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Mongolia: Thousands protest corruption in Ulaanbaatar | News

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Tens of thousands of Mongolians have taken to the streets to protest against corruption in the top echelons of politics, braving temperatures that dropped below minus 20 degrees Celsius in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.

Organisers estimated nearly 25,000 people turned out for the protest on Thursday. 

Local media described the gathering as the second largest after a riot in 2008.

Protesters focused their anger on Mongolia‘s parliamentary speaker, Enkhbold Miyegombo, and the two main ruling parties, the Mongolian People’s Party and the Democratic Party.

There has been rising anger over a long-running corruption case related to allegations that Enkhbold and other political figures had looked to raise 60 billion tugriks ($23m) by selling off government positions.

Enkhbold has denied the allegations.

A cross-party group of politicians who are boycotting the parliament’s plenary sessions has signed a letter demanding Enkhbold’s resignation.

The group, the Mongolian People’s Union, opposes the two main parties, together known by the abbreviation MANAN.

“We will not allow the situation where the MANAN faction gets all the wealth and resources, while people … remain with nothing,” member of parliament Ayursaikhan Tumurbaatar told media.

“The air pollution, people’s poverty, wealth inequality all started with Enkhbold since he was the mayor of Ulaanbaatar city,” he said.

Mongolia, for years a satellite of the Soviet Union, transitioned to parliamentary democracy in 1990.

At the Thursday protest, people held up placards with messages such as “We Demand Enkhbold Resign.”

Protester Dejid Avirmed, 61, told the Reuters news agency that people were fed up that in a mineral-rich, democratic country like Mongolia many still lived in poverty.

“Mongolians are very patient, but now we lose our patience,” she told Reuters at the protest in the central square in front of parliament.

“Enkhbold should resign. A shame on him that he makes this many people protest in this mid-winter cold.”

Thursday’s regular session of parliament was delayed for a seventh time because of the boycott by the members demanding Enkhbold’s resignation.

The last scheduled parliament session for 2018 is due on Friday.

“Parliament members should solve the problem not by appealing to protests, but by coming to the parliament session hall. This is the law,” said Enkh-Amgalan Luvsantseren, deputy speaker of parliament.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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