In the News

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.

Nov 30, 2020

Transiting WestJet passengers at Vancouver International Airport can opt for rapid COVID-19 testing as a part of a joint study with the airline. The test can yield results in 15-20 minutes, which the airport says makes then “a feasible option for study in the live airport environment.”

Nov 30, 2020

Responding to a U.S. plan to import of Canadian prescription drugs from Canada in a bid to reduce prices in the U.S., Canada has blocked bulk exports which would result in domestic shortages. “Companies will now also be required to provide information to assess existing or potential shortages, when requested, and within 24 hours if there is a serious or imminent health risk,” says Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Nov 30, 2020

An Ottawa Police Service officer who had been suspended after being notified of a disciplinary investigation, has committed suicide. His death comes as the service has attempted to improve officer mental health and wellbeing while grappling with a year of repeated misconduct allegations.

Nov 30, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is blaming Israel for last week’s killing near Tehran of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. “Iran's enemies should know that the people of Iran and officials are braver than to leave this criminal act unanswered,” he says. “In due time, they will answer for this crime.”

Nov 30, 2020

Nearly two years after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the U.S., a company spokesman says it put Canada in a “very difficult” position. Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained by China days after Meng’s arrest. The Huawei spokesman says China respects “the rule of law” and that while he understands that their families are hopeful for their repatriation, China is hopeful to see Meng released.

Nov 30, 2020

In the runup to the release of the federal government’s fiscal update, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre says rebuilding the economy in a post-pandemic environment will require a huge overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. “We don't need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer,” he says. “That will only indebt us further, and all the jobs they temporarily create will disappear when taxpayer money runs out.”

Nov 27, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen former NATO commander MGen Dany Fortin to spearhead the government’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Most recently chief of staff for Canadian Joint Operations Command, he becomes vice-president for logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Nov 27, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his provincial counterparts held a virtual meeting Nov. 26 to discuss distribution of COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. The premiers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick say per capita distribution will be based on vulnerability. “We expect certain vaccines to become available in early 2021,” says Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, meaning that six million Canadians could be vaccinated by March.

Nov 27, 2020

Unlike many other nations struggling to contain COVID-19, Australia mounted an aggressive campaign after a surge in cases in late July. Roadblocks in many cities ensured residents stayed home and when the initial second-wave lockdown was eased, nightly curfews and travel restrictions were enforced by stiff fines.

Nov 27, 2020

North Korean hackers are said to have tried to hack into companies developing coronavirus vaccines in South Korea, says a member of the latter’s parliament. Ha Tae-keung says his National Intelligence Service did not specify how many and which manufacturers were targeted. The disclosure came after Microsoft had reported that North Korean and Russian hackers had tried to break into the research and corporate networks in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the U.S.

Nov 27, 2020

At least two people have been executed, fishing has been banned and the country’s capital locked down as North Korea tries to contain COVID-19 and its economic impact. This is according to South Korean intelligence officials who also said North Korean diplomats have been told not to do anything to provoke the U.S.

Nov 27, 2020

An Iranian diplomat posted to Austria is on trial in Belgium, together with two Belgian nationals of Iranian origin, for their alleged involvement in a plot to bomb a rally of Iranian expatriates in in France. They were arrested after European intelligence agencies tracked the couple to a meeting in Luxembourg with the counsellor from the Iranian embassy in Vienna.

Nov 26, 2020

In the first ruling by a Canadian court on the constitutionality of consecutive sentencing, Quebec’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the 40-year prison sentence of Alexandre Bisonnette, who killed six persons and critically injured several others at a Quebec City mosque in 2017, was “cruel and unusual.” Employing Criminal Code amendments passed by Parliament in 2011, the trial judge imposed five concurrent 25-year sentences and added 15 years on behalf of the survivors. The appellate court said he should have been sentenced to 25 years without parole.

Nov 26, 2020

Subject to Health Canada approval, the government is eyeing January 2021 to begin working with the provinces and territories to distribute “the first millions” of COVID-19 vaccines. In announcing the timeline, Dominic LeBlance, Privy Council President and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc also disputed reports that Canada is at the back of the international distribution line.

Nov 26, 2020

Even if Canada had developed its own COVID-19 vaccine, there evidently is no way to produce it in the necessary volumes. Earl Brown, an infections diseases expert and member of the N1N1 vaccine task force in 2009, says federal authorities took their “eye off the ball” by permitting some domestic pharmaceutical companies to be sold to multinationals. He says the remaining facilities have a “tighter production line and not so much capacity.”

Nov 26, 2020

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendocino has confirmed that 1,300 professional athletes have received ministerial “national interest” exemptions from Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions. He says they were exempt from the general 14-day quarantine period because their leagues had pandemic mitigation plans which had been approved by public health authorities.

Nov 26, 2020

Iran has freed a British-Australian academic sentenced to 10 years for espionage in return for the released of three Iranians jailed “who had been detained abroad” on what Tehran says were “baseless charges.”

Nov 26, 2020

Nearly 500 persons accused of participating in a 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, including 337 military officers, have been sentenced to life imprisonment. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government said the attempted overthrow directed from Akinci air base near Ankara resulted in 251 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries.

Nov 25, 2020

Michael Flynn, the retired U.S. Army General who pleaded guilty twice to lying to FBI investigators about interaction with Russian contacts during Donald Trump’s transition into power in 2016, has received a full presidential pardon. Flynn, who led the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2021 to 2014 and became Trump’s National Security Advisor, was fired in February 2017.

Nov 25, 2020

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne says tough talk about China could undermine efforts to have two detained Canadians released. He told a parliamentary committee that MPs should keep Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in mind when they criticize China.

Nov 25, 2020

Since Canada’s travel restrictions on non-essential international travellers came into effect in mid-March, more than 335,000 foreign nationals, with the U.S. at the top of the list, had flown into this country as of October. The Canada Border Services Agency also reports that 154 national interest exemptions were granted.

Nov 25, 2020

Heidi Illingworth, the federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, says a five-year-old statute which ostensibly gave victims new rights needs to be revisited. She has made 15 recommendations for improvement. “Strengthening victims' rights and providing them a guarantee of support and assistance would encourage more people to actually come forward and empower them to seek legal support and social supports,” she says.

Nov 25, 2020

Most Canadians can expect to receive an emergency public alert on their TVs, radios and mobile devices today in a national test of the system. The time, five minutes before the hour, varies by region.

Nov 24, 2020

An independent analysis of NATO says that while the alliance can expect to benefit from a new U.S. presidency, it must adapt a more comprehensive and resilient agenda to remain relevant globally. The analysis underscores the growing need to tackle “corrosive” cyber operations, disinformation campaigns and supply chain disruptions, among other things. In addition, “NATO’s core tasks of collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security must be expanded to include countering challenges that contribute to global instability.”

Nov 24, 2020

The latest annual RCMP report on Canadians’ firearms ownership, released by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, shows that Yukon residents ranked highest at 19.2 licences per 100 residents.

Nov 24, 2020

Even though it has never been a signatory to the 2002 Open Skies treaty through which 34 other countries agreed to let others conduct military overflights, China has criticized the U.S. withdrawal. “This move . . . undermines military mutual trust and transparency among relevant countries, is not conducive to maintaining security and stability in relevant regions and will also have a negative impact on the international arms control and disarmament process,” a foreign ministry spokesman says.

Nov 24, 2020

The Canada Energy Regulator suggests that the federal government’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will require a more aggressive shift away from oil and gas. It says in its latest annual Energy Futures report that petroleum is likely to account for nearly two-thirds of Canada’s energy sources three decades hence.

Nov 24, 2020

More than four decades after the U.S. and the Soviet Union brought back lunar material for analysis, China has launched its robotic Chang'e-5 spacecraft to the Moon on schedule. The goal is to return more and larger samples to Earth in mid-December.

Nov 23, 2020

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has announced that the federal government will Canadians a further update at the end of the month on the government’s fiscal situation. The government has yet to table a 2020-2021 budget, opting instead for an initial “fiscal snapshot” in July which projected a record $343.2 billion deficit.

Nov 23, 2020

A retired Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Rick Hillier, will head a new Ontario government body tasked with distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Announcing the “monumental” undertaking, Premier Doug Ford cited “early signs of success” on vaccine development and said the first doses should be available in early 2021.

Nov 23, 2020

President Donald Trump, despite continuing his unsubstantiated allegations about widespread voter fraud in the recent U.S. elections, has directed officials to prepare for a transition to President-elect Joe Biden. A key element is that Emily Murphy, who heads the General Services Administration, will begin freeing up funds so that the incoming Democrats team can begin coordinating with the outgoing Republicans well before January’s swearing-in ceremony.

Nov 23, 2020

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is on trial for alleged corruption and influence-peddling. The charges arise from accusations that he tried to bribe a magistrate in an attempt to get information about an investigation into his political party’s finances.

Nov 23, 2020

A human rights complaint has been filed against the Bank of Montreal and the Vancouver Police Board after a First Nation man and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open an account for the girl. Bank staff called police because they suspected their documentation was false and because the grandfather had a significant amount in his own account, which happened to be government payments from an aboriginal rights settlement.

Nov 23, 2020

A supposedly secure videoconference of European Union defence ministers recently had an unwelcome participant: a journalist in the Netherlands. Having managed to log in after Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld inadvertently posted some access details on Twitter, Daniel Verlaan apologized and logged out when challenged by Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has directed his cabinet to improve their security practices.

Nov 23, 2020

Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM have been awarded a multi-billion-dollar contract to handle the U.S. intelligence community’s accelerating shift to cloud computing over the next 15 years. The contract requires them to compete for work ordered by the CIA and 16 other agencies.

Nov 23, 2020

The 305-metre Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, one of the most scientifically productive facilities in astronomical history, is permanently out of commission. After the recent collapse of a second of its supporting cables, engineers say they are unable to repair the structure safely.

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