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Good morning, and welcome to the weekend.

Grab your cup of coffee or tea, and sit down with a selection of this week’s great reads from The Globe. In this issue, Colin Freeze visits hockey-loving London, Ont. ahead of the court case that begins next week in the city for five players on the 2018 world junior team that are facing sexual-assault charges.

“London adores hockey. The fast-growing centre, which has more than 500,000 people in the city and its environs, has produced more than its share of star players,” writes Freeze. “...But with the criminal case about to enter the city’s downtown courthouse complex – located across the street from Budweiser Gardens, its largest arena – a darker side of junior hockey is taking centre stage.”

Also, from Houthis in Yemen to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the conflict in the Middle East sparked by the Israel-Hamas war has pulled in various countries and armed groups. Mark MacKinnon lays out who the key players are as fears of a wider regional conflict grow.

And, the high cost of pet food and medical care is leading people to surrender – or even euthanize – their animals. Erica Alini breaks down why owning dogs and cats is more expensive than ever – and what can be done about it.

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Hockey Canada case fills London, Ont., with anxious buzz and awkward silence

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People watch minor hockey players practice, at the Western Fair Sports Center in London, Ontario, February 1, 2024. Several hockey players have been charged with Sexual assault in relation to an incident in London. 
Brett Gundlock/The Globe and Mail

People watch minor hockey players practice, at the Western Fair Sports Center in London, Ont. Feb. 1, 2024.Brett Gundlock/The Globe and Mail

The sexual assault case of five members of Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team, which goes before a London, Ont., court on Monday, has sparked many difficult conversations among residents of this hockey-loving city that has produced more than its share of star players. Colin Freeze spoke with some of the locals who’ve been following the news on the case with concern and anxiety. One hockey mom told Colin that for her, the case is more than the guilt or innocence of the accused. “You should know right from wrong,” she said. “And how your actions have a direct correlation to things that you want to do – and accomplish.”

Charged up: Canadian scientists are in a race to make the next breakthrough in battery tech

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EV battery researcher Chongyin Yang, assistant professor and Tesla Canada chair, fits a battery cell amongst the charge/discharge units in a battery testing lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Jan. 30, 2024.Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

Battery research is all about the future, but the dilemma for researchers trying to develop battery technology in Canada is how to keep a foothold in a fast-moving and increasingly competitive global endeavour. The goal of researchers and graduate students working at a lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax is finding ways to manufacture batteries with more sustainable materials. That goal is a big one, says Jeff Dahn, a pioneer in lithium-ion batteries, “because the electrification of everything is going to demand raw materials at volumes that are just unheard of.”

Who’s fighting who in the Middle East? Where key players currently stand

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Demonstrators lift flags of the Palestinian Hamas group during a rally after the Friday prayer in Hebron city in the occupied West Bank on Dec. 15, 2023, protesting Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.HAZEM BADER/Getty Images

These are nervous times for the various players in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East – both long-simmering historical disputes and those sharpened by the Hamas-Israel war in Gaza. Each escalation in the region threatens to ignite a broader war, something most parties seem eager to avoid. Still, in the wake of a series of deadly tit-for-tat attacks, the chances of a direct clash between the United States and Iran – the main backers of Israel and Hamas – are the highest they have been in years. Here, then, is an overview of the situation across the region almost four months into the latest crisis.

As populations collapse, the far right’s baby fever puts hard-won freedoms at risk

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Anti-abortion demonstrators participate in the annual "March for Life", the second since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision, in Washington, U.S., Jan. 19, 2024.EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/Reuters

As fertility rates collapse across the developed world, fewer young people are available to fill labour shortages, purchase goods and pay taxes, resulting in populations that are either stagnant or declining in countries that don’t accept large numbers of immigrants. In countries with robust immigration like Canada, there are other challenges: hundreds of thousands of newcomers can stoke resentment among those who resist change. Though our country appears thus far to be mostly immune, many young people around the developed world, especially males, are starting to push back against the status quo by embracing populist parties on the far right.

Pet price shock: Why owning a dog or cat has become so expensive

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Shellie Suter, Roger, and her two-and-a-half year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, are photographed on Nov. 13, 2023.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

More than 50 per cent of Canadian households include a cat or a dog – and the cost of that companionship is going up. As burned-out veterinarians quit and corporations buy up clinics and raise prices, the growing expense of pet ownership is pushing Canadians to make tough decisions: either give their pets away or choose to euthanize them, because they can’t afford to do anything else. As Anna-Lee Fitzsimmons, director of public relations at the Calgary Humane Society, recently put it: “Companion animal ownership is really trending towards being something that only the wealthy can afford.”

Toronto Symphony Orchestra returns to the composition that put it on the global map

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Illustration by Christina S. Zhu

In 1968, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra recorded Turangalîla, which put the TSO on the global map. More than 50 years later, the organization is revisiting this iconic moment by creating a new recording of the larger-than-life piece, written by Olivier Messiaen and with music director and conductor Gustavo Gimeno at the helm.

Comfort food cravings: Ten recipes from Canadian cooks that make them feel at home

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Dominique Lafond/Handout

Nostalgia is comfort food’s primary ingredient, and every corner of the world has its own beloved dishes that mean something deeply personal to the people who live there. The Globe speaks to 10 Canadian home cooks and chefs, who share their go-to recipes for a taste of comfort.

Bonus: Which Canadian songstress announced she’ll be performing at this year’s Grammy Awards on Feb. 4?

a. Joni Mitchell

b. Alanis Morissette

c. k.d. lang

d. Anne Murray

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