More Nigerian schoolgirls missing after latest Boko Haram attack
Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories
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- Boko Haram has reportedly struck another school and abducted more young girls, but there's confusion around how many
- Saudi Arabia's government is promising to bring in thousands of foreign acts and invest $64 billion US in entertainment over the coming decade
- Health officials in Canada's North are taking extraordinary new measures to fight tuberculosis
The return of Boko Haram
Nigeria's military says it has rescued 76 schoolgirls who were abducted during a Boko Haram attack in the country's northeastern Yobe state on Monday, but conflicting reports put the rescue claim in doubt and indicate that scores remain unaccounted for.
The army said the girls were returned to the village of Dapchi after an army counter-attack late yesterday. It added that it had also recovered two bodies, though it did not specify how the girls died.
But the state's governor has backtracked on the army's statement, according to a BBC report, saying the girls had not been found.
Local residents, meanwhile, told Reuters that as many as 91 girls may still be missing. One parent, Bashir Manzo, said the community compiled a list of 101 missing children and presented it to the governor, according to the Associated Press.
Nigeria's government has a history of downplaying Boko Haram attacks. It remains particularly sensitive about the kidnappings of young women, after the international outcry that followed the abduction of 270 girls from a school in Chibok in the spring of 2014. Although some have since escaped, and others have been freed, as many as 100 are still being held by their captors.
(Last month, the group released a video that purported to show a dozen of the Chibok girls, dressed in abayas and hijabs, with some holding young children. "By the grace of Allah, we are never coming back," one said in a message to the camera.)
Nigerian forces have made substantial gains against Boko Haram over the past four years, regaining almost all of the territory the Islamic group had claimed as its "caliphate."
But a televised Christmas Eve speech by President Muhammadu Buhari claiming final victory over the terrorists after a successful operation against their camps in Nigeria's Sambisa forest has proven premature.
A BBC analysis, published late last month, declared Boko Haram to be "as lethal as ever," tallying 150 attacks by the group in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger in 2016, versus 127 the year before.
And as the power struggle continues, Nigeria's civilians continue to bear the brunt.
The report also documents dozens of abuses by Boko Haram, including the kidnapping of 10 female police officers in June, and the beheading of six farmers in November.
At least 1.7 million people have been displaced from their homes by the fighting, and the UN says that 5.4 million people in the country's northeast are in urgent need of food assistance.
Fun-seeking in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia's government is promising a revolution in entertainment choices in the conservative kingdom by bringing in thousands of foreign acts and investing $64 billion US over the coming decade.
Ground has already been broken on construction of the country's first opera house, Ahmad Bin Aqeel Al-Khatib, head of the General Entertainment Authority, told reporters at a splashy press event in Riyadh today.
Some 5,000 concerts and events are planned for 2018, billed as an "unprecedented year of culture and entertainment."
"God willing, you will see a real change by 2020," said Al-Khatib, promising to create more than 200,000 new jobs in the entertainment sector this year alone. "Everything related to entertainment will be done here."
A 35-year ban on cinemas was lifted in December, with plans to build 300 new movie theatres.
And the GEA has already sponsored several groundbreaking events, including an electronic music festival, Saudi Arabia's first-ever Comic Con last February, and a Monster Truck Jam at Riyadh's King Fahd International Stadium last March.
Last fall, the Crown Prince announced plans to build a new $500 billion US "entertainment city" and business zone outside Riyadh that will be roughly the size of Las Vegas.
It is meant to complement another new project that will turn 50 small Red Sea islands into a massive luxury hotel and resort area.
The 32-year-old Crown Prince seems to have grasped that the country is ripe for some fun. Seventy per cent of Saudi Arabia's 33 million citizens are under the age of 30.
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Tuberculosis in Canada's North
Health officials in Canada's North are taking extraordinary new measures to fight an old foe — tuberculosis.
The infectious disease, which most often attacks the lungs, remains one of the developing world's top-10 killers, but it has all but disappeared from Canada. At least in the South.
Canada's overall TB incidence rate was 4.6 cases per 100,000 population.
But infection rates among Canada's Indigenous peoples are almost four times higher. And among the Inuit specifically, the rates are far worse, with 166.2 cases per 100,000 population.
In Quebec's Inuit territory of Nunavik, the TB infection rate is now 360 cases per 100,000 people — 120 times more than in the southern parts of Quebec.
This week, public health officials in Nunavik announced plans to launch a tuberculosis awareness campaign, following a coroner's report into the death of a 22-year-old Kangiqsualujjuaq man last June.
An addiction to alcohol may have played a part in his death, but the coroner also singled out the social stigma of TB, saying people avoid a diagnosis for fear of being marginalized in their communities. Kangiqsualujjuaq, a remote village on the east coast of Ungava Bay, has a population of around 800. Tuberculosis resurfaced there in 2012, after an absence of many years.
In Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, a Baffin Island hamlet where almost 10 per cent of the 600 residents have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, health officials have set up an emergency mobile screening clinic.
The roughly two-month program is being run by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It has brought in a dozen medical personnel, including an epidemiologist, X-ray technicians and respiratory therapists, and will cost around $1 million.
Qikiqtarjuaq gained national attention in early 2017 when a 15-year-old girl, Ileen Kooneeliusie, died of a rare form of TB after she was airlifted to an Ottawa hospital.
In the wake of her death, Inuit leaders joined with the federal government to create a Tuberculosis Task Force. It's charged with formulating a strategy to bring down an active TB rate among Inuit that is 270 times higher than the Canadian-born, non-Indigenous population, where there are just 0.6 infections per 100,000 people.
The housing crisis in the far North remains a huge contributing cause to the spread of the disease, with more than a third of the population living in run-down and overcrowded conditions.
Although there is also a deep historical distrust that must be addressed. During the last TB epidemic in the region, between the 1940 and 1960s, many Inuit who were sent away from their communities for treatment never returned home. And to this day, their families don't know their burial locations.
Quote of the moment
"... History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!"
- Via Twitter this morning, U.S. President Donald Trump outlined his plan to end school shootings by creating an elite corps of armed teachers.
What The National is reading
- UN pleads for urgent truce to avert 'massacre' in Syria's Ghouta district (CBC)
- Greece approves bribery probe of political elite (New York Times)
- 'I'm not a saint': What Tina Fontaine's accused killer revealed to a CBC reporter (CBC)
- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 'racist' anthrax terror threat (Evening Standard)
- Russia pays $15 million doping fine to IOC (Moscow Times)
- America's most-wanted deadbeat dad arrested in Calgary (CBC)
- China cracks down on funeral strippers (Asia Times)
Today in history
Feb. 22, 1988: The 'Two Brians' battle for gold at Calgary Olympics
Canada's Brian Orser was world champion and the home crowd favourite at the 1988 Winter Games. But he ended up slipping on a triple flip and losing the men's figure skating competition to American rival Brian Boitano. "It was only one-tenth of a mark from one judge that cost me the gold medal," Orser recounts in this Midday interview a day later, his emotions still barely in check.
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