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

Rescuers in Taiwan spent today searching for dozens of people trapped in as many as 100 buildings and structures damaged in a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in the morning that killed at least nine people and injured nearly a thousand more.

Effects of the quake, the strongest to hit the island nation since 1999, were felt as far away as Shanghai, China, almost 800 kilometres to the north. While the toll of casualties cannot yet be known, and aftershocks may continue, seismic upgrades and overall preparedness are being credited for limited damage compared with the 1999 tremor. That disaster killed around 2,400 people and destroyed or damaged 50,000 buildings.

Today’s earthquake was centred off the coast of eastern Hualien County, an area of mainly small towns. According to the government-run Central News Agency, several of those killed were struck by falling rocks while hiking.

Taiwan’s firefighting service said two Canadians were among a group of people stranded by rock slides in a gorge after the earthquake, The Canadian Press reported.

The agency said in an overnight Facebook post that the Canadians were among 12 people stuck on a trail in Taroko National Park, a renowned hiking destination. Rescue efforts continued.

More coverage:


Chef Jose Andres says Israel targeted his aid workers in Gaza ‘systematically, car by car’

The founder of the charity World Central Kitchen, chef Jose Andres, said in an interview today that the Israeli assault that killed seven of his aid workers could not be considered a “bad luck situation,” and that his convoy was targeted in as many as three strikes by the Israeli Defense Forces, which knew of the charity’s plans and movements.

Israel’s military expressed “severe sorrow” over the incident and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it unintentional. At least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the United Nations.

Andres, who spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden yesterday, pressed the United States to do more to stop the war. “The U.S. must do more to tell Prime Minister Netanyahu this war needs to end now,” he said.


Former Conservative leader says China foreign interference cost party up to nine seats in 2021 election

Testimony continued today at the public inquiry into foreign interference with former leader of the federal Conservative party Erin O’Toole. While he told the inquiry that Chinese misinformation may have led to the defeat of between five and nine Conservative candidates in the 2021 election, O’Toole also stressed he did not believe the outcome – a Liberal minority – would have been different.

O’Toole said his party was not informed about documents from an intelligence task force, known as SITE, that outlined Beijing-directed efforts to spread disinformation against the Conservatives over the party’s hawkish campaign platform against China.

Such issues “were always downplayed when we raised them with SITE,” he added.


Stark portrait of Quebec wildfires wins kudos at World Press Photo Contest

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Charles-Frederick Ouellet/Handout

Canadian photojournalist Charles-Frédérick Ouellet has won a regional award at the World Press Photo Contest for a black-and-white portrait of a firefighter standing on top of a huge boulder, gazing at the burnt forest around him. It was among the photos featured in a Globe and Mail photo essay documenting firefighters’ gruelling work during the record-breaking 2023 wildfire season.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Anti-homosexuality law upheld: Uganda’s constitutional court has upheld most provisions of one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws, including its death penalty clause, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling as support for its decision.

Apartment construction incentives: As he announced billions of dollars in federal funding today to bolster apartment construction, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will bypass provinces that don’t want to work with his government on the issue.

Singing for their supper: Musicians say they are missing out on millions of dollars in royalties when their music is played in films, on streaming platforms or on TV, and they want the government to adjust the copyright rules in the forthcoming budget to grant them rights payments if their work is on screen.

Treatment of suspects scrutinized: The federal government is investigating a report of fisheries officers leaving two Mi’kmaq men at a gas station in the middle of the night without their shoes or cellphones after they were arrested for allegedly fishing illegally in southwestern Nova Scotia last week.

Gildan sets deadline: The board of Gildan Activewear Inc. is pushing potential buyers to make their initial takeover offers by April 10.

MARKET WATCH

S&P 500, Nasdaq close slightly up after soft services sector data, Fed comments

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended slightly up today after data showed growth in the U.S. services industry slowed further in March, but the advance was limited by comments by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that focused on the need for more debate and data before interest rates are cut.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 43.1 points, or 0.11%, to 39,127.14, the S&P 500 gained 5.68 points, or 0.11%, to 5,211.49 and the Nasdaq Composite added 37.01 points, or 0.23%, to 16,277.46.

North of the border, the S&P/TSX composite index ended up 37.36 points, or 0.2%, at 22,112.46, as Powell’s comments were interpreted as support for the expectation that rates would come down in the coming months.

One Canadian dollar could be bought for 73.93 US cents.

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TALKING POINTS

Canada can help establish an international protective force in Gaza

“Canada should press the Netanyahu regime to comply with the Security Council resolution and the ICJ order, and to abandon plans for a ground offensive in Rafah. Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly can build on the goodwill she created during her recent visit to the region by promoting the establishment of an international protective mission to Israel and Hamas that could be made up of police contributed by states acceptable to each party.” – Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock

Abortion access in the U.S. is set for a win. But nothing can really stop abortions

“Conservative Christians trying to ban abortions often talk not just about changing laws and regulations, but about changing hearts and minds – for women not just to be denied abortions, but for women to not even want them. So far, winning a 50-year-battle to end abortion rights in the U.S. has had just the opposite effect.” – Rosemary Westwood

What’s that strange feeling in my knee? Oh, right, it’s my new fake one

“I’ve arrived at that stage in life when things like knee replacements seem to be a topic of daily conversation. There are few people in my demographic (late 60s) who don’t know someone who’s had their knee done, or had one done themselves. If you happen to be considering such a procedure, I’m here to assure you: It’s worth it.” – Gary Mason

LIVING BETTER

Exploring the many uses of birch and maple syrup. Plus: a recipe for pecan scones

Though less common in most parts of Canada, birch syrup can be used interchangeably with maple syrup. Where it’s abundant, birch syrup is poured freely over pancakes and waffles and used in baked goods; if you can only access a tiny bottle, it’s delicious as a finishing drizzle over toast, scones and oatmeal, roasted veggies and sharp cheeses, brushed over fish or used in vinaigrettes.

Watch Joe Flaherty’s most memorable roles, from spots in SCTV to Happy Gilmore

While he was best known for the multitude of characters he embodied on SCTV, Joe Flaherty had a long and varied career in film and television. Flaherty died Monday at the age of 82. Here are some of his more memorable roles over the decades.

TODAY’S LONG READ

How companies are using generative AI to make self-driving vehicles more safe

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Handout

So far, many attempts to develop self-driving vehicles have been mired in flameouts and failures, including untenable risks to pedestrian and road safety. But a Toronto company is tackling the problem head-on with a generative-AI approach that it hopes will mature into a safe and reliable system – and quiet the technology’s critics.

Waabi, founded in 2021 by Raquel Urtasun, has introduced Copilot4D, which is effectively an artificial intelligence model that seeks to understand the three-dimensional world, with the added component of time. It includes a simulator designed to teach AI models about driving before they hit the road. Still, many remain skeptical.

“The road to self-driving is filled with broken promises,” says neural science professor Gary Marcus. “We are still a long way from autonomous systems that are as reliable as humans when coping with unusual circumstances.”

Read the feature by Joe Castaldo.

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