Trudeau to speak to EU leaders and a TikTok sensation: In The News for Oct. 29

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 Oct. 29, 2020 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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OTTAWA —Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is speaking with the European Union's two top political leaders today and they are expected to discuss their shared commitment to international co-operation and what that means ahead of Tuesday's U.S presidential election.

Today's three-way video conference between Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Charles Michel, the European Union Council president, will mark the first formal discussion they have been able to hold since the changing of the guard of Europe's top political leadership late last year.

In a pandemic-free world, it would have been a formal summit, a followup to last summer's two-day affair that Trudeau hosted with one of Von der Leyen and Michel's predecessors, Donald Tusk.

That gathering was marked by gushing displays of Canada-EU political fealty that saw Trudeau and Tusk position themselves as defenders of a world order that has been increasingly under attack from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Now, in the COVID-19 world, Trudeau, Von der Leyen and Michel are poised to send the same signal.

A senior EU official in Brussels, who briefed The Canadian Press ahead of the talks on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the talks would affirm strong support for the United Nations World Health Organization.

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Also this ...

VANCOUVER — A border officer who assisted in the three-hour detention and examination of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou before her arrest at Vancouver's airport two years ago says collecting phone passcodes is routine during secondary examinations of foreign nationals.

Scott Kirkland told the B.C. Supreme Court yesterday that if he realized at the time that the piece of paper where he wrote the passcodes on would be passed on to RCMP along with her devices, he would have acted immediately.

He says he typically returns the piece of paper with passcodes to the foreign national as a reminder that they should change the codes after the examination.

Kirkland is the second in a series of witnesses called to testify this week at the request of Meng's defence team, which is gathering evidence for arguments it will make next year that she was subjected to an abuse of process.

The defence has alleged there was a "co-ordinated strategy" to have the RCMP delay her arrest so border officials could question Meng under the pretence of a routine immigration exam.

The case is scheduled to continue today.

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

NEW ORLEANS — A fast-moving Zeta has weakened to a tropical storm as it barrels northeast after causing havoc along the coast.

Officials made a repeated call for residents to stay inside after the storm passed and not go outside in the dark to assess damage. One person died in New Orleans who was electrocuted.

In the Mississippi city of Waveland, Mayor Mike Smith said he was expecting to see a lot of damage in the morning.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards was expected Thursday to tour the coastal regions hardest hit by the storm.

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

With cases surging in many central European countries, firefighters, students and retired doctors are being asked to help shore up buckling health-care systems.

"This is actually terrifying," Dr. Piotr Suwalski, the head of the cardiac surgery ward at a Polish hospital said on a day when daily COVID-19 cases rose 20 per cent nationwide.

"I think if we continue to gain 20 per cent a day, no system can withstand it."

Even before the pandemic, many countries in the region faced a tragic shortage of medical personnel due to years of underfunding in their public-health sectors and an exodus of doctors and nurses to better paying jobs in Western Europe after the nations joined the European Union in 2004.

Now, with the virus ripping through their hospitals, many health workers have been sickened, compounding the shortfall.

More than 13,200 medical personnel across the Czech Republic have been infected, including 6,000 nurses and 2,600 doctors, the doctors’ union indicated.

It's not just clinicians these countries need. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are building field hospitals as beds fill up on wards, and authorities say there are only 12 ventilators left in all hospitals taking COVID-19 patients in the region around Warsaw, the Polish capital.

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On this day in 1967 ...

Expo 67, which opened in Montreal on April 27, closed with a final attendance total of more than 50 million.

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In entertainment ...

VANCOUVER —Ryan Guldemond says he believes luck, good timing and "a little pixie dust" led to his band Mother Mother catching fire on TikTok in recent weeks.

The lead singer and guitarist for the Vancouver rock act says he was surprised when, seemingly out of nowhere, three tracks from their 2008 album "O My Heart" spiked in popularity on the music-fuelled social app.

The songs started to find noticeable traction on the platform in August, and have since become the soundtrack to thousands of videos, many featuring teenagers dressed in cosplay or goth clothes and makeup.

The phenomenon is powered by the young-lovers-scorned track "Hayloft," which led many creators to film themselves lip-synching to the frenetic refrain: "My daddy's got a gun, you better run."

Clips tagged with "mothermother" have been viewed more than 65.5 million times on the platform as of Wednesday afternoon. That's helped push the band up the rankings of Rolling Stone's Artists 500, which monitors the most-streamed artists across the world. Mother Mother sits at No. 413 in their third week on the chart.

The Juno-nominated band's "Arms Tonite" and "Wrecking Ball" are two other songs from their 2008 album that have found new life on the app.

While many TikTok music trends are driven by hashtag-friendly "challenges," which encourage users to put their own spin on choreographed dances or copycat pranks, that wasn't the case for Mother Mother's decade-old songs. Figuring out why their catchy rock hooks suddenly took off is a mystery even the band hasn't cracked.

"The pandemic certainly helped this app explode, and how that relates to us, I really can't tell ya," Guldemond said from a Vancouver studio where the band is finishing a new album.

"We just fell into that mix somehow and it's worked out in our favour. We're pretty humbled by the whole gig."

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Looking ahead to Christmas ...

TORONTO — Public health experts say it's unlikely most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, carolling and travel.

They're advising the public to brace for a scaled-back holiday as the pandemic's second wave maintains its grip in many parts of the country.

Political leaders acknowledged this week that Thanksgiving dinners resulted in new cases, while recent limits on social gatherings and businesses in targeted hot spots have not made enough of an impact.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged Canadians to step up efforts that could flatten the curve and allow for some modified festivities by Dec. 25.

Toronto infectious diseases expert Dr. Andrew Morris says he expects COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in coming weeks.

He says ongoing virus spread would preclude common annual traditions, such as family reunions and midnight mass.

But that doesn't mean Christmas is cancelled. Morris suggests people plan new ways to create a safe but meaningful holiday.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020.

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