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Trump announces ‘national emergency’ in bizarre White House appearance

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WASHINGTON—He boasted that he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, then complained that he wouldn’t win.

He said he doesn’t know far-right pundit Ann Coulter, then said he “hardly” knows her, then said he used to talk to her, then said she’d be very nice to talk to.

He contradicted his chief trade negotiator on negotiations with China. He promoted North Korea as an ideal location for economic development. He uttered a series of lies and misleading statements about immigration, saying it was everyone else who was lying.

And he said he didn’t actually need to declare the national emergency he was speaking in the Rose Garden to declare.

In a rambling, defensive and thoroughly bizarre appearance on the White House grounds on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump made an unfocused stream-of-consciousness case for his immigration emergency while also musing at length about a variety of related and unrelated topics.

In arguably the strangest moment of the morning, he appeared to undermine his case that an emergency is necessary.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster,” he said. He repeated: “I just want to get it done faster.”

Democrats immediately seized on Trump’s remarks.

“Mr. President, how can this possibly be an national emergency if you’re saying you don’t need to do it? Unreal,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter.

Trump also signed into law on Friday a spending deal reached by Democrats and Republicans to fund security initiatives on the Mexican border. Trump was dissatisfied with the deal because it included less than $1.5 billion for about 55 miles of border barriers, much less than the $5.7 billion and 234 miles he had demanded for the giant wall he had repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for.

Trump is seeking to use the emergency declaration to seize money Congress had allocated to other areas of government and use it for the wall. The New York Times reported Friday that his team is looking at taking $3.6 billion budgeted for military construction, $2.5 billion from anti-drug projects and $600 million from an asset forfeiture fund.

Though presidents have broad authority to declare emergencies, there has never been an emergency declared so a president could pay for his controversial initiative with money not approved by Congress for that purpose.

Democrats and some Republicans have called Trump’s plan an unconstitutional abuse of power. Trump suggested there was a double standard for him, saying that “nobody cares” when other presidents declare emergencies.

And he dismissed concerns about his plan to grab money that had been allocated to the military.

“Some of the generals think that this is more important. I was speaking to a couple of ’em, they think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for,” he said, not naming them. “I said, ‘What were you going to use it for?’ I won’t go into details, but didn’t sound too important to me.”

Trump said it would be easy to win the court challenge that is almost certain to be filed, since he is declaring the emergency over a “virtual invasion” of drugs, gangs and human traffickers.

But he also said he thought he might well lose in the initial case, then again on appeal. Speaking in a singsong voice as he offered a series of unusual predictions about the next steps in the case, he said it was only at the Supreme Court where he hoped to get a “fair shake.”

The state of California and independent organizations have said they plan to sue.

“President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up ‘national emergency’ in order to seize power. This ‘emergency’ is a national disgrace — and the blame lays solely at the feet of the president. Our message to the White House is simple: CA will see you in court,” Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Twitter.

As at previous immigration speeches, Trump invited the mothers of people killed by unauthorized immigrants, known as “angel moms,” to attend this one. When he was asked to respond to critics who say he is manufacturing this supposed crisis, he turned to the women and said, “What do you think? You think I’m creating something? Ask these incredible women.”

Trump was similarly dismissive of immigration-related data.

Rejecting his own government’s conclusion that most drugs that come in through Mexico are smuggled through legal ports of entry rather than unwalled desert, he declared that this was “all a lie.”

Rejecting official data that shows the number of apprehensions at the southwest border is less than a third what it was two decades ago, Trump said, “We have far more people trying to get into our country today than probably we have ever had before.”

Rejecting studies that show illegal immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native citizens, Trump said, “You don’t really believe that stat, do you? Do you really believe that stat?”

And rejecting human trafficking experts who have said that a large percentage of victims come through legal ports of entry, Trump said that this is impossible, since border officers would notice “three women with tape on their mouth.” Experts say victims are usually tricked or coerced into crossing, not physically restrained.

Trump himself was critical of Democratic predecessor Barack Obama for bypassing Congress with unilateral action on immigration, tweeting in 2014: “Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress.”

Asked about this on Friday, Trump said the current situation is different — because he is taking unilateral action after making an inadequate deal with Congress, not after making no deal.

“I went through Congress, I made a deal. I got almost $1.4 billion when I wasn’t supposed to get $1 — not $1. ‘He’s not going to get $1,’ he said, not saying who he was quoting. “Well, I got $1.4 billion. But I’m not happy with it.”

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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