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Singapore PM's brother thrusts first-family row into politics – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By John Geddie, Fathin Ungku and Aradhana Aravindan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – When the brother of Singapore’s prime minister joined the opposition to the party their father led through the city-state’s independence and rise as a nation, he brought a bitter family squabble into the realm of politics on the eve of a general election.

Lee Hsien Yang, younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and son of modern Singapore’s founder, Lee Kuan Yew, said last week he was a member of the new Progress Singapore Party (PSP). He said the People’s Action Party, which has governed Singapore since independence in 1965, had “lost its way” without his late father.

The younger Lee, 62 – described by people close to him as shy, distant from his powerful brother but not afraid to challenge the status quo – has made no policy statements or said whether he will run for office, something candidates for the July 10 election must declare on Tuesday.

It is not clear if his move can energise an opposition that holds just six of parliament’s 89 seats, and it is not expected to alter prospects for a lopsided ruling party win.

But Lee Hsien Yang’s dramatic move presents Singaporean voters an inversion of the campaign that the PAP is offering as Prime Minister Lee, 68, prepares to retire in the coming years.

The ruling party depicts the government’s aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic as this generation’s heroic sacrifice, harking back to the “Pioneer Generation,” led by Lee Kuan Yew, that forged the tiny island from a dot on Britain’s colonial map into a first-world economy.

Lee Hsien Yang’s rebuke: This is not our father’s PAP.

“I have never sought the limelight, and most people know that actually I value my own privacy,” Lee Hsien Yang told reporters on Sunday at a PSP event at a food court. “I’m here because I think sometimes we need to speak truth to power.”

He has criticised the PAP government for calling an election during a pandemic and its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, in which thousands of Singapore’s migrant workers have been infected. He has also criticised a 2019 “fake news” law that has been used against government opponents and said the PAP suffers from “narrow group-think” and mainly serves the elite in society.

The ruling party declined to comment.

“NOT UNDER HIS BROTHER’S SHADOW”

The Lee brothers were not close but had no major quarrels most of their lives, said a person close to the younger Lee. A business associate said Lee Hsien Yang was mild-mannered but defensive about his parents.

He had repeatedly said he was not interested in politics.

That changed after his father’s death in 2015, when Lee Hsien Yang and his sister alleged their older brother wanted to preserve the family home for political gain despite their father requesting it be demolished in his will.

The younger Lee said the lengthy feud did not motivate him to join the opposition.

The brothers, who declined to be interviewed for this article, were both army brigadier-generals but their careers have otherwise diverged.

Lee Hsien Loong, first elected in 1984, became deputy prime minister aged 38 and has led the PAP for 16 years. Lee Hsien Yang was CEO of telecommunications firm Singtel and chairman of drinks conglomerate F&N.

Patriarch Lee Kuan Yew, known as LKY, wrote little in his memoirs about his younger son compared to mentions of the current prime minister but said in a 2011 interview Lee Hsien Yang was a “sensible and practical man” who was “not under his brother’s shadow.”

With an openly gay son, Lee Hsien Yang last year attended a Pride march in the conservative city-state where sex between men is outlawed.

Can this iconoclastic scion with the common touch make a difference?

Loke Hoe Yeong, author of a history of Singapore’s opposition, said Lee Hsien Yang’s arrival will energise opposition parties but could also antagonise voters who don’t think a family spat over a house should be aired publicly.

Former PAP lawmaker Inderjit Singh said Lee Hsien Yang’s presence in the opposition could sway some voters, who have always given the ruling party at least 60% of the vote.

“When people see LKY’s son switching camp to the opposition, this may create doubts…that the PAP of the present is not the same as the PAP of the past,” Singh said.

(Reporting by John Geddie, Aradhana Aravindan and Fathin Ungku; Additional reporting by Anshuman Daga, Jessica Jaganathan and Tom Westbrook; Editing by William Mallard)

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Canadians want courts, not politics, to decide the fate of Meng Wanzhou: Nanos survey – CTV News

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TORONTO —
More than half of Canadians oppose swapping Meng Wanzhou for two Canadians imprisoned in China, according to a new poll from Nanos Research on behalf of CTV News.

Additionally, the poll shows, Canadians want the federal government to be more aggressive in freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from their Chinese prisons, and believe the fate of Meng, a Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States on fraud charges, should be left to the courts.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested separately in December 2018, days after Meng was taken into custody in British Columbia, and charged with espionage last month. Their arrests have widely been seen as political retribution by China, though the Chinese government has denied this.

The idea of a prisoner swap gained steam in late June after a spokesperson for China’s foreign embassy suggested that Canada releasing Meng could affect the fates of Kovrig and Spavor. A group of 19 prominent former politicians and diplomats wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the same day, urging him to halt Meng’s extradition proceeding in order to secure the release of the two Canadians.

Trudeau emphatically ruled this out, saying that Canada should not suggest that arresting Canadians will allow other countries to get whatever they want from the Canadian government.

The new polling data suggests that Trudeau has popular support for this stance. Nanos found that 40 per cent of Canadians say they oppose a prisoner exchange, with another 16 per cent somewhat opposing it. Sixteen per cent say they support it, and 19 per cent say they somewhat support it, while nine per cent report being unsure.

Support for the prisoner swap was higher among Canadians aged 55 or older and men, and noticeably lower among Quebec residents.

The poll also reveals strong support for leaving the Meng extradition file with the courts. More than two-thirds of respondents – 68 per cent – said that is the venue where it should be decided, while 22 per cent said it should be decided by the government. Ten per cent were unsure.

Although there are arguments that the government has the legal authority to intervene in the court process, Trudeau has been advised that the specific power that allows this has never before been used for diplomatic or political reasons.

Another major finding of the poll is that when presented with a range of approaches for trying to get China to release Kovrig and Spavor, Canadians are most likely to support more aggressive government action that directly targets China, such as blocking Chinese companies from buying Canadian firms or denying entry to the country to Chinese government officials and their families.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents preferred those approaches, while 36 per cent said Canada should focus on diplomatic efforts, six per cent said Canada should ask the U.S. to intervene, and six per cent were unsure.

Residents of B.C. and the Prairies were the most likely to prefer Canada taking more aggressive measures against China, while Quebecers were the most likely to recommend a continued focus on diplomacy.

METHODOLOGY

The observations in this polling data are based on an RDD dual-frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,049 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between June 28 and July 2 as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 time out of 20.

The poll was commissioned by CTV News and the Globe and Mail and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

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Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say – KSTP

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KSTP’s Complete COVID-19 Coverage

Still, health experts say there are too many uncertainties and variables for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.

Where is the virus spreading rapidly? Do students live with aged grandparents? Do teachers have high-risk health conditions that would make online teaching safest? Do infected children easily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?

Regarding the latter, some evidence suggests they don’t, but a big government study aims to find better proof. Results won’t be available before the fall, and some schools are slated to reopen in just a few weeks.

“These are complicated issues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during an online briefing.

Children infected with coronavirus are more likely than adults to have mild illnesses, but their risk for severe disease and death isn’t zero. While a virus-linked inflammatory condition is uncommon, most children who develop it require intensive care, and a few have died. Doctors don’t know which children are at risk. 

“The single most important thing we can do to keep our schools safe has nothing to do with what happens in school. It’s how well we control COVID-19 in the community,” Frieden said. “Right now there are places around the country where the virus is spreading explosively and it would be difficult if not impossible to operate schools safely until the virus is under better control.”

Zahrah Wattier teaches high school in Galveston, Texas, where cases and deaths have been spiking. Until the state recently said schools must reopen to in-person classes, her district had been weighing options many others are considering, including full-time online teaching or a hybrid mix.

Wattier’s school has mostly Hispanic and Black students, many from low-income families; almost 70% qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches and many have parents who work in “essential” jobs that increase potential exposure to the virus. Online education was hard for many with limited internet access, and Wattier knows in-person classes can help even the playing field.

But she’s worried.

“My school has over 2,000 students. That’s over 2,000 exposures in a day,” said Wattier, whose parents live with the family and are both high-risk. “It’s a lot to think about. It’s my job. It’s something I choose to do, it’s something I love. Now it comes at a really high risk.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, whose guidance the Trump administration has cited to support its demands, says the goal is for all students to be physically present in school. But, it adds, districts must be flexible, consult with health authorities and be ready to pivot as virus activity waxes and wanes.

“It is not that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks this is a done deal because we have put out guidance,” said Dr. Nicholas Beers, a member of the academy’s school health council. “But what we do know is that we need to have a more realistic dialogue about the implications of virtual learning on the future of children. We have left whole swaths of society behind, whether it’s because they have limited access to a computer, or broadband internet,” or because of other challenges that online education can’t address.

DeVos said local school officials are smart enough to know when conditions are not right.

“There’s going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school by school or a case by case basis.”

Following CDC and academy guidelines would mean big changes for most schools. Mask-wearing would be strongly encouraged for adult staff and students except the youngest. Desks would be distanced at least 3 feet apart; the CDC recommends 6 feet. Both suggest limiting adults allowed in schools, including parents, and canceling group activities like choir and assemblies. Staggered arrival and dismissal times, outdoor classes, and keeping kids in the same classroom all day are other options.

President Trump has threatened federal funding cuts for districts that don’t fully reopen.

DeVos defended that stance, saying, “American investment in education is a promise to students and their families.”

“If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called DeVos’ comments “malfeasance and dereliction of duty.”

“They’re messing, the president and his administration are messing with the health of our children,” the California Democrat told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

While most funding typically comes from state and local sources, experts say schools will need more federal funding, not less, to reopen safely. Masks, extra cleaning supplies or janitors, additional classroom space, and mental health support for students and staff traumatized by the pandemic are among potential costs. And with more parents out of work, more children will qualify for federally funded school lunches.

Lynn Morales, 49, teaches 8th grade English at a high-poverty public school in Bloomington, Minnesota, that is considering several options including in-person classes; a final decision is expected Aug. 1.

Some colleagues are considering not returning to the classroom because their children’s day care centers aren’t reopening. Some say they won’t come back until there’s a vaccine.

“I am concerned and it’s because of the age group,” Morales said. ”Middle school students … are lovely and I love them, but they touch, they get close, they roughhouse. It is their nature. They’re 13 years old. They are defiant.”

“If masks are required and a kid isn’t wearing a mask, is my job description going to be to chase down this kid and insist they wear a mask? And what if they don’t?”

Dr. Emily Landon, a University of Chicago infectious disease specialist, is helping the university and a campus preK-12 school decide how to reopen safely.

“Things are evolving from, ‘We can’t do it unless it’s perfectly safe’ to more of a harm reduction model, with the caveat that you can always step back” if virus activity flares, Landon said.

Single-occupancy dorms, outdoor classes, socially distanced classrooms and mask-wearing by students and faculty are on tap for the university. Face coverings will be required at the school too. Policies may change depending on virus activity.

She dismisses complaints from some parents who say masks are a loss of personal freedom.

“It’s not harmful for your child,” she said. “If you see wearing masks as a loss of personal freedom, then you have to think the same of pants.”

Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University is leading a National Institutes of Health-funded study to determine what role children play in transmitting COVID-19. Almost 2,000 families are enrolled and self-test every two weeks. The idea is to find infected children without symptoms and see how easily disease spreads within families. Results may come by year’s end.

“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.

She noted that in other countries where schools have reopened, evidence suggests no widespread transmission from children.

In France, public schools reopened briefly before a summer break, with no sign of widespread virus transmission. Masks were only required for upper grades, but students stayed in the same classroom all day. A better test will be when the new school year starts Sept. 1.

In Norway, schools closed in March for several weeks. Nursery schools reopened first, then other grades. Children were put in smaller groups that stay together all day. Masks aren’t required. There have been only a few virus cases, said Dr. Margrethe Greve-Isdahl of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, but she noted virus activity is much lower than in the U.S.

Kati Spaniak, a realtor in Northbrook, Illinois, says her five teenage daughters have struggled to cope with pandemic fears, school closures and deficits of online learning. She strongly supports getting kids back in the classroom, and all her girls will return to some form of that in the fall.

It’s been hard for her high school senior, Kylie Ciesla. Prom, graduation and other senior rituals were canceled, and there were no good-byes. “Just to get ripped away from everything I’ve worked for 12 years, it’s really hard,” Kylie said.

At college, classes will be in person, masks mandated and a COVID-19 test required before she can move into her dorm. Kylie isn’t sure all that is needed.

“I hate that this thing has become so political. I just want the science. I want to know what we need to do to fix it,” she said.

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After 50 years in politics, Richmond councillor Harold Steves says he won't seek re-election – CTV News

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VANCOUVER —
After 50 years of serving as a Richmond city councillor or a provincial MLA, Harold Steves says he will not seek re-election in the next civic election.

The politician made the announcement on Twitter, adding that this June 30th also marked his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife Kathy, and the occasion seemed like a good time to announce his retirement.

B.C.’s next civic election takes place Oct. 15, 2022.

“I joined the CCF [Co-operative Commonwealth Federation] party to fight to save farmland in 1960 and was elected the first president of the BC NDP Youth in 1961,” Steves wrote, adding that Kathy has always “quietly shared my workload.”

The Steves family have farmed in Richmond for decades, and the couple still run the family farm and live in the 103-year-old home on the property.

Steves first got interested in politics over a fight to save the farm in the 1950s. A university student at the time, and said he came home one day to find his father saying they would have to go out of business.

That’s because the city had denied his dad a permit to build a new dairy – a requirement during that period because Canadian regulators were requiring dairies to update to modern equipment. The Steves family found out their land and the land of many other farming families had been quietly rezoned for residential use.

“No one knew how to fight city hall,” Steves told CTV News Vancouver. “The taxes were going up and nobody knew what to do about it.”

The fight to protect farmland has motivated Steves throughout his long political career. He joined the CCF, the precursor to the New Democratic Party, and pushed for the creation of a land bank for farmland, an idea that would eventually become B.C.’s Agriculture Land Reserve.

Steves was first elected as a City of Richmond alderman in 1968, a post he held until 1973. From 1973 to 1975 he served as a B.C. NDP MLA, then returned to Richmond city council in 1977. He’s served as a city councillor continuously ever since.

Steves said his wife has been the backbone of his political career, doing all his filing and also reading countless reports. They met at the University of British Columbia, where Harold was studying agriculture and Kathy was studying nuclear physics.

“She does this all behind the scenes – basically it’s been the two of us together for 60 years,” Steves said.

The couple have five children and eight grandchildren.

Steves has been a stalwart critic of the B.C. government’s decision to build the Site C dam in the Peace region, warning that with the anticipated effects of climate change, the province couldn’t afford to lose valuable farmland.

In recent years, he’s fought to bring in changes to the size of houses allowed on farmland in Richmond, arguing that the large mansions that are currently allowed have led to rising land prices.

Steves said he plans to continue with his activism work, which is centred around protecting farmland and promoting the importance of strong local food systems.

He’s looking forward to continuing work on a plan to create 300 allotment gardens on some of the Garden City lands in Richmond, and ongoing work to create community garden plots in some city parks and develop incubator farms.

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