COVID-19 briefings and detention camps in China: In The News for Sept. 25

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 Sept. 25 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will join Canada's top public health officers today for their daily update on the worsening COVID-19 health crisis.

Trudeau is expected to have an announcement about his government's ongoing efforts to protect Canadians and combat the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

But he's also expected to start joining chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy, Howard Njoo, more regularly at their daily briefings - a sign of how serious the second wave of COVID-19 has already become.

During the first wave last spring, Trudeau held daily news conferences outside his home, Rideau Cottage, but those tailed off and finally stopped altogether as the pandemic went into a bit of a lull over the summer.

The coronavirus is now back with a vengeance, with caseloads spiking dramatically in the four largest provinces over the past few weeks.

In a televised address to the nation Wednesday, Trudeau warned Canada is "on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring," when the country went into a nation-wide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Trudeau's government, meanwhile, is reverting to a practice used throughout the pandemic last spring to urgently fast-track emergency aid legislation through Parliament.

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Also this ...

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says he's urging his MPs to be hypervigilant amid concerns they could bring COVID-19 from Ottawa back to their ridings.

But he won't stop them from using the same private testing clinic he did after he was turned away from a public facility in Ottawa that was over capacity.

"Well, what I'm actually going to do is try and get (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau off his duff to get some tests so that people can do in their home like they can in most G7 countries," O'Toole said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.

O'Toole is nearing his final days in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

He first sought testing at a public site last Wednesday, but after several hours in line, was turned away.

A call to the public health office for MPs directed him to a clinic and he went the next day without realizing it was a fully private establishment set up for MPs, he said.

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

President Donald Trump is infusing deliberations over his coming nomination of a new Supreme Court justice with political meaning as he aims to maximize the benefit before Nov. 3 and even secure an electoral backstop should the result be contested.

Even before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death last week, the president had tried to use likelihood of more Supreme Court vacancies to his political advantage. Now, as he closes in on a decision on her likely replacement, Trump has used the vacancy to appeal to battleground-state voters and as a rallying cry for his conservative base.

He also is increasingly embracing the high court — which he will have had an outsized hand in reshaping -– as an insurance policy in a close election.

Increases in mail, absentee and early voting brought about by the pandemic have already brought about a flurry of election litigation, and both Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have assembled armies of lawyers to continue the fight once vote-counting begins. Trump has been open about tying his push to name a third justice to the court to a potentially drawn-out court fight to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.

"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court," Trump said Wednesday of the election, adding, "And I think it's very important that we have nine justices."

It's a line echoed by Trump allies, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who said Thursday, "I think that threat to challenge the election is one of the real reasons why it is so important that we confirm the Supreme Court nominees, so that there's a full Supreme Court on the bench to resolve any election challenge."

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

China appeared to be expanding its network of secret detention centres in Xinjiang, where Muslim minorities are targeted in a forced assimilation campaign, and more of the facilities resemble prisons, an Australian think-tank found.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute used satellite images and official construction tender documents to map more than 380 suspected detention facilities in the remote Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, highlighting reeducation camps, detention centres and prisons that have been newly build or expanded since 2017.

The report builds on evidence that China has made a policy shift from detaining Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in makeshift public buildings to constructing permanent mass detention facilities.

This is despite Chinese state news agency Xinhua reporting late last year that "trainees" attending "vocational education and training centres" meant to deradicalize them had "all graduated."

Regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir was quoted as saying foreign media reports of 1 million or 2 million people attending these centres were fabricated.

Predominantly Muslim minorities in the remote Xinjiang region have been locked in camps as part of a government assimilation campaign launched in response to decades of sometimes violent struggle against Chinese rule. Some have been subjected to forced sterilization and abortion, and in recent months, ordered to drink traditional Chinese medicines to combat the coronavirus.

On this day in 1979 ...

The Montreal Star newspaper folded after 110 years of publication.

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ICYMI ...

Whale watchers in Washington state say they've determined the sex of the new addition to a critically endangered pod of killer whales.

A social media post by the Center for Whale Research says pictures of the roughly three-week-old southern resident killer whale calf confirm it's a male.

The post says the calf, officially named J57, was spotted Tuesday in waters just south of the Canadian border, rolling, lifting his head and upper body clear of the water and swimming beside his mother, J35.

As he rolled on his back, researchers snapped a photo confirming the sex.

The post also says J57 is robust and appears healthy.

The calf's mother gained international attention after giving birth in 2018 because that calf died soon after and she pushed it along the surface of the water for more than two weeks in an effort to revive it.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020

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