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Leaders debate, expanding critical mineral production : In The News for Sept. 2


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 Sept. 2 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The first televised debate of the federal election campaign takes place tonight.

Only four leaders — the Liberals' Justin Trudeau, the Conservatives' Erin O'Toole, the Bloc Québécois' Yves-Francois Blanchet and the NDP's Jagmeet Singh will face off.

The Green party's Annamie Paul and the Peoples' party's Maxime Bernier were not invited to participate.

The French debate on TVA, one of Quebec's most-watched networks, comes at the mid-point of the campaign and could prove crucial to the outcome on Sept. 20.

The TVA debate is in addition to two official debates organized by the Leaders' Debates Commission. The official debates are scheduled to take place next week — in French on Sept. 8 and in English on Sept. 9. 

Paul will participate in those debates, but Bernier, who didn't meet the independent commission's criteria for participation, will not.


Also this ...

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce wants federal leaders to get serious about making critical minerals a fundamental part of North America's economic recovery.

The chamber says Canada is missing a "major opportunity" to be a world power in producing the minerals and rare-earth elements that power everything from cellphones to electric cars. 

It says critical minerals must also be at the core of any successful strategy to transition to a low-carbon economy and mitigate the impact of climate change. 

But so far, Canada's federal election campaign has been devoid of any serious discussion about capitalizing on the country's rich reserves of critical minerals and rare-earth metals. 

The chamber wants to see detailed plans for expanding domestic production, fortifying supply chains and partnering with the United States, where demand is already soaring. 

China is the world's largest rare-earth producer, with more than 60 per cent of global annual production, well ahead of the U.S., Myanmar, Australia and India. Canada, meanwhile, is home to an estimated 15 million untapped tonnes of rare-earth oxides. 

"Canada urgently needs a trade and economic strategy for our own critical mineral deposits," the chamber warns in a statement. "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

A federal bankruptcy judge has approved with conditions a historic opioid settlement between Purdue Pharma and thousands of local and state governments in the United States. 

Under the settlement, the OxyContin maker will be reorganized into a new company that will funnel its profits into efforts to fight the overdose crisis. Members of the Sackler family will give up ownership of the company and pay $4.5 billion, but they also will be freed from any future civil liability involving opioids. It also sets up a compensation fund that will pay some victims of drug addiction an expected $3,500 to $48,000 each.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain said he would approve the plan as long as two technical changes were made. If so, he said, he will formally enter the decision on Thursday.

The settlement comes nearly two years after the company based in Stamford, Conn., filed for bankruptcy under the weight of some 3,000 lawsuits from states, local governments, hospitals, unions and others. They accuse Purdue Pharma of fuelling the crisis by aggressively pushing sales of its best-selling prescription painkiller.

Richard Sackler, a former Purdue president and board chairman, said under questioning that he, his family and the company did not bear responsibility for the opioid crisis.

Drain noted that none of the four Sacklers who testified offered an explicit apology. “A forced apology is not really an apology, so we will have to live without one,” he said.

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and the three largest U.S. drug distribution companies recently announced a settlement that could be worth up to $26 billion if state and local governments agree.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

   KABUL, Afghanistan — An official says the United Nations’ stockpiles of food could run out this month in Afghanistan, which threatens to add a hunger crisis to the challenges facing the country’s new Taliban rulers.

Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN‘s humanitarian chief in Afghanistan, said about one third of the country’s population of 38 million doesn’t know if they will have a meal every day. 

The UN’s World Food Program has brought in food and distributed it to tens of thousands of people in recent weeks, but with winter approaching and a drought ongoing, more money is needed.

Earlier, UN officials said that of the US$1.3 billion needed for overall aid efforts, only 39 per cent has been received.

Afghanistan relies heavily on international aid and is in the midst of a worsening economic crisis. In addition to the concerns about food supplies, civil servants haven’t been paid in months and the local currency is losing value. Most of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves are held abroad and currently frozen.

Khalid Payenda, Afghanistan's former acting finance minister, on Wednesday detailed a country existing in a dangerously fragile state.

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, Payenda said the Afghan currency had yet to crash because money exchanges had been shuttered. But its value could plunge by more than 100 per cent, said Payenda, who described former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani as withdrawn and paranoid ahead of the Taliban takeover.

“I think the war had a toll on his psyche and he saw everything with suspicion,” Payenda said.

Part of the chaos reflects the speed at which the Taliban took control of the country, with Payenda saying he thought the prior government could have been sustained for two or three more years because of commitments by international donors.

“I did not expect it to be this quickly,” Payenda said. “Nobody actually did.”


On this day in 1912 ...

The first Calgary Stampede began. It was instigated by Guy Weadick, an American trick roper who thought Calgary would be a prime location for a big rodeo. The Stampede, which takes place every July, is one of the largest rodeos in the world.


In entertainment ...

VENICE, Italy — Hope for the future of cinema was front of mind for many as the Venice International Film Festival kicked off Wednesday on the Lido. 

The 78th edition of the oldest festival in the world has returned with precautions amid the pandemic to celebrate the best of what’s to come in film. 

There are both newcomers and established veterans like Jane Campion and Pedro Almodóvar. Jury president Bong Joon Ho said Wednesday in the opening news conference that COVID-19 will pass and cinema will continue. 

“I have the feeling and impression that everyone is willing to come back, ready to start again, ready to release the films that stayed on the shelf for two years,” festival director Alberto Barbera told The Associated Press. “And the hope is that the audience will come back to the theatres, which is the best way to watch a movie.”

Although a vocal supporter of the movie theatre experience, Barbera also sees the good in streaming and again is hosting several Netflix films at the festival, including Campion's “The Power of the Dog.”

“We all know that after the reopening the situation will be completely different from the past. (Streaming) platforms are there to stay, cinema, theatres will not disappear," Barbera said. “But we will face sort of a double system ... theatres and platforms."

Bong Joon Ho, the Oscar-winning director of “Parasite” who is presiding over the main jury year, said that the last year “was a test that showed the life force of cinema.”

“Filmmakers had a very tough time last year,” Bong told a news conference. “I don’t believe that the history of cinema can be stopped so easily. So COVID will pass and cinema will continue.”



LONDON — Britain’s media regulator has cleared TV personality and journalist Piers Morgan of any violations for making comments about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, that drew more than 50,000 viewer complaints. 

The Office of Communications, known as Ofcom, says Morgan didn't breach the broadcasting code when he said on “Good Morning Britain” that he didn't believe what Meghan said during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. 

During the March interview, the duchess said she had suicidal thoughts while struggling to fit in with the monarchy. 

“This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios. Do I get my job back?” Morgan, 56, tweeted in response to the decision.

Meghan, who before she married Prince Harry in May 2018 was an American actress known as Meghan Markle, told Winfrey that royal officials ignored her concerns about her mental health and that she faced racist attitudes.

Ofcom said that while Morgan’s comments were “potentially harmful and offensive to viewers,” regulators “took full account of freedom of expression.”

“Under our rules, broadcasters can include controversial opinions as part of legitimate debate in the public interest,” the office said in a statement.

“The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2021

The Canadian Press

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