Debt and coronavirus push Hertz into bankruptcy protection

Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection Friday, unable to withstand the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled global travel and with it, the heavily indebted 102-year-old car rental company's business.

The Estero, Florida-based company's lenders were unwilling to grant it another extension on its auto lease debt payments past a Friday deadline, triggering the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Hertz and its subsidiaries will continue to operate, according to a release from the company. Hertz's principal international operating regions and franchised locations are not included in the filing, the statement said.

By the end of March, Hertz Global Holdings Inc. had racked up more than $24 billion in debt, according to the bankruptcy filing, with only $1 billion of available cash.

Starting in mid-March, the company — whose car-rental bands also include Dollar and Thrifty — lost all revenue when travel shut down due to the coronavirus. The company made “significant efforts” but couldn’t raise money on the capital markets, so it started missing payments to creditors in April, the filing said. Hertz has also been plagued by management upheaval, naming its fourth CEO in six years on May 18.

“No business is built for zero revenue,” former CEO Kathryn Marinello said on the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call May 12. “There’s only so long that companies’ reserves will carry them.”

In late March, Hertz shed 12,000 workers and put another 4,000 on furlough, cut vehicle acquisitions by 90% and stopped all nonessential spending. The company said the moves would save $2.5 billion per year.

But the cuts came too late to save Hertz, the nation’s No. 2 auto rental company founded in 1918 by Walter L. Jacobs, who started in Chicago with a fleet of a dozen Ford Model Ts. Jacobs sold the company, initially called Rent-A-Car Inc., to John D. Hertz in 1923.

In a note to investors in late April, Jefferies analyst Hamzah Mazari predicted that rival Avis would survive the coronavirus crisis but Hertz had only a 50-50 chance “given it was slower to cut costs.”

On May 18, Hertz named operations chief Paul Stone as CEO and announced that Marinello would step down as CEO and from the company’s board. Mazari called the step unusual just days before a potential bankruptcy filing. He also noted that CEO changes have been common at Hertz since financier Carl Icahn entered the company in 2014.

Icahn’s holding company is Hertz’s largest shareholder, with a 38.9% stake in the company, according to FactSet.

Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Woronka credited Marinello with reigniting Hertz's revenue growth, writing in a note to investors that it rose 16% in 2018 and 2019 combined.

Hertz’s bankruptcy protection filing was hardly a surprise. In its first-quarter report filed earlier in May with securities regulators, the company said it may not be able to repay or refinance debt and may not have enough cash to keep operating.

“Management has concluded there is substantial doubt regarding the company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year from the issuance date of this quarterly report,” it said.

Under a Chapter 11 restructuring, creditors will have to settle for less than full repayment. Its biggest creditors are banks, but the filing lists IBM, Lyft, United and Southwest Airlines as others owed between $6 million and $23 million each.

Hertz isn't the first struggling company to be pushed into bankruptcy by the coronavirus crisis. The company joins department store chain J.C. Penney, as well as Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and Stage Stores.

___

Krisher reported from Detroit.

Tom Krisher, The Associated Press

  • Elizabeth May Wants Canada To Accept U.S. Asylum Seekers Now That Country ‘No Longer Safe’
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    HuffPost Canada

    Elizabeth May Wants Canada To Accept U.S. Asylum Seekers Now That Country ‘No Longer Safe’

    NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is also calling on Trudeau to denounce the U.S. president’s actions.

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    EU, China postpone September summit due to pandemic

    The European Union and China have agreed to postpone a summit planned for this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, German officials said Wednesday. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping and later with European Council President Charles Michel to discuss the Sept. 14 meeting, due to be held in the German city of Leipzig and seen as a key moment in EU relations with China. The European Union has tried to position itself as a mediator between China and the United States.

  • Son who lost both parents to COVID-19 joins class action suit against Quebec nursing homes
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    CBC

    Son who lost both parents to COVID-19 joins class action suit against Quebec nursing homes

    Ian Peres said he didn't know what to do when his father told him he'd been left alone in his room for two days, in a dirty diaper, with no food or water, after being tested for COVID-19 in April."It was one of the scariest moments of my life," said Peres, who lives in Toronto.He'd never heard his father so upset. The normally calm 86-year-old was so rattled, Peres and his brothers were worried he was going to have a heart attack."He was completely unravelled, insisting he wanted to be euthanized, and for Mommy to be euthanized," said Peres. "He kept saying he didn't want to live like this."Peres's father, Frank, and his 84-year-old mother, Doris, lived at Centre d'Hébergement de Lachine. With families barred from visiting, neither Ian Peres nor his two brothers, who live in Montreal, could go to the long-term care home to console their father and to find out what was going on."It was hell," said Peres.No chance to say goodbyeFrank Peres's COVID test came back negative.But Doris tested positive. She died on April 23.Their rooms were just the length of the corridor apart, but isolated from one another since the start of the pandemic, Frank never got the chance to see his wife of nearly 60 years and say goodbye."He cried bitterly when she died," said Peres.Ian and his brothers discussed pulling their dad out of the care home immediately, but they were worried he would lose his spot if they later brought him back to the institution.Frank Peres tested negative four times before his — and his children's — worst fear came true in mid-May."When he was diagnosed, he had absolute fear in his eyes," said Ian Peres.He still can't believe his father became infected after being isolated in his room for two months. He questions the safety protocols the nursing home had in place and doesn't understand why front-line workers continued to move from home to home."Someone brought the infection into his room," he said.Six days after the positive test result, Frank Peres died at the Jewish General Hospital.His family has signed on to a class action lawsuit against Quebec's network of public long-term care homes, known by their French initials as CHSLDs, to shine a light on how badly they feel the system is failing seniors.Suit amended to include COVID-19 victimsLawyer Philippe Larochelle said the Peres family is looking for accountability for what happened to their parents and so many others in their situation.Nearly two-thirds of the 4,713 Quebecers who have died from complications of COVID-19 were residents of long-term care homes.Larochelle believes the high rate of infection and deaths from COVID-19 in those CHSLDs are a direct result of the conditions that were in place before the pandemic."I think it's coming to light in a more vivid way now with the COVID crisis," said Larochelle.The $500-million class action lawsuit filed by Larochelle's firm, authorized last fall, contends the living conditions at CHSLDs are unacceptable, with poor food, low standards of hygiene, a lack of quality care and poor building maintenance.In May, after the advent of the pandemic, the lawsuit was amended, with a request to add compensation for damages suffered due to COVID-19 outbreaks.If it is authorized, the amendment will include three new subgroups: any resident who lived in a CHSLD with at least one positive COVID-19 case, any resident who contracted the virus, and the relatives or heirs of any resident who died from complications of the coronavirus.Shortcomings before the pandemicPeres said his family is not looking for a financial windfall, but he hopes the lawsuit will lead to much-needed reform.Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Peres said the Lachine home struggled with staffing shortages, especially on weekends.He said on average, there was one patient attendant for every 30 residents, many of whom required significant care."My father would regularly complain about new nurses, virtually every single day," said Peres. "How can one have a baseline for patient care if you don't even understand who they are?"Peres and his family often witnessed his parents' calls for assistance go unanswered, sometimes for hours, due to chronic short-staffing.At the time that Doris Peres was admitted to the Lachine facility, in April 2018, she was still able to walk with the help of a walker, to get in and out of bed by herself and use the washroom, her son says.But within six months, she was in diapers and had gained 25 pounds, which Peres blames on a lack of exercise and physiotherapy, and a poor diet."Within 12 months, she was bedridden and paralyzed with fear about moving," said Peres.Her immobility and the lack of stimulation seriously affected her quality of life."She couldn't get up by herself. She had to be hoisted in the wheelchair. She was wheeled to the front of the elevators, and she was left there the entire day facing the wall," said Peres. "That was her last six months."If she wanted to have a bowel movement, she was forced to go to the bathroom at a prescribed time each day — 4 p.m. If she couldn't wait, she had to go in her diaper.Peres said the wait caused her to suffer from heart palpitations, sweats and severe cramping. If she did soil herself, Peres said, it would take orderlies a long time to get around to changing her, leading to frequent urinary tract infections.During her final days, Peres said, his mother was not able to drink water due to her falling oxygen saturation levels.She was put on oxygen, but she was severely dehydrated.When Peres asked about hydration, he was stunned to learn the institution was not equipped to put her on an intravenous drip."It was almost five days my mother did not have one drop of water before she passed. I can only imagine she suffered some massive organ failure as a result," said Peres.Poorly equipped to handle crisisWhen the pandemic hit, Peres said, his family was not able to get any information from the Lachine home about whether it was secluding COVID-positive residents. The staff were equally tight-lipped about how many people were infected or who had died, he said."My dad told us there were several people infected on his wing," said Peres.According to the lawsuit, by May 1, 65 residents of Centre d'Hébergement de Lachine were infected. That is more than one-third of the institution's residents.Peres believes the province failed to provide long-term care homes with adequate protective gear, enough staffing, proper training or protocols to reduce viral transmission.He said every Canadian should be concerned about what seniors were subjected to in these homes."In 10, 20, 30 years, this is us," he said.Neither the Quebec Ministry of Health nor the regional health agency for the West Island, which operates the Lachine centre, would comment on the Peres family's case, due to the class action lawsuit.Peres believes his parents deserved to be in a place that valued their quality of life. He's convinced his father, who had no major underlying health issues, would have lived another five or 10 years had he not contracted COVID-19."When we did our due diligence, this particular institution had better reviews in terms of care, he says. "But if this was better, we just dread what the other institutions were like that we did not select."

  • Moe says vandalism of war memorial 'disgraceful' ahead of anti-racism rally
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    Moe says vandalism of war memorial 'disgraceful' ahead of anti-racism rally

    Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe calls 'Justice For Floyd' scrawled on war memorial 'outrageous' vandalism. He also praised hundreds who peacefully protested in front of the legislature.

  • Doctor linked to Campbellton COVID-19 outbreak was planning to leave his practice
    Health
    CBC

    Doctor linked to Campbellton COVID-19 outbreak was planning to leave his practice

    The doctor at the centre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Campbellton region was planning to leave his practice before the outbreak started, according to the head of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.Dr. Jean Robert Ngola had tendered his resignation to the Campbellton Regional Hospital, effective Aug. 1, said Dr. Ed Schollenberg, the registrar of the provincial licensing body for doctors.It was dated May 19, said Schollenberg, who was copied on a May 21 letter from the hospital, accepting Ngola's resignation.The first case in the COVID-19 cluster was publicly reported on May 21. Before then, it had been two weeks since the province had an active case of the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.There are now 15 people infected, including two new cases announced Wednesday, someone in their 40s and someone in their 60s.One case is linked to a close contact of "a previously identified case," Public Health said in a news release, and the other one is linked to the Manoir de la Vallée, a long-term care facility in Atholville, where five elderly patients in an Alzheimer's unit and a personal support worker previously tested positive.A Quebec resident has also tested positive and is linked to the Manoir, but this case will be counted in Quebec's statistics.Five people remain in hospital, including one in intensive care.Schollenberg doesn't know what Ngola's plans were after roughly seven years of practising in Campbellton. But a doctor who gives up their hospital privileges can no longer practise in the province, he said.Nine days after giving his notice, Ngola, who is also known as Ngola Monzinga and as Jean Robert Ngola Monzinga, was suspended by the Vitalité Health Network. The province has since asked the RCMP to investigate a trip he took to Quebec and his failure to self-isolate to determine whether charges are warranted.Ngola, in his first media interview since the outbreak started, told Radio-Canada's program La Matinale on Tuesday he's not sure whether he picked up the coronavirus during the trip to Quebec or from a patient in his office.He made an overnight return trip to Quebec to pick up his four-year-old daughter because her mother had to travel to Africa for her own father's funeral, he said.> Maybe it was an error in judgment. Who hasn't made an error in judgment? \- Jean Robert NgolaHe drove straight there and back with no stops and had no contact with anyone, he said, and none of his family members had any COVID-19 symptoms at the time.He did not self-isolate upon returning, he said. He went to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital the next day."Maybe it was an error in judgment," said Ngola, pointing out that workers, including nurses who live in Quebec, cross the border each day with no 14-day isolation period required."Who hasn't made an error in judgment?" he said.Ngola said he decided to speak out because he's become the target of racist verbal attacks daily and false reports to police, and he feels abandoned by Public Health officials.Emailing every day but no complaintSchollenberg said he was advised by Vitalité of Ngola's suspension the same day it took effect but was not given any information about the reason."It wasn't until it became widely know that we found out what this was related to," he said. "I know what I know from the media."Although Schollenberg has received "a few [emails] every day since all of this started" from citizens calling on the college to suspend Ngola, he said he can't practise anywhere in the province while he's suspended by Vitalité.The college can't launch an investigation without a formal complaint, said Schollenberg. Usually, it's a patient who files such a complaint."That still might happen, I don't know. It's perfectly open for somebody, if they think he was the source of their infection, they could complain to us."But the college would have limited access to information from the hospital, he said.The college could also generate its own complaint, said Schollenberg. "But on the other hand, if you're going to complain, you've got to have some facts. And the only information I have is either the stuff that's on social media or the stuff that's been reported."Twelve of the province's 15 cases have been linked to the travel-related case to date, Public Health officials have said. One case remains under investigation.The policy for any health-care workers who travel outside the province for any reason is to self-isolate for 14 days, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, has said. "It is mandatory."Ngola did not say during Tuesday's interview what he told officials at the New Brunswick border about his reason for travel, or what they told him about requirements to self-isolate upon entering the province.Nor did he indicate what, if any, followup he had from border officials.CBC News has been unable to reach him to clarify. His voice mailbox is full.On Tuesday, he said he received a call from a Public Health official on May 25 informing him a patient he had seen on May 19 had tested positive for COVID-19.He cancelled his shift at the hospital that night and got a test for himself and his daughter, he said. Neither of them were showing symptoms, but they both tested positive.Campbellton ER to reopen FridayThe Campbellton Regional Hospital, which has been "basically shut down" since May 27 when a third case was confirmed, will gradually reopen, starting with the emergency department, the Vitalité Health Network announced on Wednesday.The ER is scheduled to reopen on Friday, but only between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m."We have sufficient nursing staff and physicians to partially reopen," president and CEO Gilles Lanteigne said in a statement.Whenever possible, Vitalité asks people to contact their family doctor, nurse practitioner or Tele- Care 811 before going to the emergency department, he said.The situation will be reassessed early next week."I want to reassure the public that all control measures are in place to ensure the safety of patients and staff in the emergency department and throughout the facility," said Lanteigne.Ambulatory care services and non-urgent, or elective, surgeries, remain suspended, but will also be reassessed early next week, he said.

  • Calgary Sikh community mourns after couple killed in robbery during trip to India
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    CBC

    Calgary Sikh community mourns after couple killed in robbery during trip to India

    A Calgary couple who were trying to get home after being stranded in India during the COVID-19 pandemic were found dead on the weekend, leaving family and friends in northeast Calgary in shock.Kirpal Minhas, 67, and his wife, Davinder Minhas, 65, were visiting Phagwara in the Punjab region of northern India, where they owned property. They'd been there since November.Family members say the couple were victims of a violent robbery at one of their properties on May 29. News coverage in India, including a report by The Times of India, suggest the two were stabbed and strangled.They were trying to get back to Calgary but flights had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic."They were catching up with family and checking up on properties that they owned there," said the couple's son-in-law Kam Rathore, who lives in Calgary."The family is devastated. We all are," said Rathore.He said adding to the pain is the family not being able to travel to India for the last rites and cremation due to pandemic travel restrictions still in place.Suspects in custody"There's not closure. This is something we never expected," he said."They do have three suspects in custody. The motive was robbery, for cash and jewelry. That's what's been explained to us by authorities there," said Rathore.Rathore said one of those arrested was renting a portion of the couple's home, and the couple didn't know they were in danger."They never realized, not a slight chance. It never occurred to us or them that this could happen."The couple were permanent residents of Canada and had been living in Calgary since 2016. They had two daughters in Calgary, two sons living in the United States, and were well known and respected figures in Calgary's Sikh community."He was very nice, a very gentle, very religious guy. They took care of volunteer work and religious work, that's what they were doing right now," said Rathore."The community has been very kind and helpful, reaching out on a daily basis."Repatriation flights soughtBut COVID-19 is impacting well wishers, too, with messages of condolence coming online and via phone calls rather than in-person, as would usually happen.The volunteer group Bring Canadians Back Home says the deaths could have been prevented if there were more repatriation flights to bring back Canadians stranded in India.The couple were registered with the group and were waiting for a chance to fly home after eight flights due to bring them back in April were cancelled when the group's permit was revoked."The federal government could have supported us. We had permission for eight flights. We started booking and then the flights were cancelled. We asked the government to support us, but we got no support," said Gina Takhar.Takhar said in some cases NRIs, or Non-Resident Indians, are being ostracized and blamed by locals in places like Punjab for bringing COVID-19 to India with them. That sentiment can even lead to visitors becoming the victims of threats and violence, she said, while others have health-care issues and face different outcomes in India than in Canada.She said she has a list of thousands of individuals and families still stuck in Mumbai, south India, and the state of Punjab.Takhar said she received an email from the Canadian High Commission this week saying there are now two Canadian-assisted repatriation flights scheduled to leave Delhi, on June 12 and 15, to bring Canadian citizens and permanent residents home.

  • Trump administration moves to block Chinese airlines from US
    Business
    The Canadian Press

    Trump administration moves to block Chinese airlines from US

    The Trump administration moved Wednesday to block Chinese airlines from flying to the U.S. in an escalation of trade and diplomatic tensions between the two countries.The Transportation Department said it would suspend passenger flights of four Chinese airlines to and from the United States starting June 16.The decision was in response to China's failure to let United Airlines and Delta Air Lines resume flights to China this month. The airlines suspended those flights earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic that started in China's Wuhan province.The Transportation Department said that China was violating a 1980 agreement between the two countries covering flights by each other's airlines. The department said it would continue talking with Chinese officials to settle the dispute.“In the meantime, we will allow Chinese carriers to operate the same number of scheduled passenger flights as the Chinese government allows ours," the Transportation Department said in a statement.The department said President Donald Trump could put the order into effect before June 16. The administration had hinted at Wednesday’s move last month, when it protested to Chinese authorities that Beijing was preventing U.S. airlines from competing fairly against Chinese carriers.The four airlines affected by the order are Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.Before the pandemic, there were about 325 passenger flights a week between the United States and China, including ones operated by United, Delta and American Airlines. While U.S. carriers stopped their flights, Chinese airlines continued to fly scaled-down schedules between the two countries — 20 flights a week in mid-February and 34 a week by mid-March.To curb the spread of coronavirus, China limited foreign airlines to one flight per week based on schedules that they operated in mid-March. Since U.S. airlines had already stopped flying to China by then, that effectively has shut them out, the Transportation Department said.The department said it objected, but that China’s aviation agency said last week it was not violating the air-travel treaty because the same one-flight limit applies to Chinese airlines.United and Delta announced last month that they hoped to resume flights to China in June, as air travel has begun to recover recently. United wants to fly from San Francisco to Shanghai and Beijing and from Newark, New Jersey, to Shanghai. Delta seeks to resume flights via Seoul to Shanghai from Seattle and Detroit.“We support and appreciate the U.S. government’s actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness," Delta spokeswoman Lisa Hanna said.United Airlines spokesman Frank Benenati said, “We look forward to resuming passenger service between the United States and China when the regulatory environment allows us to do so."Messages to a spokesperson in China's embassy in Washington were not immediately returned, and efforts to reach the person by phone were unsuccessful.Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University, said the back and forth will increase political tensions between the U.S. and China, “which already seem to have passed a point of no return.”But Jeff Moon, a former State Department official and now a trade consultant, said the airline dispute was less complicated than other conflicts between the two countries.“This case can be resolved if cooler heads prevail ... and there is a genuine desire to restore air links,” he said.As the administration moved against the airlines, it also stepped up its criticism of China on the 31st anniversary of the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted out a photograph of him meeting Tuesday with several survivors of the crackdown. Shortly after that, the State Department released a statement saying Pompeo was honoured to meet the four dissidents, whom it called “brave participants in the heroic protests for democracy that were brutally put down by the Chinese Communist Party on June 4, 1989.”Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded, taking aim at the U.S. over civil unrest over police killings of blacks. The protests “once again reflect the racial discrimination in the U.S., the serious problems of police violent enforcement and the urgency of solving these problems,” Zhao said.___Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.David Koenig, The Associated Press

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    The Canadian Press

    Siakam: Moving from Cameroon to becoming a minority in the U.S. was a 'shock'

    Pascal Siakam feels the suspicious eyes on him when he walks into upscale shops. The Toronto Raptors forward said in his 10 years since moving from Cameroon, he's come to expect the racial profiling he experiences living as a black man living in the United States.

  • China delayed releasing coronavirus info, frustrating WHO
    Health
    The Canadian Press

    China delayed releasing coronavirus info, frustrating WHO

    Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus. It repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately,” and said its work and commitment to transparency were “very impressive, and beyond words.”But behind the scenes, it was a much different story, one of significant delays by China and considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus, The Associated Press has found.Despite the plaudits, China in fact sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information. Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents.Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on Jan. 11. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on providing WHO with detailed data on patients and cases, according to recordings of internal meetings held by the U.N. health agency through January — all at a time when the outbreak arguably might have been dramatically slowed.WHO officials were lauding China in public because they wanted to coax more information out of the government, the recordings obtained by the AP suggest. Privately, they complained in meetings the week of Jan. 6 that China was not sharing enough data to assess how effectively the virus spread between people or what risk it posed to the rest of the world, costing valuable time.“We’re going on very minimal information,” said American epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, now WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, in one internal meeting. “It’s clearly not enough for you to do proper planning.”“We’re currently at the stage where yes, they’re giving it to us 15 minutes before it appears on CCTV,” said WHO’s top official in China, Dr. Gauden Galea, referring to the state-owned China Central Television, in another meeting.The story behind the early response to the virus comes at a time when the U.N. health agency is under siege, and has agreed to an independent probe of how the pandemic was handled globally. After repeatedly praising the Chinese response early on, U.S. President Donald Trump has blasted WHO in recent weeks for allegedly colluding with China to hide the extent of the coronavirus crisis. He cut ties with the organization on Friday, jeopardizing the approximately $450 million the U.S. gives every year as WHO’s biggest single donor.In the meantime, Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to pitch in $2 billion over the next two years to fight the coronavirus, saying China has always provided information to WHO and the world “in a most timely fashion.”The new information does not support the narrative of either the U.S. or China, but instead portrays an agency now stuck in the middle that was urgently trying to solicit more data despite limited authority. Although international law obliges countries to report information to WHO that could have an impact on public health, the U.N. agency has no enforcement powers and cannot independently investigate epidemics within countries. Instead, it must rely on the co-operation of member states.The recordings suggest that rather than colluding with China, as Trump declared, WHO was itself kept in the dark as China gave it the minimal information required by law. However, the agency did try to portray China in the best light, likely as a means to secure more information. And WHO experts genuinely thought Chinese scientists had done “a very good job” in detecting and decoding the virus, despite the lack of transparency from Chinese officials.WHO staffers debated how to press China for gene sequences and detailed patient data without angering authorities, worried about losing access and getting Chinese scientists into trouble. Under international law, WHO is required to quickly share information and alerts with member countries about an evolving crisis. Galea noted WHO could not indulge China's wish to sign off on information before telling other countries because “that is not respectful of our responsibilities.”In the second week of January, WHO’s chief of emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan, told colleagues it was time to “shift gears” and apply more pressure on China, fearing a repeat of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that started in China in 2002 and killed nearly 800 people worldwide.“This is exactly the same scenario, endlessly trying to get updates from China about what was going on,” he said. “WHO barely got out of that one with its neck intact given the issues that arose around transparency in southern China.”Ryan said the best way to “protect China” from possible action by other countries was for WHO to do its own independent analysis with data from the Chinese government on whether the virus could easily spread between people. Ryan also noted that China was not co-operating in the same way some other countries had in the past.“This would not happen in Congo and did not happen in Congo and other places,” he said, probably referring to the Ebola outbreak that began there in 2018. “We need to see the data…..It’s absolutely important at this point.”The delay in the release of the genome stalled the recognition of its spread to other countries, along with the global development of tests, drugs and vaccines. The lack of detailed patient data also made it harder to determine how quickly the virus was spreading — a critical question in stopping it.Between the day the full genome was first decoded by a government lab on Jan. 2 and the day WHO declared a global emergency on Jan. 30, the outbreak spread by a factor of 100 to 200 times, according to retrospective infection data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus has now infected over 6 million people worldwide and killed more than 375,000.“It’s obvious that we could have saved more lives and avoided many, many deaths if China and the WHO had acted faster,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.However, Mokdad and other experts also noted that if WHO had been more confrontational with China, it could have triggered a far worse situation of not getting any information at all.If WHO had pushed too hard, it could even have been kicked out of China, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, a global health professor at the University of Sydney. But he added that a delay of just a few days in releasing genetic sequences can be critical in an outbreak. And he noted that as Beijing’s lack of transparency becomes even clearer, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s continued defence of China is problematic.“It’s definitely damaged WHO’s credibility,” said Kamradt-Scott. “Did he go too far? I think the evidence on that is clear….it has led to so many questions about the relationship between China and WHO. It is perhaps a cautionary tale.”WHO and its officials named in this story declined to answer questions asked by The Associated Press without audio or written transcripts of the recorded meetings, which the AP was unable to supply to protect its sources.“Our leadership and staff have worked night and day in compliance with the organization’s rules and regulations to support and share information with all Member States equally, and engage in frank and forthright conversations with governments at all levels,” a WHO statement said.China’s National Health Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no comment. But in the past few months, China has repeatedly defended its actions, and many other countries — including the U.S. — have responded to the virus with even longer delays of weeks and even months.“Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have been continuously sharing information on the epidemic with the WHO and the international community in an open, transparent and responsible manner,” said Liu Mingzhu, an official with the National Health Commission’s International Department, at a press conference on May 15.___________The race to find the genetic map of the virus started in late December, according to the story that unfolds in interviews, documents and the WHO recordings. That’s when doctors in Wuhan noticed mysterious clusters of patients with fevers and breathing problems who weren’t improving with standard flu treatment. Seeking answers, they sent test samples from patients to commercial labs.By Dec. 27, one lab, Vision Medicals, had pieced together most of the genome of a new coronavirus with striking similarities to SARS. Vision Medicals shared its data with Wuhan officials and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, as reported first by Chinese finance publication Caixin and independently confirmed by the AP.On Dec. 30, Wuhan health officials issued internal notices warning of the unusual pneumonia, which leaked on social media. That evening, Shi Zhengli, a coronavirus expert at the Wuhan Institute of Virology who is famous for having traced the SARS virus to a bat cave, was alerted to the new disease, according to an interview with Scientific American. Shi took the first train from a conference in Shanghai back to Wuhan.The next day, Chinese CDC director Gao Fu dispatched a team of experts to Wuhan. Also on Dec. 31, WHO first learned about the cases from an open-source platform that scouts for intelligence on outbreaks, emergencies chief Ryan has said.WHO officially requested more information on Jan. 1. Under international law, members have 24 to 48 hours to respond, and China reported two days later that there were 44 cases and no deaths.By Jan. 2, Shi had decoded the entire genome of the virus, according to a notice later posted on her institute’s website.Scientists agree that Chinese scientists detected and sequenced the then-unknown pathogen with astonishing speed, in a testimony to China’s vastly improved technical capabilities since SARS, during which a WHO-led group of scientists took months to identify the virus. This time, Chinese virologists proved within days that it was a never-before-seen coronavirus. Tedros would later say Beijing set “a new standard for outbreak response.”But when it came to sharing the information with the world, things began to go awry.On Jan. 3, the National Health Commission issued a confidential notice ordering labs with the virus to either destroy their samples or send them to designated institutes for safekeeping. The notice, first reported by Caixin and seen by the AP, forbade labs from publishing about the virus without government authorization. The order barred Shi’s lab from publishing the genetic sequence or warning of the potential danger.Chinese law states that research institutes cannot conduct experiments on potentially dangerous new viruses without approval from top health authorities. Although the law is intended to keep experiments safe, it gives top health officials wide-ranging powers over what lower-level labs can or cannot do.“If the virologist community had operated with more autonomy….the public would have been informed of the lethal risk of the new virus much earlier,” said Edward Gu, a professor at Zhejiang University, and Li Lantian, a PhD student at Northwestern University, in a paper published in March analyzing the outbreak.Commission officials later repeated that they were trying to ensure lab safety, and had tasked four separate government labs with identifying the genome at the same time to get accurate, consistent results.By Jan. 3, the Chinese CDC had independently sequenced the virus, according to internal data seen by the Associated Press. And by just after midnight on Jan. 5, a third designated government lab, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, had decoded the sequence and submitted a report — pulling all-nighters to get results in record time, according to a state media interview.Yet even with full sequences decoded by three state labs independently, Chinese health officials remained silent. The WHO reported on Twitter that investigations were under way into an unusual cluster of pneumonia cases with no deaths in Wuhan, and said it would share “more details as we have them.”Meanwhile, at the Chinese CDC, gaps in coronavirus expertise proved a problem.For nearly two weeks, Wuhan reported no new infections, as officials censored doctors who warned of suspicious cases. Meanwhile, researchers found the new coronavirus used a distinct spike protein to bind itself to human cells. The unusual protein and the lack of new cases lulled some Chinese CDC researchers into thinking the virus didn’t easily spread between humans — like the coronavirus that casues Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, according to an employee who declined to be identified out of fear of retribution.Li Yize, a coronavirus researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said he immediately suspected the pathogen was infectious when he spotted a leaked copy of a sequencing report in a group chat on a SARS-like coronavirus. But the Chinese CDC team working on the genetic sequence lacked molecular specialists and failed to consult with outside scientists, Li said. Chinese health authorities rebuffed offers of assistance from foreign experts, including Hong Kong scientists barred from a fact-finding mission to Wuhan and an American professor at a university in China.On Jan. 5, the Shanghai Public Clinical Health Center, led by famed virologist Zhang Yongzhen, was the latest to sequence the virus. He submitted it to the GenBank database, where it sat awaiting review, and notified the National Health Commission. He warned them that the new virus was similar to SARS and likely infectious.“It should be contagious through respiratory passages,” the centre said in an internal notice seen by the AP. “We recommend taking preventative measures in public areas.”On the same day, WHO said that based on preliminary information from China, there was no evidence of significant transmission between humans, and did not recommend any specific measures for travellers.The next day, the Chinese CDC raised its emergency level to the second highest. Staffers proceeded to isolate the virus, draft lab testing guidelines, and design test kits. But the agency did not have the authority to issue public warnings, and the heightened emergency level was kept secret even from many of its own staff.By Jan. 7, another team at Wuhan University had sequenced the pathogen and found it matched Shi’s, making Shi certain they had identified a novel coronavirus. But Chinese CDC experts said they didn’t trust Shi’s findings and needed to verify her data before she could publish, according to three people familiar with the matter. Both the National Health Commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology, which oversees Shi’s lab, declined to make Shi available for an interview.A major factor behind the gag order, some say, was that Chinese CDC researchers wanted to publish their papers first. “They wanted to take all the credit,” said Li, the coronavirus expert.Internally, the leadership of the Chinese CDC is plagued with fierce competition, six people familiar with the system explained. They said the agency has long promoted staff based on how many papers they can publish in prestigious journals, making scientists reluctant to share data.As the days went by, even some of the Chinese CDC's own staff began to wonder why it was taking so long for authorities to identify the pathogen.“We were getting suspicious, since within one or two days you would get a sequencing result,” a lab technician said, declining to be identified for fear of retribution.___________On Jan. 8, the Wall Street Journal reported that scientists had identified a new coronavirus in samples from pneumonia patients in Wuhan, pre-empting and embarrassing Chinese officials. The lab technician told the AP they first learned about the discovery of the virus from the Journal.The article also embarrassed WHO officials. Dr. Tom Grein, chief of WHO's acute events management team, said the agency looked “doubly, incredibly stupid.” Van Kerkhove, the American expert, acknowledged WHO was “already late” in announcing the new virus and told colleagues that it was critical to push China.Ryan, WHO’s chief of emergencies, was also upset at the dearth of information.“The fact is, we’re two to three weeks into an event, we don’t have a laboratory diagnosis, we don’t have an age, sex or geographic distribution, we don’t have an epi curve,” he complained, referring to the standard graphic of outbreaks scientists use to show how an epidemic is progressing.After the article, state media officially announced the discovery of the new coronavirus. But even then, Chinese health authorities did not release the genome, diagnostic tests, or detailed patient data that could hint at how infectious the disease was.By that time, suspicious cases were already appearing across the region.On Jan. 8, Thai airport officers pulled aside a woman from Wuhan with a runny nose, sore throat, and high temperature. Chulalongkorn University professor Supaporn Wacharapluesadee’s team found the woman was infected with a new coronavirus, much like what Chinese officials had described. Supaporn partially figured out the genetic sequence by Jan. 9, reported it to the Thai government and spent the next day searching for matching sequences.But because Chinese authorities hadn’t published any sequences, she found nothing. She could not prove the Thai virus was the same one sickening people in Wuhan.“It was kind of wait and see, when China will release the data, then we can compare,” said Supaporn.On Jan. 9, a 61-year-old man with the virus passed away in Wuhan — the first known death. The death wasn’t made public until Jan. 11.WHO officials complained in internal meetings that they were making repeated requests for more data, especially to find out if the virus could spread efficiently between humans, but to no avail.“We have informally and formally been requesting more epidemiological information,” WHO's China representative Galea said. “But when asked for specifics, we could get nothing.”Emergencies chief Ryan grumbled that since China was providing the minimal information required by international law, there was little WHO could do. But he also noted that last September, WHO had issued an unusual public rebuke of Tanzania for not providing enough details about a worrisome Ebola outbreak.“We have to be consistent,” Ryan said. “The danger now is that despite our good intent...especially if something does happen, there will be a lot of finger-pointing at WHO.”Ryan noted that China could make a “huge contribution” to the world by sharing the genetic material immediately, because otherwise “other countries will have to reinvent the wheel over the coming days.”On Jan. 11, a team led by Zhang, from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, finally published a sequence on virological.org, used by researchers to swap tips on pathogens. The move angered Chinese CDC officials, three people familiar with the matter said, and the next day, his laboratory was temporarily shuttered by health authorities.Zhang referred a request for comment to the Chinese CDC. The National Health Commission, which oversees the Chinese CDC, declined multiple times to make its officials available for interviews and did not answer questions about Zhang.Supaporn compared her sequence with Zhang’s and found it was a 100% match, confirming that the Thai patient was ill with the same virus detected in Wuhan. Another Thai lab got the same results. That day, Thailand informed the WHO, said Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control at Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health.After Zhang released the genome, the Chinese CDC, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences raced to publish their sequences, working overnight to review them, gather patient data, and send them to the National Health Commission for approval, according to documentation obtained by the AP. On Jan. 12, the three labs together finally published the sequences on GISAID, a platform for scientists to share genomic data.By then, more than two weeks had passed since Vision Medicals decoded a partial sequence, and more than a week since the three government labs had all obtained full sequences. Around 600 people were infected in that week, a roughly three-fold increase.Some scientists say the wait was not unreasonable considering the difficulties in sequencing unknown pathogens, given accuracy is as important as speed. They point to the SARS outbreak in 2003 when some Chinese scientists initially — and wrongly — believed the source of the epidemic was chlamydia.“The pressure is intense in an outbreak to make sure you’re right,” said Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealthAlliance in New York. “It’s actually worse to go out to go to the public with a story that’s wrong because the public completely lose confidence in the public health response.”Still, others quietly question what happened behind the scenes.Infectious diseases expert John Mackenzie, who served on a WHO emergency committee during the outbreak, praised the speed of Chinese researchers in sequencing the virus. But he said once central authorities got involved, detailed data trickled to a crawl.“There certainly was a kind of blank period,” Mackenzie said. “There had to be human to human transmission. You know, it’s staring at you in the face… I would have thought they would have been much more open at that stage.”_________________On Jan. 13, WHO announced that Thailand had a confirmed case of the virus, jolting Chinese officials.The next day, in a confidential teleconference, China’s top health official ordered the country to prepare for a pandemic, calling the outbreak the “most severe challenge since SARS in 2003”, as the AP previously reported. Chinese CDC staff across the country began screening, isolating, and testing for cases, turning up hundreds across the country.Yet even as the Chinese CDC internally declared a level one emergency, the highest level possible, Chinese officials still said the chance of sustained transmission between humans was low.WHO went back and forth. Van Kerkhove said in a press briefing that “it is certainly possible there is limited human-to-human transmission.” But hours later, WHO seemed to backtrack, and tweeted that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” – a statement that later became fodder for critics.A high-ranking official in WHO’s Asia office, Dr. Liu Yunguo, who attended medical school in Wuhan, flew to Beijing to make direct, informal contacts with Chinese officials, recordings show. Liu’s former classmate, a Wuhan doctor, had alerted him that pneumonia patients were flooding the city’s hospitals, and Liu pushed for more experts to visit Wuhan, according to a public health expert familiar with the matter.On Jan. 20, the leader of an expert team returning from Wuhan, renowned government infectious diseases doctor Zhong Nanshan, declared publicly for the first time that the new virus was spreading between people. Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the “timely publication of epidemic information and deepening of international co-operation.”Despite that directive, WHO staff still struggled to obtain enough detailed patient data from China about the rapidly evolving outbreak. That same day, the U.N. health agency dispatched a small team to Wuhan for two days, including Galea, the WHO representative in China.They were told about a worrying cluster of cases among more than a dozen doctors and nurses. But they did not have “transmission trees” detailing how the cases were connected, nor a full understanding of how widely the virus was spreading and who was at risk.In an internal meeting, Galea said their Chinese counterparts were “talking openly and consistently” about human-to-human transmission, and that there was a debate about whether or not this was sustained. Galea reported to colleagues in Geneva and Manila that China’s key request to WHO was for help “in communicating this to the public, without causing panic.”On Jan. 22, WHO convened an independent committee to determine whether to declare a global health emergency. After two inconclusive meetings where experts were split, they decided against it — even as Chinese officials ordered Wuhan sealed in the biggest quarantine in history. The next day, WHO chief Tedros publicly described the spread of the new coronavirus in China as “limited.”For days, China didn’t release much detailed data, even as its case count exploded. Beijing city officials were alarmed enough to consider locking down the capital, according to a medical expert with direct knowledge of the matter.On Jan. 28, Tedros and top experts, including Ryan, made an extraordinary trip to Beijing to meet President Xi and other senior Chinese officials. It is highly unusual for WHO’s director-general to directly intervene in the practicalities of outbreak investigations. Tedros’ staffers had prepared a list of requests for information.“It could all happen and the floodgates open, or there's no communication,” Grein said in an internal meeting while his boss was in Beijing. “We’ll see.”At the end of Tedros’ trip, WHO announced China had agreed to accept an international team of experts. In a press briefing on Jan. 29, Tedros heaped praise on China, calling its level of commitment “incredible.”The next day, WHO finally declared an international health emergency. Once again, Tedros thanked China, saying nothing about the earlier lack of co-operation.“We should have actually expressed our respect and gratitude to China for what it’s doing,” Tedros said. “It has already done incredible things to limit the transmission of the virus to other countries.”___Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.orgThe Associated Press

  • Couple allowed into the province, but their movers, belongings weren't
    News
    CBC

    Couple allowed into the province, but their movers, belongings weren't

    Sherry Reinhart and Tamara Alessi are spending their first days in New Brunswick in an empty house, with nothing but an air mattress, pet food, sandwich bread and water.The couple, their two dogs and a cat arrived in New Brunswick on May 29, moving into their Miramichi home from Hamilton, Ontario looking for a slower and safer pace, they said. They were expecting the moving truck with all their belongings to arrive Tuesday, but the truck and movers were turned away at the Quebec border."So we've lost all our stuff, it's going to be in Quebec somewhere," Reinhart said.The two say they've done everything they could to make sure they were allowed to enter the province and have the movers follow them. They called the 1-844 provincial COVID hotline, they asked what was required of them, and they drafted all the documents.When the two drove across the border, they checked with a border agent one last time: Can the moving van follow them? The answer was yes, they said.Instead, the moving truck driver and two movers, who had a letter outlining who hired them, with a proof of purchase and address, was turned away twice Tuesday."That there seems to be a real loss of delineation as to what's allowed and what is not," Alessi said. "There seems to be a lot of lack of communication or ability to communicate with people as to what the processes are."Alessi said the movers were going to unload the van and drive back to Ontario, without stopping anywhere in the province except for gas and washrooms if needed. And the two and their pets are planning to self-isolate for the required 14 days.She said it's possible the rules had changed between the time she made the call to the province, about 10 days ago, and Tuesday, but neither of them were told what the change was.The state of emergency declaration prompted by COVID-19 bans all "non-essential" inter-provincial travel into New Brunswick, giving provincial officers the power to turn people away.There are multiple exceptions, including one for people moving into the province, but the declaration does not have any specific rules around moving vans and movers. The declaration does allow "commercial vehicle drivers delivering goods," but it's not clear if movers fall under this category.The province has not responded to a request for comment or clarification by publication time.New Brunswick had a stretch of more than two weeks with no documented cases of COVID-19, allowing officials to ease some restrictions. But, now there's an outbreak of 13 cases in the Campbellton region, which officials have linked to one person travelling to Quebec and back without isolating.The province has not announced any border restriction changes because of this recent outbreak.'We need answers'The couple's realtor, Lori Matchett, who helped them find their new home, said she has been in contact with the local MLA to get answers and is passing on information to them."They have been on the phone all day," she said. "They've got a lot of 'I'll call you back'.""There's a lot of 'I don't know'."Matchett said the couple is her first out-of-province client, but they likely won't be the last."I think we need answers because this is not going away any time soon," she said."We're going to run into this again. So it would be nice to have a clear cut 'Ok this is what you need to do to not run into any issues.' Because their life is basically in the back of a truck right now."The couple said as of Tuesday afternoon, the movers were trying to find a storage unit where they can store their belongings until they can retrieve them.Alessi said every place they've tried is full, so their things might end up being stored as far away as Quebec City.The couple moved to New Brunswick because life here is affordable.Now they're worried about the extra expense of hiring other movers to retrieve their belongings.

  • Amy Grant has open heart surgery to fix heart condition
    Celebrity
    The Canadian Press

    Amy Grant has open heart surgery to fix heart condition

    NASHVILLE — A publicist for Amy Grant says the contemporary Christian singer had open heart surgery on Wednesday to fix a heart condition she has had since birth.Doctors discovered Grant had a heart condition called partial anomalous pulmonary venous return (PAPVR) during a routine checkup. Velvet Kelm, her publicist, said Grant's doctor said the surgery “couldn't have gone better.”Grant, who has been married to country singer Vince Gill for 20 years, is six-time Grammy winner with well known crossover pop hits like “Baby, Baby,” “Every Heartbeat” and “That's What Love is For." She's sold more than 30 million albums, including her 5-times platinum 1991 record “Heart in Motion,” that introduced her to a larger pop audience.Kristin M. Hall, The Associated Press

  • Taiwan calls on China to apologise for Tiananmen crackdown, Beijing cries 'nonsense'
    News
    Reuters

    Taiwan calls on China to apologise for Tiananmen crackdown, Beijing cries 'nonsense'

    Taiwan called on China on Wednesday to apologise for the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, a call dismissed as "nonsense" by China's foreign ministry. The government has never released a full death toll, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand. The government of democratically-ruled and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, in a statement on the anniversary's eve, said Beijing should face up to the people's expectations for freedom and democracy and begin political reform.

  • Death of reality TV show star in Japan spotlights cyber bullying
    News
    Reuters

    Death of reality TV show star in Japan spotlights cyber bullying

    The recent death of Hana Kimura, a bubbly, pink-haired 22-year-old wrestler and reality TV show star, has spotlighted a rise in cyber bullying in Japan and prompted swift official pledges to do more to protect victims. Kimura, a cast member on the popular program "Terrace House", was found dead at her home on May 23 from an apparent suicide after being deluged with negative comments on her social media feeds. Acutely aware of the public debate spurred by her death, Japan's ruling party is holding hearings from this week to consider legal changes that will help cyber bullying victims seek justice.

  • British PM Johnson tells China: We'll not walk away from Hong Kong people
    News
    Reuters

    British PM Johnson tells China: We'll not walk away from Hong Kong people

    The United Kingdom will not walk away from the people of Hong Kong if China imposes a national security law which conflicts with Beijing's international obligations under a 1984 accord, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday. "Hong Kong succeeds because its people are free," Johnson wrote in The Times. "If China proceeds, this would be in direct conflict with its obligations under the joint declaration, a legally binding treaty registered with the United Nations."

  • Yes, we're getting more extreme rainfall, and it's due to climate change, study confirms
    Science
    CBC

    Yes, we're getting more extreme rainfall, and it's due to climate change, study confirms

    Warmer temperatures due to climate change lead to wetter air, and we've seen more extreme rainfall and flooding across North America. But is there really evidence that the two are related?Yes, there is.A new study from researchers at Environment and Climate Change Canada found that climate change has made:  * Rainfall more extreme. * Storms with extreme rainfall more frequent."We're finding that in North America, we have seen an increase in the frequency and severity of heavy rainfall events. And this is largely due to global warming," said Megan Kirchmeier-Young, a research scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada and lead author of the study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Already, the resulting flooding has destroyed homes and belongings, leading to billions in damage. And the study projects it will get worse."And as we continue to see warming, we will continue to see increases in the frequency and severity of extreme rainfall," Kirchmeier-Young said. "And heavy rainfall is one of the major factors in flash flooding, particularly in urban areas."The study looked at the largest downpour of each year at sites across the U.S. and Canada and found the amount of rain for that event increased between 1961 and 2010.Warmer means more moistureThen it compared the observations to climate models that take into account the 1 C increase in temperature due to human activity since pre-industrial times."Physics tells us that a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture," Kirchmeier-Young said. "That should be reflected as an increase in extreme precipitation in most locations." Sure enough, the observations and the models were consistent with one another.The largest increases in extreme precipitation were in the eastern part of North America.In general across North America, Kirchmeier-Young says storms that would happen: * Once a century without human-caused climate change now happen every 20 years. And if the world gets to 2 C of warming above pre-industrial temperatures, those storms would happen once every five years. * Once every 20 years without human-caused climate change now happen every five years. And they're expected to happen about every other year if the world gets to 2 C of warming above pre-industrial temperatures.Already, these changes have had a costly impact in the lives of Canadians.Adding to the evidenceNatalia Moudrak, director of climate resilience at the University of Waterloo Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation noted that catastrophic losses due to extreme weather events have risen sharply. In the early 1980s, they averaged less than $500 million a year.But from 2009 onward, they exceeded a billion dollars every year except 2015.The level of flooding is not the only factor affecting losses. Other factors such as property values, paving over natural areas that can absorb rainfall and other kinds of disasters can also contribute. But, Moudrak said, "flooding is by far the No. 1 driver. Water damages are rising in Canada, and it's the elephant in the room."Rising flood insurance claims were just some of the evidence that already pointed to increased extreme rainfall in North America before the publication of the new study. Other studies had already found human-caused climate change was linked to increasing extreme rainfall on a global or hemisphere scale.But Francis Zwiers, director of the Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria, said the new study is the first to link more frequent extreme rainfall and climate change in North America. He explained that it gets harder to make those links on a smaller scale. That's because rain is  localized and highly variable. That means if you look at data from rain gauges across the world, you can probably only see statistically significant changes in the intensity of precipitation in about 10 per cent or them."That's much more than we expect by accident when we're in a world where extreme precipitation is not changing," he said. "But what it's telling you is that when you look at the local scale the chances of seeing this happening in your backyard from the direct evidence that you can measure in your backyard is still very small."The fact that it now can be measured on the scale of North America is significant, he said."When you go to smaller scales, when you are able to answer the question... then it indicates that the evidence is becoming stronger and clearer."Every 50 yearsBut he noted a more local scale is more relevant to people's lives, with many implications.For example, engineering standards are designed to expect building repairs from extreme rainfall and flooding at certain intervals, such as every 50 years.""If extreme precipitation is becoming more intense, then you're going to have to make those repairs more often … and so then the building becomes more expensive to maintain."Moudrak says Canadian governments and businesses are already adapting, by updating things like stormwater management guidelines and zoning bylaws and investing in flood resilience retrofits."The study, I think, does a really good job on underscoring that this is important work. It has to happen and has to happen today."

  • Experts say Sask. could be more transparent with COVID-19 data without sacrificing privacy
    Health
    CBC

    Experts say Sask. could be more transparent with COVID-19 data without sacrificing privacy

    Eleanor Widdowson made a pointed call for transparency from the Saskatchewan government after her sister died from the novel coronavirus in March."Don't hide shit." Saskatchewan refuses to reveal communities where COVID-19 has been detected unless there is an outbreak declared. Widdowson said that more knowledge might have protected her sister, who died after testing positive.The province continues to gives case numbers broken up into six regions for the whole province. There are discrepancies in how provincial governments are handling data release across Canada. There is no law that dictates how and when it should be released. Last week, Toronto Public Health released COVID-19 case numbers for all of the city's postal codes after public pressure. Public health officials in Alberta have identified cases in cities like Calgary by neighborhood. "It's actually a judgment, more of an ethical call, in determination," Dr. Anne Huang, a former deputy medical health officer for Saskatchewan and Health Canada, said. She agreed individual privacy was of concern with a low case count, but said that argument no longer stands with Saskatchewan's numbers.Huang said the province should re-evaluate what information it shares. She said releasing case numbers by postal code, as was done in Toronto, wouldn't work for Saskatchewan's rural population, but suggested releasing the data in map form, showing the 38 Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) health network boundaries.Huang said the boundaries were created "based on the pattern of how people access health services.""To reopen the economy safely and gradually, it means that we need to become better at identifying where the hot spots are," she said. "The best way of illustrating where the hotspots of cases and transmission are, is by showing this data in the map format." 'There's inequality in our society' Some provinces, like Ontario, have held back data, citing  fear of stigmatizing people living in communities with higher rates of COVID-19. Stigma has also come up in Saskatchewan. "I think it's an omission, an implicit omission by the government that they don't want to face public criticisms of the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to the higher disease burden in these communities," Huang said. Huang said governments can use data to reduce stigma by educating the public and policy-makers. She said scientific evidence shows that social determinants of health — things like housing issues, low income and education — are linked to an increased risk of communicable or chronic disease like sexually transmitted infections or diabetes. "You're starting out at a disadvantage," Huang saidShe said stigma only happens if provincial leaders don't address the link between social determinants and disease outcomes. "We pull back the curtain of this inconvenient truth for the government that there's inequality in our society," she said. "And that disparity needs to be addressed."Saskatchewan's far north region has had far more cases — more than 250 —  than any other in the province. Many of them stemmed from an outbreak in La Loche. Five of the 11 people who have died after a positive diagnosis are from this area. Four others are from the north, but the province refuses to say where they lived. Current approach 'being reviewed'Huang said community data can be released without infringing on privacy and "will force a necessary public discussion about what we need to do better." A spokesperson said Monday afternoon that the Ministry of Health "is committed to continuously improving its reporting processes in line with privacy legislation." However, the spokesperson would not answer at the time whether the province was considering releasing more specific data, like using postal codes or the health network boundaries, only saying the approach to reporting is "currently being reviewed." Dr. Saqib Shahab, the chief medical health officer for Saskatchewan, elaborated at a news conference Tuesday. He said a new, updated map would be broken down into 13 to 15 sub-provincial areas and include for each area the number of cases in the last two weeks, the overall testing rate and the rate of positive tests."We did want to provide more geographical granularity just to make sure that everyone felt comfortable because some of the zones that we have been using are huge and this will provide a bit more granular detail and we will be obviously monitoring that that is meeting everyone's needs as well." No value to releasing death locations: chief medical health officerDr. Shahab has maintained that releasing the specific location of deaths is a privacy issue. In its written response this past weekend, the Ministry of Health pointed to the confidentiality section of The Public Health Act, which would prohibit the release of identifying information from being shared. However, the section doesn't specify that revealing a person's community would identify them.It also states that information could be released if the minister orders it for purpose of protecting public health."The virus is the same wherever it is in Saskatchewan and when you get an unfortunate outcome like a hospitalization or death it's very tragic," said Shahab last Thursday. "There's no value from a public health perspective or a public risk assessment perspective on knowing where a person lived who unfortunately passed away."He said opening up testing criteria is one way the province is trying to react rapidly as cases are identified in new communities. The SHA has, on occasion, released warnings about exposures at individual locations, such as a Walmart in North Battleford.  Commissioner says transparency means trust Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski said as much transparency as possible is needed for the province to maintain the trust of the community. He said the opportunity exists for provincial officials to break down the information further, but how much further is up to health officials.  He said consistency is important."I would certainly encourage decision makers to go as granular as they can go with the caveat that if they provide information that would identify you or me that that would be going too far," said Kruzeniski. "But they are always able to release de-identified information, in other words it doesn't give my name or or or to any specifics as to where I live, and they can do that to the extent that people in their community can't figure out who exactly they're talking about."He said linking one case to one small community would be a problem, but doing the same for cities like Regina, Saskatoon or Prince Albert would likely still protect the person's privacy. Kruzeniski said the issue is where to draw the line. "I certainly think that in regions where there's five or more people who have contracted COVID-19 or five or more deaths they certainly can go to the point of [saying there were] five people in a community."Dr. Cory Neudorf, a professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said authorities should be revisiting their approach to releasing information as numbers increase. He said identifying patterns and trends — such as differences in health outcomes in different regions — is difficult with limited data. "The challenge in doing that when you have a very small number of deaths, or a very small number of cases, is you can't subdivide that very much before you start getting very unstable numbers," said Neudorf. Calls to collect more data as well as share it"To say, 'Is this a meaningful difference or not?' is really difficult. But as you get enough cases out there and you can actually start evaluating that then it becomes more important."He said there is an increasing desire across Canada for more data on COVID-19 to be collected, as well as shared. "Not just geographically, but are there differences in terms of ethnicity of individuals who are either infected or dying, differences in their socioeconomic status, or are they a vulnerable population of some kind?""The age breakdowns, males versus females, all of those kinds of differences. And that's needed to see — as we try to limit the spread of the disease — are the broad-based interventions we're putting in place equally effective in different parts of the province and in different subgroups?"He said once those differences are identified through statistics they should be shared publicly. In the meantime, Neudorf said more clarity from officials about why some information cannot be shared would also be helpful. "Even to just give the public assurance that 'Hey, you know, we're looking at this and we don't see a difference yet,' or 'There's something worrying here, we're looking into it,'" he said.  "Just that assurance that it's even being looked at would be valuable even before information is available."

  • Montreal mayor calls on Quebec, Ottawa to help balance budget as city faces $500M shortfall
    Business
    CBC

    Montreal mayor calls on Quebec, Ottawa to help balance budget as city faces $500M shortfall

    Lhati Nyima Lama  says he needs more help if his downtown Montreal business, Chez Gatsé Restaurant Tibétainres, is going to survive."Sales have gone down drastically," he said, since Quebec ordered restaurants and other non-essential businesses closed in March. "I had to lay off my employees."Covering overhead costs has been nearly impossible with takeout service only, and he doesn't expect it to get much better until tourists and commuters return downtown to stroll, work or study.The federal rent subsidy isn't a fix-all for his business or many others like his unless it's extended past the month of June, the restaurateur said. He hopes the city will offer its own rent support, while postponing property tax payments yet again."That will be a big boost to the city's economy because of the restaurant's contribution," Lama said. "For me, rent subsidy is the most important."These are the types of solutions Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is exploring as she looks to rebuild the city's economic engine in the wake of a global pandemic that has hit her city particularly hard.Help needed to make up for shortfalls, Plante saysPlante said Tuesday that her administration has done what it can to feed the hungry, postpone property tax payments and address the housing crisis.Now she's calling on the provincial and federal governments to help cover a looming $500-million deficit as Montreal struggles to keep its public transit network afloat in a work-from-home era that's draining downtown of its daily influx of shoppers, diners and commuters.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday the $2.2 billion in annual infrastructure funding for communities will be delivered in one payment this month, but how much help Montreal will get depends on negotiations between Quebec and Ottawa, Plante said."Federal and provincial financial assistance will have to be there to make up for shortfalls," Plante said. "It is up to them to help us."Report recommends running deficitMunicipalities are prohibited by law from running a deficit. Plante says relaxing that rule may be the only way for the city to avoid increasing taxes or cutting services while her administration strives to revive the economy without kickstarting a second coronavirus wave.Asking Quebec to temporarily lift the ban on municipal deficits is the first recommendation made by a  committee of financial and urban planning experts assembled by Plante to help guide decision-making.The committee, assembled in April, is led by Luc Godbout, a Université de Sherbrooke professor of taxation and public finance. Godbout was present when Plante released the committee's report, available in French on the city's website, Tuesday."The report confirms the importance of seizing the opportunity to accelerate the fight against climate change and reduce social inequalities," Plante said.From tax rebates to online shoppingThe committee's report recommends further postponing the due date for property taxes and offering tax rebates in neighbourhoods most affected by the crisis.It suggests promoting online shopping at local businesses, so Montrealers can avoid foreign-based retailers like Amazon."We also have recommendations on the cultural industry," said Godbout. "It must have financial support to help major Montreal events become online events."Plante is still reviewing her options and waiting for public health authorities to approve the reopening of key sectors of the economy, such as restaurants and tourist venues.When asked for comment on Plante's economic recovery efforts, a spokesperson for opposition leader Lionel Perez said Ensemble Montréal will be making a few suggestions of its own soon.

  • Talking about systemic racism not a new discussion for this interracial Ontario family
    News
    CBC

    Talking about systemic racism not a new discussion for this interracial Ontario family

    Discussions about systemic racism are at the forefront this week, as protests sweep U.S. and some Canadian cities. And while it may be a new conversation for some families, it's not for others, such as the Ramseys of Belle River.Germaine Ramsey is black, and his wife, former Essex NDP MP Tracey Ramsey, is white.Their family talks about racism a lot, and how the experience Tracey has leaving their home will be very different from what Germaine or sons Max, 19, and Maliq, 17 will go through. Germaine said the conversations he has with their sons reminds him of things his mother told him when he was growing up in the '60s in downtown Windsor. "I always wanted to think that the world's getting better. We're being told that things are better and people are being accepted more, and I feel that we were kind of lulled into a sense that we were heading in the right direction," he said."But when we look at the things that are happening now today, things are still the same, but they're just being put out on film now."Tracey said that even through violent protests and clashes with police are happening in the U.S., their continuing conversations about racism at home haven't really changed because "the situation is always the same."> We have to definitely keep our eyes on what the real issue is and right now it's anti-black racism, \- Germain Ramsey"The things they share with us are really eye-opening in many ways and I think unfortunately is the same thing Germaine has experienced his whole life," she said. The parents speak to their kids about safety very often."After Trayvon Martin and everything that happened in the states we talked about not wearing a hoodie when they're out and about with their friends," said Tracey. Martin was shot to death by neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman in a gated community in Florida, weeks after his 17th birthday on Feb. 26, 2012. He was coming home from a convenience store and was wearing a hoodie. "We just had a really serious conversation about their safety. And once they started to drive, about interactions with police," said Tracey. She said she often talks to her sons about their experiences here in Canada — about the subtle racism they see, and maybe how it's not taken as seriously here.> It's encouraging to hear that their friends support them and talk about racism and challenge it but they really fear I think that things are not much better in Canada for them, \- Tracey Ramsey"It's encouraging to hear that their friends support them and talk about racism and challenge it but they really fear I think that things are not much better in Canada for them," said Tracey. "There's a bit of moral superiority where Canadians think they're better than the U.S. but there are so many examples that we're not.""I think our area is a little unique from others and maybe because of our relatively small size," said Germaine. "I find that there seems to be in our society almost a misrepresentation of black males. We see that there is this thing that's going on with black males. I don't know what to call it, it's not hatred it's not fear it's not even a misunderstanding. But in reports we see it seems black males are being called on."LISTEN | Hear more about the Ramsey family's discussions about racism:Tracey said family and friends have been calling a lot lately to check in on the Ramseys and especially the kids to ask how they're feeling. Tracey said she gives many people the same message if they want to be supportive. "It's no longer enough to say 'I'm not a racist' you have to be actively working to be anti-racist," she said. "We have to definitely keep our eyes on what the real issue is and right now it's anti-black racism," said Germaine.

  • Meng hearing schedule to expand; lawyers ask for 'referee' in case
    Business
    The Canadian Press

    Meng hearing schedule to expand; lawyers ask for 'referee' in case

    VANCOUVER — Legal arguments at the B.C. Supreme Court in the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou may stretch into next year.Crown lawyer Robert Frater told the court Wednesday that lawyers for both sides will propose a new schedule later this month that would bring the hearings to a close in early 2021 at the latest, instead of this fall.The United States wants Canada to extradite Meng over allegations she misrepresented the company's relationship with Skycom Tech Co., putting HSBC at risk of violating U.S. sanction against Iran, a charge both she and Huawei deny.Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes dismissed the first phase of arguments last week by Meng's lawyers who claimed the case should be thrown out because the U.S. allegations against her wouldn't be a crime in Canada.Frater says the Crown will be disclosing new documents to Meng's lawyers on Friday and the defence may pursue further litigation regarding privileged information.Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes agreed to consider appointing a "referee," whom the defence suggested should be a retired judge, to accelerate access to disclosure information.Holmes says that while she has experience with independent arbiters in the pre-trial phase of a case, she has never appointed one in a case that already had a dedicated judge."I certainly would be willing to consider it. Quite frankly, it's not something I have done before so I would need to know how the process would work," Holmes says.Defence lawyer Scott Fenton says the responsibilities of the referee could be worked out and presented to the court for its review and approval.The idea would be to offload most of the decisions about which documents or information must be released to the defence and if either side wants to dispute a ruling, that challenge would come to Holmes."It can bring tremendous efficiency to this somewhat tedious process of working out privilege claims," he says.The court is preparing to hear several other arguments in the case, including whether the way Meng was arrested and detained at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 constituted an abuse of process.According to the original schedule, the final legal arguments were to have occurred this fall as long as the extradition proceeding wasn't thrown out before then.This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

  • News
    CBC

    Dead bear dumped near homeowner's property sparks outrage

    A rural property owner north of Lloydminster was outraged to find a dead black bear near her land Saturday afternoon.Angie Atkinson was alerted to the bear's presence by her great-niece, who spotted the carcass while leaving the property.She found the young animal about a half kilometre away from her lane, in the Sandy Beach area."We went and looked and just saw all the debris there that makes it look like a moving blanket was used to pull the bear out of the back of the truck, and it dragged out some other garbage along with it," said Atkinson. Finding the carcass was disturbing, Atkinson told CBC in an interview. "I felt disappointment in human nature," she said. "If [the bear] did have to be put down, to turn around and take him from your place to dump him right by someone else's house? That's disrespectful."The bear was illegally disposed of on public land, the Alberta government said."Upon investigation, officers determined that the bear had been lawfully shot on private land, but the individual involved did not dispose of the carcass properly," Alberta Justice spokesperson Ina Lucila said in an emailed statement. The person responsible has been given a ticket for littering, said Lucila.Atkinson posted pictures of the dead bear on Facebook. She said many people were upset that the animal's meat and fur had been wasted."Here is a beautiful animal, but there was nothing taken from his body. He was just disposed of."Hunting black bears in Alberta is legal in the spring and fall. Landowners are allowed to hunt black bears year round on their private property.All hunters are expected to properly dispose of the carcass, Lucila said."We always ask hunters to use their best judgment to ensure that disposing of their harvested carcasses is done in a manner that is lawful and considers other residents and people who may be using the area."Atkinson said she hopes rural property owners will be reminded of the importance of bear proofing their yards."A lot of people are sloppy about things in their yard that could attract bears," she said. "Let's be respectful of the wildlife and they'll probably just leave you alone."Alberta Fish and Wildlife recommends that people who live in bear country take the following steps to avoid attracting the animals: * Keep your garbage and recyclables in bear-resistant, airtight containers. * Keep your compost indoors.  * Remove bird feeders from your yard in the months when bears are active – usually from the beginning of April until the end of November.  * Clean your barbecues and store them in a bear-resistant building. * Consider removing fruit trees and berry-producing bushes from your property.  * Never leave food out for wildlife.

  • Defence Department accused of using pandemic to withhold info from Parliament
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Defence Department accused of using pandemic to withhold info from Parliament

    OTTAWA — The Department of National Defence stands accused of trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to withhold information from Parliament and Canadians.There has been widespread concern about federal departments failing to respond to access-to-information requests since the crisis first started in earnest in March, but the Opposition Conservatives say the problem is much worse at the Defence Department."By far National Defence is the worst offender," said Conservative defence critic James Bezan. "There seems to be a systemic breakdown in being transparent in the department, or there's intentional disregard for what Canadians have been requesting."The allegation stems from the department's failure in recent months to respond to a large number of questions on the order paper, which are one of the primary means for members of Parliament to get information about the inner workings of federal departments.Departments have 45 days to respond to order paper questions, which include everything from the number of veterans receiving government-subsidized Viagra to how much the government spent on advertising to the number of RCMP officers by province.Yet in more than a dozen recent requests, the Defence Department did not respond. One of those asked how many government ships had broken down in the last year. While the Canadian Coast Guard provided a response, the Defence Department did not."During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, public servants are required to work remotely and have limited access to the tools and files requested," the department wrote in response to a recent request by Conservative MP Lianne Rood.Bezan also flagged concerns about testimony from parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux to a House of Commons' committee last week about the watchdog's request for updated information on the government's plan to invest billions in new military kit."We were supposed to get the information on time to provide parliamentarians with an update," Giroux told the standing committee on government operations and estimates on Friday."May was the target date for us, but we didn't get the information on time. ... We were told it will be delayed by a couple of weeks, but we have not received it yet."The Liberal government's defence policy unveiled in 2017 promised $553 billion in defence spending over the next two decades, though it has been slow in getting that money out the door.The Defence Department acknowledged it had failed to respond to 17 order paper questions in April and May and was unable to provide the information that Giroux asked to see about the planned defence spending, citing COVID-19 as the reason."Work on the request the PBO referred to has, in fact, been impacted by COVID-19 given the requirements for our analysts to work from secure systems inaccessible from home," Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said an in email.He went on to blame personnel having "limited access to certain records and databases" and "key military staff" being tasked with supporting the government's COVID-19 response for not responding to the order paper question.At the same time, Le Bouthillier said officials did respond to 12 order paper questions while Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's office said officials helped the budget officer analyze the cost of the military's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in April."The Department of National Defence and the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces have been working around the clock helping Canadians during this pandemic," Sajjan's spokesman, Todd Lane, said in a statement."Despite the challenges that the pandemic has posed, we remain committed to transparency and being accountable to Parliament."Bezan nonetheless accused the government and department of failing to provide information to Canadians and parliamentarians, whose job is to hold the government to account."At the beginning (of the pandemic), I would say they had the right to make those decisions," he said. "But we're getting to a point now that this has become a government and Minister Sajjan, in particular, stonewalling the accountability aspect of his role."If there are legitimate concerns, he added, efforts should be underway to install proper protocols and provide adequate safety equipment to let defence officials return to their offices and "fulfil the obligations the government has to Parliament."Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, who is responsible for public access to government information, sent a letter to his cabinet colleagues last week reminding them of the need for transparency even during the COVID-19 pandemicThe message followed calls from information commissioner Caroline Maynard, the Canadian Association of Journalists and an ad-hoc accountability group for concrete actions to ensure transparency during the crisis.This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

  • Sea, sand and social distancing: Caribbean reopens to tourism
    News
    Reuters

    Sea, sand and social distancing: Caribbean reopens to tourism

    CASTRIES, St Lucia/KINGSTON (Reuters) - A cluster of Caribbean islands are reopening this month for international tourism, hoping to burnish their reputations as oases of tranquility after containing their coronavirus outbreaks and implementing strict new public health protocols. Antigua and Barbuda, the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Lucia are the first to reopen this week. Jamaica and Aruba are set to follow later in the month, with July target dates for the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

  • Calgary couple stranded in India by COVID-19 pandemic killed: family
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Calgary couple stranded in India by COVID-19 pandemic killed: family

    CALGARY — A retired couple stranded in India by the COVID-19 pandemic were killed and robbed before they could get on a flight back to Canada."It's a tragic loss that we will never be able to refill with anything else," their son-in-law, Kam Rathore, said Wednesday.He said Kirpal Minhas, 67, and his wife Davinder, 65, travelled to the Punjab region of northern India in November to check on properties they owned there.It was the first trip back for the permanent residents, who used to run a transportation company, since they came to Canada in late 2016.Rathore said his in-laws were scheduled to fly home to Calgary in early April, but that flight was cancelled as the pandemic ground almost all global air travel to a halt.He said family tried registering them online for a Canadian government repatriation flight, but couldn't because they were not citizens.Loved ones booked them on another flight arranged through a Vancouver volunteer group in late April, but that, too, was cancelled."At that time, there was no fear for their life," said Rathore, who added that family were hoping to arrange another flight soon.Two Canadian-assisted flights are scheduled to leave Delhi for Toronto on June 12 and 15 and are open to citizens, permanent residents and those who obtained confirmation of permanent residence before March 18.The couple's two sons reside in the United States — one in Austin, Texas, and the other in New York — and their two daughters live in northeast Calgary. The couple lived with one of them.The children were in frequent contact with their parents while they were overseas."Since they landed in mid-November, there was a habit of checking on them for even two minutes or five minutes daily, in the morning and in the evening," said Rathore.He said his wife became concerned when her parents didn't return her calls Friday. She asked neighbours in India to check in on the pair. Relatives got word Saturday morning of their deaths.Rathore said he's been told police have arrested a tenant, who was taking care of one of his parents' properties, and two other men, but charges have not been laid.He said jewelry, cash, bank cards and phones were taken. Police told him the suspects had been watching his parents' daily routines for a while.Rathore said he was told three men overpowered his father-in-law in his bedroom between 7:30 and 8:30 on Friday night and stabbed him multiple times.He said he understands his mother-in-law was out for a walk, but the assailants were hiding in the home when she returned 15 to 20 minutes later. She was attacked and strangled, Rathore said.Extended family in India arranged for the couple to be cremated in the Sikh tradition on Tuesday. Their children in North America were devastated to not be able to pay their final respects in person due to ongoing novel coronavirus travel restrictions, Rathore said.He said he's grateful to police in the northern Indian city of Phagwara for making the arrests so quickly.Under the Canadian Consular Services Charter, only Canadian citizens are eligible for consular assistance."We offer our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of two Canadian permanent residents who died in India," Global Affairs spokeswoman Angela Savard said in a statement."Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed."This report by The Canadian press was first published June 3, 2020Lauren Krugel, The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Kirpal and Davinder Minhas were killed on Saturday

  • Pakistani aviation authority says PIA pilot ignored air traffic control
    News
    Reuters

    Pakistani aviation authority says PIA pilot ignored air traffic control

    Pakistani aviation authorities have told Pakistan International Airlines that the pilot of a passenger plane that crashed into a residential district of Karachi last month had ignored air traffic control's instructions for landing, a PIA spokesman said on Wednesday. Initial reports suggested the plane scraped its engines along the runway on a first attempt to land following what appeared to be an unstable approach, arriving steep and fast. In a letter sent to PIA, the Civil Aviation Authority said an approach controller twice told the pilot to discontinue its approach as he came into land but he did not comply.

  • The scene in D.C.
    News
    CBC

    The scene in D.C.

    People in Washington gathered Tuesday near the White House despite an earlier curfew.