing to Clinton.

    A special prosecutor and congressional committees are investigating the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians. Trump has disputed that.

    Trump has also equivocated on whether the Russians were solely responsible for the hacking. On Sunday, two days after his first meeting as president with Putin, Trump said in a Twitter post: “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion ..... “ He also tweeted that they had “discussed forming an impenetrable Cybersecurity unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded ...”

    On Sunday morning on Fox News, the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, described the Trump Tower meeting as a “big nothing burger.”

    “Talking about issues of foreign policy, issues related to our place in the world, issues important to the American people is not unusual,” he said.

    But Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, one of the panels investigating Russian election interference, said he wanted to question “everyone that was at that meeting.”

    “There’s no reason for this Russian government advocate to be meeting with Paul Manafort or with Mr. Kushner or the president’s son if it wasn’t about the campaign and Russia policy,” Schiff said after the initial Times report.

    Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act.

    The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit the man after whom it was named, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Putin’s rule.

    Veselnitskaya’s clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting. Her activities and associations had previously drawn the attention of the FBI, according to a former senior law enforcement official.

    Veselnitskaya said in a statement Saturday that “nothing at all about the presidential campaign” was discussed. She recalled that after about 10 minutes, either Kushner or Manafort walked out.

    She said she had “never acted on behalf of the Russian government” and “never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government.”

    The fact of the Trump Tower meeting was disclosed to government officials in recent days, when Kushner, who is also a senior White House aide, filed a revised version of a form required to obtain a security clearance.

    The Times reported in April that he had failed to disclose any foreign contacts, including meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and the head of a Russian state bank. Failure to report such contacts can result in a loss of access to classified information and even, if information is knowingly falsified or concealed, in imprisonment.

    Kushner’s advisers said at the time that the omissions were an error, and that he had immediately notified the FBI that he would be revising the filing.

    In a statement Saturday, Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said: “He has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition. Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to co-operate and share what he knows.”

    Manafort, the former campaign chairman, also recently disclosed the meeting, and Trump Jr.’s role in organizing it, to congressional investigators who had questions about his foreign contacts, according to people familiar with the events. Neither Manafort nor Kushner was required to disclose the content of the meeting.

    A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.

    Since the president took office, Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have assumed day-to-day control of their father’s real estate empire. Because he does not serve in the administration and does not have a security clearance, Trump Jr. was not required to disclose his foreign contacts. Federal and congressional investigators have not publicly asked for any records that would require his disclosure of Russian contacts.

    Veselnitskaya is a formidable operator with a history of pushing the Kremlin’s agenda. Most notable is her campaign against the Magnitsky Act, which provoked a Cold War-style, tit-for-tat dispute with the Kremlin when President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2012.

    Under the law, some 44 Russian citizens have been put on a list that allows the United States to seize their U.S. assets and deny them visas. The United States asserts that many of them are connected to the fraud exposed by Magnitsky, who after being jailed for more than a year was found dead in his cell. A Russian human rights panel found that he had been assaulted. To critics of Putin, Magnitsky, in death, became a symbol of corruption and brutality in the Russian state.

    An infuriated Putin has called the law an “outrageous act,” and, in addition to banning U.S. adoptions, he compiled what became known as an “anti-Magnitsky” blacklist of U.S. citizens.


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    Masai Ujiri hinted on Friday that he had some things percolating that would address a handful of issues facing the Raptors, but he wasn’t about to make them public lest other teams swoop in and scuttle his plans.

    Seems a wise decision since the Raptors president had a remarkably busy weekend that solved myriad issues surrounding a team that remains set to challenge the behemoths of the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

    Getting a series of tumblers to fall into place to unlock the chance to make key moves, Ujiri:

    • Dealt DeMarre Carroll and two draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets for Justin Hamilton, a cheap bit player whose biggest asset is his inexpensive contract.

    • Used the Carroll transaction to get under the NBA’s luxury tax threshold and free up the mid-level exception of about $8.4 million (all figures in U.S. dollars).

    • Used that money, and the surfeit of point guards on the team, to move Cory Joseph to the Indiana Pacers in a sign-and-trade deal for C.J. Miles, who dovetails perfectly into the hole created by the departures of Carroll and P.J. Tucker.

    • Got a three-year deal with Miles — with a player option for the final year, according to reports — that puts him on the same terms as Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan.

    • Came away with a trade exception of about $12 million that can be used in the next calendar year to add players without having to sacrifice anyone from the roster.

    A rather eventful couple of days, indeed.

    None of the deals are official, though. The first domino — Carroll to the Nets with a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2018 that’s likely to be in the mid-20s, and a second rounder in the same draft — has to fall before the rest can come into reality. That should be midweek at the latest, or whenever the Nets officially get out from under an offer sheet to Otto Porter that the Washington Wizards will match.

    But when that happens and the floodgates open, Ujiri will have completed a magical transformation from leading a team with a gaping hole in its roster at small forward and facing financial doom, thanks to the league’s luxury tax, to one that has pieced together a roster that, altered from last year, remains among the best in the Eastern Conference.

    The key to the weekend’s moves was obtaining Miles, a 30-year-old guard/forward who should boost Toronto’s three-point shooting and provide a veteran wing presence to guard against any regression by the promising Norm Powell.

    Coming off what observers of the Pacers contend was the best season of his 11-year career, the six-foot-six swingman shot 41 per cent from three-point range while averaging about 11 points and three rebounds per game.

    Just as importantly, he is a versatile defender and should allow the Raptors to play the in-vogue switch-everything style the best NBA teams employ now.

    Between him, Powell and DeRozan, the Raptors would seem to be far better suited at the small forward-shooting guard spot than they would have been with Carroll, who was more suited to be a power forward-small forward than in a guard-forward role.

    Just as the trade of Carroll was made amenable by the acquisition of Miles, the departure of Joseph is made amenable by the presence of third-year point guard Delon Wright.

    Joseph, the Pickering native who was the best Canadian to ever play for the Raptors, was deemed expendable when Wright proved capable as a backup last season.

    Losing Joseph’s defensive tenacity and leadership will hurt, but Wright’s length and growth potential forced the Raptors to find a more consistent role for him. The deal also allows Fred VanVleet, another inexpensive intriguing young player, to wait in the wings as a third point guard.

    The acquisition from Brooklyn in the Carroll trade, Hamilton, is unlikely to fit into Toronto’s plans, with Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl under contract as centres and with Serge Ibaka perhaps best suited at that spot.

    Carroll spent two injury-plagued seasons in Toronto after signing a four-year, $60-million free agent contract in 2015. He averaged 8.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 72 games last season.


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    There is a long list of plans that Brenda Murdoch has made for her future, but first she needs to find a home.

    “I would like a place to live, that I could sustain, so that I can get my hip replaced, recover, go back to school, my volunteer work, feel productive and, you know, just have a life,” she says.

    Murdoch, 53, has stayed for more than seven months at a coed shelter in Mississauga run by the Salvation Army. She relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) because of severe rheumatoid arthritis.

    She is on a wait-list for subsidized housing and has applied for a rent supplement, through a new program for people who have experienced more than one episode of homelessness.

    But Murdoch, who does not want to go to a group home, doesn’t have a lot of options. In the region’s tight rental market, for a woman with a physical disability and low income, who is not old enough to access seniors’ services, there are very few places to go.

    The average stay at a Mississauga emergency shelter for a single person is about five days, it’s about four in Brampton, according to Peel Region staff. Families average about 20 days.

    Recently, Murdoch was told to leave for a few days after she broke shelter rules, but she’s been in the emergency system for close to a year.

    Leslie Moreau, manager of human services for Peel, says every effort has been made to help Murdoch find housing, but she has rejected several options and cannot stay indefinitely.

    “Usually something comes through. I hope that is what happens. They’ve got her on all the right lists. They have got the right agencies involved to support her,” says Moreau, who had Murdoch’s permission to speak about her case.

    Murdoch was back on the streets over the Canada Day long weekend. She had been drinking, was told to go to the hospital and when she came back was discharged, she told the Star. For about three days, she says she was on the street, at one point sitting on her walker outside a bar. She also tried to get a room at a hotel but couldn’t because she didn’t have a credit card. She ended up taking a taxi back to the shelter, late Tuesday night.

    Her removal is being reviewed. Moreau says nobody is turned out without first being presented with options of other places to go and appropriate shelter would be found for anybody who called the shelter or any Peel Region emergency housing lines.

    Complicating Murdoch’s shelter stay and longer-term housing search is arthritis.

    “Kids called me ‘rigor mortis case’,” she says, describing her childhood with the debilitating illness.

    Murdoch has her own room at the shelter, with an accessible bathroom.

    She needs a walker, devices to help her dress, a bath seat and uses a stack of pillows to support her while she sleeps. She wants to stay in Brampton, near her doctors, support workers, friends and accessible transit.

    “I don’t need a group home. I can cook for myself. I can do things for myself. I just need a reasonably priced place to stay . . . I am 53 years old, for heaven’s sake. I am not mentally deficient. I am not an old person.”

    Canada’s National Housing Strategy will include targeted supports for people with disabilities, though no one has said what precisely it will mean for people like Murdoch.

    In Peel, a one-bedroom apartment costs about $1,100 and just 1.3 per cent were vacant in 2016, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

    Murdoch, who receives $1,139 each month while renting, says she was evicted from her last place in November 2015, because her ODSP barely covered rent and she fell behind.

    She also lived in a group home where she says her bed was a curtained-off portion of the living room and at one point moved in with a man who she says abused her. She has even slept in a cemetery.

    “Just here and there, sleeping in the graveyard, the hospital, that stupid group home. I hooked up with this frigging idiot guy who beat me up and stole my money. Got to go to court for that still,” she says, letting out a long sigh.

    “Just beside any old tombstone,” says Murdoch, when asked where she would sleep in the cemetery.

    The next stop was a family shelter, then into the sole accessible room in the Mississauga shelter, which she says she waited a year to get.

    The Peel men’s shelter has two accessible beds, and the family shelter has two units.

    Moreau says if those spots are full, workers call across the GTA and find people suitable places to stay.

    During the early months of Murdoch’s stay in the shelter, the focus was on getting her healthy and then facilitating access to support services including housing, Moreau says.

    Private listings have not worked out because either the landlord or Murdoch says they weren’t the right fit, largely because of her mobility issues.

    They applied to a Brampton seniors’ residence with rent-geared-to-income units. Murdoch says she would have gone, but she isn’t old enough. She also declined to visit a private group facility in Brampton. Murdoch says there were stairs.

    She has twice been given a deadline to leave.

    “Unless she is blatantly refusing to move forward, we are not going to discharge her to the street. We want to work with her, but we need her engaged,” Moreau says, explaining the deadline is more of a tool and not a promise to remove somebody.

    Most of Peel Region shelters — including those for men, youth and families — are overflowing, or have run out of regular beds. In those cases they use cots and sometimes hotels for families.

    The coed shelter where Murdoch stays has 119 beds. In June, it was 85 per cent full.

    The region is three years into a Housing and Homelessness Plan and is working to address barriers to housing, including accessibility. It is trying to cut shelter times by shifting to a housing-first model of care.

    “Now it is one-on-one case management to get you out of a shelter as quickly as you can into safe permanent housing in the community and then wrap supports around you,” says Moreau.

    York University and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness are expected to release recommendations on Peel services by fall, she says.

    “We know we need to do things differently,” says Moreau. “We are hoping that the research will tell us a little bit about how to make that shift.”

    Murdoch says she wants to work and go back to school.

    “I’m not disposable. I am languishing. I have lots to offer, but I can’t do it from here.”


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    LONDON—How many people died in the Grenfell Tower blaze?

    More than three weeks after London’s deadliest fire since the Second World War, survivors and their advocates are convinced that the authorities have yet to publicly acknowledge the true death toll.

    Officially, the police say that at least 80 people either died or are missing and presumed dead. On Monday, after weeks of criticism, the police for the first time offered an estimate of the number of people who should have been in the building that night — 350 — and said that of that figure, 255 had survived and 14 were not at home, which would imply that 81 people had died.

    But the death toll has been challenged by skeptics, including three volunteer researchers who have been trying to fill the information vacuum: an Iranian biomedical engineering student who lived on the third floor (he estimated at least 123 dead), a demographer who came out of retirement to bring professional techniques to bear and a software engineer in Brussels whose website has emerged as the most credible source (both the demographer and the engineer place the toll in the 90s).

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    The tragedy has come to symbolize not only official negligence, but also rising inequality, particularly given that the fire occurred in a London borough, Kensington and Chelsea Council, which is one of the wealthiest local governments in Britain.

    The Metropolitan Police, which serves Greater London, says that it had made efforts to provide information, but that it is painstaking work, hindered in some cases by inaccurate and unreliable official records. But the paucity of official information about the fire dominated a series of meetings last week between residents and the authorities.

    “If this was a terrorist attack, they would have had the numbers out here already,” said Beinazir Lasharie, a Labour member of the Kensington and Chelsea Council who represents the neighbourhood that includes the tower. “They need to tell us the truth, because the people are angry and they’re getting angrier.”

    From the day of the fire, June 14, when the death toll was initially announced as only six and later 12, people began to complain that the police were giving low estimates. It was clear that flames had engulfed the entire building in a very short time, forcing some — no one has divulged how many — to jump out of higher floors and others to flee down the single, smoke-choked staircase.

    The death toll was raised to 17 on June 15, to 30 on June 16, to 58 on June 17, to 79 on June 19, finally reaching 80 on June 28, where it has stayed since. On July 5, the police added that they had recovered 87 sets of human remains, but could not say for sure how many people that represented.

    “We are many months from being able to provide a number that we believe accurately represents the total loss of life inside Grenfell Tower,” Detective Chief Superintendent Fiona McCormack said on June 28. “Only after we have completed the search and recovery operation — which will take until the end of the year — and then months afterwards, when experts have carried out the identification process, will we be in a position to tell you who has died.”

    She added, “I do not want there to be any hidden victims of this tragedy.”

    Many in the neighbourhood are unconvinced.

    Ahmed Palekar, who has lived near Grenfell for many years and said he knew countless people who have not showed up since the fire, was one of many locals who said he thought several hundred had died. “They’re afraid of what will happen if that comes out.”

    Abdurahman Sayed, who runs the community centre that includes the mosque where most of the residents prayed, predicted that hundreds had died in the fire. “I don’t know what purpose it serves to hide the number, but this is the most surveilled society anywhere,” he said. “There are CCTV cameras everywhere. Surely they knew who was in that building.”

    The London police said they had not heard from anyone who lived in or was inside 23 apartments — nearly a fifth of the total, all on the upper floors where the fire became much more intense.

    Based on the latest census, from 2011, the tower had an average occupancy of 2.35 people per household. The tower had 129 apartments, and it is not known how many were vacant.

    But many experts think the census undercounted people in poor immigrant neighbourhoods like this one, as people were reluctant or frightened to reveal how many people lived in their apartments. Many of the families were religious Muslims, who community leaders say tend to have large families; but there were also some apartments with only single, elderly residents. (The 350 estimate provided on Monday implied 2.7 people per household; the police said that figure was based on government records and other sources, including school registers, but did not provide a detailed methodology.)

    The fire broke out around 1 a.m., when most people were at home, and during Ramadan, when many people were visiting from abroad.

    Moreover, there are many accounts of people fleeing upstairs in an attempt to escape the fire, and congregating in upper floor apartments.

    “I personally knew a lot of people who did not come out of that tower,” said Lasharie, who was elected to the council in 2014. Based on political canvassing, she said she believed the residents numbered “400 to 500 minimum,” compared with the 2011 census figure of 259 people in the building and the police estimate of 350.

    The Grenfell Fire Response Team said through a spokeswoman that 117 families of survivors from the tower were receiving assistance, but it declined to say how many people that represented.

    The volunteer researchers have used different methods to arrive at their own estimates.

    The software engineer, Joshua Vantard, has been using crowdsourcing techniques on a website, Gathrer, to amass information on those who had been found or were missing. With two volunteer editors, he began poring through public sources to compile the information. He says the data remains too incomplete to allow scientific judgments, but his figure of 93 remains the most complete accounting in the public domain. (Vantard took data identifying the victims by name offline on Monday, citing privacy concerns raised by people claiming to represent the survivors.)

    Sajad Jamalvatan, the Iranian student, who was out the night of the fire and whose mother survived the blaze, said he had his own count of 123 dead, but did not supply the raw data to back up his assertion. “It cannot be 80, it’s double that,” he said of the police estimate. “They don’t want to give out three-digit numbers.”


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    LIMA, PERU—Peruvian officials say a double-decker tour bus went out of control and rolled over on a narrow road in the hills in the country’s capital, killing nine people and injuring 48 others, including two Canadians.

    The Ministry of Health says the rollover happened Sunday night about two kilometres from the presidential palace in Lima.

    The agency says eight foreigners — two Canadians and six Chileans — were among the injured being treated in local hospitals.

    Prosecutor Luz Pena said the bus was driving on San Cristobal hill to give the passengers a panoramic view of the city and appeared to have been moving at excessive speed.

    Global Affairs Canada says it is following the situation in Lima and is providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizens been affected by the accident.

    With files from The Canadian Press


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    Moments after a woman was struck and killed by a GO train in Scarborough, police responded to reports of gunshots nearby.

    The woman, 65, was struck and killed east of the Guildwood GO station. Passengers were held on the train west of the station for more than three hours so police could investigate the death and reports of gunshots nearby on Scarborough Golf Club Rd.

    Police tweeted a message to passengers telling them their train had “struck a pedestrian” at about 9:40 p.m. Sunday night.

    “Seconds later however, we received multiple 9-1-1 calls for sounds of gunshots. Your train came to stop right in the middle of that scene. We have not confirmed the threat has passed,” the message read.

    At 12:25, police said the reports of gunshots were not connected to the person who was struck and killed by the GO train.

    The train and its passengers got going again at around 12:50 a.m. after police investigated the woman’s death. Toronto police Const. Victor Kwong said the death was a suicide.

    Kwong said there were reports of people fleeing after the gunshots. But when police searched the area they did not find suspects or victims.

    Train service on the Lakeshore East line was delayed and trips between Oshawa and Union Station were cancelled. Regular service on the Lakeshore East line resumed Monday morning.

    With files from Alanna Rizza


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    Blame the leggings and the yoga pants.

    Americans are buying fewer pairs of jeans these days — and when they are, they’re not spending as much as they once did.

    Exhibit A: True Religion, which after years of declining sales, filed for bankruptcy protection this week and announced it would be closing at least 27 stores. A decade ago, the brand was riding high, commanding hundreds of dollars a pair for jeans with the company’s signature horseshoes embroidered onto the back pockets. Business nearly tripled between 2007 and 2012, and by 2013, True Religion had annual revenue of $490 million.

    But that growth has reversed in recent years. Sales of super premium jeans — brands like 7 For All Mankind, True Religion, Joe’s Jeans and Hudson — fell 8 per cent last year, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. Overall, jeans sales grew slightly in 2016 after two years of declines, as Americans traded down to lower-priced brands like Levi’s, H&M and Forever 21.

    “The premium denim market has been in decline over the last several years,” Dalibor Snyder, True Religion’s chief financial officer, wrote in a document filed Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. “Competition has also increased from emerging and established fast fashion and low-priced apparel retailers.”

    Instead, buys are increasingly filling their closets with yoga pants and leggings, which they’re wearing not just to the gym, but also to run errands and meet up with friends. True Religion’s $319 skinny jeans have been replaced by Lululemon’s $98 yoga pants.

    Designer denim took off in the early 2000s, during an era marked by large, flashy logos. True Religion, founded in 2002 in Manhattan Beach, Calif., was among the first to cash in on the wave of premium jeans, with its lineup of funky designs and washes. (Rock & Republic, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and Hudson Jeans were founded the same year.)

    “Back then, $100 for a pair of jeans seemed exorbitant,” said Camilo Lyon, a retail analyst for Canaccord Genuity. “But all of a sudden people were paying $150, then $250 and $350. There was a rapid escalation in pricing, and consumers were willing to pay.”

    True Religion continued to grow during the recession, thanks in part to celebrities like Britney Spears, Kanye West and Mariah Carey, who were routinely photographed wearing the brand’s jeans.

    But by late 2012, the outlook had begun to sour. Competition was up and demand was down. True Religion put itself up for sale, and found a buyer in TowerBrook Capital Partners, a private-equity firm that paid $835 million for the company. Sales have continued to slip. Last year, True Religion reported revenue of $370 million, a 25 per cent drop from 2013, and a loss of $78.5 million.

    Today, shoppers are more likely to favour low- or moderately-priced jeans without large logos and decals, according to Euromonitor. A move away from obvious logos also means it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish between the high-end jeans and inexpensive ones.

    Levi’s — where jeans generally range from about $45 to $90 — continues to be the most popular jeans brand among male consumers, while women tend to favour denim from “economy” brands like H&M, Old Navy and Forever 21, as well as private label brands from Walmart and Target, according to Euromonitor. (Economy jeans made up 39 per cent of women’s denim purchases last year, compared to 9 per cent for super premium jeans, Euromonitor found.)

    “I don’t think this one is rocket science: The luxury jeans market is getting smaller and will continue to do so,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of Retail Systems Research in Miami. “Why would you spend $300 on ripped jeans, especially if you can get the same thing for $60?”


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    As Ontario’s police watchdog continues its systemic review of police strip search practices across the province, a Belleville judge has come down strongly on an OPP detachment for failing to follow the law around the controversial practice.

    Ontario court Justice Elaine Deluzio stayed impaired driving charges last month against Jillian Judson, who was told by officers to remove her underwire bra, when there were no reasonable grounds to do so, after she was taken to the police station in May 2016.

    Deluzio said she was not only concerned with what happened to Judson, but also with the fact that the officers involved testified that they would continue to ask female detainees to remove their bras.

    “The indifference expressed by both Officers (Amanda) MacFadden and (Janet) Allaire to their obligation as police officers to abide by the legal constraints surrounding strip searches is very concerning,” Deluzio wrote.

    “And the apparent willingness of both officers, and possibly other police officers at Quinte West OPP detachment, to continue with a practice of removing at least every underwire bra worn by female detainees, knowing that this practice, when implemented automatically and without exception towards every female detainee, is illegal, is an egregious abuse of police power.”

    Strip searching is “inherently humiliating and degrading,” the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a landmark case 15 years ago, and should only be done when there are reasonable grounds to do so, such as looking for weapons or evidence related to the arrest.

    Yet police officers across the province have continued to conduct what judges have deemed to be illegal strip searches, where there were no grounds to have detainees remove their clothes. The illegal searches have resulted in lawsuits against police and criminal cases being tossed.

    The situation became so bad that the Office of the Independent Police Review Director announced last July that it was launching a province-wide, systemic review into police strip search practices. The review is ongoing.

    “I’ve had enough,” Gerry McNeilly, the independent police director, told the Star last year. “There is no regard being given to the rules.”

    Judson’s lawyer, Pieter Kort, said police cannot argue that the law isn’t clear around strip searches given the judicial condemnation of police conduct in the past, and again in Deluzio’s ruling.

    “The police can no longer take the position that they were unaware of what the law was,” he told the Star. “There’s no uncertainty now. It cannot be said that there’s any question with what the law is with respect to strip searches.”

    A spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police said the force accepts Deluzio’s ruling and is reviewing it, but that the officers would not be commenting.

    Aside from the general training all police officers receive at the Ontario Police College, the OPP’s procedures on searches of arrested individuals are also covered “regularly” in training sessions at the Ontario Provincial Police Academy, said OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne.

    “While I can’t anticipate the results of the OIPRD review, the OPP will certainly take into account the findings and take the necessary steps to remedy any identified issue(s),” she said.

    In a sworn statement filed in court, Judson said she was told she had to remove her bra for safety reasons, and said she felt “extremely uncomfortable.”

    “Having to be in that state in front of strangers was intensely embarrassing,” she said. “Having no control over being made to remove personal items or where or how to remove them as a 35-year-old woman was degrading and humiliating.”

    Officer Amanda MacFadden testified that she has female inmates remove their bras “for their safety and ours,” and said that in the past she’s found objects in underwire bras including bear mace and crack cocaine.

    She also testified that she was unaware at the time of her encounter with Judson that asking a woman to remove her bra is a strip search. She said she has since been told by a senior officer that the removal is indeed a strip search, but MacFadden also said she has not changed her practice.

    “She says that she was taught that the removal of an underwire bra is a ‘normal part’ of searching someone in police custody and so she still does this,” Deluzio wrote. “She believes that anyone wearing an underwire bra poses a danger to police.”

    After removing her bra, Judson entered a room to give breath samples with a white blanket wrapped around her chest area, as shown on video that was presented in court. The readings on the breath samples were 150 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood, nearly double the legal limit, according to the ruling.

    The breath tech officer, Janet Allaire, testified that she knew Judson wasn’t wearing a bra “because she expects that every female prisoner she deals with has removed her bra.”

    She said she had been trained to have female detainees remove their bras, and was unaware until this case that the removal constituted a strip search.

    “Officer Allaire said she had not changed her practice,” Deluzio wrote. “She said she had not been asked to change her practice and she said she is not aware of any new training at the detachment dealing with the searching of female prisoners.”


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    The government’s proposed minimum wage hike is too much too fast and could lead to job losses, warns a coalition of Ontario business associations as province-wide hearings on employment changes kicked off Monday in Thunder Bay.

    “Notwithstanding the intent of the legislation, the pace of the changes is very difficult to absorb,” said Karl Baldauf, vice-president of policy and government relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, who is also the spokesperson for the Keep Ontario Working Coalition.

    “If you look at other jurisdictions that have implemented minimum wage increases, California took five years, Seattle four years to implement. In Ontario, it’s a 32 per cent increase in 18 months.”

    Over the past seven years, minimum wage has gone up 12 per cent, he said, so with the coming jump in pay “any logical person could look at the viability of (businesses’) ability to absorb this,” along with other changes.

    In January, the province’s minimum wage will go from the current $11.40 to $14, then to $15 in January 2019. After that, the formula will return to the current one, where the rate is tied to the consumer price index.

    “We want every family to benefit fairly from Ontario's growing economy,” said a statement from Labour Minister Kevin Flynn. “But while business is expanding and creating wealth, not everyone is sharing in the benefits. We need to address the concerns of those who worry about falling behind, even as they work so hard to get ahead.”

    He said experts agree that such changes are “good for workers and can be good for business, too.”

    The coalition has hired a firm to study how the changes will affect businesses, and is saying the government shouldn’t act so hastily.

    They have also sent an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, “with a call for fairness and restraint” saying Bill 148 will “create tremendous uncertainty for Ontario businesses. Realistic legislative timelines can only be proposed following a full economic impact analysis.”

    The group — which includes the chamber of commerce, Retail Council of Canada and Food and Beverage Ontario — also points to a recent study out of Seattle, where workers are said to have lost jobs and hours because of the pay changes.

    In Thunder Bay on Monday, some 19 groups were scheduled to speak at the public hearing, including the local chamber of commerce and Poverty Free Thunder Bay. The local labour council also held a “solidarity breakfast” in support of the government’s move.

    Earlier this month, some 53 economic experts from across Canada sent an open letter to Premier Kathleen arguing boosting the minimum wage “makes good economic sense” and could generate “substantial benefit to low-wage workers, their families and the economy as a whole.”

    Under Bill 148, the province is also “mandating equal pay for equal work, and enabling at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with the same employer. With these changes, living standards will rise and reliance on benefits will fall as businesses pay more fairly. Higher wages will also lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity, less turnover and more spending power for lower-income earners,” Flynn said.

    With files from Sara Mojtehedzadeh


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    A Woodbridge food distribution company has been found guilty of forging food certificates and passing off run-of-the-mill cheese as kosher.

    Creation Foods has been ordered to pay $25,000 for contravening the Food and Drugs Act and selling falsely labelled, non-kosher cheddar to two summer camps for observant Jewish children in 2015.

    This marks the first time in Canada that a case has been brought before a provincial court in relation to the misrepresentation of a kosher food product, according to a statement released by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

    “The fine is significant and may lead to improved future compliance under this statute,” said the notification on the food regulator’s website.

    “This case, and the conviction, reinforces the CFIA’s commitment to food safety, and demonstrates how the agency takes issues related to food fraud seriously. Investigation and legal action will be taken, when warranted.”

    The term “kosher” refers to food that follows Judaism’s strict dietary rules that dictate not only what observant Jews can eat, but how the food is prepared and handled.

    In the case of kosher cheese, a rabbi would be responsible for adding the coagulation enzyme at the first stage and certifying that no non-kosher products touched the kosher cheese on the line. Food certified as kosher often bears a symbol, such as “COR,” that indicates it has been certified as kosher by a mashgiach — a specialized rabbi — and is acceptable to consume.

    Companies that comply with and pay for kosher certification charge a premium to customers. For instance, kosher Gay Lea cheese is about two to three per cent more expensive than non-kosher varieties, Gay Lea spokesperson Robin Redstone told the Star earlier this year.

    The CFIA’s investigation found that the cheese Creation Foods sold to the two summer camps, one in Peterborough and the other in Haliburton, did not meet the requirements of Jewish dietary laws. It also found that the company forged kosher certificates to make the cheese seem like a kosher product.

    These provincial offences charges against Creation Foods were laid in October 2016 after the forged certificates were brought to the CFIA’s attention by The Kashruth Council of Canada, a non-profit that provides kosher certification to about 1,000 businesses across North America — including Gay Lea, the maker of the cheese.

    Kefir Sadiklar, vice-president of the family-owned Creation Foods was also charged criminally at the time, but the charges were withdrawn in June.

    A Kashruth Council employee discovered the phoney kosher certificates in June 2015 when he noticed some of the boxes of cheese that Sadiklar delivered to one of the two overnight camps bore a COR symbol while others did not.

    When the employee asked Sadiklar to send in kosher certificates to verify the “kashruth” of the cheese, Sadiklar sent in a kosher certificate for the wrong food, at first. A few hours later he sent what appeared to be the correct one, said a Kashruth Council synopsis provided to the federal inspection agency and used in the case.

    Other employees scrutinizing the certificates noticed that a single digit in the product code on the kosher certificate had been photoshopped — from a “5” to a “6” — altering the number to make it match the one on the box, and making a non-kosher box of cheese seem kosher.

    In an emailed statement to the Star, Richard Rabkin, managing director of the Kashruth Council of Canada, said he is “pleased” this matter has come to a conclusion.

    “We are thankful to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian judicial system for their diligence in prosecuting this crime. Their efforts demonstrate the severity with which Canada takes its kosher labelling laws and how far it is willing to go to protect kosher consumers. This is a milestone.”

    Sadiklar did not respond to questions relating to the conviction and fine. Earlier this year, Sadiklar told the Star in a brief interview that he has “so many things to say,” but cannot say them while the matter is before the courts.

    He said he thinks the council is “doing the wrong thing against us. They want to see us closing the business, they don’t look for anything else but revenge . . . . We say we didn’t do, and they say we did do. I don’t want to put myself in jeopardy.”


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