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MBS in touch with ‘former’ Saudi royal adviser Qahtani: WPost | Saudi Arabia News

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remains in regular contact with his adviser Saud al-Qahtani, accused of masterminding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post reported.

The newspaper, citing unnamed US and Saudi sources, said that Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, continues to seek advice from Qahtani.

David Ignatius, the paper’s security affairs correspondent, quoted an unnamed US citizen who had recently met MBS as saying that Qahtani is in possession of a lot of files and dossiers.

“The idea that you can have a radical rupture with him is unrealistic,” the source said.

A Saudi who is close to the royal court concurred.

“There’s stuff [Qahtani] was working on that he may have to finish, or hand over,” he said according to The Washington Post.





Qahtani worked as an adviser to MBS after serving in several positions within the royal court [Al Jazeera]

The last official government comment on Qahtani was on November 15, when prosecutors said he was under investigation and was barred from leaving the kingdom.

He was dismissed as a royal adviser following Khashoggi’s murder, but the ambiguity surrounding his status has raised questions about whether he continues to have influence behind the scenes.

Qahtani is believed to have played a pivotal role in Khashoggi’s assassination by first trying to draw him back to Saudi Arabia. He met the Saudi hit team before they left for Turkey and allegedly gave orders to kill Khashoggi if he refused to return to his country voluntarily.

Ignatius quoted another Saudi source as saying that Qahtani had recently made two trips to the UAE, even though he was presumed to be under house arrest in Riyadh.

The adviser also reportedly met recently with senior deputies from the royal court’s Centre for Studies and Media Affairs at his home in Riyadh and told them that he had been blamed and “used as a scapegoat.” Qahtani had run the centre until shortly after Khashoggi’s death.

Continuing repression

The paper reported that “far from altering his impulsive behaviour,” MBS “appears instead to be continuing with his autocratic governing style and a ruthless campaign against dissenters,” according to US and Saudi sources.

It said the Trump administration had hoped that the Saudi royal would learn something from Khashoggi’s killing and make some changes. 

“Domestically, he feels very confident and in control. As long as his base is secure, he feels that nothing can harm him,” the US source who had recently met MBS said.

“He’s completely unchastened by what has happened,” an experienced Saudi-watcher based in the UK said. “That is worrying for Western governments.”

One example that shows how MBS hasn’t altered his Qahtani-style internet bullying tactics is a new aggressive social media campaign launched this week to attack Khashoggi and Canadian-based Saudi critic Omar Abdel Aziz.

Ignatius said the Twitter hashtag “Fact” was used to present the alleged involvement of the two men in anti-Saudi plots financed by Qatar.

A video on Twitter titled “Qatar System Exposed”, produced by a company with the same name as a Dubai-based video studio, alleged that Khashoggi was part of a plot to “create a new destabilizing Arab Spring to unsettle Arab countries, mainly, Saudi Arabia”, reinforcing what the source said about Qahtani’s visit to the UAE.

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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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