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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

After spending nearly 15 years in an Egyptian prison for a crime he insists he did not commit, Canadian Egyptian Mohamed el-Attar has returned to Canada.

Mr. el-Attar, who now goes by Joseph Attar, was convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His conviction was based mostly on a confession, which he said he signed after being tortured with electric shocks and forced to drink his own urine.

Pushing his few belongings on an airport luggage cart to start his life from scratch in Canada, Mr. Attar said through tears that he can’t believe he is finally free.

“I don’t believe I’m here after 15 years. I’m free, no more handcuffs, no more being afraid of an officer. No more double face. No more hiding my faith,” he told The Globe early Friday morning at Toronto Pearson airport. He said he is innocent and wants to clear his name.

Joseph Attar receives a hug from One Free World International's Reverand Majed El Shafie upon arriving at Pearson Airport upon being freed after 15 years by the Egyptian Government, in Toronto, Ont. on Jan. 14, 2022.J.P. MOCZULSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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Warning to Ukraine to ‘be afraid and expect the worst’ signals talks between Russia, NATO have failed

If the worst-case scenario is realized and Russia launches an invasion of Ukraine in the days and weeks ahead, historians will likely look back on the past week as a great failure of diplomacy, The Globe’s Mark MacKinnon writes.

In what could mark the first phase of a new conflict, dozens of Ukrainian government websites were knocked out Friday in what appeared to be a massive and co-ordinated cyberattack. The websites of seven ministries as well as the country’s Cabinet Office, the Treasury and other key government services pages were taken down and replaced by a message – written in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish – that said Ukrainians’ personal data had been leaked online. “Be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future,” the message read, in part.

Ukraine’s Information Ministry said “first data” suggested that the attack “was carried out by the Russian Federation.” It said no personal data had been compromised.

Read more:

Activists hold posters and national flags during a Say No to Putin rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 9, 2022.Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press

Hospitalizations expected to surge in Canada, PHAC modelling says, while COVID-19 cases appear to be peaking

Canada could be approaching the peak of the Omicron wave of COVID-19 as the country’s most populous provinces start to see case counts stabilize, Canada’s top doctor said on Friday, but Theresa Tam warned hospitalizations will still grow.

Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer, told a virtual news conference that the peak of the wave was in sight, but there is still significant uncertainty when cases and hospitalizations will start to decline.

“I think a number of provinces, the biggest ones, who have particularly experienced the surge the earliest are seeing some stabilization, at a very high level, but some stabilization in the daily case rates,” Tam said.

“I think this is the early signal that we could be approaching that peak.”

Mobile hospitals that cost Ottawa $300-million sitting in storage

Ottawa had allocated $300-million at the beginning of the pandemic for the construction of 15 mobile hospitals, but only four 100-bed units have been completed and they are sitting in storage despite the strain on hospitals caused by Omicron across the country.

The federal government gave a sole-sourced contract of up to $150-million to a joint venture between SNC-Lavalin and Pacific Architects and Engineers (SNC-PAE) in April, 2020, to build five mobile respiratory-care hospitals that can be set up in existing structures such as conference centres and indoor skating arenas.

So far, Weatherhaven has delivered three units and none of them are currently in use, according to the office of federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

Read more:

Workers erect a field hospital in the parking lot of Sunnybrook Hospital, in Toronto, on March 17, 2021.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail


ALSO ON OUR RADAR

In Australia, the match between Djokovic, the kooks and the puritans looks pretty even: On Friday, the Australian government re-cancelled the visa of the tennis world’s No. 1 men’s player, Novak Djokovic. His lawyers reapplied for judicial relief. He will be reinserted in hotel lockdown. The court scenes will likely be replayed on Monday. Cathal Kelly writes about the possible outrage.

Alberta earmarks $30-million for carbon capture projects so technology is ‘ready to go’ ahead of federal tax credit: As Ottawa works on a carbon-capture tax credit slated for release this year, Alberta is ratcheting up funding for the technical and engineering know-how to make sure as many projects as possible are ready to go when the federal plan is released.

Canada’s allies in Afghanistan left stranded as they await evacuation: Volunteer organizations are desperately seeking support to keep safe houses open for families still trying to find a way out of the perilous country.

Air strikes by Ethiopia kill 108 civilians in Tigray region, UN says: An accelerating wave of Ethiopian air strikes in Tigray region has killed a reported 108 civilians, jeopardizing fragile peace talks and further damaging an emergency aid effort that is already on the verge of ending because of blocked supplies.

One dead, five missing after explosion at Ottawa tanker-truck manufacturer: One man is dead and five people are missing after an explosion at an Ottawa tanker-truck manufacturer Thursday.

Jordan Banks, president of Rogers Sports & Media, to leave company as battle for control continues: Jordan Banks, the president of Rogers Sports & Media, is leaving the company in the wake of a tumultuous battle for control of the Toronto-based telecom and media giant, according to sources.

Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies sidelined after mild heart inflammation detected following bout with COVID-19: Alphonso Davies’s return from a bout of COVID-19 has been put on hold with Bayern Munich saying the Canadian star shown signs of an inflammation of the heart muscle.


MARKET WATCH

The Dow closed lower with a big drag from financial stocks as investors were disappointed by fourth quarter results from big U.S. banks, which cast a shadow over the earnings season kick-off.

But the TSX, Nasdaq and the S&P 500 regained lost ground in afternoon trading to close higher. The energy sector again rallied sharply in Canada, while a decent bid returned to technology stocks.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended up 64.60 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 21,357.56. For the week, the index was up 1.3 per cent, snapping a two-week losing streak.

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TALKING POINTS

The Conservatives hand Beijing a win by abandoning their China committee

“If Beijing was behind the disinformation campaign targeting Conservative candidates, then Leader Erin O’Toole has now gifted them a win. The propaganda worked: Not only did it arguably cost the Conservatives a few seats, but it also likely scared the party into abandoning its committee created specifically to probe these matters. If Beijing wasn’t behind the campaign, well, the Conservatives gifted them a win anyway: The committee isn’t coming back, one source of heat is off and China didn’t have to lift a finger.” – Robyn Urback

Parents are burnt out. But many of us can’t afford the help we need

“For nearly two years, moms and dads across Canada have been parenting on the edge of our seats, raising our children with the rise and fall of the pandemic. Two years of not knowing if our kids will be in school. Two years of social isolation. Two years of ‘good enough’ parenting – which for many us means throwing Cheerios at our kids like pigeons in the park while we try to get a few minutes of work done. I think I speak for all of us when I say: We can’t do it any more. We need help.” – Anneliese Lawton

Calm down: Quebec’s unvaxxed tax may be a stretch, but it’s hardly the assault on liberty critics claim

”The question to ask, when someone suggests that a tax on obesity is next, is: is obesity a highly contagious disease? That is what distinguishes the case for a tax on the unvaxxed from a tax on, say, sugar. It isn’t only for the sake of the individual’s own health, or even the costs to the health care system: it’s to prevent that individual from infecting others.” – Andrew Coyne

Brexit hasn’t ended the European Union – it’s given it a new sense of purpose

“Britain offers a salutary lesson. The country is cracking up – not with laughter, but literally. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, both Brexit and the subsequent ascent of the Boris Johnson government have driven new supporters into the arms of the secessionists.” – John Rapley


LIVING BETTER

Flying south for the winter? Here’s what restrictions await in popular winter travel destinations for Canadians

The spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Canada and the rest of the world isn’t stopping Canadians from travelling this year.

Across the country, snowbirds are preparing to take flight. Global Affairs Canada has recommended that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside of the country, but international travel is still allowed. If you’re considering flying south for the winter, here’s what restrictions await in some of the most popular vacation destinations for Canadians.

What helps with a pandemic hair regimen?

While previous waves of the pandemic found some of us using extra hours at home to level up our skin-care regimes, something new to consider as many hunker down this time around is formalizing a hair-care regimen. As the creative director and owner of Curl Rituals salon in Toronto, Tamara Theresa is an avid proponent for hair health, something she says is best achieved through a considered approach, similar to how we care for our skin.

“Going on a regimen is definitely the best goal you should have because it maintains healthy hair and helps with seeing results,” she says, explaining that a hair-care regimen can include a set plan of regular deep conditioning treatments, protecting your hair at night or using a scalp scrub. To get started, she says that a regimen can be established with the help of a hair professional who will review your hair type and recommend appropriate products and frequency of use.


TODAY’S LONG READ

At 400, French playwright Molière’s satirical eye is as sharp as ever in the age of the internet and ivermectin

Stephen Ouimette as Argan / Molière and Brigit Wilson as Toinette in The Hypochondriac in 2016.David Hou/Stratford Festival

Canada’s two official languages may, unofficially, be dubbed the language of Shakespeare and la langue de Molière.

But compared to the near-constant celebrations in this country connected to the former playwright’s 450th birthday (in 2014) and the 400th anniversary of his death (in 2016), the latter’s quadricentennial this year is certainly starting as a much more subdued affair.

Few in Canada have yet clocked that Jan. 15 marks the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, the 17th-century French actor and playwright who would later rechristen himself Molière so as not to embarrass his father too much.

His comedic masterpieces in verse and prose such as Tartuffe, Le Misanthrope and Le malade imaginaire are certainly not any less relevant now than Shakespeare’s canon was in the 2010s; indeed, Molière’s satirical yet humanistic depictions of deluded and obsessed men who fall for hypocritical leaders, absurd ideologies and quack cures are almost too au courant in our Internet (and Ivermectin) era.

Evening Update is written by Emerald Bensadoun. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.