In the midterm election campaign, Democrats didn't let Trump distract them. That will be harder now

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – Two days after midterm congressional elections that handed them control of the House, triumphant Democrats dialled in to their first conference call since winning the majority to strategise on the way forward.

But the call that Representative Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, currently the House minority leader, convened on Thursday (Nov 8) with Democratic lawmakers and their newly elected colleagues was not a planning session on how to protect health care coverage or lower prescription drug prices, thematic pillars of the party’s successful campaigns.

It was a briefing about President Donald Trump’s latest remarkable move – his decision, hours after the last polls closed, to fire the attorney-general – and a discussion of how Democrats would address the cascade of potentially grave constitutional consequences that could follow.

The strategy session highlighted the central challenge that Democrats face as they prepare to assume control of the House in a new era of divided government that begins in January.

Democrats, who remained remarkably focused during their campaigns, must now figure out how to put forward their own agenda – one Ms Pelosi says will be focused on lowering drug costs, rebuilding the nation’s roads and bridges, and cleaning up government corruption – even as they deal with the provocations of a president who relishes confrontation and disdains institutional norms.

“Trump’s great genius is to try and reduce everyone to his level and approach, and he wants to be able to paint Democrats as single-mindedly bent on his destruction,” said Mr David Axelrod, a Democratic strategist and former top adviser to Barack Obama.

“These Democrats didn’t get elected, by and large, to war with Trump. They got elected to try and get some positive things done on issues like healthcare and economic issues for their constituents, and the notion that on Day 1 they should spend all their energy trying to bedevil him is wrong. Striking the balance is going to be difficult.”

Ms Pelosi, who hopes to reclaim her post as Speaker in the new Congress, has encouraged fellow Democrats in private meetings to resist the urge to leap at Mr Trump’s every utterance and misdeed – “I don’t think we’ll have any scattershot freelancing,” she told reporters last week – lest they lose focus and play into his hands.

“The message is really, ‘Don’t chase every ball that he throws. We have to show the American people that there’s a purpose behind everything that we do, and it’s not just to get a pound of flesh,'” said Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat.

At the same time, there is a giant pent-up appetite among Democrats to hold Mr Trump and his administration accountable in ways that Republicans have refused to over the past two years.

“It’s starting to set in for me that we don’t have to live this way anymore, we actually can do something to stop abuse of power, and I think it’s important to show the American people that we’re going to do that, because that’s what they voted for,” Mr Swalwell said.

The dynamic was on display on Sunday, as top Democrats fanned out to the morning television news programmes to talk extensively about the avenues they intended to pursue to investigate Mr Trump and check his power.

There was little talk of a proactive policy agenda as Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned on NBC’s Meet the Press that Mr Matthew Whitaker, who is acting as attorney-general after the removal of Mr Jeff Sessions, must have no role in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, the incoming Judiciary Committee chairman, said he would subpoena Mr Whitaker if necessary, making him the committee’s first witness after the new Congress convenes in January.

And Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, who will assume the helm of the Oversight and Government Reform panel, said that while he was “not going to be handing out subpoenas like somebody’s handing out candy on Halloween”, he planned to delve into a number of subjects, including the administration’s handling of the healthcare law and its addition of a citizenship question to the census.

Striking the right balance is a political imperative for Democrats, who owe their majority to a new, younger and more diverse crop of members-elect – about half of them women – many of whom won races in centrist or Republican-leaning areas after campaigning as change agents.

Ms Pelosi and other top Democrats toiled during the campaign to stay wedded to a carefully honed, poll-tested agenda that would be broadly popular, calling, for example, for protecting the Affordable Care Act rather than promising to replace it with a single-payer health coverage plan.

Democrats talked about a broad, bipartisan infrastructure plan of the sort that Mr Trump campaigned on.

They have also promised to restore checks and balances to a presidency that has gone unchecked under two years of all-Republican rule on Capitol Hill, and are eyeing investigations of the administration’s environmental policies, its undercutting of the healthcare law, and its family separation policy, to name just a few.

And they face consequential decisions about whether to engage in a potentially fierce legal battle over Mr Trump’s tax returns and, ultimately, about whether to impeach him.

While Mr Trump said after the election that he would “like to see bipartisanship”, he also said he would not tolerate congressional investigations into him and his administration.

“If you’re in tough seats like a lot of these new members are, if we just go all left – just impeachment and obstructionism – then I believe we lose in 2020,” said Representative Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, who is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers calling itself the Problem Solvers Caucus that has proposed overhauling House rules to give rank-and-file lawmakers more input and influence.

“The best way for us to win, and if you look at how we just won the House, it was through the middle, not through the left,” Mr Gottheimer said.

“You’re going to have a lot of members who are going to want to govern how they ran, and that’s not banking left.”

He said that in addition to healthcare, Democrats should focus on issues for which there is bipartisan consensus, such as infrastructure, and an immigration overhaul that would pair border security with a path to citizenship for “Dreamers”, a group of unauthorised immigrants brought to the United States as children.

The internal debates will play out in the coming weeks as Democrats choose their leaders for the next Congress.

Ms Pelosi has said she is “100 per cent” certain that she will be Speaker – reprising her role as the first woman to hold that role – and no lawmaker has come forward so far to challenge her.

But among Democrats, as they enter a lame-duck session of Congress that begins on Tuesday, there are quiet conversations about a desire for change at the top.

Ms Pelosi, 78, has been the top Democrat for 15 years, while both Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, 79, who wants to be the majority leader, and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, 78, who is seeking the post of whip, have been in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions for 11 years.

A small group of Democrats, including Mr Gottheimer, has said they will withhold their votes for Speaker until they secure a commitment to overhaul the way business is done in the House.

But it is not clear who would step up to challenge Ms Pelosi, a legendary vote-counter and political dealmaker whose allies say is the obvious person to ensure that Democrats do not squander their majority.

“Who’s going to run against her who can put together the support and who can do this job, with a crazy, increasingly unchecked president in the White House and a rubber-stamp for a Senate?” said Mr Steve Elmendorf, a former senior aide to Ms Pelosi. “This is not the time for on-the-job training.”

Still, some lawmakers argue that the transparency and good-government measures that Ms Pelosi is offering are not enough to ensure a successful majority.

“Here’s something that distresses me,” said Representative Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat.

“What Pelosi says is going to be the Democratic agenda is the exact same agenda we had after the 2006 election. The public cares about issues like gun violence and protecting Dreamers – those should be our first two bills. We don’t seem to have a new agenda.”

Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat and a member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, has also said he is seeking Ms Pelosi’s assurances that lawmakers who share his more conservative bent will be involved in decision-making.

He said it was vital that Democrats check the urge to use their newfound power to pursue vendettas against Mr Trump, either through an early bid to impeach him or other means.

“Temper, they’ve got to temper themselves – don’t get excited,” Mr Cuellar said, making a pump-the-brakes gesture with both hands.

“If we’re going to start off with impeachment and this and this, the American public is going to say, ‘Who did we just put in charge?’ So we have to come out and just address the issues.”

Mr Cuellar, who was first elected in 2004, noted that the ranks of his centrist group peaked at 54 and were now down to a third of that.

“I don’t want that to happen again – I don’t want to be in the majority two years and then get kicked out again,” he said. “We’ve got to start off on the right foot.”

Ms Katie Hill, who was elected last week to represent a Los Angeles-area district that had been in Republican hands for years, said she was conscious of the challenge she and other swing-district candidates face in Washington: maintaining a focus on the issues that their campaigns were centred on, instead of Mr Trump.

“We have to recognise that he has maintained the initiative for the last several years by forcing us to react to what he’s doing,” Ms Hill said. “I think that’s a big mistake on our part – not just Democrats, everyone in this country.”

She said that once in Washington, she would balance her district responsibilities with the severity of Mr Trump’s actions and words.

Focusing on investing in her local presence, she said, is one way she plans to tune out Mr Trump’s Twitter megaphone.

“If there’s something that’s a constitutional crisis, then sure, yeah, we have to talk about that,” she said.

“But if he’s just making some kind of ridiculous statement to try to detract from what’s going on, I’ll try to bring the conversation to something different.”

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Trump calls off Pompeo’s North Korea trip

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not be travelling to North Korea in the immediate future after Donald Trump asked him to call off a planned trip.

The president tweeted that insufficient progress was being made in dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

He also suggested China was not doing enough to put pressure on North Korea – due to trade tensions with the US.

After his summit with the North Korean leader in June, Mr Trump said the country was no longer a nuclear threat.

But since then there have been several reports that it is failing to dismantle nuclear facilities.

One of the most recent warnings came from unnamed US officials, who told the Washington Post that North Korea appeared to be building new intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The UN’s nuclear agency (IAEA) has also said North Korea is continuing with its nuclear programme.

What is Mr Trump’s latest line?

Mr Pompeo was due to head to Pyongyang next week with his newly appointed special envoy for North Korea – Stephen Biegun, a retiring Ford executive.

It would have been the secretary of state’s fourth trip, though he was not expected to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Mr Trump took a swipe at China in the second of three tweets on the issue.

…Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place)…

End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

China and the US are embroiled in a tit-for-tat tariff war after Mr Trump complained about the size of the US trade deficit with China and what Washington sees as other unfair trade practices.

However, only two days ago Mr Trump said China had been a “big help on North Korea”.

Mr Pompeo might still make another trip though.

…Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved. In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!

End of Twitter post 2 by @realDonaldTrump

How much of a shift is this?

“There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” Mr Trump tweeted on arriving back in the US from the June summit with Mr Kim in Singapore.

“Everybody can feel much safer,” he said.

After the optimism of Singapore, the latest development might seem like quite a change.

But there have been ups and downs in the Trump-North Korea relationship since then.

After a visit by Mr Pompeo in July, North Korea condemned his “gangster-like demands”, only for another trip to be announced, albeit now cancelled.

And the summit itself was called off in May – Mr Trump citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility” – only for it to take place after all.

The US has made clear that it wants to see an end to the North’s nuclear activities before it will consider lifting economic sanctions.

The summit was seen as possible turning point after a ratcheting up of tensions.

North Korea had carried out a sixth nuclear bomb test in September and boasted of its ability to launch a missile at the United States.

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Calgary grandson of Victoria Cross recipient remembers grandfather 100 years after WWI

Nov. 11, 2018 marks 100 years since the end of the First World War.

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During the Great War, Calgary soldiers left their families behind and bravely went into battle — thousands were killed and many more were wounded.

Among them was Pte. John George Pattison.

On the anniversary of the armistice that ended the war, his grandson Robert Pattison remembered his grandfather’s selfless actions and courage that earned him the Victoria Cross, the highest Canadian military honour.

“He was a nice chap,” Robert said. “He took care of his family fairly well.”

The 82-year-old never knew his grandfather and only learned about him through testimony, photographs and history books.

“I’ve learned a lot about him… He was really concerned about his son Henry,” Robert said.

The story goes that John, in his 40s at the time, followed his son Henry into the military in 1916. The 16-year-old lied about his age to enlist.

“He arranged for his son [who was in the 82nd battalion] to transfer to the 137th battalion and the two of them trained together at Camp Sarcee and then they were shipped east and went to Europe,” Robert said.

31st Battalion leaving Calgary.

50th Battalion and 31st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, marching up 9 Street S.W. in winter.

50th Battalion parade on 1 Street S.W.

Victory parade at City Hall in Calgary on Nov. 11, 1918.

Street scene in Calgary.

At Vimy Ridge on April 10, 1917, John headed out alone to attack a German stronghold, jumping from shell-hole to shell-hole, under cover and within 30 yards of the enemy. He hurled bombs, wounding several men. He then rushed the remaining five enemy solders and bayoneted the surviving men.

John was the only Calgarian to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. He died in battle in June 1917, without knowing he received the honour.

His grandson said he is extremely proud of what John did, leaving behind a legacy and stories for future generations.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done if he would’ve survived the war, that would’ve been very nice, especially for me,” Robert said. “There were many other soldiers who did good things too.”

“I’m certainly proud of what my grandfather did.”

Calgary during the First World War

Calgary became a major military centre during the First World War — which meant its two main industries at the time, agriculture and construction, were booming.

Life in Calgary was difficult and would provide many challenges for families left behind, according to Thomas Leppard, historian and Field of Crosses executive director.

“There was this drum and bugle sense that this was going to be a patriotic struggle,” he said. “Calgary rallied and volunteered in droves to fight.”

Camp Sarcee, now known as Battalion Park, trained more than 40,000 soldiers. According to Leppard, as the war dragged on, morale dropped. Estimates vary but Leppard guesses about 800 Calgary soldiers died in the war, and thousands more were wounded.

“This was a world war that became a national struggle,” he said. “The war dominated everything about the city in those four years. There was no family that escaped loss during the war.”

Parades were held in Calgary when soldiers returned from battle. However, despite the exuberance that the war was over, societal tensions grew from the difficulties of finding work post-war.

Farmers also resented the government over conscription, as many had been forced to send their sons overseas, which reduced help around the farm. Falling crop prices did little to help morale in the province, too.

In an effort to boost resolve, leaders of the community re-ignited the notion of a city-wide fair, which would eventually become the Calgary Stampede.

1919 CS Parade

Calgary Stampede parade in 1919.

cs stampede tilli baldwin

Tillie Baldwin at the Calgary Stampede in 1919.

big 4 (2)

The Big 4 pictured on the 1912 Calgary Stampede poster.

Leppard’s daughter, Christine Leppard, is a Calgary Stampede historian. She said the fair was organized in 1912 but was put on hiatus until after the First World War.

Four wealthy Alberta cattlemen banded together to reintroduce a community event to celebrate the victory.

“Patrick Burns, A. E. Cross, A.J. McLean and George Lane — the Big 4 of the Calgary Stampede in 1912 — got together and said, ‘Let’s have another spectacular, uniting, community-building and celebration of victory,’ ” she said.

The Calgary Stampede would be held the following year in August 1919.

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Trump discussed Khashoggi response with Turkey's Erdogan: White House official

PARIS (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, discussed how to respond to the killing last month of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a White House official said on Sunday (Nov 11).

The conversation took place during a Saturday (Nov 10) dinner with heads of state and government gathered in Paris to mark the World War One Armistice centenary.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate by a team sent from Riyadh. Saudi authorities have acknowledged that the killing was premeditated, but his body has not been found.

Erdogan disclosed on Saturday that audio recordings of the killing had been given to the US, French, German and British governments, adding that the operation had been ordered at the”highest levels” of the Saudi government.

Trump expects to form a “stronger opinion” by this coming week on Khashoggi’s killing and Washington’s response, he said last Wednesday – adding that he was working with Congress, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to establish who bore responsibility.

In a phone call with the crown prince on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “emphasised that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same,” the State Department said in a statement.

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Ottawa to urge countries to offer abortion, contraception services to fight poverty

MONTREAL – Canada’s international development minister says that access to family planning services such as contraceptives and abortion is key to fighting poverty.

Marie-Claude Bibeau says Canada will continue to speak frankly with other countries on the need for such services, even if it remains controversial in some circles.

Bibeau is in Rwanda today ahead of a four-day international conference on family planning that runs until Thursday.

She tells The Canadian Press in a phone interview that some countries are willing to discuss the topic but don’t always follow up with concrete commitments.

She says reproductive and sexual education and access to contraception are important steps in eliminating poverty, especially among women.

The World Health Organization says some 214 million women who would like to delay or stop having children report not using any form of contraception.

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Longtime Legion tour guide from B.C. lays special wreath at national Remembrance Day ceremony

John Goheen knew the Royal Canadian Legion wanted to do something special during this year’s national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

But when he learned the Legion had settled on a special wreath to honour the Canadians who lost their lives during the Great War, the longtime Legion member and Coquitlam, B.C., school principal never suspected organizers would ask him to lay it at the National War Memorial on Nov. 11.

By Sunday morning, Goheen, who had three relatives serve between 1914 and 1918, said his initial shock and surprise had transformed into sombre anticipation.

“I think as I go up there I’ll be thinking of my family’s sacrifices in both World Wars but, again, being mindful of just the immense cost this country paid,” he told Global News before the ceremony. “To think, one in three males donned a uniform at that time.

“It’s staggering, the immensity of it all.”

Longtime Royal Canadian Legion tour guide and Port Coquitlam school principal John Goheen laid this special wreath on behalf of the Legion at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa on Sunday, Nov. 11. The wreath honours the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and the Canadians who lost their lives while serving their country.

The 51-year-old Port Coquitlam resident has been a voluntary tour guide for the Legion’s Pilgrimage of Remembrance for over 20 years. The tours, which run every two years, take participants to both major and lesser-known sites of the First and Second World Wars.

Goheen, who joined his local Legion at 19 and was hired for the tour job in his late 20s, has never served in the Canadian military but has been researching those two wars for the better part of his life. To this day, he can pinpoint the moment his fascination with the World Wars, remembrance and veterans began.

He was seven years old, Goheen says, and his father took him to Vancouver’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony in Victory Square, where he saw many First World War veterans, probably in their late 70s and early 80s at the time.

“There was something — I can’t say exactly what it was — but it struck me as something quite meaningful to see those fellows,” Goheen said in a phone interview ahead of Sunday morning’s ceremony. “And so I think I started getting interested, wanting to know what it was all about.”

After decades of research, trips to Europe and work with the Legion, it’s no surprise that Goheen had already made plans to attend Ottawa’s Remembrance Day ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. And then he got the call about laying the special wreath just over a month ago.

The wreath, Goheen said, was modeled after those used in 1919, specifically a wreath used for commemoration by Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

Goheen said he’s “grateful and honoured” for the opportunity.

“It’s hard to even put into words,” he said earlier this week.

While they were unable to join him in Ottawa, Goheen said his wife and four daughters would watch the ceremony from their home on the West Coast.

‘It just kind of grabs you by the throat’

Goheen said his interest in the First World War grew into a passion as he read and researched “voraciously” throughout his teens and 20s. At the same time, he also uncovered his family’s history, which made the connection to his research more personal and meaningful, he said.

Goheen’s maternal grandfather fought with the 26th Battalion from New Brunswick after fudging his age on his attestation papers. On his 18th birthday in 1916, Francis Niles was fighting on the front line south of Ypres, Goheen said. Niles was wounded weeks later, which put an end to his service and “probably saved his life,” Goheen said.

“He never talked about his experiences, like many of them …  and my family, his daughters really didn’t know much about him,” Goheen said of his grandfather, who died in 1971. “It was only when I started researching and I pieced together his story.”

John Goheen’s maternal grandfather, Francis Niles, fought with the 26th Battalion from New Brunswick after fudging his age on his attestation papers. Weeks after his 18th birthday in 1916, he was wounded, which put an end to his service and probably saved his life, Goheen said. Niles died in 1971.

On his father’s side, Goheen’s great-grandfather’s youngest brother and cousin also served. They were killed toward the end of the war, in September and October 1918, respectively. The great uncle was buried, and Goheen has visited his grave; the cousin’s body was never found, but his name is engraved on the Vimy Memorial in France, Goheen said.

The B.C. man first travelled to Europe to visit World War sites as a selected participant on one of the Legion’s pilgrimages in 1995, a trip that he said touched him profoundly.

“The first time I went to the Vimy Memorial and saw (my family name), it just kind of grabs you by the throat,” he said. “You sort of get a shiver in the spine. It’s quite emotional. And it doesn’t change because I’ve been there several times and it’s the same feeling.”

“I just knew that when I got home from that trip, I had to get back there.”

Goheen went on a personal trip the following year and returned in 1997 as a newly minted tour guide. In the years since, he has continued to make personal trips to Europe to discover new sites and artifacts, revisit his great uncle’s grave and retrace certain events, like his relatives’ last days.

Lots of people are history buffs, Goheen said, but he feels his trips and his research into Canada’s military history are something different because they are “always underscored by this idea of remembrance.”

I was always mindful of the remembrance aspect … wanting to know more so I can understand who these guys were and what they went through,” he said.

Walter Goheen was a cousin of John Goheen’s great grandfather. Walter was killed on Oct. 1, 1918 in his battalion’s (58th) last action of the First World War. His body was never found. John is pictured here pointing to his relative’s name on the Vimy Memorial.

Goheen received a commendation from the Minister of Veterans Affairs in 2012 for his advocacy for “military history and remembrance.”

Goheen said he talks to his daughters about their family history and his work when he sees them show interest. This year, he said, as it’s the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, the message he’s tried to convey to them is that the commemoration also marks the “beginning of how our modern remembrance started.”

“Because of the First War and the mass numbers of deaths and the amount of grieving going on, really, remembrance was born because of the sheer cost to the country,” he said. “You had these formations of Legions and memorial buildings in every small town so I try to put that into perspective for them.

“… It is a long time, but that’s really where it all begins.”

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Canadians travel to Mons, Belgium to honour relatives who served in First World War

Father David Donkin made a promise to his two grandfathers before they died that he would return to the Belgian city of Mons, where they fought at the end of the First World War.

He kept his promise, but it was emotional.

“I keep crying,” says the Canadian chaplain. “I’ve been anticipating this moment for 40 years, and here I am. That’s why I have their two badges on my hat.”

Donkin was among the several hundred Canadians who made the trip to Mons on the anniversary of the end of the First World War.

One hundred years ago to the day, it was Canadian troops who pushed out the German soldiers, liberating the city after four years of brutal occupation.

Several Canadians travelled to Mons, Belgium on Remembrance Day to honour relatives who fought in the First World War.

The Belgian city of Mons, pictured in 1918, was occupied by German soldiers for four years during the First World War.

One of Donkin’s grandfathers wrote a letter home on Nov. 11, 1918 after finding out the armistice had been signed and the war was over.

Donkin brought the original copy on his trip to Mons.

Lt. Harry Moore was with the Fourth Canadian Mounted Rifles.

In a letter to his mother, Moore wrote that there were no celebrations when the men were told the war was over.

“Queer thing, but I haven’t heard a cheer yet. Nor have I felt like cheering myself,” he wrote.

“When the dispatch came in this morning — ‘hostilities will cease at 11 a.m.’ — it seemed just like any other message. It didn’t disturb us a bit. I suppose that we’ve seen so much death and destruction, unmoved, that nothing excites us.”

Vanessa Lawetz and Taylor Mcaleer made the trip to Belgium from Barrie, Ont., with their daughter, Estelle. They say the goal is to pass on the importance of Remembrance Day. Being in Mons, they say, was like walking through history.

“In Canada, we don’t have the history amongst us,” says Lawetz. “Here, it’s everywhere. There’s statues, cemeteries, monuments — it’s much more real.”

Canadian Carol Dolan brought two framed pictures to the town square of Mons: photos of her grandmother and grandfather.

“She was the love of his life, and he went home to her,” says Dolan. “He didn’t have to die in a cold, muddy trench. He got to live, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that.”

James Finny was with the 35th Battery. On the morning of Nov. 11, he was in a village about five kilometres outside Mons. Finny was one of the troops who entered the city later in the day.

Dolan knew her grandfather but rarely heard any stories about his experiences in the war.

“He never really talked about the war at all, so there was a lot of mystery around it over us,” says Dolan. “He suffered nightmares and things. I wanted to be here to make it more real.”

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Stars flee homes as Malibu fire spreads

LOS ANGELES • Celebrities Kim Kardashian West, Alyssa Milano and Melissa Etheridge were among hundreds of thousands fleeing from their homes, as two monster wildfires burned out of control yesterday in northern and southern California.

Nine people were found dead in and around the Northern California town of Paradise, where more than 6,700 homes and businesses were burned down by Camp Fire, making it the most destructive blaze in California history, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“This event was the worst-case scenario. It was the event we have feared for a long time,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a Friday evening press conference.

“Regrettably, not everybody made it out.”

The flames descended on Paradise so quickly that many people were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives down the sole road through the mountain town.

Camp Fire, which broke out on Thursday at the edge of the Plumas National Forest north-east of Sacramento, has since blackened more than 36,400ha and was only 5 per cent contained as of nightfall on Friday.

About 800km to the south in Los Angeles County, the 14,164ha Woolsey Fire was threatening 75,000 homes, and more than 200,000 people were under mandatory evacuation early yesterday.

Some of the evacuation orders were for residents within the City of Los Angeles in the West Hills area.

It was unclear how many homes have been evacuated within the City of Los Angeles.

Guillermo del Toro, director of Oscar best picture winner The Shape Of Water, tweeted that he had abandoned his vast Bleak House museum collection of fantasy and horror memorabilia, while singer Etheridge said she had moved into a hotel due to the fire.

The entire 12,000 population of Malibu, which stretches 43.5km along the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and up into the Santa Monica mountains, was placed under mandatory evacuation on Friday as the Woolsey Fire exploded overnight and jumped a freeway.

Malibu and nearby Calabasas are home to hundreds of celebrities and entertainment executives attracted by its ocean views, rolling hills and large, isolated estates.

Current and former residents include Barbra Streisand, Cher, Tom Hanks, Judd Apatow and Britney Spears.

Residents posted pleas on social media for help evacuating horses and other large animals from ranches, while long lines of traffic clogged the only coastal highway in and out of Malibu.

Kardashian West and her sister Kourtney said they left their homes in nearby Calabasas late on Thursday.

The former wrote in an Instagram Story that she had just one hour to pack up and evacuate her home.

Milano, a leading force in the #MeToo social movement against sexual harassment, asked for help getting five horses out of the area.

“I just had to evacuate my home from the fires. I took my kids, dogs, computer and my Doc Marten boots,” the actress tweeted.

United States President Donald Trump early yesterday tweeted that “gross mismanagement of forests” was to blame for the two unchecked wildfires.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

“Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” he added.

REUTERS

KIM KARDASHIAN WEST

Posting on Instagram

“Just landed back home and had 1 hour to pack up & evacuate our home. I pray everyone is safe.”

Later on Twitter

“I heard the flames have hit our property at our home in Hidden Hills but now are more contained and have stopped at the moment.”

LADY GAGA

Posting on Instagram

“Evacuating earlier this morning… I pray everyone is safe.”

GUILLERMO DEL TORO

Posting on Twitter

“Evacuated last night. Bleak House and the collection may be endangered but the gift of life remains. Thousand Oaks and Agoura are still in danger. Malibu is being evacuated.”

ORLANDO BLOOM

Posting on Instagram

“this is my street as of two hours ago praying for the safety of all my malibu fam, grateful to our brave firefighters please stay safe”

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This week on ‘Focus Montreal’: Nov. 10

Focus Montreal introduces Montrealers to the people who are shaping our community by bringing their stories into focus.

The program airs Saturday at 5:30 p.m. as well as Sunday at 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and midnight.

Take a look at who we’re meeting this week.

The challenge of peace

This weekend marks the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War — a war that claimed the lives of 17 million soldiers and civilians between 1914 and 1918.

In Britain, people are commemorating the anniversary of the armistice with a moving tribute at the Tower of London, where 10,000 torches will be lit in the moat around the tower.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is attending Remembrance Day ceremonies in France, where many of the greatest battles in which Canadians fought and died were waged.

Closer to home, the Royal Montreal Regiment is marking the anniversary with a special exhibit called “War is Over: The  Challenge of Peace.”

Honorary Lt.-Col. Colin Robinson joined senior anchor Jamie Orchard to explain what the exhibit is all about.

To learn more about the regiment or the exhibit, visit the Royal Montreal Regiment Museum website.

U.S. midterm elections

The Democrats headed into the midterm elections on Nov. 6 hoping to sweep the House and the Senate.

While they took control of the House, the Republicans held onto the Senate, gaining two seats.

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter, claiming victory despite his party’s 27-seat loss in the House of Representatives.

The Democrats also see their gains as a resounding victory and intend to unleash new legal and political challenges against Trump and his administration.

Political analyst Raphael Jacob sat down with Orchard to discuss how Americans are more divided now than ever.

Second chance?

An animal shelter in the United States is trying to save the life of a pit bull-type dog that attacked two children in Montreal North over the summer.

A four-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother both suffered serious injuries when the dog bit them in separate incidents.

The dog is currently being held by the Montreal SPCA pending the results of a police investigation.

A New York-based group has filed a request in Superior Court asking that the dog be transferred to its shelter instead of being euthanized.

Montreal lawyer Daniel Goldwater is representing the group. He joined Orchard to discuss the case.

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A Nonverbal Son and a Mom’s Life on Hold

At the deli downstairs, they know that Xavier Guzman likes his sausage grilled and wrapped, just the patties and nothing else.

Like other 4-year-olds, Xavier likes to keep his food groups separate. He will eat meat, but not in a sandwich. He loves kiwis and bananas, but not in the same bowl. And he will have a piece of bread, but it must not be toasted.

Xavier’s pickiness means a lot of extra planning for his mother, Janet Guillen. It’s even harder because her son has autism and does not speak.

She cannot easily cook for him, because the gas in their apartment building has been off for a year, after a gas leak. They pick up takeout for almost every meal.

Ms. Guillen’s neighbors “have money to go out to restaurants,” she said. “We don’t.”

On an early fall morning, Ms. Guillen, 43, sat on her son’s bed in the apartment where her mother has lived in Inwood for 40 years. Ms. Guillen moved back in about three years ago with her son.

Xavier laid on a pile of pillows behind her, in the small bedroom that they share with Ms. Guillen’s brother, and reached out his arm toward his mother.

“That’s how he asks for a kiss,” she said. “I always kiss him and hug him. He loves that. When I say, ‘Give me a kiss,’ he gives me his forehead or his cheek so I can give him a kiss.”

Ms. Guillen has been out of work for a year and a half because of the demands of caring for Xavier, she said.

She had worked her way up in retail during her 20s and 30s, with jobs at Rite Aid, Gap and Lane Bryant. Ms. Guillen was working at a grocery store when she found out she was pregnant.

“I never thought I was going to have a kid,” she said. “At 38 — what? Nah. It’s too late for me.”

Xavier was a happy baby, Ms. Guillen said, but when he failed to reach developmental milestones in his first year, she grew concerned. He said “go” once he turned 1, but the moment was fleeting.

“We were so happy,” said Ms. Guillen, who was living with Xavier’s father at the time. “Another year later, we were taking a bath and he went, ‘Hot.’ But he didn’t repeat it. He just said it that one time.”

After seeing specialists, Ms. Guillen learned her son had autism.

“I didn’t know what that was,” she recalled. “And then I was in denial on top of that.”

As Xavier grew into a toddler, his early intervention program began to call her more frequently to pick him up when he cried or got sick, she said. “Once I got there, he was totally fine,” she said. Xavier’s needs began to affect her work, and her relationship with her partner began to sour. Ms. Guillen was eventually fired because of attendance issues, she said.

So she took Xavier and headed back to her mother’s apartment in Inwood.

In August, Catholic Charities, one of the eight organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, used $297 from the fund to buy Xavier diapers, shoes and boots, as well as a therapeutic tricycle. The tricycle is specifically designed for children with special needs to help develop their motor skills. Xavier rides it daily, his mother pushing him up the steep hill into Inwood Park, giving him a boost until they reach even ground.

Clad in Spider-Man sneakers and a Batman baseball cap on a recent afternoon, Xavier hopped on his tricycle outside of their apartment building.

“This is my cardio for the day,” Ms. Guillen said while pushing him up the hill. “He’s going to get bigger and stronger. I have to keep up.”

Xavier now attends the Kennedy Children’s Center, an affiliate of Catholic Charities that specializes in preschool for children with developmental issues. Ms. Guillen is reluctant to take another full-time job in case she has to leave in the middle of a shift to pick up Xavier. They receive $200 a month in food stamps and $280 in public assistance; Xavier receives $750 a month in Social Security disability payments.

Ms. Guillen spends her days planning his meals and connecting with other parents of children with autism.

“I was telling myself, ‘Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I did something wrong,’” she said. “Then parents started talking about their experience, and I thought, ‘Yes I need this outlet. I felt alone.’”

When he’s not on his tricycle or at school, Xavier watches speech programs and cartoons on his iPhone. His favorite is “The Hive” from Disney, which he watches in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Russian, changing the languages on his own.

Ms. Guillen tries to care for herself by practicing hot yoga, warming up her bedroom with a small space heater.

“I would do it all over again,” she said with a wide smile. “I’m adaptable.”

Donations to the Neediest Cases may be made online, or with a check or over the phone.

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