January job numbers and Trump quits Screen Actors Guild: In The News for Feb. 5

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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 5. …

What we are watching in Canada …

Statistics Canada will say this morning how the Canadian labour market fared in January as large parts of the country were on lockdown to slow the rising tide of COVID-19 cases.

Economists have warned that the heavy restrictions and business closures will likely mean job losses last month.

Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for a loss of 47,500 jobs in January and an unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent.

Losses in January would mark a second straight month that the labour market contracted after 63,000 positions disappeared in December to break a streak of monthly gains that began in May 2020.

In December, the unemployment rate was 8.6 per cent, but would have been 10.9 per cent had Statistics Canada included in calculations Canadians who wanted to work but didn’t search for a job.

Brendon Bernard, an economist with job-posting website Indeed, writes that a key issue will be whether other areas of the economy, namely retail after the holiday shopping season, show declines already seen in the hard-hit service sector.

Also this …

A Manitoba judge is to rule today on whether a Canadian fashion king facing charges of sex trafficking and racketeering in the United States will be released on bail. 

Peter Nygard, who is 79, was arrested in December in Winnipeg under the Extradition Act and faces nine counts in the Southern District of New York. 

Defence lawyer Jay Prober argued in court last week that his client’s health is at risk behind bars.

Court heard there is a plan for an in-home security guard and 24-hour video surveillance to monitor Nygard if he is released.

Federal lawyers told court that Nygard has the means to flee and the charges he faces in the U.S. are too serious for his release. 

Authorities there accuse Nygard of using his influence in the fashion industry to lure women and girls with the promise of modelling and other financial opportunities.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

House Democrats on Thursday asked Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, challenging him to respond to their charge that he incited a violent mob to storm the Capitol. A Trump adviser said the former president won’t testify.

Although Democrats might not have the power to force Trump’s testimony, the request from House impeachment managers is part of their overall effort to put the violent events of Jan. 6 on the record for history and hold him accountable for his words. Democrats will look to use his refusal to testify against him as they argue that the ex-president has avoided responsibility for his actions.

Hours after the Democrats’ request was revealed, Trump adviser Jason Miller dismissed the trial as “an unconstitutional proceeding” and said the former president would not testify. Separately, Trump’s lawyers denounced the request as a “public relations stunt.”

The impeachment trial starts Feb. 9. Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is charged with inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol to interrupt the electoral vote count. Five people died. Before the riot, Trump had told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat.

Democrats have said a trial is necessary to provide a final measure of accountability for the attack. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could hold a second vote to disqualify him from seeking office again.

In the letter to the former president and his attorneys, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Trump explain why he and his team have disputed key factual allegations at the centre of their case. He asked that Trump provide testimony about his conduct “either before or during the Senate impeachment trial,” and under cross-examination, as early as Monday, Feb. 8, and not later than Thursday, Feb. 11.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

President Joe Biden announced Thursday the United States was ending support for a grinding five-year Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country, calling the move part of restoring a U.S. emphasis on diplomacy, democracy and human rights.

“The war has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president. ”This war has to end.”

The Yemen reversal is one of a series of changes Biden laid out Thursday that he said would be part of a course correction for U.S. foreign policy. That’s after President Donald Trump — and some Republican and Democratic administrations before his — often aided authoritarian leaders abroad in the name of stability.

The announcement on Yemen fulfills a campaign pledge. But it also shows Biden putting the spotlight on a major humanitarian crisis that the United States has helped aggravate. The reversing of policy also comes as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia, a global oil giant and U.S. strategic partner.

Saudi Arabia responded Thursday, welcoming an assurance by Biden that the United States would continue co-operating in the kingdom’s defence. In a statement on the official Saudi press agency, the kingdom said it welcomed international diplomatic efforts, affirming “its firm position in support of a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis.” The kingdom also stressed its humanitarian aid to Yemenis.

The ending of U.S. support for the offensive will not affect any U.S. operations against the Yemen-based al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, group, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

On this day in 1667 …

The first mining of iron ore in Canada began at Trois-Rivieres, Que.

In sports…

Canada will not boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing despite calls from human rights organizations to do so.

A coalition of 180 rights groups want a boycott of Beijing’s Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games because of reported human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in China.

The games open in a year, Feb. 4, 2022, followed a month later by the Paralympic Games.

Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive officer David Shoemaker and Paralympic counterpart Karen O’Neill spoke to The Canadian Press on the ineffectiveness of a boycott, as well as the importance of Canada’s participation in Beijing.

Canada joined a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

The Soviets not only remained in Afghanistan for another eight years, but led a revenge boycott of the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

In entertainment…

Donald Trump has resigned from the Screen Actors Guild after the union threatened to expel him for his role in the Capitol riot in January.

In a letter dated Thursday and addressed to SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, Trump said he was resigning from the union that he had been a member of since 1989.

“I no longer wish to be associated with your union,” wrote Trump in a letter shared by the actors guild. “As such, this letter is to inform you of my immediate resignation from SAG-AFTRA. You have done nothing for me.”

The guild responded with a short statement: “Thank you.”

Last month, the SAG-AFTRA board voted that there was probable cause that Trump violated its guidelines for membership by his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. Trump, the guild said, had sustained “a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members.”

Trump’s case was to be weighed by a disciplinary committee. In his letter, the former president said he had no interest in such a hearing. “Who cares?” he wrote.

ICYMI …

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is promising legislation this year to ensure tech giants like Google and Facebook pay for the news content they disseminate on their platforms.

The promise comes as newspapers across the country are displaying blank front pages in a bid to highlight the “urgent” need for news media companies to be paid for their work.

News Media Canada argues that Canadian news media companies are going under and journalism jobs are disappearing because their content is being used for free by Google and Facebook, which are simultaneously hoovering up 80 per cent of all digital advertising revenue.

It warns that as the producers of real news disappear, “hate and fake news” will be all that’s left.

In a statement, Guilbeault says his department is studying options for a made-in-Canada formula for ensuring publishers are fairly compensated for the news they produce; his goal is to introduce legislation on the matter this year.

“News is not free and has never been,” he says.

“Our position is clear: publishers must be adequately compensated for their work and we will support them as they deliver essential information for the benefit of our democracy and the health and well-being of our communities.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021

The Canadian Press