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✨ Good morning! Today is Wednesday, February 6, 2019 and it looks like someone’s going to have to come up with a new nickname for J.Law.
BULLETIN: STATES DIVIDED
• The Background
Last night, after a week-long delay, President Donald Trump was finally allowed in the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address. There were a number of takeaways from the 82-minute (😩) speech: DT officially announced that he’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this month in Vietnam, even though everyone already knew it was happening. Despite threatening to do so all week, the president did not declare a state of emergency at the southern border (a move that would allow him to fund and build the wall without Congress’s approval) but he did promise (again) that he will “get it built.” On the topic of border security, for the first time in his presidency, Trump encouraged immigration, saying he wants the “people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever,” so long as they do so legally. CNN
• What Else You Need to Know
While most of his address focused on foreign policy (and all the special guests in the room), he also made a point to toot his own horn. The president pointed out that the economy was the strongest it has ever been, that the U.S. is now the No.1 producer of both oil and natural gas, and that if he hadn’t been elected president, the U.S. would be in a “major war” with North Korea. There were also a few moments that received a warm response from the whole chamber (Democrats included). Trump pointed out that more than 58% of the new jobs created last year went to women (which incited a surprising standing ovation from the record number of women in Congress — who were mostly wearing Suffragette white). He also promised to work with both parties to pass legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs, fund improvements to U.S. infrastructure and implement paid family leave. Finally, he gave his word to fight anti-Semitism all over the world (a message that complemented yesterday’s announcement that the White House appointed a special envoy dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism).
• The Response
Obviously Trump’s supporters continued to do what they do best: shower the president with praise. However, the Democrats had a different take. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams delivered the official Democratic response, saying “families are being crushed” by Republican leadership and promising her party was “coming for America, for a better America.”
You can read Trump’s full State of the Union speech here.
• Throw Away the Key
Even with a guilty plea, the sentencing hearing for serial killer Bruce McArthur wasn’t as straightforward as expected. As things wrapped up yesterday (he’ll be sentenced on Friday), the court fought over when the 67-year-old should be eligible for parole. Crown attorney Craig Harper asked for a minimum of 50 years (which defence attorney James Miglin said would be “unduly harsh”), whereas Miglin argued any more than the minimum of 25 years isn’t necessary based on McArthur’s age. While those involved (and across the country) wait with baited breath for the judge’s decision, the case of Sgt. Paul Gauthier (who is set to be charged with neglect of duty and insubordination in connection with the McArthur case) is just getting started. Gauthier has asked for a judge to oversee his hearing (which was put over to later this month) instead of a Toronto police superintendent that’s been chosen by the Chief. CBC News
• Canada: Language Lifeline
The Liberal government is taking steps to safeguard Indigenous dialects in Canada, since a considerable number are in danger of dying off as less people learn to speak them. (Thanks a lot, colonialism. 😒) A new federal entity, Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages, will be set up to protect and promote native languages spoken across Canada, while Bill C-91 will allow for the translation of federal documents into Indigenous languages, as well as “the provision of long-term, sustainable funding of Indigenous languages,” says Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. Planned efforts to restore and maintain fluency will include the creation of technological tools, educational materials and permanent records of Indigenous languages, and funding immersion programs. Despite a step forward, the bill is too little, too late for some: It’s facing major criticism from the Inuits who see the bill in “bad faith.” CBC News
• U.S.: Tug of War
The U.S. Senate made two things clear on Tuesday: It stands firmly behind Israel and it disagrees with the president on Syria. Yesterday, lawmakers passed the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act by a 77–23 vote, which would make it legal for states to penalize businesses that take part in boycotting Israel and opposing any “abrupt” removal of American troops from Syria. (POTUS announced in December that he was withdrawing troops from the region.) The bill demands that the White House certify certain conditions have been met in regards to the defeat of the Islamic State and al Qaeda before “any significant withdrawal.” The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, which will likely push back since many members believe Americans should be able to freely boycott Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. Reuters
• World: Bigger and Badder
The Cold War is officially back on. Just days after the U.S. and Russia both announced they were pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty which ended the nuclear arms race in 1987, Russia revealed plans yesterday to develop new (and terrifying) missile systems. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu says the country is working to create new land-based missiles within the next two years. (So, you’ve got two years to build and stock your bomb shelter — start digging!) Both countries allege the other was already in violation of the treaty; Shoigu claims the U.S. is “actively working on creating ground-based missiles with the range capability of over 500km, which is outside the treaty-stipulated limitations. In this situation, the Russian president has set the task for the defence ministry to take tit-for-tat mirrored measures.” (We hadn’t realized schoolyard rules applied to nuclear bombs.) BBC News
📣 QUOTE OF THE DAY
If these actions continue, we will activate some calculated measures as a deterrent and as a firm and appropriate response to teach a lesson to the criminal and lying rulers of Israel.
– Iranian National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani warns Israel to back off on its increasingly frequent air strikes targeting Iranians in Syria, saying the attacks violate Syria’s territorial integrity. (But Iran’s military presence in Syria doesn’t, apparently?) Al Jazeera
• Don’t Bank On It
Canada’s mortgage growth has shrunk to a 17-year low — and the banks aren’t happy about it. An over-inflated housing market, tougher mortgage-qualifying standards, and high debt rates are some of the reasons cited for the fall. (Um, surprised?). Last year, both Toronto and Vancouver housing markets saw their worst sales in over a decade, and nationally, residential mortgage growth is at its slowest pace since May 2001. This news is distressing for homeowners looking to sell, but even moreso for Canadian banks, which rely on mortgages as one of the largest and most profitable areas of their business. (Does the Great Recession of 2008 ring any bells?) “The bread-and-butter of profitability for Canadian banks — is going to have a little less butter on the bread,” said Craig Fehr, investment strategist at Edward Jones & Co. On the flip side, CIBC capital market analyst (and apparent optimist) Robert Sedran asserted that “this is an engineered slowdown with the banks being willing participants in some of these changes that have been made.” BNN Bloomberg
• Battle of the Browsers
Two of the biggest browsers are duelling it out for the title of most exciting update. Yesterday, Firefox announced its solution to the perpetual, headache-inducing barrage of autoplay videos that has swept the internet: It’s banning them entirely. The move, effective next month with the launch of Firefox 66, is a step up from competitor Chrome’s existing version of the feature, which picks and chooses sites for which Google has deemed autoplay permissible. Firefox, on the other hand, will block playback for any video with audio that tries to play without the user actually hitting a play button. (Halle-effing-lujah.) Chrome has news of its own to know, too: A new security extension called Password Checkup, released yesterday, will display an alert the instant it detects any of your passwords (because you have different ones for every one of your online accounts, right??) is compromised. Each time you enter a username and password combination into a website, the extension will scan to see if it’s still secure, and pop up a big red warning box prompting you change your credentials if it’s not. (Can it also securely keep track of them? ‘Cause this is a travesty.)
• Hockey: Leaf Lockdown
It’s not even playoff season, yet Toronto hockey fans have a heck of a lot to cheer about: Auston Matthews is officially sticking around. Yesterday, Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas announced that the star forward had signed a five-year contract extension, worth a whopping average of US $11.6 million per year. The 21-year-old was eligible to become a restricted free agent on July 1 as his three-year rookie deal expired — a situation the team (and the city) certainly didn’t want to happen. Now, with Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander locked in for more seasons with the Maple Leafs, Dubas is turning his attention to the final piece of the superstar puzzle: Mitch Marner, who’s asked that contract discussions be put on hold until after the season. Global News
• Back to Basics
After the cancellation of her much talked-about Netflix show, Chelsea Handler is heading back to her roots: a stand-up tour and a brand-new book. The comedian just announced that she’s releasing a new memoir on April 9, titled Life Will Be the Death of Me. The book is said to follow her “year of self-sufficiency” as she dealt with the election of President Donald Trump. In addition to her new book (which is her first in five years), Handler is also heading back on the road for a “sit-down comedy tour.” The tour starts April 11 in Boston, followed by stops in Washington, Los Angeles, New York and Denver. The tour will wrap up June 1 in San Francisco. Hollywood Reporter
• Cooking With Gas
If there’s one thing male corporate execs need to be successful it’s obviously a top-notch trophy wife. Luckily for employees of a Hong Kong-based gas supplier, the company has got them covered with the promotion of an “Excellent Wife” cooking course. The course is marketed to those who “aspire to be the best girlfriend or wife in town” and consists of five “intensive” lessons on essential lifewife skills such as selecting ingredients, stir-fry and steam cooking and abalone preparation. The course has a tuition cost of HK $2,500 ($320) and concludes with a “food tasting for your beloved” and presentation ceremony of your hard-earned “Excellent Wife Certificate.” But before you get your feminist knickers in a twist, know this: A representative of Hong Kong & China Gas has assured that “men are also welcome” to register for the course. (Man, oh man.) Financial Post
⚡️ STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
• Though they won’t say why, Manhattan prosecutors issued a subpoena to the Trump inauguration team yesterday, requesting documents explaining how they spent more than $100 million.
• If you needed any more proof that smoking was no longer in vogue, hear this: Health Canada just announced new rules to curb vaping by young people and Hawaii wants to change the minimum smoking age to 100.
• Saskatoon has a lot to be Uber excited about: the ride-hailing service just launched in the city.
• You can finally dial back those drunk messages. Facebook just announced an unsend feature for Messenger.
• This family has seen better days. ABC’s announced that the 11th season of Modern Family will be its last.
• His “High”ness
The godfather of reggae, Bob Marley, was born on Feb. 6,1945 — and thanks to last year’s landmark legalization, Canadians can finally pay proper tribute to the famed Rastafari on what would have been his 74th birthday.
• Bare-Knuckle Boxer
We would not want to find ourselves in a ring with this guy.