Canned Tomatoes: Your Most Pressing Questions, Answered


Open the pantry of any member of the BA team and what will you find? Lots of dried beans, perhaps—and definitely a can or two of whole peeled tomatoes. It’s dinner insurance: With a can or two on hand, you’re halfway to tomato sauce, tomato soup, chili, minestrone, pasta e fagioli… we could go on and on.

We’ve even gone so far as to say that canned tomatoes are better than fresh ones (and we’re not taking it back!): They’ve got all of the flavor (and less of the water content) and they’re consistently rich, tangy, and sweet even when tomato season is long, long in the future.

But how do you navigate the literal wall of canned tomatoes at the grocery store? And what’s the deal with fire-roasted versus diced versus crushed? Behold, our canned tomato 101, which will help you choose the best can for the job and then put it to work.

How do I know which one to buy?

Choose cans with the fewest ingredients: We prefer tomatoes packed with salt, but avoid sugar, garlic, or any preservatives other than calcium chloride and citric acid.

Okay, but there are so many kinds. What are the differences?

Whole peeled: Packed in juice or purée, it’s the versatile matriarch of all the rest. When in doubt, stock this can: It can be turned into the other types in a pinch.

Crushed: A mix of smushed tomatoes and juices, it’s a handy shortcut to smooth sauces or soups. Look for “no added purée” to avoid weird thickness.

Diced: Tomato chunks in juice, often with added calcium chloride to help the pieces stay firm. Use only when you want distinct bits of tomato.

Fire-Roasted: Charred over an open flame and sometimes enhanced with natural flavors like onion and garlic powder, they have a smoky flavor.

Paste: Hyper concentrated tomato juice. Use a tablespoon or two to add intense tomato flavor to sauces like bolognese; to release its full potential, caramelize it in olive oil until brick red (5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often).


Canned cherry tomatoes: a thing!

Are canned cherry tomatoes a thing?

Yes! For extra sweetness and texture in stews, braises, and sauces, seek them out. We like those from Parma-based company Mutti.

Buy it: Mutti Cherry Tomatoes, $4 for 14 oz. on Amazon

What’s a San Marzano?

Sweet and low acid, with firm, thick flesh, the San Marzano is a super-hyped plum tomato that racks up a hefty price. Certified San Marzanos are grown in the region of Campania in Italy, while those grown elsewhere are technically wannabes. But certification doesn’t guarantee flavor, so ignore the marketing and find a brand you love.

How do I store the cans?

For best flavor, use within 18 months. Once a can is open, transfer any leftover contents to a glass or plastic container to avoid a metallic taste and refrigerate for up to one week.

Can I ever use the tomatoes without cooking them?

Um, no. Canned tomatoes should always be cooked and have no place in a BLT or salsa fresca. A long simmer in soups, braises, and sauces will soften them up, concentrate their flavors, and get rid of any bitter or tinny tastes.

tomato braised rotisserie chicken

Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Sue Li, prop styling by Elizabeth Jaime

Canned tomatoes take rotisserie chicken to the next level.

What’s the first thing I should make?

Tomato sauce! Purée one 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in a food processor. Transfer to a heavy pot; add 3 smashed garlic cloves, 5 Tbsp. olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until reduced by a third, 20 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter.

Then what can I make?

Try shakshuka, chana masala, salsa roja, or tomato-braised rotisserie chicken.

Any other tips?

Slow-roasting whole peeled tomatoes brings out a ton of flavor. Here’s how you do it: Drain two 28-oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes. Gently crush and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet where they’ll fit snugly. Season with salt, drizzle with ¼ cup olive oil, and roast at 250°, tossing twice, 2–2½ hours. Coarsely chop, then mix with cooked grains and Parm, fold into scrambled eggs, or toss with pasta.


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Indigenous senators praise Wilson-Raybould’s ‘integrity,’ say her resignation leaves ‘questions’


A group of Indigenous senators — most of them appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, — issued a statement today praising the « integrity » of Jody Wilson-Raybould and saying her sudden departure from cabinet leaves « many questions and concerns. »

« The resignation … this week has led to a national conversation leaving many questions and concerns from Canadians, the Indigenous community and politicians alike. As the first Indigenous Attorney General of Canada and then as minister of Veterans Affairs, it is without a doubt that this important decision was not taken lightly on her part, » the senators write.

The senators who signed the letter said that while Wilson-Raybould’s departure does not threaten the « promise and process of reconciliation, » it is a reminder « of the distance we have yet to go and the challenges we have yet to overcome. »

The senators said Wilson-Raybould’s tenure as justice minister and the government’s top lawyer will leave « a lasting mark in history » that will inspire future generations of Indigenous people.

While Wilson-Raybould was justice minister, the government legalized cannabis, toughened impaired driving legislation and enacted new laws governing medical assistance in dying.

« While in that position, she displayed personal strength of character, integrity and dedication to modernize the justice system and work towards reconciliation, » the senators say in the letter.

Independent Manitoba Sen. Murray Sinclair during a 2018 meeting with First Nation youth from northern Ontario. Sinclair and seven other Indigenous senators praised former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s integrity in a letter to the media Thursday. (CBC)

The letter is jointly signed by Sen. Margaret Dawn Anderson, Sen. Yvonne Boyer, Sen. Dan Christmas, Sen. Lillian E Dyck, Sen. Brian Francis, Sen. Sandra Lovelace-Nicholas, Sen. Mary Jane McCallum and Sen. Murray Sinclair.

While six of the eight senators were appointed by Trudeau, they sit as Independents in the upper house and owe no loyalty to the prime minister or the Liberal party.

Prime Minister Trudeau removed Wilson-Raybould from the justice portfolio in January, moving her to the Veterans Affairs portfolio.

She announced she was quitting the Liberal cabinet Tuesday morning, just days after a Globe and Mail report claimed she was pressured by the PMO to help the Quebec-based multinational engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges in relation to contracts in Libya.

She has so far refused to speak publicly about what transpired on the SNC-Lavalin file, saying only that solicitor-client privilege stemming from her time as justice minister forbids her from commenting.

Wilson-Raybould has taken the highly unusual step of retaining Thomas Cromwell, a recently retired Supreme Court justice, as her legal counsel as the scandal enters a new phase.

Speaking in Sudbury, Ont. Wednesday, Trudeau insisted again that the government had done nothing wrong.

« Jody Wilson-Raybould and I had a conversation in September in which I emphasized to her that the decisions she makes as attorney general, particularly in this matter, are her decisions and I was not directing or pressuring her, » he said.

« If she felt that she had received pressure it was her obligation, her responsibility, to come talk to me and she did not do that in the fall. She continued to choose to serve in this government as Veterans Affairs minister when I made a cabinet shuffle. »

Prior to running for federal office, Wilson-Raybould was elected to council for the We Wai Kai Nation, located near Campbell River, B.C. Later, she served as the Assembly of First Nations’ B.C. regional chief.


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Ryerson’s student union removes president amid questions over $700K in spending


Ryerson University’s student union has impeached its president and suspended its vice-president of operations while it waits for the results of an audit of nearly $700,000 in spending.

The union’s board voted Monday night to remove president Ram Ganesh, and elected Maklane deWever as his replacement.

Ram Ganesh was removed as president of the Ryerson Students’ Union at a board meeting Monday night.
Ram Ganesh was removed as president of the Ryerson Students’ Union at a board meeting Monday night.  (Ryerson Students’ Union)

DeWever, a business major in his final year, told the Star he “reluctantly accepted” the appointment.

“Over the next two months, we will be starting the long and slow process of earning back students’ trust through real and meaningful action,” said deWever, 23, a student union board member who has been publicly pushing for transparency and accountability after he helped bring the questionable expenses to light.

The audit will review payments and credit card charges made over the past nine months by the union’s executive committee members. The student union’s operating budget is nearly $3 million, which comes from mandatory student fees — now a hot-button political issue as Premier Doug Ford recently moved to make such fees optional, claiming they bankroll “crazy Marxist nonsense.”

Despite protests from student groups, the provincial government announced last month that most student fees, which can add as much as $2,000 annually to post-secondary costs, would become an optional expense. Student leaders fear the decision could jeopardize a variety of programs that rely on union support, including mental health and sexual assault services as well as student newspapers like The Eyeopener, which uncovered the spending scandal at Ryerson.

Credit card statements in the name of Ryerson Student Union president Ram Ganesh.
Credit card statements in the name of Ryerson Student Union president Ram Ganesh.  (Eyeopener)

“What happened at Ryerson’s Student Union undermines the 52 years of hard work that our employees and student leaders have devoted to uplifting the Ryerson community,” DeWever wrote in a statement to the Star. “It is unfair to call our food bank, 96 student groups, centres for marginalized communities, legal aid and the voice we provide … Marxist nonsense. The Student Choice Initiative will kill student life and prevent us from providing services to the most vulnerable members of the Ryerson community. This does not mean that important financial reform is not needed.”

DeWever confirmed to the Star that a formal audit will “begin very shortly.” He said he’s not sure how long it will take.

During an emergency meeting earlier this month, the student board heard that Ganesh “chose to be” the executive’s “main point of contact” with a company hired to stage a concert at a nightclub that cost more than $400,000 in January. The union’s professional accountant told the group she had received no information about ticket sales for the event or any of the $350,000 she said she was told the union would receive in sponsorship money.

When the Star called Ganesh’s cellphone for comment Tuesday, a man answered. When a Star reporter identified herself and asked to speak with Ganesh, the man said, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk,” and hung up. A followup text to the same number received no response.

Ganesh’s student status was not immediately clear. Some board members told the Star he has graduated from the school’s engineering program while others believe he is still attending classes. Ryerson University’s spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. In an earlier statement, Johanna VanderMaas said the school takes allegations of financial mismanagement very seriously but “has no ability to conduct an independent investigation” because the union is a separate entity with its own governance structure.

Ganesh attended Monday’s impeachment. He abstained from voting on the motion, according to The Eyeopener. Reporters not affiliated with campus media were barred from the meeting.

Savreen Gosal was suspended from her role as the union’s vice-president of operations until an accounting firm completes its audit.

The Eyeopener reported that Ganesh and Gosal were responsible for the student union’s credit card and may have charged more than $270,000 in unusual purchases.

Ganesh told student reporters that the union’s credit cards could be used by any part-time or full-time union staff member. Credit card statements provided to the student newspaper showed more than $2,500 spent at a Cineplex theatre, $2,300 at a bar and nearly $800 at an LCBO.

The Toronto Star has not received copies of these statements to verify the accuracy of these expenses.

Diana Zlomislic is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @dzlo


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Dix questions sur les taxes scolaires


L’idée de « remettre de l’argent dans le portefeuille des Québécois » est au coeur de la mythologie caquiste… et du projet de loi no 3 visant l’instauration d’un taux unique de taxation scolaire. L’objectif sera-t-il vraiment atteint ? Décryptage basé sur les mémoires présentés cette semaine devant la Commission des finances publiques.

Que vise le projet de loi ?

Déposé en décembre, il prévoit « l’instauration d’un taux unique de taxation scolaire applicable à l’ensemble des commissions scolaires » du Québec. Ce taux sera arrimé au plus bas taux en vigueur actuellement (environ 10,54 ¢ par tranche de 100 $ d’évaluation foncière, avec une exemption de base sur les premiers 25 000 $ d’évaluation foncière). Selon les régions, le taux est jusqu’à trois fois supérieur à celui-ci présentement. La mesure sera graduellement implantée d’ici quatre ans. Au Québec, l’impôt foncier scolaire a été introduit en… 1846. Les taxes scolaires servent notamment au financement du transport scolaire, du chauffage, des dépenses d’entretien et de gestion des établissements.

Le changement fera-t-il perdre des revenus aux commissions scolaires ?

Non, car le gouvernement promet de compenser l’entièreté des sommes qui ne seront plus collectées. La mesure pourrait coûter 900 millions à terme, selon le ministre des Finances, Éric Girard. En 2018, le gouvernement Couillard avait modifié le système de taxation scolaire pour établir un taux unique par région. Québec s’était là aussi engagé à combler la différence pour que les commissions scolaires ne subissent pas de pertes. Coût de cette mesure : 680 millions annuellement. À terme, les deux réformes imposeront donc à Québec qu’il débourse quelque 1,5 milliard chaque année pour maintenir le financement des commissions scolaires. Autrement dit : les contribuables paieront indirectement ce qu’ils paient maintenant directement.

Le financement de Québec est-il garanti ?

Voilà une des craintes qui ont souvent été exprimées au cours des derniers jours : les finances du Québec permettent aujourd’hui d’accorder ce répit fiscal, mais rien ne dit qu’il en sera toujours ainsi. « Force est de constater que le financement des commissions scolaires sera dorénavant beaucoup plus incertain et qu’il dépendra davantage des orientations budgétaires du gouvernement et de la conjoncture économique et politique », note la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN). « Ce choix crée une pression additionnelle sur les finances publiques et fragilise le financement du réseau scolaire », estime également la Fédération des commissions scolaires du Québec (FCSQ).

Pourquoi Québec a-t-il choisi le taux le plus bas ?

Le gouvernement Legault souhaite éliminer toute iniquité régionale en matière de taxes scolaires… sans qu’un seul propriétaire d’immeuble ne subisse de hausse. Mais ce faisant, « il apparaît difficile de dire que le taux est établi en fonction des besoins de financement en éducation ou des commissions scolaires », estime Luc Godbout, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche en fiscalité et en finances publiques. « On semble répondre d’abord et avant tout à une volonté politique afin qu’il n’y ait aucun contribuable pénalisé par la réforme. »

Quels impacts négatifs craignent les opposants ?

Outre le manque de confiance envers l’engagement du gouvernement à maintenir à long terme le financement, plusieurs intervenants ont fait valoir en commission parlementaire que Québec aura 1,5 milliard de moins à consacrer aux besoins du réseau scolaire — ou à toute autre mission de l’État. « Cette injection de fonds annuelle ne fera rien en vue d’améliorer ou d’accroître les services, mais aura simplement pour effet de maintenir le statu quo », a relevé l’Association des commissions scolaires anglophones du Québec. De même, les commissions scolaires ont souligné que les nouvelles règles proposées affecteront les revenus d’intérêts qu’elles touchent actuellement en gérant les fonds entre la perception et la redistribution de l’argent (à Montréal, ces sommes bonifient l’aide en milieu défavorisé).

Qui profitera des baisses ?

Les avis divergent sur cette question. Le projet de loi « apporte un allégement fiscal aux contribuables qui sont écrasés sous le poids de la fiscalité », évalue l’APCHQ (Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec). Au contraire, « il s’agit d’un geste à l’avantage des propriétaires dont la richesse foncière est la plus élevée, sans aucune garantie de réduction du fardeau des locataires », a soutenu parmi d’autres la Fédération des commissions scolaires. « Les grandes entreprises profiteront également de cette baisse », puisque la mesure s’applique pour tous les bâtiments. La FCSQ calcule que les entreprises fournissent environ le quart des recettes d’impôt foncier scolaire.

L’impôt foncier scolaire est-il un bon impôt ?

Selon le fiscaliste Luc Godbout, plusieurs études « soulignent que le champ de l’impôt foncier apparaît comme étant un mode d’imposition moins dommageable pour l’économie que l’impôt sur le revenu des particuliers et l’impôt sur les bénéfices des sociétés ». Il a aussi soutenu que les changements proposés « ne vont pas dans le sens d’une amélioration de la compétitivité fiscale des modes d’imposition » du Québec par rapport à l’Ontario — c’est-à-dire que le poids de l’impôt foncier scolaire au Québec est moins élevé qu’en Ontario, ce qui n’est pas le cas d’autres sources de recettes.

Quelles autres idées ont été suggérées en commission ?

Luc Godbout juge qu’il serait sain de prévoir un mécanisme qui ferait en sorte qu’une fois le taux d’imposition unifié au Québec, celui-ci serait par la suite ajusté en fonction des besoins des services éducatifs. La CSN propose de « rendre la réforme plus progressive » en trouvant un « mécanisme pour que les locataires profitent aussi des baisses » (la Régie du logement du Québec tient compte des taxes foncières dans son outil de calcul pour la fixation de loyer, mais ce dernier n’est pas obligatoire). D’autres ont remis en question l’idée de prendre le plus bas taux plutôt qu’un taux médian.

Qui a applaudi au projet de loi de Québec ?

Parmi les mémoires présentés, on note un appui clair de la CORPIQ. Selon elle, la réforme « vient corriger en partie une fiscalité dont la mécanique a toujours été perçue comme étant absurde et inéquitable ». L’APCHQ a fait valoir que ce projet de loi « aidera les jeunes à accéder à la propriété », même si l’économie par foyer n’excédera pas quelques centaines de dollars. « La diminution du fardeau fiscal des futurs propriétaires » fait partie des « actions qui aideront l’accès à la propriété », dit-on.

Si le gouvernement abolit les commissions et les élections scolaires comme prévu, qu’arrivera-t-il aux taxes scolaires ?

L’adage dit qu’il ne peut y avoir « de taxation sans représentation ». Questionné en décembre pour savoir si le principe d’un impôt foncier scolaire survivra au projet caquiste d’abolir les élections scolaires et les commissions scolaires, le ministre Girard a plaidé pour la patience. « Je pense que ce sont deux enjeux séparés. On s’est engagés à baisser les taxes scolaires, puis on va regarder chaque chose en son temps. »


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5 questions pour comprendre la 5G


Un texte de Karl-Philip Vallée

1. C’est quoi la 5G?

La 5G est la cinquième génération du réseau de communications cellulaires, qui doit succéder à la 4G, le réseau le plus répandu actuellement en Occident.

Chaque génération a agi comme une petite révolution technologique en permettant de démocratiser des technologies souvent nouvelles pour le grand public.

La première génération a ouvert la voie aux tout premiers téléphones cellulaires (Nouvelle fenêtre), qui avaient plus en commun avec des briques qu’avec les téléphones intelligents d’aujourd’hui. La seconde a popularisé les messages texte, tandis que la troisième permettait enfin de naviguer sur Internet sans s’asseoir devant un ordinateur. La 4G aura été la génération de la diffusion de contenu en continu. Elle a permis à Netflix, YouTube, Spotify et bien d’autres de s’établir fermement sur le marché.

La 5G promet d’être la génération de l’Internet des objets, de l’infonuagique, des voitures autonomes et des robots industriels connectés, entre autres.

2. Qu’est-ce que cette technologie a de différent?

Le nouveau réseau 5G viendra avec deux améliorations majeures.

Tout d’abord, il sera beaucoup plus rapide. Les sources divergent sur les chiffres exacts, mais les plus conservatrices parlent d’un débit de 1,4 Go par seconde au début avec un sommet éventuellement à 4,5 Go/sec, ce qui serait 20 fois plus rapide que la 4G. Certains évoquent même un débit de 10 à 20 Go/sec.

La deuxième amélioration concerne elle aussi la vitesse, mais cette fois c’est de la latence dont il est question. Sur le réseau 4G actuel, il y a un délai de 50 millisecondes à plusieurs centaines de millisecondes entre le moment où une commande est envoyée sur le réseau et celui où cette commande aboutit sur le serveur visé.

Par exemple, si vous entrez l’adresse du site de Radio-Canada dans votre fureteur, près d’une seconde peut s’écouler entre le moment où vous appuyez sur le bouton et celui où les serveurs de Radio-Canada reçoivent votre demande de connexion.

Ce délai, qu’on appelle la latence, sera considérablement réduit avec l’arrivée de la 5G et pourrait même n’être que de quelques millisecondes à peine.

3. Qu’est-ce que ça changera pour moi?

Cette combinaison de haut débit et de basse latence ouvrira la voie à de nombreuses technologies émergentes.

Tous les appareils dont la fonction est de se déplacer et qui ne pouvaient donc pas se connecter à un réseau filaire robuste, comme les voitures, les robots d’entrepôts et les appareils de santé connectés bénéficieront donc de cette mise à jour des réseaux.

La réalité virtuelle, qui peine à trouver sa place dans l’écosystème actuel en raison notamment des coûts élevés qui sont associés au matériel, pourrait également en profiter. De puissants serveurs détenus par des entreprises comme Microsoft et Amazon pourraient effectuer les calculs requis pour générer les images en trois dimensions et envoyer les résultats presque instantanément aux utilisateurs. Les casques de réalité virtuels deviendraient donc sans-fil et pourraient même être plus légers.

Dans la vie de tous les jours, on peut éventuellement s’attendre à dire adieu au fil beige qui court le long des murs pour se rendre jusqu’à notre modem à la maison. La puissance et la rapidité du réseau 5G pourraient effectivement ouvrir la voie à la connexion à Internet sans fil à la maison.

Plus concrètement, on pourra télécharger un film en moins de 20 secondes sur la 5G, alors que la même opération prend environ 6 minutes sur la 4G.

4. Y a-t-il des risques?

Pour fonctionner à son plein potentiel, la 5G doit éventuellement se servir des ondes millimétriques. Ces communications à très haute fréquence ouvrent la voie à des vitesses de transfert par la voie des airs inégalées jusqu’ici, mais elles ont un défaut majeur : elles ne voyagent pas très loin.

Pour assurer une couverture adéquate au meilleur débit possible, les entreprises de télécommunications devront donc multiplier les antennes. Cela aura pour effet de remplir l’air ambiant d’ondes invisibles dont les effets restent encore largement méconnus.

Comme le note Agostino Di Ciaula dans un article scientifique paru dans l’International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health (Nouvelle fenêtre), les radiofréquences et les champs électromagnétiques (RF-CEM) ont des effets néfastes démontrés sur la santé.

« Les RF-CEM favorisent le stress oxydatif, une affection impliquée dans l’apparition du cancer, dans plusieurs maladies aiguës et chroniques et dans l’homéostasie vasculaire, écrit Dr Di Ciaula. Bien que certaines preuves soient encore controversées, le [Centre international de recherche sur le cancer] de l’[Organisation mondiale de la santé] a classé les RF-CEM comme “cancérigène possible pour les humains” ».

Très peu d’études existent sur les ondes millimétriques qui seront utilisées par le réseau 5G. Dr Di Ciaula note toutefois que des observations préliminaires tendent à démontrer que ces ondes « augmentent la température de la peau, modifient l’expression génique, favorisent la prolifération cellulaire et la synthèse de protéines liées au stress oxydatif, aux processus inflammatoires et métaboliques, et pourraient générer des lésions oculaires et affecter la dynamique neuromusculaire. »

Malgré des preuves insuffisantes pour conclure à un danger de la 5G, cet expert estime qu’assez d’informations existent pour que l’on doive agir avec une grande prudence avec cette technologie.

5. Quand y aurons-nous accès?

La 5G est actuellement sur toutes les lèvres et de nombreux observateurs s’attendent à voir apparaître les premiers téléphones compatibles avec cette technologie dès cette année.

Cela ne signifie pas pour autant que le réseau lui-même sera prêt. Quelques petits réseaux 5G isolés ont déjà été créés dans différentes villes pour tester la technologie, mais ils n’ont rien à voir avec le réseau à grande échelle qui doit voir le jour au cours des prochaines années.

Les experts les plus optimistes estiment que l’on pourrait avoir accès à la 5G d’ici la fin de l’année dans certains marchés importants, comme aux États-Unis et en Chine. La plupart des spécialistes s’entendent toutefois pour dire que le réseau 5G devrait véritablement prendre son envol entre la fin de 2019 et le début de 2121, au plus tard.


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Maple Syrup: Your Most Pressing Questions, Answered


Do you only break out the maple syrup for pancake Sundays? Then you’re missing out on the full potential of this liquid gold. A natural sweetener with depth and complexity, maple syrup goes with way more than breakfast. Here we present a collection of tips, techniques, and trivia that will help you pick out a bottle and use it for all it’s worth. (And if you, like us, were ever wondering why so many bottles have a seemingly useless, teeny tiny handle, well—read on to know why.)

How do I pick the right syrup?

We strongly recommend 100 percent maple syrup. Syrup has a terroir, just like wine, coffee, and chocolate. Not only do the two sugar maple cultivars produce different-tasting syrup, but the syrup is dependent on the air, water, and soil, varying greatly region to region and season to season. Taste syrups from different regions to find out what you like best.

Why is it so pricey?

Syrup is so expensive because it takes 40 gallons (!) of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Sugaring season runs for just about two months, from early February to late March, in a very small region of the world, predominantly in the Northeastern United States and Canada, which means the supply is limited. But don’t worry: Bottles are available year-round.

Where should I keep it?

To protect against fermentation and molding, keep open bottles in the fridge for up to a year. For indefinite storage, stow syrup in the freezer (it’s too sugary to solidify).


Photo by Winnie Au

Flights of maple syrup.

What do all the grades mean?

Formerly divided into grades A, B, and C, the bottles at the store today are all Grade A, with USDA descriptors that clearly spell out the hue and intensity. Confused? Just remember: Darker syrup means bolder flavor. Here’s a breakdown.

Golden color, delicate taste: Fruity and subtle, it’s easily overshadowed but makes the best substitute for white sugar when baking.

Amber color, rich taste: Popular for all-around use, it’s the ideal table syrup for pancakes and French toast.

Dark color, robust taste: Bold in flavor, it holds its own in savory dishes like braises and in whiskey cocktails.

Very dark color, strong taste: With the most powerful maple flavor, it delivers the biggest bang for your buck—use sparingly!

Uh, what’s pancake syrup?

Pancake syrup is corn syrup with artificial flavor and color, whereas maple syrup is 100 percent boiled maple sap with 33 to 35 percent water.

Can I replace sugar with maple syrup?

To substitute maple syrup for sugar in a recipe, follow these rules from Baking with Less Sugar by Joanne Chang. In general, one cup of syrup is equal to one cup of sugar. But decrease the amount of liquid by 3 Tbsp. for each cup of syrup used. If baking, reduce your oven temp by 25° to prevent burning (since syrup caramelizes faster than sugar). Unless your recipe already calls for an acidic ingredient like buttermilk or sour cream, add 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda with the syrup. And experiment at your own risk!

20180125 MOB24863

Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Chris Morocco, prop styling by Emily Eisen

Maple syrup makes a good marinade for anything from chicken to tofu.

Is it only for drizzling?

Nope! Try adding a touch of maple syrup to savory foods; its earthy caramel flavor complements bitter, spicy, and salty notes. We like adding it to barbecue sauce, sautéed bitter greens, squash soup, marinades, and mustard vinaigrette.

What else can I do with it?

Make a crunchy maple topping for yogurt or oatmeal: Toss 1 cup toasted seeds or nuts + 3 Tbsp. maple syrup + 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350° for 15–20 minutes. Let cool, then break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

glazed carrots 1

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Dana Bonagura

These guys are Maple-Roasted Carrots.

Any other ideas?

Dress up any roasted vegetable with an easy maple glaze: Whisk together 2 Tbsp. each maple syrup, unseasoned rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and 1⁄2 tsp. red pepper flakes. Season with salt. Drizzle over vegetables and toss to coat in the last 5–10 minutes of roasting.

Use it to sweeten switchel, a refreshing drink made with apple cider vinegar and fresh ginger.

Or use maple syrup to add a glaze-y shellac to pork chops, salmon, bacon, chicken, tofu, carrots, or brussels sprouts.

hidden springs maple syrup

Photo by Chelsea Kyle

To have on hand at all times.

Do you have a favorite brand?

Hidden Springs Amber Rich Organic Maple Syrup, with its toasty flavor, is our favorite for everyday use.

Buy it: $8 for a half pint at

Okay, but what’s up with that little handle?

It harks back to times of yore, when syrup was collected in big earthenware vessels on which handles were critical. Today, it’s just a miniaturized sign to us consumers that what we’re getting is a real deal. This sort of design that contains just-for-show characteristics of the original is called a “skeuomorph.” (Use that on your next crossword!)


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Andrew Scheer takes questions from public at Toronto town hall


Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is taking questions from the public at a town hall event in Toronto on Saturday.

CBC News will stream the event live and provide analysis starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBC News, and CBC News’s social channels.

Before Parliament returns from its winter break a week from Monday, Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been criss-crossing the country meeting with Canadians and fielding questions on a diverse range of topics.

During his swing through Alberta, Scheer encountered people angry about the state of Canada’s energy sector after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project pending further environmental review and consultation with Indigenous peoples.

Scheer had to get out of his vehicle and walk to the venue in Nisku, Alta., because of a 22-kilometre convoy of truckers protesting Trudeau’s carbon tax and environmental policies. Scheer sought to reassure people by promising to scrap the prime minister’s carbon levy designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Scheer also answered questions about what the Conservative party would do about a growing meth problem on the Prairies as the drug claims more lives each year. Scheer vowed to better equip police and unveil a gang prevention strategy.

Trudeau, for his part, has had a lot of questions about Canada’s immigration system and how the federal government is handling a spike in asylum seekers entering the country by foot.

In Quebec, Trudeau was also confronted by a dairy farmer who was upset with the concessions the federal government has made on dairy in striking trade deals with the U.S., the EU and Pacific rim countries.

The town hall tour by the prime minister and the leader of opposition comes ahead of a federal election later this year. The various parties are soliciting feeback to help them craft the policy platform they will present to voters in October.


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The big questions Doug Ford will have to answer in 2019


This time last year nobody was predicting Doug Ford would become Ontario’s premier in 2018, so accurately predicting what will happen in provincial politics in 2019 can’t possibly be as difficult.

Can it? 

Not being blessed with a crystal ball, and knowing that Ford did several unexpected things in his first six months in power, I will refrain from predicting exactly what he will do this year. Instead, I’ll pose the questions that Ford will have to answer as 2019 unfurls. These themes will frame much of Ontario’s politics this year.

1. Can Ford help defeat Trudeau?

Ford says frequently that beating Kathleen Wynne was just the first step, and beating Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals is up next. Ford will undoubtedly play a key role in a growing coalition of conservative premiers who intend to stir up anti-Trudeau sentiment in their provinces to the benefit of Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party of Canada. 

Ford’s hope is to help Scheer’s party take the Ontario swing ridings that carried the PCs to power provincially, particularly the 905. Ford has explicitly attacked Trudeau on such issues as carbon pricing, steel tariffs, and asylum seekers, Expect that much of Ford’s politicking in 2019 will take the form of swipes at Trudeau. 


2. How deeply will the PCs cut the deficit? 

Ford and Finance Minister Vic Fedeli say the Liberals left the province $15 billion in the red. Fedeli’s mini-budget in November took a mini bite out of the shortfall, now clocking the 2018-19 deficit at $14.5 billion. The cuts were not as deep as some Ford opponents feared they would be, but it left them asking: how much deeper will the cuts be this year?

The answer will come whenever the PCs deliver their first budget, sometime in the next few months. Ford has set himself an onerous task: promising to balance the budget without layoffs. It’s left the government trying to find savings by trimming around the edges: cutting landline phones at Queen’s Park, reducing the use of paper, offering early retirement buyouts to provincial employees, none of which can add up to the billions that the PCs need to find.

The budget will force the PCs to answer one financial question they have been refusing to answer since before they were elected: when do they aim to get rid of the deficit? By law, every deficit budget must show a timetable for getting out of the red. 

3. What will Ford’s health care reform look like?

In a memo this week to Ontario’s 60,000 public servants, Ford identified « delivering better health care » as one of his three top priorities. He said this will involve « embracing change and innovation, deploying technology more effectively, and committing to new models of collaboration and patient care. » 

People who work in Ontario’s health care system are wondering what those words will mean in practice. 

Ford says delivering better health care is one of his three top priorities in 2019, along with jobs and balancing the budget responsibly. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

It’s also not totally clear who will be the architect of Ford’s health care reform. Health Minister Christine Elliott is officially in charge and has delivered speeches about transforming the system. But sources in the bureaucracy say the driving force for change is Rueben Devlin, former CEO of Humber River Hospital, who chairs the Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine.

It’s not a stretch to say that unless Devlin and Elliott find ways to spend the province’s $61.7 billion health budget more efficiently, it will be all but impossible for Ford to balance the budget without layoffs (see question 2). 

4. Will hydro rates come down?

One of the PCs’ key election promises was an additional 12 per cent cut in the cost of electricity for residential and small business customers. The party platform said this would cost in the neighbourhood of $800 million a year. About half of that would come from the government’s Hydro One share dividends, and half from the tax base.

But again, refer back to question 2. Keeping the hydro rate promise by spending $800 million a year will not make it any easier to keep the promise to balance the budget.

Ford frequently says he has an all-star cabinet, but some of his ministers, including Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, left, have taken a back seat to Ford on key issues in their portfolios. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

5. Will Ford’s style of governing change? 

The PCs did things at a frantic pace in their first 100 days in power, and they didn’t take their foot off the gas until the Christmas break.

Ford has fulfilled some of his central campaign promises: cancelling cap and trade, scrapping the Liberal sex-ed curriculum, getting rid of the Hydro One CEO and board. So, will he settle into the more sedate pace of having a majority government. Or, after 15 years of Liberals running Ontario, does Ford feel he has so many changes to make, that he cannot slow down?

In the same vein, how will Ford handle the inevitable bumps along the way? His appointment of his friend Ron Taverner to head the OPP is on hold pending an investigation. His move on the sex-ed curriculum is being challenged in court. And no one can predict what other controversies will emerge in the months to come.

Ford had a tremendous 2018, winning all his big battles: the PC leadership, the election campaign, the legal fight over slashing Toronto city council. A significant test of his mettle as a politician will come if he loses a big battle in 2019.


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Will Toronto see fewer killings in 2019? A violent year ends with record totals — and questions


On Dec. 21 at 9 p.m., three men were shot in Etobicoke. Two were found in a bullet-riddled BMW. One, Cimran Farah, 20, died in the hospital six days later.

Farah’s death was the 96th homicide in Toronto in 2018 — the latest, as of Monday afternoon, in a year in which the city surpassed its previous record of 90, from 1991, by mid-November.

July 1: Toronto police block Queen Street W. the morning after a triple shooting that left one woman injured and killed Ernest (Kosi) Modekwe, 28, and Matthew Lidster, 29.
July 1: Toronto police block Queen Street W. the morning after a triple shooting that left one woman injured and killed Ernest (Kosi) Modekwe, 28, and Matthew Lidster, 29.  (Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star)

The youngest victim was a 3-week-old baby girl, one of ten minors killed this year.

The oldest was 94-year-old Betty Forsyth, who was killed in April along with nine others in the Yonge St. van attack.

Forty-six of those killed — just under half — were under the age of 30. Seventy-five were men and boys. Twenty-one were women and girls. By the Star’s count, police have neither arrested nor issued a warrant for arrest in 33 of these killings, excluding one apparent murder-suicide.

In a year-end press conference this week, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders called 2018 a “unique” year marked by increases in gun violence and two exceptional mass casualty events. Looking ahead to the new year, Saunders was optimistic that homicide numbers will decline — a pattern the city has seen before, following the previous record-high year 1991 and another spike between 2005 and 2007.

Read more:

The 96 victims of Toronto’s record year in homicide

What Toronto’s homicide record means — and what we can do about it

Every Toronto homicide in the past 15 years — mapped

But, as criminologist Scot Wortley notes, without better understanding why shooting and gang-related violence has increased, it is difficult to know if this year was an outlier or a sign of a larger trend.

The year began with the Jan. 29 arrest of an alleged serial killer who is accused of targeting men connected to Toronto’s Gay Village since 2010. Bruce McArthur now faces eight charges of first-degree murder.

Then came the April van attack that left 10 dead and 16 injured and in July the Danforth shooting in which 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and 18-year-old Reese Fallon were killed and 13 injured.

Even without the 12 deaths from these two tragedies, Toronto’s homicide numbers for 2018 are high — significantly higher than in 2017, which saw 65 homicides, 2016, which was 75 and 2015, which saw 59.

March 18: An officer with the Toronto police Forensic Identification Services works at the scene of a double shooting at a crowded North York bowling alley. The shooting killed Thanh Tien Ngo, 32, and Ruma Amar, 29, a bystander.
March 18: An officer with the Toronto police Forensic Identification Services works at the scene of a double shooting at a crowded North York bowling alley. The shooting killed Thanh Tien Ngo, 32, and Ruma Amar, 29, a bystander.  (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star)
June 15: The Scarborough playground where two girls, ages 5 and 9, were seriously injured while playing after a gunman opened fire at another man.
June 15: The Scarborough playground where two girls, ages 5 and 9, were seriously injured while playing after a gunman opened fire at another man.  (Anne-Marie Jackson/Toronto Star)
July 25: People gather for a vigil on the Danforth three days after a gunman opened fire in the neighbourhood, shooting 15, killing 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Juliana Kozis.
July 25: People gather for a vigil on the Danforth three days after a gunman opened fire in the neighbourhood, shooting 15, killing 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Juliana Kozis.  (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star)

More than half of Toronto homicides this year, 51, were fatal shootings, just two less than 2005, the city’s infamous “Year of the Gun.”

The victims include 22-year-old Yohannes Brhanu, found dead after a gun battle on a residential street in a car surrounded by bullet casings and shattered glass; 29-year-old Ruma Amar, shot in the back of the head in a hail of gunfire meant for someone else as she, her husband and sister were leaving a North York bowling alley; and 31-year old Jenas Nyarko, a shelter worker killed in a drive-by shooting while sitting in a car outside her apartment with friends after attending a funeral.

The number of shootings in the city this year also appears to have broken a record: In the latest police numbers published Monday, 2018 had seen 424 shootings, more than 2016’s year-end total of 407, which is the largest tally in any year since 2004, according to police data.

Saunders has attributed the gun violence to increased street gang activity and pointed to similar trends across North America. And while he outlined enforcement challenges for police that come with arresting and charging gang members — including witnesses with justifiable fears of retribution, poor community relationships with police, and a “team sport” mentality in gangs that means individual arrests of gang members have limited impact — he emphasized the need for solutions that go beyond policing at his year-end press conference.

“The enforcement piece plays an important part. I’m not here to say that it’s softer policing. I’m here to say that it’s smarter policing. There have to be agencies at the front end that prevent these young boys from shooting others. There’s a lot of funding that needs to be put in. Not grant funding; core funding, into the communities. Nobody’s ever, that I know of, born saying ‘I want to be a street gang member,’” Saunders said.

“To think we can arrest our way out of this is a falsehood.”

August 22: The Danforth is closed again the morning after another shooting at a sports bar killed Danny Morales, 35.
August 22: The Danforth is closed again the morning after another shooting at a sports bar killed Danny Morales, 35.  (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)
Sept. 8: A sign at the Toronto Weston Flea Market as police investigate the shooting of Rocco Scavetta, 65, who was killed during a robbery attempt, police said.
Sept. 8: A sign at the Toronto Weston Flea Market as police investigate the shooting of Rocco Scavetta, 65, who was killed during a robbery attempt, police said.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

In mid-December, the federal government announced Toronto will get $6.76 million in Public Safety funding over a five-year period for a program called the Community Healing Project. Police will also get up to $400,000 over two years to enhance the Neighbourhood Officers Program in eight priority neighbourhoods. Consultations about a handgun and ammunition ban are ongoing.

In the same month, the province announced cuts to after-school programming for at-risk youth that included part-time employment opportunities and tutoring for struggling elementary school children.

Wortley, who has researched gangs and gang violence in Toronto and Ontario, noted that while Toronto did have a record high number of homicides in 2018, the population of the city and the GTA overall has also grown rapidly since the previous record was set in 1991.

Accounting for population, the city has had a homicide rate of approximately 3.5 per 100,000 in 2018 — a number which does not account for the frequent movement of people into Toronto from the GTA on a daily basis.

In 1991, there were 3.8 killings per 100,000, the highest in city records. It would take 111 homicides in 2018 to reach the same rate. The long-term average in Toronto is about 2.4 homicides per 100,000, though it has risen above 3.0 in recent years.

Wortley said it does appear some of the spike in homicides this year are the result of gang-related activity, as well as neigbourhood conflicts that may be intensified through social media. Gang violence seems to have a “cyclical quality,” he said, but without knowing what’s causing the increase, it’s hard to predict whether it will relent.

One potential short-term cause for the increase may stem from the legalization of marijuana, he said, though it remains to be seen to what extent the violence reflects gangs trying to reposition themselves in a shrinking drug market, and trying to move into meth, opioids or cocaine, or into other crimes such as robberies.

However, a longer-term area of concern lies in “disturbing social patterns” that have emerged in Toronto in part due to affordability, he said.

There has been a decline in the quality and availability of affordable housing, an entrenchment of very poor areas in the city, increasing barriers to social mobility and a growing divide between rich and poor as well as a shrinking middle class, Wortley said. It is also important to consider the psychological impact of frequent shootings and violence on communities.

“To what extent is social inequality contributing to higher rates of violence?” Wortley said.

And if it continues, will Toronto begin to see more violence stemming from hopelessness and alienation?

Wortley agreed with Saunders on the need for long-term investment into non-policing solutions but noted that some of the most effective interventions — like early childhood programs — take a long time to show results which makes political support difficult to maintain.

“Do we have the patience to continue to fund those programs so that we can see the benefits of that investment?” he said.

Sept. 26: A memorial for Mackai Jackson, who was shot dead in Regent Park. The boy had days earlier celebrated his 15th birthday.
Sept. 26: A memorial for Mackai Jackson, who was shot dead in Regent Park. The boy had days earlier celebrated his 15th birthday.  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)
Dec. 19: A bullet hole on King St. hours after Edwin (Chris) Humberto Velasquez, 34, was shot dead in a double shooting.
Dec. 19: A bullet hole on King St. hours after Edwin (Chris) Humberto Velasquez, 34, was shot dead in a double shooting.  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

With files from Wendy Gillis, Jim Rankin, May Warren and Star Staff

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati


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Hologram concerts pose questions about ethics, quality  – National


TORONTO — Bringing back late guitarist Jeff Healey as a hologram might seem like sacrilege to many of his fans, but the possibility intrigued one of his former bandmates.

Tom Stephen, one-time drummer and manager of the Jeff Healey Band, says he was of two minds when an Australian entertainment company approached him several years ago with a proposal to incorporate Healey’s likeness in a blues revue.

Amy Winehouse hologram tour set for 2019

The show was pictured as a celebration of the genre’s icons, with other names like B.B. King floated as holograms who might appear.

The company suggested the Canadian blues-rock outfit’s two surviving members reunite alongside a hologram of their star player, who died of cancer at age 41. It would give audiences a chance to witness Healey’s unconventional live performances, which involved him laying an electric guitar flat across his lap to play it.

WATCH: French presidential candidate uses hologram to travel campaign trail

But Stephen was reluctant to hop on the hologram bandwagon.

“It felt a little exploitative,” he says of the pitch.

“Are you really getting to see that musical experience you missed?”

Selena hologram to tour in 2018

He imagined the soullessness of performing a set of favourites like “Angel Eyes” with a digital version of Healey. The comradery would be missing, he decided.

“How would it be to interact night-to-night with a hologram of a bandmate you spent 18 years with?” he remembers thinking.

“Personally, I would find that very difficult.”

WATCH: Roy Orbison goes on tour 30 years after his death

Stephen declined the company’s offer, but acknowledges the possibility of a Healey hologram could be revived again as the technology seeps further into the mainstream.

In the coming year, both musicians and concertgoers will confront the growing presence of “hologram” shows at local concert venues.

Cool or creepy? 10 duets with dead people

The experiment has already dipped into some North American venues where the virtual likeness of deceased crooner Roy Orbison received mixed reviews a few months ago. Opera singer Maria Callas was also resurrected in a performance some critics say looked more like she was a floating ghost than a physical entity.

Glenn Gould will be added to the hologram circuit in 2019, with the late Canadian pianist accompanied by live orchestras as part of a tour organized in co-operation with his estate.

WATCH: Michael Jackson’s holographic performance

Around the same time, Amy Winehouse’s hologram is set to embark on a multi-year run with a backing band, while Swedish pop superstars ABBA will launch a digital reunion.

These shows aren’t true holograms in the technical sense, but rather three-dimensional images projected through mirrors onto a transparent screen, kind of like a movie.

Japanese man marries computer-generated hologram in $18K wedding ceremony

And most performances aren’t just an illusion on the stage, they’re also part of an elaborate studio production where the faces of the deceased performers are transposed onto the bodies of living actors. In the case of Orbison, another musician imitated his performance before the singer’s famous face was digitally pasted onto the body of the stand-in.

So many levels of artificiality can be difficult to pull off convincingly, suggests Kiran Bhumber, co-creator of Telepresence, a recent virtual reality experience at Vancouver’s Western Front arts centre that merged a live trumpet player with visuals displayed on a VR headset.

“(The challenge is) how to create a meaningful experience that stays with audiences,” she says.

“Because it risks becoming a gimmick.”

WATCH: Walk Off The Earth on new Christmas album

Last summer at Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square the perils of a virtual performance were on full display. Casual onlookers gathered for a showcase of famous faces converted into holograms, including a young Michael Jackson circa his Jackson 5 years, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and members of the Black Eyed Peas.

Most people watched the holograms like they might a television screen and occasionally held up their smartphones to capture footage for their social media feeds. But the smattering of applause suggested the excitement was muted, even as real-life hosts encouraged more energy.

Are you ready for facial recognition at concerts? It’s (probably) going to happen

While audiences consider how to respond to holograms, some performers are fascinated with the potential of the evolving technology.

Walk Off the Earth singer Sarah Blackwood was intrigued after she witnessed a projection of Feist that was beamed simultaneously to crowds in three Canadian cities as part of a smartphone launch in 2012. She says the moment inspired her to think about the benefits of a holographic future.

“As an artist, one of things we always talk about is how we’re going to leave our legacy,” she says.

“I don’t want to disappear into the pile of musicians that aren’t remembered. So to have the possibility to come back and share music with people, and live on like that, I think that’s a really interesting concept.”

WATCH: Serena Ryder performs at Castrol Raceway south of Edmonton

Serena Ryder thinks holograms might have a more practical application for living artists like herself who aren’t fans of long tours.

The pop-rock singer considers herself a “reclusive” performer, so replacing some of her live shows with a virtual rendering of herself sounds appealing, she says.

But Ryder is not convinced her hologram would recreate the thrill of a live performance in the flesh.

“I don’t think there’s really anything that can replace actual human skin — the feeling of actual human emotions,” she says.

Even Stephen admits that he’s still captivated by the technological possibilities, even if he didn’t warm to the idea of a Jeff Healey Band hologram show.

There are a few shows he’d shell out cash to see, if the circumstances are right, he supposes. One of them would be seeing the Beatles play their Liverpool hometown, if that hologram ever took shape.

Woodstock music festival: Original site to hold 3-day 50th anniversary concert

“I think that would blow my mind and be a really interesting experience,” he says.

Stephen reflects on his experiences in the Jeff Healey Band in his recent book Best Seat in the House, but recognizes that one day he won’t necessarily have control over the band’s narrative, or whether they’re recreated as holograms.

“My suspicion is as we move into the future this will become common, whether it’s right or wrong,” he says.

“I don’t know if you can stand in the way of that.”


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