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Trump dealt blow as Democrats battle GOP to draw in Pennsylvania election

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The Democrats have fought the Republicans to a draw in what was supposed to be a safe Republican congressional seat, dealing a blow to U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of midterm elections that could determine the fate of his administration.

Unfolding in western Pennsylvania Tuesday – just days after Mr. Trump unveiled tariffs meant to shore up the steel industry historically important to the region’s economy – Democrat Conor Lamb clung to a narrow lead over Republican Rick Saccone in a district that backed Mr. Trump by 19 points in 2016.

A final result wasn’t expected until later Wednesday, but Mr. Lamb declared victory around 12:45 a.m.

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking dies at the age of 76

Stephen Hawking, who sought to explain some of the most complicated questions of life while himself working under the shadow of a likely premature death, has died at 76.

Hawking’s formidable mind probed the very limits of human understanding both in the vastness of space and in the bizarre sub-molecular world of quantum theory, which he said could predict what happens at the beginning and end of time.

His work ranged from the origins of the universe itself, through the tantalizing prospect of time travel to the mysteries of space’s all-consuming black holes.

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But the power of his intellect contrasted cruelly with the weakness of his body, ravaged by the wasting motor neurone disease he contracted at the age of 21.

Hawking was confined for most of his life to a wheelchair. As his condition worsened, he had to resort to speaking through a voice synthesizer and communicating by moving his eyebrows.

Tillerson’s ouster paves way for hawkish reboot in U.S. diplomacy

U.S. President Donald Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after months of friction, reshaping the country’s approach to foreign affairs to better reflect his view of the world. Mr. Trump named Mike Pompeo, the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and a staunch ally of the President’s with hawkish views on foreign policy, to replace Mr. Tillerson. Mr. Pompeo’s nomination to lead the State Department, which is subject to confirmation by the Senate, comes at a moment of high tension in U.S. diplomacy. Last week, Mr. Trump agreed in principle to a face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and instigated a potential trade war over steel tariffs with some of the United States’ closest allies.

Here’s Lawrence Martin’s take on Mr. Tillerson’s ouster: “From the Canadian perspective, the change is hardly a welcome one. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had carved out a good rapport with Mr. Tillerson. They aligned on a number of files. [...] He was more in sync with Ottawa on maintaining the nuclear deal on Iran, on racial diversity, on Russia. By contrast, Mr. [Mike] Pompeo is ideological, a core right-winger who was elected to Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010.”

Here’s what the Globe’s editorial board had to say about the timing of Mr. Tillerson’s firing: “Only Mr. Trump could think it a good idea to sack his top diplomat amid heightening Western tensions with Russia and ahead of a possible spring summit with North Korea – a rapprochement Mr. Tillerson hinted at last year.”

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Jagmeet Singh attended Sikh separatist rally in 2015

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took part in a separatist Sikh homeland rally in San Francisco in June of 2015 that venerated a violent Sikh religious leader who was killed in the Indian army assault on the Golden Temple in 1984. Mr. Singh, then an NDP member of the Ontario Legislature, was invited to speak at a “sovereignty rally” where speakers denounced India and called for an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan. Mr. Singh’s appearance at the 2015 rally could have an impact in the Indo-Canadian community where all three main political parties compete for votes in key ridings in the Greater Toronto area and Lower Mainland in British Columbia.

Britain and Russia brace for showdown over attack on ex-spy as deadline passes

Britain braced for a showdown with Russia on Wednesday after a midnight deadline set by Prime Minister Theresa May expired without an explanation from Moscow about how a Soviet-era nerve toxin was used to strike down a former Russian double agent.

The United States, European Union and NATO voiced support for Britain after May said it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter with Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military.

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Russia, which denied any involvement, said it was not responding to May’s ultimatum until it received samples of the nerve agent, in effect challenging Britain to show what sanctions it would impose against Russian interests.

“Moscow had nothing to do with what happened in Britain. It will not accept any totally unfounded accusations directed against it and will also not accept the language of ultimatums,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

Doug Ford readies agenda, with eye to expanding pot, alcohol sales and dropping foreign buyers’ real estate tax

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford says he is open to greater privatization of alcohol and marijuana sales in Ontario and scrapping the foreign-buyers tax on real estate as he looks to streamline his party’s priorities before the June election. Ontario’s Official Opposition will have a new and greatly simplified platform, he said on Tuesday, confirming that he is ditching the 78-page election document the party adopted only a few months ago under former leader Patrick Brown. The new platform will reflect his populist agenda, Mr. Ford told The Globe and Mail during an interview at his family’s company headquarters in northwestern Toronto.

‘No grounds’ to appeal acquittal in Tina Fontaine case: Crown

The Crown will not appeal the acquittal of Raymond Cormier, who was accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine and dumping her body in a Winnipeg river. Prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday that only errors in law can be appealed when someone is found not guilty. A jury found Mr. Cormier not guilty last month of second-degree murder in the Indigenous girl’s death.

U.S. hits most Canadian newsprint producers with hefty anti-dumping duties

The U.S. Department of Commerce has imposed preliminary anti-dumping duties averaging 22.16 per cent against most Canadian newsprint producers that ship into the United States. The latest tariff is in addition to the average of 6.53 per cent in preliminary countervailing duties levied in January, raising the combined rate to 28.69 per cent against most Canadian producers of uncoated groundwood paper such as newsprint. In a statement late on Tuesday, the Commerce Department said it “will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits from importers of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada based on these preliminary rates.” (For subscribers)

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

With China’s political season under way, some Beijing bars limiting foreigners

China’s annual political season this year has been filled with promises of a new openness. “We will be bolder in reform and opening up,” Premier Li Keqiang promised. “China will embrace the world with open arms,” pledged Foreign Minister Wang Yi. But as the meetings of China’s National People’s Congress proceed in Beijing, a clutch of restaurants and bars in the Wudaokou university area have posted notices that they can accept no more than 10 foreigners at one time until March 22, at the conclusion of China’s annual parliamentary meetings, The Globe and Mail’s Asia correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe reports from Beijing.

MORNING MARKETS

Stocks slip

World shares slipped for the second straight day and the U.S. dollar held near one-week lows after U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to slap $60-billion in tariffs on Chinese imports reminded investors of the threat to world economic growth. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 0.9 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.5 per cent, and the Shanghai composite 0.6 per cent. In Europe London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.2 and 0.3 per cent by about 5:20 a.m. ET. New York futures were up. The U.S. dollar was holding near the lows it hit yesterday. The Canadian dollar was at 77.21 US cents.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Globe editorial: StatsCan needs to own up to its data breaches

“Of all the public institutions that can least afford to have their credibility and reputation besmirched, StatsCan must be near the top. The personal data it compiles inform every aspect of government decision-making, at every level, and Canadians must have the utmost confidence in the body’s ability not just to collect that data, but to keep it safe.” Globe editorial

Montreal rapidly killing legendary Sainte-Catherine Street for retailers

“Sainte-Catherine is hardly alone among once-dominant shopping arteries in having to redefine itself to compete with online retailers and prepare for a potentially car-free future. But retailers fear that, instead of making La Catherine better than ever, the city is rapidly killing it.” Konrad Yakabuski (for subscribers)

Who would win if Trudeau battled Ford over carbon tax?

“Ask yourself this question: If one level of government is trying to impose a tax on your province, and another level of government is fighting that tax, which level of government are people likely to support? This is not to discount the value of a carbon tax in fighting climate change. As part of the Paris accord, Canada pledged to do its part to limit global warming to 2 degrees in this century. A carbon tax is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of meeting that pledge. But while different polls show different levels of support for carbon pricing, Ontario and Canadian voters dislike carbon taxes. How do we know that? By the way people live their lives.” John Ibbitson

HEALTH PRIMER

Sleep your way to better – and happier – memories

We all want to be happier and many of the things we do are an attempt for us to improve the amount of happy memories in our lives. Being fit and healthy, learning a new skill, checking an item off our bucket list, all of these often boil down to making sure we have happy lives to live and remember. So what is the secret to happiness?

MOMENT IN TIME

Marc Garneau chosen as Canada’s first astronaut

March 14, 1984: For all that he had accomplished – his operational-systems intelligence, his doctorate in electrical engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, his rise to captain in the Navy – there was something else that Marc Garneau had mastered when he was picked to be the first Canadian in space. When, in March, 1984, NASA chose him for the role of payload specialist for a shuttle mission that fall, he showed an astronaut’s mastery of self-effacement. Garneau, who is now a member of Parliament and the Minister of Transport, had been one of six people to be considered and had completed a much faster than usual training program. “What do you think they were looking for?” CBC asked him at the time. “I think they were looking for someone capable of carrying out the experiments,” Garneau said, “and I would have to say, on that score, that I think all six of us are qualified to do that. I just happened to be the lucky one.” If someone publishes a book of Neil Armstrong-like “one small step for man” astronaut poetry, Garneau’s muted and modest words when he was 35 would fit beautifully. -- Guy Dixon

Morning Update was written by Kristene Quan

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