St. John's still digging out and James Dean back to life; In The News for Jan. 21

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 Jan. 21 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — It's now Day 5 of the state of emergency in the St. John's, N.L., as cleanup continues from Friday's massive blizzard that dumped 76 centimetres of snow in the area.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says 450 troops — including about 175 reservists — will be in Newfoundland today to help the province dig out from the storm.

Travel remains difficult across eastern Newfoundland, and some residents are relying on each other for food.

The City of St. John's says some stores will be allowed to reopen today to sell "basic foods."

Most other businesses have to remain closed, with exceptions for gas stations and some pharmacies.

Search efforts will also continue for 26-year-old Joshua Wall, who was last seen leaving his home in Roaches Line on Friday to walk through a wooded area to a friend's home in nearby Marysvale.

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Also this ...

VANCOUVER — The second day of a court hearing gets underway today in Vancouver over a request from the United States to extradite an executive of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei on fraud charges.

The hearing began Monday with Meng Wanzhou's lawyer arguing the fraud charges are a "facade."

Richard Peck told a British Columbia Supreme Court judge the charges filed by the U.S. are about the country trying to enforce its sanctions on Iran.

Meng's case fractured Canadian-Chinese relations after Beijing detained two Canadians and restricted imports in moves widely seen as retaliation for her arrest in 2018.

At issue in this week's hearing is the legal test of double criminality, meaning that if her alleged conduct is a crime in Canada then Meng should be extradited to face the charges in the U.S.

Meng is accused of lying to HSBC about Huawei's relationship with an Iran-based subsidiary, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against the country.

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

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump's impeachment trial is set to unfold at the Capitol, a contentious proceeding to render judgment on his Ukraine actions as Americans form their own verdict at the start of an election year.

As the Senate reconvenes with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the rare impeachment court, senators sworn to "impartial justice," the legacy of Trump's presidency and the system of checks and balances are at stake before a politically divided nation.

A first test will come midday when the session gavels open to vote on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposed rules for debate.

On the eve of the trial, the Republican leader offered a compressed calendar for opening statements, just two days for each side, as Trump's lawyers argued for swift rejection of the "flimsy" charges against the president and acquittal.

"All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn," the president's lawyers wrote in their first full filing Monday. "The articles should be rejected and the president should immediately be acquitted."

Democrats — as the House prosecutors practised opening arguments well into the night on the Senate floor — vowed to object to a speedy trial as they pressed for fresh witnesses and documents.

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

BEIJING — China has sentenced the former president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, to 13 years and six months in prison on charges of accepting more than $2 million in bribes.

Meng was elected president of the international police organization in 2016, but his four-year term was cut short when he vanished after travelling to China from France in late 2018.

Interpol was not informed and was forced to make a formal request to China for information about Meng's whereabouts amid suspicion he had fallen out of political favour with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Meng's wife, who remains in France with their two children, has accused Chinese authorities of lying and questioned whether her husband was still alive.

Grace Meng is now suing Interpol, accusing it of failing to protect him from arrest in China and failing to look after his family. Meng's lawyers last year filed a legal complaint in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press, she said Interpol "breached its obligations owed to my family" and "is complicit in the internationally wrongful acts of its member country, China."

A statement Tuesday from the No. 1 Intermediary Court in the northern city of Tianjin said Meng accepted the verdict and would not appeal. In addition to his prison sentence, he was fined 2 million yuan ($290.000).

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ICYMI (In case you missed it) ...

EDMONTON — The amount of unpaid property taxes that oil and gas companies owe Alberta rural municipalities has more than doubled over the last year, a trend some are calling a tax revolt.

Rural Municipalities Alberta said Monday that a survey of its members shows that they are owed a total of $173 million — a 114 per cent increase since a similar survey was done last spring.

In Ponoka County, south of Edmonton, Reeve Paul McLauchlin estimates his municipality is owed about $2.6 million out of a total municipal budget of $27 million.

"It creates operational constraints, our ability to provide community services. We have non-profits asking for assistance. We say 'no' more and more."

Industry says the way taxes are assessed is driving companies out of business. Properties are assessed by the provincial government, which evaluates them on replacement cost and not on market value, said Ben Brunnen, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

"We defend the need for the province to take a look at how assessment works and have it reflective of the market," he said.

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Weird and wild ...

LOS ANGELES — The men bringing James Dean back to life for a forthcoming film are aiming not just to give his digital likeness a role, but a whole new career.

Dean's planned appearance in the Vietnam War movie "Finding Jack," and the possibility of future parts, comes as digital de-aging and duplication of real actors has tipped from cinematic trick into common practice. And it's giving new life to old arguments about the immortality and dignity of the dead.

"Our intentions are to create the virtual being of James Dean. That's not only for one movie, but going to be used for many movies and also gaming and virtual reality," said Travis Cloyd, CEO of Worldwide XR, who is leading the design on the Dean project.

Legally, they have every right to do it, via the full agreement of the Dean estate and his surviving relatives.

"There are thousands of images that we do have to work with," Cloyd said. "What we typically do is we take all those images and videos and we run them through machine learning to create that asset."

That will be added to the work of a stand-in actor using motion-capture technology.

The announcement of the role last year caused a quick backlash, but for the people behind the Dean project, the negative reaction is as inevitable as they believe the eventual acceptance will be.

Cloyd foresees a Hollywood where even living actors have a "digital twin" that helps in their work.

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Know your news ...

The army is helping Newfoundland dig out from a massive snowstorm that buried the province last week. What Toronto politician called for the army's help when that city was hit with two snow emergencies in the space of 10 days in 1999?

(Keep scrolling for the answer)

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On this day in 1992 ...

The Supreme Court of Canada began its review of David Milgaard's murder conviction in the death of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller. The high court quashed the conviction a few months later and Saskatchewan decided not to retry Milgaard. On April 16, after nearly 23 years in jail, he was freed from the Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba.

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Your health ...

Canada's chief public health officer says three people in Canada have been tested for contracting a new pneumonia-type illness, but coronavirus was ruled out as China grapples with the illness linked to three deaths and 200 confirmed infections.

Dr. Theresa Tam declined to say where in Canada the three individuals were from, but says they had travelled to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where coronavirus is believed to have originated in a now-closed seafood market.

The illness has spread to another province on China and to Beijing as well as beyond to Japan, Thailand and South Korea, prompting the World Health Organization to plan an emergency meeting to decide whether the potentially deadly illness merits the declaration of an international emergency.

Tam says she has contacted her provincial and territorial counterparts to prepare to notify front-line staff about any patients exhibiting non-specific symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

She says Canadians are at low risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, but precautionary measures are being taken, including screenings at airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal of passengers who have those symptoms after travelling from Wuhan in central China.

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Your travel ...

WINNIPEG — It doesn't take a master sleuth to figure out why people are braving the winter prairie winds and snow to flock to a field south of Winnipeg.

Bright white walls on a flat field hold within a wintry puzzle — the world's largest snow maze.

The 2,789-metre-squared snow maze located about 30 kilometres south of Manitoba's capital in St. Adolphe achieved the Guinness World Record honour during its first season open last winter.

Owner Clint Masse says the sections of wall are two feet wide and more than six feet tall. They appear almost as thick and dense as the walls surrounding medieval castles.

The maze is built on top of the Masse family's other big summer attraction — A Maze in Corn.

People focused solely on getting to the end take about 20 to 30 minutes to exit the maze. Those who get turned about or are just having a lot of fun inside will be in there a lot longer.

"It's a little bit whimsical," Masse said.

"I like the look on people's faces because they are just like, 'Wow!' Their eyes are wide open, and they are like 'Holy smokes. It's crazy.'"

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Know your news answer ...

Mel Lastman. The Toronto mayor was widely mocked in other parts of the country for the decision to call in the army, but said he wouldn't have changed a thing when asked about it 10 years later.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.

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