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In today's Morning Brief, we look at the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have capture the country's second and third largest cities and have their eyes on Kabul.

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Canadian special forces ready to evacuate embassy after Kandahar falls to the Taliban

Special forces troops are on standby to help evacuate Canada's embassy in Kabul, a defence source tells CBC News.

The highly trained soldiers are expected to work alongside allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which are collectively sending thousands of troops to the Afghan capital to aid in the partial evacuation of their embassies as security throughout the war-torn country rapidly deteriorates.

In what can only be described as a major military and psychological victory, on Thursday the Taliban captured both Kandahar and Herat — Afghanistan's second and third largest cities.

The confidential source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that at the moment the government has no intention of deploying a large conventional force, as both the Americans and British plan to do. (The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops, the British 600.)

WATCH | Taliban seize more control in Afghanistan, Kabul at risk: 

Taliban seize more control in Afghanistan, Kabul at risk

1 year ago
Duration 2:34


There has been extensive discussion between the Canadian military and U.S. Central Command — which is responsible for the Middle East — about providing logistical and transport assistance to Canada, should it be required, said the source — who is not being identified by CBC News because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

The decision to shut down the Canadian embassy or reduce its operations lies with the federal government.

Ciara Trudeau, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, would not confirm the embassy is in the process of being shut down, but did say that the federal government is closely monitoring the situation and that Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is "in close coordination with our allies" and the country's ambassador in Afghanistan. Read more on this story here.

Beating the heat

(Olivier Douliery/ AFP/Getty Images)

A boy cools down in a waterfall at Yards Park in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, as an extreme heat wave hit the region. At the peak of the day, it felt like just over 40 C yesterday at Reagan National Airport.

In brief

Alberta is rowing back on plans to end mandatory isolation for those who test positive for COVID-19, a government source told CBC News, as cases in the province hit their highest level since late May. The province was due to end most COVID-19 restrictions on Aug. 16, including requirements to wear masks on public transit and in schools as well as strict protocols around testing and contact tracing. But the province's current health guidelines will remain in place for now, the source said. Plans to move COVID-19 testing from provincial assessment centres to physicians' clinics as of Aug. 31 are still on track, the source said. Alberta public health officials reported 550 net new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the second day in a row that the daily case count surpassed the 500 mark. Read more here on the province's COVID-19 plans

Voters can expect to head to the polls for a federal election on Sept. 20. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to visit Rideau Hall on Sunday to ask that Parliament be dissolved, said sources with knowledge of his plans who spoke to CBC News on the condition they not be named. The sources said the prime minister is then expected to announce a 36-day campaign — the minimum campaign length permitted by law — meaning voting day would be Monday, Sept. 20. Trudeau can expect to be asked more than once during the campaign why he's pulling the plug now. The polls make it pretty clear why he's taking the country to the polls early. According to CBC's Poll Tracker, polls have consistently showed the Liberals leading — possibly with enough support to turn their minority government into a majority.  As of Thursday, the Liberals hold 155 seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives have 119, the Bloc has 32, the NDP holds 24 and the Greens have two seats. Five members sit as independents and one seat is vacant. Read more on the pending election call.

WATCH | Federal election expected Sept. 20, sources say: 

Federal election expected Sept. 20, sources say

1 year ago
Duration 3:55

Strip away the geopolitics and Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is like any other defendant facing a fraud charge, says a lawyer for Canada's attorney general. Robert Frater concluded the Crown's request for Meng's extradition on Thursday by assuring B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes she wouldn't be breaking new legal ground by sending the executive to the U.S. to face trial. "This is a case about lying to a bank in order to get the banking services continuing to flow as before," Frater told the judge. "That is not an unusual thing." Frater's final exchange with the judge followed two days of arguments in support of a request for Meng's extradition that resulted in her arrest at Vancouver's airport more than 2½ years ago. The 49-year-old is charged with fraud in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. Meng's defence is to begin its closing submission today. Read more on the court case here.

The impact of this summer's drought across the Prairies could be felt by Canada's cattle sector for the next two to three years, according to market watchers, with consumers continuing to face high beef prices. Hot, dry weather has strained pastures and hampered hay production at a time when farmers are usually producing feed for winter. Feed costs have spiked as a result. The situation has ranchers weighing the difficult decision to sell their cattle early, with potentially large numbers expected to be sold to slaughter. If the drought results in smaller herds, it could keep beef prices — already high due to strong demand — elevated, with fewer cattle coming to market over the next couple of years. Read more on the drought's potential impact on beef prices.

The federal government has made it legal to gamble on individual sporting events, bringing legitimacy to a murky industry on which Canadians already spend billions of dollars a year. The federal law — which will be in force as of Aug. 27 — allows provinces to regulate sports betting as they see fit. According to the federal government, Canadians spend about $10 billion a year on single sporting events as part of betting conducted illegally in the black market by organized criminal networks. An additional $4 billion a year gets spent by Canadians in the so-called grey market, in offshore jurisdictions where such bets are legal. The new rules have the potential to bring that money back into Canada in a way that it can be monitored and taxed. Read more on the change in sports gambling here

WATCH | Canada to allow single-game sports betting: 

Canada to allow single-game sports betting

1 year ago
Duration 1:26

Now for some good news to start your Friday: A Nova Scotia woman is crediting the selfless actions of quick-thinking staff member at a Halifax hardware store with saving her husband's life last week. Michele Coons of Hubbards said her spouse, Tim Biggin, was shopping at a Canadian Tire in Bayers Lake, N.S., when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Staff sprang into action. They used an automated external defibrillator ad performed CPR for about 12 minutes until paramedics arrived. The day after Biggin collapsed, Coons returned to the store for an "overwhelming, emotional" meeting with three of the employees who stepped in to help her husband. When asked if the employees had been nervous to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a pandemic, Coons said it didn't seem like they even thought twice about that aspect. "I didn't know how to express my gratitude. How do you thank somebody for saving your loved one's life? What can you do?" she said. Read more on this story here.

Front Burner: DaBaby, Lil Nas X and homophobia in hip hop

Just two days after Lil Nas X, who is openly gay, released his defiant and provocative track Industry Baby, fellow rapper DaBaby made homophobic comments on stage at a major music festival.

The fallout was swift, with DaBaby being dropped from big events and business deals.

His comments — and the reaction to them — are highlighting issues of homophobia and toxic masculinity in hip hop. 

Today on Front Burner, hip-hop artists Rollie Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon, and William Bailey, a.k.a. Bugz Gutta, discuss the lack of queer representation in their industry — and the push to change that.

Today in history: August 13

1980: Canadian oceanographer Joseph MacInnis discoveres the sunken yet well-preserved wreck of HMS Breadalbane. The three-masted, Scottish-built merchant ship had been crushed in ice at Beechey Island in the Arctic Ocean in 1853. It is the world's northernmost known shipwreck.

1990: Gilles Duceppe became the first MP elected under the banner of the Bloc Quebecois, a group of independent MPs committed to Quebec sovereignty.

2004: Famed TV chef Julia Child dies in Montecito, Calif., two days shy of her 92nd birthday. Child is credited with introducing North American cooks to classic French cuisine.

2007: The federal and Quebec governments and the Inuit reach an agreement in principle to create self-government for Quebec's 10,000 Inuit in the northern region of Nunavik.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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