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Saudi king demotes Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in reshuffle | News

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has appointed a new foreign minister as part of a major cabinet reshuffle, according to Saudi state media.

A royal decree named Ibrahim al-Assaf as new foreign minister, demoting outgoing chief diplomat Adel al-Jubeir to the position of minister of state for foreign affairs. 

Thursday’s shake-up is the first since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October by a Saudi hit squad.

The death sparked outrage internationally and jeopardised Riyadh’s relations with its western allies.

Turkey and western intelligence agencies have either hinted at or directly named King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as the mastermind behind the killing but the monarch left his heir’s portfolios unchanged in the latest reshuffle.

Marwan Kabalan, head of policy analysis at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, said the move did not come as a surprise given that al-Jubeir was seen as a “leftover from the [late] King Abdulla era”.

“We’ve been expecting al-Jubeir to be out for some time. Even before the Khashoggi affair,” Kabalan said in reference to the murder of Khashoggi on October 2.

“But I now think he’s been used as another scapegoat in this issue.” 

Authorities in Riyadh admitted to the killing of the government critic in an operation they described as being undertaken by “rogue elements.”

“I think he is out now – perhaps at the right time for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. As I said, the crown prince wanted to use somebody as a scapegoat and also hold him responsible,” Kabalan added.

“Because the Saudi consul general in Istanbul was very much involved in the killing of Khashoggi and that would fall under al-Jubeir.”

A former finance minister, al-Assaf was among dozens of royal family members, government officials, and top businessmen detained during an “anti-corruption purge” in November 2017. 

Other notable changes include the appointment of Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz as chief of the National Guard, replacing Prince Miteb bin Abdullah.

General Khalid bin Qirar al-Harbi was also named general security chief, while Musaed al-Aiban was appointed national security adviser. 

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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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