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Why locations are central to Blasey Ford's Kavanaugh testimony

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Christine Blasey Ford testifies after accusing U.S. supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault; IMF provides $57.1 billion US emergency loan to Argentina to head off economic collapse

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in Thursday in Washington before testifying during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. (Saul Loeb/EPA-EFE)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • Christine Blasey Ford shares her searing recollection of what happened with U.S. supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in a bedroom, at the home of someone she really didn't know, during the summer of 1982.
  • On the At Issue panel tonight, what the New Brunswick vote bodes for the Quebec election.
  • The International Monetary Fund has agreed to provide a $57.1 billion US emergency loan to Argentina — the biggest bailout in the organization's history.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here

Geography and memory

Christine Blasey Ford grew up in a place of privilege.

Her testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee has been filled with references to her Reagan-era upbringing in the quiet and prosperous bedroom communities just outside Washington, D.C.

There was Holton-Arms, the century-old private girls school she attended in her hometown of Bethesda, Md. And the Columbia Country Club, an even older and more exclusive golf and recreation facility where her social circle intersected with Brett Kavanaugh's the summer she was 15.

Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that she, 'believed he [Brett Kavanaugh] was going to rape me' at a party in 1982. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Her father was a bank executive, and like her mother, remains a registered Republican voter. Blasey Ford went on to study at several elite universities, including UNC, Pepperdine and Stanford, in pursuit of her credentials as a research psychologist.

It's a kind of life that will be familiar to most Americans only in the idealized, fantasy reflections of old John Hughes movies or Thursday night NBC sitcoms.

But her credibility now rests on her capacity to recall what went on in that long-ago, far away place, in excruciating detail.

Rachel Mitchell, the kind-looking Arizona sex crimes prosecutor that Senate Republicans have brought in to lead their inquisition, has already produced maps of the suburbs. She's been trying to plot the location of the house party where Blasey Ford alleges that Kavanaugh and his friend tried to rape her, sparking discussions about driving times from the club and side trips to the local Safeway.

Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell refers to a map as she questions Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. (Michael Reynolds/Reuters)

What the public fixates on is bound to be different.

Blasey Ford shared her searing recollection of what happened in a bedroom, up a narrow set stairs, at the home of someone she really didn't know, during the summer of 1982.

How Kavanaugh or his friend Mark Judge allegedly locked a door, pushed her onto a bed on the right side of the room and turned up the music to drown out her protests.

"Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothing. I believed he was going to rape me," Blasey Ford testified.

"I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life."

A little while later, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, asked her about her strongest memory of that night.

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," Blasey Ford responded. "The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense."

Kavanaugh denies that such an attack ever took place.

"No. I had never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not ever. I've always treated women with dignity and respect," he told a Fox News interviewer last weekend. "I was never at any such party. The other people who are alleged to be present have said they do not remember any such party."

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, seen in this Sept. 6 photo, has denied the allegation that he assaulted Blasey Ford. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Memory is frequently unreliable. But psychologists who study the workings of the brain have an idea about the interplay between the geography or layout of a location, and a person's ability to recall it.

Our minds always take note of what surrounds us — be it the placing of the furniture or knick knacks, or an eye-catching piece of art.

Most of the time, that information is quickly discarded by the brain.

But if something important happens, the scene gets committed to memory.

A permanent link to the past.

Rosemary Barton on At Issue

The National co-host Rosemary Barton says that while a lot of eyeballs will be glued to how politics are unfolding in the United States today, the At Issue panel tonight has lots to talk about when it comes to what's happening right here at home:

It's hardly unexpected that in an hour-and-20-minute press conference by the President yesterday, Canada would be mentioned. But it might surprise you (and indeed the Canadian government) that Donald Trump would lash out so directly at Canada's "negotiator," by whom we are assuming he means Chrystia Freeland.

We are now days away from this U.S.-imposed deadline when the White House will send a text of its renegotiated NAFTA deal with Mexico to Congress, and it does seem as though — publicly at least — trade relations with Canada have hit a new low.

But beyond the constant distraction that is Donald Trump, there are other pressing issues at play in our country.

It would appear Brian Gallant, still premier of New Brunswick, is going to try and cobble something together with the Green Party rather than let the Progressive Conservatives, who won more seats, have a shot at governing.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant speaks to reporters in front of the provincial legislature in Fredericton on Wednesday. (Kevin Bissett/Canadian Press)

Such is the way first-past-the-post functions, but At Issue panelist Andrew Coyne seems to have had enough. In his column today, he points out that once the two party system is shattered by other parties, you can pretty much count on lots of instability.

Panelist Chantal Hébert writes that New Brunswick could well be a warning about how the Quebec election is going to unfold next Monday. Some polls have the Quebec Liberals and the upstart CAQ in a dead heat, meaning no one knows what will happen, but the possibility that someone will walk away with the popular vote — but not the most seats — is real.

Join Chantal, Andrew and Althia Raj tonight to find out what this all means.

And if you have a question for At Issue, send me a tweet @RosieBarton. We will put it to our At Issuers and get you an answer tomorrow.

- Rosemary Barton

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Argentina's money trouble

The International Monetary Fund has agreed to provide a $57.1 billion US emergency loan to Argentina — the biggest bailout in the organization's history.

The financing package, announced yesterday in New York, will see the government of President Mauricio Macri receive $19 billion more than originally envisioned, in an effort to stabilize the Argentinian economy and stave off the collapse of its currency.

Newly appointed governor of Argentina's central bank, Guido Sandleris, speaks during a news conference about the IMF loan in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)
So far this year the peso has lost half its value against the U.S. dollar, as Argentina's economy slides into recession.

Macri raised interest rates to 60 per cent last month in an effort to restore market confidence, but the slide continued. The move did, however, help push the country's inflation rate up above 30 per cent.

The IMF money, which will flow over the next 36 months, comes with strings attached.

Macri has already introduced a slew of austerity measures, including dramatically reducing the size of government, raising export taxes and making deep spending cuts in an effort to balance the budget by next year, and achieve a surplus by 2020.

"This is not just another crisis. It has to be the last," Macri told the nation in a televised speech earlier this month.

And it appears that the IMF's price for the extra funds may have been the head of Argentina's central banker.

Argentina's former central bank president, Luis Caputo, speaks during a press conference at G20 meeting in Buenos Aires on July 22. He resigned unexpectedly on Tuesday. (Agustin Marcarian/AFP/Getty Images)
On Tuesday the governor of Argentina's central bank, Luis Caputo, unexpectedly resigned citing "personal reasons" after just 12 weeks on the job. Reports suggest that Caputo and the IMF disagreed over monetary policy and his efforts to curb inflation.

The resignation came in the midst of a nationwide, 24-hour strike in protest of Macri's handling of the economy and the government cutbacks. The protest shut down the country's airports, public transit and main agricultural port, highways were blocked, and banks, schools and shops were mostly closed.

People exchange goods at a market in Monte Grande on Sept. 21. Barter markets have emerged in Argentina as a way of procuring consumer goods in the face of rampant inflation. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)
Caputo, a former investment banker and finance minister, will be replaced by Guido Sandleris, a former advisor to the IMF, who has served as Argentina's chief negotiator on the deal.

Argentina has a long and rocky history with the IMF, having received loans and emergency funding on more than two dozen occasions.

And many Argentinians are still embittered about the events of 2001, when a major IMF  intervention failed and the country defaulted on $132 billion US in foreign debt, causing years of pain and privations for citizens.

In 2004, an independent evaluation report identified a number of demands and mistakes by the IMF during that period that helped worsen, rather than alleviate, the economic crisis.  

A few words on ... 

Misplaced trust.

Quote of the moment

"Unfortunately, progress from government has been slow to non-existent. Not only are the privacy rights of Canadians at stake, so too is our democracy and other fundamental values."

Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien slams the Trudeau government for not taking the necessary steps to protect Canadians' privacy in his annual report tabled this morning.

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien responds to a question during a press conference after tabling his latest annual report on Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

What The National is reading

  • Ottawa tries to pull cloak of secrecy over pipeline spying allegations court case (CBC)
  • How Novichok suspects' true identities were revealed (Guardian)
  • Chairman of Aussie public broadcaster quits over political interference claims (CBC)
  • Adultery no longer a criminal offence in India (BBC)
  • Trump anti-discrimination official once called most hate crimes 'hoaxes' (Washington Post)
  • Judge to prosecute Spanish actor for insulting God and Virgin Mary (El Pais)
  • Lamb missing after motorway crash (New Zealand Herald)

Today in history

Sept. 27, 1977: 'The great Canadian metric debate'

This Peter Gzowski 90 Minutes Live set-to pitted a dusty old Toronto Star columnist against a bright young mustache-wearer from the Canadian Metric Commission. The new measurements will destabilize Canadian culture, the Star writer predicts, exacerbating our national identity crisis. But they're easier to use than the "wild and hairy" imperial system, responds his foe. It all goes on for nine-and-a-half excruciating minutes, roughly a lifetime in metric.

'The great Canadian metric debate'

44 years ago
Duration 9:42
90 Minutes Live features a light-hearted discussion on the pros and cons of going metric. 9:42

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Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.