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

How an abandoned ship became a ‘ticking time bomb’ in Beirut

The root of Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut — which has killed at least 100 people, injured thousands and left nearly 300,000 people homeless — appears to have started in November, 2013, with an abandoned ship carrying 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. The chemical compound is usually used in fertilizer and can turn explosive when mixed with fuel oil.

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The Globe reported that the ship, called the Rhosus, was sailing from Georgia for Mozambique when it stopped in Beirut’s port due to technical problems. The Rhosus was then deemed unfit to sail and impounded upon inspection, with port authorities discharging its cargo into the port’s Hangar 12. The cargo would remain there for over six years until the explosion, which Lebanon’s Supreme Defense Council said appeared to have occurred during welding work in the hangar.

Now, investigators are probing the blast and the port’s six-year storage of the ammonium nitrate for negligence.

More on the Beirut explosion

This August 5, 2020, handout satellite image obtained courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows the capsized Orient Queen cruise ship after the explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020.

HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

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Canada negotiates COVID-19 vaccine supply deals with Pfizer and Moderna

In a bid to get Canadians at least two doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, Canada is negotiating with pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotech firm Moderna to secure millions of doses of their experimental vaccines. Both companies’ vaccine candidates have reportedly showed positive results in smaller human trials. Now, they are undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials, which will test 30,000 people.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand added that Canada is also discussing COVID-19 vaccine supply deals with other domestic and international firms, as there more than 20 vaccine candidates in clinical trials. She anticipates the delivery of a vaccine in 2021, which will also need to be approved by Health Canada.

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Meanwhile, Canadian pharmaceutical company Providence Therapeutics said it needs government funding to test a potential COVID-19 vaccine on humans, after showing promising results in animal trials. But the company noted that it has not heard back from Ottawa since submitting a proposal in May.

More COVID-19 updates

After early praise for COVID-19 response, Ramaphosa faces outrage over corruption allegations

After initially wining praise for swift lockdown and testing in response to COVID-19, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is now facing backlash for corruption allegations within his administration, which include insider deals on pandemic contracts worth millions and benefit senior officials and their family members. Dozens of other deals are now also being investigated for potential corruption.

The pandemic response itself has experienced major challenges more recently, as South Africa sees a soaring COVID-19 case count and an imploding economy.


ALSO ON OUR RADAR

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Manulife-Sinochem faced whistle-blower complaints: The Chinese joint venture of Canadian insurance and financial services giant Manulife Financial is facing whistle-blower complaints of multiple missteps, including taking some of the money intended to go directly to its executives and funnelling it into corporate coffers.

Trudeau’s popularity slips: A recent poll suggests that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s popularity has been hit by the WE controversy, with almost half of Canadians supporting an election being called if he is once again found to have violated the Conflict of Interest Act.

Saskatchewan drops WE: Saskatchewan is dropping its $260,000 partnership with WE Charity to promote mental well-being in schools, amid the federal government’s WE controversy.

Canada’s international trade rebounds: As lockdown eases, Canada saw the total trade of goods jumped by 19.5 per cent in June compared with May’s number. However, the higher surge in imports widens Canada’s trade deficit from $1.2-billion to $3.2-billion.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights apologizes: A third-party review found pervasive and systemic racism, as well as instances of sexism and homophobia at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Leadership at the Winnipeg-base museum has since apologized and committed to working on the report’s recommendations.

The Canadian Museum For Human Rights is shown in Winnipeg on September 18, 2014.

The Canadian Press


MARKET WATCH

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Gold pushed further past $2,000 an ounce on Wednesday in the face of a weak dollar and expectations of more stimulus measures for the pandemic-ravaged global economy, while stocks in Europe and on Wall Street rallied on encouraging corporate earnings.

Canada’s main stock index got a lift from rising energy stocks on Wednesday. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 0.82% to 16,501.61.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks were boosted by better-than-expected quarterly results from Disney and investor optimism that deal for a coronavirus fiscal aid package was imminent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.39% to 27,202.18, the S&P 500 gained 0.65% to 3,328.03 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.53% to 10,999.39.

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TALKING POINTS

How Joe Biden’s vice-president pick could affect the election

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David Shribman: “Mr. Biden’s choice will tell us a bit about his fall general-election strategy. It could tell us which regions receive the most attention. It could tell us which issues he stresses. And it could tell us how much he will emphasize minority voters.”

Why Joe Biden is the right man for the times

Lawrence Martin: “To counter the negatives, Joe Biden has quite a list of attributes. In most every respect, he is the opposite of the incumbent. For the beleaguered republic, that means there is hope for restoration.”

A split for a king: Spain’s Juan Carlos flees the country he once saved

Konrad Yakabuski: “As the country’s official head of state, he embodied the 1978 Constitution that established post-Franco Spain as one of Europe’s most robust liberal democracies. The gratitude toward Juan Carlos for his role during the decade following Mr. Franco’s death makes the disgrace that has now befallen the 82-year-old seem all the more Shakespearean.”


LIVING BETTER

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This cookbook from Prince Edward County’s food community was created to raise funds to combat food insecurity

Inspired by her time volunteering with Food to Share, a Prince Edward County food security charity, restauranteur Natalie Wollenberg published County Heirlooms: Recipes and Reflections from Prince Edward County and committed the royalties from the cookbook sales to the charity. The book has 42 recipes, recreating local food community members’ favourite dishes.


TODAY’S LONG READ

Employees work at the Canadian Hospital Specialities (CHS) helping take dual COVID-19 testing swab kits and separating them into two units to help with swab capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic in Oakville, Ont., on Monday, June 8, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Lessons learned will prove crucial in controlling a second wave of COVID-19

Since the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in Canada, Canadian public health officials, scientists and physicians have now been fighting the pandemic for almost seven months. The Globe’s health reporter Kelly Grant outlines four lessons that they have learned from this first wave that could help Canada stay strong as the country heads into the winter and the pandemic’s second wave.

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