In the News

Dec 17, 2020

The Japanese Space Agency says examination of a first sample rock and dust returned to earth from its Hyabusa 2 asteroid mission appeared to be larger in volume than expected. Two other sampling chambers had yet to be opened.

Dec 17, 2020

Having successfully returned lunar rock samples to Earth with its Chang'e 5 robotic probe, China is preparing for missions which could lead to a manned base on the moon, retrieval of samples from Mars and exploration of the asteroid belt.

Dec 16, 2020

As health authorities in Canada and elsewhere begin rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization has announced that a team of 10 scientists is scheduled to travel to Wuhan, China, in January in an attempt to pinpoint the pandemic’s origins. It required months of negotiations to overcome China’s reluctance to permit an independent inquiry. “It's about trying to understand what happened and then see if, based on those data, we can try to reduce the risk in the future,” one scientist says.

Dec 16, 2020

A Canadian Space Agency astronaut is scheduled to participate in a U.S. lunar orbital mission in 2023 with another to follow at an unspecified later date in a mission to a planned Lunar Gateway space station. Industry Navdeep Bains announced the plans during a news conference with astronauts Jeremy Hansen, David Saint-Jacques, Joshua Kutryk and Jenni Sidey-Gibbons. Canada also will contribute a new robotic arm for construction of the orbital station.

Dec 16, 2020

The U.S. Treasury Department has accused Switzerland and Vietnam of intervening to limit the appreciation of their currencies against the dollar. It says Vietnam wanted to suppress the cost of its exports while Switzerland was responding to pandemic-related turmoil on financial markets. The department also says in a semi-annual report that the activities of 10 other countries also warranted monitoring.

Dec 16, 2020

Fourteen persons have been found guilty of involvement in a series of attacks by Islamic militants in Paris in January 2015. Their attacks on a magazine’s office, a police officer and a Jewish supermarket resulted in 17 deaths.

Dec 16, 2020

Having given Congress statutory notice in October that he planned to have Sudan removed from the list of states which support terrorism, U.S. President Donald Trump has followed through. The deal involved Sudan paying $335 million to U.S. victims of terror attacks and agreeing to normalize relations with Israel.

Dec 16, 2020

The federal government’s use of polygraphs in security screenings has been questioned by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. It focuses in a new report on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment, flagging limited oversight of polygraph use and warning that the tests could have “profound negative impacts on an employee's mental health if not used appropriately.”

Dec 16, 2020

Pascale Ferrier, a Quebec resident, has been indicted by a grand jury in Texas for sending envelopes allegedly filled with ricin to officials in the state in September. She faces eight counts each of prohibitions with respect to biological weapons and making threats via interstate commerce. She remains in custody in Washington after pleading not guilty to a separate charge of threatening the president.

Dec 16, 2020

Former federal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale, a special advisor to the Prime Minister on the Iran military’s downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752 last January, says Iran should not be the lead investigator. “The party responsible for the situation is investigating itself, largely in secret,” he says in his report. “This undermines the investigation's credibility and enables a sense of impunity in avoiding essential questions.” A total of 157 crew and passengers, many with Canadian connections, were aboard the Boeing 737-800 when it was struck by two missiles shortly after takeoff from Tehran International Airport.

Dec 16, 2020

The RCMP's monitoring of Northern Gateway pipeline protesters in B.C. in 2012 and 2013 was mostly reasonable, according to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. However, Prime Minister Trudeau says the government will review the commission’s concerns about how the RCMP stores personal data on protestors.

Dec 16, 2020

More than a decade after then President Barack Obama said he would shut down the notorious Guantanamo prison at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba, it remains a headache for Washington. Deteriorating infrastructure at the complex, where 1,500 military personnel guard 40 prisoners, has become a serious issue. The fact that 14 are Central Intelligence Agency detainees evidently has been a significant complication. The facility is estimated cost $13 million per prisoner annually.

Dec 16, 2020

The U.S. has confirmed that hackers, likely acting on behalf of a Russian intelligence agency, managed to hack into key government networks. “We are taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues,” says a National Security Council, spokesman. The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm also is involved in the investigation.

Dec 16, 2020

The U.S. Defense Department is looking for open-source software with access to at least 50 million websites and the ability to ingest social media data for real-time analysis. Its latest initiative is focused on Twitter archives and prospective suppliers are being asked to provide the capability of handling data in at least 150 languages.

Dec 15, 2020

The European Union, dependent on inadequate secure video-conferencing capabilities as its member states try to deal with COVID-19, evidently is eyeing NATO’s sophisticated communications setup. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says both organizations have major facilities in Brussels but only the military alliance is equipped to handle sensitive on-line discussions. “I have . . . wondered why EU institutions aren’t just going there,” she says.

Dec 15, 2020

Developing countries will be receiving $485 million in Canadian foreign aid through a number of relief agencies to support their COVID-19 efforts. “The faster we can get tests, treatments and vaccines out to people, the sooner this pandemic can be contained,” International Development Minister Karina Gould said in a statement. “Canada's support of global efforts to find successful medical solutions is a win for all.”

Dec 14, 2020

The prohibition against non-discretionary travel between Canada and the U.S. has been extended fore another month, until at least Jan. 21, as the government tries to contain COVID-19. The Canada Border Services Agency says the ban covers travel for vacations, day trips and other “entertainment” purposes.

Dec 14, 2020

It’s reported that there was a sharp disconnect last year between the National Defence and Global Affairs departments on the issue of military cooperation with China. Alarmed by a decision by the Chief of the Defence Staff to cancel winter exercises with China, diplomats were concerned that it would annoy Beijing generally and, more specifically, could worsen things for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who Canadian detained in China for the last two years.

Dec 14, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says provincial governments can expect an increase in federal health care transfers but not until after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. “It's going to be important that the federal government steps up and increases its share of the cost,” he said after a conference call with premiers. “We are going to do that and I look forward to conversations over the coming months.”

Dec 14, 2020

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says anyone who reacts adversely to COVID-19 vaccines will be eligible for compensation. “"Canadians can have confidence in the rigour of the vaccine approvals system,” she says. “In the rare event that a person experiences an adverse reaction, this program will help ensure they get the support they need.” Applicable to all vaccines, the program is similar to those already in effect in all other G7 countries.

Dec 14, 2020

Having already committed the federal government to increasing its carbon emissions levy in increments of $10 per tonne until it reaches $50 in 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to boost the annual increase to $15 until it reaches $170 by 2030. He also says the tax would continue to be rebated and that most families stand to receive more than they pay out.

Dec 14, 2020

The use of public geolocation data by the Canadian Security and Intelligence without a warrant may be illegal, according to the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. In its first report to Parliament, the agency says Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, addressing unreasonable search and seizure, is a potential point of conflict.

Dec 14, 2020

An Opposition motion to set up a national suicide prevention helpline has been unanimously approved in the House of Commons. As proposed by B.C. Conservative MP Todd Doherty and if endorsed by the Senate, the 9-8-8- helpline would consolidate all jurisdictions’ suicide crisis numbers.

Dec 11, 2020

The Chinese government insists that there has been no change in the legal status of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Canadians arrested and detained two years ago. A foreign ministry official had said they had been prosecuted and tried on alleged espionage charges, but the government says that was “an inaccurate characterization” by the official.

Dec 11, 2020

In lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court, the federal government and more than 40 states have accused Facebook of buying out other companies to quash competition. The suits are part of a broad political and regulatory push to loosen the grip that major social media companies have on commerce, advertising and other economic drivers.

Dec 11, 2020

RCMP officers investigating last April’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia, which resulted in 22 deaths, are reported to have been directed to stop destroying or altering evidence. A former officer familiar with the RCMP’s data management system is quoted as saying that “they have been doing everything they can to hide information.” The directive was in the form of a memorandum, “moratorium on the destruction of information,” which was circulated on an internal web page which is no longer functional.

Dec 10, 2020

The European Union, facing Britain’s withdrawal Dec. 31, has prepared for the possible collapse of the latest round of talks. An EU contingency plan is designed to ensure smooth air and surface transport as well as potential reciprocity on fisheries.

Dec 10, 2020

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Canadians arrested and detained in China two years ago, are reported to have been prosecuted and tried on alleged espionage charges. A foreign ministry spokeswoman said Dec. 9 that they had been tried but the Canadian government was still seeking clarification the following day because an earlier statement to the same effect was retracted.

Dec 10, 2020

A spokesman for Iran’s parliament says there have been arrests in connection with the killing late last month in Tehran of nuclear scientist Hossein Amir Abdollahian. While unable to share details for security reasons, the spokesman says there also is evidence to support Iran’s claim that Israel was involved, which Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.

Dec 09, 2020

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Canadians nearing the second anniversary of their detention in China, have been described as “robust” and “impressive” by Canada’s ambassador to China. Dominic Barton reported from Beijing on their situation during a virtual parliamentary committee hearing. “They are robust,” he said. “You would be very impressed by seeing both of them.”

Dec 09, 2020

A Royal Canadian Legion branch in Nova Scotia has been fined $7,500 for violating provincial rules against large gatherings. RCMP say they found “nearly 100 people” at a recent event at which COVID-19 “social distancing measures were not set up.”

Dec 09, 2020

Taiwanese authorities fined a migrant worker from the Philippines 100,000 Taiwan dollars for breaching quarantine rules. Health authorities say the man stepped out of his hotel room for only eight seconds, but the penalty, which converts to C$566.59, reflects the country’s tight lockdown to control COVID-19.

Dec 09, 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the European Union is insisting on terms “no prime minister could accept” as the two sides face a year-end deadline for reaching a mutually-satisfactory Brexit deal. Major points of contention include business competition rules and fisheries rights.

Dec 09, 2020

A Brazilian airline has become the first in the world to resume scheduled service with its Boeing 737 Max fleet, which like others worldwide, was grounded two years ago after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. So far, only Brazil and the U.S. have approved the aircraft’s return to service after a series of upgrades.<

Dec 09, 2020

Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. An initial batch of 249,000 doses is to arrive next week for distribution to provinces on a per capita basis. Canada has contracted for 20 million doses and is reviewing three other vaccines, including one from Moderna which is expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2021.

Dec 08, 2020

California-based FireEye Inc., which has helped governments and companies to deal with security issues for years, has recently been the target of hackers operating from a country “with top-tier offensive capabilities.” The theft of FireEye technology is being described as akin to stealing the FBI’s investigative tools.

Dec 08, 2020

Argentina has imposed a new tax on its wealthiest citizens to offset some of the costs associated with tackling COVID-19, which has compounded economic problems arising from a recession which began in 2018. The ostensibly one-time levy, approved 42-26 by the Senate, affects an estimated 12,000 taxpayers. Argentina has reported nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases and nearly 40,000 deaths in a population of some 45 million.

Dec 08, 2020

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences suggests that “directed radio frequency energy” attacks by unknown assailants likely caused brain injuries to American diplomats posted in Cuba but it stops short of saying that Canadians also were affected by so-called “Havana Syndrome”. Both countries’ diplomats and some family members experienced causing headaches, dizziness and cognitive problems in 2016. Five Canadian diplomats have sued the federal government, alleging that it had played down the situation and failed to protect them.

Dec 08, 2020

President Nicolas Maduro's political alliance claims to have won Venezuela’s latest congressional election. Boycotted by opposition politicians and criticized internationally as fraudulent, it gives Maduro, who has been widely sanctioned economically and diplomatically, overall control of the government.

Dec 07, 2020

Provincial governments are being urged to adopt widespread surveillance testing as part of their response to COVID-19. The advice comes in an independent review commissioned by Revera, which operates seniors’ residences and long-term care facilities across the country. The review was led by Dr. Bob Bell, a former Ontario deputy health minister, and involved international and national public health experts who also volunteered their time.

Dec 07, 2020

Up to 249,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the first of millions the government has contracted for, will be available in Canada before the end of the year, potentially as early next week if Health Canada approves the Pfizer vaccine. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the initial batch will be delivered directly to 14 distribution centres across the country, except in the territories where appropriate storage is unavailable, on a per capita basis and that vaccination will begin with highest-risk populations.

Dec 07, 2020

Is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stated commitment to greater transparency not applicable to his government’s spending on its COVID-19 campaign? “The government has not been transparent about which of the big businesses, some of whom are extremely profitable during this pandemic, have actually been receiving these significant amounts of money,” says Peter Julian, the New Democratic Party’s finance critic in the House of Commons, commenting on a report that only a few departments have provided details.

Dec 07, 2020

The RCMP’s decision to charge its head of intelligence, Cameron Ortis, with leaking secrets evidently was due to the involvement of a U.S. gambler who also is an FBI informant. R.J. Cipriani says that concern about being drawn into criminal activity through the Internet led to another individual being convicted of drug trafficking and that the FBI, in pursuing that case, led to a B.C. company to which Ortis, whose trial is ongoing, is alleged to have offered secret information.

Dec 07, 2020

A new cloud-based service designed to secure some of the U.S. government’s most sensitive workloads has been completed by Microsoft. A company executive calls Azure Government Top Secret a “natural extension” to the cloud-based services for the intelligence community.

Dec 04, 2020

Iran will not accept preconditions on its nuclear program from the incoming U.S. administration of President-elect Joe Biden, saying the U.S. must rejoin a 2015 multinational agreement before any new talks. Biden has said he will rejoin the agreement and and lift sanctions if Tehran returns to “strict compliance” but Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has counted that the U.S. has its own “commitments” to implement.

Dec 04, 2020

Despite recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they stay home during last week’s U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, nearly as many Americans opted to travel as they have in the past despite the COVID-19 threat. The disclosure comes as hospitalizations and deaths continue to surge ahead of Christmas. A CDC official point that “if only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, this can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another.”

Dec 04, 2020

The U.S. Department of Justice is reported to be discussing a possible deal with Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, detained in Vancouver for years pending the outcome of an extradition hearing. It apparently would permit her to return to China if she simply admits wrongdoing in a case involving U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Dec 04, 2020

Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba says the federal government's proposal to reserve some portion of COVID-19 vaccine for the province’s large First Nations population would mean fewer doses for others. “They have to step up and protect our Indigenous communities first . . . but not punish everyone else,” he says. Arlen Dumas, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, says Pallister’s statements are potentially divisive.

Dec 04, 2020

A resurgence in COVID-19 which has resulted in more hospitalizations and deaths has prompted Quebec Premier François Legault to walk back his plan to permit social gatherings over the Christmas holidays. He now says gatherings in “red zones”, which cover most of the province, will be generally prohibited.

Dec 04, 2020

The federal government is planning a dry run in every province next week of its proposed distribution of two COVID-19 vaccines as it prepares for actual distribution in “the coming weeks and months.” MGen Dany Fortin, tasked with overseeing logistics, says the aim of the “soft launch” is to ensure procedures are correct and that “people are comfortable with the very unique requirements of handling an ultra-low temperature vaccine.”

Dec 03, 2020

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy federal public health officer, says Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines should be available early next year, setting the stage for the start of a national immunization program. Initial supplies will be enough for about three million persons but Njoo says “Canada is well-positioned to provide access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to all Canadians in 2021.”

Dec 03, 2020

A “large-scale” COVID-19 immunization campaign has been ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Doctors and teachers are to be first in line when the program begins next week, using a domestic vaccine which received regulatory approval in October even though its efficacy and safety continue to be reviewed.

Dec 03, 2020

An investigation by The Associated Press has disclosed that secrecy and cronyism at China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention undermined the country’s early response to the coronavirus outbreak. Among other things, the agency dealt exclusively with three domestic pharmaceutical companies with links to agency officials and tried to block other companies’ access to diagnostic materials.

Dec 03, 2020

Europe’s biggest budget airline, Dublin-based Ryanair, which had 135 Boeing 737 Max jetliners on order before two crashes involving other airlines resulted in a global fleet grounding, has ordered 75 more at a deeply-discounted price. The aircraft is still awaiting recertification in Canada and elsewhere.

Dec 03, 2020

Three of the national capital’s four school boards are reviewing a 20-year-old program which has community police officers on the premises. Ottawa Police Services says it builds “healthy and trusting relationships with children of all ages and backgrounds” but the boards are responding to a group’s campaign that “their presence alone is causing harm to students” by creating a feeling of being like a prisoner in your own school.”

Dec 02, 2020

Having for months recommended a 14-day quarantine period following potential exposure to COVID-19, generally accepted as a global standard, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still sees it as the safest option. However, it now is proposing two alternatives: seven-day quarantine for asymptomatic individuals, followed by a negative test result, or 10 days without a test. The CDC medical officer overseeing the pandemic response acknowledges “a small residual risk that a person who is leaving quarantine early could transmit to someone else if they became infected.”

Dec 02, 2020

Britain’s pharmaceuticals regulator has approved a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, setting the stage for a first wave of vaccinations. An initial 800,000 doses are being shipped for use according to a prioritized list.

Dec 02, 2020

Statistics Canada says the economy grew by a record annualized 40.5 per cent in the third quarter as businesses came out of COVID-19 lockdowns. While it represented a sharp turnaround from a record drop in the previous quarter, real gross domestic product remains shy of where it was before the pandemic erupted in March.

Dec 02, 2020

Three leading pro-democracy activists involved in last year’s mass protests against stricter Chinese control of Hong Kong have been jailed after being found guilty of unlawful. Their sentences range from seven to 13.5 months.

Dec 02, 2020

The growing global presence of China and its military is a key element of NATO 2030, a report which includes 138 recommendations for a general policy overhaul within the alliance. It is seen as a riposte to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement last year that NATO was suffering “brain death.”

Dec 02, 2020

China’s latest robotic space mission has placed a lander on the moon.It is programmed to collect about two kilograms of material to be returned to Earth by an orbiter. The last such mission, 44 years ago, saw a Russian mission collect a smaller amount of material for research.

Dec 02, 2020

Widespread protests in France have persuaded the government to rewrite proposed legislation which would have made it illegal to make or share images of police operations. Sparked by images of an assault on a black man, protesters said the proposed law would prevent exposure of police brutality.

Dec 02, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s concern for farmers protesting against reforms in India, echoed by Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole, has been called “ill-informed” by the Indian government, which has used tear gas and water cannons to block the farmers’ access to Delhi. “Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country,” a foreign ministry spokesman said. “It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”

Dec 01, 2020

Against a backdrop of political confusion, a respected international science publication has posted a detailed assessment of COVID-19 vaccine. Among other things, it points out that Canada has a list-topping pre-order totalling nearly nine doses per capita. “Canada has done exactly what we would expect a high-income country to do, and they’ve done the right thing by their country.” says a U.S. researcher.

Nov 30, 2020

Promising that the federal government will do “whatever it takes”, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland closed out November with an economic statement which includes a short-term stimulus package valued at up to $100 million. “Spending roughly three to four per cent of GDP, over three years, our government will make carefully judged, targeted and meaningful investments to create jobs and boost growth,” she said. The 2020-2021 deficit was already forecast to top $381 billion.

Nov 30, 2020

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team evidently has cybersecurity a priority if impending cabinet nominees are any indication. The named individuals would begin “working immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and reimagine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the defining challenges of our time.”

Nov 30, 2020

A German administrative court has ruled that the government cannot be compelled ensure that U.S. drone strikes controlled from Ramstein comply with international law. The case was brought by human rights groups on behalf of Yemenis whose relatives were killed in a 2012 strike. The ruling restores a lower court’s finding that the government could balance its legal obligations with “foreign and defense policy interests.”

Nov 30, 2020

An Ottawa-based military family has filed a complaint with the Ontario Landlord & Tenant Board, alleging that the Saudi Arabian embassy evicted them in bad faith. They say that Chargé d'affaires Sulaiman AlAqeel had said he planned to move into the property but that it was subsequently listed for sale.

Nov 30, 2020

Canada is extending its ban on non-essential entry by most travellers who are not Canadians, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. The ban on entries from the U.S. is extended to Dec. 21 and on others until Jan. 21, as are 14-day quarantine requirements.

Nov 30, 2020

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney wants to rule out mandatory vaccinations in his province. He plans to have the Public Health Act amended so as to remove a section which authorizes the government to immunize persons during an emergency.

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