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

Dominic Barton, the Canadian ambassador who fought for release of Kovrig and Spavor from China, is leaving post

Dominic Barton, a global consultant and close adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, plans to step down as Canada’s ambassador to China now that Beijing has freed Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

He provided The Globe and Mail with a statement today saying he informed Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly that he would leave the position Dec. 31.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in December, 2018, and imprisoned on charges of espionage, days after Canada detained Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on an U.S. extradition warrant. They were freed in late September, hours after a court in New York dropped the request for Meng, enabling her to leave Canada.

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U.S. staging diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing as Canada mulls a similar move, turning up tensions between the Chinese government and the democratic world.

White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki said today that U.S. officials would not attend the Games next February over Beijing’s mass internment of Uyghurs. U.S. athletes will still compete in China, but no representatives of the U.S. government or diplomatic corps will attend.

The Chinese government threatened unspecified retaliation for the boycott. “If the U.S. insists in willfully clinging to its course, China will take resolute countermeasures,” Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, told reporters. He said the boycott would “affect the dialogue and co-operation between China and the United States in important areas.”

Opinion: A diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics would put athletes in danger Eric Morse

Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to two years to prison

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader – who was deposed in a coup this past February – has been sentenced to two years in prison.

The 76-year-old, who has been held largely incommunicado since the military seized power, was found guilty of incitement and violating pandemic restrictions. The incitement charge involves statements posted on her National League of Democracy party’s Facebook page after she and other top officials were detained, while the COVID-19 charge is in relation to an election rally last November.

A court originally sentenced her to four years, but it was reduced to two by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, state TV reported late today.

Read more about Suu Kyi’s conviction and the military coup in our explainer here.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Today is National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women: It’s observed on the anniversary of the shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989, when a man opened fire inside the engineering school, killing 14 women and injuring others. In today’s episode of The Decibel podcast, The Globe’s Patrick White looks at gun laws in Canada 32 years later, including which firearms are legal and what gun-control advocates would like to see changed.

Maxwell trial resumes: A woman who says Ghislaine Maxwell groomed her for abuse by late financier Jeffrey Epstein while she was a teenager has testified that she initially looked up to the British socialite, calling her “everything that I wanted to be.” Maxwell is on trial for sex trafficking and other charges.

Andreescu takes break from tennis: Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, will take a mental-health break from tennis and sit out the start of next season, including the Australian Open, saying she wants to “reset, recover, and grow” after a “challenging” two years that included getting COVID-19.

Grey Cup lineup set: In yesterday’s CFL division finals, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers held off the Saskatchewan Roughriders to win the West title, while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats came back to beat the Toronto Argonauts to take the East. Next Sunday, the Ticats will play host to the defending Grey Cup champions at Tim Hortons Field.

MARKET WATCH

Wall Street’s major averages closed higher today with economically sensitive sectors and travel-related stocks soaring as investors were encouraged by some optimistic comments from a top U.S. official on the latest COVID-19 variant. Canada’s main stock index also gained, with the energy sector leading advancers.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 646.95 points or 1.87 per cent to 35,227.03, the S&P 500 added 53.24 points or 1.17 per cent to end at 4,591.67, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 139.68 points or 0.93 per cent to 15,225.15.

Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite climbed 227.83 points or 1.1 per cent to 20,861.10.

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TALKING POINTS

Are foreign owners of empty homes to blame for Canada’s unaffordable housing market?

“B.C. shows that taxing empty properties can grow the number of rentals. But the data also suggest that, among investors sitting on fallow real estate, fewer than expected may be foreigners, and more may be Canadians.” Globe editorial

Consumer spending hit full speed as Omicron arrived. Might a touch of restraint be called for?

“If you want to treat yourself after what we all can agree was a hard year, then do it. Anyone who thinks smart money management depends on denial does not understand humans. They need some upside. Just be smart about it by avoiding debt.” Rob Carrick

I’m starting to understand the most outraged hockey fan – the Jersey Tosser

“If one well-refreshed doofus chucks a $250 shirt over the boards, all hell breaks loose. It is a widely accepted, hockey-specific visual cue that the 18-wheeler is 16 wheels over the cliff’s edge.” Cathal Kelly

LIVING BETTER

If you find you’re turning to a personal trainer for more than just advice on proper exercise technique, you’re not alone. Personal trainer Paul Landini finds more and more, people are looking for professionals with the ability to act as a sort of multifaceted medical practitioner. They want someone who they can turn to with questions about fitness, yes, but also issues such as nutrition, sleep and mental health. This is why it’s so important for trainers to have a broad skill set.

TODAY’S LONG READ

Neil Young can’t get enough Barn, or too much Canada

Neil Young and Crazy HorseCourtesy of Warner Records

There’s the old story about Neil Young listening to songs from his 1972 album Harvest on his ranch in California. A left speaker was in his house with the windows upstairs open and the right speaker sat in a barn, with Young listening from a rowboat on a lake in between. Asked if the audio mix was to his satisfaction, he yelled back, “More barn,” now a catchphrase among Young enthusiasts.

Apparently he can’t get enough. Young’s new album with the band Crazy Horse is Barn, named after the place in Colorado in which it was created and recorded. Ahead of its Dec. 10 release – and the screening of a documentary film of the same name in Toronto a day later – the rock legend spoke to The Globe’s Brad Wheeler about life, love and coming back to Canada.

Q: I just saw Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall. What’s this I hear about you playing there at some point again yourself?

A: If everything works out, I will. But I’m still not playing anywhere. I don’t want to. I don’t think we’re ready. I don’t want to be part of a super spreader event. I’m waiting until we get a grip on what we’re doing. Read the full article here.

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