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These are the top stories:

Venezuela’s opposition leader has declared himself interim president. Here’s what’s going on

The reign of Nicolas Maduro is in jeopardy as the U.S., Canada and other countries throw their support behind rival Juan Guaido. Maduro fired back by breaking off formal relations with the U.S.

The background: Maduro has been under fire for eroding Venezuela’s democracy, including barring opposition parties in a presidential vote that was deemed fraudulent by other countries. He was just sworn in for his second term as president two weeks ago.

The opposition: Guaido said declaring himself interim president is “the only way to rescue Venezuela from dictatorship” and called for “free and fair” elections. His remarks came on the anniversary of the end of Venezuela’s last military dictatorship in 1958.

The international position: President Donald Trump promised to use the “full weight” of U.S. economic and diplomatic power to push for freedoms. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also said Canada supports Guaido as interim president, a view echoed by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. Russia on Thursday warned that U.S. moves in Venezuela to recognize an opposition leader as president could lead to lawlessness and bloodshed there. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that events in Venezuela are reaching a dangerous point. It said Washington was showing a disregard for international law.

Maduro’s response: Saying “don’t trust the gringos,” Maduro ordered U.S. diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours. But the U.S. said it would abide by a separate directive from Guaido and keep its staff in the country.

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Canada’s ambassador to China says Meng Wanzhou has a strong case against extradition

John McCallum said the Huawei executive has “quite good arguments on her side” to persuade a Canadian court to reject the U.S. request. McCallum also suggested the U.S. might cut a deal with China to end the matter and allow Meng to return home in exchange for the release of two detained Canadians.

The ambassador pointed to a number of factors in her favour, including Trump’s suggestion last month that he could intervene if it helped China trade talks.

McCallum’s remarks found a welcome audience in China.

“It’s obvious that Canada is taking a pro-China stance on Meng’s case at this time,” said Lin Hongyu, Dean of the College of International Relations at Huaqiao University.

Campbell Clark tries to parse out what McCallum was thinking: “The behind-the-scenes explanation is that McCallum wasn’t supposed to say that – it wasn’t in the script and won’t be repeated. That’s bad. There’s another, more conspiratorial suggestion, though, which a few in the diplomatic community believe: that McCallum might have been trying to send a non-official signal to China, to lower tensions.”

Feeding babies common allergens will prevent reactions later, new guidelines say

The Canadian Paediatric Society is now actively encouraging parents of high-risk babies to feed them common allergens as soon as they are ready to eat solids. By introducing things like peanuts as early as four months old, “you’re in effect teaching your body not to react to it,” said Elissa Abrams, the lead author of the new guidance.

Some doctors are still relying on outdated advice, telling parents to hold off on introducing allergenic solids at age one year or later. But waiting actually increases the risk babies will develop allergies and has contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of children who can’t safely eat peanuts, eggs and other foods.

Hydro One’s takeover deal is dead as a result of perceived interference by Ontario’s government

The utility provider will pay a US$103-million termination fee after calling off its planned $4.4-billion takeover of Avista, killing an expansion strategy spearheaded by former Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt (for subscribers).

During last year’s provincial election, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford campaigned against rising power prices and vowed to fire Schmidt, who was earning $6-million in annual compensation (Ontario owns 47-per-cent of the utility). After Ford was elected Premier, Schmidt departed and the Hydro One board resigned.

Two state regulators subsequently turned down the Avista bid. Washington’s commission said political interference “could result in direct or indirect harm to Avista.”

Subscribers can go here to read about the epic battle between Ford and Hydro One.

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The Vancouver Art Gallery just received a $40-million donation for its new museum. The gift from the Chan family – the largest single private arts donation in B.C.’s history – is expected to help with the gallery’s long campaign to secure government funding for a new building. (for subscribers)

Ontario is considering removing caps on class sizes in kindergarten and Grades 1 to 3. Removing existing limits of 29 for kindergarten and 23 for primary grades would have a detrimental effect on the learning environment, the provincial teachers’ federation is warning.


Stocks mixed

The euro retreated while stocks and bonds rallied on Thursday, as painful data from France and only modestly better readings from Germany set the tone for the European Central Bank’s first meeting of the year. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 0.1 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and the Shanghai Composite each gained 0.4 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.2 per cent by about 6:30 a.m. ET, with Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 up by between 0.6 and 0.8 per cent. New York futures were up. The Canadian dollar was at 74.85 US cents. Oil rose, shaking off persistent concern about the outlook for demand after the U.S. government said it could impose sanctions on OPEC member Venezuela’s crude exports.


No, Canada isn’t threatened by a ‘carbon-tax recession’

“On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that Ontario was at risk of a recession if the federal government imposes a carbon tax on the province. He later doubled down on Twitter, writing that ‘the threat of a carbon-tax recession is real.’ No, it isn’t.” – Globe editorial

To combat Holocaust ignorance, we must empower teachers

“Among all those [we] surveyed, more than half of Canadian adults (54 per cent) did not know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. These numbers are worse among millennials: 62 per cent were ignorant of the fact. … If we want our next generation to successfully uphold a tolerant, thoughtful and democratic society, it is our duty to ensure that they know our history, even when it is problematic and seemingly unaligned with what we as a country stand for today.” – Naomi Azrieli, chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation

Toronto’s Pride parade and the politics of rancour

“Caught up in the sour politics of us against them, Pride organizers banned uniformed cops from taking part. The ban was confirmed this week when the group’s membership voted narrowly to extend it. A more futile, more self-defeating policy is hard to imagine.” – Marcus Gee (for subscribers)


How to incorporate the new food guide into your cooking repertoire

Chef Lina Caschetto believes the guidelines, which encourage more home cooking, will prompt a move toward uncomplicated and accessible recipes. The trends of one-pot meals and sheet-pan dinners fit perfectly into this, allowing people with little time or little experience in the kitchen to maintain a healthy diet. And it doesn’t require leaving out technique or flavour. Go here for a one-pan recipe of roasted chicken with potatoes, garlic, shallots and caper berries.


Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence ends hunger strike

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Jan. 24, 2013: By the time she ended her 42-day-long hunger strike in late January, 2013, Theresa Spence had become a potent symbol in an energized movement for Indigenous rights. The 49-year-old chief of the remote and impoverished Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario had taken up residence on an island in the Ottawa River and said she would consume nothing but medicinal tea and fish broth until then-prime minister Stephen Harper and then-governor-general David Johnston agreed to meet with her and discuss treaty rights. Spence’s hunger strike coincided with Idle No More, the movement founded by young Indigenous people who objected to the way federal legislation was affecting their communities, and she became their hero. A parade of dignitaries visited Spence’s tepee in an effort to convince her to eat. She relented when she was assured by Bob Rae, who was then the interim leader of the Liberal Party, and Alvin Fiddler, now the Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, that she could walk away with dignity and that others would carry on the fight. Spence did not get her meeting. But her cause got attention. – Gloria Galloway

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