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✨ Good morning! Today is Tuesday, January 15, 2019 and this resemblance really is uncanny.
BULLETIN: Seeing Red
• The Background
Yesterday, Canadian Robert Schellenberg was handed a death sentence by a Chinese court for drug smuggling. Previously convicted of the crime on Nov. 20, Schellenberg was originally sentenced to 15 years, and appeared in court yesterday to appeal — only to have the judge upgrade (or should that be downgrade?) his sentence to execution. CBC News
• What Else You Need to Know
PM Trudeau was quick to speak out against the ruling, both privately to Chinese officials and publicly to the media. “It is of extreme concern to us as a government…that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply [the] death penalty.” Unsurprisingly, speculation is swirling that Schellenberg’s increased sentence is the latest in a series of jabs the Chinese government has taken at Canadians within its borders as alleged retaliation for Canada’s Dec. 1 arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
• What’s Next?
Trudeau says he will always intervene when a Canadian is sentenced to death in another country (we should hope so), while Schellenberg’s lawyer in China, Zhang Dongshuo, says his client will “probably” appeal the decision. In the meantime, the Canadian government has issued a travel advisory for China, advising Canadians travelling to the country to exercise a high degree of caution “due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
• Where Help is Needed Most
The Russian LGBT Network, along with LGBT activists and media outlets, are bringing accusations against the Russian republic of Chechnya to light, alleging it orchestrated a crackdown on gays, resulting in two deaths and about 40 people detained. While a spokesperson for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov insisted the reports are lies, victims of the torture and detentions are coming forward to share their stories. In 2017, 150 gay men were evacuated from Chechnya and have since sought asylum and moved abroad. Marie Struthers, director of Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe section, called the news of the latest crackdown “spine-chilling” and took the opportunity to plead for help. “With lives in jeopardy, there is an urgent need for an international response to protect gay and lesbian people in Chechnya.” AP News
• Canada: Minister Mix-Up
The federal government saw yet another cabinet shuffle yesterday. Rookies David Lametti and Bernadette Jordan were appointed to the front bench, putting the cabinet at 36 members, the highest it’s been since this government took office. Replacing Jody Wilson Raybould as Canada’s new Justice Minister and Attorney General, Lametti will make the final decision on the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou. Bernadette Jordan took on the newly created role of Minister of Rural Economic Development, while additional ministers gained roles that were new only to them. Jane Philpott was made President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, Seamus O’Regan was made Indigenous Services Minister, and Jody Wilson Raybould, previously Justice Minister, is set to take on a role in Veteran Affairs. CTV News
• U.S.: The People’s Champ
Women across the U.S. are thanking their lucky stars for Judge Wendy Beetlestone today. At the eleventh hour, the U.S. federal judge shot down the Trump administration’s planned regulations on birth control, which were to go into effect yesterday. The rules would have allowed employers and insurers to decline coverage for birth control on the grounds of it violating their “religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” (since when are insurance companies religious?). Beetlestone granted a nationwide injunction blocking the regulations after finding that they could result in unplanned pregnancies (no sh*t) and as many as 127,000 women being denied continued coverage of their medication. She ruled that “the negative effects of even a short period of decreased access to no-cost contraceptive services is irreversible” for women in need. Philly.com
• World: Pay Day
Faced with mass migration, political unrest and even starvation, the Venezuelan government is in crisis mode. In an attempt to calm concerns over the country’s spiralling economy, President Nicolas Maduro raised the minimum wage by 300% to 18,000 bolivars per month (that’s around US $6.70). For context, a cafe con leche in Venezuela costs 400 bolivars, which is up over 1.7 million percent in just 3 months. (That better be one delicious cup of coffee.) Al Jazeera
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I will follow the Special Counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob [Mueller] will be allowed to complete his work.
– A promise made by U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr in his prepared testimony ahead of his confirmation hearing, to be held today and tomorrow in the Senate. Politico
• Second Wind
In a time when home phones are as alien to us as E.T., it’s no secret that traditional telecommunications companies are struggling to play catch-up. In 2016, Calgary-based Shaw acquired Freedom Mobile, formerly known as Wind. Having increased revenue in its wireless division by 60%, Shaw has blown away analyst’s revenue and growth predictions and softened the blow of ever-decreasing home phone, cable, and satellite video subscriptions. “While we are still early days in our journey towards a modern Shaw, I am encouraged by the progress we have made,” said chief executive Brad Shaw. Since acquiring Freedom, Shaw has focused on improving its wireless network and continues to draw customers with its low-cost data plans. Bell should be taking notes – the company just announced that its bring-your-own device plans will increase by $5 in March. Financial Post
• Party Planner
Facebook is trying to return to its roots of bringing friends together with its latest update to its mobile offering. It started testing a way to use its Stories feature “to share the events you’re interested in and coordinate to meet up with friends IRL.” The revamp will allow users to share details of an event — like an upcoming concert or activity — with friends to see who else may want to join (so long, obviously, as the event in question has a corresponding Facebook event page). Stories using the feature will display tappable stickers to reveal event details, and friends can RSVP as “interested” or “going” to the event from within the story. You’ll also be able to easily start a group chat with friends who respond. For now, the feature will be testing in the U.S., Brazil and Mexico only. The Verge
• Tennis: Open Court
The first Grand Slam of 2019 is in full swing (pun intended). Sadly, the first day of the Australian Open’s main draw was also the last for British veteran Andy Murray. The former world No.1 was pushed out of the tournament by Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in a dramatic five set loss, just days after Murray announced his plan to retire after this year’s Wimbeldon tournament. Serena Williams, on the other hand, was back in superstar form with a crushing win over Germany’s Tatjana Maria (and yet another head-turning outfit). Over on the Canadian courts, Eugenie Bouchard easily beat out China’s Peng Shuai; new sensation Bianca Andreescu continued her hot streak with a win over American Whitney Osuigwe; Denis Shapovalov defeated Spain’s Pablo Andújar; and despite his home court advantage, Aussie Nick Kyrgios was no match for Canada’s top ranked competitor Milos Raonic.
• Happily Ever After (Again)
Turns out everyone but Chris Pratt was still mourning the end of his marriage to Anna Faris. A year and a half after separating, the 39-year-old Parks and Recreation and Jurassic World star has announced he’s engaged. The lucky lady is 29-year-old Katherine Schwarzenegger (daughter of the scariest father-in-law ever). The couple was introduced by Schwarzenegger’s mother, Maria Shriver, a mere six months ago, and announced their engagement via Instagram. (Kinda gives new meaning to Pratt’s acceptance speech at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards.) Daily Beast
• A Little Bird Told Us…
First we had the Tide Pod Challenge, then the In My Feelings Challenge, and now the #BirdBoxChallenge. Inspired by the Netflix film Bird Box, the challenge consists of doing an activity while blindfolded, and despite Netflix issuing a warning about the dangers of doing this (because, welcome to 2019), no one seems to care. A teenager in Utah decided she would do the challenge…while driving a car. (What a bird brain.) When she inevitably crashed, police tweeted about the incident, saying “Bird Box Challenge while driving…predictable result.” Luckily no one was injured, so we’re free to make fun of her until the end of time, or at least until the next challenge starts trending. TechCrunch
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
• Popular Polish mayor Pawel Adamowicz has died after being stabbed at a charity event on Sunday evening. The attacker had been released from prison last month.
• After ousting him from his seats on congressional committees, members of U.S. Congress are calling for the resignation of Republican Rep. (and unabashed racist) Steve King.
• Bernie Sanders amps up his team, securing a media production company as well as digital alumni from his 2016 run. You don’t need 2020 vision to see what’s up here.
• Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, is rumoured to be withdrawing, which will likely postpone the trial.
• Bollywood fans rejoice! Spotify has struck a deal with top Indian record company T-series to bring its artists’ music to the platform.
• Information Overload
Whatever did we do before Wikipedia? On Jan. 15, 2001, the collaborative encyclopedia went online for the first time.
• Perfect 10
Do they give bonus points for infectious enthusiasm?