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

The floods that have devastated farmers and homeowners in Abbotsford are a product of record rainfall and many failures by leaders in Canada to adequately prepare, including a lack of maintenance of key dike systems in B.C.

But they also mark the most severe consequence of a long-standing breakdown in international co-operation around the Nooksack, which normally flows only through the U.S., but whose flood waters pose a particular threat to Canada.

To keep the Nooksack from flooding at Everson, which is 9.5 kilometres from the Canadian border, the estimated cost would be considerably less than that $1-billion damage bill: just $29-million to install a levee extension. Build that, and structural and agricultural damages to the Abbotsford area in the worst possible flooding would be cut by more than $500-million, according to a flood mitigation plan delivered to the city of Abbotsford last year.

But despite years of anger over the inability to resolve a major cross-border problem, there has never been a formal call to involve a century-old U.S.-Canada commission designed specifically to draft solutions to such issues.

More flood-related news:

Bins of sand are placed across the road next to a wall of sandbags along rail tracks to form a temporary dike in the Huntingdon Village area of Abbotsford, B.C., Nov. 28, 2021.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Antique kayak in Vatican Museums must be returned immediately, Inuvialuit group says

An Inuvialuit leader wants the rare Western Arctic kayak held by the Vatican Museums sent back to the Mackenzie Delta region, where it was built a century ago.

In a statement released Friday, Duane Ningaqsiq Smith, chair and chief executive officer of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. (IRC) in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, said the IRC “is seeking the immediate return of all Indigenous artifact held in the collection of the Vatican Museum,” including the kayak.

His comments came three days after The Globe and Mail published an article about the Inuvialuit kayak and other Indigenous objects that had been stored unseen in a Vatican Museums’ vault for several decades, and two weeks ahead of the Indigenous groups’ visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.

The trip is part of a truth and reconciliation process following scandals over the abuse of generations of Indigenous children at schools run by the Church. In October, Pope Francis agreed to visit Canada – date to be determined – where he is expected to issue a formal apology for the abuses.

Father Nicola Mapelli (left) Director of Anima Mundi, the Vatican's ethnological museum, inspects an Inuit kayak with art restorers Catherine Riviere (centre) and Martina Brunori, on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. The kayak was a gift to the Vatican by the Canadian Bishops for the world ethnological exposition of 1925. Chris Warde-Jones/The Globe and MailChris Warde-Jones/The Globe and Mail

Omicron COVID-19 variant is three times more likely to cause reinfections, new data show

The Omicron variant is three times more likely to cause reinfection in people, compared with earlier variants of the coronavirus, new data from South Africa suggest.

The study, released Thursday, is the first strong indication of why Omicron has surged so rapidly in countries such as South Africa, where a large percentage of the population was thought to have developed immunity to COVID-19 as a result of prior infection.

But there is hope: A British study involving seven COVID-19 vaccines has found that they all significantly increase immune response when used as boosters and that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine worked so well it could be given in half doses to increase global supplies.

The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet on Thursday, also showed that booster shots stimulated a strong response by T-cells – a key part of the immune system – to the Delta and Beta variants. Scientists said that bodes well for vaccine effectiveness against Omicron.

Related news:

A hospital worker ensures people practice social distancing as they wait in line to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at the Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec. 1, 2021.Shiraaz Mohamed/The Associated Press

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Michigan school shooting suspect’s parents charged with involuntary manslaughter: The parents of a teen accused of killing four students at a Michigan high school were charged with involuntary manslaughter Friday as a prosecutor described chilling moments that day when a teacher found a drawing of a gun, a person bleeding and the words “blood everywhere” at the boy’s desk.

Alberta rides higher oil prices toward a balanced budget: The fiscal roller coaster of oil prices is headed up, up, up for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. All three energy-producing provinces have unveiled much improved revenue numbers in the past week, driven by the rebound in crude prices. But the lurch upward is most breathtaking in Alberta, where the deficit is plummeting – and a surplus is even possible next year.

After November hiring spree, Bank of Canada seen raising rates sooner: Canadian job growth accelerated in November after the expiry of some COVID-19 financial supports, an outcome that is pulling forward expectations of a Bank of Canada rate hike.

Ethiopia strives for independence with the Renaissance Dam, but finds opposition from neighbouring countries: Millions of Ethiopians have made sacrifices to help fund a nearly completed hydro dam on the Blue Nile that aims to mitigate the country’s crippling electricity shortage, but the a project is raising tensions with Egypt, which sees the dam as a threat to its own water supply.

Bank of Montreal hikes dividend 25% as profit tops forecasts: Canada’s fourth-largest bank increased its quarterly dividend to $1.33 per share, from $1.06, and announced a plan to buy back up to 3.5 per cent of its shares – or 22.5 million shares in total.


MARKET WATCH

Wall Street’s major indexes closed lower on Friday, with the Nasdaq leading the declines as investors bet that a strong jobs report would not slow the Federal Reserve’s easing of support all while they grappled with uncertainty around the Omicron coronavirus variant. The Canadian benchmark stock index also closed lower, even as the nation produced a strong jobs report for November.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 lost 38.71 points, or 0.85 per cent, to end at 4,538.39 points, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 292.16 points, or 1.90 per cent, to 15,089.16. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 64.78 points, or 0.19 per cent, to 34,575.01.

In a clear indication of investor nerves, Wall Street’s fear gauge, the CBOE Market Volatility index, went above 35, in afternoon trading, for the first time since late January. Meanwhile the S&P sector outperformers were defensive sectors consumer staples and utilities.

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TALKING POINTS

We’re in trouble if Omicron demands self-sacrifice of us again

“Just try saying the words “months-long virtual learning” to parents who have been on a hellish see-saw of shifting school-attendance policies. They’ll collapse into fits of deranged, maniacal laughter. Try telling restaurateurs who have been forced to close, then allowed to open under certain conditions, then tasked with checking people’s vaccination status – all while dealing with higher food costs and labour shortages – that the government may have to restrict their business operations again. Does anyone think they’ll submissively lock their doors as they did a year ago?” – Robyn Urback

Coal went from investor pariah to luvvie in one year. How did that happen as the planet warms up?

“Companies are resisting the pressure to ditch their fossil fuels in the name of making their environmental, social and governance credentials more attractive – and they are getting away with it. How to explain the reversal? Turns out that the ESG-inspired sales and spinoffs were not as climate friendly as advertised and the entire industry is rethinking its approach to the “E” part of the ESG equation.” – Eric Reguly

In Northern Ontario, governments engage in a two-faced climate change response

“Just a month after Canada talked a good game at the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit – but many years after Indigenous people first sounded alarms about the perils of what Canadians were doing to the land – two potential climate change catastrophes are playing out on Treaty 3, Robinson Superior and Treaty 9 territories.” – Tanya Talaga


LIVING BETTER

How to make a roasted mushroom tart from the new book Earth to Table Bakes

“You have to give yourself enough time to execute and prepare accordingly. Many steps [in baking recipes] take time,” says Erin Schiestel, co-author of the new cookbook Earth to Table Bakes: Everyday Recipes for Baking with Good Ingredients. “My advice to new bakers? Read the recipe from start to finish before you start, have all the ingredients lined up and then let the process unfold as it should.”


TODAY’S LONG READ

Fear along the Nile: Why Egypt sees a massive dam in Ethiopia as a matter of life and death

Climate change is making Egyptian summers hotter and drier, boosting evaporation rates. It is raising the level of the Mediterranean, turning ever-larger patches of the northern section of the Nile Delta into saline crop killers. Rapid population growth is putting so much demand on the Nile and its farmland, which covers only 3 per cent of the country, that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is practically begging Egyptians to raise fewer kids so he doesn’t have to keep building water-gulping cities in the desert.

But there is an even bigger threat, one that does not even reside in Egypt. It is known by the acronym GERD – Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – and has emerged not just as the greatest perceived environmental threat to the country but also the greatest security threat.

The GERD is Africa’s biggest infrastructure project and biggest dam, with a cost of about US$5-billion. It is nearing completion on the Blue Nile, the tributary in rain-heavy Ethiopia that provides most of the Nile water that courses downriver through Sudan and Egypt. The GERD is being billed as the agent of Ethiopia’s rebirth (hence “Renaissance”), capable of providing renewable electric power to 60 million to 70 million Ethiopians, lifting many of them out of poverty and positioning the country as an economic rival to equally populous Egypt.

Egyptians believe that the enormous dam in effect gives Ethiopia control of the Nile, all the more so since the often acrimonious negotiations to strike a water-sharing agreement among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been stalled for a decade. They won’t restart any time soon now that Ethiopia is in the grip of civil war that could see the Tigray People’s Liberation Front take the capital, Addis Ababa, in weeks or months.

Evening Update is written by Emerald Bensadoun. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.