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

Israel and the United Arab Emirates reach historic deal to normalize relations

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have announced that they will normalize diplomatic ties and forge a new relationship, a move that reshapes the order of Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to Iran.

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Under the accord, which U.S. President Donald Trump helped broker, Israel has agreed to suspend its planned annexation of areas of the occupied West Bank. The agreement also firms up opposition to Iran, which the UAE, Israel and the United States view as the main threat in the Middle East.

Israel had previously signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. But the UAE, along with most other Arab countries, did not recognize Israel and had no formal diplomatic or economic relations with it until now.

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Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai speaks out after arrest

The tightening legal regime in Hong Kong is suffocating the city, says publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, who was arrested this week under a national security law imposed by Beijing. But in an online discussion a day after he was released on bail, he remained defiant.

“The oxygen is getting thin and we are all choking,” he said. “But when we are choking, we are still taking care of each other – and keep resisting and keep fighting for our rule of law and freedom.”

His arrest has raised concerns at Next Digital, the publishing firm he founded, that he could be sent to mainland China for prosecution – and almost certain imprisonment. On the day of his arrest, the police also raided tabloid Apple Daily, one of Next Digital’s most important holdings.

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Canada’s international pandemic alert back in operation

Canada’s international pandemic surveillance and alert system is active again, more than a year after Ottawa effectively shut it down.

Late last week, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) began issuing alerts about serious disease outbreaks for the first time since May 24, 2019. The Globe obtained a copy of the alert, which warns of a potentially deadly tick-borne illness in China that is showing signs of human-to-human transmission.

It comes after a recent Globe and Mail investigation reported the GPHIN system, which had been lauded around the world for its ability to detect potentially dangerous outbreaks at their earliest stages, had been shelved amid shifting government priorities.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

BoC mortgage rate cut: The Bank of Canada has cut its benchmark five-year mortgage rate to 4.79 per cent from 4.94 per cent, the second cut in three months. As part of the financial stress test calculation, the reduced benchmark will make it easier for borrowers to get a bigger loan, which would add more fuel to overheated housing markets.

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Less of WE: WE Charity is scaling back its operations, laying off dozens in Canada and Britain, and looking to sell some of its real estate holdings in Toronto. The charity has been embroiled in a political controversy since the Trudeau government chose it to run the since-cancelled youth volunteer program.

Apple bundles: Apple is reportedly readying a series of subscription bundles that will let customers sign in for several of its digital services at a lower monthly price, and could launch as early as October. Reports say the company is also developing a new subscription for virtual fitness classes that can be accessed through apps and will be offered in a higher-end bundle with the rest of its services.

Canadiens coach hospitalized: Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien suffered chest problems after last night’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, was taken by ambulance to a Toronto hospital and is expected to be out the remainder of his team’s first-round playoff series. Associate coach Kirk Muller will serve as interim head coach.

Andreescu pull out of U.S. Open: Canada’s Bianca Andreescu will not be defending her U.S. Open tennis title later this summer, she announced today. She hasn’t played a match since suffering a knee injury last October, and says the COVID-19 pandemic has compromised her ability to prepare for to return.

Elephants on the rise: Kenya’s elephant numbers more than doubled from 1989 to 2018 – to more than 34,000 from just 16,000 – thanks to increased antipoaching efforts, its tourism minister said.

MARKET WATCH

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Canada’s main stock index closed lower today, weighed down by energy stocks as crude prices weakened. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index fell 45.22 points or 0.27 per cent to 16,530.06.

Wall Street trading was mixed amid concern over a stalled U.S. economic relief deal. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 80.12 points or 0.29 per cent to 27,896.72, the S&P 500 lost 6.92 points or 0.20 per cent to end at 3,373.43 and the Nasdaq Composite 30.26 points or 0.27 per cent to 11,042.50.

Stocks seeing action today include Apple and AMC Entertainment, which closed higher after announcing the start of its first phase of opening theatres in the U.S. starting Aug. 20. On the downside were Brookfield Asset Management and Cisco Systems, which dropped after forecasting first-quarter revenue and profit below Wall Street estimates and outlining a restructuring plan.

Read more: Today’s analyst upgrades and downgrades

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

TALKING POINTS

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Leafs president Shanahan takes the blame as doomsday clock begins to tick for GM Dubas

“Forty minutes is not a long time. Forty minutes answering questions about the Toronto Maple Leafs when you are the person who runs the team is – and I’m just going off facial expressions here – an eternity in hell.” - Cathal Kelly

Task force proves ex-OSC head right about diversity. Now, Doug Ford must toughen the rules

“Diversity is not a frill, it’s an essential component of corporate governance and risk management. Companies that flout the rules should be named, shamed and fined.” - Rita Trichur

Has COVID-19 quietly killed Canadian Confederation?

“To be sure, advising me against Toronto-to-St. John’s travel is one thing. Legally barring my entry is another. When powerful regional feelings are ignited by laws dividing us from ‘them,’ Canada is balkanized for the worse.” - Michael Bryant, executive director, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

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LIVING BETTER

Deferred payments have been a popular way to help Canadian cope with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. But now those deferrals are starting to filter through the credit reporting system. Deferred payments don’t harm borrowers’ credit scores, but the payments must be reported in a certain way, according to Equifax. It’s important to check to make sure they are reported correctly to credit bureaus. If you notice something might be wrong on your credit score – such as a deferred payment being counted as “late” – the lender is your first stop.

Read more: What you need to know about managing your finances during the pandemic

TODAY’S LONG READ

For former set and costume designer Drew Facey, it’s exit stage left

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Vancouver set and costume designer Drew Facey is a fixture of the local theatre community, designing shows here and beyond for theatre and opera productions, winning 18 Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards along the way. Now Facey is leaving Vancouver – and theatre. COVID-19 has claimed another professional casualty.

“In one week in March I lost 14 months’ worth of contracts,” Facey says in his nearly empty East Vancouver condominium, the one he and his partner decided to sell after the pandemic hit (his partner works in hospitality, which has also been hard hit). “I obviously went through a difficult, dark time emotionally.”

His departure is a huge loss for the theatre scene, and a scary sign of what may be to come. Because of COVID-19, performing arts companies have cancelled their upcoming seasons – and the contracts that came with them. There is no indication of when it will be safe – or legal – to gather in theatres again. Read Marsha Lederman’s full story here.

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