October 20, 2017

Conditions in the United States are driving more people than ever to seek refugee status in Canada, Reuters reports. More than 15,000 people have crossed the border illegally this year alone, Reuters says, citing data through late October. That's in comparison to a total of 10,370 asylum claims made in Canada during the entirety of 2013.

Interestingly, many of those asylum-seekers told Reuters that they had been living in the U.S. legally, and would have considered staying if not for the Trump administration's recent immigration crackdown and forceful rhetoric. A transcript of one asylum hearing from January, in which a Syrian refugee expressed fears about the new U.S. government, showed a tribunal member saying, "That seems to be playing out as you have feared, and today on the news I know that President Trump has suspended the Syrian refugee program. You have provided, in my view, a reasonable explanation of your failure to claim in the U.S."

Lawyers working the refugee cases told Reuters that members of the tribunals who interview asylum-seekers have "grown more sympathetic toward people who have spent time in the United States." Sixty-nine percent of the claims filed by border-crossers that were processed between March and September of this year were accepted by the Immigration and Refugee Board, higher than the overall acceptance rate for all types of refugee claims in Canada last year.

Much of the recent influx is said to be taking place at the Quebec/New York crossing, and the Canadian military has set up a temporary tent encampment in response. Right-wing, anti-migrant Canadian groups, however, are staging rallies against upticks in immigration, prompting Canadians to worry that such displays "set back the cause of tolerance a couple of years." Watch scenes from one such rally below, or read more at Reuters. The Week Staff

10:04 a.m. ET
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Forty-four African nations have signed an agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a deal that could eventually unite all 55 countries in the African Union in the biggest free trade accords since the World Trade Organization was formed in 1995, CNBC reports. The deal would link some 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.

"The promise of free trade and free movement is prosperity for all Africans, because we are prioritizing the production of value-added goods and services that are Made in Africa," said Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as reported by Bloomberg Politics. "The advantages we gain by creating one African market will also benefit our trading partners around the world."

Africa has low intra-continental trade compared to other regions in the world, at about 16 percent. For example, in Latin America intra-continental trade makes up 19 percent of the continent's total, and that number is 51 percent in Asia. "Increasing intra-African trade, however, does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world," emphasized Kagame.

There were some notable absences from the agreement, including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, whose cabinet has approved the deal but who wants to "allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders." Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo blasted Buhari's hesitation, saying: "I am surprised that any African leader at this time would be doubting or debating the benefits of what is going to be signed here and fail to show up." Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza also did not attend the summit, Bloomberg Politics reports.

The agreement only requires ratification by 22 countries to go into effect. Jeva Lange

9:55 a.m. ET

On Monday, Britain's Channel 4 broadcast undercover video of Cambridge Analytica executives bragging about using shady techniques to influence dozens of elections around the world, inflame conflicts, and sow chaos. On Tuesday, the network aired a second round of clips showing Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix and other senior executives talking about using those techniques to help President Trump win. Nix said he'd met Trump "many times" and Cambridge Analytica essentially formed the backbone of Trump's campaign.

"We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy," Nix said. Trump "won by 40,000 votes in three states," managing director Mark Turnbull noted after the company's chief data scientist, Dr. Alex Tayler, said their data had steered Trump's movements and message in key swing states. "That's how he won the election," Tayler said. Turnbull later took credit for creating the "defeat Crooked Hillary" line of attack used in super PAC-funded ads viewed more than 30 million times.

Cambridge Analytica suspended Nix, 42, on Tuesday, saying his comments "do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation," adding in a statement that the firm itself "has never claimed it won the election for President Trump. This is patently absurd."

Nix founded Cambridge Analytica in 2013 with Stephen Bannon; donors Rebekah Mercer and her father, Robert Mercer; and researcher Christopher Wylie, Wylie tells The Washington Post, and Bannon was the one who approved the project that discovered the niche appeal of future Trump campaign themes like "drain the swamp" and "deep state." "We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point," in 2014, Wylie said. "Bannon was Alexander Nix's boss." Peter Weber

8:56 a.m. ET
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A law passed in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting is being used in an attempt to temporarily seize firearms from the attacker's brother, Zachary Cruz, CNN reports. Cruz, 18, was arrested Monday for trespassing on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School grounds, where his older brother, Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people last month.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office filed a risk protection order against Zachary Cruz after his arrest, which, if granted, "will prohibit Cruz from possessing and acquiring firearms for a period of time to be determined by the court." The new law is part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which has only been in effect for a few weeks and allows for police to temporarily seize guns from a person in custody for an involuntary mental health assessment. For trespassing, Cruz was ordered a psychological evaluation by a Florida judge and had his bond set at $500,000, although the amount for misdemeanor trespassing is usually $25.

Cruz had apparently trespassed at the school at least three times, having "surpassed all locked doors and gates." He has additionally been ordered by the court to wear an ankle monitor and stay at least a mile away from the school. Cruz's attorney has argued that Zachary is being unfairly punished by the court for his brother's attack. Jeva Lange

8:10 a.m. ET

The fourth nor'easter in a month is set to pummel New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, with up to 18 inches of snow expected in some areas.

Nicknamed Winter Storm Toby, the forecast includes the potential for coastal flooding as well as "thundersnow" and power outages due to high winds. New York City preemptively announced school closures on Tuesday, affecting some 1.1 million children, and more than 4,000 flights have already been canceled, CBS News and USA Today report.

"Not a bust today folks," tweeted Baltimore meteorologist Tony Pann as the first flakes began to fall. "[T]he storm is just getting started!" Jeva Lange

7:59 a.m. ET
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Only a small circle of people in the White House knew that President Trump ignored all-caps advice from his national security advisers for his phone call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin — "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" him on his re-election — and one of them leaked it to The Washington Post, leaving Trump and his senior staff "furious and rattled," Axios reports. Each of the possible leakers "is trusted with sensitive national secrets," and "the speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration."

Whatever the motive for the leak — concern over Trump's handling of Putin, anger that he ignored his aides, power games — one White House official told Jonathan Swan that Trump's congratulatory comment was just "the way Trump is. If he's doing business with you or working with you in some way, he's going to congratulate you." Plus, "the idea he's being soft on Russia is crap," the "furious" official added. Trump simply "doesn't want his personal relationship [with Putin] to be acrimonious," seeing that "leader-to-leader" congeniality as the key to rebuilding the U.S.-Russian relationship. Peter Weber

7:45 a.m. ET
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is allergic to economy class seats on airplanes, spent some $105,000 on first class flights during his first year in office, the EPA has told the House Oversight Committee, as reported by Politico.

Perhaps the most baffling trip of all was a four-day excursion to Morocco in December, where Pruitt somehow missed his connecting flight to Rabat and was forced to stay overnight in Paris, and then missed two additional flights. Total cost of the trip: $17,631, not including what was spent on his 10-person staff. The EPA said the trip was affected by the weather, although that doesn't explain the $500 splurge on a hotel while in Paris.

Additional pricey flights include a trip from Tulsa to New York ($3,330, plus $669 to stay in Manhattan); a trip to Corpus Christi, Texas ($3,900); a trip to Jackson, Mississippi ($3,200); and a trip to Nebraska ($3,610), The Washington Post reports.

The EPA has defended Pruitt's practices by claiming the "EPA's Protective Service Detail identified specific ongoing threats associated with Administrator Pruitt's travel and shifted his class based on certain security protocols that require him to be near the front of the plane." It was later revealed those threats were primarily people yelling at him in airports. Jeva Lange

7:22 a.m. ET
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At least 29 people were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday morning and 52 injured when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device on the road to a Shiite shrine. Wednesday is the Persian new year, Nowruz, which Afghanistan's minority Shiites celebrate by visiting shrines. The Islamic State, a Sunni group, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Aamaq news agency. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said the bomber, traveling on foot, was trying to get to the shrine, which has been attacked before. "We had our security in place in and around the shrine," he said. "All the casualties were young men who were either passing by on the road or gathering to enjoy Nowruz." Peter Weber

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