13 of the week’s best long reads from the Star, Oct. 10 to 16, 2020

From the Christine Jessop murder revelations to Canadian businessmen implicated in offshore tax schemes, we’ve selected some of the best long reads of the week on thestar.com.

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1. ‘It all fits.’ Christine Jessop’s brother shares his theory about her abduction after police identify killer in her 1984 murder

Kenney Jessop said that Calvin Hoover makes sense as his sister’s murderer.

He said Hoover’s wife, Heather, was very close with his mother, Janet Jessop, and worked as a receptionist alongside his father, Bob Jessop, at Eastern Independent Telecom. The families spent time at each other’s homes for birthdays and barbecues.

And Heather was one of three people who knew where the rest of the family would be that day. She could have passed on that information to Calvin, saying it “off the cuff.”

2. Canadian businessman, Toronto real estate firm implicated in multimillion-dollar offshore tax scheme in Channel Islands

A Canadian millionaire linked to a complex web of offshore companies in Jersey and the British Virgin Islands.

Fraudulent loans, forged contracts and creative accounting designed to hide profits from tax authorities.

And a little-known Toronto real estate development firm in the background that played a key role in the decade-long flow of tens of millions of dollars through offshore tax havens.

A cache of nearly 350,000 documents leaked to international journalists, including at the Toronto Star, detail the corporate empire of Canadian-born businessman John W. Dick and an offshore trust company called La Hougue that pitched clients on investments with the promise of tax-free profits.

3. He owed millions in taxes. Instead of paying up, he enlisted an offshore company to bankrupt his business and cheat the CRA

Doug McKague had been stashing millions of dollars in an offshore tax haven for years when the Canada Revenue Agency finally caught up with him in 2002.

McKague’s brake parts factory in Mississauga, Maple Screw Products Ltd., was siphoning a significant portion of its sales into the British tax haven of Jersey, where McKague owned a dozen shell companies and trust funds that hid his money from the taxman.

The CRA ruled that the offshore payments were too high, disallowed the deductions and reassessed Maple Screw. McKague’s tax bill would eventually top $10 million.

Instead of paying up, McKague enlisted La Hougue, a secretive offshore trust company, to concoct a plan to bankrupt his own profitable business so the CRA could never collect the taxes due, according to a trove of leaked files obtained by European Investigative Collaborations and shared with the Toronto Star.

4. Warning from a pandemic data dump? Ottawa sewage shows ‘alarming’ spike in COVID-19 virus

A novel method of sampling sewage for COVID-19 is showing an “alarming” surge in viral transmission in Ottawa, researchers say — a detection process that belies flattening case counts registered by the province’s strained testing system.

Toronto is set to get its own poop report within weeks.

Because people with COVID-19 shed the virus in their stool, the presence of viral fragments in municipal wastewater has been successfully used as an early-warning system in different cities. In Ontario, scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the University of Ottawa have been at the forefront of this technique.

After remaining low all summer, the virus levels in Ottawa’s wastewater doubled over the month of September, the researchers say. Then, in the first half of October, it doubled again.

5. It’s April all over again. A look at the numbers shows Ontario could be on the brink of another long-term-care catastrophe

Seniors advocates and medical professionals are warning we could be on the cusp of another long-term-care catastrophe as COVID-19 cases in Ontario homes hover around similar numbers seen in early April — just two weeks before a massive spike of infections tore through hundreds of facilities.

“I absolutely am very terrified and worried,” said Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician specializing in long-term care who witnessed first-hand the devastation of the first wave in GTA facilities. “We have to really realize that long-term care is not a parallel universe. More spread of COVID-19 in the community increases the risk of an outbreak starting in long-term-care facilities.”

6. I tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies after seven months. Here’s what that means

It was less than 24 hours after my blood had been drawn, but I couldn’t wait to see my test results. I signed into my online account and saw the words: POSITIVE ABNORMAL. I was thrilled, writes the Star’s May Warren.

It probably sounds strange, but I was relieved to learn that I had been exposed to COVID-19.

This wasn’t a recent exposure. And it wasn’t one of the up-the-nose swab tests that have been conducted, tens of thousands a day, in Ontario as the province faces an alarming second wave.

This was an antibody test, to confirm if the “probable case” of COVID — which last March had me in bed for days and exhausted from simply taking a shower — was actually what I thought it was.

7. Boys’ club on Bay Street? Former RBC employee speaks out against a culture of sexism and silence

Mihaela Constantinescu remembers the day she realized just how bad the behaviour was in the wealth management division at RBC.

She had been working on the 39th floor of the bank’s head office at 200 Bay St. for several years as an associate to an investment adviser, when she walked into the washroom and found a woman crying. Constantinescu described seeing the woman, another associate, in tears after being subjected to sexist comments made by the male investment adviser she worked for.

Not that long after, Constantinescu found herself in the same position when she was subjected to what she alleges was sexual harassment in the workplace.

8. This doctor has a deadly cancer — the same one that killed his brother. A Toronto hospital combined MRI with radiation as a new way to attack it

After a little lapse in memory he experienced in the second week of February, Dr. Jim Swan instantly thought of his identical twin brother George, who had died of a brain tumour a few months earlier.

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And just as quickly, the longtime St. Michael’s Hospital cardiologist diagnosed himself with the same disease.

Scans and a biopsy would confirm that, like his brother, the 74-year-old had developed a glioblastoma multiforme tumour or GBM — a cruel growth, relentless in its malevolence, that defies most standard treatments.

9. ‘Love always wins’: Inside the fight to ease Canada’s COVID-19 travel ban. How these couples beat the odds

Being in two different continents was so unbearable for David Edward-Ooi Poon and Alexandria Aquino that the couple resorted to leaving their phones on overnight so they could be together as they slept.

“The separation itself broke me,” says the Regina man. “I was despondent and felt that there was nothing I could do.”

When he and Aquino, who’s from Ireland, started seeing stories similar to theirs on social media — stories about how Canada’s COVID-19 travel ban was keeping people separated from their loved ones — the couple said they somehow felt less alone.

So, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they decided to lead a battle against bureaucracy and public opinion that were both strongly behind the government’s pandemic border response.

10. To some Pennsylvania voters, Donald Trump is a threat to democracy. To others, he’s a regular guy for the regular people

With less than a month to go before the U.S. election, Pennsylvania is under the national microscope. American political watchers obsess about electoral college scenarios, and recent conventional wisdom says Pennsylvania may be the most likely to be the tipping point state that throws victory to one candidate or another on Nov. 3. A state that had voted for Democrats stretching back to 1992, Pennsylvania sent its 20 electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2016 by a margin of fewer than 50,000 votes.

This has meant some time in the spotlight for the small, industrial city of Johnstown, population 19,195. It’s a picturesque place surrounded by green mountains. It’s also the poorest town in the state, with a poverty rate near 40 per cent and an average annual income of $24,294 (U.S.).

“Trump’s helped out around here. People I know who live around here are coal people, energy people. Biden gets back in, they’re going to destroy the energy industry,” said Paul, a self-described “union guy,” while his friends at the table nodded. A woman at the next table shouted out periodically that Trump was the regular guy for the regular people.

11. ‘A crazy system’: U.S. voters face huge lines and gerrymandering. How Elections Canada makes a world of difference north of the border

Amid pictures of hours-long lineups for voters, scrutiny of the U.S. electoral process and its vagaries may be at an all-time high. Meanwhile, north of the border, Elections Canada, the model of a politically independent electoral agency, is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Though it has not been immune to occasional political chicanery, the Elections Canada model is currently offering a stark contrast to the U.S. and the accusations of partisanship and voter suppression that have been aimed at its process.

12. ‘The RCMP just stood there’: Attack on Mi’kmaq fishery sparks tense standoff, condemnation

Twenty-four hours after it began, it came down to this: Some 30 members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, protecting a lobster storage space Wednesday, suspiciously eyeing the 200 non-Indigenous fishermen whose trucks lined the narrow road along St. Mary’s Bay as far as the eye could see.

The mood was tense, the frustrations evident.

The previous night, somebody had severely damaged the water-filtration system in the warehouse, and torched a van in the parking lot.

13. We can’t eliminate COVID risk in schools. But can we solve the runny-nose riddle for screening symptomatic students?

Eleven people were infected with COVID-19 during a family gathering at a vacation home in the U.S. this summer.

The source of the outbreak, according to a report on the case released Oct. 5 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: a 13-year-old girl with the sniffles. “Nasal congestion” was her only symptom.

Earlier this month, as sniffly kids flooded Ontario’s COVID assessment centres, and the province’s testing backlog surpassed 80,000, the government loosened symptom screening guidelines for schools and daycares. The new rules allow kids with runny noses and several other short-lived symptoms to return to class without a test, following a similar move in British Columbia.

The revisions are controversial, especially in hot spots like Toronto.