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Michael Spavor sentenced, Meng extradition hearing begins : In The News for Aug. 11

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 Aug. 11, 2021 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

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 Aug. 11, 2021 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling the 11-year prison sentenced handed down to Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor by a Chinese court "absolutely unacceptable and unjust."

In a statement, Trudeau says the verdict comes after more than two and a half years of "arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law."

Spavor's family issued a statement saying while they disagree with the charges, they understand it is the next step in the process in bringing him home and will continue to support him through this challenging time. 

They say his life passion has been to bring different cultures together through tourism and events shared between the Korean Peninsula and other countries including China and Canada, and the current situation has not dampened, but strengthened that passion. 

Trudeau says Canada's top priority remains securing Spavor's immediate release, as well as that of fellow detained Canadian Michael Kovrig, adding "We will continue working around the clock to bring them home as soon as possible.''

Spavor and Kovrig were detained in China in what critics labelled "hostage politics" after the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport on U-S charges of lying to the Hong Kong arm of the British bank H-S-B-C about possible dealings with Iran in violation of trade sanctions.

No word has been given about a trial date for former Canadian diplomat Kovrig, who was also detained in December 2018 and charged with spying.

On Tuesday, another Chinese court rejected the appeal of a third Canadian whose prison term in a drug case was abruptly increased to death following Meng's arrest.


Also this ...

The formal extradition hearing for the Huawei executive accused of fraud in the United States is expected to start today in British Columbia Supreme Court with government lawyers making the case for why Meng Wanzhou should be extradited to face charges.

Her long-awaited extradition hearing is proceeding as courts in China prosecute Canadians whose sentencing or detentions are widely been seen as retaliation for her 2018 arrest.

A Chinese court upheld a death sentence on Tuesday for Canadian Robert Schellenberg, whose original 15-year sentence for smuggling drugs was increased to the death penalty just a month after Meng was arrested. 

Entrepreneur Michael Spavor was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to 11 years, following a short hearing that was held behind closed doors in March.

Meng, who is Huawei's chief financial officer and daughter of the Chinese telecom giant's founder, denies allegations that she put HSBC at risk of breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran. 

The Vancouver court has heard extensive arguments from Meng's legal team seeking her release on grounds that she suffered more than 30 abuses of process, including political interference by then-U.S. president Donald Trump, although the Crown has denied any misconduct occurred. 


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

ALBANY, N.Y.  _ Kathy Hochul, a western New York Democrat unfamiliar to many people in the state even after six years as its lieutenant-governor, was set to begin reintroducing herself to the public Wednesday as she prepared to take the reins of power after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would resign from office.

Hochul, 62, in two weeks will become the state's first female governor, following a remarkable transition period in which Cuomo has said he will stay on and work to ease her into a job that he dominated over his three terms in office.

She stayed out of public sight Tuesday but said in a statement that she was ``prepared to lead.'' Hochul planned to hold her first news conference Wednesday afternoon at the State Capitol, in the very room where Cuomo became a familiar face to people across the U.S. and beyond for his televised briefings on New York's fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo, 63, announced Tuesday that he would step down rather than face a likely impeachment trial over allegations that he sexually harassed at least 11 women, including one who accused him of groping her breast.

Cuomo has continued to deny that he touched anyone inappropriately, and said his instinct was to fight back against claims he felt were unfair or fabricated. But he said that with the state still in a pandemic crisis, it was best for him to step aside so the state's leaders could ``get back to governing.''

That job will fall to Hochul, who served briefly in Congress representing a Buffalo-area district, but purposely kept a modest profile as lieutenant-governor in a state where Cuomo commanded _ and demanded _ the spotlight.

In addition to examining his conduct with women, lawyers hired by the state Assembly had been investigating whether the administration' manipulated data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and whether Cuomo improperly got help from his staff writing a book about the pandemic.


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

KABUL, Afghanistan _ The Taliban seized three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, putting nine of the nation's 34 in the insurgents' hands amid the U.S. withdrawal from the country.

The fall of the capitals of Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces to the northeast and Farah province to the west put increasing pressure on the country's central government to stem the tide of the advance.

While Kabul itself has not been directly threatened in the advance, the Taliban offensive continues to stretch Afghan security forces now largely fighting against the insurgents on their own.

Humayoon Shahidzada, a lawmaker from Farah, confirmed to The Associated Press his province's capital fell. Hujatullah Kheradmand, a lawmaker from Badakhshan, said the Taliban had seized his province. An Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about an unacknowledged loss, said Baghlan's capital also fell.

The insurgents earlier captured six other provincial capitals in the country in less than a week, including Kunduz in Kunduz province_ one of the country's largest cities.

After a 20-year Western military mission and billions of dollars spent training and shoring up Afghan forces, many are at odds to explain why the regular forces have collapsed, fleeing the battle sometimes by the hundreds. The fighting has fallen largely to small groups of elite forces and the Afghan air force.


On this day in 1995 ...

Three people were killed when a Toronto Transit subway train smashed into the rear of another stopped train.


In entertainment ...

Ryan Reynolds admits he's not always as chipper in the morning as his character in the new comedy film “Free Guy,” about an uber-positive bank teller who discovers he's actually a background player in a violent video game.

“Usually I'm woken up by, like, a stiff punch in the face from one of my kids,” the Vancouver-raised star, who has three daughters with actor-wife Blake Lively, said in a recent interview.

“They tend to sneak into the bed at night, so I get a lot of high kicks and heels to the face and that kind of stuff. I wouldn't trade it for the world.”

To channel the unfailingly happy outlook of Guy, the “Deadpool” star said he found inspiration in simple-minded characters, including Peter Sellers' gardener in 1979's “Being There” and Will Ferrell's Santa helper in 2003's “Elf.”

And he tapped into some “earnest Canadian optimism,” on the suggestion of the film's Montreal-born director, Shawn Levy.

In theatres Friday, “Free Guy” stars Reynolds as Guy, an artificially intelligent, non-playable character (NPC) who wakes up every morning declaring it's going to be a “great day” despite living in a video-game world filled with destruction.

“Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer co-stars as a real-world programmer who plays the “Free City” game and helps Guy realize he's not a human being. Other cast members include Oscar-nominated actor-director Taika Waititi as the nefarious head of the gaming company.



Farmers and environmental experts across the prairies say booming grasshopper populations will have a negative impact on all parts of the agriculture industry.

This summer's dry, hot conditions in parts of Western Canada have provided the perfect environment for certain grasshopper species.

There are roughly 90 species of grasshoppers in the prairies, with five of them being considered problem pests. 

Problem species such as the two-striped grasshopper feed on cereal crops and pastures. 

Farmers in southern parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have seen the species invade their crops with some having to cut their harvest season short.

In parts of British Columbia, farmers have had to resort to buying expensive hay for their livestock because grasshoppers are feeding on pastures. 

Experts say if the hot, dry conditions into the fall and next summer the problem may become even more severe. 

They say the last time a similar situation occurred was in the early 2000s.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2021

The Canadian Press

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