Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:
The warnings of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong seem likely to finally be realized, as China’s government prepares to pass new laws to bring the island territory more in line with the rest of China. The new rules are expected in the aftermath of months of protests last year where activists seeking more rights for Hong Kong clashed with police in the streets of Asia’s financial capital.
“Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese, our Hong Kong compatriots included,” said Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the National People’s Congress, who described the planned legislation.
Still, as Nathan VanderKlippe writes, the likelihood of Beijing acting unilaterally toward Hong Kong had been dismissed even recently by legal experts, who saw it as a risky strategy for China, in part because Chinese law does not fit well with Hong Kong’s common law tradition.
The psychology of inoculation: How many will take a coronavirus vaccine?
Even before the new coronavirus caused a worldwide pandemic, vaccine hesitancy was cited by the World Health Organization as a threat to global health. Now, the reality of how long it will take to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is starting to sink in, triggering fears within the medical community that too many people will view the vaccine as more threatening than the virus itself.
“Once the trust in vaccination is weakened,” anthropologist Eve Dubé tells The Globe’s Erin Anderssen, “we are vulnerable to crisis.”
Battling waves of misinformation online, public health officials have reasons to be worried. A survey in March found 15 per cent of Canadians and 20 per cent of Americans said they wouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine if it was available.
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In COVID-19 news:
U.S. secures 300 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccine
The U.S. Department of Health has agreed to provide up to $1.2-billion to accelerate a British drug maker’s vaccine development and secure 300 million doses for the United States. The funding allows a late-stage – Phase III – clinical trial of the vaccine with 30,000 people in the United States. Immunity to the new coronavirus is uncertain, so the effects of vaccine use at this stage are unclear.
Trudeau to speak with premiers about how Ottawa can help provinces increase COVID-19 testing capacity
Economies may be started to reopen in places such as Ontario and Quebec, but provinces are struggling to ramp up levels of testing for the new coronavirus that would ward off a second wave of infections. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would raise the issue and discuss his government’s offer to help with testing in his phone call with premiers today.
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Trump in Michigan: Donald Trump toured a Ford factory in Michigan today, casting a spotlight on a state where tensions between pandemic-related restrictions and looser measures meant to spur the U.S. economy are taking on partisan characteristics.
Digital by default: Shopify Inc. is asking most of its 5,000-plus employees to keep working remotely even after the COVID-19 pandemic, report Josh O’Kane and Rachelle Younglai. With vast swaths of the world’s office workers now working remotely, businesses are now rethinking their commercial real estate costs. Tech companies are leading the way.
Alberta regulator relaxes: Environmental monitoring in the heart of Canada’s energy sector has been largely suspended. The regulator attributes the decision to restrictions brought on by COVID-19, but critics note that the list of exemptions resembles those advocated by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
Wall Street and the TSX dipped today because of factors such as tensions between China and the U.S. and long-term consequences of the coronavirus.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX Composite Index was unofficially down 112.78 points, or 0.75 per cent, at 14,884.85. Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 100.21 points, or 0.41 per cent, to 24,475.69, the S&P 500 lost 23.1 points, or 0.78 per cent, to 2,948.51, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 90.90 points, or 0.97 per cent, to 9,284.88.
Oil markets, though, enjoyed their highest gains in 2½ months on expectations that demand is set to rebound. U.S. crude futures rose 43 cents to settle at US$33.92 a barrel, while Brent settled up 31 cents at US$36.06 a barrel.
Women missing from the workplace can’t become the new normal
Rita Trichur: “The prospect of six more weeks of home schooling and a dearth of summer programs means many women will be forced to shelve their professional ambitions for the foreseeable future – even though the economy is reopening. A new non-profit organization ... wants to make sure that women stepping back from the workplace does not become the new normal.”
An atrocity at an Afghan maternity ward upends the U.S.’s peace plans
Ruchi Kumar: “Afghanistan’s intelligence agency has repeatedly insisted that the country’s ISIS presence operates in a close nexus with the Haqqani Network, an ally of the Taliban that has been party to the current talks. If proven true, such an alliance could ensure that violence in Afghanistan continues even after a deal is struck with the Taliban. Other insurgencies also seem eager to replace the Taliban flags with their own.”
Gun advocates’ changing definition of ‘assault rifles’ is meant to sow confusion
Blake Brown: “The spike in public concern with such guns after the Montreal tragedy meant that it was suddenly inadvisable to claim that you owned or sold assault rifles. As a result, the gun community increasingly rebranded them ‘modern sporting rifles’ to make these weapons sound less threatening.”
Eight all-over-the-map forecasts for house prices
Rob Carrick: “The stock market plunged in March as the pandemic took hold and has been surging back ever since. Can this optimism carry over to housing? We won’t know until the economic damage caused by the recession becomes apparent in the months ahead. Keep your eye on the unemployment rate in particular. A strong job market, which we had before the pandemic, is the foundation of a strong housing market. If the unemployment rate is slow to decline, the national appetite for home will suffer.”
Fast furniture doesn’t have the same poor reputation as fast fashion, but it should
Being stuck at home for so long, it’s reasonable to want to update a few pieces of furniture. But beware: Choosing cheaply made items can have both long-term and immediate consequences. As Matthew Hague discovers, fast furniture is easily damaged in transit, and commonly ends up in landfills after its too-short lifespan is complete. Better to think sustainably and shop for vintage or solidly built pieces.
Why it’s now or never for the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards
Following the shock of having to scrap its carefully (and diplomatically) prepared industry showcase, Canadian Screen Week, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television is taking the unusual step of holding its awards announcements entirely over social media next week. For many reasons, postponing its planned gala was a non-starter, and instead the group hopes it can reach viewers who are scouring for something good to watch at home. Barry Hertz reports.
TODAY’S LONG READ
How the influence industry has replaced politics, from Brexit to Donald Trump to COVID-19
Conservative populists in Britain and the United States have enjoyed victory after victory in recent years, so much so that right-wing ideas have pervaded the political landscape and shifted the benchmarks of public opinion. How that plays out in the big debates of the 2020s has yet to be determined, but the story of a notorious spin doctor from the last generation – as told by directors Richard Poplak and Diana Neille in a new documentary – offers compelling context.
In Influence, the business of disinformation is personified by Lord Timothy Bell, a British advertising executive who went on to help elect Margaret Thatcher. Her brand of political success, and those that followed, set up conditions for today’s right-wing populist victories such as Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. Not only did Bell change conservatism, he allowed it to thrive and advised various leaders (including vicious despots) on how to master it.
Bell’s rise, Poplak and Neille write, coincided with advancements in behavioural science, with a focus on the actions of the herd, not individuals within it.
Read the full essay from the directors of Influence here.
John Doyle reviews the film: Influence: The story of the most wicked man in the world
Evening Update is compiled and written weekdays by an editor in The Globe’s live news department. 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.