Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician, says people should more strictly adhere to public health precautions following the confirmed cases of a potentially more transmissable variant of the coronavirus.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician, says people should more strictly adhere to public health precautions following the confirmed cases of a potentially more transmissable variant of the coronavirus.
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.
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
A study in Janvier, Alta., is trying to find out what happened to the local population of Arctic grayling, a once prominent freshwater fish. Arctic grayling, a member of the salmon family, is classified as a species of special concern with the Alberta Endangered Species Conservation Committee, meaning without human intervention, the species may be under the threat of extinction. Chief Vern Janvier of Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, 400 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, said when he was a growing up in the 1970s, he would fish in a local creek for Arctic grayling, considered a delicacy. A few years later those fishing trips stopped, because the fish were no longer around, Janvier said. "We really wanted to know if there was any fish left," Janvier said. "It's a fish that we used to eat that we haven't had for a long time. We haven't been able to catch them." He'd like to see the population bounce back, as "it'd be a good thing for my grandchildren to experience the fish." Water samples show evidence of fish Now the First Nation has teamed up with a consultant to study the over-winter habitat of the Arctic grayling, to see where they live, and what could be behind the population's decline. The study uses eDNA, which is DNA collected from environmental samples like water. It's a process that can tell researchers where the fish is found, without having to use potentially harmful practices like electrofishing. The researchers take water samples and get them tested to see if Arctic grayling are present in the water body. Last winter, samples of eDNA were collected from locations identified by elders. The fish were found in three out of four of the areas. Janvier said he was excited by the discovery and the research. "For me, as a chief, it shows ... you can put some basis on scientific knowledge. But the ability to mix the Indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge is probably the biggest success and we need to do more of that," he said. Study in 3rd year Lead researcher Sarah Hechtenthal, owner of Owl Feather Consulting, said she used western science and traditional knowledge to craft the study. The project is in its third year of funding, having received a total of $228,600 since 2018 from Environment and Climate Change Canada. Researchers will be back out this winter to sample other potential habitat locations, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. The study is now using data loggers in the water, to help Hechtenthal understand what made the rivers and creeks in the area ideal habitat for Arctic grayling in the first place. Stuart Janvier, industry relations coordinator for the First Nation, said this information will be helpful for future industrial development in the area such as oilsands projects. "We want to make sure our traditional lands and the wildlife and the environment it's going to remain intact," he said. "We are the protectors of the environment."
Hopes are high for Woodmere Stealdeal, as he heads into the 2021 racing season on the heels of a perfect 13-0 record. The P.E.I.-bred and Nova Scotia-trained gelding not only went undefeated on the Maritime harness racing circuit in 2020, he also set records at every track where he raced. "He's a real smart horse. He gets lots of speed. That's why I like him," said trainer Danny Romo, who has spent a lifetime teaching horses how to race. He was impressed by Woodmere Stealdeal's positive attitude and good manners. "Any time we train him, he goes as fast as we wanted him to go," he said. "You felt like he wanted to do it." They call him Steal for short, and Romo said from the start the horse was a natural that stood out from the rest. Steal reminds him of another impressive horse he trained in the early 2000s, Firms Phantom, who wracked up an impressive 28 straight wins as a two- and three-year old. Good genes The son of Steelhead Hanover and Very Ideal Hanover, Stealdeal was bred at Woodmere Standardbreds in Marshfield, P.E.I. Operator Bruce Wood attributes Steal's success to good training, but also good rearing and good genes. Steal's mother was an impressive horse too, he said, often pacing in the 1:53 range. She was "a real kind-hearted mare," said Wood, adding that Steal had a similar disposition, along with being "a really smart yearling and very athletic looking." Even when the race is over, he'll never let anyone pass him. — Bruce Wood, Woodmere Standardbreds After acquiring Steal in 2019, it didn't take long for owners Bob Sumarah and Kevin Dorey to realize they had something special on their hands. "After the first race, he looked fantastic," said Sumarah. Romo trains Steal at Romo Stables in Truro, N.S., and said this horse didn't require much pushing and seems to have a drive to win. His career debut was July 9 in Summerside, P.E.I., finishing in 1:57.1 and taking the Atlantic Sires Stakes A event. After winning that first race, he continued to lead the pack, and continued to shave time off his finishes, ending the season with 1:54.1 times at both Red Shores Charlottetown and the Truro Raceway. Woodmere Stealdeal was driven by Marc Campbell and Clare MacDonald in 2020. "He's had an incredible season," said Dorey. "He went 13 for 13. He raced at five tracks and he set five track records. And I can't recall any two-year-old in Atlantic Canada ever accomplishing that feat." "He's a fast, fast horse. And he loves to pass horses," said Dorey. "He loves attention. He loves people." Wood is pleased and proud of Steal's success and hopes it continues. "We follow them like they're our kids once they start their racing career," said Wood. He's not always able to catch the races in person, but when he can't he always watches them later online. "It's pretty neat to see him break record after record." The impressive season drew $68,646 in earnings, according to Standardbred Canada, including the Atlantic Breeds Crown, Joe O'Brien Memorial and the Maritime Breeders Championship. When the racing season starts in May, Steal will be competing as a three-year-old. And hopes are high that he'll continue to set records in 2021. Wood said Woodmere Stealdeal's desire to win is clear. Even when he wins a race by lengths, instead of slowing down and cooling off right away, he continues to run. "Even when the race is over, he'll never let anyone pass him." More from CBC P.E.I.
At least five people have died at a nursing home in Italy from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, local media and officials said on Saturday. Seven people, including two health workers, are being treated in hospital for symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning, the ANSA news agency said. "It's a tragedy," Interior Ministry Undersecretary Carlo Sibilia wrote in a Facebook post.
Hot chocolate bombs are the latest food trend to explode onto the scene from social media, especially TikTok. Slightly larger than a tennis ball, a bomb can be placed in the bottom of a mug and when hot milk is poured over them, the hard chocolate shell melts, gently exploding with hot cocoa powders and marshmallows. Stir and enjoy! "It's really delicious," said Kimberly Davey with At Your Service Creations, one of two bakers who joined CBC Radio: Island Morning host Mitch Cormier to talk about the trend. The trend began last year and came on strong during the Christmas season. Davey began making them last Valentine's Day and makes them in different sizes and flavours. She said most people hadn't heard of them earlier this year, so at her pop-up markets she'd show them videos on her phone of how the bombs work. When the trend exploded on social media, she said people began lining up to get them. "I would be showing up for a market, I'd get there 15 minutes early, but there'd already be a lineup for the hot chocolate bombs," Davey said. Charisa Lykow from DaBomb Custom Baking in Summerside, P.E.I., saw them on social media and began making them for Christmas to expand her selection. "It's been insane, my inbox was constantly filled," she said. Lykow's decided to take a break after Christmas to spend time with her family because she was so busy making bombs before the holiday. "I don't think it's the product itself, to be completely honest — I think it's the process of using the product, It's exciting," she said. "It makes hot chocolate exciting." "I'm not even a kid and I get excited very time I test one." They predict the bombs will be hot sellers this Valentine's and St. Patrick's days. With people spending more time at home and investing in self-care, the bakers hope this trend remains hot — at least, till the next big trend comes along. More from CBC P.E.I.
WASHINGTON — When Joe Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday outside a wounded U.S. Capitol, he will begin reshaping the office of the presidency itself as he sets out to lead a bitterly divided nation struggling with a devastating pandemic and an insurrection meant to stop his ascension to power. Biden had campaigned as a rebuke to President Donald Trump, a singular figure whose political power was fueled by discord and grievance. The Democrat framed his election as one to “heal the soul” of the nation and repair the presidency, restoring the White House image as a symbol of stability and credibility. In ways big and small, Biden will look to change the office he will soon inhabit. Incendiary tweets are out, wonky policy briefings are in. Biden, as much an institutionalist as Trump has been a disruptor, will look to change the tone and priorities of the office. “It really is about restoring some dignity to the office, about picking truth over lies, unity over division,” Biden said soon after he launched his campaign. “It’s about who we are.” The White House is about 2 miles up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol, where broken windows, heavy fortifications and hundreds of National Guard members provide a visible reminder of the power of a president’s words. Trump's supporters left a Jan. 6 rally by the president near the White House to commit violence in his name at the Capitol, laying siege to the citadel of democracy and underscoring the herculean task Biden faces in trying to heal the nation’s searing divisions. Few presidents have taken on the job having thought more about the mark he wants to make on it than Biden. He has spent more than 40 years in Washington and captured the White House after two previous failed attempts. He frequently praises his former boss, President Barack Obama, as an example of how to lead during crisis. “Biden’s main task is going to be need to be to reestablish the symbol of the White House to the world as a place of integrity and good governance. Because right now everything is in disarray,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University. “But Biden is uniquely situated to do this, his whole life has been spent in Washington and he spent eight years watching the job up close.” The changes will be sweeping, starting with the president's approach to the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed nearly 400,000 American lives. The sharp break from Trump won’t just come in federal policy, but in personal conduct. Trump flouted the virus, his staff largely eschewing masks in the warren of cramped West Wing offices while the president hosted “superspreader” events at the White House and on the road. Biden’s team is considering having many staffers work from home; those who do enter the building will wear masks. Biden has already been vaccinated, something Trump, who got the virus last fall, has chosen not to do despite suggestions that it would set an example for the nation. Biden’s approach to the day-to-day responsibilities of the office will also be a break from his predecessor. For one, Twitter won't be a principal source of news. Trump’s trail of tweets has roiled the capital for four years. Across Washington, phones would buzz with alerts anytime the president used his most potent political weapon to attack Democrats and keep Republicans in line. Biden’s tweets tend to be bland news releases and policy details with the occasional “Here’s the deal, folks” thrown in for good measure. Allied lawmakers are unlikely to have to pretend not to have seen the latest posting in order to avoid commenting on it. Biden has said he wants Americans to view the president as a role model again; no more coarse and demeaning language or racist, divisive rhetoric. His team has promised to restore daily news briefings and the president-elect does not refer to the press as “the enemy of the people.” But it remains to be seen whether he will be as accessible as Trump, who until his postelection hibernation, took more questions from reporters than any of his recent predecessors. While Trump filled out much of his Cabinet and White House staff with relatives, political neophytes and newcomers to government, Biden has turned to seasoned hands, bringing in Obama administration veterans and career officials. Policy papers will be back in vogue and governing by cable chyron likely out. Trump was mostly indifferent to the machinations of Congress, at times appearing to be an observer of his own administration. Biden, a longtime senator who will have Democratic control of both houses, is positioned to use the weight of his office to push an ambitious legislative agenda. His team will be tested, though, by the tumult at home: a virus that is killing more than 4,000 people a day, a sluggish vaccination distribution program, a worsening economy and contention over the upcoming second impeachment trial for Trump. Biden also has as much work ahead repairing the image of the presidency overseas as he does on American shores. Trump repositioned the United States in the world, pulling the U.S. out of a number of multilateral trade deals and climate agreements in favour of a more insular foreign policy. His ever-shifting beliefs and moods strained relations with some of the nation’s oldest allies, including much of Western Europe. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, Trump fostered competition, not co-operation, on research and vaccine development. Trump also abandoned the tradition role the president plays in shining a light on human rights abuses around the world. Biden, who spent years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and had a vast foreign policy portfolio as vice-president, has pledged a course correction. He has promised to repair alliances, rejoin the Paris climate treaty and the World Health Organization and said he would shore up U.S. national security by first addressing health, economic and political crises at home. Offering the White House as a symbol of stability to global capitals won’t be easy for Biden as Trump’s shadow looms. “He has a structural problem and needs to make the U.S. seem more reliable. We’re diminished in stature and less predictable,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that even after Biden’s win, the European Union bolstered ties to China with a new investment treaty. “Everyone around the world is hedging, they have no idea if Biden’s a one-term president or what could come after him,” Haass said. “There is a fear across the world that Trump or Trumpism could return in four years.” ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China on Saturday finished building a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients to fight a surge in infections the government said are harder to contain and that it blamed on infected people or goods from abroad. The hospital is one of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong, south of Beijing in Hebei province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. China had largely contained the coronavirus that first was detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has suffered a surge of cases since December. A total of 645 people are being treated in Nangong and the Hebei provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, Xinhua said. A 3,000-room hospital is under construction in Shijiazhuang. Virus clusters also have been found in Beijing and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Liaoning in the northeast and Sichuan in the southwest. The latest infections spread unusually fast, the National Health Commission said. “It is harder to handle,” a Commission statement said. “Community transmission already has happened when the epidemic is found, so it is difficult to prevent.” The Commission blamed the latest cases on people or goods arriving from abroad. It blamed “abnormal management” and “inadequate protection of workers” involved in imports but gave no details. “They are all imported from abroad. It was caused by entry personnel or contaminated cold chain imported goods,” said the statement. The Chinese government has suggested the disease might have originated abroad and publicized what it says is the discovery of the virus on imported food, mostly frozen fish, though foreign scientists are skeptical. Also Saturday, the city government of Beijing said travellers arriving in the Chinese capital from abroad would be required to undergo an additional week of “medical monitoring” after a 14-day quarantine but gave no details. Nationwide, the Health Commission reported 130 new confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Friday. It said 90 of those were in Hebei. On Saturday, the Hebei government reported 32 additional cases since midnight, the Shanghai news outlet The Paper reported. In Shijiazhuang, authorities have finished construction of 1,000 rooms of the planned hospital, state TV said Saturday. Xinhua said all the facilities are due to be completed within a week. A similar program of rapid hospital construction was launched by the ruling Communist Party at the start of the outbreak last year in Wuhan. More than 10 million people in Shijiazhuang underwent virus tests by late Friday, Xinhua said, citing a deputy mayor, Meng Xianghong. It said 247 locally transmitted cases were found. Meanwhile, researchers sent by the World Health Organization were in Wuhan preparing to investigate the origins of the virus. The team, which arrived Thursday, was under a two-week quarantine but was due to talk with Chinese experts by video link. The team's arrival was held up for months by diplomatic wrangling that prompted a rare public complaint by the head of the WHO. That delay, and the secretive ruling party’s orders to scientists not to talk publicly about the disease, have raised questions about whether Beijing might try to block discoveries that would hurt its self-proclaimed status as a leader in the anti-virus battle. Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
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.
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.
For much of 2020, the COVID-19 story in British Columbia was a tale of two pandemics: the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths were in the Lower Mainland, with the rest of the province only seeing intermittent outbreaks. Not anymore. For the last month, active cases have plunged in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and risen everywhere else. Adjusted for population, the biggest hot spots in the province are now places like Fort St. John, Terrace, Burns Lake and Revelstoke. There's 10 months of data to show what happens if outbreaks aren't dealt with quickly, if people don't self-isolate, if firm measures aren't taken. Which is why some of the conversation by local leaders in the Interior is how to — or whether to — ignore the small minority advocating for the opposite approach. "It's been rough. It's not been good," said 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall, who says his community and the surrounding area now have more than 60 cases. Campsall estimates only one or two per cent of the community are attending anti-mask rallies or blatantly ignoring provincial health guidelines. But says it does have an impact. "I'll be blunt. We live in a me, me, me world. It's all about me, it's not about the community … people have got to get the right information." 'We know what has to be done' While the term "COVID fatigue" is often used in the Lower Mainland, beyond Hope there's a concern of COVID complacency — communities that haven't seen the same level of transmission or hospitalizations, who may be slow to respond to the moment. "We know what has to be done. You just have to be very careful, you've got to keep your bubble very small," said Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming. At the same time, his own council passed a motion pushing the province to reopen places of worship, over Cumming's opposition. "There's clearly people within the community finding this not something they truly back or believe in … but the science is clear." Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has seen his community become the centre of large rallies against health orders in recent months and struggles with whether criticizing those folks only amplifies their message. "I don't think it's going to stop people from doing this behaviour," he said. "All I would say is I'd rather speak to the vast majority of people who believe in science, who believe this is real, and who have done their best to stop the spread." And with thousands of people being vaccinated every day, Basran hopes people can see light at the end of the tunnel. "Everyone is really frustrated. Unfortunately, we're going to have to keep the fight up," he said. "We are so close to the end here." Deaths still happening in care homes That end, however, will come too late to people like Chris Ashburn in Vernon. His father John died Jan. 5 in the Heritage Square long-term care home, where seven people have passed away since an outbreak was declared in late December. "His only symptoms they had noticed at [first] were a runny nose," said Ashburn, who was grateful for the efforts of health-care workers and said his dad had "led a very robust, great life." As more and more communities across British Columbia deal with large outbreaks, Ashburn is optimistic the vaccine will bring stability. But he also has a message for people downplaying the effects of the virus. "It's unfathomable to me that we're basically a year into this, and they still find a platform for an opinion that this isn't real," he said. "I hope for the sake of them, they don't have to go through what we went through." With files from Brady Strachan and Daybreak South
KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s electoral commission says longtime President Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term while top opposition challenger Bobi Wine alleges rigging and officials struggle to explain how polling results were compiled amid an internet blackout. In a generational clash widely watched across the African continent, with a booming young population and a host of aging leaders, the 38-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker Wine posed arguably the greatest challenge yet to Museveni. He had strong support in urban centres where frustration with unemployment and corruption is high. The electoral commission said Museveni received 58% of ballots and Wine 34%, and voter turnout was 52%. The top United States diplomat to Africa has called the electoral process “fundamentally flawed.” Thursday’s vote followed the East African country’s worst pre-election violence since the 76-year-old Museveni took office in 1986. Wine and other opposition candidates were often harassed, and more than 50 people were killed when security forces put down riots in November over Wine’s arrest. Wine petitioned the International Criminal Court this month over alleged torture and other abuses by security forces. While the president holds on to power, at least 15 of his Cabinet ministers, including the vice-president, were voted out, with many losing to candidates from Wine’s party, local media reported. Wine claimed victory Friday, asserting that he had video evidence of vote-rigging and saying “every legal option is on the table” to challenge the official election results, including peaceful protests. Candidates can challenge election results at the Supreme Court. Hours later, he tweeted that the military had entered his home compound and “we are in serious trouble,” which a military spokeswoman denied. Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was roughed up and arrested several times while campaigning but was never convicted, and eventually he campaigned wearing a flak jacket and said he feared for his life. A heavy presence of security forces remained around his home, where he has said he was alone with his wife and a single security guard. Uganda’s electoral commission has said Wine should prove his allegations of rigging, and it has deflected questions about how countrywide voting results were transmitted during the internet blackout by saying “we designed our own system.” It could not explain how it worked. Monitoring of the vote was further complicated by the arrests of independent monitors and the denial of accreditation to so many members of the U.S. observer mission that the U.S. called it off. Another major observer, the European Union, said its offer to deploy electoral experts “was not taken up.” “Uganda’s electoral process has been fundamentally flawed,” the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, tweeted Saturday, calling for the immediate and full restoration of internet access and warning that “the U.S. response hinges on what the Ugandan government does now.” Museveni, once praised as part of a new generation of African leaders, still has support among some in Uganda for bringing stability. A longtime U.S. security ally, he once criticized African leaders who refused to step aside but has since overseen the removal of term limits and an age limit on the presidency. The head of the African Union observer team, Samuel Azuu Fonkam, told reporters he could not say whether the election had been free and fair, noting the “limited” AU mission which largely focused on the capital, Kampala. Asked about Wine’s allegations of rigging, he said he could not “speak about things we did not see or observe.” The East African Community observer team in its preliminary statement noted issues including “disproportionate use of force in some instances” by security forces, the internet shutdown, some late-opening polling stations and isolated cases of failure in biometric kits to verify voters. But it called the vote largely peaceful and said it “demonstrated the level of maturity expected of a democracy.” Uganda’s elections are often marred by allegations of fraud and abuses by security forces. The previous election saw sporadic post-election riots. The Associated Press
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
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
New Brunswick's largest long-term care home is working on a proposal that could see family members help take care of their loved ones as well as other residents in the event of a staffing shortage during a COVID-19 outbreak. Under the province's current COVID-19 rules, family members are not allowed into a long-term care facility when there is even one confirmed case, which constitutes an outbreak. But the York Care Centre in Fredericton contends family members who are part of its designated caregiver program and have been trained in COVID-preventive measures could "bring a lot of value to the response rather than being locked out," said president and CEO Tony Weeks. "We obviously don't have any approvals to actually implement something like that because we're committed to following Public Health directions like everybody else," he said. "And so what we want to do is be able to influence government thinking to allow that to happen." York Care Centre and its research company, the Centre for Innovation and Research in Aging, are preparing a report for the provincial government on a low-staff simulation exercise conducted at the home in December to demonstrate the role designated caregivers could play. Weeks expects to submit the report within the next month. He thinks the centre's program could serve as a model for long-term care homes across the province and across the country, not just during a COVID staffing shortage but in any emergency or evacuation. The Department of Social Development did not respond Friday to a request for comment. Started in the summer The designated caregiver program at York Care Centre started last summer. It links residents with a family member who can assist with care on a set schedule, said Lori McDonald, vice-president of care and research services. Unlike regular visitors, who are accountable only for "being safe when they're here and having that needed togetherness with their loved one," designated caregivers commit to interaction that improves their loved one's health, she said. The type of interaction is different for everyone, said McDonald. "One person might be helping to feed their mother. Another person might be helping walk their father, or someone else might be in just for social engagement because they're at risk for depression." The designated caregivers also receive training in infection control, proper hand washing, the use of personal protective equipment, and safe practices to reduce the risk of bringing any virus into the facility, said McDonald. "So it's quite a robust education program," she said, but a voluntary one. 100 trained so far "We're not approaching them and asking them if they want to be part of this program. They're approaching us, saying, 'We want to be in your facility to care for our loved one, just like we always did [before the pandemic], but in a safe way.'" Of the centre's 218 residents, 100 now have a trained designated caregiver. General visitors are barred from the centre when the Fredericton region is at the more restrictive orange or red levels of COVID-19 recovery, as it is now, but designated caregivers are allowed in no matter the level — as long as there's no outbreak. To date, York Care Centre has not had any positive cases of COVID-19. In the event of an outbreak, "it's a very real possibility that we'll have staff who are sick or maybe scared to come to work," said McDonald. They've told us they want to be here. - Lori McDonald, York Care Centre During earlier outbreaks at other long-term care homes, some staff left or didn't show up for work, and the government had to seek volunteers from other parts of the province. McDonald said family members "bring quite a bit to the residents' lives … And they've told us they want to be here." Residents, meanwhile, have said they "feel lonely and they feel isolated when their families are not here," she said. "So we're looking to bridge that gap … by using our [designated] caregivers." Some of the designated caregivers might also be willing to assist with the social support or quality-of-life issues of residents they're not related to, said McDonald, noting many develop friendships after years of visiting. "There's absolutely no pressure," she added, and the consent of all parties would be required. This was not the program's original "initial target," but is now a "byproduct," said McDonald. "It's something we're looking at." Simulation 'held back' staff In December, the centre ran a simulation to see how it could respond to an emergency that resulted in a significant reduction of its 350 full-time equivalent staff, and determine what role the designated caregivers could play now that they're familiar with the organization and trained, said Weeks. "We couldn't actually run with short staff [and risk compromising care], so all we could do is hold back," he said, adding residents and families were advised in advance of the two-day simulation being conducted by two teams of staff on a couple of different units. "Team A was basically doing all of the functions in a short-staffed scenario, and then they let out some of the B team folks to support it when things got in a pinch. "So similar to if it was a real scenario, resources would become available as we're able to get them. And so that was the examination, to see what impact would that have on the care that we provide. "What impact would it have on the stress on the employees? How would it impact the residents? And again, as a byproduct, what role could designated caregivers play?" One of the scenarios being assessed was, if multiple residents were pressing their call bell at the same time, what was the centre's ability to respond to those call bells in a safe manner, said Weeks. Another example was if a resident required some extra attention that tied up a nurse while something else happened, what impact would it have if the nurse couldn't respond. In addition, the simulation looked at how many of the functions taking place might be considered non-urgent but still quality-of-life issues, such as social interaction or getting people to activities, which designated caregivers might be able to help with, said Weeks. He acknowledged there may be some people who would argue they pay for the care their loved ones are supposed to receive, and they shouldn't have to volunteer. But he said none of the York Care Centre families have made any such comments. "When we told them about this initiative, they were all quite excited to know that it's going on because they understand it provides another level of safety," he said. "Remember, we're talking about people that even before the pandemic, they were coming in here on their own because they have strong connections with their loved ones, and they want to be part of their lives."
Dougie just can't contain his excitement as he runs and plays in the first snowfall of 2021. Hilarious!
Filmmaker Sayda Habib turned lockdown blues into an inspirational project. Sayda Habib was pursuing a project on long-term care homes in Canada for her masters in journalism at the University of Regina when COVID-19 hit. "Originally, I wanted to create a documentary portraying the abuse in the Canadian seniors homes. I wanted to work on this project because the number of seniors suffering from abuse in nursing homes has tripled in the last few years. The documentary was to be named Care in Jeopardy," Sayda said. Weeks into the pandemic, however, it became clear to Sayda and her supervisor that she would have to course-correct. Many of her key characters were restricted from receiving guests and the logistics for getting a camera anywhere became incredibly difficult. "I knew I had to change my plans," Sayda said. "Most nursing homes were restricted to visitors already at that time which meant I had to change my project to a more attainable one." Although it was disheartening to change course late in the academic year after investing so much time and effort into her research, Sayda decided to make a documentary about the cause of the change. Pandemic Minds was born. The documentary finds Sayda following the lives of different characters from different parts of the world to explore how they are adjusting to the strange new world. Assisted by clinical psychologist Syeda Batool Najam, Sayda examines how the various personalities perceive the global pandemic and why. "Pandemic Minds investigates human behaviour in a global crisis through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. This documentary explores five factors of human behaviour through the stories of ordinary people," Sayda said. "The factors that were mentioned in the documentary were denial, self-interest, fear/anxiety, adaptation and solidarity." Sayda raced against the clock to finish her documentary. As she was essentially starting a brand new project, she had to act quickly and find creative solutions to whatever hurdles were thrown her way. This proved to be a long process. "I can say it took me about three and half months to write, record and edit this documentary. But the whole process at that time seemed like a decade," Sayda said. Sayda faced challenges creating the documentary, from finding characters to co-ordinating them. "The biggest challenge was to be able to get at least 20 participants who were willing to record themselves one whole day. Not everyone was comfortable recording themselves and even when they agreed, some of the participants did not follow the instructions while recording," Sayda said. "I also had a hard time getting the materials online. This is because I had participants from different countries and not everyone was able to send me the files through the shared drive." Sayda was able to come through shining on the other side, regardless of the challenges. She said she especially learned the importance of patience and perseverance. Moving forward, she would like to make a documentary series inspired by Pandemic Minds. "The psychological explanations in the documentary would be very detailed yet simple to understand. To give you an example, one episode can solely be on the increase in domestic violence during a pandemic or this specific pandemic," Sayda said. "What is the psychological reason behind that? What goes through the mind of the perpetrator and what can be done about it?"
Beset by political infighting, split between three territories and distrustful of their institutions, many Palestinians are sceptical that their first national elections in 15 years will bring change - or even happen at all. President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that parliamentary and presidential elections would be held later this year in a bid to heal long-standing divisions. The announcement is widely seen as a gesture aimed at pleasing U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, with whom the Palestinians want to reset relations after they reached a low under Donald Trump.
A plane carrying one million doses of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine arrived on Saturday in Serbia, making it the first European country to receive the Chinese vaccine for mass inoculation programmes. President Aleksandar Vucic was accompanied by Beijing's ambassador to the Balkan country at Belgrade's airport as containers carrying the vaccines were unloaded from an Air Serbia plane. "I would like to thank President Xi Jinping and Chinese leadership for sending us one million doses of the vaccine," Vucic, who has helped forge close ties with China in recent years, told reporters.
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