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Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appear at a WE Day UN event

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power in 2015, he promised a new kind of politics. But now he’s facing his third ethics scandal. What’s going on?

In June, Canada announced it had tapped WE Charity – widely known for its celebrity studded WE Day conferences – to run a new programme for students hard hit by the economic slump.

How did that decision lead to allegations of cronyism and conflicts of interest, two federal ethics inquiries, a spotlight on Mr Trudeau’s family and calls for him to quit?

Here’s a guide to the political scandal.

This time, it involves Trudeau’s family

Mr Trudeau is facing the third ethics investigation of his five years in office over the government’s decision to award a contract worth up to $43.5m to WE Charity Canada.

The programme was designed to connect post-secondary students to paid volunteer opportunities to make up for summer job prospects that had disappeared during the pandemic.

It later emerged that Mr Trudeau’s mother and brother had been paid for speaking at various WE events over the years.

Margaret Trudeau was paid C$250,000 for speaking at 28 WE events over four years, and brother Alexander was paid C$32,000 for speaking at eight between 2017-2018.

Mr Trudeau has also made regular appearances himself – including its first ever event in 2007, according to news site iPolitics – and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, hosted a wellness podcast for the charity.

The prime minister didn’t recuse himself from discussions related to the decision to grant WE the contract. He has apologised for that.

The federal ethics watchdog has confirmed his office is looking into the matter.

“This country is governed by a fairly small circle of elites and there’s a cult of the insider that buttresses this, that produces these kinds of scandals fairly routinely,” says Canadian political theorist David Moscrop.

“That’s the structural problem – that Canada ends up being a small country governed by a small handful of people.”

His finance minister under pressure

Like Mr Trudeau, federal finance minister Bill Morneau’s family had ties to WE Charity. Two of his daughters are associated with the organisation, one of them as an employee.

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau says overlooking the expenses was done in error

Mr Morneau testified earlier this week before a House of Commons finance committee looking into the matter that his family had taken two humanitarian trips, to Kenya and Ecuador, to see WE Charity’s overseas work.

He said he recently realised he had not paid C$41,000 in related travel expenses for those visits and has since cut a cheque.

WE said in a statement that, while the trips were complimentary, the minister has reimbursed the organisation for the amount they would have been charged if they had paid at the time.

The charity said it regularly holds tours for “well-known philanthropists” like Mr Morneau and his wife, who both come from wealthy Canadian families.

Opposition parties are now calling for him to resign or be fired for the trips, which they argue breached ethics rules.

Mr Moscrop suggests while the WE trip funds could easily have been oversight “rather than malice” it can create “cynicism, anger and frustration, and all that at the time of a pandemic is doubly troublesome”.

The finance minister is currently being looked for possible ethics violations for failing to recuse himself from related discussions – for which he apologised.

WE is under the microscope

WE Charity was founded 25 years ago by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger in their parents’ home in Ontario when Craig was 12 years old.

Formerly known as Free the Children, the charity focused on ending child exploitation and quickly drew international recognition.

Its co-founders became local celebrities, and have appeared on television programmes such as the Oprah Winfrey Show and 60 Minutes.

The charity’s WE Day motivational conferences have become rites of passage for many Canadian youths, who are drawn to its message they can change the world and to its roster of celebrity speakers and performers.

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AFP via Getty Images

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We Charity was founded in the mid-90s by the Kielburger brothers

It is now a wide-ranging organisations with operations in the UK, Canada, and the US.

WE withdrew from the federal programme early this month because it had been “enmeshed in controversy from the moment of its announcement”, the organisation said.

But the scrutiny over the contract has extended to the charity itself, raising questions about its sprawling organisational structure, ties between its social enterprise branch and its charitable entities, and its internal culture.

On Friday, the Globe and Mail reported that some partners and sponsors, including the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and Virgin Atlantic Airways, are reviewing their relationships.

In mid-July, the charity said it has decided to make both governance and structural changes and to refocus its original mandate of international development, and would hire outside consulting firms for a review.

Students are left in limbo

Rahul Singh, executive director Global Medic, a Toronto-based charity that provides emergency humanitarian aid, said he was initially excited by the volunteerism programme, this week telling Canadian parliamentarians it seemed like a “perfect and a natural fit” for his organisation.

Despite the controversy, the programme did receive over 35,000 applications and had 83 not-for-profit partners.

It’s now in an apparent holding pattern following WE’s withdrawal.

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Toronto Star via Getty Images

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Global Medic’s Rahul Singh told MPs that the ‘ biggest loser in this will be the students’

Mr Singh has numerous student volunteers enrolled in the programme and says he was told the federal government would step in after the WE partnership fell apart. He said he had yet to hear back.

“Now I’m very concerned that the students will not get a bursary,” he told the House committee, later adding: “I’m very worried about people falling through the cracks because of poor policy decisions.”

It’s beginning to harm his support

The federal Liberals still hold a slight lead over their conservative rivals, but opinion surveys suggest the controversy is taking its toll.

National Liberal support has slipped since the revelations came to light, as have Mr Trudeau’s approval ratings, according to a 20 July poll by Abacus Data.

Reactions to how the government handled the matter trend negative across the country, including among some 40% of people who voted for the Liberals in last year’s election, the poll indicates.

It is likely it will remain in the headlines for a while.

Mr Trudeau has a minority government, giving opposition parties more control of the agenda and the tools to “drag it out as long as possible”, says Mr Moscrop.

The prime minister, as requested by the opposition Conservatives, and the Kielburgers will also be making appearances before the House committee in the coming days.

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Kim Jong-un ‘apologises for killing of South Korean official’

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Mr Kim said the incident should never have happened

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has issued a rare personal apology for the killing of a South Korean official, Seoul says.

Mr Kim reportedly told his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in that the “disgraceful affair” should not have happened.

South Korea has said the 47-year-old man was found by troops floating in the North’s waters.

He was then shot dead and his body was set alight, according to Seoul.

The killing – the first of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade – has caused outrage in the South.

The border between the Koreas is tightly policed, and the North is thought to have a “shoot-to-kill” policy in place to prevent coronavirus from entering the country.

What did Kim say in his apology?

The apology came in the form of a letter sent to President Moon which acknowledged that the incident should not have happened, according to South Korea’s Blue House.

Mr Kim called it a “disgraceful affair” and said he felt “very sorry” for “disappointing” Mr Moon and the South Korean people, the Blue House said. It is the North’s first official comment on the incident.

The North also gave the South the results of its investigation – it said more than 10 shots were fired at the man, who had entered North Korean waters and then failed to reveal his identity and tried to flee, South Korea’s director of national security Suh Hoon said.

However the North insisted that it had not burned the man’s body but rather the “floating material” that was carrying him.

“The troops could not locate the unidentified trespasser during a search after firing the shots, and burned the device under national emergency disease prevention measures,” Mr Suh told a briefing, referring to the letter.

What happened to the man?

The father-of-two, who worked for the fisheries department, was on his patrol boat about 10km (6 miles) from the border with the North, near the island of Yeonpyeong, when he disappeared on Monday, the South Korean defence ministry said.

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The South Korean island of Yeonpyeong sits near the border with the North

He had left his shoes behind on the boat. South Korean media said he had recently divorced and had financial problems.

A North Korean patrol boat found the man, who was wearing a life jacket, at sea at around 15:30 local time on Tuesday.

They put gas masks on and questioned him from a distance before “orders from [a] superior authority” came in that the man be killed. He was shot dead in the water.

South Korea says North Korean troops then burned the corpse at sea.

What has the reaction been in the South?

President Moon Jae-in called the killing a “shocking” incident that could not be tolerated. He urged the North to take “responsible” measures over the attack.

The country’s National Security Council said the North could “not justify shooting and burning the corpse of our unarmed citizen who showed no sign of resistance”.

Officials said they had done a “thorough analysis of diverse intelligence”, but it was not clear how exactly they had gathered the information.

The military hotline between North and South was cut in June, and the inter-Korean liaison office, which was built to help both sides communicate, was destroyed by North Korea. But South Korean military is known to intercept the North’s radio communications, AFP news agency reports.

What is the background?

Mr Kim’s apology comes at a time when relations between the North and South are at a low point and there is a stand-off between Pyongyang and Washington over the North’s nuclear programme.

South Korea has in the past demanded apologies from the North but these have rarely been forthcoming. The North has refused to apologise for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010, in which 46 sailors died, and denies responsibility. It also refused to apologise for shelling a South Korean island the same year, killing two soldiers and two construction workers.

North Korea may be taking extra-tough measures to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country because it is thought to be preparing for a huge military parade on 10 October to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Workers’ Party.

Pyongyang closed its border with China in January to try to prevent the spread Covid-19. In July, North Korean state media said the country had raised its state of emergency to the maximum level.

Last month, the commander of the US military’s forces in South Korea, Robert Abrams, said the North had introduced a new “buffer zone” of one to two kilometres on the Chinese border, and that the country had special operation forces in place with orders to “shoot-to-kill” anyone coming across the border.

In the past, North Korea has also returned people who have wandered into their territory. In 2017, state news agency KCNA said officials would repatriate a South Korean fishing boat which “illegally” crossed the border, in what was seen as a rare humanitarian move.

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Mongolia’s most eligible eagle hunter

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(CNN) — “Look over there. See that man coming this way?” asks Timur. “He’s so good looking.”

Galloping towards us on a stout Mongolian steed is the nomad’s version of Brad Pitt returning home in “Legends of the Fall.” Bundled inside a pinto jacket above richly embroidered trousers, he certainly catches the eye. A fox fur hat warms his head, and perched calmly on his right forearm is a golden eagle that’s not merely a prop for a cheesy cologne advertisement.

“Look at his eyebrows and his cheekbones,” continues our Intrepid Travel guide. “And look at how big and strong he is. The girls go crazy over him.”

“It’s true,” says Timur’s wife, Bata, blushing slightly. “If I was to compare him with Timur just on looks, of course I would choose him.”

Upon closer inspection, the intruder’s weathered face betrays a life lived outdoors. But his jaw is certainly chiseled and his natural squint reminds me of a youthful Clint Eastwood as he gazes off into the distance.

Jenisbek Tserik, whose name means “steel warrior,” is a semi-nomadic Kazakh.

Mark Daffey

Arguably more impressive though is his stature, which I only begin to appreciate once he stands beside four other berkutchi, or eagle hunters, who have assembled in front of us for a scheduled photo shoot and interview session. He’s close to a head taller, with broad, square shoulders and muscular limbs that are further exaggerated by his bulky attire.

His name is Jenisbek Tserik, an appellation that means “steel warrior” — an apt description given his achievements. A master horseman, he’s also a serial winner of tug-of-war competitions pitting two combatants wrestling a goat carcass.

So adept is Jenisbek that he has been flown to Dubai to compete in exhibition events. For a semi-nomadic Kazakh living in Mongolia’s remote, westernmost province of Bayan-Ölgii, any trip abroad would be like visiting another planet. Glitzy Dubai would be a whole different universe.

Aged 26, Jenisbek tells us he’s not married, then jokes that he has five girlfriends, including one in Dubai and another in Kazakhstan, from where 90% of Bayan-Ölgii’s resident population originates. I’m unsure if he’s serious, but from what Timur and Bata have told me about him, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

As well as the tug-of-war, Jenisbek is a champion archer, and he’s won numerous awards for eagle hunting in Bayan-Ölgii, where the centuries-old pastime is more widespread than anywhere else on the planet.

A proud history

Aged 26, Jenisbek says he's not married -- but has five girlfriends.

Aged 26, Jenisbek says he’s not married — but has five girlfriends.

Tuul & Bruno Morandi/The Image Bank RF/Getty Images

Eagle hunting can be traced back to a forgotten kingdom in Central Asia, where direct descendants of Genghis Khan settled by the Aral Sea until encroaching Russian Empire forces compelled them to flee to the lawless region of the Altai Mountains in Mongolia.

Then, when the Soviet Union and China established borders either side of them early in the 20th century, the Kazakhs became cut off from their homeland and were unable to return.

They continued to live as semi-nomadic herders in Western Mongolia, where traditional pastimes such as hunting with golden eagles continued, passing from one generation to the next. Since such practices were suppressed in Kazakhstan during Soviet rule, Bayan-Ölgii became the sport’s nucleus.

“For a Mongol, it’s pride thing to train racehorses. For Kazakhs, their pride is in training eagles to hunt,” explains Bata.

You can see it in the way they walk and how they behave. The five berkutchi know they’re being watched and they play up to it, puffing their chests out and stiffening their backs whenever a camera lens points their way. Brows furrow and lips purse like they’ve been modeling all their lives.

It’s a far cry from how life must have been in this part of the world before tourism impinged following the first Golden Eagle Festival, which was staged outside the provincial capital of Ölgii in 1999. But even now, foreigners are hardly stampeding to get here. When I quiz our local facilitator about numbers visiting the region this season, he replies that there are “many.”

“How many?” I ask.

“About 800.”

From October to March, eagle hunters head off into the mountains in pairs -- one to flush out their prey, the other to release the eagle from high along a ridgeline.

From October to March, eagle hunters head off into the mountains in pairs — one to flush out their prey, the other to release the eagle from high along a ridgeline.

Mark Daffey

Numbers peak around the timing of the festival in early October, and during the smaller scale Altai Kazakh Eagle Festival, held here in Sagsai two weeks earlier. In each, as many as 100 berkutchi test their skills in events where eagles are expected to catch fox skins being dragged behind horses or in races to scoop up a coin off the ground on horseback.

One flirtatious contest involves a whip-cracking woman chasing after a man who doesn’t always try overly hard to escape. I could imagine Jenisbek receiving a disproportionate share of lashings these past few years.

But it’s only once the tourists have gone that the eagle hunting season begins. From October to March, hunters head off into the mountains in pairs — one to flush out their prey, the other to release the eagle from high along a ridgeline.

Prize catches includes foxes and hares, whose luxuriant coats make the warmest hats, just like those crowning Jenisbek and his companions.

Hunts can last for days at a time, and training requires patience as the eagles become accustomed to their handlers and develop the required skills.

Has it caused couples to divorce, I ask Timur, when husbands spend more time with their birds than they do with their wife? He shrugs his shoulders.

When every unmarried woman in the valley is lining up for you, like they are for Jenisbek, who needs a wife?

Getting there: Though Mongolia is currently closed to tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of tour companies are now accepting bookings for for the 2021 Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Ulgii, which takes place in early October.

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Pelosi urges voting to counter Trump on peaceful election transition

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that President Donald Trump’s refusal to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election could be cured at the ballot box.

“That the president of the United States would place in doubt the idea of the peaceful transfer of power, well it’s not a surprise,” Pelosi said. But a clear result from voters, she said, would be the “antidote” to any doubts raised by Trump in his comments. “I have confidence in the American people,” she said.

Pelosi’s remarks came as congressional Republicans declined to directly confront Trump’s comments but emphatically rejected the notion that the country would see anything but a peaceful transition of power should Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win the election. Trump, though, has spent months criticizing the integrity of the election rooted in baseless claims about foreign meddling with mail-in ballots and rampant voter fraud in Democrat-led states.

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