Tag Archives: amid

Myanmar authorities arrest country’s best-known comedian amid ongoing crackdown

Authorities in Myanmar arrested the country’s best-known comedian on Tuesday as they continue to crack down on people they accuse of helping incite nationwide protests against February’s military coup.

The comedian Zarganar was taken from his home in Yangon by police and soldiers who arrived in two army vehicles, fellow comedian Ngepyawkyaw said on his Facebook page. Zarganar, 60, is a sharp-tongued satirist who has been in and out of prison since he was active in a failed 1988 popular uprising against a previous military dictatorship. He is also well known for his social work, especially arranging assistance for victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

In the past week, Myanmar’s ruling junta has issued arrest warrants for about 100 people active in the fields of literature, film, theatre arts, music and journalism on charges of spreading information that undermines the stability of the country and the rule of law. It was not immediately clear what Zarganar, whose real name is Maung Thura, has been charged with.

Many ordinary protesters and activists are also being arrested every day, according to numerous reports on social media.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, security forces used stun grenades and fired guns Tuesday to break up a march by medical workers who have defiantly continued to protest almost every day against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The army’s takeover set back Myanmar’s gradual return to democracy after five decades of military rule.


Anti-coup protesters throw red paint on a street during a demonstration in Yangon. Threats of lethal violence and arrests of protesters have failed to suppress daily protests across the country. (The Associated Press)

A participant who asked to remain anonymous for his own safety told The Associated Press that doctors, nurses and medical students were attacked as they gathered at about 5 a.m. local time by security forces who also used cars to run into protesters on motorbikes. The online news site The Irrawaddy reported that four doctors were arrested.

At least 570 protesters and bystanders, including 47 children, have been killed in the crackdown since the takeover, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors casualties and arrests. The group says 2,728 people, including Suu Kyi, are in detention.

WATCH | Concerns growing that Myanmar unrest could erupt into civil war:

Two months after the military coup in Myanmar and the protests that followed, more than 500 people are dead and some are concerned the situation could deteriorate into civil war. 2:00

Boycott of New Year celebration in the works

United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said UN officials in Myanmar are “deeply concerned” about the impact of the continuing violence on the country’s health system, pointing to at least 28 attacks against hospitals and health personnel since Feb. 1.

And they are also concerned about violence against the education system, pointing to seven attacks against schools and school personnel since the coup, he said.

“Health volunteers are attacked, and attacks against ambulances are preventing life-saving help reaching civilians wounded by security forces,” Dujarric said.

Activists have begun organizing a boycott of next week’s official celebration of Thingyan, the country’s traditional New Year, usually a time for family reunions and merry-making.

In leaflets and social media posts, they are imploring people not to hold any Thingyan celebrations, saying it would be disrespectful to “fallen martyrs” to enjoy the festival.


Anti-coup protesters hold signs reading ‘Rain Strike’ as they use umbrellas during a drizzle while participating in a demonstration in Yangon. (The Associated Press)

The leaders of Brunei and Malaysia announced Monday that leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet to discuss the situation in Myanmar.

No date was given in the announcement, issued during a visit to Brunei by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. He and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said they “expressed serious concern on the ongoing crisis in Myanmar and the rising number of fatalities.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo had proposed a summit on Myanmar last month.

There was no word on whether the ASEAN leaders would participate in person or by video, or if Myanmar, one of the group’s 10 members, would attend.

WATCH | What will it take to end the violence in Myanmar?

Maung Zarni, the founder of Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia, says the international community cannot depend on the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the crisis in Myanmar because of China’s and Russia’s respective interests in the country. 1:21

Military offensives in border regions

Myanmar’s junta also has been battling in some border areas where ethnic minority groups maintain their own armed forces.

Several major groups, most notably the Karen and the Kachin, have expressed solidarity with the anti-coup movement and vowed to protect protesters in the territory they control.

The Kachin, located in the country’s north, have engaged in combat with government forces, but the Karen in the east have borne the brunt of the junta’s military assaults.

The area where the Karen National Union holds sway has been subject to air attacks by the Myanmar military from March 27 through Monday, said David Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization that has for many years provided medical assistance to Karen villagers. Burma is another name for Myanmar.

Eubank said his group has verified that 14 civilians died and more than 40 were wounded in the air strikes. He said Tuesday that Myanmar’s military is mounting a ground offensive into Karen territory, driving villagers from their homes and increasing the number of displaced people in the area to more than 20,000, many of whom have to hide in caves or the jungle and are in desperate need of food and other necessities.

“The situation now seems, from our perspective, to be all-out war to the finish,” Eubank wrote Monday in an emailed message.

“Unless there is a miracle, the Burma Army will not hold back in their attempt to crush the Karen and any other ethnic group that stands against them, just as they have not held back killing their own Burman people in the cities and plains of Burma.”

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CBC | World News

Jordan’s Prince Hamzah says he’s under house arrest amid security crackdown

The half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah said Saturday he has been placed under house arrest by Jordanian authorities and accused the country’s leadership of corruption and incompetence.

In a videotaped statement leaked to the British Broadcasting Corp., Prince Hamzah bin Hussein said he was visited early Saturday by the country’s military chief and told “I was not allowed to go out, to communicate with people or to meet with them.”

He said his security detail was removed, and his phone and internet service had been cut. He said he was speaking over satellite internet, but expected that service to be cut as well. The BBC says it received the statement from Hamzah’s lawyer.

In the statement, Hamzah said he had been informed he was being punished for taking in part in meetings in which the king had been criticized, though he himself was not accused of being a direct critic.

He said he told the army chief: “I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse by the year. I am not responsible for the lack of faith that people have in their institutions. They are responsible.”

General denies arrest

The country’s top general had earlier denied that Hamzah — a former crown prince stripped of the title in 2004 — was arrested or under house arrest, even as authorities announced the arrests of former senior officials close to the ruling monarchy.

Hamzah was asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to target Jordan’s security and stability,” said Gen. Yousef Huneiti, the army chief of staff.

He said an investigation was ongoing and its results would be made public “in a transparent and clear form.”

“No one is above the law and Jordan’s security and stability are above all,” he told the official Petra news agency.

Petra had earlier reported that two senior officials who formerly worked for the palace, along with other suspects, had been arrested for “security reasons,” without providing further details.

The Petra report said Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, were detained. Awadallah, also previously served as planning minister and finance minister and has private business interests throughout the Gulf region.

The agency did not provide further details or name the others who were arrested.

King has ‘our full support,’ says U.S.

“We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

Saudi Arabia’s official news agency said the kingdom “confirmed its full support to Jordan and its king and crown prince in all decisions and procedures to maintain security and stability and defuse any attempt to affect them.”

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the 1999 death of of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for close to a half-century. The king has cultivated close relations with U.S. and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the Islamic State group. The country borders Israel, the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The country, with a population of around 10 million, also hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries maintain close security ties, but relations have otherwise been tense in recent years, largely due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship.

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king has long been a matter of concern, particularly during the Trump administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by slashing funding for Palestinian refugees.

In early 2018, as then-President Donald Trump was threatening to cut aid to countries that did not support U.S. policies, the administration boosted assistance to Jordan by more than $ 1 billion over five years.

Hamzah stripped of crown prince title

Abdullah stripped his half-brother Hamzah of his title as crown prince in 2004, saying he had decided to “free” him from the “constraints of the position” in order to allow him to take on other responsibilities. The move was seen at the time as part of Abdullah’s consolidation of power five years after the succession.

The current crown prince is Abdullah’s oldest son, Hussein, who is 26.

Jordan’s ruling family traces its lineage back to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Abdullah had chosen Hamzah as his crown prince hours after their father died of cancer in February 1999. The designation was out of respect for King Hussein, who was known to have favoured Hamzah the most among his 11 children from four marriages.

Abdullah and Hamzah have not displayed any open rivalry over the years.

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CBC | World News

Egypt parades royal mummies amid move to new museum

Egypt held a gala parade on Saturday celebrating the transport of 22 of its prized royal mummies from central Cairo to their new resting place in a massive new museum further south in the capital.

The ceremony, designed to showcase the country’s rich heritage, snaked along the Nile corniche from the Egyptian Museum overlooking Tahrir Square, to the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in the Fustat neighborhood, where Egypt’s first Islamic capital was located.

The mummies were being transported in climate-controlled cases loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and pharaonic design for the hour-long journey from their previous home in the older, Egyptian Museum. The vehicles were designed to appear like the ancient boats used to carry deceased pharaohs to their tombs.

Most of the mummies belong to the ancient New Kingdom, which ruled Egypt between 1539 B.C. to 1075 B.C., according to the ministry of antiquities.

They include Ramses II, one of the country’s most famous pharaohs, and Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only woman Pharaoh — who wore a false beard to overcome tradition requiring women to play only secondary roles in the royal hierarchy.


A mummy is seen in a video screened during a ceremony of a transfer of Royal mummies from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat. (Host Broadcaster/Reuters TV via Reuters)

The mummies — 18 pharaohs and four other royals — were originally buried around 3,000 years ago in secret tombs in the Valley of Kings and the nearby Deir el-Bahri site. Both areas are near the southern city of Luxor. The tombs were first excavated in the 19th century.

After excavation, the mummies were taken to Cairo by boats that sailed the Nile. Some were showcased in glass cases, while others were stored. The remains of Ramses II were taken to Paris in 1976 for intensive restoration work by French scientists.

The made-for-TV parade was part of Egypt’s efforts to attract foreign tourists by publicizing its ancient artifacts. The tourism industry has been reeling from political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

“This parade is a unique global event that will not be repeated,” declared Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany.

Security is tight in the capital, with authorities closing off major streets and intersections all along the route for the slow-moving vehicles. Guards on horses and Egyptian celebrities and signers followed the motorcade.


The made-for-TV parade was part of Egypt’s efforts to attract foreign tourists by publicizing its ancient artifacts. (The Associated Press)

“Again, Egypt dazzles the world with an unrivalled event,” said movie star Hussein Fahmy in an official promotional video.

The event started in the late afternoon and was broadcast live on the country’s state-run television and other satellite stations. The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry also live-streamed it on social media platforms.

The “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade” circled Tahrir square, where authorities officially unveiled an obelisk and four sphinxes to now decorate Cairo’s most famous square.


The ‘Pharaohs’ Golden Parade’ circled Tahrir square, where authorities officially unveiled an obelisk and four sphinxes to now decorate Cairo’s most famous square. (The Associated Press)

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who will welcome the mummies at the new museum, tweeted: “This majestic scene is a new evidence of the greatness of this people, the guarding of this unique civilization that extends into the depths of history.”

Once at the new museum, 20 of the mummies will be displayed, while the remaining two will be stored, according to the ministry.

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Racial trauma counsellors in B.C. see surge in patients amid ongoing anti-Asian hate

Ever since the Atlanta spa shootings on March 16 that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, Angela Leong stopped walking to and from work because she was too scared to be out in public.

“Quite frankly, I’m scared and I don’t want to work anymore,” Leong said. “I’m not comfortable with walking down the streets, so I started taking Uber exclusively just to go back and forth to my office.”

Leong, a registered clinical counsellor in Vancouver, says some of her Asian Canadian clients have been echoing the same fears and have stopped visiting the office after sunset. She said since the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in both in the United States and Canada, she’s seen an increase in patients experiencing racial trauma.

According to a report released in March by the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) Toronto chapter, there were more than 1,000 cases of both verbal and physical attacks against Asians across the country from March 2020 to February 2021. And since the start of the pandemic, Canada had more anti-Asian racism reports per capita than the United States.

In February, Vancouver police said they saw anti-Asian hate crimes jump by more than 700 per cent in 2020 as reports of incidents rose from 12 in 2019 to 98 in 2020.

Linda Lin, a registered clinical counsellor who focuses on racial identity and trauma, says she’s also seen a spike in people who are seeking mental health support.

“I noticed a tenfold increase in my caseload,” said Lin. “They are clients who are coming to talk about … past experiences of racialized verbal abuse or incidents linked with COVID-19.”


Racial trauma therapist Linda Lin said she also remembers the challenges of growing up with a different culture in a predominately white neighbourhood. (Submitted by Linda Lin)

She said racial trauma can stem from feelings of being marginalized while growing up in Canada or from feeling discriminated against because of ethnicity or race.

Leong said in the past two weeks, 66 to 75 per cent of her clients were from the Asian community, whereas just eight weeks before the shooting in Atlanta, only 35 to 52 per cent of her clients were Asian. 

“My patients have been telling me … there has always been aggressive behaviour as a result of their race or ethnicity,” she said.

Triggering events

Co-founder of the Asian Canadian Women’s Alliance and former journalist Jan Wong said the recent increase in anti-Asian hate is bringing back memories of her own experience of racism, which triggered a severe clinical depression.

In 2006, she said she received an onslaught of racist messages and attacks against her family’s Chinese restaurant after a story she published in the local paper.

“I noticed people in Quebec started … saying that we were serving cat and dog and rats and that we were dirty,” Wong told Canada Tonight host Ginella Massa.

“In fact the restaurant had to close.”


Jan Wong says hearing about the recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes is bringing back memories of the racist attacks she and her family experienced in 2006. (Submitted by Jan Wong)

She said hearing about the frequent racist attacks against members of the Asian community is having a negative impact on her.

“I have raised cortisone levels because of this, and if you have chronically raised cortisone, you can end up in depression,” Wong said. “It makes me really angry.”

Need for education

Rage and anger are common signs of racial trauma, according to Lin, as individuals who have been victims of racial abuse and violence often feel silenced and invalidated.

“I’m hearing stories of discrimination … and people are hoping to be seen and heard and hoping to be respected,” Lin said. “I’m also noticing people trying to protest not just for their own story of racial trauma but for their parents and their community as well.”

Queenie Choo, CEO of United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society (S.U.C.C.E.S.S.), says she’s not surprised to hear that there has been an increase in Asian Canadians seeking mental health support.

She said in January 2021, the organization received over 400 calls through its help line, which provides counselling services in Mandarin and Cantonese.


S.U.C.C.E.S.S. CEO Queenie Choo says that in January 2021, the organization received over 400 calls through its help line. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

“People feel that they are in such a vulnerable situation where they could be subject to attacks, whether that’s physical, mental or emotional … and I think that is all very negative to people’s mental health,” Choo said.

What the government is doing

When asked about federal efforts to combat anti-Asian racism, the Canadian Heritage department said in an emailed statement that the government set up an anti-racism secretariat in March 2020 and is “engaging on a regular basis with pan-Asian networks of community organizations” to discuss how it can be more effective in countering anti-Asian racism.

As part of a four-year anti-racism strategy announced in 2019, it has committed $ 15 million to 85 projects to combat racism and discrimination, it said, including anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

It has also created a Centre on Diversity and Inclusion at the Treasury Board secretariat and invested in more disaggregated data, the statement said.  

The statement also said the government is redoubling its efforts when it comes to:

  • Taking action on online hate.
  • Advancing economic empowerment opportunities for specific communities.
  • Building a whole-of-federal-government approach on better collection of disaggregated data.
  • Implementing an action plan to increase diverse representation in hiring, appointments and leadership development within the public service.

“There is more work to do,” the statement said. “However, our government will continue to condemn all forms of racism and take concrete steps to confront anti-Asian racism and discrimination in all its forms.” 

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CBC | Health News

NBA’s 1st all-female broadcast at helm as Raptors finally win amid trade rumours

Midway through Kyle Lowry’s marathon 23-minute post-game Zoom session with the media, he took a FaceTime call from Drake.

If Wednesday was indeed Lowry’s last appearance as a Toronto Raptor, it’ll go down as a game with a little bit of everything.

Toronto’s six-time all-star had nine assists, eight points and five rebounds, and was a career-high plus-42 on the night, and the Raptors finally snapped their ugly nine-game losing skid with an emphatic 135-111 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

“It was kinda weird tonight not knowing what the next step would be, just with understanding there are things that could possibly be done [Thursday] … but it was great to get a win,” said Lowry.

WATCH | Raptors rout Nuggets to snap skid:

Toronto ends their 9-game losing streak with a 135-111 win over Denver, sets franchise record with 24 3-pointers. 1:18

On the eve of the NBA trade deadline, the six-time all-star plus Norman Powell have been front and centre of numerous trade rumours. In Lowry, the Raptors would lose the player coach Nick Nurse said “plays harder than anybody I’ve seen. He’ll go down as the greatest Raptor ever, to date.”

Asked why he’s made hard work the trademark of his game, Lowry said: “You never know when the opportunity is gonna be your last time to play, right? You go on that floor, you never know when’s the last time you’ll play the game that you love and you’ve given your all to, right?

“I’m not the tallest, I’m not the most athletic and I’m not the fanciest but I play hard and it’s got me a long way, by playing hard,” said Lowry, wearing a white T-shirt with a red heart.

Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 27 points, while OG Anunoby had 23, Powell added 22, and Fred VanVleet chipped in with 19 for Toronto (18-26).

Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., and Nikola Jokic had 20 points apiece for the Nuggets (26-18).

The Raptors built a 24-point first-half lead on sizzling shooting and better defensive hustle than they’d shown in awhile. They led 98-81 with one quarter to play.

A Lowry deep three-pointer, and three baskets from distance from Paul Watson, highlighted a 21-6 Raptors run in the fourth that had Toronto up by 29 points. Denver coach Michael Malone went deep into his bench soon after.

Lowry headed to the bench with 5:43 to play, and was greeted with hugs from teammates.

“We have been through a lot of things together and you want to keep that, you want to have that,” Siakam said. “But I think that goes beyond basketball. Again, a lot of memories.”

His plus-42 was second in franchise history to Mark Jackson’s plus-46 in 2000.


One thing missing was a Toronto crowd, since the Raptors are playing home games this season at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.

“It’d be nice but he wouldn’t know anyway, right, it’s not like they can give a final standing ovation to anybody because nobody knows what’s going on [at the trade deadline],” Nurse said. “One thing is pretty much sure, these guys have a place in Raptors fans’ hearts or whatever.

“So if they do move and they come back some time there’ll be a time to give him that round of applause, hopefully. Jeez, I hope so. I want to get back home and play a home game in a full sold-out arena in Toronto, sounds pretty good right now.”

Lowry opened his post-game media session by heaping praise on the all-female broadcast. All five broadcast positions were filled by women for the first time in NBA history.

“I heard it was unbelievable,” Lowry said. “Kayla, Kate, Amy, Meghan and Kia, I heard you did a great job. So shoutout to those beautiful ladies. It’s a huge step in our league and in our organization”

WATCH | NBA’s 1st all-women broadcast team on call for Raptors vs. Nuggets:

Play-by-play announcer Meghan McPeak and WNBA player Kia Nurse working as a colour analyst make the call as Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., scores an impressive basket for Denver in a game against Toronto. 0:31

Meghan McPeak did the play-by-play, while Kia Nurse of the Canada’s national team and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, provided analysis. Kayla Grey was the sideline reporter while Kate Beirness and Raptors 905 analyst Amy Audibert were the in-studio hosts.

The Raptors began the night mired in their longest losing streak in a decade and dogged by mishaps, including a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined Siakam, Anunoby and VanVleet for nearly three weeks.

‘Losing ain’t fun’

Siakam’s frustration boiled over after Nurse sat him for the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Cleveland. The Raptors disputed a report Siakam was fined $ 50,000 US for his angry outburst, but Nurse said the Raptors’ front office is dealing with his discipline.

“I just felt like losing ain’t fun,” Siakam said. “You lose nine games in a row I guarantee you that, if you are a team that is serious about winning, it’s not going to be fun, there’s not going to be a lot of joking around. It’s going to be tough. … That’s what I have say. We want to win and losing ain’t fun.”

They looked intent on ending that streak from the opening whistle Wednesday, connecting on their first five three-pointers of the game. They had seven in the opening quarter to lead 38-30 heading into the second.

Anunoby led the way with 13 points in the second as the Raptors built a 24-point lead. Toronto took a 72-54 lead into the halftime break.

The night also provided Nurse a close-up look at Nuggets guard Murray, who he hopes to coach as part of the Canadian team this summer. Canada must win a last-chance qualifying tournament to earn an Olympic berth.

“[Murray] has been really positive and proactive even about saying how badly he wants to play for Canada,” Nurse said. “He’s really smart. He’s found a couple things he’s doing when teams are doing some certain things to him that he’ll shift into another gear. Again, he’s smart, he’s intelligent. I’ve been impressed with the kind of quick learning-curve growth that he’s made to keep giving himself opportunities.”

The game was the first of a three-game homestand. The Raptors, who’ve played more road games than any other team in the league, play just five games on the road in their next 18.

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Canada hesitates to update guidance on AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine amid potential link to blood clots

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Scientists in Europe have reportedly found a link between the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine and extremely rare but potentially fatal blood clots, but Canadian public health officials have so far provided no update on guidance for the shot.

News broke on Friday that researchers in Germany and Norway said they had found a mechanism that could cause the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to create the blood clots in very rare circumstances, in addition to identifying a possible treatment for it.

The finding comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) investigated 25 cases of the rare blood clots out of about 20 million AstraZeneca shots given and concluded on Thursday that the benefits from the vaccine far outweigh its possible risks, although a definitive link could not be ruled out.

The EMA said there was no increased risk from blood clots and that because the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is effective in preventing COVID-19, which itself causes blood clots, the shot could actually reduce the risk of them overall.

But not all blood clots are the same, and 18 of the cases in Europe were of an extremely rare type called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) — where veins that drain blood from the brain are obstructed and can potentially cause fatal bleeding.

Most of the incidents occurred within 14 days of receiving the AstraZeneca shot, and the majority were in women under the age of 55. It’s worth noting that this type of blood clot is much more common in women, particularly during and after pregnancy and while on birth control.

WATCH | Tam says benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh risks:

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the rare risks. 1:53

Three of the seven patients in Germany who were recently vaccinated with the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot that had this rare brain blood clot have died.

In its investigative document, the EMA said it would expect to see just 1.35 cases of CVST in the time period it looked at — but instead its researchers saw 12.

Germany and Italy resumed vaccinations with the shot on Friday, but France opted to vaccinate only those over 55 with the AstraZeneca vaccine after discovering three cases of CVST. Denmark, Sweden and Norway decided to hold off on using the vaccine until at least next week, citing the need for more time to investigate.

Findings ‘need to be investigated’

“You cannot brush adverse effects under the rug. They always need to be investigated, and I think we have to look at this in a careful and critical manner,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force.

“We don’t have all the information yet and we’ll learn more about this — and I imagine we’ll see some updated guidance on who should get this vaccine and perhaps who shouldn’t be getting this vaccine.”

Health Canada released a statement on Thursday saying the benefits of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine outweighed the risks and that the vaccine does not increase the “overall risk of blood clots,” but it provided no update on Friday when pressed for more comment on the evolving situation.

“As the vaccine rollout continues in Canada, Health Canada will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely,” the statement read.

“Health Canada will examine and assess any new safety concerns, and should a safety signal be confirmed, the department will take appropriate action.”

Researchers in Norway reported identifying the mechanism early Friday, saying it was due to a “powerful immune response” from the vaccine.


The AstraZeneca vaccine is prepared at the local vaccination centre in Hagen, Germany. Germany and Italy resumed vaccinations with the shot on Friday, the day after the European Medicines Agency found there was no increased risk of blood clots from the vaccine. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

German researchers corroborated that finding, adding they had found a typical intravenous immunoglobulin treatment that can be offered to patients in hospitals if this rare type of blood clot occurs, but they said it wouldn’t work as a preventive measure.

“Of course you can’t completely undo a complication,” Dr. Andreas Greinacher, a professor of transfusion medicine at the Greifswald University Clinic, said during a news conference in Germany.

“But at least now we can offer the right treatment to be able to help as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible.”

Potential blood clot link could alter rollout in Canada

The potential link could have massive implications on the rollout of the vaccine in Canada and other countries, after use of the shot was halted in parts of Europe over safety concerns in connection with the adverse events last week.

Health officials now face the unenviable task of either adjusting the rollout or trying to restore confidence in the shot, at a time when a variant-driven third wave is unfolding and many vulnerable Canadians are vastly underprotected from COVID-19.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended earlier this month that Canadians over 65 not receive the shot, despite emerging evidence from around the world demonstrating its ability to prevent severe COVID-19 in older adults.

But that guidance changed on Tuesday after more real-world data on the vaccine’s effectiveness was reviewed by NACI, and CBC News broke the story revealing documents on the federal government’s plans to allow those 65 and older to receive it.

Experts say that while the guidelines for the vaccine could further change and it may not be recommended for certain age groups in the future, the protection against COVID-19 provided by the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot vastly outweighs the risk of rare adverse events.

That being said, we still don’t have all of the answers, and Canadians need to be aware of potential risks moving forward — however small they may be.

Medical experts in Canada divided over findings

Dr. Michael Hill, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, said on Friday that while the finding out of Europe is interesting, he remains skeptical of the potential link.

“For now, the case prevalence is such that it could still be a coincidence,” he said. “We just do not know.”

Hill said that as new data emerges, new questions will arise until there is enough evidence to meet the criteria to either confirm or deny a causal link to the vaccine.

WATCH | WHO finds AstraZeneca vaccine safe and effective:

The World Organization’s advisory committee on vaccine saftey says the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks and the shot saves lives. 1:09

“The data will evolve further over time,” he said. “Meanwhile, a very large set of randomized trial data has shown no increased major adverse events with the AstraZeneca vaccine compared to placebo.”

Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said German data offered a “compelling picture” that the rare blood clots were potentially linked to the vaccine in rare cases.

“I find myself in disagreement with Health Canada’s guidance on the use of AstraZeneca,” Fisman said.

“I do think that the use of this vaccine should be suspended in Canada until we have more data. At a minimum, I do not think it should be used in women aged 20 to 50 until we know more.”

Fisman said while the messaging around the AstraZeneca shot would be “challenging,” the continued use of the vaccine in the face of the issue that he believes will become “more apparent” as surveillance increases could erode trust in COVID-19 vaccines.

“I appreciate that this is a sunk cost and is politically difficult. I appreciate that vaccines have become a political football,” he said.

“That said, I think suspension of use of [AstraZeneca-Oxford] will create short-term discomfort but is the right thing to do in the longer term.”


In a statement on Thursday, Health Canada said it ‘will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely,’ noting that the benefits of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine outweigh the risks. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said the rare events may signal a causal link with the vaccine but need to be put in context even if they are confirmed.

“If people are foregoing vaccination — AstraZeneca or otherwise — because of fear of some infinitesimally rare adverse effect, they run the risk of dying,” he said.

“I think it’s probably fair to make the claim that the countries in Europe that went against the advice of their regulator and suspended the use — that may cost some of their citizens in those countries their lives.”


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Toronto FC camp remains closed amid 9 cases of COVID-19

Toronto FC’s camp remains closed as the MLS team works with local health authorities on a plan to resume training in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak.

There have been nine positive tests in the TFC camp, according to figures released Friday by the city of Toronto.

“I’ve spoken to everyone on our staff who’s been affected and everyone feels good,” team president Bill Manning said in an interview. “So that’s good news.”

Toronto has not trained since March 3. Manning said the cases involve players and staff.

“We’ve had full confidence in the health and safety protocols,” he said. “Our group has been diligent but, as we’ve seen, almost every team in every league has had to deal with it at one point or another.

“I think it actually reinforces the success of the process because the testing protocols allowed us to identify very quickly and we were able to remove everyone from the situation so that we can get on top of it.”

Dr. Ira Smith, the club’s chief medical officer, has been the point man in working with Toronto Public Health.

“You listen to them and you follow their guidelines and their advice,” said Manning.

Players and staff were initially tested every other day during camp and are now being tested daily as the club looks to put together the consecutive negative tests needed to resume training.

First game set for April 7

There is a clearer view of what lies ahead, however. Manning says the team hopes to leave for Florida the week of March 22 to get in some pre-season scrimmages ahead of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie against Club Leon.

The first leg is April 7 in Mexico. The return leg will be played April 14 at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla., where Orlando City’s USL team used to play.

Toronto, which finished out last season playing out of East Hartford, Conn., has chosen Orlando as its U.S. base for the start of the 2021 campaign. The hope is pandemic-related border restrictions will ease at some point and the team can return to BMO Field, which only hosted four league games last season.

TFC opens the regular season April 17 against CF Montreal at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, where Montreal will be based. Toronto’s “home” opener will be April 24 against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium. The Whitecaps will be based out of Sandy, Utah, to start the season.

Considering vaccination in Florida

Friday marked the one-year anniversary of TFC cancelling training to await word from the MLS after the NBA suspended its season due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak.

The Toronto players were at BMO Field, ready to train for a weekend game against expansion Nashville SC, when the club sent them home. The team did not play again until July 13 at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.

Toronto, which had already played one game at home, only played three more at BMO Field before relocating to East Hartford.

Manning says the three Canadian MLS teams have shared information about vaccines. The trip to Florida might help, given that the state appears to be looking at giving shots to the general public, including tourists, at the end of April, he said.

“If we have the opportunity to get vaccinated, it’s certainly something we’re going to consider,” he added.

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New York governor admits to ‘insensitive’ conduct amid calls for sexual harassment investigation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behaviour with women had been “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.

In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. But he said he had teased people and made jokes about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.

He made the comments after New York Attorney General Letitia James demanded Cuomo grant her the authority to investigate claims he sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him.

Cuomo’s legal counsel said the governor would back a plan to appoint an outside lawyer as a special independent deputy attorney general.

Democrats statewide abandoning Cuomo

Top Democrats statewide appeared to be abandoning Cuomo in large numbers as he tried to retain some say over who would investigate his workplace conduct.

James, a Democrat who at times has been allied with Cuomo but is independently elected, appeared to emerge as a consensus choice to lead a probe.

Over several hours Sunday, she and other leading party officials rejected two proposals by the governor that they said could potentially have limited the independence of the investigation.


New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference in New York City in August 2020. (Kathy Willens/The Associated Press)

Under his first plan, announced Saturday evening, a retired federal judge picked by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his workplace behaviour. In the second proposal, announced Sunday morning in an attempt to appease legislative leaders, Cuomo asked James and the state’s chief appeals court judge, Janet DiFiore, to jointly appoint a lawyer to investigate the claims and issue a public report.

James said neither plan went far enough.

“I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” she said. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”


Many of the biggest names in New York politics lined up quickly behind James.

The state legislature’s two top leaders, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both said they wanted her to handle the investigation. New York’s two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and and Kirsten Gillibrand, both said an independent investigation was essential.

“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power,” Gillibrand said.

2 former aides allege harassment

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ,”There should be an independent review looking into these allegations.” She said that’s something President Joe Biden supports “and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible.”

The calls for an investigation into Cuomo’s workplace behaviour intensified after a second former employee of his administration went public Saturday with claims she had been harassed.

Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair.


Her accusation came days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments about her appearance.

Cuomo, 63, said in a statement Saturday he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25. He has denied Boylan’s allegations.

The furor over the sexual harassment allegations comes amid a new round of criticism over his leadership style and actions his administration took to protect his reputation as an early leader in the nation’s coronavirus pandemic.


Lindsey Boylan attends an event in New York City in June 2019. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Women’s Forum of New York)

Cuomo had won praise as a strong hand at the helm during last spring’s crisis of rising case counts and overflowing morgues. His book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, was published in October.

But in recent weeks his administration was forced to revise its count of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes following criticism that it had undercounted the fatalities to blunt accusations that some of his administration’s policies had made the situation in the homes worse.

James fuelled some of that criticism by issuing a report that raised questions about whether the Cuomo administration had undercounted deaths.


Cuomo was also criticized after a state assembly member went public with a story of being politically threatened by Cuomo over comments he made to a newspaper about the governor’s coronavirus leadership. Cuomo said his comments were being mischaracterized.

Now, his support is eroding faster.

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter Sunday. “There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

A group of more than a dozen Democratic women in the state assembly said in a statement: “The Governor’s proposal to appoint someone who is not independently elected, has no subpoena authority, and no prosecutorial authority is inadequate.”

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Myanmar’s military extends detention of Suu Kyi amid crackdown on anti-coup protesters

Myanmar’s military leaders have extended their detention of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose remand was set to expire Monday and whose freedom is a key demand of the crowds of people continuing to protest this month’s military coup.

Suu Kyi will now be remanded until Feb. 17, when she will likely appear in court by videoconference, according to Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer asked by Suu Kyi’s party to represent her. The Nobel laureate remains under house arrest on a minor charge of possessing unregistered imported walkie-talkies.

Suu Kyi’s extended detention is likely to further inflame tensions between the military, which seized power in a Feb. 1 coup, and the protesters who have taken to the streets of cities across the Southeast Asian nation seeking the return of the government they elected.

Protesters continued to gather across Myanmar on Monday following a night in which authorities cut the country’s internet access and increased the security presence in major cities seeking to curtail demonstrations.

More than 1,000 protesters rallied in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, when at least 10 trucks full of soldiers and police arrived and immediately started firing slingshots at the protesters, according to a photographer who witnessed the events.

The soldiers and police then attacked the protesters with sticks, and police could be seen aiming long guns into the air amid sounds that resembled gunfire. Local media reported that rubber bullets were also fired into the crowd, and that a few people were injured.

Police were also seen pointing guns at the protesters.


A man is detained during a protest in Mandalay against the military coup in Myanmar on Monday. (Reuters)

In the capital, Naypyitaw, protesters gathered outside a police station demanding the release of a group of high school students who were detained while joining in anti-coup activities.

One student who managed to escape told reporters that the pupils — thought to range in age from 13 to 16 — were demonstrating peacefully when a line of riot police suddenly arrived and began arresting them. It wasn’t clear exactly how many students were rounded up, but estimates put the figure at between 20 and 40.

In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, fewer protesters gathered on Monday due to the loss of internet access and reports of military vehicles on the streets. Nevertheless, more than 1,000 anti-coup demonstrators were outside the Central Bank of Myanmar, where there were also military trucks full of soldiers, riot police, water-cannon trucks and armoured personnel carriers.


An anti-coup protester holds a poster with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally outside the Central Bank of Myanmar in Yangon, Myanmar on Monday. (The Associated Press)

Demonstrators carried placards that read “#SupportCDM #SaveMyanmar.” CDM refers to the civil disobedience movement that has seen doctors, engineers and others in Myanmar refuse to work until the military releases elected political leaders and returns the country to civilian rule.

Some protesters posed for photographs in front of military vehicles while holding red signs that said, “Join in CDM.”

Ambassadors call on military to refrain from violence

On Sunday, ambassadors from the United States, Canada and 12 European nations called on Myanmar’s security forces to refrain from violence against those “protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government.”

They condemned the arrests of political leaders and activists as well as the military’s interference with communications.

“We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity,” they said in a joint statement issued late Sunday night. “The world is watching.”


In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, fewer protesters gathered on Monday due to the loss of internet access and reports of military vehicles on the streets. (The Associated Press)

When the military seized power, it detained Suu Kyi and members of her government and prevented recently elected lawmakers from opening a new session of Parliament.

The junta, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, said it stepped in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide. The state election commission refuted that contention, saying there is no evidence to support it.

WATCH | Military tightens grip across Myanmar following coup:

Myanmar’s military government has laid several charges against the country’s democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained in the coup. The charges are seen as a way of keeping her in custody while the military tightens its grip during a state of emergency. 1:59

The military justified its move by citing a clause in the 2008 constitution, implemented during military rule, that says in cases of national emergency, the government’s executive, legislative and judicial powers can be handed to the military commander-in-chief.


Protesters continued to gather across Myanmar on Monday following a night in which authorities cut the country’s internet access and increased the security presence in major cities seeking to curtail demonstrations. (The Associated Press)

It is just one of many parts of the charter that ensured the military could maintain ultimate control over the country it ruled for 50 years following a 1962 coup. The military is allowed to appoint its members to 25 per cent of seats in Parliament and it controls of several key ministries involved in security and defence.

An order on Sunday that appeared to be from the Ministry of Transport and Communications told mobile phone service providers to shut down internet connections from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday. It circulated widely on social media, as did a notice said to be from service provider Oredoo Myanmar containing the same details.

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Myanmar military imposes curfew, bans gatherings amid growing anti-coup protests

Myanmar’s new military rulers on Monday signalled their intention to crack down on opponents of their takeover, issuing decrees that effectively banned peaceful public protests in the country’s two biggest cities.

The restrictions were ordered after police fired water cannons at hundreds of protesters in the capital, Naypyitaw, who were demanding the military hand power back to elected officials. It was just one of many demonstrations around the country.

Rallies and gatherings of more than five people, along with motorized processions, were banned, and an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew was imposed for areas of Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s first- and second-biggest cities, where thousands of people have been demonstrating since Saturday.

Protesters in Yangon rallied Monday at a major downtown intersection raising three-finger salutes that are symbols of resistance and carrying placards saying, “Reject the military coup” and “Justice for Myanmar.”

There were also demonstrations in towns in the north, southeast and east of the country.


A police officer in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, monitors a protest against the military coup. (Reuters)

The decrees enabling the new restrictive measures were issued on a township-by-township basis, and were expected to be extended to other areas as well. They say they were issued in response to people carrying out unlawful actions that harm the rule of law, a reference to the protests.

The growing defiance was striking in a country where past demonstrations have been met with deadly force. That resistance was happening in Naypyitaw, whose population includes many civil servants and their families, spoke to the level of anger among people who had only begun to taste democracy in recent years after five decades of military rule.

“We do not want the military junta,” said Daw Moe, a protester in Yangon. “We never ever wanted this junta. Nobody wants it. All the people are ready to fight them.”

‘Democracy can be destroyed’

The coup came the day newly elected lawmakers were supposed to take their seats in Parliament after November elections. The generals have said that vote was marred by fraud — though the country’s election commission has dismissed that claim.

State media for the first time on Monday made reference to the protests, claiming they were endangering the country’s stability.

“Democracy can be destroyed if there is no discipline,” declared a statement from the Ministry of Information, read on state television station MRTV. “We will have to take legal actions to prevent acts that are violating state stability, public safety and the rule of law.”

However, the military commander who led the coup and is now Myanmar’s leader made no mention of the unrest in a 20-minute televised speech Monday night, his first to the public since the takeover.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing instead repeated the claims about voting fraud that have been the justification for the military’s takeover, allegations that were refuted by the state election commission. He added that his junta would hold new elections as promised in a year and hand over power to the winners, and explained the junta’s intended policies for COVID-19 control and the economy.


People hold up placards depicting three-finger salutes — which are symbols of resistance — a rally in Yangon. (Reuters)

The growing protests recall previous movements in the Southeast Asian country’s long and bloody struggle for democracy. On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters rallied at Yangon’s Sule Pagoda, which was a focal point of demonstrations against military rule during a massive 1988 uprising and again during a 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks. The military used deadly force to end both of those uprisings. Aside from a few officers, soldiers have not been in the streets at protests this past week.

Photos of the standoff in Naypyitaw on Monday showed a vast crowd of protesters hemmed in on several sides by large numbers of police and police vehicles. Officers there trained a water cannon on the crowd, which was gathered near a giant statue of Aung San, who led the country’s 1940s fight for independence from Britain and is the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, the elected leader who was deposed by last week’s takeover.

Suu Kyi — who became an international symbol of the country’s fight for freedom while detained in her home for 15 years and earned the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts — is now back under house arrest.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent watchdog group, says 165 people, mostly politicians, had been detained since the Feb. 1 coup, with just 13 released.

One foreigner has been confirmed held by the authorities, Sean Turnell, an economist at Australia’s Macquarie University who was an adviser to Suu Kyi’s government. He was detained Saturday under unclear circumstances.

A statement from the office of Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said he was being provided with consular support and described him as “a highly regarded adviser, member of the academic community” who should immediately be released.

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