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Let the campaigning begin and the Taliban take over: In The News for Aug. 16

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. 16 ... 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. 16 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

OTTAWA — The first full day of the federal election campaign begins today with Justin Trudeau making an announcement in Quebec.

The Liberal leader is set to leave Longueuil, Que., after a 10 a.m. news conference and make his way to Cobourg, Ont., with several stops along the way.

Shortly after Trudeau's morning announcement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will make one of his own in Toronto -- a Liberal stronghold he's hoping to turn orange.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is sticking to Ottawa today, though he has "virtual telephone town halls" with communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario planned for the evening.

But he starts the day with what his team is billing as a "major announcement."

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon dissolved parliament yesterday morning at Trudeau's request, and voters head to the polls Sept. 20.


Also this ...

VANCOUVER — Blustery winds are fanning several wildfires in British Columbia, forcing hundreds of people from their homes late Sunday.

Some of the biggest and most dangerous fires are blazing in the southern Interior in the Kamloops fire centre.

The BC Wildfire Service says there are at least a dozen fires in the district and that 29 evacuation orders have been issued affecting over 1,400 properties.

The City of Kamloops issued an evacuation order for about 700 properties, hundreds of homes were also ordered evacuated in the Township of Spallumcheen and the Okanagan Indian Band told residents in 80 properties to leave.

Wildfire Information Officer Erika Berg says strong winds kicked up mid-afternoon Sunday pushing flames past containment lines in several fires -- and those conditions are expected to continue today.

The City of Armstrong with a population of about five thousand people has also been placed on evacuation alert as the massive White Rock Lake fire comes to within about 20 kilometers of the city.

There are about 270 blazes burning in B-C -- more than 30 of them are wildfires of note, meaning they're either highly visible or considered a danger to the public.


And this ...

VANCOVER — Meng Wanzhou's legal team is expected to argue today there is no evidence showing the Huawei executive caused international bank HSBC to violate U.S. sanctions law. 

The B.C. Supreme Court is hearing formal arguments in the extradition case for the telecom executive that began last week amid rising diplomatic tensions.

Meng, who is Huawei's chief financial officer and daughter of the company's founder, was arrested at Vancouver's airport in 2018 at the request of the United States in a move that fractured Canada's relationship with China. 

She says she is innocent of U.S. fraud charges that are based on allegations she misled HSBC in a 2013 presentation about Huawei's control of another company that did business in Iran. 

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general have said the alleged lies would clearly constitute fraud in Canada and Meng should be surrendered to face prosecution in the United States. 

The case is scheduled to continue through Friday, although lawyers have said they are on track to wrap up mid-week. 


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

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say the evacuation of the American Embassy in Kabul has been completed. 

President Joe Biden and other top U.S. officials have been stunned by the Taliban’s nearly complete takeover of Afghanistan as the planned withdrawal of American forces urgently became a mission to ensure a safe evacuation from the country. 

The speed of the Afghan government’s collapse and the ensuing chaos posed the most serious test of Biden as commander in chief, and he has become the subject of withering criticism from Republicans who say that he has failed.

Meanwhile, America’s top general says the United States could now face a rise in terrorist threats from a Taliban-run Afghanistan.

That warning comes as intelligence agencies charged with anticipating those threats face new questions after the U.S.-backed Afghan military collapsed with shocking speed. 

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told senators on a briefing call Sunday that U.S. officials are expected to alter their earlier assessments about the pace of terrorist groups reconstituting in Afghanistan. 

That's according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. 


Also this ... 

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has approved a significant and permanent increase in the levels of food stamp assistance available to needy families — the largest single increase in the program’s history. 

Starting in October, average benefits for food stamps — officially known as the SNAP program — will rise more than 25 percent above pre-pandemic levels. 

The increased assistance will be available indefinitely to all 42 million SNAP beneficiaries. 


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

KABUL —The U.S. military has taken over Afghanistan’s airspace as it struggles to manage a chaotic evacuation after the Taliban rolled into the capital. 

The militants, meanwhile, have been trying to project calm amid widespread fears of looting and violence. 

The Taliban swept into the capital on Sunday after the Western-backed government collapsed and the president fled the country. 

Thousands of Afghans, fearing a return to the Taliban’s brutal rule, are trying to flee. 

Videos circulating on social media showed hundreds of people racing across the tarmac of the international airport as U.S. soldiers fired warning shots in the air. 

The U.S. Embassy has been evacuated and the American flag lowered.

Canada has also closed its embassy in Kabul and suspended its diplomatic missing to Afghanistan.


Also this ... 

LES CAYES, Haiti — Many of the Haitians injured during a powerful earthquake over the weekend are lying in the open, under burning heat, waiting for help as hospitals overflow with patients. 

Thousands more in the quake zone are sleeping outside for a second night, clutching small transistor radios tuned to the news.

Officials have raised the death toll from Saturday's earthquake to at least 1,297. And the devastation could soon worsen. 

Tropical depression Grace is predicted to reach Haiti tonight, bringing the potential for heavy rain, flooding and landslides. 

The country's Civil Protection Agency says the magnitude 7.2 earthquake also left at least 5,700 people injured.



Scientists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture say they've found the first so-called live murder hornet for the year.

In a news release Thursday, entomologists say the Asian giant hornet was seen about a kilometre from the U.S.-Canada border.

They say the hornet was reported by a Whatcom County resident on Wednesday and confirmed the following day where a photograph showed it attacking a paper wasp nest, about three kilometres from where the department eradicated a nest last October.   

They say U.S. and B.C. officials will be setting up traps in the area to catch a live hornet, tag it and track it back to its nest.

The five-centimetre-long invasive insects are the world's biggest hornets and prey on honey bees and other hornets -- a small group can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours.

While they are not particularly aggressive toward humans, in rare cases a person stung repeatedly by murder hornets could die.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2021

The Canadian Press