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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is postponing a trip to Beijing after an alleged Chinese spy balloon entered U.S. airspace this week, according to multiple U.S. media reports. The American government said it had spotted the balloon over Montana, home to an Air Force base and nuclear missile silos.

Blinken would have been the most senior Biden administration official to visit China, building on a meeting between the U.S. President and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, late last year. The scrapped trip comes as the U.S. is expanding its military footprint in Asia through a new agreement with the Philippines and amid threatening rhetoric from both Washington and Beijing over the self-governing territory of Taiwan.

China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry acknowledged that the balloon was Chinese but said it was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes” and it had blown off course, a claim the U.S. Department of Defense has rejected. The Canadian government said it has summoned China’s ambassador over the balloon, which also drifted across Western Canada.

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Ukraine says Black Sea grain shipments deliberately delayed by Russian inspectors – or lack of them

Ukraine is accusing Russia of deliberately obstructing the inspection of ships at Black Sea ports, reducing grain deliveries by half or more in recent months and impairing the ability of some poor countries to receive adequate food supplies while also depriving Kyiv of foreign exchange earnings required to finance the war.

At any one time, more than 100 grain ships are lined up near the Bosporus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to Istanbul, waiting as long as a month for inspections. Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure last month blamed the crush of ship traffic on the “deliberate sabotage by the Russian side of vessel inspections in the Bosporus.”

In recent weeks, shipments from Ukraine’s three operating Black Sea ports, among them Odesa, have fallen to a four-month low. The shipments are monitored and recorded by the United Nations under the Black Sea Grain Initiative program. Russia has given no official explanation for the ship-inspection slowdown.

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Ottawa withdraws controversial amendments to gun law

The federal government is withdrawing controversial amendments to its gun legislation that would have banned thousands of assault-style firearms but were widely criticized for also targeting rifles and shotguns popular with hunters.

Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed announced the move at the House of Commons public safety committee this morning, taking MPs on the committee by surprise. However, in a separate statement, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino signalled that his government would try to revive the prohibitions on assault-style rifles in subsequent legislation.

The Liberals have spent months defending the amendments and accused the Official Opposition Conservatives of spreading misinformation about the law and prompting the backlash. The committee of MPs gave unanimous consent to revoke the amendments.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Freeland says health care costs, fiscal responsibility need to be balanced: Canada’s finance ministers must act collectively to address health care and competitiveness concerns while being mindful of fiscal responsibility at a time of high inflation, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said in opening remarks Friday before a day of discussions with her provincial and territorial colleagues.

Ag-tech is fuelling a debate around who can call themselves a farmer: Those in the ag-tech industry who choose a farmland route face a minefield of opposition from policymakers, neighbouring landowners and other, more traditional farmers with concerns about the changing face of the rural landscape.

Quebec-based COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer to close: The Quebec government says it’s looking to find a buyer for Medicago Inc., which will be shut down by parent company Mitsubishi Chemical.

Netflix is cracking down on password sharing. Here’s what Canadians need to know: Watchers who stream from the same account but don’t live in the same home will be targeted by the new rules, which will be enforced through IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity.

With Queen of Me, Shania Twain wants you to wake up feeling like a rock star: The 57-year-old country music icon from Timmins, Ont. is newly signed to record label Republic Nashville and has a new LP, Queen of Me, ahead of a 76-date world tour beginning in April. Read her interview with The Globe’s Brad Wheeler.

MARKET WATCH

Major U.S. stock indexes ended lower on Friday after surprisingly strong jobs data sparked concerns about aggressive Federal Reserve action, while investors digested a mixed bag of megacap company earnings reports. The TSX managed to close slightly in positive territory, gaining 17.90 points or 0.09 per cent at 20,758.34. Bond yields in both Canada and the U.S. rose sharply.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 127.93 points or 0.38 per cent at 33,926.01. The S&P 500 index was down 43.28 points or 1.04 per cent at 4,136.48, while the Nasdaq composite was down 193.86 points or 1.59 per cent at 12,006.96.

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.68 cents US compared with 75.12 cents US on Thursday.

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TALKING POINTS

Israelis have turned against each other. Will the country hold together?

“The fear of schism runs deep. In Jewish memory, loss of national sovereignty is invariably preceded by internal disintegration.” – Yossi Klein Halevi

Tom Brady is retiring ‘for good’, but he wants you to know he’s not leaving

“Tom Brady quit playing football this week, but despite what the headlines say, he hasn’t quit football. He’s just figured out a different way to play.” – Cathal Kelly

What evidence is Ottawa weighing as it considers Freedom Mobile’s sale? Canadians deserve to know

“Back in October, Mr. Champagne said his blessing was contingent upon Quebecor keeping Freedom Mobile’s wireless licences for at least 10 years and its ability to lower wireless prices in Ontario and Western Canada. Why did it take his office so long to figure out those provisos lacked teeth?” – Rita Trichur

Loblaw’s lifting of No Name price freeze shows discount grocery in Canada is an illusion

“This may come as a surprise for some Canadians, but our country doesn’t really have any true discount grocery chain. With higher food prices and a growing number of consumers seeking refuge from record-setting food inflation at the grocery store, real discount grocery stores would really come in handy. But the option is simply not there.” – Sylvain Charlebois

LIVING BETTER

Five things to stream this weekend

Knives Out director Rian Johnson’s new weekly detective series Poker Face, starring Natasha Lyonne, is available to watch on Citytv+ here in Canada. Marvel fans can catch Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on Disney+. As well, the third-highest grossing movie at the theatrical box office last weekend, M3GAN, is already available to stream at home.

TODAY’S LONG READ

Norwegians, shocked by rising hydro bills, change old habits and rethink what to do with oil wealth

The city of Trondheim in western Norway glistens at night.
Anna Liminowicz/The Globe and Mail

Norway’s abundance of hydroelectric power meant electricity had been dirt cheap for decades. So much so that Norwegians didn’t hesitate to leave the lights on in every room or keep hot tubs warm at cottages even when no one was there.

A combination of factors has sent the cost of electricity soaring and left Norwegians scrambling to cut back and seek alternatives.

The price rise has also sparked a debate about Norway’s massive oil and gas revenues and whether the government should start taking money out of the country’s US$1.3-trillion sovereign wealth fund. The Globe’s Paul Waldie reports.

Evening Update is written by Prajakta Dhopade. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.