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‘Get back on the horse’: Liberal ministers stand by their man after byelection loss

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OTTAWA – A string of Liberal cabinet ministers declared they’re ready to get back in the saddle after this week’s crushing byelection defeat, though some suggest they have blinders on.

With the summer barbecue circuit beckoning, members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet fanned out across the country to let Canadians know about work they’ve been doing on their files.

But every minister that stepped up to a microphone was bombarded with questions about their government’s fading political prospects after losing the byelection in what was considered a safe Toronto riding to the Conservatives.

Voters sent the Liberals a message they can’t ignore, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said at a press conference Wednesday in Montreal, adding the party needs to hear people out and “get back on the horse.”

“We need to listen to the people that voted in the way they voted, screw our heads on better and then move on.”

During a visit to B.C., it appeared Trudeau took Miller’s metaphor literally when he went horseback riding at a community event to mark the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Tsilhqot’in decision. For the second day in a row since the byelection defeat, Trudeau avoided taking media questions.

Miller said Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is “weaponizing” frustrations Canadians have with the Liberals — concerns that have noting to do with how they feel about the official Opposition.

“He reminds me of a wrestling manager from the ’80s, just yelling slogans … and everyone likes to boo or to cheer. I don’t know why this has become the state of Canadian politics, but that’s the reality of what I see,” Miller said.

“It’s not a WWF match, this is reality. Canadians are suffering and we need to fight for them.”

Ministers who spoke Wednesday declared Trudeau the best person to lead the Liberals into the next election against Poilievre, despite the prime minister’s low personal polling numbers.

“He has my complete confidence and my appreciation regarding his leadership role in the party and in the government,” Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Wednesday in Quebec City.

He went as far as to say Trudeau will lead the Liberals to another election victory in 2025.

Although the ministers expressed openness to hearing out Canadians turned off by the Liberals and their leader, none could say exactly how their team plans to address those concerns.

“It starts by listening, and starts by showing up in communities,” said Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks, who was in Cape Breton to announce funding to reduce substance abuse.

The comments reflect those of the prime minister Tuesday, who said he has heard the concerns and frustrations of voters and clearly had more work to do to deliver tangible results for Canadians.

That message is slightly tone deaf, said Andrew Perez, a Liberal strategist with Perez Strategies.

“It’s a bit late for listening at this point,” Perez said Wednesday.

“The results of the stunning political upset in Toronto-St. Paul’s is yet another proof point in terms of the inability of the government to really listen to what Canadians are saying, and pivot … It’s a bit late in the game to say that we’re now going to start listening.”

The Conservatives accused the Liberals of blaming others for their own failures.

“The Trudeau Liberals learn nothing,” Poilievre spokesperson Sebastian Skamski said in a statement.

“Justin Trudeau’s answer was to double down on his failed policies that have brought him to this point.”

Speaking to CBC News on Tuesday, Karina Gould, on parental leave from her government House leader post, said the byelection was a “wake-up call,” for her party, but added the caucus needs time to reflect before detailing what changes might need to happen.

“What’s clear about yesterday’s result is that we hope to do things differently,” said Gould, who also serves as co-chair for the Liberal campaign in Ontario.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault took a different tack than his colleagues and suggested the party needs to do more talking, as opposed to listening.

“We need to continue showing Canadians that we’re there for them,” he said.

“Right now, clearly some of them either don’t believe that, or they don’t see it, and I think we need to do a better job at communicating what we’re doing to help them.”

The next election is slated to take place by October 2025, and things could change for Canadians before then, Guilbeault said.

“In the coming months, for many of them, the situation will improve, partly because of things we’re doing,” he said.

“The more Canadians can see the benefits of what we’re doing and what and how we’re working for them, the more the situation could change.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2024.

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Bangladesh’s top court scales back government jobs quota after deadly unrest that has killed scores

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s top court on Sunday scaled back a controversial quota system for government job applicants, a partial victory for student protesters after days of nationwide unrest and deadly clashes between police and demonstrators that have killed scores of people.

Students, frustrated by shortages of good jobs, have been demanding an end to a quota that reserved 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. The government previously halted it in 2018 following mass student protests, but in June, Bangladesh’s High Court reinstated the quotas and set off a new round of protests.

Ruling on an appeal, the Supreme Court ordered that the veterans’ quota be cut to 5%, with 93% of jobs to be allocated on merit. The remaining 2% will be set aside for members of ethnic minorities and transgender and disabled people.

The protests have posed the most serious challenge to Bangladesh’s government since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in January elections that were boycotted by the main opposition groups. Universities have been closed, the internet has been shut off and the government has ordered people to stay at home.

With most communications offline, it was unclear whether the verdict has satisfied protesting students. There was also no immediate reaction from the government.

The protests turned deadly on Tuesday, a day after students at Dhaka University began clashing with police. Violence continued to escalate as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and hurled smoke grenades to scatter stone-throwing protesters.

Bangladeshi authorities haven’t shared any official numbers of those killed and injured, but at least four local newspapers on Sunday reported that over 100 people have been killed.

An Associated Press reporter on Friday saw security forces fire rubber bullets and tear gas at a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters who had gathered outside the head office of state-run Bangladesh Television, which was attacked and set on fire by protesters the previous day. The incident left streets littered with bullets and marked by smears of blood.

Sporadic clashes in some parts of Dhaka, the capital, were reported on Saturday but it was not immediately clear whether there were any fatalities.

Ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, soldiers patrolled cities across the South Asian country. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the stay at home order will be relaxed from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for people to run essential errands.

Meanwhile, the government has declared Sunday and Monday as public holidays, with only emergency services allowed to operate.

Protesters argue the quota system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, saying it should be replaced with a merit-based system. Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect for their contributions in the war against Pakistan, regardless of their political affiliation.

Representatives from both sides met late Friday in an attempt to reach a resolution and Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government was open to discussing their demands. In addition to quota reform, the demands included reopening of university dormitories and for some university officials to step down after failing to protect campuses.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protests, vowing to organize its own demonstrations as many of its supporters have joined the student-led protests. However, BNP said in a statement its followers were not responsible for the violence and denied the ruling party’s accusations of using the protests for political gains.

The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures. Hasina’s government had accused the opposition party of attempting to disrupt the vote.

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Saaliq reported from New Delhi, India.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Dynamo find a way to overshadow Whitecaps’ comeback with late goals

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VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps demonstrated how good they can be, but also showed they still need to be better in a 4-3 loss to the Houston Dynamo in a Major League Soccer match Saturday night that snapped their six-game unbeaten streak.

Striker Fafa Picault scored twice and assisted on a goal by defender Ranko Veselinovic as the Whitecaps battled back from a 2-0, first-half deficit to take a 3-2 lead. The Dynamo then stunned the crowd of 24,114 at BC Place Stadium by scoring twice in nine minutes for the road win.

“It’s tough when you concede two goals like that,” said Veselinovic. “They were all good goals, but we need to do better as a team not to allow them to arrive at those spots so easy.”

Houston’s Griffin Dorsey scored his second goal of the night with a shot through traffic in the 87th minute. The Dynamo’s Brad Smith tied the match 3-3 with a blast that went past Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka’s hand in the 78th minute.

“We couldn’t finish,” said Veselinovic. “I’m happy how we responded in the second half. It’s just we lack in some games this season the maturity to close out games.”

Adding to the loss, Vancouver all-star striker Ryan Gauld left the game in the 24th minute with a right knee injury.

Head coach Vanni Sartini said he didn’t know if the injury will prevent Gauld from playing in Wednesday’s MLS all-star game.

Picault’s first goal came on a header in the 48th minute. He gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead in the 66th minute when he directed in a pass from defender Sam Adekugbe. Picault has scored eight times across all competitions, and it was his third consecutive game with a goal.

Veselinovic tied the match in the 54th minute, heading in a ball sent into the box by Picault.

The Whitecaps (11-8-5) lost for the first time in six MLS games (4-1-1) and seven (5-1-1) across all competitions.

Midfielder Coco Carrasquilla also scored for the Dynamo (10-7-7) who have just one loss in their last 10 matches (5-1-4).

The loss drops Vancouver into fifth place in the MLS Western Conference with 38 points while Houston climbed into sixth with 37.

Carrasquilla put Houston ahead in the 29th minute. Ibrahim Aliyu made a couple nice moves around the Whitecap defenders then fed the ball to Carrasquilla in front of the net. His shot went off Veselinovic and past goalkeeper Takaoka.

Dorsey took advantage of a broken play to put Houston up 2-0 in the 36th minute. A shot deflected off Vancouver defender Bjorn Utvik and rolled to Dorsey, who scored on a long shot that curved inside the right post.

Sartini liked the fight his team showed to get back into the game but wasn’t happy with the finish.

“It’s been an unfortunate night,” he said. “I think this game will bring us even closer (together) as a team.

“There’s a lot of positives that we can take from tonight.”

Before the game the Whitecaps announced Quinn Thompson had been named the team’s technical director. Reporting to sporting director Axel Schuster, Thompson will oversee roster construction and salary budget, player relations, plus player recruitment strategy along with senior director of analytics, insights, and research Dr. Johann Windt.

Thompson, a 28-year-old native of Vancouver, is the youngest technical director in the league.

Gauld injured himself battling for the ball in the 24th minute. He was sprawled on the field for several minutes then left the pitch under his own steam, returned to play briefly but was replaced a few minutes later by Brian Raposo.

NOTES

Vancouver had a shot on goal four minutes into the game. The Dynamo didn’t allow a shot in goal in a 1-0 win over San Jose on Wednesday. … The Whitecaps and Dynamo play again Sept. 18 in Houston. … Vancouver’s last loss was 2-0 in Portland on June 22. … The Whitecaps play seven of their final 11 league games at home. … Not dressed for the Whitecaps were defenders Tristan Blackmon (groin) and Mathias Laborda (ankle) plus goalkeeper Joe Bendik (back). … The Whitecaps celebrated their 11th anniversary Pride Match with a ’Caps & Queens Drag Happy Hour outside of BC Place before the game.

UP NEXT

The Whitecaps next MLS game is at home against LAFC on Aug. 24. They play Wrexham, the Welsh football club jointly owned by Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds, in a friendly at BC Place Stadium on July 27, then face LAFC in a Leagues Cup match July 30 on the road. The Whitecaps host Tijuana in another Leagues Cup match Aug. 3. Houston hosts the Mexican side Atlas FC July 27, then Real Salt Lake Aug. 5 in Leagues Cup matches before playing Toronto FC Aug. 24 at home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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The biggest of stories came to the small city of Butler. Here’s how its newspaper met the moment

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BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — When gunshots echoed at the Trump rally where she was working, Butler Eagle reporter Irina Bucur dropped to the ground just like everyone else. She was terrified.

She hardly froze, though.

Bucur tried to text her assignment editor, through spotty cell service, to tell him what was going on. She took mental notes of what the people in front and behind her were saying. She used her phone to take video of the scene. All before she felt safe standing up again.

When the world’s biggest story came to the small western Pennsylvania hamlet of Butler a week ago, it didn’t just draw media from everywhere else. Journalists at the Eagle, the community’s resource since 1870 and one that struggles to survive just like thousands of local newspapers across the country, had to make sense of chaos in their backyard — and the global scrutiny that followed.

Photographer Morgan Phillips, who stood on a riser in the middle of a field with Trump’s audience that Saturday evening, kept on her feet and kept working, documenting history. After Secret Service officers hustled the former president into a waiting car, the people around her turned to shout vitriol at the journalists.

A few days later, Phillips’ eyes welled with tears recounting the day.

“I just felt really hated,” said Phillips, who like Bucur is 25. “And I never expected that.”

Mobilizing in the most harrowing of situations

“I’m very proud of my newsroom,” said Donna Sybert, the Eagle’s managing editor.

Having put a coverage plan in place, she had escaped for a fishing trip nearby with her family. A colleague, Jamie Kelly, called to tell her something had gone terribly wrong and Sybert rushed back to the newsroom, helping to update the Eagle’s website until 2 a.m. Sunday.

Bucur’s assignment had been to talk to community members attending the rally, along with those who set up a lemonade stand on the hot day and people who parked cars. She’d done her reporting and settled in to text updates of what Trump was saying for the website.

The shooting changed everything. Bucur tried to interview as many people as she could. Slightly dazed after authorities cleared the grounds, she forgot where she had parked. That gave her more time for reporting.

“Going into reporter mode allowed me to distract myself from the situation a little bit,” Bucur said. “Once I got up, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was just thinking I needed to interview people and get the story out because I was on deadline.”

She and colleagues Steve Ferris and Paula Grubbs were asked to collect their reporting and impressions for a story in the Eagle’s special, eight-page wraparound printed edition on Monday.

“The first few gunshots rang out like fireworks,” they wrote. “But when they continued, people in the crowd at the Butler Farm Show venue dropped to the ground: a mother and father told their children to crouch down. A young man hunched over in the grass. Behind him, a woman started to pray.”

The special edition clearly resonated in Butler and beyond. Extra copies are being offered for sale for $5 in the Eagle’s lobby. That’s already a bargain. On eBay, Sybert said, she’s seen them going for up to $125.

A small newspaper struggling to endure

Beyond its status as a local newspaper, the Eagle is an endangered species.

It has resisted ownership by a large chain, which have often stripped news outlets bare. The Eagle has been owned by the same family since 1903; its patriarch, Vernon Wise, is now 95. Fifth-generation family member Jamie Wise Lanier drove up from Cincinnati this week to congratulate the staff on a job well done, general manager Tammy Schuey said.

Six editions are printed each week, and a digital site has a paywall that was lowered for some of the shooting stories. The Eagle’s circulation is 18,000, Schuey said, with about 3,000 of that digital.

The United States has lost one-third of its newspapers since 2005 as the Internet chews away at once-robust advertising revenue. An average of 2.5 newspapers closed each week in 2023, according to a study by Northwestern University. The majority were in small communities like Butler.

The Eagle abandoned a newsroom across town in 2019, consolidating space in the building where its printing press is housed. It has diversified, starting a billboard company and taking on extra printing jobs. It even stores the remnants of a long-shuttered local circus and allows residents to visit.

The Eagle has about 30 employees, although it’s now short two reporters and a photographer. Cabinets housing old photographs lie among the clutter of desks in the newsroom, with a whiteboard that lists which staff members will be on weekend call.

Its staff is a mix of young people like Bucur and Phillips, who tend to move on to larger institutions, and those who put down roots in Butler. Sybert has worked at the Eagle since 1982. Schuey was initially hired in 1991 to teach composing room employees how to use Macs.

“This is a challenging business,” Schuey said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Local understanding makes a huge difference

When a big story comes to town, with the national and international journalists that follow it, local news outlets are still a precious and valued resource.

The Eagle knows the terrain. It knows the local officials. Smart national reporters who “parachute” into a small community that suddenly makes news know to seek out local journalists. Several have reached out to the Eagle, Schuey said.

Familiarity helps in other ways. Bucur found people at the rally who were suspicious of national reporters but answered questions from her, and the same is true for some authorities. She has tapped her network of Facebook friends for reporting help.

Such foundational trust is common. Many people in small towns have more faith in their community newspapers, said Rick Edmonds, the media business analyst at the Poynter Institute.

“It’s just nice to support the locals,” said Jeff Ruhaak, a trucking company supervisor who paused during a meal at the Monroe Hotel to discuss the Eagle’s coverage. “I think they did a pretty good job covering it for their size.”

The Eagle has another advantage as well: It isn’t going anywhere when the national reporters leave. The story won’t end. Hurt people need to recover and investigations will determine who is responsible for a would-be assassin being able to get a shot at Trump.

In short: responsible journalism as civic leadership in harrowing moments.

“Our community went through a traumatic experience,” Schuey said. “I was there. We have some healing to do, and I think the newspaper is a critical piece in helping guide the community through this.”

So, too, must people at the Eagle heal, as Phillips’ raw emotions attest. Management is trying to give staff members some days off, perhaps with the help of journalists in surrounding communities.

Bucur said she would hate to see Butler turned into a political prop, with the assassination being used as some sort of rallying cry. The divisiveness of national politics had already seeped into local meetings and staff members have felt the tension.

Sybert and Schuey look at each other to try and remember what was the biggest story that Butler Eagle journalists have worked on. Was it a tornado that killed nine back in the 1980s? Some particularly bad traffic accident? Trump paid an uneventful campaign visit in 2020. But there’s no question what tops the list now.

Despite the stress of the assassination attempt, covering it has been a personal revelation for the soft-spoken Bucur, who grew up 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) south in Pittsburgh and studied psychology in college. Her plans changed when she took a communications course and loved it.

“This,” she said, “was a moment I told myself that I think I’m cut out for journalism.”

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David Bauder writes about media for the AP. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder.



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