TORONTO STAR
The Toronto Star is an English-language Canadian broadsheet daily. It was founded in 1892 as the Evening Star and is now owned by Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. (a division of Star Media Group, a subsidiary of Torstar Corporation). The Star is generally considered to be the most liberal of Canada's major papers.
The Latest: China Blocks WHO, Taliban Take Kandahar, Russian Bear Mistake
Geopolitics
Worldcrunch

The Latest: China Blocks WHO, Taliban Take Kandahar, Russian Bear Mistake

Welcome to Friday, where China blocks the WHO on COVID origins, the Taliban capture Kandahar and a Russian politician makes a deadly bear error. We also have a Die Welt article on the tiny country that isn't afraid to take on China.


• Taliban capture three more provincial capitals: In southern Afghanistan, insurgents have taken control of Kandahar (the site of much fighting over the past two decades), as well as Herat and Lashkar Gah, spreading their control to over two-thirds of the country. The U.S., Britain and Canada have all sent in troops to evacuate their embassies as the Taliban moves closer to the capital, Kabul.

• Six killed in Plymouth, England shooting: Three women and three men, including the suspect, died, making it the worst mass shooting in the UK in over a decade. An eyewitness tells the BBC that the shooter kicked in the door of a home and randomly started firing; police confirm it is not terror related.

• China rejects renewed WHO efforts on coronavirus origins: Following a January 2021 investigation that failed to conclude how the pandemic started, the World Health Organization has called on China to release data on early COVID-19 cases. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu says the country opposes "political" over "scientific" disease tracing.

• U.S. Census results released: The 2020 Census shows that American population growth has slowed significantly in the past 10 years, while the country's racial diversity has risen. Asian and Latino populations saw the largest increases, as the number of Americans identifying as multiracial more than doubled.

• New influx of opposition figures arrested in Belarus: A year after protests erupted following the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, more than 20 activists, lawyers and journalists have been detained in the past two days. In response, Britain, Canada and the U.S. increased sanctions on Belarusian entities and individuals; others are calling on the International Monetary Fund to limit its financial support.

• Britney Spears' dad steps down from conservatorship: The American pop singer scored a big win in her ongoing legal battle as her father, Jamie Spears, agreed to no longer be in control of her estate. Britney Spears, who has earned hundreds of millions of dollars during her 13-year conservatorship, says she wants her father sent to jail for abusing his position.

• Millionaire Russian politician kills man he says he mistook for bear: Igor Redkin, a member of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, was given a two-month house arrest sentence for killing a man outside a dump; he said he was trying to scare away the "bear."

The Canadian daily newspaper, Toronto Star, reports on the country's expected upcoming snap election, set to take place on September 20. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, losing parliamentary support, is slated to make the formal announcement Sunday for a vote two years ahead of schedule.

The tiny country taking on the Chinese Goliath

With one of the lowest populations and smallest economies in the block, Lithuania has a reputation of being a minor actor on the European political stage. But under Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas, it's breaking from the pack, attempting to strong arm China as the People's Republic vies for increasing global dominance, Germany's Die Welt reports:

The relationship between Lithuania and the People's Republic currently resembles the Old Testament confrontation between David and Goliath. No other European state is adopting a more self-confident tone toward the billion-strong empire than the country of three million people.

So far, the Lithuanian parliament has not only declared the oppression of China's Uyghur Muslim minority to be a genocide and protested in favor of democracy in Hong Kong, but the country has also donated 20,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Taiwan. Lithuania even went on to announce that Taiwan would open a representative office in Vilnius — with the name "Taiwan" in the title. All of these actions have successfully angered the "Goliath."

But Lithuania's boldness is unlikely to be mirrored by its fellow European States. Germany, who is economically intertwined with China, categorically rejected a tougher stance toward Beijing. Nonetheless, Adomenas is hopeful and wants to see "European leadership" from the new German government after Angela Merkel's departure in September.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


57%

The number of Americans who identify as white has dropped by six percentage points, from 64% of the population to 57%, according to new census data. For the first time in the country's history, white Americans now represent under 60% of the total population, with people of color now making up 43% of the U.S. population.

Can we ever return?

— Carol Poon, an accountant who recently left Hong Kong with her husband and young family, told The Guardian she wishes she could go back. They had decided to move to the UK, taking up the country's offer for a route to citizenship, after the national security law was introduced, a "catch-all law that has no limits." She says Hong Kong is not the same anymore and therefore doesn't want her children to grow up in an environment where you "have to lie or be two-faced to survive."

Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Genevieve Mansfield

A family gathering near a cable barrier along the border between Canada and the United States
Geopolitics

Open Or Close Borders? The Impossible Choice Isn't Going Away

Viewed from the proverbial (and literal) 30,000 feet, the most stunning consequence of the coronavirus pandemic may have been the sudden closing of national borders. In an increasingly open world, the past six months of severe international travel restrictions continues to disrupt lives and hobble the global economy.

Last week, the six-months-long closure of the world's longest land border, between the United States and Canada, to "discretionary" travel was extended to at least until Oct. 21. Leaders of these two neighbors face the same impossible dilemma as other countries pondering the reopening of their borders, between saving lives and saving the economy.

Tanking tourism: Morocco implemented one of the world's strictest border lockdowns, keeping its borders closed since mid-March and only allowing the initially trapped tourists to leave the country and stranded citizens to come back in July. But the country's economy has been dealt a serious blow, especially its tourism industry, which accounts for 7% of its GDP.

Controls at the Austrian-Hungarian border — Photo: Frank Hoermann/DPA/ZUMA

Europe's uncertainty: As soon as coronavirus cases were climbing again at the end of August, several European countries started to either reintroduce restrictions and quarantine measures or to close their borders again — despite German chancellor Angela Merkel warning Europe must avoid closing borders again "at any cost."

  • On Sept. 1, Hungary decided to close its borders to foreigners without consulting any other EU members, while Finland imposed Europe's "tightest" border restrictions and several countries added others in their unsafe travel list. This came with short notice for travellers and holidaymakers who were forced to either postpone, shorten or cancel their trips altogether.

  • But this lack of coordination could have far worse consequences in the long run and not just for travellers, but also for cross-border and seasonal workers, students, or families and couples, and on the European economic and cultural life. That is why 71 lawmakers from the European Parliament wrote an open letter, calling EU member states to come "to an agreement on common sanitary measures in Schengen," after witnessing this summer "the chaos at the internal borders of the EU."

  • The European Commission is currently testing coronavirus contacts-tracing apps that would interoperate across the bloc. But that might not be enough to ensure one country or the other will not close its borders.

Canada's problematic neighbor: Despite economic pressure, others are not so keen to reopen their borders, fearing the free flow of population might result in a resurgence of cases.

  • This is the case for Canada, as its neighbor, the United States is registering the highest number of cases in the world with over 6.9 million infections and highest number of deaths with over 200,000 fatalities.

  • Some border city mayors prefer the border to stay closed for a longer period of time. Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia, Ontario, which borders the U.S. state of Michigan, pleaded to Canadian officials on CTV News: "Just don't open it back up again .. if it backfired we'd have to close it again. And that's the worst thing you can do, give us freedom and then take it away."

  • On the other hand, U.S. President Donald Trump said the border would open "pretty soon", adding that "Canada would like it opened." But a survey conducted earlier this month revealed that 90% of Canadians want to keep the strict border restrictions in place, The Toronto Star reports.

The land border between Canada and the United States was closed to all non-essential travel in March 2020 — Photo: Liang Sen/Xinhua/ZUMA

Real costs Down Under: The consequences of closing borders within the countries themselves are very real too. Australia has closed its international borders to anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident since March, but the closing of its internal borders this summer and difference of restrictions between states has also divided the country in an unprecedented manner and created vivid tensions.

  • "So it's not like "Oh we put the border up, everything's OK and everybody's protected," no — there are real costs to that too" Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sky News. He has pressed states to reopen by Christmas, as anti-lockdown protests erupted in Victoria, the epicentre of the country's latest wave of cases, at the beginning of September.

  • The national daily The Australian called Queensland border rules "horrendously cruel" as requests for exemptions to attend funerals were denied while the country's PM said his office has been swamped with letters from Australians with "heartbreaking" stories of citizens being denied medical care and other vital services.

  • Some states are currently starting to ease restrictions: South Australia is reopening its borders with New South Wales this week, after the latter registered no new cases in two weeks. "A victory for clear, evidence-based policy in the sometimes emotional debate about the role state borders should play in controlling COVID-19", stated The Sydney Morning Herald, which accused other states of adopting "less transparent and evidence-based approach", such as Western Australia, which has refused to disclose any date for reopening.

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Canadian Paper Says "Welcome" To Syrian Refugees

As Canada is getting ready to receive the first charter flight of the 25,000 Syrian refugees it has pledged to resettle by the end of February, Canadian daily the Toronto Star has chosen to greet them with a warm "Welcome to Canada" — subtitled in Arabic — on the front page of its Thursday edition.

To welcome the first arrival of migrants, Toronto's Pearson Airport has been "turned into a one-stop immigration shop, complete with posters of Niagara Falls, a play room with moose plush toys and warm winter clothing," the Star reports.

"They will enter this terminal as refugees and leave as permanent residents of Canada," the daily quotes Heidi Jurisic, of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, as saying.

Canada's new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned in favor of resettling 25,000 people displaced by the civil war in Syria — a plan that was criticized by his political opponents after the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.