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Alienware Launches Its First AMD Laptop Since 2007

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Alienware has announced a new laptop powered by AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 5000 family, while Dell has added a new AMD gaming system to its own product matrix as well. In Alienware’s case, it’s the first time the company has offered an AMD-powered product since 2007.

When AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 4000 failed to get much market uptake last year, there were fears that the company was the victim of a plot between Intel and Nvidia to block it from gaining market share. While there are some historical reasons why people are afraid of that issue where AMD is concerned, the company has openly stated its own explanation: Ryzen Mobile 4000 was the platform that showed OEMs was serious about competing in mobile and capable of fielding a product that could power high-end designs.

We’re seeing more Ryzen 5000 systems rolling out this year because the Ryzen Mobile 4000 convinced the various OEMs AMD could power high-end systems. Winning the Surface Laptop 3 also helped establish AMD’s credentials, even if that system used a Ryzen Mobile 3000 CPU instead of a 7nm Zen 2 core.

Both the Alienware m15 Ryzen Edition R5 and the Dell G15 Ryzen Edition will offer Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 series GPUs. The new Alienware system will offer displays with 240Hz (1440p) or 360Hz (1080p) refresh rates “to deliver smooth gameplay.” Phrasing like this is a bit like saying an RTX 3090 “delivers smooth 720p performance.” The problem with the statement isn’t that it’s wrong, per se; it’s the implication that one needs an RTX 3090 to get smooth 720p performance in the first place.

A screen with a 60Hz refresh rate is redrawn once every 16.6 milliseconds. At 120Hz, it’s redrawn every 8.3ms. At 240Hz, every 4.15ms. At 360Hz, every 2.7ms. The ever-increasing Hz numbers hide the fact that the real amount of latency reduction shrinks the higher you go. Moving from 30Hz (33.3ms refresh rate) to 60Hz (16.6ms refresh rate) is a larger improvement than moving from 60Hz to 360Hz. Keep in mind that the degree of difference you’d see in any given title depends very much on how fast the game’s engine can run in the first place. There are a lot of titles that do not run at 240-360fps at 1080p or 1440p unless you have deliberately wrecked detail settings to maximize frame rates.

There’s nothing wrong with Alienware marketing its systems to e-sports fanatics chasing every last frame, but 240-360Hz refresh rates are not required to “enable smooth gameplay.”

Alienware also claims that this is “User-upgradeable 3200MHz DDR4 memory for the first time on an Alienware 15-inch notebook.” This is an absurd untruth. iFixit has multiple teardowns and manuals of how to upgrade the RAM inside various 15-inch Alienware systems manufactured over the past decade. Alienware moved to soldered DRAM several years ago and it’s trying to spin this reversal as a new feature being added rather than the restoration of an expected baseline capability.

Thankfully, the actual system designs look better than the marketing. The Alienware m15 offers a Ryzen 7 5800H or a Ryzen 9 4900HS paired with an RTX 3060 or RTX 3070, starting at $ 1,794. The Dell G15 Ryzen Edition will use a Ryzen 5 5600H or Ryzen 7 5800H with up to an RTX 3060, reportedly starting at $ 900. The G15 will also be available with 120Hz or 165Hz panels, with a 360Hz panel option coming later this spring.

Anyone who buys a laptop with a high refresh rate display should be aware these panels will absolutely chew through your battery. Most games allow you to set your refresh rate in-game, but some titles lock your refresh rate to your Windows desktop refresh rate. I’m not sure Windows offers a way to automatically cut the refresh rate when on battery, so anyone using >60Hz on AC might want to double-check their panel settings before switching to battery.

If you’re looking at a laptop, you’re probably planning to buy an OEM system no matter what, but the incredibly high price of retail channel GPUs has made OEM systems the only game in town as far as reasonable prices are concerned. In this case, I’m grumpy about the marketing, but I’ve tested gaming PCs from both Dell and Alienware before and been pleased with the end result.

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N.W.T. confirms first COVID-19 variant of concern

A case of COVID-19 reported earlier this week at the Diavik Diamond Mine —about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife — has been confirmed as the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom. 

No other cases have been detected since the case was first reported on March 29

The person who tested positive and 35 others who were close contacts are still self-isolating at the mine site. The person infected is “doing well.” 

The office of the chief public health officer previously reported that the person contracted the virus outside of the remote mine site, which is accessible only by air or ice road. 

A news release from the N.W.T.’s chief public health office says Diavik Diamond Mines will test all employees at the mine, and “continue to work with Public Health officials to mitigate transmission risk.” 

The case is not being reported in the territory’s COVID-19 statistics as the worker is not an N.W.T. resident. There is no risk to the public at this time, according to the release.

An outbreak earlier this year at the Gahcho Kue diamond mine — about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife and similarly remote — grew to include 20 cases. That outbreak was declared over on March 26

Nunavut faced a similar outbreak at the Hope Bay gold mine, which lies near the Arctic coast nearly 700 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. 

Diavik has recorded three positive cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Two workers tested positive at the mine on Dec. 23. One tested positive in November of last year. 

None of those cases lead to further spread within the mine. 

Reporting on COVID-19 outbreaks at northern mines has provided a rare window in the scale of remote, fly-in operations. Otherwise, little is known about how many fly-in workers are employed in Canada’s North. 

Diavik Diamond Mines is a joint venture between the Rio Tinto Group and Dominion Diamond Corporation. 

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Significantly higher death rate reported for coronavirus variant first detected in U.K.

A highly infectious variant of the novel coronavirus that has spread around the world since it was first discovered in Britain late last year is between 30 per cent and 100 per cent more deadly than previous dominant variants, researchers said on Wednesday.

In a study that compared death rates among people in Britain infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 variant — known as B117 — against those infected with other variants of the COVID-19-causing virus, scientists said the new variant’s mortality rate was “significantly higher.”

The B117 variant was first detected in Britain in September 2020, and has since also been found in more than 100 other countries.

It has 23 mutations in its genetic code — a relatively high number — and some of them have made it spread far more easily. Scientists say it is about 40 per cent to 70 per cent more transmissible than previous dominant variants that were circulating.

‘A threat that should be taken seriously’

In the U.K. study, published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday, infection with the new variant led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 COVID-19 patients, compared with 141 among the same number of patients infected with other variants.

“Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly, this makes B117 a threat that should be taken seriously,” said Robert Challen, a researcher at Exeter University who co-led the study.

Independent experts said this study’s findings add to previous preliminary evidence linking infection with the B117 virus variant with an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

Initial findings from the study were presented to the U.K. government earlier this year, along with other research, by experts on its New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, or NERVTAG, panel.

Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick University, said the precise mechanisms behind the higher death rate of the B117 variant were still not clear, but “could be related to higher levels of virus replication as well as increased transmissibility.”

He warned that the variant was likely fuelling a recent surge in infections across Europe.

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Perseverance Takes Its First Drive on Mars

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NASA’s Perseverance rover arrived on Mars last month, the culmination of years of design and development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). NASA began downloading images from the robot almost immediately after the landing, but the team completed a full system check before taking the machine for a spin. Perseverance finally took its first drive on Mars late last week, covering a total of 21.3 feet (6.5 meters). 

Perseverance is about the size of a sub-compact car, weighing more than 2,000 pounds on Earth. Even on Mars, that’s a big robot. Like Curiosity, this rover used a rocket-powered sky crane to execute a soft landing on Mars. NASA wanted to make sure Perseverance was in full working order before driving it anywhere. It also needed a software update, which NASA completed in late February. 

With the housekeeping done, NASA pumped the gas on March 4th. It took about 33 minutes for Perseverance to complete the maneuvers — accuracy is much more important than speed at a distance of 142 million miles (about 230 million kilometers). First, the rover drove forward 13 feet. Then, it turned in place 150 degrees before backing up another eight feet. This dance got Perseverance away from the landing zone, allowing the team to use its Navigation and Hazard Avoidance Cameras to take a peek at the spot where it was dropped off by the descent stage. This could help engineers better understand the specifics of retrorocket landings on Mars. 

An orbital view of the landing zone from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

NASA has already deployed the rover’s robotic arm and run tests on several of its most important instruments like the Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) and Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE). The team has several more tests to complete before the rover’s science mission begins in earnest. There are more instruments to calibrate, and there are still protective covers to remove from the sample caching system and Ingenuity helicopter. 

This first drive is only the beginning — Curiosity set a record for covering more distance than any other rover, and Perseverance has redesigned wheels to keep it rolling even longer. There’s a lot to see in Jezero Crater, too. The crater was a lake fed by a river billions of years ago, and the delta is still visible. Scientists believe this region is ideal for detecting signs of ancient life, and Perseverance has the tools to do that.

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AstraZeneca doses set to arrive tomorrow — but questions remain about who gets them first

The first batch of Canada’s supply of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is set to arrive tomorrow — but public health officials still have some distribution issues to sort out before they can deliver those shots.

Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca product last Friday. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the independent panel that sets the guidelines for vaccine deployment, is not recommending that these shots be used in people aged 65 and over.

While Health Canada has determined the product is safe to use on all adults, NACI said there isn’t enough clinical trial data available to determine how effective this product is in preventing COVID-19 infection among people in this older cohort.

Health officials will be under pressure to quickly establish priorities for distribution of the AstraZeneca shots because 300,000 of the 500,000 doses set to arrive this week from the Serum Institute of India will expire in just a month’s time.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said NACI is prepared to update its guidance “as they see more and more real world data accumulating,” but for now the AstraZeneca product should be directed at younger Canadians.

“Don’t read their recommendations as sort of static. But this is what they’ve recommended at this point,” Tam said. “Just watch this space.”

It’s up to the provinces and territories to decide how to put these AstraZeneca shots to use. Some scheduling adjustments will be required because most jurisdictions are focused on vaccinating the elderly at this early stage of the immunization campaign.

Tam said some of the groups that were “potentially prioritized a little bit later on” will have a chance to get their shots earlier than planned because of the NACI guidance.

Most provinces have said that — after the elderly, front line health care workers and Indigenous adults are vaccinated — essential workers and people who face a greater risk of illness should be next in line for the second phase of shots.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading the federal government’s vaccine logistics, said the shots will be “expedited as quickly as possible” to prevent wastage.

WATCH: Procurement Minister Anita Anand says AstraZeneca shots will arrive Wednesday

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says the first shipment of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to arrive in Canada on March 3. 1:06

Asked why Canada purchased vaccines that are set to expire during the first week of April, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the federal government was responding to demands from the provinces to acquire more shots.

“They have repeatedly told the federal government that they want vaccines as soon as possible and that they’re ready to administer vaccines,” she said.

Beyond the question of who will get these shots, there’s a debate over just how long people should wait between the first and second doses.

NACI has recommended that provinces and territories follow the guidelines set by the manufacturers and approved by Health Canada regulators: 21 days between shots for the Pfizer product, 28 days for Moderna and between four and 12 weeks for the AstraZeneca doses.

Some provinces, notably Quebec, have ignored these guidelines from the beginning, preferring instead to administer as many first doses as possible to tamp down infection risk.

NACI ‘considering evidence’ on dosing intervals

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced Monday that the province would be extending the interval between doses for all three products to 16 weeks.

Tam said NACI is now “considering evidence” from the latest scientific studies about the intervals between shots and will provide an updated recommendation sometime this week.

Christine Elliott, Ontario’s health minister, said that while public health officials in her province have complied with NACI guidelines, they would shift gears to deploy first doses to more people if vaccine experts give them the green light to delay those second doses.

“We are anxiously awaiting NACI’s review of this to determine what they have to say and their recommendations,” Elliott said. “We want to make sure that the decisions that Ontario makes are based on science.”

Tam said data from B.C. and Quebec suggest there may be good reasons to wait longer.

“They’re vaccinating seniors in long-term care facilities and so on and we’re seeing quite a high level of protection. It also seems that the protection is obviously lasting even after the first dose,” she said.

In a recent analysis paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Danuta Skowronski of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and Dr. Gaston De Serres from the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec suggested that a single shot of the Pfizer vaccine might be almost as good as two.

The doctors found that, by waiting two weeks after vaccination to start measuring the rate of new infections, researchers recorded 92 per cent fewer COVID-19 cases among those who had received a single dose of the vaccine compared to those who got a placebo.

“With such a highly protective first dose, the benefits derived from a scarce supply of vaccine could be maximized by deferring second doses until all priority group members are offered at least one dose,” the doctors wrote in their paper.

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Joe Biden scores first legislative win as House passes $1.9T COVID-19 relief package

U.S. President Joe Biden had his first legislative win as the House of Representatives passed his $ 1.9 trillion US coronavirus relief package early Saturday, though Democrats faced challenges to their hopes of using the bill to raise the minimum wage.

Democrats who control the chamber passed the sweeping measure by a mostly party-line vote of 219 to 212 and sent it on to the Senate, where Democrats planned a legislative manoeuvre to allow them to pass it without the support of Republicans.

The American Rescue Plan would pay for vaccines and medical supplies and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments.

Democrats said the package was needed to fight a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.

“The American people need to know that their government is there for them,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in debate on the House floor.

Republicans, who have broadly backed previous COVID-19 spending, said much of the current package was not necessary, highlighting elements like a subway near Pelosi’s San Francisco district. Only nine per cent of the total would go directly toward fighting the virus, they said.

“It just throws out money without accountability,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

The House vote amounted to a successful first test for Democrats, who hold a narrow 221-211 majority in the chamber. Progressives and moderates in the party who are often at odds will face tougher battles ahead on immigration and climate change initiatives that Biden wants to push.

The president has focused his first weeks in office on tackling the greatest U.S. public health crisis in a century, which has upended most aspects of American life.

Democrats aim to get the bill to him to sign into law before mid-March, when enhanced unemployment benefits and some other types of aid are due to expire.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, is seen during a news conference in Washington on Friday. ‘The American people need to know that their government is there for them,’ she said of the American Rescue Plan. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

The bill’s big-ticket items include $ 1,400 direct payments to individuals, a $ 400-per-week federal unemployment benefit through Aug. 29, and help for those in difficulty paying rents and home mortgages during the pandemic.

The action now moves to the Senate, where Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris may have to cast a tie-breaking vote in a chamber where Republicans control 50 seats and Democrats and their allies control the other 50.

Fate of minimum wage hike unclear

Democrats will have to sort out how to handle a proposed minimum-wage increase, which may have to be stripped from the bill due to the complicated rules that govern the Senate.

The House-passed bill would raise the national hourly minimum wage for the first time since 2009, to $ 15 from $ 7.25. The increase is a top priority for progressive Democrats.

However, the Senate’s rules expert said on Thursday that the wage hike did not qualify for special treatment that allows the rest of the bill to be passed with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber.

Pelosi predicted the relief bill will pass Congress with or without the increase, and said Democrats would not give up on the matter.

WATCH | Trudeau, Biden commit to collaboration on climate, rebuilding the economy:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden held their first bilateral talks on Tuesday, committing to work together on climate change and building the economy back up after the pandemic. 2:36

It is not clear whether the minimum-wage hike would have survived the Senate even if it were to be kept in the bill. At least two Senate Democrats oppose it, along with most Republicans.

Some senators are floating a smaller increase, to the range of $ 10 to $ 12 per hour, while Democrats are considering a penalty for large corporations that do not voluntarily pay a $ 15 wage, according to a Democratic aide.

Efforts to craft a bipartisan coronavirus aid bill fizzled early on, shortly after Biden was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, following a series of bipartisan bills enacted in 2020.

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Canadian Medical Association elects first Indigenous president

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has elected its first Indigenous president.

Members selected Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alberta, as CMA president for 2022-23. He will serve as president-elect until August 2022, after which he will become the official CMA president, says a news release from the CMA.

Lafontaine is from Treaty 4 Territory in southern Saskatchewan, and is of Cree, Anishinaabe, Metis and Pacific Islander ancestry.

His nomination comes as the health care sector in Canada grapples with issues of inequity, including racism. 

Earlier this year, the federal government committed to legislation that would aim to ensure Indigenous control over the development and delivery of Indigenous health services. 

Lafontaine said he will focus on addressing issues of inequity during his tenure, and on establishing national licensing for physicians.

“Mobility, employability and collaboration should exist in a post-pandemic world, along with the decreased stress, burnout and improved wellness that will result,” Lafontaine said in the media release.

“It’s also time to eliminate racism, sexism, ableism, classism and all other ‘-isms’ that permeate health system culture.”

The nomination is waiting on confirmation by the CMA General Council in August 2021.

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Moderna begins studying potential COVID-19 vaccine booster targetting variant first detected in South Africa

Drug manufacturer Moderna says it will begin testing a variant-specific version of its COVID-19 vaccine that would target the B1351 variant first detected in South Africa.  

The company has previously reported that its original two-dose vaccine — already approved for use in Canada — appears to provide protection against the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., as well as the B1351 variant, though its own research suggests it may be less effective against the latter

The company says it will study the B1351 variant-specific vaccine both as a potential booster to the original COVID-19 vaccine and as a standalone for people who have not yet received a vaccine at all. 

It will study the outcomes of three different scenarios:

  • A single shot of the B1351 variant-specific vaccine. 
  • A shot combining both the original vaccine and the B1351 variant-specific booster. 
  • A booster of the original vaccine, added to the original two-dose version. 

The B1351-specific vaccine will undergo clinical trials at the National Institutes for Health in the U.S.

“As we seek to defeat COVID-19, we must be vigilant and proactive as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna in a statement. 

“Leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are moving quickly to test updates to the vaccines that address emerging variants of the virus in the clinic.”

Moderna reported last month that its vaccine was essentially as effective against the B117 variant as it was to prior variants.

But it found there was a reduction in its neutralizing ability against the B1351 variant. 

Neutralizing antibodies are one of the body’s immune responses to control viral infections.

South Africa paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data from a small trial suggested the vaccine did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the B1351 variant now dominant in the country.

Johnson & Johnson, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novavax have all looked at how their vaccines perform against the B1351 variant.

WATCH | Doctor calls for aggressive action to target COVID-19 variants:

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Dr. Brooks Fallis speaks out against reopening plans in several provinces as officials study potential implications of the spread of new COVID-19 variants. 8:46

Variants confirmed around the world

The B1351 variant has been detected in at least 40 countries while the B117, first detected in the U.K., has now been identified in 80. Both have been found in Canada. 

Health Canada would need to approve any booster or new vaccine against the B1351 variant before it could be administered here.

The prime minister confirmed Wednesday that Moderna will deliver the two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine it is contracted to provide Canada by the end of March. 

Justin Trudeau said Canada expects to receive 460,000 doses the week of March 8 and 840,000 doses beginning  March 22.

That’s in addition to the 518,000 Moderna shots that have been administered in this country already and the 168,000 doses that are set to arrive this week.

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The First Black Hole Ever Discovered Might Be Even Larger

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The general idea of a stellar object with such intense gravity that even light cannot escape dates back to the late 18th century. However, it wasn’t until Einstein’s contributions in the early 20th century that we had the necessary theoretical underpinnings to go looking for such an object. Cygnus X-1 caught the attention of scientists because of its X-ray signature. Today, Cygnus X-1 is widely accepted to be the first black hole ever discovered, but we might not know as much about it as we thought. 

Scientists have been looking for black holes ever since general relativity predicted such an object could exist. Cygnus X-1 made history in 1964 as the first likely candidate black hole. Astronomers have revisited Cygnus over the years, and a new analysis suggests the first black hole spotted by humanity might be larger and farther away than believed. 

Cygnus X-1 is a stellar-mass black hole currently thought to have about 15 times the mass of our sun. It’s orbiting a blue supergiant variable star, the light from which has helped to characterize Cygnus X-1. In 2011, researchers used parallax measurements from different points in Earth’s orbit to pin down the black hole’s location. The team found it was just over 6,000 light-years away. Astrophysicist James Miller-Jones worked on this research, and now he’s back with a new team to refine the numbers. 

Miller-Jones and his team used a network of large radio telescope dishes across the US called the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to observe Cygnus X-1. The 2011 research didn’t collect data from the black hole during all parts of its orbit around the supergiant star, and that might affect the distance measurement. The VLBA scanned Cygnus X-1 for 12 hours at a time over the course of six consecutive days. Combining this parallax data with the 2011 numbers, the team has reported a different result. Instead of being 6,070 light-years away, Cygnus X-1 might be 7,240 light-years distant. 

The M87 supermassive black hole imaged in 2019.

So, why does that matter? Many of the characteristics of celestial objects are calculated based on their distance from Earth. If Cygnus X-1 is farther away, that means it’s also larger. The researchers have calculated that at more than 7,000 light-years away, Cygnus X-1 would be about 21 times more massive than the sun, a significant increase over the currently accepted figure. 

The new figures for Cygnus X-1 could change how we measure other black holes. This is likely not the most massive stellar-mass black hole in the universe, but we may need to revise estimates of how much mass a dying star loses as it collapses into a singularity.

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Biden to meet virtually with Trudeau on Tuesday in first meeting with a foreign leader

U.S. President Joe Biden’s first official meeting with a foreign head of government will be a virtual encounter on Tuesday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The president will highlight the strong and deep partnership between the United States and Canada as neighbours, friends and NATO allies,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

The Prime Minister’s Office said meeting agenda items include the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, job creation, maintaining cross-border supply chains, climate change, energy, defence and security, and diversity and inclusion.

In a statement, Trudeau said he looked forward to the meeting and working with Biden to end the pandemic. 

The lengthy video meeting is expected to last more than one hour and will include a one-on-one chat between the leaders, as well as an expanded session between U.S. and Canadian cabinet members and officials. 

The U.S. president’s Keystone XL pipeline cancellation is expected to come up but will not likely be a main focus of the meeting. 

The detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China is also expected to be raised by Trudeau, according to a source who spoke to CBC News confidentially.

Cross-border tensions won’t disappear

Biden has already had a series of phone conversations with a number of leaders, starting with Trudeau, shortly after his Jan. 20 inauguration.

The new administration has signalled its desire to improve relationships with traditional American partners by scheduling his first calls, and now a first meeting, with the country’s democratic allies. 

WATCH | What Biden’s first call with Trudeau means for Canada-U.S. relations:

Despite disagreement over Keystone XL, U.S. President Joe Biden’s phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signals a likely return to normal U.S.-Canada relations. 1:51

But the first weeks of the Biden administration have illustrated how cross-border irritants have not, and will not, disappear with a change in president. 

The new administration has cancelled a major pipeline project from Canada; promised a Buy American policy in its infrastructure purchases — though it’s still unclear how extensive that policy will be; and continued former president Donald Trump’s export restrictions on vaccines produced in the United States.

Conversely, Biden has de-emphasized relationships with non-democratic figures that had been cozier during the Trump era.

The White House has said Biden would not deal directly with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman because the crown prince is not officially the country’s ruler. It also said Biden planned to speak with allied leaders before figures such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, though he did eventually talk to Putin in the second week of his presidency.

Biden emphasizes ‘shared democratic values’

The new U.S. president emphasized that point in a speech addressing the Munich security conference on Friday.

Biden promised to enforce NATO’s mutual-defence pact and called this a key moment in the struggle for democracy.

He contrasted his view of democratic alliances to that of his predecessor, without explicitly naming Trump. 

“Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional. They’re not extractive,” Biden said.

“In too many places, including in Europe and the United States, democratic progress is under assault…. We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. Between those who argue that … autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting those challenges. Historians will examine and write about this moment. It’s an inflection point.”

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