Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:
Canada is ordering family members of diplomatic staff stationed in Ukraine to leave the country, The Globe and Mail has learned. The embassy in Kyiv and the Canadian consulate in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv will remain open.
Global Affairs confirmed this, saying that “due to the ongoing Russian military buildup and destabilizing activities” around Ukraine, staff would be temporarily removed. Today, Ukraine’s leaders sought to reassure the nation that an invasion from neighbouring Russia was not imminent. However, the country received a shipment of U.S. military equipment to shore up their defences, and Russia amassed 100,000 troops in close proximity.
This is advancing the narrative from yesterday’s evening newsletter, where we spoke about Jawed Haqmal, a former Afghan translator for the Canadian military who is stuck in Kyiv and fears being caught in a war zone – again.
- Opinion: When it comes to Ukraine’s national security, Vladimir Putin has already won
Boris Johnson party probe
London’s Metropolitan Police announced today that the force will investigate, not one, but a series of parties held at the British Prime Minister’s Downing Street office during COVID-19 lockdowns. The investigation could result in fines of up to £10,000.
This isn’t the only investigation Johnson is facing as a challenge to his leadership. He’s also awaiting the findings of an internal probe by a senior civil servant into the parties. Between the police probe and the civil probe, conclusions will be critical in determining whether Johnson will face a vote of confidence in his leadership by fellow Conservative members of Parliament.
Also: Yesterday, the government announced plans for returning to test-free travel for the first time since the fall of 2020. Now, the European Union is seeking to streamline cross-border travel by relying more clearly on a person’s vaccine or infection status rather than where a traveller came from.
Meanwhile, COVID in Canada
For St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, the annual giving of X-Rings is a storied tradition – and not even the debut of Omicron could stop it. But after the ring ceremony sparked a COVID-19 outbreak (and polarizes a town), students and townies alike are living with the consequences.
- Restaurant dining rooms in Quebec will be able to reopen beginning next week as part of a gradual easing of COVID-19 measures.
- Hospitals have been asking staff to forgo holidays or take on overtime shifts as Omicron hits health care workers in Toronto.
- Trucker convoy that opposes vaccine mandates continues east to Winnipeg. The Regina Police Service estimates about 1,200 trucks went through the city as they make their way to Ottawa. Also, GoFundMe is withholding $4.5 million until a plan is presented on how those funds will be spent.
Everyone’s talking about it: Inflation
Interest rates could rise as soon as Wednesday, which is the next opportunity for the Bank of Canada to adjust its trendsetting overnight rate. The overnight lending rate is 0.25 per cent right now (the emergency low it was reduced to during the worst of the pandemic). Experts expect the overnight rate could be 2 per cent by year’s end.
If you ask Rob Carrick, rising interest rates will make life harder for a lot of us, but do we ever need them. He analyzes how rising rates will cool inflation, settle the housing market down and reward savers.
- IMF cuts world growth forecast due to Omicron, inflation
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ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Neil Young removes letter demanding Spotify to remove his music: A letter briefly appeared on Neil Young’s website that asked to remove his music from Spotify, according to Rolling Stone, in protest of the platform’s streaming of podcaster Joe Rogan, who has been dismissive of the coronavirus vaccine.
Lockdowns loom over Beijing ahead of Winter Olympics: The lockdowns are part of China’s “zero tolerance” measures to fight the pandemic that have been ratcheted-up ahead of the Games, to prevent a coronavirus outbreak. Those now include requiring tests for anyone who purchases medications to treat cold, cough, fever and other maladies.
Alec Baldwin and civil suit over fatal Rust shooting: Attorneys for Alec Baldwin and other producers of the movie “Rust” are asking a court to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by a script supervisor who was on the set when the actor fatally shot a cinematographer.
77 years after Auschwitz, Jews honour those who rescued them: This year, as the world commemorates the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the German Nazi Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp on Jan. 27, 1945, Yad Vashem and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany have teamed up to highlight the stories of “Righteous Rescuers” like the Sitkowskis who risked everything, even their own lives, to save Jews from getting slain by the Nazis and their henchmen.
In a pattern similar to Monday, U.S. stocks whipsawed between steep losses and modest gains. Equities ended well off session lows, where the S&P 500 flirted once again with confirming a correction.
The Canadian dollar edged higher against the greenback today as some of the recent disquiet in financial markets eased a notch and investors prepared for a potential interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada. The loonie was trading 0.2% higher at 1.2615 to the U.S. dollar, or 79.27 U.S. cents, after trading in a range of 1.2598 to 1.2669. Investors expect the Fed to signal an interest rate increase in March, while the Bank of Canada could hike for the first time since October 2018.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 66.77 points to 34,297.73, the S&P 500 lost 53.68 points to 4,356.45 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 315.83 points to 13,539.30. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended up 19.68 points at 20,590.98, after declining in the five previous trading days.
Why Ontario shouldn’t give casinos a monopoly over regulated online gambling
“Casino operators that want to expand aggressively into iGaming should have every opportunity to do so. However, the game should also include players from outside the gambling industry. Tech and media companies, along with entrepreneurs, have every right to be at the iGaming table.” - Andrew Willis
Privacy outrage over the use of cellphone data by public-health officials is unwarranted
“On the one hand, we do not really know how all of the data collected by private-sector firms are being used. On the other, unwarranted privacy fears risk hobbling all sorts of highly important and positive public uses of data.” - Michael Wolfson, member of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.
Can you cure burnout by going on a vacation?
Some travel companies believe so. And even though wellness tourism has long been a monster category, covering everything from dental care in Thailand to a hot springs staycation, the ever-adapive travel industry is now offering services tailored to an increasingly ubiquitous problem: how to deal with personal burnout. Hospitality burnout programs tend to approach the issue in a holistic way, incorporating physical, metaphysical and psychological elements. And you don’t need to leave too far from home to give it a try.
TODAY’S LONG READ
Princess Basmah’s imprisonment ended as abruptly as it began, but questions remain
Princess Basmah Bint Saud bin Abdulaziz al-Saud was released earlier this month, but questions remain as to whether she has freedom of movement. And three years later, it is also not clear why she was arrested in the first place.
She was more than just a princess: the youngest daughter of Saudi Arabia’s late King Saud has been a working journalist, a successful entrepreneur and an avid advocate for human rights. Her health has also been in headlines, a heart condition that needed medical care outside the country became a human rights argument itself.
“The prison where she was held is infamous,” the princess’s legal adviser, Henri Estramant, told The Globe and Mail. “But I believe the time will soon be right for Princess Basmah to tell the story of her captivity in its entirety, herself.” Read the story here.