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Auditor-General Karen Hogan said billions of dollars in ineligible COVID-19 benefit payments are at risk of going uncollected because the federal government is doing a poor job of identifying individuals and businesses that should pay back funds.

The Auditor-General found $4.6-billion in overpayments to ineligible recipients and an additional $27.4-billion that should be investigated further. That includes $15.5-billion for businesses that received the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy but did not suffer from a significant drop in revenue, the report says.

Additional areas flagged in Hogan’s report include $1.6-billion in Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments to 190,254 individuals who quit their jobs, $6.1-million in CERB payments to 1,522 people who were in prison and $1.2-million to 391 dead people. The Auditor-General also urges the government to take a closer look at $2.2-million in CERB payments to 434 children who were under 15 years old at the time of application.

Federal ministers rejected the Auditor-General’s key numbers yesterday, insisting that the final amounts of ineligible payments will be much smaller and that officials are working hard to identify and collect what is owed.

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Democrat Raphael Warnock wins Georgia runoff

Raphael Warnock has narrowly won re-election in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff, giving the Democrats tighter control of the upper chamber and continuing the party’s inroads into the fast-growing and formerly reliable red state.

The result is another blow to former president Donald Trump, who picked onetime football star Herschel Walker for the Republican nomination only to watch his campaign unravel amid an avalanche of revelations from his past and a non-stop stream of campaign-trail gaffes.

As Apple leans heavily on China, it faces questions about the relationship

The partygoers in formal wear walking to a holiday event at Apple’s spaceship-like headquarters this week may have noticed a flashing white light illuminating a picture, perched on a nearby sidewalk, of the company’s CEO Tim Cook with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Anyone who stopped for a closer look would have seen the leash drawn from Xi’s hand to Cook’s neck, a crude illustration of the reason a pair of hunger strikers have taken up residence on the street corner in Cupertino, Calif.

No other marquee U.S. technology company is as reliant upon China as Apple Inc., which has built its devices and its revenues on a symbiotic relationship with Chinese authorities.

But the COVID-19 protests that have swept China in recent weeks are now renewing scrutiny of the company, part of broader anger directed at Beijing and those perceived as its allies.

Inside Myanmar’s civil war: A photojournalist’s journey to the front line with insurgent groups

Since armed forces removed the civilian government in February, 2021, Myanmar has been plunged into a civil war. The country’s public institutions have collapsed and its economy is severely strained. Many civilians have joined the shadow National Unity Government, and thousands have joined civilian militias and other armed groups.

The junta has responded brutally against the widespread opposition. As the war reaches its second year, thousands of civilians – including close to 200 children – have been killed. The past couple of months have been the deadliest since the start of the conflict as the military force steps up aerial attacks across the country.

Foreign journalists have been banned from Myanmar since the conflict began. But photojournalist Siegfried Modola has spent nearly three months with insurgent groups in the junta-controlled country. In September, he accompanied a local militia unit on a four-day journey through water, jungle, mountain ranges and valleys to the front line. Here is what he saw.

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Karenni soldiers stand on top of a rock overlooking a valley on Oct. 9, 2022, Kayah State in eastern Myanmar.Siegfried Modola/The Globe and Mail

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Also on our radar

Germany arrests 25 far-right extremists on suspicion of planning armed coup: Federal prosecutors said some 3,000 officers conducted searches at 130 sites in 11 of Germany’s 16 states against adherents of the so-called Reich Citizens movement. Some members of the grouping reject Germany’s postwar constitution and have called for the overthrow of the government.

Police urged to recover remains of Indigenous woman: Daughters of a Winnipeg woman believed to be the victim of an alleged serial killer are calling on police to recover her remains from a local landfill that officials say is not feasible to search.

Biodiversity negotiators face uphill climb at COP15: With formal negotiations set to begin on an international agreement to protect nature, officials and observers at the 15th United Nations conference on biodiversity in Montreal are imploring delegates to seek common ground and prevent the meeting from hitting an impasse.

Critical minerals hype doesn’t match reality in Canada, report warns: Canada is unlikely to benefit much from the explosion in global demand for critical minerals because of a dearth of reserves, according to two Calgary academics, who also argue in favour of cutting red tape to make domestic miners more competitive.

Alberta Premier changes rationale for sovereignty act: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has shifted the rationale for introducing a sovereignty act, declaring that the purpose of her signature legislation is to ensure that any action taken to oppose Ottawa would first have the approval of the legislature.

U.S. court dismisses suit in Khashoggi killing: A U.S. federal judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bowing to the Biden administration’s insistence that the prince was legally immune in the case.

Apollo 17′s Blue Marble photo is 50 years old: On Dec. 7, 1972, Apollo 17 blasted off for NASA’s final crewed mission to the moon. En route, one of the three astronauts – historians still aren’t sure which – held a custom-made Hasselblad camera and took one of history’s most famous planetary portraits.

Listen to The Globe and Mail’s soccer podcast Ahead of the Game: On this episode, we tackle the problem with penalty shootouts, delve into the great Ronaldo vs. Messi debate and look ahead to what we can expect in the quarter-finals.

Morning markets

Global stocks sputter: World stocks eased on Wednesday and bonds remained supported after a chorus of Wall Street bankers warned about a likely recession ahead, tempering optimism about China’s major shift in its tough zero-COVID policy. Just before 6 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.19 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 lost 0.58 per cent and 0.48 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished down 0.72 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 3.22 per cent. New York futures were modestly lower. The Canadian dollar was down at 73.04 US cents ahead of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate decision at 10 a.m. ET.

What everyone’s talking about

Editorial: “As Canada moves inexorably toward allowing people suffering from mental illness to access medical assistance in dying, an uncomfortable truth is becoming apparent: this country is on the verge of providing publicly funded euthanasia for people suffering from diseases for which there is little publicly funded care. This is unconscionable.”

Cathal Kelly: “Ronaldo has gotten cranky. Lionel Messi is losing interest. That they are doing so together at the same time in the same place should suggest a vital bond. But rarely in sports history have two athletes so twinned by history, circumstance and ability seemed as disconnected personally.”

Today’s editorial cartoon

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Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Living better

How to spend without regrets on the holidays

One way to ease your way into 2023 is to keep a firm grip on your holiday season spending. As disturbing as the past year has been in personal finance, next year threatens to be worse. A huge wave of interest rate increases hit this year. Next year, they really sink in. But there are ways to stay in control of your spending so that you don’t spend January regretting December. Here’s a 10-pack of ideas for you.

Moment in time: Dec. 7, 1972

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The huge, 363-feet tall Apollo 17 (Spacecraft 114/Lunar Module 12/Saturn 512) space vehicle is launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, at 12:33 a.m. (EST), Dec. 7, 1972. Apollo 17, the final lunar landing mission in NASA's Apollo program, was the first nighttime liftoff of the Saturn V launch vehicle. Aboard the Apollo 17 spacecraft were astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, commander; astronaut Ronald E. Evans, command module pilot; and scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, lunar module pilot. Flame from the five F-1 engines of the Apollo/Saturn first (S-1C) stage illuminates the nighttime scene. A two-hour and forty-minute hold delayed the Apollo 17 launching.

Image Credit: NASA

The 363-feet tall Apollo 17 space vehicle is launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 7, 1972.NASA

Apollo 17 launches

In the first hour of Dec. 7, 1972, about 500,000 spectators gathered near Cape Kennedy in Florida to watch the sixth and final Apollo mission blast off for a 12-day mission to the moon. It was the only nighttime launch of the Apollo program, and the red streak from the Saturn V rocket was said to have been seen from as far away as 800 kilometres. Commander Gene Cernan, command module pilot Ronald Evans and lunar module pilot and geologist Harrison Schmitt were destined for the Taurus-Littrow highlands and valley area, which held promise as a location where rocks both older and younger than those from earlier missions might be found. Schmitt replaced astronaut Joe Engle on the flight after NASA came under intense pressure to include a scientist in lunar exploration. On Dec. 11, Cernan and Schmitt landed their lunar module on the moon, beginning an exploration that lasted 75 hours and included moonwalks and and trips in the lunar rover totalling 22 hours and four minutes – both records for the Apollo program. On Dec. 14, the pair left the lunar surface and rejoined Evans in the command module for the return to Earth five days later. To this day, no humans have travelled beyond low Earth orbit since Apollo 17. The total cost of the U.S. moon program, which included the earlier Gemini missions, has been estimated at US$288-billion in today’s dollars. Rob Gilroy

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