Tag Archives: ‘Changes

Health Canada changes AstraZeneca vaccine label to add information about blood clots

Health Canada is updating the label on the AstraZeneca-Oxford and Covishield COVID-19 vaccines to add information about “very rare reports of blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets,” but says the shot remains safe and that the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risks.

“Health Canada reassures Canadians that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continues to be safe and effective at protecting them against COVID-19 and encourages people to get immunized with any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized in Canada,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday evening. 

It has also issued guidance for health-care professionals and vaccine recipients on the potential symptoms to monitor — including shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling and persistent abdominal pain — or a sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision. 

No reports of clots in Canada 

All of Canada’s current supply of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, which secured separate regulatory approvals from Health Canada.

That version, which is biologically identical to the AstraZeneca shot but manufactured under different conditions, has been branded as Covishield.

WATCH: Recommendations on vaccine not changing, Health Canada says 

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, says federal recommendations on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are not changing at this point in time. 1:40

Health Canada says there have been no reports of clots following administration of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in this country. 

Several European countries suspended administration of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine following reports of blood clots in a small number of patients. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week amended its authorization of the vaccine to say there is no overall increase in the risk of blood clots after getting the vaccine but added a warning that a small number of patients had developed rare blood clots in the brain after getting it.

At the time the EMA couldn’t say if the clots were related to the vaccine. German and Norwegian scientists have since said in a very small number of patients the vaccine is causing an extreme immune response that is leading to the clots. It is a treatable condition, they said.

The EMA reported 18 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, out of about 20 million people who received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Europe, the United Kingdom, and India, and seven cases of another type of clotting disorder related to very low platelet counts.

Health Canada said it is aware that researchers in Europe have indicated that they have identified a possible cause for these very rare events, but says little information is available about the findings. “Health Canada will be reviewing this evidence when available,” it said in the statement. 

Canada has so far received about 500,000 doses of the vaccine and expects to get 1.5 million more as soon as this week from the United States.

Health Canada says minor and temporary side effects are common after all vaccinations, but that people should seek medical attention if they experience any new or worsening symptoms.

The new label will include information about a small number of clots experienced by patients who received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

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Newegg Changes Return Policy to Combat Scammers, Harm Customers

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Online retailers worldwide have been dealing with an unwanted influx of automated purchasing bots since early this fall. These online bots, which originated in sneaker-collecting sites, allow unethical individuals to snap up more of a given product than they would otherwise be able to purchase. Online distributors such as Newegg have no interest in seeing their own products resold on eBay for more money, and so the company has made a change to its refund policy that was intended to hurt botting. Unfortunately, it’s also hit regular customers, too.

Up until now, if you bought a bundle deal on Newegg, you could return part of the bundle. This voided the discounted price you originally received, but it also allowed you to receive a refund for the value of the product minus the value of the applied discount. In other words, if Newegg originally gave you a $ 25 discount on a $ 75 power supply in a GPU + PSU bundle, you’d get $ 50 back if you returned the PSU. The only reason you had to return the entire bundle is if the value of the returned item was smaller than the value of the discount.

Newegg’s old policy versus its new one. Image by Redditor HookEm2013.

Hot Hardware first wrote about this difference, so hat-tip to them for the news. Under the new policy, all items in a bundle must be returned in order for you to receive a refund. Note that you do not need to return all items if you need a replacement for a defective piece of merchandise — this change applies specifically to those seeking refunds.

How Does This Fight Scammers?

Newegg has begun bundling its high-end GPUs as a way of ensuring that actual customers buy them instead of scammers. If you have to buy a PSU / motherboard / CPU alongside a graphics card, it means you have to move two products, not just one. There may not be any particular demand for the second product, it’s annoying to have to deal with the additional inventory, and you have to provide additional packing material and boxes, especially if your bundle came in a single package. None of these deterrents are going to automatically stop scammers, but they make the entire process more uncertain and annoying.

At least, that appears to have been the hope.

It’s not clear how much of Newegg’s stock is being preferentially diverted to RTX bundles instead of card sales, since there was no available inventory for either when I visited. There’s an obvious potential downside to this push, however — if you force people to buy bundles in order to get their hands on a brand-new GPU, and you refuse to allow partial returns, yes, this does constitute a barrier to bots — but it also harms gamers who never wanted a new PSU / motherboard / CPU in the first place, and only took the bundled deal to avoid having to buy a card from a scalping service.

This problem does not seem to have a simple solution without baking some kind of identification / address confirmation into the purchase process, with all of the concerns about personal privacy that it entails. Forcing gamers to buy components they don’t need and can’t return is a lousy way to address the problem. It just so happens to also guarantee Newegg a little extra profit, and while we’re not implying that’s why the company took these steps, we doubt they’re crying over the bonus revenue.

There’s an intrinsic conflict of interest any time a company says “You have to buy X in order to buy Y,” and while bundling is scarcely illegal, it doesn’t engender warm feelings in every case.

Bundles are better than scalping, in that they at least offer some protection against getting fleeced. If I had to pick between paying a random scalper on eBay or Newegg the same amount of money, I’d pick Newegg. The search for a solution to this problem that doesn’t require further invasions of privacy and/or agreeing to pay more money than the manufacturer says you should have to pay goes on.

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Changes to women’s tennis solve one problem but may create another

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Women’s tennis announced big changes — but are they really?

The Women’s Tennis Association just launched a “comprehensive rebrand” of the WTA Tour that includes a new logo, new slogan and, more interestingly, new names for its tournament tiers. So goodbye to confusing designations like Premier Mandatory, Premier 5, Premier and International. Tournaments that fell into those first two tiers are being merged into the new WTA 1,000 category. The old Premier events are now WTA 500, and International is WTA 250.

At first glance, this is a good call. It’s easier for fans to understand numbers than to, say, decipher the difference in quality between a Premier 5 and just plain Premier event. But the new naming system isn’t as airtight as it might look, and it could lead to some unintended consequences for the WTA.

The main reason given for switching to the numbered tiers is that the men’s ATP Tour does it this way and it makes sense to align with them. Sounds good, but the reason an ATP 1,000 event is called that is because the winner earns 1,000 rankings points. Same idea for ATP 500 and ATP 250. But the women’s tour isn’t making corresponding changes to the points awarded at the newly-named events. They’ll stay the same as they are now. So, for example, the winner of the Miami Open (a Premier Mandatory under the old nomenclature) will still earn 1,000 points. And the winner of the Canada-hosted Rogers Cup (formerly a Premier 5) still gets 900. Even though they’re both WTA 1,000 events now. So much for eliminating confusion among fans.

Then there’s a thornier issue: prize money. Equal pay was the core issue for Billie Jean King and the other women who launched the precursor to the WTA Tour 50 years ago. And tennis loves to trumpet the equal purses awarded at several of its events, including all four Grand Slams. By pro-sports standards, that puts tennis on the vanguard of gender equality. So give it credit.

But what’s often ignored is how some other men’s and women’s events that are seemingly on equal footing don’t pay the same. A great example is the Rogers Cup. The men’s and women’s tournaments take place in different cities (alternating between Toronto and Montreal) but they’re played at the same time under the same name. And yet, the last time they were held, in 2019, Rafael Nadal earned $ 1.049 million US for winning the men’s tourney while Bianca Andreescu got only $ 521,530 — half as much — for winning the women’s.

This is where a lot of people say Yeah, but the men’s tournament brings in more revenue from sponsorships, TV rights, etc., than the women’s. This is true for the Rogers Cup and most other events that feature both a men’s and a women’s draw. But it’s not the justification tennis gave. Instead, the devil was in the details of the promise the sport made years ago to pay equal prize money for men’s and women’s tournaments held under the same name — if those tournaments are of equal importance.

That last part is the key. The men’s Rogers Cup is an ATP Tour Masters 1,000 event — so worth 1,000 rankings points to the winner. The women’s Rogers Cup was a WTA Premier 5 event — worth 900 points to the winner. Since it’s not as important in terms of rankings points, it’s OK for the women’s event to pay less than the men’s. This wouldn’t fly at the Grand Slams, which are worth 2,000 points to both the men’s and women’s winners. Nor at Indian Wells, Miami or Madrid, where the winners each get 1,000 points.

Which brings us back to the WTA tournament name changes. Just as the rankings points awarded in the old Premier 5 events aren’t being automatically levelled up to the old Premier Mandatory ones — even though they’re all called WTA 1,000 now — it’s the same with prize money.

This could cause the sport some headaches. Before, whether you agreed with the practice or not, at least tennis could lean on the differently named tiers of men’s and women’s events as an indication (if not a justification) of their varying quality and pay structures. But now that the tiers are named pretty much identically — WTA 1,000 and ATP 1,000 — it might become harder to explain to everyone why the women earn less.

Us trying to figure out the difference between Premier Mandatory and Premier 5. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)


Canadian soccer coaches and media made the easiest call ever. They voted Alphonso Davies the winner of the men’s share of Canada Soccer’s Canadian Players of the Year Award. Davies, who turned 20 last month, had probably the best season ever by a member of the Canadian men’s national team, playing a key role in Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga and Champions League titles and winning the German league’s rookie of the year award for 2019-20. The women’s half of the Canadian Players of the Year Award will be announced tomorrow. Read more about Davies here.

Mikael Kingsbury is hurt. For years, we’ve wondered if anything could stop the greatest moguls skier of all time from continuing to pad his record World Cup victory totals. Turns out, a fractured spine. The Canadian revealed today that he cracked two vertebrae while training for this weekend’s season opener in Finland, which will result in his missing an event for the first time in his World Cup career. Kingsbury is expected to be out four to six weeks, which covers the first three events of the season. Read more about his injury here and watch the moguls opener live Saturday at 9 a.m. ET here.

The Rockets and Wizards swapped problems. John Wall and Russell Westbrook both have contracts that guarantee them $ 80 million US over the next two years, plus a player option of more than $ 45 million for the following year. In this economy? Those payouts would be hard enough to swallow if they were going to LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard. But Wall hasn’t played in nearly two years because of injuries and Westbrook still wants to be treated like an MVP even though he’s four years removed from winning one he probably didn’t deserve. Houston and Washington found a solution, though: swap ’em for each other. So Wall and a lottery-protected first-round pick are heading to the Rockets and Westbrook to the Wizards. Read more here about a deal that would have been a blockbuster three years ago but is now just kind of sad.

And finally…

Beth Harmon > Bobby Fischer?

The Queen’s Gambit is a massive hit for Netflix, and it’s inspiring a lot of people to take up chess. Sales of sets and books are way up since the show came out in late October. On a more anecdotal level, the president of the Calgary Chess Club told CBC’s Jackson Weaver that he hasn’t seen this much interest in the game since Fischer’s heyday in the ’70s.

The fact that the show’s protagonist (and most gifted chess player) is a young woman also seems to be broadening the game’s appeal — perhaps in a way even Fischer never did. But some of the sexism depicted in the 1950s-and-’60s-set story still exists in real life. Canadian chess champion Qiyu Zhou — a Harmonesque figure who’s only 20 and won a Finnish national title at age five — says she receives more criticism than her male counterparts during her popular chess streams on the Twitch platform. But she still sees the beauty and magnetism of a game she calls “an art, a science and a sport, all in one.” Read more here about how The Queen’s Gambit could change the male-dominated chess world here.

New on CBC Sports

Bring It In with Morgan Campbell: If you like to hear smart people with smart angles on the places where sports, culture, business, politics and race collide, check out this show. In the debut episode, Morgan talks with boxing commentator Corey Erdman about how last weekend’s Mike Tyson “comeback” fight was also an infomercial for a short-video app that’s hoping to unseat TikTok — and has links to the Trump administration. Then, basketball broadcaster Meghan McPeak and sports/politics commentator Dave Zirin discuss the value of novelty sporting events, Sarah Fuller’s historic college-football kickoff and more. Watch the show here:

In the pilot episode of Bring It In with Morgan Campbell, panelists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin discuss the history made by Sarah Fuller, debate the need for novelty events in sports and participate in a rapid game of In or Out on this week’s biggest stories. 34:24

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Western Digital Changes Its Reported Drive Speeds to Reflect Reality

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Western Digital has made some changes to how it brands its WD Red Plus hard drive family after taking heat for its decision to mislabel its hard drive speeds earlier this year. At the time, individual customers performed some rather clever acoustic analysis to confirm that the hard drives Western Digital claimed were 5400 RPM drives were actually 7200 RPM drives.

Western Digital protested that this labeling was fine, because “5400 RPM class” isn’t the same as “5400 RPM”, but it ignored the fact that 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM drives typically have different power and thermal requirements, and that products designed explicitly for 5400 RPM products might have trouble with 7200 RPM drives. The idea that communicating honestly about its products is the best way to cultivate and maintain consumer trust doesn’t appear to have occurred to anyone, either.

The company has now announced that it will retire certain WD Red Plus model numbers and launch new ones to replace them. Nothing is changing about the drives themselves; Western Digital is just being honest about the fact that these are 7200 RPM drives instead of 5400 RPM drives. Heise.de reports that the new model numbers are:

8 TByte: WD80EFBX (-68AZZN0) instead of WD80EFAX (-68KNBN0)
10 TByte: WD101EFBX (-68B0AN0) instead of WD101EFAX (-68LDBN0)
12 Tbytes: WD120EFBX (-68B0EN0) instead of WD120EFAX (-68UNTN0)
14 TByte: WD140EFGX (-68B0GN0) instead of WD140EFFX (-68VBXN0)

Heisse reports that WD has also updated its WD Red Pro product sheet to read “7200 RPM” instead of “7200 RPM class.”

The actual WD Red Plus product sheet hasn’t been updated yet, but presumably that’ll happen soon.

Why Did Western Digital Do This in the First Place?

The big question it’d be nice to have an explanation for is why on Earth WD did this at all. When Western Digital introduced performance classes with its Green drives, it did so as a way of hiding the fact that they spun at less than 5400 RPM, not to cleverly imply they had a slower spindle speed than they actually did.

I can imagine a scenario in which it just became easier for WD to run every drive at 7200 RPM. Back when the hard drive market was crippled by extensive flooding in 2011, one of the expected outcomes that came true was the disappearance of smaller SKUs. When companies replaced their damaged equipment, they phased out smaller and older products that had been cost-effective to produce so long as old factory equipment was still in play. Maybe WD decided to standardize all of its production on 7200 RPM motors — but why not just run the same motor at a slower speed? Alternately, why not just advertise that you now ship 7200 RPM drives standard in all product lines as a way of thumbing your nose at the competition?

It’s not strange for a company to sell a component variant that compensates for lower performance in one category with higher performance in another, such as compensating for slower spindle speeds with larger caches, or clocking a CPU with a smaller L2 at a higher frequency to compensate. But why did Western Digital go to such lengths — to the point of programming its hard drives to misreport their own SMART data — to fake the speed of its hard drives? Was it trying to prop up artificial market segmentation because it believed margins would drop if it sold mostly 7200 RPM drives?

The chances that consumers were injured by this misrepresentation are small, but WD has yet to explain its thinking.

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Ontario waited weeks to trigger restrictions while COVID-19 spread. Did changes come too late?

For months, Ryan Imgrund has meticulously tracked the ebbs and flows of coronavirus transmission in Ontario.

New weekly COVID-19 cases per capita. Infections tied to community transmission. The shifts in impacted regions and age groups.

After the Civic Holiday weekend in early August, one rising metric stood out to the biostatistician: The virus’s Rt value — the number of cases linked to every primary infection — went above 1.0 after a summer lull. 

It signalled a shift to exponential growth, where every one person carrying the virus could infect 1.1 more, and so on. 

“That’s when my alarm bells started going off,” said Imgrund, who works at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont..  

As the weeks passed and summer turned to fall, those alarms rang louder and louder. Clinicians, epidemiologists and hospital leaders all started sharing other concerning metrics — including rising demand for testing, spikes in hospital admissions, long-term care outbreaks — and pushed Ontario to take action.

Several hundred people line up on a soccer field in Ottawa to wait for COVID-19 testing on Sept. 15, as urban areas of Ontario saw a surge in new cases. The provincial government on Friday announced a return to earlier restrictions for Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

But it wasn’t until Friday that provincial health officials announced a sweeping rollback to earlier restrictions for the hot zones of Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, including the closing of restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, casinos and other indoor gathering spots.

A bid to curb runaway case growth before yet another holiday weekend, the move came the same day Ontario reported a new record high of more than 900 COVID-19 cases.

So why now? 

Why not take action on Thursday, when critical-care physicians flagged a one-day spike in ICU admissions not seen since early June?

Why not a week ago, when Toronto’s medical officer of health called for indoor dining and fitness centre closures to stop “exponential growth” in infections?

Why not in early October, after the province’s own modelling data projected 1,000 new cases each day?

Why not sometime in September, when cases and hospitalizations were rising while new infections shifted from mostly younger adults to more older, vulnerable Ontarians?

Why not back in August, when the reproductive number Imgrund kept tracking hit the tipping point for case growth — an early signal of trouble to come?

“A couple weeks ago, we didn’t see these numbers,” Premier Doug Ford told reporters on Friday, referring to this week’s record-breaking case growth, which spiked despite lagging testing data and a hefty processing backlog.

“We saw them creep up, creep up, and then, over a day or two — bang — they doubled.”

WATCH | Ontario premier’s changing message on COVID-19:

Just days ago, Premier Doug Ford said the province was “flattening the curve.” Now, cases are hitting record highs and he has different advice for the public. 1:04

Ford said closing businesses wasn’t an easy decision and involved balancing both public health and the economy. He also said not acting would leave the province in “worse shape” down the road.

“But it’s not too late, folks,” the premier said.

Others worry there’s been a dangerous delay.

Cases shifting to older adults

“I think we’re two to four weeks too late,” warned physician epidemiologist Dr. Nitin Mohan, a partner at ETIO Public Health Consultants and an assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont.

“And frankly, even delaying a week we’re going to see unnecessary cases and deaths,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health in Toronto.

That’s because the concerning metrics of today foreshadow worse problems to come, and there’s no going back in time to change the past.

Dr. Nitin Mohan, a partner at ETIO Public Health Consultants and an assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont., says while the new restrictions are a ‘step in the right direction,’ it will take some time before their impact is clear. (Zoom)

According to Imgrund’s data analysis, the number of new cases reported among adults over 60 has tripled over the last month. The finding suggests more vulnerable seniors could soon be facing serious forms of COVID-19 as their illnesses progress, including hundreds of residents — and staff — infected amid outbreaks in long-term care.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients over the last three weeks have also increased 250 per cent, the province revealed on Friday, while the number of intensive care unit beds being occupied is expected to cross the 150-bed threshold within the next 30 days. 

“This will have a direct, negative impact on the ability of some hospitals to provide access to other vital surgeries and procedures,” Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association said following Friday’s announcement.

And while Mohan said the restrictions are a “step in the right direction,” it will take some time before the impact is clear — with many recently infected Ontarians set to become sicker as the days pass.

“We’ve now created a situation in the province where we’re going to have weeks of hardship,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital. “The damage still needs to be mopped up.”

Ontario aiming to avoid full lockdown

To provincial officials, bringing Ontario back to a cleaner state involves curbing case growth enough to not only avoid an overwhelmed health-care system but also a lengthy lockdown.

Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters on Friday that rolling back to earlier restrictions now is a better bet than waiting until the situation “spirals out of control.”

Given that the risk that could still occur, Mohan said officials need to refocus their communication to the public during this next phase of the pandemic, since even with targeted restrictions, the takeaway for Ontarians may remain unclear, and enforcement could be a challenge.

Patrons wearing masks sit on the patio of a Toronto restaurant in June, as the city entered Stage 2 of reopening. Under COVID-19 restrictions announced in Ontario on Friday, indoor dining is prohibited in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, but patios can remain open. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The closures apply to Toronto and Peel but not to the neighbouring regions of Halton and York; the province is pushing residents to avoid non-essential outings and has halted indoor dining in the three hot zones, yet patios can remain open.

“What we should be doing is providing these businesses with additional support to help them close down safely so we can curb the spread of the virus and drive case counts low,” Mohan said. “If we take this sort of half-step approach, then we can’t expect the results we really need to see.”

Ford said the province is investing millions of dollars to help businesses with fixed costs, including property taxes and hydro and gas bills, while the federal government announced targeted aid, including rent relief for some businesses hit by shutdowns.

The question after weeks of alarming metrics and, for many, even more alarming inaction is whether all of the efforts will be enough to bring Ontario back from the edge of disaster.

“Have we missed the opportunity?” Stall said. “I still think we can control this — we can deal with this — but it’s going to delay things.”

How damaging that delay proves to be only time will tell.

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MAID town hall: What the government, experts say about proposed changes to medical assistance in dying law

Whether you support it or are against it, one thing is for certain — medical assistance in dying, or MAID, is a complex, multilayered and deeply personal issue.

Canada’s Parliament passed Bill C-14 in 2016, legalizing assisted dying. Since then, more than 13,000 people have chosen to end their lives that way. 

However, a Quebec Superior Court decision struck down the “reasonably foreseeable death” clause in Bill C-14 as unconstitutional, forcing the government to amend the law earlier this year.

The amended law, known as Bill C-7, was tabled on Feb. 24. The proposed changes address, among other things, concerns around who is eligible for MAID, the role of palliative care, and the role of consent.

A full review was scheduled to begin this summer, but has been delayed due to COVID-19. The pandemic has also had an impact on the delivery of MAID across Canada as some hospitals temporarily restricted services, and personal protective gear (PPE) and physical distancing requirements added a layer of complexity to the procedures.

Canadians across the country still have many questions about who can access medical assistance in dying, and when. After the government tabled Bill C-7 in February, The National co-host Andrew Chang and members of the public put some of those questions and concerns to experts in a CBC town hall as part of an important yet difficult conversation. The expert panellists included:

  • David Lametti, Minister of Justice and the government’s lead on the MAID file
  • Madeline Li, former head of MAID at University Health Network
  • Trudo Lemmens, professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy in the Faculty of Law at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto
  • Susan Desjardins, Dying With Dignity Canada

The National Conversation on MAID was recorded on March 5, 2020, but due to the pandemic it was delayed and aired on The National on July 16 and on CBC News Network on July 19. These are some highlights from the town hall.

Safety checks

The National co-host Andrew Chang (left), and members of the March 5 town hall studio audience posed questions about the amended medical assistance in dying legislation to a panel of experts and officials, including David Lametti, Minister of Justice and the federal government’s lead on the MAID file. (Anand Ram/CBC)

Phyllis Fehr is 60 years old, and a former intensive care nurse.  She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s seven years ago. While the diagnosis was difficult for her to accept initially, she does not let it stop her from living and ending her life her way. 

Fehr asks: “How will the medical system ensure that there are enough safety checks in place that I will indeed receive MAID when I am near death, and not too soon before I am ready?”

Madeline Li believes that advanced directives discussed and drawn up with family members, along with guidance from clinicians, can help ensure that patients’ wishes as to the timing of MAID is clear:

Madeline Li discusses safeguards that are in place around medical assistance in dying. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 0:52

Minister Lametti added that in addition to current safeguards already in Bill C-14, other safeguards are also under consideration.

“There will have to be safeguards that we look at when we do deal with dementia and Alzheimer’s more specifically … we’re always trying to find the right balance between safeguards and a person’s ability to choose.”

Competency clause

Phyllis Fehr. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ron Posno has dementia and is a strong advocate of allowing advance directives for MAID. At present, the law requires a final consent just before MAID is administered — which is a worry for people with dementia, since they lose the ability to do that as their illness worsens.

Posno asks: “Those of us with dementia have so far been left out of the conversation around MAID. Will people with dementia be included in the new amended MAID legislation?”

Minister Lametti says he believes that MAID and dementia is an issue of such complexity that comprehensive further review is needed before a decision of any kind can be made:

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti explains why dementia and cognitive decline patients are not yet allowed access to medical assistance in dying. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 0:56

Trudo Lemmens adds that advanced directives for MAID by dementia patients is globally a hot-button issue. He points out that it is so complicated that, “there is no country in the world except the Netherlands that allows an advanced request for medical aid in dying in the context of severe dementia.”

Power of attorney

Ron Posno. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Judy Kirby watched her mother die a slow, painful death. She had power of attorney over her mother’s treatment, and although she could have stopped her being given water and oxygen, she says she did not have the legal ability to ask for MAID for her mother.

Kirby asks: “Will or when will MAID be available to a power of attorney to make those decisions?”

Minister Lametti told Kirby that allowing a power of attorney to make decisions around MAID is an “ethically charged issue,” and that the government is going to look at it at a later stage:

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti explains why someone with a power of attorney can not make a request for medical assistance in dying. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 1:00

Susan Desjardins, from Dying With Dignity, shared with Kirby that she had personally gone through a similar experience. She suggests the patient, “identify not necessarily a power of attorney, but an advocate who could speak for them if they can’t speak for themselves at a time at which they would meet certain conditions they had defined, [and] that at which time they would have wanted to have an assisted death.”

Expert assessment

Judy Kirby. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Jason LeBlanc posed a question to the panelists on behalf of his girlfriend, Justine Noel, who was too sick to attend the town hall.

Justine is 29 years old and has fibromyalgia. She has submitted three MAID requests and has been denied twice. She’s awaiting official assessment on her third request. LeBlanc says Noel is worried she will be denied access to MAID once again, due to a lack of medical expertise available to assess her specific condition. 

Leblanc asks: Justine’s question is, what do you intend to do when there is no available MAID assessor with expertise in the applicant’s condition?”

According to Minister Lametti, the expert assessment for MAID no longer requires a specialist, but rather a practitioner with “some level of expertise in the condition.” He adds:

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti explains who can perform an expert assessment for medical assistance in dying. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 0:49

Foreseeable death 

Jason Leblanc. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ernest Frederiksen is a 27-year-old who has lived in constant pain for more than 11 years, due to fibromyalgia and arthritis. 

He applied for access to MAID in 2016 and was denied, as his death was not considered “reasonably foreseeable.” He plans to apply again in a few months.

Frederiksen asks: ” Why should I, or those like me whose deaths are not reasonably foreseeable, have to continue enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable and that cannot be relieved, through a 90-day waiting period instead of a waiting period of 30 days?”

Susan Desjardins from Dying with Dignity, also questions the rationale behind a 90-day waiting period before MAID can be given. “Do we really need a 90 day period, or is some of your length of period [not] reasonable to achieve the goals that we’re trying to here in terms of balancing things?”

Minister Lametti pointed out that there were waiting periods under the old act. However, in Bill C-7, waiting periods have been eliminated “because we found that they don’t work.” He adds that the 90 days is a “period of assessment”:

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti explains why the 90-day period mandated by the government for MAID is one of assessment, and not a period of waiting. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 0:55

MAID and the marginalized 

Ernest Frederiksen (CBC)

Sarah Jama is the founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She’s worried that once the requirement for “foreseeable death” is removed, MAID will be accessed by a disproportionate number of disabled and racialized people, as a result of a failure of the system to help them live full, sustained lives.

Jama asks: “How are we going to make sure that marginalized communities like the Indigenous, racialized people, and those with disabilities, don’t feel pressured to access MAID because they feel like a burden on the state?”

Trudeau Lemmons shares Jama’s concerns. “People with disabilities are now confronted with the choice when they enter the hospital. You can have MAID in 90 days, or you can go through administrative difficulties of applying for a new system of disability support … that’s actually not available.”

Minister Lametti admitted that the government needs to do more for marginalized people and communities. He stressed that the decision for MAID should never be one of compulsion, but rather always be an informed choice:

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti on the government’s role in building a system of sustainable care for marginalized communities. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 0:47

Moral dilemma

Sarah Jama. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Bob Davies is a pastor at Kanata Baptist Church. As a person of faith, his biggest concern is the impact of MAID on those caregivers, organizations and people whose moral code does not permit it. 

Davies asks: “What is being done to protect organizations, health care workers, caregivers and others from facing the emotional and psychological consequences of participating in or being near a medically assisted death that is against their conscience?”

Minister Lametti assured Davies that no clause in Bill C-14 will compel anyone to participate in MAID if they choose not too:

Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti discusses the support available for those providing medical assistance in dying services. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 0:34

MAID and mental health

Bob Davies. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Glenn Johnson has been living with PTSD and chronic depression for many years. He also suffers chronic pain from degenerative disc disease. He knows that he will want MAID when conditions for him worsen, and he wants MAID extended to those with mental health issues.

Johnson asks: “Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. And there is no foreseeable end to either my chronic pain or my mental health issues. I want to know why people like myself, with mental illness, are not able to access MAID?”

Trudo Lemmens admits that MAID and mental health illness is one of the most complex issues to tackle. Determining who will and will not get better is close to impossible, he says:

Trudo Lemmens on why the law excludes those with mental illness from access to MAID. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 0:56

Minister Lametti added that, “it is an ongoing challenge to better understand the various kinds of mental health issues that might become the basis for a MAID request down the road. We just kept hearing again and again that we weren’t ready to make it part of the MAID package.”

Palliative care vs. MAID

Glenn Johnson. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Dr. Naheed Dosani is a Toronto palliative care physician who works at hospitals and within the community to care for people with life-limiting disease at a variety of stages of illness.  

In his view, priority needs to be given to better access and options around palliative care, rather than MAID.

Dr. Dosani asks: “How are we working to build up our health care and social care systems, not just in hospitals but in the community too, so that all Canadians from all walks of life have equitable access to quality of life-based palliative care?”

Minister Lametti agreed that access to quality palliative care is crucial. “As a government we have identified palliative care as critically important, and we’re developing an action plan. We’ll obviously work with our provincial partners and territorial partners to try to make sure that it happens.”

Susan Desjardins adds that she believes that both MAID and palliative care focus on the same thing — the quality of dying:

Susan Desjardins shares her personal experience with family members accessing palliative care and MAID. (The MAID town hall was recorded March 5, 2020.) 1:06

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CFL sponsor threatens to cut ties unless Edmonton changes team name

One of the sponsors of the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos says it will cut ties with the team unless it changes its name.

Longtime sponsor belairdirect, a car and home insurance company, said Tuesday the team’s name, which has been used since the late 19th century, is no longer appropriate.

“One of our core values is respect, which is founded on seeing diversity as a strength, being inclusive and collaborative,” the company said in a statement to CBC News.

“Guided by this value, in order for us to move forward and continue on with our partnership, we will need to see concrete action in the near future including a commitment to a name change.”

Belairdirect’s statement said the company has shared its position with the team.

A spokesperson within the Eskimos organization told CBC Sports the team was preparing an internal statement that would likely be released Wednesday.

WATCH | Washington NFL team reviewing team name:

The NFL’s Washington Redskins say they will undergo a “thorough review” of the team’s Indigenous-slur name, after pressure from sponsors and an international focus on racism. 2:06

The threat from belairdirect comes days after the Washington NFL team’s stadium sponsor FedEx, along with other sponsors, asked the team to change its name.

The team responded by launching a review of its name. Major League Baseball’s Cleveland team also said it will review its long-debated nickname.

In February, the Eskimos announced they were keeping their name, saying the team had conducted a year-long research process that involved Inuit leaders and community members across Canada. That study found “no consensus … to support a name change,” the team said.

Last Friday, the team reiterated that it would not change its name, but promised to increase its engagement with Inuit communities to evaluate their views on the CFL team’s name.

“We recognize that there has been increased attention to the name recently and we will ramp up our ongoing engagement with the Inuit communities to assess their views,” the CFL team said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks said they will continue to use their team name because it honours a Native American leader who has been an inspiration to generations.

 “The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public,” the NHL team said in a statement Tuesday. 

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CFL eyes September return, changes Grey Cup format

The Canadian Football League is moving away from its traditional Grey Cup Festival format, while it also hopes to return in September in order to salvage a season ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement sent to season ticket holders across the country on Wednesday afternoon, the league announced Regina would no longer be hosting the 2020 Grey Cup game. Should a shortened season take place, the championship game will be hosted by the team that qualifies for the Grey Cup game and has the best regular-season record.

“This gives all nine CFL teams a shot at hosting the Grey Cup in this unprecedented year,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said.

The league is also considering moving the Grey Cup — usually played in November — into December as it explores every option to play as many games as possible this season.

It also means Regina has now been awarded the 2022 Grey Cup game, while Hamilton will host the title game in 2021.

“The plan for the Grey Cup in 2021 remains unchanged. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host for the first time in 25 years,” Ambrosie said.

“To our amazing fans in Saskatchewan, we look forward to once again celebrating your passion for the CFL with a Grey Cup game and Festival just a little down the road.”

This all comes against a backdrop of the league asking the federal government for up to $ 150 million in financial aid —  $ 30 million has been asked for immediate assistance and $ 120 million has been requested should the league not have a season at all.

WATCH | League is ‘very much in jeopardy,’ CFL commissioner tells Parliament:

Testifying before the House of Commons standing committee on finance on Thursday, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated the league could need up to $ 150 million from the federal government if their season is wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 4:47

Eyeing a September start

As for whether or not a season will actually occur, that remains a big question mark at this point, but Ambrosie said should a shortened season take place, it’ll begin in September at the earliest.

“There are several reasons, including the continuing restrictions on assemblies, travel and border crossings. Notably, several provinces and municipalities have already decided to prohibit until Sept. 1, all sporting events featuring large gatherings,” Ambrosie said in a release.

While there is cautious optimism, the CFL is putting player and public safety above anything else.

“We know there is a great deal of interest in whether we might play with or without fans or with social distancing rules in place,” Ambrosie said.

“We are examining all possibilities with both public safety and financial viability in mind. It’s just too soon to speculate on what a return to play in September might look like.”

The league is making it very clear in its statement that, while it eyes a September return, one other ominous scenario remains.

“A cancelled season is also possible. Again, it’s too soon to make a sure call at this point,” Ambrosie said.

WATCH | How to physical distance in tricky situations:

Physical distancing has radically changed how we socialize. But there’s still some scenarios where it’s difficult to limit our physical contact with others. Here’s how to best navigate them. 3:23

Touchdown Atlantic cancelled

One of the marquee events of the season has been cancelled. The Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders were set to play a regular season game scheduled in Halifax on July 25.

But on Wednesday, the CFL said the pandemic and uncertainty that exists has forced the game to be cancelled. 

“The only thing deeper than our regret is our resolve to return to Atlantic Canada. It pains us that this pandemic is preventing us from showing our friends in Nova Scotia, in person, just how saddened we are by the senseless tragedy they have been forced to bear and how much we admire their strength,” Ambrosie said.

The league will be reaching out to fans directly who purchased tickets. The game was a sellout.

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Apple, Google Announce Privacy Changes to Coronavirus Tracing

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Google and Apple announced a rare cooperative project recently with the aim of developing a mobile coronavirus contact tracing platform. The companies were slow to release details, but observers still pointed out some potential privacy and security concerns. Today, Apple and Google have released an overview of changes they will make to the upcoming program to assuage those concerns. 

The underlying technology powering the contact tracing technology isn’t changing. It’s still reliant on Bluetooth connectivity on your phone, but you won’t have to connect to any other phones for it to work. Phones can register contact with other Bluetooth signals automatically, and the new mobile apps will be able to leverage unique identifiers to determine with whom you’ve been in close contact. The idea is that if someone tests positive for COVID-19, the app can alert those at risk of contracting it. 

Apple and Google have started to refer to this system as “exposure notification” technology instead of contact tracing. While this is part of contact tracing, it would be inaccurate to imply it could stand in for the epidemiological work involved with true contact tracing. Previously, the unique Bluetooth identifiers would rotate every 24 hours. Now, the companies say the “tracing keys” will change randomly throughout the day, making it even harder to connect an ID with specific people in real life. 

In addition, the metadata associated with the list of Bluetooth contacts will be encrypted with AES technology. Modern smartphones have hardware that can accelerate AES encryption, making the system more efficient and secure. As with the tracing keys, it was theoretically possible to associate digital identifiers with real people. The new encryption should prevent that. 

The companies see this technology as a temporary necessity. Once the pandemic has passed, Apple and Google have pledged to disable the exposure notification system. It will also be possible to disable the service on a regional basis based on requests from established health authorities. Any third-party apps built with the eventual API will come with limits on exposure time in five-minute intervals, with a maximum of 30 minutes. This, too, will help to preserve user privacy. 

We expect standalone apps to arrive in the Play Store and App Store in the next few weeks. Both companies are also planning to deploy beta versions of their respective mobile operating systems that have the exposure notification technology built-in.

Now read:

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Canadian Open cancelled as PGA changes schedule

The RBC Canadian Open, one of the jewels of the national sports calendar, was cancelled Thursday as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PGA Tour announced the cancellation of the tournament as part of its revamped 2020 schedule. The four-day competition was scheduled to begin June 11 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.

The Tour has hopes of restarting the season at Colonial the same weekend as the Canadian Open would have been held, but would keep fans away for at least the first month.

The Canadian Open, first contested in 1904, is the third-oldest continuously running tournament on the PGA Tour behind the British Open and the U.S. Open.

It’s the first time the tournament has been cancelled since 1944, when it missed a second straight year due to the Second World War. It was also scrapped from 1915-18 because of the First World War.

The Canadian Open becomes the latest major annual late spring or summer sporting event in Canada to be wiped out or postponed because of COVID-19. The Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the Queen’s Plate in Toronto will not run on their scheduled June dates, while the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament in Montreal, scheduled for August, will not be held in 2020.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy won the title last year at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club. The last Canadian to win the tournament was Pat Fletcher in 1954.

A cancellation seemed increasingly likely in recent weeks as the pandemic worsened. Three regional qualification tournaments set for mid-May were scrapped last month.

Toronto Mayor John Tory recently announced the city was cancelling its permits for all public gatherings up until June 30.

The edict didn’t apply to sporting events held on private property — like MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena, or the Canadian Open itself at St. George’s in the city’s west end.

Lone Canadian event on Tour

“Obviously it’s not an easy decision and there’s very valid reasons for things getting cancelled or postponed,” golfer Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., said before the cancellation was official. “It’s an event that I’ve been looking forward to all year, really.

“It’s so much fun to play in front of the Canadian fans, the support’s incredible at the RBC Canadian Open.”

The tournament is scheduled to return to St. George’s in 2024. The venue has hosted the event on five occasions, most recently in 2010.

The city edict cancelled a two-night concert series planned for tournament week. The Chainsmokers and Keith Urban were scheduled to perform at a nearby school.

If the tournament had gone ahead as scheduled, construction on the course would have had to begin later this month, another hurdle for making the Canadian Open’s original start date.

The CP Women’s Open is still on the LPGA Tour schedule. It’s slated for Sept. 3-6 at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver.

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko won last year’s tournament at Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ont.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., won in 2018 at Regina’s Wascana Country Club. She become the first Canadian to win the tournament since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973.

Tour has ambitious plans

If government and health authorities give golf the green light, the Tour will have an official event every week from June 11 through Dec. 6 except for the week of Thanksgiving.

The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, was pushed back a month to June and would be followed by the RBC Heritage, which was postponed this week.

The PGA Tour season would conclude with the Tour Championship on Labour Day, and a new season would start the following week (Sept. 10-13) in Napa, California. That would mean only one major — the PGA Championship — is held in this 2019-20 season, and as many as seven majors would apply to the following season.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said while the priority is health and safety for everyone involved, “our hope is to play a role — responsibly — in the world’s return to enjoying the things we love.”

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