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Canada Morning Update: U.S. refuses to back Canada in Saudi dispute, teaching schools facing withdrawal as Saudi students withdrawn

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These are the top stories:

U.S. refuses to back Canada in Saudi dispute, teaching schools face withdrawal as Saudi students withdrawn

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On Tuesday, a day after the Saudi Arabian government announced plans to withdraw all Saudi students from Canadian universities, colleges and other schools in retaliation for Canada’s criticism of the country’s human-rights record, the Islamic kingdom’s main state wheat buying agency told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its international tenders. Meanwhile, the United States - Canada’s most important ally and largest trade partner - declined to come to the defense of the Canadian government in the growing diplomatic crisis.

And at academic hospitals across the country, program directors of medical schools are scrambling to replace nearly 800 Saudi Arabian doctors-in-training after the country ordered all of its sponsored students out of Canada. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest source of international medical residents and fellows training in Canadian hospitals, the result of a decades-old visa program under which it pays about $100,000 a year for each trainee.

For further analysis on the dispute, read three suggestions for preventing the Canada-Saudi situation from getting worse, why columnist Margaret Wente believes Canada is right to stand up for Samar Badawi, and Peter Jones' explanation of how two words set off this diplomatic spat.

Chinese authorities put on demonstration of power to disrupt planned protest in Beijing

On Monday in Shijiazhuang, China, about 250 kilometres outside Beijing, a train pulled into a station with a young woman on board who was headed to the capital to join a protest. Upon arrival, Ms. Yang, who asked that only her surname be used for fear of retribution, made the frightening realization that the authorities were closing in. Other protesters advised her over the messaging system WeChat to get off and take another route. However, a police officer from Beijing was already there, waiting. She suspected police were monitoring her WeChat and knew what she was planning. She was taken away, screaming and crying.

This week, police were dispatched across the country to follow and detain people who planned to protest, many of whom had joined social-media groups with others angry about their lost investments. Although it’s common for the Chinese government to be cautious about any attempt by citizens to express their own minds, this recent demonstration, where they relied on peering into digital networks, has enabled a “remarkable” effectiveness by the state to control behaviour it considers threatening.

Elon Musk tweets that he may take Tesla private, shares jump 11 per cent

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Tesla Inc.’s enigmatic chief executive, Elon Musk, shocked Wall Street on Tuesday by saying he had lined up investors to take the automaker private at US$420 a share, a price that would value the company at more than US$70-billion. “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420,” Musk wrote. “Funding secured.” The news sent Tesla’s share price surging more than 7 per cent before trading was briefly halted. Musk has come under mounting pressure recently from investors and analysts to stem Tesla’s financial losses after repeatedly missing production targets for the Model 3, its mass-market sedan. The company is also facing increased competition from major automakers, several of whom are planning electric vehicle offerings. But Musk has expressed that this deal, which some believe would be the largest leveraged buyout in U.S. history, would allow his company to ignore the pressures of the stock market and focus on long-term plans.

Tesla lost US$717-million in the second quarter, its largest quarterly loss. The California car maker has burned through US$1.8-billion in the first half of 2018, and is among the most-shorted stocks on the U.S. markets.

Toronto mayoral candidate Keesmaat pledges 100,000 new affordable housing units over next decade

While criticizing Mayor John Tory for failing to do enough to keep rents from skyrocketing in her first formal campaign announcement, Jennifer Keesmaat was scant on details of how she would end the city’s affordability problem within a generation.

“In the last four years, under John Tory, has housing affordability gotten better for you and your family, or has it gotten worse,” the city’s outspoken former chief planner asked. “Let’s look at the record: Rental housing in Toronto is at a crisis point, both in supply and in price.” She added that more details on her plan would be released later this week. But she said her vision would include making faster use of city-owned land. She also said she would aim to create new units with an affordable designation that does not expire after 25 or 30 years, as is the case with many developments. Tory’s campaign pointed out that, when she was city planner, Keesmaat never raised her goal of 100,000 new affordable homes over 10 years. The campaign also pointed out, in an e-mail, that the city hadn’t received a single application from her Creative Housing Society, an affordable housing project that named her chief executive officer after she left the chief planner’s job last year.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

‘Big disappointment’ as Saskatchewan village digs up 50-year-old time capsule

When a Saskatchewan village held a summer party to crack open a time capsule sealed in a cairn 50 years ago, people expected it would contain centennial coins, newspapers, letters from the children at the community’s former school and mementos of rural Canadian life in the 1960s. But when all they found was a stubby beer bottle and a broken glass jar containing some old county documents, disappointed residents of Alvena wondered who was to blame. “The buildup was there because we sort of started talking about this last year,” said Elaine Stadnyk, who was a teenager when materials were collected for the capsule in 1968. “It was a big disappointment.”

MORNING MARKETS

Markets mixed

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Global shares held near one-week highs on Wednesday, supported by robust U.S. earnings and expectations of additional stimulus from Beijing that could temper the impact of China’s simmering trade dispute with the United States. Tokyo’s Nikkei was down slightly while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.39 per cent at 6 a.m. ET. The Shanghai Composite was down 1.27 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.45 per cent. Germany’s DAX was down 0.12 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 0.11 per cent. New York futures were flat. The Canadian dollar was at 76.50 US cents. Oil prices dipped after China reported relatively weak import data.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Fat, shame and women’s health

“Past work has shown that medical professionals, like the rest of us, often obsess over weight rather than focusing on health. This can lead people to choose drastic diets and surgeries over exercise, which has benefits far beyond changing a body’s size. Losing weight might help improve some people’s health but it’s not a universal cure-all.” - Denise Balkissoon

Sport united racial divides – then came Trump

“This President’s put-downs of black athletes won’t appeal to most whites. But they stoke the prejudices of the hard right who support him with mob-like fury at rallies. They’re in the corner with Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, who advised Mr. James following one of his criticisms of the President to ‘shut up and dribble.’ The upshot is an African-American population with even more reason to be bitter, with Mr. Trump further stoking racial intolerance.” - Lawrence Martin

Don’t cheer buck-a-beer: It is just cheesy populism

“There is no earthly reason governments should be in the business of selling booze. Although Mr. Ford has promised to permit beer and wine in corner stores – and cheers to that – it’s not clear if he has the determination to take the bolder step of getting the government out of liquor retailing altogether and leaving it to the private vendors, as most normal countries do.” - Marcus Gee

LIVING BETTER

Three ways to help your skin thrive in polluted air

It’s increasingly clear that lifestyle choices have a huge influence on the health of our skin, and a big part of that is something we can’t always control: our environment. Instead of going full bubble boy, look to a host of new skin-care offerings loaded with ingredients that can prevent the oxidative stress caused by pollution, which would include a good sunscreen (daily), a moisturizer, and topical products containing vitamins C and E. Plus, the one of the best products on the market for maintaining good skin is also probably one of the most affordable: drinking plenty of water.

MOMENT IN TIME

The Battle of Amiens begins

After several successful German offensives, the Allies planned a surprise attack. They made a show of thinning their lines near Amiens in northern France, while moving in 120,000 troops by night. More than 400 tanks were driven in, their noise masked by air manoeuvres. Even Canadian staff officers were misled by a decoy battle plan for a different area given to them by General Arthur Currie. Unlike earlier assaults, signalled by days of preliminary bombardment, the Battle of Amiens began with a brief barrage two hours before sunrise, and then a co-ordinated assault over misty ground. Canadian troops took centre stage, flanked by French and Australian soldiers, backed by tanks, 2,000 warplanes and thousands of heavy field guns, many of them horse-drawn. The Germans were completely unprepared. The Allies found some defensive positions unmanned and took thousands of prisoners, some of whom surrendered en masse. By the end of the first day, the attackers had gained 11 kilometres, with nearly 4,000 Canadian casualties. When the battle sputtered out on Aug. 11, Allied forces had reached their old trenches from the Somme campaign of 1916, but Amiens was much more than a recovery of lost ground. It was the beginning of the end of the war. - Robert Everett-Green

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