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Democracy summit, Chinese firm loses bid pausing Ottawa order: In The News for Dec. 8

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 8 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 8 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Representatives from Canada and 109 other countries along with business leaders, civil-society advocates and activists are taking part in a two-day virtual "Summit for Democracy" this week aimed at slowing the march of authoritarianism.

The United States is hosting Thursday's global event to explore ways of defending the western way of life. 

Joe Biden's promise to host the summit predated the presidential election in November 2020, but took on an entirely different hue after his victory came under attack during the Jan. 6 assault on Capitol Hill by supporters of his defeated but still-defiant rival.

A staggering 85 per cent of U.S. participants in a survey earlier this year said they want either total reform or major changes to their country's political system. In Canada, only 47 per cent said the same, with only eight per cent calling for a full overhaul. 

Despite the urgency, however, few serious people in Washington or Ottawa seem to expect the summit will accomplish much, let alone garner any significant public attention. 

"I do not think that the summit will be a major event in domestic politics. In the long run of events, it will go unnoticed," said Daniel Stockemer, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa.

The summit's three primary themes include strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption and advancing human rights. Topics up for discussion will include supporting a free and independent media, using technology to advance democratic reform and protecting free and fair elections. 

A followup event is expected in 2022, the hope being that next year's summit will be an opportunity to assess the progress made over the intervening year.  

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Also this ...

State-owned China Mobile has lost a court bid for a temporary hold on Ottawa's order that its Canadian affiliate be divested or wound up over national security concerns.

In a ruling made public Tuesday, Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton said the harms to the public interest posed by China Mobile International Canada's continued operation "are significantly greater'' than the harms the company has shown it would suffer without a stay of the order.

In January, the federal government informed CMI Canada of a review on security grounds, saying the business could be leveraged by the Chinese state for foreign interference and the compromise of critical infrastructure.

The government issued an order in August directing parent company China Mobile to either wind up or divest the Canadian business within 90 days, though an extension has since been granted.

CMI Canada says the government has no grounds to believe the company would compromise security or engage in espionage on behalf of Beijing, and it wanted a pause on the federal order while the full arguments play out in court next year.

At a hearing last month, CMI Canada said if there was no stay, it would be irreparably harmed, losing customers, regulatory licenses, contracts, revenues and the right to do business in Canada.

In a written submission to the court, the government said CMI Canada had not filed ``any direct evidence on this motion from any officer, executive or employee of any of China Mobile or CMI Canada to establish the nature or extent of the harm their counsel alleges they would suffer by complying with the Order.''

China Mobile is a state-owned enterprise of China _ "a country that poses a significant threat to Canada and Canadians through its espionage and foreign interference operations,'' the submission added.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON – Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin squared off in a secure video call Tuesday for more than two hours as the U.S. president put his counterpart from Russia on notice that an invasion of Ukraine would bring enormous harm to the Russian economy. 

Putin came into the meeting seeking guarantees from Biden that the NATO military alliance will never expand to include Ukraine, which has long sought membership. The Americans and their NATO allies said in advance that Putin’s request was a non-starter.

There appeared to be no immediate breakthroughs to ease tensions on Ukraine question, as the U.S. emphasized a need for diplomacy and de-escalation, and issued stern threats to Russia on the consequences of an invasion.

Biden, said U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, “told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures.”

The Kremlin in its readout described the call as “candid and businesslike.”

“Putin emphasized that it’s wrong to put the responsibility on Russia, since it is NATO that has been making dangerous attempts to expand its presence on the Ukrainian territory and has been expanding its military potential near Russian borders,” the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin said that the Russian leader also proposed to lift all mutual restrictions on diplomatic missions and help normalize other aspects of bilateral relations.

Sullivan said Biden did not make any commitments on the matter, and said the leaders would direct their staffs to continue negotiations.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

BERLIN _ Olaf Scholz is set to take office Wednesday as Germany's ninth post-Second World War chancellor, succeeding Angela Merkel after her heralded 16-year tenure.

Scholz's government will be taking power with high hopes of modernizing the European Union's most populous nation and combating climate change, but faces the immediate challenge of handling Germany's toughest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 63-year-old Scholz, Germany's vice chancellor and finance minister since 2018, brings a wealth of experience and discipline to an untried coalition of his centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are portraying the combination of former rivals as a progressive alliance that will bring new energy to the country after Merkel's near-record time in office.

Scholz will need the support of at least 369 lawmakers in the 736-seat lower house of parliament to be elected as chancellor. The coalition partners have 416 seats between them, so he should be assured of a comfortable majority.

Merkel, who is no longer a member of parliament, looked on from the spectators' gallery as the session opened. Lawmakers gave her a standing ovation.

The new government aims to step up efforts against climate change, expanding the use of renewable energy and bringing Germany's exit from coal-fired power forward from 2038, ``ideally'' to 2030. It also wants to do more to modernize the country, including improving its notoriously poor cellphone and internet networks.

The incoming government is portraying itself as a departure in both style and substance from the ``grand coalitions'' of Germany's traditional big parties that Merkel led for all but four years of her tenure, with the Social Democrats as junior partners.

In those tense alliances, the partners sometimes seemed preoccupied mostly with blocking each other's plans. Merkel's final term saw frequent infighting, some of it within her own centre-right Union bloc, until the pandemic hit. She departs with a legacy defined largely by her acclaimed handling of a series of crises, rather than any grand visions for Germany.

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On this day in 1869 ...

Timothy Eaton opened a small dry-goods store at the corner of Yonge and Queen streets in Toronto. Eaton revolutionized the commercial practice of the day by offering satisfaction or money refunded. His store became one of the largest department stores in North America. In September 1999, Sears Canada announced it would buy the outstanding common shares of the insolvent Eaton's.

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In entertainment ...

Jimmy Fallon says his holiday single “It Was A… (Masked Christmas)” came from an idea he was toying with in August when he was recording at Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan.

The host of the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” says the song featuring Ariana Grande and Megan Thee Stallion was meant to send a message about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wanted to write something reflecting on how tough it was for everyone last year during the holidays and that it’s gonna get better,” he told The Associated Press.

While writing the song with producer Ido Zmishlany, best known for his work with Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber, Fallon had Grande in mind for singing the hook, but when he reached out to her, he didn’t hear back right away because she was busy as a coach on “The Voice.” Then, in mid-October, she responds, saying, “I love this song. You sound great. I think this is so funny. Let’s do this. I’m on it. I’m going to record tomorrow in the studio.”

She also asks who is going to do the song’s rap, which Fallon did in the demo. Grande texts Megan Thee Stallion, who replies, “Are you kidding me? Ariana and Jimmy, my two besties? Let’s do it.”

Fallon was shocked at how quickly things were moving for the song. “It was nothing a week ago,” he said. “And now the two biggest stars in the world are saying, ‘Let’s play and do a video.’”

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ICYMI ...

CALGARY _ A University of Calgary researcher will lead a North American study examining a new way to treat E. coli infections that can cause kidney failure in children.

Professor and pediatrician Stephen Freedman will oversee the 26-site project, set to include more than 1,000 kids and run six years beginning in September 2022.

The university says the U.S.-based National Institutes of Health is providing more than $11 million for the investigation, meant to stop disease from progressing from bloody diarrhea to kidney shutdown and neurologic complications.

The Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute is also providing funds.

The study will focus on Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, or STEC, which is commonly found in cattle and can spread to humans. The University of Calgary says Alberta has one of the highest rates of STEC infection in the world given its abundance of cattle, sloped terrain, food crops and use of well water.

Freedman says the study will be the first in 20 years to evaluate a treatment focused on stopping disease progression.

He says it will consider the value of ``early and aggressive intravenous rehydration,'' a rarity in early stages of the illness. The approach calls for large volumes of intravenous fluids early-on in a bid to maintain blood flow to the kidneys.

Infected children in the study will be hospitalized before any complications occur, even if they appear relatively well, Freedman said Tuesday in a release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 100,000 high-risk STEC infections occur annually in the United States. More than 60 per cent of these infections are in children, half of whom are younger than five years old. Young children are at the highest risk of complications, which can include renal failure, strokes and in rare cases, death. 

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021

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