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Trudeau's blues

Justin Trudeau returns to Ottawa today, following a week-long visit to southeast Asia.

The series of meetings and leaders' conferences had been billed as a way for Canada to enhance its image in the region. And Trudeau's participation in the East Asia Summit, sitting alongside Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping talking about North Korea, was cited as a prime example.

"That is a really big deal," Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland proclaimed. "Our government is acting on our pledge that 'Canada is back,' and the world is recognizing that."

But the headlines coming out of this trip weren't quite as rosy as Ottawa envisioned.

First there was the controversy over Canada's last-second decision to bail on a late night meeting in Vietnam that was supposed to put the final touches on the 11-country Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The feds say what eventually followed — a less comprehensive deal — will be better for Canada. But the rest of the world wasn't so impressed.

"Canada's PM Justin Trudeau sabotages Trans-Pacific Partnership, shocking leaders," read the large type in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald.

Philippines ASEAN

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, talks to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte before the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Manila on Monday. (Mark Cristino/AP Photo)

In the Philippines over the past couple of days there has been further bad publicity about a shipment of Canadian garbage that has been festering on a Manilla dock for years. (Trudeau had previously promised to find a solution: he hasn't.)

And while the Prime Minister will win kudos for doing what Trump wouldn't — confronting President Rodrigo Duterte on human rights abuses — he seems to be off the popular Philippine President's Christmas card list.

"I will answer the fisherman and the farmer and I will explain to them patiently why it is so, but I will never, never allow a foreigner to question why it is so," Duterte told reporters in a NSFW triade. "It is an insult."

And this week at home isn't shaping up to be any easier. The Liberals' promise to get Canada's military back in the peacekeeping business might well be far less than billed. And the new mandate tracker the government is launching today shows that the Liberals have a lot left to accomplish as they start gearing up for the next election in Oct. 2019.

And finally, there's the issue of the polls. Trudeau's Liberals have been trailing Andrew Scheer's Conservatives since the summer, and the dip is threatening to become a trend.

How to make friends and influence people

Asia Trump Threats

A panel of judges ruled that "extreme vetting" is acceptable if the travellers don't have family connections or formal ties to the United States. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

Donald Trump's travel ban is now operational. Sort of.

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco partially overturned a lower court decision from Hawaii that had prevented the White House's restrictions on travellers from six majority-Muslim nations from going into effect.

The panel of judges ruled that "extreme vetting" — as Trump likes to call it — is acceptable if the travellers don't have family connections or formal ties, like a work or study visa, in the United States.

The decision marks Trump's first victory in his 10-month-long quest to fulfil a campaign promise to implement a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the country.

It may well be a temporary win — the same court will hear full arguments on the ban in early December, and there is a parallel appeal of a Maryland court decision underway in the 4th Circuit in Virginia.

But for now, if you hail from Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Libya or Chad, coming to America will become exponentially more difficult. (Restrictions on travellers from North Korea and Venezuela were already in force.)

The odd footnote here is that final country, Chad. Observers of international politics have been scratching their heads about the inclusion of the central African nation on the list ever since Trump's third try at a ban debuted in late September. That's because Chad has actually been a key American ally in the fight against Islamic militants in neighbouring Niger and Libya, contributing more than 2,000 troops to an African coalition battling Boko Haram and ISIS.

Niger Map

(Google)

The 'why' has proven elusive. Some reports have suggested Chad failed to meet an American demand to provide copies of passports because of a shortage of paper.

Others have pointed to $74 billion US fine that Chad's government levied against Exxon Mobil over disputed tax over disputed tax payments. (Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, is the oil company's former CEO.) 

But whatever the motivation, there have already been consequences on the ground in Central Africa, with Chad's president, Idris Deby Itno, pulling several hundred troops out of Niger.

There has even been speculation that Chad's withdrawal might have played a part in the deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers who were caught in an ambush last month along the Niger-Mali border.

If that turns out to be the narrative, the domestic political cost of Trump's travel ban could be steep. Just ask Hillary Clinton about Benghazi.

APTOPIX Trump Fallen Soldier Funeral

Myeshia Johnson, the wife of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson who was killed in an ambush along the Niger-Mali border, kisses her husband's casket during his funeral service. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Four questions on sexual abuse, harassment

Dr. James Cantor is a Clinical Psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, where he leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers studying the role of the brain in pedophilia. His clinical activities focus primarily on the assessment of persons dealing with illegal or clinically significant sexual behaviours and interests.

Q: There are now so many stories of powerful men harassing and abusing co-workers and underlings that it's hard to keep track. Is this just under-reported behaviour by men, or somehow endemic to entertainment and politics?

A: It's very difficult to get reliable numbers, exactly because these kinds of behaviours are so under-reported. Although most of the media reports are coming from entertainment and political worlds, those are the worlds that have the most media contacts and greatest media scrutiny. It's much harder to bring attention to someone when they are not already a person of public interest.   

Q: Many of the allegations surround behaviour — exposure, masturbation — that seems designed to humiliate the victim, as much as satisfy a sexual urge. Is that a common pattern?

A: For a long time, it was believed that sexual assaults of any kind were an expression of power. Victims felt extremely disempowered by such assaults, making the idea quite understandable; however, there has never been any evidence that power was what was motivating assaulters.

I cannot give any diagnosis to anyone without a full clinical assessment, but the sexual desire to expose one's genitals and to masturbate in front of nonconsenting others is a psychiatric disorder called Exhibitionistic Disorder. Exhibitionism is one of a set of disorders called "paraphilias." Some are entirely harmless, such as transvestism, for which there is debate over whether they should be considered paraphilias at all.  Others, such as pedophilia, can motivate terrible crimes.

We have very little research specifically on Exhibitionistic Disorder. The current understanding was developed by Dr. Kurt Freund, who referred to exhibitionism as a "Courtship Disorder." The courtship instinct goes in phases,from looking for potential reproductive partners and signaling one's interest, to tactile stimulation, to intercourse.  When there is something atypical in the brain anatomy associated with the 'signaling' phase of courtship, we see exhibitionism.

Q: Does this start small and escalate? Or are men going through their whole lives acting this way?

A: From the victims' point of view, one of the most frightening aspects of being targeted is that one can't know if the situation is about to escalate. However, for the exhibitionist, the display is the actual goal — it is not a step towards something else. When an exhibitionist does escalate, it is typically in terms of the frequency or brazenness of their behaviour and not the "severity" or potential harm posed to a victim.

There is no known cure. It appears to be a lifelong sexual interest pattern. People can learn to control or suppress the urges, but we do not seem to be to change those urges into typical sexual urges.

Q: Do you treat these problems by focusing on the sex, the general behaviour, or both?

A: Both. These people experience a sexual motivation that most of us do not. They remain entirely responsible for their behaviour, but they did not ask to experience this kind of sexual urge, and by focusing on the sex we can help them manage the sex.

As I say, nothing about having a paraphilia like Exhibitionistic Disorder makes a person unable to control their behaviour or cease to be responsible for it. Because they experience genuine sexual pleasure from the behaviour, they essentially talk themselves into believing that it is okay or harmless to engage in. After being finally confronted with the impact on others of what they are doing, including the involvement of the legal system, most of these people begin to appreciate the problem, however, and are amenable to psychotherapies to help them address their general behaviour.

Quote of the moment

Soccer WCup 2018 Italy Sweden

Italian national soccer team coach Gian Piero Ventura during Monday's 0-0 draw with Sweden. (Daniel Dal Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

"Resign? I don't know. I have to evaluate an infinity of things."

- Piero Ventura, coach of Italy's national soccer team after his squad fell 1-0 to Sweden, and failed to advance to the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

What The National is reading

  • Why Canada's property market refuses to fall. (CBC)

  • Politics makes strange penpals: The DMs of Donald Trump Jr. and Wikipedia. (Atlantic)

  • Tanks seen heading towards Zimbabwe's capital (Reuters)

  • Once fierce on-ice rivals, now new parents.(CBC)

  • Russian 'evidence' of U.S. aid to ISIS is video game footage. (Daily Beast)

  • The American Right's war against Keurig coffee machines (Digg)

  • Florida man fighting to keep his emotional support squirrel (NBC)

Today in history

Nov. 14, 1973: Princess Anne marries Mark Phillips, but Monty Python has never heard of them.

Monty Python

Monty Python's Flying Circus writers and cast Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam.