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    NEW YORK—Martin Shkreli, the eccentric former pharmaceutical CEO notorious for a price-gouging scandal and for his snide “Pharma Bro” persona on social media, was convicted Friday on federal charges he deceived investors in a pair of failed hedge funds.

    A Brooklyn jury deliberated five days before finding Shkreli guilty on three of eight counts. He had been charged with securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

    Shkreli, upbeat and defiant outside the Brooklyn courthouse afterward, called his prosecution “a witch hunt of epic proportions” but conceded that maybe the government had found “one or two broomsticks.”

    Read more:

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    Asked about his client’s social-media antics, attorney Ben Brafman said it was something they would be working on.

    “There is an image issue that Martin and I are going to be discussing in the next few days,” he said, adding that while Shkreli was a brilliant mind, sometimes his “people skills” need work. As he spoke, Shkreli smiled and cocked his head quizzically in mock confusion.

    Brafman predicted that Shkreli would someday go on to develop cures to terrible diseases that afflict children.

    Within an hour of leaving the court, Shkreli was at home live-streaming on YouTube and calling the split verdict a victory, despite his conviction on two of the most serious counts. Prosecutors had a different take.

    “There’s one statement that’s most important and that’s the jury’s statement: guilty on those counts,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde.

    Prosecutors had accused Shkreli of repeatedly misleading investors about what he was doing with their money. Mostly, he was blowing it with horrible stock picks, forcing him to cook up a scheme to recover millions in losses, they said.

    Shkreli, 34, told “lies upon lies,” including claiming he had $40 million (U.S.) in one of his funds at a time when it only had about $300 in the bank, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alixandra Smith said in closing arguments. The trial “has exposed Martin Shkreli for who he really is — a con man who stole millions,” added another prosecutor, Jacquelyn Kasulis.

    But the case was tricky for the government because investors who testified said Shkreli’s scheme actually succeeded in making them richer, in some cases doubling or even tripling their money on his company’s stock when it went public.

    “Who lost anything? Nobody,” Brafman said in his closing argument. Some investors had to admit on the witness stand that partnering with Shkreli was “the greatest investment I’ve ever made,” he added.

    While the convictions carry maximum penalties of years in prison, Brafman said that the lack of financial harm meant that Shkreli could get no jail time when he is sentenced. A sentencing date has yet to be set.

    For the boyish-looking Shkreli, one of the biggest problems was not part of the case — his purchase in 2014 of rights to a life-saving drug that he promptly raised the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Several potential jurors were kept off the panel after expressing disdain for the defendant, with one calling him a “snake” and another “the face of corporate greed.”

    The defendant also came into the trial with a reputation for trolling his critics on social media to a degree that got him kicked off Twitter and for live-streaming himself giving math lessons or doing nothing more than petting his cat, named Trashy. Among his other antics: boasting about buying a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album for $2 million.

    Shkreli, who comes from an Albanian family in Brooklyn, was arrested in 2015 on charges he looted another drug company he founded, Retrophin, of $11 million in stock and cash to pay back the hedge fund investors. Investors took the witness stand to accuse Shkreli of keeping them in the dark as his scheme unfolded.

    “I don’t think it mattered to him — it was just what he thought he could get away with,” said Richard Kocher, a New Jersey construction company owner who invested $200,000 with Shkreli in 2012.

    Shkreli’s lawyer agreed his client could be annoying but said his hedge fund investors knew what they were getting.

    “They found him strange. They found him weird. And they gave him money. Why? Because they recognized genius,” Brafman said, adding that they had signed agreements that his client wasn’t liable if they lost their money.

    Jurors also heard odd vignettes befitting the quirky defendant: how Shkreli slept on the floor of his office in a sleeping bag for two years; how a drug company board member and former American Express executive wrote an email saying he’d meet with Shkreli “only if I can touch your soft skin”; how Shkreli wrote a letter to the wife of an employee threatening to make the family homeless if the man didn’t settle a debt.

    Shkreli didn’t testify. But rather than lay low like his lawyers wanted, he got into the act by using Facebook to bash prosecutors and news organizations covering his case. In one recent post, he wrote, “My case is a silly witch hunt perpetrated by self-serving prosecutors . . . Drain the swamp. Drain the sewer that is the (Department of Justice.)”

    The judge ordered Shkreli to keep his mouth shut in and around the courtroom after another rant to new reporters covering the trial.

    Prosecutors “blame me for everything,” he said. “They blame me for capitalism.”

    After agreeing to continue Shkreli’s $5 million bail, the judge told him: “I wish you well, Mr. Shkreli. See you soon.”


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    She may have been a prize winner in life, but famous show cow, Charity, had a hard time winning any accolades for her replica version when it had its first showing in Markham two years ago.

    The Markham public art advisory committee said nay, twice, to a proposal for the larger than life stainless steel cow statue on stilts, according to minutes from meetings, which weren’t made public until this week.

    The statue called Charity: Perpetuation of Perfection, was donated and installed last month by local developer Helen Roman-Barber and has attracted hundreds of curious bovine art critics to the quiet Markham suburb of Cathedraltown, near Elgin Mills Rd and Woodbine Ave.

    Read more:

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    It has also drawn the ire of residents, who live along Charity Cres., and now go to sleep with the reflection of hoofs and an udder shining into their homes.

    “There was no consultation done with the community,” said resident Danny Da Silva, who has lived in the area for almost three years. “At first when it was put up, we thought it was a joke,” he said. “But then we realized it’s not going anywhere.”

    Councillors, who unanimously approved the display last summer, said they weren’t given the whole story.

    “We were never told the public art committee didn’t want the cow,” said Ward 4 councillor Karen Rea. “We were deliberately not given information by staff,” she said. “In my opinion, this is enough. It should be brought back for discussion, and frankly, the statue should be moved.”

    The entire cow debacle has left many residents and councillors wondering, in the face of so much opposition, how did the Holstein manage to get hoisted?

    “I felt like from day one, there was something wrong with the process,” said Taleen Der Haroutiounian, vice-chair of the art advisory committee. “Even though the committee said no, it seemed like what we were saying didn’t matter,” she said.

    The proposal for an 11-metre high cow statue to be placed in a small park, in the centre of a crescent surrounded by homes, first came before the public art committee more than two years ago.

    Local developer Helen Roman-Barber proposed the art piece to honour her father, Stephen Roman, who owned Romandale Farm, the land on top of which Cathedraltown now rests.

    He bought the “most perfect cow that ever was” Brookview Tony Charity from a farm in Port Perry in 1985 for a then-record $1.45 million. Charity was a nine-time all-Canadian or all-American show cow — and still regarded as the greatest show cow of all time.

    Despite the history, the committee felt the cow didn’t fit into its surroundings. In March 2015, committee members rejected the donation after being worried about “safety, esthetics, and the choice of location.”

    The next time they said no, in May 2015, the committee said “another location would be suitable” and demanded public consultation.

    And yet, months later, after the artist was to meet with the mayor, city staff said it was moving ahead with the project.

    “A recommendation is being made by staff to accept the donation of the Charity Sculpture,” according to minutes from April 2016. “If council accepts the donation, all costs including installation of the sculpture will be covered by the donor — Helen Roman-Barber.”

    When the matter came to council in June 2016, many of the councillors, including Rea, expressed safety concerns. Deputy Mayor Jack Heath said he wasn’t a “huge fan” and also asked if council was allowed to take a different opinion than the advisory committee. “We wanted to make sure we have the option to say no,” he said, on an audio recording of the meeting, obtained by the Star.

    At the time, staff told him that council normally approves recommendations from advisory committees. But the attached minutes from the art committee only showed the staff endorsement, and did not include two other meetings where committee members expressed opposition to the project and rejected it.

    Staff said another art committee, the Varley Art Gallery Acquisitions Committee, had endorsed it, but the minutes show, they only approved the donation “in principle,” and also had concerns about “its extreme height.”

    Stephen Chait, the director of Culture & Economic Development for the city did not respond to requests for clarification. Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, did not respond to a request for comment.

    Ward 2 Councillor Alan Ho, who seconded the motion at council, says council “was not given accurate information” and supports the community’s opposition to the project. At a heated community meeting last week, he encouraged residents to start a petition opposing the artwork and to attend council in September to tell officials what they think.

    Ho hopes to come to a compromise with the community and the developer.

    “I think we should try to locate it to a more open space in Cathedraltown or find another creative option,” he said. “I hope the donor will really consider this.”

    Residents, who have started a petition, say they also want to find common ground.

    “They should drop it down, put up landscaping and make it safer,” said Da Silva. “We also value heritage, but we should make it something that fits into the area,” he said. “Right now, people are laughing at it, and taking selfies… It’s disrespectful.”

    But Ed Shiller, a spokesperson for Roman-Barber and her company King David Inc., says the statue was specifically made for this location — and should stay. “Charity is where she belongs,” he said.


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    In a rare move, Ontario’s top court has ordered a third trial in the same first-degree murder case, lambasting the Crown’s key evidence: an expert witness whose testimony about gang members with teardrop tattoos contained “inaccuracies” and even “falsehoods.”

    At the second trial for Warren Nigel Abbey related to the 2004 murder of Simeon Peter in Scarborough, sociologist Mark Totten testified that a teardrop tattoo meant one of the three things: the individual had lost a loved one or fellow gang member, had spent time in prison or had killed a rival gang member.

    The Crown alleged that Abbey was an associate of the Malvern Crew gang who shot and killed Peter, mistakenly believing he was a member of the rival Galloway Boys, and that Abbey had a teardrop tattooed under his right eye about four months later.

    Abbey was acquitted at his first trial— in which Totten was not permitted to give evidence — but the Crown appealed and at the second trial, where Totten did testify, the jury convicted Abbey.

    In a decision released Friday, the Ontario Court of Appeal largely sided with Abbey’s lawyers and found Totten’s evidence “unreliable,” that he “misrepresented” the sample size of gang members in some of his studies, and that statistics he provided on the stand about gang members with teardrop tattoos are nowhere to be found in his studies.

    The court also stated there is a “legitimate concern that Totten’s interview summaries are fabrications” in two of his studies, which contain the same quotes from three participants. Totten had denied in a different court case that he used the same gang members in more than one study.

    “I have concluded that the fresh evidence shows Totten’s opinion evidence on the meaning of a teardrop tattoo to be too unreliable to be heard by a jury. If the trial judge had known about the fresh evidence he would have ruled Totten’s evidence inadmissible,” Court of Appeal Justice John Laskin wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.

    “And the absence of Totten’s evidence would reasonably be expected to have affected the jury’s verdict. I would admit the fresh evidence, allow Abbey’s appeal, overturn his conviction and order a new trial.”

    Abbey has been in prison since his conviction at his second trial in 2011.

    He will be applying for release pending a retrial, his lawyers told the Star on Friday.

    “We are gratified that the court found, as we had argued, that this Crown witness’s evidence was unreliable and dangerous,” said David E. Harris and Ravin Pillay in an emailed statement.

    “This is another example of how expert evidence can mislead a jury and contribute to an unsafe conviction.”

    Totten did not return the Star’s requests for comment Friday.

    Neither side opted to seek permission from the Court of Appeal to call Totten to respond to the issues with his research and evidence.

    “As Totten has not been directly confronted with some of these deficiencies and inaccuracies in his testimony and research I think it would be unfair to make the positive finding that Abbey urges us to make: Totten fabricated or concocted part of his research, or gave deliberately misleading testimony,” Laskin wrote.

    “But when assessing the reliability of Totten’s opinion, I see nothing unfair in taking into account that the many serious problems in both Totten’s evidence and research, which were identified by the fresh evidence, remain entirely unexplained.”

    It will be up to the Crown to decide if it actually wants to re-prosecute Abbey a third time. A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General declined to comment because the matter is “within the appeal period.” (The Crown has 30 days to decide if it wants to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.)

    The Court of Appeal had harsh words for the position of the Crown in the appeal, given the fact that the “fresh evidence” — the issues with Totten’s research — was brought to the forefront under cross-examination by Crown attorney Mary Misener (now a judge) in a separate case, R v. Gager, where that time it was the defence trying to have Totten admitted as an expert.

    The cross-examination took place during a hearing known as a voir dire, to determine if Totten should be qualified as an expert witness for the trial.

    “Totten was the Crown’s witness, a key witness for the Crown (at the Abbey trial). Yet in Gager the Crown sought to impeach Totten’s credibility and the reliability of his evidence on several matters that were relevant to his opinion in this trial,” Laskin wrote.

    “And then on this appeal the Crown made no attempt to contest the deficiencies, inaccuracies, and even falsehoods in Totten’s trial testimony, as demonstrated by the fresh evidence.

    “The Crown is not an ordinary litigant. Its role is not to obtain a conviction, but to try to ensure a fair process and a just result. The Crown has impeached Totten, its own key witness, albeit in another proceeding, and yet by its silence in this proceeding must be taken not to have challenged the many serious problems in Totten’s trial testimony shown by the fresh evidence.”

    The judge in the Gager case ultimately qualified Totten as a witness, despite expressing some reservations with his evidence, but neither side ended up calling him to the stand at trial.

    “I made mistakes, there’s no question about that,” Totten told the Star at the time. “I’ve got no problem stating that. It’s the job of a lawyer to attack you as an expert witness. Some experts can handle it, others can’t. Obviously, I didn’t handle it very well.”

    In Friday’s appeal decision, Laskin pointed out that the defence in the Abbey case could have raised the issues with Totten’s research at Abbey’s previous trial, but that it would be a “miscarriage of justice” not to admit the fresh evidence now because it is so compelling.

    The appeal court went as far as saying that if the Crown had not been permitted to lead with Totten’s evidence on teardrop tattoos at the second trial, “it could reasonably be expected the verdict would have been different.”

    Among the reasons for that conclusion, Laskin noted that the rest of the Crown’s case “was not overly strong,” which included poor eyewitness testimony and “problematic” evidence from three Malvern Crew members whose testimony implicated Abbey.

    Their testimony “was severely compromised” by inconsistencies and “their unsavoury pasts,” Laskin wrote. He said two of them had been granted immunity by the Crown on a number of serious offences in exchange for their testimony, while the third member, who testified at the first Abbey trial, refused to testify at the second. His testimony from the first trial was read into the record at the second trial.


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    A Toronto police constable accused of groping and making lewd comments to a female colleague is facing new disciplinary charges related to another female officer.

    Const. Usman Haroon punched a fellow officer in the arm following a disagreement in April 2009, according to a disciplinary hearing notice. A second hearing notice says Haroon “slapped (the woman) on the buttocks” while responding to a call “sometime between September of 2007 and April of 2009.”

    Haroon made his first appearance at the police disciplinary tribunal on two charges of discreditable conduct contrary to Ontario’s Police Services Act in June.

    All allegations stem from Haroon’s time at 14 Division. He has since been transferred to 11 Division.

    Haroon now faces a total of 11 disciplinary charges, including nine previously reported by Metro.

    They include allegations that he placed his hand on a fellow officer’s upper leg while on duty in November 2015. The following day, he moved her hand toward his groin while travelling in a police car and placed his hand on her buttocks as she left an elevator, according to tribunal hearing notices.

    Haroon also “made comments of a sexual nature” toward the officer and “engaged in unwanted physical contact by grasping a print roller, which was lodged between (the officer’s) legs,” according to tribunal notices.

    Haroon has not responded to multiple requests for comment.


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    Four years after rock legend Ronnie Hawkins failed to sell his 175-acre Hawkstone Manor, it’s back on the market — for $10.65-million less.

    In 2013, Hawkins listed his home and its 3,300 feet of Stoney Lake frontage for $14.9 million.

    This summer, the more than 5,600 square feet of home — split between a main house and two guest cottages — is up for sale for a more modest $4.25 million.

    “My wife says we’re moving closer to the doctors and the hospital. That’s what she says about me because I’ve got one foot in the grave and another in a pile of WD40 so she’s looking after me,” says the 82-year-old Hawkins with his Arkansas twang inside his home of 46 years on a phone he says is “messed up.”

    The home is lined with thousands of framed photos and memorabilia of the famous rocker and his friends, including his Order of Canada medal — one of just a few given to non-Canadians.

    “Well I’ll tell ya, we’ve had an awful lot of people here — superstars — over the years,” he said, laughing. “In fact, if this house could write a book, a bunch of them would have to leave the country!”

    Dubbed “Canada’s Graceland,” it has welcomed John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Oscar Peterson, Blue Rodeo, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Mickey Jones, David Clayton-Thomas and Ian and Sylvia Tyson, among others.

    Rush’s double-platinum album Moving Pictures, including its smash hit “Tom Sawyer,” was recorded in Hawkins’s barn while the band lived in his home.

    “It says on the back ‘the best sound they ever got’ and it was the biggest album at the time. They recorded at the Ronnie Hawkins farm right here on Stoney Lake,” he adds of himself.

    Kenny Rogers once recorded music in Hawkins’s living room, too.

    “The Hawk,” who has recently battled pancreatic cancer and is a candidate for cataracts surgery, continues to live life to the full and open his home up to his friends, according to those around him.

    Last year, Gordon Lightfoot — who wrote his hit “Sundown” at one of the property’s cottages — returned to Hawkstone Manor with Kris Kristofferson to record a new version of “Me And Bobby McGee.”

    But now Hawkins, a pioneer of rock and roll and friend to Bob Dylan and President Bill Clinton, is moving on and downsizing with his wife Wanda.

    “It’s time. I can’t look after it anymore and I can’t play any dates. As long as I could play dates I could keep it up but I can’t anymore so we decided to sell this beautiful place baby,” Hawkins said, laughing again. “It’s one of the bestest I’ve ever seen. I’ve got to stop chasing the girls, I guess.”

    Ross Halloran, the couple’s real estate agent, hopes a potential buyer will be someone who intends to build a family compound and continue the property’s rich history of entertainment and hosting in the Kawarthas.

    “They have become synonymous with the area. It’s just a wonderful focal point in Canada,” said Halloran, who describes the home as a museum but understands new ownership may want to knock it down — hence the $10-million discount.

    “When people come and look at Hawkstone Manor, they don’t just see a piece of property, they see a piece of Canadian musical history.”

    Wanda’s convinced theirs is the most beautiful property on Stoney Lake.

    “We have an incredible view. The sun sets here every day and the sky changes colours and it reflects off the water, it’s just the most beautiful place to be,” she said. “We’re excited to pass this beautiful property onto someone who will enjoy it as much as we have.”


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    HALIFAX—As he turns 30 on Monday, Sidney Crosby will celebrate his third Stanley Cup win parading the cherished mug through the streets of the city where he’s been a star since he was five years old.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins captain will take in the festivities knowing that after 12 years in the NHL, his place is already assured in the pantheon of the game’s greats and that he has fulfilled the promise that many saw in him from almost the first time he laced up a pair of skates.

    In the tradition of Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux and now Connor McDavid, “Sid the Kid,” was a hockey prodigy.

    “He was not only the best player I ever saw, but significantly the best player,” said Brian Newton, a retired lawyer who coached a seven-year-old Crosby as a high-scoring centre on Cole Harbour’s Novice AAA Wings.

    In a recent interview, Newton recalled his first brush with a five-year-old Crosby — it came after getting a phone call from Sidney’s father Troy.

    Newton said the hockey season was about a month old when Troy Crosby asked that his son, who was playing Timbits hockey at the time, be moved up to play with the six-year-old group.

    Knowing how some parents can be, Newton said he agreed to see whether the move should be made, but he asked Troy not to describe his son.

    “I said ‘Well no, if he’s this good a player I’ll be able to pick him out,’” said Newton.

    Newton said shortly after the conversation he went to a Cole Harbour rink one Saturday morning.

    “I just kind of hid myself from the parents and out these guys came and he just stuck out like a sore thumb,” he recalled. “It was just amazing — I’d never seen anyone with that skill level at five years of age.”

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    Newton said he was “amazed” to watch the young Crosby control the puck as a gaggle of tiny players frantically tried to get it away from him.

    Crosby was moved up with the six-year-olds and the next year he started playing rep, a level reserved for the best players in each age group.

    Newton said at six and seven years of age, Crosby’s physical skills were clearly recognizable — as were other traits that often separate the great ones.

    “He not only had the physical skills, but when I looked at him he had that inner quality, that desire, that drive and that followed Sidney right through minor hockey,” he said.

    There was also a “quiet confidence” Newton noted, that enabled him to possess the puck in the face of players who were often one to two years older than he was.

    A trace of the trait was evident in one of Crosby’s very first media interviews.

    “They say you have to do your best and work hard and things will happen,” he told the Halifax Daily News in a feature written in April 1995 when Crosby was seven.

    “You can make it if you try.”

    Crosby’s minor hockey dominance continued into peewee, where he announced his arrival on a much bigger stage, the Quebec International Peewee Tournament.

    His coach then and current family friend, Paul Mason, said going into the tournament the media hype surrounded a local boy as the next “must-see” player.

    That all changed after Crosby scored six goals and four assists for Cole Harbour in his first tournament game.

    “We compared him against the best in the world and he was the best,” said Mason. “You knew at that point that you had someone here that was pretty special.”

    Mason said there were times he and the other coaches realized the best thing to do was to sit back and watch.

    “Sometimes you would just sit back and go, ‘Oh my God,’ and just look at each other — did he really do that?” said Mason. “There were several times that you did that during the year — he was that good.”

    Former CBC sports broadcaster Bruce Rainnie first heard the buzz about a young Crosby in 1995 and after initial skepticism, finally decided to check him out at the urging of legendary Halifax sports writer Pat Connolly.

    Rainnie said an undersized Crosby recorded nine goals and two assists in a 13-9 Cole Harbour win over Shearwater.

    “I thought if he develops into any sort of average to larger-sized athlete, this is going to be an NHL legend,” Rainnie recalls. “And it was obvious from, honestly, the age of eight.”

    Crosby’s dominance in Nova Scotia lasted until the age of 14 when he left home to play at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school in Minnesota. From there it was on to Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and finally the NHL, where his numbers confirm his status as a future Hall of Famer:

    • 382 goals

    • 645 assists

    • Three Stanley Cups

    • Two Olympic Gold Medals

    • Two Hart Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player

    Through it all he’s remained very much the hometown boy. It’s something that’s endeared him to his fans and to those with a personal connection.

    “Fame and fortune I don’t think have really changed him very much at all,” said Newton. “Everybody in Cole Harbour, they respect him so much because he always comes home, he’s always down to earth, he’s running his hockey school here and he’s still part of our community.”

    Halifax’s mayor recently announced that Crosby would be parade marshal of Monday’s annual Natal Day parade, with thousands expected to cheer a favourite son.

    “I know he’s richer and I know he’s more famous,” Rainnie said, “but his fundamental groundings have never changed.”


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    Two 18-year-old men are facing a total of 24 charges following a shooting last week in Chinatown.

    Toronto police said on July 28 four men were involved in a verbal altercation that led to a firearm being discharging multiple times just after midnight at Queen St. W and Cameron St. near Spadina Ave.

    Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said two 18-year-old men began shooting at the other two men after the altercation.

    No one was injured. Only a vehicle at the scene was struck by the gunshots causing significant damage. It is not know if the car belonged to anyone involved in the shooting.

    On August 2 Kevin Pacheco and Dravid Collis, both 18 and from Toronto, were arrested and are both facing a number of firearm related charges such as unauthorized possession and the discharge of a firearm with intent to injure.

    Police say Pacheco, who is facing 15 charges, was in possession of a loaded firearm and protective body armor, and Collis, who is facing nine charges, was in possession of a knife.


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    NEW YORK—Less than an hour after a U.S. jury convicted Martin Shkreli of securities fraud, the so-called “Pharma Bro” was back at his New York City apartment doing what comes naturally: trash talking in a live-stream on YouTube.

    The brash former pharmaceutical CEO, who’s still out on bail, joked he won’t be going to a hard-core prison — “No shanks” — and predicted his acquittal on some charges Friday will help him recover tens of millions of dollars he claims he’s owed from a drug company he started.

    “It doesn’t seem like life will change much for Martin Shkreli,” he said while drinking a beer and playing with his cat. “I’m one of the richest New Yorkers there is, and after today’s outcome, it’s going to stay that way.”

    Shkreli’s trolling of his own trial has amused some onlookers. But legal experts say it could have serious consequences when it comes time for sentencing.

    “No real good can come from going on YouTube after a guilty verdict,” said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “This is exactly the kind of behaviour that got him in trouble in the first place.”

    U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto likely will factor in any lack of remorse and contrition at sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn, said Matthew Schwartz, a defence lawyer and former federal prosecutor who once worked for a Securities and Exchange Commission task force.

    “Going into the trial, he had an audience of 12. Now he’s got an audience of one,” Schwartz said, referring to the jury and judge. “He’s putting himself at great risk for a higher sentence.”

    The 34-year-old defendant faces up to 20 years in prison for his conviction on the most serious counts, though the term could be much lower under sentencing guidelines. Shkreli’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, said he would argue for no jail time. No sentencing date was set.

    Read more:

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    Shkreli was arrested in 2015 on charges he looted a drug company he founded, Retrophin, of $11 million (U.S.) in stock and cash to pay back investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. Investors took the witness stand to accuse him of keeping them in the dark as his scheme unfolded, while the defence argued there wasn’t any harm done because all of them got rich off of Retrophin stock.

    Before his arrest, Shkreli was best known for buying the rights to a life-saving drug at another company in 2014 and promptly raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. He also had a reputation for attacking critics on social media and was barred from Twitter for posts about a female journalist.

    Even during his trial, when most criminal defendants would lay low, Shkreli stayed online commenting about his own case.

    After the verdict, Brafman once again raised hopes he could rein in his client.

    “There is an image issue that Martin and I are going to be discussing in the next several days. Martin is a brilliant young man, but sometimes people skills don’t translate well,” he said.

    Not much later, Shkreli was on YouTube, answering questions about the case and cracking jokes. During his lengthy livestream, he invited one reporter up to his apartment to ask her questions on camera.

    “Ben probably wants me to act and look like your average CEO, but I’m a very individualistic person and I don’t sort of conform to what folks want me to do and not want me to do, and that’s what being an individual is all about,” he said. “As long as it doesn’t interfere with the legal case, it’s my life to live.”

    Without more conformity, Shkreli’s lawyer will have his work cut out for him trying convince the court that he should be cut some slack as “someone who is not entirely normal,” said Schwartz, the former prosecutor. “Whether the judge will buy it or not is another question.”

    The judge’s last words to the defendant as she left the bench offered no clues.

    “I wish you well, Mr. Shkreli,” she said. “See you soon.”


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    Flying is harsh — it’s like a dose of naloxone without the initial high — but at least it’s cheap. It would cost me $1,256 to fly return to London next week on Air Canada, or $969 in September after vacation season ends.

    In exchange, I would get to London in under seven hours, which I regard as a triumph of technology, a wondrous wrinkle in time. Imagine taking the train.

    A return subway ride in Toronto costs $6.50, which means that for the same price as a September flight, I could travel to and from the North York Ikea 149 times. Even better, my stop would be Bessarion, the TTC station that time forgot.

    Flying to London is a bargain but a debased one.

    On airlines now, the seats are tiny and hard, the food awful, passengers fight each other over armrests and Seat Defenders, they attack flight attendants and have to be smashed over the head with wine bottles and subdued with zip ties while being sat on, airport police seize passengers and drag them out broken, bloody and screaming, the toilets are horrific (and so few of them), and there aren’t enough flight attendants since the staff-to-passenger ratio was raised from 1:40 to 1:50 in 2015.

    That ratio saves airlines money though. (Never say “Transport Minister Lisa Raitt” to a flight attendant.)

    The latest story is Air Transat keeping two Montreal-bound planes diverted to Ottawa on the tarmac for up to six hot hours after an eight-hour flight from Brussels. Without air conditioning, the passengers finally called 911, and the Canadian Transportation Agency is investigating.

    And then there’s the near-miss at San Francisco International Airport last month. The CBC reports that the tape of the pilots’ conversation has vanished, recorded over when the plane flew out the next morning. We may never know what happened.

    The Canadian government is planning a passenger bill of rights for 2018, but the problem is bigger than that.

    The British comedian Eddie Izzard, explaining why he takes a tour bus rather than fly, says there are five stress points: taxi to the airport; checking in; security; getting on the plane; getting to hotel from airport. A bus offers two, getting on and off.

    That’s just Izzard on the bus. The Greyhound and the flight experience are gradually converging. I don’t fear for my fellow passengers, I simply fear them.

    While understanding the tactics of the modern traveller, which are the same as those of demonstrators arrested by police — just go limp — I don’t see why flyers should need a strategy in order to sit for seven hours.

    Still I go passive. There sits the economy passenger, as Alexander Pope put it, “fix’d like a plant on his peculiar spot, to draw nutrition, propagate, and rot.”

    So my plan is to do that but next time in Air Canada’s premium economy. In August, it will cost $2,731, in September $2,204. This means I can’t afford to go on vacation until next spring, but on the bright side, I’ll have more time to look forward to it, more weeks to salt away dimes.

    Even this skates around a core problem. Flying is not a right, like health care. It’s a purchase. And for some reason, customers think airfares should be cheap. I do go on about how Canadians followed the Americans in worshipping the god of cheap, but this is an extreme case.

    Even reading airfares online apparently makes people burst into tears. So Air Canada can’t raise prices. It prefers to charge for services that used to be free, which maddens unreasonable people, just as digital subscriptions madden readers grown accustomed to free journalism.

    Capitalism demands profit. You’re stuck on the tarmac because it costs Air Transat money to let you off and come back. The Air Canada flight recorder was erased because they likely had to get that plane back in the air and earning its keep. Should there have been a catastrophe in San Francisco, a few more flight attendants might have been able to hustle you off the plane in time, and not on fire either.

    I don’t think flying across the Atlantic should be cheap. Yes, it’s worthwhile flying business class while on business because you can’t negotiate while jet-lagged. You’ll sound like Donald Trump talking to the Australian prime minister.

    But business class is $7,200. My mental stamina is not worth that, even to me. So I’ll fly in the spring and take premium economy. Why don’t more people do that, fly less often but better? If Air Canada evened out their pricing and built those seats, people would come.

    Flying accounts for 4 to 9 per cent of the climate change impact of human activity, says the David Suzuki Foundation. Think of the good you’d do if you took one less flight but found it twice as pleasant.

    Air Canada makes premium economy sound bucolic. More room to sit, lean back and stretch out, priority boarding so people don’t get all snitty, an “amenity kit,” adjustable headrest, ambient mood lighting, a single-pin audio jack (Is that good? It sounds good) and a “next generation entertainment system,” which may very well involve latex gloves and virtual reality, though that doesn’t sound very Air Canada.

    Still not enough? You’ll get hot towels. Mmm baby. I’ve actually considered doing this at home, shoving some wet facecloths in a microwave and serving them on a little tray to my millennials before they dine.

    “Tonight your meal will be chicken or chicken,” I say. “Would you care for a beverage with that? It’s complimentary.” At home or away, it’s premium economy from now on.

    hmallick@thestar.ca


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    Some say there’s magic in the antique carousel on Centreville Island. You just get on and get swept away by the music of the organs that has been entertaining children for over a century. For a couple of minutes, you get lost in a whirl of colour on the back of an inanimate animal that feels alive.

    For Al Cochrane, 77, the artist/carver who has restored and maintained the Centreville carousel since he was 29-years old, the magic was in realizing that the carousel is “the most unique piece of art that there is.”

    “People had the incredible experience of riding on a piece of art work that’s been created by hand,” he said. “Think of this incredible amusement that is entertaining and a piece of history.”

    Cochrane has spent more time with the carousel than, arguably, anyone else. A sign-maker by trade, he was hired by the Beasley family in 1980 to repaint some of horses.

    After the summer season had ended, and he was alone with the carousel, he’d walk around the ride on the creaky wooden floors with the doors closed. “I imagined all the people in the factories carving these animals and painting them,” he said. “It was eerie to me, but rewarding.”

    Since news of the impending sale of the 110-year-old carousel on Centre Island, Star readers have been lamenting the loss of the ride that has been a staple on the island for decades. They’ve sent (and keep sending) memories, photos, videos, hoping to share the joy the ride has given generations of residents and visitors.

    It shocked Cochrane when people came up to him, excited to meet somebody associated with the ride. “I look back and realize what an incredible thing it was for someone who wasn’t trained to take on the task,” he said, “and how important it became for people.”

    When Margaret Franklin was eight years old, her father took her to Centre Island and let her ride the carousel 13 times. “Little did he, or anyone else know what would eventually transpire,” wrote Franklin to the Star.

    Franklin fell in love with carousels that day. Twenty-one years after her first experience, she bought an unlimited day pass and rode it again with her best friend for her birthday. They went on the ride 30 times that day, once for each year she had been alive. When Franklin got married, she embroidered carousel-style horses on the skirt of the dress her mom made. Today, she has her own website where she sells carousel-inspired quilts and ornaments.

    Yuriy Polevoy, a corporate lender based in Toronto, was inspired by the reaction to set up a crowdfunding page in an attempt to keep the carousel. “People really love it, and I just wanted to help them,” said Polevoy.

    Every year, Tracie Klaehn takes her three daughters to Centre Island and their love of horses always takes them to the carousel. “Carousels let you dream,” said Klaehn. Their visits inspired a children’s book she self-published this year.

    In Klaehn’s story, Centreville Island After Dark, every night one of the animals can go on an adventure. The chestnut horse goes first, as all the other animals keep a watchful eye out for any humans.

    Shirley Fowley, who did the illustrations, said she spent tons of time researching images of the Centreville carousel to make sure the likeness was authentic, and replicated the feeling of adventure she remembered.

    The last illustration in the book is a nine-year-old boy riding the chestnut horse: “Without further thought, he grabbed the reins and was gone, imagining he was riding through the woods on a grand adventure.”

    That’s how Ann Josling’s son, Adam, felt every time he rode the carousel. Diagnosed with autism 20 years ago at the age of two, a visit to the ride was a reward for getting through every visit to the hospital. “We would start each May with opening day and end with closing day,” she wrote to the Star.

    The carousel was Adam’s favourite ride; sometimes, he would walk around twice trying to decide which animal to sit on. He’d ride it ten to twenty times in a row, some days jumping off one animal to go to another.

    “The look on his face was always priceless; the world felt happier to him,” wrote Josling, “and before we left on a long journey home he would kiss the animals goodbye.”

    “Centre Island won’t be the same without the carousel, it has been a big part of our life,” said Josling. “It will be a huge loss to the Island and all the grownups wanting to take their grandchildren down memory lane.”

    “I’m going to miss it a lot,” said Cochrane. He’s designing six horses right now—hand-carved wooden animals that will be installed in a new, modern carousel.


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    It’s time for a feast for the eyes of feathers, glitter, and vibrant colours as the Toronto Caribbean Carnival kicks off the weekend with the Grande Parade.

    Marking the 50th anniversary of the carnival, masqueraders and steel pan performers will take over Lake Shore Blvd., leaving from Exhibition Place along British Columbia Rd. and finally returning to Exhibition at Newfoundland Rd.

    CaribanaToronto.com notes that the parade “is the highlight of the three-week festival.”

    The festival that celebrates Caribbean heritage and culture draws over a million tourists each year with its festivities and is one of Canada’s largest cultural events. That kind of pedestrian power comes with quite a few road closures though!

    Lake Shore Blvd. will be closed in both directions from Colborne Lodge Drive to Strachan Ave. and Dufferin St. south of Springhurst Ave will also be closed. The Jameson and Dunn ramps to the Gardiner Expressway will be closed, and vehicle traffic may not be able to access Exhibition Place west of Bathurst St. on Fleet St. once all the parking lots are full at Exhibition and the Gore lots.

    Although midriff baring costumes are part of the fun of the festival, parade participants should expect a little bit of a chill today, with temperature this morning hovering around 16 C, with cloudy skies and a 30 per cent chance of showers for the day. Temperatures are expected to reach a high of 21 C.

    The Grande Parade is an all ages event. The parade is free, but admission to Exhibition Place for continued celebrations costs $20-$25.

    READ MORE ON THESTAR.COM

    Cool and damp weather expected for Caribbean Carnival’s Grande ParadeEND

    Weekend road closures for Toronto Caribbean Festival

    Most stores open for August Civic Holiday in Toronto


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    MONTREAL—Groups of men and women walk toward the metal security barrier outside the stadium, shielding their faces from media cameras with their hands or T-shirts. Others pass by dragging suitcases, carrying babies. Still more exit crowded buses, squinting through the sunshine at the underbelly of the giant stadium.

    Fleeing danger, fleeing poverty, fleeing anxieties of America and the dead end of their hopes there — all to wind up at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, sleeping on cots in a structure that looks like a concrete spaceship. Thanks to an attention-grabbing government decision this week, the centrepiece of the ’76 Summer Games has become the first Canadian home for scores of asylum seekers with origins in Haiti, Nigeria, Turkey, Mexico and elsewhere who’ve come here to try to start a new life.

    Inancien Milien appeared overwhelmed as he tried to explain what it feels like. He was brought to the stadium Wednesday after walking into Canada at the Lacolle border crossing, south of Montreal. Originally from Haiti, he said he lived in the U.S. for 17 years before he decided to join the surge of his compatriots entering Canada.

    Like many others, Milien said he was propelled by the disquiet of immigration policy under President Donald Trump. There is also a distinct impression, held by many asylum seekers, that Canada, with its refugee-hugging prime minister, will be a more welcoming place.

    “It’s a dream. This is what we are looking for,” said Milien, who was leaving the stadium with two other men to meet a refugee lawyer in the city.

    “I have no anxieties since I’ve arrived here in Canada.”

    That contrast between the U.S. and Canada, in perception and reality, has been a central theme in the ongoing saga of asylum seekers who are breaking the law by walking across the border into this country. Quebec has borne the brunt of their arrival; according to federal government figures for the first half of the year, 3,350 of the 4,345 people intercepted by RCMP as they crossed into Canada were in Quebec.

    In recent weeks there has been a surge of hundreds more. The agency that supports these asylum claimants in Quebec, PRAIDA, took on 1,674 new people in July — more than double the number in June. And on Thursday, Quebec’s immigration minister said the number of asylum seekers entering the province tripled to 150 from 50 a day last month.

    PRAIDA said many of the people arriving recently are from Haiti, which again has drawn attention to Trump. In May, the White House announced it would lift an Obama-era policy that prevented Haitians seeking asylum in the U.S. from being deported to their home country. An estimated 40,000 people could be affected when this policy expires in January, prompting some to seek safe haven in Canada.

    Shelters in Montreal reached their capacity in July, hence the need for the Olympic Stadium. Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters Thursday they’re working to make sure there are 600 beds in the Olympic Stadium, though as of Friday afternoon 132 people were staying there, said PRAIDA spokesperson Emmanuelle Paciullo.

    The situation has fuelled continued calls from refugee advocate groups— as well as the federal NDP — to suspend the Safe Third Country agreement. The accord says asylum seekers arriving in Canada or the U.S. must claim refuge in the first country in which they land, but a loophole exists that critics of the agreement say encourages people to take desperate measures by walking into the country: the agreement doesn’t apply to people who “cross irregularly” by avoiding border posts.

    But for people from Haiti trying to avoid deportation in the U.S., Canada isn’t a sure bet either. Last summer, Ottawa lifted its own order that allowed asylum seekers from Haiti who would otherwise be deported to stay because of poor conditions and potential danger in that country.

    In an email Friday, Hursh Jaswal, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen, said that the deportation suspension for Haitians was briefly reinstated last fall after a hurricane, but the government now treats asylum seekers from the country the same as any other.

    However, he said deportation orders can be appealed and that “the decision to remove anyone from Canada is not taken lightly.”

    It was all just wind to Frantz Eustache Saint Jean. The 30-year-old walked into Canada at the Lacolle crossing with his pregnant wife last weekend. He shrugged as he explained how the police officers at the border patted down his wife and him, searched their belongings and brought them to an inspection station for processing.

    After spending three months in the U.S., he said he was relieved to be in Montreal and felt confident that he would be able to stay. It’s just too dangerous in Haiti, he said, where his wife was “extremely persecuted.”

    He didn’t want to elaborate.

    “I’d prefer to keep silent,” he said. “There is a crisis in that country.”

    Moments later, Thelyson Orelien ambled down a concrete ramp to the entrance of the Olympic Stadium. At 29, the blogger and library worker said he came to Canada from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, which killed an estimated 160,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more sick, injured and homeless.

    He was among several people who came to the stadium to help. He’d just spent the morning with one of its new denizens, helping him convert money into Canadian currency and figure out how to navigate Montreal’s bus system.

    “It’s certain that there are many who will be returned (to Haiti),” Orelien said, arguing that the U.S. is no longer respecting international law and Canada should accept people fleeing that country.

    “There are people who have already built a life in the United States, who have bought a house, who work there, who already have a family . . . . Should those people have to sell everything, to cancel everything?”

    As he spoke, three others approached the stadium — Montrealers from the local Haitian community who’d heard news stories about what was happening. Among them was Célienne François, who was pushing her daughter, Oriana, in a stroller.

    “I know there are young mothers inside,” she said. “It touches my heart because, these are children here, (and) they have to start again at zero.

    “If I can volunteer, or give some food, or give them a roof over their heads — whatever to help. I felt they are my compatriots.”

    Meanwhile, in Montreal’s north end, Marjorie Villefrance was also busy trying to figure out how to support these newcomers. As executive director of the city’s Maison d’Haïti community centre, she said she’s been alarmed in the past eight weeks — since the U.S. move to change its policy on temporary Haitian residents — to see the rising number of asylum claimants walking into Canada.

    “At the beginning it was three, four families per week, then it was 20 per week and now it is 20 per day,” she said, speaking in her office Thursday.

    There have been surges like this before, she said, but what makes this one different are the rumours. Social media is abuzz with conversation that Justin Trudeau promised to “welcome everybody” into Canada — a falsehood possibly derived from his much-discussed statement on Twitter, when Trump unveiled his first refugee and immigration restrictions, that Canadians would welcome “those fleeing terror, persecution & war.”

    “People are recounting this, so they enter. This is a new phenomenon,” Villefrance said.

    To solve the situation for Haitians, she’d like to see the government institute a special program similar to the push to bring in Syrian refugees.

    “I see people risking everything to travel, to come here — fleeing from their country,” she said, arguing that Ottawa’s decision to lift the moratorium on Haitian deportation was wrong.

    “We can officially say the situation (there) has improved, but that’s not what we’re finding.”

    On Friday, Trudeau urged would-be migrants to respect Canada’s border with the U.S.

    The prime minister took pains to reassure Canadians that the country has the resources and the capacity to deal with the sudden spike in asylum seekers crossing into Quebec, but he also made it clear that anyone who is caught trying to enter the country illegally would be required to navigate the proper immigration channels.

    “We want migration to Canada to be done in an orderly fashion; there’s border checkpoints and border controls that we need to make sure are respected,” Trudeau said at the Glengarry Highland Games in eastern Ontario.

    Across town in Montreal, Aristide Joseph leaned on a wooden bench outside a YMCA that is packed with newcomers from Burundi, Brazil, Haiti and elsewhere. Joseph, 40, said he fled Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and lived in Orlando, Fla., for three years. But he couldn’t find work, and a lawyer there told him he likely wouldn’t get citizenship, so he walked across the border to Canada a few weeks ago, he said.

    Like many others on the benches around him, and in the stadium across town, Joseph said he feels better being in Montreal, even though he’s alone. His eyes glazed over with tears as he spoke about his wife, two 14-year-old sons and 7-year-old daughter. They’re still in Haiti, he said.

    “There is a lot of trouble and insecurity there,” he said.

    One day he hopes to bring them here, to be Canadians together.

    With files from The Canadian Press


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    Scenario 1. You are at a party and someone brings up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. You think Trudeau is a shallow glam boy who uses photo-ops to distract from real issues. They think photo-ops are an effective gateway to discuss those issues. You argue back and forth. Neither of you changes your mind.

    You agree to disagree. The party goes on.

    Scenario 2. You are at a party and someone brings up racism or sexism and says those who say they are affected just have an affinity for victimhood.

    How do you respond? Do you fight back? You can agree to disagree on opinions, as Scenario 1 shows. Can you agree to disagree on facts? Can you agree to disagree when one set of lived experience (of not facing racism or sexism) is privileged over, and seen as more valid than, another set of lived experiences (of being systemically discriminated against)?

    Read more:Finding a way forward in our moment of truths: Age of Unreason

    Can you agree to anything less than complete consensus when what’s at stake is your right to exist equitably in your skin and gender of choice?

    Fighting back creates awkwardness, something we are socially conditioned to avoid. So people hesitate to debate topics such racism or sexism because they’re afraid they’ll say the wrong thing, be shouted down no matter what they say, or be revictimized.

    Agreeing to disagree no longer comes after a debate goes around in circles.

    It comes before it’s even begun.

    What is supposed to be a mature end to a fruitless debate has turned into a passive-aggressive, fragility-catering, non-confrontational social censorship of facts, ideas and policies.

    Everybody wants a less threatening space in which to have those conversations. There is also lack of clarity on where to draw the line between “staying in your lane” and speaking up against injustice.

    “This keeps people apart because we do not have those challenging complex conversations around things like colonialism, racism, Islamophobia and also white supremacy,” says Katy Sian, a sociology lecturer at the University of York in the U.K. and the author of books including Conversations in Post-Colonial Thought and Racism, and Governance and Public Policy: Beyond Human Rights.

    The erasure of others’ experience allows for denial to support the rise of neo-liberal delusions such as “post-racialism” and “post-feminism,” as if those struggles are a thing of the past.

    “Without those conversations we do get to a stage where we can say that happened so long ago, we’re over it,” Sian says.

    How do you bridge that knowledge and experience gap?

    There is racial bias training. There are virtual reality interventions where your mind can be tricked into body swapping with another gender or race, which have been shown to reduce biases.

    Meditation, once shrugged off as a resource of scientific study into emotions and cognitive processing, might also have some answers.

    “There have been some intriguing outcomes of meditation practices in shifting biases,” says neuroscientist Wendy Hasenkamp, science director at the Charlottesville, Va.-based Mind & Life Institute.

    “It used to be believed that by the time you are in your 20s, brain development was complete, and there wasn’t much possibility of changing personalities and beliefs. But foundational studies in the area of neuroscience have shown that our brains are highly plastic, and much more malleable over the lifespan than we realized.”

    The way we view others, for example, is based on associations in our minds that are continually updated.

    “Our ideas about the identities of others (and ourselves) are concepts we form in our minds. These concepts are a kind of mental pattern of associations, constructed out of our experience with others over time. The associations come not only from our personal experience, but also from what is fed to us by our culture, by media.”

    Embedded in these associations are evaluations such as good, bad, scary, non-threatening. Our concepts then inform our decisions and behaviour towards others. These beliefs become habit.

    “Meditation brings in the possibility of changing our habitual mental patterns,” Hasenkamp says. “It helps us first see those patterns for what they are, and then work consciously to shift them.”

    Scientists have been studying meditation to see if it brings about a reduction in biases.

    The studies mentioned here used Harvard’s seminal Implicit Association Test (IAT), which was designed to detect mental associations that create bias without someone having to consciously be aware of them.

    The IAT evaluates your implicit biases by measuring the speed with which you sort faces and words into categories. By doing so, it “measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., black people, gay people) and evaluations (e.g., good, bad) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, clumsy),” according to its creators. The test has withstood periodic academic scrutiny into its validity since its introduction in 1998 and is now widely used in social psychology research.

    One six-week study asked 101 volunteers to take the IAT for biases against Black people and homeless people. They were then randomly assigned to three groups. One group practised loving kindness meditation (generating caring feelings towards people you know and then growing the circle to include others). The second group discussed loving kindness meditation, but did not practise it directly. The third were just put on a waitlist — not assigned to any task.

    At the end of six weeks, all participants took the IAT again. The group that practised meditation had a reduction in implicit biases against both stigmatized groups. The other two groups recorded no change.

    Similar studies have been conducted with volunteers practising loving kindness meditation for seven minutes in one study, and 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation in another study.

    This research is still in its early days, but the studies suggest that targeted meditation may reduce bias towards members of “outgroups” (i.e., people not like you). A lowering of psychological stress due to meditation might also be a factor in bias reduction.

    The six-week study also confirmed what my inbox suggests: evidence does not change minds. Discussing or learning about or thinking about ideas of compassion and equality did not change bias.

    So your party arguments are unlikely to effect change. Does that mean you shouldn’t engage in those discussions?

    The sociologist Sian would insist that you do.

    “It’s about trying to destabilize and critique those things that we think are fixed in society. Without conversations we wouldn’t have made so many changes.

    “Without civil rights activists in the U.S. speaking out, we wouldn’t have those conversations or those changes happen.”

    Being silenced does not advance any thought.

    Not debating the structural dimension of racism and sexism allows the privileged to be oblivious to the turbulence of social discontent flowing underneath the veneer of equality, and be surprised or shocked that a Donald Trump could possibly win the U.S. presidency, riding on such a wellspring of support.

    “I do think what is required at the very minimum is a critical understanding of one’s history and politics,” Sian says. “That, and just having the courage to have these conversations and the strength to start that alternative dialogue.”

    “That conversation might not change someone’s mind,” Sian says. “But without the conversation they would never have heard the alternative view. You’re still passing on knowledge they might not have found otherwise.”

    Read more in the Age of Unreason series:

    Does truth matter in Ontario politics in the Trump era?: Age of Unreason

    Buy now, rationalize later. This is how emotional advertising works: Age of Unreason

    The science of why we won’t stop believing: Age of Unreason

    How minds were changed on pot, same-sex marriage, assisted death and GMOs: Age of Unreason

    I try to generate debate on social media but spend most of my time tackling trolls: Age of Unreason

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


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    An early-morning blast rocked the Dar Al Farooq mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Saturday, as worshippers had just begun to gather inside for morning prayers.

    No injuries were reported. The building sustained damage to its front, and photographs from the scene showed a large shattered window, singed blinds and charring around the outside.

    Police said Saturday afternoon that a “preliminary investigation indicates the explosion was caused by a destructive device.”

    They announced that the Minnesota office of the FBI would take the lead on the investigation. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene.

    The explosion was reported to police around 5 a.m., and they found “smoke and some damage” upon arriving. Mike Hartley, deputy police chief in Bloomington, said there was no structural damage to the building, but he declined to elaborate on any damage inside.

    In a news conference, Mohamed Omar, executive director of the mosque, said the explosion had occurred “in the direction of the imam’s room.”

    He said one member of the congregation immediately ran outside to see what had happened, and “saw a truck fleeing from the parking lot.”

    While police had not determined a motive, community members and interfaith leaders of various congregations responded to the episode as yet another attack on a Muslim place of worship.

    “We’re here all together in order to defend the values of our country, the values of our faith, the values of our people,” said Hamdy El-Sawaf, president of the board of the Islamic Community Center of Minnesota. “No matter what happens, small or big, it will never scare us, it will never bring us to our knees. We’re here to help each other, to support each other.”

    Omar was joined by dozens of community members, with some in the crowd holding signs of support proclaiming, “All are welcome here.”

    “What I would say is an attack on a mosque is an attack on a synagogue, it’s an attack on a church, it’s an attack on all faith communities, so we stand with you, a million Protestants in Minnesota,” said the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, chief executive of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

    The mosque had recently been the target of harassment, receiving threatening and hateful messages, Omar told The Star Tribune.

    “People talking about us, telling us, accusing us that we shouldn’t be here, that we are like a burden to the community or we are like harming it,” Omar said.


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    SIDNEY, B.C.—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took an unscheduled dip on Saturday when he fell into the water trying to get into a kayak.

    He kept his head above water, but much of the rest of his body was briefly submerged and his left leg was pointed straight upwards while he grabbed hold of the kayak. The spill happened at the shoreline where the water was shallow.

    Trudeau, who was wearing a flotation vest, emerged from the spill with a smile on his face. His wife Sophie managed to manoeuvre her kayak without incident.

    “I’m just happy the national media was there to capture that,” he joked.

    The prime minister’s kayak voyage at the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve near Victoria became even more eventful when a bride and groom sailed up beside his kayak to pose for a selfie with Trudeau.

    Michelle Gruetzner was wearing her white wedding dress.

    She said she and her husband, Heiner Gruetzner, were holding their wedding reception on nearby Sidney Spit when they approached the prime minister. Trudeau kissed the bride, twice.

    “He said, ‘I’m not going to take my shirt off this time,’ ” said Michelle, referring to Trudeau’s shirtless beach side appearance at a wedding ceremony last summer at Tofino, on the Island’s west coast.

    Michelle said she appreciated the kisses more than a shirtless prime minister.

    “It’s a nice addition to the photo album,” said Heiner.

    Trudeau was to travel in Tofino Saturday afternoon to take part in a roundtable with Indigenous and regional leaders.

    At a beach side news conference, Trudeau said he’s deeply aware of the need to protect West Coast waters from pollution threats, but also keenly attuned to the benefits of building a strong economy while respecting the environment.

    Trudeau’s government has approved Kinder Morgan’s $7.4-billion Trans Mountain 1,150-kilometre pipeline expansion project from Alberta to B.C.’s coast. The twin pipeline development will greatly increase Canada’s oil export capacity but also increases oil tanker traffic along the coast.

    “I have been out on these waters all my life, whether it was sailing off of English Bay . . . whether it was swimming out here at my aunt’s place near Brentwood Bay, and I have been a grandson of B.C. all my life and understand how important it is to protect these waters.”

    Trudeau spent several days over the past week in B.C., making stops in Revelstoke, Williams Lake, Vancouver and Victoria.

    He acknowledged the efforts of firefighters in B.C.’s Interior region during a daylong visit to Williams Lake, where more than 10,000 people were recently evacuated from their homes to escape the threat of a wildfire.

    Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan also took an aerial tour of the fire zone in B.C.’s central Interior on board a Canadian Armed Forces Chinook helicopter. At times the smoke from the surrounding fires was so thick, the ground below was barely visible.

    Trudeau spoke on Friday night to about 100 people gathered for a Liberal party event at a hotel in Victoria, B.C., saying the party must continue to bring forward new ideas that make Canada stronger.

    “We need to be reaching out and having difficult and reasonable conversations, anchoring ourselves in evidence and facts,” he said.

    Trudeau said the economy, environment and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples must become constant conversations across Canada.

    “We can’t walk away from the reality of climate change,” he said.

    Read more:

    Jogging Justin Trudeau photobombs Vancouver prom students

    Peterborough family bumps into wild Trudeau on hike

    Topless Justin Trudeau photobombs wedding photo


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    ROME—A 30-year-old man has been arrested in the alleged kidnapping of a young British model who thought she was coming to Milan for a photo shoot, but instead was drugged, hustled away in a suitcase and handcuffed in a house in northern Italy before being released, Milan police said Saturday.

    Police released a mug shot of the suspect whom they identified as Lukasz Pawel Herba, a Polish citizen with British residency. He was jailed for investigation of suspected kidnapping for extortion purposes, police said.

    Police official Lorenzo Bucossi told reporters the 20-year-old woman had come to Milan for what she thought was a photo shoot and was abducted on July 11.

    A statement from Milan police headquarters detailed the woman’s ordeal.

    “Attacked, drugged, handcuffed and closed inside a suitcase, that’s how a 20-year-old English model was kidnapped on July 11 in Milan to be sold to the best offer on pornography sites,” on the internet, the statement said.

    The suspect was arrested on July 18, the day after he allegedly released the woman and dropped her off at the British consulate in Milan, police said.

    The woman had arrived in Milan on July 10 and was supposed to do the photography session the next day, the statement said. A photographer had booked the session through the model’s agent, but as soon as she stepped inside the Milan apartment for the appointment, she was attacked by two men, according to the police account.

    “The kidnappers loaded the suitcase with the girl (inside) into a car trunk” and drove to a rural home in a hamlet outside Turin, the statement said. In the house, “the model was kept handcuffed to a wooden dresser in a bedroom” until she was released on July 17, the police said.

    Police suspect the Polish man advertised the “sale” of the woman online, while at the same time demanding ransom from the woman’s agent of about $380,000.

    Authorities said as far as they know, no ransom was paid. An investigation is being conducted in Poland and Britain as well as in Italy. Investigators are trying to determine if the suspect had accomplices and was mainly after ransom, or was trying to defraud someone who might have been willing to pay money online for the woman, police said.

    They didn’t identify the model’s agent.

    Milan daily Corriere della Sera said the kidnapper let his victim go because he discovered she had a child and considered her unsuitable for the sex trade. But the police official, Lorenzo Bucossi, told reporters it was unclear why the woman was released.


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    LONDON—It turned out to be one race too many for the world’s greatest sprinter, but the crowd that packed the stadium for Usain Bolt’s final 100 didn’t care: He was still the winner here.

    American Justin Gatlin was booed for winning, and Bolt was cheered for coming in third.

    Three-hundredths of a second was all that separated the medallists — 9.92, 9.94 and 9.95 seconds — in the 100-metre final at the world athletics championships, with young American Christian Coleman coming up the middle for silver.

    “I lost the race to a great competitor, and I came third to a young kid that’s coming up. He’s talented and has a great future ahead of him, so no regrets,” Bolt said afterwards.

    “I came out there and did my best. I was always going to end — win, lose or draw — and walk away because it doesn’t change anything in my career. I’ve done all I can do for the sport and for myself, so it’s time to go.”

    Bolt has been such a star for so long that it’s hard to remember just how far he’s come from his start as a high school kid in the small town of Sherwood Content, an hour’s drive from Montego Bay on Jamaica’s northwest coast; a kid who loved cricket and soccer and, by all accounts, was only swayed to running by the prospect of winning.

    And for a decade he’s been nearly unbeatable when it counts.

    At 21, he set the world record with a 9.72-second run, but it would be his wins — and playful personality — at the 2008 Beijing Olympics two months later that really made him.

    “(Bolt’s) a man who has taken the sport to a whole new level,” said the 21-year-old Coleman, who burst on to the sprinting scene with fast winning times at the NCAA championships, much as Canada’s Andre De Grasse did in 2015. “He’s been an icon of mine as I’ve grown up. It’s an honour to toe the line with him ... It’s an historic moment.”

    But it’s hardly the one that the world of track and field wanted. A sport so intent on trying to clean up its public image when it comes to doping that it’s contemplating wiping out more than a decade of records now has a world champion with two doping suspensions in his past.

    “It’s still Usain Bolt’s night,” said Gatlin, who knows well that the crowd of about 60,000 at London Stadium had hoped for a different outcome.

    “He’s done so much for the sport. Win or lose, he’s the man and the first thing I did when I crossed the line and saw that I’d won, I paid homage to him because he deserves it,” the 35-year-old said.

    “Bolt is an electrifying character who has run sizzling times, mind-blowing times and, throughout the years, he’s always kept it classy.”

    That didn’t change, even on a night of great personal disappointment, and it was Bolt who stepped up to defend Gatlin’s right to be here and applauded the victory by a runner who was booed every time he stepped on the track.

    “He’s done his time and he’s worked hard to get back to being one of the best athletes,” Bolt said.

    Saturday night marked the first bronze medal that Bolt has ever won at the world championships. He started with two silvers — in the 200 and 4x100 relay — in 2007 when he was just 20 years old, and went on to win 11 gold medals.

    Bolt said he believed he had one more victory in him, if only he could get a good start.

    He couldn’t.

    His start in the final was so bad that his famous ability to come from behind — at six-foot-five, he covers the 100 in fewer strides that his competitors — just couldn’t make up the difference.

    For Canada’s De Grasse, knocked out with a hamstring injury this past week, this may well be remembered as the race that got away, with the eventual winning time seemingly within his range.

    The crowd was on its feet from the moment Bolt took to the track for the final, and stayed there cheering for him long after the scoreboard showed him in an uncharacteristic spot.

    It was a long stream of adulation for Bolt’s incredible, long-standing world-record times — 9.58 seconds in the 100, 19.19 in the 200 — along with his ability to rise above the endless doping scandals that have created cynicism around the sport and, perhaps most of all, his ability to enjoy every minute of it.

    He looked like he was having fun racing when so many others made it look like a job or testosterone-fuelled showdown of big egos — his lightning-bolt pose, goofing around with mascots not just after races but before, including here with Hero the Hedgehog on his way to the call room for his final 100.

    Bolt connected with fans in a way not many sprinters ever have.

    That’s what brought Alex Archer, sporting his dual nationality with a Jamaican flag draped over his Canadian jacket, to London Stadium.

    “He’s someone I can imagine would be really fun to hang out with,” Archer said. “It’s the end of an era, I remember watching him at the beginning when he first broke onto the scene.

    “A win is a cherry on the top, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. I think he’s already proved what he needs to prove.”

    That’s just what Bolt said.

    “I’m done. I’ve proven to the world that I’m one of the greatest athletes and I don’t think tonight has changed anything,” he said.

    “I’m unique. I do things different than everybody else. I don’t think there will be another me.”


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    A Toronto man working on the opposition’s presidential election campaign in Kenya has been deported after being detained ahead of Tuesday’s contentious vote, his wife says.

    “As far as we know he boarded the plane (in Nairobi),” Jennifer Mary Bell said of her husband, Andreas Katsouris.

    “I’ve spoken to him twice today, both very, very briefly, like maybe 60 seconds at the most,” Bell said Saturday in an interview from the Netherlands, where he is expected to join her after the flight to Germany.

    “I spoke to him early this morning and he was on a monitored call, he couldn’t really talk. He sounded fine, he sounded very calm. He said they were treating them fine. And then I spoke to him just as he was getting on the plane a couple hours ago. He sounds upset.

    “He’s been there since late June, they’ve been working their hearts out on this campaign and of course it’s really disappointing to have it end this way.”

    Katsouris is senior vice-president of global services at Aristotle, Inc., a political consulting firm that provides various services to campaigns, including strategy and data analysis.

    He and the company’s CEO, John Aristotle Phillips, an American, were detained Friday night in the capital, Nairobi, said Aristotle spokesperson Brandi Travis.

    Travis said the two men were in Kenya assisting opposition candidate Raila Odinga, and had become involved in the election because they thought it had the potential for irregularities.

    “I was originally just informed that they were missing and that they had been taken somewhere,” said Bell, who works in public health as an epidemiologist.

    “That was last night. I got an urgent call to say that they had been apprehended and taken to some building, but nobody knew where.”

    Bell said the men went out for dinner with a member of the campaign staff, but were apprehended. The campaign staff member was the one who sounded the alarm.

    Bell said her husband was safe and had been well-treated, despite reports that Phillips had been assaulted and put in the trunk of a vehicle.

    James Orengo, a senior member of the opposition National Super Alliance, told reporters that Phillips was “very adamant about his rights under the constitution, civic rights, was molested, thrown into the boot, and taken away with his colleague.”

    Though Bell said she had a feeling Katsouris would be OK — going into potentially dangerous countries during elections is “kind of his thing” — she called her MP to make sure the incident was on the Canadian government’s radar.

    But the incident does raise questions.

    “To me the interesting question is why this happened, and why the (Kenyan) government would choose to do something so visible with an American and a Canadian,” she said. “It suggests a motive that isn’t necessarily pure.”

    President Uhuru Kenyatta — the son of Kenya’s first president — will face longtime opposition leader Odinga, the son of the country’s first vice-president.

    Odinga has run unsuccessfully for the top post in three previous contests.

    Recent elections in Kenya, East Africa’s high-tech and commercial hub, have been hotly contested; more than 1,000 people were killed in post-election violence a decade ago. Kenyatta prevailed over Odinga in a 2013 vote that was mostly peaceful but tainted by opposition allegations of vote-rigging.

    Travis said Katsouris and Phillips knew there were risks associated with working for the opposition in Kenya, but they thought Odinga’s cause was worth it.

    “They do go into countries that aren’t always safe,” she said, “but they think it’s the right thing to do.”

    James Orengo, a senior member of the opposition National Super Alliance, told The Associated Press that the detention of Katsouris and Phillips happened around the same time that armed and masked police raided an opposition vote-counting centre, intimidating workers and seizing equipment. He also said two Ghanaians working on the opposition campaign have been deported.

    Kenyan police denied allegations that officers broke into political party offices on Friday, saying no report of a burglary has been made to any police station.

    With files from Emily Fearon and The Associated Press


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    When marijuana becomes legal in Canada next year, it will be mainly because Justin Trudeau had a change of mind in 2012.

    Same-sex marriage and the right to physician-assisted death — they’re now the law of the land in Canada because politicians, judges and yes, citizens too, changed their minds.

    But changes of mind get a bad rap in politics — they’re usually linked to promise-breaking, weakness of conviction or disloyalty to the cause or the team.

    That’s even more true in this world of instant opinions, Twitter spats and polarized debates, when taking the time to reason through an issue seems like a quaint relic of another century, and the middle ground seems, well, boring.

    Read more:Finding a way forward in our moment of truths: Age of Unreason

    You’re not likely to see people on a TV political panel in 2017 saying to each other: “You know, you’ve convinced me I’m wrong.” And it’s hard to gain clicks on social media with a measured, nuanced view from both sides of a debate.

    Yet it can happen. People can move from one side of an issue to another. Voters do it all the time. How does it happen? Sometimes it’s a sudden conversion; sometimes the shifts in thinking emerge over time.

    It’s commonly assumed that people get more conservative as they get older, that when they change their minds, it’s to shed their old, left-wing convictions. But that’s not always the case: changing of minds works both ways.

    What follows here are a few stories of Canadians who did a 180-degree shift in recent years on some big political issues — proof that while polarization may be rampant south of the border, it is neither an inevitable nor a permanent condition in Canada. At least not yet.


    Five short years ago, Trudeau was not a fan of legalized pot. As he wandered around the 2012 Liberal policy convention in Ottawa — the same one in which a majority of party members voted in favour of legalization — Trudeau was a dissenting voice.

    He told one interviewer that marijuana “disconnects you a little bit from the world” and that it was “not good for your health.” For those reasons alone, Trudeau said he wasn’t in favour of any measures that could make pot use more widespread.

    “I don’t know that it’s entirely consistent with the society we’re trying to build,” Trudeau said in an interview that still lives on YouTube, where it’s immediately clear he hasn’t had his run-for-leadership makeover: he still sports a moustache and the long, unruly hair.

    By the end of 2012, a lot of things had changed for Trudeau — beyond his appearance. He had changed his mind about running for Liberal leader, officially launching his campaign in October, and he was also starting to see that legalization was better than the decriminalization option he’d long favoured.

    Today, Trudeau and his advisers trace the shift to a meeting with two women in his office in November of that year, who armed him with some of the pro-legalization arguments that he’s still using today — now, as prime minister. The two women were Kelly Coulter and Andrea Matrosovs, then representing what was known as the women’s alliance of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

    Coulter, who now lives in Victoria, remembers the meeting well, and is heartened to hear that Trudeau traces his conversion to this encounter.

    “I actually saw the ‘aha’ moment,” Coulter says. It had been an emotional meeting in Trudeau’s tiny Parliament Hill office; the three of them talked about their own personal experience with marijuana. Trudeau talked about his mother using pot, and his brother, Michel, who had been charged with possession not long before he died. (Trudeau has subsequently told the story publicly of how his father used connections to get the charges dropped so that his son didn’t have a criminal record.)

    Coulter told Trudeau flatly that decriminalization would not keep gangs and organized crime out of the marijuana business. “Al Capone would have loved it if alcohol had only been decriminalized,” she said — a line she often used when talking to politicians.

    “I saw the light go on in his eyes,” Coulter said. “He was seeing this as a politician, realizing ‘I can sell this,’ ” she recalled.

    Trudeau could see how this argument would blunt Conservative attacks on him as being soft on crime; with legalization, he could simultaneously seem liberal about marijuana but conservative about gangs and criminals. It helped persuade Trudeau that legalization, would be the best way for the government to regulate its use and keep it safe, especially for kids.

    Still, it would be a while before Trudeau would make that change of mind public. Throughout the Liberal leadership debates in the winter of 2013, it was candidate Joyce Murray who most strongly advocated for legalization. It wouldn’t be until July of 2013, when he was travelling through B.C. as the new Liberal leader, that Trudeau would announce he was in favour of legalization. Roughly four years since that declaration, the legislation is now moving through Parliament, and marijuana sales and consumption should be legal by next summer.


    Cannabis legalization isn’t the only tough, polarizing issue that the Trudeau government has tackled. No sooner had the Trudeau government been sworn in when it was forced, thanks to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling, to come up with a new law on medical assistance in dying. It meant that one of the hardest, most emotionally charged issues for families, physicians and caregivers got plunged into politics, where people are always looking for black-and-white distinctions.

    Certainly many doctors felt they had to pick sides, and the law has been written to take account of doctors who refuse to help patients choose death. One physician who made the journey from “against” to “for” on assisted dying was James Downar, a critical care and palliative care expert with the University Health Network in Toronto.

    Downar tells the story of his conversion quite publicly, to encourage physicians as they face what for many of them is an agonizing decision. Downar even wrote up a kind of guide for doctors thinking through their positions on medically assisted dying, which appeared in a 2014 issue of HealthCare Papers, a publication for people interested in medical and health issues.

    Downar talks about how he came out of school — the “doctor factory,” as he calls it — with pretty standard opinions on whether he should be helping patients end their lives. “I was taught that it was immoral to end a life intentionally, because it was contrary to the healing culture of medicine and forbidden by the Hippocratic oath,” Downar writes.

    But as he started practising his profession, he began to see the issue in not so simple, abstract terms. Downar saw patients suffering in their final hours — situations in which ending their lives seemed to be the greater mercy than keeping them alive and his convictions intact.

    He also started to pore through medical research that also tested his opposition to physician-assisted dying. Gradually, Downar came to the conclusion that it was his duty to come to the “for” side of the debate.

    “Medical school had taught me to be prepared to reconsider my diagnosis when things weren’t evolving the way I expected,” he wrote in HealthCare Papers.

    The final step, the one that turned him into an advocate, was seeing the video that Donald Low, the microbiologist who headed up the fight against SARS, left behind when he died in 2013 of a brain tumour. Low, who had been a boss and a mentor to Downar, made the video eight days before he died — an impassioned call for assisted dying, literally made on a deathbed. After seeing the video, Downar signed on as a physician adviser for Dying with Dignity. His article in HealthCare Papers contains some useful tips for doctors thinking of changing sides — many revolving around respect, not just for facts, but for the emotion of the issue, too.

    “Do not stoop to personal attacks, even when they are used against you. This issue is too important,” Downar writes. “Keep it logical… When new data arises, do not ignore or suppress it.”

    Some of those tips could also be useful in other, polarized and emotional debates, too.


    It’s often the political right that’s accused of ignoring science, of putting ideology ahead of evidence and ignoring inconvenient facts. But it can happen on the left side of the political spectrum, too, as Rachel Gouin discovered.

    Gouin works in government relations in Ottawa these days, but she once worked for an anti-poverty organization that was fiercely opposed to genetically modified organisms — GMOs, as they’re called. (Because Gouin does not want to single out former colleagues or the organization for criticism, it remains unnamed in this article.)

    Gouin hadn’t thought too much about GMOs before starting her job as a fundraiser with the organization, and simply adopted the company line. She was learning quickly on the job, though, and soon was organizing events around the idea of banning all genetically modified food. One fundraiser Gouin organized in Montreal still sticks in her mind.

    “Having no scientific background, I was repeating key messages from the campaign and responding to questions with information I had gleaned from colleagues and materials circulated in the office,” Gouin said.

    At the end of her presentation, she was approached by a scientist. He told her she was not giving the facts about the technology she’d mentioned in her remarks. “He was not angry, but wanted to express his disagreement with the organization’s position.”

    Gouin and her colleagues dismissed his criticism, writing him off as “lacking in critical-thinking skills,” as they liked to say. But as time wore on, Gouin was increasingly bothered by the idea that she might be spreading misinformation. She started digging deeper into the organization’s anti-GMO research and found it lacking in rigour. Gouin realized that even though the cause was noble (protecting small farmers) the science was off.

    She wouldn’t be the only one to make that call — Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” also did a major rethink of his opposition to GMOs and announced his 2016 that he couldn’t keep speaking out against them. Nye, who’s best known for his popular PBS show that teaches science to kids, said he was persuaded by the evidence, but also tipped over the edge by the unscientific, conspiratorial nature of the anti-GMO movement. Gouin felt much the same.

    “The line for me was whether or not that meant denying what science was saying about GMOs,” Gouin said. She spoke up at work meetings a couple of times, but ultimately realized it was wiser to simply change jobs. The experience changed more than her mind about GMOs — it changed how she comes to other views, too.

    “I do measure my opinions more. I want to hear the view of scientists,” Gouin says. “I no longer side with lone-voice contrarians and hold them up as courageous in the face of some kind of corporate and political conspiracy to silence their dissent.”

    Changing her own mind made Gouin realize how hard it can be for others. “It really opened my eyes to the ways in which even smart, educated people can become so strongly attached to positions that they will not reconsider them in light of evidence to the contrary.”


    Michael Coren may be one of Canada’s best-known mind-changers, who now writes frequently for this newspaper. Once a prominent voice in the right-wing, conservative commentariat, with multiple platforms in the Sun media network and The Catholic Register, Coren experienced a profound, life-changing reversal in his opposition to same-sex marriage.

    It started in 2013, when he watched anti-gay zealots haranguing John Baird, then foreign affairs minister, for speaking out against Uganda’s proposed death penalty for homosexuality. Coren, who had been an ardent Roman Catholic since joining the church in the 1980s, realized he simply couldn’t reconcile his religious or spiritual beliefs with people who held such virulent views against other human beings.

    By 2014, Coren was writing a column in the Toronto Sun, headlined “I was wrong,” about same-sex marriage. By 2015, he’d left the Roman Catholic church and converted to Anglicanism.

    It was a costly shift of opinion — abandoning his views meant the loss of some of his columnist jobs and many lucrative speaking engagements. As Coren said in an interview, it was probably not all that timely a decision either — Donald Trump’s rise in the United States has injected some new energy, not to mention income, into right-wing commentary. Had he held on to his old views, Coren might be making a good deal of money right now.

    “My timing in a way couldn’t be worse,” he laughs.

    Coren wrote a book about his conversion, the reaction and what it all taught him about life, politics and changing one’s mind. It’s titled Epiphany: A Christian’s change of heart and mind over same-sex marriage.

    In the process of changing his own mind, Coren has learned a little bit about how to go about changing others. It makes no sense, he says, to yell at people or call them names, or imply that their current view is stupid. Far too often these days, says Coren, that’s the style of political debate and probably the reason that things get polarized in the first place.

    “You’ve got to be respectful and you don’t scream at people who disagree with you,” he says. “And if people are screaming at you, you don’t respond.” While changing one’s mind may be an intensely personal process, making arguments personal rarely works.

    Coren laughs at suggestions that changes of mind are a sign of intellectual weakness or a lack of conviction. “There’s nothing flimsy or flabby about watching, listening and learning and changing because of that,” Coren says. “I could argue that not changing is rather strange.”

    In fact, Coren has a bit of a warning for people who are considering changing their minds on one issue or another — switching sides is addictive. Once you start opening your views to new thinking, you may not be able to stop.

    “I’ve changed my view on most moral and sexual issues, certainly on assisted dying,” Coren says. On abortion, an extremely polarizing issue for the church and politics, Coren has also switched his views. “You do develop a certain flexibility … If you make the leap of empathy on one issue, you do tend to empathize on others.”

    Still, it’s rarely easy. Walking away from long-held views may mean losing old friends, colleagues, income or status. If you’re a politician, it could mean losing votes or elections and facing accusations of weakness and inconsistency.

    That’s probably why we don’t hear stories that often of transformed views in politics, which is a shame — because anyone who wants to change the world for the better is going to have to change some minds, sometimes starting with their own mind.

    Read more in the Age of Unreason series:

    To agree to disagree on racism, sexism has become a cowardly cop-out: Age of Unreason

    Does truth matter in Ontario politics in the Trump era?: Age of Unreason

    Buy now, rationalize later. This is how emotional advertising works: Age of Unreason

    The science of why we won’t stop believing: Age of Unreason

    I try to generate debate on social media but spend most of my time tackling trolls: Age of Unreason

    sdelacourt@bell.net


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    Hundreds of Drake fans filled an entire hallway of Yorkdale Mall on Saturday, forming a snaking line, all eagerly waiting to enter the rapper’s new flagship store.

    The OVO store — which stands for October’s Very Own, Drake’s brand for everything from his record label to his music festival — sells apparel, including sweaters, shoes, hats, water bottles and lighters.

    Some Drake fans channelled the rapper’s owl logo and camped out overnight to be the store’s first customers. By mid-afternoon, 600 people had entered the store, with hundreds more waiting.

    “I didn’t sleep, we just messed around to kill time,” said Omar Hassan, who arrived at 6 p.m. Friday and got into the store at 11 a.m. Saturday. Hassan plans to resell some of the merchandise he bought.

    Customers leaving the store described it as small; Hassan said its gold and white interior looked like a “rich person’s closet.”

    “I came all the way from Louisiana for OVO Fest,” said rapper Jade Delvale, referring to the annual music festival Drake founded that will kick off on Monday. “I’m a big Drake head anyway, so seeing this line is not surprising.”

    Keelie Belmonte waited in line with her son for nearly 10 hours to enter the store. Despite her sore legs, she was still upbeat.

    “There’s a few collector items, so hopefully we’ll be successful in our quest,” she said. “(Drake’s) the man, Toronto represent.”

    Security guards and police officers were on scene to monitor the crowd. Passersby squeezed by the hulking line, some taking pictures, others bewildered at what all the commotion was about.

    Hours of waiting caused frustration for potential customers. One woman exited the line with her mother, saying that she “waited six hours for nothing.”

    Rahim Jaffer, who entered the line at 8 a.m., said by mid-afternoon, the “vibe now seems more like frustration” than excitement.

    Ryan Dillon was able to skip most of the line because of some connections. While he was happy with his purchases, he said the store was not worth the wait. Some customers spotted some VIP shoppers, part of Drake’s inner circle.

    Security guards allowed 10-15 customers in the store at a time, with no time limit as to how long they could shop.


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