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Open U.S. land border and flag moves: In The News for Nov. 8

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 Nov. 8 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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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 Nov. 8 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

For the first time in nearly 20 months, non-essential traffic is once again moving in both directions across the Canada-U.S. land border.

Shortly after midnight, Customs and Border Protection agents began letting fully vaccinated vacationers, visitors and day-trippers drive into the United States for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Not everyone is taking advantage, however.

Many Canadians with family members living in the U.S. say they aren't lining up to cross just yet, thanks in part to Canada's requirement that they get a costly COVID-19 test in order to return home.

New York congressman Brian Higgins will join today with mayors and community leaders from both sides of the Canada-U.S. border to urge the federal government in Ottawa to abandon the rule.

Canada's chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said last week that the government is well aware of the complaints about the test requirement and that it is under review.

The U.S. is not requiring foreign nationals who are visiting by land to show proof of a negative test, but that won't matter much until Canada does away with the rule as well, critics say.

The Canada Border Services Agency issued a statement last week reminding would-be travellers that proof of a negative test, taken no more than 72 hours before travel, is required to re-enter Canada, along with proof of vaccination.

Not only is the expense discouraging people from travelling, it's a self-defeating measure that does little to improve public safety, said Perrin Beatty, a former federal cabinet minister who now serves as CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

"It just makes no sense," Beatty said in an interview.

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Also this ...

MONTREAL — Tourism operators have mixed feelings about the opening of the U-S land border today.

On one hand, an end to the 20-month closure of the world's longest undefended border signals restrictions are easing and more international leisure travel may be on the horizon.

On the other, if Canadians start streaming south for vacations and shopping sprees it means they aren't spending their money on destinations here.

Chris Bloore, chief executive of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, says tourism at local hotspots ranging from Niagara Region vineyards to the boutique hotels of Prince Edward County will undoubtedly decline after receiving a boost last summer.

Walt Judas, head of British Columbia's tourism association, says Vancouver Island will also see a major drop in Canadian trailer and RV drivers as snowbirds return to more southern destinations.

But Tourism Industry Association of Canada C-E-O Beth Potter says a border that now lets visitors filter through in both directions for non-essential travel is one more step on the path to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

Meanwhile, travel and tourism organizations are lobbying Ottawa to end the often pricy requirement for a negative P-C-R test to enter Canada by land without quarantining.

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And this ...

OTTAWA — Flags on federal buildings are flying at full-mast for the first time since the end of May.

The flags were hoisted at sunset Sunday so they could be lowered again at sunrise on Monday for Indigenous Veterans Day.

The federal government announced Friday its decision to raise the flags after talks with Indigenous groups.

They were lowered in May in honour of Indigenous children who suffered and died at residential schools.

The flags will be hoisted again at sunset on Monday so they can be lowered on Remembrance Day to honour Canada's veterans and war dead.

After Remembrance Day, the flags will fly at full-mast once again, but will be lowered for National Truth and Reconciliation Day every Sept. 30.

The flags were lowered to half-mast on May 30 after the finding of what are believed to be hundreds of unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.

Weeks later, the Cowessess First Nation located more than 700 unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.

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

HOUSTON — Investigators are expected to examine the design of safety barriers and the use of crowd control in determining what led to a crush of spectators at a Houston music festival that left eight people dead and hundreds more injured. 

Flowers and votive candles surrounded NRG Park in Houston on Sunday as city officials said they were just starting to investigate how pandemonium started Friday evening at Astroworld, a sold-out, two-day event headlined by rapper Travis Scott. 

Toronto's Drake was also on stage at the show attended by an estimated 50,000 people. 

The dead ranged in age from 14 to 27, and 13 people are still in hospital.

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

JERUSALEM — Security researchers say spyware from the notorious Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group was detected on the cellphones of six Palestinian human rights activists. 

Half are affiliated with groups that Israel’s defense minister controversially claimed last month were involved in terrorism. 

Today's revelation marks the first known instance of Palestinian activists being targeted by the military-grade Pegasus spyware. 

Its use against journalists, rights activists and political dissidents from Mexico to Saudi Arabia has been documented since 2015. 

A successful Pegasus infection surreptitiously gives intruders access to everything on a person's phone. 

It’s not clear who placed the NSO spyware on the activists’ phones.  

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Also this ...

BEIJING — Satellite images show China has built mock-ups of U.S. warships in its northwestern desert, possibly to practice for a future naval clash. 

China is massively upgrading its military, and its capability and intentions are increasingly concerning to the United States. 

The images captured by Maxar Technologies show the outlines of a U.S. aircraft carrier and a destroyer at a desert location in Xinjiang. 

The independent U.S. Naval Institute says the mock-ups are part of a new target range. 

China has emphasized countering other naval forces in building up its military and has concentrated its vessels in the South China Sea. 

The U.S. Navy remains predominant, but its ships are spread across several regions where U.S. interests lie.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — Canada's literary cognoscenti are breaking out their formal attire and brushing up on their small talk as they prepare to reconvene for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

One of five writers will be awarded the $100,000 honour at a televised Toronto gala tonight.

The nominees are: Omar El Akkad for his novel "What Strange Paradise,'' published by McClelland & Stewart; Angélique Lalonde, nominated for her story collection "Glorious Frazzled Beings,'' published by House of Anansi; Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia for her novel "The Son of The House,'' published by Dundurn Press; Jordan Tannahill for his novel "The Listeners,'' published by HarperCollins Canada; and Miriam Toews for her novel "Fight Night,'' published by Knopf Canada.

The black-tie affair at the Park Hyatt hotel reinstates the Giller as the bash of the fall books season after last year's celebration was held remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers say the guest list has been slashed by more than half to facilitate social distancing, and attendees will have to show proof of vaccination to take part in the festivities.

Among the notable names expected to attend are literary legend Margaret Atwood, comedian Rick Mercer, former Ontario premier Bob Rae, journalist Tanya Talaga and authors Charles Foran, Ian Williams and Catherine Hernandez.

Actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and poet Rupi Kaur are co-hosting the festivities, which will include musical performances by jazz artist Denzal Sinclaire and soprano Measha Brueggergosman.

The broadcast will air on CBC and its Gem streaming service at 9 p.m. tonight.

The Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

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ICYMI ...

A British Columbia forestry professor's unique research and bestselling book mapping how trees are deeply connected communities has gained the attention of Hollywood.  

Prof. Suzanne Simard of the University of B.C. says she's overwhelmed by the new-found celebrity status, but wants to continue her focus on saving the forests.

Simard said she expects to sign a deal within a few weeks to become an executive producer in a movie about her life and research after production companies backed by actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams won the film rights to her book,"Finding The Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest."

"Amy Adams is going to play me, apparently," said Simard. "That's the plan. Yes, it's kind of weird."

The movie, book and ongoing research will serve to broaden worldwide knowledge about the sophisticated relationships trees have with the environment and will build public concern about the threats they face, she said.

Simard, 61 said her book is a personal story of a decades-long journey that starts with her being a new hire at a B.C. Interior forest company in the 1980s, moves to her increasing concerns as a government researcher about clear-cut logging policies and then her determined pursuit as a university ecologist to prove forests are communities and mother trees are their lifeblood.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2021

The Canadian Press