The European Union and China have tentatively agreed on a business investment deal after seven years of discussions. But concerns about the country's human rights record may stand in the way of it being signed off.
The European Union and China have tentatively agreed on a business investment deal after seven years of discussions. But concerns about the country's human rights record may stand in the way of it being signed off.
In the summer, with half of Memorial Drive in Calgary shut down to traffic, a group of protesters set up near the Peace Bridge to draw attention to a bewildering array of grievances. One sign attacked Justin Trudeau, another warned of 5G networks, some supported oil and gas, while others cautioned against "chemtrails." But the main thrust of the gathering was to oppose COVID-19 restrictions, masks and vaccines. As the pandemic dragged on, that group morphed and found new stomping grounds in front of Calgary City Hall. Coalescing around the banner of "freedom," they railed against government COVID-19 lockdowns, mask laws and public health measures. They marched through downtown Calgary with signs that proclaimed them lions, not sheep. Alternative medicine hippies strode alongside yellow vesters in what at first seemed an odd countercultural pairing but is a natural alliance based on a shared distrust of governments, health mandates, corporations and more. The reason for their unity lies deep in our evolutionary history and the brute force of societal shifts that are shaking civilizational foundations. Those forces have conspired to make Alberta a prime breeding ground for the kind of conspiratorial thinking on display, which pulls nuggets of truth from the flurry of science in real time and contorts it into a narrative of oppression. It is a near-perfect storm for the small minority caught up in it. The question is: how did they find themselves in its path? How we're wired Humans have evolved to be really good at fitting into groups. Our malleable brains can adapt beliefs in order to thrive within our given tribe. But that sort of cognitive wiring can lead us astray. Adrian Bardon, a philosophy professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and the author of The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics and Religion, has obviously spent some time thinking about how these sorts of movements come to be. Writing in The Conversation, he says although the phenomena of denialism is "many and varied," the story behind it is "quite simple." "Human cognition is inseparable from the unconscious emotional responses that go with it," he writes. "Under the right conditions, universal human traits like in-group favouritism, existential anxiety and a desire for stability and control combine into a toxic, system-justifying identity politics." It's why protesters against Trudeau and 5G and chemtrails and, and, and ... all came to march under the same banner, protesting public health measures supported by growing scientific consensus. Speaking to CBC News, Bardon specifically breaks down the current storm over pandemic responses and says the combination of economic threats, politicization by elites and the visual/visceral effect of masks is a fearsome combination for fuelling science denialism and ideological polarization. "It starts with the lack of trust, and then the reasons for the lack of trust comes next, and then you're already in an ideological community," he says. "And then that explains why your community is all of one voice on what the story is, but this story is made up. The reaction comes first, and then you rationalize the reaction." He says covering faces interferes with one of the most fundamental ways we interpret other people, but creates a new signal. "At this point, after the politicization of it, not wearing a mask is immediately understood by the mask-wearing people to be a statement, and wearing the mask is an accusation. And it creates this incredibly toxic environment," he says. There's also no better metaphor for a muzzle than something really darn close to a muzzle. With the science around COVID-19 evolving in real time and government's struggling to keep up and keep track, the stage is set for our minds to fill in the gaps. The psychology Another person who's spent some time thinking about the current moment is Steven Taylor, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and the author of The Psychology of Pandemics. Taylor says one major issue is the lack of scientific literacy in the world and the belief by many that "science is really no different from opinion." Among those of a conspiratorial nature, there is also often an urge to feel special, he says, and possessing what you believe to be secret knowledge can be a big boost. "It's going to feed your self-esteem," says Taylor. It works in tandem with a phenomenon known as psychological reactance, which Taylor describes as a "kind of allergic reaction to being told what to do." "So if I came up to a person like that, and started to explain why I thought masks were effective, two things would happen," says Taylor. "First, they would get very angry, and second, they would start to automatically generate reasons for themselves as to why masks are ineffective. So my strategy would backfire if I tried to directly confront them." That, along with the fact that the vast majority of people support wearing masks, is why Taylor doesn't think governments should mandate their use. Adding to the mix are the sometimes confusing debates and changing recommendations about public health that have allowed a wide opening for doubters and reactionaries. All of those factors combine to make Alberta prime breeding ground for COVID denialism. The Alberta scene The first thing to note is that the protests against lockdowns and masks in Alberta are small. This does not represent the majority. But still, there is a vocal core group that isn't going to go away and that has at points drawn bigger crowds than many expected. Recent polling, too, has suggested Albertans are the least likely Canadians to consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible, if at all. Bardon notes that denial of science rears its head pretty forcefully when the economy is threatened — something that has been fraying nerves in Alberta long before the pandemic brought government shutdowns. There is anxiety about income, about empty office towers in Calgary, about the continued existence of the oil and gas industry that once seemed a limitless well of wealth. The economic powerhouse of Canada is sputtering and many look at a sort of global network of elites and their war on global warming as a major factor in its demise. Some of the same protesters that were out in yellow vests calling Trudeau a traitor while sporting "I Love Alberta Oil and Gas" sweaters are now out calling for an end to lockdowns as another elite attack. Many in the province feel powerless in the face of global forces that have battered their world, and that leads them to reach for the comforts of a group and a belief system that nourishes them. When Trudeau was re-elected in 2019, Albertans had voted in droves for the Conservative opposition and the reaction to the minority government was angry. Separatists were emboldened and started drawing more attention and crowds, attempting to walk off with a province because they disagreed with the outcome of a democractic election. Sprinkle in some good old-fashioned Alberta myth-making, like the maverick spirit, egalitarianism and the belief that Albertans share a full-throttled libertarian-tinged conservatism, and the recipe is nearly complete. With the addition of a provincial government that has preached personal responsibility, provided mixed messages, resisted some health measures and recently saw MLAs and cabinet ministers ignore the government's own travel advice, the meal is cooked. It's not a stretch to see why many in the province feel left behind, without agency. That's something Bardon says is the very core of anxiety. "You feel anxious, and then you look for something to project that on.… Conspiracy theorists latch on to the conspiracy they just ran across, and if your community already has some preconceived notions as to what the threat is out there, you latch on to that," he says. If you give yourself a story, it gives back. That's not the way some in the protests see it, though. Freedom walker Jake Eskesen is an organizer with Freedom Walk Calgary, which recently branched off from Walk for Freedom over an internal dispute. Speaking just before Christmas, he says the weekly protests are about, well, freedom. "We're standing, basically for our constitutional rights, which are currently being infringed upon by the government," says Eskesen, who previously organized events for what he calls the Alberta independence movement. Personally, he doesn't think the COVID-19 statistics — including death rates and hospitalizations — justify the measures being taken by governments to restrict freedoms and the ability of people to earn a living. He gets his information from places like Post Millennial and The Rebel and also directly from Alberta Health Services statistics, while largely shunning mainstream news which he feels is trying to sell one narrow narrative. The government, he says, is the enemy. Eskesen possesses a complete certainty that his views are correct, while questioning every study, every public health recommendation, the way COVID tests are conducted and more. He, like 20 per cent of Alberta respondents to a recent poll, says he would not get the vaccine until he's convinced it's safe — and that would take a lot, he says. In short, Eskesen has a high threshold for science to convince him that the virus is serious and the measures in place help fight it are worthwhile. Everywhere he looks he sees a lack of the kind of evidence he would need to change his mind even if his own convictions are based on less — and often on misinformation or misinterpretation. Yet he acknowledges that everyone pre-forms opinions and that they're "looking for information to support it." He says it's important to step back and honestly ask yourself whether bias is getting in the way of clearly understanding an issue. So does he ever worry that maybe he's wrong and his actions are putting other people in harm's way? "No. No, not at all." The world of narratives We live now, for better or for worse, in a world of narratives. Storylines that carry us in their wake in a way that has never existed before, at least not to this extent. Information overload, anxiety, rapidly changing technologies and societies have left people clambering for support and anchors. For answers to those empty pits in their stomachs and relief from constricted chests. The more complex the world becomes, the more our prehistoric cerebral architecture kicks in, forcing our flexible thought processes into groupthink of one kind or another and further erecting barriers to thinking that threatens it. We see the results in some dramatic ways, like the storming of the U.S. Capitol building last week. But also in smaller ways like the weekly marches through downtown Calgary. But that's not to say it's all based on a lie, even if much of it is. The official narrative is something that should never be considered sacrosanct, but neither should some of its conspiracy-laden counterparts. So although COVID tests do, indeed, test for COVID, and there is a scientific consensus around masks and restrictions, there are still questions to be asked and answered. There's no doubt small businesses and the people who own them and depend on them for incomes are suffering. Shutdowns have been painful. And then there's the question of government making inroads into our daily lives. "Honestly, with the governments' track record, I have a very hard time believing that once the vaccines are rolled out that they will then relinquish a lot of these powers," says Eskesen.
Azerbaijan will begin vaccinating citizens against COVID-19 on Monday, using a batch of 4 million doses from China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd, the health ministry said on Saturday. "Medical workers will be vaccinated first, and then over-65s from Feb. 1," presidential aide Shahmar Movsumov added. The doses will be transported first to Turkey, he said, where they will be checked and packaged, before arriving in batches to Azerbaijan.
DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the largest jackpots in U.S. history will grow even larger since there was no winner for Friday's drawing of the Mega Millions' $750 million top prize. The numbers were 3, 11, 12, 38, 43, with a Mega Ball of 15 and would have marked the fifth-largest jackpot ever drawn. Mega Millions estimated its next top prize would be $850 million, which would be the third-largest of all time. The drawing is on Tuesday. Lottery players still have a chance to win big with Saturday's drawing for a $640 million Powerball top prize, the eighth-largest jackpot. The odds of winning are one in 292.2 million. It’s been nearly two years since a lottery jackpot has grown so large. No one has won either game’s top prize in months. The listed jackpot amounts refer to winners who opt for an annuity, paid over 30 years. Winners nearly always choose cash prizes, which for Powerball would be $478.7 million. The estimated cash prize for the next Mega Millions jackpot is $628.2 million. Mega Millions and Powerball are both played in 45 states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Powerball also is offered in Puerto Rico. The Associated Press
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Trump administration early Saturday carried out its 13th federal execution since July, an unprecedented run that concluded just five days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden — an opponent of the federal death penalty. Dustin Higgs, convicted of ordering the killings of three women in a Maryland wildlife refuge in 1996, was the third to receive a lethal injection this week at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. President Donald Trump’s Justice Department resumed federal executions last year following a 17-year hiatus. No president in more than 120 years had overseen as many federal executions. Higgs, 48, was pronounced dead at 1:23 a.m. Asked if he had any last words, Higgs was calm but defiant, naming each of the women prosecutors said he ordered killed. “I’d like to say I am an innocent man. ... I am not responsible for the deaths,” he said softly. “I did not order the murders.” He did not apologize for anything he did on the night 25 years ago when the women were shot by another man, who received a life sentence. As the lethal injection of pentobarbital began to flow into his veins, Higgs looked toward a room reserved for his relatives and lawyers. He waved with his fingers and said, “I love you.” Louds sobs of a woman crying inconsolably began to echo from the witness room reserved for Higgs’ family as his eyes rolled back in his head, showing the whites of his eyes. He quickly became still, his pupils visible with his eyelids left partially open. A sister of Tanji Jackson — one of the murdered women who was 21 when she died — addressed a written statement to Higgs after his execution and mentioning his family. “They are now going to go through the pain we experienced,” she said. “When the day is over, your death will not bring my sister and the other victims back. This is not closure.” The statement didn't include the sister's name. The number of federal death sentences carried out under Trump since 2020 is more than in the previous 56 years combined, reducing the number of prisoners on federal death row by nearly a quarter. It’s likely none of the around 50 remaining men will be executed anytime soon, if ever, with Biden signalling he’ll end federal executions. The only woman on death row, Lisa Montgomery, was executed Wednesday for killing a pregnant woman, then cutting the baby out of her womb. She was the first woman executed in nearly 70 years. Federal executions began as the coronavirus pandemic raged through prisons nationwide. Among those prisoners who got COVID-19 last month were Higgs and former drug trafficker Corey Johnson, who was executed Thursday. In the early Saturday execution of Higgs, officials inside the execution chamber were more diligent about their keeping masks on after a federal judge expressed concern that officials at Johnson's execution were lax about coronavirus precautions. When a marshal called from a death-chamber phone to ask if there were any impediments to proceeding with Higgs' execution, he kept his mask on and shoved the receiver under it. Not since the waning days of Grover Cleveland’s presidency in the late 1800s has the U.S. government executed federal inmates during a presidential transition, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Cleveland’s was also the last presidency during which the number of civilians executed federally was in the double digits in one year, 1896. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post earlier this week, Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, noted that Higgs, a Black man, was scheduled to die Friday — his father’s birthday. With last-minute appeals, it was delayed into early Saturday. “The federal government should not be needlessly taking more Black lives, and to do so on my father’s birthday would be shameful,” he wrote. Pressure is already building on Biden to follow through on pledges to end the federal death penalty. The ACLU released a statement after Higgs' execution urging Biden to invoke his presidential powers after he is sworn in. “He must commute the sentences of people on the federal death row to life without parole, and he must drop death from all pending trials," the ACLU said. In 2000, a federal jury in Maryland convicted Higgs of murder and kidnapping in the killings of Tamika Black, 19; Mishann Chinn, 23; and Tanji Jackson. Higgs’ lawyers argued it was “arbitrary and inequitable” to execute Higgs while Willis Haynes, the man who fired the shots that killed the women, was spared a death sentence. In a statement after the execution, Higgs’ attorney, Shawn Nolan, said his client had spent decades on death row helping other inmates. “There was no reason to kill him, particularly during the pandemic and when he, himself, was sick with Covid that he contracted because of these irresponsible, super-spreader executions,” Nolan said. Higgs had a traumatic childhood and lost his mother to cancer when he was 10, Higgs’ Dec. 19 petition for clemency petition said. Higgs was 23 on the evening of Jan. 26, 1996, when he, Haynes and a third man, Victor Gloria, picked up the three women in Washington, D.C., and drove them to Higgs’ apartment in Laurel, Maryland, to drink alcohol and listen to music. Before dawn, an argument between Higgs and Jackson prompted her to grab a knife in the kitchen before Haynes persuaded her to drop it. Gloria said Jackson made threats as she left the apartment with the other women and appeared to write down the license plate number of Higgs’ van, angering him. The three men chased after the women in Higgs’ van. Haynes persuaded them to get into the vehicle. Instead of taking them home, Higgs drove them to a secluded spot in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, federal land in Laurel. “Aware at that point that something was amiss, one of the women asked if they were going to have to ‘walk from here’ and Higgs responded ‘something like that,’” according to court documents. Higgs handed his pistol to Haynes, who shot all three women outside the van, Gloria testified. “Gloria turned to ask Higgs what he was doing, but saw Higgs holding the steering wheel and watching the shootings from the rearview mirror,” said the 2013 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Chinn worked with the children’s choir at a church, Jackson worked in the office at a high school and Black was a teacher’s aide at National Presbyterian School in Washington, according to The Washington Post. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect the execution taking place early Saturday. ____ Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland. Michael Tarm And Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press
China promised on Saturday to donate 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines as the two countries signed infrastructure deals aimed at boosting post-pandemic recovery efforts, officials said. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte imposed one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns to contain the virus in March last year - bringing one of Asia's fastest-growing economies to a standstill. "As a friend of the Philippines and your closest neighbour, we will firmly stand with the people of the Philippines until the defeat of this virus," senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said during a meeting with the Philippines' foreign minister.
MAMUJU, Indonesia — Damaged roads and bridges, power blackouts and lack of heavy equipment on Saturday hampered rescuers after a strong earthquake left at least 46 people dead and hundreds injured on Indonesia's Sulawesi island. Operations were focused on about eight locations in the hardest-hit city of Mamuju, where people were still believed trapped following early Friday's magnitude 6.2 quake, said Saidar Rahmanjaya, who heads the local search and rescue agency. Cargo planes carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta landed late Friday for distribution in temporary shelters. Still, thousands of people spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks and a possible tsunami. National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati said rescuers had so far recovered the bodies of 37 victims in Mamuju and nine in neighbouring Majene district. At least 415 houses in Majene were damaged and about 15,000 people were moved to shelters, Jati said. Bodies retrieved by rescuers were sent to a police hospital for identification by relatives, said West Sulawesi police spokesperson Syamsu Ridwan. He said more than 200 people were receiving treatment in the Bhayangkara police hospital and several others in Mamuju alone. Another 630 were injured in Majene. Among those pulled alive was a young girl who was stuck in the wreckage of a house with her sister. The girl was seen in video released by the disaster agency Friday crying for help. She was being treated in a hospital. She identified herself as Angel and said that her sister, Catherine, who did not appear in the video, was beside her under the rubble and was still breathing. The fate of Catherine and other family members was unclear. The quake set off landslides in three locations and blocked a main road connecting Mamuju to Majene. Power and phone lines were down in many areas. Mamuju, the capital of West Sulawesi province with nearly 75,000 people, was strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. A governor office building was almost flattened by the quake and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge collapsed and patients with drips laid on folding beds under tarpaulin tents outside one of the damaged hospitals. Two hospitals in the city were damaged and others were overwhelmed. Many survivors said that aid had not reached them yet due to damaged roads and disrupted communications. Video from a TV station showed villagers in Majene, some carrying machetes, forcibly stopping vehicles carrying aid. They climbed onto a truck and threw boxes of instant noodles and other supplies at dozens of people who were scrambling to get them. Two ships headed to the devastated areas from the nearby cities of Makassar and Balikpapan with rescuers and equipment, including excavators. State-owned firm AirNav Indonesia, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the quake did not cause significant damage to the Mamuju airport runway or control tower. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Friday that he instructed his Cabinet ministers and disaster and military officials to co-ordinate the response. In a telegram sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis, the pontiff expressed “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this natural disaster.” The pope was praying for “the repose of the deceased, the healing of the injured and the consolation of all who grieve.” Francis also offered encouragement to those continuing search and rescue effects, and he invoked “the divine blessings of strength and hope.” International humanitarian missions including the Water Mission, Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross said in statements that they have joined in efforts to provide relief for people in need. Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake in Palu on Sulawesi island set off a tsunami and caused soil to collapse in a phenomenon called liquefaction. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when whole neighbourhoods were swallowed in the falling ground. A massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. ___ Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia. Niniek Karmini And Yusuf Wahil, The Associated Press
Suicide rates in Japan have jumped in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women and children, even though they fell in the first wave when the government offered generous handouts to people, a survey found. The July-October suicide rate rose 16% from the same period a year earlier, a stark reversal of the February-June decline of 14%, according to the study by researchers at Hong Kong University and Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology. The early decline in suicides was affected by such factors as government subsidies, reduced working hours and school closure, the study found.
The medical director of Nova Scotia's tissue bank expects his department could see more than double the current number of donations when Nova Scotia changes its organ and tissue laws. On Monday, the province is implementing a new presumed consent system. It means all adults will be considered organ and tissue donors unless they register to opt out. Nova Scotia's organ and tissue law will exempt children and those who do not have the capacity to understand the law. It also doesn't include people who have lived in the province for less than a year. Those who do not want to be donors can use the opt-out registry, and their families will have a say when decisions are being made at the time of death. While organ donation is commonly understood, Dr. Michael Gross hopes people will take the time to understand what it means to donate tissue. Gross said many families are scared or intimidated by the thought. "The whole system is set up to respect the donor," he said. "One of the things people are scared of is that the body is not going to be looking normal." He said they have worked with funeral home directors to make sure that they reconstruct bodies after donation. "You are making a difference, but you are not destroying the overall form of the body," said Gross. Donations lead to 'life-saving' operations The list of possible tissue donations includes corneas, skin, tendons, heart valves and bone. Gross believes more people would be open to the process if they knew how each donation could help others. "It's actually a life-saving operation to put a new heart valve in a child that's undergoing surgery for a cardiac anomaly." Right now, 150 people in Atlantic Canada are waiting for cornea transplants. That wait can take a year and a half. "The people who receive corneal transplants can see again, they can drive again, they can read the newspapers," said Gross. Skin is used for grafts, but it's also now being transformed into a collagen product that can be used in rebuilding tendons. There were 978 tissue grafts in Nova Scotia in 2020. To give that context, Nova Scotia Health says one patient with serious burns can need up to 100 skin grafts. Bone donations can help people who have been in accidents, they can be used in breast reconstruction, and they can help rebuild someone's jaw. "You would be amazed," said Gross. "One person who donates their tissues and we take everything, can affect about 100 other different people. And this is the way it goes." Currently 200 tissue donors a year The need for tissue donation is significant. Gross said the department currently has about 200 donors a year, but once the new law is in effect, he expects it could be as many as 500. Unlike organs, he said, tissues can be donated 24 hours after death. "So there's time for your family to say 'we would like our loved one to donate tissues' or with presumed legislation, anybody who is eligible is able to donate their tissues can automatically which is a big thing." Tissue donors need to be under 70 years old, said Gross, and can't have infections or cancers. He says in 25 years in the department, they have never had a problem with safety. "People need to know that we do an awful lot of screening," he said. "We examine the donor's records. We do a lot of questioning." Gross said the department is also in the process of developing a way to donate placenta at some point in the future. Overall, he said donating is an important part of helping families through the grieving process. MORE TOP STORIES
During Alex Azar's time serving as US health secretary, more than 390,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19.View on euronews
Turkey will renew its offer to form a joint working group with the United States to look into the technical aspects of its acquisition of the Russian S-400 defence systems it acquired, once President-elect Joe Biden takes office, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was cited as saying on Friday. Cavusoglu made the comments to reporters on a flight home from Pakistan on Friday. Biden takes over from President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
For the first time since the pandemic began, a Windsor lab will start locally processing tests for the region on Monday. That means a quicker turnaround for test results, which in turn means a faster response on positive cases: the health unit can contact trace sooner and an infected person will be able to isolate sooner. Since March, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has been sending the region's tests to a lab in London to be processed, but by next week the tests will be subjected to a much shorter drive and quicker processing time. Medical Laboratories of Windsor says it applied for a testing license in March but didn't get approved until September. Since then, it's been waiting for the equipment to arrive. Starting Monday, it will start processing about 100 tests per day. By the end of February, the lab hopes to process up to 1,000 tests a day as it will have an additional testing device up and running. That means that by March, the lab said 1,100 tests will go through its machines, with the majority of results getting out same-day. This will improve the result turnaround time as the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said Friday that currently only 11 per cent of test results come back within 24 hours. And, according to provincial data, Windsor-Essex has some of the slowest test return rates in the province. "I'm feeling very lucky to finally be able to perhaps join this battle," said Shannon Bondy, a microbiology molecular supervisor for Medical Laboratories of Windsor. "We have our most vulnerable in the community that we could possibly get results quicker to or just curb the spread." Bondy has helped to set up the lab with the new devices and will be processing tests as they come in on Monday. The lab's VP of operations Jennifer Yee said it feels like "we're contributing to the end of the pandemic." "To me it really feels like it's a war and it kind of feels like we've been called up to defend our country or our community in this case," Yee said. The lab has also already started rapid testing certain long-term care homes and groups and says it will continue to do that to curb any potential outbreaks. As of Friday, Windsor-Essex has more than 2,700 active cases of the disease and 248 deaths. There are 45 COVID-19 outbreaks across the region, with 21 at workplaces and 20 at long-term care and retirement homes.
EL TERRERO, Mexico — In the birthplace of Mexico’s vigilante “self-defence” movement, a new group has emerged entirely made up of women, who carry assault rifles and post roadblocks to fend off what they say is a bloody incursion into the state of Michoacán by the violent Jalisco cartel. Some of the four dozen women warriors are pregnant; some carry their small children to the barricades with them. The rural area is traversed by dirt roads, through which they fear Jalisco gunmen could penetrate at a time when the homicide rate in Michoacán has spiked to levels not seen since 2013. Many of the women vigilantes in the hamlet of El Terrero have lost sons, brothers or fathers in the fighting. Eufresina Blanco Nava said her son Freddy Barrios, a 29-year old lime picker, was kidnapped by presumed Jalisco cartel gunmen in pickup trucks; she has never heard from him since. “They have disappeared a lot of people, a lot, and young girls, too,” said Blanco Nava. One woman, who asked her name not be used because she has relatives in areas dominated by the Jalisco cartel, said that cartel kidnapped and disappeared her 14-year-old daughter, adding, “We are going to defend those we have left, the children we have left, with our lives.” “We women are tired of seeing our children, our families disappear,” the vigilante said. “They take our sons, they take our daughters, our relatives, our husbands.” That is, in part, why the women are taking up arms; men are growing scarce in Michoacan’s lime-growing hotlands. “As soon as they see a man who can carry a gun, they take him away,” said the woman. “They disappear. We don't know if they have them (as recruits) or if they already killed them.” Beside the barricades and roadblocks, the female vigilantes have a homemade tank, a heavy-duty pickup truck with steel plate armour welded on it. In other towns nearby, residents have dug trenches across roadways leading into neighbouring Jalisco state, to keep the attackers out. Alberto García, a male vigilante, has seen the medieval side of the war: He is from Naranjo de Chila, a town just across the river from El Terrero and the birthplace of the Jalisco cartel leader Nemesio Oseguera. Garcia said he was run out of the town by Jalisco cartel gunmen because he refused to join the group. “They killed one of my brothers, too,” said Garcia. “They hacked him to pieces, and my sister-in-law, who was eight months pregnant.” El Terrero has long been dominated by the New Michoacán Family and Viagras gangs, while the Jalisco cartel controls the south bank of the Rio Grande river. In 2019, the Viagras hijacked and burned a half-dozen trucks and buses to block the bridge over the river to prevent Jalisco convoys from entering in a surprise assault. And that same year, in the next town over, San Jose de Chila, the rival gangs used a church as an armed redoubt to fight off an offensive by Jalisco gunmen. Holed up in the church tower and along its roof, they tried to defend the town against the incursion, leaving the church filled with bullet holes. It is that stark divide where everyone is forced to chose sides — either Jalisco, or the New Michoacán Family and the Viagras — that has many convinced that the El Terrero vigilantes are just foot soldiers for one of those latter two gangs. The vigilantes bitterly deny allegations they're part of a criminal gang, though they clearly see the Jalisco cartel as their foe. They say they would be more than happy for police and soldiers to come in and do their jobs. El Terrero is not far from the town of La Ruana, where the real self-defence movement was launched in 2013 by lime grower Hipolito Mora. After successfully chasing out the Knights Templar cartel, Mora, like most of the original leaders, has distanced himself from the so-called self-defence groups that remain, and is now a candidate for governor. “I can almost assure you that they are not legitimate self-defence activists,” said Mora. “They are organized crime. ... The few self-defence groups that exist have allowed themselves to be infiltrated; they are criminals disguised as self-defence.” Michoacán's current governor, Silvano Aureoles, is more emphatic. “They are criminals, period. Now, to cloak themselves and protect their illegal activities, they call themselves self-defence groups, as if that were some passport for impunity.” But in some ways, Mora says, the same conditions that gave rise to the original 2013 movement remain: Authorities and police fail to enforce the law and don't guarantee residents peace. Sergio Garcia, a male member of El Terrero vigilante group, says his 15-year-old brother was kidnapped and killed by Jalisco. Now, he wants justice that police have never given him. “We are here for a reason, to get justice by hook or by crook, because if we don't do it, nobody else will,” Garcia said. ___ Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed from Mexico City. Armando Solis, The Associated Press
The Iqaluit beer and wine store sold more alcohol over the holidays in 2020 than the previous year — and the holiday rush left some residents waiting out in the cold. For the month of December the store sold $947,000 worth of alcohol — a nine per cent increase from December 2019, which saw $868,000 worth of product sold. Daniel Young, director of the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission, says population growth and the store moving out of the pilot project phase contributed to the increase in sales. "A lot of people have more faith in the store now being a permanent fixture, less people are bringing in beer and wine on sea lift," said Young. "And I guess another part of it is a lot less people traveled south for the holiday like we have seen in the past." In December, the beer and wine store sold 222,231 cans and bottles of beer. That's 6,464 more cans than in December 2019. The biggest difference was in the sale of coolers, increasing 41 per cent this year. For the month of December the beer and wine store sold 18,423 cans of coolers compared to just 13,086 sold in 2019. However, Young attributes this to the store having a bigger selection of coolers than they had in previous years. The beer and wine store also recently started selling three litre boxes instead of just bottles. Though the number of bottles and boxes sold was down from December 2019 the quantity of wine in litres was up. In December, 786 litres of wine were sold — an eight per cent increase over December 2019. Wait times over an hour outside But with the increase in sales, a line to get into the beer and wine store frequently went out the door and down the street. Many people wait over an hour just to get in the door. Young says they are aware of the problem with the line and are working on solutions to try and help, such as adding an extra till that would be used during busy hours. "The pitch we try to make to everyone is to plan ahead to avoid lines. There are times when you can walk right in, basically to the counter, and purchase," said Young. "That's not very helpful when it is already a holiday and you need to buy something from our store and there is a line. But that is the best course of action." Changes to come Young says they are limited by the size of the building but are looking at regulator changes. The beer and wine store needs to follow regulations in the Liquor Act. Right now, there are limits set on how much alcohol one person can buy a day. Young says raising the limit is a consideration but not something they were considering while the store was still a pilot project. "Some people think our limits are already too high and some people think they are two low," said Young. In June, Finance Minister George Hickes announced the store would become a permanent fixture. The store is meant to reduce hard alcohol consumption, encourage responsible drinking and combat bootlegging. Right now, limits are set so a single person can purchase up to 24 cans or bottles of beer or coolers, or up to four bottles of wine or one three liter box. Combinations can include two bottles of wine and 12 cans, or three bottles of wine and six cans.
A brand of sweet rice pancake products are being recalled across Canada due to undeclared egg. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the recall was prompted when a consumer reported a reaction after consuming Wang Korea brand pancakes. Two flavours of the pancakes, Green Tea Flavor Sweet Rice Pancake and Sweet Rice Pancake, were recalled from stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. The barcodes for the recalled products are as follows: Green Tea Flavor Sweet Rice Pancake (480 g) - 0 87703 15649 4 Green Tea Flavor Sweet Rice Pancake (180 g) - 0 87703 15408 7 Sweet Rice Pancake (480 g) - 0 87703 15647 0 Sweet Rice Pancake (180 g) - 0 87703 15323 3 The inspection agency is warning people with an allergy to egg to discard the pancakes or return them to the store where they were purchased. "If you have an allergy to egg, do not consume the recalled products as they may cause a serious or life-threatening reaction," the recall said. The CFIA says it's ensuring the recalled products are being removed from the marketplace and a food safety investigation will be conducted. MORE TOP STORIES
CAMEROON, Cameroon — A new U.N. report estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of international migrants by 2 million by the middle of 2020 because of border closings and a halt to travel worldwide — an estimated 27% decrease in expected growth. Clare Menozzi, principal author of the report by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, told a news conference Friday that for the second half of 2020 “we have a sense that it will be probably comparable, if not more so.” She said international migration had been projected to grow by 7 to 8 million between mid-2019 and mid-2020. But the border closures and travel clampdown starting in March, as the pandemic circled the globe, meant zero growth for four months, and an estimated 2 million reduction in the expected number of international migrants, Menozzi said. By August 2020, Population Division Director John Wilmoth noted, “there had been more than 80,000 travel restrictions imposed by 219 countries or territories across the world.” Over the last two decades, growth in the number of international migrants has been robust. Wilmoth said that according to the latest estimates, “the number of international migrants worldwide reached 281 million persons in 2020, up from 173 million in 2000,” They account for just 3.6% of the total global population, he said. Liu Zhenmin, undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said, “The report affirms that migration is a part of today’s globalized world and shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families” and undermined progress on achieving U.N. development goals for 2030. The economic fallout from the pandemic is expected to reduce remittances from people working abroad to low- and middle-income countries from $548 billion in 2019 to $470 billion in 2021, according to projections by the World Bank. Wilmoth said the data confirmed that nearly two-thirds of all international migrants were living in high-income countries. According to the report, the United States continued to top the destination list with 51 million international migrants in 2020, representing 18% of the global total. Germany was second, hosting around 16 million international migrants, followed by Saudi Arabia with 13 million, Russia with 12 million and the United Kingdom with 9 million, it said. India topped the list of countries with the largest diasporas in 2020, with 18 million Indians living abroad, followed by Mexico and Russia, each with 11 million outside the country, China with 10 million, and Syria with 8 million, the report said. In 2020, it said, women and girls comprised 48% of all international migrants, and refugees accounted for 12% of international migrants, up from 9.5% in 2000. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
A top French general in West Africa has dismissed calls for his country to engage more in Central African Republic (CAR) after rebels earlier this week attempted to take the capital Bangui, saying that the situation was different to a rebellion in 2013. The Central African army has been battling groups backed by former president Francois Bozize that are seeking to overturn a Dec. 27 vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared victor despite fraud claims. Russia and Rwanda have sent troops to back the government.
When Nick Gunz's parents asked him what they should do with some old notebooks they found in the crawl space of their home, one obvious thought came to mind. "The most important thing about them is you shouldn't read them. They were covered in warnings saying, 'Do not read this,' including, by the way, a warning saying that the author was sometimes a 'fierce spy'" Gunz told CBC Metro Morning's Ismalia Alfa on Thursday. They belonged to a then 10-year-old girl, Allison Jenkins, who used to live in the home. The diary was from 1983. Gunz, a historian and instructor at the University of Toronto, took it upon himself to return the writings to their rightful owner, but had no way of getting in touch. So, he flipped through and found the name and age of the diarist. He also put a picture of the purple diary online hoping the owner might Google her name and come across the post. "Within an astonishingly short period of time, hundreds and hundreds of people started investigating this and found Allison," said Gunz. 'A very happy time in my life,' recalls diarist Allison Jenkins said she got up on the Sunday morning after Christmas to a flood of Facebook messages from complete strangers pointing her to Gunz's post. "I thought, 'Woah, this is some new internet scam; I better not click on this link.'" she told Alfa. As she looked closer at the photos attached, she saw a picture of the house where she used to live in Toronto as well as a picture of her diary. When the musician and music teacher finally got her notebooks and diary delivered to her home in the Vancouver area, it was surreal to go through them. "To get to look back, I think that's one of the lovely things about keeping diaries," she said. "Obviously, I've heard some people say, 'Oh, I would never want to come across my old diaries,' but it was lovely to see. I was [a] very innocent kid, a very happy kid, and that was a very happy time in my life," she said. Diaries make strangers, friends Since connecting, Gunz and Jenkins have been emailing over the last few weeks and recalling their experiences growing up in the same home in Etobicoke. "It's been really wonderful. We are a few years apart in age, not that it matters as adults. But it would have mattered when we were kids, but I think if we had been kids together, we'd have been firm friends," Gunz said. For Jenkins, it's all been so unexpected. "It's been the loveliest part of all of this. Not only did strangers from the Internet, band together and track me down over something so cute and so small, to make friends long distance, to be able to write to someone I've never met and maybe never will," she said. "I had a lot of ideas about friendship that have changed during the pandemic when we can't see people as much," she added. "It's just been a lovely confirmation that you never have to see someone. You can start writing to someone and really consider them a friend."
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Pakistan, the health minister said on Saturday, making it the first coronavirus vaccine to get the green light for use in the South Asian country. Pakistan, which is seeing rising numbers of coronavirus infections, said its vaccines would be procured from multiple sources. "DRAP granted emergency use authorisation to AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine," the health minister, Faisal Sultan, told Reuters.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Saturday launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean, state television reported, amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program and a U.S. pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic. Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships” at a distance of 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles). The report did not specify the type of missiles used. In the first phase of the drill Friday, the Guard’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against “hypothetical enemy bases." Iranian state television described the drill as taking place in the country’s vast central desert, the latest in a series of snap exercises called amid the escalating tensions over its nuclear program. Footage also showed four unmanned, triangle-shaped drones flying in a tight formation, smashing into targets and exploding. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased amid a series of incidents stemming from President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. Amid Trump’s final days as president, Tehran has recently seized a South Korean oil tanker and begun enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, while the U.S. has sent B-52 bombers, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region. In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord, which he has said America could reenter. Iran fired cruise missiles Thursday as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, under surveillance of what appeared to be a U.S. nuclear submarine. Iran’s navy did not identify the submarine at the time, but on Saturday, a news website affiliated with state television said the vessel was American. Helicopter footage of the exercise released Thursday by Iran’s navy showed what resembled an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, the USS Georgia, which the U.S. Navy last month said had been sent to the Persian Gulf. Iran has missile capability of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), far enough to reach archenemy Israel and U.S. military bases in the region. Last January, after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, Tehran retaliated by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, resulting in brain concussion injuries to dozens of them. Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing from the accord. When the U.S. then increased sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development. The Associated Press
British freight traders say European truck drivers could simply choose not to deliver to the UK over post-Brexit red tape.View on euronews