New NAFTA, a school strike and a school streaker; In The News for Dec. 11

Shelves of medication are seen at a pharmacy in Quebec City, Thursday, March 8, 2012. A change affecting pharmaceuticals in the updated North American free trade agreement will mean cost savings for Canadians, but big drug companies say it could affect investment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Dec. 11.

What we are watching in Canada ...

A change affecting pharmaceuticals in the updated North American free trade agreement will mean cost savings for Canadians, but big drug companies say it could affect investment.

Final terms in the trade deal that the U.S. agreed to on Tuesday remove a provision that would have increased protections to 10 years around a generally more expensive category of drugs called biologics.

It means Canada, which had come under some criticism for agreeing to the previous increase, will instead keep its existing eight years of exclusivity for the drugs before generics can enter the market.

The extra years of protection would have added significant costs to the health-care system, private drug plans, and to those paying alone, said Richard Gold, a law professor at McGill University and senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

"Two years of extra protections at monopoly prices is a significant sum."

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Also this ...

High school students at nine Ontario school boards will be out class today as their teachers hold a one-day strike to protest the lack of progress in contract talks with Premier Doug Ford's government.

The Ontario Secondary School Teacher's Federation, which represents public high school teachers, says it will move ahead with the job action as talks appear to have stalled.

The strike will affect a series of boards including the provinces' largest — the Toronto District School Board — as well as boards in Southwestern, Eastern and Northern Ontario.

A similar job action closed all high schools — and many elementary schools — last week across the province.

Teachers have said they are pushing back against the Ford government's plans to increase class sizes and introduce mandatory e-learning courses.

The government has said the key issue at the bargaining table is compensation, with the province offering a one-per-cent annual wage increase, and the union asking for around two per cent.

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ICYMI (In case you missed it) ...

TORONTO — Linda and Clayton Babcock have known for two years that their daughter suffered a horrific death — her body burned in an animal incinerator — but they have finally received an official document that proves the 23-year-old is dead.

Two men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2017 in Laura Babcock's shooting death, but her body was never found and the coroner could not declare her dead. That left the young woman's family tangled in a bureaucratic battle that involved the courts and lasted about 18 months.

Then Premier Doug Ford knocked on their door last month and hand-delivered their daughter's death certificate.

"Getting the death certificate was like starting all over again," Linda Babcock says. "It's been really tough around here."

The family's struggle has prompted the province to amend the Vital Statistics Act to allow courts to declare that "an individual has died after disappearing in circumstances of peril, and where the death took place in or is presumed to have taken place in Ontario."

The new regulation, which took effect this week, will become known as Laura's Law, with details to be announced at Queen's Park today.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

President Donald Trump mocked Democrats for the articles of impeachment they unveiled against him as he sought to rally supporters in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, calling the effort "impeachment lite" and promising that it would lead to his reelection in 2020.

Trump's visit to Pennsylvania followed a momentous day at the U.S. Capitol, where Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment and shortly thereafter signalled their support for the president's long-sought reworked the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats are trying to show they can pass legislation and pursue an impeachment inquiry at the same time, but Trump said they're just trying to minimize impeachment.

"It plays down the impeachment because they're embarrassed by the impeachment," he said. "And our poll numbers have gone through the roof because of her stupid impeachment."

He added: "The silver lining of impeachment and this witch hunt: That's the reason they approved USMCA. So that's OK with me."

Trump listed some of his achievements while in office, ticking off the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a deal to create the Space Force and a strong economy.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

A photo of a sick boy sleeping on a hospital floor because no beds were available has become one of the defining images of Britain's bruising election campaign.

It forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson onto the defensive and ignited a fierce online debate over whether it was real or fake.

The boy, 4-year-old Jack Williment-Barr, had been admitted to Leeds General Infirmary last week with suspected pneumonia. He eventually was diagnosed with flu and tonsillitis and then discharged, but not before he was photographed lying on the floor cushioned by a coat with an oxygen mask nearby. A red coat served as a blanket.

The story was splashed across Monday's front page of the left-leaning national tabloid Daily Mirror, including the photo of Jack in his Spider-Man top under the headline, "Desperate."

The photo and subsequent posts swept through British social media like a firestorm, injecting an unpredictable and explosive jolt into the intensifying political war of information just days ahead of Thursday's election.

Jack's story came to national attention in a newspaper article critical of the Conservative Party's cuts to the U.K.'s national health service.

But then a Facebook post appeared, promoting a counternarrative.

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Weird and wild ...

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — An administrator for Broward County schools faces a demotion and a nearly $44,000 pay cut because she showed up for work on Halloween dressed as a flasher.

A complaint filed with the school district said Mary Coker, 46, showed up at a school for adult students and at an administrative office party wearing a costume of "only a black coat and hat, with a tight fabric underneath which replicated a naked female body."

During the party, "Coker inappropriately 'flashed' children, staff and colleagues," according to the complaint. Employees were offended and some said they couldn't tell if the costume was fake or she was really naked under the coat.

Coker earns $154,286 as the district's director of procurement and warehousing services. Superintendent Robert Runcie plans to ask the school board Tuesday to demote Coker to manager of materials and logistics, a position where the most she could get paid is $110,701, the South Florida SunSentinel reports.

School board member Nora Rupert has questioned whether the recommendation is too severe, since Coker had no prior discipline and received "highly effective" evaluations.

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Know your news ...

NAFTA is in the headlines with the negotiation of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade. Who was the prime minister of Canada, the president of the United States and the president of Mexico when the old NAFTA finally came into force 25 years ago?

(Scroll down for the answer)

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On this day in 1948 ...

Newfoundland signed an agreement to enter Confederation as Canada's 10th province. The agreement was to take effect March 31, 1949. After a series of debates between Newfoundland and the federal government, Newfoundlanders held two referendums before deciding to join.

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Celebrity news ...

COLUMBIA, Tenn. — An exotic red stag owned by country music singer Luke Bryan was shot and killed on his private property outside of Nashville last week.

Investigators think the deer was shot from the road, state Wildlife Resources Agency spokesman Barry Cross tells The Tennessean.

Red stags are not native to the U.S. — they're a species of deer similar to elk, and are typically found in mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.

Bryan and his wife Caroline help operate Brett's Barn on one of their properties, a petting zoo founded by the couple in memory of their niece, who died as an infant. Children can come there and interact with horses, pigs and more exotic animals such as kangaroos and an alpaca.

It's unclear if the stag was involved with the zoo.

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Fun with words ...

NEW YORK — The people at Merriam-Webster.com have announced the word of the year for 2019. And even they say they're surprised at what they chose.

It's "they."

While it's a common word, it rose to the top of the list because of increasing attention given to those who use who consider themselves nonbinary — and use it as a personal pronoun.

Among those who prompted spikes in searches this year are model Oslo Grace, singer Sam Smith and Washington congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who used the pronoun to describe her child.

Runners up in Word of the Year voting include "quid pro quo," "impeach" and "crawdad," part of the title of Delia Evans' hit novel, "Where the Crawdads Sing."

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Know your news answer ...

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. While NAFTA negotations started under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. President George H. W. Bush, both were out of office by the time it came into force on Jan. 1, 1994.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2019.

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