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Did the IMF cause a famine?

Did the IMF cause a famine? Malawi faces starvation—after, it seems, heeding Western advice on managing food stocks - Features - InternatioDid the IMF cause a famine? Malawi faces starvation—after, it seems, heeding Western advice on managing food stocks - Features - International Monetary FundAs the world food summit ended in Rome this month in a drizzle

The land of plenty runs dry:

The land of plenty runs dry: Argentina was once so prosperous that poor Europeans emigrated there. Now, children starve and thousands scavenge for foodSitting on a bench outside her rough wooden shack, Mercedes Medina looks down at her five grandchildren playing at her feet, and sighs.

Vote for the devil you know:

Vote for the devil you know: Serbs, now trying to elect a new president, still can't shake off Milosevic. For many of them, catching up with western Europe involves higher food and fuel prices, as well as lost jobsSlobodan Milosevic, in his Hague cell, must be grimly satisfied as he ponders the fallout from the scuppered elections for a Serbian president.

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Boost your BBQ IQ: so you need a new gas grill? You don't have to settle for one that's just a step up from a campfire. Gas grills now offer features that eliminate flare-ups, cook food evenly, and stand up to years of use. But, all grills are not created equalIf it isn't sturdy at the store, it could fall apart in your backyard. A well-built grill feels solid.

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With strike deadline looming, talks continue between LCBO, union

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:57:00 EDT


Talks are continuing today between the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and its workers, who have threatened to go on strike at one minute past midnight.

But there’s no word on how the talks between the LCBO and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union are going.

A conciliator involved in the negotiations has imposed a media blackout and neither side will comment.

Read more:

The LCBO strike deadline is midnight Sunday. These Torontonians are stocking up

LCBO strike negotiations go under ‘blackout’ until Monday

Potential LCBO strike looms over Canada 150-themed beer, wine and spirit sales

The blackout remained in force as of noon.

Although the union has threatened job action if a deal isn’t reached by midnight, union president Smokey Thomas had previously expressed confidence an agreement would be worked out.

The LCBO extended store hours for its outlets the past couple of days to allow customers more time to stock up.

A few stores are open late in downtown Toronto on Sunday because of pride festivities but most stores will close at 6 p.m.


Trump lashes out at Obama over latest report on Russian election meddling

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:37:03 EDT


U.S. president Donald Trump on Saturday called out Obama administration officials for not taking stronger actions against Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, contradicting his past statements and suggesting without proof that they were trying to help Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

His tweets came after the Washington Post revealed Friday that the Obama White House had received reports as early as August 2016 regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in the cyber campaign with instructions to defeat or damage Clinton and help to elect Trump, according to “sourcing deep inside the Russian government.”

The Obama administration would not publicly say Russia was attempting to interfere with the election until Oct. 7, and the news of Putin’s attempts to aid Trump would not surface until after the election.

Trump has long disputed that the Russians interfered with the election, calling it “all a big Dem HOAX” just this week.

But on Friday evening, after the publication of the Post’s story, Trump demanded to know why Obama hadn’t done more to stop the meddling.

His first tweet read: Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?

He followed up with more tweets on Saturday, attempting to put the focus on Obama’s inaction.

One read: Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!

The Post article explains in detail why Obama, who reportedly was gravely concerned by an August CIA report about the hacking, managed to approve only “largely symbolic” sanctions before he left office.

Those reasons included partisan squabbling among members of Congress, initial skepticism by other intelligence agencies about the CIA’s findings, and an assumption that Clinton would win the election and follow up.

“We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures,” a senior administration official said in the article.

Trump, however, raised his own theories, tweeting: Obama Administration official said they “choked” when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn’t want to hurt Hillary?

He provided no explanation or evidence for why this would have helped Clinton.

The Post article recounts how Obama learned about the Russian intrusions and the administration’s attempts to find support to make the information public.

According to the article, less than a month after 20,000 stolen Democratic Party emails were leaked to the public, a CIA memo warned Obama that the hack had been ordered by Putin in an attempt to “defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee.”

Interviews with administration officials revealed that Obama directly confronted Putin over the allegations during a meeting of world leaders in China. He also ordered his deputies to safeguard the election and seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders to condemn Russia’s actions.

“The administration encountered obstacles at every turn,” write Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous.

Complacency may have also undercut the administration’s efforts to punish Russia. Like many polls suggested, it believed Clinton would win despite the hacks.

By his final weeks, aside from warnings and rhetoric, Obama had approved only narrow sanctions and a plan to plant “cyberweapons in Russia’s infrastructure” — if the next president so chose.

As one senior Obama official told The Post, “I feel like we sort of choked,” which Trump would quote in his tweet.

For some Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, the bombshell report affirmed what they said they had long suspected.

“Nothing like the extensive hacking effort and manipulation effort could occur without involvement,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told CNN. “Now we actually know: Yes, Putin directed it . . . He had a specific goal to defeat Hillary Clinton.”

Some Republicans expressed concern about another country threatening democracy in the United States.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted: #Russia is a problem & they attacked our democracy. This is about defending the integrity of our government & our election system.

“The reality is, in two or four years, it will serve Vladimir Putin’s interest to take down the Republican Party,” Kinzinger told CNN. “If we weren’t upset about it, we have no right to complain in the future.”


Woman found dead in North York swimming pool

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:39:25 EDT


A woman was found in a North York swimming pool without vital signs early Sunday morning.

Police received a call around 6 a.m. about the woman who was found in a pool behind a private residence.

She was taken to hospital from the home on Ridgefield Rd. and pronounced dead there, police from 53 division confirm.

A non-criminal investigation is ongoing. Police say foul play is not suspected.

It is not known if the woman was known to the owners of the pool.


Float in Montreal Fête nationale parade sparks outrage

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:21:35 EDT


A Fête nationale parade Saturday afternoon in Montreal has lit up the Internet for the wrong reasons, with more than 200,000 views of a clip showing a float pushed by four Black men followed by an all-white chorus that has been criticized as racist.

The clip, filmed and posted on Facebook by a bystander, shows singer Annie Villeneuve performing a version of “Gens du pays,” a song often sung on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, on a float followed by a choral group passing the corner of Boucher and Saint-Denis Sts. The people in the chorus appeared to be white and dressed in white clothes, while the four Black men pushing the float were dressed in beige outfits.

“I’m not sure the organizers of the parade understand the concept of diversity,” wrote Félix Brouillet, the bystander who shot the video. It has been shared at least 5,000 times in three hours.

The parade was intended to depict fifteen scenes from the history of the province, and the float in the video was based around the founding of Fort Ville-Marie, which later became Montreal, in 1642.

“It’s fine to tell the history of Quebec, but the subtext given off by the scene and the context in which it put its participants makes no sense,” Brouillet told La Presse.

Montreal’s Fête nationale organizing committee posted its own video of the float on its Facebook page, which was deluged with outraged comments.

Rachelle Houde Simard commented, criticizing the choice to put four Black men in “slave outfits” and called the float “disgusting.”

Administrators of the facebook page later posted, by way of clarification, that all of the parade’s floats were being pushed by members of a Montreal school’s sports team. The video was later deleted.

La Presse was unable to reach the organizers by press time.


Toronto faces Catch-22 with impending Seaton House closure

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 17:00:16 EDT


Frank Coburn says Seaton House saved his life.

The 71-year-old former Humber College professor lived at the shelter on and off for nearly a decade after a series of personal crises — he lost his job, his wife left and a family member died — sent him spiralling into crack cocaine addiction, homelessness and eventually prison.

Coburn used to teach community services courses, educating the next generation of social workers and police officers. Some of them ended up helping him once he entered the system.

“It’s kind of ironic in many ways,” he said with a chuckle.

Though he still uses drugs, Coburn now has a home and helps in various areas of harm reduction work. He’s OK. Stable.

“If you have the proper supports in place, good things can happen,” Coburn said. “(Without that support) I would’ve still been down there, festering and fighting with my own thoughts and going crazy.”

About 2,800 men stayed at Seaton House from June 1, 2016 until June 1, 2017, according to the City of Toronto. The shelter’s capacity has fluctuated over the years, but now has 539 beds and 42 cots that are used as needed.

But for all the people it has helped and all the front line workers trying their best in a situation they largely inherited, Seaton House also presents a vexing dilemma.

On the one hand, the aging structure — one that was never intended to be used as a shelter, let alone a long-term care facility — is in desperate need of replacement. That started to become clear about a decade ago, said Dr. Stephen Hwang, a physician based at St. Michael’s Hospital who’s been treating patients inside Seaton House for about two decades.

“Over time the building has gradually deteriorated, and it’s not feasible to keep patching it up simply because its design is not really suitable,” said Hwang.

On the other hand, Seaton House is a de facto home for many, one that’s proven difficult to replace.

Though the shelter was originally scheduled to be closed this year, the process has been delayed as the City of Toronto struggles to house displaced residents and fund the rest of the George Street Revitalization project.

The city is aiming to have Seaton House vacant by 2019. Council originally approved the project in 2013, citing the need for a better facility and a safer surrounding area.

“For someone who’s lived in a shelter for a long time as many of the men at Seaton House have, there’s not a housing environment or shelter environment elsewhere that really meets their needs,” Hwang said. “The majority of the men at the shelter have at least one physical illness and often multiple.”

In other words, Seaton House can’t continue as it is, but for now, no one has a reasonable alternative.

The shelter itself is an austere grey structure that dominates its block of George St., just south of Gerrard St. E. A stained black fence winds around it, putting a barrier between the building and a grimy stretch of sidewalk where groups of people can often be seen hanging about.

“On any given night, most beds at Seaton House are occupied, putting typical occupancy at 97 per cent or so,” City of Toronto spokesperson Patricia Anderson said via email.

The facility was built in 1959 as an office building and was never meant for long-term residents, according to a 2013 staff report to city council. However, in a city struggling with an overflowing shelter system and rapidly rising housing costs, many residents like Coburn have had few other options.

“Shelters were never meant to be health-care facilities,” Hwang said. “The city does not consider itself to be a health-care provider, but we have a situation in which a large number of individuals with serious physical and mental illnesses are living in a city-run facility, and that raises all kinds of challenges for the redevelopment.”

Neighbours have long been unhappy about scuffles and drug activity on the street. A long-running strep outbreak, which began last March, has also presented an extra layer of complication, along with ventilation systems that aren’t up to modern standards.

Clients have complaints as well. Though Coburn said he loves the love and empathy between the residents in his former home, it’s not necessarily a happy place: “You walk into Seaton House and you think you’re in prison.”

Though the issues are well-identified, the solutions are harder.

Anti-poverty advocates have long opposed the city’s plans to relocate Seaton House residents to the suburbs, where they’ll be far the social services concentrated in the downtown core.

Hwang said the process would be less worrisome if it were easier to find appropriate shelter buildings downtown. The key word is appropriate — after all, an ill-suited facility is part of what made Seaton House so problematic in the first place.

“I’m not someone who’s against the redevelopment,” Hwang said. “If done well, I believe it will lead to an overall better situation. But it’s going to be a very challenging transition.”

Coburn, however, said he wants the city to know it isn’t as simple as transplanting people from one shelter to another. If officials ask the Seaton House residents what they want and ensure they have access to the supports they need, there’s a higher chance the project will be successful, he said.

“Putting them in a nice apartment somewhere isn’t going to solve the problem,” Coburn said, adding that without proper help, Seaton House’s residents might return to the streets. “They’re probably going to end up back at Sherbourne and Dundas, sleeping in Moss Park.”


Cyberattack hits British Parliament; Russian hackers reportedly selling passwords

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 09:48:09 EDT


LONDON—The British Parliament was the target of a cyberattack that left many legislators unable to access their emails Saturday as remote access to accounts was disabled as a security measure.

Legislators were made aware of the problem Friday night, and Chris Rennard, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, publicized the problem in a Twitter message Saturday, saying those with “urgent messages” should text him.

Last week, there were reports in The Times of London that the passwords of British Cabinet ministers, ambassadors and senior police officers were being sold online after Russian hacking groups gained access.

According to The Times, the stolen data revealed the private login details of 1,000 British members of Parliament and parliamentary staff, 7,000 police employees and more than 1,000 Foreign Office officials.

The National Cyber Security Center, which was set up to protect the country against cyberattacks, said it would reissue guidance to government departments after being presented with the findings.

The parliamentary authorities are also working with the centre to protect the network and ascertain the scale of the damage, according to a spokeswoman for the House of Commons, who did not provide a name by British convention.

In a statement, the spokeswoman said, “The Houses of Parliament have discovered unauthorized attempts to access parliamentary user accounts. We are continuing to investigate this incident and take further measures to secure the computer network, liaising with the National Cyber Security Center.”

To protect member and staff accounts and “secure our network,” the statement added, “we have temporarily restricted remote access to the network. As a result, some members of Parliament and staff cannot access their email accounts outside of Westminster.”


Six hurt, woman arrested after car hits pedestrians outside Newcastle sports centre

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 09:28:35 EDT


LONDON—Six people, including three children, were injured Sunday after a car ran into a large crowd gathered to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in the northern English city of Newcastle. Police said there was no information suggesting the incident was terror-related.

Police believe a woman who had been celebrating Eid with her family was driving the car that struck the crowd outside the Westgate Sports Center, Assistant Chief Constable Darren Best said. Northumbria Police arrested the woman, 42, who remained in custody. The force said it was not looking for other suspects.

“We have no information to suggest this is terror-related, however, this is a serious collision with multiple casualties and extensive inquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances around this tragic incident,” Best said.

The collision took place outside the sports centre when many were just leaving a prayer gathering marking the end of Ramadan, according to the nearby Newcastle Central Mosque, which organized the Sunday morning family event called “Eid in the Open.”

“Immediately after the Eid prayers when the people were starting to leave the venue, a car collided with pedestrians. The injured were immediately attended to by the emergency medical services and the police,” it said.

Video on social media, apparently taken minutes after the crash, showed a field where dozens of people in Muslim dress, including children, screamed and rushed forward to see what happened.

The ambulance service said three children and three adults were being treated at a local hospital for injuries sustained in the crash. Two of the children were in pediatric intensive care and one adult was in the trauma unit, officials said.

Newcastle lawmaker Chi Onwurah said on Twitter that she was one of thousands celebrating Eid in the city. “I was at the prayers earlier and there was so much joy and unity. Thinking of those affected by what I am told was terrible accident,” Onwurah tweeted.

Extra officers were put on patrol to reassure people in the area. The incident came at the time when Britain is on high alert for terror-related incidents involving vehicles after a string of recent attacks.

A man drove a van into Muslim worshippers leaving two London mosques on June 19, killing one and injuring others. Police said that was a terror attack directed at Muslims.


Meet Daniel Mazzone: Once a homeless teen, now one of Toronto’s most sought-after artists

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 06:00:00 EDT


When Daniel Mazzone walked away from home at age 15 to live on the streets, he wasn’t just leaving behind the comfort of his family and their residence, but also a passion for art his art-instructor mother ignited in him over years toiling over stained glass and ceramic pieces.

As he slept in Scarborough movie theatres that only charged $2 for admission and took shelter in mall bathroom stalls, little did he know he would one day become one of Toronto’s most sought-after artists with celebrity customers and a six-month waiting list.

After nearly five years of homelessness, the now 37-year-old says, “I was thinking I have got to get off the street. I am going to die here ... I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t just want to be another person going through the motions.”

So just shy of his 20th birthday, Mazzone headed back to the home he had fled amidst what he calls “topsy turvy” times, graduated from high school and became a mortgage broker.

But something was still missing.

“It wasn’t me,” he said. “Once Monday came, I was looking forward to Friday. I needed an outlet.”

That’s exactly what he found when he was channel-surfing one day in 2011 and he came across a television show featuring artwork. It brought back floods of memories and reignited his artistic passion. He bought a canvas, five feet by four feet and “at first, I was going to paint, but then I thought, I don’t really know how to paint,” he says.

Then he remembered an old newspaper collection he had and some of the stained glass techniques his mother had taught him. They inspired him to start creating a collage of Robert De Niro’s Taxi Driver character Travis Bickle — the first hints of an art-pop style he’s developed to include bright flourishes, newspapers dating back to the days of Napoleon and George Washington, and depictions of Michael Jackson, Prince, Charlie Chaplin, Queen Elizabeth and Frida Kahlo.

Months later he had a home full of fresh works and a friend, the owner of the now-closed old-school Italian hot spot Centro, was begging to hang one at the restaurant, in hopes of selling it.

Mazzone was reluctant. He had never envisioned selling his work and he wasn’t sure anyone would like it. The pieces usually cost him between $1,500 and $2,000 to make and he was afraid they wouldn’t fetch enough to cover the costs, but eventually agreed and handed over a piece featuring John F. Kennedy.

“(My friend) called me a few days later and said ‘I sold your picture for $14,000,’ ” recalls Mazzone. “I dreamed about being an artist as a kid and I sort of lost that dream because I didn’t think it was possible. That was the moment where I realized it was going to be possible.”

He quickly quit his job. Soon after Blue Jays star Jose Bautista, then fresh from his bat flip fame, spied one of Mazzone’s pieces — a Babe Ruth baseball card crafted with old New York Times pages — on a mutual friend’s Instagram account.

Bautista desperately wanted it for his home, reached out and now he owns about seven of Mazzone’s works and has passed on the admiration to teammate Marcus Stroman, who Mazzone recalls first meeting at his exhibit at the ritzy 1 Hotel in Miami’s South Beach.

“He had seen the pieces at Jose’s house, but didn’t know I was the same artist.”

Mazzone directed him to a baseball card-style piece of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball’s first African-American player. Stroman was hooked, as were businesswoman/investor Arlene Dickinson, luxury watchmaker François-Henry Bennahmias and Tampa Bay Rays part-owner Randy Frankel, whom Mazzone counts among his customers.

The Tanenbaum family, who is among the world’s top 200 art collectors, have even scooped up some of his work. Dickinson’s co-star Michael WekerleDragons’ Den co-star Michael Wekerle, who bought eight of Mazzone’s pieces the day he met the artist and has now racked up 10, has even gone so far as to pronounce him “the next Andy Warhol.”

“As an artist, you look up to these sorts of people. Even being compared to the same class as him is quite an honour,” says Mazzone. “It’s big shoes to fill. That’s obviously the dream.”

And it’s a dream he says he’ll be happily working towards with his mother, who’s always on call to look at photos of his work he sends to her for advice, cheering him on.

“She was one of those people that maybe couldn’t put everything down and do (art) and give it her all because she had kids at 17 and once you have a family, your priorities are different,” he says.

“She’s saying, ‘you’re doing what I always wanted to do’ ... It’s really nice to have that and to be doing something that I really love every day.”


Canadian Armed Forces aims to fix its recruitment system to foster diversity

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 16:32:01 EDT


OTTAWA—Canada’s military is going all out to erase its reputation for intolerance and misogyny, aiming to recast itself instead as welcoming to Canadians of all races, religions and sexual orientations.

The effort — driven by several factors, including a need to bolster its dwindling numbers — includes a comprehensive effort to connect with and recruit women, new citizens and even members of the LGBT community.

The Trudeau government’s plan to invest an extra $62 billion in the military over the next 20 years includes hiring 3,500 more full-time personnel and 1,500 part-time reservists, numbers that would bring the ranks of the armed forces to their highest level since the end of the Cold War.

First, though, comes a significant and persistent challenge: getting more Canadians to join.

The forces have struggled for years to hit recruiting numbers, resulting in thousands of unfilled positions such as pilots and technicians.

That’s why fixing the recruiting system is a top priority, said Lt.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, the chief of military personnel, whose role is to oversee all aspects of human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Central to that goal is making the military more inclusive, diverse and attractive to all Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds.

“Our population doesn’t look like all white guys,” Lamarre said.

“If you want to get the very best people — the very smartest, most capable, most committed and most ingenious — then you need to look broadly and not exclude groups that would be very useful to you.”

Read more:Canadian military seeks to improve its transgender policy

There is more to the push toward increased diversity and inclusiveness than simply recruiting, though that part of the equation is vitally important.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, recently announced a diversity strategy in which he noted that Canada was becoming more diverse — and the military needed to follow suit.

Doing so would be necessary to attract and retain people, Vance wrote, as well as to ensure the military continued to reflect the society it is sworn to protect, and to increase its effectiveness on missions abroad.

That’s why the forces appear to be turning a page: leaders are recognizing the real importance of diversity, said Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

“This idea that people with different views, different experiences, different skill sets are going to make the military stronger has been kind of coalescing and coming together for about a year and a half,” Okros said.

“This isn’t a luxury, this isn’t social engineering, this isn’t political manoeuvring or political correctness. This is now an operational requirement.”

Vance has since taken the unprecedented step of ordering the military to increase the percentage of female personnel to 25 per cent in the next decade, up from 15 per cent. Recruiters are now launching targeted advertising campaigns and reaching out to women who previously expressed an interest in a military career but didn’t join.

Senior commanders, meanwhile, are reviewing everything from uniforms and ceremonies to food and religious accommodations to see whether they meet the requirements of a more diverse force.

Lamarre plans to speak Monday at a citizenship ceremony in Ottawa in hopes of explaining to new Canadians what he describes as “a tangible way in which they can serve their nation.”

And he hopes to sit down with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and other Indigenous leaders to talk about ways to reach out and attract people from those communities.

Others within the military are getting in on the action, too, with the head of the navy, Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, issuing a directive last week encouraging his sailors to attend Pride parades in uniform.

Vance is expected to issue a similar directive to the rest of the military in the coming days.

Not everyone agrees with what the military is doing, Lloyd acknowledged, including some of those who are already in uniform. But changing the face of the armed forces isn’t just some feel-good exercise, he said.

“In order to be successful in the future, we need to be able to recruit from the entire population.”

There are other challenges to overcome besides convincing some current personnel of the importance of diversity.

The military is still trying to overcome years of bad headlines about the treatment of women and members of the LGBT community by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

There has also been a historic lack of interest in the forces by many ethnic communities, particularly those that trace their origins to countries where the military has a bad reputation.

And then there are the problems identified by auditor general Michael Ferguson last year, namely that the recruiting system is struggling with red tape and the effects of Conservative budget cuts.

“We’re definitely still at the planning stage,” Lamarre acknowledged. “We’re in the process of actually saying: ‘What is it we must do?’ ”


At least 153 killed after Pakistan oil tanker fire

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:22:30 EDT


BAHAWALPUR, PAKISTAN—Alerted by an announcement over a mosque’s loudspeaker that an overturned tanker truck had sprung a leak, scores of villagers raced to the scene with fuel containers Sunday to gather the oil. Then the wreck exploded, engulfing people in flames as they screamed in terror.

At least 153 men, women and children were killed, with dozens more in critical condition, hospital and rescue officials said.

“I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help,” said Abdul Malik, a police officer who was among the first to arrive on the scene of horror in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

When the flames subsided, he said, “we saw bodies everywhere. So many were just skeletons. The people who were alive were in really bad shape.”

About 30 motorcycles that villagers had used to rush to the site of the highway accident lay charred nearby along with cars, witnesses said. Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and army helicopters taking away the injured.

As victims cried out for help, residents wandered through the area, looking for loved ones.

Zulkha Bibi searched for her two sons.

“Someone should tell me about my beloved sons. Where are they? Are they alive or are they no longer in this world? Please tell me,” she pleaded.

Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition, said Dr. Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area. They will have to be identified through DNA.

The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday Sunday, Pakistanis will mark it on Monday.

The fuel truck was travelling from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed on a highway outside Bahawalpur.

A loudspeaker atop a mosque alerted villagers to the leaking fuel, and many rushed to the scene with fuel containers, said Rana Mohammad Salim, deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur.

Highway police moved quickly to redirect traffic but couldn’t stop the scores of villagers, spokesman Imran Shah told a local TV channel.

When the fire erupted, the same mosque loudspeaker called on the remaining villagers to help put it out.

Mohammed Salim said he ran toward the smoke with buckets of water and sand, but the heat was too intense for him to reach the victims.

“I could hear people screaming, but I couldn’t get to them,” he said.

Dr. Javed Iqbal at Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital said most of the patients suffered burns to upward of 80 per cent of their bodies. Many were evacuated by plane or helicopter to hospitals in the Punjab cities of Lahore and Multan.


18-year-old Lance Stroll becomes first Canadian on Formula One podium since Jacques Villeneuve

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 11:36:00 EDT


BAKU—Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo profited from the chaos to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, while Sebastian Vettel extended his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton.

The Australian secured his fifth career win, while Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas overtook 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll’s Williams in the closing meters to take second place.

It was an extraordinary performance from Stroll, the son of a billionaire, who faced heavy criticism earlier in the season.

“I’m just lost for words,” said Stroll, from Montreal, who earned his first podium finish. “Just lost out to Valtteri in the end, but still extremely happy with the result. I can’t describe how I feel, it’s beyond amazing.”

Stroll is the first Canadian to finish on an F1 podium since Jacques Villeneuve finished third at the German Grand Prix in 2001. Ironically, it was Villeneuve who has been one of Stroll’s highest profile critics. The retired driver told autoweek.com on June 13 that Stroll’s freshman year “is one of the worst rookie performances in the history of Formula 1.”

Read more:Montrealer Lance Stroll on track for Formula One debut

Vettel steered his Ferrari into fourth, just ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes.

After eight races, Vettel leads Hamilton by 14 points in the drivers’ championship.

In a stop-start race, the safety car came out three times in quick succession before a red flag stopped the grand prix near the midway point because debris littered the track.

Shortly before that, Hamilton and Vettel were involved in an incident that threatens to sour their good relations.

While behind a safety car Hamilton, who was in the lead, appeared to slow his car right in front of Vettel, causing Vettel to drive into him. An irate Vettel then accelerated alongside Hamilton and appeared to deliberately swerve back into him.

Vettel was given a 10-second stop-go penalty, but Hamilton lost valuable time changing a loose headrest at the same time.

Hamilton was on Vettel’s tail on the last lap, but could not overtake.

The fact Ricciardo won from 10th on the grid, and that Bottas clawed his way back from last following an early incident, summed up a bizarre race.

“I had to overtake everyone. It just shows you should never give up,” Bottas said. “I really enjoyed it. It was a shame Daniel was too far away at the end but in the circumstances it was a good result.”

The race started at 5 p.m. local time with track temperatures at 53 degrees Celsius (127 Fahrenheit).

Hamilton was on pole position for the 66th time in his career, with Bottas second on the grid followed by Kimi Raikkonen in third and Vettel fourth.

Hamilton got away cleanly, but Raikkonen clipped Bottas and bumped his own Ferrari into the wall, and Vettel surged past them into second place.

But Bottas had to pit on the second lap for a new front wing, dropping to last, while Raikkonen complained of damage to the rear of his car.

Up ahead, Hamilton asked over the radio where Bottas was, perhaps concerned his teammate would not be able to protect him from Vettel later in the race.

Force India’s Sergio Perez jumped up to third, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen fourth ahead of Raikkonen.

Moments later, Verstappen had to retire — for the fourth time in six races — because of engine problems.

At about the same time, the safety car came out for the first time because Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso was stalled on the side of the track.

This prompted a flurry of activity as drivers switched tires, changing the race order somewhat.

The race was just about to start again when race control called for the safety car to stay out, because of debris from Raikkonen’s car.

The slowness of the safety car was annoying Hamilton, who complained that he couldn’t get enough temperature into his tires.

Then came that incident with Vettel.

“He brake-tested me!” an angry Vettel said over car radio, while Hamilton argued differently.

When the race finally did start again — on lap 20 — Vettel just about held off the Williams cars of Felipe Massa and Stroll.

Within moments, the safety car was out again for the third time after Sergio Perez and his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon collided.

Perez was seemingly forced out of the race as too was Raikkonen, whose right rear tire was completely shredded.

The 6-kilometre (3.7-mile) Baku street circuit, which glides through the city’s medieval walls and passes the Caspian Sea, caused problems all weekend due to its long straights and tight, hard-braking corners.

With debris littering the track, it was deemed too dangerous to race and the red flag came out on lap 22 of 51.

With the cars parked in the pit lane, mechanics made minor repairs.

A sullen-looking Vettel chatted to Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, while Hamilton slipped on his headphones as he listened to music with his sunglasses on.

After 23 minutes, the race re-started at 6:15 p.m. local time behind a safety car — and Raikkonen and Perez were back, albeit at the back of the grid.

Vettel just failed to overtake Hamilton while Ricciardo brilliantly overtook Stroll to move into fourth.

Moments later, Massa retired, as did Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg after clipping the barriers.

Then, the race order changed again as Vettel came in for his time penalty moments after Hamilton changed his headrest.

When Hamilton came back out again, he found himself behind Vettel and several others.

Ocon finished a credible sixth while Fernando Alonso placed ninth to secure McLaren’s first points of a frustrating season.


App-based bike-sharing startup Dropbike launches at University of Toronto

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 13:28:45 EDT


A new bike-sharing startup has launched in Toronto, which could create competition for the city’s Bike Share program.

The startup, called Dropbike, kicked off a pilot project at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus on June 15.

Sixty-eight bright orange bikes appeared on campus, with plans to add more as demand increases.

Dropbike is an app-based initiative that allows users to find a bike on their phone, receive a code to unlock it and rent it for $1 per hour. The bike can be returned to any “haven” — bike posts and bike racks marked in the app.

For now though, people who rent the bikes have to return them to the campus grounds. The pilot is being tested solely at the University of Toronto, in collaboration with the University of Toronto Student’s Union (UTSU), though the company plans to expand to other parts of the city at an undisclosed later date.

Qiming Wen, the founder and CEO of Dropbike, said he was inspired by similar bike-sharing initiatives he saw while travelling in Asia.

“In China, I noticed these colourful bicycles that everyone was riding, you could use your smartphone to unlock them and take them almost anywhere,” he said. The idea to bring the system to Canada was born soon after that.

Jasmine Denike, Dropbike’s campus manager at the University of Toronto, said the response to the pilot has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We had a bunch of bikes located outside of St. George (subway station), and all of them are gone now because people have been using them,” Denike said. “The demand is clearly there.”

According to Denike, one of the biggest benefits of Dropbike’s presence at the University of Toronto is that it makes crossing the massive campus much quicker than walking.

Alyy Patel, a fourth-year sociology and sexual diversity studies double major at the university, took one of the bikes for a spin on Monday and said she had a great time.

“I haven’t biked since I was 7 years old and I didn’t think I could,” she said.

Patel said she found Bike Share Toronto bikes, which are owned by Toronto Parking Authority, inaccessible because of the need to find a bike rack and physically insert a credit card into the system at a dock. She said she prefers Dropbike’s app-based approach.

“The idea that I could do it on my phone, and unlock it, and then park it there without having to be confined to a specific bike rack was really good because it wasn’t intimidating,” she said.

Bill Magee, a sociology professor at the university, tried out Dropbike for the first time on Wednesday, but said he was frustrated that the pilot is only running on campus so far because it’s inconvenient.

Still, he thinks the idea has some benefits over Bike Share Toronto.

“There’s no Bike Share next to my office, you have to walk here (to the dock), and sometimes they’re all gone, so I was going to use them both,” he said.

He thinks that having the system on campus will help students and professors because it will allow them to cross the campus faster.

“If I have to pay 50 cents to get from one side of campus to another, I’d do that,” said Magee.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), a New York-based non-profit, released a statement in April condemning “rogue” startup bike-sharing initiatives, saying they are difficult to manage, prone to failure and result in damaged and unmaintained bikes.

NACTO spokesperson Kate Fillin-Yeh said bike-share startups are a growing phenomenon, and for them to succeed and benefit the city they must co-operate with government initiatives.

Fillin-Yeh said bike-sharing startups function best when they’re “co-ordinated with other biking investments” the city is making.

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, Toronto’s director of transportation infrastructure management, said the way people get around the city is evolving, and the city will continue to expand Bike Share Toronto.

She said they are aware that initiatives like Dropbike are becoming more common and they will review them.

“Systems such as Dropbike are becoming more prominent in many cities throughout the world. It is important for the city to review these initiatives through various lenses including commercial licensing, permits and other requirements to make sure that we ensure the safety for all road users,” Gulati said in a statement Wednesday.

Mayor John Tory announced Friday that Bike Share Toronto users, and anyone who downloads the service’s app, can use one of the black bikes for up to 30 minutes at no charge on Wednesdays in July.

Wen said his Dropbike team is open to collaborating with the city when the time for comes for expansion.

“Maybe in five-10 years we don’t have to call people cyclists, biking will just be an ordinary part of commuting,” Wen said. “In Copenhagen something like 40 per cent of trips are done by bike, and I don’t see why that can’t happen here.”


LIVE: ‘There were no closets in our teepees’ Rainbow crowds greet PM, First Nations chief at Toronto Pride parade

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 10:29:00 EDT


After a rainy morning, bursts of rainbow colour dotted Yonge and College Sts. as Canada’s largest Pride parade kicked off Sunday afternoon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined in as the parade began the march toward Yonge-Dundas Square around 2 p.m. Trudeau was joined by his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and at least two of their three children. Grégoire Trudeau waved a rainbow flag, one of the symbols of the LGBTQ community.

“This is all about including people,” Trudeau told media shortly before the parade began, a temporary tattoo of a sparkling, rainbow maple leaf emblazoned on his cheek.

“It’s all about how we celebrate the multiple layers of identities that make Canada extraordinary and strong, and today we celebrate with the entire LGBTQ community.”

Trudeau also wished the crowd a happy “Pride Mubarak,” a play on words referring to the end-of-Ramadan celebrations happening in the Muslim community Sunday — celebrations Trudeau honoured with a pair of brightly coloured socks.

Trudeau last year became the first sitting prime minister to march in the parade.

Also joining this year’s march were First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory. Bellegrade became the first in his position to march in Toronto’s Pride Parade.

“There were no closets in our teepees,” Bellegarde said earlier in the day, referring to the historic importance of two-spirited people to First Nations communities.

“I feel the energy in the air,” Bellegarde said, dressed in a sky blue shirt with rainbow stripes running across his shoulders and chest. He added he was excited to be at his first Pride parade: “The caring. The compassion. The love. The acceptance.”

After a brief thunderstorm interrupted the morning celebrations, dark clouds threatened to rain on the parade through the afternoon, with a few drops sprinkling onlookers who ducked under umbrellas or wrapped themselves in ponchos. Many in the roaring, rainbow-clad crowd perched on rooftops and ledges, cheering as each float went by.

Jason and Daniel Northway-Frank have been coming to the Parade since 1995. They said they come to support friends and family.

“It’s supportive of diversity,” Jason said.

This year’s parade went more smoothly than the last, when Black Lives Matter (BLM) staged a sit-in that ended with Toronto Pride officials signing an agreement that included banning Toronto police from having a float or marching in uniform for the 2017 event.

Instead, dozens marched uniform with members of the New York Police Department at the New York Pride parade Sunday at the invitation of the Gay Officers Action League of New York.

“It’s sad that we’re not able to actually march in the parade, but I understand the chief’s decision,” said acting superintendent Steve Molyneaux of the Toronto police’s 51 division. “We’re still here to police it and make sure it’s safe and make sure everyone has a good time.”

BLM has argued that allowing uniformed officers at the parade could discourage marginalized communities from attending. The group didn’t register for the parade this year, nor did they make any unofficial appearances.

“The police not in uniform is really significantly important, especially to people of colour,” said Tori Cress, an Anishinaabe activist who walked with the Indigenous march near the front of the parade.

“Those are things that we equate to violence historically. When we’re talking about our culture and our ways, we’re talking about blood memory that’s passed on and an inherent fear of police because we know what that equates.”

Though some were upset, many at the parade said they agreed with the rationale behind the decision.

“I feel sad that police can’t be in the parade but I totally get the message and I think it’s really inclusive,” said Kim Wolak, 48.

Trudeau, casually dressed in a blue blazer and pink shirt, at one point stopped to hug Jamie Godin, who was wearing an outfit emblazoned with photos of the prime minister.

“We’ve met before,” Godin exclaimed, pointing eagerly at a photo of himself with the prime minister.

At the Faith and Pride service before the parade, Rev. Brent Hawkes, Senior Pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto opened by asking people to come together to celebrate their differences — before fat raindrops briefly fell from the rumbling, lightning-filled skies, sending people skittering like marbles and ending the service early.

Hawkes said Pride must focus predominantly on LGBTQ issues, such as pushing for equality in Canada and around the world.

“Inclusion is the core value in our community and as long as a group or a company supports LGBT equality, then in my opinion, welcome aboard,” he said.

“Because I probably wear a uniform that represents the group that has done the most damage to the LGBT community — the Christian Church,” he said. “So I would say don’t ban what’s offensive to some, reform it to the benefit of everyone.”

Hawkes, who has led the service for more than 20 years, is due to retire from the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto at the end of the year.

Around the corner from the main festivities on Church St., a crowd of about 100 gathered for an Indigenous opening ceremony called “The Spirit Within,” which was also interrupted by the brief downpour.

The ceremony opened with a prayer by Ma-Nee Chacaby, a two-spirited person of the Beaver Clan from Thunder Bay.

Chacaby emphasized the importance of two-spirited people in Indigenous culture, but also the struggles they’ve faced since colonization. It’s crucial to support youth and march without anger for Pride, Chacaby added.

“We’re here just to walk,” Chacaby said. “To be visible. To show we’re proud to be who we are, especially the two-spirited people.”

Bellegarde and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, who was decked out in a red top hat and rainbow ribbon skirt, also spoke at the ceremony, each touching on similar themes.

It is important for First Nations to be represented at Pride because studies have shown that LGBTQ and two-spirited Indigenous people are subjected to more violence and oppression than others, Bellegarde said.

“It’s all about acceptance.”

NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh said it is incredibly important to stand with the LGBTQ community now, given a rise in hate incidents and intolerance not just in Canada but around the world.

“It’s so important that we express our solidarity to make sure we celebrate everyone in our community,” he said.

Mayor John Tory said he was excited to be at Pride and grateful that he lives in a city that celebrates the inclusion and respect of human rights.

He also touched on the controversies that hit the parade last year.

“It’s a bit bittersweet because we have a few issues to address,” he said.

However, for the paradegoers, the event was still a highlight of summer in Toronto.

“It doesn’t matter the weather, people are going to come no matter what,” said Kristen Slack, 31.

Over 150 other groups including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Canadian Armed Forces, Google Canada, Metrolinx and Sick Kids participated in the parade. The theme for this year’s pride was the plus sign, representing inclusivity.

With files from Star staff and The Canadian Press