Morning Update

November 19, 2018

Morning Update: Canada’s brain-injured Cuba diplomats speak out; Ottawa urged to end postal strike
Morning Update: Canada’s brain-injured Cuba diplomats speak out; Ottawa urged to end postal strike - Also: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, its unyielding neighbour Qatar and what’s next for the region

Arik Ligeti

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Canada’s brain-injured Cuba diplomats say Ottawa’s duty of care has been trumped by political interests

Starting in the spring of 2017, a dozen Canadian embassy staff and their families in Havana began experiencing symptoms including gushing nosebleeds, ringing in the ears and incapacitating headaches, often late at night. What followed was a months-long struggle with the embassy to recognize their symptoms, since labelled as the same mysterious “Havana syndrome” which also affected U.S. diplomats in Cuba. And while Washington has said the concussion-like brain injuries may have been caused by mysterious energy-weapon attacks by some foreign power, Ottawa has remained largely silent.

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Now diplomats have taken the rare step of speaking out, saying an “ongoing culture of opacity” has made treatment and diagnosis complicated and expensive. They believe the federal government is avoiding public statements and investigations to maintain political ties – at the cost of the diplomats’ health and safety.

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A Toronto developer has set up non-profits to help the Conservatives win support among Chinese-Canadians

Developer Ted Jiancheng Zhou has set up 10 organizations in the lead-up to next year’s federal election, a move the Liberals and NDP say appears to be part of a Tory effort to skirt federal election laws on campaign financing. One of the organizations said its mission included assisting the “Conservative Party to develop new members,” according to an invitation for an event attended by Leader Andrew Scheer and at least 10 MPs and senators. Zhou has denied any wrongdoing, adding that all the money raised at the event was used to cover expenses. Scheer’s office declined to comment, while the Office of Election Commissioner said it couldn’t say whether it was investigating.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, its unyielding neighbour Qatar and what’s next for the region

The worsening war in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are two key developments that have upended Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to exert regional dominance and crush dissent in the Middle East. There’s also a third, less known but no less important factor: Qatar’s resistance to a Saudi boycott. As correspondent Mark MacKinnon reports from Doha, Qatar has refused to back down from Saudi pressure to shutter both its influential Al Jazeera television network along with the Iranian embassy in the capital. Now, Riyadh’s plans to confront Iran and its Shia allies are in shambles, but Prince Mohammed is showing no signs of backing down.

Retailers are urging the federal government to end the rotating Canada Post strikes

The federal government says it will “consider all options” to reach a resolution with the busy holiday season approaching (for subscribers). The Retail Council of Canada is calling on Ottawa to legislate an agreement to get the postal workers back on the job, saying the existing backlog will only grow, beginning this week with Black Friday purchases. The union representing the postal workers rejected the latest contract offer that expired over the weekend and called on the federal government to appoint a new mediator. Canada Post, meanwhile, has had to tell post offices in the U.S. and abroad to hold back deliveries to avoid swamping the already-overloaded system.

St. Michael’s principal explains the delay in reporting an alleged sexual assault to police

The principal of the all-boys private school in Toronto said he did not notify police right away about an alleged sexual assault involving his students because he was dealing with a separate bullying incident at his school and the alleged victim had yet to tell his family. Greg Reeves said he learned late last Monday night about a video capturing the alleged assault. But police only heard about that video on Wednesday, and say they learned about it from media inquiries.

Reeves said he could have been quicker in responding to the situation, but insisted he hadn’t breached any requirements about standards for reporting suspected abuse. “I couldn’t report at that point, because I didn’t know what I was reporting on,” he said. St. Michael’s, which has expelled eight students and suspended another, plans to launch an “independent examination” of its culture.

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Nearly 1,300 people are now listed as missing in the Northern California wildfire

The death toll from Camp Fire has now reached 77, with 65 per cent of the blaze now contained. The missing totals have continued to climb, but authorities caution that some people listed likely survived but have yet to notify family or officials. In Paradise, the town worst hit by the fire, forensic anthropologists were working with firefighters to sort through the wreckage of a mobile home park for seniors. Rain is forecast for this week, which would help douse flames but also raise the risk of floods and mudslides.


World stocks push higher

World shares started the week on the front foot on Monday, amid conflicting signals of a potential truce in the China-U.S. trade dispute, while the Federal Reserve’s concerns over the global economy weighed on the U.S. dollar. European markets were mostly higher. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.43 per cent just after 6:30 a.m. ET. France’s CAC 40 rose 0.18 per cent and Germany’s DAX advanced 0.12 per cent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei ended the week’s opening session up 0.65 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.72 per cent. The Canadian dollar was trading at 75.93 US cents. Oil prices were higher and Wall Street futures were slightly weaker ahead of the opening bell.


The new U.S. political divide? Democracy

“American democracy is under assault – and each side is blaming the other. Democrats believe Republicans are restricting minorities from voting and thus undermining democracy. Republicans believe Democrats are stretching election rules in a way that corrupts democracy. Democrats believe U.S. President Donald Trump is attacking long-established institutions and precedents in a fashion that is eroding democracy. Republicans believe congressional drives to investigate or eventually remove the President constitute an effort to overturn an election, the ultimate attack on democracy. Americans may have not abandoned their commitment to democracy, but perhaps not since the Great Depression and the rise of the European dictators in the 1930s have they been so vocal with their qualms about its survival.” – David Shribman

Axing Ontario’s child advocate puts our most vulnerable kids at even greater risk

“The Ontario government came out swinging at the province’s most vulnerable in its fall economic statement. In it, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli announced the end of Ontario’s child advocate, a development that will put children at risk. It is the worst kind of politics – cuts for the sake of cuts with no regard for children – sacrificing them on the altar of financial efficiency. … The children that the advocacy offices serve are often out of view of the public, and they need help to advocate for their rights – rights that often ensure their safety and humanity.” – Suzan Fraser, Toronto-based lawyer who advocates for children’s rights

Canada needs leadership to address our oil patch crisis

“The cancellations and delays of the major export pipelines that have happened over the past few years are now delivering the body blow that many in the oil industry have been warning about, and the longer-term implications for our country from this crisis are also likely to be significant for investment and for jobs. Oil production in the United States grew by two million barrels a day in the past year, to reach more than 11 million barrels a day. Canada is losing vast amounts of revenue and shutting in its oil production while the rest of the world profits. We need leadership to address the dysfunction of our situation so Canada can again be an attractive place to invest for one of our most important industries.” – Richard Masson, executive fellow at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy


There’s a ‘potentially life-saving’ new treatment for peanut allergies

An immunotherapy regimen is aiming to reduce children’s sensitivity to peanuts by gradually exposing them to peanut protein over six months (for subscribers). Tiny amounts are measured and slowly increased under medical supervision as tolerance develops. The goal isn’t to cure the allergy or allow kids to eat peanut products; it’s to reduce sensitivity so exposure to trace amounts won’t trigger a life-threatening reaction. Experts are hopeful this could be a game-changer, eventually leading to the approval of oral medication for those with severe allergies.


Germans join their erstwhile enemy to demine Europe

For more than 100 years, photographers, photo editors and photo librarians working for The Globe and Mail have amassed and preserved an extraordinary collection of 20th-century news photography. Every Monday, The Globe features one of these images. In November, we’re commemorating 100 years since the end of the First World War.

(AP - retouched photo)

Nov. 11 may have marked the end of the fighting, but the aftereffects of the First World War would drag on for years. As this photo illustrates, the task of cleaning up was massive. Land mines and delayed-action fuses lay buried across the European countryside, creating the extraordinary situation of German soldiers, driving under a white flag, aiding their Canadian counterparts in attempts to locate and remove the devices – in accordance with the terms of the armistice. Just days before, these men had been trying to kill each other and quite possibly had witnessed friends being killed – maybe by the very men suddenly standing beside them. This mopping up was dangerous, if not impossible – so many explosives remained underground that, to this day, European farmers still occasionally unearth another one. – Ken Carriere

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online comments

From the comments: Readers react to Ottawa’s silence over brain-injured Cuba diplomats

Today, readers are responding to Doug Saunders' reporting on Canada’s brain-injured Cuba diplomats, who are speaking out about Ottawa’s silence. The diplomats say duty of care for their concussion-like injuries has been trumped by the federal government’s political interests

The Canadian embassy in Havana is seen earlier this year. Canada's brain-injured diplomats and their affected families were removed from Havana between June, 2017, and the summer of 2018

The diplomatic corps have to protected like Veterans. Especially in troubled zones. I get it, Trudeau feels a closeness to Cuba from his family’s friendship with the ruling elite in Havana (the Castros), but the Liberals need to step up. - Sheryl8

“They are afraid of upsetting Cuba because of Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat,” one diplomat said. Canada is in the midst of an intensive lobbying campaign to win a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2021-22. Cuba is considered vital to such UN votes as it holds influence over many African and Latin American UN member states. Justin Trudeau is also friends with the Castro clan and has always held them in high regard as he has said on several occasions. I guess some totalitarian regimes aren't as bad as others. Anything for a UN seat. - outsider22

Instead of complaining about this, we need to find out what the causal factors are. It’s obvious Trudeau is trying to keep this silent for his political reasons, that doesn’t surprise anybody. I just find it hard to believe the Americans and Canadians can’t ascertain the causes and whether the Cubans behind this, and if so why? - Mike5

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