In the News

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.”

Aug 23, 2021

Health care funding, indigenous people’s rights, and a push for more federal funding for “green” programs are among the 30 elements of the Bloc Québécois platform for the Sept. 20 federal election. With 32 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Aug. 22 that he believes “we have forced all parties to respect us.”

Aug 23, 2021

As western forces continued to work today on evacuating their remaining diplomatic and other personnel as well as Afghan supporters, Afghan guards exchanged fire with unidentified gunmen at Kabul airport. It’s reported that a sniper outside the airport had fired at Afghan guards and that U.S. and German troops were involved in the response but NATO officials say the situation was soon under control.

Aug 23, 2021

Social media messaging on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has been labelled “manipulated media” by Twitter. The tweets in both official languages show Conservative leader Erin O'Toole saying last year in a party leadership debate that he supported “for profit” private health care but did not include his additional comment that universal public access would remain paramount.

Aug 23, 2021

There’s a possibility that not all candidates in the Sept. 20 federal election will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Liberal and New Democratic Party candidates must be vaccinated but neither the Conservatives nor the fringe People’s Party of Canada are requiring it as a fourth wave builds mainly among the unvaccinated electorate.

Aug 23, 2021

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canadian special forces in Afghanistan have been given the “flexibility” to help get Canadians, Afghan interpreters and support staff to Kabul airport for evacuation. The U.S. has refused to deploy troops outside the airport but British and French special forces have carried out rescues in Kabul.

Aug 23, 2021

York Regional Police in the northern part of the Great Toronto Area have confirmed that one of their drones collided earlier this month with a training aircraft on approach to Buttonville Airport. The Cessna 172 sustained significant damage to its engine cowling but the instructor, who assumed there had been a bird strike, landed safely with the student before the damage was discovered.

Aug 20, 2021

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed today that the land border will remain closed to non-essential travel by Canadians until at least Sept. 21. “Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 between the United States and Canada poses an ongoing specific threat to human life or national interests,” it explained.

Aug 20, 2021

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino has broached the possibility of Canada taking Afghan refugees on behalf of its allies if asked to do so. “We should keep the door open to all possibilities,” he said today. ““If there were Afghans who had assisted coalition partners during the mission that also met the criteria for our humanitarian resettlement program, I think we should be prepared to consider such an arrangement.”

Aug 20, 2021

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has called for the Director of National Intelligence to assess the GPS’s vulnerability to hostile interests. A law enacted in 2018 was not acted on by the previous administration and now it’s President Joe Biden’s opportunity to act – but the challenge isn’t without its difficulties.

Aug 20, 2021

President Joe Biden announced today that he plans to nominate career diplomat Nicholas Burns as the U.S. ambassador to China and former politician Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan.

Aug 20, 2021

A proposed £29-billion takeover of the British chip designer Arm by the California-based Nvidia technology company worries the U.K Competition and Markets Authority. Calling for a more in-depth review of the deal, it says the proposal raises “serious” concerns about competition and the potential for stifling innovation.

Aug 20, 2021

Organizers of the annual Halifax International Security Forum say the federal government has not acted on a unanimous House of Commons motion of financial support. Scheduled for late November, the forum is seen as a highly productive platform for discussing pressing global issues.

Aug 20, 2021

A member of Ontario’s governing Progressive Conservative caucus has been expelled for refusing COVID-19 vaccinations. Rick Nicholls confirmed the decision Aug. 19, saying only that he and his wife opted not to be vaccinated for “personal reasons,” disregarding a warning two days earlier by Premier Doug Ford.

Aug 20, 2021

In a cabinet shuffle Aug. 19, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has reassigned his ambassador to China, Felix Plasencia, appointing him as Foreign Minister. His predecessor, Jorge Arreaza, has been moved to the industry and production. These and other changes come as the internationally-beleaguered government is in negotiations with its political opposition to ease a stalemate.

Aug 20, 2021

The mission to evacuate U.S. citizens, third-country nationals and vulnerable Afghans as the Taliban tighten their grip is ramping up. U.S. officials say that while they could handle up to 9,000 evacuees daily, the average has been around 2,000, the flow evidently blocked at Taliban checkpoints.

Aug 20, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it could be “almost impossible” to evacuate most Afghans who worked with Canada's military mission because the Taliban is blocking the effort. It’s reported that at least 1,500 Afghan interpreters with up to 5,000 dependents are on a waiting list for Canadian visas.

Aug 20, 2021

The Taliban’s behaviour since taking control of most of Afghanistan belies its earlier messaging that there would be “no revenge” against military members and others who worked with the NATO alliance. The Islamist militants have been doing door-to-door searches and a Norwegian analyst who advises the UN says “there are a high number of individuals that are currently being targeted by the Taliban and the threat is crystal clear.”

Aug 19, 2021

Detained in Vancouver for more than two and a half years at the request of the U.S., Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou now must wait more than two months to hear whether she will be extradited to face fraud allegations. With legal arguments concluded, the decision rests with B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, who has set Oct. 21 for Meng’s next appearance but would not have a verdict ready.

Aug 19, 2021

The International Monetary Fund says Afghanistan no longer has access to IMF resources now that the Taliban are in control. An IMF spokesperson cited a “lack of clarity within the international community” about recognizing Afghanistan’s government as the Washington-based organization was preparing to release funds. “The potential . . . to provide nearly half a billion dollars in unconditional liquidity to a regime with a history of supporting terrorist actions against the United States and her allies is extremely concerning,” the IMF said.

Aug 19, 2021

A British visitor to Singapore has been jailed for six weeks for repeatedly breaking the city-state’s COVID-19 protocols by refusing to wear a mask in public. He was found guilty of four charges, including not masking on a train and at a court appearance as well as causing a public nuisance and threatening government staff.

Aug 19, 2021

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has promised that two of the RCAF’s five CC-177 Boeing Globemaster III transports are set to resume “flying regularly” into Kabul as part of the international effort to evacuate civilians and citizens. Details are vague but he said “flights to and from Hamid Karzai International Airport will resume shortly.”

Aug 19, 2021

U.S. troops could remain in Afghanistan past the end of this month to evacuate all Americans who wish to leave. He said in a televised interview that the Taliban are “cooperating, letting American citizens get out” but there are still difficulties in evacuating Afghans “who helped us when we were in there.”

Aug 18, 2021

The U.S. Transportation Security Agency today said it would continue to require employees and passengers on airlines and other public transport to continue wearing masks against CVOVID-19 for at least five more months. The current order was scheduled to expire Sept. 13. The Federal Aviation Administration reported Aug. 17 that of 3,889 incidents with unruly airline passengers so far this year, 74 per cent involve mask refusals.

Aug 18, 2021

The logistics of the Sept. 20 federal general election will be complicated by COVID-19 and it could take two to five days to publish final results, Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault. He explained today that up to five million voters are expected to vote by mail this time compared with some 50,000 in the 2019 election.

Aug 18, 2021

The Progressive Conservatives unseated the incumbent Liberal administration in the Aug. 17 Nova Scotia general election in which health care funding emerged as the key issue. With two seats to call, they had 39.1 per cent of the vote, which translated to 31 seats with at least 28 required for a legislative majority.

Aug 18, 2021

British Columbia’s wildfire problem has prompted the provincial government to extend its state of emergency by two weeks. More than 30,000 properties remain under evacuation orders and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Aug. 17 that travel to the areas should be avoided.

Aug 18, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is determined to have all federal employees vaccinated against COVID-19. “If anyone doesn't have a legitimate medical reason for not getting fully vaccinated — or chooses to not get vaccinated — there will be consequences,” he said Aug. 17 without explaining what the repercussions might be.

Aug 18, 2021

The Ontario government said Aug. 17 that all public education and key healthcare employers must have COVID-19 vaccination policies in place in the coming weeks. It also plans to offer booster shots to some vulnerable populations and expand children’s eligibility.

Aug 18, 2021

Efforts to evacuate Canadian expatriates and Afghan support staff are being hampered by Taliban checkpoints in Kabul as well as what are described as unreasonable requests for exit documents. Some 800 former translators and others who worked for Canada, as well as an unknown number of Canadians, are said to be in hiding, uncertain how they can get to the airport.

Aug 18, 2021

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Aug. 17 that a failure of Afghan leadership in combination with alliance training efforts, were responsible for the collapse of the country’s military defences against the Taliban. “What we have seen in the last few weeks was a military and political collapse at a speed which had not been anticipated,” he said after a meeting of NATO ambassadors.

Aug 18, 2021

The federal government is dropping its request that the Federal Court block the release of documents related to the dismissal of two scientists at the country’s Level 4 containment laboratory in Winnipeg. The Public Health Agency of Canada had refused to provide the information to a House of Commons committee, a decision which prompted the government’s action and pitted the Speaker again his own party.

Aug 17, 2021

Two days after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with members of his country’s political opposition, authorities released Freddy Guevara. A close ally of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, he had been charged in July with treason and terrorism.

Aug 17, 2021

A flight with Canadian special ops personnel and embassy staff from Kabul arrived in Ottawa late Aug. 16. There were no Afghans aboard but an unspecified number arrived in Toronto about the same time.

Aug 17, 2021

Japan has extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions and announced new measures covering seven more prefectures to counter a COVID-19 spike threatening to overload its medical system. The latest development covers nearly 60 per cent of the population.

Aug 17, 2021

A recent spike in gun violence in several major centres has revived debate about the federal government’s gun-control agenda. Bill-21, which introduced in the House of Commons February and would have included a buy-back program, saw only minimal debate before Parliament was prorogued for the Sept. 20 general election. The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights says the group opposes any measure leading to “confiscation of legal guns.”

Aug 16, 2021

A 160-page election campaign platform released by the Conservative Party of Canada today promises billions in new spending to support a pandemic-ravaged economy. It also promises, among other things, revisions to carbon tax and child-care and a balanced budget in 10 years.

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