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Aluminum plunges, Rusal shares soar as U.S. to lift sanctions

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(Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury said it will lift sanctions on the core empire of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, including aluminum giant Rusal and its parent En+, watering down the toughest penalties imposed since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska and Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov arrive for the talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

London aluminum prices sank to a 16-month low after the U.S. Treasury’s announcement, while shares in Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer after China’s Hongqiao, surged to an eight-month high.

In April, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Deripaska, Rusal, En+ and other companies in which he owns stakes, citing “malign activities” by Russia, prompting turmoil in global aluminum markets.

After lobbying by European governments, Washington postponed enforcement of the sanctions and started talks with Deripaska’s team on removing Rusal and En+ from the blacklist if he ceded control of Rusal.

Deripaska will remain under sanctions, the Treasury said. However, the three Deripaska companies – Rusal, En+ and power firm EuroSibEnergo – have agreed to restructure to reduce Deripaska’s stakes.

Rusal shares soared as much as 26.8 percent on Thursday to their highest since April, the month when the sanctions were announced.

“These companies have committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control,” the Treasury said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the sanctions would be lifted in one month.

The Irish government, which lobbied heavily in Washington for the removal of sanctions to protect 600 jobs at an alumina plant, said the move was “a very welcome return” on those efforts.

The Aughinish Alumina plant will be free from the threat of sanctions following a 30-day Congressional review period, the Irish foreign ministry said in a statement. The facility churns out a third of Europe’s alumina, a material used to make aluminum.

Rusal welcomed the U.S. decision and said it would continue to do everything necessary to return to regular working conditions.

En+ also welcomed the decision and added that it was subject to a 30-day review period, during which the U.S. Congress may pass a joint resolution of approval or disapproval. Following the review period, if Congress has not passed a resolution of disapproval, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) can remove En+ from the sanctions list.

The London Metal Exchange said that it would lift its suspension on aluminum produced by Rusal if the U.S. sanctions were removed.

The restructuring agreement to reduce Deripaska’s stakes in Rusal, En+ and EuroSibEnergo will prevent Deripaska obtaining cash or receiving future dividends from the companies.

His stake in En+ will fall from 70 percent to 44.95 percent. The deal also includes Swiss company Glencore, or its subsidiary, swapping shares in Rusal for a direct ownership interest in En+.

Glencore declined to comment.

VTB Bank, Russia’s second-largest lender, or another assignee approved by OFAC, will take ownership of a block of Deripaska’s shares in En+ pledged as collateral for outstanding obligations.

Deripaska will also donate a block of shares to a charitable foundation and assign any voting rights above 35 percent of En+ shares to a voting trust. Several shareholders with professional or family ties to him will also assign their voting rights to an independent third party.

As part of the agreement, half of En+’s restructured board of directors will be U.S. or UK nationals and Rusal’s current board chairman will step down. En+ will create a board of 12 directors, with eight directors independent of Deripaska, in 30 days.

FILE PHOTO: Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska waits before the talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

After the restructuring En+ will no longer be subject to sanctions and will own a 56.88 percent stake in Rusal, retaining its right to nominate Rusal’s chief executive.

Deripaska will retain a direct shareholding interest in Rusal of just 0.01 percent.

Reporting by Polina Devitt, Nathan Layne and Clara Denina; Additional reporting by Pratima Desai and Eric Onstad in LONDON, Conor Humphries in DUBLIN, Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE and Tom Daly in BEIJING; Writing by Polina Devitt; Editing by Tom Brown, Andrew Osborn, Kirsten Donovan, Joseph Radford, Susan Fenton

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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