Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

TOPSTORIES

older | 1 | .... | 987 | 988 | (Page 989) | 990 | 991 | .... | 1045 | newer

    0 0


    Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr returns to court this week to ask that his bail conditions be eased, including allowing him unfettered contact with his controversial older sister, more freedom to move around Canada and unrestricted internet access.

    In support of his request, Khadr notes the conditions originally imposed two years ago were necessary as a graduated integration plan following his 13 years in American and Canadian custody. No issues have arisen since his release and the various restrictions have been revised several times — most recently in May last year, he says.

    Currently, Khadr, 30, can only have contact with his sister Zaynab if one of his lawyers or bail supervisor is present. The condition is no longer necessary, he says.

    “I am now an adult and I think independently,” he says in an affidavit. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

    Read more:

    Widow of U.S. soldier seeks enforcement of Utah judgment against Omar Khadr in Alberta

    Former PM Paul Martin regrets government’s early handling of Omar Khadr case

    Zaynab Khadr, 37, who recently had a fourth child in Egypt, according to court filings obtained by The Canadian Press, was detained in Turkey a year ago for an expired visa. She and her fourth husband subsequently moved to Malaysia but are now said to be living in Sudan and planning to visit Canada.

    “I would like to be able to spend time with her and the rest of our family when she is here,” Omar Khadr states. “As far as I am aware, Zaynab is not involved in any criminal activities and is frequently in contact with the Canadian embassy in order to ensure that her paperwork is up to date.”

    Zaynab Khadr, who was born in Ottawa, was at one point unable to get a Canadian passport after frequently reporting hers lost. She was also subject to an RCMP investigation in 2005, but faced no charges. Her third husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, is reportedly still a Taliban hostage along with his American wife and children in Afghanistan. In 2008, she went on a hunger strike on Parliament Hill to draw attention to her brother’s plight as an American captive in Guantanamo Bay.

    Several years ago, she and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing pro-al-Qaida views. Omar Khadr told The Canadian Press last month that he saw no point in decrying their views.

    “I’m not excusing what they said. I’m not justifying what they said,” Khadr said. “They were going through a hard time. They said things out of anger or frustration.”

    Khadr, who recently married, says a college in Red Deer, Alta., about a half-hour from where he spent time in maximum security after his return from Guantanamo Bay, has accepted him into its nursing program. He says he plans to leave his Edmonton apartment at the end of September and find new accommodation.

    In another bail-variation request the court in Edmonton will consider on Thursday, Khadr asks for an end to a condition that he provide his supervisor notice about his travel plans within Alberta, and that he obtain permission to travel outside the province. Requiring him to remain in Canada would be sufficient, the documents state. He also wants restrictions on accessing computers or the internet lifted.

    In May 2015, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross granted Khadr bail pending appeal of his conviction by a widely maligned U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes. The appeal in the States has stalled through circumstances outside his control and nothing has changed since his release, his filing says.

    Khadr found himself at the centre of a fierce political firestorm amid word last month that the Canadian government, which apologized to him for breaching his rights, had paid him $10.5 million in compensation. He says he just wants to get on with his life.

    “I wish to become independent and to put my legal matters behind me,” he says in his affidavit. “I am a law-abiding citizen and I wish to live free of court-imposed conditions.”

    American soldiers captured a badly wounded Khadr, then 15 years old, in July 2002 following a fierce assault on a compound in Afghanistan in which a U.S. special forces soldier was killed. Khadr later said he pleaded guilty before the commission to throwing the deadly grenade as a way out of American detention. He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.


    0 0


    A video of a brawl involving a crowd of people in a residential Mississauga parking lot that went viral has prompted a police investigation into the incident.

    The video, posted on World Star Hip Hop’s Instagram account, has racked up over 1.2 million views. Shouting and expletives can be heard as several people physically clash, some of them carrying what look like poles or bats.

    Peel Police Const. Bancroft Wright said the fight broke out around 6 p.m. on August 14 near Highway 10 and Queensway West. They responded to the area over reports of a disturbance with “10 to 15 people fighting,” Wright said.

    When police arrived on the scene, everyone scattered.

    Police managed to locate and speak to a few of the people involved, but were unaware of the details of the brawl until a video filmed by a woman in a nearby building was brought to their attention.

    In the video, the brawl takes a turn for the worse when a dark sedan backs up a couple lengths and accelerates toward the people still clustered in the fight.

    Two men can be seen diving out of the way, narrowly avoiding being pinned between two vehicles as the sedan smashes into the front of a silver vehicle as people scream in the background.

    The sedan pulls away and a man who was standing near the silver car briefly crumples to the ground — it isn’t clear whether he was struck by the silver car’s open door or merely blown back by the impact of the collision.

    No weapons were recovered from the initial scene and no injuries were reported, Wright said.

    “Police are hoping to speak to the driver of an older-model four-door black Cadillac that was shown driving into a silver Honda,” he said. The video footage of the scene suggests the possibility that several charges could be incurred, he added.

    “The car looks as if it’s being used as a weapon, and then there was failing to remain at the scene, (so) there’s potential for multiple charges.”

    An investigation is ongoing, but Wright noted police can only do so much when the individuals involved don’t remain on scene.

    “It’s one thing if people are coming in, speaking — ‘yes, this happened to me and here’s the information’ — but if nothing’s coming in then (we’re) a bit behind the 8-ball to find the information.”


    0 0


    Matt Morgan meets me at the Cineplex elevator wearing an easy smile and a red flannel shirt with the collar cropped off.

    “The coffee’s not as good as Alchemy,” he said, with a grinning reference to a popular nearby brunch joint, but at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Markham, “at least it’s coffee.”

    Around us, skinny-jean-clad 20-somethings mingle, coffees in hand, while Tom Cruise gazes from a movie poster on the wall. Sugary Christian pop-rock echoes into the hallway.

    Soon everyone files into the movie theatre as the rock band ramps to a crescendo. Sweeping vistas of clouds, rushing rivers and doves flash across the giant screen as dozens of outstretched arms and upraised voices praise Jesus in song.

    Welcome (or “Welcome Home,” as the official slogan goes) to Vantage Church, Toronto’s up-and-coming extension of the Hillsong phenomenon.

    For the uninitiated, Hillsong Church is the millennial generation’s answer to the “stuffy” Christianity of the past, as senior Vantage pastor Damian Bassett puts it.

    Once a week Bassett brings his high-charisma preaching to not one but two Vantage congregations — the first in Markham on Sunday mornings, and the second in a hotel basement near Yonge and Dundas in the evenings.

    In total, Bassett says Vantage has about 500 frequent worshippers across both campuses. It’s growing, though Vantage isn’t the only game in town. The Toronto branch of Christian City Church has a similar esthetic, and a congregation of around 800, also mostly millennials.

    “A lot of young people want something different than what they currently have in a church,” Bassett said. “We’re not seeking to be ‘cool,’ but we do want to be relevant.”

    Instead of the stereotypical Sunday best, you’re more likely to see Hillsong worshippers in thrift-shopped bohemian threads. Converse Chuck Taylors proliferate.

    Services are more like rock concerts, with stage lights and charisma instead of solemnity and choral hymns.

    It’s all very flash and hip and photogenic. Even the coffee station is adorned with a string of bare tungsten light bulbs. It’s big-tent revivalism for the Instagram age.

    Founded in 1983 by Brian and Bobbie Houston in Sydney, Australia, Hillsong has become a mega-church of global proportions. It’s active in 19 countries on five continents, and claims a global attendance approaching 100,000 worshippers weekly.

    It’s got its own record label and its most popular band, Hillsong United (fronted by the Houstons’ son Joel) has cranked out 16 albums since 1998, topping the Christian rock charts and selling millions of records translated into more than 100 languages.

    Along the way it has attracted millennial celebrities like Justin Bieber, who recently cancelled part of his world tour and is often seen palling around with Hillsong New York’s tattooed pastor Carl Lentz.

    Bieber has been open on social media about his faith and — more recently — his personal relationship with Jesus. In 2015 a GQ feature article described in detail the moment Lentz baptized the often-troubled pop singer in NBA veteran Tyson Chandler’s basketball star over-sized bathtub.

    Another NBA star, Kyrie Irving, has also been connected to Lentz and Hillsong in media reports. Some have speculated there was a connection to his trade this past week.

    Vantage Church’s senior pastors — Damian Bassett and his wife, Julie Bassett — are a long way from the paparazzi and the wild speculation.

    “We’re just trying to reach people,” Damian said.

    “Maybe the church has been stained in the past by trying to tell people what to do and how to live their lives. I think what the church is called to do is just to love people.”


    Damian, originally from New Zealand, and Julie, from Toronto, fell in love with each other in Sydney, while attending Hillsong’s bible college. They both come from Pentecostal backgrounds, and spent 10 years in the Australian city, working with the church and raising the first two of their three daughters.

    “But I’m from here,” Julie said. “We just felt really strongly that we were called to come back and start a church similar to Hillsong in Canada.”

    But it isn’t exactly a Hillsong Church. Vantage is a member of the “Hillsong Family” — a collection of 30 autonomous churches around the world that take their spiritual inspiration and guidance from Hillsong, but are free to run their affairs as they see fit.

    “We have connections,” Julie said. “We go to conferences. We position ourselves close to Brian and Bobbie because they are our senior pastors. They were our pastors for 10 years in Sydney, and we still need pastors ourselves, people we can look to and call on.”

    But that closeness to the Houstons occasionally also means being close to controversy. Like any mega-church, Hillsong has faced storms, sometimes of its own making.

    Earlier this year in New York, it was a row over whether gay marriage was OK with the church. Two openly gay members of Hillsong New York’s choir gave a media interview in which they said they were planning to marry, and claimed they had the church’s blessing.

    That drew backlash from the church’s more conservative members, and Brian Houston was pressured into writing a blog post titled “Do I Love Gay People?” The takeaway message was that gay people are welcome in the church; they just can’t hold a leadership role.

    For the Bassetts and Vantage, the issue is a tricky one.

    “You’ve got years and years of the church thinking a certain way, and some people being idiots about it and others being quiet about it,” Damian said.

    “I think there’s got to be grace on both sides. At the end of the day, I think it’s something that’s going to change in our culture and it’s not something that I’m going to fight against.”

    Openly gay people are 100 per cent welcome at Vantage, Damian said, as is anybody. He doesn’t preach about it or anything else political from the stage, and won’t push his beliefs on anyone unless he’s asked directly for guidance.

    “We would much rather build a relationship with people and talk about it with them behind closed doors,” Julie said, “the way that we would deal with any other issue, if someone struggles with alcoholism or any other issue that they may be struggling with.”

    In Australia, the church has faced far worse.


    In 1999, revelations surfaced that Hillsong founder Brian Houston’s father, Frank, himself a pastor at the Sydney Christian Life Centre, had sexually assaulted at least one boy for years in the 1970s, beginning when the child was 7.

    Brian, who was president of the Assemblies of God in Australia at the time, confronted his father, who confessed to the abuse. Frank was removed from the ministry, and the church was told in private correspondence he’d committed a grave “moral failure,” but Brian never went to the police.

    He also helped his father pay the victim $10,000. The payment was agreed upon at a meeting in a McDonald’s, where the victim was given a dirty napkin to sign in exchange for the money, according to the findings of a 2004 royal commission. The commission found that Brian had been in a conflict of interest while attempting to deal with the controversy.

    The scandal has followed the Houstons ever since.

    For Tanya Levin, one of Hillsong’s long-standing and most vocal critics, Brian’s handling of the abuse allegations constituted a cover-up.

    “He never named it,” Levin said. “He never apologized for it. He never guaranteed anybody’s safety — none of that. It was: pray for us. My dad’s a pedophile, pray for us.”

    Levin has been a thorn in the church’s side for years. She grew up in Hillsong in Australia, but left as a teenager over what she said was rampant hypocrisy in its teachings. Decades later as the abuse revelations began to unfurl, she landed a book deal to write about the church. When she approached the Houstons for an interview in 2005, she got a letter from their lawyer asking her to refrain from attending any more Hillsong meetings.

    When she showed up with a camera crew in 2015, she was arrested and charged with trespassing.

    Generally, Levin said Hillsong is less about the Bible and more about making money.

    “It’s no different than Scientology,” she said, “it just looks less kooky. It’s a very subtle form of brainwashing. The Bible, at this point, is kind of peripheral to the whole thing.”

    Hillsong proper rakes in millions of dollars a year from its congregants around the world. Last year it brought in nearly $131 million (Canadian), 56 per cent of it from donations, according to its annual report.

    Compared to Hillsong’s income, Vantage Church is much more modest. It had about $353,000 in revenue last year, 84 per cent from donations, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.

    But with the sepia-toned appeal of Hillsong’s hipster cred as a road map, Vantage Church is setting out on a similar journey.


    Vantage services typically start with four or five rousing songs of praise, followed by a reading of prayer requests and a short message encouraging donation.

    On a Sunday morning earlier this month, Laura Montgomery stood on stage in the Markham Cineplex, extolling the virtues of investing.

    She began by telling the assembled how earlier this summer, she took the scary first steps into the world of mutual funds and stock markets, GICs and TFSAs.

    But you know what’s superior to investing in the world economy? she asked. “Investing in the Kingdom of God.”

    “Your stock might go up, or it might go down. But investing in the Kingdom of God guarantees an amazing return on investment,” Montgomery said.

    She went on to say that for people who donate, they’ll be rewarded with the treasure God is saving for them in heaven.

    As she spoke, volunteers passed around collection buckets before Damian took the stage to deliver the sermon proper.

    One hundred per cent of the donations Vantage brings in are used by Canadian organizations. On this, Damian is very clear. “We don’t send money out of the country unless it’s for, say, the charity we support called Watoto, which works in Uganda but it’s run by Canadians and registered here.”

    With Hillsong providing a global template, Vantage Church is about to embark on a season of expansion. In September it will be moving the downtown campus from its current location in the basement of the Bond Place Hotel to a larger space in a former Anglican church nearby.

    It will also start honing its social media game, and church officials hope to issue a couple of musical EPs from the tiny recording studio at the church’s office in Markham.

    “We’ve never really marketed ourselves,” Damian said. “We’ve been flying under the radar for a long time.”

    The Bassetts spent the first few years of Vantage’s eight-year history building towards a stronger church — refining the product, so to speak. Now, it’s time to take that product to the masses.

    “Marketing serves what we do, but we don’t serve marketing,” said Julie. “Marketing is a tool to bring people in the door but at the end of the day our purpose isn’t marketing. Our purpose is to love people and to glorify God.”


    0 0


    LAS VEGAS—As UFC president Dana White addressed a news conference following Floyd Mayweather’s 10-round dismantling of UFC champ Conor McGregor, the boxer emerged from the locker room with his retinue and mounted the stage.

    The 40-year-old Mayweather hugged Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza, then embraced Leonard Ellerbe, his long-time ally and CEO of Mayweather promotions. He even hugged White, whose most marketable star he had just throttled in the richest combat sports event in history.

    When Mayweather took the dais and started talking, the World Boxing Council’s “Money Belt” rested on a chair beside him.

    But it wasn’t beside the point.

    Most observers expected Mayweather, now 50-0 and a future hall-of-famer, to deal McGregor a painful boxing lesson — and that happened. But McGregor made a guaranteed $30 million for a fight organizers expect to break pay-per-view records. For Mayweather, the payday started with a $100 million guarantee and could swell to $350 million once pay-per-view and other revenue sources are tallied.

    With numbers like those available for facing an MMA fighter with no pro boxing experience, Mayweather says the decision to end his two-year retirement was simple.

    “We all do foolish things,” Mayweather told the post-fight news conference. “But I’m not a damn fool.”

    McGregor, 29, entered the ring with a 21-3 mixed martial arts record and a noticeable size advantage over Mayweather. He also brought an awkward, aggressive style that troubled the undefeated Mayweather early. McGregor even landed the bout’s significant blow, an authoritative first-round uppercut.

    Read more:

    Photos: Floyd Mayweather triumphs over Conor McGregor

    Mayweather-McGregor fight all about the money

    Mayweather sees a racial double standard ahead of megafight against McGregor

    “I’m so proud of Conor,” White said. “It was a completely different fight than I expected. He went 10 rounds with arguably the greatest to ever do it.”

    One judge awarded the UFC star each of the first three rounds, but in their corner before the fourth Mayweather and his trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., shared a laugh.

    Then Mayweather, widely regarded as the best boxer of his generation, switched gears. Instead of moving and counterpunching, he pressed forward with hands high, whacking McGregor’s body with straight right hands. As the fight progressed Mayweather diversified his attack and stepped up his pressure.

    The tactical switch left McGregor — who had bragged about his conditioning before the bout — tired, confused and vulnerable.

    “I didn’t anticipate the three game changes,” said McGregor, who strolled into the news conference sipping whiskey. “That’s what a champion does.”

    By round nine McGregor, who weighed in at 153 ½ pounds but entered at near 170, was in full retreat. And by the 10th Mayweather was landing concussive right hands with ease. When a salvo drove an exhausted McGregor to the ropes, Mayweather looked to unload more blows, but referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight.

    In the week preceding the fight Mayweather promised he’d initiate the action and fight McGregor at close range. Afterward he said he hoped to finish the bout within six rounds, but the 10th-round stoppage still fit the template.

    According to CompuBox, Mayweather landed 170 of 320 total punches, and connected on 20 of 26 punches in the final round.

    McGregor landed more punches (111) and a higher percentage (26) than elite boxers like Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez did against Mayweather, but he boxer says his game plan precluded pitching a no-hitter.

    “When you come straight forward, you’re going to take contact. I understand that,” he said. “(I planned to) let him shoot heavy shots from the beginning (then) take him down the stretch and do what we do best.”

    What both fighters do best is generate attention and revenue.

    After reports that several stateside cable operators couldn’t keep up with the surge of customers ordering the pay-per-view, promoters decided to delay the main event to allow servers to come back online and consumers to spend more money.

    The bout drew 14,623 spectators to T-Mobile arena, well below the venue record set during the showdown between Alvarez and fellow Mexican star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in May.

    But the same high ticket prices that depressed attendance may have helped set a ticket revenue record. Where Mayweather’s 2015 win over Pacquiao earned $72 million at the gate, Mayweather said Saturday’s fight brought in $80 million.

    But the folks behind the most lucrative fight ever staged realize slightly lower ticket prices would have made the event still more money.

    “You’re not always going to get it right,” Ellerbe said. “(But) we get it right more often than not.”

    As of Saturday afternoon StubHub listed more than 300 seats, ranging from $1,350 to nearly $20,000.

    The intense fascination sprung from seeing how a dominant mixed martial arts fighter would fare when challenging an elite boxer on the boxer’s terms.

    McGregor rode a string of spectacular knockouts to world titles in two UFC weight classes. More importantly, he’s a self-marketing showman who has headlined the UFC’s best-selling pay-per-view shows. And he’s a master trash talker who goaded Mayweather for more than a year before finally securing the fight and its gigantic payout.

    Boxing isn’t McGregor’s sport. Aside from short videos of him sparring pro boxers Paulie Malignaggi and Chris Van Heerden, solid evidence of McGregor’s pedigree as a pure boxer is before the fight.

    But that’s not the point.

    Since defeating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather has grown into boxing’s biggest draw. For boxers, landing a fight against him is like hitting the lottery, the pay raise making his opponents winners even if they lose.

    Saturday night the biggest, brashest opponent of all hoped to alter the outcome of that equation.

    He lost, too, but will deposit a bigger cheque than everyone who lost before him.


    0 0


    HOUSTON—The remnants of Hurricane Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into the nation’s fourth-largest city Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

    Helicopters, boats and high-water vehicles swarmed around inundated Houston neighbourhoods, pulling people from their homes or from the turbid water, which was high enough in some places to gush into second floors.

    The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their homes to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

    As the water rose, the National Weather Service offered another ominous forecast: Before the storm passes, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could receive as much as 1.3 metres of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

    “The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.

    Average rainfall totals will end up around 1 metre for Houston, weather service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

    Read more:

    FEMA director says Harvey is probably the worst disaster in Texas history

    Photos: Dramatic scenes from Houston as Harvey floodwaters wreak havoc

    The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Brock Long, said the government expected to conduct a “mass care mission” and predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

    “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.

    Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many displaced families to fend for themselves. The city’s main convention centre was quickly opened as a shelter.

    Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke Sunday to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

    “When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Leho said.

    Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez used Twitter to field calls for assistance. Among those seeking help was a woman who posted: “I have 2 children with me and the water is swallowing us up.”

    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in pet carriers.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off flooded roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

    The mayor defended his decision not to ask residents to evacuate before the heavy rain from Harvey swamped roads and neighbourhoods. He said there was no way to know which areas were most vulnerable.

    “If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” he said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

    Rainfall of more than four inches per hour resulted in water levels higher than in any recent floods and higher than during Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, said Jeff Linder of flood control district in Harris County, which includes Houston.

    Rescuers came by land, water and air.

    On Interstate 45 south of downtown, television video showed people climbing over concrete dividers to get to a high-wheel dump truck that appeared to be wheels-deep in water on a service road. They clambered up the side of the truck to get into the dump box.

    In Friendswood near Houston, authorities asked people with flat-bottomed airboats or fuel for them to help rescue people.

    Jesse Gonzalez, and his son, also named Jesse, used their boat to rescue people from a southeast Houston neighbourhood. Asked what he had seen, the younger Gonzalez replied: “A lot of people walking and a lot of dogs swimming.”

    “It’s chest- to shoulder-deep out there in certain areas,” he told television station KTRK as the pair grabbed a gasoline can to refill their boat.

    The Coast Guard, which received more than 300 requests for help, deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

    Staff at a Houston television station broadcasting live coverage of the floods had to evacuate after water started to gush into the building. The anchors and news operations at KHOU moved first to a second floor before finally abandoning the station.

    Rainfall totals climbed by the hour. Since Thursday, South Houston had received nearly 63 centimetres and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 69 centimetres.

    President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday morning that he would visit Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.”

    The rescues unfolded a day after the hurricane settled over the Texas coastline. It was blamed for killing at least two people.

    One person was killed in Aransas County in a fire at home during the storm, county Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills Jr. said.

    Another person — a woman who tried to get out of her vehicle in high water — died in flooding in Harris County, where Houston is located, though authorities had not confirmed a cause of death, said Gary Norman, a spokesperson for the Houston emergency operations centre.

    The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 48 kilometres northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 209 kilometre/hour winds.

    Harvey weakened Saturday to a tropical storm. On Sunday, it was virtually stationary about 40 kilometres northwest of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of about 72.42 km/hr., the hurricane centre said.

    The system was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.


    0 0


    OTTAWA—Canada’s top soldier expressed solidarity with the LGBTQ community Sunday by walking in Ottawa’s annual Pride parade.

    But Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, had no word for those awaiting an apology over being forced from the Canadian military for being gay or lesbian in past decades.

    “It’s a wider government of Canada decision, not an Armed Forces decision,” he said following the parade.

    Justin Trudeau’s government has signalled its intention to apologize to former military members as part of its efforts to make amends to those who endured federal discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    The policies had their roots in government efforts that began as early as the 1940s to delve into the personal lives of employees who were considered security risks.

    The Defence Department said last spring that a painstaking review of personnel files in the national archives may be needed to determine how many people were forced out. Military restrictions on gay people were lifted in 1992.

    Vance, the first defence chief to take part in a Pride parade, said Sunday his participation was a chance to encourage young Canadians to consider a career in the Armed Forces, no matter what community they come from.

    Trudeau and two of his children, Xavier and Ella-Grace, also took part, walking alongside Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

    Trudeau said Vance’s presence emphasizes that Canada is “open to diversity, and we know that it’s one of our strengths, whether it be in the military or everywhere else.”


    0 0


    ATLANTA—For many people, Aug. 28, 2017, marks the return to the work week. Nothing special. Just another Monday.

    But for Black America, and by cosmic happenstance, Aug. 28 is much more — even if they don’t know it.

    On this date in 1955, a 14-year-old black boy was lynched in Mississippi, awakening the country to the horrors of racism.

    In 1963, more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington to hear a young preacher talk about freedom, jobs and a dream.

    In 2005, hundreds of thousands of people fled the Gulf Coast as a killer hurricane was about to make landfall.

    In 2008, a Black man stood on a stage in Denver and accepted his party’s nomination for president.

    And in 2017, Georgia will unveil a statue of an African-American hero on the grounds of the state capitol.

    “The 28th of August shows two sides of America,” said former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. “There are examples of when we were at our best and lots of people were engaged. And examples of us at our worst as a country.”

    Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay put the pieces together with her short film August 28: A Day in the Life of a People, which debuted in 2016 at the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

    “In my eyes, August 28 tells so much about black history through the lens of one date,” DuVernay said at the time.

    • Aug. 28, 1955: Money, Miss.

    In the early morning hours, two white men and a woman arrived at the home of Mose Wright in Money, Miss.

    They wanted Wright’s 14-year-old nephew, Emmett Till, who had arrived from Chicago seven days earlier. Till, they said, had flirted with and whistled at a white woman. Three days later, his mutilated body washed up in the Tallahatchie River.

    His mother, Mamie Till, insisted on an open casket at her son’s funeral. She wanted the world to see her son’s battered and bloated corpse, and Jet magazine and the Black press shared the unforgettable images.

    Shirley Franklin was 10, growing up in Philadelphia. She remembers sitting around the dinner table with her mother and grandmother, talking about the murder. Talking about Mamie Till’s decision. Talking about what it all meant.

    “His death impacted me and radicalized me,” Franklin said. “Those discussions and his death were touchstones for me.”

    Rita Dove celebrated her third birthday on the day Till was killed. She has no direct recollection of it, but by the time she was 7, she was an avid reader of Jet and its “On This Date” column.

    Dove, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1987 and became poet laureate of the United States in 1993, the youngest person and first African-American poet to do so.

    “I remember being totally shocked beyond measure at what I saw,” Dove said. “I suddenly realized that there was a larger world out there.”

    • Aug. 28, 1963: Washington

    Franklin was an 18-year-old freshman at Howard University when 250,000 people marched on Washington.

    Her mother and aunts wanted to go to the march as a family.

    “It was important because my mother and aunts were following the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.,” Franklin said. “No one knew if it was going to be peaceful, because we had seen the horrific things on television. We didn’t know what would happen.”

    Rita Dove was in Washington but had to watch the march on television. Because her birthday falls in late summer, the family generally took a trip to celebrate it. This time they went to Washington.

    Dove’s father, Ray, wanted to march but was concerned about the safety of his children. So he joined the march while Rita and her brother stayed with relatives.

    “I was already fascinated with words and poetry, so the repetition in King’s speech was mesmerizing,” said Dove.

    After the march, her father returned, and they cut her birthday cake.

    “It was a special day,” Dove said. “But at 11, I didn’t quite understand how special it was.”

    • Aug. 28, 2005: New Orleans

    On Aug. 27, the day before New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city to evacuate as hurricane Katrina drew near, Christan Theresa Poret took her 1-year-old daughter, Meah, to a pool party.

    “I kinda blew it off as just another warning,” Poret said. “We got hurricanes all the time.”

    Katrina was different — even if Poret didn’t know it. Instead of leaving, Poret and her mother and daughter went uptown to stay with her then-fiancé, Mark.

    “We woke up and the sky was so clear,” Poret said. “Then we noticed that the water was coming to us.”

    In no time, the flood breached the home, which was at least four feet off the ground.

    With Meah on her back, they walked a half-mile to the Super Dome through brown water, dodging snakes and wires. The Super Dome was the last refuge for people who couldn’t get out of town. But by the time they got there, the dome wasn’t accepting anybody else.

    They walked back.

    At length, a helicopter came and rescued them from the roof of the complex and dropped them off on the highway. They waited for another 16 hours, with no food or bathrooms, for a bus to take them to Houston.

    Then on Aug. 31, four days after the pool party, a relative in Atlanta pooled together enough frequent flyer miles from her friends to fly eight family members to Atlanta.

  • Aug. 28, 2008: Denver
  • Shirley Franklin was not keen on taking her family to Colorado for the Democratic National Convention. She was co-chairing the event and it was going to be a mess dealing with tons of people, security and booking hotels and transportation.

    But Democrats were poised to make Barack Obama the first Black presidential candidate to represent a major political party.

    Dove’s day was notably quieter. Because she travelled so much as a child, she is content on spending her birthday at home, watching television with her husband.

    “It is a day of contemplation,” Dove said.

    But on this birthday she was nearly giddy.

    “I was at home trying not to split my face with my grin because I was so happy,” she said. “But I was also a little frightened. I did not think that the country had grown up enough to see that this man was ready for this job.”

  • Aug. 28, 2017: Atlanta
  • A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. will be unveiled on the State Capitol grounds, in effect replacing the statue of segregationist Thomas Watson.

    “I don’t assign any great sense of things aligning, but human beings being human beings, we will try to assign significance to things falling on the same date. So it is important,” said Dove, who is working on a new book. “What that does is, it allows us to make comparisons. You can see the best of mankind and the worst. The best of nature and worst. These are these bookends that are very useful to us.”


    0 0


    Ryerson University students who moved into their residences Sunday will be the first cohort to experience the school’s new “all gender” student housing option — the first known of its kind in Canada.

    This month, in a move to introduce housing that accommodates all gender identities, Ryerson announced it is no longer requiring students to identify a gender on its residence application.

    Students had the option of choosing “all gender” housing or not. If they chose that option, they could be assigned roommates from a different gender. If students preferred to disclose their gender and be paired with someone from the same gender, they had that choice as well.

    The school also expanded its gender categories on the application.

    Nearly half of the 750 incoming students who moved into their new dorm rooms this weekend chose the all gender option, according to school officials.

    Camryn Harlick, vice-president of equity for the Ryerson Student Union and a third-year trans student who does not identify as male or female, remembers what it felt like to fill out the old housing application, when there was only the option of selecting one of the two genders.

    “I felt like it was an othering process,” Harlick said Sunday afternoon as students hauled suitcases and bedding into their new homes.

    “I felt like my experience at university was going to be that, continued.”

    Last year, Harlick, 19, and other members of Ryerson’s Trans Collective — a group that focuses on support for trans people on campus — spoke to school officials about having more equitable student housing.

    Ian Crookshank, director of housing and residence life at Ryerson, told the Star on Sunday that the school listened to the concerns about the old “mandatory and binary” system. Crookshank said that while conventionally schools have been accommodating individual students who might have different needs around gender, Ryerson decided instead to change the system altogether. This way, Crookshank said, students wouldn’t feel discouraged upon application, like Harlick did.

    “The system works for everyone now, whereas before, it worked for a lot of students, but not for everyone,” Crookshank said.

    “We’ve put that first question of identifying their gender back on the student,” he said. “It’s a choice rather than being told.”

    Students now identify their gender if they have a need they would like to be met, such as having their gender taken into account for room assignments.

    “We don’t need to ask it because it isn’t important to us. But it may be important to you,” Crookshank said of that shift in priorities, adding he had not received any complaints from students or parents about the changes.

    The move to “all gender” residence was a natural next step, said Sophie Lafleur, president of Ryerson’s residence council. Residences had already been mixed with genders and Ryerson moved to all gender washrooms two years ago.

    By not forcing students to identify a gender on the application, they don’t have to “out themselves” if they don’t want to, said Lafleur, 19.

    “(This) can be students first time in the city, their first time moving away from home . . . It’s a way for students to feel more included and have a safe space on campus.”

    Harlick, who uses the pronouns they and them, added that the fact that this new “all gender” option now exists will also help improve campus culture.

    “I think it sets the tone that transphobia won’t be accepted,” they said.

    “You at least know that if you go to somebody, they’re going to kind of know what you’re talking about.”


    0 0


    History is littered with lost civilizations: the Khmer empire that created Angkor Wat, the Mayans who left behind a magnificent step pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Nabataeans who carved breathtaking Petra out of solid sandstone, the mysterious inhabitants of Eastern Island whose enormous enigmatic head monuments delight and puzzle.

    To name just a few.

    They abandoned their great cities and disappeared into the dust.

    But they built things.

    The Taliban have built nothing. Their claim to historical notoriety will be the wilful, pious destruction of precious shrines and statuary.

    Their rabidly puritanical culture will collapse because it cannot stand in a world of modernity that has encroached even into the isolated crevices and defiles of Afghanistan. Cellphones and satellite dishes have brought the outside inside. Afghans understand what they do not have and what the Taliban aspire to take away. There is nowhere for forced ignorance to hide anymore.

    This is the real long war the Taliban are destined to lose.

    What they have in their favour, at this moment in time, is that Afghans, however much they may loathe the Taliban — overwhelmingly they do, even in the Pashtun south — they detest their endlessly corrupt and incompetent national government even more, a government that survives only with propping up by the West.

    Oh, they’ve indeed embraced bureaucracy — how Canada’s then-Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, commanding officer, described the nation-building aspect of the mission to me in 2006 — which is why hardly anything ever gets accomplished as ministry orders and security manifests pass through a multitude of hands, each generously greased, billions of dollars disappearing sideways. That too is Afghan culture, thieving, which is viewed as outwitting.

    The vanishing money is a chronic and losing battle fought by donor nations.

    The other long war — 16 years and counting, a “forever war” that the sons and daughters of today’s deployed solders may still be waging a generation from now — can yet go either way. We don’t even have any idea what “winning” would look like, as the mission keeps changing from White House administration to administration.

    President George Bush, contrary to pillars of Republicanism, talked about nation-building after the Taliban had been trounced. That’s what sold Canada’s troop commitment (apart from special forces, in the unfussy business of killing) to the public; we were redeveloping, winning over hearts and minds. Except that’s never a good fit for any military — they’re soldiers, not diplomats and not humanitarian aid providers.

    But the profile played well to Canadians still in thrall to a Pearsonian peacekeeping ideal: useless when there’s no peace for the blue berets to keep. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embodies this anachronism.

    It was Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said of Afghanistan in 2008, “we can’t kill our victory.” However seductive the proposition, that’s never been the goal. Bombing the Taliban to the negotiation table has been the goal. With the insurgents — more hardcore militant than ever, merging with the Pakistan-based Haqqani network (the Taliban No. 2, head of military operations, hails from Haqqani) — making significant territorial gains, there’s scarcely any reason to talk peace and reconciliation.

    The Taliban have scuttled back to reclaim much of the territory vacated during the post 9/11 coalition military campaign. Crucially, however, they haven’t been able to get a toehold in Kabul. Or Herat. Or Mazar-e Sharif.

    In broad strokes, the situation is nevertheless grim. Sangin, the strategic town in Helmand that a hundred British troops died trying to defend during the International Security Assistance Force era, fell to the Taliban in March. Vast swaths of Kandahar province, where 137 Canadian combat deaths were recorded, are now controlled by the insurgents.

    According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “control or influence” of the central government dropped to 65.6 per cent by May 1 from 70.5 per cent a year before. The Taliban “controls, contests or influences” 171 of 400 Afghan districts, mostly in rural areas and superficial in others. They’ve not been able to take and hold provincial capitals.

    That’s the big picture and the Taliban take immense sustenance from it, as if their ascendancy is written in the stars. Because Afghanistan is where empires go to die. Except the Taliban are no more indomitable than invading empires, though they certainly are accommodating to vilified fanatical revolutionaries from Al Qaeda to, in its death throes, Daesh.

    So this is what the Taliban — via spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid — had to say about President Donald Trump’s oratorical doubling down last week on U.S. recommitment to the wars in Afghanistan:

    “Donald Trump is just wasting American soldiers. We know how to defend our country. It will not change anything. . . . For generations, we have fought this war. We are not scared. We will continue this war until our last breath. If the U.S. does not pull all its troops out of Afghanistan, we will make this country the 21st century graveyard for the American empire.”

    The usual rhetoric, conveniently leaving out the part where the Taliban were routed from Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

    “For now,” Mujahid continued, “I can tell you there was nothing new in his speech. It was very unclear.”

    On that point, at least, we are agreed.

    The finest minds in the Pentagon have not been able to figure out how to take the Taliban off the board for keeps, in what has become America’s longest war, though it would indisputably involve some kind of political reconciliation for the insurgents and right now they’re hardline not-in-the-mood. Yet even a child’s mind could grasp how foolishly — in his palpable reluctance — president Barack Obama waged the war during his two terms in the White House, even with his 2009 troop surge, virtually providing the Taliban with a timeline for troop reduction and eventual withdrawal.

    In his speech last week, the otherwise incoherent and quite maddened Trump at least got this much right: “I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military operations. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

    The thing is, it does not appear that the generals or the president have a clue about their plans either, beyond the 3,900 troops that will be added to the U.S. existing military presence of 8,500 U.S. service members, about half involved in training and mentoring Afghan defence forces and the other gunning for terrorists.

    Trump claimed the American objective in Afghanistan was not nation-building, which comes as jaw-dropping news, given the billions spent on aid to do precisely that.

    I don’t know what “principled realism” means. I don’t know what “our commitment is not unlimited” means. I don’t know what “we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society” means, unless women are to be driven back into their cloistered homes, away from education, and beaten with a stick, as the Taliban did when they ruled Kabul.

    “We are killing terrorists,” Trump said.

    Except kill a Taliban fighter and another will replace him, maybe five more.

    “We want (Afghanistan) to succeed but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.”

    Well, not in this America’s image, as she has presented herself over the past eight months or so.

    It is indeed a vague strategy, albeit better left in the hands of the generals than this irrational president.

    There is one solid bottom line: Eventually, even if decades from now, the U.S. will leave Afghanistan, hopefully better than they found it.

    But the Taliban or its descendants and derivatives can wait out even that multi-generational war: They live there.

    It’s Afghans who will ultimately have to conquer Afghans.

    That’s called civil war, which will draw in regional neighbours and non-regional (China, Russia) interests.

    Déjà vu all over again.


    0 0


    WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is preparing to restore the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies under a program that had been sharply curtailed amid an outcry over police use of armoured vehicles and other war-fighting gear to confront protesters.

    Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to the gear that includes grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms and ammunition.

    Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a Monday speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tenn., a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.

    The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.

    National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armoured vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

    In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.

    Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear when during protests in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs and armoured vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

    Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armoured vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-calibre or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.

    Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

    “In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.

    The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature” intended to protect officers from danger.

    The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.

    Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

    “It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armoured vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.

    Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street. Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.


    0 0


    MONTREAL—The four NDP leadership hopefuls tread carefully on Sunday when they were asked to weigh in on Quebec’s ongoing discussion over religion and identity during a French-language debate in Montreal.

    Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Ontario legislature member Jagmeet Singh were asked about the Quebec government’s proposed legislation that sets guidelines for accommodating religious requests.

    The bill attempts to enshrine into law the policy that all people giving or receiving a service from the state must do so with their face uncovered.

    Caron chose to tackle the issue in his opening statement, saying it was important to fight racism and Islamophobia but also to support Quebec’s right to make its own decisions on the issue.

    “Rejecting secularism because we believe it’s just racism is fundamentally misunderstanding Quebec,” he told a packed room at Montreal’s Club Soda.

    Read more:

    Jagmeet Singh calls out NDP opponents on niqab issue in Quebec

    Religious rights may dominate remaining weeks of NDP leadership campaign: Hébert

    Quebec secularism debate jumps to federal NDP race

    Singh, who has said he is against the bill, said he doesn’t believe the state should be able to dictate what people wear, but added he believes the province has laws in place to ensure rights are protected.

    In his opening statement, he also appeared to acknowledge critics’ fears that Quebec voters will reject him due to his own visible symbols of faith.

    “I’m not here to convince you to accept my turban, nor my beard,” said Singh, who is Sikh. “What I want to convince you is that I’m someone who shares the same values as you.”

    Ashton and Angus also disagreed with the idea that the state should be able to dictate what a person wears but refrained from criticizing the Quebec government.

    “It’s absolutely essential that we stand up for human rights and the people’s freedom. It’s also important we respect Quebec,” Ashton said.

    Angus expressed a similar sentiment, saying it was important to understand’s Quebec’s fight for the separation of church and state during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.

    “I’m confident that the conversation in Quebec will result in a balance between the rights of individuals and the need to maintain the secularism of society,” he told reporters after the debate, while declining to state exactly where the line should be drawn.

    The question of religion and identity was a thorny issue for the NDP in the last federal election, and one that may have contributed to the party’s slide in a province that had previously helped vault it to official Opposition status.

    Thomas Mulcair’s insistence that women should have a right to wear a veil at citizenship ceremonies is believed by some to have cost the party crucial support.

    The NDP holds 16 seats in Quebec, well below the 59 it claimed in its historic breakthrough in the province in 2011 under Jack Layton’s leadership.

    Early questions focused on the wave of asylum seekers crossing from the United States, the government role in supporting the province’s aerospace industry, and Premier Philippe Couillard’s plan to restart cross-country discussions on Quebec’s role in Canada.

    All four candidates criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for rejecting any possibility of reopening the constitution, with Caron and Singh accusing him of “slamming the door” on the province.

    All of the candidates expressed themselves fluently in French, with Singh and Angus occasionally having to search for words.

    Caron is the race’s only francophone and the only candidate from Quebec.

    Members of the NDP will vote for the successor to Mulcair on Sept. 18.


    0 0


    A competitive drama showcase for high schools across Ontario that has run for 71 years faces an uncertain future after learning that main sponsor Sears Canada is pulling out.

    “Knowing how easily dramatic arts get swept under the rug in secondary schools, I just feel sad for future students,” said Taryn Dougall, a theatre artist based in Toronto who took part in the Sears Ontario Drama Festival as a teen.

    The festival, founded in 1946, helped launch the careers of numerous Canadian actors, including such celebrities as Rachel McAdams and Keanu Reeves.

    Since the loss of support became known, “students have come out of the woodwork” to express their dismay, citing their experiences as a highlight of their childhood, said Wayne Fairhead, the festival’s executive director.

    “Funding sponsorships is, unfortunately, not something that we can consider while under operating under (creditor) protection,” Vincent Power of Sears Canada wrote in an email.

    The festival’s organizers were alerted to Sears’ decision at the end of June, Power said. The festival is considered an after-school program and not part of any theatre or drama programs taught in schools.

    “We hope the festival itself can continue at some future time with alternative support,” Power wrote.

    In seven decades, the festival that was originally sponsored by Simpsons department store has grown from three shows to now bringing together 12,000 students annually to perform, compete and take part in workshops. It was the inspiration for sister showcases in B.C. and the Atlantic provinces and offered scholarship money for students aiming to get into performing arts schools.

    Fairhead said the festivals in other provinces have also taken the funding hit.

    The drama festival “has such a track record, being one of the oldest cultural institutions in the country,” Fairhead said. “It’s pretty important for thousands of kids.”

    This isn’t the first charitable program for youth that has suffered since Sears’ financial decline. The company also cut funding for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada after almost 50 years of support.

    For teenagers interested in drama, the Sears festival offered a taste of what it was like to perform in front of big crowds and be professionally judged. It was also an opportunity for students from all economic backgrounds, whether their schools could afford fog machines and elaborate set designs or had only a few chairs and a group of aspiring actors.

    Fairhead described the festival as a “lifeline” for those who grew up in smaller communities where art was not a priority, a sentiment Dougall shared.

    “All of our productions used the same repainted flats and whatever props and costumes we had on hand,” Dougall said. “The only reason we got to put on a single spring show each year was due to the immense dedication of our drama teacher.

    “The opportunities afforded to our drama program were very small.”

    She said her school was able to put on more shows after attending the Sears festival and that participating was “definitely” a huge factor in her decision to pursue a career in drama.

    Current theatre performer and administrator Angela Sun, who was involved as a teenager in one of the first Sears plays chosen to be featured in the SummerWorks Festival, also appreciated the escape.

    “I came from an immigrant family of colour that wasn’t very familiar with or embraced by the Canadian theatre scene at the time, so (the Sears festival) was my only introduction to being a part of a full production,” she said.

    Both women stressed that, above all else, the Sears festival fostered a real sense of community.

    “(It) gave me the opportunity to see art made by other young artists and begin this process of learning and networking, which is very important when you start thinking about having an artistic career,” Sun said.

    “The young people that I met from other schools participating in the festival are now the young adults shaping the Toronto indie theatre scene,” Dougall said. “The people I met from other schools at Sears remain my friends to this day.”

    Sears Canada was given creditor protection on June 22 and is in the process of cutting 2,900 jobs and 59 stores. Since then, it has been criticized for offering bonuses worth millions of dollars to keep key employees while not paying severance to laid-off workers, and experienced plunging share prices and shakeups in executive positions within the company.

    It is still hoping to find a buyer.

    Sears had always been a “very good” supporter of the festival, said Fairhead, who added that he didn’t want to ruin anyone’s summer by revealing the news until now.

    The drama festival is not giving up just yet. Smaller competitions held in each school district are expected to go ahead while the festival scrambles to find a sponsor.

    “We were all pretty devastated about it, but we’re quite optimistic that we will find a new sponsor and that we’ll continue in some format,” Fairhead said. “Because it’s just too important.

    “I’m sure we’re going to find someone, I really am.”


    0 0


    What do you do if you are the U.S. president and one of your major cities is under water?

    Well, you’d want to start your day promoting a book by a Milwaukee county sheriff who has called Black Lives Matter a hate group, is a known racial profiler and, naturally, is a big Donald Trump supporter. The book foreword was written, of course, by your best bud forever in the media, Sean Hannity.

    Then you would turn your attention to tropical storm Harvey, congratulating yourself on how you saved so many lives — a victory lap even as the water kept rising in Houston and area — but you wouldn’t want to dwell on that, so you would move on to your 2016 electoral success in Missouri, take a shot at the crime rate in Mexico and again vow that it will somehow pay for a border wall, then move on to trade negotiations.

    “We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

    Uh-oh. Trump’s thumbs are now typing “Canada” on Sunday mornings.

    Last week, in an infamous stream-of-consciousness meltdown in Phoenix, he said the same thing, telling supporters he would probably end up “terminating the deal at some point,” because “we have been so badly taken advantage of.”

    One can get permanently lost down a rabbit hole trying to make sense of the various tweets and pronouncements from Trump, but the shout-out to Sheriff David Clarke, Trump’s coming rally in Missouri, his ongoing fantasy about a Mexican-financed wall and his continued threats to tear up NAFTA actually do have a common thread.

    They are all campaign preoccupations from a man who has never stopped campaigning and who never really became president.

    The Trump tweet is the cyber-equivalent of the boss walking past the negotiating room banging on a frying pan with a hammer and squeezing an air horn.

    But it is nothing more than that. This is no Art of the Deal. This is the Rant of the Attention-Seeker.

    It’s not about us. It’s all about him.

    Texans, at least those not scrambling atop their homes to save their lives, may want to be reminded that almost 50 per cent of their exports go to their top two trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and they import about 42 per cent of their goods from their NAFTA partners.

    While you’re trying to stay above rising floodwaters, it’s good to know your president is musing about ripping up a trade deal so vital to your state.

    At least a couple of Canadian politicians couldn’t help themselves Sunday.

    “The only thing that needs to be terminated is your presidency,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger wrote. “Save yourself and your country. Resign and you will be popular everywhere.”

    NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus was somewhat more poetic: “A poor player struts/frets his hour on the stage and then is heard no more. A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

    He moderated his comments later in the day, pushing the government to keep its eye on the ball.

    That’s what it’s doing.

    Adam Austen, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, is becoming quite practised at tossing out the political equivalent of Xanax.

    “We will work with our partners at all levels in the United States to promote Canada-U.S. trade, which supports millions of jobs across the continent,” he said.

    “As we have said before, trade negotiations often have moments of heated rhetoric. Our priorities remain the same, and we will continue to work hard to modernize NAFTA, supporting millions of middle-class jobs.”

    Even if Trump did, in a fit of pique, seek to terminate NAFTA, it’s not certain he could do it.

    Congress, not Trump, is ultimately responsible for giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to any renegotiated deal. There is also legislation on the books that enshrines NAFTA and there could be enough pro-trade, had-enough-of-Trump Republicans to decide the 24-year-old legislation overrides any presidential attempt to kick the pact into the ditch.

    All three countries have agreed to fast-track talks, but the first negotiating session has just ended and the second, in Mexico, doesn’t begin until Friday.

    They have to ignore the bully in the corridor banging on his campaign-era frying pan.

    If you’re Canadian and Trump thinks we’re being “difficult,” there’s only one sane reaction: Good. And pack a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

    Read more:

    Trump tweets threat to pull out of NAFTA talks, calling Canada “very difficult”

    Mexico to Trump: We don’t ‘negotiate’ on social media

    Mexico a tough-minded amigo in NAFTA talks: Olive

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. Reach him at Tjharper77@gmail.com or on Twitter: @nutgraf1


    0 0


    An elderly woman has died following a collision near Markham Rd. and Steeles Ave. E.

    Toronto police said around 9 p.m. that the pedestrian had been struck after crossing the road.

    Paramedics said that they transported one person to hospital in cardiac arrest.

    Just over an hour later, police confirmed the victim had died.

    The driver remained on scene, police from Traffic Services confirmed.

    Steeles Ave. E. was closed in both directions from Markham Rd. to Tapscott Rd. but it has since reopened.

    Traffic Services is still investigating and there is no information regarding charges.


    0 0


    BERKELEY, Calif.—A small group of right-wing demonstrators who gathered in a Berkeley park Sunday to rail against the city’s famed progressive politics was driven out, often violently, by an army of anarchist counterprotesters in black clothing and masks whose tactics overwhelmed a huge contingent of police officers.

    Hundreds of officers tried to maintain calm in and around Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park before the 1 p.m. “No to Marxism in Berkeley” rally, putting up barricades, searching bags, and confiscating sticks, masks, pepper spray and even water bottles. The goal was to head off the type of clashes that sprang from similar rallies in the city earlier this year.

    But once again, counterdemonstrators frustrated police efforts. As the crowd swelled, officers stepped aside and allowed hundreds of people angered by the presence of the right-wing rally to climb over the barriers into the park, said officer Jennifer Coates, a spokesperson for Berkeley police.

    The masked counterprotesters, often referred to as antifa or anti-fascists, significantly outnumbered the people who had come for the rally, many of whom wore red clothing supporting U.S. President Donald Trump. The anarchists chased away the right-wingers, in some cases beating them with fists and sticks. They also attacked reporters who documented their actions.

    Read more:

    Two weeks after neo-Nazis marched chanting ‘Sieg Heil,’ Charlottesville Jews try to heal

    Rally in Quebec turns violent after protesters opposing anti-immigrant rallies clash with police

    Torontonians rally against white supremacist violence in Charlottesville

    Police arrested 14 people and briefly detained Joey Gibson, the leader of the conservative group Patriot Prayer, who had cancelled a rally Saturday at Crissy Field in San Francisco after city leaders criticized the event plans as inciting white nationalists. Officials said police did not arrest Gibson on Sunday but instead rescued him after he was chased and pepper-sprayed by his opponents.

    Saturday had been a day of mostly peaceful anti-hate demonstrations across San Francisco. Sunday was different in Berkeley, even though thousands of people who came out to speak against the right-wing rally were not part of the anarchist mob.

    “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA!” crowds chanted early in the day at Civic Center Park, voicing opposition to the policies of Trump, which many people said had buoyed white nationalists across the country.

    Also early in the day, hundreds of mostly local residents converged at Berkeley’s Ohlone Park to oppose hate speech, racism and white supremacy. They carried signs reading “Berkeley stands united against hate,” “Queers against hate” and “End white supremacy.”

    Jeff Conant, 50, of Berkeley, who helped organize the anti-hate rally, said, “It’s important for people to show up and make it unacceptable for right-wing white supremacists to spew hate and incite violence.”

    He praised Saturday’s “tremendous victory in San Francisco” and said Sunday was about “galvanizing a movement to oppose white supremacy and the structures that support it.”

    Berkeley denied a permit to the organizer of the anti-Marxist rally, Amber Cummings, saying her application was late and incomplete. Cummings later asked supporters not to show up because she feared violence.

    The swamping of right-wing political ideas by left-wing demonstrators has become a recurring theme in Berkeley and other California cities. The tension rose Aug. 12 when a Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Va., that had been protesting a white supremacist rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Trump blamed the violence in Charlottesville on “many sides.”

    Left-leaning demonstrators dwarfed a right-wing rally in Boston on Aug. 19.

    In Berkeley on Sunday, some observers derived satisfaction from watching the counterprotesters beat up and chase off a young man who was apparently at the rally in support of Trump.

    “It’s a good time,” said Tom Martell, 70, of Crockett, who was at Civic Center Park with his girlfriend, Lisa Argento, 53.

    “They’ve got to be chased out,” Argento said. “I moved to the Bay Area and pay good money to live here. I don’t want these people here. They need to leave us the f--- alone.”

    Argento said she has mixed feelings about the idea of ignoring members of the political right who rally to drum up support for their views.

    “What are we waiting for?” she asked. “They already hold the White House. They are already dragging people away in the middle of the night.”

    But others thought the actions of the counterprotesters were shameful.

    Linda Fuentes Rosner, 69, a Spanish-language interpreter from Vallejo, stood near the park’s dry fountain glaring at a group that was holding a “Teachers for Thought” banner and chanting anti-Trump slogans.

    “What hypocrites,” Fuentes Rosner said. “They don’t know what they’re talking about. You think it’s OK that a Trump supporter gets beat up? It’s embarrassing. The left has prevented the right from speaking. That’s not American, that despotism.”

    Fuentes Rosner, a Republican, came to Berkeley for a conservative meetup that didn’t happen. Event organizers told her that members of the small group left because they felt intimidated.

    Jay Pino, 23, said he came to Berkeley from New Mexico to protest the right-wing rally, but peacefully.

    “This doesn’t have to be about violence,” he said. “The aggressive people here, I get it. It’s hard to express their anger and it’s also hard to keep it in. I’m here to try to keep the peace. No matter how bad the other side is, we have to pray for them as well.”


    0 0


    Mexico “will not negotiate” via social media, the government told U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday, after he accused Mexico and Canada of being “difficult” in negotiations on changing the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    “Mexico will not negotiate NAFTA, nor any other aspect of bilateral relations through social media or news media,” the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    A first round of negotiations for a new NAFTA framework ended last week.

    Trump regards NAFTA as having hurt the U.S. economy, referring in particular to the U.S. deficit in its trade relations with Mexico.

    On Sunday, Trump posted on Twitter: “We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

    A statement from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo after last week’s negotiations was quite different in tone from Trump’s remarks.

    The statement said that the volume and breadth of discussions reflected a common desire to produce “an ambitious outcome.”

    The next round of talks will take place in Mexico Sept. 1-5, followed by meetings scheduled this year.

    As of 2015, the NAFTA zone includes almost a third of the world’s gross domestic product.


    0 0


    WASHINGTON—While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.

    As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

    The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating—both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.

    Sater wrote to Trump Organization executive vice-president Michael Cohen, “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’ ” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated to the United States from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 8 and grew up in Brooklyn.

    Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.

    Nevertheless, the details of the deal, which have not previously been disclosed, provide evidence that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president and in a position to determine U.S.-Russia relations. The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.

    White House officials declined to comment for this report. Cohen, a longtime Trump aide who remains Trump’s personal attorney, and his lawyer have also declined to comment.

    In recent months, contacts between high-ranking and lower-level Trump aides and Russians have emerged. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator and campaign adviser, twice met Sergey Kislyak when he was Russian ambassador.

    Donald Trump Jr. organized a June 2016 meeting with campaign aides Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer after the president’s eldest son was promised the lawyer would bring damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the campaign.

    Internal emails also show campaign adviser George Papadopoulos repeatedly sought to organize meetings with campaign officials, including Trump, and Putin or other Russians. His efforts were rebuffed.

    The negotiations for the Moscow project ended before Trump’s business ties to Russia had become a major issue in the campaign. Trump denied having any business connections to Russia in July 2016, tweeting, “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia” and then insisting at a news conference the following day, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

    Discussions about the Moscow project began in earnest in September 2015, according to people briefed on the deal. An unidentified investor planned to build the project and, under a licensing agreement, put Trump’s name on it. Cohen acted as a lead negotiator for the Trump Organization. It is unclear how involved or aware Trump was of the negotiations.

    As the talks progressed, Trump voiced numerous supportive comments about Putin, setting himself apart from his Republican rivals.

    By the end of 2015, Putin began offering praise in return.

    “He says that he wants to move to another, closer level of relations. Can we really not welcome that? Of course we welcome that,” Putin told reporters during his annual end-of-the year news conference. He called Trump a “colorful and talented” person. Trump said afterward that the compliment was an “honor.”

    Though Putin’s comments came shortly after Sater suggested that the Russian president would speak favorably about Trump, there is no indication that the two are connected.

    There is no public record that Trump has ever spoken about the effort to build a Trump Tower in 2015 and 2016.

    Trump’s interest in building in Moscow, however, are long-standing. He had attempted to build a Trump property for three decades, starting with a failed effort in 1987 to partner with the Soviet government on a hotel project.

    “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” he said in a 2007 court deposition.

    “We will be in Moscow at some point,” he promised in the deposition.

    Sater was involved in at least one of those previous efforts. In 2005, the Trump Organization gave his development company, the Bayrock Group, an exclusive one-year deal to attempt to build a Moscow Trump Tower. Sater located a site for the project—an abandoned pencil factory—and worked closely with Trump on the deal, which did not come to fruition.

    In an unrelated court case in 2008, Sater said in a deposition that he would personally provide Trump “verbal updates” on the deal.

    “When I’d come back, pop my head into Mr. Trump’s office and tell him, you know, ‘Moving forward on the Moscow deal.’ And he would say, ‘All right,’ ” Sater said.

    In the same testimony, Sater described traveling with Trump’s children, including joining Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. on a trip to Moscow at the future president’s request.

    “They were on their way by themselves, and he was all concerned,” Sater said. “He asked if I wouldn’t mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow.”

    Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told the Washington Post last year that Sater happened to be in Moscow at the same time as Trump’s two adult children. “There was no accompanying them to Moscow,” he said.

    Neither Sater or his attorney responded to requests for comment.

    Trump has repeatedly tried to distance himself from Sater, who served time in jail after assaulting a man with the stem of a broken margarita glass during a 1991 bar fight and then pleaded guilty in 1998 to his role in a organized crime-linked stock fraud. Sater’s sentencing was delayed for years while he co-operated with the federal government on a series of criminal and national security-related investigations, federal officials have said.

    During that time, Sater worked as an executive with Bayrock, whose offices were in Trump Tower, and brokered deals to license Trump’s name for developments in multiple U.S. and foreign cities. In 2010, Trump allowed Sater to briefly work out of Trump Organization office space and use a business card that identified him as a “senior adviser to Donald Trump.”

    Still, when asked about Sater in 2013 court deposition, Trump said: “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” He added that he had spoken with Sater “not many” times.


    0 0


    Jadine Baldwin is 17. She’s smart, confident and has big goals for her future.

    But sometimes, she’s treated like she’s five years old.

    “I’ve dealt with stigma my whole life because of my cerebral palsy — I’ve dealt with people doubting my intelligence,” she said.

    Now, the young advocate is taking a stand.

    Baldwin and other youth with disabilities are working with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital on a five-year campaign to end the stigma around disabilities and make Canada more inclusive.

    The Dear Everybody campaign, which launched Aug. 28, gives young people with disabilities a platform to raise awareness about the stigma and barriers they face everyday, focusing on issues such as employment, bullying, friendship, education and health care.

    People often say Holland Bloorview is a “bubble” of inclusivity, said Julia Hanigsberg, the hospital’s CEO.

    “Of course that makes me very proud of Holland Bloorview. On the other hand, that is a huge indictment of the rest of society because what that really speaks to is how outside of these walls they’re not feeling included,” she said.

    Fifty-three per cent of kids with a disability have only one or no close friends and are two to three times more likely to be bullied, according to statistics provided by Holland Bloorview. As they get older, they continue to face barriers. Just 49 per cent of Canadians who have disabilities between 25 and 64 are employed, compared with 79 per cent of Canadians without disabilities.

    Even when a disability isn’t clearly visible, stigma can lead to frustrating barriers, an issue Maddy Hearne understands all to well.

    Hearne, 17, has had six concussions— the latest was just 18 months ago.

    Alongside dizziness, headaches, nausea, tiredness, confusion and trouble concentrating, Hearne has also had to face down stigma.

    At school, she’d walk around with headphones and sunglasses trying to protect herself from the overstimulation of the hallways, but that often left her socially isolated.

    “I looked different and the kids thought I was crazy and they wouldn’t talk to me just because of how I looked and what accommodations I had,” she said.

    At the same time, she dealt with people who didn’t believe her when she said she needed accommodation for her invisible injury.

    Hearne hopes the Dear Everybody campaign will help increase people’s understanding of disabilities and help normalize accommodation.

    Too often, people assume disabilities are the problem, when the problem is in fact us, Hanigsberg said.

    “We put the stumbling blocks in the path of the person with the disability rather than taking those stumbling blocks away,” she said.

    “What needs to be fixed is the stigma,” Baldwin said.

    “I believe that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle and I was built to be here and to live in this different and amazing body because now, I can educate people.”

    Dear Everybody will give Baldwin a larger platform for lessons that she’s already been teaching — that a disability is “just a limitation,” and that’s something we all have.

    “We were made to be different. If we were all the same, the world would be boring and we’d never learn anything,” she said.


    0 0


    LAS VEGAS—Undefeated superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather and UFC champion Conor McGregor sold roughly $80 million worth of tickets for their boxing match, while a surge of buyers overwhelmed capacity at some U.S. pay-per-view providers. Factor in spectators in sports bars and cinemas, and Saturday’s bout will become the most-watched fight ever.

    Creating demand like that requires selling something besides a fistfight. It means selling characters, and Mayweather and McGregor are the most outlandish in their sports.

    It also means selling seductive ideas, like the enduring and lucrative notion that Mayweather, a brash braggart who spent a summer in jail for domestic assault, had incurred a karmic debt only defeat could repay.

    Or that McGregor’s mixed martial arts acumen would transfer to the ring and befuddle a boxing specialist.

    And the idea that McGregor — the walking, trash-talking embodiment of the Great White Hope cliche — would succeed where a roster of elite, mostly Black and Latino boxers had failed at taming Mayweather’s ego.

    Mainstream sports fans should have figured Mayweather, the master boxer, would teach the newbie McGregor a bruising lesson in the sweet science, but viewership numbers and betting lines suggested they believed something besides skill could propel McGregor to victory.

    The two fighters cultivated record revenue in the space between what the public believed, and what it should have known.

    Mayweather has exploited that formula since 2007, when good guy Pretty Boy Floyd rebranded as a heel nicknamed Money ahead of a win over Oscar De La Hoya. With each outclassed opponent, hope would grow that the next one — Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley or Manny Pacquiao — could humble Mayweather and ruin his perfect record.

    And with each win, the obsession with seeing Mayweather suffer any type of defeat deepened.

    That’s why apocryphal tales of his massive gambling losses gain social media traction after sports upsets, an old photo of him beside a stack of cash repurposed with fake reports that he had bet big on the loser. And it’s why the internet gleefully spread rumours Mayweather couldn’t read after he stammered through a radio promo, even though threatening text messages to his ex-girlfriend prove he is literate.

    Mayweather has, in fact, lost outside the ring.

    For years he accrued domestic violence accusations but dodged serious consequences. But in 2012 he pleaded guilty to beating up ex-girlfriend Josie Harris, and spent two months in county jail.

    Many of the fighter’s supporters stuck with him, while detractors felt he deserved further retribution. If Pacquiao couldn’t deliver it in 2015, maybe McGregor could, especially since he’d face a 40-year-old Mayweather coming off a two-year retirement.

    At 29, with size and reach advantages, the Dublin-born McGregor promised he’d knock Mayweather senseless. After all, he had flattened several mixed martial artists in winning his UFC titles.

    Bettors bought in.

    Odds that opened at 25-to-1 in Mayweather’s favour had shortened to 3½ -to-1 by Saturday, with a reported 90 per cent of wagers at in Vegas backing McGregor.

    The groundswell of McGregor support, along with earnest speculation he could actually win, recalled the optimism surrounding Irish-American heavyweight Gerry Cooney heading into a 1982 title fight against Larry Holmes promoted along nakedly racial lines.

    Holmes, the 8-to-5 favourite, pummelled Cooney in a 13-round TKO win.

    It also echoes the way white Americans rallied behind Jim Jeffries when the former champ unretired in 1910 to challenge Jack Johnson, the first Black fighter to hold the heavyweight title. Johnson’s win over Canada’s Tommy Burns spurred a scramble to find a white contender to dethrone him, and introduced the term “Great White Hope” into the lexicon.

    Johnson toyed with the favoured Jeffries before finally stopping him in the 15th.

    The social media feud leading to Saturday’s bout started in early 2016, when Mayweather said racist double standards led media to praise McGregor’s grandstanding while demanding Black athletes remain humble.

    And race lingered at the periphery of a fight that ended with Mayweather pounding McGregor into a 10th-round TKO.

    The UFC fighter belittled Mayweather with the racially-freighted term “boy,” while Mayweather pledged to win for “all the Blacks” insulted by McGregor’s antics.

    Though Mayweather attracted a multicultural group of supporters to Las Vegas, African-American fans formed the core of his fight week constituency. Most of McGregor’s fans, meanwhile, were white.

    Pre-fight marketing didn’t position the bout as a Johnson-Jeffries type proxy race war, but the power of the Great White Hope archetype helps explain why so many people thought McGregor could prevail in a fight that facts suggested he’s lose badly.

    Add in the long-standing fixation with seeing Mayweather humbled, and organizers hit on a formula for record sales and fighter paydays.

    Promoters expect Saturday’s fight to eclipse the 4.6 million pay-per-view buys Mayweather and Pacquiao attracted in 2015. And the fighters split an unprecedented $130 million purse, with $30 million for McGregor and the rest going to Mayweather. His haul can more than triple thanks to ancillary revenue.

    While a 50-0 record and $350 million payout complete Mayweather’s legacy as boxing’s greatest moneymaker, the desire to see him whipped remains unrequited.

    Saturday night reporters asked Mayweather if he’d consider yet another comeback. He thwarted those queries as forcefully as he did McGregor’s challenge.

    Normally the notion of a 40-year-old fighter retiring with rich and healthy wouldn’t merit questioning, but Mayweather leaving unbeaten galls a sports public heavily invested in seeing him crushed.

    For a decade, fans who don’t normally follow boxing have tuned in, hoping somebody would make him pay for his arrogance, misogyny, and refusal to humble himself.

    Canelo Alvarez couldn’t collect on that debt. Neither could Mosley or Pacquiao. McGregor didn’t come close. Faith in Great White Hopes and karmic avengers might sell fights, but skill and execution win them.

    Since 2015 Mayweather has grossed more than half a billion dollars because he understands both sides of that equation.

    One day sports fans might get it, too.


    0 0


    HOUSTON—Officials released more water from Houston-area reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey early Monday in a move aimed at protecting the city’s downtown from devastating floods but that could still endanger thousands of homes, even as the nation’s fourth-largest city braced for more rain.

    Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday. The rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said during a news conference Monday that 50 counties in Texas are affected by the flooding and that a tremendous amount of rainfall is in the cards for southwest Louisiana. The rain has been blamed in at least two deaths.

    Residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs — that were designed to prevent flooding in downtown Houston — were warned Sunday that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. Rising water levels and continuing rain was putting pressure on the dams that could cause a failure without the release. Harris and Fort Bend county officials advised residents to pack their cars Sunday night and leave in the morning.

    “When the sun comes up, get out,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District. “And you don’t have to go far, you just need to get out of this area.”

    The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing dramatically at a rate of more than 15 centimetres per hour, a Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said. The timetable was moved up to prevent more homes from being flooded, Townsend said.

    Officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, late Sunday issued widespread mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts. County officials were preparing for the river to reach major flood stages late Sunday. County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were predicting that the water could rise to 18 metres, 90 centimetres above 2016 records and what Herbert called an “800-year flood level.” Herbert said that amount of water would top the levees and carries a threat of levee failure.

    On Sunday, incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, grey-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

    Read more:

    FEMA director says Harvey is probably the worst disaster in Texas history

    Photos: Dramatic scenes from Houston as Harvey floodwaters wreak havoc

    Volunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

    Police Chief Art Acevedo said Monday that drainage remains a concern.

    “I’m not sure where the water is going because it’s just so much that we can’t really absorb more in the ground at this point. ... We have way too much water and not enough places for it to drain,” Acevedo told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

    And on the possibility of the rain subsiding, he said: “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed”

    As the water rose, the National Weather Service issued another ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 1.3 metres of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

    FEMA’s Long predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

    “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.

    Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

    It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.

    The National Weather Service meanwhile warned that the catastrophic flooding would worsen due to heavy rainfall in the coming days and that it would be slow to recede once Harvey finally moves on. Director Louis Uccellini said during a news conference Monday that up to 51 centimetres of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 76 centimetres some places have already seen.

    Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards requested a federal emergency disaster declaration in a letter to the White House, underlining that parts of the state likely to be affected by Harvey are still recovering from devastating flooding in 2016.

    It was not clear how many people have been plucked from the floodwaters in Texas. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge. Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

    Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.

    Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke Sunday to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

    “When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Leho said.

    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

    The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.

    The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.

    “Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott, a Republican, said at a news conference in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

    The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, saying there was no way to know which parts of the city were most vulnerable.

    “If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Turner said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

    The Coast Guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

    The White House announced that President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday. He met Sunday by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

    The rescues unfolded a day after Harvey settled over the Texas coastline. The system weakened Saturday to a tropical storm. By early Monday, Harvey had shifted a little closer to Texas, hovering about 30 kilometres east of Victoria, with sustained winds of about 65 kph. The National Hurricane Center said it continued to edge in a southeasterly direction at 4.8 kph.

    Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.


older | 1 | .... | 987 | 988 | (Page 989) | 990 | 991 | .... | 1045 | newer