Everyone wants a unicorn puppy; In-The-News gets magical on Dec. 4

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 Dec. 4.

What we are watching in Canada ...

The Bank of Canada is expected to make its latest interest rate announcement later this morning.

The central bank is expected by economists to keep its key interest rate target steady at 1.75 per cent, where it has been set since October of last year.

However, investors will be watching carefully to see what the Bank of Canada has to say about its outlook for the economy at home and abroad.

A resilient Canadian economy has allowed the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates on hold even as its international peers have moved to ease monetary policy as the global economy has shown signs of slowing.

Even so, the central bank has warned that this resilience will be tested by persistent global trade conflicts and uncertainty.

Changes in the Bank of Canada's key policy interest rate affects the prime rates at the major Canadian banks and, in turn, the rates Canadians pay for variable-rate mortgages and other variable-rate loans.

---

Also this ...

Sparks are expected to fly when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders from across NATO formally meet in London today to mark the military alliance's 70th birthday — and discuss its future.

The focus will be on U.S. President Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, who have been at odds over the state of the alliance, which is facing new external threats and internal divisions.

NATO was established at the start of the Cold War and has been a cornerstone of Canada's defence against external threats and a driver in its foreign policy for decades.

Macron last month suggested the alliance was suffering from "brain death" because of a lack of co-ordination and communication between members, specifically Trump's surprise decision to pull U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.

The U.S. president fired back on Tuesday, calling Macron's words "nasty," criticizing France's economy and saying the European nation needs NATO far more than the U.S. does.

Trudeau will likely be among the leaders underscoring NATO's importance to both North American and European security while speaking to the alliance's need to adapt to today's challenges.

---

ICYMI (In case you missed it) ...

A new report says Canadian students are performing as well, if not better, than their American, Australian and British peers.

And the latest results of the Programme for International Student Assessment, suggest that after a certain spending threshold, there is almost no relationship between the amount invested in education and student performance.

The program, administered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to its member countries, says that threshold is US$50,000 per student.

It says the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom all spend more than double that amount, but students there scored no better — and sometimes worse — in last year's test than those in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, which spend between 10 and 30 per cent less.

Overall, the organization says, most countries have seen little improvement in their performance over the last decade, despite increased spending on schooling.

Students in Canada and 10 other countries performed better than the OECD average in the 2018.

The program assesses 15-year-old students on reading, mathematics and science, with the latest test focusing on the reading in a digital environment.

--- 

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

President Donald Trump seriously misused the power of his office for personal political gain by seeking foreign intervention in the American election process and obstructed Congress by stonewalling efforts to investigate, a House report concluded in findings that form the basis for possible impeachment.

The 300-page report from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee does not render a judgment on whether Trump's actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanours " warranting impeachment. That is for Congress to decide. But it details "significant misconduct" by the president that the House Judiciary Committee will begin to assess Wednesday.

"The evidence that we have found is really quite overwhelming that the president used the power of his office to secure political favours and abuse the trust American people put in him and jeopardize our security," Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Associated Press.

"It was a difficult decision to go down this road, because it's so consequential for the country," he said. But "the president was the author of his own impeachment inquiry by repeatedly seeking foreign help in his election campaigns."

Schiff added: "Americans need to understand that this president is putting his personal political interests above theirs. And that it's endangering the country."

---

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

Thumping his chest on the world stage as he faces an impeachment inquiry at home, President Donald Trump claimed credit for transforming NATO as the military alliance marks its 70th anniversary. But he also clashed with America's NATO allies, especially French President Emmanuel Macron, about defence spending and the alliance's very mission.

Trump began the first of two days at the NATO conference by publicly rebuking Macron, once arguably his closest European ally, for recently saying the post-World War II alliance was experiencing "brain death" as a result of diminished U.S. leadership under Trump.

"I think that's insulting to a lot of different forces," said Trump. "It's very disrespectful." But the president himself has questioned whether the alliance has become "obsolete," and he accused NATO members anew of shirking national commitments on military spending.

Hours later, Macron and Trump sat side by side for a media session, and Macron said he stood by his comments about the health of the NATO alliance. He also firmly expressed his frustration that Trump withdrew hundreds of American troops from Syria in October

The U.S. president bantered with reporters for more than two hours Tuesday, sitting casually in a salon of Winfield House, the manicured estate of the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, where he also met with fellow NATO leaders.

---

Weird and wild ...

JACKSON, Mo. —  A dog who was dubbed the unicorn puppy because of a tail-like growth between his eyes will remain with the founder of a Missouri rescue group, despite more than 300 offers to adopt him.

The beagle-mix puppy, named Narwhal the Little Magical Furry Unicorn, was rescued in November by Mac's Mission in southeast Missouri. 

Rochelle Steffen, founder of the mission, says her tiny rescue could not properly vet the 300 adoption applicants and she was concerned by "stupid, ugly comments (online) about this sweet little puppy."

People have shown up at the rescue in Jackson because of the dog, prompting security measures and meetings "by appointment only," Steffen says. Narwhal is watched at all times by Steffen and trusted volunteers.

Steffen says she wanted to keep the dog safe and was concerned he could be exploited by someone without his best interests at heart.

People have made "giant" offers to buy him, Steffen says, "but he's not for sale."

---

On this day in 1987 …

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled that the Ontario Hockey Association, the Metropolitan Toronto Hockey League and the Etobicoke Canucks violated the Ontario Human Rights Code by discriminating against hockey player Justine Blainey, because of her sex. It ruled that she could play hockey on a boys' team.

--- 

Your health ...

TORONTO — The Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has called for Benadryl and other first-generation antihistamines to be put behind the counter at pharmacies.

Long-known side effects from standard doses of Benadryl include sedation, cognitive impairment, and possible heart rhythm abnormalities. Children are particularly at risk of severe consequences and research suggests teens using Benadryl for allergies have lower scores on exams than their peers.

Pharmacists, however, say the solution isn't so simple.

Putting Benadryl behind the counter, they say, is not practical and won't resolve the safety concerns.

Consumers would have to speak to a pharmacist, who could decline to provide the medication. That can create conflict at the drugstore, says pharmacist Barry Power, a spokesman for the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

Nardine Nakhla, a pharmacist who teaches at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, says moving all the diphenhydramine-containing drugs behind the counter is "unrealistic … due to the sheer number of products that contain these problematic ingredients."

Power agrees that the issue of which drugs belong behind the counter "becomes a bigger question as you start looking (at it)."

---

Celebrity news ...

TORONTO — It was the decade of Drake on Spotify.

The company says the Toronto rapper was its most-streamed artist of the decade, both globally and in Canada.

Drizzy has more than 28 billion streams to his name on the audio service. Drake was also Spotify's male artist of the decade.

Love-song master Ed Sheeran was the second-most streamed artist of the decade on Spotify.

The Weeknd and Justin Bieber where the second and third most-streamed Canadians.

---

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2019.

The Canadian Press