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    SONOMA, CALIF.—More than a dozen wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through California wine country Monday, destroying at least 1,500 homes and businesses and sending thousands fleeing as flames raged unchecked through high-end resorts, grocery stores and tree-lined neighbourhoods.

    As he fled through the ember-stewn streets of his neighbourhood in Santa Rosa, Jeff Okrepkie knew it was probably the last time he would see his home of the past five years standing.

    His worst fears were confirmed Monday morning, when a friend sent him a photo of what was left: a smouldering heap of burnt metal and debris.

    “We live in the valley, where it’s concrete and strip malls and hotels and supermarkets,” Okrepkie said. “The last thing you think is a forest fire is going to come and wipe us out.”

    At least one person died and two were seriously injured, state fire officials said, but they warned that those estimates were bound to climb.

    The flames were burning “at explosive rates” because of 80 km/h winds, said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    Fourteen large fires were burning north of San Francisco, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties. It was unusual to have so many fires take off at the same time, fire officials said, though October has generally been the most destructive time of year for California wildfires.

    The ferocity of the flames forced authorities to focus primarily on getting people out safely, even if it meant abandoning structures to the fire. The fire area covered more than 160 square kilometres over eight counties.

    Some of the largest blazes were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. Those fires sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 96 kilometres away.

    Read more:

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    ‘We’ve missed our chance to get ahold of this beast’

    Fires also burned in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties — all north of the state capital.

    The inferno blackened miles along one of the main gateways into wine country, State Highway 12 into Sonoma County. Wooden fence posts and guard rails burned fiercely. Thick smoke roiled from one winery, JR Cohn.

    The fires also damaged the Silverado Resort in Napa and a Hilton hotel in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the fire area, with a population of about 175,000.

    Kim Hoe, a 33-year-old tech worker from Penang, Malaysia, was staying at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, which was gutted by flames. He said the power went out around 1 a.m., and he and his colleagues started packing up when someone knocked on the door and told them to run.

    “We just had to run and run. It was full of smoke. We could barely breathe. It was dangerous,” Hoe said.

    They returned in the morning to find the hotel had been destroyed along with most of their possessions. Hoe was relieved he had taken his passport and a few essential items.

    Santa Rosa lost a Kmart, restaurants and an unknown number of businesses and homes. The blaze shut down schools and forced more than 200 patients at two city hospitals to evacuate.

    Firefighters rushed to a state home for the severely disabled when flames reached one side of the centre’s sprawling campus in the historic Sonoma County town of Glen Ellen. Emergency workers leapt from their cars to aid in the evacuation. Crews got the more than 200 patients from the threatened buildings, one firefighter said, as flames closed within a few dozen feet.

    Residents throughout the area described a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames.

    Mike Turpen, 38, was at a bar in Glen Ellen early Monday when a stranger wearing a smoke mask ran in and yelled that there was a fire. Turpen raced home through flames in his Ford F-250.

    “It was like Armageddon was on,” Turpen said. “Every branch of every tree was on fire.”

    He woke later to find all his neighbours’ homes on fire, but stayed behind to try to defend his own rental home.

    By late morning, Turpen, wearing shorts, a kerchief mask and goggles, was the last man standing for miles along one abandoned road. His yard and all those around him were burned, smoking and still flaming in a few spots. But his home was still standing.

    ‘It was like Armageddon was on’ — wildfires rip through California wine country‘It was like Armageddon was on’ — wildfires rip through California wine country

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    VANCOUVER—Former B.C. cabinet minister and well-known Vancouver radio broadcaster Rafe Mair has died at the age of 85.

    A longtime colleague of Mair’s said that he’ll be remembered as a hard-hitting interviewer who was tough but fair.

    Shiral Tobin, who produced his show on CKNW, said Mair’s doctor confirmed his death at around 6 a.m. Monday morning.

    Tobin said Mair’s health had been declining for a number of years, but that he had continued to write articles and appear as a radio panellist until recently.

    She said Mair fought for Indigenous rights, feminism and the environment in his later years. He even gave up his pastime of fly-fishing over his growing concern for the welfare of animals.

    Mair’s show on CKNW ran for almost two decades, and was known as one of the most popular radio programs in the province.

    “He was one of the best broadcasters in B.C. history,” Tobin said. “He used his radio talk show as a bully pulpit on behalf of the people of British Columbia.”

    Mair’s political career began in 1975, after years of practising law, when he served as a MLA for Kamloops as a member of the B.C. Social Credit Party.

    He also served as a cabinet minister in a variety of positions during Premier Bill Bennett’s time in office.

    Former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who served as an MLA and cabinet minister in the legislature alongside Mair, said he was a strong and effective politician who no one could go up against without expecting a lively debate.

    “I will remember Rafe, and I’m sure everyone will remember, he was a very determined fellow. He made up his mind about what he wanted to do and how it was to be done and no one could really stop him from doing it his way,” Vander Zalm said.

    “In the debates and the arguments and the discussions that were held both in cabinet chamber or the legislature he certainly made his views known very effectively. As a lawyer that came relatively easy for him.”

    Mair’s career as a broadcaster began when he was 49 years old. Tobin said Mair turned to journalism because he felt he could have a greater impact by holding power to account.

    “He saw it as a gateway to power for the public,” she said. “He knew he had more influence, he could give a voice to the issues in British Columbia from the radio station.”

    Tobin, who is now director of programming and journalism at CBC in Vancouver, said although he had strong opinions and was tough on his guests, Mair was wonderful to work with and great mentor.

    Mair was a recipient of multiple journalism awards, including the Michener Award for courageous journalism in 1995, and the B.C. Association of Broadcasters “Broadcast Performer of the Year” award in 1993.

    He is survived by his wife Wendy Conway, five children and stepchildren, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    Rafe Mair, former radio host and B.C. politician, dead at 85Rafe Mair, former radio host and B.C. politician, dead at 85

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    Jason Wisdom believes a Toronto jury found him guilty of first degree murder based on evidence he was in a gang, sold drugs and kept “bad company,” not because the Crown proved he was one of the triggermen who shot two innocent men, killing one of them, as they sat in a car stopped at a Scarborough intersection during the evening rush hour on March 3, 2004.

    “There's three large black guys there (in the prisoners' box) — better just to say guilty then let a murderer out free, that's the last thing the public wants.”

    Wisdom said this last week, sitting in the mid-town Toronto office of James Lockyer, the defence lawyer who argued the appeal that led to the 32-year-old, a day earlier, leaving court a free man after serving 13 years and four days in custody.

    “It's still surreal. It's like waking up from a nightmare into another dream — a more pleasant dream, but it's still a dream,” Wisdom said of his whirlwind 24 hours that included a reunion with family.

    After leaving the court, “It still didn't hit me, I was walking, I think on York St., everything just moving so fast ... the city's different now, right?”

    Eight summers ago, Wisdom, and co-accused Tyshan Riley and Philip Atkins yelled and pounded the plexiglass dividers separating them after jurors found them guilty of murder, attempted murder and murder to benefit a criminal organization, a band of hardscrabble youth known as the Galloway Boys.

    It had been the largest street gang prosecution in Canadian history.

    The Crown's theory was that the drive-by shooting was a case of mistaken identity, that Riley — the gang's leader — his close associate Atkins and Wisdom ambushed the vehicle believing the occupants were rival gang members from Malvern, a neighbourhood in the northeast part of the city.

    Riley and Atkins did not testify.

    But Wisdom did, and admitted getting involved in “criminal activity” after dropping out of high school — preferring the more lucrative dollars that came from selling drugs to the money earned washing dishes at a local restaurant.

    When it came to the double shooting, Wisdom addressed the jury directly. He was not one of the shooters who killed Brenton Charlton, or seriously wounded his friend Leonard Bell, as the two men waited for the light to turn green. Wisdom said he was at home watching TV at the time, backed by his mother's testimony but ripped apart by the Crown as unreliable.

    Bell, a general contractor shot multiple times on March 3, 2004, said his initial reaction to Wisdom's release was “disgust.”

    “I was satisfied with the police investigation that led to the convictions,” Bell told the Star over the Thanksgiving weekend.

    But Bell added “no one who is innocent should be in prison.”

    Riley, Atkins and Wisdomeach received life sentences with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

    Back in Lockyer's office last week, Wisdom repeated the denial he made in 2009.

    “Leonard's got to know I didn't shoot at him,” Wisdom said turning to look into the lens of a videocamera — similar to his direct appeal to the jury. “I got through pen time better knowing that I was innocent.” He added later: “I wasn't a gun guy. I sold drugs, smoked some weed with the guys. I wasn't ... shooting — that's a different step.” Before his arrest for murder when he was 19, Wisdom had a couple of driving offences and one drug-trafficking conviction.

    The reason for Wisdom's release relates to some of the evidence presented during the trial. In August, the province's highest court ruled details about Wisdom's participation in a botched attempt to steal $100,000 from a cheque-cashing outlet should not have been allowed and had a “significant prejudicial effect” on jurors.

    “Given the relative weakness of the Crown's case against Wisdom, it is not possible to conclude the admission of that evidence did not result in a miscarriage of justice,” the Court of Appeal decision said. The court rejected the grounds of appeal for Atkins and Riley.

    A new trial for Wisdom was ordered.

    But last week, the Crown announced it would instead stay the charges.

    “After the Court of Appeal ruled that some of the evidence called at the first trial was inadmissible, the Crown carefully examined all aspects of the remaining evidence in this case,” Emilie Smith, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Attorney General, wrote in email.

    “After completing that review, and giving the matter very careful consideration, the Crown concluded that with the evidence that remained there was no reasonable prospect of conviction and stayed the charges,” Smith said.

    The Crown could still prosecute Wisdom within a year. Lockyer said he will be asking instead that the charges be withdrawn. The ministry would not comment on his request.

    During the trial, there were no witnesses, no fingerprints, no DNA, no guns nor wiretapped confessions.

    The Crown based much of its case on two witnesses. The defence branded them unsavoury liars.

    The prosecution used the witnesses’ corroborative testimony to help prove its case against Riley and Atkins. Not so with Wisdom.

    One of the witnesses, Roland Ellis, implicated Wisdom in a sworn statement, which led police to charge him, in April 2005, with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting of Charlton and Bell.

    Wisdom said last week “that's where I think the mistake started from and it just spiralled.”

    The ministry spokesperson did not respond to the Star's request asking if an attempt had been made to locate Ellis, who was under police guard while testifying back in 2009.

    “I believe if they found him, it wouldn't matter to me much,” Wisdom said last week.

    He prefers to think about what lies ahead. Lockyer, his lawyer, points to his client’s “remarkable” record behind bars.

    After Toronto police advised Fenbrook Institution, the medium-security prison near Gravenhurst, that he was no longer an “active member of the Galloway Boys,” Wisdom was elected vice-chair of the inmate committee three years in a row.

    Wisdom said he also spent his prison time reading — he often had a book with him during the trial — and taking business management courses, playing basketball and working out.

    “I just can't wait to live a pro-social life, no crime, no jaywalking, none of that stuff,” he said.

    “I was a young man and made bad choices, I'm sure a lot of young men do, and that 13 years, boy, straightened me out...I didn't deserve it but I learned a lot.”

    Convicted in Galloway Boys shooting, Jason Wisdom is released from prison after his murder conviction is stayedConvicted in Galloway Boys shooting, Jason Wisdom is released from prison after his murder conviction is stayed

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    The nursing home residents died from ailments suffered when the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills lost power Sept. 10 during the hurricane’s passage, bringing to 14 the number of fatalities linked to the home.

    Two more die from Florida nursing home that lost air conditioning during Hurricane IrmaTwo more die from Florida nursing home that lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma

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    State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who successfully sued to block Trump’s initial travel ban, announced his latest lawsuit on Monday, three days after the new rules were issued.

    Washington State sues Trump administration over new birth-control rulesWashington State sues Trump administration over new birth-control rules

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    Police still have not pinpointed the motive behind Stephen Craig Paddock’s decision to fire on a concert crowd of 22,000. There’s still no evidence he was motivated by ideology, and there’s no evidence there was another shooter.

    Las Vegas gunman aimed at fuel tanks, had protective gear as part of escape plan, sheriff saysLas Vegas gunman aimed at fuel tanks, had protective gear as part of escape plan, sheriff says

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    Lawyers for Patricia Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed, accused of bribery in a 2015 byelection, will be back in Sudbury on Tuesday to argue the case should be dropped.

    Defence lawyers for Liberals in Sudbury byelection trial ask judge to drop caseDefence lawyers for Liberals in Sudbury byelection trial ask judge to drop case

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    University officials issued an alert to students on social media Monday night, noting that the suspected shooter had not been apprehended. The alert urged those on campus to “take shelter in a safe location.”

    Campus police officer shot and killed at Texas Tech University; suspect at largeCampus police officer shot and killed at Texas Tech University; suspect at large

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    NEW YORK—When Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, then an 18-year-old from Mississauga, was arrested in May 2016, he was secretly detained in New York by federal authorities who hoped to arrest others in a supposed plot to detonate bombs in Times Square and in the subways.

    Although federal authorities did eventually arrest two other men, El Bahnasawy’s time in custody did not go exactly to plan.

    Shortly after his arrest, jail officials mistakenly moved him into the general population of a federal detention centre in Manhattan, instead of holding him in isolation. That lasted one day — long enough for him to have money stolen from his commissary account.

    Several months later, after being allowed to move into the general population, El Bahnasawy was given drugs by another inmate, leading to more complications.

    Read more: Mississauga teen pled guilty in 2016 over alleged terror plot to attack New York

    Those details were disclosed in newly unsealed court papers that showed how sensitive prosecutors were to keeping El Bahnasawy’s arrest secret to not tip off a suspect who was believed to be preparing to enter the United States. But they also raised questions about how jail officials handled someone the government viewed as an important defendant.

    On Friday, the authorities disclosed that the FBI and New York City Police Department had broken up the plot, which was to be carried out in support of Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and to have taken place during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in 2016, which began that June.

    The authorities said El Bahnasawy was arrested in New Jersey after he entered the United States from Canada. The government said it had also arrested two other plotters overseas, including Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen living in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, 37, of the Philippines.

    The government said the men had also planned to open fire at concert venues in New York, and that their plot had been detailed in communications with an undercover FBI agent, who had posed as a Daesh supporter and convinced them he would work with them.

    “We need a really strong bomb,” El Bahnasawy wrote in one message, referring to the Times Square plot, the authorities said.

    Shortly after his arrest, El Bahnasawy became the victim of identity theft after he was inadvertently moved from an isolation unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center into the general population, Adam Johnson, a lawyer at the centre, testified in June 2016, a transcript shows.

    Another prisoner apparently used his personal access code to move money from his commissary account to an outside source, Johnson said.

    “All signs are pointing toward this person essentially having robbed him electronically,” Johnson testified. A spokesman for the detention centre had no immediate comment on Monday.

    It was in September 2016, after El Bahnasawy was allowed to move into the general population, that he obtained Suboxone, a prescription medication used to treat drug addiction, according to a letter from his federal public defenders to the judge. El Bahnasawy — whose lawyers wrote that he had a long history of drug use, treatment and relapse — took the drug and relapsed, according to the letter.

    As punishment, jail authorities cut off his family visits for 18 months, leading to objections from his lawyers and a sharp response from a Manhattan judge, Richard M. Berman of U.S. District Court, who said the disciplinary measure “defies common sense.”

    The judge’s comments came during a closed hearing in May but were cited in the lawyers’ letter, which was among the newly released filings.

    The lawyers’ letter said El Bahnasawy tried unsuccessfully to challenge the loss-of-visitation privileges within the jail system, before raising it with Berman. According to the letter, the judge told Johnson to convey his view to the Bureau of Prisons that the sanction was inappropriate, saying, “I’ve never done this in any case before.”

    El Bahnasawy’s visitation privileges were ultimately restored, the filings show.

    After initially consenting to having the case remain secret for a short period, El Bahnasawy’s lawyers argued that the continued secrecy violated his right to a public trial, the filings show. It was not until Friday, when the government announced the charges, that the case became public.

    El Bahnasawy pleaded guilty in October 2016 to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other charges. Sabrina Shroff, his lawyer, and James M. Margolin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, each declined to comment.

    Authorities tried to keep Mississauga teen’s terror arrest secret, court documents revealAuthorities tried to keep Mississauga teen’s terror arrest secret, court documents reveal

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    Pat Sorbara and Gerry Lougheed are accused of offering would-be candidate Andrew Olivier a job or appointment to step aside for Wynne’s preferred candidate in a 2015 byelection in Sudbury, Ont. The judge is set to deliver his decision on Oct. 24.

    Judge questions merits of charge against former top Wynne staffer in Sudbury byelection trialJudge questions merits of charge against former top Wynne staffer in Sudbury byelection trial

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    After reading about the plight of the Alawad family, businessman Alex Haditaghi offered them an apartment, rent-free for a year, in one of his North York buildings. 'I know what it feels like not to have anything,' said Haditaghi, himself a former refugee from Iran.

    A raging house fire left a Syrian family with nothing. One day later, a stranger gave them a home rent-free for one yearA raging house fire left a Syrian family with nothing. One day later, a stranger gave them a home rent-free for one year

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    Two formal complaints have been filed over remarks made by Robert McNally, a justice of the peace in Kenora, to an Indigenous lawyer in bail court in August.

    Justice of the peace subject of complaints after remarks called 'culturally insensitive' and 'racist'Justice of the peace subject of complaints after remarks called 'culturally insensitive' and 'racist'

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    Report finds provincial funding has not kept up with demand for services, support.

    Student mental health needs growing, Ontario colleges sayStudent mental health needs growing, Ontario colleges say

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    The story detailed allegations not just of sexual harassment but of three incidents involving rape.

    Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie join flood of allegations against Harvey WeinsteinGwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie join flood of allegations against Harvey Weinstein

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    The new NDP leader took aim at Justin Trudeau's renowned hair, bragging, "I have more hair. It's longer and it's nicer.”

    Jagmeet Singh boasts of the luscious mane under his turbanJagmeet Singh boasts of the luscious mane under his turbanJagmeet Singh boasts of the luscious mane under his turbanJagmeet Singh boasts of the luscious mane under his turban

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    The Métis National Council has also been flooded with calls, said president Clement Chartier, who complained of having been left in the dark about the settlement,

    Métis feel left out of ’60s Scoop settlementMétis feel left out of ’60s Scoop settlement

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    But key questions about the plan remained unanswered Tuesday, including how many people are expected to use the service and how much it will cost them to do so.

    Tory’s Smarttrack plan heads off for public inputTory’s Smarttrack plan heads off for public input

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    Donald Trump’s presidency will have bearing on all of us. Therefore the responsibility to speak out against it falls to all of us — even Sidney Crosby.

    Crosby, Penguins enjoy luxury of political indifference at White House: TeitelCrosby, Penguins enjoy luxury of political indifference at White House: Teitel

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    Liquidation sales at stores are scheduled to begin later this month.

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    Salt Lake City police chief made the decision after an internal investigation found evidence the police officer violated department policies when he arrested the nurse and dragged her out of the hospital as she screamed.

    Utah officer who handcuffed nurse in video after she refused to draw blood is firedUtah officer who handcuffed nurse in video after she refused to draw blood is fired

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