Convoy stalemate and Olympic opening ceremonies: In The News for Feb. 4

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Published February 4, 2022 at 4:30 am

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 Feb. 4 …

What we are watching in Canada …

OTTAWA — As downtown Ottawa residents brace for an eighth day of blaring horns and traffic gridlock there is still no end in sight to the anti-vaccine mandate protest by truckers who have parked their rigs in front of Parliament Hill.

Late Thursday, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the RCMP had approved Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s request for Mounties to support city police.

Mendicino said the convoy has caused significant disruptions to local residents including vandalism, harassment, expressions of hate and violence, as well as the ongoing obstruction of many services.

But there was still no clear sign that any action to end the protest was imminent.

Tamara Lich, a protest organizer, told a Thursday news conference the departure of the demonstrators would “be based on the prime minister doing what is right: ending all mandates and restrictions on our freedoms.”

However, there was absolutely no indication Thursday of that being on the table as Justin Trudeau still refused to meet with the protesters, instead repeating his criticism of their tactics and calling on them to give the increasingly frustrated people of Ottawa their neighbourhoods back.

The prime minister also responded to questions about the possibility of bringing in the military to help end the protest, saying that option was not in the cards at this time.

Also this …

UNDATED — Alberta and Saskatchewan have taken the lead among provinces and territories in signalling their intentions to soon remove most, if not all, remaining COVID-19 public health restrictions.

Premier Jason Kenney says his government will announce next week a date to end Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine passport, as well as a phased approach to ending almost all COVID-19 health restrictions by the end of the month, provided the pressure on hospitals continues to decline.

Meanwhile in Saskatchewan where COVID-19 related hospitalizations are at their highest level since the pandemic began, Premier Scott Moe says he’s committed to ending all COVID-19 restrictions soon.

Moe said in a video posted to social media that COVID-19 is not going away, but people are done with having to follow public health orders, so “normalizing” the virus and learning to live with it is the achievable option.

The Saskatchewan Medical Association, however, is warning that loosening health measures would strain the province’s health-care system.

Ontario and Quebec, which have seen a slight decline in COVID-related hospitalizations this week, have both eased some restrictions, however, scientists and health officials in the two provinces have warned that cases will likely rise again as partial reopenings progress.

Newfoundland and Labrador is set loosen restrictions on businesses and group sizes on Monday, though Premier Andrew Furey, who is also an orthopedic surgeon, said Thursday that any changes must be done with caution.

And this …

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada is scheduled this morning to report on how the job market fared in January amid tightened restrictions as the Omicron variant spread.

The Canadian economy added 55,000 jobs in December before COVID-19 cases began spiking at the end of the month, and edged the unemployment rate down to 5.9 per cent.

It was the lowest unemployment rate since February 2020 before the pandemic when it was 5.7 per cent.

January’s report is expected to wipe out December’s gains because of Omicron.

RBC economist Nathan Janzen and Claire Fan say they expected to see a drop of 75,000 jobs in the month, and an unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent after COVID-19 restrictions prompted business closures in much of the country.

However, the duo say they expect the impacts of Omicron to be short-lived and not extend beyond the first quarter of 2022.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

UNDATED — A major winter storm that already cut electric power to about 350,000 homes and businesses from Texas to the Ohio Valley is set to leave Pennsylvania and New England glazed in ice and smothered in snow.

A National Weather Service meteorologist said 30 centimetres of snow was expected to accumulate today in northern New York and northern New England.

But it was the ice that threatened to wreak havoc on travel and electric service in the Northeast before the storm heads out to sea late today and Saturday.

Also this …

WASHINGTON — Facing criticism for civilian deaths in U.S. airstrikes, the Biden administration targeted the leader of the Islamic State group in a way that was riskier for American forces, landing dozens of U.S. commandoes outside his Syrian hideout rather than targeting him with an airstrike.

But the U.S. raid still brought the deaths of women and children.

U.S. officials blamed a suicide bomb detonated by the IS leader.

The deaths highlight the challenge U.S. forces face in targeting violent militants, while bound by ethics and international laws and treaties to try to avoid killing non-combatants.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

MOSCOW — When the U.S. and NATO rejected the Kremlin’s security demands over Ukraine last week, fears of an imminent Russian attack against its neighbor soared.

But instead of sending armored armadas across the Ukrainian border as the U.S. and its allies had feared, Moscow bombarded Western capitals with diplomatic letters about an international agreement that the Kremlin sees as a strong argument amid the standoff over Ukraine.

Even though President Vladimir Putin said a month ago that he wants a quick answer to the Russian demands and isn’t interested in “endless discussions,” Moscow has signaled its readiness for more talks with Washington and NATO.

Also this …

BEIJING — Canadian, American and some European diplomats are staying away from the Beijing Winter Olympics to protest human-rights concerns, but Russia’s president has arrived.

Vladimir Putin is in the Chinese capital for today’s opening of the Winter Games and a private lunch and talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Putin’s visit comes amid growing Chinese support for Moscow in its tense dispute with Ukraine and mass troop buildup at the border that threatens to escalate into armed conflict.

And this …

Queen Elizabeth II will mark 70 years on the throne Sunday, an unprecedented reign that has made her a symbol of stability as the United Kingdom navigated an age of uncertainty.

From her early days as a glamorous young royal in glittering tiaras to her more recent incarnation as the nation’s grandmother, the queen has witnessed the end of the British Empire, the advent of multiculturalism, the rise of international terrorism, and the challenges posed by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a world of relentless change, she has been a constant — representing the U.K.’s interests abroad, applauding the nation’s successes and commiserating in its failures, and always remaining above the fray of politics.

On this day in 1789 …

Electors chose George Washington to be the first president of the United States.

In entertainment …

CAMBRIDGE — “Ozark” actor Jason Bateman is being feted as 2022 Man of the Year by Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

Thursday evening’s festivities marked the first time the award has been presented since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.

Bateman also produced and directed “Ozark,” a popular Netflix series.

The “Arrested Development” star is the 55th recipient of the theater troupe’s coveted pudding pot.

The last Man of the Year was Ben Platt in 2020.

Past recipients include Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson.

The 2022 Woman of the Year, Jennifer Garner, will be honored Saturday.

Also this …

NEW YORK — The abrupt ouster of CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker because of a workplace relationship has left some prominent employees feeling angry and uncertain about the direction of their network at a pivotal moment.

The company is about to undergo a corporate ownership change, launch a paid streaming service and replace its most popular on-air host at a time of slumping ratings.

The decision to oust Zucker unleashed some raw, angry feelings at a CNN newsroom meeting on Wednesday, according to an audio recording obtained by The Associated Press.

Executives tried to assure staffers that they would be following the direction Zucker had established.

ICYMI …

TORONTO — A two-part documentary about Canadian comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall is headed to Prime Video after debuting next month at the South by Southwest festival.

Amazon’s streaming arm says “The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks” will feature archival footage from the quintet’s earliest years, behind-the-scenes clips from their eponymous sketch series and in-depth interviews with members Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson.

The documentary dives into the group’s post-punk era origins in the mid-1980s, five seasons of their television series, a controversial feature film and multiple sold-out tours.

It is set to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin this March before landing on Prime Video later this year.

The look-back joins a Toronto-shot revival of “The Kids in the Hall” sketch series bound for Prime Video later this year.

The original comedy aired from 1989 to 1995 on CBC, as well as CBS and HBO in the United States.

Produced by Blue Ant Studios, the new documentary is drawn from the biography “The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy” by Paul Myers, who serves as an executive producer.

Featured interviews include Fred Armisen, Lauren Ash, Jay Baruchel, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard, Mae Martin, Lorne Michaels and Mike Myers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2022

The Canadian Press

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