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The Monday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories


Highlights from the news file for Monday, Nov. 20

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NEBRASKA APPROVES KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE: Nebraska regulators approved passage of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline Monday, clearing the last major regulatory hurdle for the controversial $10-billion project but creating a new wrinkle by choosing an alternative route for the pipeline. TransCanada said it was evaluating the decision by the state's Public Service Commission, which opted not to approve the company's preferred route and instead went for one that shifts the southern portion of the pipeline toward an existing pipeline route and away from sensitive ecological areas. The Nebraska panel voted 3-2 to approve the project. In a written decision, the panel said it was in the public's interest to put the new pipeline nearer to TransCanada's existing Keystone pipeline already running through the state to make it easier to monitor and respond to spills, to reduce impacts on endangered species and other benefits related to reduced conflicts.

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NEXT ROUND OF NAFTA TALKS SHIFT TO MONTREAL: The NAFTA negotiations are moving to non-capital cities for their first meeting outside of Washington, Mexico City and Ottawa. The destination: Montreal. Two sources familiar with the negotiations say the next Canada-based round, in late January, will see the talks shift a couple hours' drive down the road from Ottawa, to Canada's second-largest city. One cited several factors that prompted the Canadian hosts to shift the talks there. Some were political, and one was logistical. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter not yet public, said that after talks in Spanish-speaking and English-speaking settings, the Canadians wanted to hold a round in French-speaking Quebec, while also highlighting the importance of manufacturing to various parts of Canada. The logistical factor was more mundane: Montreal simply has more hotel rooms than the capital. Negotiators at the previous Ottawa round were housed in motels and hotels in far-flung parts of the city, and transported by school bus into a government building, away from stakeholders.

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CANADA, MEXICO PUSH U.S. TO EXPLAIN AUTO PLAN: The Canadian and Mexican governments are pressing the U.S. explain its auto proposal at the current round of NAFTA talks. Those countries are not making a counter-offer to the plan, but will instead demand details on how it would work and deliver a presentation on how they believe such an idea would harm the U.S. itself. They say parts of the plan lack basic clarity. During the last round of talks, the U.S. stunned its partners with a demand that auto companies quickly transform their supply chains to benefit U.S. parts suppliers, and that the formula for calculating a car's origins be expanded to include raw materials. One stakeholder advising the Canadian government says the proposal was written in vague language, without a hint of how to apply it. Flavio Volpe of the Auto Parts Manufacturers' Association cites the examples of windshields and plastic components, which are made of sand, oil, and — going back further — carbon-based life forms that died in the soil millions of years ago. "So if I'm a glass-maker, my raw material is sand. How am I going to trace (where) sand (comes from)?... Do you do that on the granule level? Do you do it by bag? Or do you have to send a picture of the beach?" Volpe said. Critics of the U.S. proposal say it's so unworkable it will merely shift production to Asia, and encourage them to simply pay an import tariff.

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CHARLES MANSON, WHO BECAME FACE OF EVIL ACROSS AMERICA, DIES AT 83: Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after masterminding the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday night after nearly a half-century in prison. He was 83. Manson died of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence, his name synonymous to this day with unspeakable violence and depravity. Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, reacted to the death by quoting the late Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Manson behind bars. Bugliosi said: "Manson was an evil, sophisticated con man with twisted and warped moral values." A petty criminal who had been in and out of jail since childhood, the charismatic, guru-like Manson surrounded himself in the 1960s with runaways and other lost souls and then sent his disciples to butcher some of L.A.'s rich and famous in what prosecutors said was a bid to trigger a race war — an idea he got from a twisted reading of the Beatles song "Helter Skelter."

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ZIMBABWE'S MUGABE IGNORES CALLS TO QUIT: Zimbabweans mobilized Monday for what they hope is a major push to oust President Robert Mugabe, an increasingly isolated figure who faces impeachment proceedings and more street demonstrations even as he ignores calls to resign. While there is a national consensus that the 93-year-old president should go after nearly four decades in power, Mugabe has refused to step down as leader of a country that has known no other leader since independence from white minority rule in 1980. The conflicted role of the military, widely hailed as a saviour after effectively stripping Mugabe of his authority last week, is under scrutiny after its generals flanked him during a televised address Sunday night in which he asserted that he remained the "commander in chief" and referred to "our well-cherished constitutional order." The generals have been involved in talks with him on a way out of the leadership crisis. While they acted outside his authority by sending tanks into the streets, they also projected deference in sitting by at the official residence, State House, as Mugabe told the nation he was still in charge.

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LGBTQ COMMUNITY CALLS ON APOLOGY TO GO BEYOND PM: Advocates who have long been demanding Ottawa apologize for past state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ people say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should not be the only one to express his regrets. Lynne Gouliquer, a military veteran who has researched the history of persecuting and forcing LGBTQ people out of their jobs in the military and the federal government, says she wants to see the heads of the institutions responsible take part in the Nov. 28 apology. She says she would like to see Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, the chief of the defence staff and the clerk of the Privy Council in the House of Commons when it happens. Gouliquer says the sorry from Trudeau is welcome, but having those people there, committing to making sure it never happens again, would make the apology more meaningful for those who suffered harm.

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POLITICAL FOES TAKE AIM AT FEDERAL FINANCE MINISTER: Finance Minister Bill Morneau is under fire from both sides of the House of Commons on Monday for his involvement in a pension bill that opponents say could benefit his former company. Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson is examining Morneau's involvement in the pension bill, which could benefit a firm in which he owned some $21 million worth of shares. Conservative House leader Candice Bergen says Dawson's examination of Morneau's involvement in the pension bill is the latest probe related to the Liberal government — and she questions how Canadians can still trust them. New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen says the Liberal government's pension bill is not only an attack on workers' pensions, it's a massive conflict of interest involving Morneau. Morneau has been facing intense criticism about his integrity for months now after information surfaced showing that, based on Dawson's advice, he had not divested or placed those shares in a blind trust. The latest criticisms come as a Globe and Mail report says Dawson was alerted in September that Morneau could be in a conflict of interest over the pension bill and its potential benefits for the firm, Morneau Shepell. Dawson, however, only opened an examination earlier this month.

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FEDS ON ALERT AS DECISION ON HAITIANS LOOMS: A Thursday deadline for the Trump administration to decide whether to resume deportations to Haiti has the Canadian government on alert. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he's hopeful Canada will get a heads up if the U.S. decides to remove temporary protected status for more than 50,000 Haitians living in the U.S. An announcement earlier this year that their status was under review sent thousands to the Canada-U.S. border in search of asylum, catching the Liberal government off-guard. Goodale says he and his U.S. counterpart agreed during meetings in Italy last month that better communication between the two countries was essential. The surge also prompted an extensive outreach campaign to Haitian communities in the U.S., and two Liberal MPs travelled to Miami and New York late last week and over the weekend to resume those efforts. A third, Haitian-Canadian Emmanuel Dubourg, heads to New York on Tuesday where he'll meet with the mayor's office and diaspora groups.

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QUEBEC JUDGE WITHDRAWS FROM SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE: A Quebec judge has withdrawn from a case in which he said a 17-year-old victim of sexual assault was a little overweight, had a pretty face and was maybe a "bit flattered" at the interest shown in her. Court documents show Judge Jean-Paul Braun recused himself on Oct. 26, a day after his comments were published in a Montreal newspaper. He gave no reasons for his decision. Braun is being replaced by Lori Weitzman, another Quebec court judge. The case resumes Dec. 14 with sentencing arguments. The Crown says Braun's decision will not delay proceedings. Braun made the comments earlier this year during the sexual assault trial of taxi driver Carlo Figaro, who was eventually found guilty of attacking the teenager in his cab back in 2015. Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee called Braun's remarks unacceptable and said she intended to file a complaint.

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TUITION REFUNDS OFFERED AS ONTARIO COLLEGE STRIKE ENDS: Half a million Ontario college students have the option of walking away from a now-condensed fall semester with a full tuition refund in the aftermath of a five-week-long faculty strike. Students will have two weeks from the resumption of classes on Tuesday to decide whether they want to continue with the semester, Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said Monday. The province's 24 colleges will be expected to foot the bill for the refund, she said. The move comes as 12,000 college faculty were back on the job Monday after the strike was ended over the weekend with back-to-work legislation. Ontario's Liberal government first tried to introduce and pass the back-to-work legislation in one fell swoop Thursday night but the NDP forced the legislature to sit through the weekend to debate the bill, ultimately passing it Sunday afternoon. Matthews said students who continue with the fall semester will be eligible to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs they incurred because of the labour dispute, such as childcare fees, rebooked train or bus tickets, or rent.

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The Canadian Press

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