Tag Archives: possible

EU regulator places no new restrictions on AstraZeneca vaccine due to ‘possible’ blood clot link

The European Union’s drug regulator says it has found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine and a rare blood-clotting disorder, but the benefits of the shot and the potential health consequences of suffering from COVID-19 still outweigh any risks.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it would place no new restrictions on using the vaccine in people 18 and over, in both a statement and a subsequent news conference on Wednesday.

The EMA said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination. The agency said based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side-effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director.

Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the United Kingdom, where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

At a news conference from Brussels, Cooke said “the risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side-effects.”

Britain adjusts vaccine advice

The head of Britain’s drug regulator echoed that sentiment, but said on Wednesday people under 30 will be offered another product due to a rare blood clot risk.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines should be offered to people in that age group instead, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advised.

Dr. June Raine, the head of the MHRA, said the risk “remains extremely low” at “about four people in a million” who receive the shot.

WATCH | Britain’s Raine breaks down the number of cases:

The U.K.’s drug regulator says a rare side-effect from the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine has led to a change in its advice for what age groups should receive the shot. 1:33

Raine said that as of the end of March, there had been 79 reports, all after the first dose, out of approximately 20 million doses given within the U.K. Of the adverse reports, 51 came from women.

Raine said the British regulator had tracked 19 deaths among those reports, three of them in people under the age of 30. The regulator said the reports did not constitute proof that the inoculation had caused the clots.

Jonathan Van Tam, Britain’s deputy chief medical officer, characterized the new recommendation as a “course correction” not uncommon for the rollout of vaccines used in treating other illnesses.

“You can’t pick these kinds of things up until you’ve literally deployed tens of millions of vaccines,” he said.

According to reports in Britain, the majority of those under 30 have yet to be vaccinated.

In light of the follow up in Europe, the World Health Organization’s vaccine advisory committee said more specialized studies were needed into the blood clots.

“Based on current information, a causal relationship between the vaccine and the occurrence of blood clots with low platelets is considered plausible but is not confirmed,” the WHO committee said in a statement.

Canada already recommended shot for those 55 and over

The vaccine is one of five separate approvals so far during the pandemic from Health Canada, comprising two different sources.

Canada approved AstraZeneca-Oxford doses being manufactured in both Europe and in India, where it has been branded as Covishield. The vaccine first arrived in Canada in early March, and later that month, Ottawa announced it had received a loan from the United States of 1.5 million additional doses, as a hearing on the vaccine’s approval has yet to be held by American regulators.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its recommendations in late March regarding the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in light of the blood clot reports seen in Europe. The committee recommended a pause in inoculating Canadians under 55 with that vaccine.

In its tracking of potential adverse events following vaccination, Health Canada has received no reports of the rare blood clotting in this country.

WATCH | Canada’s vaccine advisory committee adjusts AstraZeneca guidelines:

The European Medicines Agency says rare blood clots are a potential side effect of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, but it still says the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. 1:39

Dr. Shelley Deeks, co-chair of NACI, said at a virtual briefing on Tuesday that Canadian officials will study the updated data from their European counterparts to see if any advice needs to be updated.

She said it would be “premature” to say if the latest development in Europe will have any effect on confidence in the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

“What we’ve tried to be doing at NACI is actually being quite transparent about the evolution of the data so Canadians will have confidence that we are communicating what we know about safety, when we know it,” said Deeks.

The EMA is particularly focused on two types of rare blood clots: one that appears in multiple blood vessels and another that occurs in a vein that drains blood from the brain. It also evaluated reports of people who had low levels of blood platelets, which puts them at risk of severe bleeding.

Raine said 14 of the 19 fatalities noted were cases where cerebral venous sinus thrombosis with low platelets was present, while the other cases were associated with other kinds of thrombosis in major veins.

As recently as last week, the EMA said “there is no evidence that would support restricting the use of this vaccine in any population” — a response to several countries doing just that — though an expert said more brain clots were being reported than would be expected.

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

WATCH | European Union regulator says blood clot risk extremely rare:

Canada’s vaccine advisory committee has changed its advice and now says the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should only be given to people aged 55 and up following concerns it could be linked to a rare blood clot. 2:21

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people.

Cooke characterized the reports as evidence that caution and transparency have been guiding decisions.

“These very rare and unusual events were picked up, identified, analyzed and we have made a clear science-based recommendation to allow the safe and effective use of the vaccine,” she said.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s public health medicine committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

That’s because the vaccine is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to Europe’s immunization campaign and a pillar of the United Nations-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

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Police intelligence finds possible plot to breach U.S. Capitol by ‘identified militia group’ on Thursday

Capitol Police say they have intelligence showing a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol this  Thursday, nearly two months after a mob of supporters of former U.S. president Donald Trump stormed the iconic building to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory.

The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Trump will rise again to power on March 4. That was the U.S.’s original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20.

The revelation was detailed in a statement from the Capitol Police. It comes at the same time the acting police chief is testifying before a House subcommittee.

“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats toward members of Congress or toward the Capitol complex,” the agency said in a statement. “We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4.”

Police did not name the militia group in the statement on Wednesday.

The statement differs from an advisory that was sent to members of Congress by the acting House sergeant-at-arms this week, saying Capitol Police had “no indication that groups will travel to Washington, D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence.”


A scene from the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

House rises for the week 

The House abruptly finished its work for the week Wednesday afternoon, moving up work that had been scheduled for Thursday. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer notified lawmakers late Wednesday of the sudden schedule change. An aide who was granted anonymity to discuss the matter said the decision was made due to the threats. 

Capitol Police say that they have stepped up security around the Capitol complex since January’s insurrection, adding physical security measures such as fencing topped with razor wire around the Capitol and members of the National Guard who remain at the complex.

The statement said the agency was “taking the intelligence seriously” but provided no other specific details on the threat.

Some consider March 4 ‘the real inauguration day’

News of the threat came as the Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies are taking heat from Congress in contentious hearings this week on their handling of the Jan. 6 riot. They were prepared for a protest and were badly under-prepared for the riot. It took hours for reinforcements to come and by then Trump supporters had roamed the halls of the U.S. Capitol for hours.

March 4 is considered by some to be the “real inauguration day,” though there has not been nearly the amount of online chatter that occurred before Jan. 6 from extremist groups.

So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died.

Thousands of accounts that promoted the Jan. 6 event that led to a violent storming of the U.S. Capitol have since been suspended by major tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, making it far more difficult for QAnon and far-right groups to organize a repeat of the mass gathering on Thursday.

Twitter banned more than 70,000 accounts after the riots, while Facebook and Instagram removed posts mentioning “stop the steal,” a pro-Trump rallying cry used to mobilize his supporters in January.

The conservative social media platform Parler, which many of Trump’s supporters joined to promote false election fraud conspiracy theories and encourage friends to “storm” the Capitol on Jan. 6, was effectively booted off the internet for several weeks following the siege when Amazon suspended its web-hosting services, and Apple and Google removed it from their app stores. 

Since his defeat, Trump has been promoting lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges, Republican state officials and Trump’s own administration.

He was impeached by the House after the Jan. 6 riot on a charge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate.

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U.S. weighs possible retaliation for rocket attack in western Iraq

The White House warned that the U.S. may consider a military response to the rocket attack that hit an airbase in western Iraq where American and coalition troops are housed. A U.S. contractor died after at least 10 rockets slammed into the base early Wednesday.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the first since the U.S. struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week.

“We are following that through right now,” U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters. “Thank God, no one was killed by the rocket, but one individual, a contractor, died of a heart attack. But we’re identifying who’s responsible and we’ll make judgments” about a response.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that the “calculated” U.S. airstrikes last week could be a model for a military response. Those strikes were in response to an attack on American forces in northern Iraq earlier in February.

“If we assess further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing,” Psaki said.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. contractor “suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering” from the attack and died shortly afterward. Kirby said no service members were injured and all are accounted for. British and Danish troops also are stationed at the base.

Fears of escalation

The U.S. airstrikes last week, which killed one member of the Iran-aligned militia, had stoked fears of another cycle of tit-for-tat attacks as happened more than a year ago. Those attacks included the U.S. drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad and set off months of increased troop levels in the region.

Joe Biden has promised a return to diplomacy and to restart talks around the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. But changes to the political landscape in the Middle East could make that difficult. 2:01

The death of the contractor Wednesday is heightening worries that the U.S. could be drawn into another period of escalating attacks, complicating the Biden administration’s desire to open talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal.

The latest attack also comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq despite concerns about security and the coronavirus pandemic. The much-anticipated trip will include stops in Baghdad, southern Iraq and the northern city of Irbil.

The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province early in the morning, U.S.-led coalition spokesperson Col. Wayne Marotto said.

Kirby said the rockets were fired from east of the base, and that counter-rocket defensive systems were used to defend forces at the base. He said the U.S. can’t attribute responsibility for the attack yet, and that the extent of the damage was still being assessed.

It’s the same base that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January of last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of U.S. service members suffered concussions in that strike.


A poster announces the upcoming visit of Pope Francis and his meeting with a revered Shiite Muslim leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, on Wednesday. (Anmar Khalil/The Associated Press)

Rocket launch pad found

The Iraqi military released a statement saying that Wednesday’s attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets — a truck. Video of the site shows a burning truck in a desert area.

British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey condemned the attack, saying it undermined the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group.

“Coalition forces are in Iraq to fight Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” he tweeted, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “These terrorist attacks undermine the fight against Daesh and destabilize Iraq.”

Denmark said coalition forces at the base were helping to bring stability and security to the country.

“Despicable attacks against Ain al-Asad base in Iraq are completely unacceptable,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted. The Danish armed forces said two Danes who were at the base at the time of the attack are unharmed.

Last week’s U.S. strike along the border was in response to a spate of rocket attacks that targeted the American presence, including one that killed a coalition contractor from the Philippines outside the Irbil airport.


This roof was damaged after a barrage of rockets hit an airport and the area around it in Irbil, Iraq, last month. (Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

After that attack, the Pentagon said the strike was a “proportionate military response.”

Marotto, the coalition spokesperson, said the Iraqi security forces were leading an investigation into the attack.

Frequent rocket attacks in Baghdad targeting the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy, during Donald Trump’s presidency frustrated the administration, leading to threats of embassy closure and escalatory strikes. Those attacks have increased again in recent weeks since Biden took office following a lull during the transition period.

U.S. troops in Iraq significantly decreased their presence in the country last year and withdrew from several Iraqi bases to consolidate chiefly in Ain al-Asad, Baghdad and Irbil.

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An earlier end date for vaccination campaign is ‘possible’, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Canada’s vaccination campaign could wrap up before September if the country secures the necessary shots and if there’s a change in dosing timelines.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday his administration will have enough supply on hand by the end of May to vaccinate every American — two months earlier than planned.

Asked about that ambitious timeline, Trudeau said his government is confident that all Canadians who want a shot will be vaccinated by the end of September, but an earlier end date is “possible” if all goes well with deliveries and if other promising vaccine candidates are approved by the regulators at Health Canada.

“As I’ve been saying since this past November, we expect all Canadians to be vaccinated by the end of September, for those who want it,” he said. “It’s possible that those timelines can be moved forward.”

He said Ottawa is focused on “bringing in more doses for more Canadians to get through this as rapidly as possible.”

Possible change to dosing schedule

More Canadians could get vaccinated earlier than planned if the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) agrees to adjust the recommended interval between first and second vaccine doses — a change that some provinces, notably B.C. and Quebec, have implemented already.

“We’re seeing some of the science shift, some proposals put forward which are very, very interesting, which could result in rapider timelines,” Trudeau said.

Asked if he was reluctant to amend the timelines because of past supply hiccups, Trudeau said there have been “disruptions” in supply from Pfizer and Moderna “from the very beginning.”

Trudeau said any comparisons between the pandemic experiences of Canada and the U.S. must recognize that there have been many more cases — and more deaths — reported south of the border.

“Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States,” Trudeau said.

On a death-per-caseload basis, however, Canada has fared worse than the U.S. because of how many seniors have died of the virus in long-term care homes in this country. About 2.5 per cent of all COVID-19 cases have resulted in death in Canada, compared to 1.8 per cent in the U.S.

Health Canada’s recent approval of the AstraZeneca product will add more than 20 million shots to the country’s vaccine stockpile over the next six months, but the delivery schedule for most of these shots has not yet been finalized.

One shipment of 500,000 AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Institute of India arrived today, but questions remain about who should have access to this product.

WATCH: Some provinces won’t give AstraZeneca to seniors

Several provinces are signalling they will follow the recommendation of Canada’s vaccine advisory body and not give the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to seniors, creating a shift away from a high-priority group despite Health Canada’s advice that the vaccine is safe and effective. 2:29

Even before Biden’s announcement, the U.S. was well on its way to ending its inoculation campaign before Canada.

The U.S. is on track to fully vaccinate at least 34 per cent of the population by the end of March, while Canada hopes to vaccinate about 8 per cent on the same timeline.

After accounting for population size, the U.S. will have administered about 4.5 times more shots per capita by month’s end. Canada has administered 2 million doses so far, while the U.S. is nearing 80 million.

At least 26.4 million doses — 23 million from Moderna and Pfizer combined, 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute and another 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses from COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative — are set to arrive in Canada between April and June.

All told, the country is projected to have enough supply to fully vaccinate at least 16.45 million people by Canada Day. The supply is expected to grow once delivery schedules for the AstraZeneca product are confirmed.

The U.S. campaign has benefited from a robust domestic vaccine manufacturing sector and massive investments by former president Donald Trump’s administration in companies like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Trump also signed an executive order last December to mandate that all U.S. facilities fulfil their contractual obligations to the U.S. government before shipping products abroad — a decision that has forced Canada to rely on European plants for our shots.

Biden has maintained Trump’s ‘America First’ approach to vaccines and his spokesperson, Jen Psaki, told reporters this week that the U.S. will not send any doses to allies like Canada or Mexico until the vaccination campaign is complete stateside.

According to the latest federal budget documents, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has budgeted up to $ 5 billion for COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments, such as therapeutics.

The specific costs for each vaccine candidate are protected by confidentiality clauses in the federal government’s agreements with drug makers. Canada has promised to buy more than 240 million doses of seven different vaccines if all of them are approved.

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Police intelligence finds possible plot to breach U.S. Capitol by ‘identified militia group’ on Thursday

Capitol Police say they have intelligence showing a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol this  Thursday, nearly two months after a mob of supporters of former U.S. president Donald Trump stormed the iconic building to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory.

The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Trump will rise again to power on March 4. That was the U.S.’s original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20.

The revelation was detailed in a statement from the Capitol Police. It comes at the same time the acting police chief is testifying before a House subcommittee.

“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex,” the agency said in a statement. “We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4.”

Police did not name the militia group in the statement on Wednesday.

The statement differs from an advisory that was sent to members of Congress by the acting House sergeant-at-arms this week, saying Capitol Police had “no indication that groups will travel to Washington, D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence.”


A scene from the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

An advisory sent earlier this week to members of Congress by Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-arms, said that the Capitol Police had “no indication that groups will travel to Washington D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence.”

But that advisory was updated in a note to lawmakers Wednesday morning. Blodgett wrote that the Capitol Police had received “new and concerning information and intelligence indicating additional interest in the Capitol for the dates of March 4th – 6th by a militia group.”

In her testimony to the House panel, acting Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman said her investigators had collected “some concerning intelligence,” but declined to provide any details publicly, saying it was “law enforcement sensitive” and that she would provide a private briefing for the subcommittee members.

Capitol Police say that they have stepped up security around the Capitol complex since January’s insurrection, adding physical security measures such as fencing topped with razor wire around the Capitol and members of the National Guard who remain at the complex.

The statement said the agency was “taking the intelligence seriously” but provided no other specific details on the threat.

Some consider March 4 ‘the real inauguration day’

The announcement comes as the Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies are taking heat from Congress in contentious hearings this week on their handling of the Jan. 6 riot. They were prepared for a protest and were badly under-prepared for the riot. It took hours for reinforcements to come and by then Trump supporters had roamed the halls of the U.S. Capitol for hours. March 4 is considered by some to be the “real inauguration day,” though there has not been nearly the amount of online chatter that occurred before Jan. 6 from extremist groups.

So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died.

Thousands of accounts that promoted the Jan. 6 event that led to a violent storming of the U.S. Capitol have since been suspended by major tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, making it far more difficult for QAnon and far-right groups to organize a repeat of the mass gathering on Thursday.

Twitter banned more than 70,000 accounts after the riots, while Facebook and Instagram removed posts mentioning “stop the steal,” a pro-Trump rallying cry used to mobilize his supporters in January.

The conservative social media platform Parler, which many of Trump’s supporters joined to promote false election fraud conspiracy theories and encourage friends to “storm” the Capitol on Jan. 6, was booted off the internet following the siege.

Since his defeat, Trump has been promoting lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges, Republican state officials and Trump’s own administration.

He was impeached by the House after the Jan. 6 riot on a charge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate.

Lawmakers to be briefed Wednesday afternoon

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat from New York, said he was “very concerned” about potential threats Thursday and wasn’t sure whether the Capitol Police were adequately prepared to respond.

“I believe that there should be additional resources assigned to their efforts to sweep for explosives, for example,” he said. “And I don’t know to what degree that’s being done right now.”

Lawmakers were expected to be briefed later Wednesday by Capitol Police leadership in a closed session.

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Astronomers Detect Another Possible Exoplanet Right Next Door

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In the last few decades, we’ve gone from zero known exoplanets to more than 4,000. Scientists have even found a few orbiting the closest stars to our own. A project called Near Earths in the Alpha Center Region (NEAR) has just spotted tantalizing signals that could point to a planet in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri, which is a mere 4.37 light years away. That’s right next door in astronomical terms. 

Our solar system is pretty simple — one star, and a whole mess of planets orbiting it. Centauri is a bit different and consists of three stars. For starters, there’s Proxima Centauri, which is a red dwarf that sits a fraction of a light year closer to Earth. Proxima orbits Alpha Centauri A and B, which are larger, warmer stars like the sun. We know of at least two exoplanets orbiting Proxima Centauri, but a world around the sun-like members of the system would be even more interesting, and there might be one. 

The NEAR team used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to check out our celestial neighbors. The project pushed for an upgrade to the VLT that included an instrument called a thermal chronograph. This allows astronomers to block out the light from a star to make faint thermal signals easier to detect. After more than 100 hours of cumulative observations, the researchers pinned down what appears to be a thermal signal in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri A. No one is willing to say this is definitely a planet, but it could be. 

The possible exoplanet is labeled here as C1.

The exoplanet, if it exists, is in the habitable zone of the star. That means it could have liquid water, and therefore, the possibility of life. Early analysis suggests the exoplanet is a bit smaller than Neptune. That could mean it’s a small gas giant or possibly a very large rocky planet. If it’s a gas giant, life as we know it is off the table. However, there could be moons orbiting the world that have both liquid water and a solid surface on which life could evolve. 

There’s still more work to do before we can add another exoplanet to the list. The team notes the thermal signal could have other explanations, like a region of unusually hot cosmic dust or a warmer, distant object in the background. We’ll need more sophisticated instruments to know for sure. Luckily, the James Webb Space Telescope might finally launch later this year. Its infrared instruments should be able to determine if the thermal signature around Alpha Centauri A is a planet or just background noise.

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Homeland Security boss resigns as FBI warns of possible armed protests across U.S. before Biden inauguration

As security forces in the United States brace for the possibility of armed protests across the country around president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the acting secretary of homeland security is stepping down.

Chad Wolf, who criticized President Donald Trump over last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol, said in a message to staff that he would step down as of Monday night. He said Pete Gaynor, who ran the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would become the acting homeland security secretary. 

Wolf had earlier indicated he planned to remain in the job. Last week, Wolf asked Trump and all elected officials to “strongly condemn the violence” that took place at the Capitol. Five people died, including a police officer.

Wolf said he has condemned violence on both sides of the political aisle, specifically directed at law enforcement. He tweeted “we now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends” and called that unacceptable.


Meanwhile, the FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

An internal FBI bulletin warned that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of some extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters on Monday that the Guard is also looking at any issues that may arise across the country.

“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our Guards in every state are in close co-ordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested.”

Security forces bolster plans

The head of the National Guard says at least 10,000 troops will be deployed in Washington, D.C., by Saturday, and an additional 5,000 could be requested from other states as officials brace for more, possibly violent protests surrounding president-elect Biden’s inauguration.

The U.S. National Park Service announced Monday it would shut down public access to Washington monument until Jan. 24, citing threats surrounding the inauguration.

The U.S. Secret Service will also begin carrying out its special security arrangements for the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration on Wednesday, almost a week earlier than originally planned. 

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on Sunday sent a letter to Wolf saying she is “extremely concerned” about the upcoming inauguration in light of the “unprecedented terrorist attacks on the U.S. Capitol.”


Trump himself is skipping Biden’s inauguration, a decision Biden said was a “good thing,” though Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife plan to attend.

Biden’s team hopes the event will help bring a fractured country back together. The theme will be “America United” — an issue that’s long been a central focus for Biden, but one that’s taken on added weight in the wake of the violence in the Capitol.

WATCH l Assessing the pros and cons of invoking the 25th Amendment:

The CBC’s Carole MacNeil speaks to Thomas Balcerski, associate professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University, on whether the 25th Amendment could be invoked against U.S. President Donald Trump. 6:59

The presidential inaugural committee said that the theme “reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together and creates a path to a brighter future.”

It will be one of Biden’s first acts as president and a show of bipartisanship at a time when the national divide is on stark display.

The focus on unity has characterized Biden’s presidential run from the start, and he’s said repeatedly since winning the White House he sees unifying the country as one of his top priorities as president. But the scope — and urgency — of the challenge Biden faces became even clearer after Trump inspired a riot at the Capitol last Wednesday, spurred by his repeated attempts to delegitimize Biden’s win.


U.S. president-elect Joe Biden plans to focus on bringing the country together once he’s sworn in on Jan. 20. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

There are already signs of increased tension outside of Washington, D.C., as state lawmakers return to work. 

In Olympia, Wash., members of the National Guard defended security fencing outside of the capitol building as the 2021 legislative session got underway. There were concerns armed groups might try to occupy the building. Last Wednesday, hours after the siege in Washington, D.C., people broke a gate outside the governor’s mansion in the state of Washington and made it to the porch and front yard.

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Canadian Elite Basketball League targeting big cities for possible expansion

Richard Petko went from rebuilding a town to starting a professional basketball league and somehow it seems like a natural progression. 

The Canadian real estate developer and his business partner, Michael Skrtich, were renovating store fronts and constructing an apartment complex as part of a facade improvement incentive program in Thorold, Ont., when they also saw an opportunity to bring a sports team to nearby St. Catharines.

From 2015-18, the Niagara River Lions operated out of the Meridian Centre as a member of the National Basketball League of Canada. Petko, 49, eventually grew frustrated with what he viewed as a poor business model and decided to branch out on his own to form the Canadian Elite Basketball League.

The CEBL head office is part of the new look in Thorold and has established a presence in the community as opposed to being “cocooned off in some ivory tower somewhere” such as downtown Toronto, Petko said.

Petko and CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale — a former CFL player — instituted six teams for the inaugural season in 2019: Fraser Valley, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Guelph, Hamilton and the River Lions, who Petko brought to the CEBL after his three-year commitment to the NBL-C expired.

The Ottawa BlackJacks were added ahead of the 2020 campaign, which ultimately became a tournament played without fans at the Meridian Centre. 

The CEBL has made it known they would like to expand further and are now keen to enter more big markets.

“There was always that kind of idea you could have a league in junior hockey league cities,” Petko said. “I don’t think that can work. To be big-time, to get good players, to get proper media you have to be basically where the CFL is, at least at a minimum.”

To that effect, Petko suggests that locations such as Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Quebec City would be ideal. However, he emphasizes that they want to partner with groups with sports and entertainment experience and all the infrastructure in place to run a team.

“Those are the best partners to have. Not just some rich person or five people that want to do it as a fun thing to do,” Petko said. “I’ve come from that when it comes to the NBL-C and I’ve seen that it doesn’t work.

“It took three or four years of running the River Lions to learn how to run a basketball team and we don’t have the time and we don’t need to go through that  — starting something and to have an owner learn for three or four years when there are groups out there ready to run.”

WATCH | Stingers crowned Summer Series champions:

Peter Ruttgaizer and Joe Raso break down Edmonton’s 90-73 win over Fraser Valley in the CEBL Summer Series championship game. 2:03

This past summer, the league was forced to pivot from the format of a season that spans from May to August, played in front of spectators in its regional markets. Instead, the Summer Series featured 26 games over a two-week period, with some of those contests appearing nationally on CBC television.

The league is hoping to return to its regional model next season. A schedule is expected to be released early in the new year, but likely without any additional teams as Petko says groups are “kicking our tires” and waiting a year to see how things play out post-pandemic.

‘This isn’t a charitable organization’

Whille the league is approaching a break-even point, Petko is direct in stating what he set out to achieve.

“If money isn’t made, this league will end up in the dustbin of history,” he said. “This isn’t a charitable organization, this isn’t something that [I’m] going to throw a few million a year into a bucket just so there can be a professional league in Canada for the next 20, 30 years. 

“It has to become part of the sports culture and that doesn’t happen unless you make money. It’s what came first, the chicken or the egg. I guess in this case, the league came before the profits but without profits, there will be no league.”

Following what was widely regarded as a successful tournament, the league remained in the news cycle with the hiring of former Canadian national team members Jevohn Shepherd and Andy Rautins as general manager and assistant general manager, respectively, by the Ottawa franchise.

Shepherd and Rautins, both 34, were each looking for an opportunity to transition from their professional playing days, something Morreale can relate to.

“When I look at Andy or Jevohn, it’s funny because it somewhat mirrors my personal experience which was playing professional sports until I was 36 and then wondering what the heck am I going to do next,” said Morreale, now 49. “My opportunity came with the [CFL] players’ association within a month or two of retiring and that led me on my path to where I am now.

“So part of [our] developmental process is getting people who are willing and able to work hard, have passion, that understand what the CEBL is all about, that put aside their selfish ways and then selflessly do their part to help grow the sport.”

New chapter

This time last year, Rautins was preparing to embark on one of the best opportunities of his career.

A star at Syracuse University and drafted by the New York Knicks in 2010, the shooting guard would likely still be draining three pointers for Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos if it weren’t for the abrupt end to the season and what he described as dangerous conditions as teams continue to travel around Europe on commercial flights. 

“It was a short-lived experience, but I think ultimately the league made the right decisions. The cases were starting to get a little bit out of control at that point,” said Rautins, who returned home three days after the EuroLeague pressed the pause button in March.

Though he hasn’t ruled out a return to the court, Rautins now turns his attention to the city where he put down his roots with the national team more than a decade ago.

“The fact that it was Ottawa, the [team] president, and that I have the opportunity to work with Jevohn is a no-brainer for me,” said Rautins. “It’s going to be a special thing that we’re going to try to build in Ottawa.”

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Military reservists preparing for possible deployment in Prairies as COVID-19 rates soar

The Canadian military is preparing for possible deployment of troops in the Prairie provinces, potentially as early as Saturday in Alberta, to assist with their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News has learned. 

All of the army divisions and joint task forces across the country were asked earlier this fall to check how many part-time soldiers would be available for duty so as to have 300 reserve soldiers in each area, a senior defence source said.

Late last week, the military expanded the call in anticipation of troops helping out with vaccine distribution, although no numbers have yet been attached to the new round, the source said.

There has been a special focus on calling up reservists in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in case there is a call for assistance from those provinces, which now have among the worst COVID-19 infection rates in Canada.

Provincial requests for pandemic assistance from the military must be routed through the office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. A spokesperson for Blair on Monday said he has not received a request for help from the Alberta government, but did not respond to a follow-up question about any such requests from Saskatchewan or Manitoba.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the provincial government has made no request for military assistance and is unaware of any such planning.

The military is calling out reservists now because it anticipates it may have difficulty finding enough part-time soldiers to staff long-term care facilities and perform other pandemic-related missions, said the defence source, who spoke on condition of confidentiality. 

A National Defence spokesperson did not respond to an interview request from CBC News.


Earlier this year the military mobilized 8,000 reservists as part of its coronavirus response. Here, members of the Canadian Armed Forces take part in a training session before deploying to senior’s residences in Montreal on April 29. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Last spring, the military mobilized 8,000 reservists as part of its coronavirus response, known as Operation Laser. They were part of a 25,000-strong task force of soldiers, sailors and aircrew who were prepared to respond to requests for help, including working at long-term care facilities.

CBC News has learned members of the 41 Canadian Brigade Group, Alberta’s army reserve, have been ordered to complete their pandemic-response training by Saturday, although there is no indication if, or when, the soldiers will be deployed, or how many will be deployed.

“We have been told that we need to be prepared for [an order] to come in at any moment,” said a reservist who spoke on condition of confidentiality.

“The one thing that really kind of struck myself and a lot of other troops is how insistent they were about it and the timelines.”

It is not known whether active service members are also being trained for mobilization.

The Ottawa military source said once reservists have been signed up, they will be tested for COVID-19 and go into a two-week quarantine to ensure they pose no infection threat. 

‘No hard plan’ yet for deployment: source

The training for the Alberta reservists includes instruction on everything from how to don personal protective equipment to how to interact with dying patients.

Two Alberta reservists told CBC News the order to complete the training by Dec. 12 came down suddenly in late November, and their understanding is that troops could subsequently be deployed any time.

“It is an option that they are looking at in case [things] get truly bad, but there is no hard plan yet,” said one of the reservists, who also spoke on condition of confidentiality.

The number of Alberta continuing care facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks of two or more cases has more than tripled in the past few weeks. So far, 63 per cent of the province’s 631 deaths have been in long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites.

WATCH | Military commander heading up COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Canada:

The Canadian Forces general in charge of planning and logistics for Canada’s vaccine rollout was announced Friday. But it raises questions about why military officers are needed at all. 2:09

Alberta continues to shatter its COVID-19 case records, recording a new high of 1,879 new cases on Saturday. On Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province had reached a “grim milestone” as the positivity rate reached 10.5 per cent.

Long-time Edmonton critical care physician Dr. Noel Gibney said the military recognizes the urgency of the situation.

“I think that clearly the military, looking at the statistics and the numbers from Alberta, realize that within the next two-to-four weeks the situation is going to be very much a crisis in Alberta, and particularly in the long-term care homes,” Gibney said.

“The military recognizes something that the provincial government doesn’t — or maybe they recognize it, but they are not ready to actually admit that yet.”

Premier alleges ‘voices of panic and hysteria’

The revelation that military reservists across the province are preparing to assist with the province’s pandemic response comes less than a week after Kenney, in a Facebook Live video he later posted on Twitter, accused the media of torquing pandemic coverage.

“I do regret that in so much of the COVID coverage and debate, there has been, pretty consistently, a kind of drive towards hysteria,” Kenney said. 

“We need to take this very, very seriously — all of us. And Lord knows the government of Alberta is. At the same time, we should not allow voices of panic and hysteria to drive people into a sense of despair.”

“Keep calm and carry on,” Kenney said, referencing a motivational phrase of the British government during the Second World War. 

On Thursday, CBC News revealed that the Alberta government has been planning field hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary, at large university sports facilities, to treat 750 COVID-19 patients.

A draft plan, dated Nov. 28, said the greatest challenge to getting the field hospitals operational would be staffing and that, “further exploration of staffing options (including military) is in progress.”

In the spring, Canadian troops were deployed to long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec to aid facilities overrun by COVID-19 outbreaks. The mission cost taxpayers about $ 53 million.

WATCH | Military mission to Quebec and Ontario long-term care homes cost $ 53 million:

The military mission to long-term care homes hit by COVID-19 in Ontario and Quebec cost the federal government approximately $ 53 million, according to figures obtained by CBC News from the Department of National Defence. Senior military officers told a House of Commons committee on Monday that a number of lessons were learned from the deployment, lessons that will come in handy should further missions be necessary during the second wave. 2:34

“Because we are non-health-care practitioners, we would be helping with supportive care,” one of the reservists said last week. “So feeding, moving patients, assisting patients with daily activities.”

The reservist added that “one thing that really stood out to me was basically how they implied that we are going to be dealing with bodies and people at end of life.”

Soldiers trained to deal with end of life, bodies

CBC News has viewed slides that formed a training module for the Alberta reservists 

A slide titled “Palliative Care” says, “Caring for the body of the deceased is something that we may experience during Op LASER. It is an occasion to pay our last respects to the person.

“The current circumstances may require us to place their corpse in a body bag and/or vehicle,” it said, emphasizing the need to do so in a respectful way.

Another slide warned soldiers that they may suffer what is referred to as a “moral injury.”

“A moral injury is harm caused by ‘perpetrating, failing to prevent, witnessing, or learning about actions that violate deeply held moral beliefs and expectation,'” it said.

“Because of COVID-19, many people will die earlier than they would have otherwise, and with fewer resources than would normally be available to them. We may sometimes witness situations that seem ‘inhuman’ to us. 

“This injustice may cause us to feel powerless and hurt.”

The slide encouraged soldiers to seek support if needed.

“Most of us probably didn’t picture ourselves serving in a long-term care facility when we joined, but it is an honour to be able to assist our fellow Canadians in their time of need,” another slide said.

“One of the CAF principles is ‘respect the dignity of all persons,'” it continued. “Long-term care facility residents currently need our support to allow them to continue living in conditions that respect their dignity.

“Although this may pose a risk to ourselves, there is also another CAF principle by which we serve: ‘Serve Canada before self,’ which reminds us that this is our duty.”

If you have information for this story, or information for another story, please contact us in confidence at cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca.

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COVID-19 vaccines will roll out ‘as quickly as possible’ after Health Canada approvals, Trudeau says

As opposition critics and some premiers accuse his government of falling behind on a vaccine distribution plan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today sought to reassure the country that his government will be ready to deploy shots soon after they receive the necessary Health Canada approvals.

Trudeau said the independent scientists reviewing the clinical trial data submitted by the drugmakers behind four promising vaccine candidates are working hard to ensure the safety of these products before Ottawa starts shipments.

With recent polls showing that a sizeable number of Canadians will refuse a vaccine altogether, or will wait some time before lining up for a shot, Trudeau said he wants Canadians to be assured that the science will not be rushed and Canada’s regulators will only approve a product that works.

“In this COVID-19 pandemic, keeping Canadians safe means getting a vaccine as quickly as possible, but it also means making sure that the vaccine is safe for Canadians,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said once the regulator gives the green light to one of those vaccines, Canada will mobilize its public health infrastructure to deploy it to the provinces and territories.

WATCH: Trudeau is asked about how vaccines will be delivered

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters outside Rideau Cottage on Tuesday. 2:05

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on Dec. 10 to review the Pfizer product. Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, Supriya Sharma, has said regulators here are expected to make decisions on timelines similar to those followed by the U.S.

Speaking to reporters at a COVID-19 briefing, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said today the government is planning for vaccines to arrive in the first three months of 2021.

Based on her conversations with the drugmakers, she said, she’s hoping a vaccine will be available to Canadians well before the end of March.

“As soon as Health Canada has provided its approval, we are well-placed to begin deliveries to Canadians as soon as possible. We will kick into the delivery process ASAP. That’s why we have the refrigerators procured. That’s why we have the needles, syringes and gauze procured,” she said.

The U.S. has publicly released a robust distribution plan — 20 million Americans are expected to be vaccinated in December alone. Canadian officials have been largely quiet about how the deployment will be conducted here, beyond offering assurances that the provinces and territories will be ready to go.

Anand said she wanted to clear up what she called “misinformation” that has been circulating in recent days.

Anand confirmed that Canada already has received 34 of the freezers needed to store vaccines that must be kept at temperatures well below zero, with another 92 freezers soon to follow. The Pfizer product, for example, needs to be kept at approximately -80 degrees Celsius to remain stable.

All told, between the newly procured cold storage and existing federal capacity, 33.5 million doses of frozen and ultra-frozen vaccines can be stored here at this point, Anand said.

WATCH: Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand talks about freezer capacity

Minister of Public services and Procurement addresses misinformation around vaccine procurement. 0:38

Beyond storage, the shots also need to be transported by qualified shippers. Anand said more details on end-to-end logistics will be revealed in the coming days.

Anand said Canada was among the first countries to sign agreements with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna for their vaccines, which use groundbreaking messenger RNA technology, or mRNA. These vaccines essentially direct cells in the body to make proteins to prevent or fight disease.

While some have suggested Canada is at the “back of the line” on vaccine availability, Moderna’s co-founder confirmed to CBC News on Sunday that Canada will be among the first countries in the world to get access to doses.

On Monday, the Massachusetts-based company applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization (EUA) of this vaccine in the American marketplace.

The company’s final clinical trial data is encouraging, demonstrating the vaccine is 94.1 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 and 100 per cent effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.

‘Amazing data’

In July, Moderna began administering its vaccine and a placebo to 30,000 clinical trial participants in the U.S.

Of the 15,000 people who received the vaccine, only 11 developed COVID-19. None of those 11 people became severely ill. Among the 15,000 people who received the placebo — a shot of saline that does nothing — 185 developed the novel coronavirus. Thirty of those 185 patients reported severe illness and one died.

“This is striking,” Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told CNN Monday. “These are amazing data.”

Moderna’s chief medical officer said he became emotional when he saw the data Saturday night. “It was the first time I allowed myself to cry,” Dr. Tal Zaks said. “We have a full expectation to change the course of this pandemic.”

The federal government secured an agreement on Aug. 5 with Moderna for 20 million doses of its vaccine, with the option to procure an additional 36 million doses if necessary.

First in line

Marginalized groups, such as seniors in long-term care homes, and front line health care workers are expected to be among the first to be inoculated, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public officer. She added that other essential workers, such as grocery store clerks, could also be ahead of other Canadians.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which provides independent advice to the Public Health Agency of Canada, has provided some guidelines on which “key populations” should be among the first to be vaccinated.

Ultimately, it will be up to the provinces and territories to identify who gets a shot first. But Trudeau said Tuesday that the premiers agree that these plans should be largely harmonized nationwide.

While some provinces and territories have voiced serious concerns about a lack of detail on how and when vaccines will be available, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said those jurisdictions are well-placed to administer these vaccines when they do arrive because they lead mass inoculation campaigns each year during flu season.

WATCH: Hajdu says vaccine distribution a ‘very delicate dance’

The health minister defends Canada’s regulatory process, regarding COVID 19 immunization. 1:08

“They already have systems in place, they already have capacity in place, they already have processes in place to lead sophisticated immunization programs,” she said.

“I say to Canadians: hang on. We can get through this winter together and relief is on the way.”

The government has frequently pointed to its massive order for 414 million vaccine doses from seven different companies — the most of any country per capita — but Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that procurement push means little if millions of Canadians are kept waiting longer than citizens in other Western countries.

“A robust portfolio in 2023 doesn’t help us as we enter 2021,” O’Toole said Monday in his response to the government’s fall economic statement.

“This government is not providing a plan, they’re not providing clarity and it’s clear, having been late on rapid tests, on the border, there’s no clarity or competence.”

In question period Tuesday, O’Toole again pushed the government to offer a firmer date for access to a vaccine. Trudeau said again they’d be available shortly after Health Canada signs off.

O’Toole also slammed the government for partnering with a CanSino, a Chinese-run pharmaceutical firm, early in the pandemic to jointly develop a vaccine.

That deal was abandoned after the regime in Beijing blocked shipments of vaccine samples meant to be used in clinical trials in Canada, which prompted the government to turn to U.S. firms for supply. O’Toole said Canada should have never trusted the Chinese in the first place.

The Conservative opposition is now pushing for a parliamentary probe into the CanSino deal at the Commons industry, science and technology committee. 

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