Election speculation and deadly milestone in Argentina: In The News for Oct. 20

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. 20 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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Debate begins later today on the Conservatives' push for an anticorruption committee the Liberals argue undermines Parliament.

The Liberals are threatening to turn the subsequent vote on the Conservatives' motion to set up the committee into a confidence matter, which could in turn trigger an election.

The Conservatives are already scoffing at the notion, saying the Liberals' move underscores the opposition's point.

The Tories, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have all raised concerns the Liberals are trying to avoid extensive scrutiny of contracts and programs set up to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

They point to a decision to prorogue Parliament in August, which shut down the work of existing committees probing one deal in particular, that with WE Charity.

The Tories say the special "anticorruption committee" could explore the WE deal and other potentially questionable agreements, so regular House of Commons committees could focus on other matters.

While the Liberals say they agree a special pandemic spending committee could be set up, they argue the Conservative approach is overtly partisan and would just tie the government in knots.

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Also this ...

The federal government is asking an appeal court to overturn a finding that Canada's spy agency breached its obligation to be fully forthcoming when seeking investigative warrants.

A Federal Court of Canada ruling made public in July said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service failed to disclose its reliance on information that was likely collected illegally in support of warrants to probe extremism.

Justice Patrick Gleeson found CSIS violated its duty of candour to the court and it was part of a long-standing and troubling pattern.

The government said at the time it would address the court's recommendations but would appeal on technical grounds to do with lawyer-client privilege.

Federal lawyers acting on behalf of Attorney General David Lametti do cite these grounds but they also ask the Court of Appeal to "set aside" Gleeson's finding that CSIS breached the duty of candour.

National security expert Wesley Wark calls the appeal "wrong-headed," saying it seeks to eviscerate Gleeson's core finding about CSIS's behaviour.

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

An angry President Donald Trump came out swinging Monday against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the press and polls that show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key battleground states in a disjointed closing message two weeks out from Election Day.

On the third day of a western campaign swing, Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that gave him a come-from-behind victory four years ago. But his inconsistent message, another rise in virus cases and his attacks on experts like Fauci could undermine his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most loyal base.

"I’m not running scared," Trump told reporters before taking off for Tucson, Arizona, for his fifth rally in three days. "I think I’m running angry. I’m running happy and I’m running very content 'cause I’ve done a great job."

His aggressive travel comes as Trump plays defence in states he won four years ago, though the president insisted he was confident as he executed a packed schedule despite the pandemic.

"We’re going to win," he told campaign staff on a morning conference call from Las Vegas. He went on to acknowledge that he "wouldn’t have told you that maybe two or three weeks ago," referring to the days when he was hospitalized with COVID-19. But he said he felt better now than at any point in 2016. "We’re in the best shape we’ve ever been," he said.

Seeking to shore up the morale of his staff amid growing private concerns that he is running out of time to make up lost ground, Trump blasted his government's own scientific experts as too negative, even as his handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 220,000 Americans remains a central issue to voters.

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

At the edge of Argentina in a city known as "The End of the World," many thought they might be spared from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sitting far from the South American nation’s bustling capital, health workers in Ushuaia were initially able to contain a small outbreak among foreigners hoping to catch boats to the Antarctic at the start of the crisis.

But as Argentina passed 1 million virus cases Monday, it is now smaller cities like Ushuaia that are seeing some of the most notable upticks. Doctors have had to quadruple the number of beds for COVID-19 patients over the last month. At least 60% of those tested recently are coming back positive for the virus.

"We were the example of the country," said Dr. Carlos Guglielmi, director of the Ushuaia Regional Hospital. "Evidently someone arrived with the coronavirus."

Across Latin America, three other nations are expected to reach the 1 million case milestone in the coming weeks — Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The grim mark comes as Latin America continues to register some of the world’s highest daily case counts. And though some nations have seen important declines, overall there has been little relief, with cases dropping in one municipality only to escalate in another.

The trajectory is showing that the pandemic is likely to leave no corner of Latin America unscathed.

"The second wave is arriving without ever having finished the first," said Dr. Luis Jorge Hernández, a public health professor at the University of the Andes in Colombia.

Argentina has seen cases spiral despite instituting one of the world’s longest lockdowns. Colombia’s major cities have seen a dip, but smaller areas like the department of Caldas in the coffee region are only now reaching a peak. Peru’s overall numbers have dropped, but officials recently reported 12 regions are spiking back up. Mexico, likewise, has seen a rise in a quarter of all states over the last week.

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On this day in 1873 ...

Nellie McClung, suffragist, reformer and legislator, was born at Chatsworth, Ont.

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In entertainment ...

Backxwash has won the 2020 Polaris Music Prize for her album "God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It."

The project by the Montreal-based transgender female artist was selected by an 11-member jury as the Canadian album of the year based on its artistic merit.

Backxwash, the stage name of performer Ashanti Mutinta, blends gothic elements of rap and metal music with her own personal experiences with faith, family and her queer identity.

Her album features distorted samples of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and "In Heaven" a song from David Lynch's film "Eraserhead."

The Polaris prize is considered one of the country's most prestigious music awards. Former winners include Haviah Mighty, Jeremy Dutcher, Arcade Fire, and Kaytranada.

The winner receives a $50,000 cash prize and heightened global awareness for their album.

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ICYMI ...

Rene Kukkuvak was out polar-bear hunting with his family on Thanksgiving weekend when he came across something he had never seen before.

The hunters were 60 kilometres north of Kugaaruk in western Nunavut when they found four whale carcasses on the beach, waves swirling behind them.

"We stopped to take a look around for bears and I can see a seagull on top of a rock. As we got closer, I figured out it was a bowhead whale," Kukkuvak said.

After scanning the area in case the carcasses had attracted polar bears, the group took off only to find three more beached bowheads. Kukkuvak says the whales were "a few miles apart."

Kukkuvak snapped photos of the dead whales and posted them on Facebook.

Steve Ferguson, a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, looked at Kukkuvak's photos and said the bowheads could have been attacked by killer whales.

He said the pictures show damage to the bowheads' tongues.

"That's a key piece of the whales that the killer whales like to eat."

The photos also show rake marks on the whales' sides, which Ferguson said could be from killer whale teeth.

It appears the whales were close together when they died, he said, but it is difficult to tell how all could have been killed at once. "It's just very unusual."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2020.

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