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- Mikhail Saakashvili lashes out at Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in fiery press conference in Warsaw this morning following Monday’s forced deportation from Kiev
- Calgarian Alex Gough wins bronze at the Winter Games, Canada’s first-ever Olympic luge medal
- Donald Trump’s new fiscal blueprint for America includes a $4.4 trillion US budget and years of trillion-dollar deficits
Saakashvili, enemy of the state
Mikhail Saakashvili is gone from Ukraine, but he is unwilling to be forgotten.
The former president of Georgia, who became an ally and then a foe of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, gave a fiery press conference in Warsaw, Poland, this morning following his forced deportation from Kiev yesterday.
“Poroshenko believes that he has beaten off the opponent whom he is fearful of the most. He falsified a case against me and threw me out of the country,” said the 50-year-old opposition leader.
“We will wring the neck of the Ukrainian oligarchy. They will be sent to prison, where they belong. I promise this.”
The falling out between Saakashvili and Poroshenko, once university chums and then political admirers who bonded over their mutual mistrust of Russia, is operatic in scale.
Living in exile in the United States after his 2012 electoral defeat, and facing corruption charges at home, Saakashvili accepted his old friend’s offer to become governor of Odessa in early 2015.
In the months that followed, Ukraine denied Georgia’s attempts to extradite Saakashvili and even granted him citizenship.
But relations between the two leaders quickly soured. Saakashvili resigned from his job in late 2016 and started his own anti-corruption political party, the Movement of New Forces.
Last summer, Poroshenko stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship while he was outside the country. In September Saakashvili stormed back across the border with Poland, carried by a crowd of supporters.
For months, he and members of his party have staged almost daily demonstrations outside of Ukraine’s parliament calling for Poroshenko’s ouster.
An initial attempt to deport Saakashvili last December was foiled by angry protesters who gathered outside of his Kiev apartment and pulled him from a police van.
But yesterday, Ukrainian authorities had the element of surprise when they descended on the opposition leader while he was eating lunch in a Georgian restaurant. CCTV footage shows helmeted riot police placing a bag over Saakashvili’s head and hustling him out of the building.
An hour later, he was aboard a chartered jet on its way to Warsaw.
Saakashvili, who is now technically stateless, having given up his Georgian citizenship in 2015, says the fight is not over.
Addressing Ukraine’s “idiots” at today’s press conference, he vowed to recover his passport and head back to Kiev.
“I will be almost as efficient in Europe over the next few weeks as I used to be in Ukraine,” he said, and then switched into the third person.
“Saakashvili at liberty is more dangerous for Poroshenko than Saakashvili whom they persecuted in Ukraine. We will peacefully oust the oligarchs from power.”
The power of persistence
At her first Olympics 12 years ago in Turin, Alex Gough finished in 20th place in luge.
At Whistler in 2010, the home track failed to be much of an advantage and she came 18th.
Sochi 2014 severely tried her spirit, offering up fourths in women’s singles — 0.433 seconds off the podium — and in the team luge event.
Today in Pyeongchang, the 30-year-old Calgarian finally delivered on the dream, winning a bronze — Canada’s first-ever Olympic luge medal.
Gough long ago cemented her place in sliding, becoming the first Canadian to win gold on the World Cup circuit back in 2011, one of her 25 career medals.
But the Olympics weren’t just frustrating, they were cruel.
This past December, Gough and the other members of Canada’s squad for the Sochi team event — Sam Edney, Justin Snith and Tristan Walker — were told that they had indeed triumphed in 2012, upgraded to bronze because two Russian sliders had been caught doping.
But their much-delayed medal never materialized, because the Court of Arbitration in Sports overturned the Russians’ lifetime ban just days before the Pyeongchang Games began.
For a time today it looked like history might repeat itself. Gough’s fourth and final run was less than perfect, opening the door for the final two sliders to knock her off the podium.
Several minutes of despair followed. Then some faint hope. And finally, all-out jubilation as the final times came in and she took bronze.
“I’m elated — just so over the moon,” Gough told reporters. “Especially to come from that gut-wrenching feeling of being behind and probably in a fourth spot again. To have that flip around on me and be suddenly in a medal spot is so amazing.”
Calgary’s Kimberley McRae came fifth — the same spot she found herself in at Sochi 2014.
Gough, who is already halfway through her engineering studies at the University of Calgary, says she will likely retire following Thursday’s team event.
Her bronze was one of three medals for Canada this morning, joining a gold in mixed doubles curling for Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris, and Kim Boutin‘s third-place finish in women’s 500 metre short track speed skating.
All propelling the country to some lofty Olympic heights.
Follow all the results and get a full broadcast schedule at CBC’s online Olympic hub.
Tonight on The National, Diana Swain reports on how South Korea has become one of the world’s most wired societies and how that’s affecting its culture. The National can be found at its regular time on CBC News Network, as well as streamed on YouTube and Facebook, for the duration of the Games.
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Donald Trump: numbers guy
Donald Trump unveiled his fiscal blueprint for America yesterday — a $4.4 trillion US budget and years of trillion-dollar deficits.
The U.S. president’s spending proposals for the coming fiscal year include $200 billion in new money for infrastructure, $18 billion for his border wall for Mexico, and a 13 per cent hike in funding for the military.
All of this would be partially paid for through deep reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and foreign aid, and $554 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next 10 years.
But the gap between what Trump would like to spend, and what the U.S. government is taking in, can’t be papered over.
His projected deficit for the financial year ending in September 2019 is $984 billion. That’s before almost $100 billion in emergency disaster relief, and a new Congressional deal to increase spending by $300 billion, is taken into account.
Meaning that Trump’s actual deficit could come close to the record $1.4 trillion racked up by Barack Obama at the height of the 2008-09 global fiscal crisis.
Meanwhile, the tax cuts enacted by Republicans last December will slash revenue by an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (Trump prefers a much higher figure — branding it as a $5.5 trillion tax cut in an early January speech, and citing a $3.7 trillion reduction in his budget proposal.)
The projected end result will be at least $7.2 trillion in budget shortfalls between now and 2028.
Will any of it matter?
The reality is that the United States has only run in the black a dozen times over the past 77 years. And it has happened just four times since 1970, all under Bill Clinton.
It was only last fall that Trump was boasting about having reduced America’s ballooning national debt. And while that was true over the first months of his presidency, the already mind-boggling number has started rising again since the tax cuts. It now stands at $20.5 trillion — a half trillion more than when Trump took office.
The U.S. has by far the world’s largest debt, but also its biggest economy. The American debt-to-GDP ratio places the country in the bottom half of the world’s 20 most-indebted nations, well behind fellow G7 members Japan and Italy.
By any measurement, the numbers are now so big as to be effectively incomprehensible:
- A stack of a trillion $1 bills would rise 109,000 kilometres, a little more than a quarter of the way to the moon.
- Placed end-to-end, the $1 bills would stretch past the sun, 156 million kilometres away.
- One website has tried to create a visualization of the U.S. debt by surrounding the Statue of Liberty with towering currency skyscrapers.
Quote of the moment
“As bad as y’all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence. We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became President, that’s all I’m saying. He’s extreme.”
– Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former White House aide and four-time-fired Trump employee, to her housemates on last night’s episode of Celebrity Big Brother.
What The National is reading
- Sears pensioners seek missing money by going after billions paid in dividends (CBC)
- Gun maker Remington files for bankruptcy protection (CNN)
- U.S. strikes in Syria killed scores of Russian mercenaries: Report (Bloomberg)
- South Africa’s Jacob Zuma ordered to resign, will respond tomorrow (CBC)
- Iceland will use more electricity mining bitcoins than powering its homes in 2018 (Quartz)
- Stratford woman ticketed for driving with parrot on shoulder (CBC)
- Suspected poacher eaten by lions in South Africa (Telegraph)
Today in history
Feb. 13, 1996: Ernie Coombs reflects on his career as Mr. Dressup
On the eve of taping his final episode, Mr. Dressup reflects on 30 years of entertaining children on the CBC. “I had never realized what taping the last show would be like,” he says. “Very, very emotional.” The ‘tickle trunk’ ended up in the CBC Museum, and the iconic program continued on in reruns for another decade.
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