Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly says the convoy of protestors demanding an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates has already started arriving in the city and said that while organizers have advised police that it will be peaceful, they do not know when it will end.
“The demonstration this weekend will be unique, fluid, risky and significant. These demonstrations are national in scope, they are massive in scale. Unfortunately, they are polarizing in nature, and they come almost two full years into a highly stressful and tragic global pandemic,” Sloly said during a press briefing on the demonstration Friday morning.
In the past two weeks, Canada and the United States imposed vaccination mandates on cross-border truck drivers. Some were angry over the policy and initiated a convoy in Western Canada that would make its way to Ottawa. But the convoy has become about much more than the policy, attracting many who want to rally against government COVID-19 measures.
Police said the numbers in the convoys coming from across Canada are changing and unpredictable. On Wednesday, Ottawa Police said they were expecting between 1,000 and 2,000 people. On Friday morning, the Kingston police said one of the convoys had 551 vehicles, including trucks and personal vehicles. Ottawa Police said pedestrians are also expected to join the protests over the weekend.
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Ukraine plans to employ sleeper agents behind Russian lines if Moscow invades
Ukraine is preparing a partisan resistance that will operate behind Russian lines should President Vladimir Putin order a full-scale invasion and attempt to occupy Ukrainian cities.
A senior Ukrainian security source directly involved in the preparations said the plan would involve sleeper agents already in place in the occupied Crimean Peninsula, as well as the Donbas region that is under the control of a pro-Russian militia. Other agents are setting up now in places such as Kharkiv – a city of 1.4 million people less than 50 kilometres from the increasingly militarized border – that are considered possible targets of any Russian aggression.
The source, whom The Globe is not naming because of the sensitivity of their post, said they could not discuss details such as the number of agents currently in the field, or the kind of insurgency campaign they might be planning.
“No one’s saying it, but it would be based on UPA,” the source said, using an acronym for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a Second World War-era formation that first waged a guerrilla campaign against the Soviet Union. UPA members are today regarded as heroes by many nationalist Ukrainians, but Russian history vilifies them as Nazi collaborators.
- Explainer: What’s the latest in Russia and NATO’s standoff over Ukraine? The story so far
- Pentagon chief says Putin now has full range of options in Ukraine
Beijing’s Olympic plans are already mired in politics and threatened by COVID-19. Will it all be worth it?
Dressed in down jackets and N95 face masks, the crowd of some 500 volunteers and staff packed into a courtyard in Yanqing, a suburb north of Beijing, as the Olympic Village opened. Raising their fists in the air, they chanted: “Rest assured, my Party, I am here for the Winter Olympics!”
Elsewhere across the capital the slogan “together for a shared future” is ubiquitous, as are the cartoon faces of Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the Olympic and Paralympic mascots. Tight security is noticeable, with soldiers standing guard outside the main subway stations.
China is going all out for the Winter Games, which open on Feb. 4 with a ceremony at the Bird’s Nest, the stadium made iconic by the 2008 Summer Games. Those Olympics were a huge success for China, proof for many of the soft-power value of playing host to such mega events.
In his New Year’s address for 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to recreate this triumph: “We will spare no effort to present a great Games to the world. The world is turning its eyes to China, and China is ready!”
But 2022 is not 2008, and the Winter Games are not the Summer Olympics. The gamble that China is taking this time around is far riskier, and the potential payoff much smaller. By the time it’s all over, the country’s leaders may be asking themselves whether it was all worth it.
- There hasn’t been a fun Olympics for a decade, but at least Beijing is honest about what we’re getting instead
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Canada shut out of Western allies’ talks with the Taliban in Norway: Canada was not invited to attend meetings earlier this week with a Taliban delegation in Norway, where Western diplomats from several allied countries joined in a discussion about human rights and Afghanistan’s worsening humanitarian crisis.
Family of Afghan boy who became one of Lionel Messi’s best-known fans faces Taliban threats: The family of an Afghan boy who became famous at five years old after a photo of him in a blue and white Lionel Messi jersey made from a plastic bag went viral, says they are under constant threat from the Taliban and want help getting out of the country.
In Ontario, the COVID-19 pandemic creates property tax winners and losers: Property owners that have seen the biggest growth in values are getting a temporary break, at the expense of their peers with decreases or below-average increases, who are paying more than their fair share.
Rogers CEO Staffieri says Shaw deal on track to close in second quarter, vows ‘necessary changes’ to boost performance: Tony Staffieri, the new chief executive officer of Rogers Communications Inc., has vowed to make the changes needed to improve the telecom and media giant’s performance as it seeks to close its $26-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. during the second quarter.
Wall Street advanced on Friday, rebounding from selloff to rally in another ping-pong session, ending a tumultuous week with investors caught between mixed corporate earnings, geopolitical turmoil and an increasingly aggressive Federal Reserve.
All three major U.S. stock indexes closed higher, with tech shares doing the heaviest lifting. The TSX also advanced, but gains were a little more modest.
According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 gained 105.46 points, or 2.44 per cent, to end at 4,432.02 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 415.04 points, or 3.11 per cent, to 13,767.83. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 566.08 points, or 1.66 per cent, to 34,726.86.
Among the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, tech stocks enjoyed the session’s biggest percentage gains.
The world once said ‘Never again.’ Ahead of China’s Olympic Games, we seem to have forgotten
“Imagine being a Uyghur who has lost everything, who is being treated as a criminal and worse – only to find out that the world couldn’t care less. Imagine how bitterly they would laugh at hearing that some countries, such as Canada, are ‘protesting’ by not sending its diplomats to the Games. ‘Weak’ doesn’t even come close to describing that approach.” – Charles Lewis
The left’s obsession with race is alienating minorities in America
“Racial minorities are no different from other human beings, in that we do not appreciate being spoken for or told how to think. The fetishization of identity politics is a superficial solution that rewards its believers with self-righteousness but won’t actually eradicate racism. I hear frequently from non-white individuals in my audience who do not believe their race is the most important thing about them, who are tired of being lectured by woke white people.” – Debra Soh
We’re not entering a new Cold War with China – though it might be better if we were
“At least the 20th-century struggle between the West and USSR had clear sides and a single goal: world domination. Dealing with Beijing is messier, and who knows where it will lead.” – John Rapley
The illiberalism clouding discussions of trans issues will only push people to the fringes
“No one is served when discourse about an issue is so fraught that a teacher is portrayed as anti-trans for questioning the appropriateness of certain books. We can pretend that all matters on this issue are straightforward and black and white – that there can be no debate on whether a trans swimmer has an advantage over her cis competitors, for example – but these things, like most things, are decidedly complicated.” – Robyn Urback
Literary gems to brighten the darkest season
The dead of winter tends to be dead, or at least slow, for publishing as well. But as this selection of fiction and non-fiction titles – from Carl Bernstein’s coming-of-age memoir, Chasing History, to Sheila Heti’s latest novel, Pure Colour – show, there are always a handful of gems to brighten these short, frigid days.
TODAY’S LONG READ
What Neil Young and his label are losing by pulling his music from Spotify
In a move that sent shock waves through the music industry, streaming giant Spotify removed Neil Young’s songs from its platform at the request of Young’s label, Warner Music/Reprise Records. The iconic Canadian rocker had posted an open letter to his management and his record label asking that his music be scrubbed from Spotify if it continued to carry the controversial podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.
It is Young’s contention that through the popular podcast (which is available exclusively on Spotify), comedian Rogan was spreading “fake information” about vaccines. “I want you to let Spotify know immediately today that I want all my music off their platform,” Young wrote in a since-deleted post on his Neil Young Archives website. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
Spotify chose Rogan over Young, saying they “regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”
Except for a few scattered tracks, Young’s music is no longer available on the world’s most widely used streaming service. The move prompted many questions about music ownership, streaming services, licensing rights and royalties.