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TORONTO STAR

Trump damages first trip with refusal to make NATO guarantee: Analysis (sam., 27 mai 2017)
WASHINGTON—For once, the problem was not something he said but something he didn’t. Donald Trump’s first foreign trip as president gave him a chance to make headlines on something, anything, other than Russia. He succeeded for a few days. Then, with an act of conspicuous silence, he changed the subject back. In his Thursday speech to NATO, Trump declined to guarantee that his United States remains devoted to the bedrock principle of the bulwark against Russian aggression: a commitment to defend other members of the alliance if they came under attack. His refusal to endorse the all-for-one, one-for-all Article 5 of the NATO treaty, while hectoring members for spending too little on defence and too much on a new headquarters, alarmed and dismayed European leaders who had expected him to come to Brussels to reassure the alliance. And given that his omission doubtlessly thrilled Vladimir Putin, it reinvigorated bipartisan questions about where his loyalties lie. “That he couldn’t even say some very benign words that would’ve meant a lot to our allies was really striking,” said Loren Schulman, a former National Security Council official who is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “I think it’s a huge deal that he didn’t say it.” The NATO omission — it was at, of all places, the dedication of a memorial to the time NATO invoked Article 5 after Sept. 11 — was the biggest black mark on an eventful, five-country whirlwind tour. The trip was far from a shining success, but also no catastrophe. Here are six other lessons from Trump’s time in the Middle East and Europe: He’s not giving Israel free rein: Aaron David Miller, a former diplomat who advised six secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations, jokes that the version of Trump who spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before March of last year “could have been Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state.” Trump shifted well to the right during his campaign, giving a zealously pro-Israel campaign speech to a hard-line lobby group But the old Trump has emerged again. Appearing serious about his desire to make “the ultimate deal,” he played the role of honest broker, even in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He did not mention his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. He declared the Palestinians “ready to reach for peace,” a conclusion rejected by much of the Israeli government. He linked the conflict to broader problems in the region, an analysis that irks conservative Israelis. Netanyahu was visibly elated to be dealing with someone other than Barack Obama — more relaxed, Miller said, than he had ever been in the presence of a president. But there were hints that the happy vibes would not last. “I think the Israelis were very happy with Trump’s visit. They were very happy with his speech, but, if you listened carefully to what he said, there are a lot of things I think the Israeli government is going to be very nervous about,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. The Sunni side is up: Trump made it clear that he will not play middle-of-the-road mediator on the region’s other defining battle: the power struggle between Saudi Arabia, run by a Sunni Muslim regime, and Iran, run by a Shiite Muslim regime. The U.S. is now firmly aligned with the Sunnis. Speaking in Saudi Arabia to a gathering of Sunni-nation leaders, Trump blasted Iran — it did this the day after Iran held a presidential election, which Saudi Arabia has never done — while heaping praise on the Saudi king and avoiding criticism of the other equally repressive men who sat before him. The world’s Muslim population is 90 per cent Sunni, and there are good arguments in favour of a pivot toward Riyadh and its friends. But “the president’s speech overdid it,” Miller said. “We cannot overdo it.” He just can’t control himself: Trump earned some cautious early praise for displaying something that resembled discipline. Dodging almost any interaction with the media — in a break from trip precedent — Trump jettisoned his usual improvisation in favour of prepared texts obviously written by other people. But he made outlandish errors whenever he was allowed to speak in his own words. In a ridiculous goof in Israel, he accidentally confirmed that Israel was the source of the classified intelligence he divulged to Russian officials. In a meeting with European leaders, he called Germans “bad,” possibly in the context of trade, but still creating an embarrassing headline in Der Spiegel. In his speech at NATO headquarters, he ad-libbed a mocking jibe about the cost of that very building. Sure, he managed to prevent himself from rage-tweeting. But there is no stopping the man from falling on his face over any extended period. He was persuaded to soften on Islam: When word got out that the politician who campaigned on banning foreign Muslims would be giving a speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia, there was real and reasonable fear that he would create a dangerous international incident. He did not. In fact, he rejected the very premise of the inflammatory phrase he had insisted Obama use: “radical Islamic terrorism.” Trump snuck in a modified version, unscripted. But in his prepared text, he rejected the very premise of the phrase — saying that terrorists are “barbaric criminals” who “falsely” invoke the name of God, not true Islamic believers. Nobody believes Trump has come to like Muslims; while he was away, he issued an insulting terrorism-centric Ramadan statement. But this was a sign that cooler administration heads, such as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, might prevail over the Islamophobic nationalists. “With expectations being so low, we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that he didn’t insult 1.7 billion people in Saudi Arabia,” Munayyer said. Human rights? Out the window: Trump is awkward around the leaders of liberal democracies, displaying a mix of disinterest, contempt and confusion. Around autocrats such as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, whom he pronounced “wise,” he becomes a fawning child, admiring, not condemning, their absolute power. When Trump told an audience of undemocratic rulers that he was “not here to lecture,” the message was clear: as long as these men help kill terrorists, the U.S. no longer cares a whit about how they handle human rights and civil liberties. It was not a total fiasco: There were substantive gaffes. There were silly gaffes. There was an inexplicable shove of a prime minister. There was an inexplicable photo with a glowing orb. So let’s not drop the bar so far that we pretend the trip was an unequivocal success. But it also wasn’t an abject, on-all-counts disaster, and the bar has fallen to a place where that is notable. The Trump team, best known for public incompetence, managed to do some complicated things well. “It went off relatively seamlessly given the potential minefields and traps,” Miller said, speaking after the Middle East portion. It did, however, get transparently worse as it proceeded. Schulman said she saw a “big divide” in the level of preparation the administration devoted to the made-for-TV first stops, in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the subsequent European portion in which Trump “seemed tired, annoyed, and like he was relying on his stock campaign lines.” In his speech in Saudi Arabia last Sunday, he paid tribute to the “magnificent kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” In his speech in Italy on Saturday, he referred to Canada’s prime minister as “Justin from Canada.”
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LGBTQ athletes left adrift in Miami after World OutGames suddenly cancelled (sam., 27 mai 2017)
LGBTQ athletes from all over the world, including Canada, have been left shocked, and in some cases, stranded, by the announcement that almost all of the 450 events in the World OutGames in Miami have been cancelled. The announcement came through the event’s Facebook page at noon Friday, only a day before opening ceremonies. The World OutGames is a 10-day event played every four years where LGBTQ athletes from all over the world compete in various sports. It was scheduled to take place in Miami starting Friday through June 4. The announcement read: “It is with deep regret that due to financial burdens, World OutGames must cancel opening and closing ceremonies and sports programming with the exception of aquatics, country western dance and soccer.” Others events such as the Human Rights Conference and cultural programs will continue as scheduled, according to the statement. The Miami Beach Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office have jointly opened a fraud investigation into the event due to alleged misappropriation of funds, according to a statement from the board of directors for the World OutGames. Toronto badminton player Jam McDonald was devastated after hearing the announcement that the games were cancelled. He was scheduled to fly to Miami Saturday. “At first, I thought it was just a prank, because how can an entire massive sporting event be cancelled,” McDonald said who found out about the news via text from his friend. “I’d been practicing three times a week for months with the same partner to prepare for this, and I’d been talking about competing in the OutGames for a year.” He said sporting events showcasing LGBTQ athletes are important as many sports still show evidence of intrinsic homophobia. It is a blow to the LGBTQ community worldwide for an event to be cancelled so suddenly. “It would have been a landmark for me to play in my first international tournament in a sport I’ve been playing since high school,” he said. Because it was cancelled so close to the opening of the events, many athletes had not only paid registration fees, but spent money to travel to Miami in anticipation of competing in the games. Many are now calling for refunds on Twitter and Facebook. It remains to be seen if the event organizers will grant these requests. McDonald said he is one of the lucky ones who were still at home when the announcement was made. He was able to get a refund for his plane ticket. However, he’s not optimistic about getting the $300 registration fee he paid. Toronto United FC player Paulo Senra is one of few athletes that will participate, as his event has not been cancelled. He participated in the 2006 WorldOut Games and he said it was an opportunity he’s sad other athletes won’t get to experience. “It’s a really powerful event and especially for athletes looking for validation and a safe space to play. I’m incredibly disappointed.” Senra, who has competed in over 20 events for LGBTQ athletes, said he was “very surprised” that most of the events at the WorldOut games were cancelled. Countless tweets and over 200 comments on the Facebook post show athletes and supporters expressing their outrage at the handling of the event. The OutGames website promised that “thousands of participants, spectators and thought leaders from around the globe” would be in attendance. As recently as Friday, the event’s Facebook page was advertising for parties that would be held in conjunction with the games. Even though he is disappointed, McDonald said it will not deter him from competing at the international level. He is already looking forward to participating in the Paris Gay Games in 2018. “We need to show the world that there are plenty of LGBTQ athletes and that it’s OK to be athletic and be queer.”
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Apartment tower near school to proceed, but location of classrooms this fall is at issue (sam., 27 mai 2017)
Will they stay or will they go? That’s the next question on the table for parents of 500 elementary students at John Fisher Public School, where turmoil has reigned over a 35-storey apartment building about to be erected next door. In an emailed letter from The Toronto District School Board on Friday, parents got instructions for an online vote on where their children will attend classes next fall. Their choices: Staying put during the next three to four years of construction Relocating the French immersion school near Yonge and Eglinton to Vaughan Road Academy, which is about seven kilometres away and slated to close in June. “I don’t think (moving) was ever a popular choice,” says Mary Mowbray, whose daughter is in Grade 5. Mowbray hasn’t decided how she will respond. Some families have already chosen to return to local English schools as a result of the disruption, despite the shortage of spaces in the area. Mowbray is one of many parents worried that, despite assurances from the TDSB and the developer that the children will be safe, adequate measures are not in place, particularly when it comes to daily monitoring and enforcement of safety standards. She says too many questions remain unanswered about how factors such as excessive noise, dust, traffic and heavy equipment will affect the learning environment and playground activities. Last week, parents, kids and local politicians gathered outside the school for the latest in a string of protests, this time against a recent agreement between the TDSB and developer KG Group following recommendations spelled out in an environmental risk assessment by an outside consultant hired by the board. Under terms of the deal, KG Group will provide $500,000 to offset costs of steps required to mitigate risks, such as new windows and air-conditioning units in the century-old school. Company founder Marvin Katz calls the firm’s efforts to minimize risk “unprecedented” and says there was never any reason to consider relocating the school. But, as part of the deal, the builder will suspend construction for the first six weeks of the school year to allow the board enough time to put all its measures in place. Mowbray says the TDSB parent survey, which was attempted last month, but boycotted after parents said they didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision, makes no sense. “If it’s safe, why are they asking people if they want to move to Vaughan Road?” she said. The TDSB letter says it is proceeding with the survey in line with its earlier commitment to parents. The board will only consider moving the school if two-thirds of parents are in favour of relocation. The letter stipulates that if families don’t complete the survey “the TDSB will assume that you wish your child to remain in French immersion at the John Fisher site.” Results are scheduled to be released Friday. The fate of the school comes after six months of protests, headlines and appeals from parents to politicians, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is the local MPP for the area. Mayor John Tory has said he will make sure builders are held to the “highest standards” of safety during construction. After the outcry, the TDSB committed to the risk assessment as well as a peer review of that document by a second consultant, which cost the board about $170,000. But some parents say they’re disappointed such steps weren’t taken earlier and that the board should have taken a stronger stand from the start, demanding more answers about the potential impact of the project on students. “I feel. Fundamentally. the TDSB has let children down and that’s who they’re supposed to be there to serve,” says Mowbray.
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The death of Jordan Manners tore apart his school. How C.W. Jefferys was resurrected (sam., 27 mai 2017)
A chipper adult is the last person most teenagers want to deal with first thing in the morning. But at 8:45 a.m. on a Tuesday, it’s hard for even the most bleary-eyed students walking through the front doors of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate to resist principal Monday Gala’s apparent excitement that yet another school day is about to begin. “Good morning, ladies! How are you today?” “How are you feeling, son?” Gala knows most by name. Sara. Jamal, Alvin. The lanky boys with earbuds and ballcaps, and the chattering clusters of girls with bulging knapsacks. Dapper in a grey linen suit, pink shirt and bright blue tie, he’s already put in an hour of paperwork so he can turn his attention to what he loves best — face time with the kids streaming in the front doors. Gala stands by a table laden with oranges, bananas and apples, neatly stacked cartons of milk and a giant pan of freshly baked banana bread. He chats with Imelda from the cafeteria as she dishes out the food. He trades jokes with the guidance teacher dashing to her office. The school’s breakfast program serves 425 of the school’s 730 students and is offered casually on the way in, without singling anyone out or requiring a trip to the cafeteria. His animated presence provokes slow grins and a refrain of “Morning sir, how are you?” He responds with a thumbs-up. “I’m tops!” These days, there’s reason to feel upbeat about the high school at Jane and Finch in northwest Toronto, which has seen some dark days. Ten years ago this month, the school gained notoriety as the site of the first shooting death in a Toronto school after 15-year-old Jordan Manners died in a stairwell. The tragedy shook the school, the community and the Toronto District School Board, led to a task force on school safety, a raft of changes in safety measures, and badly-needed funds and programs to support students in priority neighbourhoods. Some in the community feared the school name would forever be tarnished by images of guns and violence. But in the last few years, Jefferys has begun to make headlines of a different sort. Under Gala, who joined the staff as a physics and math teacher in 2000, became vice-principal in 2007 and principal in 2012, it became the first school in Toronto to stop the controversial practice of streaming Grade 9 and 10 students into applied-level instead of academic courses. He was among a handful of people to receive a TDSB award of excellence last year. Then in February came more good news. Jefferys earned the title of fastest improving school in the GTA in the widely watched Fraser Institute annual rankings, based on standardized test scores. And Gala was named one of Canada’s 40 outstanding principals by the non-profit education group The Learning Partnership. The honour followed an extensive process of nominations and testimonials from students, parents, educators and the community. Accolades are nice, says Gala, 56, who claims “I have the best job in the world.” The more important rewards come in the increasing number of Grade 9 students choosing Jefferys, and the fact that post-secondary applications have been steadily increasing over the past few years. The impact of positive news isn’t lost on C.W. Jefferys students. “We don’t want to be known as the school where the student got shot,” says Grade 11 student council member Ali Azhar. “We want to be known as the school that’s most improved and has one of the best principals in the country.” On a typical day at 9:05, Gala is marching through Jefferys’ pristine hallways, making it his business to know what’s going on in every corner. He greets kids and rounds up stragglers. “You’re not spending too much time, but you’re connecting on a level that says ‘I care,’” he explains. “Hey, where should you be?” he calls to a couple of boys. “You’re making me look bad.” They hustle off to class. He runs into a Grade 10 student he promised to help with math and reminds her to have the office summon him on his walkie-talkie when she comes for a lesson. A principal who tutors? “You have to make the time,” he explains. That time pays off. “If you ask me the name of every kid, I’ll struggle, but there’s not a kid in this school I don’t recognize.” If he encounters a group, he’ll point at each person, saying “you’re mine and you’re mine and you’re not. So what is your business in my school?” When kids are in the hallway unsupervised, “that’s when trouble happens,” he says. He stops to chat with a Grade 9 student who looks overwhelmed. The transition to high school hasn’t been easy for him. Gala reaches up and lays a hand on his shoulder as they talk quietly. Walking away, he makes a mental note to check in with the boy’s special education teacher. Upstairs, Gala slips unannounced into the Grade 12 calculus class, where 15 students are engrossed in solving problems on a Smart Board. “Mr. MacCabe, that looks complicated, man,” he says to the teacher. Classroom visits are a ritual he began as a new principal and weren’t initially welcomed by staff. “They’d think it was an evaluation. I said ‘no, we want the kids to know we’re excited about their education.’ ” Ali Azhar, who enlists Gala in planning everything from school movie nights to dances, says the principal is popular because of his warm, funny vibe and because “kids know they can go to him for anything.” But at the same time, “when it’s time to get down to business, that’s what he’ll do.” Gala was teaching a Grade 10 science class just after 2 p.m. on a Wednesday in the spring of 2007, when the office secretary got word that Jordan Manners had been found face down at the bottom of the stairs outside the gymnasium. Staff members scrambled to figure out what had happened to the semi-conscious boy in the empty hall, find a first-aid kit and call 911. There was no blood. But when they rolled him over and cut open his shirt, they discovered a small hole in his chest. He had been shot at close range with a small-calibre weapon. The horrible scene led to pandemonium on that day, May 23, 2007. Gala remembers the lockdown order coming over the speakers. As police roamed hallways and distraught families gathered outside, he focused on trying to keep everyone calm and quiet with the lights out until it was finally over at 6 p.m. Days later, two 17-year-old boys were charged. Their trial in 2010 resulted in a hung jury after several key witnesses recanted their testimonies. A year later both defendants were found not guilty following a second trial. “It affected me very much, it was bad for everybody,” says Gala, who knew the young student but hadn’t taught him. Guidance teacher Shannon Zangari was three weeks into maternity leave but recalls the shock and its painful aftermath. “The whole tone was it’s not safe. It completely annihilated our school.” A month after the tragedy, the school made news again over the alleged sexual assault of a female student on the premises by a group of boys the previous fall. The principal and other administrative staff were charged with failing to report the incident — they were later dismissed on a technicality — and a new principal and vice-principals brought in for the next school year. Jim Spyropoulos, who became principal in September 2007, recalls the turmoil. Gala had originally been posted to another school that fall but at the last minute was brought back to Jefferys as vice-principal. “He was the glue that connected us as an administrative team to the school, because he had the history and the relationships,” says Spyropoulos. “His greatest strength now I believe was his greatest strength then, and that is how incredibly connected he is to his own school community internally, staff, students, I mean everybody.” From the start as principal, Gala had high expectations for his students and a commitment to helping them see their own potential.He wanted to ensure the transformation that started a few years earlier continued. Talk to kids, staff or parents and the phrases commonly heard are his “open-door policy” and philosophy of no student left behind. “When you believe in somebody, it changes them,” says Shannon Zangari, who started as a Jefferys teacher in 2000, the year Gala joined the staff. That defining principle was also at the root of Gala’s decision to start dismantling academic streaming in September 2014, even though about half the staff didn’t support the idea. The high-priority neighbourhood at Jane and Finch is among the most culturally diverse in the city, with a high population of newcomers and single parents, many living in subsidized housing. Graduation rates are low. Gala had noted that kids from poorer families and racially marginalized groups were overrepresented in applied classes as opposed to the university-bound academic ones. He also knew kids in applied courses were less likely to graduate on time and only one of five likely to attend post-secondary school. He was determined to change that trajectory. Today at Jefferys all Grade 9 students take academic-level geography, English, science and French, and those in Grade 10 take academic history, English and science. About half a dozen other schools followed suit. “Who would think a school at Jane and Finch would dare do this?” says Gala. “But you cannot argue with the results we’ve got.” Pass rates of students in the new inclusive academic classes were immediately higher than they had been for kids in past applied classes. Today the pass rate is more than 95 per cent in all those courses. He credits it with boosting overall success. Between June 2012 and June 2016, the number of Grade 9 students who earned at least eight credits jumped to 83 per cent from 67 per cent, Grade 10 rates rose 16 percentage points to 76 per cent, and Grade 11 jumped 22 points to 77 per cent. Pass rates in standardized EQAO math tests in Grade 9 and the Grade 10 literacy test have also improved, with math results well above the TDSB average. As part of the transition, the school organized extra supports. Those included supply teachers hired as academic tutors using provincial funds allotted to urban and priority high schools, and enlisting York University education students and trained Grade 12 mentors to provide additional help. Extra class prep time was allotted for EQAO literacy and math tests. Teachers were available for math help every day after school, and for math and literacy help during lunch. The process of destreaming math — the last applied course available in Grade 9 — will begin this fall. Kids will be encouraged to enrol in academic and those identified by their middle schools as needing extra support are being offered classes this summer. The goal is to phase out applied over the next year or two. The destreaming initiative has impact beyond the school, says Ryan Marrast, who grew up in the neighbourhood, graduated from Jefferys in 2000 and is currently teaching careers and helping kids who are behind in school catch up and earn their credits. The message for kids that they are capable of aiming higher has put the school in a better light and is significant in a community where the system too often “sets the bar a little bit low.” Getting kids to believe in themselves and their futures “is what Monday Gala is all about,” says Carl James, a York university professor and author of a recent report that outlines how the deck is stacked against Black students in the GTA because of factors ranging from streaming to higher suspension rates and a lack of Black role models. Gala, the only Black principal of the 40 to receive the outstanding principal award this year, stresses the importance of kids seeing people who look like them in leadership roles. But James says Gala’s biggest comes from his efforts to know his students and how deeply he cares for them. Under his direction, the school has boosted Africentric content in the curriculum to engage students. Every spring, he and students join other area schools for the annual Walk With Excellence to York University. A partnership with York gives Jefferys students a chance to earn a university credit and taste the challenges of post-secondary while they are still in high school. The school is also the site of a program called Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education, aimed at helping providing the most at-risk kids with alternatives to guns, drugs and gangs and building positive connections with school and sports. Suspensions are handled differently and as much as possible spent in the office, often in his company. “It works wonders. What kid wants to eat lunch with the principal?” He believes in redirecting and defusing situations, and suspension as a last resort. There has been an increase in conflicts between students this year, but Gala says most incidents are personal, rather than linked to neighbourhood or gang rivalries. The school’s two child and youth workers, community police officer and two hall monitors have their ears to the ground and play key roles in mediating before things escalate, he says. A display in the hall shows photos from Camp Pine Crest, site of a leadership program started by a former superintendent that helped change the culture. Kids new to high school come looking for older kids to follow. Initiatives like the camp sessions make sure “they follow the right ones.” Five years ago, Hashithri Gonaduwaga Don wouldn’t let her son start high school at Jefferys. After an unhappy year at another school, she met Gala, who had just returned to the school after three years elsewhere to become principal, and changed her mind. Her son blossomed and just finished first year at York. Don is co-chair of the school council and her daughter Shenali, in Grade 10, is involved in everything from student council to the drum line and leadership programs. “It’s almost like a different school because of him,” says Don, who works in the office at Elia Middle School, one of Jefferys’ feeder schools, and says its reputation is attracting more young students. The open-door policy is in effect on a typical morning in Gala’s office. The co-op teacher drops by, excited to tell him about a recent graduate who landed a job with a consulting firm she helped connect him with. “They drive us crazy but we never give up on them, even after they graduate,” laughs Gala. Then the school police officer checks in, followed by the head caretaker with an issue, and both vice-principals. When a parent calls, Gala picks up the phone and doesn’t have the slightest hint of rush in his tone. There is no “we’ll look into this,” says Gopal Devanabanda, Jefferys vice-principal for the past four years. It’s about finding a solution promptly. The walls of Monday Gala’s office are covered in a mix of sports posters, family photos and colourful prints. But a certificate labelled “Food Prefect Class of ’80” stands out. It’s from the Katsina-Ala Old Boys Association, a government college in Nigeria, where he was born and raised. “That is where school leadership started for me,” says Gala. At the time he was 19, smart and “a rascal.” So his teachers gave him a job. In a system largely run by students, they put him in charge of budgeting, planning and organizing meals for the hundreds of students. “You know what this does to a kid like me?” he muses. “It tells you you’re valued and we’re going to take a chance on you.” As the sixth child of nine children born in a northern village where he learned to speak Hausa as well as his first language, Aten, he always knew “school was number one” for his parents. A Grade 10 physics teacher was an inspiration. The teacher had no fancy lab equipment but dazzled young Gala with his knack for breaking down the science behind everyday things. “He took something as simple as a rainbow and said I can explain this.” He also happened to be a Canadian hired through the organization Canadian University Services Overseas. Suddenly Gala had a career goal. By the time he’d finished first-year science at university, the time when students began to specialize, he was doing so well the school asked him to apply to medical school. But “I wanted to be a physics teacher.” After earning his master’s in physics and teaching in Nigeria another opportunity came his way — the chance to earn his PhD abroad through a Commonwealth Scholarship. By the time he moved to the University of Western Ontario in London in 1990, he and his wife, Lyop, had three young children. Two more would follow. Six years later, he had a doctorate in geophysics but tenured positions at universities were hard to come by. He went back to school for a teaching degree. During his first three years teaching at Earl Haig Secondary School near Yonge St. and Sheppard Ave., he kept hearing about this place called Jane and Finch, and too often it was troubling news. Curious and always drawn to a challenge, he applied to Jefferys when an opening came up in 2000. Outside school, “my hobby is my family,” says Gala, who lives in Brampton. He and his wife are now raising their 4-year-old grandson, Deme. Their eldest child, Nyak, had schizophrenia and died two years ago in her sleep at 33. These days Gala tries to be home in time for dinner and bedtime stories. Except Tuesdays and Thursdays, when he and Devanabanda stay at Jefferys until 9:30, the end of night school. You know you’ve done something right when a bunch of 17-year-olds in a physics lab are gawking and exclaiming “whoa, that’s so sick.” The high praise is lavished one morning when Gala stops by the class and conducts an experiment using parallel rods and vacuum tubes to show the effect of magnetic and electric fields on moving charges. As the students crowd around the electromagnetic machine, he’s in his element, calling out questions, giving hints followed by high-fives when an excited student figures out what causes the spark in front of them. When Gala was first encouraged to apply for an administrative position with the board, “I thought you’ve got to be kidding, me? I don’t want to give this up to run a school.” But he’s found great satisfaction in “doing my best to get teachers to bring the best of what they’ve got” and seeing the impact on students. There are challenges at Jefferys. Attendance. Kids with lots of attitude and little outside support, kids in peril who are drawn to the streets. Those are what motivate him. “It’s taking that kid that comes into the school in Grade 9 and hates on everyone, the kid you just can’t reach, and shaking their hand at graduation . . . and you know you’ve been part of getting this kid on their way with some direction for the future,” he says. Or the one who returns a few years later and says “thank you for not giving up on me.” There’s a table of handwritten thank-you cards in Gala’s office. In one, a former student describes him as a role model “whose influence stays with us forever.” “She shocked me by bringing this card,” he says, shaking his head. He puts it carefully back on the table and sits down at his desk, beaming.
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U.K. police arrest 2 more suspects in Manchester bombing (sam., 27 mai 2017)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND—Police arrested two more suspects Saturday over the deadly Manchester concert bombing, as Britons began a sunny holiday long weekend under heightened security. Greater Manchester Police said two men, aged 20 and 22, were detained early Saturday in the northwest England city on suspicion of terrorism offences. Police used an explosive device to get into a property to make the arrests. Police say they are now holding 11 men, aged between 18 and 44, in custody and have made major progress in their investigation. Mark Rowley, Britain’s top counterterrorism police officer, said authorities have dismantled a “large part” of the network around bomber Salman Abedi. But he said there were still “gaps in our understanding” of the plot, as investigators probed Abedi’s potential links to jihadis in Britain, Europe, Libya and the Middle East. The 22-year-old Briton of Libyan descent died in Monday’s explosion, which killed 22 people and wounded dozens as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert. After the bombing Britain raised its official threat status from terrorism to the top level, “critical” — meaning another attack may be imminent. Prime Minister Theresa May returned early from the G-7 summit in Sicily, and will chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee on Saturday. READ MORE: Alleged Manchester bomber phoned mom before attack, said ‘forgive me’ What we can learn from the tragic events in Manchester Hundreds of soldiers have been sent to replace police at high-profile sites including Buckingham Palace and Parliament, and police armed with submachine guns are being deployed in city centres, transit hubs, tourist areas and major events. Despite the critical alert, police have urged people to go out and enjoy themselves over the three-day holiday weekend. More than 1,000 armed police are on standby as major events including the Football Association Cup Final and the Premiership Rugby Final are expected to draw tens of thousands of people. Manchester is slowly returning to normal, though dozens of people remain hospitalized and the damaged arena and adjacent Victoria train station remain closed. Grande has promised to return to Manchester for a benefit concert. In a statement Friday, she said “I’ll be returning to the incredibly brave city of Manchester to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honour of and to raise money for the victims and their families.” “Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she said. “We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win.”
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25 years ago, Toronto became the centre of the universe . . . for the UV index (sam., 27 mai 2017)
The front page of the Toronto Star on May 27, 1992, was deeply of the decade. Premiere Bob Rae’s face scowled above the fold, and the Blue Jays beat the Milwaukee Brewers 5 to 4, adding to their scorching, World-Series calibre record. A short story announced a change to the weather report. Environment Canada would begin publishing forecasts of the intensity of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It was information they hoped Canadians would use to avoid sunburns and the attendant risk of skin cancer. Today is the 25th birthday of the UV index. The scale was invented by three Toronto-based Environment Canada scientists. It has since been adopted around the world. When forecasters issue a UV index of six in Brussels or 22 in the Andes, they are comparing local ultraviolet radiation to a sunny summer day at Dufferin and Steeles. It confirms that Toronto is, in fact, the centre of the universe — at least when it comes to calibrating sunburn risk. The story of the UV index is one of Canadian leadership in atmospheric science, technology transfer and public communication. “In a sense, we managed to put a hat on everybody in the world,” says Tom McElroy, one of the UV index’s inventors. McElroy is now a professor at York University’s Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering. The story shows, some say, how far Canada has shifted from its world-leading position in this field; measuring ultraviolet radiation is inextricably linked to measuring variations in the ozone layer. But the program at Environment Canada was diminished by the Stephen Harper government. “I think it’s going to take a lot of effort to get the place back on its feet again,” says Thomas Duck, a professor in physics and atmospheric science at Dalhousie University, about Environment Canada and its ozone research. “We’ve got a lot to be proud of, and I think it should be a continuing source of pride.” Scientists had been measuring ozone for half a century. Then alarm bells began ringing. Ozone, a molecule that exists in trace amounts throughout the atmosphere, is concentrated in a band centred about 25 kilometres above Earth’s surface. The ozone layer absorbs almost all the intense ultraviolet light emitted by the sun, protecting organisms on the Earth’s surface from damaging high-energy rays. An Oxford University physicist, G.M.B. Dobson, created an instrument in the 1920s that compared how much of two different UV wavelengths were reaching land, allowing him to infer total ozone amounts in the air column above. A small network of Dobson devices sat across the globe. In the 1970s, two disturbing facts emerged. A Dutch chemist, Paul Crutzen, realized that nitrogen oxides destroys ozone. Proposed fleets of supersonic aircraft would emit nitrogen oxides as they flew very close to the ozone layer. And two American chemists, Mario Molina and Sherwood Roland, discovered that the chlorofluorocarbons used in spray bottles and refrigerators also destroy ozone, and predicted this would have harmful effects. In 1995, all three would win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. At the time, scientists were concerned yet uncertain. Was ozone depletion a trivial problem? Or was it an existential one? “There seemed to be a growing need for monitoring,” says Jim Kerr, another co-inventor of the UV index, who is now retired. The Dobson instrument, though capable, was from another era. “There were no automation capabilities. Every day you had to walk up to it and read dials and fire it up and write down numbers. It was just not the way things were heading.” Kerr, McElroy, and another atmospheric physicist named David Wardle had all been graduate students or postdoctoral fellows at the University of Toronto in the 1960s. They worked with a professor and former colleague of G.M.B. Dobson, Alan Brewer, to develop a prototype for a more modern ozone instrument. The team of three moved to what was then called the Atmospheric Environment Service, now called Environment and Climate Change Canada, in the early 1970s. There, they collaborated with industry to commercialize the technology and mass produce a new instrument, the Brewer Ozone Spectrophotometer. Aside from being a more modern, automated device, the Brewer could also measure ultraviolet directly and in detail. “It did fill quite a need at that time,” says Kerr. Alarm intensified with the 1985 discovery of a gaping ozone hole over Antarctica. Canada was at the forefront of combating this threat: Canadian-made Brewers spread around the world, creating a robust monitoring network. Environment Canada operated the World Meteorological Organization’s global data centre for ozone in Toronto. World leaders met in Montreal in 1987 and agreed to phase out ozone-depleting substances. Even after the Montreal Protocol, it was not clear how the ozone layer would recover, and the trio at Environment Canada recognized a need for better public communication. “(There was a) need to get the message across to the public that we should be worried about ozone going down. One of the best ways to do that is to say, how does that affect people?” says McElroy. “If ozone goes down, your possibility of skin cancer is going to go up. “That’s a very simple message.” The team had been recording Brewer measurements at Environment Canada’s Downsview office for several years. They took the peak ultraviolet intensity from the sunniest day in July and divided it by an arbitrary number to create a nice, round maximum of 10. The UV index was born. Ottawa unveiled the index on May 27, 1992. The UV that day registered a moderate-to-high 6.7 on the scale, the Star reported. Two years later, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program adopted the UV index internationally. (They decided to allow values to rise above 10 so that a 10 means the same thing in Canada and the Tropics.) The highest UV index ever recorded was 43.3 on top of a volcano in Bolivia. McElroy, Kerr, and Wardle were given an innovator’s award from the United Nations Environment Programme on the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. Brewers are still operating in more than 45 countries in the world, from the Antarctic to the high Arctic and in between. The trio of scientists and the government are still receiving royalty cheques for newly-fabricated Brewers. “One of the satisfying aspects about the introduction of the UV index was seeing parents of children . . . . They were always covering their children up and putting sunscreen on their children. “That, to me, was satisfying, that something was being done,” says Kerr. “If you’re a government worker, public service is your bottom line. “We’re scientists. We’re interested in the science, but we’re also interested in our responsibilities.” Scientists worldwide were dismayed by changes to Environment Canada’s ozone program under the government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In 2011, a large part of the ozone-monitoring program was cut, changes the government described as “consolidation and streamlining.” The Environment Canada scientist in charge of the WMO’s ozone and ultraviolet data centre was reassigned and replaced with a data manager, Nature reported in 2012. Since then, data logged by the centre has dropped precipitously; the last reported data from Environment Canada was in 2014. “I would suggest this tells you that there is a continuing shortfall in ozone staffing at Environment Canada,” says Dalhousie’s Thomas Duck. A request for comment from Environment and Climate Change Canada, as it was renamed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was not returned by press time. The ozone layer is recovering, but threats continue. In 2011, an unprecedented ozone hole appeared in the Arctic. “Without the ozone layer, this planet is, for the most part, uninhabitable,” says Duck. As for Canada, “we’re going to have to put in some effort to maintain that leadership role.”
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Will Iraqi special forces get away with murder? (sam., 27 mai 2017)
Will they get away with murder? As the world absorbed the impact of images bearing witness to torture in the fight against Daesh, the leader of an Iraqi special forces unit with blood on its hands gleefully admitted to the worst, boasting that the disclosure of his “mistakes” will make him only more famous. The staggering sense of impunity among at least some fighters that Canada and its coalition-partners have singled out for praise in the battle against Daesh (also known as ISIS) emerged early Friday, as Capt. Omar Nazar of the Iraqi Emergency Response Division took proud ownership of the damning evidence exposed in separate investigations by the Toronto Star and ABC News. “We have made mistakes, but they are all directed toward the enemy, ISIS, and I’m proud of those mistakes,” Nazar told ABC’s Nightline in Arabic. Claiming an ability to tell in 10 minutes or less who is loyal to Daesh and who is not, Nazar said he operated under orders to take no prisoners. When confronted with brutal images gathered over a span of months by Iraqi photographer Ali Arkady — including a video clip of Nazar and a second ERD soldier, Cpl. Haidar Ali, gunning down an unidentified suspect — Nazar explained human rights do not apply to ISIS. “He is not human,” Nazar said of the slain suspect. “He is a monster.” The execution, he said, “is not considered murder.” Nazar sidestepped a question on whether Iraqi authorities would now follow through on promises to investigate his unit, saying the outcome would only enhance Nazar’s already substantial cult-hero status in Iraq. “I’m already a star in Iraq and Ali (photographer Arkady) would only make me a bigger star by doing this. Why? Because my country is longing for someone who would help it get rid of terrorism.” Nazar’s comments came amid a chorus of worries that, as dawn rises over the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, impunity may prevail, with Iraqi officials ultimately paying only lip service to coalition demands for investigation and then quietly letting the issue fade away, even in the face of unprecedented images. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday that Canadian diplomats in Baghdad and Ottawa took their concerns to senior Iraqi officials seeking assurances that the actions of the ERD unit will be investigated. “We are gravely concerned by the allegations and horrific imagery published in the press. We strongly condemn any and all actions that violate international human rights and humanitarian law,” Freeland said in a statement to the Star. “Canada has raised its concerns directly with the government of Iraq, condemning any and all actions that violate international human rights or‎ humanitarian law.” In a separate statement, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the federal government and the Canadian Armed Forces “strongly condemn any actions that violate the Law of Armed Conflict. “While Canadian soldiers in Iraq have not had any direct interaction with the ERD, our government has raised this issue with the government of Iraq so that those who commit these types of atrocities are held to account,” Sajjan said. The defence minister said that in all missions conducted by Canadian troops, including the ongoing mission in Iraq, the Law of Armed Conflict is at the “centre of the training our soldiers receive and the way they conduct operations.” The images of violence perpetrated not by a rogue militia group but an elite Iraq unit reverberated among allies including Canada. Col. Jay Janzen, a senior spokesperson for the Canadian Armed Forces, said those in the ranks of Canada’s military were “shocked and sickened” by the pictures and video. “As a professional soldier, when I see those images, it’s a total breakdown in unit discipline, in leadership and in their responsibilities as professional soldiers. Quite frankly, that should never happen. It’s completely unacceptable,” he said Friday in an interview. “It needs to be dealt with. We strongly hope that Iraqi officials deal with these incidents appropriately.” He said the Canadian military was under no illusion when it deployed to Iraq in 2014 to train Kurdish peshmerga fighters in their fight against Daesh. “We went into this conflict eyes wide open. A lot of study has been done in terms of the history of this conflict, the potential for sectarian violence, the potential for retribution,” he said. New Democrat MP and national defence critic Randall Garrison noted that in recent months, the Canadian military mission in Iraq has shifted from training peshmerga troops to working alongside Iraqi security forces around Mosul. “We’ve had a shift here that has never been fully explained,” Garrison said, noting that the evolving mission has put Canadian forces in closer contact with Iraqi units. “I’d like to know, now that this is public, what is the government’s reaction, what are they doing to make sure that we are in no way complicit with these activities,” Garrison (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke) said in an interview. “Who we’re training becomes an important question when units like this are clearly involved in activities that would qualify as war crimes.” In Washington, Sen. Patrick Leahy, author of the 1997 “Leahy Law” that bars the U.S. from providing material support to allies who engage in war crimes, was shocked not merely by Arkady’s images but also the mindset of the alleged perpetrators. “The photos are sickening. They clearly depict war crimes. That they were brazenly lauded by the unit’s leader suggests that they were far from aberrations,” Leahy said in a written statement to the Star’s Washington bureau chief, Daniel Dale. “It is my understanding that the United States no longer supports the Iraqi unit involved, but we should insist that the individuals responsible, and particularly the leaders, be prosecuted and appropriately punished. The fact that U.S. military personnel praised the Iraqi unit’s co-operation is deeply disturbing and requires further investigation by the Pentagon.” Longtime watchers of the Iraq conflict welcomed the publication of images that, however difficult and graphic, packed the power to cut through facile narratives and show a dimension of the battle that threatens to plant the seeds of the next ISIS, even after Daesh is unseated as a geographic entity. “It’s becoming more common, here, especially in Washington and other Western capitals to say that somehow Iraq has moved on from the abuses that led to the rise of ISIS in 2014,” said Hassan Hassan, co-author along with Michael Weiss of the bestselling book, ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. “What have we learned from the past two and a half years in fighting ISIS? Is it just because we dropped more bombs and expelled these militants? That’s not enough. As long the abuse continues, as long as the behaviour of the Iraqi pro-government forces persist, the problem will persist as well,” he said. The wide sharing of Arkady’s images sparked polarizing responses in Iraq, where some politicians proclaimed them to be false or manipulated in an apparent attempt at damage control. But the boastful remarks by unit commander Nazar, in claiming ownership of what the images show, blunted the belated attempts to discredit the messenger. And also served to highlight how deeply Nazar’s attitude matches with the broader mindset of Iraqi military, according to a Human Rights Watch researcher who closely tracks the conflict. “Since this ‘war against terror’ has been launched in the country, there has been this level of impunity for armed forces that are fighting the quasi-good fight, the fight against ISIS,” said Belkis Wille, Human Rights Watch’s senior Iraq researcher. “In any government meeting you go to, authorities, as much as they say, ‘Yes we abide by the laws of war. We don’t condone abuse,’ they always follow that up with, ‘But you have to understand we’re fighting ISIS and ISIS has no respect for the rules.’ “What they’re implicitly saying is, because ISIS is so evil, it’s kind of OK for us to break some of the rules sometimes. And unfortunately that is the pervasive attitude, and it’s not only the attitude of armed forces but of civilians as well who have been the victim of ISIS abuse. “The big problem with that is this fundamental lack of understanding of what ISIS is, where it came from, and how it has garnered so many recruits, because if we engage in that line of thinking, then we’re never going to win. We’ll never get rid of these extremist groups with a considerable following that will always be targeting these communities that are victim of abuse.”
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Conservative leadership race almost in the bag for Maxime Bernier (sam., 27 mai 2017)
It’s very likely there already is a new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada — they just don’t know it yet. About 2,000 Conservatives have gathered at a conference centre near Pearson Airport to select their next party leader. But with 126,000 mail-in ballots received by the party as of Friday morning, it’s unlikely Saturday’s in-person voting will have much of an impact on the final outcome. That perhaps explains the fairly relaxed atmosphere at the Toronto Congress Centre, where party faithful slowly trickled in Friday to hear last-ditch appeals from the 13 people hoping to replace Stephen Harper. None of the backroom manoeuvring or mass migrations of delegates from one camp to another that characterized leadership contests of old. Just like-minded Conservatives paying to attend what one insider called a “reveal,” not a contest. The consensus in the convention hall is that Quebec MP Maxime Bernier is the man to beat, a self-styled libertarian who out-fundraised the rest of the field, but Saskatchewan’s Andrew Scheer and Ontario’s Erin O’Toole at least have a path to victory. Quito Maggi, CEO of Mainstreet Research, said Bernier entered the race as a complete long shot, but managed to sustain momentum through the marathon race. “But all the candidates we’ve seen evolve,” Maggi said in an interview Friday afternoon. “Maxime Bernier is going to win. He’s at 31 per cent (according to Mainstreet’s polling of Conservative members) of the vote. When you translate that to votes . . . there’s 17,000 members total in Quebec, 78 ridings with 7,800 points. There’s 22,000 members in Calgary, nine ridings, worth 900 points. That’s why Bernier is going to win.” Scheer’s team was quietly telling reporters Friday, however, that they’re projecting their candidate is only a few points behind Bernier, and have more support in Quebec than has been reported publicly. That could just be last minute spin, but if true would make Saturday’s big reveal a lot more interesting. Speaking with the Star on Friday, Scheer said he was both nervously excited and cautiously optimistic heading into the convention. “I’m talking tonight about how we need a leader who can take the best of our Conservative principles and policies and connect them with a broader audience of Canadians,” Scheer said. “We need a leader that doesn’t just speak to a subset of conservatives, but can take that message out and grow our support.” Despite the significant number of advance voting, O’Toole said “it’s not over until every person has cast a ballot.” “We are running this marathon until we hit the tape,” O’Toole told the Star. “I need more members of the party to see what our caucus has seen. My experience and my style will win back parts of the country that voted for us in 2011 but left us in 2015.” Despite the consensus favourites, other candidates were not laying down on Friday. Supporters for Ontario MPs Michael Chong and Lisa Raitt paraded around the convention hall Friday evening, chanting their candidates’ names and waving placards. As Chong supporters chanted, one non-supporter started yelling “carbon tax, carbon tax,” in reference to the former cabinet minister’s plan for a revenue-neutral tax on carbon — something that gone over like a lead balloon with the sections of the party’s base. The leadership candidates were scheduled to give their 11th-hour appeals to delegates still on the fence at the main convention hall Friday night, before the traditional mixing, mingling and drinking at hospitality suites Friday night. On Saturday, members will have their last opportunity to vote at the convention hall before a new leader is announced — expected around 7 p.m. Saturday.
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British Airways cancels flights amid global computer outage (sam., 27 mai 2017)
LONDON—British Airways cancelled all flights from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend. The airline said it was suffering a “major IT systems failure” around the world. It didn’t say what was causing the problem but said there was no evidence of a cyberattack. BA operates hundreds of flights from the two London airports on a typical day — and both are major hubs for worldwide travel. Several hours after problems began cropping up Saturday morning, BA suspended flights up to 6 p.m. because the two airports had become severely congested. The airline later scrapped flights from Heathrow and Gatwick for the rest of the day. Passengers at Heathrow reported long lines at check-in counters and the failure of the airline’s website and its mobile app. BA said the crash also affected call centres. The airline said it was working to restore services out of Heathrow and Gatwick beginning Sunday, although there will still be some disruptions. It said it expected that London-bound long-haul flights would land on schedule Sunday. One person posted a picture on Twitter of BA staff writing gate numbers on a white board. “We’ve tried all of the self-check-in machines. None were working, apart from one,” said Terry Page, booked on a flight to Texas. “There was a huge queue for it and it later transpired that it didn’t actually work, but you didn’t discover that until you got to the front.” Another traveller, PR executive Melissa Davis, said her BA plane was held for more than an hour and a half on the tarmac at Heathrow on a flight arriving from Belfast. She said passengers had been told they could not transfer to other flights because “they can’t bring up our details.” Passenger Phillip Norton tweeted video of an announcement from a pilot to passengers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, saying the problem affects the system that regulates what passengers and baggage go on which aircraft. The pilot said passengers on planes that have landed at Heathrow were unable to get off because there was nowhere to park. Some BA flights were still arriving at Heathrow on Saturday, although with delays. The problem comes on a bank holiday weekend, when tens of thousands of Britons and their families are travelling. American Airlines, which operates code-share flights with BA, said it was unaffected. “All of our flights are on time,” said spokesman Ross Feinstein. BA passengers were hit with severe delays in July and September 2016 because of problems with the airline’s online check-in systems. A union official accused BA of cutting costs by laying off IT staff last year and outsourcing the work to India. “This could have all been avoided,” said Mick Rix, national officer for aviation at the GMB union. “We can only feel genuinely sorry for the tens of thousands of passengers who are stranded at airports and face having their travel plans and holidays ruined.”
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Toronto braces for more rain with Lake Ontario at record-breaking levels (ven., 26 mai 2017)
The animals have taken back the waterlogged Toronto Islands. First came the carp, who swam through the infield of a flooded baseball diamond. Then the waterfowl, who paddled in gaggles on what used to be parkland. By Friday, a peacock who wandered away from the Centreville Amusement Park had found folks on Ward’s Island to feed him. City crews, meanwhile, pumped water off the islands after one rain storm, while filling heavy duty sand bags to prepare for the next one. The fight against flooding suffered a serious setback Thursday, as heavy rains and high waves combined to submerge nearly half the islands land, said Nancy Gaffney, head of the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority’s watershed programs. “We can batten down the hatches as best we can, be as proactive as possible but as the water level continues to rise and go further inland than it ever has before.” Algonquin Island resident Wayne Fraser said most people on the islands had some degree of flooding in their homes. “Our house is on ... probably one of the higher points of Algonquin (but) because of the amount of rain Thursday, we had significant pooling in the crawlspace and pooling in the yard, which has never happened up until this point.” Sink holes the size of dining room tables have opened up along roads on Centre Island, said Shawnda Walker, spokesperson for the Centreville Amusement Park. Water from both sides of Centre Island has overtaken the shore and met in the middle, near the William Meany hedge maze, Walker added. Some islanders took to their canoes to get around. Lake Ontario’s water levels are at their highest ever — breaking a record that had stood since 1952 — according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is not clear when the waters may crest and begin to fall. “Water levels typically peak in June although last year they peaked in May and the year before they peaked in July, so ... we can’t really ballpark when it’ll happen,” she said. Environment Canada says there is a 40 per cent chance of showers Sunday. But water levels will continue to rise with or without rainfall. “There’s still so much water coming through from the upper Great Lakes, which are getting a lot of precipitation too. We need several weeks for dry weather to make a big difference,” said Gaffney. The International Joint Commission, an independent Canada-U.S. body that monitors shared waters, is releasing as much water as they can out from Lake Ontario in the St. Lawrence River, Gaffney said. “There’s nothing more that they can do,” she added. “The input from Lake Erie is coming in faster than anything they can outflow.” Centreville missed its scheduled May 6 opening due to the water levels, marking the first time in the park’s 50-year history that it failed to begin its summer operations on time. “As far as Centreville is concerned we really haven’t received any more damage or a huge increase in water levels,” said Walker. “But we’re so much higher than everyone else. It’s the rest of the island.” On Friday, Toronto Public Health warned island residents to avoid contact with the flood water, at the risk of contracting E. coli or the parasite cryptosporidium. “It’s a prudent avoidance,” said Mahesh Patel, manager of Healthy Environments for Toronto Public Health, of the warning. During rain storms, a large amount of animal waste gets into the watershed from parks, woodlands and fields, Patel told the Star. That contamination has not yet had time to dissipate, and so there is a risk that people, particularly young children, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, could get an upset stomach from coming into contact with the water. It is similar to City warnings against going swimming after a big storm, Patel said. The City of Toronto has cancelled all permits on the Islands through June 30. “We continue to monitor and assess and will make decisions going forward according to conditions,” said city spokesperson Wynna Brown. “Public safety is our top priority, followed by protecting infrastructure.” Island residents are already thinking about the cleanup that will have to occur once the waters finally recede. “The biggest thing for anybody who has a flooded crawlspace is the possibility of mould,” Fraser said. For some island-dwellers, however, there are bright spots to this trying period. “Neighbour (is) helping neighbour,” said Sarah Miller, who lives on Ward’s Island. “This is the best place, in many ways, for this sort of thing to happen because people are already connected.” Members of the community, which includes many senior citizens, are checking in on each other, asking if they can help with getting groceries, pick up prescriptions, shore up sandbags, Miller said. “The island spirit is really prevailing.”
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GTA home sales plunge as much as 61 per cent (ven., 26 mai 2017)
A stomach churning drop of up to 61 per cent in the number of home sales in some municipalities around Toronto could translate to a single-digit decline in regional prices by the end of the month, says a realtor who has crunched the numbers. John Pasalis of Realosophy, found that Toronto region ground-level home sales — detached, semi-detached and town houses — dropped 26 per cent overall between April 20 and May 20 — the period directly following the provincial Fair Housing plan announcement designed to cool real estate speculation in the area. Meantime, another data-tracking brokerage, Condos.ca, is showing that prices per square foot are down nearly 1 per cent in the last 60 days on its rolling 60-day average. "A nervousness has crept in and seems to be taking hold quite quickly," said Andrew Harrild, vice-president of Condos.ca. The Realosophy analysis shows York Region, which has seen a higher level of investment buying, having the most significant drop in the number of re-sale home transactions — 61 per cent in Richmond Hill; 46 per cent in Markham and 44 per cent in Newmarket. Read more: Toronto real estate listings jump in short-term ‘cool-down’ Toronto homeowners cash out of hot real estate market as uncertainty sets in Durham Region, long considered one of the last pockets of affordability, saw the only increase in the area — about 15 per cent in Pickering and 11 per cent in Whitby. Sales were down 23 per cent in Toronto in Realosophy's analysis. Typically, real estate prices are compared year over year. This month's home prices will still be up compared to May 2016, said Pasalis. "But when you start looking at this May compared to April, we're probably going to see prices fall. Usually prices don't fall from April to May. Those are peak months. I think we'll see prices falling maybe 5 or 7 per cent," he said. That could reflect the trapped state of home sellers, who have already bought a new house and are struggling to sell their old property so they accept a lower price. "Of all the sellers out there, half of them aren't motivated, the other half are desperate because usually they've already bought a house. They weren't planning for this slowdown and it's very difficult because they need to sell and they have no options," said Pasalis. Sellers who aren't desperate could just take their homes off the market. "I had clients who bought just outside the city just when the market started to cool down about a month ago. They ended up selling relatively quickly. We got maybe 4 to 5 per cent less than they expected to get," he said. "In some cases I wouldn't be surprised if people just don't close," said Pasalis. Harrild says that it's too soon to know for sure if the provincial policy announcement is the source of the recent jitters, it seems likely given the almost-overnight change. "If you're a seller in this market you have to be very careful about how you price your listing," he said. Although the price per square foot is down slightly to about $667 in Toronto on average, condo prices overall were up nearly 30 per cent year over year in the same 60-day period to an average sale price of $548,186, according to the Condos.ca market index. But it's possible developers will change their pricing strategies, said Harrild. "Prices are still up significantly versus what they were this time last year. It will be interesting to see how developers start to change their pricing moving forward and whether they're pricing developments as aggressively as they were 60 days ago," he said. "I don't think a slowdown will be exclusive to the re-sale market," said Harrild. "If anything, the introduction of this foreign buyers tax was geared to (speculators) and investors and they tended to dabble in the (pre-construction) market." Re-sale house prices were about $1.1 million on average across the region at the end of April, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. New construction condos rose about 24 per cent year over year in April, according to statistics released by the Building and Land Development Association on Tuesday.
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Jared Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Moscow: Russia diplomat (sam., 27 mai 2017)
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then U.S. President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications. The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Read more: Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia probe Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner met with Russian ambassador in December 2016 U.S. Senate to question Trump adviser Jared Kushner over meetings with Russians The White House disclosed the fact of the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest. Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team. Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said. The White House declined to comment. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment. The Russian embassy did not respond to requests for comment. Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored as a way of sowing misinformation and confusion among U.S. analysts. But officials said that it’s unclear what Kislyak would have had to gain by falsely characterizing his contacts with Kushner to Moscow, particularly at a time when the Kremlin still saw the prospect of dramatically improved relations with Trump. Kushner’s apparent interest in establishing a secret channel with Moscow, rather than rely on U.S. government systems, has added to the intrigue surrounding the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia. To some officials, it also reflects a staggering naïveté. The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and maintains near-constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that though Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary. “How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naïve or absolutely crazy.” The discussion of a secret channel adds to a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts. Trump’s first national security adviser, Flynn, was forced to resign after a series of false statements about his conversations with Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from matters related to the Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose his own meetings with Kislyak when asked during congressional testimony about any contact with Russians. Kushner’s interactions with Russians — including Kislyak and an executive for a Russian bank under U.S. sanctions — were not acknowledged by the White House until they were exposed in media reports. It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials. But new administrations are generally cautious in their handling of interactions with Moscow, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of waging an unprecedented campaign to interfere in last year’s presidential race and help elect Trump. Obama administration officials say members of the Trump transition team never approached them about arranging a secure communications channel with their Russian contacts, possibly because of concerns about leaks. The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual. Trump’s advisers were similarly secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates. The Obama White House only learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner, Flynn and Steven Bannon, another top Trump adviser, because U.S. border agents in the UAE spotted the Emirate leader’s name on a flight manifest Russia would also have had reasons of its own to reject such an overture from Kushner. Doing so would require Moscow to expose its most sophisticated communications capabilities — which are likely housed in highly secure locations at diplomatic compounds — to an American. The Post was first alerted in mid-December to the meeting by an anonymous letter, which said, among other things, that Kushner had talked to Kislyak about setting up the communications channel. This week, officials, who reviewed the letter and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, said the portion about the secret channel was consistent with their understanding of events. For instance, according to those officials and the letter, Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials. In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter. The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the former founder of Blackwater private security firm and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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Swansea Public School mourns five-year-old struck on Lakeshore by vehicle and killed (ven., 26 mai 2017)
Students and staff at Swansea Public School are mourning the loss of Xavier Morgan, the 5-year-old tragically killed after falling into traffic from a bike trail next to Lake Shore Blvd. W. on Wednesday evening. Xavier was an “exuberant, loving and happy little boy,” according to Swansea principal Mary Salvarinas. He was a junior kindergarten student and “loved his first year at Swansea,” Salvarinas wrote in a letter sent home to parents on Thursday. “He adored his teachers and his friends and he will be sorely missed in our school and in our community.” Xavier was struck by a vehicle in Parkdale on Wednesday evening. He had been riding his bike, accompanied by an adult, when he lost control and fell into traffic on Lake Shore Blvd W. Toronto police arrived near Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Jameson Ave. at about 6:30 p.m. The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene. Paramedics took the boy to the Hospital for Sick Children, where he succumbed to his injuries. “This has been a sad day for our school community as we mourn the tragic loss of this young life,” Salvarinas wrote to parents. “I know that you will join with all of us in expressing our deepest condolences to grieving family and friends.” On Friday evening, about 30 people, including many of Xavier’s classmates and their parents, gathered at his school, where the flag flew at half mast. Some carried flowers as they held a silent walk to the intersection of the accident to pay tribute to Xavier’s memory, before each planting Lincoln pea seeds in a community garden at Morningside-High Park Presbyterian church, which Xavier’s family attends. “Xavier planted peas this spring. He planted them one Sunday and thought by the next Sunday they’d be ready to pick,” Janet Ryu-Chan, minister of the church, recalled fondly. “He loved the community garden and he was full of life. It’s just to remind people about just how full of life Xavier was.” Organized by the Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists group, a “ghost-bike memorial ride” is planned for June 3 in Xavier’s memory. The ride will begin at Bloor St. and Spadina Ave. and finish at the Canadian Legion on Lake Shore Blvd. W. The group will leave a ghost bike at the scene of the crash to remember Xavier. “It’s just incredibly sad,” said group member Derek Chadbourne. “He’s five years old. He had his whole life ahead of him and now he’s no longer with us. I’m pretty shook up and I’m really sad for the family as well. It’s just a horrible accident.” Chadbourne said drivers simply need to slow down on Toronto roads. “I would hope that the police can get a little more proactive and slow traffic down, because, right now, no one is following the rules and it appears no one at the city cares,” he said. The City of Toronto plans to look into increasing safety measures for the Martin Goodman trail following Xavier’s death. Chadbourne said he wondered if safety barriers to separate the bike path from drivers on Lakeshore Blvd. could have prevented this tragedy. “There’s really not that much space by the bike path and the road,” he said. “I don’t know if it could have been prevented, although I’m sure if barriers had been between the Lake Shore (Blvd.) and the bike path, it may have had a different outcome.” Salvarinas assured parents that social work staff would remain at Swansea Public School as long as needed to allow students to grieve. This is not the first cycling-related tragedy to affect the Swansea school. In 2012, Grade 2 teacher Tom Samson, a father of two and an avid cyclist, was killed at Davenport Rd. and Lansdowne Ave. The 35-year-old was riding his bike in the area when he was struck by a minivan.
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