A man fell into the Qualicum River on Vancouver Island and was dramatically rescued on-camera.
A man fell into the Qualicum River on Vancouver Island and was dramatically rescued on-camera.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — United Nations human rights experts are alarmed by what they see as a growing trend to enact legislation allowing medical assistance in dying for people suffering from non-terminal, disabling conditions. Three experts, including the UN's special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, say such legislation tends to be based on "ableist" assumptions about the quality and worth of the life of a person with a disability. In a statement issued earlier this week, the experts do not specifically mention Canada's proposed legislation, which would expand assisted dying to people who are suffering intolerably but are not approaching the natural end of their lives. But the arguments they make echo those advanced by Canadian disability rights advocates, who are vehemently opposed to Bill C-7. The bill has been passed by the House of Commons and is currently before the Senate. It is intended to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision in the current law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable. The near-death restriction was challenged by Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, both of whom suffered from degenerative, disabling conditions but were not at the end of their lives. Justice Christine Baudouin agreed with them that the restriction violated their charter rights to equal treatment under the law and to life, liberty and security of the person. However, the UN experts argue that extending assisted dying to people with non-terminal conditions contravenes Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, "which requires states to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others." "When life-ending interventions are normalized for people who are not terminally ill or suffering at the end of their lives, such legislative provisions tend to rest on — or draw strength from — ableist assumptions about the inherent 'quality of life' or 'worth' of the life of a person with a disability," they say in a statement issued Monday by the UN Human Rights Council. "Disability is not a burden or a deficit of the person. It is a universal aspect of the human condition," they add. "Under no circumstance should the law provide that it could be a well-reasoned decision for a person with a disabling condition who is not dying to terminate their life with the support of the state." The experts who issued the statement are Gerard Quinn, the UN Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Olivier De Schutter, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; and Claudia Mahler, who was described as "an independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons." They argue that everyone accepts there can be no justification for assisting "any other protected group — be it a racial minority, gender or sexual minorities — to end their lives because they are experiencing suffering on account of their status." And they say it should be no different for people with disabilities. "Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone's life directly or indirectly." Even when assisted dying is restricted to people near the end of life, they argue people with disabilities, the elderly and especially elderly people with disabilities "may feel subtly pressured to end their lives prematurely" due to societal attitudes and a lack of support services. Those living in poverty may decide to seek an assisted death "as a gesture of despair," not as a real choice, they say. The government has until Feb. 26 — after being granted three extensions — to bring the law into compliance with Baudouin's ruling. The Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, which has already conducted a pre-study of Bill C-7, is to resume its study and consider possible amendments during three, daylong meetings, starting Monday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
France's court of appeal has ordered Canadian academic Hassan Diab to stand trial in connection with a 40-year-old bombing attack outside a Paris synagogue — three years after a lower court set him free due to a lack of evidence. Diab's French lawyers said they plan to appeal the decision to France's Supreme Court. "The decision of the French court of appeal today is the continuation of a long odyssey of injustice," his extradition lawyer, Donald Bayne, said at a news conference Wednesday. "It's devastating." Diab was accused by authorities of involvement in the 1980 Rue Copernic bombing, which killed four people and injured more than 40. The 67-year-old Ottawa university lecturer was arrested by the RCMP in November 2008 and placed under strict bail conditions until he was extradited to France in 2014. He spent more than three years in prison in France before the case against him collapsed. He was released in January 2018 after two French judges ruled the evidence against him wasn't strong enough to take to trial. He was never formally charged. French prosecutors appealed Diab's release promptly — pursuing it long after the last remaining piece of physical evidence linking Diab to the bombing had been discredited by France's own experts. The case moved slowly as prosecutors sought to find new evidence against Diab, and as court proceedings were delayed by the pandemic. Discredited evidence The key physical evidence Canada relied on in extraditing Diab to France was handwriting analysis linking Diab's handwriting to that of the suspected bomber. Canadian government lawyers acting on France's behalf called it a "smoking gun" in the extradition hearing. But in 2009, Diab's legal team produced contrary reports from four international handwriting experts. These experts questioned the methods and conclusions of the French experts. They also proved that some of the handwriting samples used by the French analysts belonged not to Diab but to his ex-wife. French investigative judges dismissed the handwriting evidence as unreliable when they ordered Diab's release in January 2018. But while considering the appeal of Diab's release, another judge ordered an independent review of the contentious handwriting evidence. Diab's lawyers said this latest review delivered "a scathing critique and rebuke" of the original handwriting analysis "that mirror[s] the critique by the defence during the extradition hearing 10 years ago." Bayne said Wednesday's decision flies in the face of evidence. "They admit that they doubt he was even there, yet they say that the body of evidence, such as it is, deserves to be debated in a trial court," said Bayne. "I respectfully submit that no justice system worthy of its name offers an innocent scapegoat to satisfy a demanding lobby." Amélie Lefebvre, one of Diab's criminal lawyers in France, said she believes the case is marching on for political reasons, as the families of the victims continue to call for justice. "Let's say it is, in our opinion, a politically correct decision. We had anticipated on the fact that it is extremely hard to let go of the only suspects that the victims and the public have," she said. "On the other hand, and we have relentlessly stated this, we estimate that the right of the victims to know and to have the real perpetrators accountable is not a right that could be satisfied in any way with the trial of a man who is innocent and for whom we have so many evidence that show his innocence." Lefebvre said she doesn't believe Diab is at risk at being extradited again, unless the French Supreme Court rules against them. 'A weak case' On Wednesday, Bayne reiterated his call to reform Canada's extradition laws, namely that other countries should need sworn testimony or evidence before making a request. The Canadian judge who ordered Diab's first extradition described the case against him as "weak" and said "the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely." The French investigative judges who released Diab also found he had an alibi for the day of the Paris bombing. Using university records and interviews with Diab's classmates, the investigative judges determined he was "probably in Lebanon" writing exams when the bombing outside the synagogue took place. "It is likely that Hassan Diab was in Lebanon during September and October 1980 … and it is therefore unlikely that he is the man … who then laid the bomb on Rue Copernic on October 3rd, 1980," they wrote. In 2018, CBC News confirmed that France was aware of — and had failed to disclose — fingerprint evidence that ended up playing a critical role in Diab's release. When Diab was finally released from a French prison in 2018, French judges cited the absence of matching fingerprints on a hotel form — and on any of the other evidence presented by France — as "unquestionably an essential element of discharge." French officials did not share fingerprint comparison evidence in their possession with their Canadian counterparts. Court documents show that, in fact, French prosecutors denied the evidence even existed. Diab seeking $90M from federal government Since his release, Diab has been living with his wife and two children. He has resumed work as a part-time lecturer. Diab filed a statement of claim last year seeking $90 million from the federal government over the role Canada played in his extradition to France. Central to that statement of claim is the fact that — as CBC News first reported in 2018 — Department of Justice lawyers helped France strengthen its evidence when the case against Diab appeared to be falling apart. A government-ordered review of Diab's case by former deputy attorney general of Ontario Murray Segal concluded that government lawyers acted ethically and followed proper procedures in extraditing Diab to France. Diab accused the federal government of perpetrating a "whitewash" by hiring Segal to perform the review instead of appointing a judge to hold a public inquiry with full power to subpoena evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2021. There are 757,022 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 757,022 confirmed cases (59,551 active, 678,068 resolved, 19,403 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 4,011 new cases Tuesday from 34,572 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 12 per cent. The rate of active cases is 158.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 37,271 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 5,324. There were 165 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 1,137 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 162. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.43 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 51.62 per 100,000 people. There have been 17,120,912 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 398 confirmed cases (six active, 388 resolved, four deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 158 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 78,477 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 110 confirmed cases (six active, 104 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday from 267 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 3.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 88,900 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,572 confirmed cases (11 active, 1,496 resolved, 65 deaths). There was one new case Tuesday from 934 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.11 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people. There have been 201,358 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,161 confirmed cases (340 active, 807 resolved, 14 deaths). There were 10 new cases Tuesday from 1,048 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.95 per cent. The rate of active cases is 43.77 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 157 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 22. There were zero new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people. There have been 137,228 tests completed. _ Quebec: 256,002 confirmed cases (15,622 active, 230,803 resolved, 9,577 deaths). There were 1,166 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 184.11 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10,268 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,467. There were 56 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 435 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 62. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.73 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 112.87 per 100,000 people. There have been 2,695,925 tests completed. _ Ontario: 258,700 confirmed cases (23,036 active, 229,755 resolved, 5,909 deaths). There were 1,740 new cases Tuesday from 29,712 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 158.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16,423 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,346. There were 63 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 430 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 61. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 40.57 per 100,000 people. There have been 9,007,713 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 28,902 confirmed cases (3,492 active, 24,601 resolved, 809 deaths). There were 92 new cases Tuesday from 1,556 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 254.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,162 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 166. There were five new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 26 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.27 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 59.07 per 100,000 people. There have been 450,194 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 22,646 confirmed cases (2,649 active, 19,729 resolved, 268 deaths). There were 230 new cases Tuesday from 897 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 26 per cent. The rate of active cases is 225.55 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,775 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 254. There were 14 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 43 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is six. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.52 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 22.82 per 100,000 people. There have been 331,591 tests completed. _ Alberta: 121,901 confirmed cases (8,652 active, 111,662 resolved, 1,587 deaths). There were 366 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 197.93 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,134 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 591. There were 13 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 124 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.41 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 36.3 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,061,844 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 65,234 confirmed cases (5,714 active, 58,352 resolved, 1,168 deaths). There were 406 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 112.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,322 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 475. There were 14 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 78 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 11. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.22 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 23.03 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,044,931 tests completed. _ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (zero active, 69 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,229 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 31 confirmed cases (six active, 25 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 13.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of one new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 9,064 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 282 confirmed cases (17 active, 264 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 43.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 7,382 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — The president of a union representing employees at some of the largest meat-packing plants in the country says there needs to be a discussion about making the COVID-19 vaccine more readily available to essential workers. Thomas Hesse of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 says he realizes there's a shortage of the vaccine right now. But once that is remedied, he say, workers at large operations such as the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River, Alta., and the JBS Canada plant in Brooks, Alta., shouldn't have to wait too long. "In the coming months at some point someone's going to make a decision about who gets the vaccination. Will there be a priority? Will there be any prioritization of any so-called essential workers?" he asked in an interview with The Canadian Press. The two plants, which together normally process about 70 per cent of Canada's beef supply, were hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks last spring. Cargill's plant, south of Calgary, shut down for two weeks in April because of an outbreak that initially affected 350 of its 2,200 workers. Eventually nearly half the workers contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died. COVID-19 forced JBS to reduce its production to a single shift a day for a month, which added to a backlog of cattle at feedlots. The plants brought in safety measures that included temperature testing, physical distancing, and cleaning and sanitizing before they returned to normal operations. Packing-plant employees are still at risk, Hesse said. "In a Cargill or a JBS or other manufacturing facility in Alberta, there'll be a couple of thousand workers in a big box still working in relatively proximity," he said. "These are essential workers. They're at higher risk. This is clearly an occupational disease. Many of them want to have access to a safe vaccine." Hesse said the union plans to hold a town-hall meeting Sunday to hear members views and what to do if getting a vaccination becomes a condition of employment. An official with Cargill said the company is working with health authorities and medical experts to make sure its employees have access to vaccines when they become available without jeopardizing the priority being given to health-care workers "We will prioritize our front-line workers whenever we can, as they continue to work tirelessly to keep our food system going strong," said Daniel Sullivan in an email. "Because we know vaccines don't work without vaccinations, we also will join local health authorities in promoting the importance of vaccination among our employees." JBS USA said it will offer all its employees a $100 bonus, including those in Brooks, if they get vaccinated in the future. "Our goal is to remove any barriers to vaccination and incentivize our team members to protect themselves, their families and their co-workers," said CEO Andre Nogueira. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021 — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
After U.S. President Joe Biden moved recently to revoke permits for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was "disappointed." That was a fairly tepid reaction to losing an infrastructure project billed as a job-generator and an essential prop for a struggling Canadian energy sector. But Trudeau doesn't really have an incentive to take on the Biden administration over Keystone because — economic and environmental arguments for and against the project notwithstanding — there simply isn't much of a political case for fighting for it any longer. Like Trudeau, most Canadians just want to move on. A survey by the Angus Reid Institute published on Tuesday found that 59 per cent of Canadians would "accept Biden's decision on Keystone XL and focus on other Canada-U.S. priorities" if they were in the prime minister's shoes. Only 41 per cent said they would instead "press for the authorization of Keystone XL above other Canada-U.S. priorities". That doesn't mean Canadians are indifferent, however. The poll found that 52 per cent of Canadians think Biden's decision is a bad thing for this country, while just 30 per cent think it's a good thing. While there were some regional divides on the issue, pluralities in every part of the country said losing Keystone is bad for Canada. So Trudeau's response might have been an accurate reflection of how most Canadians are reacting to the news — with grudging acceptance. Canadians also might be taking a dim view of the federal government's chances of convincing the U.S. president to abandon a campaign promise — one that Biden thought was important enough to get out of the way on his first day in the Oval Office. Biden has his own supporters to think about. So does Trudeau. Keystone a big issue where Liberals have little support Among those who voted for the Liberals in the 2019 federal election, 77 per cent of those polled by the Angus Reid Institute said they believed it would best for Ottawa to focus on priorities other than Keystone with Biden. The share of NDP and Green voters polled who felt the same way was even higher — at 81 and 87 per cent, respectively. Those NDP and Green supporters happen to be the voters the Liberals need on their side to secure a majority government in the next election. Regionally, the survey shows how the Liberals have little to gain by bringing up Keystone XL again. Only in Alberta and Saskatchewan did a majority of those polled by the Angus Reid Institute say they believe that the defence of Keystone XL should be placed above other priorities. The Liberals don't hold any seats in either province. They also don't have great prospects to change that situation any time soon. The party fell 13 seats short of a majority government in the last election — and not one of the 13 seats the Liberals came closest to winning was located in either Alberta or Saskatchewan. Those near-miss seats were in Ontario (seven), Quebec (three), British Columbia (two) and Nova Scotia (one) — all provinces where a majority of voters expressed a willingness to let Keystone go. In fact, the seat the Liberals came closest to winning in Alberta or Saskatchewan last time — Edmonton Centre — would rank just 30th on their list of target ridings based on voting margins in 2019. It may sound cynical, but when an entire region of the country is no longer politically competitive for a particular party, that party no longer has a strong incentive to compete for those votes. Canadians want the U.S. relationship to work And there's little for Trudeau to gain in picking a fight with Biden. In the days after the U.S. vote, the Angus Reid Institute found that 61 per cent of Canadians expected Biden's victory to have a positive impact on U.S.-Canada relations. Just 12 per cent expected the impact to be negative. More recently, an Abacus Data survey conducted between Jan. 15 and 18 found that 49 per cent of Canadians held a positive impression of Biden and just 16 per cent had a negative one. By comparison, 80 per cent of Canadians polled have a negative impression of Donald Trump, and just nine per cent have a positive view of the ex-president. Polls indicate Canadians were relieved to see Biden defeat Trump in the November presidential election. The former U.S. president was deeply unpopular in this country and most Canadians are unlikely to perceive the actions taken by the Biden administration as negatively as they viewed the decisions made by Trump — even the ones that could have a bad impact on Canada's interests. Preaching to the choir So this is a relatively easy political choice for the Liberals. The Conservatives are in a trickier position. According to the Angus Reid Institute poll, 79 per cent of Conservative voters think Keystone XL should be given priority over other issues. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has criticized the Liberals' "total failure" on Keystone XL. He has not, however, gone as far as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney by calling for retaliatory sanctions. It's the duty of the Official Opposition to oppose — but going hard against the Liberals over Keystone is unlikely to appeal to many people outside the Conservative base. The Conservatives already have 47 of 48 seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan. They need that last seat (Edmonton–Strathcona, occupied by a New Democrat) a lot less than they need to win dozens of new seats across Ontario, B.C. and Atlantic Canada. It makes sense for Kenney to go on the offensive against the federal government over Keystone XL, of course. He's doing what most of his constituents would do in his shoes, according to the Angus Reid Institute poll. Kenney also needs a political boost. Polls have shown he is now one of the least popular premiers in the country. Since the end of last summer, polls have consistently shown his United Conservative Party either statistically tied with or trailing the opposition New Democrats. The NDP even out-fundraised the UCP last year. O'Toole doesn't need to worry about his Alberta flank. But he still used his opening question in the first House of Commons question period of 2021 to needle the government over Keystone XL — on the one-year anniversary of the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Canada, during a week when no vaccines were being shipped into the country. According to a poll released by Nanos Research this week, 42 per cent of Canadians think the pandemic is the top issue facing the country. Just 12 per cent said it was jobs and the economy. Less than one per cent pointed to pipelines or energy issues. After the trauma of the Trump presidency, most Canadians appear ready to go along to get along — especially when there are plenty of other things to worry about.
Major Taiwanese chipmakers are willing to prioritise supplies for auto makers amid a global shortage of chips for the industry, the island's economics minister said after meeting with company executives. "Chipmakers are willing to follow the government's request and try to support auto chips as much as they can to support production in the U.S., Europe and Japan," Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua told reporters. The issue has become a diplomatic one, with German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier writing to Wang to ask her for help in addressing it.
Intel Corp has invested an additional $475 million in its plant in Vietnam to improve technologies and boost production of its 5G products and core processors, the U.S. chipmaker's local unit said in a statement on Wednesday. The move takes Intel's total investments in Vietnam to around $1.5 billion, it said. "Intel Products Vietnam is an important part in Intel's supply chain," general manager Kim Huat Ooi said, explaining the decision to invest more in facilities and human resources in Vietnam.
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Ever wanted to know more about sweat, but were afraid to ask? Sarah Everts, with three million sweat glands to her name, can tell you plenty. The Ottawa science writer has a fascination with perspiration, and has explored our "mercurial relationship" with the necessary — but sometimes nasty — bodily function. She's even arranged to have her sweat glands counted, which is how she knows she's got three million, well within the normal human range of two to five million. Everts, 44, has even attended a "sweat dating" event in Moscow, where connections were made irrespective of gender or sexual orientation, but instead were based on how one's body odour jived with the natural essences of other participants. Kind of like Tinder, but you swipe right based on smell, not looks. "You get this little cotton pad and you pat yourself down," said Everts. "Then you put it into a little jar that's numbered and anonymized. Then everybody at the event lines up and smells each little jar of all the different people, and if any of the odours appeal to you, you mark those down. "I actually ended up getting matched with this woman who imports handbags." The paradox of perspiration "Evolutionary biologists count bountiful sweating as one of the things that makes us human," Everts said. And yet it remains largely taboo. Call it the perspiration paradox. "We're so embarrassed by it and so mortified by it that we spend $75 billion annually on deodorants and antiperspirants, trying to pretend that we don't actually sweat, that we don't smell and that armpit stains are not actually there." At the same time, and in the right context, sweating is the right thing to do. "Humans also crave the catharsis of a good sweat," said Everts, who admits to the pandemic purchase of a spin bicycle to get her own healthy glow on. We both are mortified by sweat, and yet we also totally crave it. - Sarah Everts Indeed, the taboo isn't universal: Everts points to Indigenous sweat lodges, haman or Turkish baths across the Middle East, banyas in Russia, saunas in Finland, jimjilbangs in Korea and sentos in Japan. "The list goes on." But even in those perspiration-positive environments, we humans tend to cover our tracks. "There's something utterly absurd about going for a workout or sitting in a sauna where the goal is to sweat bountifully, and then to apply antiperspirant," said Everts. "We both are mortified by sweat, and yet we also totally crave it." Get over it Everts recalls doing hot yoga once, and being momentarily mortified as sweat dripped onto her yoga mat. Then she got over it. "Jeez, why am I even embarrassed by this? I'm not going to evolve an alternative for temperature control any time soon," she thought. Everts breaks down the taboo into two parts: visible sweat, the kind that drips down your face or creates unsightly circles under your armpits, and the invisible yet odiferous body odour that often accompanies it. There are also two kinds of sweat glands: the kind that help with temperature control, and the kind that appear at puberty "and turn those zones stinky during the teenage years," said Everts. But don't blame your teen's B.O. on the sweat glands alone. "Wherever your hair grows in adolescence, a new kind of gland also grows there, and it releases a waxy sweat that actually is odourless when it comes out," said Everts. "But the bacteria living in your armpits eat that and metabolize it … into stinky odour." "I don't know if it's good news or bad news, but the odour that you have in your armpit is not actually yours. It's the responsibility of all the bacteria living in your armpits," said Everts. In the final analysis, it's all a perfectly natural and necessary function of the healthy human body. "Humans have wasted too much energy throwing shade at our perspiration," Everts said. "We could all use a perspiration pep talk, myself included." Evert's work has resulted in a book called The Joy of Sweat, to be published this July. She'll be talking about the smelly subject in Carleton University's virtual Science Café: The Science of Sweat, Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. Click here to register for free.
NEW ORLEANS — You just can’t keep a good city down, especially when Mardi Gras is coming. All around New Orleans, thousands of houses are being decorated as floats because the coronavirus outbreak cancelled the elaborate parades mobbed by crowds during the Carnival season leading to Fat Tuesday. Some smaller groups announced no-parade plans before the city did. Pandemic replacements include scavenger hunts for signature trinkets that normally would be thrown from floats or handed out from a streetcar, as well as outdoor art and drive-thru or virtual parades. The prominent Krewe of Bacchus has an app where people can catch and trade virtual trinkets during Carnival and watch a virtual parade Feb. 14, when the parade had been scheduled. But the “house float” movement started almost as soon as a New Orleans spokesman announced Nov. 17 that parades were off. That morning, Megan Joy Boudreaux posted what she later called a silly Twitter joke: “We’re doing this. Turn your house into a float and throw all the beads from your attic at your neighbours walking by.” But the more she thought about it, the more she liked it. She started a Facebook group, the Krewe of House Floats, expecting a few friends and neighbours to join. The numbers rose. Thirty-nine subgroups evolved to discuss neighbourhood plans. By Carnival season’s official start Jan. 6, the group had more than 9,000 members, including out-of-state “expats." About 3,000, including a few as far afield as England and Australia, will have their houses on an official online map, said Charlotte “Charlie” Jallans-Daly, one of two mapmakers. Houses are to be decorated at least two weeks before Fat Tuesday, which is Feb. 16 this year. With widespread addresses and two weeks to gawk, the hope is that people will spread out widely in time and space. “I didn’t think I was starting a Mardi Gras krewe. Here I am,” Boudreaux said. “I’ve got myself a second full-time job.” Discussions in the Facebook groups include how-tos, ads for props and neighbourhood themes. Artists have given livestreamed outdoor lessons. Katie Bankens posted that her block’s theme was Shark Week staycation paradise. When a resident worried that she was not “crafty” enough, administrator Carley Sercovich replied that if they could play music and throw trinkets to neighbours, “you are perfect for this Krewe!” Boudreaux also suggested that people could hire or buy from out-of-work Carnival artists and suppliers hit by the parade cancellation. A spreadsheet of artists and vendors followed. One of them, artist Dominic “Dom” Graves, booked more than 20 five-person classes in professional papier mache techniques, at $100 a person. Devin DeWulf, who already had started two pandemic charities as head of the Krewe of Red Beans walking club, kicked the house float idea up a few notches at the suggestion of Caroline Thomas, a professional float designer. Their “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist” crowdfunded lotteries collected enough money to put crews to work decorating 11 houses, plus commissioned work at two more houses and seven businesses. “We’ve put about 40 people to work, which is nice,” DeWulf said. With Mardi Gras approaching, he said a 12th lottery would be the last. One commissioned house is rented by a pair of nuns. Sisters Mary Ann Specha and Julie Walsh, who run a shelter for homeless women with children, had to get permission for their own crowdfunding from the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa. “They loved it,” Specha said. The crowdfunded decorations may be auctioned after Mardi Gras to raise more money, DeWulf said. Several mansions along a short stretch of St. Charles Avenue had elaborate displays with signs noting their creation by one of the city’s biggest float-making studios. Tom Fox, whose wife, Madeline, painted a Spongebob Squarepants scene and made jellyfish from dollar store bowls, said he thinks a new tradition may have begun. “Even when Mardi Gras comes back, I think people are going to keep doing this,” he said. Janet McConnaughey, The Associated Press
BEIJING — The Chinese government said Wednesday that actions like its warplanes flying near Taiwan last weekend are a warning against both foreign interference in Taiwan and any independence moves by the island. Asked about the flights, Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said China's military drills are to show the nation's resolution to protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. "They are a stern warning against external interference and provocation from separatist forces advocating for Taiwan independence,” she said at a regular briefing, giving the Chinese government's first official comment on the recent flights. China sent eight bombers and four fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Saturday, according to Taiwan's Defence Ministry. Taiwan scrambled fighters to monitor the activity. The U.S. State Department later issued a statement urging China “to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan” following China's sizeable show of force. China then sent 16 military aircraft into the same area on Sunday, Taiwan said. Taiwan is a self-governing island about 160 kilometres (100 miles) off China's east coast. The Chinese government regards it as a renegade province that should be united with mainland China. Zhu said that China would not renounce the use of force to guard against separatist moves and foreign interference. “We ... reserve the option to use all necessary measures,” she said. "Our position has been consistent and will not change.” The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — There's a race between COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccine as researchers and health officials in B.C. warn of two faster-spreading variants. The number of variant cases may start low, but increased transmission could only be a few weeks away, just as delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is delayed, said Caroline Colijn, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Infection, Evolution and Public Health at Simon Fraser University. Colijn's lab released modelling data this week showing public health rules in several provinces, including B.C., would not be sufficient to prevent exponential growth in cases starting around March if a COVID-19 variant with a 40 per cent higher transmission rate became established. "By established I mean some cluster doesn't get stopped and takes off and we don't notice or we don't act and we are unable to stop those chains of transmission and so they take off the way the current COVID has," she said. Colijn added she would expect public health officials to enact further restrictions before such exponential growth in variant cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news briefing this week that B.C. has detected three cases of a variant found in South Africa and none were linked to each other or to travel, pointing to community spread. By completing whole genome sequencing, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has also recorded six travel-related cases of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom, which appears significantly more transmissible than earlier strains of the new coronavirus. B.C. is sequencing about 15 per cent of samples that test positive for COVID-19 in the province, said Natalie Prystajecky, head of the environmental microbiology program at the centre's public health lab. Sequencing is more labour-intensive than diagnostic testing, she said, so it can take up to two weeks to produce data from a given sample. B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February and generated quality data from about 9,500 of them, she said. The average rate of sequencing across Canada is between five and 10 per cent, said Prystajecky, a member of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network that received funding last spring to sequence 150,000 samples. In addition to targeting samples from travellers and youth, she said, B.C. is prioritizing more general, "background" sampling to understand if public health officials are missing anything, such as transmission of new variants. "We're ramping up," she said. "We did 750 genomes last week and we're aiming to continue to increase the amount of sequencing we're doing." Prystajecky said her lab is also planning to do a "point prevalence study" to screen a high number of samples at a given point in time. B.C. is taking a smart approach to sequencing by targeting travel-related cases, said Colijn, but at the rate sequencing data becomes available, "there could be 10 or 50 or 100 cases of whatever we detect at the time." Colijn believes B.C. should consider Atlantic Canada's approach and create a so-called "Pacific bubble" that would require travellers from other provinces to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in B.C. Data from Pfizer and Moderna — the pharmaceutical companies behind the two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada — show their products still protect people against the U.K. and South African variants, said Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University. "What this means is people really need to hunker down until this vaccine gets out into the population further," she said in an interview this week. "We really are in a race between the vaccine and the virus right now." Basic measures including physical distancing and avoiding non-essential travel are still effective in preventing new variants from spreading, she said. B.C. reported 4,260 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday out of more than 65,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
Hockey Alberta has set a deadline to decide whether or not to continue planning league play for the 2020-21 minor hockey season.Hockey Alberta, in conjunction with its sanctioned minor leagues for male and female hockey, said in a statement Tuesday it is currently reviewing the sustainability of league play for the remainder of the season, and that if there is no new information from the Government of Alberta by Feb. 1, a decision will have to be made about its league play based on the current information available.Hockey Alberta says any decision regarding league play doesn't mean the end of hockey activity for the 2020-21 season, and that other potential ideas such as skill development programming and/or exhibition or mini-league games could be viable options with the required safety protocols in place.Hockey Alberta says it has met with Alberta Health and Government of Alberta representatives on several occasions, as recently as last week with discussions "focused on how hockey can be relaunched in a way that ensures the safety of all participants."Minor hockey across the country was put on hiatus in March due to COVID-19.Minor hockey associations came up with different solutions for a return-to-play program this season, blending guidelines from Hockey Canada and local public health authorities, in an effort to get back on the ice. But Alberta had to suspend all minor hockey activities in December after the Government of Alberta announced the temporary closure of all indoor recreation facilities, including arenas.This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
China's ByteDance is cutting the size of its 2,000-plus India team and is unsure when it will make a comeback, the company told employees in an internal memo on Wednesday, months after its popular TikTok video app was banned. The move came after India this month decided to retain its ban on TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps following responses from the companies on issues such as compliance and privacy.
For Debi Drennan, the film business is a family affair. The Toronto-based makeup artist has been working in the industry before the days of The Littlest Hobo. Her sons, Christian and Tyler, followed her into the business, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they're all as busy as ever. Christian, a key grip, just wrapped The Man from Toronto starring Kevin Hart. Key rigger Tyler recently jumped from working on Netflix's Sex and Lies and is now on Station Eleven. Drennan herself was one of the first to return to work after Ontario's first coronavirus lockdown, as part of CBC's Murdoch Mysteries. She says that with all of the precautions in place, she wasn't worried about safety. "We're not allowed on the property until we have a correct temperature and we've done a screening. We all had apps on our phone, and we would have to answer those apps every morning." With surging coronavirus rates shutting down production in parts of California, Canadian crews such as the ones the Drennans worked on are competing with an influx of American productions. In both British Columbia and Ontario, the industry isn't just busy — it's booming. Switching face shields for safety glasses Virus or not, Drennan and her colleagues in the makeup trailer still had to make the cast look picture perfect. For starters, she procured a high-end UV sterilization machine to prevent cross-contamination. But applying makeup while wearing masks and face shields turned out to be a challenge. The solution was safety glasses with prescription lenses, which became standard on set. As both the face of and a director on the 14th season of Murdoch Mysteries, Yannick Bisson says he was all too cognizant of the risks. "There was pressure, we were going to be one of the first shows out of the gate," he said. "So the potential for failure was there." Drennan says the cast and crew quickly became accustomed to the new rhythms of work, but what she didn't anticipate was how worn out she would become. "It's exhausting.... I just felt like halfway through the day, they couldn't call lunch fast enough. I just needed to get in my car, pull my mask off, take my goggles off and just sit." Headaches were common, and Drennan says she thinks dehydration may have played a role: Taking off all the layers of personal protective equipment for a sip of water or a snack was such an ordeal that the temptation was just to tough it out. Pandemic keeps productions on edge Jason Jallet, a producer from Sudbury, Ont., completed two independent films during the fall and ran into trouble getting makeup and hair trailers, which had already been reserved for foreign productions. "They are all on a lot somewhere held until somebody needed them, so they were being paid for and unused." Jallet says he was forced to send drivers to Quebec from Sudbury for trailers, costing more time and money. He estimates COVID-19 precautions ate up about five per cent of his already precious budget. On-screen, life on the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience looks the same as it did before the pandemic. But behind the scenes, the fifth season was shot under COVID-19 measures that were so strict, even Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays Appa, struggled to adjust. "I remember really wanting to push back at the absurdity of having to wear a mask because I knew I didn't have COVID and then realizing that I was making life hell for our COVID protocol officer." Eventually, Lee says, he decided to lean in and embrace the rules. Jean Yoon, who plays his on-screen wife, Umma, says she missed the faces of the crew. "Being in the same building with so many people we've worked with for all these years and not be able to see them." The strain of adapting to the regime of rules was so onerous that Jallet created a new position — a COVID-19 mental health officer — to give his crew someone to vent to. Jallet completed two films in northern Ontario last fall, Boathouse and Delia's Gone, starring Marisa Tomei and Canadian actor Stephan James. Jallet was also dealing with his own anxiety due to the lack of insurance for COVID-19 outbreaks. While the federal government eventually created a program to act as a backstop for Canadian productions, it wasn't available in time for Jallet, leaving him on the hook for any potential outbreak. "Every time the phone rang, I was like, 'Is there a COVID incident? Is somebody sick? Are we going to have to shut down?'" A surge in demand for studio space While the rush for resources has taxed Canadian productions, it's been a boon for companies offering studio space. Near Toronto's Pearson International Airport, the sound of jets overhead has been replaced by a fleet of film trucks supporting the newest location for TriBro Studios. What was once an airport hangar is now a soundstage, home to upcoming Netflix production Nightbooks. TriBro president Peter Apostolopoulos says it can't build studio space fast enough. "The phone hasn't stopped ringing. There's a tremendous amount of calls coming in for studio space. That's why we expanded to the airport facilities. We needed more space." In Vancouver, independent producer Mark Miller says he is also seeing a scramble for space, with old warehouses being transformed into soundstages. The producer, who's worked with Great Pacific Media and Thunderbird Entertainment, is bullish on the future. "We're preparing for a big boom — actually, we think that once the pandemic comes to an end, there's a lot of pent-up demand for new content." At the same time, Miller says he's worried who will buy his shows. Aggressive tax credits and the low dollar continue to make Canada an attractive location to serve American shows, such as Star Trek: Discovery or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. But Miller says the pandemic is changing the broadcasting landscape here at home. "COVID-19 has been very hard on our broadcasters. I know it's been hard on the CBC. I know it's been hard at CTV," he says. "Global advertising revenues are down throughout traditional television, which up until eight years ago was 100 per cent of my business." While COVID-19 has changed how stories are being captured, Yannick Bisson of Murdoch Mysteries says one thing remains the same: "The need for something to watch, the need for content. We want to watch our voices on our screen." In Ontario alone, there are an estimated 30,000 full-time jobs connected to the film and television sector. But as the pandemic stretches on, choosing whether to work or wait has producer Jason Jallet facing some tough choices. "Do we go come up here to northern Ontario to make films? So if I'm bringing actors up from Toronto on a weekly basis to be on screen, am I putting my community here in northern Ontario at risk?"
NAIROBI, Kenya — The United States said all soldiers from Eritrea should leave Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region “immediately.” A State Department spokesperson in an email to The Associated Press cited “credible reports of looting, sexual violence, assaults in refugee camps and other human rights abuses." "There is also evidence of Eritrean soldiers forcibly returning Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea,” the spokesperson said. The statement reflects new pressure by the Biden administration on the government of Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and the anchor of the Horn of Africa, and other combatants as the deadly fighting in Tigray nears the three-month mark. The AP this week cited witnesses who fled the Tigray region as saying Eritrean soldiers were looting, going house-to-house killing young men and even acting as local authorities. The Eritreans have been fighting on the side of Ethiopian forces as they pursue the fugitive leaders of the Tigray region, though Ethiopia’s government has denied their presence. The U.S. stance has shifted dramatically from the early days of the conflict when the Trump administration praised Eritrea for its “restraint.” The new U.S. statement calls for an independent and transparent investigation into alleged abuses. “It remains unclear how many Eritrean soldiers are in Tigray, or precisely where,” it says. It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. has addressed its demand directly to Eritrean officials. Witnesses have estimated that the Eritrean soldiers number in the thousands. Eritrean officials have not responded to questions. The information minister for Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive countries, this week tweeted that “the rabid defamation campaign against Eritrea is on the rise again.“ The U.S. also seeks an immediate stop to the fighting in Tigray and “full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” to the region, which remains largely cut off from the outside world, with Ethiopian forces often accompanying aid. “We are gravely concerned by credible reports that hundreds of thousands of people may starve to death if urgent humanitarian assistance is not mobilized immediately,” the statement says. The U.S. adds that “dialogue is essential between the government and Tigrayans.” Ethiopia's government has rejected dialogue with the former Tigray leaders, seeing them as illegitimate, and has appointed an interim administration. The former Tigray leaders, in turn, objected to Ethiopia delaying a national election last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and considered Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's mandate over. Cara Anna, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Newly released documents show federal officials have been aware since the fall that some new parents might be receiving a smaller amount of money than they would have if not for a change in the way COVID-19 pandemic benefits are delivered to Canadians. That is due to a shift in late September, when the employment insurance system kicked back into gear and three new benefits rolled out to replace the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that was supporting Canadians who had lost income since the spring. On Sept. 27, eligible recipients started moving on to the decades-old EI system where the minimum weekly payment was set at $500 in line with the three "recovery" benefits. Prior to that date, benefits were calculated based on earnings, meaning any new parent that started their EI claim before the change could receive less than $500 a week. The documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act note the policy created inequities, and point to a similar effect for parents who will start claims after Sept. 25 this year, when the temporary rules are set to expire. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough's office says the government will make any necessary changes so new parents don't face "additional barriers accessing maternity or parental benefits as a result of COVID-19." Changes to the EI program can take anywhere between three and 18 months to come into force, and they generally take effect on a particular date. Claims made before that date are often ineligible unless the change is simple and very specific to avoid what the document describes as the need to review claims that began "as much as 100 weeks in the past." But the undated memo outlines multiple, rapid changes and revisions to parental benefit rules in the wake of the CERB. When partial or retroactive changes were made, more problems seem to have cropped up. There were issues with how the system handled soon-to-be-mothers applying for emergency aid, which denied them CERB payments until changes to the system could be made and back payments processed. As well, other new parents, or those waiting the birth of their child, were put directly on EI benefits if they had enough hours to qualify, while those that didn't were put on the CERB until the government came up with a fix. That fix meant a one-time reduction in the number of hours needed to qualify for benefits to address concerns that some parents would lose out on benefits because they lost work hours through no fault of their own. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 35 per cent of new mothers outside of Quebec, which has its own system, didn't qualify for federal benefits. The pandemic has shone a light on the long-standing issue around the hours requirement, said Brock University's Andrea Doucet, an expert on parental-leave programs. "This was made even worse as women lost jobs and reduced (their) hours," Doucet said. "The reduction in insurable hours was presented as temporary, but will it lead to more inclusive policies that enable more parents to make claims?" Kate Bezanson, an expert on family and labour market policy, said the document points a need for a rethink of the parental leave program, noting that leave policies work hand-in-hand with child care and employment efforts. The Liberals have said they want to create a national child-care system, part of a plan to help more mothers enter the labour market. "We want people to have babies, and take care of those babies happily, and also have jobs to return to and be able to do that seamlessly," said Bezanson, associate dean of social sciences at Brock University. "This is one of those moments where if we're looking holistically and we're looking globally at our policy portfolios, let's put them together and get them to talk to each other and make the changes that have been long overdue." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Quebec's director of national health said he's still not sure when the province will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots — 43 days since officials started injecting people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Dr. Horacio Arruda said Tuesday that while he doesn't want Quebecers to wait more than seven weeks to receive a booster shot, he said he was still waiting to hear back from government scientists studying the efficacy of the vaccine among those who received their first of two injections. Quebec has taken a different approach from other provinces, focusing on giving a first dose to as many people as possible before giving anyone a second, a strategy that Arruda maintains will save more lives and keep more people out of hospital at a time when vaccine supplies are limited. "We did it because we don't have enough vaccine," he told reporters. Vaccine maker Pfizer has said the second dose of its vaccine should be given within 21 days. Moderna, the maker of the other vaccine approved for use in Canada, has set the date for the second shot at 28 days. Ottawa's National Advisory Committee on Immunization, however, has said the second dose of both vaccines can wait up to 42 days. Relatives of long-term care residents say they don't believe the government is making a science-based decision. Quebec is "playing Russian roulette with our loved ones' lives," Joyce Shanks, member of the Maimonides Family Advocacy Committee, said Monday. Her group, which represents residents of the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal, is considering suing the government over its vaccine strategy. Her father, a Maimonides resident, was one of the first people in Quebec to get a dose of vaccine, on Dec. 14. "We signed up for the two doses. We did not sign up to be part of a clinical trial," Shanks said. Kathy Assayag, chair of the users' committee at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, said the government's vaccine strategy is "a mistake." "It's a gamble and we cannot gamble with people's lives." Experts, however, differ on whether Quebec's plan is a well-calculated risk or an ill-fated wager. Dr. Caroline Quach, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, said the committee's guideline that patients can wait up to 42 days between injections is based on trials from vaccine makers. Trial participants, she said, were encouraged to return after 21 or 28 days from their first injection — depending on whether they received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine — but she said they were allowed to return up to 42 days later. "The problem after the 42 days is that we don't have any data," Quach said. While it's possible a single dose remains effective after 42 days, she said, there's a decent risk its efficacy decreases, but no one knows how fast that could happen. "We know that the second dose helps with the maturation of the antibodies," Quach said. "The two companies decided that a second dose was needed, so we have no data with only one dose and we have no data with extended intervals." Dr. Andre Veillette, a research professor at the Universite de Montreal's department of medicine and a member of the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the further Quebec moves away from what's been proven in clinical trials, the higher the chance the vaccine won't have the same results. "I think it's a gamble," he said. "I think there's not enough information." Veillette said he's particularly worried about older people who generally don't respond as well to vaccines as younger people do. Even in a situation with constrained supply, he said the government should stick to the vaccine schedule that's been proven in clinical trials. "Take the drops as they come and give them the way they're supposed to be given," Veillette said. While the results of the vaccination campaign in Israel have raised concerns about the amount of protection given by the first dose of vaccine, Dr. Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at McGill University's faculty of medicine, said the data matches what was demonstrated in the clinical trials. The protection offered by both vaccines 14 days after the first shot exceeds 90 per cent, he said. Studies of other vaccines indicate the timing of the second dose isn't critical, Sheppard added. But, he said, there's no specific data on the consequences of delaying the COVID-19 vaccines. Like other provinces, Quebec has been forced to manage with fewer COVID-19 vaccines than anticipated, following Pfizer's recent decision to suspend deliveries to upgrade its European production facility. As a result, Quebec doesn't expect to receive any vaccine shipments this week. The Health Department said Tuesday it had received 238,100 doses of vaccine and had administered 224,879. Given the shortage of vaccine and the high number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Sheppard said he thinks the government made the right calculation — though if there were fewer cases or more doses, he added, there wouldn't have been the need to take the risk. "But that's not where we are right now, in January, in Quebec," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
SoftBank Group Corp's robotics unit announced on Wednesday a joint venture with Japanese electronics maker Iris Ohyama, as the conglomerate looks to juice up its robotics business. SoftBank Robotics, whose Pepper robot is a symbol of the company and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son's grand technological ambitions, is an outlier, as the group eschews operating businesses in favour of investing. The joint venture, Iris Robotics, offered an ambitious forecast of 100 billion yen ($965 million) in sales by 2025, but provided little detail on future products at a press conference.