Brown displays leadership at Maple Leafs camp

July 22 2014 01:00AM

TORONTO -- One of the more intriguing players at Toronto Maple Leafs prospect camp was forward Connor Brown.

At 20 years old he was one of the veterans at the camp and arrived after a career year with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey Leagu...

Baseball Capsules

July 21 2014 09:07PM

David Ortiz hit the 452nd and 453rd home runs of his career, moving past Boston great Carl Yastrzemski into 36th place on the all-time list, and the Red Sox won their fifth straight game Monday night, routing the Toronto Blue Jays 14-1.

Ortiz homers twice, Red Sox rout Blue Jays 14-1

July 21 2014 08:05PM

David Ortiz hit the 452nd and 453rd home runs of his career, moving past Boston great Carl Yastrzemski into 36th place on the all-time list, and the Red Sox won their fifth straight game Monday night, routing the Toronto Blue Jays 14-1.

Pedestrian dead after being struck by GO Train

July 21 2014 07:27PM

A young male has died after being struck by a GO Train Monday evening, Toronto Police confirm.

A firefighter told a reporter on scene that a boy was hit by the train and was later pronounced dead. His age is unclear.

The train was the 6:50 Georgetown train from Union Station. It struck the victim around 7 p.m., according to police.

The train was stalled just north of Dundas St. W., near Sorauren Ave. for around 90 minutes, before it began moving again around 8:45 p.m.

Sgt. Sal Granata of 11 Division told reporters at the scene the collision happened under the Dundas St. W. bridge, where the victim was accompanied by three other males.

What the four males were doing near the tracks, and how the victim came to be on the tracks is still being investigated, Granata said.

The victim is currently unidentified, Granata said.

Toronto Police traffic services have taken over the investigation and footage from the GO Train is currently being reviewed.

Around a dozen police cars, two ambulances and a fire truck attended the scene.

GO Train service is currently stopped until police can complete their investigation.

Remains of Flight MH17 victims to be moved to Netherlands

July 21 2014 07:07PM

Before Dutch forensic investigators climbed aboard trains holding some of the 298 victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, they stood on Monday for a moment of reflection, their heads bowed and hands together.

After four days of pleading by global leaders, Dutch investigators for the first time were given access to the train cars containing the remains of 282 recovered bodies, as intense fighting took place between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists 50 kilometres away in Donetsk.


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Access came on the day the 15-member United Nations Security Council, which includes Russia, voted unanimously for a “full, thorough and independent investigation” into the downing of MH17 in the rebel-held territory of eastern Ukraine, in what many have called a terrorist act.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power charged that this measure, introduced by Australia, would not have been necessary if Russia had immediately denounced the actions of the “armed thugs” at the scene. Instead Russia’s silence sent a message to the separatists, “We have your backs,” reported The Associated Press.

Dutch authorities seethed over the callous treatment of the victims’ remains — 193 were Dutch citizens — at the world’s biggest crime scene in Grabovo, near the Russian border. American intelligence reports indicate a surface-to-air missile blew MH17, travelling at an altitude of 10,000 metres en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, out of the sky last Thursday.

“All of the Netherlands feels their anger,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Monday of the families who lost loved ones. “All of the Netherlands feels their deep grief. All of the Netherlands is standing with the next of kin.”

Meanwhile, the chorus of voices grew louder for the European Union and other nations to step in with punishing sanctions against Russia that cut across all sectors.

“The Kremlin may not have pulled the trigger but it certainly loaded the gun and put it in the murderer’s hand,” said Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in reference to the missile that destroyed the plane. The attack claimed the life of Canadian Andrei Anghel, a medical student from Ajax.

“It’s beyond dispute that Russia has provided moral and material support to rebels in eastern Ukraine,” Baird said, noting that “you don’t buy this type of equipment from Walmart.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also announced that Canada is slapping harsher sanctions against Russia, and British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded the European Union do the same — even though it will hurt the EU’s fragile economic recovery.

“For too long there has been reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine,” Cameron said in an address at Westminster. EU foreign ministers are set to discuss tougher sanctions in Brussels on Tuesday.

World leaders have been placed in the awkward position of both condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting pro-Russian rebels in east and begging him to speak to the separatists to convince them to allow an international team of investigators to move in.

Speaking in Washington on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama once again demanded that an international team of investigators be given complete and full access to the area.

“What exactly are they trying to hide?” Obama asked.

However, the rebels appeared to be relenting. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a news conference that a deal had been struck with separatists to allow the recovered 282 victims to be moved to Ukraine-controlled Kharkiv by train, then on to the Netherlands. Malaysian officials will also accompany the bodies.

Separatist leaders — after denying they had the black boxes containing vital information about the last minutes of MH17 — also have agreed to turn them over to Malaysian authorities, Razak said.

Putin warned on Monday in a video address that countries should not use what happened to flight MH17 for political gain: “Nobody should — and no one has the right to — use this tragedy to achieve selfish political ends. Such events should not divide people but unite them.”

Janice Stein, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, said the return of the bodies to the Netherlands will take some of the immediate pressure off.

“What has held some of the EU countries back are very, very strong business interests in their own countries. The Dutch have strong interests. The Germans have a massive trading relationship with Russia. Some of their biggest companies are invested in Russia,” Stein said.

The critical issue is that these are sanctions that move beyond banning assets and travel restrictions on certain individuals in Putin’s inner circle to targeted sanctions in sectors of the economy such as resources.

“That is where everyone has big investments and that is what is holding everybody back,” she said, adding the French have recently sold military ships to Russia and haven’t cancelled delivery.

“If this doesn’t make Europe step up, what will?” she asked.

With files from Les Whittington, The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times

NHL-National Hockey League roundup (Reuters)

July 21 2014 07:01PM

(The Sports Xchange) - The Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Cody Franson to a one-year contract on Monday, just hours before he was scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing. Franson had five goals and 28 assists in 78 games with Toronto last season. He has 28 goals and 133 points in 322 games NHL games with the Nashville Predators and Maple Leafs. He also has four goals and nine assists in 23 playoff games.

Toronto-born law professor fatally shot in Florida was targeted: police

July 21 2014 06:50PM

The fatal shooting of a Toronto-born law professor over the weekend may not have been a random act, Florida police say.

David Northway of the Tallahassee police department says police believe Dan Markel, 41, was the intended victim of the attack.

“We believe he was the targeted victim, which means that we don’t believe that it was random,” Northway told the Star.

“There should be no concerns for the community, but anytime something like this happens we would think that everybody would be concerned that this is going on.”

Markel, an accomplished legal scholar at Florida State University and father to two young boys, was fatally shot in his Tallahassee home Friday morning.

He succumbed to his injuries in the hospital on Saturday.

An investigation is ongoing and no suspects have been identified, police say.

School faculty, friends and family members — including Markel’s parents from Toronto — gathered at the Shomrei Torah synagogue in Tallahassee Sunday to read prayers and share memories of Markel.

Markel’s body is expected to be repatriated to Canada while funeral arrangements will be made by his family in Toronto later this week.

With files from Todd Coyne

Fear of flu vaccine fight infects Liberals: Cohn

July 21 2014 06:49PM

With flu season months away, preparations are underway to get the right influenza vaccine into the hands of medical workers.

Now the challenge is to get it into their arms.

Medical authorities keep promoting flu vaccines for all of us — but especially hospital staff — to reduce the annual death toll of 8,000 victims across Canada. Mandatory immunization of frontline workers is an obvious remedy to the spread of hospital infections.

Yet more than half of Toronto hospital workers fail to get inoculated, due to carelessness, thoughtlessness — or both. At Scarborough’s Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital, a mere one in four got the shot.

Since 2009, Toronto’s medical officer of health has been asking the provincial government to make the flu vaccine mandatory for frontline workers. Public Health Ontario echoed that call in 2012. The influential Canadian Medical Association Journal added its voice later that same year, arguing: “Patients should come first.”

The government’s initial diagnosis was to open the purse strings by making the vaccination free for all Ontarians. But money is no substitute for leadership. With too many health-care workers refusing to get the flu shot, the Liberals still lack the political will to make it mandatory.

As a medical doctor, Health Minister Eric Hoskins should know the research. Yet he is skirting the issue, just as his predecessor Deb Matthews dodged it for years.

Hoskins refused to speak with Star reporters for a weekend series on the toll from infectious diseases in our hospitals, relying instead on a tepid written statement urging everyone to get a shot. But moral suasion is no substitute for policy clarity.

The provincial government continues to offload the decision onto local health-care providers who must set their own policies — and risk the wrath of workers. The Liberals are loath to tangle with influential unions that rush to defend their members’ freedom of choice — somehow forgetting that patients have no choice when a health provider inflicts influenza on them.

The various excuses from workers for refusing the vaccine — fear, ignorance, selfishness, self-centredness, human rights, religious or conscientious objection — are beside the point.

It’s not about them.

It’s about patients’ rights to safeguard their own health when treated by staff. Those patients don’t freely choose to enter these facilities — they are stuck there for medical reasons beyond their control.

Why should lifesaving measures be optional for workers who are hired to provide health-care services? Resistance to the vaccine is vexing.

“Staff are not serfs and should enjoy the same right to make decisions about their bodies and what they ingest as any other citizen,” countered Michael Hurley, head of Ontario’s Council of Hospital Unions, when Public Health Ontario issued its 2012 appeal.

But he has the power relationship reversed: Health-care providers wield the power — be they doctors, nurses, or orderlies — when they treat vulnerable, bedridden patients who are utterly dependent on the consideration and professionalism of frontline staff.

At least one dissenting voice — the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario — has come out in support of mandatory inoculations. But there is no need to wait for other groups to come onside, because it means waiting for more patients to die.

A bitter protest by B.C. unions in 2012 over “coercive” inoculations was rejected in an arbitration hearing. Immunization rates climbed from roughly 40 per cent to as high as 83 per cent after workers were ordered to be vaccinated or masked.

In the free-for-all that is Ontario, some local health-care providers have tried to make influenza vaccines a new condition of employment. Several Toronto hospitals are looking at making their workers wear a mask during flu season if they decline inoculation.

But the mask is a half-measure that masks the real solution. It should be reserved for the small number of frontline workers who have legitimate medical reasons for refusing the flu shot, so that patients would know it is not a caprice.

If everyone who disdains the flu shot were allowed to hide behind a mask, it would create unjust suspicion and derision for those few — such as allergy sufferers — who truly require an exemption. Masks should not be handed out as a free pass for frontline staff who place personal whims ahead of patient wellness.

In a hospital setting where influenza knows no mercy, we owe our allegiance to patient rights over worker reticence. Any frontline worker who objects is in the wrong line of work.

And any politician who can’t see the way forward is blind to the obvious remedy.

Martin Regg Cohn’s provincial affairs column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. , Twitter: @reggcohn

NHL roundup: Maple Leafs sign Franson (The SportsXchange)

July 21 2014 06:45PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Cody Franson to a one-year contract on Monday, just hours before he was scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing.

Rob Ford more popular with black voters than Obama, Doug Ford claims

July 21 2014 05:51PM

Mayor Rob Ford is more popular with black Torontonians than the first black president is with black Americans, Councillor Doug Ford said with sincerity on Monday.

“I understand — just had a call saying the black community will not be supporting Rob Ford. That is the furthest from the truth. He’s going to have more votes in the black community than President Obama,” Doug Ford said in a call to Newstalk 1010’s Humble and Fred show. “You know that, everyone else knows that.”

Nobody else actually knows that.

Exit polls suggest Obama got 95 per cent of black votes in the 2008 election, 93 per cent in 2012 — more than 15 million people each time. A total of 383,501 people of all races voted for Rob Ford in 2010.

Doug Ford phoned Newstalk during an appearance by Andray Domise, a black business professional who is running against Ford nephew Michael Ford for the Etobicoke council seat Doug Ford is vacating. Domise criticized the mayor’s rhetoric and actions toward the black community in a recent open letter.

Domise responded to Doug Ford’s Obama assertion by incredulously asking for evidence. He then said, “You can’t keep lying to people and expect that we’re going to keep swallowing that.”

Doug Ford soon repeated a frequent claim: “There’s no one that’s helped specifically the black community more than Rob Ford has, and every other community.”

Domise responded: “What about our own communities? What about people in our own communities, Doug?”

In a subsequent interview, Domise, laughing, said Ford is technically correct: Black Canadians in Toronto will cast more votes for Rob Ford than they did for an American they’re not allowed to vote for. But he scoffed at the plain meaning of Ford’s words.

“It speaks to his longstanding grudge against the truth,” he said. “It’s almost like Hatfield-McCoy warfare.”

This is not the first time Doug Ford has invoked the president in defending the mayor. In November, at the height of Rob Ford’s crack cocaine scandal, Doug Ford told CNN that his brother is “a huge, massive social liberal.”

“He loves Obama,” Doug Ford said, though Rob Ford himself says he does not. “The headlines of the papers when he won? ‘The White Obama.’” That claim by Ford seems to have been based on a lone National Post column, two months before Rob Ford’s victory, that deemed him “the Barack Obama of Toronto.”

Rob Ford denies special treatment for firms linked to family business

July 21 2014 04:50PM

Mayor Rob Ford denies using his influence at city hall to give special treatment to two companies that had dealings with his own family business.

“I help out anyone that calls me. If you think I give preferential treatment to someone, you prove it. You write that story, go ahead,” Ford said at a community playground ribbon-cutting, speaking for the first time about his alleged dealings with two companies since his return from rehab.

“This guy is as honest as the days are long with taxpayers’ money,” he said about himself. He was joined at Woburn Park by his two young children and wife, Renata — who has rarely been in the public eye since standing at Ford’s side when he publicly apologized for rude comments he made about her.

As first reported in the Globe and Mail, Ford intervened on behalf of Apollo Health and Beauty Care when the company was being investigated by the city for a sewage spill in 2012. He also set up city hall meetings between Apollo executives and top city officials when the company was seeking a special property tax break. The Ford family company, Deco Labels and Tags, has done business with Apollo.

Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, are also reported to have helped printing company RR Donnelley and Sons seek a city contract while they were trying to court them as clients at Deco. City officials have said the Fords never disclosed their business relationships with the companies.

Both cases are now subject to a complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner lodged by watchdog Democracy Watch.

On Monday, Ford told a reporter to “be careful” about what she wrote and that Deco, which he said has been in business for 52 years, has dealt with “everybody.”

“Are you accusing me of doing something? What’s wrong with helping people? Nothing wrong. I help out everybody,” he said. “And I’ve never taken one dime of taxpayers’ money.”

Ford has told reporters to “be careful” when under fire before — including in November, ahead of a slew of troubling allegations about drugs, alcohol and criminal connections being released in a police document.

Over the weekend, Ford again came under scrutiny for using a city park to hold his annual Ford Fest BBQ despite rules that prohibit candidates from getting permits for promotional use during elections.

Ford accused those who have spoken out on the issue — including his opponents in the mayoral race — of playing politics. He said he holds the event every year, not just during election years.

Ford also said he won’t back out of the mayoral race, even to run for his old Ward 2 council seat if the polls aren’t in his favour closer to the election on Oct. 27. He said he is supporting his nephew, Ward 2 candidate Michael Ford, “100 per cent.”

“I’ve never quit anything in my life. I’m not quitting this and we’re going to win this,” he said.

Blue Jays DFA reliever Santos

July 21 2014 02:29PM

The Toronto Blue Jays have designated struggling pitcher Sergio Santos for assignment, the team announced Monday.

Blue Jays designate RHP Santos for assignment

July 21 2014 02:14PM

The Toronto Blue Jays have designated former closer Sergio Santos for assignment and recalled left-hander Rob Rasmussen from Triple-A Buffalo.

Bogus passports sold for profit, say RCMP in charging former federal employee

July 21 2014 01:22PM

RCMP investigators are hunting for 18 people who allegedly bought bogus Canadian passports from a federal government employee in Toronto.

The manhunt comes as the Mounties charged a former Toronto passport program employee with 97 offences, including breach of trust.

“We suspect that her motivation may have been financial gain, however this is very much an ongoing investigation,” Sgt. Richard Rollings said.

So far, four people have been charged with buying the bogus passports and Rollings said further arrests are anticipated.

“Criminals will go to great lengths to obtain fake or fraudulent passports to allow them the freedom to travel throughout the world,” Sgt. Louie Casale of the Toronto West Serious and Organized Crime Team said in a prepared statement.

“It is very important to maintain the reputation of the Canadian passport and the RCMP will diligently investigate those responsible for passport fraud.”

The investigation, which began in March 2013, continues, Rollings said.

Investigators concluded that 22 people were able to fraudulently obtain Canadian passports using false names.

Aline Rozeline Zeitoune, 50, from Toronto, faces 97 charges. She is scheduled to appear September 11 at the 1000 Finch Ave. W. courthouse.

Charged with buying fraudulent passports: are Luke Tyler (a.k.a. Wayne Miller), 49, of Jamaica; Evgeni Eliash (a.k.a. Evgeni Rubin), 36, of Israel; Luis Cabrera (a.k.a. Luis Moyano), 54, of Uruguay; and Srinivas Gottiparthi (a.k.a. Sushanth Goud), 38, of India.

Tyler and Cabrera are no longer in Canada while Eliash and Gottiparthi are still in custody, police said.

Charges dropped against four arrested in Project Traveller

July 21 2014 11:35AM

Charges have been dropped against the man who tried to arrange the sale of the original Rob Ford crack video, as well as those against three others arrested in last year’s Project Traveller investigation, says the Ministry of the Attorney-General.

In the spring of 2013, Mohamed Farah, 34, tried to sell a video that appeared to show Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine to the Star and the U.S. website Gawker.

Reports of the video caused an international sensation after it was shown to two Star reporters.

Farah was swept up in the massive Project Traveller raid with about 60 others. The raid targeted a gun and drug smuggling ring allegedly run by the Dixon City Bloods gang. Many of the arrests were made in a Dixon Rd. apartment complex.

Charges against Nicholas Obeng, Muhideen Jama and Halima Said were also dropped, the ministry confirmed.

Mohamed Siad, who tried to sell the 90-second video through Farah, was also arrested in the raid. He is facing gun and drug charges.

Ford denied that the tape existed for months. But after Toronto Police announced that they had a copy of the video in October 2013, he later admitted to smoking crack, telling reporters that it probably happened “in one of my drunken stupors.”

Ford’s former driver, Alessandro “Sandro” Lisi, was charged with extortion for allegedly trying to obtain the original video. He also faces drug charges.

With files from Star staff