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Former Canadian diplomat detained in China; Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s bail hearing continues

Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave who is now working for a non-profit organization, has been detained by Chinese authorities, The Globe and Mail has confirmed. He had been a diplomat in the Canadian embassies in Beijing, Hong Kong and the United Nations, and has worked for the International Crisis Group since February, 2017.

The report of his detention comes after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited for an alleged fraud related to violating trade sanctions against Iran. China’s foreign ministry threatened “severe consequences” if Ms. Meng was not immediately released. The Chinese embassy in Canada said the arrest amounts to a “political conspiracy” to undermine Huawei and dismisses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that he had no role in the high-profile case.

Ms. Meng’s bail hearing entered its third day in Vancouver today, with a group of locals offering up to $3-million worth of equity in Vancouver homes as collateral in case she flees. (for subscribers)

Police say they have busted gun-manufacturing ring in the Toronto area

Police in the Greater Toronto Area say they have dismantled a major weapons trafficking operation responsible for manufacturing and selling at least 120 untraceable guns, Patrick White writes. Twenty-three people are facing 156 charges.

The traffickers allegedly bought legally available gun parts and assembled them into restricted and prohibited weapons, exposing a hole in national gun regulations that allows for the unchecked sale of certain firearms components.

Police said the guns have been linked to numerous crimes in the GTA, but could not divulge details while some of those cases remain under investigation or go through the courts.

Election reform bill passed in time for implementation in 2019 federal vote

Legislation aimed at preventing foreign interference and constraining the influence of big money in Canadian elections was approved by the Senate late yesterday. Bill C-76 is expected to receive royal assent later this week, which means the reforms will apply during next year’s federal election campaign.

The omnibus bill will restore the use of voter information cards as a valid form of identification to prove residency. It will limit spending by parties and advocacy groups during the three-month period before an election is officially called, as well as during the official campaign. And it scraps a Tory-instituted provision allowing parties to spend $650,000 for each day a campaign exceeds the minimum 37 days and caps the maximum campaign length at 50 days.

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While European markets gained today, North American stocks mostly slipped in volatile trading following threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to shut down the government over a funding fight, though stocks in Europe advanced on signs of a thaw in the U.S.-China trade battle.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 53.02 points to 24,370.24, the S&P 500 lost 0.94 points to 2,636.78 and the Nasdaq Composite added 11.31 points to 7,031.83.

Canada’s main stock index also slid as energy stocks dipped despite a modest rise in oil prices. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index finished down 60.45 points at 14,667.83.

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Michelle Obama is adding Canadian cities to the book tour supporting her memoir Becoming, which has already sold more than three million copies: Vancouver on March 21, Edmonton on March 22, Montreal on May 3 and Toronto on May 4. (for subscribers)

Time magazine today named a group of journalists, including slain Saudi Arabian writer Jamal Khashoggi and a pair of Reuters journalists imprisoned by Myanmar’s government, as its Person of the Year, in a cover story headlined The Guardians and the War on Truth.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, left, and Ma Pan Ei Mon and Chit Su Win holding photos of their husbands, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar. (Courtesy Time Magazine/Reuters)Supplied/Reuters

CBC is changing its position on controversial holiday classic Baby, It’s Cold Outside, and is returning the song to its playlists after pulling it out of rotation last week.

Enbridge, Canada’s largest pipeline operator, says it will increase its dividend by 10 per cent for 2019 and expects a further 10-per-cent increase for 2020.


Alberta’s fury is aimed at Quebec (again)

“I’ve never understood why politicians in Alberta think those in the rest of the country should be down on their hands and knees in gratitude because people in that province make so much. I understand there are many living there now who are genuinely suffering as a result of the downturn in oil prices. There are people under economic stress in every province. (Visit Newfoundland and Labrador.) But trying to exploit that grief for political gain is wrong.” - Gary Mason

Democrats aren’t even close to making a case for impeaching Trump

“What he did is not to be taken lightly. He could well face felony charges after he leaves office. But collusion with mistresses is hardly in a league with collusion with the Russians to subvert a general election. If and until there is more evidence of the latter, the Democrats should leave the 'i' word alone.” - Lawrence Martin

To decide on breast cancer screening, women must be armed with the right information

“How many women and their doctors understand that the benefits of screening are limited, while the risk of overdiagnosis resulting in over treatment is significant? Or that the harms might even outweigh the benefits, especially in women under 50?” - Renée Pellerin, author and former CBC health journalist

Supporting health research comes at a cost

“There’s an adage in business that you need to spend money to make money. The same philosophy needs to apply to public spending. If we want to get the best return on investment for public funding, we need to ensure the money is well spent.”- André Picard


Planning to take in some movies during the holiday season? Globe film critic Barry Hertz has compiled his top picks of the year. (for subscribers) The good news is that he found “many works of intense creativity and varied soul-stirring sensibilities.” His list ranges from Alfonso Cuaron’s family portrait Roma, to Steve McQueen’s caper flick Widows to Canadian director Sofia Bohdanowicz’s thoughtful documentary Maison du Bonheur.


How to raise a grateful child

It turns out there may be a simple way to make children less materialistic and more grateful for what they have, Dave McGinn writes.

In a study published earlier this year, Lan Chaplin of the University of Illinois at Chicago and her colleagues used questionnaires to measure the materialism and gratitude of 61 young people between the ages of 11 and 17. They were then divided into two groups. One group was told to record their daily activities in a journal for two weeks. The other was told to write about who and what they were thankful for in a gratitude journal for the same time period.

There was no change in the levels of materialism and gratitude among the children who simply wrote about their daily activities, while those who kept a gratitude journal saw a significant decrease in their materialism and increase in thankfulness.

Just how much this can affect a child’s behaviour can be seen in another aspect of the study. After handing in their journals, the kids were given 10 $1 bills and told they could keep the money or donate some or all of it to charity. Those who kept a gratitude journal gave more than two-thirds of their money to charity, while those who only recorded their daily activities kept more than half of it.

Harley-riding Alberta nurse generates big buzz on L.A. fashion label. Now for the hard part

Danita Short is founder, chief executive and primary muse of an upstart fashion label called Land of Distraction. A year ago, the label announced itself at a splashy party at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles that drew the likes of Kate Bosworth and Angela Bassett. A few months later, the company landed a deal to sell its clothes at Barneys, a luxury retailer in the United States. There was a lot of hype: Interview Magazine called Land of Distraction “L.A.'s coolest new label.”

This unlikely rise is underpinned by the coming together of an unusual trio: Laurie Venning, a welder who made a fortune in the oil patch; Christian Juul Nielsen, a fashion designer who was a rising star at Christian Dior; and Ms. Short, a Harley-riding nurse turned fashion impresario.

She grew up on a farm about 300 kilometres northeast of Calgary. Coronation, the closest town, was a half-hour away and home to less than 1,000 people. She became an emergency room and trauma nurse at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. “My brain runs on that level,” she said. “Organized chaos and critical thinking.” Outside work, she took off on cross-continent rides on her Harley Davidson motorcycle. Long stretches of road, sunrises and sunsets and Motel 6s. Read more of David Ebner’s profile of Danita Short here.

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Danita Short at her family's home in Alberta. (Todd Korol for The Globe and Mail)Todd Korol/Globe and Mail

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