Canadian video debunking fake online health claims becomes viral hit

Jonathan Jarry’s job is to separate sense from nonsense in science, but he never imagined that creating a fake news video would end up being his most effective tool.

Facebook users may be familiar with his latest video for McGill University’s Office for Science and Society (OSS) — it has 10 million views and counting.

The video title screams for a click: “This NATURAL TRICK can CURE YOUR CANCER.” The opening graphic offers another too-good-to-be-true promise: “This amazing cure for cancer has been known since the 1800s.”

Fake doctor with too-good-to-be-true cure

The video tells the very fake story of Dr. Johan R. Tarjany, who in 1816 discovered a kind of moss that cures cancer,  knowledge the video claims has been suppressed by pharmaceutical companies.

The story gets better. Tarjany added the moss to his diet and never got cancer — and great news — even though the Food and Drug Administration has banned the moss, it’s available online.

Just as you’re reaching for your credit card, celebrating your discovery while simultaneously cursing big pharma, the tale unravels. Thirty-nine seconds into the video, the truth is revealed: The video that you thought promised an easy answer instead is a hard lesson in media literacy and critical thinking.

Dr. Johan R. Tarjany is an anagram of Jonathan Jarry. And those photos in the video, they’re of Otto Maass, a former chairman of McGill’s Chemistry Department in the early 20th century. To further his point, Jarry even used multiple photos of different people to see if viewers would notice.

Frustrated at bunk science

Jarry said the idea came from a similar video a former coworker had shown him. It had six million views and purported to show a researcher who had discovered radio signals that could kill cancer cells. 

“My idea was, OK well, what if we make a video that is a bit of a Trojan horse that kind of looks like one of those viral videos but that actually has a different spin on it,” Jarry said.

He said it was frustrating because bunk science videos often reach far wider audiences than those his team puts together. On the McGill OSS YouTube page there a number of videos explaining topics like sloppy food science and personalized genetic testing, but the views rank in the hundreds of thousands, not millions.

“We don’t sell these easy solutions to complicated problems,” Jarry said. “We sell nuance and criticism and uncertainty, and that doesn’t sell as well.”

He says he’s blown away by the success of this video.

“I am flabbergasted. I was hoping for 10,000 views. I would have been ecstatic at 10,000. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. The fact that this has reached so many people.”

Jarry created a fake news video to get people to think more critically about so-called scientific content online. (Jonathan Jarry/McGill University/YouTube)

He created the viral video in about a day and a half using stock footage and upbeat music to recreate the look and feel of a hoax health video. He says it appeals to people’s sense that they’re being lied to and that easy answers are out there.

“I think the conspiracy mindset is a big one. We’re all wired to the thing that there are conspiracies here and there, and some people are more susceptible to this kind of thinking than others.”

The video ends with a message to viewers: Be skeptical, ask questions, consult doctors and scientists, and don’t fall for conspiracy theories dressed up in pretty packaging.

“Be skeptical because there’s so much misinformation out there and be aware of your own biases. Be aware of the fact that you will be easily emotionally manipulated.”

He says there’s also an important lesson for science communicators about how best to deliver accurate, fact-based information and what the audience wants. 

Be aware of the fact that you will be easily emotionally manipulated– Jonathan Jarry, McGill University

“We are wired to respond to stories. We’re storytellers at heart. Numbers don’t speak to us,” he said, adding that means we must be wary.

“So we all always have to be on the lookout for anecdotes, because they don’t tell us much.”

The video’s popularity may only be starting. While the original was posted in English and French, a user has already translated it into Spanish. Jarry’s team says they’ve received and are working on versions in Italian, Croatian, Spanish, even Hungarian.

And while his video has topped the six million views of the hoax video that inspired him, Jarry said there’s still a long way to go to counter misinformation online.

“There are so many more of these videos out there that I don’t think our video will solve the problem forever. I think we all need to approach this problem constantly and try different things to reach as many people as we can.”

Russian bots, ‘troll factory’ test waters ahead of U.S. midterms

The sponsors of the Russian “troll factory” that meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign have launched a new American website ahead of the U.S. midterm election in November. Russian bots and trolls are deploying increasingly sophisticated, targeted tools. And a new indictment suggests the Kremlin itself was behind previous hacking efforts in support of Donald Trump.

As the U.S. leader prepares to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, many Americans are wondering: Is the Kremlin trying yet again to derail a U.S. election?

While U.S. intelligence officials call it a top concern, they haven’t uncovered a clear, co-ordinated Russian plot to mess with the campaign. At least so far.

It could be that Russian disruptors are waiting until the primaries are over in September and the races become more straightforward — or it could be they are waiting until the U.S. presidential vote in 2020, which matters more for U.S. foreign policy.

In the meantime, an array of bots, trolls and fake-news propaganda sites like USAReally appear to be testing the waters.

USAReally was launched in May by the Federal News Agency, part of an empire allegedly run by Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin that includes the Internet Research Agency — the “troll factory” whose members were indicted by U.S. special investigator Robert Mueller this year.

Presenting as a news website, it marries innocuous animal stories with headlines like “EXCLUSIVE: Exposing The DOJ’s Fake Indictments.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, known as ‘Putin’s chef,’ serves food to the Russian leader in 2011. Prigozhin was allegedly behind the Internet Research Agency, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and is part of the same empire as USAReally. (Misha Japaridze/Associated Press)

USAReally’s Moscow offices are in the same building as the Federal News Agency. Associated Press reporters were not allowed inside, and troll factory employees declined to be interviewed.

The USAReally site appears oddly amateurish and obviously Russian, with grammatical flubs and links to Russian social networks.

It says it’s aimed at providing Americans “objective and independent” information, and chief editor Alexander Malkevich says it’s not about influencing the midterm election. Yet his Moscow office is adorned with a confederate flag, Trump pictures and souvenirs and a talking pen that parrots famous Trump quotations.

“Disrupt elections? You will do all that without us,” he told The Associated Press. He said Americans themselves have created their own divisions, whether over gun rights, immigrants or LGBT rights — all topics his site has posted articles about.

Aim may be to legitimize Putin autocracy

Most online manipulation ahead of the midterm election is coming from U.S. sources, experts say. They worry that focusing on Russian spy-mongering may distract authorities from more dangerous homegrown threats.

There is Russian activity, to be sure. But it appears aimed less at swaying the U.S. Congress one way or another and more at proving to fellow Russians that democracy is unsafe — and thereby legitimizing Putin’s autocratic rule at home.

While security services are on high alert, “the intelligence community has yet to see evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with election infrastructure along the lines of 2016,” Christopher Krebs, the undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told a Congressional hearing Wednesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said earlier this year that the U.S. should consider itself ‘under attack’ when it comes to holding November’s midterms free of interference. He said the U.S. is not yet seeing the kind of Russian meddling that occurred in 2016, however. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about.

U.S. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Friday that warning lights about overall cyber-threats to the U.S. are “blinking red” — much like “blinking red” signals warned before 9/11 that a terror attack was imminent.

Coats said that while the U.S. is not seeing the kind of Russian electoral interference that occurred in 2016, digital attempts to undermine America are not coming only from Russia. They’re occurring daily, he said, and are “much bigger than just elections.”

Intelligence officials still spot individuals affiliated with the Internet Research Agency creating new social media accounts that are masqueraded as belonging to Americans, according to Coats. The Internet Research Agency uses the fake accounts to drive attention to divisive issues in the U.S., he said.

USAReally plays a similar role.

“USAReally is unlikely to create big momentum in its own right,” in part thanks to stepped-up actions by Twitter and Facebook to detect and shut down automated accounts, said Aric Toler of the Bellingcat investigative group.

However, Toler said the site could build momentum by creating divisive content that then gets passed to other provocative news aggregators in the U.S. such as InfoWars or Gateway Pundit.

He believes that a key role for sites like USAReally is to please the Kremlin and to prove that Prigozhin’s empire is still active in the U.S. news sphere.

‘Spy mania’

Prigozhin, sometimes dubbed “Putin’s chef” because of his restaurant businesses, has not commented publicly on USAReally. Prigozhin and 12 other Russians are personally charged with participating in a broad conspiracy to sow discord in the U.S. political system from 2014 through 2017.

Editor Malkevich confirms his site’s funding comes from the Federal News Agency. But he says he has nothing to do with the indicted trolls who once operated under the same roof.

“I absolutely don’t understand this spy mania,” he said. He says the site has a few thousand followers, and that his 30 journalists and editors check facts and don’t use bots.

The big question is what Trump plans to do about this. The U.S. president is under heavy pressure to tell Putin to stay out of U.S. elections when they meet Monday, and he said Friday that he would.

But many members of Congress say it’s taken far too long, and that Trump’s refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 election complicates efforts to combat future attacks.

France’s win restores order to chaotic World Cup

MOSCOW —​ Ultimately, normalcy returned.

The team that was supposed to win the World Cup, won.

In a tournament populated by bizarre narratives, favourites France emerged victorious, offering their players and coach soccer immortality.

Yet even the championship match contained unusual subplots. We witnessed the first own goal in a World Cup final, the first VAR penalty and the first teenage goal-scorer since the legendary Pelé himself 60 years ago.

France won not because the team dominated possession, nor because it had more attempts at goal. Les Bleus are world champions because they were composed and clinical.

When the opportunities came, France took full advantage. A full 50 per cent of their chances ended up in the back of the Croatian net. You could argue they got lucky with the first two goals, but I’ve never spoken to a player who doesn’t believe that every team deserves a little good fortune along the way.

Didier Deschamps knew exactly what he was doing. The French mastermind, who captained France to its first World Cup 20 years ago, trusted his defenders to nullify Croatia’s superiority in possession and then counter attack swiftly. With the exception of a sweet strike by Ivan Perisic and a moment of madness from goalie Hugo Lloris, the plan worked perfectly.

The Croatians deserve enormous credit. They played a full part, not just in the final, but throughout the World Cup. Their technical ability, accompanied by remarkable resilience, grit and determination won them many admirers. Croatia earned the respect of the soccer world and can be justly proud of its achievements.

It all added up to a hugely entertaining showpiece. Too many World Cup finals evolve into a tactical stalemate with both teams playing safety first rather than playing to win. Not this one; France and Croatia produced a memorable spectacle which history will remember as an admirable advertisement for the beautiful game.

A unique World Cup to say the least

Indeed, it has been a refreshingly different World Cup. The usual suspects faltered, allowing us to broaden our collective soccer education.

Germany’s shocking capitulation allowed Sweden a run to the quarter-finals. Russia revelled in the spotlight. The host nation did itself proud and only a shoot-out loss denied the Russians a place in the semifinals.

Belgium’s golden generation finally delivered. A defensive masterclass shut down Neymar and Brazil in the last eight, and despite a heartbreaking loss to France, the Belgians bounced back to claim a very well deserved bronze medal.

The world’s two best players disappeared on the same night. Lionel Messi and Argentina were found wanting defensively in the Round of 16, and hours later Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal failed to spark against Uruguay. Neither may grace the World Cup stage again.

It’s also unlikely Luka Modric will be back. His third World Cup was a huge success and the Croatian captain was a worthy recipient of the Golden Ball as tournament MVP. Modric will be 36 by the time Qatar 2022 rolls around, so if this was his swan song, he left on a personal high note.

Young stars shining bright

England’s young captain leaves with mixed emotions. Harry Kane collected the Golden Boot as the World Cup’s top scorer with six goals and padded his reputation in Russia. But Kane and his teammates also leave with a lingering sense of a missed opportunity. At 24, Kane will have more chances to shine on the international stage.

I’m not a fan of individual awards in team sports, but I am a fan of Kylian Mbappé. Mbappé becomes the second Frenchman in a row to scoop the Best Young Player prize, after Paul Pogba in 2014.

What a career lies ahead for this 19-year-old. Mbappé has skill, speed, and swagger. He also has a World Cup winner’s medal around his neck. He demonstrated maturity beyond his years and could spearhead France’s offence for the next decade or more. I just hope Mbappé keeps his feet on the ground and keeps working on his game.

So that’s that. Another World Cup has come and gone. Our emotions have been drained by a month of non-stop soccer drama. In four years time, expect air-conditioned arenas in the Middle East, and fours years after that Canada gets to co-host — and hopefully compete.

Now that’s something to get excited about.

Theresa May laughs off Trump’s advice to sue EU over Brexit

In the midst of a messy political crisis at home over Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed Sunday that Donald Trump gave her this piece of advice: Sue the EU, don’t negotiate.

A bemused May turned him down. But the exchange was the latest example of the awkward dance between the U.S. and Britain, with the two leaders attempting to put on a public show of friendliness, despite clear strains over trade, the EU and their approaches to diplomacy.

Trump told reporters on Friday that he had given May advice about how to deal with the EU that she found too “brutal.” Asked in a BBC interview Sunday what that was, May responded with an amused expression: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.”

With a laugh, she added: “Actually, no. We’re going into negotiations with them.”

U.S. President Donald Trump heaped praise this week on Boris Johnson, left, who quit U.K. PM Theresa May’s cabinet to protest her handling of Brexit. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

In the past few days, Trump’s first official visit to Britain has veered wildly off course with a series of humiliating remarks he has made about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the tense Brexit negotiations.

In an explosive interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday, just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner, Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

Apologized

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and couldn’t have come at a worse time for the British prime minister, who is facing a crisis over Brexit from within her own ranks. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

The U.S. president later apologized and sought to soften the blow, telling reporters at a joint news conference Friday that May is an “incredible woman” who is “doing a fantastic job” as prime minister.

Asked to rate U.S.-U.K. relations, Trump called them the “highest level of special.” He added it was up to May how to handle Brexit, as long as the U.S. “can trade and we don’t have any restrictions” on commerce with the United Kingdom.

On Sunday, May seemed to point to Trump’s inconsistent advice when she said that, as well as telling her to “sue” the EU, he also suggested not walking away from the negotiations.

May didn’t elaborate, and it wasn’t clear what grounds Britain would have to sue the EU, how it would work or to what purpose.

But Trump has made clear his animosity toward the EU, aggressively criticizing his European NATO allies for what he views as taking advantage of the U.S. on trade and defence spending. In a CBS interview Saturday, he called the EU a trade “foe.”

May’s government has just published its long-awaited Brexit plans, which propose to keep Britain and the EU in a free market for goods, with a more distant relationship for services. That has infuriated fervent Brexit supporters, who see it as a bad deal. Along with Johnson, the man who had been leading the Brexit negotiations, David Davis, also quit in protest.

Ex-NHL goaltender Ray Emery drowns in Hamilton harbour

Hamilton police say former NHL goalie Ray Emery has drowned in Hamilton harbour.

Insp. Marty Schulenberg said Emery’s death does not appear to be suspicious, calling it a “case of misadventure.”

Emery, 35, played for several teams throughout a career spanning more than a decade, including the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers.

He won the William M. Jennings trophy — and the Stanley Cup — with the Blackhawks in 2013.

Schulenberg said Emery went swimming off a boat, and his friends called emergency services at about 6 a.m. ET Sunday when he didn’t resurface.

He says Emery’s body was found at about 2:50 p.m., about 20 metres from where he went into the water. He says a post-mortem will be completed tomorrow.

Former teammates, coaches and executives who played and worked with Emery have been expressing condolences online.

Emery played junior hockey for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, where current Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas began his career.

Dubas posted about Emery’s death on Twitter Sunday afternoon.

“Ray’s smile and intelligence made him a magnetic personality,” Dubas wrote. “You always rooted for him to reach his vast potential, even as he went through the many ups and downs of his playing career.”

Former Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who played with Emery in Philadelphia, said on Twitter: “So sad to hear the tragic news about Ray Emery — was a great teammate and person.”

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk also released a statement expressing condolences.

“Ray was instrumental in our run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, and at his best he brought a competitive edge and combative mentality to the game. On behalf of our entire organization, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to Ray’s family, friends and loved ones,” said Melnyk.

Pedestrian killed, another loses a leg after being hit by a car in Burlington, Ont.

A woman was killed and part of a man’s leg was amputated after a driver slammed into pedestrians and crashed into a former restaurant patio in Burlington, Ont., on Saturday morning, Halton police said. 

The original call came in shortly after 10 a.m., police said. Multiple witnesses called saying they saw a man driving erratically on Fairview Street, said Insp. Derek Davis.

“Not staying in its lane, driving in an unexpected manner,” said Davis, who said the curious driving was first reported “well west” of the crash scene.

At one point, the driver reportedly left the roadway, drove onto the sidewalk and struck a 19-year-old male pedestrian. The man’s leg was amputated below the knee and he was airlifted to Hamilton Health Sciences Centre with life-threatening injuries, police said. 

The driver of the SUV was also taken to hospital with injuries after he crashed into the patio of a now-shuttered restaurant. (Michael Cole/CBC)

The driver then continued on Fairview Street before striking a 58-year-old woman, who was standing nearby in front of the now-closed restaurant, Chaps. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The vehicle came to a stop after the driver crashed into the former restaurant’s patio.

Driver believed to be in 70s

The driver is a man believed to be in his 70s. Police said he sustained head injuries and was transported to hospital by ambulance. 

“What caused the erratic behaviour is still under investigation,” said acting Sgt. Tom Zafiridis. “The driver may have suffered a medical episode, which may have contributed to the accident itself.” 

Earlier on Saturday, Davis said police are “open to all possibilities, whether it is impairment, whether it’s some sort of a crime in progress, a medical issue.”

“We don’t have a definitive answer at this time, but we’ve certainly not ruled any possibility out.”

Inspector Derek Davis says police are still investigating the cause of the collision. (CBC)

The 19-year-old victim is still in hospital in serious condition, said Zafiridis on Saturday afternoon. He said he believes the driver and two victims are all from Burlington. 

Police are still investigating how far the man had been driving and where, he said.

Fairview Street is currently closed between Woodview Road and Commerce Court. The road is expected to be closed for several hours during the investigation.

The Halton police traffic reconstruction unit is investigating the series of collisions.  

Anyone with potentially valuable information is asked to contact the Halton Regional Police Service or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers. 

A 19-year-old’s leg was amputated below the knee and he was airlifted to hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

‘Stars are aligning’ for Putin before Trump summit — indictments notwithstanding

Talk about timing.

With only three days to go before the U.S.-Russia presidential summit, the stunning indictments Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officers — charged with interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — could easily have been enough to make the U.S. cancel it.

In any past U.S. presidency, that might have been the case. Not so for Trump, say Eurasia scholars and former diplomats familiar with Russian propaganda efforts.

The Kremlin, rushing out a statement Friday, slammed the announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice as an attempt to “spoil” the atmosphere ahead of President Donald Trump’s face-to-face with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

It needn’t have worried.

Following chaotic stops in Brussels and the U.K., where Trump’s criticisms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and British Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to weaken a historic alliance, experts say the chief beneficiary of the turmoil is Putin.

“I’m sure Putin is thrilled. And [the indictments] won’t make a difference,” said Alexandra Vacroux, director of Harvard University’s Davis Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

“I think any other American president would cancel the summit and say, ‘No — with this evidence, it’s clear they did do something; and unless I have guarantees this will never happen again, we won’t meet.'”

Instead, Trump, who was briefed by his Justice Department about the indictments, will press ahead with Monday’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki.

Once in Finland, he will have the opportunity to confront Putin on Russia’s annexation of Crimea; to debate sanctions relief for Russia; to broker a New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty expiring in 2021 between the nations to commit to mutual nuclear arms reduction; and to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO.

In the U.K. on Friday, Trump told reporters he will “absolutely ask” Putin in person about Russian meddling as well. But Trump has also previously said he takes Putin at his word, believing his claim that the Kremlin played no role in hacking into the 2016 election.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the indictments “had nothing to do with the Trump administration.”

That’s in direct contradiction to Trump’s own intelligence community and the Justice Department.

Friday’s announcement revealed the indictments of a dozen Russians with the GRU military intelligence unit in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. It alleged the Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee to undermine the election, and compromised the voting data of 500,000 Americans.

Putin is likely ‘thrilled’ by recent developments following Trump’s chaotic week at a NATO summit and visit to the U.K. (RIA Novosti/Reuters)

Chances are slim the Russian defendants will end up in U.S. court. Russia is highly unlikely to extradite them.

“For Putin, this is like the stars are aligning,” given how the last week has unfolded for Trump in Europe, said Brett Bruen, who led an inter-agency task force in the Obama administration to combat Russian propaganda.

He points to Trump’s thrashing of what he called “delinquent” NATO members and demands for the alliance to increase defence spending, lest the U.S. begin to roll back on its commitments.

“That diluted the standing of the most important strategic alliance for security in the world.”

And when the president left the NATO meetings in Brussels for the U.K., only to criticize British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, Bruen said, “he diminished the stature of America’s most important strategic ally in the world.”

“If I was trying to write a script for how Putin could set up the summit with Trump for maximum impact on Russia’s strategic objectives, I don’t think I could have done a better job than what Trump has accomplished.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump walk away after holding a joint news conference at Chequers, the official country residence of the prime minister, near Aylesbury on Friday. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Experts warn that Trump has already hinted at possible concessions with Putin. He appeared reluctant last month to rule out recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, responding to a question about whether the U.S. would drop its longstanding opposition to the annexation by saying: “We’re going to have to see.”

Legitimizing it would raise alarms in Baltic states like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, about possible Russian incursions.

I’m not sure what it gets the U.S., apart from extreme anxiety about what happens in that room.– Alexandra Vacroux , Harvard University

Bruen is skeptical Trump will be able to achieve much, beyond hyping that the summit materialized and that Putin gave him a symbolic gesture of goodwill. But merely bringing up the topic of Russian election meddling sounds like a “weak way of checking a box without applying pressure,” he said.

“My fear is this is really our last opportunity, before we head into the congressional elections, to get Putin and his propagandists out of our electoral process. I have little confidence the president is going to grow a backbone overnight on this.”

If last month’s Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was any indicator, he added, there’s reason to worry.

While the Trump-Kim summit was billed by the administration as a possible advancement toward denuclearization, satellite images suggest Pyongyang is continuing to develop a nuclear research site and missile facility.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, watches as Trump speaks to other leaders posing for the family photo at the Park of the Cinquantenaire during the NATO Summit in Brussels July 11. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Adding to the anxiety for next week’s Trump-Putin sessions is that the private sitdowns will be without note-takers or advisers present: only translators.

“It does look like this meeting has the potential to get Putin quite a lot,” Vacroux said. “I’m not sure what it gets the U.S., apart from extreme anxiety about what happens in that room.”

As far as Russian election tampering goes, she says the U.S. is missing a concrete geopolitical “grand strategy” to halt Russia’s interference in future U.S. elections, beyond “patching holes in cybersecurity.”

Unless the president delivers “a serious message with serious consequences,” Bruen said, he can expect the Russians to continue developing ways to undermine U.S. elections.

While Friday’s indictment didn’t allege any co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, “timing seems like a notable fact,” observed Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, which his presently handling the case.

“The defendants made an after-hours attempt to hack into [Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton’s] emails, for the first time, on July 27, 2016,” he noted. “That’s the same date in which Trump said, ‘Russia, if you’re listening I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.'”

A six-metre-high cartoon baby blimp of Trump is flown as a protest against his visit, in Parliament Square in London Friday. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

The new indictments are “the strongest evidence so far” of the Russian effort to tamper with the U.S. democratic system, Sandick said.

Alleged Russian cyberattacks against the DNC notwithstanding, Trump already signalled how much he wants this meeting with Putin. Despite Russia’s standing as an adversary, he has arguably treated the Russian strongman more amicably than he has actual European allies in recent days.

Ahead of his flight to what turned out to be a tense NATO summit and a fraught visit to the U.K., Trump made a prediction to reporters about the sensitive meetings ahead.

“Frankly,” he said, “Putin may be the easiest of them all.”

Thailand cave rescue inspires cartoons around the globe

The rescue mission that captured hearts around the world over the last two weeks might be over, but cartoons of hope and support are still flooding the internet.

When 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach became trapped in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, a rescue mission involving over 1,000 people began. CBC News spoke to some of the cartoonists and artists who created these pieces.

Aruni Aunhawarakorn and Jantima Manasviyoungkul shared their cartoon on their Facebook page, Sisidea, Sunday night, once the rescue was complete. Several days later, the photo has generated hundreds of thousands of shares and reshares.

In an interview, the two sisters, who hail from Bangkok, said they were inspired by the “tons of kindness flowing from many countries and specialists’ teams.” 

The graphic depicts 13 wild boars, each symbolizing the stranded members of the Wild Boars soccer team, swimming out of the Tham Luang cave alongside a plethora of other animals, which represent the countries involved in the rescue and a little Iron Man, who represents Tesla CEO Elon Musk. 

(Aruni Aunhawarakorn and Jantima Manasviyoungkul/Sisidea, Sandy Peppler/CBC)A Canadian contribution came from Bruce MacKinnon of the Chronicle Herald in Halifax.

MacKinnon has been a cartoonist for the Chronicle Herald since 1985, drawing weekly cartoons, and joined the newspaper as an editorial cartoonist full-time in 1986.

In an interview, MacKinnon said the idea came to him when he noticed that he and his wife were constantly checking up on the status of the boys, despite the mission taking place during the World Cup.

“Everyone was kind of on the edges of their seats the whole time, including us,” said MacKinnon of his cartoon, which took around five hours to create. “I just wanted to bring it back home that this is what we really should be celebrating.” 

(Bruce MacKinnon/Halifax Chronicle Herald)

The work of Pazut Wutigornsombatkul, who draws under the name TuagomStudio, went viral on June 27 after he began drawing cartoons of the rescue mission. 

The Bangkok native’s artist pseudonym, Tuagom, translates as a very circular, big-headed boy, reflected in his cartoons. “It’s a cute style,” said Wutigornsombatkul. “I want to make people smile and happy when they saw my cartoon.” 

After seeing the news on social media, Wutigornsombatkul said he began drawing to help calm viewers across the globe and show his gratitude to all those who participated in the boys’ rescue. Wutigornsombatkul said the feedback and support for his illustrations, which each took somewhere between two and three hours to make, were “the best things” he could have received. 

Here is another piece in his signature style. (Pazut Wutigornsombatkul/TuagomStudio)

Here are some other cartoons, made by artists inspired by the rescue mission: 

Jiraporn Mai Jacknight, Thailand

(Jiraporn Mai Jacknight) (Jiraporn Mai Jacknight)

Quinho Ravelli, Brazil

(Quinho Ravelli/Quinho Cartum)

Trump golfs, faces protests in Scotland ahead of Putin talks

Two days before a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump played golf and tweeted Saturday from one of his namesake resorts, blaming his predecessor for Russian election meddling and lashing out at the free press from foreign soil.

Aides had said Trump would spend the weekend preparing to meet Putin on Monday in Helsinki, but the tweets showed other topics were on his mind.

“I have arrived in Scotland and will be at Trump Turnberry for two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf — my primary form of exercise!” he tweeted early Saturday, referencing his seaside golf resort. “The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible! Tomorrow I go to Helsinki for a Monday meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

U.S. President Donald Trump waits on the 4th tee at Turnberry golf course, Scotland, on Saturday. (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

Trump was later seen playing the Turnberry links, several holes of which are visible from a nearby beach, where dozens of people staged a protest picnic Saturday. He was videotaped waving at protesters as they shouted “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA!” before resuming his game. He was also seen posing for photos.

A line of police, some on horseback, stood between the course and protesters. Snipers perched atop a nearby tower overlooking the vast property.

10,000 march in Edinburgh

The protesters were among the thousands who came out in Scotland and England in opposition to the U.S. president’s visit to both countries.

Some 10,000 people marched Saturday through the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, while police searched for a paraglider who breached a no-fly zone and flew a protest banner over the resort in western Scotland where Trump and his wife, Melania, are staying through Sunday.

Demonstrators march to protest against the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Saturday. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

The glider carried a banner that said “Trump: Well Below Par” over the resort Friday night to protest his environmental and immigration policies.

In Edinburgh, anti-fascist groups and political activists joined those who said they’d never protested before, weaving through the capital’s streets waving an array of makeshift anti-Trump banners. A choir, a bagpiper, a tambourine band and poetry readings added to the carnival spirit.

A Greenpeace protester paraglided over the golf resort on Friday in Turnberry, South Ayrshire, Scotland, with a banner reading ‘Trump: Well Below Par,’ shortly after the U.S. president arrived at the hotel. Trump bought the resort in 2014. (John Linton/Press Association via AP)

“Donald Trump is not welcome here,” Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told the crowd. “The horrific scenes at the Mexican border are just the latest example of his repudiation of decent human values.”

Protesters also launched a six-metre blimp depicting Trump as an angry baby that had flown over anti-Trump protests in London on Friday.

The baby is back. A blimp resembling the U.S. president became airborne in Edinburgh on Saturday. It floated over Parliament Square in London on Friday. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

Trump has spent the weeklong trip wreaking havoc in Europe, first at a NATO summit in Brussels where he questioned the value of the decades-old alliance, and later in Britain, where he faced fallout from a stunning newspaper interview in which he undermined British Prime Minister Theresa May at an especially vulnerable time.

But Trump was also keeping tabs on domestic issues, including the investigations into Russian election meddling.

In Saturday’s tweets, Trump tried to blame former President Barack Obama for failing to stop the Russians from working to help him win the 2016 election.

“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration,” Trump tweeted, asking why they didn’t “do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?”

Trump tweets about indictments 

It was Trump’s first response to indictments announced Friday in Washington against 12 Russian military intelligence officers who allegedly hacked into the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, and the Democratic Party, and released tens of thousands of emails in a sweeping Kremlin conspiracy to help Trump.

Trump denies that he or any campaign aides were involved with the Russian campaign and repeatedly dismisses the ongoing investigation that produced Friday’s indictments as a “witch hunt.”

Trump told reporters he plans to raise election meddling with Putin but said he doesn’t expect Putin to ever accept blame.

“I will absolutely bring that up. I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me,”‘ Trump said Friday, referring to Putin.

Leading Democratic senators asked Trump in a letter Saturday to scrap the summit if he was not prepared “to make Russia’s attack on our election the top issue you will discuss.” And John McCain, a leading Republican senator and Trump critic, said Trump must hold Putin accountable or not proceed with the meeting.

But Trump’s chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told journalists travelling with him that he was confident the meeting would “put America in a better place.”

Trump’s tweets also targeted CNN, mocking the American cable channel’s president, Jeff Zucker, as “Little Jeff Z” and knocking its election coverage following the president’s spat with a CNN correspondent at a news conference Friday in England.

“So funny! I just checked out Fake News CNN, for the first time in a long time (they are dying in the ratings), to see if they covered my takedown yesterday of Jim Acosta (actually a nice guy). They didn’t!” Acosta had objected to Trump dismissing the news outlet as “fake news.”

In fact, CNN reported on the exchange of words and interviewed Acosta on air about what happened. Acosta also replied to Trump on Twitter.

“Takedown? I don’t think so. Perhaps we should even the playing field next time and you can take my question. (You’re right about one thing.. I am a nice guy),” Acosta said Saturday.

Trump’s repeated attacks on the news media while overseas — he also lashed out at NBC News and The Sun newspaper during Friday’s news conference — has alarmed free speech advocates, especially as Trump is set to hold a joint press availability Monday with Putin, whose country is known for being deeply hostile to a free press.

White House Correspondents’ Association President Margaret Talev said in a statement that “saying a news organization isn’t real doesn’t change the facts and won’t stop us from doing our jobs.”

Trump’s decision to stay yet again at a property he owns — and has repeatedly advertised during the trip — caught the attention of ethics experts, who say Trump should not profit off the presidency.

Here is video from Trump’s 2016 visit to Scotland, before he was U.S. president:

Father of bullying victim Rehtaeh Parsons calls Ford’s sex-ed repeal ‘infuriating’

The father of a girl who died after a suicide attempt that followed months of bullying and an alleged sexual assault says the Ontario government’s decision to repeal the province’s sex education curriculum will put more teens in danger.

On Wednesday, the newly elected Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford announced the sex-ed curriculum to be taught to children in the coming school year will be an older version — not the controversial updated program brought in by the previous government.

The curriculum will revert back to the version taught in 1998, excluding recently added topics such as same-sex marriage, masturbation, online bullying and sexting.

“It’s infuriating to see them do this,” Glen Canning told CBC Radio’s The House on Friday, adding that teaching consent in schools might have made all the difference for his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons.

In November 2011, the Nova Scotia teen attended a party where she said she was sexually assaulted.

An explicit photo was taken during the incident — one that would be spread among the kids at her school and lead to months of online bullying.

Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh was taken off life support in April 2013 after attempting suicide.

Canning said he believes that if Ontario’s modernized — and soon to be replaced — sex-ed curriculum had been in place in Nova Scotia at the time, his daughter might still be alive.

“I think I’d still have my daughter with me right now.”

Education and prevention

Canning said repealing the curriculum means children and teens in Ontario won’t learn about topics that can help them feel safer in school — like consent, LGBT issues and sexual violence.

He accused Ford of scrapping the curriculum to appease his party’s socially conservative voters.

Ford’s new education minister, Lisa Thompson, said the government is planning to consult with parents on a new curriculum to replace the one adopted in 2015.

But Canning said too many parents are failing to teach their kids the facts about sex, sexual exploitation and bullying now. If schools and parents fail to address these topics properly, he said, more teens will suffer the way his daughter did.

“What happened to my daughter was preventable … it was preventable with a good sex education program.”