In the News

Sep 08, 2021

The High Court of Australia ruled today that the country’s largest news media companies are responsible for comments posted by readers on their corporate Facebook pages. Dismissing an appeal of a lower court ruling that a man who had been the subject of several news reports about youth detention had been defamed on-line, Justice Stephen Rothman said “the acts of the (media companies) in facilitating, encouraging and thereby assisting the posting of comments by the third-party Facebook users rendered them publishers of those comments.”

Sep 08, 2021

A review published Sept. 7 in the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists calls for “a true division of labor” within NATO. It specifically argues that European members of the alliance “can and must carry a much bigger share of the responsibility for their own defence.”

Sep 08, 2021

The Taliban have named an exclusively male interim government for Afghanistan, mostly Pashtun veterans of their previous term in power and 20 years of combat against the recently wound-up U.S.-led coalition. Sirajuddin Haqqani, who remains on the FBI’s most-wanted list with a $5-million bounty on his head, has the key post of interior minister.

Sep 08, 2021

Apple Inc. has delayed plans to roll out technology capable of searching U.S. iPhones for child sexual abuse material. When it announced the NeuralHash initiative last month, there was widespread criticism about privacy issues and its potential for abuse by authoritarian states.

Sep 07, 2021

China wants all foreign vessels to give notice before entering the South China Sea, which it considers “territorial waters” and where there have been high-profile confrontations in recent years. The edict now applies to five specific types of vessels categorized as potential dangers to “China’s maritime traffic safety” but the notice published by Beijing is seen as a possible contravention of the UN’s freedom-of-navigation rules.

Sep 07, 2021

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi says his government is ready for talks which he hopes would revive a 2015 international nuclear accord but not under Western “pressure” and subject to the lifting of U.S.-driven sanctions. France and Germany have urged Iran to return to the negotiation table.

Sep 07, 2021

A former Ontario resident campaigning to be Mayor of Calgary has pleaded guilty to a hate crime in Ontario in connection with online anti-Muslim posts. Defence counsel for Kevin J. Johnston, who moved to Alberta and is a vocal critic of COVID-19 masking, told an Ontario judge that client had recklessly “crossed the line” by using social media to incite hatred against Muslim students in 2017.

Sep 07, 2021

Canada today eased COVID-19 international travel restrictions by permitting fully-vaccinated foreign visits for non-essential purposes such as tourism. Travellers with proof of immunization no longer need to quarantine for 14 days but must have had a negative molecular test no more than 72 hours before their flight or arrival at the land border.

Sep 07, 2021

An Iranian allegedly involved the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in his homeland in 1988 is on trial in Sweden. Hamid Nouri was arrested in Stockholm in November 2019 under the auspices of an international legal principle of universal jurisdiction. He worked in the prison system when Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the execution of some 5,000 political prisoners.

Sep 07, 2021

Even though one of his own candidates was insisting that a Conservative government would repeal the Liberal government’s 2020 ban on “assault-style” weapons, Leader Erin O'Toole is sticking with his commitment to retain key elements of the program. He says his focus would be on “illegally smuggled firearms” and “a completely independent public process to fix the classification system.”

Sep 03, 2021

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has confirmed that if he forms a government after the Sept. 20 election, he would maintain the Liberals’ firearms control measures. Having made the commitment in the French-language campaign debate the night before, he doubled down today, saying that “we will maintain the ban on assault weapons and we will develop a transparent process when it comes to training and licensing for guns, because we need to target street guns and smuggling.”

Sep 03, 2021

After a virtual meeting with U.S. climate change envoy John Kerry, his Chinese counterpart characterized their “candid, in-depth and pragmatic” talk as part of an ongoing “dialogue and consultation.” But an environment ministry official rejected U.S. efforts to separate climate from the broader diplomatic conflicts.

Sep 03, 2021

The federal government is being pressed by civil society groups, journalists and the general public to update the Access to Information Act, the key to supposed government “transparency.” Among other things, they are pushing for the closure of numerous loopholes, firm deadline for government responses and more resources to make the system work.

Sep 03, 2021

A World Trade Organization tribunal has ruled in favour of the U.S. in a dispute over Chinese complaints about restrictions on imports of solar panel cells which the U.S. said in 2018 were harming American suppliers. The tribunal rejected all four of China’s arguments.

Sep 03, 2021

A British member of an Islamic State group has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to charges of conspiring to murder four Americans. Alexanda Kotey was accused of being one of the ISIS “Beatles” involved in kidnappings in Iraq and Syria. He and fellow Brit, El Shafee Elsheikh, initially pled not guilty but Kotey’s new plea suggests a deal with prosecutors.

Sep 02, 2021

The Taliban's militancy is likely to mean global isolation of Afghanistan’s people but as the outside world seeks to exert influence, Qatar and Turkey have emerged as key intermediaries. “No-one has been able to do any major evacuation process out of Afghanistan without having a Qatari involved,” says Dina Esfandiary, a senior adviser at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Sep 02, 2021

The European Union’s top military and diplomatic officials say the crisis in Afghanistan should incent development of a globally-deployable rapidly reaction force. “Now is the time to act,” says Gen Claudio Graziano, EU military committee chair. His foreign policy counterpart, Josep Borrell, agrees that “sometimes there are events that . . . create a breakthrough, and I think that Afghanistan is one of these cases.”

Sep 01, 2021

The Liberal Party today released its campaign platform at roughly the mid-point of their push for a parliamentary majority in the Sept. 20 general election. Costed out by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it includes a range of new and extended economic support initiatives as well as a commitment to enhanced employment insurance measures and ensuring banks and companies pay “their fair share” of the cost of rebuilding a post-pandemic economy

Sep 01, 2021

Beginning today, proof of vaccination will become mandatory for many activities in Quebec, which has rolled out its COVID-19 passport. More than five million persons had already downloaded the CQR code to their smart devices but the government also will accept a printout and visitors will need to provide copies of their own provinces’ vaccination certificates.

Sep 01, 2021

A group of Hezbollah militants returning from having fired missiles into Israel recently was confronted by angry villagers who smashed their vehicles’ windshields and held them up briefly. A rare sign of defiance, it’s seen as evidence that many ordinary Lebanese are concerned that the militants could provoke war with their neighbour.

Sep 01, 2021

As COVID-19 fourth-wave infections surge in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, physicians are blaming lax and late public health measures which are already putting pressure on provincial facilities. Infection rates in the three provinces are above the national average.

Sep 01, 2021

Confronted by vitriolic and profane protests by anti-vaccination activists at various election campaign stops in the past few days, including one event which had to be cancelled for security reasons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau evidently had enough Aug. 31. “They're wrong,” he told the rest of his audience. By refusing be vaccinated against COVID-19, they were “putting at risk their own kids, and they're putting at risk our kids as well.”

Sep 01, 2021

Having led the world in vaccinating its population and apparently getting a stranglehold on COVID-19, Israel now has the highest seven-day rolling average of new cases as the aggressive delta variant spreads. Some Israeli scientists say the reversal could be a lesson for Canada and other countries as the fourth wave surges.

Sep 01, 2021

Since regaining control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have sought to portray a more moderate image than when they last were in power, insisting that they will grant universal amnesty. However, there is mounting evidence that the reality is grim, that Taliban fighters are reported to be searching for and murdering former opponents.

Aug 31, 2021

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau confirmed today that an estimated 1,250 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and families remain in Afghanistan. “The main thing that we needed to figure out was how many . . . were able to get out on some of our allies’ flights,” he said.

Aug 31, 2021

The Taliban pledged anew today to bring peace and security to Afghanistan but it’s wait-and-see for ordinary Afghans, notably the many who worked with allied forces during the 20-year war. “Afghanistan is finally free,” a senior Taliban official said, urging people to return to work and reiterating a promise of amnesty. “Everything is peaceful. Everything is safe.”

Aug 31, 2021

A call by the B.C. government for the RCMP to enforce the province’s COVID-19 vaccine passport program is getting pushback from National Police Federation President Brian Sauve. He says the federal officers in the province are stretched thin, helping to deal with wildfires in the interior and logging protesters on Vancouver Island, so it is “critically important that government properly fund both local and provincial policing.”

Aug 30, 2021

The last U.S. military transport flew out of Afghanistan today, marking the end of a two-decade war which began with the ouster of the Taliban only to see them eventually return to retake the country.

Aug 30, 2021

Acting on the advice of its governing body, the European Union today recommended a ban on non-essential visits from the U.S. because of rising COVID-19 cases there. Optional for each EU state, the proposal also would include visitors from Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

Aug 30, 2021

The day after Canada shut down its Afghanistan evacuation mission, Ukrainian troops, coordinated by their government and The Globe and Mail, managed to get Afghan translators and their families out of Kabul airport. Canada has asked Ukraine whether it is willing to transport other Canada-bound refugees to Kyiv for processing.

Aug 30, 2021

Despite the deaths of thousands of its members since the Taliban was ousted from Afghanistan two decades ago, its territorial control and military strength has clearly rebounded with the U.S. estimating that the group had as many as 100,000 fighters by mid-2021. This evidently has been made possible by its in-country financial activities as well as sundry foreign sources, to the point where the BBC says it could amount to the equivalent of nearly $2 billion a year.

Aug 30, 2021

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau has conceded that criticism of Canada’s Afghanistan evacuation effort is “fair enough.” However, he said Aug. 29, “nobody anticipated the speed with which the Taliban would take over the country, including probably the Taliban themselves, and how quickly the Afghan National Army would either surrender or flee.”

Aug 30, 2021

The U.S. has announced that together with Canada and 96 other countries, it has struck a deal with the Taliban which enables them to continue evacuating their citizens and allies from Afghanistan. “We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan,” it said in an Aug. 29 statement. “We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries.”

Aug 30, 2021

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, that the international community should engage with the Taliban to “positively guide them as they take power in Afghanistan. “While respecting the sovereignty of Afghanistan, the U.S. should take concrete action to help Afghanistan fight terrorism and stop violence, rather than playing double standards or fighting terrorism selectively,” he said after his phone call with Blinken.

Aug 30, 2021

Canada has joined Mexico in seeking formal consultation with the U.S. about how automotive content rules are interpreted. Mexico requested the talks earlier this month after a disagreement in May and Global Affairs Canada has advised its continental trade partners that it also wants to be involved.

Aug 30, 2021

The World Health Organization said earlier this month that there was no indication of need for COVID-19 boosters but its European head, Hans Kluge, said today that they are one way to keep vulnerable populations safe and are “not a luxury.” There have been suggestions that boosters’ growing popularity in wealthier countries could reduce availability elsewhere.

Aug 30, 2021

COVID-19 booster shots are being offered to Israelis as young as 12 as the country tries to curb the spread of the more aggressive Delta variant amid signs that the effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine waned after six months. “People are 10 times more protected after the third vaccine dose,” a health ministry official said Aug. 29.

Aug 27, 2021

The U.S. Defense Department said today that a single suicide bomber, not two as originally reported, was responsible for the deaths of 13 service personnel and dozens of civilians at Kabul airport Aug. 27. The bomber detonated a vest “right at or around” one of three gates where crowds of Afghans had been waiting to be evacuated. Army MGen Hank Taylor, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations, said “it’s not any surprise that in the confusion of very dynamic events like this can cause information sometimes to be misreported or garbled.”

Aug 27, 2021

Canada secured 500 seats for Afghan evacuees on a U.S. flight out of Kabul Aug. 26, bringing its total to more than 3,700 but leaving an undermined number of applicants behind. Confirming the latest development, Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino said today that Canada is “working with other regional partners to establish air bridges beyond the Aug. 31 timeline within which the coalition will withdraw and by, yes, looking at other ways to get them to third countries.”

Aug 27, 2021

Despite concern about the possibility of more attacks at Kabul airport, evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed with new urgency today. Against a backdrop of departing aircraft, dozens of Taliban with heavy weapons patrolled the area just outside the airport.

Aug 27, 2021

President Joe Biden has vowed to make the Islamist terrorists behind the Aug. 27 twin suicide bombings at Kabul airport, an attack that killed 13 U.S. military personnel and dozens of civilians. As of today, the death toll is understood to have topped 100 with more expected. “We will not forget,” Biden said. “We will hunt you down and make you pay.” and “I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command.”

Aug 27, 2021

The terrorist group behind the suicide bombings outside Kabul airport, the Islamic State-Khorasan, is an offshoot of the IS terrorist group which has murdered foreign journalists and brutalize Kurds in Iraq and Syria. “This attack will look bad to the West, but it makes the Taliban look as if they are not in control of their own environment,” says Raffaello Pantucci, senior fellow at the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

Aug 27, 2021

The federal government is being asked by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to provide $2 billion over the next three years – followed by $1 billion annually – to help its 2,000 members to guard against more climate-related events such as wildfires, extreme heat, drought and floods.

Aug 27, 2021

An RCMP officer ordering a journalist to be “silent . . . or you’re gone” as she covered protests against old-growth logging on Vancouver Island earlier this week has been criticized by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and others. “That's totally inappropriate,” BCCLA counsel Veronica Martisius said on viewing video of the exchange. “That officer has a choice whether or not he wants to answer questions, but you can't order a journalist around.”

Aug 27, 2021

Khalil Ur-Rahman Haqqani, the self-proclaimed chief of security for the Taliban in Kabul, was designated a terrorist by the U.S. 10 years ago and is still subject to a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. His assurances that “we can provide safety to the Afghan people” are being called into question and Taliban leaders have conceded that their forces blundered by releasing prisoners, including IS commanders and others who now are regrouping.

Aug 27, 2021

Seven U.S. Capitol Police officers filed suit in federal court Aug. 27 against former President Donald Trump, alleging that he conspired with extremist groups to provoke the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. They argue that the attack was the culmination of months of rhetoric by Trump, who they say was aware of the potential for violence.

Aug 26, 2021

Twelve U.S. military personnel are among the dozens of casualties of today’s twin suicide bombings outside Kabul airport where thousands of Afghans are still seeking evacuation before next Tuesday’s U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

Aug 26, 2021

A Toronto man who violated a judge's order by distributing screenshots of a court hearing involving a controversial Calgary mayoralty candidate has been fined $2,500 for contempt of court. Donald Smith said “it kind of sucks . . . but I take full responsibility for my actions,” which included calling the judge “crooked.”

Aug 26, 2021

Delta Air Lines has told its employees to expect to pay US$200 more a month for their health care insurance if they are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Atlanta-based airline’s CEO explained Aug. 25 that the hike is necessary because the average bill for a hospital stay costs the carrier $40,000. It also will require unvaccinated employees to be tested weekly at the company’s expense.

Aug 26, 2021

The Chinese foreign ministry says it has established an “open and effective communication and consultation with the Afghan Taliban” following a meeting in Kabul. Without going into detail, a ministry official said it would be an “important platform and channel for both sides to discuss important matters of all kinds” and China would keep its Kabul embassy open.

Aug 26, 2021

More than 500 persons were evacuated from Kabul Aug. 25 by four Russian military aircraft, a political shift from a few days earlier when its ambassador to Afghanistan had lauded the Taliban’s conduct. In addition to Russians, the evacuation also involved citizens of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Aug 26, 2021

The number of land visitors to Canada from the U.S. more than doubled in the first week the government permitted fully-vaccinated Americans to enter for non-essential travel. Statistics Canada says Ontario, followed by British Columbia, accounted for most of the traffic, which still remains well below pre-pandemic numbers.

Aug 26, 2021

British Columbia’s proposal for COVID-19 “passports” to attend a number of currently proscribed activities evidently is behind a sudden surge in the number of people signing up for their shots. So far this week, the signups have increased threefold, mostly under the age of 40.

Aug 26, 2021

Russian officials say that at least 13 people are dead and more than a dozen others injured after two suicide bombings at Kabul airport today. The killings come a day after U.S. agencies had warned of unspecified “security threats.”

Aug 26, 2021

The acting Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Wayne Ayre, confirmed today that Canada’s Afghanistan evacuation mission has ended after the rescue of more than 3,700 people from Taliban-controlled Kabul. Other government officials said that two-thirds of evacuation applications representing 8,000 people had been processed but that “at this time no further evacuation flights are planned.”

Aug 26, 2021

As jurisdictions in Canada and elsewhere opt to provide COVID-19 “passports” to fully-vaccinated cohorts, there evidently is a flourishing black market in bogus documentation. One online site offers to deliver a “registered” card with the logo of either the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention or Britain's National Health Service for $100.

Aug 26, 2021

The U.S. has approved licences for Huawei, the Chinese telecom’s whose 5G technology has blacklisted by Washington for use in the U.S., to purchase U.S. computer chips for its automotive industry. The decision, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars to U.S. suppliers, evidently involves chips suitable only for lower-tech uses such as video screens and sensors.

Aug 26, 2021

Iran and its Gulf state enemies have been invited to a meeting in Baghdad by the government of Iraq, which hopes to ease tensions which have brought them close to open conflict in recent years. Iraqi officials say the meeting also would discuss the war in Yemen, Lebanon’s collapse and a regional water supply crisis.

Aug 26, 2021

Canadian shipbuilders are crying foul over a decision by a federal Crown corporation, Marine Atlantic, to award a $100-million contract a Swedish-controlled company based in the U.K. to build and operate a ferry for service between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Stena North Sea, one of two companies which bid for the job, has contracted out construction to a Chinese state-owned shipyard.

Aug 25, 2021

Chinese President Xi Jinping's views on “socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era” are to become part of the country’s education system from primary school through to university. Announcing the policy Aug. 24, the education ministry said it is designed to strengthen a “resolve to listen to and follow the Party” and to “cultivate patriotic feelings.”

Aug 25, 2021

The arrest 23 months ago of Cameron Ortis, head of the RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre, prompted the force to hire a retired Assistant Commissioner Alphonse MacNeil to assess the NICC’s internal security culture. He found, among other things, that a leadership failure “at many levels” underscored a need to reconsider how senior officials are chosen. Otis’ trial on several offences is scheduled to begin in September 2022.

Aug 25, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Aug. 25 that Canada would remain in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 withdrawal of U.S. troops in a bid to evacuate more Canadians and Afghans “if it’s at all possible” because of the security situation. The Taliban have refused to agree to an extension of next Tuesday’s deadline.

Aug 24, 2021

China was accused by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris today of using coercion and intimidation to support its territorial claims in the South China Sea. During a seven-day trip to Singapore and Vietnam, she said the U.S. vision for the region is built on human rights and a rules-based international order and offered to host a 2023 meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Aug 24, 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Russia could face further economic sanctions if it uses the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to put political pressure on her NATO ally. Zelensky says the line under the Baltic Sea, which will and double Russian gas exports to Germany, threatens Ukraine's security.

Aug 24, 2021

People who decline COVID-19 vaccination on medical or religious grounds will not be exempt from British Columbia’s planned passport system and will be unable to participate in a range of discretionary activities. “This is a temporary measure that's getting us through a risky period where we know people who are unvaccinated are at a greater risk, both of contracting and spreading this virus,” explained Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s chief public health officer.

Aug 24, 2021

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added the Bahamas, Haiti, Sint Maartin, Kosovo, Lebanon and Morocco to its list of the highest-risk destinations for travelers Aug. 23. It cites the elevation of their COVID-19 risk status to “very high” and recommends travel there be avoided.

Aug 24, 2021

At a virtual G7 summit today, the U.S. is expected to be pressed by its allies to extend its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31. The country's ballooning refugee crisis and the collapse of its government has sparked widespread criticism of the ongoing evacuation process.

Aug 23, 2021

A declassified intelligence report says far-right extremists are “actively recruiting” past and present members of the Canadian military and police. Six of 17 situations reviewed in several countries involved Canadians cases in which “xenophobic and anti-government/anti-authority violent extremist groups openly recruit current and former military and law enforcement personnel.”

Aug 23, 2021

After Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan was a political reality which must be accommodated, his ambassador in Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, who met with a Taliban representative within 48 hours of the capital being overrun, said he had seen no signs of violence or reprisals. Meanwhile, UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia spoke of national reconciliation and an end to “many years of bloodshed.”

Aug 23, 2021

As of Aug. 22, the Canadian military had evacuated more than 1,100 people out of Afghanistan this month and 40 families evacuated before the Taliban push into Kabul have completed their COVID-19 quarantine periods here. “We have seen 12 flights out,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendecino. “That is remarkable work on the part of our armed forces.”

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