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Senator calls for probe into report Saudi helped citizen flee US | News

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A senior US senator has called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to clarify if Saudi Arabia helped a citizen of that country flee the US before his manslaughter trial.

In a letter on Friday, Senator Ron Wyden expressed strong concern over a local media report that said the Saudi government may have issued a new passport to its citizen, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, in order to help him leave the US and escape justice over a hit-and-run killing in the state of Oregon

The Saudi student was accused of killing 15-year-old Fallon Smart, and was facing a 10-year jail term if found guilty of manslaughter charges. 

In a report last week, the Oregonian newspaper said US investigators believe Noorah, who was released on bail, fled the country in June last year on a private jet using a Saudi-issued passport under a different name.

Wyden said the claims were “shocking”.

The allegations, in the wake of the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October, “suggest a brazen pattern of disregard for the law and abuse of diplomatic privileges”, said Wyden. 

“These claims must be thoroughly investigated. If they are accurate they would require significant restrictions on Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic privileges and call into question the future of America’s bilateral relationship with the Saudis,” he added.

The Oregonian newspaper said it was Saudi authorities who had provided Noorah the $100,000 he needed to post bail.

When the 21-year-old Portland Community College student was released, his passport was confiscated and he was required to wear an electronic bracelet on his ankle, the daily said.

But in June last year, just two weeks before his trial, Noorah cut the tracking device and disappeared. 

He arrived in Saudi Arabia seven days later. 

But the Saudi government only informed the US of Noorah’s return to the country more than a year later, in July, the Oregonian said. 

The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, which means that the chances of Noorah facing justice in the US is low.

Saudi Arabia has come under increased scrutiny from the US Senate following Khashoggi’s killing by Saudi officials inside the kingdom’s consulate.

Earlier this month, the Senate passed a resolution accusing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the murder, and called for an end to US military support for a Riyad-led war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia denounced the resolution as “blatant interference”.

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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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