Tag Archives: ‘warned

Asylum seekers housed at British army barracks warned of crowding before COVID-19 outbreak

The British government has started transferring dozens of asylum seekers to hotels to self-isolate after reports that more than 100 people housed at former army barracks in southeast England have tested positive for COVID-19.

An open letter from the asylum seekers shared by the humanitarian organization Choose Love said 120 of the roughly 400 men being housed at the Napier barracks had tested positive for the virus by the third week of January. 

Britain’s Home Office — the department charged with overseeing care of the asylum seekers — would not confirm the number.

The outbreak came as no surprise to those staying at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, who’d been saying for months that the conditions in the barracks did not allow for physical distancing and proper adherence to public health guidelines and could contribute to the fast spread of the coronavirus if it made its way to the camp. 

“Since I arrived here, I have been complaining,” one asylum seeker told CBC News.

“They always say the same things. They [say] everything is good enough.”

He arrived last October, shortly after the British government started using Napier Barracks as a temporary housing solution. CBC has agreed to withhold his name because he fears speaking out could hurt his immigration case.

Sleeping quarters divided by curtains at the Napier Barracks. Some asylum seekers said it’s difficult to follow COVID-19 social distancing guidelines inside the camp. (Name withheld)

He is in his 20s and said he had a fever, cough and body aches and was waiting to be tested for COVID-19 when he spoke to CBC news this week. He did not want to reveal his country of origin but the camp houses migrants from several countries, including Syria, Iraq and Iran. 

The man said he was waiting to be tested and would not be surprised if he has the virus after “staying with infected people in the same room.” 

He and others at the camp experiencing COVID-19 symptoms were “worried and frightened,” he said.

Some with negative tests moved off-site

Some immigration advocates say the number of positive COVID cases at Napier could be higher. 

“From our partners and sources, we understand that it’s closer to 200 people out of 400,” said Josie Naughton, the founder of Choose Love.

“It’s been quite shocking really. We’re just pushing hard to get as many people [as possible] taken out from these places, the barracks, and to have them shut down.”

Asylum seekers at the Napier Barracks who have tested negative for the virus were being temporarily moved off-site “in order to allow others at Napier to self-isolate more easily,” a Home Office spokesperson told CBC. 

Housing at the Napier Barracks is divided into blocks, with every block consisting of two dorm rooms and shared access to toilet and shower facilities. Typically, as many as 14 people share dorm rooms. Asylum seekers say they had feared the tight quarters could contribute to the spread of COVID-19. (Name withheld)

The spokesperson said the Home Office made that decision in line with advice from Public Health England as a coronavirus lockdown continues to be enforced across the country.

The U.K has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and on Tuesday, surpassed 100,000 deaths.

The recent outbreak at Napier comes after months of warnings from asylum seekers, immigration advocates and health experts that the conditions there and at Penally Training Camp in Wales — another military facility housing asylum seekers — posed health risks because of insufficient access to health care and a lack of compliance with coronavirus regulations.

The Napier Barracks and the Penally former army base have been used as a temporary housing solution for asylum seekers since late September. The goal is to move people out of the camps to more suitable housing as soon as possible. 

Impossible to follow distancing guidelines

The man who spoke to CBC from the camp said he was one those who repeatedly warned the Home Office and Clearsprings Ready Homes, the short-term housing company tasked with managing accommodations at the camp, that he was concerned about catching COVID because of the cramped conditions there.

Sharing a dorm room with as many as 13 other men, with only curtains separating individual sleeping quarters, the asylum seeker said he and others had warned that it was impossible to follow social distancing guidelines at the camp, where common spaces and washrooms are also shared.

Even as coronavirus cases were identified at the camp, with one of the man’s dorm mates testing positive and others displaying symptoms, the asylum seeker said his pleas for the Home Office to take action continued to be ignored until this past weekend. 

As the Home Office began transferring asylum seekers out of the camp Saturday, the asylum seeker was moved to a separate room at Napier after starting to show symptoms. 

“I had known one person had tested positive … and he was very close to my private space, but there were several people who had continuous coughing,” he said. 

On Thursday, he was told that he would be moved off-site.

Inspector investigating

Naughton said she was “heartbroken … but not surprised” by the situation at Napier. 

“People were warning that this was going to happen, and now, it has happened,” she said.

In the wake of the outbreak, the U.K.’s independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI) has launched an investigation into the use of hotels and barracks as “contingency asylum accommodation” since the start of 2020.

Josie Naughton, the founder of London-based charity Choose Love, says she is heartbroken but ‘not surprised’ by the coronavirus outbreak at the Napier Barracks. (Choose Love)

On Monday, the ICIBI issued a call for evidence, asking anyone with “relevant knowledge or experience” to come forward.

“This inspection … will focus on the roles and responsibilities of the Home Office and the accommodation service providers, and of other parties,” ICIBI said in a press release.

‘Everyone feels afraid’ 

Asylum seekers at the Penally camp say the coronavirus outbreak at Napier appears to have been something of a wake-up call for staff with Clearsprings, which also oversees accommodations at that site.

“The camp management [has taken] it very seriously now,” one asylum seeker, who also spoke on the condition of confidentiality, told the CBC. “They distributed sanitizers to every room and did some other things to prevent any possible spread.”

The dining area at the Penally Training Camp in Wales, where asylum seekers say they fear an outbreak like the one in Napier. (Name withheld)

Workers have started wearing face masks at all times and have begun distributing food and cutlery to residents in the dining room, rather than having residents collect them. 

However, asylum seekers at the camp are still sharing dorm rooms, with anywhere from two to six people per room while in common areas, including the dining area and TV room, asylum seekers say no social distancing rules appear to be enforced. 

“It gets very crowded from time to time,” the asylum seeker said. 

Another man living at the Penally camp told CBC he and others at the camp fear an out break like the one at Napier.

“Everyone feels afraid, never [being] able to social distance here,” he said. “We fear our camp will be like Kent.”

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B.C. warned of potential for ‘explosive growth’ as 102 new COVID-19 cases from over the weekend announced

B.C. has seen a surge in new COVID-19 infections over the weekend, and officials are warning that the province is at a tipping point.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presented the latest numbers on the toll the novel coronavirus has taken in British Columbia, along with new modelling that offers a warning about the dangers of slipping up on measures to prevent transmission.

That includes a big spike in new infections over the weekend, with 102 new confirmed cases since Friday afternoon. There have now been 3,300 cases in B.C. since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 253 are still active.

The latest modelling suggests that the numbers of new cases reported daily are rising and could continue to rise over the summer.

“We do have the possibility of having explosive growth here in our outbreak, if we’re not careful,” Henry said.

WATCH: B.C.’s top doctor says we are experiencing a ‘concerning upward bending of our curve’ and are ‘on the edge that might go up but is in our hands to control’

B.C.’s top doctor says an increase of over 100 cases of COVID-19 over the weekend is ‘concerning’ and should serve as a warning. 1:40

While B.C. has done a good job of flattening the curve of infection so far, she said the province is currently “on the edge” and could see that work undone in the coming weeks.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix noted that while 102 new infections might not be large in comparison with numbers reported in other parts of North America, “it is a lot more than we are comfortable with.”

He said that while there have been no deaths since Friday and the hospitalization rate has remained steady, deaths and hospitalizations tend to lag behind new infections.

Dix urged British Columbians to recommit to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly keeping groups small and meeting outside whenever possible.

Dix said the number of new cases should serve as “a sobering reminder of how fleeting success can be.”

Sixteen people are now in hospital, including four in intensive care. There have been no new deaths recorded since Friday, leaving B.C.’s total at 189 to date.

60 cases now connected to Kelowna exposures

Henry said she’s particularly concerned about the number of new cases that appear to have resulted from parties and larger public gatherings.

That includes 60 cases that have now been linked to multiple exposure events in Kelowna at downtown and waterfront bars and private gatherings around the Canada Day long weekend. Most new cases confirmed this weekend were people in their 20s and 30s, according to Henry.

“We are starting to see people who are testing positive in the last few days having a large number of contacts again,” she said. 

“We are no longer having safe interactions.”

Henry said that in the spring, most new COVID-19 patients only had close contact with three or four people, but public health officials are now having to trace 20 or 30 contacts for every person with a confirmed case of the disease.

The modelling presented Monday suggests that everyone needs to be cautious about how many other people they are interacting with — if the average person’s number of contacts increases to 70 or 80 per cent of normal, the number of infections could rise dramatically.

Currently, the average person’s contacts are at about 65 to 70 per cent of normal, which Henry described as concerning.

“We run the risk of a rapid rise,” she said.

She said young people need to remember to keep groups small and focus as much as possible on spending time with family. When visiting restaurants, don’t try to bend the rules by bringing groups larger than six people or by hopping between tables, Henry added.

Meanwhile, she said public health workers are looking into potential measures that could prevent transmission in situations like get-togethers in vacation home rentals or on houseboats.

Death rate high among patients in long-term care

New statistics presented Monday show that 20 per cent of COVID-19 patients in long-term care and 22 per cent in acute care units of hospitals have died of their illness. The death rate drops dramatically to 0.5 per cent in the remaining COVID-19 patients.

As British Columbians expand their social circles and more businesses open up in Phase 3 of the province’s pandemic response, the modelling suggests that each new infection is generating an increasing number of additional infections.

In April and May, when the strictest measures were in place, each new COVID-19 patient infected less than one other person. That measure has now risen to more than one new infection from each patient.

Serology tests suggest that fewer than one in 100 people in B.C. have been infected to date, which means the vast majority are still susceptible to infection.

Mental health and financial burdens for young people

Henry and Dix also presented results from an online survey completed by 394,382 people about the impact of COVID-19.

The results suggest that most people have followed public health advice to wash hands regularly and avoid gatherings, but staying home when sick is still a bit of a sticking point. While 79 per cent of those who responded said they can stay home when they’re feeling unwell, only about 67 per cent said they actually stay home.

The biggest problems caused by COVID-19, according to those who answered the survey, include loss of work, concern for vulnerable family members and mental health struggles.

Those between the ages of 18 and 29 were most likely to say their mental health and financial situation have suffered as a result of the pandemic.

Impromptu update

Monday’s briefing is the first since Henry called an unplanned news conference Friday to announce 28 new cases of the virus, including a baby in neonatal intensive care at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Henry said fewer than 10 people were exposed to the virus in the NICU, and the baby was not showing signs of illness. Health-care workers were also exposed, but she said she didn’t know how many were involved.

The infants who were exposed at St. Paul’s are isolating with their families, according to Henry.

Also on Friday, an alert was issued for potential exposure to COVID-19 at the Sandman hotel on Davie Street in Vancouver between July 7 and July 16.

Another case was discovered in a worker from Alberta at the Site C dam project and a list of potential exposures on flights coming and going from B.C. continues to expand.

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Consumers warned against eating romaine lettuce from Salinas, Calif.

Health officials in the U.S. and Canada on Friday told people to avoid romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, Calif., because of another food poisoning outbreak in the United States.

The notice comes almost exactly one year after a similar outbreak led to a blanket warning about romaine.

Officials are urging consumers not to eat the leafy green if the label doesn’t say where it was grown. They also urged supermarkets and restaurants not to serve or sell the lettuce, unless they’re sure it was grown elsewhere.

The warning applies to all types of romaine from the Salinas region, include whole heads, hearts and pre-cut salad mixes.

“Canadian and U.S. health officials are collaborating to identify commonalities between the recent illnesses in an effort to identify the source of contamination affecting consumers,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said on Friday.

At this time, there is no outbreak of E. coli occurring in Canada. The U.S. CDC is reporting multiple illnesses in several U.S. states. As of Nov. 22, there is one Canadian illness related to the U.S. outbreak that has been identified in the province of Manitoba. This individual became ill in mid-October.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed that romaine lettuce from the affected areas reported in the U.S. investigation is imported to Canada at this time of year. The CFIA says it has taken measures to protect consumers and is implementing new actions at the border to ensure that any affected romaine lettuce products are no longer being imported into Canada.

“We’re concerned this romaine could be in other products,” said Laura Gieraltowski, lead investigator of the outbreak at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. officials said their investigation led to farms in Salinas and that they are looking for the source of E. coli tied to the illnesses. Salinas is a major growing region for romaine from around April to this time of year, when growing shifts south to Yuma, Ariz.

Harvest regions now identified

After last November’s outbreak tied to romaine, the produce industry in the U.S. agreed to voluntarily label the lettuce with harvest regions. Health officials said that would make it easier to trace romaine and issue more specific public health warnings when outbreaks happen.

Officials never identified exactly how romaine might have become contaminated in past outbreaks. But another outbreak in spring 2018 that sickened more than 200 people and killed five was traced to tainted irrigation water near a cattle lot. (E. coli is found in the feces of animals such as cows.)

It’s not clear exactly why romaine keeps popping up in outbreaks, but food safety experts note the popularity of romaine lettuce and the difficulty of eliminating risk for produce grown in open fields and eaten raw.

Industry groups noted that they tightened safety measures following last year’s outbreaks, including expanding buffer zones between growing fields and livestock.

40 people report illness in 16 states

“It’s very, very disturbing. Very frustrating all around,” said Trevor Suslow of the Produce Marketing Association.

The CDC says 40 people have been reported sick so far in 16 states. The most recent reported illness started on Nov. 10. The agency says it’s the same E. coli strain tied to previous outbreaks, including the one from last Thanksgiving.

The CDC’s Gieraltowski said that suggests there’s a persisting contamination source in the environment.

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Toronto investigating 2 confirmed cases of measles, public warned of possible exposure

Toronto Public Health officials say members of the public may have been exposed to measles in number of places early in May after two new cases were confirmed on Monday.

In a news release on Monday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) said it is investigating the cases in adults that are “travel related.”

Anyone who has visited the following places may have been exposed to the measles:

May 5

  • Remely’s Restaurant, 4830 Sheppard Ave. E., between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Pearson International Airport, Terminal 1, between 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
  • Air Canada flight AC848, departed Toronto at 8:40 p.m. and arrived in London Heathrow airport, United Kingdom, at 8:35 a.m. on May 6

May 8

  • Toronto Zoo between 1:30 and 5 p.m.
  • Pearson International Airport, Terminal 1, between 5 and 7:30 p.m.
  • Air Canada flight AC849, departed London Heathrow airport at 2:10 p.m. and arrived at Pearson at 5 p.m.

If anyone thinks he or she has been exposed, TPH suggests checking immunization records to make sure vaccinations are up-to-date.

TPH says Toronto residents should watch for symptoms of measles, which include high fever, cold-like symptoms, sore eyes or sensitivity to light and a red rash that can last four to seven days.

“Anyone experiencing symptoms as described above should contact their health care provider as soon as possible and not attend work or school,” the release said.

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Sri Lanka warned of new threats at places of worship after deadly Easter Sunday blasts

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka has tweeted people should avoid places of worship in the country over the weekend because of possible extremist attacks, as the island country remains jittery over the Easter Sunday attacks that have left at least 359 people dead and hundreds injured.

The embassy in Colombo sent the tweet Thursday night after security was stepped up in the capital city and elsewhere in Sri Lanka.

The tweet read: “Sri Lankan authorities are reporting that additional attacks may occur targeting places of worship. Avoid these areas over the weekend, starting tomorrow, April 26th through Sunday, April 28th. Continue to remain vigilant and avoid large crowds.”

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told The Associated Press that suspects are still at large and may have explosives.

On Thursday, authorities in Colombo set off more controlled detonations of suspicious items, soldiers stopped and searched vehicles and some businesses advised staff to stay indoors.

During a raid Thursday in Colombo, Sri Lankan police arrested three people and seized 21 locally made grenades and six swords, a police spokesperson told Reuters. The spokesperson didn’t provide further details or suggest the raid was linked to the suicide bombings at three hotels and three churches.

WATCH BELOW: ‘A lot of people we know … they’re dead,’ Bruno Pitiyegedara, 13, told CBC News as he was leaving a funeral held for a number of bombing victims in Negombo.

‘A lot of people we know… they’re dead,’ 13-year-old Bruno Pitiyegedara told CBC as he was leaving a funeral held for a number of bombing victims. 1:14

On Wednesday, the prime minister said that the father of two of the suicide bombers, a wealthy spice trader, had been detained.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which has resulted in the detainment of at least 76 suspects, including several foreigners. Authorities remain unsure of the group’s involvement, though they are investigating whether foreign militants advised, funded or guided the local bombers. 

Sir Lankan police have issued an appeal for information about seven people, including three women wanted in connection with the attacks.

Bomb scare leads to lockdown

Sri Lankan authorities locked down the central bank and shut the road leading to the Colombo’s airport because of a bomb scare on Thursday after a suspicious vehicle was spotted at a car park. The street outside the building near the World Trade Center was blocked to traffic before the security alert was lifted. And the road to the airport was reopened when the alert was declared a false alarm.

John Keells Holdings, the parent company of the Cinnamon Grand hotel, one of the sites stricken in the Easter bombings, told employees at its various hotel properties to stay inside until at least 2:30 p.m. “further to the communications we have received” in an email shared with The Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear where the warning originated, and a police spokesperson did not respond to several calls and messages.

The streets around Dematagoda, a wealthy Colombo neighbourhood where officials say many of the bombing suspects lived, were quiet Thursday.

Investigators continued to comb through a mansion with nine front balconies where investigators said suspects detonated a ninth bomb Sunday that killed three police officers who were pursuing them. A white BMW was parked outside a garage partially blown out in the blast.

In a house on the other side of a quiet, leafy lane full of mansions, a 14-year-old boy said he used to ride bicycles and play soccer with one of the suspect’s children, a 10-year-old boy who frequently visited his relatives there, and that the other children at the house were too young to play outside. He said his entire house shook when the bomb went off.

Sri Lankan police continued their search for additional explosives, detonating a suspicious item in a garbage dump in Pugoda, about 35 kilometres east of Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority also banned drones and unmanned aircraft “in view of the existing security situation in the country,” according to a statement.

Kumari Fernando, who lost her husband, Dulip Fernando, and two children, Dulakghi and Vimukthi, during the bombing at St, Sebastian’s Church, yells towards the graves during a mass burial for victims at a cemetery near the church in Negombo on Wednesday. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Hobby drones have been used by militants in the past to carry explosives. Iraqi forces found them difficult to shoot down while driving out ISIS, whose members loaded drones with grenades or simple explosives to target government forces. And Yemen’s Houthi rebels have used drones, most recently to target a military parade in January, killing troops.

Most victims from Sri Lanka

Most of the victims in the Easter Sunday bombings were Sri Lankan, but the Foreign Ministry has confirmed 36 foreigners died. The remains of 13 have been repatriated. Fourteen foreigners are unaccounted for and 12 were still being treated for injuries in Colombo hospitals.

Father Gregory Silva says Sri Lanka is a nation of love and kindness, and is struggling to cope with the aftermath of Sunday’s bombings 0:18

Japan’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed one Japanese national was killed and four others injured in the Easter bombings. The body of the person who died was returned to Japan early Thursday.

A top Sri Lankan official has said many of the suicide bombers were highly educated and came from well-off families.

Junior Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said at least one had a law degree and others may have studied in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of the bombers had been in the country on a student visa with a spouse and child before leaving in 2013.

Sri Lankan government leaders have acknowledged that some intelligence units were aware of possible terror attacks against churches or other targets weeks before the bombings. The president asked for the resignations of the national police and the defence secretary without saying who would replace them. Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando confirmed his resignation Thursday.

Makeshift wooden crucifix’s mark the graves of people killed in the Easter Sunday attack on St. Sebastian’s Church. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local extremist group, National Towheed Jamaat, whose leader, alternately named Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary online speeches.

On Wednesday, Wijewardene said the attackers had broken away from National Towheed Jamaat and another group, which he identified only as JMI.

A Sri Lankan navy soldier searches a truck at a checkpoint in Colombo on Wednesday. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

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Russia warned not to use people as 'pawns' as Canadian-born man held on spy charges

Britain cautioned Russia on Friday that individual citizens should not be used as pawns in a diplomatic chess game after Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who holds Canadian, American, British and Irish citizenship, was detained in Moscow on espionage charges.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was extremely worried about Whelan, who was detained by Russia's FSB state security service in Moscow a week ago on suspicion of spying.

"Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage [or] being used in diplomatic chess games," Hunt said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this week the United States had asked Russia to explain Whelan's arrest and would demand his immediate return if it determines his detention is inappropriate.

"We are extremely worried about Paul Whelan. We have offered consular assistance," Hunt said. "The U.S. are leading on this because he is a British and American citizen."

Whelan was born to British parents in Ottawa in 1970 but moved in the early 1970s to the United States, where he has lived ever since. 

After initially refusing to disclose whether Whelan still holds Canadian citizenship, Global Affairs Canada said Friday it "is aware that a Canadian citizen, Mr. Paul Whelan, has been arrested in Russia."

"Consular assistance is being provided and we are in contact with local authorities to gather further information," it said in a statement to CBC News.

Watch David Whelan discuss his twin brother Paul's arrest:

Paul Whelan, a former marine, was arrested in Russia during an 'espionage operation,' but his twin brother David says the allegations don't ring true. 4:10

Irish officials said Whelan has requested help from the Irish government and report they will do what they can to come to his aid. Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Friday that its embassy in Moscow is requesting consular access to Whelan.

It said it made the request "after receiving a request for assistance" from an Irish citizen detained in Moscow. "The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will provide all possible and appropriate assistance in relation to this case," the statement said.

The FSB has opened a criminal case against Whelan, 48, but has not given any details of his alleged espionage activities. He is detained in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of spying.

Whelan's family has said he was visiting Moscow for the wedding of a retired marine and is innocent of the espionage charges against him.

"We are relieved and very pleased to know that staff of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have been given consular access to Paul and confirmed that he is safe," his brother, David Whelan, said in an emailed statement on Friday. "Our focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well treated, has a good lawyer, and is coming home."

Asked if other Britons in Russia should be concerned about their safety in Russia, Hunt replied, "This is something that is under active consideration and we're constantly reviewing our travel advice in all parts of the world.

"If we see the need to make a change, then we'll make it."

Russian retaliation?

Whelan's arrest comes as U.S.-Russian ties are severely strained, in part over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

 A Russian national, Maria Butina, admitted last month to U.S. prosecutors that she had tried to infiltrate American conservative groups as an agent for Moscow. Butina pleaded guilty on Dec. 13 to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.

David Hoffman, a former CIA Moscow station chief, said it was "possible, even likely," that Russia had detained Whelan to set up an exchange for Butina.

Dmitry Novikov, a first deputy head of the international affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, commenting on a possible swap, said Russian intelligence first needed to finish their investigations.

Whelan's British citizenship also introduces a new political dimension — relations between London and Moscow have been toxic since the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March last year.

Britain alleges Skripal was poisoned by Russian intelligence agents posing as tourists, while Russia denies any involvement.

Whelan currently lives in Novi, Mich., where he is the director of global security at BorgWarner, a U.S. auto parts maker based in Michigan.

The company said Whelan was "responsible for overseeing security at our facilities in Auburn Hills, Mich., and at other company locations around the world." BorgWarner's website lists no facilities in Russia.

Whelan, centre, was formally discharged from the U.S. military in 2008, and now works as a the director of global security for BorgWarner, a U.S. auto parts maker based in Michigan. (Submitted by David Whelan)

Whelan's brother said the ex-marine had previously worked in security and investigations for the global staffing firm Kelly Services, which is headquartered in Michigan and has operations in Russia.

Court records provided by the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters show that Whelan had been accused of attempting to steal more than $ 10,000 US while serving as an administrative clerk in Iraq in 2006. The records show he was also accused of using a false Social Security number on a government computer system and using a false account on the system to grade his own examinations.

Whalen was reduced in rank from staff sergeant to corporal and given a bad-conduct discharge in 2008 from the military.

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Victoria woman claims she became pregnant before being warned about recalled birth control pills

Taylor MacKinnon says she never imagined she'd be pregnant at 23 years old.  She says she has always wanted children but assumed that would come when her and her partner were ready and settled in their careers.

Instead, she says she's found herself with an unplanned pregnancy and the Victoria woman is blaming one of the country's largest pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer Canada manufactures Alesse, which was MacKinnon's birth control of choice for four years.

"Becoming pregnant while taking Alesse has impacted my life and my partner's life, as I am now less than a year out of school with a large student loan, and he is only just completing university this spring," said MacKinnon.

On Dec.1, 2017, Health Canada issued a recall on Alesse 21 and Alesse 28 birth control pills. It said certain affected packages may contain broken or smaller than normal pills which could reduce the effectiveness.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals temporarily stopped production of Alesse and Triphasil birth control pills.

The notice of civil claim says MacKinnon refilled her prescription in October and got a call from her pharmacy after the recall notice was issued.  About a week and a half later, she discovered she was pregnant and that it happened near the end of November.

"It is just kind of scary, I might have not taken those pills had I known sooner," said MacKinnon.

Lawsuit claims negligence

The proposed lawsuit, filed by Rice Harbut Elliott LLP, claims Pfizer Canada was negligent and fell short of ensuring Alesse 21 and Alesse 28 were manufactured to product standards. It also accuses the company of failing to implement a timely recall once the risks of its reduced effectiveness were known to them.

"Birth control affords women reproductive independence and security over their own body. Women relied on Pfizer to deliver birth control to them, that they paid for, that wasn't effective," said John Rice, one of the lawyers representing MacKinnon.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and the proposed lawsuit still needs to be certified as a class action by a judge. MacKinnon is seeking damages, including loss of both past and prospective income, cost of future care and medical and out-of-pocket expenses.

This photo of the Alesse 28 blister pack shows a broken pill, circled in red. (Health Canada)

If the lawsuit is certified as a class action, Rice Harbut Elliott LLP believes there will be others in Canada who would join it.

In the meantime, MacKinnon and her partner have chosen to keep their child. They say despite the challenges the decision may pose financially, the pair is looking forward to welcoming their new baby girl in August.

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'Do not eat': Teens warned against taking 'Tide pod challenge'

It’s a warning you wouldn’t think anyone other than a small child would need, but it turns out toddlers aren’t the only ones at risk of picking up and eating detergent pods.

Some parents need to worry about their teens, too, because of a recent and dangerous trend on social media, in which young people film themselves taking the “Tide pod challenge” — putting the pods in their mouths and biting, releasing the liquid inside.

About 40 teens in the U.S. have been treated so far this year after ingesting the liquid detergent in pods, poison control centres say.

The detergent is poisonous, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Ingestion can cause vomiting. Children who take it into their lungs can suffer from long-term breathing difficulties, health experts say. 

Tide’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, said in a statement it is “deeply concerned about… intentional and improper use of liquid laundry pacs.”

The company has also collaborated with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to put the word out, via Tide’s Twitter feed, that the pods are only designed to clean clothes.

In the video, the NFL player repeatedly answers “no” to questions about eating the pods.

“What the heck is going on people?” he says. “Use Tide pods for washing, not eating. Do not eat.”

After the brightly coloured pods were launched in 2012, poison control centres warned parents to keep them away from young children, who might think they’re candy.

Media reports said dozens of calls to poison control centres in Canada that year were linked to the detergent pods.

The journal Pediatrics reported in 2016 that thousands of U.S. children younger than six were exposed to either laundry detergent packets or dishwasher detergent in 2013 and 2014, most of them through ingestion.

Tide pod challenge

The detergent in the pods is poisonous. Ingestion can cause diarrhoea, coughing spells and vomiting. (YouTube)

The journal said there were two deaths, both associated with laundry detergent packets.

Health experts say if ingested, the liquid inside the pods can cause diarrhoea, coughing spells and vomiting. Children who aspirate it into their lungs can suffer from long-term breathing difficulties.

The pods also contain a chemical known as 1,4-dioxane, a solvent that can cause eye and nose irritation, and kidney problems.

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CBC | Health News

Houston was warned it was a 'sitting duck' for major flood

When presented with sweeping evidence in 2016 that Houston was a “sitting duck” for the next big hurricane, the former head of the Harris County Flood Control District dismissed the report, saying scientists “have an agenda” and that “their agenda to protect the environment overrides common sense.”

Now, 39 people are dead, more than 44,000 homes are destroyed or heavily damaged and about 325,000 residents have sought federal emergency aid as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

The scientist who raised the alarm a year ago watched the waters rise and eventually force him out of his own flooded house.

“It’s an emotional issue, because all of our warnings from our research projects have come to fruition,” said Sam Brody, a marine scientist at Texas A&M University. He has studied flooding for 15 years and is one of the authors of Rising Waters: Causes and consequences of flooding in the United States. 

Battle between concrete and water

Brody’s research found that decades of unchecked development in and around Houston had left the water with nowhere to go.


Houses are seen submerged in flood waters in northwest Houston. (Adrees Latif/Reuters )

Houston was founded on a swamp in the 1830s. The city is built low and flat along coastal bayous, and has always struggled with flooding.

But there was a natural buffer that kept the worst at bay: Prairie grasslands, which absorbed water in almost supernatural quantities. The problem is Houston has spent decades paving over those grasslands and building strip malls.

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S. and home to NASA and the Johnson Space Center  This is the city that put a man on the moon, but many now describe it as a concrete island floating on top of a swamp.

City officials built a series of concrete culverts they said would divert the water.

“A lot of officials think you can engineer your way out of that problem and fight concrete with concrete,” said Kiah Collier, a reporter with The Texas Tribune. She was one of the reporters behind the Peabody Award-winning series Hell and High Water, which warned that water would win the fight against concrete.


Tattered flags fly over a pile of water-soaked items as people clean up in a flood- ravaged neighborhood in Houston. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

Reporting this week from a neighbourhood devastated by flood waters, Collier told CBC Radio’s Day 6 that officials never took the report seriously.

“They were either flippant or frustrated,” said Collier.

Now, she’s watching as the predictions she reported on come true. Collier can’t help but think back to the apathy of city officials who were warned this was coming, but did nothing.

“Seeing the human side of it, the human impact is really emotionally jarring,” she said.

The economic impact will be jarring for the entire country. By some estimates, this disaster will cost $ 190 billion. That would make it the costliest disaster in U.S. history, surpassing the costs of both hurricanes Katrina and Sandy ($ 123 billion and $ 60 billion, respectively).

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CBC | World News