Evening Update: Saudi Arabia withdrawing students from Canadian schools, suspending flights; Aimia adds to more airlines to list of new Aeroplan partners

 In U.S.

Good evening,


Saudi Arabia withdrawing students from Canadian schools, suspending flights

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The Saudi Arabian government plans to withdraw all students it has been sponsoring at Canadian universities, colleges and other schools in retaliation for Canada criticizing its human-rights record. Separately, Saudi Arabian Airlines announced it would suspend all flights to and from Toronto as of Aug. 13.

The Saudi kingdom is angry at statements on Twitter from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her department last week. Canada called for the immediate release of civil-rights activists in the country and signalled concern over a new crackdown on dissidents by Riyadh. These included Samar Badawi, the sister of imprisoned Saudi writer Raif Badawi, in jail for insulting Islam.

On Sunday, Riyadh expelled the Canadian ambassador, recalled its own envoy and said it would “put on hold all new business and investment transactions with Canada.”

On the trade front, Canada can easily replace the oil it imports from Saudi Arabia should relations deteriorate to the point that trade in crude is halted, energy economist Omar Allam says.

“So why are the Saudis kicking us around the block? They’re using us to send a message,” Margaret Wente writes. “They want other countries with which they do business to sit up and take notice. They don’t want to hear any whining about human rights. They want those countries to shut up and cash the cheques and mind their own business. Canada is a good vehicle for this message because we are relatively small and powerless enough to pick on.”

Aimia adds Air Transat and Flair Airlines to its list of new Aeroplan partners

Aimia has partnered with two more Canadian airlines – Air Transat and Flair Airlines – for its Aeroplan travel loyalty program to replace Air Canada when their agreement expires in 2020. Aimia announced late last week that it had reached a deal for Porter Airlines to become a preferred Canadian partner in Aeroplan.

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Aimia had earlier rejected a hostile takeover bid by Air Canada and financial partners as too low, a sentiment echoed by Aimia’s largest investor, who called the offer “blatantly inadequate.” The Air Canada group had offered $250-million, then in negotiations came up to $325-million, but Aimia had wanted $450-million and different conditions.

The Porter deal gives Aimia’s program crucial routes along the eastern corridor – particularly between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Flair Airlines began operating no-frills scheduled services to several cities last year from a hub at Edmonton International Airport. Montreal-based Air Transat offers service to about 60 destinations in 26 countries.

Premier Doug Ford announces plan for $1 beer in Ontario

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government is lowering the price floor for beer and will be offering brewers incentives to reduce their prices in time for Labour Day weekend. It was one of Ford’s signature campaign promises during the spring election, and today the government announced it was going ahead with a plan to lower the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from the current $1.25. Brewers are not required to charge the lower rate and few in the province sell at the current minimum.

Major protest vanishes in Beijing as authorities put on demonstration of power to disrupt dissent

The train from Chengdu was nearing the end of its 30-hour journey when Ms. Yang decided to make a run for it, Nathan VanderKlippe writes. She was headed to Beijing to join a protest, but it was becoming clear that the authorities were closing in. Early in the trip, relatives called to say police had come looking for her. Then, a railway worker arrived at her sleeper car bunk, saying he had been instructed to locate her.

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Worried, she took to WeChat, the Chinese messaging app, to ask other protesters what to do. They suggested she find another way to Beijing, where organizers expected 10,000 people to gather in the financial district on Monday to demonstrate over lost investments with peer-to-peer lending firms. At 1:59 a.m. on Monday, the train pulled into a station at Shijiazhuang, roughly 250 kilometres from Beijing. By the time the train stopped, a police officer from Beijing was already there, waiting. “I suspect that the police were monitoring my WeChat so they knew what I was planning to do,” Ms. Yang said. She was taken away, screaming and crying.

The demonstration was set to begin at 8:30 a.m. in Beijing at the headquarters of the China Banking Regulatory Commission. But virtually no protesters had materialized. For Chinese authorities, it was a stunning success, a breathtaking demonstration of the power Beijing wields to disrupt protest.

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Canada’s main stock index closed lower following a major sell program from an unknown international dealer. The source of the selloff is unclear, but it comes after Saudi Arabia has responded forcefully through economic and political means to criticism from Canada’s Global Affairs Ministry about the arrest and detention of two female bloggers and activists in the kingdom. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed down 133.94 points at 16,286.30 in a broad-based decline.

In the United States, the S&P 500 inched nearer to a record high today, lifted by Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft, and by a strong second-quarter earnings season that fueled optimism about the U.S. economy’s strength. It ended the session up 8.05 points at 2,858.45, just short of its January record of 2,872.87. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 126.73 points to close at 25,628.91 and the Nasdaq Composite added 23.98 to end at 7,883.66.

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If you’re of a certain vintage, you may remember the TV spectacle that was the opening of Al Capone’s secret vault. After much hype and during a two-hour live broadcast, host Geraldo Rivera revealed … nothing. All the vault contained was debris. The scene was similar in the Saskatchewan village of Alvena, when time came this summer to crack open a time capsule sealed 50 years ago. Residents expected it would contain centennial coins, newspapers, letters from the children at the community’s former school and mementos of rural Canadian life in the 1960s. But all they found was a stubby beer bottle and a broken glass jar containing some old county documents. “It was a big disappointment,” said Elaine Stadnyk, who was a teenager when materials were collected for the capsule in 1968.


LGBTQ seniors fear renewed discrimination in long-term care

“If you are in your mid-60s or older, you remember when it was a crime to be gay in Canada. (Homosexual acts between two consenting adults were decriminalized in 1969.) You remember when being openly gay could keep you from getting a job. Holding hands or kissing in public? You would never think of such a thing. Now, as an increasing number of LGBTQ seniors require long-term care, some discover that the old days are back. Staff in nursing homes lack training for special needs. Some residents may harbour intolerances from earlier times. Circumstance may place a lesbian in the same room as a fundamentalist Christian. And for some, dementia may unleash prejudices that had long been suppressed.” John Ibbitson

Fat, shame and women’s health

“Fear of running up against this stigma might prevent people from taking complaints to the doctor in the first place. That’s particularly true for women, who have been shown to experience more weight stigma in the workplace and on dating apps, as well as by doctors. They’re also more likely to internalize messages that any health problems they have are their fault. But the connection between weight and health isn’t as simple as small is good while big is bad. When it comes to the risk of death from heart disease, diabetes or stroke, what’s really crucial are five factors connected to the metabolic system: elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low good cholesterol and, yes, excess fat around the waist.” Denise Balkissoon

The death penalty won’t stop child rape in India

“The existing law against rape is stringent. But because no effort is made to alter the way many men regard women as objects, the rape figures continue to rise. After the horrific 2012 gang rape of a young student in New Delhi, the government responded in classic knee-jerk fashion by bringing in a draconian law in 2013 with severe penalties for sexual violence and the provision of the death penalty in some cases. But the rape figures kept going up. There were 40,000 rapes reported in 2016, with children making up 40 per cent of the victims. It’s not hard to predict that a new law passed by parliament on July 30 providing a maximum punishment of the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping a girl under the age of 12 will prove to be equally ineffective.” – Amrit Dhillon, a New Delhi-based journalist


Yes, breaking up is hard to do – but the good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. You could opt for the services of a “breakup coach,” such as Toronto’s Natalia Juarez, There are workshops and online classes that provide coping techniques, such as those offered by Joana Lopez, also based in Toronto. For people who want a more intensive approach, there are retreats, such as Renew Breakup Bootcamp out of the United States, which offers four days of uninterrupted healing time, including yoga, healthy meals and group and solo therapy. For the tech-savvy, there are apps including Mend, which offer customized recovery plans based on where in the heartbreak cycle a user is, such as an “ex-detox.”


A century after they died, how four soldiers’ remains were identified

The Battle of Hill 70 in the First World War sent many Canadian soldiers to lost graves – until excavations in recent years revealed them. Now, DNA analysis and other clues are attaching names to the remains. This month, four newly identified soldiers will be formally laid to rest in a cemetery in France created by the Canadian Corp a century ago. Identification of remains is never easy, Roy MacGregor writes, but a variety of indicators – place found, badges, buttons, rings, watches – helps narrow the possibilities, before National Defence genealogists can begin the complex task of tracking potential relatives, who are then asked to give a DNA swab. If the DNA is a match to the DNA of the bones, a positive identification is made, and arrangements proceed to give the remains a proper military burial – near where they fell.

For forensic anthropologist Sarah Lockyer and her colleagues, the ability to help establish long-lost connections is gratifying. When a DNA link is solidly connected to living relatives, the bones “become people,” she says. “Until then, we keep that wall up and deal with human remains like it’s a job.” Once arrangements have been made – the Canadian government pays for two relatives to attend the reinterment; other family members must pay their own way – Dr. Lockyer travels with the remains and attends the burials. “That,” she says, “is when you allow yourself to feel a lot more.”

Evening Update is written by S.R. Slobodian. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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