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Rising sextortion cases, Conservative leadership debate : In The News for Aug. 3

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. 3 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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A woman uses her computer keyboard to type while surfing the internet in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, December, 19, 2012. New statistics show that police-reported extortion cases in Canada rose by nearly 300 per cent in the last decade and the crime swelled online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crime data released by Statistics Canada Tuesday also showed an increase in the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and harassing communications. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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. 3 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

New statistics show that police-reported extortion cases in Canada rose by nearly 300 per cent in the last decade and the crime swelled online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crime data released by Statistics Canada Tuesday also showed an increase in the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and harassing communications.

Stephen Sauer, the director of Cybertip.ca, a national tipline for reporting online child sexual abuse, says the problem has continued to worsen.

The tipline saw a 120 per cent increase in reports of online luring between January and June, and is now seeing 300 online extortion cases a month.

Sauer says the number of people being targeted is also likely higher but many don’t report it out of a sense of embarrassment or shame, especially when its children.

Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection which runs Cybertip, says the numbers should be a wakeup call for the government to swiftly impose regulatory guardrails around the technology industry.

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Also this ...

No audience, no podiums and appearances from only three out of the five candidates running to lead the federal Conservatives. 

These are the circumstances under which the party's last official debate of the race will take place tonight in Ottawa, before a winner is announced Sept. 10.

Those participating will be ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest, rural Ontario MP Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber, a former provincial legislator who Doug Ford booted from caucus over his opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Rather than standing at individual podiums, the three will be placed around a table for the event, which is being billed as part debate, part roundtable.

Moderated by the party's president, the event will be split into two 45-minute rounds. Candidates will answer questions in English during the first section and then switch to French for the second half. 

Topics expected to be covered include climate change, Indigenous Peoples, leadership, health care and rural Canada. 

The party's decision to organize a third debate after two official ones were held in May drew sharp criticism from some in the party, including the two candidates who have decided not to show: Pierre Poilievre and Leslyn Lewis. 

Poilievre's campaign issued a sharply worded statement after the party made the call, saying the longtime M-P and perceived front-runner was going to stay focused on getting members to fill out their ballots.

Lewis's campaign informed the party last week she wouldn't attend, saying despite trying to find out more details it lacked details around format or questions.

Under party rules, Poilievre and Lewis now risk being levied a $50,000 fine for skipping out on an official debate. The money would be taken from a $100,000 compliance deposit candidates submitted to enter the race.

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And this too ...

Canada's foreign affairs minister is to hold a public event in Montreal today with her German counterpart, following Canada's controversial decision to send parts of a Russian natural gas pipeline back to Germany.

The Foreign Affairs Department says Mélanie Joly will participate in a "fireside chat" with German federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

Before the chat, the two ministers will hold a news conference, during which they will discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the war's implications on energy and food prices.

In July, Canada said it would grant a Canadian company an exemption on Russian sanctions and allow the export to Germany of six turbines under maintenance in Montreal that are part of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany.

That decision angered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called Canada's actions unacceptable.

Since then, Russia has reduced natural gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to 20 per cent amid tensions over the war in Ukraine, citing technical issues that Germany says are only an excuse for a political power play.

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

TAIPEI, Taiwan _ U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meeting leaders in Taiwan despite warnings from China, said Wednesday that she and other members of Congress in a visiting delegation are showing they will not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island.

"Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,'' she said in a short speech during a meeting with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen. "America's determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.''

China, which claims Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments, announced multiple military exercises around the island and issued a series of harsh statements after the delegation touched down Tuesday night in the Taiwanese capital Taipei.

Taiwan decried the planned actions.

"Such an act equals to sealing off Taiwan by air and sea, and severely violates our country's territorial sovereignty,'' said Captain Jian-chang Yu at the National Defense Ministry's media briefing Wednesday morning.

Pelosi's trip has heightened U.S.-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of her high-level position as leader of the House of Representatives. She is the first speaker of the house to come to Taiwan in 25 years, since Newt Gingrich in 1997.

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

UNITED NATIONS _ The U.N. nuclear chief warned that Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine "is completely out of control'' and issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the sprawling complex to stabilize the situation and avoid a nuclear accident.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview that the situation is getting more perilous every day at the Zaporizhzhya plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which Russian troops seized in early March, soon after their Feb. 24. invasion of Ukraine.

"Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated'' at the plant, he said. "What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous.''

Grossi cited many violations of the plant's safety, adding that it is "in a place where active war is ongoing,'' near Russian-controlled territory.

The physical integrity of the plant hasn't been respected, he said, citing shelling at the beginning of the war when it was taken over and continuing information from Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of attacks at Zaporizhzhya.

There is "a paradoxical situation'' in which the plant is controlled by Russia, but its Ukrainian staff continues to run its nuclear operations, leading to inevitable moments of friction and alleged violence, he said. While the IAEA has some contacts with staff, they are "faulty'' and "patchy,'' he said.

Grossi said the supply chain of equipment and spare parts has been interrupted, "so we are not sure the plant is getting all it needs.'' The IAEA also needs to perform very important inspections to ensure that nuclear material is being safeguarded, "and there is a lot of nuclear material there to be inspected,'' he said.

The Russian capture of Zaporizhzhya renewed fears that the largest of Ukraine's 15 nuclear reactors could be damaged, setting off another emergency like the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world's worst nuclear disaster, which happened about 110 kilometres north of the capital Kyiv. 

Russian forces occupied the heavily contaminated site soon after the invasion but handed control back to the Ukrainians at the end of March. Grossi visited Chernobyl on April 27 and tweeted that the level of safety was "like a 'red light' blinking.'' But he said Tuesday that the IAEA set up "an assistance mission'' at Chernobyl at that time "that has been very, very successful so far.''

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On this day in 1949 ...

The National Basketball Association was formed by a merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League.

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In entertainment ...

NEW YORK _ Producer Janet Yang has been elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group's board of governors announced Tuesday, making her the first Asian American to lead the film academy.

Yang, the 66-year-old producer of "The Joy Luck Club'' and "The People vs. Larry Flynt,'' becomes the fourth woman to lead the organization behind the Oscars. Elected by the academy's 54-member board, Yang succeeds outgoing president David Rubin, the veteran casting director, who is stepping down after three years due to term limits.

Along with academy chief executive Bill Kramer, the former Academy Museum director who was named to the post in June, Yang will be tasked with shepherding the academy through continued evolution in the film industry and with stabilizing the Academy Awards, which in recent years have been beset by scandal and declining ratings.

The Queens-born Yang, a daughter of Chinese immigrants, has long been a significant figure in Hollywood's Asian American community. She has served on the academy's board of governors since 2019 as one of three governors-at-large who were added following the #OscarsSoWhite scandal to help boost inclusion in the film academy.

Yang, an executive producer of the 2020 Oscar-nominated animated film "Over the Moon,'' is just the second person of colour to be the academy's president, following Cheryl Boone Isaacs. She also co-chairs the academy's Asian Affinity Group.

"Janet is a tremendously dedicated and strategic leader who has an incredible record of service at the academy,'' Kramer said in a statement. "She has been instrumental in launching and elevating several academy initiatives on membership recruitment, governance, and equity, diversity, and inclusion.''

After several years of declining ratings, March's Oscar broadcast drew a larger audience than 2021's show, but its 16.6 million viewers was still the second-smallest on record. The telecast, of course, was marred by Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage. Smith has since resigned his academy membership, and was banned from attending any academy event for the next decade.

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Did you see this?

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. _ A Snowbirds pilot escaped physical injury Tuesday, landing a jet after an incident during takeoff in northern British Columbia.

The Royal Canadian Air Force tweeted Tuesday evening to say it will be investigating what happened at the Fort St. John, B.C., airport, but is releasing few details.

The plane was damaged and it's not clear how the Snowbirds performance schedule may be affected, though the team's set show in Penticton, B.C., Wednesday evening has not been cancelled.

The squadron flies CT-114 Tutor planes, which were grounded in late June for a period of time as the Air Force dealt with a technical issue in a device that sets the timing for deploying a parachute during an ejection.

In May 2020, a jet collided with a bird shortly after takeoff, causing the engine to stall and leading to a crash that killed Capt. Jennifer Casey, a public affairs officer.

The team was placed on an operational pause for the remainder of the summer following the crash, which came less than a year after another Snowbirds jet crashed in rural Georgia due to a fuel delivery system failure.

A report into the May 2020 crash in Kamloops, B.C., found that the pilot and passenger's ejection sequences were "outside the ejection envelope'' and the plane was at such a low altitude their parachutes didn't have time to work properly. Pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall suffered serious injuries, and Casey died at the scene.

The pilot in the Georgia crash was able to eject and had only minor injuries, though they reported "anomalies'' with the ejection sequence and parachute opening, according to a flight safety investigation. The plane was destroyed.

The investigation report said all life-support equipment was inspected as a result and recommended an inspection of the entire fleet's engines.

The Tutor jets are nearly 60 years old and are expected to be used by the Snowbirds until 2030, although there have been calls for their replacement over the last several years.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2022.

The Canadian Press