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    BERLIN—At least 547 members of a prestigious Catholic boys’ choir in Germany were physically or sexually abused between 1945 and 1992, according to a report released Tuesday.

    Allegations involving the Domspatzen choir in Regensburg, which was run for 30 years by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s elder brother, were among a spate of revelations of abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Germany that emerged in 2010. In 2015, lawyer Ulrich Weber was tasked with producing a report on what happened.

    The report said that 547 boys at the Domspatzen’s school “with a high degree of plausibility” were victims of physical or sexual abuse, or both. It counted 500 cases of physical violence and 67 of sexual violence, committed by a total of 49 perpetrators.

    At the choir’s pre-school, “violence, fear and helplessness dominated” and “violence was an everyday method,” it said.

    “The whole system of education was oriented toward top musical achievements and the choir’s success,” the report said. “Alongside individual motives, institutional motives — namely, breaking the will of the children with the aim of maximum discipline and dedication — formed the basis for violence.”

    The report’s authors said that they checked the plausibility of 591 potential victims’ cases.

    The choir was led from 1964 to 1994 by Benedict’s brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger.

    Ratzinger has acknowledged slapping pupils after he took over the choir, though such punishments were commonplace in Germany at that time. He also said he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at the elementary school and did nothing about it, but he was not aware of sexual abuse.

    The report faulted Ratzinger “in particular for ‘looking away’ or for failing to intervene.”

    It also cited criticism by victims of the Regensburg diocese’s initial efforts to investigate past abuse. It said that the bishop at the time the allegations surfaced, Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, bears “clear responsibility for the strategic, organizational and communicative weaknesses” of those efforts.

    Cardinal Mueller became the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office in 2012. Pope Francis recently removed him from that job.

    Current Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer has already announced plans to offer victims compensation of between 5,000 and 20,000 euros ($7,200 and $28,900) each by the end of this year.

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    After four appearances in court attempting to hold a bail hearing, a fifth court date has been scheduled for Michael Storms, 35 — accused of forcible confinement and uttering threats in relation to a June 28 hostage-taking.

    Previous appearances on June 29, July 4 and July 11 have been adjourned due to Storms’ lack of legal representation. On Tuesday, Storms’ hearing was delayed several hours until he could meet with a lawyer in his cell.

    However, after the meeting, Storms appeared before Judge Mindy Avrich-Skapinker to say he didn’t like what the lawyer said to him.

    Storms requested one more week to seek counsel, while being held in custody. In previous court appearances, information has revealed Storms to be in segregation at his own request and receiving mental health support.

    In seeking legal representation, Storms has previously rejected the help of duty counsel, and on Tuesday, he prodded at them in the courtroom.

    “You’re here to help me?” he asked, laughing. “I don’t believe that.”

    After less than three minutes, Storms was led away. His next court appearance will be on July 25 at 10 a.m.

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    Death is supposed to be the great equalizer.

    Not so, showed a bizarre democratic process that unfolded in a small Quebec town on Sunday night. A referendum, ostensibly about zoning changes, ended up giving a handful of non-Muslims the power to tell Muslims how to bury their dead.

    It took only 19 voters in Saint-Apollinaire to reject the creation of an Islamic cemetery that would have made it only the second in the province owned and operated by Muslims.

    The only Muslim-owned burial ground in a province with an estimated 250,000 Muslims is located in Montreal. Otherwise, there are four non-denominational cemeteries that have earmarked sections for Muslims that are leased out to them.

    While both kinds of burial grounds follow the same religious rites, many Muslims who want the reassurance of eternal rest or fear exhumation or don’t want to give future generations the responsibility of renewing leases end up flying the bodies of their dead to the lands of their origins.

    In this context, the large, immediate question is: Should such a referendum have been held at all? No, says Yannick Boucher, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Montreal.

    “I deplore the silence of our political elites on this issue,” he told me by email. “It seems to me irresponsible on the part of our politicians to leave responsibility to the citizens of Saint-Apollinaire to decide on such a big issue.”

    The council in Saint-Apollinaire, a town of 6,000 people just southeast of Quebec City, had unanimously endorsed the proposal of an Islamic cemetery, after a local non-denominational funeral parlour struck a deal to sell a parcel of its land to an Islamic group.

    The buyer was the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec that runs the Quebec City mosque where a white extremist gunned down six Muslimsat prayer in January. Five of those victims were flown out of the country for burial.

    The sale required modifications to the zoning permit, and when that attracted enough of an opposition, it triggered a referendum.

    Just 62 people who live and work around the proposed cemetery site were eligible for the referendum. Of them only 36 residents voted (19-16 against). One ballot was rejected because it was spoiled.

    I’m wary of narratives that portray Quebec as somehow being less open-minded than the rest of Canada. So this question bore closer scrutiny: Did the vote by the 92-per-cent Christian town near Quebec City stand as a scandalous symbol of exclusion or did it signify a support for secularism in a province that resoundingly rejected the role of the Catholic church in its institutions?

    Certainly, the mayor of the town of 6,000 thought Islamophobia was a factor. “I think the fear has started because of the word, ‘Muslim’,” Bernard Ouellet told The Canadian Press last week.

    Mohammed Kesri, the man leading the Islamic cemetery project, told the news agency, “There are Catholic cemeteries, Protestant cemeteries, Jewish cemeteries — we aren't inventing anything here.”

    At a meeting in March in the town, the usual us-versus-them fears had emerged among the homogenous populace. Muslims were getting preferential treatment, someone said. Would there now be more mosques? More women with veils?

    “People put all Muslims in the same basket and see them as radicals. I am disappointed,” the Globe and Mail quotes Ouellet saying after the referendum.

    Sunny Letourneau of the Citizen Alternative Committee, who wasn’t eligible to vote but opposed the religious cemetery, struck an argument for secularity, saying cemeteries should include everyone. She doesn’t have an issue with Islam in particular, but all religions that exclude others based on faith, she told the Star’s Allan Woodslast week.

    If we take Letourneau’s sentiments at face value, the principle behind them might have merit, but even so with the caveat that no religious group would henceforth receive permission to operate its own cemeteries.

    Such an idea would run afoul of people’s charter rights to freedom of religion. According to human rights and constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, the Quebec town referendum does exactly that.

    Grey told The Canadian Press secular people telling Muslims where they can bury their dead is akin to telling a Jew he or she can eat at a normal cafeteria and not keep kosher.

    What did the referendum show? That even in death, Muslims are seen through the lens of their differences. That true secularism would not have begun and halted at a cemetery for Muslims alone.

    “Such a result, however democratic it may be, can only nourish radicalism among the population most vulnerable to dogmatic ideas,” Boucher said.

    “I am thinking of the young Muslim aged between 14 and 21 who are often in search of identity. Identity is built by the gaze of the other on oneself. What message do we send to them with this referendum?”

    Shree Paradkar tackles issues of race and gender. You can follow her @shreeparadkar.

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    Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has charged a Toronto police officer in connection with “serious injuries” suffered by a 19-year-old man in December 2016.

    An investigation by the SIU has found that, around 2 a.m. on Dec. 28, an off-duty Toronto police officer “was involved in an interaction” with the 19-year-old, near Thickson Rd. and William Stephenson Dr. in Whitby, said SIU Director Tony Loparco in a written statement released Tuesday.

    Durham Regional Police officers arrested the 19-year-old at the scene. He was taken to hospital and “diagnosed with serious injuries,” Loparco said.

    Loparco said the SIU, which investigates deaths, serious injuries or alleged sexual assaults involving police, was notified of the incident by the 19-year-old’s lawyer on April 27.

    Toronto police Const. Michael Theriault was arrested Tuesday. He faces charges of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief.

    Theriault is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 10.

    More to come.

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    Organized crime investigators are investigating whether the Monday night shooting of three men outside a Woodbridge sports bar is connected to a string of violent attacks in York Region.

    “Investigators believe the shooting was targeted,” Const. Andy Pattenden said in a prepared statement.

    The men were shot outside the Novantesimo Minuto 90 Minute Sports Bar at 7611 Pine Valley Drive, near Highway 7 and Pine Valley Drive at 11:30 p.m. Monday, police said.

    When police arrived, they found a 29-year-old Toronto man, a 33-year-old Toronto man and a 47-year-old Vaughan resident all suffering from non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.

    The men were taken to hospital and one man has since been released from hospital.

    “Investigators believe that a lone suspect approached the three men who were standing outside of the sports bar,” Pattenden said in the prepared statement.

    The gunman began shooting at the men with a long gun, and then fled on foot.

    Police have asked anyone who might have dash cam video to come forward.

    The sports bar shooting comes just a week after a bullet bounced off the window of the Motorino Enoteca restaurant at 4101 Rutherford Road, near Weston Road.

    Police said that multiple shots were fired in the parking lot.

    None of the approximately 40 people inside the restaurant were injured, York Regional Police said.

    Suspects had fled by the time police arrived.

    The bullet didn’t strike the window directly and was apparently from a small calibre gun.

    Exactly who fired it or why remains a mystery, like the other attacks. According to investigators, a male suspect wearing dark clothing was seen fleeing from the scene on foot.

    Organized crime investigators are probing whether the two shootings are related to last month’s explosion that knocked a wall out of the Caffé Corretto on Winges Road in Vaughan.

    The café was one of 11 establishments hit by a multi-jurisdictional police sweep in January 2016 against illegal gambling machines.

    Illegal gambling machines were taken from the café at that time, police said.

    One man has been arrested in the Corretto case. He was spotted nearby, suffering from non-life-threatening injuries.

    Another suspect is still being sought.

    Police are asking anyone with video, photos or information on the shooting to contact York Regional police or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7441.

    With files from Emily Fearon and Fakiha Baig

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    TILLSONBURG, ONT.—Hundreds of people will be losing their jobs in Tillsonburg, Ont., after a major international company announced the closure of a factory manufacturing wind turbine blades.

    Siemens Wind Power Ltd. has announced the factory that employed 340 workers is not large enough to build the sorts of bigger turbine blades the company needs to stay competitive in an increasingly challenging market.

    Although the factory won’t be fully closed until early 2018, the majority of staff will feel the effects right away

    Siemens says 206 staff are out of work effective immediately, with the rest being phased out over the rest of the year.

    The company says it will provide career counselling and job placement support for all employees.

    Siemens described the decision as a difficult one, but said the plant was simply not viable given drastic shifts in the demands and profitability of the industry.

    The company says the market for wind turbines has become more competitive since the plant opened in 2011, with prices dropping 66 per cent in the past seven years.

    Siemens also said the market for wind turbines has shrunk dramatically in eastern Canada, adding the type of blade needed in most cases today cannot be produced at the Tillsonburg plant.

    “Today’s market environment requires significantly larger blades, a critical requirement for our business to remain globally competitive,” the company said in a statement announcing the plant closure.

    “The Tillsonburg factory cannot easily be adapted to manufacture this product portfolio. The significant investments necessary to bring the plant in line with current market requirements would result in costs that could not be competitive in the global markets.”

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    Sears Canada has been given approval to begin the liquidation sales Friday at the 59 locations it plans to close.

    Ontario Superior Court Judge Barbara Conway approved the motion Tuesday.

    Earlier in the day, Sears lawyer Jeremy Dacks said the company wanted to start sales of its merchandise, furniture, fixtures and equipment as soon as possible so it can “maximize” benefits for its stakeholders.

    The liquidation sales will only occur at the 59 stores that are set for closure. They will begin Friday and run until Oct. 12, with the majority to be overseen by a third-party liquidator.

    Current employees in the stores pegged for liquidation will be asked to stay on the job until the sales are complete and the locations are shut down.

    The beleaguered department store owner has been operating under court protection from creditors since June 22 when it announced its plan to shutter 59 stores and cut approximately 2,900 jobs.

    Last week, Ontario Superior Court Judge Glenn Hainey gave the company the green light to begin the process of putting itself up for sale. He also gave the retailer approval to pay $9.2 million in retention bonuses to executives and other key employees.

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    The payout was part of a compromise with retired employees that will see Sears Canada continue making some benefit and pension payments to retirees until Sept. 30.

    Founded in 1952, Sears Canada says it hopes to exit court protection as soon as possible this year.

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    When Dr. Jen Gunter had downtime as a medical resident in the ’90s, she’d scan celebrity tabloids scattered around the hospital’s waiting rooms.

    She wasn’t looking for Hollywood gossip. The back pages of those magazines are filled with diet tips and health trends.

    “That’s when I got interested in the whole idea of pop culture and medicine and how important that was. You’d read about this stuff and then sure enough, a couple months later, people were asking you about it,” the Winnipeg-born Gunter told the Star.

    Gunter, now 50 and practising in the U.S., didn’t know then her career as an OB-GYN would intersect with celebrity culture and especially Gwyneth Paltrow, who has refashioned herself into an alternative health guru through her wellness company Goop.

    In June, a headline on the cover of In Touch Weekly screamed: “Goop Under Fire: Doc Slams Gwyneth’s Dangerous Advice” alongside stories about Tom Cruise and one of the Kardashians. Inside, Gunter blasted the actress for promoting the myths that bras cause breast cancer, tomatoes cause obesity and condoms are carcinogenic.

    Last week, Paltrow tweeted out a rebuttal to the increasing criticism of Goop’s pseudomedical coverage and alternative health therapies, specifically mentioning Gunter. “Since her first post, she has been taking advantage of the attention and issuing attacks to build her personal platform — ridiculing the women who might read our site in the process,” the post read, in part. A letter from a Goop-associated doctor also criticized Gunter’s use of the “F-bomb.”

    Two decades ago, Paltrow was still an actress and magazines were full of stories about the grapefruit diet and breast implants. Today, Paltrow sells vitamins and promotes something called Moon Dust. Gunter reads Goop in an effort to dismantle some of the more out-there claims. She has amassed 47,000 Twitter followers and 6,100 followers of her blog. After the Goop salvo, she wrote her own rebuttal — the spat was covered in mainstream news — and collected thousands more.

    The posts are pithy, but the intention is serious.

    “Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, we’re not f---ing with you, we’re correcting you, XOXO Science,” reads a post from May, a summary of many “crackpot theories” that appear on Goop. Some of the most widely ridiculed Goop-sanctioned strategies include the use of jade eggs for better sex, and vaginal steaming.

    “I see the consequences of women doing harmful things they read about online,” Gunter said. “It breaks my heart when I hear people tell me about all the useless therapies they’ve wasted their money on.”

    In response to criticism from Gunter and others, Goop sent a statement to the Star in June that says, in part: “We have a disclaimer on the bottom of every article that states the purpose is to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.”

    Gunter attended medical school at the University of Manitoba and completed her residency at Western University. In 2005, she and her family moved to California, where she now practices in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Gunter has been blogging about health and evidence-based medicine for seven years, at first on mainstream topics such as vaccine myths, weight loss and reproductive rights. Two years ago, someone sent her the vaginal steaming article.

    Gunter’s area of expertise is vaginal health. She fired off a blog post about the risks. “Ms. Paltrow recommends a V-steam,” she wrote. “My response: Don’t.” It went viral, seen 234,217 times in the month it was published, and shared over 10,000 times on Facebook.

    “The Goop stuff really caught on, I guess, because there weren’t really any doctors countering it,” she said. “There’s all these people online talking about health but there’s very little good information from physicians that patients can turn to.”

    Gunter knows that firsthand, in personal and dramatic way. In 2003, her twin sons were born 14 weeks premature. They were on oxygen for a year and required multiple surgeries. They would have been triplets: a third son did not survive. During those days as a patient and parent, she searched online for good advice but found websites advocating treatments she knew were unproven or inappropriate for her kids’ conditions.

    “I was really horrified by what was online. Fortunately, I knew how to double-check things and who to ask, but I kept thinking about how other people navigate it.”

    Her blog isn’t all Goop, all the time. She debunks all kinds of health myths and weighs in on policies affecting women’s health. (“I was blogging about pseudo-science long before Paltrow first squatted over a pot of steaming allergens and leveraged her celebrity to draw attention to her website,” she wrote in July.) In June, she attempted a Goop-approved detox smoothie and wrote about its resulting bloat and mysterious ingredients. There were a lot of expletives.

    Gunter maintains an active practice and runs a women’s health clinic. She tweets when her kids are at piano lessons and when walking down the hill during a running workout. Some people watch TV for two hours a day, she said. Gunter scans social media and reads up on health trends.

    “You can’t read about this stuff in medical journals,” she said.

    Timothy Caulfield, who wrote the 2015 book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, considers Gunter a friend and ally. He recently filmed an episode of his upcoming documentary TV show, called A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, at Gunter’s home. They discussed the notorious vaginal steaming, among other topics.

    In an emerging post-fact world, “Gwyneth brought us together,” said Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and University of Alberta professor.

    “When I started doing this years ago, I thought it was important, but I had no idea how important it was going to become,” he said. He publicly defended Gunter in an op-ed in the Globe and Mail over the weekend — federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott tweeted it, adding “Thankful for Canadian scientists, health researchers, & #fakenews debunkers, including @CaulfieldTim @DrJenGunter & many more. #GoScience!”

    In June, Gunter was asked to remove a blog post based on a tweet from an attendee of a recent Goop wellness summit. Until then, she believed the people running Goop were oblivious to her musings. Not anymore.

    “If women seeking wellness is a trend, I’d say that it’s a positive one, particularly in a country facing diabetes, obesity, chronic disease, and narcotic-related death epidemics of epic proportions,” Dr. Aviva Romm, author of Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health and The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, wrote on the Goop website as part of Paltrow’s response to criticism in July.

    “Further, let’s not forget that many common medical practices that were not too long ago considered wellness trends, at best, unscientific bunk, or at worst, dangerous, are now widely incorporated into conventional patient care.”

    Still, Gunter believes in correcting what she sees as bad science.

    “Fighting misinformation is really hard,” Gunter said. “I’m just trying to get out there and swing the bat, I guess.”

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    Days after a continuing Toronto Star investigation revealed that Canadian girls are being sent abroad to be subjected to female genital mutilation, the federal government is not yet committing to track the cases, nor will it provide details on initiatives it is undertaking to prevent FGM from happening.

    “Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent and unacceptable practice. It is one of the most severe violations of the human rights of women and girls,” said a joint statement from Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. It added that Canada’s government is committed to addressing FGM “both at home and abroad.”

    The ministers’ statement went on to say that Canada “has and will continue to” make efforts to prevent and address FGM. It cited $101 million set aside in June for a strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence, and $150 million over five years to be given to local women’s organizations. This is in addition to $650 million over the next three years to support programs for sexual and reproductive health abroad.


    Ontario doctors repairing cases of female genital mutilation done a world awayEND

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    Canadian girls are being taken abroad to undergo female genital mutilation, documents reveal

    When pressed on exactly what the Canadian government is doing right now to address FGM, and whether it will start tracking known cases as other developed countries do, a spokesperson said the original statement stood.

    (The Star has previously reported on one initiative funded by Justice Canada: $350,000 to a Quebec organization now working to raise awareness around FGM.)

    Last week, the Star revealed that federal government officials are aware of cases in which Canadian girls are being taken abroad and subjected to FGM, an illegal practice known as vacation cutting. These same officials believe, based on the “limited information available,” that a few thousand girls are at risk.

    Canada has done little to understand the scope of the problem and is lagging far behind other developed countries in efforts to prevent it.

    For example, earlier this summer, U.S. Homeland Security launched a pilot program to help prevent vacation cutting. The program is based on an initiative at London’s Heathrow airport, where security agents are trained to identify girls at risk.

    The U.S., Britain and Australia have all undertaken research to determine the number of girls at risk: 507,000 in the U.S., 197,000 in the U.K. and 83,000 in Australia, according to an internal report from the Canada Border Services Agency.

    The CBSA report, initially reported on by Global News, deals primarily with what is strongly suspected by Canadian officials but, as yet, unknown: whether FGM is happening on Canadian soil.

    In the U.S., a doctor in Michigan was recently charged with carrying out the practice on up to 100 young girls, according to federal prosecutors, who say that no Canadian victims have so far been identified. There have also been cases in the U.K., France and Australia.

    Those who perform female genital mutilation, called FGM practitioners, are “almost certainly entering Canada” to engage in the practice, according to the five-page report, which was prepared by Canadian border intelligence for employees.

    “According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian health-care providers, it is almost certain that FGM is also happening in Canada,” despite it being illegal, the report says.

    A spokesperson for CBSA did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

    Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to external female organs. It can be inflicted on girls as young as 1 and varies in severity from partial removal of the clitoris, to excising the clitoris and labia and stitching up the walls of the vulva to leave only a tiny opening. (The latter practice is known as infibulation.)

    FGM has no health benefits for girls and women. It can cause severe bleeding, problems with urination, and later cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of death for newborns, according to the World Health Organization.

    It can also deny women sexual pleasure.

    FGM affects more than 200 million women worldwide, according to UNICEF.

    In 1997, Canada’s Criminal Code was amended to include female genital mutilation as a form of aggravated assault. It’s not just the person performing the mutilation who can face justice. Provisions in the code also allow for others to be charged: for example, a parent who participates in the offence by holding a child’s hands or requests that someone perform it. And the amendments make it illegal to remove a child from Canada for the purpose of female genital mutilation.

    There has never been a criminal conviction for female genital mutilation in Canada.

    A practitioner of FGM would enter Canada with the purpose of committing a crime (aggravated assault), but “may not have the awareness that they are doing so,” the CBSA document says. It adds that, in Canada, the practitioner is most likely to be called to the home of a woman to be re-infibulated (re-sewn) after having a child, or to perform the practice on a young girl.

    Women who are at risk of FGM “do not present with the typical criteria for child abuse” and the practitioners “believe they are promoting the long-term well-being and social acceptability of the child.” The reception at airports is “likely to include the future ‘patient’ or their family members.”

    The report also includes photographs of tools that can be used to perform FGM, including razor blades, scissors and special herbs to place on the wounds. (The photos are presumed to be intended to assist border officials by depicting items they should look out for.)

    FGM is practised in 29 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. It occurs in both Islamic and Christian communities, but is largely a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years. In many areas, there is huge social pressure on families to have their daughters cut in this way.

    Some women who have had the procedure have asked their doctors to reverse it, the Star revealed. According to provincial records, in the past seven years Ontario has performed 308 “repairs of infibulations,” a surgery that creates a vaginal opening where it has been sewn mostly shut.

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    WASHINGTON—Trumpcare is toast.

    In a colossal public failure for U.S. President Donald Trump and his party, Republican leaders failed in their attempt to repeal Obamacare on Monday after they were unable to gain sufficient Senate support for a widely unpopular bill that would have resulted in millions people losing their health insurance.

    Trump, pronouncing himself “disappointed,” said he would now “let Obamacare fail” – suggesting, remarkably, that he would not do anything to fix lingering problems with the nation’s health-care system.

    “It will be a lot easier,” he said. He added: “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would force a vote on a proposal to forget about replacement and simply repeal Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, with the repeal taking effect two years from now. But that improbable last-gasp plan appeared to die before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, when three Republican senators said they would vote against even the motion to go ahead with a final vote.

    “We can’t just hope that we will pass a replacement within the next two years. Repealing without a replacement would create great uncertainty for individuals who rely on the ACA and cause further turmoil in insurance markets,” said one of them, Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

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

    West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also announced her opposition to the “motion to proceed” on Tuesday morning. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski provided the decisive vote against, telling NBC that repeal-and-delay “just creates more chaos and confusion.”

    The Republican initiative failed in large part because of the steep cuts it would have made to Medicaid, the program that provides insurance to the poor. Non-partisan government experts estimated that 22 million fewer people would have insurance in 2026 under the Republican proposal than under Obamacare, 15 million fewer through Medicaid alone.

    There were other problems, too: provisions that could have allowed insurers to return to their pre-Obamacare practices of charging higher prices to sick people, selling plans that paid for almost nothing and imposing lifetime limits on coverage and. Complicating matters for McConnell, some hard-right conservatives opposed the bill from the other side, arguing that it did not amount to complete repeal of Obamacare.

    The outcome is a major victory for the anti-Trump “resistance” activist movement. Citizens seeking to save Obamacare inundated senators with phone calls and packed local town hall meetings, forcing key senators to hear emotional stories about how Obama’s Affordable Care Act has helped them.

    But the opposition extended far beyond loud liberals. The bill was one of the most detested pieces of major legislation in modern U.S. history, with less than a third of the public supportive.

    Republican governors from states that benefited from Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid were vocally against. So were the hospitals lobby, the doctors lobby, the nurses lobby, the seniors lobby, and advocates for people with cancer, diabetes, addictions and disabilities.

    Some Republican members of Congress came to believe they were better off punting on repeal-and-replace than getting punished in future elections for passing a bad bill. But the outcome is difficult to spin as anything other than a political calamity.

    Trump wasted his precious first six months on a proposal that went nowhere even with control of Congress. Republicans were unable to deliver on a pledge central to their congressional campaigns for seven years.

    The failure undermines one of the central premises of Trump’s candidacy, his claim to be a master dealmaker whose toughness and negotiating expertise would allow him to smash through Washington gridlock with ease.

    “You’re going to have such great health-care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy,” he said at a campaign rally in October.

    He changed his tune last week, saying health-care reform is “the only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

    Polling suggests Trump’s reputation has worsened significantly on the question of whether he is a strong leader, and the Obamacare failure is likely to increase pressure to alter his style. To the frustration of congressional Republicans, Trump never appeared to learn the details of the proposal, did far less to promote it than Obama did his own health overhaul, and eventually described it as “mean.”

    On Monday, the day the bill died, Trump was sitting in a fire truck and playing with a golf putter as part of a showcase of products manufactured in the U.S. At a dinner with Republican senators on Monday, he warned them that they would look like “dopes” if they did not pass the bill — unaware that it was going to be killed the same night by other senators not in the room.

    Trump suggested Tuesday that he would blame Congress for the defeat, not himself.

    “We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!” he wrote on Twitter.

    “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great health care plan,” he added, though, in fact, he had long promised to pass a “terrific” replacement plan at the same time as repeal.

    With Democratic senators united in opposition to the replacement bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, McConnell could only afford to lose the support of two Republican senators. He ended up losing at least four.

    Collins decried the Medicaid cuts. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who believed it did not go far enough in eradicating Obamacare. The death blow was provided by Kentucky Sen. Jerry Moran, who said it did not amount to full repeal or address rising costs, and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who said it did not do enough to repeal Obamacare’s taxes, lower premiums, or “create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

    “There are divisions among Republicans as to whether or not they should embrace the cause of universal coverage. Some Republicans believe that they should offer market-based policies to achieve that goal, while others oppose ‘replacing’ Obamacare because they believe that any effort to help the uninsured is welfare. Republicans are still working through this fundamental division,” said Avik Roy, one of the few prominent Republican health policy experts to support the bill.

    McConnell said earlier that the failure of the bill would force the party to move on to working with Democrats to try to fix the “individual markets” on which people who don’t have insurance through their employers or through the government can buy plans.

    Republicans’ focus will now shift to their attempt to overhaul the tax code. Tax reform is also complicated, and the collapse of the health bill, which included hefty tax cuts, makes it even harder.

    “I think after health care, taxes are gonna be so easy,” Trump said in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network last week.

    0 0

    MONTREAL—The head of a de-radicalization program in Montreal says he is in contact with worried families after reports that two Canadians are among 20 women and girls captured by Iraqi forces fighting the remnants of Daesh in the city of Mosul.

    A report citing an Iraqi counterterrorism official Tuesday morning said that five German citizens, three Russians, three Turkish nationals, two Canadians, a Chechen and six people from Libya and Syria were arrested several days ago in a secret tunnel in the Quleiat neighbourhood of the besieged city.

    Read more: A daunting search for bodies in the rubble of Mosul

    They were reportedly armed with weapons and explosive belts, according to Haider al-Araji, an Iraqi counterterrorism official cited by several media outlets.

    The German newspaper Die Welt reported that authorities believe one of the German citizens is a 16-year-old schoolgirl who fled her country in July 2016.

    There was no additional information available on the Canadians reportedly captured, but Herman Okomba-Deparice told the Star in an interview Tuesday that he has already received calls from the worried parents of Canadian foreign fighters.

    “I recently spoke with a mother whose child is there. The parents are worried. There are some parents who haven’t had any news from their children since the bombing of Mosul began. It’s a time of desperation right now,” he said.

    Global Affairs Canada, the federal department responsible for offering assistance to Canadians abroad, did not immediately respond to a request for information on the reports.

    Okomba-Deparice, director of the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, said the latest official count is that there are as many as 200 Canadian foreign fighters. A number of those individuals have also become parents while abroad, adding another level of complexity to the situation.

    Tensions have been high in recent weeks as Iraqi and international troops have stepped up their efforts to take back Daesh territory with assaults on the Syrian city of Raqqa, which has served as the de facto capital of the Islamic terror group.

    “There are some parents who have maintained communication with their children, who give them updates from time to time. But in the last four or five weeks it has been radio silence,” Okomba-Deparice said.

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    Every year when Teresa Greaves visits Rondeau Provincial Park in southwestern Ontario, she ends up picking off a handful of ticks from her two dogs.

    But this past fall, the numbers were out of control.

    “I picked probably 100 ticks off between the two of them over the course of the week,” Greaves said. “It’s definitely a lot more than we ever had found on them before.”

    When she got back and took her dogs to the vet, the four- and five-year-old Rottweiler mixes named Padre and Tango both tested positive for Lyme disease.

    Just as the number of human Lyme disease cases has risen in recent years, there has also been a sudden uptick in pets, according to veterinarians in the GTA.

    Dr. Kathleen Alcock of the Ashbridges Bay Animal Hospital in the beaches said her clinic is seeing more dogs with ticks than ever before.

    “It was novel,” she said. “Now it’s like, oh my god, another dog with a tick, or a tick bite. There’ve been dogs in our practices that have had upwards of 11 ticks when they bring them in to be removed. The tick bite itself is not such an issue, it’s the fact that (some) ticks are carrying Lyme disease.”

    Much of Toronto, as well as parts of York and Durham regions, are in risk areas for Lyme disease, according to a 2017 map by Public Health Ontario, which defines a risk area as a 20-kilometre radius around where ticks have been found.

    Alcock said four dogs have tested positive for Lyme disease at her clinic since March. The norm at this point of the year?

    “None, zero,” she said.

    “It’s been coming for a while,” Alcock added. “It’s very obvious that the warming of the climate is bringing the ticks north. The hotbed for ticks and Lyme used to be New York State. It’s just coming around to Toronto.”

    Alcock said it’s important to note that it’s impossible for a Lyme-positive dog to pass on the illness to its human family.

    “It’s way easier to prevent ticks in dogs than it is in people,” Alcock said. “I give one pill every 12 weeks and the dog is free of ticks for the entire summer.”

    There were 841 human cases of Lyme disease in 2016 across the country, compared to 144 in 2009. The number of cases has risen in Ontario from 44 in 2005 to 343 in 2016.

    Dr. Jennifer Kyes of the Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital said “active” dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors in wooded and rural areas face the highest risk of contact with Lyme-carrying ticks.

    “It is a big concern because it can to lead to some significant illnesses outside of a fever and just having swollen joints,” she said. “It can lead to kidney failure and other much more significant diseases (in pets).”

    Kyes recommends a preventative vaccine for dogs, which can reduce the severity of the disease even if it is still contracted.

    Alcock said that in order for a tick to pass on the Borrelia organism, which causes Lyme disease, it needs to be in contact with a dog for at least 18 hours.

    “What our medications are meant to do is when the tick bites, it dies,” she said. “You will still see potential for tick bites and you may even find . . . a dead tick on a dog, but there’s no disease transfer.”

    Ticks can survive until temperatures drop to four degrees C and remain there consistently. Below four degrees, they can’t bite, Alcock said.

    Still, she expects to see them back next year, and in high volume.

    “It’s going to be a cycle,” Alcock said. “This is the new black. Now that the ticks are here I think they’re going to stay and I think we’re going to see a lot more Lyme disease in people and in dogs.”

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    Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared a Toronto officer who shot the suspect in a dramatic hostage situation after a bank robbery in Etobicoke last year.

    The Special Investigations Unit said there weren’t any reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against the officer after a 30-year-old man was seriously injured following a holdup at a TD Bank branch near Kipling Ave. and The Queensway at around 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 20.

    The man, his face covered by a ski mask, was shot as he was leaving the bank while using two women he had taken hostage as a human shield, the SIU said in a statement released Tuesday.

    The suspect “was using the hostages as a shield, holding them close together with both his arms wrapped around them on each side, and he had a pistol in his right hand pointed at one of the hostages,” the SIU said.

    As the man attempted to push the two women towards a silver vehicle parked in a nearby lot, the hostages managed to escape and ran towards police, the SIU said.

    “As soon as the hostages were out of the way, the complainant raised his firearm, looked directly at the (subject officer) and pointed his firearm at the (officer),” according to SIU director Tony Loparco. “The (officer) and the complainant fired at each other. As the (officer) was running backwards to take cover behind the SUV and discharging his firearm, he tripped over a concrete planter at the front of the SUV and fell to the ground.

    The SIU said it is unclear who discharged their weapon first.

    In total, investigators say six shots were fired by the officer, one of which struck the man in his abdomen.

    During the confrontation, police say four other officers also discharged their firearms but none of the cops was injured.

    “It was clear that, at that point, the risk of serious bodily harm or death to the officers or civilians would have been substantially increased had the officers not returned fire at that time,” Loparco said in a statement.

    The SIU investigates all incidents between police and the public which result in death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

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    When Mohamed Noor joined the Minneapolis police force and was assigned to patrol the city’s southwest corner, the Somali community there — the nation’s largest — threw a party for him to celebrate.

    He was the first Somali-American officer to serve in Minneapolis’s fifth precinct and one of less than a dozen Somali-American officers in the department. His presence on the squad brought Somali activists some pride and reassurance at a time of Islamophobia in America and nationwide racial tension stoked in part by shootings of black people by white police officers.

    Now that same Somali community is bracing for a backlash that has already begun.

    Read more:

    This bride-to-be called 911 for help. So why did a Minneapolis police officer shoot her dead?

    On Monday, multiple media outlets named Noor as the officer who fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman in the city’s popular Fulton neighbourhood over the weekend, an incident that has grabbed global attention and thrust Minneapolis into yet another uproar over police violence.

    Officials have not publicly confirmed the officer’s name.

    Tom Plunkett, an attorney claiming to represent Noor, said in a vague statement that the officer “extends his condolences” to those mourning 40-year-old Justine Damond’s death and “takes their loss seriously.”

    “We would like to say more, and will in the future,” Plunkett said. “At this time, however, there are several investigations ongoing and Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy to the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period.”

    Though Plunkett did not respond to requests to explicitly confirm that Noor fired the shot that killed Damond, several Somali leaders in Minneapolis said in interviews with The Washington Post that they were aware of the officer’s involvement.

    “There is no question that he is the officer,” Somali activist Omar Jamal told The Post. “We knew this right after the shooting but we didn’t want to release the name.”

    The Hennepin County Medical Examiner announced Monday night that Damond — identified by her birth name Justine Ruszczyk — died from a gunshot found to the abdomen and ruled the death a homicide. She was set to marry her American fiancé Don Damond next month, and had already been using his last name.

    Witnesses at the scene Saturday night said that the officer who fired his gun appeared to be Somali, Jamal said, so he and others in the community began contacting all the Somalis in the department. They knew the shooting took place in the fifth precinct, where Noor is the only Somali officer.

    “We came to know that, ‘oh gosh, that’s him,’ ” Jamal said. “Then the word spread fast.”

    The report stoked fear among Twin City Somalis, who have worked for decades to become part of the city’s fabric. There are now Somalis on the police force, the city council and in the Minnesota House of Representatives. But the largely Muslim population of Somali Americans in the Twin Cities region still face Islamophobia and innuendo about terrorism.

    “They fear this will be just another event used to create animosity toward the Somali community,” Mohamud Noor, executive director at the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, told The Post.

    Already, hateful posts criticizing Islam and sharia law are filling social media in response to the police shooting. Several far-right blogs featured sensational headlines that blamed the officer’s ethnicity, not his training, for the deadly use of force.

    Other Somali officers in the police department are “nervous,” Jamal said.

    “They’re not talking at all,” he said. “You can feel the pressure, because you know, the difference now is ‘one of you guys did it.’

    “The fact that the police involved in the shooting is Somali makes it a different matter,” he said.

    Mohamud Noor, who is not related to the officer, is also a city council candidate. He and others in the Somali community have protested other police shootings in the Twin Cities region along with Black Lives Matter, but this one “changes the narrative,” he said. Usually, they are protesting the death of black men at the hands of police, he said. Now it is a white woman reportedly shot by a black officer.

    He hopes the conversation will focus on police reform, not racial stereotypes.

    “This is the time to bring people together,” he said. “We have so many questions. What happened? Why were the body cameras off?”

    According to authorities, there is no known video or audio footage of the shooting, which occurred after Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home late Saturday night.

    Local media said she approached the police car responding to that call in her pyjamas and was shot through the driver’s side door by the officer in the passenger seat of the cruiser, as previously reported by The Post.

    The two officers involved did not turn on their body cameras, authorities said. The police car’s dash camera did not capture the incident, either.

    Officer Noor joined the force in 2015 and completed his field training just over a year ago, according to a May 2016 city bulletin welcoming him to the fifth precinct. The officer graduated from Augsburg College, a Lutheran school in Minneapolis, with a degree in economics and business administration, according to the posting. He worked in real estate in Minneapolis and St. Louis before becoming an officer.

    Noor has had two complaints filed against him during his brief tenure with the police department, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Two remain open and a third was closed without discipline, according to the newspaper.

    But in the wake of Monday’s news tying him to Damond’s death, Somali community members said he was a role model who brought enthusiasm to the job.

    “As you can imagine, when immigrants join the police they feel like they are part of the larger community,” Jamal said. “This is our community, we serve and protect.”

    After Noor’s welcome party to the fifth precinct last year, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges posted a note on Facebook saying his arrival had been “highly celebrated, particularly by the Somali community” and was “a wonderful sign of building trust and community policing at work.”

    The statement from Plunkett, Noor’s attorney, said that the officer came to the United States at a young age.

    “He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling,” Plunkett said. “He joined the police force to serve the community ... Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves and empathizes with the loss others are experiencing.”

    0 0

    Larry Rosen doesn’t think anyone would be crazy enough to pay more for Prada shoes or a Hugo Boss sweater in his stores in Canada if they could get them cheaper online in the U.S.

    And that worries the CEO of Toronto-based luxury retailer Harry Rosen Inc., since it’s one of the demands on the table from the U.S. for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    “It would be a very, very serious and hurtful thing for Canadian retailers,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

    Read more:

    Trump targets telecom rules in NAFTA summary

    Trump administration releases list of broad objectives for renegotiation of NAFTA

    Trump huffs and puffs but NAFTA proposals spark no fear: Tim Harper

    NAFTA talks will start in August. Here’s what the plan looks like

    “American retailers would have an enormous advantage over us,” Rosen noted.

    The Canadian government currently allows goods valued up to $20 to enter into the country — whether mailed, delivered by courier or transported — without charging duty or sales taxes.

    The U.S. is proposing that the so-called “de minimis” shipment threshold be increased to a “value comparable” to its $800 (U.S.) limit, which will make many of their goods much cheaper for Canadians but, as Rosen said, “basically, you kill your domestic retailers.”

    “It would create a tax incentive for Canadians to shop anywhere else but Canada,” said Karl Littler, vice-president of public affairs for the Retail Council of Canada, which has fought for years against raising the limit for fear of how hard it would hit the domestic retail sector.

    But online powerhouses including eBay, Amazon and UPS (U.S. companies that operate across North America), are leading the lobby to raise the threshold, arguing it benefits consumers on both sides of the border.

    The threshold has been in place for decades and is one of the lowest in the world.

    “The current threshold — which was set well before the advent of e-commerce — creates an automatic disadvantage for Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses and it is high time that this regulation be updated to reflect the realities of modern trade,” said Andrea Stairs, managing director at eBay Canada.

    Earlier this year, more than 50,000 Canadian eBay users signed a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau requesting the increase.

    Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, is all for raising the threshold, too.

    He points out that today, shoppers pay a hefty premium when buying goods online from outside Canada, noting that in addition to sales tax, Canadian consumers face duties of up to 35 per cent.

    “We’ve been lobbying for this for years because it allows us access to real-world prices for goods,” Cran said.

    A Nanos poll conducted on behalf of the Canadian American Business Council found that 76 per cent of Canadians were in favour of increasing the de minimis limit.

    But Rosen said the reason that big players are pushing for the increase is so that they can do business more cheaply by not having to operate distribution centres in Canada.

    “If this goes through, I would have to set up a distribution centre in Buffalo to compete,” he added.

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    Flying to the United States may take a while longer as of today due to enhanced security measures affecting flights to the U.S.

    Both Air Canada and WestJet are advising passengers to arrive at airports at least two hours prior to scheduled departures to allow for additional screening.

    Air Canada says in an advisory that heightened security introduced by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security beginning today requires enhanced screening of personal electronic devices such as tablets and laptops.

    Read more:Pearson revamps screening system on U.S.-bound flights

    As air traffic booms, Pearson passengers pile up

    In addition, all personal electronic devices larger than a smartphone will need to be easily accessible and have all cases and covers removed.

    WestJet has posted similar advice, adding the recommendation applies to all flights departing Canada.

    The Dept. of Homeland Security said last month that “in light of evaluated intelligence,” it was deemed necessary to implement enhanced security measures for all commercial flights to the United States.

    It said these measures would include enhanced overall passenger screening, increased security around aircraft and in passenger areas, the use of advanced technology, and expanded canine screening.

    “The United States and the global aviation community face an adaptive and agile enemy,” said the DHS on its website.

    “Terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft, and we have seen a spider web of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist pursue new attack methods.”

    0 0

    QUEBEC—A package containing a defaced Qur’an and a note expressing hate toward a Muslim cemetery project has stoked renewed fears at a Quebec mosque where six men were killed in January, the mosque’s secretary general said Wednesday.

    Mahedine Djamai said when the package arrived Friday he expected it to contain more of the sympathy cards that have poured in from across Canada since the shooting.

    Instead, he said, it contained a Qur’an that had been slashed and a note suggesting the Quebec City mosque should use a pig farm as a cemetery.

    “I was shocked,” Djamai said in a phone interview.

    “I thought, once again we’re getting this kind of message we didn’t expect at all.”

    The package arrived two days before a referendum on a proposed Muslim cemetery was held Sunday in nearby Saint-Apollinaire.

    Djamai said the mosque informed police about the package but decided not to go public until after the referendum to avoid influencing the vote.

    A zoning change that would have allowed the burial ground project to move forward was rejected by 19 votes to 16.

    Read more:

    Canadian Muslims’ fear over safety grows after Quebec City mosque attack

    Future of Muslim cemetery rests with 49 voters in Quebec town

    Quebec town should not have held referendum on cemetery for Muslims: Paradkar

    Quebec City police spokesman David Poitras said security has been increased around the Centre culturel islamique de Quebec and that authorities are taking the matter seriously.

    He added it’s too soon to know whether any charges will be laid.

    Djamai says the community has been shaken by the incident, which brings back memories of the deadly shooting.

    “We’ve received an enormous number of packages, of letters of sympathy (since the shooting),” he said.

    “On the other hand, the parcel we received, it reminds us that there’s always a fear that a terrible event like what happened on Jan. 29 could happen again.”

    Six men between the ages of 39 and 60 were killed when a gunman burst into the mosque and opened fire during evening prayer.

    Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard condemned the latest incident, which he described as “unacceptable and repulsive.”

    “We should all condemn these acts, they’re not unique to Quebec, we see this around the world where communities co-exist,” he said in Edmonton as he attended a premiers’ meeting.

    This is not the first time a hateful gesture has been directed toward the mosque.

    Last June, a pig’s head was left at the entrance of the mosque during Ramadan. The pig’s head was wrapped in paper and was accompanied by a note that read “Bonne (sic) appetit.”

    The mosque has said it has also received hateful letters since the attack.

    0 0

    Auto insurance rates in Ontario rose again in the second quarter of 2017.

    Approved rates posted by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario show an average increase of 0.76 per cent.

    Last quarter, rates went up by an average of 1.24 per cent.

    In 2013, the Liberals promised to reduce car insurance premiums by an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, but after the self-imposed deadline passed, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

    In April, a report by Ontario’s auto insurance adviser found that the province has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

    Read more:

    How lawyers and car insurers get away with highway robbery: Cohn

    Ontario’s auto insurance system ‘one of the least effective’ in Canada, report finds

    Poor neighbourhoods pay more for car insurance: Study

    David Marshall found that the average auto insurance premium in Ontario is $1,458, which is almost 55 per cent higher than the average of all other Canadian jurisdictions.

    The insurance system favours cash settlements in lieu of care, Marshall found. Sprains and strains — the majority of claims — often take more than a year to settle and about one-third of overall benefit costs goes toward competing expert opinions, lawyers’ fees and insurer costs to defend claims instead of going to treatment, he wrote.

    Marshall’s recommendations included adopting a “care not cash” approach, exploring better ways to care for people who are catastrophically injured and making lawyers’ contingency fees more transparent.

    Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the government will be hosting consultations on the recommendations made in Marshall's report in the coming months.

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—No, David Brody says, this “will not be the world’s shortest book.”

    David Brody, chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, announced Friday that he is writing The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography, a book to be released in January by a HarperCollins imprint devoted to conservative non-fiction.

    The news was greeted with incredulity and mockery from a bipartisan array of pundits, some of whom joked that the pages would be blank. But Brody, who interviewed Trump nine times during the 2016 campaign and once as president, says that he and co-author Scott Lamb, a Baptist minister and the “Jesus in the Public Square” columnist for the conservative Washington Times, have an interesting and non-fictional story to tell.

    He spoke to the Star on Monday. The interview is below, condensed and lightly edited:

    This is “a spiritual biography.” Do you think Donald Trump has a spiritual life?

    I think Donald Trump has a spiritual life, and a spiritual journey that needs to be explored, and that’s exactly what this book is going to do. We all have a journey, he does too. He’s president of the United States, and it’s worth exploring.

    A lot of people who don’t like Trump think that he doesn’t really have a spiritual journey — that he has never cared about God or religion, and then started running for president and started claiming that he did. How would you respond?

    Those people that are thinking that probably aren’t going to buy the book, number one. But number two, I think they would also have to admit that none of us are perfect, and this book doesn’t claim to make Donald Trump out to be something he’s not. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a spiritual walk with the Lord, and that’s something we’re going to explore. There are a lot of interesting stories that I think people might be interested to know.

    I do think it’s important for some of the critics to understand that we’re not going to gloss over some of what has taken place in the past, whether it be anything from “Two Corinthians” (the phrase Trump was mocked for using during the campaign instead of “Second Corinthians”) or some of the other things that people might bring up from time to time about Donald Trump.

    He’s been described as recently as last year, by James Dobson, as a “baby Christian.” Where do you think he is today on that spiritual journey?

    That’s something I’m going to have to leave for the book, unfortunately. I’d love to answer that question. I would just suggest that people keep an open mind and gather all the evidence, not just the evidence they have before them right now.

    The press release says the book will delve into the president’s “rarely discussed, but deeply important, religious beliefs.” Why do you believe that these beliefs, in Donald Trump, are actually important?

    For so many different reasons. Let me just start with this: the Judeo-Christian values that this country was founded on is something that Donald Trump does believe in. He’s been very clear about that. And he’s actually shown that through public policy since he’s become president.

    How intense do you think evangelical devotion to Trump remains today after these tumultuous first six months?

    He is off to a good start with evangelicals. There’s no doubt about it. They’re pleasantly — I don’t even know about “pleasantly surprised.” Some may be pleasantly surprised. Others knew that he would do this all along and he’d be good for them.

    I’ve been frequently asked how God-fearing, churchgoing people support this vulgar adulterer and so on.

    There are so many different reasons for this, but let me kind of boil it down to this: Donald Trump sees the world in black and white, right versus wrong, good versus evil. In essence, he sees the world in absolutes. Evangelicals see the world in absolutes as well: good versus evil, heaven and hell, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Donald Trump has been ridiculed for the fact that he’s taken certain stands, and is unapologetic about it. You know what? Christians, evangelicals, take a stand about their faith in public and get ridiculed for it as well. And so there’s a common bond between the two in some sort of Dr. Phil psychological way that no one’s ever going to be able to put in a test tube and explain.

    During the campaign, you wrote that evangelicals didn’t like Trump’s “name-calling and hefty ego.” How do evangelicals justify continued support for this man even though he refuses to change those elements of his personality?

    There’s two sects, if you will, of evangelicals. There were pro-Trump folks that were pro-Trump in the primary. And then there are the folks that said, “Hey look, it’s either Trump or Hillary.” For those evangelicals, they’re going to be able to overlook a few things based on the fact that: “Well, if it comes down to that or do I want the next Supreme Court to rule 5-4 on cultural issues in this land” — they’ll play for the long term. And sometimes you have to choose what potentially makes sense for the longer-term benefit.

    Do you know if Trump prays regularly?

    I can’t talk about that, because that’s part of some things we may discuss in the book.

    When you’ve delved into issues of religion with the president, is there anything that surprised you or struck you about what he was saying?

    He’s a lot more pensive than people think when it comes to matters of faith. It’s more deeply rooted than you might think.

    Your press release says he managed to win over evangelicals without “pandering” or “pretending to be something he’s not.” A lot of people would say that he was pretending to be much more devout than he ever actually was. Are you convinced that he ran without fakery?

    I’ll just say this: he’s a guy that never claimed to be the Bible Answer Man. That would be pandering if he was a guy that went around and said, “Look how great I am, I’m the greatest Christian in the world.” He’s not going to win Christian Man of the Year; he understands that and they understand that.

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    WASHINGTON—Hoping to avoid a humiliating political defeat, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday demanded that Republican senators resume their efforts to approve a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, insisting that lawmakers are “very close.”

    A day after the GOP strategy to rollback the ACA appeared dead, Trump invited Republican senators to lunch at the White House and challenged them to work out an agreement even if it means remaining in Washington through their summer recess next month. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had previously announced that the recess would be delayed by two weeks.

    “People should not leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we give our people great health care,” Trump said at the beginning of the lunch. “We’re close, very close ... We have to hammer this out and get it done.”

    The president’s effort to resurrect negotiations came a day after he declared that it was time to give up on the contentious process to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement and “let Obamacare fail.”

    Read more:Eight reasons Donald Trump failed on health care: Analysis

    With Republican Sen. Dean Heller a key vote who has wavered on the GOP’s repeal proposal, sitting to his right, Trump touted what he said were a list of benefits of the plan — including the repeal of the individual mandate, expanded coverage options and getting rid of “burdensome taxes.”

    The president appeared to issue a veiled threat that he would campaign against Republicans who stood in his way.

    “He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?” Trump said with a laugh of Heller, who also chuckled. “I think the people of your state appreciate what you’re going to do.”

    Trump added: “Any senator voting against starting debate is telling the American people you’re fine with Obamacare.” But the current health care law, approved in 2010, has “failed,” Trump declared. “It’s gone.”

    The effort by Senate Republicans to undo Obamacare has been fraught with internal divisions and apparent discord between the White House and GOP leaders. With little room for error, McConnell abruptly switched course Monday after several Republicans announced they would block efforts to vote on a replacement bill that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would leave up to 22 million more Americans without health insurance.

    Instead, McConnell announced plans to vote this week on a straight repeal of the law with a two-year delay that would give Congress more time to work out a replacement plan. But that strategy was short-lived as at least three GOP members said they would oppose that course of action, enough to block it.

    Trump, who had invited Republican leaders to a health care strategy dinner Monday night, was apparently blindsided by the opposition from some conservative members, including Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran.

    Trump, as he has done numerous times in recent weeks, reminded the lawmakers that Republicans had campaigned against the ACA for years and their supporters are counting on them to make good on their promises.

    “I’m ready to act,” Trump said. “I have my pen in hand. I’m sitting in that office. I have pen in hand. You’ve never had that before. For seven years, you’ve had the easy route — we repeal, we replace, but he (Obama) never signs it. I’m signing it. So it’s a little different.”

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