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BULLETIN: MARKET MOVES
• The Background
It’s been a wild ride for Canadian home buyers and sellers and sadly, it’s only showing one sign of calming down — and it’s not the one anyone wants. While home sales are expected to drop to a nine-year low in 2019, the national average price for a home is still expected to rise 1.7% to $496,800. The Canadian Real Estate Association’s latest report (released yesterday) is projecting a slight decline in sales from 2018, which already saw a slowdown (11.2% nationally) thanks to rising interest rates and stricter mortgage stress-test rules. Financial Post
• What Else You Need to Know
Though one average is going down (sales) and one average is going up (price), that doesn’t mean things look the same across the country. The CREA predicts a rebound in sales activity in Ontario (the province saw a slight decline in home sales this year) and continuing growth in Quebec and the Maritimes (particularly New Brunswick). However, sales in Alberta and British Columbia are expected to fall further in 2019, due largely in part to massive oil price declines which have “wreaked havoc” on housing prices in Western Canada (plus B.C.’s housing market has been having a helluva time with the province’s foreign-buyers’ tax).
• What’s Next?
The CREA will release its December report at some point next month.
• Unsafe Haven
One of the deadliest militant groups in Somalia just suffered a major blow. Yesterday, the U.S. announced that it had killed 62 members of the Islamist group al-Shabab (which is linked to al-Qaeda) after conducting six air strikes over the weekend. All of the strikes were conducted in coordination with the Somali government, with four happening on Saturday and two on Sunday. According to the U.S. military, it is “committed to preventing al-Shabab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia.” The group has not yet commented on the attack. BBC News
• Canada: Travel Upgrade
Far too many of us have felt the frustration of unexpected flight cancellations, sadistic seating algorithms (nobody wants to sit next to a screaming six-year-old whose mom is eight rows away), and lost or damaged baggage. Now, the federal government is stepping in to help deter airlines’ bad behaviour. Yesterday, the Canadian Transportation Agency released the draft of a new passenger bill of rights, which spells out minimum standards of service airlines must follow (violators will face a pesky $25,000 fine). The regulations touch on everything from policies on seat selection (children under age 14 must be seated with their parents, free of charge) to a sliding scale of set compensation amounts for long delays (passengers bumped due to overbooking would receive up to $2,400 in apology cash). The bill is now open for public comment, with the hope of enacting the new rules by the summer. (We think fixing the smell in the bathrooms is a minimum standard of service. You?) Financial Post
• U.S.: Illegal Interference
Turns out Russia’s a lot ballsier than anyone thought (more on that later). The Senate Intel Committee released two new reports yesterday which outline how pervasive Moscow’s disinformation campaign was and continues to be — even after special counsel Robert Mueller opened up an investigation into Russian interference. (In fact, the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency‘s engagement rates actually went up after the U.S. announced it was investigating the IRA’s involvement.) According to the committee, Russia “continues to have active and ongoing interference operations” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and covers a wide range of “public policy issues, national security issues, and issues pertinent to younger voters.” The 2016 campaign also tried to recruit African-Americans as assets, suppress Democratic voter turnout, spread misinformation about voting rules, turn favour towards third party candidates and then-Republican candidate Donald Trump (and against Hillary Clinton), as well as discourage voters with messages like “your vote doesn’t matter.” (So that’s how the west was won.) Business Insider
QUOTE OF THE DAY
This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer.
–Johnson & Johnson’s vice president of global media relations, Ernie Knewitz, lies through his teeth in an attempt to save face for his company in light of a report that it knew of small amounts of asbestos in its products from as early as 1971. Financial Post
• Smart Traveloh
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the airport waiting for a delayed flight — the chairs are uncomfortable, power outlets are scarce, and the food options leave a lot to be desired. But thanks to Google, you can likely spend your next delay in the comfort of your own home or hotel. The tech giant just announced an upgrade to its Assistant service, allowing it to proactively tell users if it thinks their flight will be delayed. The new feature uses “a combination of machine learning and historical flight status data” to make its prediction and says the prediction comes with an 85% confidence rating. To use the new addition, users just need to ask their Google device (or Assistant app) if their flight’s on time (“Hey Google, is my flight on time?”) or their flight status (“Hey Google, what’s the status of the 8:55am Sunwing flight from Toronto to Miami?”) and Google will go right ahead and save the travel day. The Verge
• Basketball: Female Forward
The Indiana Pacers are getting a little girl power in the team’s front office. Yesterday, the Pacers announced that they had hired Kelly Krauskopf as the assistant general manager, the first woman to hold the title since Nancy Leonard was given the gig in 1976. (Leonard oversaw the Pacers’ transition from the ABA to the NBA, and was more focused on the business side of things.) Krauskopf will be very much focused on the player side of the business, a job she’s excited to take on: “My past experience has shown me that building winning teams and elite level culture is not based on gender – it is based on people and processes. I am excited to join the Pacers as we continue building the best NBA franchise in the business.” Krauskopf joins the Pacers from the state’s WNBA team the Indiana Fever, where she spent 19 seasons as president and general manager. She starts her new role Jan. 1. USA Today
• The Clothes Make the Man
As far as Hollywood awards shows go, the Costume Designers Guild Awards may not be the primetime ticket others are, but that doesn’t mean its recipients are any less deserving. One award that garners extra attention is the distinguished collaborator award, and this year, it’s going to screenwriter and director Ryan Murphy (otherwise known as the creative mind behind American Horror Story, Glee, Nip/Tuck, and more). The award recognizes those in the film industry “who demonstrate unwavering support of costume design and creative partnerships with costume designers,” and Murphy fits the bill nicely, alongside his long-time collaborator, costume designer Lou Eyrich. Announcing the choice yesterday, Salvador Perez, president of the guild, praised Murphy for “the indelible mark that [he] has left on our television culture,” and specifically his recent work that “so vividly brought the 1980s and 1990s back to life with Pose and the award-winning American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” The awards will be held on Feb. 19 in Los Angeles. Variety
• Sex, Lies and Facebook
If there’s one way to get God-fearing Americans on your side, it’s by blackmailing them with the threat of exposing their (completely healthy and normal) sexual urges. Remember that report presented by the Senate Intelligence Committee we were talking about earlier? Buried in the details was this nugget: The IRA set up various fake Christian Facebook pages as a means of drawing in vulnerable masturbators to be manipulated into spreading Russian-supported propaganda and influencing election outcomes. (Yep, really.) A quote from one post in the group “Army of Jesus,” attributed to Jesus himself, natch, read: “Struggling with the addiction to masturbation? Reach out to me and we will beat it together,” while another added in the kicker “You can’t hold hands with God when you are masturbating,” (Um, eww?) and invited readers to call a hotline for help. The report goes on to note that calling in would “[create] an opportunity to blackmail or manipulate these individuals in the future.” (That’s quite the rub.) The Verge
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
• The death toll has risen to five in last week’s terrorist attack in Strasbourg, France.
• Turns out criminals really do stick together. Michael Flynn’s former business partner was just charged with illegally lobbying on behalf of Turkey.
• Despite an almost impossible situation, British Prime Minister Theresa May has scheduled a parliamentary Brexit vote for Jan. 14, 2019.
• CBS’s Les Moonves is not getting a dollar of his $120-million severance, after the company argued it fired the former CEO with cause.
• Digging around for your car keys could soon be a problem of the past — the new Hyundai Santa Fe SUV can be unlocked and started with its owners’ fingerprints.
• International Migrants Day
Falling just eight days after 164 countries signed the UN’s global migration pact, this day of recognition has never felt more timely — or more necessary.
• Public Humiliation
And you thought Trump had a rough year…