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

Fears of coronavirus pandemic spreads

Seventeen people are dead and 548 sickened in China as of Wednesday afternoon, as the Wuhan coronavirus’ spread to Hong Kong has raised fears of a new pandemic in Asia. Four cases had been reported in Thailand and one each in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Chinese authorities have ordered the closure of all transportation networks into Wuhan and health officials have acknowledged their ability to limit further transmission will be challenged by the normal heavy travel associated with the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

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The World Health Organization held a briefing Wednesday and said it will decide tomorrow whether to declare a global emergency over the outbreak. Here are other details:

  • One U.S. case was discovered Tuesday in Washington state, but none have been reported in B.C., Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday. The local disease-control agency has a test for the new virus and health workers have been instructed to be vigilant, they said. Travellers are being screened for infection at Vancouver’s airport.
  • Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of this new virus, which they say came from a market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally. The World Health Organization says an animal appears most likely to be the primary source.

Background: What we know so far about the Wuhan coronavirus

Editorial: How to fight a new virus, using the lessons learned from the SARS outbreak

Trump accused of ‘corrupt scheme’ to pressure Ukraine at impeachment trial

The lead Democratic prosecutor in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump accused the President of setting up a corrupt scheme to press Ukraine to help him win re-election. This is the first of three days of arguments from the Democrats. Representative Adam Schiff’s opening arguments focused on Trump’s pressure tactics on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden and his son on unsubstantiated corruption charges last year. Schiff played several clips from witnesses in last year’s House judiciary committee impeachment hearings.

At a press conference in Davos, Switzerland, where Trump is speaking at the World Economic Forum, he told reporters that Democrats did not have enough evidence to find him guilty and remove him from office.

Analysis: Trump’s impeachment trial will set the stage for the real jurors – voters in NovemberDavid Shribman

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Opinion: Reality-TV rules reduce Trump’s impeachment trial to farce – John Doyle

CBC’s The National to drop four-host television format

In a memo to staff outlining changes to The National, executive producer Chad Paulin said Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang will the news program’s co-hosts and will anchor the Monday-to-Thursday broadcasts. As Simon Houpt reports, Ian Hanomansing will host the Friday and Sunday programs and Rosemary Barton will become the chief political correspondent of CBC News. The National moved to a four-anchor format in 2017 after long-time host Peter Mansbridge retired. Paulin alluded to poor audience performance in the memo, saying CBC’s audience "told us they want to know what they can expect night to night: who will bring them the news and how it will be delivered. ... This season we have slowly introduced measures that lead to a more consistent program – including tweaks to our format and sharpened hosting roles.”

Alleged bank fraud at heart of Meng extradition case, prosecutors argues

Prosecutors defended a U.S. extradition request for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on Wednesday, and argued Meng’s alleged bank fraud is at the heart of the case – a pointed counter to her defence team’s argument that “double criminality” is the heart of the extradition case. Prosecutor Robert Frater said Meng was arrested on charges of bank fraud, which is a crime in both countries, and not because of U.S. allegations she violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. On Monday and Tuesday, Meng’s legal team argued the case is really about a violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran, which they argue can not be prosecuted in Canada because Canada has no economic sanctions against Iran.

Other developments related to the extradition case:

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  • Andrea Woo reports on a Vancouver actor who feels duped after being offered a spot as a background actor only to realize she had been recruited as a pro-Meng protester in front of the B.C. Supreme Court.
  • As well, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair now says the federal government will be considering political implications in addition to national security as it decides whether to bar Huawei from 5G.

UN experts call for ‘immediate investigation’ into possible hacking of Jeff Bezos’s phone

United Nations digital forensic experts said on Wednesday that Amazon billionaire and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos’s iPhone was hacked after he received a video file sent from an account used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The report suggests Bezos was targeted in an effort “to influence, if not silence” The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia. The Post, and particularly the work of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, was critical of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince. Khashoggi was killed about five months after Bezos’s phone was hacked. The UN report also says that while Saudi Arabia was “supposedly investigating the killing of Mr. Khashoggi ... it was waging a massive online campaign against Mr. Bezos.”

The Guardian newspaper, which broke the story, drew a connection between the hack and how the National Enquirer acquired and later published intimate details about Bezos’s private life, including text messages.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Former Canadian reservist with alleged neo-Nazi ties denied bail in U.S.: Patrik Mathews is facing several firearms charges amid allegations of wanting to start a race war. He is alleged to have discussed the planning of violence at a gun-rights rally in Virginia on Monday and is also accused of having talked about derailing trains, sabotaging power lines and advocating for killing people as part of a “violent revolution” based on race.

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Prosecution gives opening statements at Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial in New York: Weinstein was described by prosecutors as a sexual predator who used his movie-magnate stature to abuse women for decades. Weinstein’s defence has portrayed the trial as a time to confront what they see as a climate of accusation run amok.

Australia briefly evacuates parts the capital Canberra after bushfire breaks out near airport: Searing hot weather ended a few days of respite and the number of out-of-control blazes surged in the southeast of the country.

Rogers falls short of revenue forecasts as more customers switch to unlimited data plans: Rogers Communications Inc. saw its fourth-quarter net income decline by 7 per cent; quarterly net income totalled $468-million, down from $502-million a year ago.

Florida residents warned to watch out for stunned iguanas falling from trees: Temperatures in South Florida were predicted to fall Wednesday morning to between freezing and 5 degrees, prompting the warnings. The invasive reptiles go into a state similar to hibernation when the temperature falls, but don’t necessarily die.

MARKET WATCH

Canada’s main stock index scaled an all-time peak on Wednesday after the central bank maintained its key overnight interest rate but opened the door to a possible cut should a slowdown in Canadian growth drag on. The Bank of Canada has held interest rates steady since October 2018 even as several of its international counterparts have eased monetary policy. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was unofficially up 27.58 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 17,599.86.

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World stock markets bounced back on Wednesday, even as deaths from China’s new virus rose to 17, while oil prices tumbled as a market surplus forecast alleviated supply concerns. Worries about contagion of the virus and its effect on the global economy, particularly as millions travel for upcoming Lunar New Year festivities, had knocked the world’s top equity markets off record peaks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 9.63 points, or 0.03%, to 29,186.41, the S&P 500 gained 0.98 points, or 0.03%, to 3,321.77 and the Nasdaq Composite added 12.96 points, or 0.14%, to 9,383.77.

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TALKING POINTS

Fifty years later, metric still hasn’t won the day in Canada

“Canadians may be familiar with highway speed limits in kilometres an hour, or weather forecasts in degrees Celsius. But for every unit of measurement that has been converted to metric there is another that has remained stubbornly imperial. After 50 years, this can’t be put down to generational inertia. Ask any 12-year-old how tall they are or how much they weigh. The answers will be in feet, inches and pounds.” – Andrew Coyne

Alberta has a rare rare-earth opportunity on its hands – if it chooses to seize it

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“It’s time once again for the federal and provincial governments to use public revenues generated in part from existing higher carbon industries to fund innovation and enable the large capital investment required to prove out new technologies, through an array of tried-and-tested policy and funding tools: direct investment, provision of low-cost capital, along with procurement policies and mandates.” – Sara Hastings-Simon is a research fellow at the University of Calgary

Avoiding a dangerous water war between Ethiopia and Egypt

“A dangerous water war was averted last week [between Egypt and Ethiopia]. But predicted droughts from global warming threaten the peace negotiated in northeastern Africa.” – Robert Rotberg

LIVING BETTER

What are the different kinds of Asian noodles?

Food columnist Lucy Waverman explains the long and short of Asian noodles, including which are meant for soup dishes, which are meant for the stir-fry pan with meat and veggies and which can be deep-fried as a base for many dishes. Here’s Lucy’s guide to help you choose the right noodle.

Nestruck on Theatre: What’s on stage across Canada Jan. 21-26

The Globe’s theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck highlights the avant-garde PuSh Festival in Vancouver, which kicks off just as the High Performance Rodeo in Calgary winds down. PuSh brings in intriguing work from the world and showcases Canadian work from our most innovative theatre artists, he writes.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Holocaust survivor John Freund came to Canada still bearing the letters and numbers that were tattooed on his forearm for identification purposes at Auschwitz.

Fred Lum

Auschwitz, 75 years later: What Canada’s survivors remember about the death camp’s horrors

As children, they were among more than one million people rounded up into the Nazis’ most infamous concentration camp. They lost family and found traumas that still haunt them in their 80s and 90s. These are their stories.

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