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- 07/10/17--13:25: _The buildings got s...
- 07/10/17--14:39: _Patton Oswalt strik...
- 07/10/17--13:05: _Some areas of the T...
- 07/10/17--11:57: _Donald Trump Jr. sh...
- 07/10/17--16:43: _Art in the can: Toi...
- 07/10/17--10:55: _Omar Khadr fact che...
- 07/10/17--14:19: _Woman launches huma...
- 07/11/17--12:22: _Accused in hostage-...
- 07/11/17--10:19: _Daesh leader Abu Ba...
- 07/11/17--12:16: _Mortgage payments t...
- 07/11/17--14:19: _How NAFTA may have ...
- 07/11/17--16:48: _Toronto police unio...
- 07/11/17--08:45: _Trump campaign was ...
- 07/11/17--16:24: _Immigration board r...
- 07/11/17--13:23: _Regent Park residen...
- 07/11/17--04:18: _‘Close to the great...
- 07/11/17--15:08: _Disgraced dentist t...
- 07/11/17--11:04: _Pizza Pizza fight b...
- 07/11/17--17:48: _Thunder Bay lawyer ...
- 07/12/17--13:22: _The Donald Trump Jr...
- 07/10/17--14:39: Patton Oswalt strikes back at ‘grub worm’ critics
- 07/11/17--12:22: Accused in hostage-taking makes court appearance
- 07/11/17--10:19: Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, Syrian war monitor says
- 07/11/17--12:16: Mortgage payments to edge higher with rate hike
- 07/11/17--14:19: How NAFTA may have made Canada fat
- 07/11/17--16:48: Toronto police union says staff levels at ‘crisis point’
The Ontario Municipal Board has approved two controversial condo developments that will add around 1,000 new residential units to the Distillery District.
The decision, issued July 6, gives the final green light to two projects: a 12-storey renovation of the heritage-protected Rack House D, at 60 Mill Street and a 47-storey condo tower and five-storey “ribbon building” at 31A Parliament Street.
Both projects had originally been rejected by city staff over concerns they were too tall and — in the case of 31A Parliament — cast too much shadow over Trinity Square.
The municipal board approval upholds a city council decision from March to support shorter versions of both projects, with a $3.2 million contribution to the city from the developers. That money will go toward improvements to public space around the Distillery District as well as supporting the city’s planned Toronto Aboriginal Hub in the West Don Lands.
“Our clients, who are the Distillery District owners, are happy with the decision,” said Mark Noskiewicz, one of the lawyers representing Dream Distillery District Commercial Inc. and Cityscape Holdings Inc.
“They think the projects will be good for the distillery and good for the surrounding area,” Noskiewicz said.
But local residents are not pleased, saying the projects threaten the district’s heritage character.
“It’s a disappointing decision,” said Gooderham and Worts Neighbourhood Association president Michael Brewer, who fought against the proposals.
One of the most contentious elements of the proposal for 31A Parliament is the shadow it will cast over the district’s marquee Trinity Square.
A shadow study presented at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing on May 15th showed that at 2 p.m. on June 21, the tower will cast a shadow over about half of Trinity Square. At that time on that day of the year, the sun is near its highest in the sky — the further from that day the calendar gets, the longer the shadow cast will be.
Noskiewicz said the shadows cast by the reduced 47-storey tower at 31A Parliament won’t be significantly worse than those created by a previously-approved version of the ribbon building along the district’s southern edge.
“That was one of the issues that the city looked at, and I think at the end with the modifications to the proposal … the city was satisfied that there really wasn’t a material shadow impact,” Noskiewicz said.
The ribbon building itself will add significant mixed-used retail and office space to the district. It will also convert one level of street parking into three levels of underground parking, two things that Brewer and the neighbourhood association support.
But they’ve been down this road before. The ribbon building was first proposed and approved in 2013, but never built.
Brewer said this time the municipal board ruled that Cityscape must build the entire three-storey underground parking structure as part of the condo tower at 31A Parliament, which should encourage the developers to build the five above-ground storeys all at the same time.
“It’s not 100 per cent guaranteed. We wanted to see them have to build everything as one parcel, but getting the below-grade piece, at least, is something,” Brewer said.
Comedian Patton Oswalt, who has publicly wrestled with grief over the sudden death of his wife last year, announced over the weekend that he was engaged to be married to actress Meredith Salenger.
That news was met with messages of support from many others who have recently lost a spouse, including Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, as well as some predictable online grousing from what Oswalt called “bitter grub worms.”
Salenger, who may be best known for her role in the 1980s Disney movie The Journey of Natty Gann, announced their engagement on Twitter last week, and representatives for the pair later confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter.
Oswalt, 48, said Saturday that he had planned to ignore online commenters who accused him of moving on too soon from the death of his first wife, Michelle McNamara, a 46-year-old true-crime writer who died in her sleep in April 2016. Oswalt said in February that she had died from a combination of an undiagnosed heart condition and a mix of prescription medications, including Adderall, Xanax and fentanyl.
But Oswalt changed course over the weekend to share an angry blog post— title: “A Widow’s Rage Defense of Patton Oswalt’s Engagement” — written in his defense by Erica Roman, a writer who said she lost her husband three days before the death of McNamara. “I felt this rage,” he wrote on Facebook. “And Erica articulated it better than I could have ever hoped.”
Salenger, 47, soon did the same, sharing Roman’s piece and then posting a statement of her own on Twitter in response to critics. Salenger focused on the happiness and well-being of Oswalt and McNamara’s 8-year-old daughter, Alice.
“Who gave you the position to judge when it’s ‘too soon’ for a person who has suffered the worst to be able to find happiness and companionship again?” Roman wrote in her blog post. “How long should a widow sit in isolation before you are comfortable enough to release them from their solitary confinement?”
Roman congratulated the couple on their engagement and said she was glad to see that Oswalt’s heart “had expanded.”
“I used that word intentionally,” she wrote. “I say expanded because that’s what widowed hearts do. They expand. One love isn’t moved out to make room for someone new. An addition is built.”
Sandberg, who has spoken often of her grief over the unexpected death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, in May 2015, also weighed in with a message of support for Oswalt and Salenger and praise for Roman’s piece.
“I laughed and cried a bit because what you are saying is so true,” she wrote on Facebook. “No one should judge another’s path — and everyone deserves to find love again.”
Oswalt, a stand-up comedian known for a string of roles on film and television, including the sitcom The King of Queens, has been very public about his struggle with grief after the death of his wife. In an interview with The New York Times last October, Oswalt said he would “never be at 100 percent again.”
He described finding McNamara’s body in bed, watching in horror as paramedics swarmed their bedroom, the pain of telling his daughter the next day, and then the months of anguish that followed.
“Grief is an attack on life,” he told The Times at the time. “It’s not a seducer. It’s an ambush or worse. It stands right out there and says: ‘The minute you try something, I’m waiting for you.’”
Centreville is considering extending its season into the fall after the city announced Monday that some sections of the Toronto Islands will stay closed all summer while others will reopen at the end of the month.
Sections of Centre Island, where the amusement park is located, will be shut down until further notice, along with other popular destinations like Olympic Island, Gibraltar Point and Hanlan’s Point.
For the businesses on the islands that rely on the busy summer season, such closures make a “huge impact,” said Centreville spokesperson Shawnda Walker.
“We’re ready to go and we’ve been ready to go for more than three weeks now, as far as water’s concerned,” Walker said. “We’re just sitting here, waiting.”
In a statement Monday, the City of Toronto said other sections of the islands will re-open to the public on July 31 — a date that could be pushed back if weather conditions intervene. Centreville, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, hopes to be reopened by that date.
Toronto Island Park has been closed to the public since early May, when heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding on the islands in what the city called a “100-year event.” Monday, the city said water levels on Lake Ontario are receding slower than expected.
The city said businesses are missing out on as many 20,000 daily visitors during the summer closure.
City council also voted to stop collecting rent and licence fees from island residents and licence holders until the full scale of the flood’s financial impact is known.
Even if the amusement park does re-open before summer’s end, not all of its beloved features will be back in time.
The animals in the Far Enough Farm petting zoo will likely stay put at their temporary home northwest of Toronto in Schomberg, Ont., where they were moved during the flooding. Their barns were submerged in water, and some pens are still soggy, said Walker.
“By the time we get everything rebuilt it’ll be too late,” she said.
Parts of the tracks for the train ride, as well, only just stopped being underwater. It’ll likely have to be completely rebuilt.
Thankfully, said Walker, that’s the only ride that was affected, and everything else — aside from the waterlogged grandstand — will be ready whenever visitors arrive.
Though a few season pass-holders have called to ask if they’ll be refunded, Walker said park officials will figure that out once they’re able to open. When they get an idea of how much business is coming in and how many boats are running to the island, they’ll also decide whether they’ll stay open until October.
For now, Walker said she’s expecting about three to four days’ notice before the park will be able to re-open. Though she said she’s hopeful they’ll get the all-clear on July 31, it would be better if the go-ahead arrives even sooner.
“We thought we were going to be open three weeks ago,” she said. “I’m really hoping it’s going to be earlier.”
Donald Trump needs to stare Don Jr. in the eyes and say it loudly: “Son, you’re fired.”
If we learned anything from The Apprentice, this should be the next plot twist in The Trump Show, which is now sputtering along as it twists in the headwinds of a Russian election-meddling scandal that got a new gust of “Say what?” this weekend courtesy of the president’s eldest son.
As the New York Times reported, Don Jr. “was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign.”
At any other time, in any other America, he’d now be in custody.
And, amazingly, it gets worse.
When asked for comment on the explosive story, it seems Don Jr. made a bold decision to extinguish the flames by dousing them with kerosene.
“After pleasantries were exchanged,” he told the paper, “the woman (lawyer) 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.”
The woman’s real motivation, he continued, was to discuss the adoption of Russian children and a 2012 U.S. law aimed at human-rights abusers: “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.”
Oh, man. Even if you’re the biggest Trump fan, even if you believe in deep-state conspiracies and fake-news plots and shadowy liberal cabals that are hell-bent on derailing this noble presidency, I suspect you may now be fighting a strong urge to slap Don Jr. upside his greasy head. When it comes to conspiracies and the charge of collusion, he just chucked a few live grenades at his father’s feet.
Put another way, here’s what Don Jr. told the Times: “Hang on a second! The person I agreed to meet claimed to have crystal meth. But when I got to the dark alley, the person wanted to sell me Advil. So it was a total waste of time. Although my associates and I have denied any knowledge or interest in crystal meth, the key is we didn’t get any crystal meth during this meeting, even though crystal meth is what we were seeking when we agreed to meet.”
Does anyone in Trump’s orbit realize you don’t have to succeed to commit certain high-level crimes, especially when the cover-up is the crime? Obstruction of justice is not the same as a bylaw infraction over the height of your hedges.
Treason is not the same as jaywalking.
What Trump does understand, better than most, is marketing, which is why he now has no choice but to fire his eldest son based on the damage inflicted this weekend. Firing Don Jr. might be the only way to change the subject this time.
Blame everything on the kid and hope for the best in the months ahead.
I’m not saying it will be easy. Cutting ties with family, especially your first born, is always fraught with heartache. It gets even harder when you realize the adult child has no real prospects beyond coasting on the family name.
If everything else were equal, but Don Jr. was not a Trump, it’s not clear he’d be able to land a gig folding chinos at Banana Republic. Beyond having the hairstyle of a third-tier Miami Vice villain, the only thing Don Jr. can really boast in the last two years is a string of gaffes that have hampered his dad’s bumpy political odyssey.
But even blood loyalty has a boiling point, another lesson gleaned from The Apprentice. Don Jr. has retweeted white nationalists and dropped regrettable “gas chamber” analogies into partisan quotes. He’s compared displaced refugees to poisonous Skittles, a remarkable charge coming from a human wad of chewed-up Hubba Bubba. Don Jr. is needlessly combative and reckless on social media, which is the last thing his embattled father needs given his own capacity for the same.
Don Jr. is a watered-down Don Sr.
And that’s too many Dons, as multiple investigations continue.
This weekend, the son did real harm to the White House, which in turn could do real harm to the father. If this really were an episode of The Apprentice, there’s no question Don Jr. would be singled out by Camera 1 in the climactic boardroom scene and read the riot act before getting kicked to the curb.
In Trumpville, he just committed the biggest sin: helping the other team.
Dan Schaumann appreciates a good toilet.
In fact, he’s on a mission to photograph the most unique, absurd and downright beautiful bathrooms in the world.
“I’m trying to find something interesting or beautiful about a part of everyday life that people don’t normally see as beautiful.”
The 32-year-old Toronto resident has photographed hundreds of bathrooms over the past few years, everywhere from Ecuador to Antigonish, N.S.
Toilography started out as a joke. When Schaumann first got on Instagram in 2011, he couldn’t believe how many banal or bad photos would still get hundreds of “likes.” In jest, he posted a picture of a toilet to see what kind of response it’d get.
But the more Schaumann captured toilets, the more he realized they could actually be quite photogenic — even beautiful.
He’s found gorgeous artwork on bathroom walls, urinals shaped like lips, and one loo with a ridiculous number of toilet paper rolls.
“When I started, a toilet was a toilet,” said Schaumann, sitting in the Poop Café at Bloor St. W. and Christie St. The washroom-themed restaurant, where patrons sit on toilets instead of chairs, is one of his favourite places in the city.
“Then when I started to discover people actually did interesting things with them, my attitude towards them changed.”
In Toronto, there’s a bar called Swan Dive, which has a creepy doll head mounted next to the urinal. And in the bathroom at Otto’s Berlin Doner, a disco ball lights up and music starts playing.
Schaumann, who makes his living as a logistics specialist, makes a point of seeking out interesting toilets wherever he travels, usually by asking for suggestions on Reddit. He likes going on “toilet crawls” of new cities, where he’ll hop from place to place checking out the recommended loos.
He’s found a cafe in Massachusetts, where the bathroom doubles as a soothing zen garden, complete with lush plants and inspirational messages.
A large sculpture of a Viking encircles the toilet at a restaurant in Chile.
And a few weeks ago, Schaumann found the “holy grail of toilets” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York: it’s made of 18-karat solid gold and is fully functional.
The Liberal government wants the story to go away.
Conservative parliamentarians, past and present, want to keep the news cycle going.
The lawyers have gone silent.
And social media has gone into hyper drive.
The saga of Omar Khadr, and all the political baggage his case drags with it, has been going on long enough that Canada has had four different prime ministers: Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau. July 27th will mark the 15-year anniversary of the firefight in Afghanistan during which Khadr, at the age of 15, was shot and captured and U.S. Delta Force soldier Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer was fatally wounded.
But last week’s news of a $10.5-million settlement and the Canadian government’s apology sparked unprecedented debate across the country.
Some questions remain unanswered. Many of the purported facts fueling arguments either in support of the settlement or against it have been wrong.
Here’s what we know and what we don’t:
Khadr’s status in Canada: Khadr was born in Canada on Sept. 19, 1986, at Scarborough’s Centenary Hospital. Both his parents were Canadian citizens. His mother was born in Egypt to Palestinian parents and moved to Mississauga as a teenager. Khadr’s father grew up in Cairo and moved to Ottawa to attend university.
Liberal MP Ken Hardie tweeted last week: “(T)he U.S. was invading his country. He was pressed into service at 15, improperly treated medically and legally; Canada was complicit.” Khadr was brought by his parents to Afghanistan and Pakistan at the age of eight, but is not Afghan. Hardie later issued a correction.
The Charter rights of Canadians do not extend to foreign countries; citizens must comply with the laws of the country where they travel.
However, the main claim in Khadr’s $20-million civil suit is that Canadian officials violated his rights when they interrogated him in Guantanamo in 2003 and 2004, knowing he was a minor, without legal representation and had been subjected to torture.
A unanimous Supreme Court ruling in 2010 said they had.
Details of the firefight: The claim in Khadr’s civil suit is narrow: Canadian officials had breached his rights as a citizen. That means details of the firefight and what may or may not have happened in Afghanistan 15 years ago are not at issue.
However, this has been one of the political talking points. “Khadr confessed to murdering Christopher Speer, a medic who rushed to his aid,” tweeted Jason Kenney, leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.
That is incorrect according to testimony from the American soldiers who were there.
“I just remember being dumbstruck that there was someone being alive in there,” a Delta Force soldier told the Star during an interview for the CBC documentary Guantanamo’s Child. “After all that bombing, after all the ordinance we dropped in there, somebody was still alive.”
As the soldiers cleared the compound, their weapons were drawn. They did not expect any survivors.
A Pentagon report written after the firefight interviewing the soldier who shot Khadr, identified only as OC-1, raises the possibility that someone else was alive in the compound when the grenade that ultimately killed Speer was thrown. “He heard moaning coming from the back of the compound. The dust rose up from the ground and began to clear. He then saw a man facing him lying on his right side,” the report states. “The man had an AK-47 on the ground beside him and the man was moving. OC-1 fired one round striking the man in the head and the movement ceased. Dust was again stirred by this rifle shot. When the dust rose, he saw a second man sitting up facing away from him leaning against the brush. This man, later identified as Khadr, was moving . . . . OC-1 fired two rounds both of which struck Khadr in the back.”
Randy Watt, the commander who wrote that report after the action, later revised it to state that only one person was alive when the grenade was thrown. In an interview, he attributed the confusion to the “fog of battle.” He changed the report, he said, because he thought Khadr had been killed due to the severity of his injuries.
The report, and testimony from Watt and OC-1, would have been key evidence at Khadr’s Guantanamo trial, which was halted when the Pentagon offered him a plea deal.
A condition of the deal was that Khadr confess to killing Speer, which he did during an emotional 2010 hearing at Guantanamo where Speer’s widow Tabitha was present. Once released, Khadr did not deny throwing the grenade as his lawyers have insisted.
He said he simply does not know and hopes he didn’t.
Speer as a medic: Speer was a decorated soldier and the medic on his elite Delta Force team. According to fellow soldiers, weeks before his death, he saved the lives of two wounded Afghan children lying in a minefield. His wife, Tabitha, told me he wanted to be a doctor and joining the military would pay for his education and provide him with basic medical training.
Medics (unarmed civilians) have always been considered “protected persons” in conflict. Since the drafting of the Geneva Conventions, killing a medic is punishable as a war crime. But that is not what the Pentagon considered Speer. And it was not what Khadr was prosecuted for.
Khadr was charged under the Military Commissions Act, drafted by the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which introduced an offence called “murder in violation of the laws of war.” Despite the deaths of thousands of U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, Khadr remains the only captive charged with killing a soldier.
His conviction is under appeal in Washington, D.C. There have been eight Guantanamo convictions and the D.C courts have so far overturned four.
Utah wrongful death suit: On June 8, a Toronto lawyer for Speer’s family and the family of retired Sgt. Layne Morris, who lost sight in one of his eyes during the 2002 firefight, filed an application to the Ontario Superior Court to enforce a $134-million Utah wrongful death claim against Khadr. It was a default claim, which means Khadr did not offer a defence. He was still in custody when the case was heard.
The claim does not mention the Canadian government; it is between Khadr and the plaintiffs. However, the application also asks that, if required, the court order Khadr’s assets frozen.
Neither Khadr, nor his lawyers, were served notice of the application when it was filed.
On June 22, lawyers for Khadr and Canada’s Department of Justice concluded their court mediation and reached a deal: the government would apologize and compensation would be $10.5 million. But the government did not immediately issue the funds, nor announce the deal.
The evening of July 3, media reported the deal. Sources say the settlement money was given to Khadr and his lawyers July 5.
David Winer, who represents Speer and Morris, told a court July 7 that he did not reach Khadr’s lawyer Nathan Whitling by email until Thursday, after earlier attempts to contact Khadr’s lawyers by fax failed.
The case continues in a Toronto court July 13.
Settlement amount: In 2007, Canadian Maher Arar was given $10.5 million in compensation, plus legal fees. Then-prime minister Stephen Harper formally apologized to Arar for the actions of Canadian officials, which contributed to his detention and torture in Syria.
The Khadr and Arar cases are very different, but some lawyers argue the precedent of the settlement amount is significant for Khadr’s case and his lawyers would not settle for less.
Speaking from Germany this weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not confirm the amount, but defended the settlement, saying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, “even when it’s uncomfortable.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale noted that the government had spent nearly $5 million in legal fees unsuccessfully fighting three Khadr cases all the way to the Supreme Court and this cost to taxpayers would continue with “virtually no chance of success,” and the possibility of an even larger payout.
Conservative MP and lawyer Erin O’Toole, among others, has argued that a payout was not inevitable and government lawyers should have continued to fight the lawsuit.
Treason: There were calls last week to retroactively charge Khadr, now 30, with treason or other crimes punishable in Canada.
In 2008, Ottawa law students, under the supervision of Professor Craig Forcese, wrote a 153-page report given to a Senate Committee on Human Rights outlying the law. They later testified before a House of Commons committee.
The report concluded: “There is good reason to believe that Omar could be prosecuted under Canadian law. Repatriation, therefore, is not tantamount to impunity.”
Had Canada demanded Khadr’s repatriation after his capture, rather than deferring to the U.S., there was a greater possibility he could have been successfully prosecuted here.
Now that is likely impossible due to protections against double jeopardy and the fact that Canada’s courts have denounced the illegality of Guantanamo.
Michelle Shephard is the author of a 2008 book on Omar Khadr’s case and co-directed and produced the Emmy-nominated documentary Guantanamo’s Child, which premiered at TIFF in 2015. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm.
CORNWALL, ONT.—An eastern Ontario city is facing a human rights complaint over its policy on female toplessness in pools, more than two decades after it became legal for women to bare their breasts in public in the province.
Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy said a woman has complained to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging the pool policy discriminates on the basis of gender.
“Our policy states that girls over the age of 10 must wear a top,” O’Shaughnessy said. “The clause that’s in there is specific to females.”
City councillors will decide whether to fight the complaint or change the policy in the coming weeks, and were set to be briefed by city lawyers on Monday evening, he said.
The tribunal has not yet scheduled a hearing on the matter and the full details of the complaint haven’t been made public, but O’Shaughnessy noted the complainant doesn’t live in the city or the surrounding counties.
The complaint also targets an eastern Ontario water park and seven hotel companies.
Cornwall’s toplessness policy dates back to 1996 — and O’Shaughnessy said he doesn’t know the reasoning behind it.
Bare breasts were a matter of public debate at the time.
In December of that year, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that a woman’s topless stroll down a street in Guelph, Ont., was not obscene, making it legal for all women in Ontario to be topless in public.
Municipal policies on the issue have been challenged in a number of Ontario cities on the basis of that ruling in the intervening years.
Cambridge, Ont., eliminated its toplessness policy after two women were charged with trespassing for swimming topless in protest of the city’s ban in 1997. Guelph changed its policy after an 8-year-old girl was told by city staff to cover up while she was in a wading pool wearing only a swim bottom in 2015.
The recent human rights complaint wasn’t sparked by a similar incident, according to Scott Lecky, the owner and general manager of the Ramada Cornwall, one of the respondents.
“Nothing really happened,” Lecky said. “We got an email from someone we thought was a guest.”
The complainant had emailed six or seven months ago to ask if she would be able to swim topless at the hotel, he said.
“Our response was ‘we appreciate your email, but you know we have a family establishment here,’ ” Lecky said. “ ‘We have a lot of kids and families that stay with us, and we appreciate if you wore appropriate swim attire while staying at the hotel.’ ”
Lecky said the documents he was served about two months ago indicate the woman had contacted each of the respondents in a similar manner to ask about their policies on toplessness.
However, the woman never stayed in the hotel, he said, adding it didn’t have a firm policy on toplessness and hadn’t needed one before.
But after hiring a lawyer, the hotel has made it a policy to allow women to swim topless from now on, he said.
A third court appearance has failed to become a bail hearing in the case of Michael Storms — who, while facing charges of forcible confinement and uttering threats related to a hostage-taking, still hasn’t retained a lawyer.
Duty counsel John Bailles requested to speak with Storms before the hearing began, with heated whispers audible through the room. Bailles cautioned Storms he was facing “serious charges” and needed to choose a lawyer.
“You give me a name. I’m not going to call up a swath of lawyers for you,” Bailles said, to which Storms repeated that he didn’t just want to pick someone off a list at random.
Turning to address Justice of the Peace Mary A. Ross Hendriks, Bailles said that Storms had been provided a list of lawyers, but says it was taken away when he arrived at the jail. Storms confirmed he does have the list now.
Bailles suggested to the court that Storms be noted for medical attention. Storms asked both Ross Hendrik and Bailles what he would need medical attention for.
“I’m simply going to say he’s disclosed some underlying mental health issues,” Bailles said, adding that it was in Storms’ best interest for the request to be noted, in the event that he required any support.
Bailles asked if he understood, and the accused snapped back.
“Just relax please,” Storms said.
The accused then detailed speaking to several psychiatrists at the jail, though he called their questions ‘stupid.’ He said he’d also been speaking with the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health.
Ross Hendriks asked if he’d like to continue having conversations about his mental health in jail, to which Storms replied that yes, he would. After thanking Ross Hendriks, Storms exited the courtroom.
A new date was set for July 18.
ISTANBUL—A group that monitors the war in Syria said Tuesday it has “confirmed information” about the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Daesh leader, citing information received from the militants in eastern Syria.
Baghdadi’s death has been rumoured numerous times in the past, and it was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim. There also were no immediate announcements from Daesh’s news channels.
The U.S. Central Command said in a statement: “We cannot confirm this report, but hope it is true.”
“We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession. It will be needed,” the statement said, using an acronym for Daesh, also known as ISIL.
The death of Baghdadi — if true — would mark another blow to the extremist group days after it was finally driven from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by Iraqi-led forces. The militants are also under siege in the Syrian city of Raqqa, Daesh’s self-declared capital, where a U.S.-backed force of mainly Kurdish fighters has been advancing for weeks.
The monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, is based in Britain and relies on a network of activists in Syria for its reporting. The group’s director, who goes by the pseudonym Rami Abdulrahman, told the Washington Post that Daesh leaders had confirmed Baghdadi’s death to the observatory’s activists in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zour.
“We don’t know when. We don’t know how,” Abdulrahman said.
A post on the Syrian Observatory’s website said it “confirmed information . . . about the death” of Baghdadi, whose real name is Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai.
Baghdadi’s apparent death or capture has been asserted several times over the past decade as his breakaway Al Qaeda faction gradually formed into Daesh. But the various reports later proved false or could not be substantiated.
Last month, Russia said it was looking into claims that one of its airstrikes in late May, outside Raqqa, killed Baghdadi. The Russian military later said it could find no clear evidence of Baghdadi’s death.
In a video conference with reporters on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said he had received reports since May “that suggested he was not killed there by the Russians, but I don’t know.”
“We’ve heard all kinds of reporting that he’s alive, that he’s dead,” Townsend said. “I hope he’s deader than a doornail. If he’s not, as soon as we find out where he is, he will be.”
As far back as December 2012, Iraqi officials claimed that they had captured Baghdadi in Baghdad. Iraqi commanders later said the person held was not Baghdadi.
A quarter-point hike in the Bank of Canada’s overnight lending rate expected Wednesday will translate immediately into increased payments on variable rate mortgages and lines of credit, but the added cost will likely be below the discomfort threshold for the majority of households.
“It’s not going to be a huge dislocation for most,” said Paul Taylor, chief executive of Mortgage Professionals Canada. Taylor suggested that even a full percentage point increase wouldn’t necessary lead to significant stress or a major spike in payment delinquencies.
“Canadians on mass are phenomenally responsible in managing mortgage debt.”
The Bank of Canada has strongly hinted it could hike the key interest rate Wednesday to 0.75 per cent, which would be the first increase in nearly seven years.
Taylor said the payment on a $500,000, five-year variable mortgage amortized over 25 years would rise by $104 per month with a 25-basis-point hike, adding that the average mortgage balance in Toronto and surrounding areas is between roughly $300,000 and $400,000.
Variable loans represent roughly 30 per cent of the mortgage market in Canada, said Dan Eisner, founder and CEO of Calgary-based True North Mortgage.
He said the average variable mortgage payment across the country would increase by about $25 per month with a quarter-point hike in the rate.
Some mortgage brokers contacted by the Star suggested any hike may not be followed by steady increases over the rest of the year and into 2018, with the Bank of Canada needing to justify further moves with real evidence of mounting inflation.
But some foresee the central bank gradually lifting rates by a full percentage point by the end of 2018.
Others say the bank may not even raise rates Wednesday, holding off until its next scheduled rate fixing meeting in the fall amid the uncertainty over oil price futures.
Eisner noted that five-year bond yields, which determine five-year mortgage rates, have jumped 0.4 per cent in the last few days to a level not seen since late 2014, before the oil price crash forced the Bank of Canada to drop rates in 2015 to 0.5 per cent.
While those with a fixed mortgage won't be immediately affected by rising interest rates, some experts say those nearing the end of a five-year term may want to lock in for another five years, even if that may incur penalties
RBC has already boosted interest rates on some of its mortgages ahead of the Bank’s announcement. Their fixed-term mortgage rates have gone up by 20 basis points each – the two-year rate is now 2.54 per cent, three-year rate is 2.64 per cent, and five-year rate moves up to 2.84 per cent.
Janine White of RateSupermarket.ca said a rate hike is probably due because of such factors as GDP growth averaging 3.5 per cent over the past three quarters, although inflation is running at just 1.5 per cent
“The difference between variable and fixed rates will grow larger – homeowners with variable rates will want to consider moving to a fixed interest rate mortgage and homeowners with fixed rates up for renewal will want to nail down the rates before the hike,” she said in a note to clients.
She said home buyers will be impacted, noting that RBC’s 20-basis point increase to 2.84 per cent for five-year mortgages would cost a buyer an additional $93.00 monthly — $1,116 annually — based on the average GTA home price of $921,000.
Recent studies, she added, show that nearly three-quarters of Canadian homeowners say they would have difficulty paying their mortgage if their payments were to increase by more than 10 per cent.
“The last time the Bank made a rate change was in July 2015, cutting it from 0.75 per to 0.50 per cent and all of the big banks eventually reacted with a 0.15 per cent decrease in rates,” said mortgage comparison website RateHub.ca in a commentary.
“With an increase, however, it’s most likely the full amount will be passed along to consumers. This will impact variable rate consumers immediately."
As for what happens next, "It's going to be very important to listen to the language the Bank uses on Wednesday regarding future moves,” RateHub.ca noted.
“Since their comments in early June, Canadian bond yields . . . thus fixed rates have already gone up across the board. The (potential) rate increase has already been priced in for fixed rate consumers.
“Any additional comments for future increases will be the real trigger for more fixed rate increases following the announcement, rather than the rate change itself."
The North American Free Trade Agreement may have dramatically changed the Canadian diet by boosting consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, a new study suggests.
That boost arrested a years-long decline in total sugar consumption. And it shifted Canadians away from liquid sweeteners such as maltose and molasses toward high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that has been linked to the obesity epidemic.
The peer-reviewed study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that as tariffs on high-fructose corn syrup dropped over a four-year period, consumption grew: from 21.2 calories of corn syrup per day in 1994, to 62.9 calories per day by 1998.
NAFTA may thus have contributed to growing obesity and diabetes rates over that time, its authors say.
“There are free-trade deals being negotiated all over the world, and NAFTA has been used as a blueprint for many of them,” said Pepita Barlow, a doctoral student at Oxford University and the lead researcher on the paper. “In some ways, this is an opportunity to think about who benefits from these deals, and who loses — and how we can craft them to better promote health and wellness.”
The connection between free-trade agreements and health has not been well-studied, Barlow said. To date, most research on globalization and nutrition has examined the effects of foreign direct investment: how consumption patterns change when multinational food companies, such as Coca-Cola or the global snack food maker Mondelez, begin producing and advertising in new markets.
Joseph Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and the former chief economist at the USDA, said he would expect that sort of investment to have a larger impact on consumption, relative trade. But the research, he acknowledged, is in its early days.
“This connection between trade and nutrition is getting to be a very big question,” Glauber said. “I think the effect is probably pretty minor, on the tariff side. But there’s a huge issue with foreign direct investment and advertising, which has become very aggressive. And that’s all a part of trade liberalization.”
Tariff reductions do make food ingredients cheaper, irrespective of their nutritional qualities. Lower prices encourage manufacturers to use more of those ingredients.
Before NAFTA was adopted in 1994, Canada had a tariff of 5 per cent on high-fructose corn syrup. Under NAFTA, Canada agreed to phase out that tariff, while maintaining protections on sugar- and beet-based syrups such as fructose, maltose, glucose and molasses.
As a result, researchers found, consumption stayed flat on those protected sweeteners, but spiked for high-fructose corn syrup. Countries that are economically similar to Canada, but that did not join NAFTA — such as Australia and the U.K. — did not see a similar effect.
At the same time, obesity rates increased from 13.4 per cent in 1994 to 14.8 per cent in 1998. According to Canada’s national statistics agency, 14.2 million people — roughly 38 per cent of all Canadians — are currently obese.
This cannot be credited entirely, or even predominantly, to NAFTA, Barlow cautioned: Obesity rates were trending up anyway. And obesity has continued to climb, even as Canadian consumption of soft drinks (a major source of high-fructose corn syrup) has decreased.
But Barlow and her co-authors believe the correlation is strong enough to suggest that the trade agreement did likely contribute to obesity by increasing access at a critical time to a sweetener that some researchers consider uniquely likely to cause weight gain.
In a commentary accompanying the paper, epidemiologists Ashley Schram and Ronald Labonté, who study public health and trade at the University of Ottawa, argue that the paper should give trade negotiators pause as they work on future agreements.
Corn refiners vehemently deny that assertion — as well as any suggestion that HFCS may have contributed to Canadian obesity rates.
John White, a nutritional biochemist who consults for the Corn Refiners Association, disputed Barlow’s claim that HFCS is somehow “riskier” or more fattening than sugar, citing studies that show it is nutritionally similar to sugar, and challenged her to prove the growth of HFCS during the ‘90s was not caused by something besides NAFTA.
U.S. soda-makers began transitioning from liquid sugar to high-fructose corn syrup in the early ‘80s, and it’s possible that the Canadian industry took some time to catch up.
White also argued that the study fails to account for Canadians’ reduction in sweetener consumption throughout the aughts — although obesity continued to climb during that time.
“This paper may best be considered a historical study with limited contemporary relevance, given the aged nature of the data set and the significant reduction in sweetener consumption in the intervening years,” he said. “ ... This is nothing more than a theory based on 17-year-old data and biased references.”
However, there is growing evidence that people consume more junk food after their countries ink free-trade agreements, particularly with the U.S.
The U.S. is a major producer of processed foods and their ingredients. Exports of prepared foods, beverages, and processed fruits, vegetables and dairy have all grown significantly since NAFTA’s adoption, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That’s largely because, as previous analyses of trade data have shown, the foods most affected by liberalization are those that are most protected: among them, high-value, high-margin products, such as soft drinks, frozen French fries and snacks.
In Mexico, soda consumption increased by 37 per cent between 1998 and 1999, the years NAFTA was negotiated and put into effect.
In Peru, sales of juice, sports and energy drinks surged in the 10 years since the 2006 free trade agreement with the U.S. — an effect not seen in neighbouring Bolivia, which has not inked an agreement.
One global study, which analyzed food, tobacco and alcohol habits in 80 countries after they joined U.S. free trade agreements, found that those which had signed deals sold 63.4 per cent more soft drinks per capita than those which had not, even after correcting for GDP and other economic factors.
Some, like the tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu, have announced plans to address the problem by banning imported foods all together.
“At the moment we have an infiltration of junk food from overseas,” a community leader in Vanuatu recently told The Guardian.
It’s unclear if Vanuatu, or any member country of the World Trade Organization, can pass such a ban without being sanctioned. Glauber and Barlow are in favour of solutions that don’t necessarily disrupt trade. Glauber advocates for excise taxes to discourage consumption, rather than tariffs — a tax on soda instead of a tariff on imported HFCS, for instance.
Barlow, the Oxford researcher, would like to see more public health groups involved in negotiating trade deals.
“It’s an important issue to think about,” she said. “A large number of free-trade agreements are currently being negotiated around the world. We need to know how those actually impact people’s daily lives — their well-being and health.”
For now, however, such collaboration may be a long way off. The Canadian Medical Association, whose journal published Barlow’s study, said it had no plans to add trade policy to its advocacy work. The Canadian Health Coalition, another leading public health group, said that while it has “concerns about public health care and the NAFTA renegotiation,” nutrition isn’t one of them.
“Everyone recognizes that diets are changing because of globalization,” Glauber said. “(But) it’s still hard to address this.”
The union representing Toronto police is alleging that staffing cuts have reached a “crisis point,” leaving officers burnt out and the public at risk.
The Toronto Police Association launched a website Monday, saying the force has nearly 500 fewer officers than it did in 2010 and may cut another 400 by 2019.
“Our members are trying to make a bad situation work by trying to do more with less,” said union president Mike McCormack.
“It is causing some concerns around the potential to public safety and officer safety.”
The Toronto Police Service is currently under a three-year freeze on hiring and promotions. The move was one of a series of recommendations in a report released by the police board’s “Transformational Task Force” in January — a group of civilians and officers that’s part of a larger effort to modernize the force and cut police spending.
“The days of more money, resources, staff, etc. are gone,” said Toronto Police Service spokesperson Mark Pugash. “We have to find a way to do what we do with fewer people, which means we have to be more intelligent, more enterprising, more economical.”
Pugash also said police Chief Mark Saunders recently visited every police unit in the city to answer questions and respond to concerns. When they asked for more front-line officers, Pugash said, Saunders delivered.
The police service has also ensured officers have access to support services to help them cope with a job that’s difficult in the best of times, said Pugash.
“Change makes people anxious,” he said. “So we’re doing it carefully and patiently.”
The Star’s attempts to reach police board members were unsuccessful.
McCormack has previously said the task force’s recommendations are a cost-cutting exercise that would endanger public safety.
In an interview Tuesday, he said the union has tried to reach out to Saunders and the Toronto Police Services board, which oversees the force, about the concerns, but those requests have gone nowhere.
This has led to an increase in crime in 10 of 17 police districts, said McCormack. Though key indicators like homicides are down, McCormack said officers are trying to police an ever-increasing population with fewer staff and time constraints from management.
The effects of that are trickling down to Toronto streets every day, McCormack said. In the city’s northwest Sunday night, for example, police received six reports of gunshots but were too busy to respond right away, he said.
When those delays happen, the public takes out their frustration on whoever eventually arrives, said McCormack.
“It’s the front-line officers who are suffering,” he said.
McCormack said a recent union survey found that 93 per cent of members feel the force is underresourced. Now, the association is telling its officers to spend extra time on self-care by not sacrificing breaks and vacations, though management is sometimes telling them to deal with calls in 45 minutes or less.
“They’re feeling pressure about clearing calls because there are so many calls pending,” he said. “There just aren’t sufficient numbers on the street or the support staff to back it up.”
WASHINGTON—Donald Trump Jr. eagerly accepted help from what was described to him as a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton, according to emails he released publicly on Tuesday.
The email exchange posted to Twitter by Donald Trump’s eldest son represents the clearest sign to date that members of the president’s inner circle were willing to meet during the campaign with Russians who wanted Trump to prevail. U.S. intelligence agencies have said the Russian government meddled in the election through hacking to aid Trump.
The emails show Trump Jr. conversing with a music publicist who wanted him to meet with a lawyer from Moscow. The publicist describes the lawyer as a “Russian government attorney” who has dirt on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” In one response, Trump Jr. says, “I love it.”
Trump Jr., who was deeply involved in his father’s presidential campaign, released the emails along with a statement describing the disclosure as an effort “to be totally transparent.” The emails with publicist Rob Goldstone show that Trump Jr. was told that the Russian government had information that could “incriminate” Clinton and her dealings with Russia.
Hours after the emails were released, the president rose to his son’s defence.
“My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said Tuesday in a statement read to reporters by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Although Sanders declined to answer any questions about the emails, she said the White House stood by its insistence that no one in Trump’s campaign had colluded to influence the election.
The messages were the latest disclosure to roil the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the election and potential collusion with Trumps campaign. As congressional committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigate, the emails will almost certainly be reviewed for any signs of co-ordination with the Kremlin, which the White House and Trump Jr. have repeatedly denied.
A spokesman for Mueller, the former FBI director, declined to comment.
The contents of Trump Jr.’s emails brought swift reaction from Democrats including members of the Senate intelligence committee.
“These emails show there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America’s democracy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Yet other lawmakers urged caution. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who sits on the intelligence committee, said the emails “certainly raise questions” but added “we’re seeing only part of the picture.” She called on the committee to interview Trump Jr. and those involved in the meeting.
In the emails, Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr. that the information “would be very useful to your father.” Goldstone was working to connect Trump Jr. to Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who later met with Trump Jr. in New York at Trump Tower. Veselnitskaya has denied that she ever worked for the Russian government.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replied to Goldstone in one of a series of email exchanges the younger Trump posted to Twitter.
The emails, dated early June, show Goldstone telling Trump that singer Emin Agalarov and his father, Moscow-based developer Aras Agalarov, had “helped along” the Russian government’s support for Trump. The elder Agalarov was involved with Trump in hosting the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. The two men also had preliminary discussions about building a Trump Tower in Moscow that fell through. Trump also appeared in a music video with the younger Agalarov.
In his email, Goldstone says that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” offered to provide the information on Clinton to the Trump campaign in a meeting with Aras Agalarov. There is no such royal title in the Russian Federation, but Goldstone — who is British — may have been referring to the title given to state prosecutors in the United Kingdom.
In Russia, the top justice official is Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, the equivalent of the attorney general in the United States. Chaika is longtime confidant of Vladimir Putin who was directly appointed by the Russian president.
Representatives for the Agalarovs didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Attempts to reach Chaika at his office Tuesday were unsuccessful.
In one of the emails, Goldstone said he could send the information about Clinton to Trump’s father first directly “via Rhona,” an apparent reference to the elder Trump’s longtime assistant, Rhona Graff, from his days at the helm of the Trump Organization.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Goldstone described the information as purported evidence of illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee. It’s unclear what proof, if any, Veselnitskaya provided during the meeting.
The email release followed days of evolving accounts from Trump Jr. about the nature of the meeting and its purpose. The president’s son posted the emails only after they were obtained by The New York Times.
On Saturday, in his initial description of the encounter, Trump Jr. said it was a “short introductory meeting” focused on the disbanded program that had allowed American adoptions of Russian children. Moscow ended the adoptions in response to Magnitsky Act sanctions created in response to alleged human rights violations in Russia.
A day later, Trump Jr. changed his account, acknowledging that he was told beforehand that Veselnitskaya might have information “helpful” to the Trump campaign, and was told by her during the meeting that she had something about Clinton.
In his most recent description of what occurred, on Tuesday, Trump Jr. said he had believed the information he would hear about Clinton would be political opposition research.
“The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official,” Trump Jr. said in the Tuesday statement. “And, as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act.”
The Immigration and Refugee Board has again refused to release a West African man who has spent more than four years in maximum-security jail without charge because the government has been unable to deport him.
Ebrahim Toure, a 46-year-old failed refugee claimant who was profiled earlier this year as part of a Star investigation into immigration detention, has been locked up at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., since February, 2013.
He says he was born in The Gambia, but he doesn’t have any documentation to prove his citizenship so the country will not take him back. Toure is not considered a danger to the public. He is being detained solely on the grounds that the government believes he is unlikely to show up if they can ever arrange his deportation.
Immigration officials accuse Toure of not co-operating, but he says he would like to be deported and he has given the government all the information he has.
In a written decision delivered three weeks after Toure’s June 15 detention review, presiding board member Suzy Kim — a government appointee who acts as a kind of judge in the quasi-judicial hearing — said Toure “generally lacks credibility” and has largely contributed to his own lengthy detention.
Citing his use of a fake passport to gain entry to Canada, his past history of aliases in the U.S. and the fact that he once claimed to be from Guinea, Kim said Toure is “unreliable” and “cannot be trusted” to appear if his deportation were ever to be arranged.
“I do not believe that anything (Toure) says can be taken at face value,” she wrote.
In response to Kim’s decision, Toure’s lawyer, Jared Will, said he will take the case to Superior Court, where earlier this year he secured the release of seven-year immigration detainee Kashif Ali in a ruling that was sharply critical of the government’s practice of indefinite detention.
Will had argued at last month’s hearing that Toure’s detention violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it is indefinite and arbitrary. He said there was no reasonable prospect of Toure’s deportation, so his detention was detached from its purpose.
On Tuesday, Will said he wasn’t surprised Kim disagreed.
“The various members of the Immigration Division have made it clear that they don’t take constitutional rights to liberty very seriously, and I did not expect a different outcome on this particular occasion.”
Kim is known for being particularly resistant to release immigration detainees. She had the third-lowest release rate of any Immigration Division member from 2013 to 2016, according to data obtained by the Star through an access to information request. She ordered release in 8.2 per cent of her cases, well below the 17.9 per cent national average.
An Immigration and Refugee Board spokeswoman declined to make Kim available for an interview or take questions on her behalf.
Toure has no criminal record in Canada, but he has spent the entirety of his 53-month detention in a maximum-security jail because of a 12-year-old conviction for selling pirated CDs and DVDs in Atlanta, an offence for which he pled guilty and served no jail time.
He theoretically could have spent the last four years in the less-restrictive Immigration Holding Centre, which is run by the federal government specifically to hold immigration detainees. The Immigration Holding Centre, which is on Rexdale Blvd. in Etobicoke, is not full.
But the Star found that the insurance contract held by the private company that provides housekeeping and food services requires it to be a “low-risk” facility. As such, immigration detainees with any criminal record whatsoever — even non-violent offences for which no jail time was served — are considered ineligible and are sent to maximum-security jail instead.
Will said he is looking forward to having Toure’s case heard in an actual court, where disclosure is mandatory and hearsay evidence is not permitted.
“It will be refreshing to know the actual basis of the allegations that are being made against Mr. Toure and have the opportunity to contest them,” he said. “We’re also looking forward to being in a forum where we hope and expect that his Charter rights will be taken seriously.”
Late Monday morning, passersby stopped to nervously inspect a small residential stretch of Cole St. in Regent Park that had been blocked off. A police officer stood at the intersection of Cole and Regent St., redirecting car and foot traffic.
The pedestrians’ apprehension at the sight was understandable — only one week previously, police officers gathered at the same intersection to investigate the fatal shooting of 30-year-old Lemard Champagnie.
Curious neighbours quickly discovered, however, that the cause of Monday’s road closure was not another tragedy, but the filming of an upcoming Hollywood movie Code 8.
The movie, starring Sung Kang (of the The Fast and The Furious franchise), Stephen Amell (Green Arrow) and his cousin Robbie Amell (Flash), is about a clash between a militarized police force and a young man who commits a petty crime to pay for his mother’s medical treatment.
A small memorial for Champagnie, fixed to a pole across the street, was the only visible sign of recent violence in the vicinity.
Residents said that the recent shooting may have left some in the neighbourhood feeling uneasy at the sight of a police presence in the area once more.
“When they see the police, at that time people become a little concerned about that . . . What’s going on here?” said Mohammed Rahim, a resident of the area that was sectioned off for the filming.
Once his neighbours realized what was actually going on, however, “there was no problem.”
Rahim said that the general sentiments about the filming in the neighbourhood were cooperation and pride — both welcome for an area that is recovering from loss.
“They are asking people to give them space for filming,” he said, and “it’s good — like, excellent. People are helping them.”
It helps, Rahim said, that it seems the neighbourhood will be pictured in a positive light.
“It’s a nice area now,” he said. “It’s good, because in the film we can see our neighbourhood . . . and that’s wonderful.”
Not all residents were initially pleased to hear about the filming. Some felt that it was inappropriate for a movie about a police officer to be filmed in a location where the police had so recently been called to the scene.
A Facebook post in the public Regent Park Neighbourhood Association group read “this is seriously not the time or place right now in my opinion.” The poster later followed up clarifying that the scene to be filmed would not include any guns or police action.
Mary Anne Waterhouse, a production manager on the film, said Monday that she wasn’t aware that a fatal shooting took place on the set until the previous evening, when a resident of the area raised a concern about the appropriateness of the filming location.
“I explained the nature of the scene we’re filming today,” Waterhouse said, which involved Kang’s character picking up his daughter from his ex-wife’s house.
Once it became clear that the filming would not include scenes about police action or violence, Waterhouse said, the resident’s concerns dissipated.
“So that’s why we’re out here,” Waterhouse said, adding that all of the neighbours had been cooperative and helpful.
Stephanie Beattie, another resident of the area, said that she heard some “positive buzz about celebrity sightings and the fun of having a production” in the neighbourhood.
“We’ve had a couple of instances of filming here in the last month or so, and the crews have been great, in my experience,” she said.
Beattie added though, that she understood why some neighbours might have felt a filming about a police officer in the area hit too close to home.
“I think the concern expressed earlier was about the type of scenes to be filmed here,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t dismiss any of my neighbours’ sensitivities around that.”
Code 8 will finish shooting in Toronto on Friday.
Transportation authorities are investigating after an Air Canada pilot nearly landed a jet full of passengers on a taxiway where four other planes were waiting, coming within metres of what would have been a disastrous collision.
The incident took place late Friday night at San Francisco International Airport. According to a preliminary summary released Tuesday by Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, the Air Canada jet was already over the taxiway on a landing approach when a crew member from another airline alerted air traffic control that it appeared to be on a collision course.
The Air Canada pilot pulled up, and overflew the first two planes by just 30 metres.
“If it is true, what happened probably came close to the greatest aviation disaster in history,” said retired United Airlines Capt. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts.
“If you could imagine an Airbus colliding with four passenger aircraft wide bodies, full of fuel and passengers, then you can imagine how horrific this could have been,” he said.
Pilots and aviation experts who spoke to the Star described the incident as rare, and said that consequences would have been severe if the pilot hadn’t changed course.
“Certainly the potential was there for something catastrophic to have happened,” said Greg McConnell, chairman of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association.
Flight AC759 took off from Toronto at around 9:25 p.m. and according to Air Canada had 135 passengers and five crew members on board.
Just before midnight, the plane was cleared to land on a runway at the San Francisco airport. But according to a statement from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration the pilot “inadvertently” lined up for a taxiway that runs parallel to the runway instead — where there were four aircraft waiting to take off.
An air traffic controller sent the Airbus A320 around, and the plane “landed without incident” on the second approach, said the FAA.
John Dejak, president of Aviotec International, an airport and aviation consultancy firm, questioned how any pilot could have mistaken the taxiway for the landing strip.
“I’m frankly baffled,” he said “It would be very difficult to confuse the lights of the taxiway to the lights of the runway.”
Runways are “lit up like a Christmas tree,” particularly at night, and look very different from taxiways, said Greg Feith, a former senior air safety investigator with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Runway lights are brighter, clearly defined, and a different colour than the taxiway lights, he said. Experts said technology in the cockpit should have also told the pilots they were off course.
Feith said he expects investigators to look at whether all the lighting and guidance instruments were working at the time, determine the procedures the pilots used, talk to the crew about what they saw inside and outside the plan, and determine to what extent human error played a role.
Audio posted on the website LiveATC.net, which catalogues air traffic control calls, offers a window into the incident.
The Air Canada pilot asks if he’s clear to land, saying he sees some lights on the runway.
Air traffic control says he’s clear — there’s nobody else on the runway.
The pilot confirms, and then another voice cuts in:
‘Where’s this guy going? He’s on the taxiway.”
The pilot is quickly told to go around, and the pilot complies.
“Air Canada flew directly over us,” a United Airlines pilot later says.
“Yeah I saw that, guys,” says another voice.
According to the Transportation Safety Board summary, after missing the first two planes by 30 metres, the Air Canada flight overflew the third and fourth aircraft by 60 metres and 90 metres respectively. The report says the “closest lateral proximity” of the Air Canada jet to one the planes on the taxiway was roughly nine metres.
Local weather forecasts indicate that that the sky was clear at the time of the incident. According to the National Weather Service, “no significant weather was observed” at San Francisco International Airport on Friday.
In an email, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick declined to identify the pilot or say how much flight experience he had. He declined to answer questions about whether the pilot has been removed from duty or if he was believed to have been at fault.
“We are still investigating the circumstances and therefore have no additional information to offer,” Fitzpatrick said.
Keith Holloway, a spokesperson for the U.S. NTSB, said the agency was notified about the incident roughly a day after it happened, and is taking the lead on the investigation, with help from the FAA.
“We are collecting flight information and we are going to also talk to air traffic control communicators . . . to see what information they can provide for us,” said Holloway, who added that the NTSB would also likely interview the Air Canada crew.
Holloway said that NTSB probes can take between 12 and 18 months, but because the San Francisco incident didn’t result in any injuries or damage to aircraft, it would likely be completed sooner.
A spokesperson for the Canadian government’s Transportation Safety Board said the agency would act as an “accredited representative’ in the U.S.-led investigation. The agency’s role would be to facilitate information sharing between Air Canada and the U.S. investigators, he said.
With files from Star wire services
With files from Star wire services
An Ottawa-based foot specialist had his licence revoked after he admitted to treating clients with an implant he manufactured, which wasn’t approved by Health Canada, and used without their full knowledge or consent.
The College of Chiropodists has identified 25 people who were treated with Pierre Dupont’s foot stent — an implant used to treat flat feet or fallen arches — between 2014 and 2016, as opposed to the Health Canada approved stent known as HyProCure.
The college also found that before procedures, clients signed a consent form that indicated the HyProCure stent would be inserted, when in fact Dupont implanted his own stent during surgery.
He was also found to have failed to keep an adequate record of the procedures from initial examinations to post-op station visits.
This was the second time Dupont has had his licence revoked. In 2004, he had a disciplinary hearing in front of the provincial body that regulates dentists, which found he had failed to meet the standards of care.
At his disciplinary hearing Tuesday afternoon, Dupont, 60, admitted to several counts of professional misconduct and apologized to the patients and the college for his actions.
“It was inconsistent with my own belief that all patients should be treated professionally and with respect,” Dupont told the hearing. “You have a right to be angry.”
According to the records filed at the hearing, Dupont didn’t believe he needed to get Health Canada approval for his stent because “the nature, composition and design was the same,” and he didn’t have an intention to sell his stent to other health-care professionals.
Clients at the hearing made impact statements to the board to illustrate the negative effects of Dupont’s stent on their day-to-day lives.
Erika Brathwaite, who initially came forward with her case to the CBC, told the college how Dupont’s stent has completely changed her life, putting a strain on her finances, her physical movement and her mental health. She will soon undergo major bone and tendon surgery to get her foot back to normal.
“This experience with Pierre Dupont has impacted my life catastrophically, has left me uncertain of my future, has seen me sacrifice my anonymity,” said Brathwaite. “Ultimately, I just want to get my foot fixed so I can have the happy, active, life I had before.”
Other clients echoed similar complaints. George Morrison, who flew in from Nova Scotia for the hearing, will need two more expensive surgeries to get the implants replaced.
“All my days start with a ‘Calculation of the agony for the chronic ankle pain,’ ” Morrison told the college. “Daily activities revolve around how much ankle pain I can tolerate.”
The college concluded that Dupont’s conduct was “disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional,” and violated many provincial health regulations as well as the Food and Drugs Act.
In addition to revoking his licence to practise chiropody in Ontario, the college fined Dupont $30,000 and gave him an oral reprimand, the details of which will be part of the public register and the public record.
“You have brought discredit to yourself and the college,” said the board member reading the decision. “You have put the profession in jeopardy.”
The college’s counsel, Jordan Glick, said that this was a unique case because “he preyed on vulnerable patients and experimented on them without their knowledge.”
Dupont was previously a dentist for 10 years in Quebec, where several patients made complaints against him. Among other things, he failed to diagnose a patient’s broken jaw and prescribed medication that was not required or in inappropriate doses, tribunal documents show.
Dupont graduated from the podiatry program at the Université du Québec á Trois-Rivières and made attempts to legally practise podiatry in Quebec — a move challenged by that province’s College of Podiatrists.
Dupont later moved to Ottawa and was given a certificate of registration to practise by the College of Chiropodists.
Dupont didn’t speak to the media Tuesday but in 2016, he told the Star that when he applied to the college, he disclosed his previous misconduct in an interview.
“They interview me. They do their due diligence,” he said. “Everything has been disclosed and presented to a committee, the admission committee, and they made a decision accordingly.”
His lawyer Megan Savard made clear in the hearing that the college is not pursuing incompetence against Dupont, and any allegations of physical harm heard in the impact statements had not been tested or commented on by expert opinion.
Dupont has agreed to pay a portion of the costs of the college’s investigation into this matter, Savard said.
“This is evidence that he is truly remorseful and understands the seriousness of his misconduct,” she said.
Savard read statements on behalf of Dupont’s friends, family and colleagues that said he was “a caring man, a thoughtful practitioner” and “that he cares about the people in his life.”
“He may have to start over in a new line of work at an age most people retire,” she said.
A fight that broke out early Sunday morning at a Pizza Pizza and posted on YouTube began with a complaint that an order was taking too long, a witness told the Star.
Paul Michael, 23, was at the restaurant when the brawl began at around 2 a.m. He said it started when a woman entered the restaurant on Queen St. E., at Broadview Ave., and complained that her pizza order was late.
“They didn’t call her to tell her it was ready so in the middle of the Pizza Pizza, she started screaming how she wasn’t satisfied,” Michael said.
“She was making this big scene and then someone else said something and one person just started grabbing another. The big thing just started happening when she jumped over the counter and started throwing the chips on the floor. So everything just started going crazy.”
That’s when Michael started recording. The video has been watched almost 10,000 times on YouTube as of early Tuesday afternoon.
“Everyone started pushing each other,” he said. “I don’t know how those other people really got involved. I just sat there and filmed the whole event.”
Toronto police were called at 3:04 a.m. Const. Caroline de Kloet said one person was charged with public intoxication.
She said there were about 10 people involved in the fight, but there were no criminal charges laid.
“At first police weren’t really sure what they were fighting about,” said de Kloet. “It’s difficult to know when there’s this many intoxicated people.”
Michael said after police were called, the group calmed down.
And as for the woman who made the complaint: “She did get the pizza. She was yelling about it as she got it. She ended up throwing it on the floor.”
THUNDER BAY—With his collection of clown dolls as a backdrop, high-profile lawyer Sandy Zaitzeff faces the video camera, his emotions erratic.
During the next six minutes, he pulls off his T-shirt, parades his bruised torso, alleges unnamed assailants tried to steal his fortune, expresses anguish over his dead son, then gets on his knees to propose marriage.
The video is part of the dramatic and public fall of the class action litigator who built a reputation as a confident winner — the man who took on the RCMP.
This rambling, cryptic monologue — recorded by an acquaintance at one of the lawyer’s many houses and then posted to YouTube — has been viewed more than 40,000 times and has fuelled gossip as locals wonder how it might explain what immediately followed: a breakneck series of criminal and civil allegations that not only saw Zaitzeff arrested on sexual assault charges but have also drawn in the mayor and police chief.
Only slivers of information about the cases have been made publicly available. This means the strange YouTube video offers one of the few clues about a scandal that has increased scrutiny on a city already under pressure from a series of unrelated investigations.
The Star went to Thunder Bay to learn more about the video, talked to police and one of Zaitzeff’s alleged sexual assault victims, reviewed court documents, and visited six Zaitzeff properties, including the cottage near where his wife disappeared 17 years ago.
Since Zaitzeff’s on-camera outbursts, he has been arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, including allegedly inviting a minor to touch his penis.
“Sandy Zaitzeff denies the allegations that have been made against him and looks forward to the day when all the evidence can be heard in the appropriate forum,” said his lawyer Scott Hutchison.
There are five accusers. Most of the assaults allegedly happened last fall, before and after the video was reportedly recorded.
“Sandy, being a person of authority and a well-known lawyer, used that to his advantage to assault all of us,” one of the alleged victims told the Star. Her identity cannot be revealed because of a court-ordered publication ban, common in sexual assault cases.
“I’ve never seen a psychiatrist before all of this. I now see a psychiatrist. He made me feel so small,” she said.
The Zaitzeff charges marked the beginning of a turbulent few months at Thunder Bay’s new downtown courthouse. None of the Zaitzeff allegations, nor any of the other allegations that follow in this article, have been proven in court.
While Zaitzeff sat in the MacDougall St. jail awaiting bail, he was sued for defamation by Mayor Keith Hobbs. On the same day, Zaitzeff was sued by lawyer Chris Watkins, who once worked with Zaitzeff and claimed Zaitzeff took his clients and threatened his life.
Zaitzeff’s lawyer, Hutchison, said that neither lawsuit “has ever been served.”
Two months later, Thunder Bay police Chief J.P. Levesque was charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice for allegedly disclosing confidential information about the mayor. Exactly what information was disclosed and to whom, and whether it is connected to the Zaitzeff allegations, is not publicly known.
Court-ordered publication bans and meagre details in court documents do little to untangle the legal mess. Zaitzeff and the police chief refused to comment for this article. Mayor Hobbs told the Star by email that as he is a “witness” in the Zaitzeff case, and as there is a publication ban, he will not make any statements.
All of this is unfolding against a backdrop of simmering racial tension in Thunder Bay, with the police force under investigation for how it has handled Indigenous deaths and disappearances. The police services board, meanwhile, is under investigation over how it supervises the police force. And York Regional Police was recently brought in to investigate the deaths of two Indigenous teens.
Alexander (Sandy) Zaitzeff Sr., 68, is a self-proclaimed millionaire who has worked on some major class action cases. He gained national attention as one of the main architects of a successful class action lawsuit filed by women against the RCMP, alleging workplace harassment. The Mounties established a $100-million fund to settle claims.
Involved at the earliest stages of the case was former Mountie Heli Kijanen — the woman in the YouTube video facing Zaitzeff as he kneels and asks her to marry him, according to the lawsuit filed by Hobbs, who was one of those in attendance to watch Zaitzeff’s “intoxicated” proposal.
“Baby, I love you. I have always loved you, and I promise you I will marry you,” the woman in the video says, before kissing Zaitzeff.
Kijanen refused to comment for this article. It is not known what, if any, relationship she currently has with Zaitzeff.
Also present at the bizarre scene unfolding in Zaitzeff’s house on Farrand St. are the clown dolls — about 20 to 30 of them on shelves in a large room.
“Every one of these is at least a million-dollar case,” Zaitzeff says in the video, pointing at the figurines. “These are my clowns for only half of my career. Only half.”
If Zaitzeff’s boasts are true, the longtime lawyer has come a long way since 1951. That’s when his parents, Ann and Victor, fled Communist China, where his grandfather owned a vodka distillery, with $50, two rugs and 2-year-old Sandy, according to Ann’s obituary.
The Zaitzeff video was recorded on or around Oct. 25, 2016, according to court documents. Twoof the sexual assaults had allegedly occurred the night before. Another allegedly occurred two nights after. None of the victims can be named because of publication bans on their identities.
Zaitzeff had been grieving his son’s death two years earlier, said a man who answered the door at another of Zaitzeff’s houses and who identified himself as “Guy.” The man said he was asked to look after the house for Zaitzeff.
In June 2014, Sandy Zaitzeff Jr., then 33 years old, was on crutches, hobbled by a broken ankle, when he slipped and fell while getting a snack from the fridge, suffered a severe head injury and died instantly, the obituary said.
Visibly distraught in the video, Zaitzeff shakes his head and breathes deeply as though to regain his composure, then says: “I have PT f-----g SD. Why? Because my son died.” He cries. “That’s a big f-----g event, in anybody’s f-----g life!”
His lawyer, Hutchison, told the Star: “There is no doubt that Sandy has experienced tragedy in his life and like few other persons has suffered enormous pain. It would be profoundly unfair and cruel if that pain were now somehow used as an excuse to vilify him.”
Zaitzeff has a drinking problem, says a lawsuit filed by his former law partner. The alleged sex assault victim interviewed by the Star said Zaitzeff prefers expensive vodka.
At one point during the bizarre video, Zaitzeff takes off his black T-shirt and raises his arms to reveal what look like bruises around his midsection.
“Watch the bruises on me,” he says. “That’s only half my f-----g body … They took me down. I’m not going to say who. I’m not going to press charges. I don’t want that. I just want the world to f-----g know they took me down, they kicked me around and now I have absolute f-----g proof that they tried to fraud (sic) me. They have a forged f-----g will, where, where, where, they claim, they allege, I left my fortune … to them.”
The YouTube video — it is not known who uploaded it — is titled “Sandy Zaitzeff in what seems like a rather shady production.” In the video, it appears to be nighttime, and Hobbs is shown sitting with others, including a woman introduced as one of Zaitzeff’s lawyers and a man named Gerald, who tends to his houses, lawns and cars. Hobbs is heard cracking a joke; he seems relaxed, but otherwise says little. Hobbs told the Star this week, “I am not (Zaitzeff’s) friend.”
In March, as Zaitzeff sat in jail, Hobbs sued the lawyer, detailing how their relationship had soured. Based on Hobbs’ statement of claim, it seems that some time after the video was recorded, Hobbs may have been involved in building the sexual assault case against Zaitzeff.
Hobbs’ $950,000 defamation claim suggests the video was posted as retaliation. Zaitzeff, the suit alleges, told the mayor he would “submarine and bury him as a result of Mayor Keith Hobbs indicating that he would be contacting the police with information concerning serious allegations of sexual impropriety.”
The first charges were laid against Zaitzeff on Nov. 21.
After a text from Zaitzeff saying the mayor “would regret the day that he was born,” the video was uploaded, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit was filed against both Zaitzeff and Kijanen, as Hobbs said he believes one or the other posted the video. Though the lawsuit does not make it clear exactly how he has been defamed, Hobbs said he has been “held up to ridicule, contempt and hatred by the public,” his personal and professional reputation has been “severely damaged” and his prospects for another term “impaired.”
Hobbs is not the only prominent Thunder Bay resident to claim Zaitzeff hurt his career.
At the same time as the mayor’s lawsuit was filed, Chris Watkins, a former law partner of Zaitzeff, alleged breach of contract and “purposeful infliction of emotional harm” in a $28-million lawsuit. The suit claimed that over several years, Zaitzeff took Watkins’ clients and made a false report to the law society that Watkins forged signatures on legal documents.
Watkins said that in 2011, he agreed to work with the “washed up” and “retired old lawyer” to jointly pursue class action cases. He claimed Zaitzeff took control of three cases that Watkins says his firm was instrumental in developing, including the RCMP suit, then froze out Watkins and left him, his firm and family “abused, broke and bereft,” the suit alleges.
Watkins said Zaitzeff’s behaviour was possibly driven by “drinking and alcoholism” and “malice, greed, (and) mental health issues.”
The lawsuit also alleges Zaitzeff threatened Watkins’ life, telling others he would “take him out.”
“(Zaitzeff) had hired a highly trained CDN military person with war service and placed him on his payroll during the relevant period,” the lawsuit claims.
Meanwhile, Zaitzeff has hired Marie Henein’s law firm, which represented former radio star Jian Ghomeshi, to deal with his considerable and lurid list of charges.
Those include four counts of assault; eight counts of sexual assault; and one count each of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, mischief under $5,000 for allegedly damaging a door, breach of recognizance, unauthorized possession of a firearm and improper storage of a firearm, according to court documents.
The gun charges stem from a police visit to one of Zaitzeff’s houses on Nov. 20, when an officer allegedly found two 12-gauge shotguns and a semi-automatic rifle, all allegedly unlicensed.
His law offices have been cleared out, said a receptionist who works in the same building, and his licence to practise law has been suspended. Zaitzeff did not tell the Law Society of Upper Canada about his charges, the regulator said.
As a condition of his bail, Zaitzeff had to give up his passport, cannot drink or buy liquor, and was ordered to attend the Bellwood addiction treatment centre in Toronto. He recently returned from Bellwood to Thunder Bay and is living with a friend who posted bail.
Zaitzeff is allowed to visit his cottage on nearby Amethyst Harbour in the company of one of the two people who bailed him out of jail.
It was at the cottage, on the night of Oct. 2, 2000, that Zaitzeff’s wife Marilyn, then 50, was last seen, reportedly leaving the cottage and getting on her Sea-Doo around 9 p.m.
By 11 p.m., Sandy Zaitzeff had called 911 and the coast guard. He and Marilyn had been alone in the house that night, the OPP said.
Marilyn Zaitzeff was a physical fitness enthusiast who often rode her Sea-Doo, sometimes at night and sometimes without a life-jacket or wetsuit. On that night, she was reportedly not wearing a wetsuit, and no life-jackets were missing from the cottage, according to the OPP, which investigated the case at the time.
The waters, shoreline and neighbouring islands were searched, and the next morning the Sea-Doo was found a kilometre away, overturned in the water not far from shore. The Sea-Doo was “undamaged, inspected to be mechanically sound and had a third of a tank of gas,” according to the OPP.
While Marilyn is presumed drowned, OPP Det. Supt. Dave Truax told the Star: “This is an open missing person investigation where the individual has not been located.”
“At the time, the circumstances were deemed suspicious, yet there was no evidence of foul play,” added Truax, who is the head of OPP criminal investigations.
Zaitzeff’s lawyer Hutchison said his client is “a respected lawyer, has battled the loss of his beloved son, addiction issues and health issues. He will answer these charges in court at the appropriate time and continue to work towards his own wellness.”
WASHINGTON—Every great American scandal follows a similar arc, historians say. One side smells nefarious behaviour. The other side contends there’s no there there. Shreds of evidence and whispers of proof energize one side and appall the other. This goes on for a long time.
Sometimes, the scandal talk fizzles out. And sometimes, something comes along that changes everything — the smoking gun.
When Donald Trump Jr. said “I love it” to the prospect of scoring nasty information from friendly Russians about Hillary Clinton in June of last year, did that constitute a smoking gun?
In one America, the answer was a pretty solid yes. Slate, Politico, Vanity Fair and some Democrats straight-out declared the president’s son’s email the “smoking gun” in the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to take down the Clinton candidacy. Many other news organizations hedged a bit, attaching a question mark to the smouldering term.
But in Trump Country, the gun wasn’t smoking — it was just one more toy gun masquerading as the real thing, just one more burst of the same noise that has been cluttering up this presidency since its inception.
Al Baldasaro, a six-term Republican member of New Hampshire’s legislature and an early Trump backer, said on a radio show last summer that Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason” over her role as secretary of state during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
Now, Baldasaro sees not treason, but normal behaviour. In politics, he said, “People come to us all the time with stuff on our opponents . . . I don’t think there’s anything there. It’s a typical witch hunt. Some media are keeping it alive, making money off this.”
Baldasaro called the president “an honest guy. I would bet my last dime he had nothing to do with it . . . I travel all over the state and have never come across one person who brings up anything about Russia. They don’t care. They don’t think anything happened.”
From the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s through Watergate in the 1970s and the stream of -gates that have followed in the decades since, American political scandals have followed a distinct pattern, said David Dewberry, a professor at Rider University who wrote a book called The American Political Scandal: Free Speech, Public Discourse, and Democracy.
“Scandals are stories, cliffhangers that play out in real time,” Dewberry said. “You have two sides, one saying this is not important and the other saying we know there’s documented proof of wrongdoing. With Donald Trump Jr.’s email, this is the point where this scandal has changed.”
But that doesn’t mean that this email is the smoking gun — the one piece of evidence that produces instant consensus that something unacceptably wrong has taken place.
“This is not the (Watergate) tapes, this is not the blue dress from the Clinton scandal” in 1998, Dewberry said. “We still don’t know from this email if President Trump did anything.”
In today’s deeply divided political landscape, in a society in which information now flows with unprecedented speed, “it’s much harder now for us to absorb these key moments,” Dewberry said. The major scandals of the past century took years to play out and this story might, too.
Many enthusiastic Trump supporters don’t believe their president has done anything terribly wrong. And according to some political observers, even those Trump voters who do believe he acted in concert with the Russians won’t be willing to abandon him until they see an alternative that would maintain the president’s commitment to upsetting the Washington apple cart.
“They need to hear that nothing Donald Trump has done couldn’t have been done by a President Mike Pence without the drama,” said Robert Leonard, news director at KNIA radio in Knoxville, Iowa. “It’s going to take Fox News to tell them that.”
For now, many Trump enthusiasts in the conservative media are standing with the president — and placing the blame for the rough first six months of the administration squarely on the news media.
“This is not just a story that people are pursuing,” Rush Limbaugh said on his nationally syndicated radio show Tuesday. “This is a lifestyle. This has become a mechanism whereby these people state their identities. They are now defining themselves on the basis of the pursuit of this story. They can’t stop it. They cannot help themselves.”
But Limbaugh hinted that perhaps Donald Trump Jr. was overzealous in taking the meeting with the Russian lawyer. “Junior wanted to be a player,” Limbaugh said. “The thing that’s happening to that family is something that most of us will never experience . . . Everybody wants to be in on it. Nobody wants to be a straggler. Everybody wants to be considered a player . . . So Trump Jr. gets the email. ‘Yeah, yeah, I want to help dad, all right, all right, I’ll take it.’ ”
In his 1978 Political Dictionary, William Safire, former New York Times columnist and a speech writer for former president Richard M. Nixon, defined a smoking gun as “incontrovertible evidence — the proof of guilt that precipitates resignations.”
By that definition, the emails that President Trump’s son released Tuesday cannot be a smoking gun, at least not yet.
But in the operatic structure of political scandals, the “I love it” email might eventually be seen as the first appearance of the prop that turn outs to be vital to the denouement of the story.
In most political scandals, the search for a smoking gun fails to result in any such dramatic find. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. News databases are jammed full of quotations from defenders of Bill and Hillary Clinton through the years, insisting that “there is no there there” regarding allegations about purported scandals in Arkansas, the White House, Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and the former secretary of state’s email server.
In the early stages of this investigation, “it’s following the pattern of every other major scandal,” Dewberry said. “Waves of publicity about alleged misconduct. Claims that this is nothing. And what tips the argument is when somebody is found blatantly lying, usually to investigators.”
In the Watergate years, the catchphrase was “it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.” In the Trump-Russia investigation, Dewberry said, if the scandal ever fully erupts, “it will be not the collusion with Russia, but the lying about the collusion with Russia.”
But even if the president’s son had collected incriminating information about Clinton and even if the Trump campaign had then used that against her, some Trump supporters say they would have been fine with that.
“If there was real information about Hillary Clinton that the public needed to know, I understand why that was disseminated if that was the case,” said Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas and an early Trump supporter who praised the president during the “Celebrate Freedom” concert at the Kennedy Center on July 1.
“What I have followed does not concern me at all,” Jeffress said. “I remain 100 per cent committed to this president and his agenda. There has been talk of collusion with Russia for almost a year now and nothing has been proven. What is indisputable is that there is a determined effort by those on the left to paralyze and prevent this president from enacting a conservative agenda.”
Smoking-gun imagery entered the lexicon of American scandals in the final stage of Watergate. Defenders of Nixon had repeatedly argued there was no proof that he had obstructed justice in trying to limit the political damage caused by his re-election campaign’s burglary of Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Northwest Washington. There was, Nixon loyalists insisted, no smoking gun.
Until, of course, there was, in the form of the tape recordings that the president had ordered made of his conversations in the Oval Office. When Rep. Barber Conable, a Republican from New York who had avidly defended Nixon, heard the recording that did the president in, a tape in which Nixon discussed ordering the FBI not to look any further into the Watergate break-in, the lawmaker dubbed that the smoking gun.
The term was coined, according to the Yale Book of Quotations, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1894 Sherlock Holmes story, The “Gloria Scott.” The great detective, investigating a murder aboard a ship, describes how “we rushed on into the captain’s cabin, but as we pushed open the door there was an explosion from within, and there he lay with his brains smeared over the chart of the Atlantic . . ., while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand . . . The whole business seemed to be settled.”
A quest for a smoking gun was a central part of the public debate during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986, when the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran, in violation of a U.S. embargo, and used the receipts from the sales to fund the Nicaraguan rebel group known as the contras.
But most scandals don’t end with a dramatic reveal. An independent counsel’s investigation into Iran-Contra dragged on for eight years; eventually, 14 people were charged and president George H.W. Bush issued six pardons, including to Reagan’s defence secretary and national security adviser.
All of which led Alistair Cooke, the late longtime BBC commentator on American affairs, to say that the eternal hunt for smoking guns was a classic bit of misdirection. “We’ve been conducting the wrong kind of search,” Cooke said in a 1996 piece. “The object in question is the body of the constitution. When we find it with a hundred stab wounds, there’s no point in looking for a smoking gun.”