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Venezuela to close its embassy, all consulates in U.S.

Venezuela will close its embassy and all consulates in the United States, President Nicolas Maduro said today, one day after he broke off diplomatic relations in response to U.S. recognition of his main rival, opposition leader Juan Guaido, as interim president.

Washington led a chorus of Western Hemisphere countries, including Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, that immediately recognized Mr. Guaido. Meanwhile, Russia accused the United States of trying to usurp power in Venezuela and warned against military intervention.

Read more and keep up with the latest developments here.

The latest in the Canada-China tensions

For weeks, China has condemned Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. officials. Two Canadians – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor – have been detained in apparent retaliation and another sentenced to death after a brief retrial on drug charges.

But comments made this week by Canadian Ambassador John McCallum, who said Ms. Meng has “some strong arguments that she can make” to fight extradition, found a welcome audience in China.

Mr. McCallum has raised eyebrows in Canada, however, for those comments (for subscribers). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is dismissing calls to remove him as ambassador to China, saying such a change wouldn’t help Mr. Kovrig or Mr. Spavor get home sooner.

Two bills to end partial U.S. government shutdown fail in Senate

Two measures to end the partial U.S. government shutdown – one backed by Republicans and one by Democrats – fell short in the Senate today as lawmakers explored other potential compromises to end a month-long impasse with the White House.

A bill backed by President Donald Trump to end the shutdown by funding the wall he wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border and a separate bill supported by Democrats to reopen shuttered agencies without such funding did not get the votes required to advance in the 100-member chamber.

But in the hours before the votes, signs emerged that lawmakers may consider new ideas for ending the 34-day shutdown. Keep up with developments here.

Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the richest people in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, caused a stir today when he questioned why furloughed federal workers were using food banks instead of taking out loans to get through the month-long partial government shutdown (for subscribers).

Separately, today Mr. Trump’s former personal attorney and self-described “fixer” Michael Cohen has been subpoenaed to testify by the U.S. Senate intelligence committee.

Your Ward News pair found guilty of promoting hate against women, Jewish people

James Sears and LeRoy St. Germaine, the two men behind Your Ward News, today were found guilty of promoting hatred against women and Jewish people. The free Toronto area newspaper had promoted legalizing rape and denied the Holocaust occurred.

The pair had argued Your Ward News was meant to be satire, but Judge Richard Blouin was having none of it: "Both men were fully aware of the unrelenting promotion of hate,” he said in his ruling.

The men, who will have a sentencing hearing April 26, face a maximum six months in custody and/or $5,000 in fines for each of two counts of wilfully inciting hatred against an identifiable group.

UN expert to lead international inquiry into Khashoggi killing

The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said today she will travel to Turkey next week to head an “independent international inquiry” into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post and a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents at its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, provoking an international outcry. (Read more on the background and events here.)

Related: Saudis to the World Economic Forum in Davos: Move on from Khashoggi, let’s do business

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Energy stocks led Canada’s main stock index higher today (for subscribers). The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed up 72.45 points at 15,280.78.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 edged higher but the Dow closed nominally lower today as lingering anxieties about slowing global growth and unresolved trade disputes undercut a spate of strong earnings, while chip makers rallied to give the Nasdaq a solid gain.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.38 points to 24,553.24, the S&P 500 gained 3.63 points to 2,642.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 47.69 points to 7,073.46.

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Feeding babies allergens early will prevent reactions later, new guidance says

Waiting years to feed babies foods that can trigger allergic reactions is not just outdated advice, it increases the risk they’ll develop allergies and has contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of children who can’t safely eat food such as peanuts and eggs, Kelly Grant writes.

The Canadian Paediatric Society released new guidance today that, for the first time, actively encourages the parents of high-risk babies to start feeding their children common allergy-causing foods as soon as they are ready to eat solids.

Today, the evidence in favour of feeding babies peanuts and eggs early and often is robust enough that Canada’s pediatricians believe that the parents of high-risk children – namely those with severe eczema or a family history of allergies – could prevent food allergies by giving babies common allergens between four and six months of age.

Megan Mudry feeds her one-year old daughter, Sophie peanut butter on toast as part of her lunch, at their home in Toronto on Jan. 23, 2019. (Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail)Christopher Katsarov


Trump’s new nationalism has cut Canada loose – and our vulnerability is on full display

“In President Donald Trump’s survival-of-the-fittest optic, Canada is just another country. This in turn sends a signal to other countries dealing with Canada. Feel free to push Canada around, as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia have. You won’t have to answer to Washington for doing so.” - Lawrence Martin

No bargains allowed: Why is the Competition Bureau going after WestJet for cutting prices?

“Flair’s real problem isn’t WestJet’s cheap tickets; it’s antiquated airline policies that have doomed new low-cost carriers for decades. To prevent Flair and a soon-to-be-rebranded Enerjet from joining the ranks of Canada 3000, Royal Airlines and Jetsgo, Canada needs real competition.” - Rita Trichur (for subscribers)

Ovechkin showed the NHL you can be different and still thrive

“People have warmed to Ovechkin because he is never anyone but himself. In a league full of largely indistinguishable, rule-following automatons, he is the great dissenter.” - Cathal Kelly


In the wake of GM’s announcement that it plans to shut its Oshawa assembly plant this year and with an economy that shows signs of cooling, experts say Canadians would be wise to brush up on the employment insurance system (for subscribers). Typically, anyone who loses their job through no fault of their own is entitled to benefits. They amount to 55 per cent of your weekly wage, up to a maximum takeaway of $562 a week. The cutoff point is a salary of $53,100. Benefits flow for between 14 and 45 weeks, depending on the number of hours worked in the past year and the regional unemployment rate.


TD’s Bharat Masrani on managing through chaos and his bank’s bright future

Bankers like predictability, and a few things have stayed unchanged since late in 2014, when Bharat Masrani became the first person of colour to run a major Canadian bank. At the time, TD was the second-largest bank in Canada, and it remains so. Mr. Masrani’s unassuming middle-management wardrobe eschewed flashy cufflinks then, and his shirts continue to be buttoned at the wrists. And more than four years after his newsmaking ascendance, Mr. Masrani is still the only example of diversity at the top of Canadian banking. Aside from all of that, things look very different.

Banking has gone highly mobile. The economy appears tilted toward recession. Interest rates are climbing as oil has plunged. And there’s a destabilizing narcissist in residence at the White House who seems intent on cooking up trouble. None of that has unsettled Mr. Masrani. Since he took over, TD’s adjusted income has soared 50 per cent, and his calm demeanour suggests everything is fine. For the man who helped TD weather the storms of 2008, maybe there’s nothing more predictable or manageable than chaos. Globe subscribers, read Trevor Cole’s interview with TD’s CEO here.

(Photo by May Truong)May Truong/The Globe and Mail

Private donation of $40-million is a game-changer for Vancouver Art Gallery’s new building

If pent-up delight were to be expressed in a work of art, it might look something like the scene at the Vancouver Art Gallery announcement on Wednesday; the result of what the city’s mayor called “mind-blowing generosity.” Buzzing with government and VAG officials, donors and publicists – and a smooth jazz soundtrack in the background – the room felt rich with optimism even before the astonishing announcement. Then there were gasps, followed by wild applause and a standing ovation as the VAG revealed that the Chan family has donated $40-million for its new museum – the largest single private donation to an arts and culture organization in British Columbia’s history.

“In a world that seems increasingly divided, the need for healthy social dialogue, broader cultural understanding and enlightened critical thinking is as crucial now as it’s ever been. ... The arts have this power,” said Christian Chan, representing his family – real estate developers and philanthropists.

The gallery also unveiled the final design for the new building, which is to be called the Chan Centre for the Visual Arts. The lead donation is a game-changer for the VAG’s protracted campaign to construct a new museum, one that’s built with the specific purpose of being a gallery, unlike the current structure, which is a former courthouse. Globe subscribers, read Marsha Lederman’s full story here.

The gallery unveiled the final design for the new building, which is to be called the Chan Centre for the Visual Arts.

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