Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister defended his province's lack of rapid testing use after Power & Politics discovered only a fraction of rapid tests delivered to provinces across the country are being used.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister defended his province's lack of rapid testing use after Power & Politics discovered only a fraction of rapid tests delivered to provinces across the country are being used.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia said Saturday it intercepted a missile attack over its capital and bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults it has blamed on Yemen’s rebel Houthis. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s yearslong war announced the Iran-allied Houthis had launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones toward the province of Jizan, with a fourth toward another southwestern city and other drones being monitored. No casualties or damage were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis. The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. That blast renewed concerns about ship security in the strategic waterways that saw a spate of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019. The state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV broadcast footage of what appeared to be explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos, with some showing residents shrieking as they watched the fiery blast pierce the night sky, which appeared to be the kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries intercepting the ballistic missile. Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying in “a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.” The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to “stay alert in case of additional future attacks.” Flight-tracking websites showed a number of flights scheduled to land at Riyadh’s international airport diverted or delayed in the hour after the attack. A civil defence spokesman, Mohammed al-Hammadi, later said scattered debris resulted in material damage to one house, though no one was hurt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. As Yemen's war grinds on, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown commonplace, only rarely causing damage. Earlier this month the Houthis struck an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia's southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone, causing it to catch fire. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. President Joe Biden announced this month he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. But he stressed that the U.S. would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks. The Houthis overran Yemen’s capital and much of the country's north in 2014, forcing the government into exile and months later prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign. __ Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report. Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to ask President Joe Biden to consider sharing part of the U.S. coronavirus vaccine supply with its poorer southern neighbor when the two leaders hold a virtual summit on Monday, U.S. and Mexican officials said. Biden is open to discussing the matter as part of a broader regional effort to cooperate in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but will maintain as his “number one priority” the need to first vaccinate as many Americans as possible, a White House official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Lopez Obrador has been one of the most vocal leaders in the developing world pressing the richest countries to improve poorer nations’ access to the vaccines.
Security forces battling a decades-long insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir are alarmed by the recent arrival in the disputed region of small, magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan. "Sticky bombs", which can be attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, have been seized during raids in recent months in the federally administered region of Jammu and Kashmir, three senior security officials told Reuters. "These are small IEDs and quite powerful," said Kashmir Valley police chief Vijay Kumar, referring to improvised explosive devices.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine overview: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations," Sharma said, based on a preprint. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. AstraZeneca is working on reformulating its vaccine to address more transmissible variants of coronavirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. WATCH | Performance of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine so far: There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
SHANGHAI — Chinese Super League champion Jiangsu FC announced Sunday it would “cease operations” with immediate effect, just three months after winning its first title. Nanjing-based Jiangsu, which is owned by retail giant Suning that also holds a majority stake in Italian league leader Inter Milan, said on social media that it hoped that a new backer could be found after the company pulled out. “Even though we are reluctant to part with the players who have won us the highest honours, and fans who have shared solidarity with the club, we have to regretfully make an announcement,” a Jiangsu FC statement said. “From today, Jiangsu Football Club ceases the operation of its teams.” Suning had reportedly tried to sell Jiangsu, which has debts estimated to be around $90 million. Also folding are Jiangsu’s successful women’s team and various youth teams. Earlier this month, Suning owner Zhang Jindong said the group would cut back on non-retail activities after a difficult year in which revenues had been hit by COVID-19. “We will focus on retail business and close and cut down our businesses that are not connected to businesses,” he said. There have been reports in Italy that Suning, which bought a majority stake in Inter in 2016, is looking to sell the Milan club. Jiangsu will be the second Chinese team to withdraw from the Asian Champions League that kicks off in April. Shandong Luneng was kicked out of the competition for breaching rules regarding outstanding salary payments. There are concerns that Jiangsu may soon be followed by Tianjin Tigers. Club owner Teda has cut investment in the team it has owned since 1998 after the Chinese Football Association ruled this year that all team names must be free from corporate titles. Last year, the city’s other club, Tianjin Tianhai, went bankrupt. Chinese soccer became one of the biggest-spending leagues in the world over the past decade. Star players including Hulk, Oscar and Paulinho arrived in the country along with World Cup winning coaches Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe-Scolari. In a bid to cut costs, a new salary cap has been imposed for the 2021 season that will limit club expenditures to $90 million a year. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Submitted by Beatriz Cordeiro - image credit) Beatriz Cordeiro says she didn't choose Canada, but Canada chose her. "I had no reason to be here," said the 20-year-old student from the coastal city of Recife, Brazil. Cordeiro was studying law in Brazil but felt miserable and realized she didn't want a desk job for the rest of her life. Theatre was her calling. Cordeiro had gone to a Brazilian high school that had a partnership with New Brunswick and provided the option to study a Canadian curriculum for more money. She didn't take that program, but after she lost interest in law, a family friend suggested Cordeiro reach out to her high school's director about the possibility of studying in Canada. I think this place is home way more than my other place was home. - Beatriz Cordeiro, international student Over the next two months, Cordeiro applied and was accepted at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. She didn't have a scholarship, which meant she would have to pay full international tuition, or about $18,000 a year. "When I asked my mom, 'Should I do it? It's going to be so much money,' she was, like, 'Do you really want to do it?' And I was, like, 'Yes' and she said, 'So we're going to find a way.'" Now, however, Cordeiro is among the international students who are struggling with finances. For some, support from home dried up after the pandemic hit and family members lost their jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on Cordeiro's efforts to pay for expenses. Her mother, a single parent, ran an event-planning company that had been in the family for over 30 years. The company was already struggling, but after coronavirus hit the country, her mother lost her job. On top of her schoolwork, Cordeiro works 40 hours a week between three jobs — as a barista, a stage manager at STU, and on an internship with a local theatre company. Under federal law, international students are allowed to work 20 hours off-campus per week and unlimited hours on campus. Cordeiro, who lives off campus, considers Fredericton her home. She said the city's arts community is what keeps her alive and she's found her passion here. "I truly think I will be here for the rest of my life. I think this place is home way more than my other place was home," she said. In this photo, Beatriz Cordeiro, with Georgia Priestley-Brown, stage manager for the Fredericton production of Sweet Dreams. Cordeiro was assistant stage manager in the production. Cordeiro's mother is now working for her family's bakery but hasn't been paid for the last six months, making her unable to send money to her daughter. Brazil's currency, the Brazilian real, is also weaker than the Canadian dollar, with one Canadian dollar the equivalent of slightly more than four reais as of Feb. 23. In November, Cordeiro raised $4,200 through a GoFundMe campaign but still has $6,000 left to pay of school costs. Cordeiro was one of 30 students at STU who applied for help from the International Student COVID-19 Financial Aid Fund. She received $850 from the fund, which was set up by the student union. Leigh Watson, a communications officer for the New Brunswick government, said in an email that the province implemented a $500,000 program last April, the Emergency Bridging Fund for Vulnerable Post-Secondary Students, to help vulnerable students experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic. Out of those who applied for the program, 68 per cent were international students. Almost a year later, some international students still struggle to pay for tuition and expenses in the province. 'A lot of guilt' Sara Lamk, a STU international student from Chillán, Chile, is in the same boat as Cordeiro. Her uncle, who paid for her tuition during her first two years of university, told her he won't be able to send any more money because COVID-19 affected his job. Lamk's mother doesn't have a stable job, and whenever Lamk receives money from her mother, she feels guilty. "There's a lot of guilt for us to ask people back home to help us financially when we already know they are struggling," she said. Lamk works 30 hours a week — as a barista, a campus tour ambassador, and on an internship with a non-profit working with LGBTQ youth — and the money she earns goes toward tuition and rent. She stopped paying her phone bill because it's money she could use for tuition, she said. She also takes advantage of her employee discount at work to eat there and avoid having to buy groceries. Sara Lamk, a St. Thomas University international student, said international students don't have the option to take a semester or a year off school to work to pay for tuition. Lamk said many international students come to Canada with financial security for their first year of university, such as scholarships or the assurance they will be able to afford expenses. But that changes. "Unexpected things happen throughout the degree, right? Nobody told me in my first year that my uncle was not going to be able to help me pay anymore at some point in university, so I wasn't worried about that," she said. Lamk, for example, had a scholarship that covered her room and $2,500 of her tuition, but couldn't meet the 3.5 GPA requirement to renew it last April because her mental health was affected when the pandemic hit. Now, she pays full international tuition, which is double of the government-subsidized tuition Canadian students pay. There's a lot of guilt for us to ask people back home to help us financially when we already know they are struggling. - Sara Lamk, international student at St. Thomas University. This year, Lamk said she's noticed her university has put out financial aid specifically for international students, such as the international relief fund that she also applied to through the STU students' union. She's grateful for it. Still, she wishes universities were more flexible and understanding with students who struggle with finding ways to pay. "Would you blame someone [for wanting] better education opportunities?" 'What do you do for your home?' Lamk said international students don't have the option to take a year or a semester off to work to pay for tuition, which is something Canadian students can do. Under federal law, international students need to be studying full time to be able to stay in Canada under a student visa. "We don't have that option of freezing and then continuing as if nothing had happened, because that means either we have to go back to our home countries, [where] the situation could be worse," she said. Asif Hasan, Fredericton business owner and immigrant, founded the International Students Association of New Brunswick in June last year as a support group for international students during the pandemic. Asif Hasan, Fredericton business-owner and immigrant, founded the International Students' Association New Brunswick chapter last June to offer support to international students. While international students have reached out to the organization regarding financial support, Hasan said students have mostly reached out seeking mental health support and someone to talk to who would relate to their experiences of isolation during the pandemic. Hasan said that international students and immigrants go through "double the stress" when keeping up with how the pandemic unfolds in New Brunswick, which he said is also their home, and in their home countries. "Here you can actually give back … but what do you do for your home?" he said. "That feeling of 'I don't know what to do' creates a huge kind of anxiety." Building a life in Canada, away from family Cordeiro, who has mostly Canadian friends, knows COVID-19 also affects local people. Still, she has noticed how her international friends have their own set of struggles, which include constantly worrying about how their families are doing back home with COVID-19 while being away from them. With the virus unfolding in Brazil, Cordeiro said, she fears for her family's life, with her mother and grandmother having weaker immune systems. "I literally am scared that I will receive the call that they died, for example, and I'm not going to be able to do anything about it because I'm here, and I don't have the means to go back home, for example, if anything happened." Cordeiro said while it's lonely to be in Fredericton by herself, she's happy to be in New Brunswick because it's safer. "Although we had a spike in cases [recently], it's nothing compared to other places and nothing compared to what my city looks like right now. There's the two sides of the coin for every story. "[It's not that] COVID hasn't hit Canada badly, but it did hit other countries way worse and that is just hard to watch, to be happy to be here, but also watch our countries go through such a tragic situation."
ISLAMABAD — A trio of gunmen shot and killed a religious cleric, his teenage son and a student on the outskirts of Pakistan's capital Islamabad, police said, amid a rise in militant attacks. Police officer Shahzad Khan said the killing took place in the Bhara Kahu neighbourhood when Mufti Ikramur Rehman was heading toward his car with his 13-year-old son and a seminary student late Saturday night. He said three assailants fired several shots before fleeing the scene. The cleric, his son and the student received multiple gunshot wounds and died at a hospital. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and Khan said an investigation was underway to ascertain the identity of the assailants and the motive behind the killings. Ikramur Rehman was affiliated with the party of firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads an 11-party opposition alliance to topple the government. Militant violence in Pakistan is on the rise. Last week, four vocational school instructors who advocated for women’s rights were travelling together when they were gunned down in a Pakistan border region. A Twitter death threat against Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attracted an avalanche of trolls who heaped abuse on the young champion of girls education. A couple of men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police check-post not far from the Afghan border killing a young police constable. In recent weeks, at least a dozen military and paramilitary men have been killed in ambushes, attacks and operations against militant hideouts, mostly in the western border regions. The Associated Press
OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don't want an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic but the Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give the Liberals justification for calling one. Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of systematically blocking the government's legislative agenda, including bills authorizing billions in pandemic-related aid and special measures for safely conducting a national election. The Conservatives counter that the Liberals have not used the control they have over the House of Commons' agenda to prioritize the right bills; other parties say both the government and the Official Opposition share the blame. "They're playing politics all the time in the House. It's delay, delay, delay and eventually that delay becomes obstruction," the Liberals' House leader Pablo Rodriguez said in an interview. "It's absurd. I think it's insulting to Canadians and I think people should be worried because those important programs may not come into force ... because of the games played by the Conservatives." He pointed to the three hours last week the Commons spent discussing a months-old, three-sentence committee report affirming the competence of the new Canadian Tourism Commission president. That was forced by a Conservative procedural manoeuvre, upending the government's plan to finally start debate on the pandemic election bill, which contains measures the chief electoral officer has said are urgent given that the minority Liberal government could fall at any time if the opposition parties unite against it. A week earlier, MPs spent three hours discussing a committee report recommending a national awareness day for human trafficking — something Rodriguez said had unanimous support and could have been dealt with "in a second." That debate, also prompted by the Conservatives, prevented any progress on Bill C-14, legislation flowing from last fall's economic statement with billions in expanded emergency aid programs and new targeted aid for hard-hit industries. That bill was introduced in December but stalled at second reading, with Conservative MPs talking out the clock each time it did come up for debate. After eight days of sporadic debate — more than is normally accorded for a full-fledged budget, Rodriguez noted — Conservatives finally agreed Friday to let the bill proceed to committee for scrutiny. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has argued that "modest debate" is warranted on C-14, which he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation. Last December, the Conservatives dragged out debate on Bill C-7, a measure to expand medical assistance in dying in compliance with a 2019 court ruling. For three straight days last week, they refused consent to extend sitting hours to debate a motion laying out the government's response to Senate amendments to C-7, despite a looming court deadline that was extended Thursday to March 26. Conservatives note they offered the previous week to extend the hours to allow a thorough debate but the government waited five days before tabling its response to the amendments. For Rodriguez it all adds up to "a pattern" of obstruction aimed at blocking the government's legislative agenda. Procedural machinations are commonly used by opposition parties to tie up legislation. But Rodriguez argued it's inappropriate in a pandemic when "people are dying by the dozens every day." If the government held a majority of seats in the Commons, it could impose closure on debates. But in the current minority situation, it would need the support of one of the main opposition parties to cut short debate — something it's not likely to get. In a minority Parliament, Rodriguez argued, all parties share responsibility for ensuring that legislation can at least get to a vote. But Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell lays the blame for the legislative impasse squarely on Rodriguez. "The government House leader has failed to set clear priorities, and has therefore failed to manage the legislative agenda," he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, adding that "my door is always open for frank and constructive discussions.” Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien agrees the Liberals have "mismanaged the legislative calendar and must take their responsibilities." But he doesn't exempt the Conservatives. He said their obstruction of the assisted-dying bill and another that would ban forcible conversion therapy aimed at altering a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is "deplorable." "These are files that require compassion and rigour. It is inexcusable to hold the House hostage on such matters," Therrien said in an email, suggesting that O'Toole is having trouble controlling the "religious right" in his caucus. As far as NDP House leader Peter Julian is concerned, both the Liberals and Conservatives are trying to trigger an election. "We believe that is absolutely inappropriate, completely inappropriate given the pandemic, given the fact that so many Canadians are suffering," he said in an interview. Julian accused the Liberals of bringing forward unnecessary legislation, like the election bill, while "vitally important" bills, like one implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another on net-zero carbon emissions, languish. The Liberals' intention, he said, is to eventually say there must be an election because of "all these important things we couldn't get done." And the Conservatives "seem to want to play into this narrative" by blocking the bills the government does put forward. Veteran Green MP Elizabeth May, however, agrees with Rodriguez, who she says must be "at his wits' end." "What I see is obstructionism, pure and simple," she said in an interview. She blames the Conservatives primarily for the procedural "tomfoolery" but accuses both the Bloc and NDP of being "in cahoots," putting up speakers to help drag out time-wasting debates on old committee reports. "It's mostly the Conservatives but they're in league," May said. "They are all trying to keep anything orderly from happening that might possibly let the Liberals say we've accomplished a legislative agenda. Whether the bills are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant in this strategy." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Check out this heartwarming clip of a little girl bringing a blanket over to her Alaskan Malamute named Dude. She says it's for him to snuggle with then tells him to "Bundle Up". Dude seems to be relaxed with the blanket!
(Canadian Community Services Organization handout - image credit) Volunteers masked up outside Flemingdon Health Centre on Saturday to hand out free healthy snack kits, along with masks and hand sanitizer, for hundreds of the neighbourhood's children. Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people live close together in the community in high-rise buildings. Many of the residents are racialized, living off low incomes and working essential jobs — all of which puts them at increased risk for catching and spreading the virus. The kits are a gesture of support for struggling parents, and the reaction has been "amazing," said Masood Alam, president of the Canadian Community Services Organization, a volunteer effort which launched back in April in response to the pandemic and only recently incorporated into a non-profit. "We started with 50 families," Alam said. "Now, they're helping us out… volunteering with us." To date, he said the group has distributed 2,500 adult masks and 900 kid masks. Moving forward, the Kids Healthy Snacks Drive will provide 300 children weekly with healthy snacks and personal protective equipment, including more masks for their parents. It's a small but meaningful volunteer initiative, and Saturday's efforts were bolstered by the latest report from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. WATCH | COVID-19 means sacrifices, stress for residents of Thorncliffe neighbourhood The provincial group released a report Friday recommending vaccines be distributed based not just on age but neighbourhoods too. The recommendation stems from the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 "on residents of disadvantaged and racialized urban neighbourhoods throughout the province," said the report. "This vaccine strategy will maximize the prevention of deaths … and best maintain health-care system capacity." Per expert projections, a strategy involving age and neighbourhoods could prevent an additional 3,767 cases, as well as 168 deaths, compared with a strategy that prioritizes based on age alone. "There's a big need in this community," said Alam, who added that the group is also trying to spread awareness about the vaccine "to help the community be ready to get [vaccinated]." Ahmed Hussein, executive director of The Neighbourhood Association, is one of the community advocates who's been pushing for the prioritization of vulnerable communities like Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park. "The science advisory group really followed the science so that's the logical thing," he said. "We hope the government will do that." A neighbourhood approach makes sense as part of a public health approach, said Jen Quinlan, the chief executive officer at Flemingdon Health Centre. "You want to make sure you can vaccinate and address the pandemic in the quickest way, and in my opinion it only makes sense to start with those who are most vulnerable to negative health outcomes," Quinlan said. She said she understands that conversations around vaccine access are "very sensitive" and that many people are concerned and worried the rollout isn't fast enough. However, Quinlan said, the stakes are different for Torontonians who are able to work from home safely and haven't seen a big drop in income throughout the pandemic. "Many Torontonians are not in that position," she said. "They're delivering your food, they're stocking your grocery aisles, they're packing all of your Amazon orders, and if we want to address the spread of COVID-19 across Toronto we should start with those who are most likely to spread it and who are most exposed." WATCH | The push to prioritize some neighbourhoods for COVID-19 vaccines Until neighbourhood residents start getting injected with the vaccine, Quinlan said a key part of the Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park approach is encouraging more people to get tested. They're even using decommissioned TTC buses to set up testing facilities in the parking lots at the base of high-rise apartment buildings, she said. Despite the fatigue after a long winter under stay-at-home orders, Quinlan said she's "really proud of community leaders" and intends to "keep public health messaging alive and well."
BELGRADE, Serbia — The president of Serbia's Football Association was on Sunday questioned by police in connection with recent arrests of several members of soccer fan groups accused of murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking. Serbian media said Slavisa Kokeza was quizzed over his links to leaders of Partizan Belgrade supporter groups who were arrested earlier this month in what officials say is a major crackdown against soccer's links with organized crime. Details from the police investigation leaked to the media include alleged killings by group members of their rivals, including decapitations and torture in a special “bunker” at the Partizan stadium in the Serbian capital. Populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who has often boasted about his youth as a radical supporter of Partizan’s rival Red Star Belgrade, said Saturday that some of the “shocking” details of the investigation will be made public next week and that children will be warned not to watch. Serbia has a history of tolerating hooliganism that often resulted in violence and outbursts of nationalism at stadiums. During the Balkan wars in the 1990s, many of them joined notorious paramilitary groups linked to war crimes against other national groups in the former Yugoslavia. With the return of nationalists to power in Serbia nine years ago, far-right soccer supporters were often seen at pro-government rallies promoting a nationalist political agenda. In exchange, analysts say, the hooligans have been allowed to pursue their illegal business activities. More than a dozen prominent figures from the country’s soccer supporters’ groups have been murdered in recent years. Most have perished in gangland-style killings. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY — Infectious disease experts are expressing concern about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that Iraqis will crowd to see him. No one wants to tell Francis to call it off, and the Iraqi government has every interest in showing off its relative stability by welcoming the first pope to the birthplace of Abraham. The March 5-8 trip is expected to provide a sorely-needed spiritual boost to Iraq’s beleaguered Christians while furthering the Vatican’s bridge-building efforts with the Muslim world. But from a purely epidemiological standpoint, as well as the public health message it sends, a papal trip to Iraq amid a global pandemic is not advisable, health experts say. Their concerns were reinforced with the news Sunday that the Vatican ambassador to Iraq, the main point person for the trip who would have escorted Francis to all his appointments, tested positive for COVID-19 and was self-isolating. In an email to The Associated Press, the embassy said Archbishop Mitja Leskovar's symptoms were mild and that he was continuing to prepare for Francis' visit. Beyond his case, experts note that wars, economic crises and an exodus of Iraqi professionals have devastated the country’s hospital system, while studies show most of Iraq’s new COVID-19 infections are the highly-contagious variant first identified in Britain. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Dr. Navid Madani, virologist and founding director of the Center for Science Health Education in the Middle East and North Africa at Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The Iranian-born Madani co-authored an article in The Lancet last year on the region's uneven response to COVID-19, noting that Iraq, Syria and Yemen were poorly placed to cope, given they are still struggling with extremist insurgencies and have 40 million people who need humanitarian aid. In a telephone interview, Madani said Middle Easterners are known for their hospitality, and cautioned that the enthusiasm among Iraqis of welcoming a peace-maker like Francis to a neglected, war-torn part of the world might lead to inadvertent violations of virus control measures. “This could potentially lead to unsafe or superspreading risks,” she said. Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an infectious disease control expert at the University of Exeter College of Medicine, concurred. “It’s a perfect storm for generating lots of cases which you won’t be able to deal with,” he said. Organizers promise to enforce mask mandates, social distancing and crowd limits, as well as the possibility of increased testing sites, two Iraqi government officials said. The health care protocols are “critical but can be managed," one government official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. And the Vatican has taken its own precautions, with the 84-year-old pope, his 20-member Vatican entourage and the 70-plus journalists on the papal plane all vaccinated. But the Iraqis gathering in the north, centre and south of the country to attend Francis’ indoor and outdoor Masses, hear his speeches and participate in his prayer meetings are not vaccinated. And that, scientists say, is the problem. “We are in the middle of a global pandemic. And it is important to get the correct messages out,” Pankhania said. “The correct messages are: the less interactions with fellow human beings, the better.” He questioned the optics of the Vatican delegation being inoculated while the Iraqis are not, and noted that Iraqis would only take such risks to go to those events because the pope was there. In words addressed to Vatican officials and the media, he said: “You are all protected from severe disease. So if you get infected, you’re not going to die. But the people coming to see you may get infected and may die.” “Is it wise under that circumstance for you to just turn up? And because you turn up, people turn up to see you and they get infected?” he asked. The World Health Organization was diplomatic when asked about the wisdom of a papal trip to Iraq, saying countries should evaluate the risk of an event against the infection situation, and then decide if it should be postponed. “It’s all about managing that risk,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19. “It’s about looking at the epidemiologic situation in the country and then making sure that if that event is to take place, that it can take place as safely as possible.” Francis has said he intends to go even if most Iraqis have to watch him on television to avoid infection. The important thing, he told Catholic News Service, is “they will see that the pope is there in their country.” Francis has frequently called for an equitable distribution of vaccines and respect for government health measures, though he tends to not wear face masks. Francis for months has eschewed even socially distanced public audiences at the Vatican to limit the chance of contagion. Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine, said the number of new daily cases in Iraq is “increasing significantly at the moment” with the Health Ministry reporting around 4,000 a day, close to the height of its first wave in September. Head said for any trip to Iraq, there must be infection control practices in force, including mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing and good ventilation in indoor spaces. “Hopefully we will see proactive approaches to infection control in place during the pope’s visit to Baghdad,” he said. The Iraqi government imposed a modified lockdown and curfew in mid-February amid a new surge in cases, closing schools and mosques and leaving restaurants and cafes only open for takeout. But the government decided against a full shutdown because of the difficulty of enforcing it and the financial impact on Iraq’s battered economy, the Iraqi officials told AP. Many Iraqis remain lax in using masks and some doubt the severity of the virus. Madani, the Harvard virologist, urged trip organizers to let science and data guide their decision-making. A decision to reschedule or postpone the papal trip, or move it to a virtual format, would “be quite impactful from a global leadership standpoint” because “it would signal prioritizing the safety of Iraq’s public,” she said. ___ Kullab reported from Baghdad. Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Nicole Winfield And Samya Kullab, The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — Ten men and a boy were killed and a woman and another boy were wounded in a shooting attack on a home in western Mexico Saturday. Prosecutors in the state of Jalisco said the bullet-ridden bodies of the 10 men were found by police on the sidewalk in front of the home. The body of a boy was found inside, and a woman and another boy were located at a local hospital. The prosecutors’ office said the attack was carried out by unidentified assailants travelling in an SUV. The state is home to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, one of Mexico’s most violent and powerful. More bodies have been found in clandestine burial pits in Jalisco there than in any other state in recent years. The cartel has been fighting a breakaway faction in and around Guadalajara. Earlier this month, police found 18 plastic bags full of hacked-up body parts on the outskirts of Guadalajara, the state capital. In November, Jalisco authorities recovered 113 bodies and additional human remains from a secret grave in the town of El Salto, just outside Guadalajara. A total of 189 corpses were discovered in the town throughout 2020. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Eight years after carving the heart out of a landmark voting rights law, the Supreme Court is looking at putting new limits on efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting. The justices are taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection and another policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct. The high court's consideration comes as Republican officials in the state and around the country have proposed more than 150 measures, following last year’s elections, to restrict voting access that civil rights groups say would disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters. A broad Supreme Court ruling would make it harder to fight those efforts in court. Arguments are set for Tuesday via telephone, because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It would be taking away one of the big tools, in fact, the main tool we have left now, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections program. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the high court case is about ballot integrity, not discrimination. “This is about protecting the franchise, not disenfranchising anyone,” said Brnovich, who will argue the case on Tuesday. President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators. The justices will be reviewing an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and against a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ballot-collection law and the state policy discriminate against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and that the law also violates the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, was extremely effective against discrimination at the ballot box because it forced state and local governments, with a history of discrimination, including Arizona, to get advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to elections. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the portion of the law known as Section 5 could no longer be enforced because the population formula for determining which states were covered hadn’t been updated to take account of racial progress. Congress “must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a conservative majority. “It cannot rely simply on the past.” Democrats in Congress will try again to revive the advance approval provision of the voting rights law. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act failed in the last Congress, when Republicans controlled the Senate and President Donald Trump was in the White House. But another part of the law, Section 2, applies nationwide and still prohibits discrimination in voting on the basis of race. Civil rights groups and voters alleging racial bias have to go to court and prove their case either by showing intentional discrimination in passing a law or that the results of the law fall most heavily on minorities. The new Supreme Court case mainly concerns how plaintiffs can prove discrimination based on the law’s results. The arguments are taking place against the backdrop of the 2020 election, in which there was a massive increase in early voting and mailed-in ballots because of the pandemic. Trump and his Republican supporters challenged the election results by advancing claims of fraud that were broadly rejected by state and federal courts. But many Republicans continue to question the election’s outcome, despite the absence of evidence. GOP elected officials have responded by proposing to restrict early voting and mailed-in ballots, as well as toughen voter identification laws. The challenged Arizona provisions remained in effect in 2020 because the case was still making its way through the courts. But Brnovich said last year’s voting is another reason the justices should side with the state. “I think part of the lesson of 2020 was that when people don’t believe that elections have integrity or that their vote is being protected, it will lead to undermining the public’s confidence in the system,” Brnovich said. Civil rights groups said the court should not use this case to make it harder to root out racial discrimination, which “still poses a unique threat to our democracy,” as the NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund put it in a brief. Nearly 75 businesses, including PayPal, Levi Strauss and Impossible Foods, joined in a brief urging the court to “fully preserve the Voting Rights Act." The Justice Department will not be part of Tuesday’s arguments, a rarity in a voting rights case. The Trump administration backed Arizona. The Biden administration, in a somewhat cryptic letter to the court, said this month that it believes “neither Arizona measure violates Section 2’s results test,” but doesn’t like the way its predecessor analyzed the issues. The suggestion from the new administration could give the court a narrow way to uphold the Arizona provisions without making any significant changes to voting discrimination law. A decision is expected by early summer. Mark Sherman, The Associated Press
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony outside Moscow to serve his prison sentence, a public commission said on Sunday, weeks after he returned to Russia after being poisoned. Navalny's whereabouts had been unknown since Thursday when his allies learned that he was transferred out of one of Moscow's most infamous jails to an undisclosed location. He has been transferred to a penal colony in the Vladimir region, the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission that defends the rights of prisoners and has access to people in custody, said on its website.
(John Woods/The Canadian Press - image credit) Lawmakers in Maine are discussing how the state could plug into a proposed Canadian electricity grid that is meant to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable for the Atlantic provinces and Quebec. Christopher Kessler, a Democrat in the Maine House of Representatives, introduced a bill last month that would see the state lobby for a seat at the negotiating table for an interconnected clean energy grid called the Atlantic Loop. The Atlantic Clean Power Planning Committee — made up of officials from federal and provincial governments, and major electric utilities — has been talking about the Atlantic Loop since 2019, and released a rough map of the grid in a report last summer. The Trudeau Liberals gave the Atlantic Loop a nod of support in last fall's Throne Speech. The loop would likely rely on some upgrades to existing energy lines, and some new construction, but no detailed plan has been made public. This map of a possible Atlantic Loop route was included in an interim report from the Atlantic Clean Power Planning Committee in August 2020. The committee is expected to release a final report in March. Maine looking to export renewable energy Kessler said he wants his state to be part of the loop because Maine and Atlantic Canada have similar goals for removing carbon from their electric grids, and linking up could be mutually beneficial. He said it would also help Maine with its goal of eventually selling renewable energy to other jurisdictions. "Maine has an interest in not just having access to renewable energy to help stabilize our grid and make it more reliable, but Maine also has goals to be a renewable energy exporter," Kessler said in an interview. He pointed out that Maine already has infrastructure linking it to New Brunswick and Quebec, but whether those links will connect with the rest of the Atlantic Loop is unclear. "It's all completely up in the air as to how [the Atlantic Loop] would look. That's the exact point of this starting of the conversation, is so we can have those discussions and do that analysis and see if there is something where both Maine and the Atlantic provinces can work together so we can reach our decarbonization goals." Should Kessler's bill pass, it would require the governor to voice interest in the Atlantic Loop directly to the prime minister and the premiers of all the involved provinces, and ask for "equal footing" in all negotiations. Governor's office suggests staying out of negotiations The bill went to a public hearing at a committee of the state legislature earlier this month. Next, it will be debated further by committee members, who will decide whether to advance it to the whole House of Representatives. If it passes at the house, it would move to the state senate for a final vote. Workers are shown on the construction site of the hydroelectric facility at Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015. The Atlantic Loop would be fed, in part, by hydroelectric projects like Muskrat Falls. One of the testimonies submitted to the public hearing was from the Governor's Energy Office. Office director Dan Burgess wrote that rather than pushing for a place at the negotiating table, "it may be more productive for Maine to continue monitoring the ongoing planning initiative and any advancements of the Atlantic Loop concept." Kessler disagreed. "I think that being actively involved is the only option … We will miss out on any potential opportunities if we don't ask. And we certainly need to be an active participant rather than a spectator," he said. Since that public hearing, Kessler said, he's been working with the governor's office to come up with some solutions for the points Burgess raised. MORE TOP STORIES
(Matt Jonsson Recovery/Facebook - image credit) Family and friends are mourning the loss of a 24-year-old Winnipeg man who passed away after suffering brain damage in a freak accident earlier this month. On Feb. 6, Matt Jonsson hit his head on a low basement ceiling and suffered a severe spinal injury that left him paralyzed below the chest. He was hospitalized and put on a ventilator as doctors worked to stabilize the fracture and wait for the swelling to go down. In that time, family members worked to raise money to renovate his home so it was wheelchair accessible. "It's very hard. It's just very unexpected because in the beginning we were faced with him being paralyzed, which I was very upset about. But now in hindsight, I wish that that's all that was happening," said his mother Tish Jonsson. Matt suffered severe brain damage as a result of the injury and doctors told his family he'd never wake up. He was taken off life support last week. Matt Jonsson (right) was taken off life support on Feb. 20. For a man who loved to ride BMX and dirt bikes and play sports, the accident that took his life seems unfathomable. "[Matt and his brother Cole] got hurt so many times and so many times that they should have broken their necks, I think. And then for a senseless thing like this to happen, I don't understand. I just don't understand it at all," Jonsson said. She says her son was loved by many and will be remembered as a generous, sweet man who loved adventure. Once Matt saw a $100 bill floating down the street and ran out of the house to grab it. "My mother and I tried to convince him to put it in the bank, but he wasn't having it. He went to the skate park and he ordered pizza and drinks for everybody," Jonsson said. "It didn't matter who it was. And I think that sums him up pretty good." She says her son, who she worked with and lived with, always wrapped her in a big hug and told her how much he loved her. Dedicated basketball player, coach Evan Cox knew Matt as his teacher, coworker and friend. Cox, who is a physical education teacher at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, coached boys basketball when Matt was a student there. Last year, Matt joined Cox as an assistant coach on the girls basketball team at the school. Ever since he was a player, Cox said Matt was driven. "He kind of left a legacy of playing the game the right way, an insanely hard worker [who] dedicated so much of his time to just pursuing excellence, just trying to get better every single day," he said. "I think he was doing the same thing to get the girls to have that kind of intensity, that kind of drive and focus and of building hope in them that they can try to get to where they want to get to." Another coach, Stephen Tackie worked with Matt throughout high school and said he was a truly unique student. "He recognized he was part of something bigger than himself, and I think he took that role on that he had to give back." Matt was also instrumental in getting Skate Park West off the ground in Charleswood. He went to planning meetings, worked to raise money to have it built and when it did open, he took first aid training and volunteered to keep watch in case anyone got hurt. Jonsson says the money her family raised for Matt when he was in the hospital — nearly $87,000 — will go to building memorial benches at Skate Park West and starting a fund at to help people play basketball who may not have the means. "He touched so many people," Jonsson says. "We're going to use that money to honour him, to keep his legacy going."
HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding and mind foggy from his yearlong battle with COVID-19, he wonders when a clinic to treat his symptoms might emerge in Atlantic Canada. "My fear is that I'm going to be like this forever," the 50-year-old Halifax resident said in a recent interview. The issue of a lack of timely treatment for the so-called "long haulers" — people who suffer symptoms such as shortness of breath and physical exhaustion months after their first bout of the illness — has been raised across the country by support groups. Specialized clinics have opened in Western and Central Canada, in some instances offering access to occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, nurses and referrals to specialists. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service announced the formation of a network of 60 such clinics in December. However, on Canada's East Coast, patients say they are still searching for a similar, one-stop site to treat symptoms that range from difficulty drawing a breath to tingling pain in their limbs. "In Atlantic Canada, we're at the mercy of how well we've done containing the virus, leading to our low numbers of infected patients," Hoskin said. "It's had an impact on what we can expect to see from the provincial government in terms of specialized clinics." International studies currently predict about 10 per cent of COVID-19 patients develop longer term symptoms. In Atlantic Canada, where about 4,100 cases have been officially documented, this suggests long haulers may eventually number in the hundreds, rather than the thousands expected in larger provinces. But Hoskin argues the lower infection rates shouldn't mean he and others are left to rely solely on family doctors, who may be unaware of how to treat their symptoms, while they spend months awaiting appointments with cardiologists, neurologists and other specialists. In New Brunswick, which is fighting a second wave of infections that emerged earlier in the year, Emily Bodechon says she has largely assembled her own treatment effort. "While it's great that our COVID-19 case count is low, it's not been great as a patient to find out nobody knows how to treat you," she said in an interview last week. Almost a year since her infection, the 45-year-old health worker still has respiratory issues, searing headaches and "brain fog" that makes it hard to process new information. Bodechon sought online information from a post-COVID-19 clinic in New York and took part in video calls for patient information. "I went through a six-week program on my own, and it was the most helpful thing I had," she said. She said she hopes provincial governments in the region collaborate to set up centralized clinics that employ telemedicine, so that she can actually speak to doctors with expertise. In Halifax, a senior physician with Nova Scotia Health says doctors with the province's health authority are turning their attention to potential pilot projects. Dr. Christy Bussey, the medical lead for COVID-19 in-patient care in the authority's central zone, said in an interview on Thursday that in the longer term, family doctors will need training on how to care for the lingering impacts of the illness. But in the short term, she's advocating for a post-COVID-19 clinic, potentially attached to an existing clinic in Fall River, N.S., which already treats people with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. She said she has noticed "a gap in the system for following patients who developed new or ongoing symptoms." The physician added it's too early to know how much additional provincial or national funding is needed for an Atlantic post-COVID-19 clinic, as a formal proposal has yet to be completed, but she argues the need for added resources is evident. "Some of these patients are nearly completely disabled by the symptoms they're having," she said. Dr. Alexis Goth, a lead physician at the Fall River clinic, said the first long haulers are starting to trickle into her clinic. She is hopeful resources can be added to pay for a larger numbers of patients by early summer. She said one model for COVID patients may be an adapted version of an eight-week, Zoom-based treatment the clinic uses for fibromyalgia, an illness that can cause muscle pain, fatigue and sleep issues. She said the online treatment could be combined with one-on-one therapy, making use of the occupational therapist, nurses and other experts at the clinic. Susie Goulding, the leader of a national long-haulers support group, cautions that as new clinics and research projects emerge, they should be open to the many patients who didn't receive a formal diagnosis of COVID-19, often due to a lack of testing in the early months. “Most people don’t have a positive test,” she said in a recent interview. “They should still be included." Meanwhile, Hoskin said he's continuing to search for placement in a research study that includes treatment, finding he still feels like collapsing after a brief trip to buy groceries. "At 50 years old, my heart rate is often at 110 (beats per minute) when I stand up, and I still can't smell and taste other than very basic odours," he said. "We really need to find out what is causing this." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Hong Kong police on Sunday detained 47 pro-democracy activists on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the city's national security law, in the largest mass charge against the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's opposition camp since the law came into effect last June. The former lawmakers and democracy advocates had been previously arrested in a sweeping police operation in January but were released. They have been detained again and will appear in court on Monday, police said in a statement. They allegedly violated the national security law that was imposed by Beijing for participating in unofficial election primaries for Hong Kong's legislature last year. The defendants include 39 men and eight women aged between 23 and 64, police said. The move is part of a continuing crackdown on the city's democracy movement, with a string of arrests and prosecutions of Hong Kong's democracy proponents — including outspoken activists Joshua Wong and Jimmy Lai — following months of anti-government protests in 2019. The pro-democracy camp had held the primaries to determine the best candidates to field to win a majority in the legislature and had plans to vote down major bills that would eventually force Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign. In January, 55 activists and former lawmakers were arrested for their roles in the primaries. Authorities said that the activists' participation was part of a plan to paralyze the city's legislature and subvert state power. The legislative election that would have followed the unofficial primaries was postponed by a year by Lam, who cited public health risks during the coronavirus pandemic. Mass resignations and disqualifications of pro-democracy lawmakers have left the legislature largely a pro-Beijing body. Among those arrested on Sunday was former lawmaker Eddie Chu. A post on his official Twitter account confirmed that he was being charged for conspiracy to commit subversion and that he was denied bail. “Thank you to the people of Hong Kong for giving me the opportunity to contribute to society in the past 15 years,” Chu said in a post on his Facebook page. Another candidate in the primaries, Winnie Yu, was also charged and will appear in court on Monday, according to a post on her official Facebook page. American lawyer John Clancey, a member of the now-defunct political rights group “Power for Democracy” who was arrested in January for his involvement in the primary, was not among those detained on Sunday. "I will give full support to those who have been charged and will be facing trial, because from my perspective, they have done nothing wrong,” Clancey told reporters. The security law criminalizes acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers to intervene in Hong Kong's affairs. Serious offenders could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Nearly 100 people have been arrested since the law was implemented. Zen Soo, The Associated Press
(Dave Irish/CBC - image credit) The latest stage of a project that will see the further development of the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax's Bedford Basin will have no significant adverse environmental impact, says the Crown corporation responsible for the project. The Halifax Port Authority plans to construct an 11-bay, 2,700-square-metre building to be used by Canada Border Services Agency for examining shipping containers at the terminal. A truck gate — where electronic scanners help keep track of containers and their cargo — will also be built, along with a large asphalt compound and new roads, including one that will connect the project to Africville Road. The new infrastructure will be constructed on land that has been created by infilling the Bedford Basin over the past several years. In total, nearly four hectares of the infilled land will be paved to accommodate the project. As part of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada's approval process, the port authority was required to assess the potential effects of the container examination facility and truck gate. Port authority spokesperson Lane Farguson said an environmental consultant hired by the port authority concluded there would be no significant adverse environmental effects. The port authority would not elaborate on how that conclusion was reached, saying only that the determination was made through the impact assessment process. In order to mitigate potential adverse environmental effects, silt fences will be installed around the perimeter to prevent silt-laden water and debris from getting into the basin, vehicles will be equipped with mufflers to reduce noise and lighting will be designed to reduce light pollution. Project will reduce truck traffic, says port authority Right now, when the CBSA selects containers to inspect, they are trucked to the Burnside business park and then back to the terminal before they move on to their destination. Farguson said having a container examination facility at the terminal will reduce truck traffic over the MacKay Bridge and in the Burnside area. "It will reduce the associated mileage and greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "It is a small step toward a slightly smaller carbon footprint." The project involves the construction of an 11-bay container examination facility, seen in the above rendering as a brown building in the centre of the photo. Members of the public were invited to comment on the potential environmental impact of the project in November and December, but Farguson said no comments were received. Construction on the container examination building, truck gate and roads could get underway later this year, said Farguson. Infilling project approved in 2012 The infilling project, called the Fairview Cove Sequestration Facility, was approved by the federal government and began in 2012. In total, as of the end of November 2020, about 6.3 hectares have been infilled, or an area about one-third the size of Citadel Hill. The material used to fill in the water is largely pyritic slate that has been removed from construction sites on the peninsula. "You can't just leave that lying around on the surface, because when it gets interacting with fresh water and oxygen — in other words, if it rains on top of this stuff — you get acidic runoff and that acidic runoff can affect freshwater streams," Farguson said. Infilling has been taking place since 2012. In July 2018, a man died when the dumptruck he was operating rolled into the water at the site. The construction company he worked for was fined $60,000 for failing to provide proper guidance and equipment. The pyritic slate is buried in the seawater near the Fairview Cove terminal and then capped with clean fill. "That way, you take oxygen out of the mix and then it's no longer an aerobic environment. And for us, it's a great building material for that type of thing," Farguson said. More change is expected at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in the coming years. In 2019, the federal government announced funding to link the north-end terminal with the container terminal by Point Pleasant Park in Halifax's south end, as part of the Windsor Street Exchange Redevelopment Project. MORE TOP STORIES