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✨ Good morning! Today is Friday, December 14, 2018 and this is your annual reminder to change your passwords.
BULLETIN: SCARE TACTICS
• The Background
Subway stations and businesses across Canada and the U.S. were evacuated and closed down yesterday, as authorities in dozens of cities received bomb threats. According to reports, most law enforcement officials received “clumsily written” emails that demanded payments of $20,000 in Bitcoin to avoid detonation, leading officers to believe that the threats were connected, and possibly made by the same person (or same group). In Toronto, the King subway station was evacuated, while police responded to threats made against at least five businesses in Montreal. There were at least 10 threats made in the Ottawa area. Manitoba and Alberta experienced similar threats via email (with a higher concentration in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton), as did B.C., which said it was aware of at least 15 threats in Vancouver, along with several in Penticton. CBC News
• What Else You Need to Know
It wasn’t just Canadian cities that were affected by the “hoax.” Similar emails were sent to dozens of schools, universities and other businesses throughout the U.S. (think San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Miami, and Washington, DC, to name a few) in an effort to cause disruption and compel recipients into sending money (at least according to the NYPD). Officials in New York and other American states said they didn’t find the threats to be credible.
• What’s Next?
The FBI and the ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) are looking into the issue in the U.S., and the RCMP is investigating in Canada. In the meantime, authorities are warning anyone who receives a strange-looking (and poorly written) email demanding Bitcoin not to comply.
• Down for the Count
The man responsible for killing three people and injuring 12 others at a Strasbourg Christmas market this week is dead. Police gunned down Chérif Chekatt last night in the Neudorf area of south-east Strasbourg, where he had been spotted after the attack. The 29-year-old was born in Strasbourg and was on the government’s Fiché-S list (he was considered a potential security threat and had been flagged as having been radicalized). Chekatt was also a well-established criminal in Europe, having been convicted of 27 offences (mostly related to theft and violence) in France, Germany and Switzerland. The Guardian
• Canada: Supply and Demand
If you want to sell pot in Ontario, you better get yourself a lottery ticket — literally. Yesterday, the provincial government announced changes to its plan for brick-and-mortar pot stores, which are set to open in April. The new plan involves opening the retail locations in phases as to avoid any supply issues (Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said the government is “very concerned” about supply) and will be awarding 25 licenses for 25 stores to open on April 1. Those licenses will be handed out through a lottery system. Global News
• U.S.: A Line in the (Saudi Arabian) Sand
As the U.S. government winds down (and possibly shuts down) for the holidays, lawmakers are busy little bees passing resolutions left, right and centre. First, senators approved a resolution that called for an end to America’s involvement in the Saudi-UAE-led military campaign in Yemen (a move that definitely got POTUS’s panties in a twist). It was approved by a vote of 56–41, meaning seven (!) Republicans broke with their party to vote in favour of the motion. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, this means the “United States will no longer participate in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis on earth with already 85 thousand children starved to death.” Congress also approved a second resolution that officially pointed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as being responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Al Jazeera
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Ours is a durable, resilient system of government, designed to withstand the foibles of those who from time to time occupy this place.
– Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, making his farewell address to Congress, and possibly taking one last (slightly veiled) jab at the president. CNN
• Commuter Comfort
Two of Canada’s biggest transit agencies are taking steps to bring their services into the 21st century (’bout time). First up, Vancouver’s Translink has struck a partnership with Shaw, hiring the communications firm to deliver network-wide WiFi to riders. Patrons of city’s TransLink buses, SkyTrains and SeaBuses will be able to access the network free of charge, with trials beginning next year and full network coverage anticipated by 2025. Meanwhile, Ontario’s Metrolinx — which is responsible for the Presto payment service used by transit systems across the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, and Ottawa — has just released its long awaited Presto app for Android and iPhone. The app will allow users to check their account balance and reload their card from their smartphone. (It’s no maglev train, but we’ll take what we can get.)
• Top Pop Jams
YouTube’s year in review video may have been an epic fail, but the streaming site’s music arm is here to save the day. Yesterday, the company made its YouTube Chartsavailable as playlists to YouTube Music subscribers. Users will now be able to listen to five playlists: Two international lists ranking the top 100 songs and top 100 music videos globally, as well as localized counterparts to each of these tailored specifically to users’ countries. The last localized playlist rounds up the top 20 trending songs in the listener’s country, and will be updated in real-time throughout each day. Interestingly, for the top 100 rankings — updated weekly — YouTube has found a way to take into account the overall performance of a song on the platform, counting views of not only official versions of a song posted but also any user-generated content which uses the song. TechCrunch
• Baseball: Expos Redux?
Could a Major League Baseball team be in Montreal’s future? If a group of investors looking to make that happen get their way, the answer is a resounding oui. Yesterday, the group — which includes top executives from Couche-Tard, Cirque du Soleil, Garda World, and Claridge Inc. — released a market study it says definitively shows that the city “has the market characteristics to support an MLB team effectively over the long term.” The study shows that Montrealers and local businesses alike would strongly support the return of their own professional baseball team, and that the size of the team’s TV audience would likely be in the top half of existing MLB markets. If the proposed team makes it to bat, it would need a new, downtown stadium with public transit access to fly with fans. The investor group behind the study, which was conducted by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, has now shared it with the league for consideration. Sportsnet
• The Honour Roll
Some fresh (and famous) faces are heading to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The world renowned museum announced its 2018 inductees yesterday, and three of them are making history. Alongside pop icon Janet Jackson, is Fleetwood Mac frontwoman Stevie Nicks (who was already inducted in 1988 as a member of the band, making her the first woman to be inducted twice), Radiohead (which are the youngest inductees having just become eligible last year) and the Zombies (which are the oldest inductees, having released their debut in 1964). The Cure and Def Leppard will also be inducted this year. The 34th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on March 29, 2019 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. People
• ‘Ship This
While the U.S. holds onto fossil fuels like the lives of its citizens depends on it, one country (and company) is giving them the boot. Yesterday, Danish-based shipping company Maersk (which is the largest in the world) announced that it was ditching fossil fuels in an effort to achieve carbon neutrality — and it wants other companies to follow suit. According to Maersk’s chief operating officer, Søren Toft, “the only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonization in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains,” and the company plans to invest a pretty penny in renewable fuel sources and cleaner shipping models to get there. Toft noted that the company has spent around $1 billion over the last four years, hiring more than 50 engineers each year to develop energy efficient solutions. Good News Network
• Have a Heart
There’s a lot of contraband that can inadvertently (or deliberately) make its way onto a commercial flight. From exotic animals to illegal weapons, flight crews (and customs agents) have seen it all — except for maybe this: A Southwest Airlines flight travelling from Seattle to Dallas was forced to turn around when a human heart was forgotten on board. (You’d think that would have gotten priority when de-boarding.) As expected, nobody in Seattle admitted to the mistake (every hospital said the organ wasn’t for them) and the airline wouldn’t say where the heart was supposed to be going. The turnaround made the heart three hours late for its recipient, and Dallas passengers arrived home eight hours after they were supposed to (which apparently didn’t bother them because they were “happy to save a life”). Seattle Pi
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
• Yesterday, police confirmed that they were investigating two new incidents at St Michael’s College, bringing the total of alleged assaults to eight.
• It’s time to start saving for that vacation to outer space. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane has officially gone intergalactic.
• We finally have some answers about our beloved (albeit tainted) romaine lettuce. Officials have traced the E. coli outbreak to at least one farm in California.
• Austin is about to become the next Silicon Valley. Apple has announced expansion plans that include a US $1 billion campus in the Texan city.
• It pays to be pretty, and no one knows that better than these 10 women.
• Royal Baby
On Dec. 14, 1592, Princess Mary Stuart became the Queen of Scotland (a.k.a. Mary, Queen of Scots) at just six days old after her father, James V of Scotland, passed away.
• Yule Log
We’d take this over a pine-scented candle any day.