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    Just how close did we come to the worst aviation disaster ever at the San Francisco airport last week?

    When the pilots of Air Canada 759 aborted their attempt to land on a taxiway mistaken for a runway, the jet was 81 feet off the ground, and less than 30 feet above the huge airliners lumbering toward take off, full of fuel and people, according to incident reports emerging from the United States.

    To say this was a close call is an understatement. This Air Canada plane was just seconds from colliding with one of the planes on the ground.

    Should Canadian business and holiday travellers be concerned?

    A quick read of a report on aviation safety oversight in Canada just published by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Committees suggests there is good reason for worry.

    The committee tabled its report just a few weeks ago, on June 20, including 17 recommendations for improvements to bring Canada back in compliance with international safety standards and to ensure Canadian aviation inspectors have the training and skills they need to properly do their jobs.

    The committee heard enough troubling testimony about the state of Canada’s aviation safety oversight system that it called on the government to invite the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in to conduct a comprehensive audit of Canada’s aviation oversight system.

    Transport Canada, the government department charged with overseeing aviation safety, takes issue with the suggestion that it is falling behind international norms for safety. Spokespeople from the department tried to assure parliamentarians that Canada is 95 per cent compliant with the standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

    What they fail to mention is that this result is based on an audit of Canada’s safety oversight system that was conducted in 2005, more than a decade ago.

    It is this kind of heavy spin that may have led MPs on the committee to call for Transport Canada to be put on a shorter leash, urging the government to produce an annual report on Transport Canada’s compliance with findings from the ICAO audit.

    After more than a decade of budget cuts, it is little wonder that Canada is falling offside when it comes to safety in the air. As a result, the checks and balances that have delivered one of the safest aviation systems in the world are falling victim to cost cutting and misguided management.

    A recent example. Last August, without consultation and in secret, Transport Canada withdrew or reduced safety oversight from a significant portion of aviation including:

    • All airports in the country.

    • Business aircraft, such as former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice died in.

    • Urban heliports.

    • Aircraft that do dangerous work, such as water bombing the wild fires raging in British Columbia.

    In addition to retreating from its oversight responsibilities, Transport Canada is relying on shallower inspection procedures that can be done more quickly but probe less deeply into an airlines’ compliance with the rules that are supposed to keep our skies safe for everybody. The regulator freely admits this practice is intended to boost its performance metrics.

    In this context, Kathy Fox, the chair of the independent Transportation Safety Board, called on the regulator to do more intensive and direct audits and inspections.

    Justice Virgil Moshansky, who conducted the commission of inquiry into the crash of an Air Ontario jet in Dryden that killed 19 people, told the committee that flying is less safe today than 15 years ago because Transport Canada is no longer conducting direct operational oversight of the airlines.

    Meanwhile, the perishable skills and competencies of Transport Canada’s own inspectors, who are supposed to be responsible for ensuring the skies are safe, are deliberately being allowed to wither.

    In fact, because of cuts, a growing number of inspectors no longer have valid pilots’ licences because they have not flown an aircraft for years in many cases. Today, inspectors are being sent out to oversee the safe operation of planes they no longer know how to fly themselves.

    Aviation safety oversight in Canada has been whittled away for the past decade and this retreat by our aviation oversight authority Transport Canada continues to this day.

    Transport Minister Garneau has a chance to put a stop to this retreat when he responds to the Committee’s report in the Fall. The committee has put forward a responsible and prudent agenda for safety. Let’s hope Minister Garneau takes the opportunity to implement it before the next close call turns to tragedy.

    Greg McConnell is the national chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association.


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    A decision by one of Canada’s key elevator-safety authorities to rescind a sweeping three-year-old upgrade directive has sparked both surprise and anger among those in the industry.

    The decision by Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority, they say, was done without consultation, raises questions about the basis for the far-reaching order in the first-place, and leaves the public at substantial risk.

    “Should I be advising my building owners to act right away on future director’s orders?” Doug Guderian, the CEO of contractor Elevator One, said on Wednesday. “Maybe you want to wait a few years and see if they rescind this one, too? That doesn’t help the industry in any way to be safer.”

    At issue are older “single speed” elevators typically found in lower-rise buildings and which are notorious for posing a tripping or fall hazard by routinely failing to stop level with the floor — sometimes by as much as seven centimetres, a far cry from current accuracy norms of less than a centimetre.

    In 2014, the safety authority ordered significant upgrades to every single-speed elevator in Ontario — estimates say there are about 700 to 1,200 of them — and gave owners until the end of 2021 to do so. Data, the authority said at the time, indicated a substantial safety risk related to levelling that was only expected to worsen.

    This week, however, TSSA director Roger Neate decided the mandatory upgrade — already carried out in about 55 instances — was no longer necessary.

    “TSSA has continued to monitor and review incident, maintenance and inspection order data,” Neate said in the new order. “The outcome is that the data trends do not support the mandatory upgrade of single-speed elevator-motion controls.”

    At the same time, the authority said it was mandating risk-mitigating measures, among them maintenance tasks to be done every two months and an annual requirement to take apart, examine and maintain the elevator’s brake components.

    The TSSA also recommends measures such as posting signs warning users of the tripping risk, something those in the industry worry amounts to an admission of risk and liability.

    Industry consultant Rob Isabelle said the director’s surprise decision raises questions about the data the safety authority relied on then and relied on now.

    “How good was your analysis in the first place?” Isabelle said. “If I was the guy that has three small buildings and spent $500,000 and now I receive this order saying it’s not really necessary, I’d be pissed.”

    In response Wednesday, the authority said single speed elevators were safe and that its updated data shows they do not pose an “unacceptable risk” to users. The authority also said it had told its advisory committee it was contemplating the change.

    The TSSA did float the idea of rescinding the order at an industry “townhall” meeting last November, but that was followed by silence, Guderian said.

    “We raised probably 15 or 20 different objections and reasons why we didn’t feel rescinding an order like this was a good idea,” Guderian said. “They didn’t answer why to a single one of them.”

    The issue comes amid data showing that serious elevator-related injuries in Ontario have been rising at a rate of about eight per cent a year for the past five years. Additionally, a Canadian Press investigation indicated elevator-reliability problems had reached crisis proportions across Canada, prompting the Ontario government to promise legislation to deal with the “systemic” availability issue.

    Earlier this month, the safety authority awarded consulting firm Deloitte a $300,000 contract to carry out potentially groundbreaking research that aims to get at the causes of elevator outages or otherwise poor service and offer solutions.

    The government-ordered review is being fronted by retired Superior Court justice Douglas Cunningham, who is expected to report in the fall.

    Cunningham previously reviewed the Ontario’s New Home Warranties Act and his findings prompted the province earlier this year to introduce measures aimed at boosting consumer confidence in the new-home industry.


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    Whenever he is asked about his racial identity, Carl James always says “Black” instead of Antiguan, especially in Canada, where race is often defined by skin colour.

    But there is more to the York University education professor’s preferred response to the question.

    “I generally see myself as a Black person who happens to be from the Caribbean,” said James, who came to Toronto in the 1970s as a university student.

    “It’s the politics about being Black that we are thinking in skin-colour terms. That’s the way we have come to define and see ourselves in our struggles.”

    He is not alone in feeling that way.

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    According to the Black Experience Project, a groundbreaking survey of 1,504 self-identified Black individuals in Greater Toronto, 53 per cent of the participants identified themselves as Black regardless of their heritage, country of origin, and ethnocultural and other identities.

    The participants were sampled to represent the population across census tracts, taking into account age, gender household income and ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

    The study led by the Environics Institute, released Wednesday, posed 250 questions to participants about their daily experiences as Black people in the GTA. Most interviews were conducted in person and each took between 90 to 120 minutes.

    “What struck me is how the experience of the Black community is so similar,” said Marva Wisdom, the project’s director of outreach engagement, whose family moved here from Jamaica 40 years ago.

    “Being Black is an important identity for us despite our diversity. It is our shared experiences that help bind us together.”

    Black people make up 400,000, or 7 per cent, of Greater Toronto’s population and the community has more than tripled in size over the last three decades.

    Until 2011, young Black adults living in GTA were much more likely to be born in the Caribbean than in Canada, but the trend has reversed. Black youth today are twice as likely to be born in Canada than in the Caribbean, while those from Africa have been on the rise.

    While people with Caribbean heritage make up 55 per cent of GTA’s Black population, those with African origins now account for 31 per cent of the community, with the rest being a mix of both and/or with other ethnicities.

    The study also found:

    • Two-thirds of survey participants said they frequently or occasionally experience racism and discrimination because they are Black;

    • Eight in 10 reported experiencing one of several forms of day-to-day “microaggression” such as having others expect their work to be inferior or being treated in a condescending or superficial way;

    • Although those with lower incomes are affected more intensively by these incidents, when it comes to getting randomly stopped in public by the police, those in the higher socio-economic stratum are not immune;

    • About four respondents in 10 said they felt accepted by their teachers “only sometimes” or “never”;

    • One-third identified challenges in the workplace linked to being Black, whether those involved explicit racism or discrimination, or an uncomfortable workplace culture in which they do not feel they are treated professionally accepted.

    “Teenagers growing up feel they’re experiencing all these things on their own. You feel you have to work hard to prove Blackness is a positive thing. Now we can confirm and validate our experiences with data,” Wisdom said.

    “There have been incremental changes, but things haven’t changed that much, either.”

    Wisdom remembers that as a teenage girl, she was misguided by a high school counsellor to take general math rather than advanced math, delaying her university education. She ultimately graduated from college and returned to university as a mature student, obtaining a master’s degree while raising three kids.

    Despite reaching higher educational attainment than earlier generations, Canadian-born Black people were more likely to say they were victims of racism than were their immigrant counterparts and were more likely to identify that racism as an obstacle.

    Four in five male participants between the ages of 25 and 44 said they had been stopped in a public place by the police and three in five said they said they had been harassed or treated rudely by police.

    Joseph Junior Smith, who was born in Canada to Jamaican parents and grew up in the Jane and Finch corridor, said the report findings speak to his own experience as a young Black man in the city.

    The 28-year-old teacher was only 6 when he was stopped by the police for the first time while playing in a courtyard. The most recent incident just happened two months ago, when he and a group of teenagers from Generation Chosen, a youth program he founded, were stopped on Hwy. 407 on their way to play paintball in Scarborough.

    Smith said they were handcuffed and searched after someone reported seeing one of the group members with a rifle, which was actually a paintball gun.

    “You are attempting to do the right thing but still can’t escape the gaze of police officers,” said Smith, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in humanities at York University. “Why is it so hard to believe we’re not criminal, that we are just regular citizens?”

    Like others who participated in the survey, Smith said he tries to overcome these hurdles and stereotypes by working twice as hard, getting involved with the community and through higher education.

    Four in five survey participants said they belong to at least one community group, a rate that is higher than the Canadian average. One in two also belongs to, or participates in, organizations or informal social groups that specifically address the interests of the Black community.

    James, the university professor, said most people in the Black community rely on community activism and education to overcome hurdles, adversities and stereotypes.

    “Racism still exists and now takes different forms,” said James, who sits on the advisory committee of the Black Experience Project. “Its subtleties then and now are different.”

    The project, started in 2011, was a joint partnership with the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University, United Way, YMCA and York University. It was funded by TD Group; Ontario Trillium Foundation; the Province of Ontario; the Regions of Peel, Durham and York; Durham and York police services; and the Toronto Police Services Board.


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    MINNEAPOLIS—An Australian woman who heard what she thought was a sexual assault behind her home called 911 not once but twice before she was fatally shot, concerned that officers had the wrong address when no one immediately responded.

    Minutes later, Justine Damond lay dying in her Minneapolis neighbourhood, shot in the abdomen by one of the responding officers when she approached their squad car.

    The revelation of a second 911 call came in the city’s release of transcripts of Damond’s emergency calls, as well as a handful of other initial reports. The city has turned the investigation of Damond’s death over to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

    Damond, 40, a spiritual healer and life coach who was due to be married in August, was shot by Officer Mohamed Noor. He has declined to be interviewed by the bureau and hasn’t responded to media interview requests. His partner, Matthew Harrity, told investigators that he heard a loud sound right before Damond approached Harrity on the driver’s side of the car.

    Noor fired from the passenger seat.

    In Damond’s first 911 call at 11:27 p.m., she told the dispatcher she could hear someone in back of her house. “I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” she said. She said she thought the person had yelled “help” and added: “I don’t think she’s enjoying it” and said the person seemed “distressed.”

    Eight minutes later, Damond called again to say no officers had arrived. She said she was concerned they had the wrong address, and gave it again. Assured that officers were on the way, she thanked the dispatcher and ended the call.

    Harrity was interviewed Tuesday. The bureau said Noor’s attorney didn’t say when or if Noor would talk to investigators, and under the law an interview can’t be compelled.

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    Harrity and Noor are on paid administrative leave. Harrity has been with the Minneapolis police department for one year, and Noor has been with the department for nearly two.

    According to the bureau, Harrity told investigators that he and Noor responded to a 911 call from Damond about a possible assault near her home at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

    Harrity was driving the squad car as the officers went through an alley to look for a suspect. The squad lights were off when the noise startled him, Harrity said.

    No weapon was found at the scene. The officers did not turn on their body cameras until after the shooting, and the squad car camera was also not activated.

    Harrity told investigators that after the shooting, the officers got out of their vehicle and gave Damond immediate medical attention.

    Harrity said that he and Noor saw a man, estimated to be between 18 and 25, bicycling in the area before the shooting. That man stopped and watched as officers attended to Damond. Bureau agents are asking that man, and any other potential witnesses, to come forward.

    The criminal bureau said that unless more people come forward, there are no additional interviews scheduled.

    David Klinger, a criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said police officers can’t be compelled to testify in an outside investigation.

    “Police officers are citizens ... they have the same Fifth Amendment right as anyone. They don’t have to give a statement,” Klinger said. “His lawyer might be saying, you’re not going to talk until I feel you’re rested and not under stress.”

    In a news conference after the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension update, Mayor Betsy Hodges said she wished Noor would speak to investigators.

    “It’s frustrating to have some of the picture but not all of it,” she said. “We cannot compel Officer Noor to make a statement. I wish we could. I wish that he would make a statement.”

    Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department is reviewing its policy on body cameras and was doing so before Damond’s death. Arradondo said the department is just eight months into a department-wide rollout, and the review includes focusing on how often officers activate them. He said the department wants to increase that frequency.

    The city also said it planned to release a transcript of Damond’s 911 call after it is shared with family members. Officials had initially declined to make it public.

    The bureau said forensic testing is being completed and evidence is still being examined. When the investigation is done, the bureau will present its findings to prosecutors for possible charges.

    In Damond’s hometown of Sydney, about 300 people attended a silent vigil in her honour Wednesday morning at Freshwater Beach. Mourners threw pink flowers into the Pacific Ocean.

    Records from Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review show Noor has had three complaints against him. Two are pending, and the third was dismissed without discipline. Under state law, details of open cases and cases that result in no discipline are not released.

    Noor was also sued earlier this year after a May 25 incident in which he and other officers took a woman to the hospital for an apparent mental health crisis. The lawsuit claims Noor and other officers violated the woman’s rights when they entered her home without permission and Noor grabbed her wrist and upper arm. The lawsuit, which is pending, said Noor relaxed his grip when the woman said she had a previous shoulder injury.

    Damond’s maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk, and though she was not yet married, she had been using her fiance’s last name.


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    WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court says the Trump administration can strictly enforce its ban on refugees, but is leaving in place a weakened travel ban that includes grandparents among relatives who can help visitors from six mostly Muslim countries get into the U.S.

    The justices acted Wednesday on the administration’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling last week. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ordered the government to allow in refugees formally working with a resettlement agency in the United States. Watson also vastly expanded the family relations that refugees and visitors can use to get into the country.

    The high court blocked Watson’s order as it applies to refugees for now, but not the expanded list of relatives. The justices said the federal appeals court in San Francisco should now consider the appeal. It’s not clear how quickly that will happen.

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

    In the meantime, though, up to 24,000 refugees who already have been assigned to a charity or religious organization in the U.S. will not be able to use that connection to get into the country.

    “This ruling jeopardizes the safety of thousands of people across the world including vulnerable families fleeing war and violence,” said Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA’s senior director of campaigns.

    That part of the court’s ruling was a victory for U.S. President Donald Trump, who rolled out a first ban on travellers and refugees after just a week in office, prompting a legal fight that has raged ever since.

    But the Supreme Court also denied the administration’s request to clarify its ruling last month that allowed the administration to partially reinstate a 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on refugees from anywhere in the world.

    Read more:

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    The court’s ruling exempted a large swath of refugees and travellers with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or an entity in the U.S. The justices did not define those relationships but said they could include a close relative, a job offer or admission to a college or university.

    Watson’s order added grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins to a list that already included a parent, spouse, fiance, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling in the U.S. The expanded list of relatives remains in effect, and the State Department already has instructed diplomats to use the broader list when considering visa applicants from the six countries.

    Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said the court’s order Wednesday “confirms we were right to say that the Trump administration over-reached in trying to unilaterally keep families apart from each other.”

    Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas would have blocked Watson’s order in its entirety. Those same three justices said last month they would have allowed the Trump travel ban to take full effect.

    The travel ban already is on the court’s calendar for October, though the 90-day pause will have expired by then.


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    WASHINGTON—Police have received reports that two of the Burundi teenagers gone missing after an international robotics competition have been seen crossing the border into Canada.

    The search for all the teens is ongoing, but police have no indication of foul play in their disappearance, Metropolitan Police spokesperson Aquita Brown said.

    The teens seen crossing into Canada were 16-year-old Don Ingabire and 17-year-old Audrey Mwamikazi, Brown said.

    The Canadian Border Services Agency says it is not its practice to confirm or deny the entry of any person into Canada.

    There was no official indication Thursday that any of the teens were trying to avoid returning to their homes in Africa, but a leader in the Burundian community in the U.S. suggested that they may be intending to seek asylum. Immigration attorneys said an asylum application could take years to sort out.

    Police tweeted missing person fliers Wednesday asking for help finding the teens, who had last been seen at the FIRST Global Challenge around the time of Tuesday’s final matches. The missing team members include two 17-year-old girls and four males ranging in age from 16 to 18.

    The competition, designed to encourage youths to pursue careers in math and science, attracted teams of teenagers from more than 150 nations.

    A squad of girls from Afghanistan drew the most attention after they were twice rejected for U.S. visas and President Donald Trump intervened.

    Competition organizers learned Tuesday night that the team’s mentor couldn’t find the six students who participated in the competition and organization President FIRST Global President Joe Sestak made the initial call to the police, according to a FIRST Global Challenge statement.

    “Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global,” organizers said, noting that they ensure students get to their dormitories after the competition by providing safe transportation to students staying at Trinity Washington University. The students “are always to be under close supervision of their adult mentor and are advised not to leave the premises unaccompanied by the mentor.”

    The mentor said the teens travelled from Burundi for the competition and have one-year visas, according to police reports. The mentor said they disappeared after the competition, but he doesn’t know where they went. The reports say police tried to contact one missing teen’s uncle but got no response. The reports state police canvassed DAR Constitution Hall, where the competition was held.

    The competition’s webpage about Team Burundi shows the six team members posing with a flag and says team members were selected from schools in Bujumbura, the capital city. The team’s slogan in Kirundi is “Ugushaka Nugushobora,” which translates roughly to “where there is a will, there is a way.”

    Police tweeted images of the teens Wednesday, saying they are looking for 17-year-old girls, Audrey Mwamikazi and Nice Munezero; Richard Irakoze and Aristide Irambona, both 18; Kevin Sabumukiza, 17; and Don Ingabire, 16.

    Hassan Ahmad, an immigration lawyer in northern Virginia not involved in the situation, said that if the teens make an asylum application, then Immigration and Customs Enforcement could seek to detain the teens pending removal proceedings. The teens would be eligible to seek bond and stay in the country while they await their hearing. It can take years to have a court hearing scheduled. And even if ICE declines to seek detention, it can take several years for applicants to have their formal interview to determine whether they are eligible for asylum.

    Oscar Niyiragira, chairman of the United Burundian-American Community Association Inc., was not at all surprised to hear that some of the teens were heading to Canada. He had no direct knowledge of their situation, but assumed they were seeking asylum, and many in the community feel the odds are better in Canada, especially now that the Trump administration has taken a harsh stance on immigration.

    He called the teens’ departure disappointing. He said that economic impoverishment, rather than political persecution, is the driving force in most people’s decision to seek asylum from Burundi, and he said it unfairly tarnishes Burundi’s reputation when people flee and exaggerate the fears of political violence.

    “Now I’m not saying the government does not commit some crimes. They do,” said Niyiragira, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. But the situation in Burundi is not nearly as bad as it was in waves of violence in the ‘70s and the ‘90s, he said.

    Burundi, an East African nation of about 10 million people who speak the local Kirundi language and French, has faced sporadic violence in recent years.

    Burundi’s government had no immediate comment Thursday.

    Nkurunziza is visiting neighbouring Tanzania, home to tens of thousands of Burundian refugees who have fled deadly political violence. Hundreds of people have been killed, according to the United Nations, and rights groups accuse Burundi’s security forces of abuses including killings and disappearances. Burundi’s government often dismisses the allegations, saying they are based on false information supplied by the regime’s opponents.


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    Police have charged a Toronto man with sexual assault after an incident that occurred at Ossington subway station on Wednesday night.

    A tweet put out by police said that a man reportedly grabbed children as they passed by him, then fled to a near by parking lot. Police posted a photo and asked for assistance in identifying him.

    Police said that a woman was walking with her seven-year-old son at the top of the escalator when the man approached the boy from behind and sexually assaulted him.

    The assault happened shortly after 8 p.m.

    Chitranjan Boyal, 41, is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.

    With files from Alexandra Jones


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    WASHINGTON—U. S. President Donald Trump spoke on Wednesday with three New York Times reporters — Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman — in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office. Also in attendance was Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman. At one point, the president’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump appeared at the door, and her daughter, Arabella, entered the room.

    The following are excerpts from that conversation, transcribed by The Times. It has been lightly edited for content and clarity, and omits several off-the-record comments and asides.

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

    TRUMP: Hi fellas, how you doing?

    BAKER: Good. Good. How was your lunch (with Republican senators)?

    TRUMP: It was good. We are very close. It’s a tough — you know, health care. Look, Hillary Clinton worked eight years in the White House with her husband as president and having majorities and couldn’t get it done. Smart people, tough people — couldn’t get it done. Obama worked so hard. They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away. Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics. What happened to him?

    But I think we are going to do OK I think we are going to see. I mean, one of my ideas was repeal. But I certainly rather would get repeal and replace, because the next last thing I want to do is start working tomorrow morning on replace. And it is time. It is tough. It’s a very narrow path, winding this way. You think you have it, and then you lose four on the other side because you gave. It is a brutal process. And it was for Democrats, in all fairness.

    BAKER: March, March 2010.

    TRUMP: So he was there for more than a year.

    HABERMAN: Fourteen months.

    TRUMP: And I’m here less than six months, so, ah, you know. Something to think about.

    BAKER: We wrote the same stories, though, in August of 2009. “Obama can’t get it.”

    SCHMIDT: It died several times.

    HABERMAN: Several times.

    TRUMP: Well, it was a tough one. That was a very tough one.

    BAKER: He lost that election (the 2010 mid-terms).

    TRUMP: Nothing changes. Nothing changes. Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.

    HABERMAN: That’s been the thing for four years. When you win an entitlement, you can’t take it back.

    TRUMP: But what it does, Maggie, it means it gets tougher and tougher. As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically, you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

    HABERMAN: Am I wrong in thinking — I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right? I mean, I think that you come at it from the view of …

    TRUMP: Yes, yes. (garbled)

    * * *

    Read more: Donald Trump said 397 false things in six months. Here’s what we’ve learned

    TRUMP: So I told them today, I don’t want to do that. I want to either get it done or not get it done. If we don’t get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we’ll blame the Democrats. And at some point, they are going to come and say, “You’ve got to help us.”

    BAKER: Did the senators want to try again?

    TRUMP: I think so. We had a great meeting. Was I late?

    (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: It was a great meeting. We had 51 show up, other than John.

    BAKER: Senator McCain.

    TRUMP: That’s a lot. Normally when they call for a meeting, you have like 20.

    HABERMAN: How about the last one in June? Do you guys remember how many came?

    TRUMP: Ah, 49. It was actually 48, but John McCain was there. But I guess we had 51 today, so that counts. That shows the spirit.

    BAKER: Who is the key guy?

    TRUMP: Well, they are all key. The problem is we have 52 votes. Don’t forget, you look at Obama, he had 60. That’s a big difference. So, we have 52 votes. Now, I guess we lose Susan Collins. I guess we lose Rand Paul. Then we can’t lose any votes. That is a very tough standard. Statistically, you want to bet on that all day long. With that being said, I think we had a great meeting. I think we had a great meeting.

    HABERMAN: Where does it go from here, do you think?

    TRUMP: Well, I say, let’s not vote on repeal. Let’s just vote on this. So first, they vote on the vote. And that happens sometime Friday?

    HABERMAN: Next week.

    TRUMP: Or Monday? Monday. And then they’ll vote on this, and we’ll see. We have some meetings scheduled today. I think we have six people who are really sort of OK. They are all good people. We don’t have bad people. I know the bad people. Believe me, do I know bad people.

    And we have a very good group of people, and I think they want to get there. So we’ll see what happens. But it’s tough.

    SCHMIDT: How’s (Mitch) McConnell to work with?

    TRUMP: I like him. I mean, he’s good. He’s good. It’s been a tough process for him.

    HABERMAN: He’s taken on some water.

    TRUMP: Yeah. It’s been a tough process for him. This health care is a tough deal. I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care. (garbled) This is a very tough time for him, in a sense, because of the importance. And I believe we get there.

    This is a very tough time for them, in a sense, because of the importance. And I believe that it’s (garbled), that makes it a lot easier. It’s a mess. One of the things you get out of this, you get major tax cuts, and reform. And if you add what the people are going to save in the middle income brackets, if you add that to what they’re saving with health care, this is like a windfall for the country, for the people. So, I don’t know, I thought it was a great meeting. I bet the number’s — I bet the real number’s four. But let’s say six or eight. And everyone’s (garbled), so statistically, that’s a little dangerous, right?

    BAKER: Pretty tight.

    TRUMP: I hope we don’t have any grandstanders. I don’t think we do.

    (garbled)

    TRUMP: I think it will be pretty bad for them if they did. I don’t think we have any — I think it would be very bad for — I think this is something the people want. They’ve been promised it.

    * * *

    HABERMAN: (In Paris), I don’t think I’ve seen you look like you were enjoying yourself that much since the convention, really.

    TRUMP: I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president. I’m saying, man, they cover (garbled). You saw the reviews I got on that speech. Poland was beautiful and wonderful, and the reception was incredible.

    And then, went to France the following week, because it was the 100th year. (inaudible) The Paris Accord — I wasn’t going to get along with France for a little while, because people forget, because it is a very unfair agreement to us. China doesn’t get (garbled) until 2030. Russia goes back to 1994 as a standard — a much, much lower standard. India has things that are (garbled). I want to do the same thing as everyone else. We can’t do that? We can’t do that? That’s OK. Let me get out. Frankly, the people that like me, love that I got out.

    After that, it was fairly surprising. He (President Emmanuel Macron of France) called me and said, “I’d love to have you there and honour you in France,” having to do with Bastille Day. Plus, it’s the 100th year of the First World War. That’s big. And I said yes. I mean, I have a great relationship with him. He’s a great guy.

    HABERMAN: He was very deferential to you. Very.

    TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

    HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.

    TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

    * * *

    TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.

    (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: At that note, the cameras are gone. I was standing there with him, with probably hundreds of thousands of people.

    HABERMAN: It was a very crowded (garbled).

    TRUMP: And it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.

    HABERMAN: I wondered if you were going to say that.

    TRUMP: I’ve always thought of that.

    HABERMAN: Really?

    TRUMP: I’ve always thought of that. I’ve thought of it long before.

    TRUMP: But the Bastille Day parade was — now that was a super-duper — OK I mean, that was very much more than normal. They must have had 200 planes over our heads. Normally you have the planes and that’s it, like the Super Bowl parade. And everyone goes crazy, and that’s it. That happened for — and you know what else that was nice? It was limited. You know, it was two hours, and the parade ended. It didn’t go a whole day. They didn’t go crazy. You don’t want to leave, but you have to. Or you want to leave, really.

    These things are going on all day. It was a two-hour parade. They had so many different zones. Maybe 100,000 different uniforms, different divisions, different bands. Then we had the retired, the older, the ones who were badly injured. The whole thing, it was an incredible thing.

    HABERMAN: It was beautiful.

    TRUMP: And you are looking at the Arc (de Triomphe). So we are standing in the most beautiful buildings, and we are looking down the road, and like three miles in, and then you had the Arc. And then you have these soldiers. Everyone was so proud. Honestly, it was a beautiful thing. I was glad I did it.

    People were surprised because I’d just come back from Hamburg. So I was back for three days, and then I had to go out again. But when he (Mr. Macron) invited me, he and I have a very good relationship. I have a very good relationship with Merkel (Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany). Do you know what happened with Merkel? So I am sitting in the chair. We’d been sitting there for two hours. So it’s not like, “Nice to see ya.” So the press comes in. So I guess someone screamed out, “Shake her hand, shake her hand!” I didn’t even hear. So I didn’t shake her hand, because I’d been with her for so long. I’d been with her for a long period of time. So I didn’t shake her — the next day, “Trump refused to shake …” (garbled)

    * * *

    TRUMP: She actually called me, and she said, um, “You know, I think we get along very well.” I said we do, we really do. I said, “You gotta put more money into NATO,” No. 1. And No. 2 is like, our trade imbalance is ridiculous. You know, it’s a money machine.

    * * *

    TRUMP: It’s been a long time. Nothing changes. Wait till you see what we’re going to do on trade.

    HABERMAN: Sounds like it’s going to be very interesting.

    TRUMP: Much more interesting than anybody would understand.

    HABERMAN: OK.

    * * *

    BAKER: Will you go to Britain? Are you going to make a state visit to Britain? Are you going to be able to do that?

    TRUMP: As to Britain?

    BAKER: Yeah.

    HABERMAN: Will you go there?

    (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: Ah, they’ve asked me. What was interesting — so, when Macron asked, I said: “Do you think it’s a good thing for me to go to Paris? I just ended the Paris Accord last week. Is this a good thing?” He said, “They love you in France.” I said, “OK, I just don’t want to hurt you.”

    * * *

    TRUMP: We had dinner at the Eiffel Tower, and the bottom of the Eiffel Tower looked like they could have never had a bigger celebration ever in the history of the Eiffel Tower. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people, ’cause they heard we were having dinner.

    (crosstalk/garbled)

    HABERMAN: You must have been so tired at, by that point.

    TRUMP: Yeah. It was beautiful. We toured the museum, we went to Napoleon’s tomb …

    (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” (garbled) The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? (garbled)

    (crosstalk/unintelligible)

    TRUMP: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.

    (crosstalk)

    But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. (crosstalk) It’s pretty amazing.

    So, we’re having a good time. The economy is doing great.

    SCHMIDT: The markets are doing great.

    TRUMP: They’re going to really go up if we do what we’re doing. I mean, cut regulations tremendously. Sometimes — you know, one thing they hadn’t thought about at The Times, where they said I didn’t really cut regulations as much. I heard that because I said — it could have been a little slip-up in terms of what I said — I meant, for the time in office, five months and couple of weeks, I think I’ve done more than anyone else. They may have taken it as more than anyone else, period.

    (crosstalk)

    But I’m talking about for my time. I heard that Harry Truman was first, and then we beat him. These are approved by Congress. These are not just executive orders. On the executive orders, we cut regulations tremendously. By the way, I want regulations, but, you know, some of the — you have to get nine different regulations, and you could never do anything. I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things.

    The energy stuff is going really well. We’re going to be an exporter — we already are an exporter of energy. We’re doing well. I mean, the banks, you look at rules and regulations, you look at Dodd-Frank, Dodd-Frank is going to be, you know, modified, and again, I want rules and regulations. But you don’t want to choke, right? People can’t get loans to buy a pizza parlour, to buy a — you know, I saw out on the trail — people say, Mr. Trump, we’ve dealt with banks, my own bank, and they can’t loan me anymore. I’ve never had a bad day with a bank. You know? So we’ll put — yeah, because of statutory (garbled), they can’t loan to that kind of a business. And they’re good businesses to loan to. So I think we’ve — I think we’re set to really go (garbled).

    * * *

    BAKER: As long as we’re on the record, a lot of people are curious about your conversation with President (Vladimir V.) Putin at dinner. Not surprising. But what did you all talk about, and——

    TRUMP: So, that dinner was a very long time planned dinner. And what it was was an evening at the opera. It was a final night goodbye from Germany and from Chancellor Merkel. It was her dinner. It was, you know, everybody knew about it. It was well-known.

    * * *

    TRUMP: So when we got there, it was with spouses, and when we got there, there were a thousand media. You guys know, were you guys there?

    BAKER: No, it was Julie (Hirschfeld Davis) and Glenn Thrush.

    TRUMP: So, it was tremendous media. And we took a picture of everybody, the wives and the leaders, and then the leaders, and, you know, numerous pictures outside on the river. Then everybody walked in to see the opera. Then the opera ended. Then we walked into a big room where they had dinner for not only the leaders — Lagarde (Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund) was there, who I think is terrific, and various others. You had the E.U. people there, people other than just the leaders, but quite a few people. I would say you have 20 times two, so you had 40, and then you probably had another 10 or 15 people, you had Christine Lagarde, you had some others also.

    So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe (Shinzo Abe of Japan), who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.

    HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?

    TRUMP: Like, not “hello.”

    HABERMAN: That must make for an awkward seating.

    TRUMP: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for——

    HABERMAN: Hours.

    TRUMP: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes.

    * * *

    TRUMP: You had an opera, and then you had a cocktail party for the people at the opera, and then you had the leaders with the spouses, and other leaders in Europe and maybe other places, go in. We sat at this really long table, which held, has to be at least 60, 65 people with room. OK, it’s a very big table, big room. But there was nothing secretive about it.

    It was like, that’s where we’re going. And I think it even said on the list, at the request of the German chancellor and Germany, it’s going to be the opera, it’s going to be cocktails, it’s going to be dinner. I think the crowd thinned out for the dinner — you know, it was the leaders, primarily. But the leaders and Lagarde. And (inaudible).

    OK, so we’re sitting at this massive table. And the wives are separated from their husbands, which sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But they did. It’s always easier when they don’t do it, because you always have somebody to talk to, right? And I was sitting next to the president of Argentina — his wife — (Mauricio) Macri — nice woman, who speaks English. And the prime minister of Japan’s wife, Prime Minister Abe. Great relationships. So I’m sitting there. There was one interpreter for Japanese, ’cause otherwise it would have been even tougher. But I enjoyed the evening with her, and she’s really a lovely woman, and I enjoyed — the whole thing was good.

    And now Melania was sitting on the other side of the table, way down on the other end, very far away. She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, I don’t know. She was sitting next to Putin.

    HABERMAN: She had been the whole time?

    TRUMP: Yes. She was sitting next to Putin.

    BAKER: Does she speak Russian at all?

    TRUMP: No. She speaks other languages.

    TRUMP: She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.

    HABERMAN: You did?

    TRUMP: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don (Jr., Mr. Trump’s son) had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said (inaudible), “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——

    HABERMAN: The senators downstairs?

    TRUMP: A lot of them. They said, “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”

    BAKER: You asked them about it at lunch?

    TRUMP: Nah, a couple of them. They — now, that was before Russia was hot, don’t forget. You know, Russia wasn’t hot then. That was almost a year and a half ago. It wasn’t like it is, like it is radioactive, then. Russia was Russia.

    HABERMAN: Then can I ask you——

    BAKER: Sorry to interrupt. The email, though, said something I thought was really interesting, and I wonder what you thought of it. It said this “is part of Russia and its government’s support of Mr. Trump.” So whatever actually happened at the meeting——

    TRUMP: Well, I never saw the email. I never saw the email until, you know——

    BAKER: Right, but now you have. So, what do you interpret that to mean, now that you have seen it?

    * * *

    TRUMP: Well, Hillary did the reset. Somebody was saying today, and then I read, where Hillary Clinton was dying to get back with Russia. Her husband made a speech, got half a million bucks while she was secretary of state. She did the uranium deal, which is a horrible thing, while she was secretary of state, and got a lot of money.

    * * *

    TRUMP: She was opposing sanctions. She was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia.

    BAKER: When was that?

    HABERMAN: Do you remember when that was? I don’t remember that.

    * * *

    TRUMP: I just saw it. I just saw it. She was opposed to sanctions, strongly opposed to sanctions on Russia.

    HABERMAN: This is post-Crimea, I’m assuming? Is that what we would be talking about?

    TRUMP: I don’t really know. … But in that time. And don’t forget, Crimea was given away during Obama. Not during Trump. In fact, I was on one of the shows, I said they’re exactly right, they didn’t have it as it exactly. But he was — this — Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn’t do the shot. I did the shot. Had he done that shot, he wouldn’t have had — had he done something dramatic, because if you remember, they had a tremendous gas attack after he made that statement. Much bigger than the one they had with me.

    HABERMAN: It was sarin as well?

    TRUMP: Sarin. And, and tremendous numbers of people were killed, young people, children. And he didn’t do anything. That was a famous weekend where they were all asking him to do it, do it, do it. They thought they had it, and then he — not easy to do, I will say this, ’cause when I had to make that decision, I was with the president of China, and General Mattis (Defense Secretary Jim Mattis) said, “We’re locked and loaded, sir,” and I’m saying (mumbles), you know. (mumbles) Look, you’re killing people.

    HABERMAN: Yes.

    TRUMP: You hate it, it’s tough. Obama — you know, I can understand it in a way, but some things you have to do. But it’s, it’s a tough, it’s a tough decision to make.

    BAKER: I do want to come out, on the email, now that you have seen that email that said Russia’s government — I mean, how did you — did you interpret it that way?

    TRUMP: Well, I thought originally it might have had to do something with the payment by Russia of the D.N.C. Somewhere I heard that. Like, it was an illegal act done by the D.N.C., or the Democrats. That’s what I had heard. Now, I don’t know where I heard it, but I had heard that it had to do something with illegal acts with respect to the D.N.C. Now, you know, when you look at the kind of stuff that came out, that was, that was some pretty horrific things came out of that. But that’s what I had heard. But I don’t know what it means. All I know is this: When somebody calls up and they say, “We have infor—” Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phoney stuff.

    HABERMAN: Which, which one?

    SCHMIDT: The dossier.

    TRUMP: The dossier.

    HABERMAN: The dossier. Oh, yes.

    * * *

    TRUMP: Now, that was totally made-up stuff, and in fact, that guy’s being sued by somebody. … And he’s dying with the lawsuit. I know a lot about those guys, they’re phoney guys. They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing — plus, I have witnesses, because I went there with a group of people. You know, I went there with Phil Ruffin——

    HABERMAN: Oh, I didn’t know that.

    * * *

    TRUMP: I had a group of bodyguards, including Keith (Schiller) —

    HABERMAN: Keith was there, right?

    TRUMP: Keith was there. He said, “What kind of crap is this?” I went there for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful. It was so disgraceful.

    TRUMP: When he (James B. Comey) brought it (the dossier) to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phoney deal.

    HABERMAN: You said that to him?

    TRUMP: Yeah, don’t forget——

    * * *

    TRUMP: I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phoney stuff.

    SCHMIDT: Why do you think — why do you think he shared it?

    TRUMP: I think he shared it so that I would — because the other three people left, and he showed it to me.

    TRUMP: So anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.

    SCHMIDT: As leverage?

    TRUMP: Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, “You have every right to fire me,” blah blah blah. Right? He said, “You have every right to fire me.” I said, that’s a very strange — you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.

    (crosstalk)

    BAKER: Do you think in hindsight, because of what’s happened since then——

    TRUMP: Comey wrote a letter.

    HABERMAN: Which letter?

    SCHMIDT: To you? To the F.B.I. staff or to you?

    TRUMP: I thought it was to me, right?

    BAKER: I think he wrote it to the staff, saying——

    TRUMP: It might have been——

    BAKER: That “the president has every right to fire me.”

    TRUMP: It might have been. It was just a very strange letter to say that.

    BAKER: But do you think in hindsight, given that——

    TRUMP: What was the purpose in repeating that?

    BAKER: Do you think what’s given that——

    TRUMP: Do you understand what I mean? Why would somebody say, “He has every right to fire me,” bah bah bah. Why wouldn’t you just say, “Hey, I’ve retired …”

    (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: It was very — a lot of people have commented that.

    BAKER: Given what’s happened since then, though, was it a political mistake to have fired him, given what’s happened?

    TRUMP: I think I did a great thing for the American people.

    * * *

    SCHMIDT: But look at the headache it’s caused, you know?

    TRUMP: It’s OK. I have headaches, that’s what I have, I have headaches. … But you know what, I think I did a great thing for the American people.

    HABERMAN: Do you wish you had done it on Day 1? When you got in? Because I honestly had assumed that you, if you were going to do it, that’s when you would do it.

    TRUMP: Well, it could’ve been. It could’ve been. I feel like it was very dishonest when he wouldn’t say what he knew he said to the public. I thought that was very honest. And I thought that he did that for the reason I just said.

    * * *

    SCHMIDT: What do you understand to be the four corners of what Mueller (Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation) can look at, if he steps—— (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: I don’t know. Nobody has contacted me about anything.

    * * *

    TRUMP: Because I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.

    BAKER: Can we put that on the record?

    TRUMP: Because so far, the only — yeah, you can put it down.

    SCHMIDT: Was that (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions’s mistake or (Deputy Attorney General Rod J.) Rosenstein’s mistake?

    * * *

    TRUMP: Look, Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.

    BAKER: Was that a mistake?

    TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.

    HABERMAN: He gave you no heads up at all, in any sense?

    TRUMP: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.

    HABERMAN: Rosenstein.

    TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.

    * * *

    TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore. Now, he, we went through a lot of things. We were interviewing replacements at the F.B.I. Did you know Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed?

    HABERMAN: I did, actually.

    TRUMP: He was sitting in that chair. We had a wonderful meeting.

    HABERMAN: Day before, right?

    SCHMIDT: Did he want the job?

    TRUMP: The day before! Of course, he was up here, and he wanted the job.

    HABERMAN: And he made that clear to you? He would have——

    * * *

    TRUMP: So, now what happens is, he leaves the office. Rosenstein leaves the office. The next day, he is appointed special counsel. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point. So Jeff Sessions, Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers.

    HABERMAN: You mean at the hearing?

    TRUMP: Yeah, he gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t. He then becomes attorney general, and he then announces he’s going to recuse himself. Why wouldn’t he have told me that before?

    HABERMAN: Why do you think it was? What do you think it was?

    TRUMP: I don’t know.

    BAKER: What would cause you — what would be the line beyond which if Mueller went, you would say, “That’s too far, we would need to dismiss him”?

    TRUMP: Look, there are so many conflicts that everybody has. Then Rosenstein becomes extremely angry because of Comey’s Wednesday press conference, where he said that he would do the same thing he did a year ago with Hillary Clinton, and Rosenstein became extremely angry at that because, as a prosecutor, he knows that Comey did the wrong thing. Totally wrong thing. And he gives me a letter, OK, he gives me a letter about Comey. And by the way, that was a tough letter, OK Now, perhaps I would have fired Comey anyway, and it certainly didn’t hurt to have the letter, OK But he gives me a very strong letter, and now he’s involved in the case. Well, that’s a conflict of interest. Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are? But then, then Comey also says that he did something in order to get the special prose — special counsel. He leaked. The reason he leaked. So, he illegally leaked.

    * * *

    TRUMP: So think of this. Mike. He illegally leaks, and everyone thinks it is illegal, and by the way, it looks like it’s classified and all that stuff. So he got — not a smart guy — he got tricked into that, because they didn’t even ask him that question. They asked him another question, OK?

    * * *

    TRUMP: He said I said “hope” — “I hope you can treat Flynn good” or something like that. I didn’t say anything.

    But even if he did — like I said at the news conference on the, you know, Rose Garden — even if I did, that’s not — other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying — they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: “It’s ended. It’s over. Period.”

    * * *

    TRUMP: And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along (inaudible) was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.

    HABERMAN: Chris Wray.

    TRUMP: He’s highly thought of by everybody. I think I did the country a great service with respect to Comey.

    BAKER: Did you shoo other people out of the room when you talked to Comey?

    TRUMP: No, no.

    BAKER: That time (inaudible) (Michael T.) Flynn —

    TRUMP: No. That was the other thing. I told people to get out of the room. Why would I do that?

    SCHMIDT: Did you actually have a one-on-one with Comey then?

    TRUMP: Not much. Not even that I remember. He was sitting, and I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff. He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, OK? But people didn’t — we had a couple people that said — Hi baby, how are you?

    ARABELLA KUSHNER: (enters room) Hi, Grandpa.

    TRUMP: My granddaughter Arabella, who speaks — say hello to them in Chinese.

    KUSHNER: Ni hao.

    (laughter)

    TRUMP: This is Ivanka. You know Ivanka.

    IVANKA TRUMP: (from doorway) Hi, how are you? See you later, just wanted to come say hi.

    TRUMP: She’s great. She speaks fluent Chinese. She’s amazing.

    BAKER: That’s very impressive.

    TRUMP: She spoke with President Xi (Jinping of China). Honey? Can you say a few words in Chinese? Say, like, “I love you, Grandpa” —

    KUSHNER: Wo ai ni, Grandpa.

    BAKER: That’s great.

    TRUMP: She’s unbelievable, huh?

    (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: Good, smart genes.

    (laughter)

    TRUMP: So the bottom line is this. The country’s doing well. We are, we are moving forward with a lot of great things. The unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 16 years. The stock market is the highest it’s ever been. It’s up almost 20 per cent since I took office. And we’re working hard on health care. Um, the Russian investigation — it’s not an investigation, it’s not on me — you know, they’re looking at a lot of things.

    HABERMAN: It’s a broad —

    TRUMP: They’re looking at a big picture.

    BAKER: This is why I want to come back to that email, because, like — does it concern you? Let’s say that the election didn’t change because of anything Russia did, which has been your point, right? You point —

    TRUMP: By the way, it’s everybody.

    BAKER: Right, your point is that Democrats are trying to use this as an excuse, fine. But did that email concern you, that the Russian government was trying something to compromise——

    TRUMP: You know, Peter, I didn’t look into it very closely, to be honest with you.

    BAKER: OK.

    TRUMP: I just heard there was an email requesting a meeting or something — yeah, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton, and I said — I mean, this was standard political stuff.

    SCHMIDT: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?

    TRUMP: No, I didn’t know anything about the meeting.

    SCHMIDT: But you didn’t——

    TRUMP: It must have been a very important — must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it.

    HABERMAN: No one told you a word, nothing? I know we talked about this on the plane a little bit.

    TRUMP: No, nobody told me. I didn’t know noth—— It’s a very unimportant — sounded like a very unimportant meeting.

    BAKER: But on the date you clinched the nominations with New Jersey and California and the primaries, when you give the speech that night, saying you’re going to give a speech about Hillary Clinton’s corrupt dealings with Russia and other countries, and that comes just three hours after Don Jr. —

    TRUMP: Number one, remember, I made many of those speeches.

    BAKER: People wondered about the timing.

    TRUMP: Many of those speeches. I’d go after her all the time.

    BAKER: Yeah, I know, but——

    TRUMP: But there was something about the book, “Clinton Cash,” came out.

    BAKER: Yeah, a year earlier, though. But you were talking about——

    TRUMP: But we were developing a whole thing. There was something about “Clinton Cash.”

    * * *

    TRUMP: Peter, that’s all I did, was make those speeches about her. … I don’t think I added anything much different than I had been doing. … I’ve made some very strong speeches about the corrupt emails. The 33,000 emails being deleted and bleached, and all of the things she was doing. I would make those speeches routinely. … There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying.

    HABERMAN: (laughs) I’m sorry.

    TRUMP: I mean, I was talking about, she deleted and bleached, which nobody does because of the cost. How she got away with that one, I have no idea. 33,000 emails. I talked about the back of the plane, I talked about the uranium deal, I talked about the speech that Russia gave Clinton — $500,000 while she was secretary of state — the husband. I talked about the back of the plane — honestly, Peter, I mean, unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.

    HABERMAN: On Fifth Avenue——

    TRUMP: I mean, look at what we have now. We have a director of the F.B.I., acting, who received $700,000, whose wife received $700,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton. ’Cause it was through Terry. Which is Hillary Clinton.

    HABERMAN: This is (Andrew) McCabe’s wife, you mean?

    TRUMP: McCabe’s wife. She got $700,000, and he’s at the F.B.I. I mean, how do you think that? But when you say that — and think about this for a second. I don’t think — you could give me a whole string of new information. I don’t think I could really have — there’s only so much. You know, you can only say many things. After that it gets boring, OK? How can it be better than deleting emails after you get a subpoena from the United States Congress? Guys go to jail for that, when they delete an email from a civil case. Here, she gets an email from the United States Congress —

    * * *

    BAKER: Should she be prosecuted now?

    TRUMP: What?

    BAKER: Should she be prosecuted now? Why, then, should she not be prosecuted now——

    TRUMP: I don’t want to say that. I mean, I don’t want to say.

    SCHMIDT: Last thing.

    TRUMP: You understand what I mean, Peter.

    BAKER: I know.

    TRUMP: I mean, supposing they were able to give me additional — it wouldn’t have helped me. I had so much stuff——

    SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller——

    TRUMP: And I couldn’t have been better than the stuff I had. Obviously, because I won.

    SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

    HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

    TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years (crosstalk).

    SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?

    (crosstalk)

    HABERMAN: Would you consider——

    TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. OK? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention centre where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.

    HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? (crosstalk)

    SCHMIDT: What would you do?

    (crosstalk)

    TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.


    0 0


    The national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls has postponed its first family fall hearing in Thunder Bay and has moved the hearing dates in Saskatoon and Rankin Inlet.

    The problem-plagued inquiry was supposed to begin family public hearings in the northern Ontario city on Sept. 10 but that date has been moved to Dec. 4, according to the inquiry’s website.

    “At the request of families, organizations and communities, the national inquiry is rescheduling both community visits and community hearings for three locations,” said a statement by the inquiry posted Thursday. “This decision is based on advice we received from these communities.”

    The Thunder Bay community family hearing will take place the week of Dec. 4 and the regional, fact finding and preparatory visit would be held on Sept. 11.

    The Saskatoon family hearings will now take place during the week of Nov. 20. And community hearings will now take place in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut the week of Dec. 11.

    The inquiry has been criticized by Indigenous leaders and family advocates who say the probe has poor communication skills, is disorganized and has failed to reach out to all families and survivors. Advocates have also argued that justice issues such as policing should be prominent in the terms of reference for the inquiry. At the moment, policing is not a focus.

    Read more:

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    Thunder Bay is the only scheduled stop for the inquiry in Ontario so far.

    A new schedule indicates the inquiry will resume family hearings the week of Sept. 25 in Smithers, B.C.

    Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario are the sites of many unsolved murders, deaths and disappearances, including that of Sandra Johnson in 1982 and Rena Fox who was found outside of Thunder Bay in 2003. Recently, the city has been rocked by the death of Barbara Kentner, the mother who was hit by a trailer hitch in January and died on July 4. Kentner’s family and Indigenous leaders are calling for the incident to be considered a hate crime and that the assault charges brought against Brayden Bushby, 18, be upgraded. Thunder Bay Police Services say they are waiting for post mortem results and direction from the chief coroner on this.

    “We are waiting for the chief coroner to complete his review of her death to determine next steps with the crown regarding the charge against the accused,” said Chris Adams, director of communications for the Thunder Bay Police Services.

    Sources say the current climate of racial tension and the deaths of seven Indigenous youth in the Thunder Bay rivers are factors in the postponement of the hearing.


    0 0


    Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is examining the death of an Indigenous man who died in Thunder Bay police custody Wednesday evening.

    James Cutfeet, chief of Big Trout Lake First Nation, confirmed that Roland McKay, 50, was found dead in his cell shortly after midnight.

    “Yes, we had a member pass away from our community while in police custody,” he said.

    Police responded to an incident in the city around 7:45 p.m. that involved McKay, and medical personnel were present, according to an SIU press release. He was subsequently “medically cleared.”

    He was transported to a hospital after he was found not breathing in his cell, the release said.

    Six investigators are currently working on the case. The SIU is a police watchdog unit tasked with investigating police officers in circumstances involving serious injury, sexual assault allegations and death.

    McKay’s sister, Chief Celia Echum of Ginoogaming First Nation, said details surrounding the case are scant, which has left her puzzled.

    “The (coroner) couldn’t tell me anything about what happened to Roland,” she said on the phone from Thunder Bay.


    0 0


    LEONARDTOWN, MD.—In one of those terrible twists of fate where a second here or there would make a difference, two women — one a decorated Canadian astronaut with the world by the tail, the other a troubled addict just turning her life around — crossed paths on a busy stretch of road just before sundown.

    The impact from the SUV Julie Payette was driving in the summer of 2011 hurled Theresa “Terry” Potts forward into an intersection, southbound on Point Lookout Rd. in July 2011. The water bottle Potts, 55, was carrying skittered along the road; her watch was ripped loose by the impact, and clumps of her hair were stuck to the crumpled windshield. She died in hospital later that Sunday night. Maryland State Police chopper made an emergency run to get her there.

    St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s detectives investigated for eight months, according to an extensive police report that detailed accident reconstruction and also a subpoena for Payette’s cellphone records. They closed the case in 2012 after concluding that Potts, who had various medical issues and poor eyesight, stepped off the curb to cross the road when she should not have. Payette’s Volkswagen Touareg had the green light, and one witness said they saw Payette’s vehicle swerve in a last-minute attempt to avoid the collision.

    Read more: Reports of dismissed assault charge prompt questions about vetting of Julie Payette for governor general role

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    Payette, then part of the astronaut program, was returning to her seaside home in Maryland after a trip to Orlando, Fla. At the time she was married to Billie Flynn, a test pilot. It was Flynn she called immediately after the accident. Police determined Payette was not on the phone when the crash happened.

    The significance of the timing of all of this is not lost on JoAnn Potts, Theresa’s sister. As police investigated, she learned a bit about the driver, how she was a well known astronaut, but also that she was under a great deal of stress due to the accident and the investigation. At one point, Payette sent the Potts family a card.

    “She wrote in it how she deeply regretted what had happened and how she would live with it for the rest of her life,” JoAnn Potts recalled. And Potts came to learn that five months after the crash and while that investigation was underway, Payette was charged for “an altercation of some sort.” Potts was told by police that Payette was going through a difficult time and “she’s leaving the area.”

    Payette and Flynn began divorce proceedings not long after that. Those records should be public but the bulky files were “in a judge’s chambers” Wednesday, a clerk said. A motion is before the court to seal the records.

    Earlier this week, iPolitics published a story revealing that in December 2012 Payette was charged with assault, but those charges were quickly withdrawn and the entire case record has been “expunged” — meaning there is no record in the St. Mary’s court system. Even transcripts of a criminal court hearing, if there even was one, have been destroyed.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau twice said Wednesday he had no comment when asked about the deleted charge against Payette.

    He said that before any appointment to such a high-profile post, the government conducts a thorough background search on the candidate’s past. Trudeau wouldn’t say if he had been made aware of the incident prior to her appointment.

    “I know that Mme. Payette is going to make an extraordinary governor general. She represents the very best of Canadian values, openness to the world, curiosity, intellectual rigour and inspiration,” he said at an event in Quebec City.

    Potts believes that whatever happened in this December 2011 altercation Payette stemmed from the tragic accident months before involving her sister. Stress, Potts figures, may have played a factor. Potts did not initially feel charitable toward Payette, Canada’s future Governor General. She was angry and suspicious that powerful friends were pulling strings to cool the investigation of her sister’s death.

    When almost immediately after the July 2011 accident, Payette’s insurance company called and offered to pay for the funeral she grew more suspicious, according to the investigating detective’s notes. Potts said she eventually learned that this was a policy of that particular company.

    “At first I thought, oh, (Payette) is an important person and my sister is a ne’er-do-well.”

    Over time, she came to realize that her sister, perhaps because of her poor eyesight, and setting sun, misjudged her timing and stepped into the rushing car, which was travelling at about 65 km/h, within the speed limit on that stretch of road.

    “I feel sorry for (Payette) now. For my sister, for Terry, I’d like to think she has some peace.”

    The night she died, Theresa Potts was on her way to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She had decided to walk, because, being overweight, she had been told to get in better shape for health reasons. Court records show that she had a long list of charges in her past, multiple speeding violations, failing to submit to drug or alcohol tests when believed to be driving under the influence, and in the months before her death, some drug charges (marijuana) that earned her a short stint in jail. After that, she had completed — with flying colours according to court records — another rehabilitation program.

    “The thing is, Terry had just started going down a better path,” her sister recalled. Potts had a heart of gold, and a “wonderful personality.” She lived most of her life not too far from where she died; went to a local high school, graduated with a bachelor of science degree in social sciences from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She went on to work in programs for disadvantaged youths as a counsellor, before succumbing to some of her own addiction demons. For many years she worked for the Charles County Mental Health Department.

    According to her obituary, she loved reading, nature, wildlife and above all things, Christmas. “She never failed to watch It’s A Wonderful Life a multitude of times during the season and probably would have all year long if we let her,” her family wrote in the obituary. “She was always willing to help and was a friend to all in need.”

    The Star was unable to reach Payette with questions about this story.

    Kdonovan@thestar.ca and 416-312-3503


    0 0


    A fare collector who took home $40,000 in TTC funds and then lost it in a drug raid has been awarded compensation from the transit agency after he challenged his suspension from the job.

    The case is a bizarre three-year saga involving marijuana, police, and TTC tokens. During that time, transit employee Tyson Hu was arrested, suspended without pay for more than a year, reinstated and finally awarded months of back pay for some of the time he was wasn’t allowed to work.

    In March, an arbitrator ruled on the grievance the TTC workers’ union filed on Hu’s behalf. The details of this story are taken from that ruling, which was based on a statement of facts filed by the TTC and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. Through the union, Hu declined to comment on the case.

    The trouble began just after 2 p.m. on July 28, 2014, when Hu, a Scarborough resident who had worked as a fare collector since 2011, finished his shift at Lawrence station.

    According to agency policy, fare collectors are supposed to lock all money and fare media they have in their possession — which is known as a fund — in a secure place on TTC property at the end of every shift.

    Instead, Hu took the $5,060.20 in cash and $34,407.70 in tokens, tickets, and passes in his fund home with him.

    In what appears to have been a coincidence, early the next morning the Durham Regional Police executed a search warrant at Hu’s home as part of a major drug bust launched with the Toronto police dubbed Project Bermuda. The police seized various items in the raid, including hashish, marijuana and the TTC fund.

    Hu was held in custody for several hours, and released the same day. He was charged with “various offences,” according to the arbitration ruling.

    According to TTC spokesperson Brad Ross, taking thousands of dollars worth of cash and fare media home “can be a fireable offence, but usually only when it’s connected to theft.”

    “When the money is taken home and returned without consequence, we still take action, but it is considered a procedural violation and provided none of our money is lost, we use progressive discipline,” he said.

    In Hu’s case, he couldn’t return the fund because it had been confiscated by the police. When he came back to work a few days after his arrest, a TTC supervisor asked him to produce the fund for an audit. When he was unable to do so, the TTC suspended him without pay.

    The police held on to the fund as Hu’s criminal case proceeded. It wasn’t until June 2015, almost one year after the raid, that the Crown attorney alerted the TTC it was ready to be returned. Even then, the TTC had to file a court application to get it back.

    In his decision, arbitrator Owen Shime wrote that he was baffled by the delay.

    “It is difficult to understand why some sensible arrangement between the Crown or the police could not have been made for the return of the fare media at least . . . which were clearly the property of the TTC,” he wrote.

    Neither the Durham police nor the Public Prosecution Service of Canada could immediately say Wednesday why it took so long to return the fund.

    The TTC finally got its property back in September 2015, and reinstated Hu that month in a position that didn’t involve handling fares. In October of that year, Hu plead guilty to simple drug possession and was given an absolute discharge.

    As a result of the discharge, “we were unable to take any further disciplinary action against him,” said Ross.

    In the arbitration, Local 113 argued that TTC should have allowed Hu to back to work sooner because the agency was aware that the fund was in police custody. The union also said he should be “fully compensated” for the loss of pay and benefits during the time when he should have been allowed to work.

    The TTC countered that it had offered to reinstate Hu if he agreed to certain conditions, but he refused and therefore wasn’t entitled to compensation.

    The offer of reinstatement came in November 2014, more than three months after Hu was suspended. The TTC said he could come back to work if he agreed to certain terms, including taking a drug test before restarting the job, and submitting to unannounced tests thereafter.

    In his decision, Shime wrote that Hu had committed “a significant breach of his duties and responsibilities as a collector” and should be subject to “significant discipline.”

    “Individual collectors cannot go off on a frolic of their own . . . with the trust funds that they have in their care,” he wrote.

    But Shime agreed with the union that the conditions the TTC tried to place on Hu’s reinstatement in 2014 were unreasonable.

    He noted that Hu wasn’t terminated for the off-duty conduct that led to his arrest, or for using drugs while at work. The drug test provision “was not only unrelated to the reasons for his discharge but was an affront to both his dignity and privacy,” he wrote.

    Because the TTC’s conditions were unreasonable, Hu was not obligated to accept the offer of temporary reinstatement, Shime determined. He ruled Hu was entitled to compensation for the nine-month period between the conditional offer and his reinstatement in September 2015, during which time the TTC didn’t allow him to work.

    The two parties reached a settlement on July 12, the terms of which are confidential. Hu remains employed in the TTC’s collectors division but isn’t allowed to handle money or fare media, according to the agency.

    Kevin Morton, secretary-treasurer of Local 113, said it’s “absolutely” appropriate that Hu is back on the job. He noted that Hu paid a penalty by being suspended without pay for four months after he lost the fund, and that the TTC didn’t lose any revenue because it was eventually returned in its entirety.

    Morton said what complicated the situation was the police investigation, which he asserted was “outside of” Hu’s breach of policy. “He was caught up in it. The TTC tried to combine them,” Morton said.

    He added that collectors taking their funds off TTC property is “not a common practice.”

    Ross, the TTC spokesperson, said incidents like this are “incredibly rare,” and “will be eliminated” once the agency replaces its older media with the Presto electronic fare card.

    “We don’t want our employees moving cash and fare . . . for their own safety, as well as for the security of TTC revenue,” he said.


    0 0


    A Superior Court judge has overturned a controversial decision convicting York University student Mustafa Ururyar of sexually assaulting fellow student Mandi Gray and ordered a new trial.

    Ururyar had appealed his July 2016 conviction, alleging now-retired Ontario Court Justice Marvin Zuker, who oversaw his trial, was biased against him and gave an “illogical” analysis of the evidence in a 179-page decision that quoted extensively from academic studies and literature including Maya Angelou’s Why the Caged Bird Sings.

    In his appeal decision, Justice Michael Dambrot criticized Zuker’s judgment and reasoning as “incomprehensible,” and said he failed to provide an explanation for why he rejected Ururyar’s evidence as feeble, unbelievable, incomprehensible and false.

    “This was a simple trial,” Dambrot wrote. “In order for the trial judge’s reasons to survive judicial scrutiny, they had only to explain to the appellant why he was convicted . . . . Unfortunately, despite the length of the judgment, it fails this test.”

    Dambrot also criticized the trial judge for appearing to rely on stereotypes about how rapists behave.

    “We must be vigilant to reject pernicious stereotyical thinking about the behaviour of women. At the same time, we must not adopt pernicious assumptions about men and their tendency to rape,” he said.

    Dambrot found the decision contained a “virtually incomprehensible mixture” of references to literature about rape and the trial judge’s own opinions.

    “All witnesses, and not just rape complainants, are entitled to have their credibility assessed on the basis of the evidence in the case, rather than on assumptions about human behaviour derived from a trial judge’s personal reading of social science literature,” Dambrot wrote.

    “In a case such as this, a trier of fact cannot reason backwards from literature about rape and how rapists behave to the identification of the accused as a rapist.

    “But that appears to be what the trial judge did.”

    Dambrot said that most of what the trial judge took from the literature supports principles in case law, but he was troubled by how those principles were used by the judge. He did not make a finding about whether Zuker showed a reasonable apprehension of bias in favour of Gray.

    In an unexpected postscript to the appeal decision, Dambrot said Zuker failed to attribute some passages of his judgment to their sources. In particular, he points out three paragraphs from Zuker’s decision commenting on Gray’s memory of the alleged sexual assault that contain language strikingly similar to the courtroom statement of the victim in a high-profile Stanford rape case.

    In that statement, the victim said: “The only symbol that proved that it hadn’t just been a bad dream, was the sweatshirt from the hospital in my drawer”

    In Zuker’s decision he wrote, with no attribution: “This was not a bad dream. And, on top of that Mandi is blamed, blamed because there were no symbols that it had not just been a bad dream unless there was a reminder from the hospital in her drawer.”

    In an email, Zuker declined to comment on the decision and the postscript.

    “It would not be appropriate for me to comment on Justice’s Dambrot decision since the case is still before the Courts, either by means of a new trial or a further appeal,” he said.

    A court date has been set for Aug. 4, when the Crown may say whether there will be a new trial.

    Outside the court, Ururyar declined to comment. His lawyer Mark Halfyard said his client is happy with the result of the appeal.

    “This has been a trying experience for him, both emotionally and financially, and he looks forward to continuing to protest his innocence at the retrial,” he said.

    Gray has said many times that she does not want to testify at a second trial. But, she said Thursday, the decision to proceed with a new trial lies with the Crown and she could be subpoenaed to testify whether she wants to or not.

    “It doesn’t really matter what I want,” she said.

    The message sent to people who have been sexually assaulted after the two-and-a-half year saga is “don’t bother reporting,” she said. “You are going to spend the next two, three years of your life being wrapped up in a system that really doesn’t care about you.”

    To applause from her supporters Gray said that she “never needed any man to tell her whether I’ve been raped or not . . . . I still know what happened to me, and it doesn’t matter what the legal system thinks.”

    She said that a conviction cannot undo a rape.

    “I’m horrified by this entire system, not just by Zuker’s inadequate analysis of case law. The whole system is horrifying and people should be horrified.”

    The appeal hearing also delved into Zuker’s unprecedented order for Ururyar to pay $8,000 of Gray’s legal fees as restitution.

    As the conviction was overturned, the order is no longer effective. For that reason, and because his decision on the matter could not be appealed in the circumstances, Justice Dambrot chose not to make a ruling on whether such an order is legal.

    Pam Hrick, counsel for the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, said that, as Dambrot did not deal with the issue, Zuker’s concept of having a convicted rapist pay for the legal fees of the victim still stands and could be raised in future cases.

    She stressed the importance of complainants being able to obtain independent legal advice, and the need for the federal and provincial government to fund it.

    “Not all survivors have the ability to hire lawyers in the first place, and then hope, at the end of the case they get a conviction and they can recoup the costs they have incurred,” she said.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    0 0


    Eric Strickland wanted “balloons and banners” to celebrate his son’s retrieval of his lost car Thursday evening in Toronto.

    Impark is doing one better.

    The company has a gift for Gavin Strickland — a Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker — to help make sure he never loses his car again.

    Gavin drove up from his hometown of Syracuse this past weekend for a Metallica concert Sunday. He parked his blue-green Nissan Versa sedan somewhere on the first floor of an indoor parking garage that was within an $8-cab-ride to the Rogers Centre.

    By the time the concert was over, the 19-year-old had no idea where he’d parked the car.

    His father posted an ad on Craigslist asking for the city’s help to find the lost car for his “doofy son” and offering a $100 rerward. It was the second time Gavin had lost his car after a concert, and he spent hours wandering around different parking garages looking for it before going back home on a bus.

    Turns out, it was tucked below the TD Bank Tower on Wellington St. W.

    Alongside the Tile Mate, which will allow Gavin to find his car’s last known location through a cellphone app, Impark is only charging him for the parking fees he would have incurred Sunday, said Michael Giles, the company’s director of account management.

    “He honestly made a mistake and we’re not scrooges when it comes to that stuff all the time.”

    “As you can appreciate, four and a half days of downtown financial sector parking would have been a lot more,” he said, adding one of Impark’s site managers had helped Gavin search for about an hour earlier in the week.

    This type of thing happens once in awhile, Giles said, but usually people find their way back or someone one helps them.

    “Some of the facilities, even TD, we actually have cards by the doors, ‘remember where you parked’ with the address and a little map on it, so I guess he overlooked those as well when he left the facility.”

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    It was Madison Riddolls, 26, who eventually found the car in the early hours of Thursday morning after she and her boyfriend, Liam Imlack Walker, decided to play detective.

    Riddolls and her boyfriend were debating an early night when they saw the family’s Craigslist ad asking for the city’s help to find the lost car.

    “We were really confident in ourselves,” Riddolls said.

    The pair started trying to identify the “spiral statue” Gavin remembered seeing near the parking garage.

    They sent a few photos to the family — but they weren’t on the right track yet.

    So they switched tracks, trying to figure which Starbucks was potentially nearby and the radius of an $8 cab ride from Rogers Centre.

    “I think we watch too much Criminal Minds.”

    Their search started in the Distillery District and took them eventually to the financial district – running in, around, and out of numerous parking garages.

    “The security footage is probably crazy,” Riddolls said.

    Finally at midnight, the couple was getting weary — they decided to try one more garage.

    Riddolls took a jog through the TD Bank Tower parking garage.

    With his girlfriend wandering around alone in the garage past midnight, Imlack Walker was getting nervous.

    But then Riddolls saw “green.”

    “I literally just started running to it,” she said.

    The car had the Florida plates, the Canada flag sticker, and the Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. They’d found it.

    Early Thursday morning, Gavin — now safely back in Syracuse— tweeted that the search had been successful and the car had been found.

    “I’ve become famous over a lost car,” he said.

    “Actually,” replied another Twitter user @edmcanuck, “you’ve become famous for a poor memory.”

    Gavin said the attention he’s gotten since the Craigslist ad has been “pretty crazy.”

    With messages and phone calls pouring in, “it’s like I’m an actor or something,” he said.

    On a bus back to Toronto to pick up the car Thursday morning Gavin said he’s so happy everything worked out.

    “I was really stressed out. I wasn’t sure whether it got stolen, or if it was misplaced,” he said.

    “I was just so happy, the fact that everything worked out and there was no damage to my car and how nice everyone’s been.”

    For his part, Eric is relieved to know the car is coming home.

    “I paid for the thing, spent $10,000 on it about a year and a half ago so I’m glad I found it, yeah,” he said.

    The car was parked in an electric charging station so Riddolls wrote a note explaining the situation and spoke to the parking attendant.

    The parking attendant has also spoken with Eric and said Gavin will only have to pay for one day of parking.

    Riddolls will be receiving a $100 reward and Eric has also said he’ll donate to a charity of her choice. She’s chosen either Sick Kids or the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

    Riddolls has also offered to meet Gavin this evening when he arrives to pick up his car — the parking garage is fairly confusing, she said.

    With files from Alexandra Jones


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    WASHINGTON—Canada needs to allow U.S. President Donald Trump to “declare victory” on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton said Thursday.

    MacNaughton, taking questions alongside his Mexican counterpart at an event in Washington, said Canada is optimistic that the revised deal can be, as Vice-President Mike Pence said last week, a “win-win-win” for all three countries.

    But asked if Canada can allow Trump to sell the revised deal to his base, MacNaughton said Canada must let the president tout the outcome as his own triumph.

    “This was such a big part of the president’s campaign last year, and I think for any of us to think that we can sort of just ignore that would be crazy. We have to find ways where he can declare victory without it being seen in either Mexico or Canada as being a loss,” MacNaughton said.

    Read more:Revised NAFTA might make U.S. items cheaper for Canadian online shoppers

    MacNaughton suggested that Trump’s bellicose public words obscure a collaborative behind-the-scenes relationship between his White House and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    “I know that people seize on some of the words the president uses every once in a while, everybody focuses in on that. But the reality is, in terms of our discussions with the administration — with the White House as recently as Friday — that’s what the United States is focused in on too: how do we make this a win-win-win,” he said.

    He wryly tipped his cap to the president for furnishing the “creative tension” needed to make progress.

    The first round of NAFTA talks will begin on Aug. 16 in Washington. The Trump administration issued a vague but lengthy list of desired changes on Monday, which included such proposals as better access to Canadian markets for various U.S. industries, cheaper cross-border shopping for Canadian consumers and the elimination of the agreement’s contentious dispute-resolution system.

    The three countries agree that the new deal would ideally be struck by the beginning of 2018, since negotiations will get more complicated the closer they get to the Mexican elections in June. But the list of U.S. demands will make it “challenging” to finish in a mere few months, MacNaughton said, even if there isn’t any real controversy.

    Also on Thursday morning, Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Canada, Kentucky Republican fundraiser Kelly Knight Craft, had a low-key confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Craft’s approval by the full Senate appears assured.

    Craft, who owns a consulting firm and whose husband is a coal billionaire, said she will work to improve the bilateral economic and energy relationship. She said she will also work “to advance our shared environmental goals.”

    “The United States is fortunate to have a neighbour that shares our strong commitment to democratic values and works tirelessly to promote peace, prosperity, and human rights around the world,” she said.

    Among the Craft supporters in the room was John Calipari, the coach of the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team. Craft is a member of the university’s board of trustees.

    “She is a kind-hearted person who cares about people. Very conscientious, very people-oriented. I think the people of Canada are going to say, ‘Wow, we’ve got someone that’s really engaged; this is not for funsies,’” Calipari told the Star. “She’s engaged. And she’s got the ear of the administration.”


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    LOVELOCK, NEV.—O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel heist, successfully making his case in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America’s enduring fascination with the former football star.

    Simpson, 70, could be a free man as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year armed-robbery sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia and other mementos he claimed had been stolen from him.

    All four parole commissioners who conducted the hearing voted for his release after about a half-hour of deliberations. They cited his lack of a prior conviction, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans, which include moving to Florida.

    “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Simpson said quietly as he buried his head on his chest with relief. As he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell, he exhaled deeply.

    Then, as he was led down a hall, the former athlete raised his hands over his head in a victory gesture and said, “Oh, God, oh!”

    Simpson’s sister, Shirley Baker, wept and hugged Simpson’s 48-year-old daughter Arnelle, who held a hand over her mouth.

    During the more than hour-long hearing, Simpson forcefully insisted — as he has all along — that he was only trying to retrieve items that belonged to him and never meant to hurt anyone. He said he never pointed a gun at anyone nor made any threats during the crime.

    “I’m sorry it happened, I’m sorry, Nevada,” he told the board. “I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it, and I’m sorry.”

    Inmate No. 1027820 made his plea for freedom in a stark hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada as the four parole commissioners in Carson City, a two-hour drive away, questioned him via video.

    Grey-haired but looking trimmer than he has in recent years, Simpson walked briskly into the hearing room in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He chuckled at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.

    The Hall of Fame athlete’s chances of winning release were considered good, given similar cases and Simpson’s model behaviour behind bars. His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of during his 1995 “Trial of the Century” in Los Angeles, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

    Before the hearing concluded, one of the two memorabilia dealers Simpson robbed, Bruce Fromong, said the former football great never pointed a gun at him during the confrontation, adding that it was one of Simpson’s accomplices. Fromong said Simpson deserved to be released so he can be with his children.

    “He is a good man. He made a mistake,” Fromong said, adding the two remain friends.

    Arnelle Simpson, the eldest of Simpson’s children, also testified on his behalf, saying her father is not perfect but realizes what a mistake he made and has spent years paying for it.

    “We just want him to come home, we really do,” she said.

    Simpson said that he has spent his time in prison mentoring fellow inmates, often keeping others out of trouble, and believes he has become a better person during those years.

    “I’ve done my time. I’ve done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can,” he told the board.

    Asked if he was confident he could stay out of trouble if released, Simpson replied that he learned a lot from an alternative-to-violence course he took in prison and that in any case he has always gotten along well with people.

    “I had basically spent a conflict-free life,” he said — a remark that lit up social media with sarcastic comments given the murder case and a raft of allegations he abused his wife.

    Several major TV networks and cable channels — including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN — carried the proceedings live, just as some of them did two decades ago during the Ford Bronco chase that ended in Simpson’s arrest, and again when the jury in the murder case came back with its verdict.

    Simpson said if released he plans to return to Florida, where he was living before his incarceration.

    “I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don’t think you guys want me here,” he joked at one point.

    “No comment, sir,” one of the parole board members said.

    An electrifying running back dubbed “The Juice,” Simpson won the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s best college football player in 1968 and went on to become one of the NFL’s all-time greats.

    The handsome and charismatic athlete was also a “Monday Night Football” commentator, sprinted through airports in Hertz rental-car commercials and built a Hollywood career with roles in the “Naked Gun” comedies and other movies.

    All of that came crashing down with his arrest in the 1994 slayings and his trial, a gavel-to-gavel live-TV sensation that transfixed viewers with its testimony about the bloody glove that didn’t fit and stirred furious debate over racist police, celebrity justice and cameras in the courtroom.

    Last year, the case proved to be compelling TV all over again with the ESPN documentary O.J.: Made in America and the award-winning FX miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

    In 1997, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the two killings and ordered to pay $42 million to survivors, including his children and the Goldman family.

    Then a decade later, he and five accomplices — two with guns — stormed a hotel room and seized photos, plaques and signed balls, some of which never belonged to Simpson, from two sports memorabilia dealers.

    Simpson was convicted in 2008, and the long prison sentence brought a measure of satisfaction to some of those who thought he got away with murder.


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    The totals in this story have been updated to reflect Trump’s Wednesday interview with the New York Times.

    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump had just finished making another false statement, ho hum, when he said something especially suspect.

    He wasn’t exactly sure, he conceded, if this particular inaccurate boast was accurate. And he was worried, he claimed, that a fact-checker was going to give him “a Pinocchio.”

    “I don’t like those,” he said on Monday. “I don’t like Pinocchios.”

    Fact check: he really doesn’t care about Pinocchios.

    Thursday is six-month anniversary of Trump’s inauguration. Over those 180 days, by our count, he has uttered a total of 413 lies and otherwise false claims— a staggering 2.3 per day.

    RELATED:

    Six months of spelling mistakes from the Trump White House: Analysis

    The Star has tracked every single word Trump has said, tweeted or issued in his name since he took the oath on Jan. 20. Other than the sheer quantity of lies, what’s most striking is their outlandish obviousness.

    With some exceptions, this is not sophisticated deceit. Trump is the toddler with purple icing on his face declaring that a fairy must have eaten the last piece of cake.

    Dartmouth College government professor Brendan Nyhan co-authored a book about the deceptions of George W. Bush. He says Trump’s dishonesty is “much worse” — in its frequency, severity and brazenness.

    From the Bush administration, Nyhan said, dishonesty tended to be “carefully constructed half-truths that contained a misleading suggestion that couldn’t be backed up by evidence; it was quite rare to see wholesale falsehoods that could be definitively debunked at the time.” Trump’s lies are transparent.

    Trump’s most frequent lie as president, repeated 19 times, is “Obamacare is dead.” He keeps saying this as millions of people pay for their visits to the doctor using Obamacare insurance plans.

    Trump has simply decided that the benefits of dishonesty outweigh the costs. Few media outlets regularly and forcefully call out president’s lies. Trump knows that even the most ridiculous of claims will be covered uncritically by Fox News — and even, often, by traditional outlets.

    “We’ve been victimized,” Nyhan said, “by a media ecosystem that amplifies statements regardless of whether they’re true, immediately.”

    Trump opponents worry about a world in which political lying has no consequences. Trump, after all, won the presidency lying all the time, and he has maintained his support base lying some more. When we asked Trump voters in Ohio about Trump’s lies, several of them said they like dishonesty that gets elites all agitated.

    So the concern is understandable. But the hand-wringing sometimes ignores the dreadfulness of Trump’s approval rating, now below 40 per cent. A mere third of the public now thinks he is honest. The exposure of his dishonest claims, especially his dishonest policy pledges, may well be reflected in his historically horrible overall standing.

    But he shows no sign of slowing down. He made 34 false claims in the week in which he professed concern about Pinocchios.

    Trump’s persistence has spawned a variety of complex theories about what he is trying to do. Some veteran observers of authoritarian leaders have suggested that he is strategically attempting to obliterate the very idea of an objective reality that differs from what he says it is.

    A simpler theory seems more plausible to us.

    There is no grand plan. Lying is simply what Donald Trump has always done. It’s how his brain works.

    “He views deception as a more efficient solution than truth-telling. I think throughout much of his life he’s been rewarded for defaulting to the lie instead of the truth as most people do,” said Steve McCornack, a University of Alabama at Birmingham professor who studies deception. “I really think, cognitively, his default discourse-production setting is just to go to the lie.”

    He lies to make himself look better than he is. (“The Electoral College is almost impossible for a Republican to win.”) He lies to make his predecessor look worse than he is. (“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones.”) He lies to make his policy proposals seem more necessary than they are. (“We have an $800 billion trade deficit.”) He lies to try to embarrass his enemies. (“Watched low rated Morning Joe…”).

    And he lies even when he is embarrassing himself. In May, he told Time magazine that he doesn’t watch CNN. Then he offered a detailed critique of three separate CNN shows.

    Here’s the full list:


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    Hydro One’s $6.7 billion acquisition of an American utility could end up zapping Ontario ratepayers, predicts Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

    “The purchase of Avista by Hydro One is the direct result of (Premier) Kathleen Wynne’s fire sale,” Brown said Thursday.

    “Hydro One is gouging ratepayers while using our money to buy up foreign companies. In the end, Ontario families will be left paying even more for hydro,” the Tory leader said.

    Brown noted Hydro One is applying to the independent Ontario Energy Board to increase electricity rates by about $141 per household annually.

    “Why should Ontario families be left with even higher bills when Hydro One has almost $7 billion to throw at foreign companies? This is not fair to Ontario ratepayers. Hydro One’s application for a massive, unaffordable rate increase should be immediately rejected.”

    His comments came the morning after Hydro One announced the purchase of Spokane, Washington-based Avista, which operates in Washington state, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska.

    NDP MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto Danforth) said the deal “should raise red flags for every Ontarian who is struggling to pay their unaffordable hydro bills.”

    “This move to create a huge multi-national utility means less control over our province’s electricity system and more financial risk for Ontarians,” said Tabuns.

    “It also raises real concerns about job security for Ontarians. It’s clear that the new Hydro One’s first responsibility is to its international shareholders, not to the people of Ontario,” he said.

    “By ignoring the wishes of Ontarians and selling off Hydro One, Kathleen Wynne put the interests of investors around the globe ahead of the interests of our province and all of us who live here and pay a hydro bill.”

    Both the New Democrats and the Conservatives opposed the Liberals’ sell-off of a majority stake in the provincial transmitter.

    Wynne is using the $9 billion in proceeds from the 51 per cent that has been sold to fund transportation infrastructure and pay off Hydro One’s debt.

    Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the Avista purchase would have no effect on consumers, who are already seeing a 25 per cent rate reduction this summer after years of skyrocketing hydro prices.

    “We welcome the fact that this proposed acquisition will not impact the rates that Ontario customers pay. Neither will it have any impact on local jobs,” said Thibeault.

    “As the single largest shareholder in Hydro One, the Ontario government would benefit from the company’s receipt of additional regulated returns expected to begin in 2019,” he noted.

    DBRS, a credit-rating agency, praised the agreement.

    “The acquisition provides HOL (Hydro One Limited) with both diversification and scale while expanding its regulated utility rate base to cover electricity transmission and distribution as well as natural gas local-distribution businesses,” the firm said in a statement.


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    WASHINGTON—The Trump administration will ban American citizens from travelling to North Korea, U.S. officials said Friday, following the death of university student Otto Warmbier who died in June after falling into a coma in a North Korean prison.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to impose “geographic travel restriction” for North Korea, the officials said, which would make it illegal to use U.S. passports to enter the country. They said the restriction would go into effect 30 days after a notice is published in the Federal Register, but it was not immediately clear when that would be. There was no announcement in Friday’s editions of the government publication.

    The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the decision before it is announced and spoke on condition of anonymity. Two tour operators that organize group trips to North Korea said they had already been informed of the decision.

    Read more:

    Community rallies for release of GTA pastor jailed in North Korea

    After American student Otto Warmbier’s death, U.S. weighs travel ban on North Korea

    China needs to put ‘much greater pressure’ on North Korea: U.S. officials

    It wasn’t clear how many Americans the move will effect, as figures about how many Americans go to North Korea are difficult for even the U.S. government to obtain. The U.S. strongly warns Americans against travelling to North Korea, but has not until now prohibited it despite other sanctions targeting the country. Americans who venture there typically travel from China, where several tour groups market trips to adventure-seekers.

    Barring Americans from stepping foot in North Korea marks the latest U.S. step to isolate the furtive, nuclear-armed nation, and protect U.S. citizens who may be allured by the prospect of travelling there. Nearly all Americans who have gone to North Korea have left without incident. But some have been seized and given draconian sentences for seemingly minor offences.

    The travel ban comes as the Trump administration searches for more effective ways to ramp up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang’s recent successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile — the first by the North — has created even more urgency as the U.S. seeks to stop North Korea before it can master the complex process of putting a nuclear warhead atop a missile capable of hitting the United States.

    President Donald Trump has expressed frustration that his initial strategy — enlisting China’s help and influence to squeeze the North economically and diplomatically — has not yielded major results. Trump’s administration is also considering other economic steps including “secondary sanctions” that could target companies and banks — mostly in China — that do even legitimate business with North Korea, officials said.

    Under U.S. law, the secretary of state has the authority to designate passports as restricted for travel to countries with which the United States is at war, when armed hostilities are in progress, or when there is imminent danger to the public health or physical security of United States travellers. Geographic travel restrictions are rare but have been used by numerous administrations in the past for countries where it has been determined to be unsafe.

    Since 1967, such bans have been imposed intermittently on countries such as Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Cuba and North Vietnam. But the U.S. doesn’t currently prohibit its passports from being used to travel to any countries, even though financial restrictions limit U.S. travel to Cuba and elsewhere.

    If a passport ban were placed on North Korea, an American who violated it could face a fine and up to 10 years in prison for a first offence.

    Warmbier, who died after being medically evacuated in a coma from North Korea last month, suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause while in custody. Relatives said they were told the 22-year-old University of Virginia student had been in a coma since shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in North Korea in March 2016. He had been accused of stealing a propaganda poster while on a tour of the country.

    The United States, South Korea and others often accuse North Korea of using foreign detainees to wrest diplomatic concessions. At least three other Americans remain in custody in the North.

    Tillerson had been weighing a North Korea travel ban since late April, when American teacher Tony Kim was detained in Pyongyang, according to a senior State Department official. Those deliberations gained even more urgency after Warmbier’s death. Lawmakers in Congress have also pushed their own, legislative solutions to try to ban travel to the North.

    Simon Cockerell, Beijing-based general manager of the Koryo Group, one of the leading organizers of guided tours to North Korea, said the ban would affect 800-1,000 Americans who visit North Korea annually. Although Pyongyang does not publish exact figures, Americans are thought to account for a mere 1 per cent of all foreign visitors. Westerners make up 5 per cent of total visitors, Americans about 20 per cent of the Western contingent, according to statistics.

    Cockerell said the ban would likely have a tangible impact on business for his and similar outfits, and said that would turn back the clock on engagement with the North.

    “It’s unfortunate because we criticize North Korea for being isolationist and now we’re helping isolate them,” Cockerell said. “That’s not what soft power is about.”


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    I see the provincial premiers are demanding “clarity” — possibly a delay — in the federal plan to legalize marijuana by next July.

    A communiqué from their Edmonton conference said they still have concerns about, among other things, traffic safety and public education campaigns.

    I’m with them. I still don’t have “clarity” about legal pot or in fact the use and abuse of recreational drugs in general.

    Read more:Premiers want more clarity on legalizing pot, say 2018 deadline ‘may be unrealistic’

    Here is what we all bring to any debate about recreational drugs: our own history, our generational lens, our hypocrisy too.

    I smoked some weed in university but didn’t love it because it slowed me down and I liked moving fast.

    I also dabbled in a few hallucinogens, one time at a student newspaper convention, after which, returning home to my parents, I thought loftily, “Oh you dear sweet people, you have no idea how mind-blowing my life really is.”

    In my twenties, cocaine use was not uncommon among affluent young professionals. I was working in Vancouver and you could hear the constant sniffing in the bathroom stalls of posh clubs. Even lawyers I knew snorted coke. It was considered glamorous.

    Like Barack Obama, I gave it a go.

    I probably would have done more of it than I actually did. But my work was demanding, and in journalism, alcohol was still the drug of choice. Why take legal chances?

    By the time I was 30, I had left everything but alcohol behind. Despite a family history of serious problem drinking (my father, his father, his grandfather) alcohol never became an abuse issue for me. Marrying a man with moderation in his blood sealed the deal.

    Yet I still believe, with different timing and circumstances, I might have ended up with a substance abuse problem. I know in my heart I was one of the vulnerable ones.

    As a parent, I hypocritically hoped my teenage kids did no drugs — and often said so, omitting some of my own dabbling.

    But I was realistic. Drugs were not a moral dilemma, but a legal and safety issue. My children were smart and precious and I wanted them to have all their wits and opportunities as they embarked on life.

    Now in their early thirties, I have never asked them for a list of anything they might have ingested while young.

    We were all lucky, I guess.

    My own history and generational lens have made me favour the legalization of cannabis. We need to stop giving kids a record for the use of it. We need to take the opportunity away from criminals.

    But as we get closer, I am having doubts (and you can always find a study to back this up) on what cannabis does to young minds. We know most kids start smoking pot much younger than 18.

    And no, weed is not better than alcohol — just different. All drugs can rewire your brain — including martinis if you drink enough.

    The opioid crisis — rampant in North America, and a mirror addiction to crack use by the mainly Black community in the ’80s — has startled me into a more rigid approach to drug use in general.

    You can’t read Margaret Talbot’s article in the New Yorker magazine, in which she describes two parents overdosing at a kids’ softball game in West Virginia, and not shudder at how vulnerable so many are to addiction: “Two of the parents were lying on the ground, unconscious, several yards apart … the couple’s thirteen-year-old daughter was sitting … with her teammates, who were hugging her and comforting her. The couple’s younger children, aged ten and seven, were running back and forth between their parents, screaming, “Wake up! Wake up!” 

    Those parents were revived by paramedics, their kids removed from their care.

    How does this all connect up? Am I saying legalize pot and we’re all going to be overdosing on fentanyl on a softball field?

    Of course not. But it’s coping skills most people need — from childhood to grave — not cannabis boutiques along my main street. I am surprised by how much I hate the sight of them.

    It’s honesty we need when the toxicology report comes back on beloved star Carrie Fisher who died suddenly last December at 60 (actual cause still unknown) and reveals she had cocaine, methadone, ethanol and opiates in her system.

    While fans tweeted that Princess Leia gave the world so much that we shouldn’t punitively focus on what drugs she abused, her own daughter Billie Lourd issued a strong statement: “Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure. Love you Momby.”

    We are all at risk.

    Here is what I have come to loathe: jokey media headlines like “Buzz kill” on news articles pointing out concerns with the legal cannabis rollout; ads run by the LCBO glamorizing alcohol use. (We are not very good at glamorizing moderation let alone sobriety.) Doctors who prescribe too many painkillers, and rapacious Big Pharma the ultimate pusher.

    By all means, let’s try something different with cannabis. As long as we educate people about its risks, punish them for driving stoned and give provincial governments time to safely implement their programs.

    Just don’t expect legalization to change the fact that more than a few kids simply trying to grow up to be good adults are hurt by cannabis use.

    You can’t legislate luck.

    Judith Timson writes weekly about cultural, social and political issues. You can reach her at judith.timson@sympatico.ca and follow her on Twitter @judithtimson


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