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Ottawa pins hopes on Kabul airport reopening as hundreds with links to Canada stuck


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Ottawa is pinning its hopes on the Kabul airport soon reopening as thousands of people with links to Canada found themselves stranded in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan on Tuesday following the overnight withdrawal of all American soldiers from the country.

Hours after the last U.S. soldier climbed aboard a military aircraft, marking the end of 20 years of Western intervention in Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau revealed around 1,250 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members are believed to have been left behind.

“The main thing that we needed to figure out was how many Canadian nationals or permanent residents and family members were able to get out on some of our allies’ flights,” Garneau said while appearing alongside Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

“And now that we have had a chance to look at the manifests from those other countries, we estimate that at the moment there are roughly 1,250 either Canadian citizens or permanent residents or family members that are in Afghanistan.”

A senior official speaking on background because they weren’t authorized to comment on the record said the actual number of Canadian citizens still inside Afghanistan is less than 500. The U.S. says about 100 of its citizens were left behind after the last American plane departed Kabul airport.

The citizens, permanent residents and families are in addition to hundreds of former interpreters and support staff who previously supported Canada’s efforts in the country and are now clamouring to escape with their families for fear of Taliban reprisals.

The end of Western evacuation flights from Kabul has left Canadian veterans, refugee advocates and others scrambling to find alternative ways to protect those former interpreters and local staff as well as their families — including whether to have people start heading to the border with Pakistan.

The government is reaching out to Pakistan and other countries neighbouring Afghanistan to facilitate the entry of people with links to Canada, said Garneau, adding he had a phone call scheduled with Pakistan officials after the news conference.

Yet Garneau noted the government is advising against such travel, and instead emphasized Canada’s hope that U.S.-led negotiations with the Taliban would soon see the airport in Kabul reopened for people who want to leave the country.

“At the moment, our advice to Canadians and Canadian permanent residents in Afghanistan and vulnerable Afghans is to stay put, because the situation at this point is uncertain,” he said. “And obviously, we’re also working on trying to get the airport open again.”

On Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said technical teams are “repairing and cleaning” the airport and advised people to avoid the area for the time being.

The Taliban have said they will allow people with legal documents to travel freely, but it remains to be seen whether any commercial airlines will be willing to offer service. The Taliban are expected to hold talks with Qatar and Turkey on resuming airport operations.

“I hope you will be very cautious in dealing with the nation,” Mujahid said in a speech at the airport, addressing the Taliban fighters gathered there. “Our nation has suffered war and invasion, and the people do not have more tolerance.”

At the end of his remarks, the fighters shouted: “God is greatest!”

U.S. President Joe Biden tried to declare his own moral victory Tuesday, forcefully defending the decision to withdraw. Leaving earlier would have been just as complex and dangerous, and staying indefinitely a costly and fruitless endeavour, he said.

Indeed, Biden essentially declared that the days of the United States staging major overseas military operations in hopes of remaking a country in its own image are over.

“We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan — getting a terrorist and stopping attacks — morph into … trying to create a democratic, cohesive and united Afghanistan, something that has never been done over many centuries of Afghan history,” he said.

“Moving on from that mindset and those kinds of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home.”

Garneau said Canada and other allies have been pushing the Taliban to allow anyone with valid travel documents to leave Afghanistan. While the Taliban have already made such a commitment, “we will judge them by their actions, not their words,” Garneau said.

The Liberal government has been repeatedly criticized for not acting fast enough to save Afghans who helped Canada during its military mission there. A special immigration program announced last month has been plagued by bureaucratic and technical problems.

Retired major-general Denis Thompson, part of a grassroots network of veterans, refugee advocates and other volunteers trying to help former interpreters, said around 80 per cent of the Afghans the network is tracking have not had their so-called SIM applications processed.

“Clear the backlog, clear the backlog of SIMs so that when the airport opens, we can get them out,” he told The Canadian Press. “That is our No. 1 priority, unequivocally.”

Mendicino defended the government’s response to date and said Canadian immigration officials are continuing to process applications as quickly as possible in the hopes people will be able to leave, even as he touted the government’s plan to accept 5,000 Afghans evacuated by the U.S.

Those Afghans are currently in third countries like Qatar, and are part of the 20,000 Afghan refugees outside the country that the government has promised to resettle. Those refugees are separate from the former interpreters and family members that are eligible for special visas.

“Our commitment is that now, even after the coalition withdrawal has been completed, we will continue to process those applications,” Mendicino said. “We will continue to express in clear and strong language that they should be permitted safe passage so they can be resettled to Canada.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2021.

— with files from Mike Blanchfield and The Associated Press.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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Longtime New Yorker writer, editor Roger Angell dies

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NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Angell, the celebrated baseball writer and reigning man of letters who during an unfaltering 70-plus years helped define The New Yorker’s urbane wit and style through his essays, humor pieces and editing, has died. He was 101.

Angell died Friday of heart failure, according to The New Yorker.

“No one lives forever, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Roger had a good shot at it,” New Yorker Editor David Remnick wrote Friday. “Like the rest of us, he suffered pain and loss and doubt, but he usually kept the blues at bay, always looking forward; he kept writing, reading, memorizing new poems, forming new relationships.”

Heir to and upholder of The New Yorker’s earliest days, Angell was the son of founding fiction editor Katharine White and stepson of longtime staff writer E.B. White. He was first published in the magazine in his 20s, during World War II, and was still contributing in his 90s, an improbably trim and youthful man who enjoyed tennis and vodka martinis and regarded his life as “sheltered by privilege and engrossing work, and shot through with good luck.”

Angell well lived up to the standards of his famous family. He was a past winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award, formerly the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, for meritorious contributions to baseball writing, an honor previously given to Red Smith, Ring Lardner and Damon Runyon among others. He was the first winner of the prize who was not a member of the organization that votes for it, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

His editing alone was a lifetime achievement. Starting in the 1950s, when he inherited his mother’s job (and office), writers he worked with included John Updike, Ann Beattie, Donald Barthelme and Bobbie Ann Mason, some of whom endured numerous rejections before entering the special club of New Yorker authors. Angell himself acknowledged, unhappily, that even his work didn’t always make the cut.

“Unlike his colleagues, he is intensely competitive,” Brendan Gill wrote of Angell in “Here at the New Yorker,” a 1975 memoir. “Any challenge, mental or physical, exhilarates him.”

Angell’s New Yorker writings were compiled in several baseball books and in such publications as “The Stone Arbor and Other Stories” and “A Day in the Life of Roger Angell,” a collection of his humor pieces. He also edited “Nothing But You: Love Stories From The New Yorker” and for years wrote an annual Christmas poem for the magazine. At age 93, he completed one of his most highly praised essays, the deeply personal “This Old Man,” winner of a National Magazine Award.

“I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse,” he wrote. “The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.”

Angell was married three times, most recently to Margaret Moorman. He had three children.

Angell was born in New York in 1920 to Katharine and Ernest Angell, an attorney who became head of the American Civil Liberties Union. The New Yorker was founded five years later, with Katharine Angell as fiction editor and a young wit named Andy White (as E.B. White was known to his friends) contributing humor pieces.

His parents were gifted and strong, apparently too strong. “What a marriage that must have been,” Roger Angell wrote in “Let Me Finish,” a book of essays published in 2006, “stuffed with sex and brilliance and psychic murder, and imparting a lasting unease.” By 1929, his mother had married the gentler White and Angell would remember weekend visits to the apartment of his mother and her new husband, a place “full of laughing, chain-smoking young writers and artists from The New Yorker.”

In high school, he was so absorbed in literature and the literary life that for Christmas one year he asked for a book of A.E Housman’s poems, a top hat and a bottle of sherry. Stationed in Hawaii during World War II, Angell edited an Air Force magazine, and by 1944 had his first byline in The New Yorker. He was identified as Cpl. Roger Angell, author of the brief story “Three Ladies in the Morning,” and his first words to appear in the magazine were “The midtown hotel restaurant was almost empty at 11:30 in the morning,”

There were no signs, at least open ones, of family rivalry. White encouraged his stepson to write for the magazine and even recommended him to The New Yorker’s founder, Harold Ross, explaining that Angell “lacks practical experience but he has the goods.” Angell, meanwhile, wrote lovingly of his stepfather. In a 2005 New Yorker essay, he noted that they were close for almost 60 years and recalled that “the sense of home and informal attachment” he got from White’s writings was “even more powerful than it was for his other readers.”

Not everyone was charmed by Angell or by the White-Angell family connection at The New Yorker. Former staff writer Renata Adler alleged that Angell “established an overt, superficially jocular state of war with the rest of the magazine.” Grumbling about nepotism was not uncommon, and Tom Wolfe mocked his “cachet” at a magazine where his mother and stepfather were charter members. “It all locks, assured, into place,” Wolfe wrote.

Unlike White, known for the children’s classics “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little,” Angell never wrote a major novel. But he did enjoy a loyal following through his humor writing and his baseball essays, which placed him in the pantheon with both professional sports journalists and with Updike, James Thurber and other moonlighting literary writers. Like Updike, he didn’t alter his prose style for baseball, but demonstrated how well the game was suited for a life of the mind.

“Baseball is not life itself, although the resemblance keeps coming up,” Angell wrote in “La Vida,” a 1987 essay. “It’s probably a good idea to keep the two sorted out, but old fans, if they’re anything like me, can’t help noticing how cunningly our game replicates a larger schedule, with its beguiling April optimism; the cheerful roughhouse of June; the grinding, serious, unending (surely) business of midsummer; the September settling of accounts … and then the abrupt running-down of autumn, when we wish for — almost demand — a prolonged and glittering final adventure just before the curtain.”

Angell began covering baseball in the early 1960s, when The New Yorker was seeking to expand its readership. Over the following decades, he wrote definitive profiles of players ranging from Hall of Famer Bob Gibson to the fallen Pittsburgh Pirates star Steve Blass and had his say on everything from the verbosity of manager Casey Stengel (“a walking pantheon of evocations”) to the wonders of Derek Jeter (“imperturbably brilliant”). He was born the year before the New York Yankees won their first World Series and his baseball memories spanned from the prime of Babe Ruth to such 21st century stars as Jeter, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

Even as drugs and labor-management battles shared and even stole headlines, he thought the real story remained on the playing field. Angell never had official credentials as a sportswriter: He was just a fan, a grateful onlooker, a former high school pitcher who once aspired to the big leagues.

“At some point in my upper 30s or early 40s, I was seeing a psychiatrist and I came in with a dream,” Angell told The Associated Press in a 1988 interview. “I dreamed that there were some bushes and shrubbery, and there was a gravestone with my name and my birthday on it and the year I was in.

“I took this dream to my shrink with some trepidation and he asked how I felt and I said I felt sort of sad. He asked me what the gravestone reminded me of and I said it reminds me of those stones out in center field in Yankee Stadium.

“Then I realized it meant the end of my baseball dreams.”


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Hillel Italie, The Associated Press

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CP News Alert: Quebec Halloween attacker found guilty of first-degree murder

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QUEBEC — A man who used a sword to kill and maim victims in Quebec City’s historic district on Halloween night 2020 has been found guilty of murder

Carl Girouard, 26, was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Girouard had admitted to the acts, but his defence lawyer argued his client was not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder and could not tell right from wrong.

The Crown countered that the killings were premeditated and that Girouard was aware of his actions that night.

An 11-member jury had to decide whether Girouard was not criminally responsible or was guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter.

It returned with its verdicts today after five days of deliberations.

More coming.

The Canadian Press

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