Tag Archives: funds

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies, a former refugee, helping raise funds for UN relief

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies says his message to young players is “just be themselves.”

“Every time they step on the field, play hard and know how to play with a smile on your face because when you play with a smile on your face, that’s when you play your best,” he told a Bayern Munich video news conference Tuesday. “Don’t worry about what’s going happen, just be in the moment, enjoy it.”

The 19-year-old from Edmonton said he welcomes being a role model to young kids and wants to put his platform to good use.

Davies joined AC Milan goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who like Davies came to Canada as a refugee, in a soccer video-game contest on the weekend to raise COVID-19 relief funds for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a UN agency with the mandate to protect and help refugees.

Asked about playing real games behind closed doors because of the global pandemic, Davies said “if it happens, it’s just going to be different.”

“The fans are part of us but it’s for the safety of everyone, I guess. So I don’t really mind it,” he added.

Bundesliga teams are back training, under physical distancing conditions, and the league hopes to restart in May.

Davies signed a new deal earlier this month that will keep the Canadian international with the German powerhouse through 2025.

WATCH | Davies’ goal sparks Canada upset over U.S.:

Teenage sensation Alphonso Davies scored in Canada’s 2-0 win over the United States in Toronto. 1:17

Asked about his progress at left back, Davies deflected the praise.

“On a personal standpoint I’m proud of my achievement but I think right now it’s all because of the team I’m with. The team is playing well. Everyone’s playing well. And I also have a world-class left back (David Alaba) next to me, helping me out as well.”

Alaba, an Austrian international, has shifted to central defender at Bayern.

A former winger, Davies says he is enjoying playing left back and doesn’t anticipate changing positions.

He said his German is “coming along” but will require a lot more lessons to perfect the language.

He said the player he looked up to the most is Lionel Messi, with Cristiano Ronaldo another top talent.

Quizzed on fellow Canadian Jonathan David, Davies said the high-scoring Gent forward “has a lot of qualities.”

David has been linked with a move to Germany from Belgium.

“I think if he moved over here there’d be no problem for him to play at this level,” Davies said.

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CBC | Sports News

COVID-19 emergency funds coming in 2-3 weeks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered more assurances today that the government would help all Canadians through the COVID-19 crisis — but warned that “extraordinary” measures to contain the virus could be in place for weeks or months.

Speaking from his residence at Rideau Cottage where he remains in self-isolation, Trudeau urged everyone who can to donate blood. He said the government is preparing for a variety of scenarios in terms of how the health emergency could unfold in Canada.

He said the unprecedented measures in place now — such as travel restrictions, social distancing protocols and business closures — could continue for some time as political leaders follow the advice of medical experts.

“We’ve heard anything from weeks to months,” he said.

“We know this is a difficult and extraordinary time in which Canadians are taking difficult and extraordinary measures, and we will continue to do that until Canadians are safe.”

Trudeau also said supports will be on the way for retirees who have seen a dramatic drop in their savings due to “massive” market disruptions.

“We will be taking measures to ease the impact of that,” he said.

“We know that our seniors have worked hard all their lives to be able to retire in comfort and there is a lot of anxiety there. That’s why we will be there for our seniors as well.”

Earlier Thursday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Canadians worried about having enough money to pay for food, rent and medication can expect emergency funds in two to three weeks.

In an interview with CBC News Network, Morneau said the government understands the urgency of the situation and is leveraging existing government social services to get money out the door.

The government has waived the one-week wait for employment insurance sickness benefits and announced a series of new measures Wednesday to help Canadians and businesses taking a financial hit from the pandemic.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“One of them, very clearly, is setting up this new approach for people that are not in the employment insurance system. And that, we expect, will be able to have money to people in the two to three-week time period,” Morneau said.

“If we could find a way to sit down at a desk and write cheques today, we would. This is the fastest way we can determine how to get money out to people.”

Morneau said the government is working hour-by-hour to find ways to release funds more rapidly. He said Parliament could be recalled this weekend or early next week to pass the legislation required to distribute the money.

Liz Guerrier shut down her pub because of the coronavirus even before it was required. Finance Minister Bill Morneau explains what the federal government will do to help small business owners like her. 7:50

Wednesday’s $ 82-billion emergency response package includes $ 27 billion in direct supports and another $ 55 billion in tax deferrals.

The supports aim to help Canadians pay for rent and groceries, to help businesses continue to meet payroll and pay bills, and to stabilize the economy.

The emergency aid plan includes:

  • A temporary boost to Canada Child Benefit payments, delivering about $ 2 billion in extra support.
  • A new Emergency Care Benefit of up to $ 900 biweekly, up to 15 weeks, to provide income support to workers, including the self-employed, who have to stay home and don’t qualify for paid sick leave or employment insurance. The measure could disburse up to $ 10 billion.
  • A new Emergency Support Benefit to provide up to $ 5 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.  
  • A six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments.
  • Doubling the homeless care program. 
  • Extending the tax filing deadline to June 1.
  • Allowing taxpayers to defer until after Aug. 31 tax payments that are due after today and before September.
  • $ 305 million for a new Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities.

Other measures include a GST credit for low-income Canadians and special support for the homeless and shelters helping people escaping gender-based violence.

Morneau said the government is also working with the private sector to find ways to help Canadians. Banks, for example, could be flexible with mortgage and loan payments to help people who are struggling financially.

He said there is no way to know how the pandemic will affect the economy at this stage, or how long those effects will last, but he is confident the crisis is temporary. Canada is well-positioned to deal with the challenge due to a talented workforce, a strong health-care system and a government with the capacity to financially support Canadians and businesses, he said.

“This is going to be all hands on deck for a long time until we get through this,” he said.

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CBC | Health News

Huawei funds $56M in academic research in Canada. That has some experts concerned

This story is part of a CBC News series exploring China’s expanding influence around the world and how Canada and other countries are contending with China’s power.

Chinese telecom giant Huawei funds millions of dollars in technology research in Canada, and that has some tech and national security experts alarmed.

Huawei has been singled out by intelligence and security agencies around the world. It’s been called a “Trojan horse” and a threat to Western nations. It’s believed by many to be linked to the Chinese government and is regularly accused of spying and intellectual property theft — all allegations it denies.

CBC News has found Huawei’s financial ties to Canadian universities total more than $ 56 million. But there are no federal guidelines around how these investments should be managed and disclosed, and that raises questions about who will own the findings of the research and the resulting patents.

The Globe and Mail first outlined the depths of those financial ties last spring. Since then, universities continue to operate without any clear guidance from the federal government.

“Frankly, the government of Canada has fallen down catastrophically,” says Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which studies the way information is used, and misused, across technologies. “No one knows exactly what they should be doing.”


Christopher Parsons, research associate at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. Parsons says the federal government must give universities clear direction about funding from companies like Huawei. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

Parsons, who is also the managing director of the Telecom Transparency Project, says the government’s failure to set out policy guidelines for private sector funding has made it difficult for universities, which rely on that funding to stay at the forefront of wireless research and, in turn, attract top students.

Christopher Parsons says Canada needs to take the long view in managing risks around Chinese tech giant Huawei 1:33

Huawei says it is one of the biggest funders of academic research in Canada. Google, Microsoft, Rogers and Bell are among the others but declined to provide CBC News with any figures. Like Huawei, they are not required to disclose funding details.

Without guidelines, Parsons says the universities are being asked to play the roles of the intelligence and security communities, export development agencies and policy-makers.

“Things are really grey at the moment for universities,” says Parsons. “They’ve been instructed by CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service] that there is something to be aware [of] but they don’t know exactly what.”

Fears about Huawei ‘overblown’

Huawei’s vice-president of corporate affairs, Alykhan Velshi, says fears and concerns about Huawei are “overblown and not really based on fact.”

He said the company is committed to keeping the research public, and that agreements signed in the last year provide for the company and the university to share any patents.

“The researchers who collaborate with us have the ability to commercialize the research themselves,” Velshi said.


Alykhan Velshi, vice-president of corporate affairs at Huawei, says most of the concerns about the company are ‘overblown and not really based on fact.’ (Ousama Farag/CBC)

The academic research is part of an overall $ 164 million Huawei spent in research in Canada last year. 

Huawei has been operating in Canada for 10 years, selling the equipment that wireless carriers like Bell and Telus use to build their networks. (Rogers used to be supplied by Huawei but has switched to Huawei’s biggest competitor, Ericsson.)

Velshi said the company works closely with other major telcos and is in weekly contact with Canada’s security agencies. The government hasn’t reported any security incidents or complaints about Huawei’s operations in this country.

“If those counter-parties didn’t feel that we were a trustworthy actor or we were a company with whom they could do business, they wouldn’t do business with us,” Velshi said.

Velshi said Huawei’s partners in Canada “see that is in their interest to work with us.”

Huawei ‘not a normal company’

A national security expert say we simply can’t talk about Huawei the way we talk about other companies. Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor from Carleton University in Ottawa calls Huawei a “state-championed company.” She says the company is intertwined with and supported by the Chinese government in ways that most companies are not.

“The Chinese state has taken two Canadians hostage on behalf of Huawei,” she said, referring to Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, whose detention in China is widely speculated to be in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. “That’s not a normal company, and I don’t think we should be considering it as such.”

Carvin says the universities are being put in an impossible situation.

“There’s no good options here,” she says. “It’s either you’re denying these universities money or we’re making cheap IP [intellectual property] for the Chinese state. Pick your poison.”

Parsons says without seeing the contract language, it’s impossible to know how any patents would be shared between academic institutions and Huawei. His concern is that Huawei would retain control over any technological discoveries, shutting out other companies and potentially hurting Canada’s national interest, especially when it comes to 5G technology, the next generation of wireless that will be used in critical infrastructure such as power grids. 


A Huawei ad for 5G in Shanghai. Intelligence and security agencies around the world have raised alarms Huawei’s role in building the next generation of wireless infrastructure. (Chinatopix/The Associated Press)

“What are the terms under which the patents are assigned?” asks Parsons. “Are they being done in a way that is coherent with the Canadian government’s foreign policy for national security objectives?”

Over the past five years Huawei has had a financial relationship with 17 Canadian universities, ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to many millions of dollars.

Huawei funded a project at the University of Western Ontario, in London, which the university says is “related to the research and development of telecommunications products and services” at the university.

The University of Waterloo has scholarships and engineering awards funded by Huawei. The university says Huawei has provided $ 15.3 million in research funding over the past five years for a total of 16 projects, which include research into wireless systems, autonomous driving  and network virtualization.

The University of British Columbia provided details on a three-year, $ 3-million partnership researching “advanced communications and 5G projects.”  In a statement, JP Heale, the managing director of UBC’s Industry Liason Office, said: “All of our research contracts include a publication clause guaranteeing UBC the right to publish results.”

Quebec City’s Laval University was less forthcoming, saying only, “The investment of Huawei is confidential as per the collaborative contracts.” The University of Guelph told CBC News that Huawei has invested in two research projects, but declined to provide details on the nature of that research.

Government has ‘failed’

The schools are under no obligation to disclose this information. 

“It’s not on them as the government has … failed to explain what needs to be done,” said Parsons. He says the government has to give the universities guidance about “the processes that need to be put place to receive money from Huawei — or any other Chinese company, for that matter.” 

Carvin agrees. She says instead of security agencies speaking with universities in vague terms about potential threats, the federal government has to take charge.

“And I think the first way to do that is developing an economic national security plan” laying out Canadian policy in dealing with foreign companies investing in critical research.

It will take time for the newly minted federal cabinet to get briefed and up to speed on the big issues of the day. But experts like Carvin and Parsons feel the question of Huawei needs to be near the top of the list if priorities.

For now, Ottawa will say only that “an examination of emerging 5G technology and the associated security and economic considerations is underway.”


Read the stories in this series:

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CBC | World News

Congo police detain former health minster in Ebola funds probe

Police in Congo have detained Former Minister of Health Oly Ilunga amid an investigation into the use of Ebola funds from foreign donors, they stated Saturday. The arrest comes as confirmed Ebola deaths have risen to nearly 2,000, and confirmed cases of the virus have exceeded 3,000 in the sprawling African nation.

Ilunga resigned in July to protest President Félix Tshisekedi’s decision to take over from him the management of the response to the world’s second deadliest Ebola outbreak, which is ongoing now in eastern Congo. As he resigned, Ilunga deplored the lack of co-operation between him, the president and the prime minister in response to the deadly Ebola outbreak.

Police said Saturday that Ilunga had been arrested less than a month ago for misdemeanor offences involving the mishandling of funds, though he was later released. He has since made plans to travel to the neighbouring Republic of Congo, they said, adding that he was taken into custody to make sure he would not avoid legal proceedings.

They further stated Ilunga was in police custody, and would come before a prosecutor on Sept. 16.


Former Minister of Health Oly Ilunga speaks to a reporter in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec. 20, 2018. According to police officials, Ilunga was taken into custody to prevent him fleeing the country. (Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro/The Associated Press)

Congo’s National Ebola Response Committee released the latest Ebola numbers Friday after a discussion in Goma by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church about efforts to help stem the spread of Ebola in communities. A mistrust of health workers and widespread security issues still threaten the fight against the Ebola outbreak in a region where armed groups have fought for decades over the mineral-rich land.

Foreign donors have so far provided roughly $ 200 million in funding to the Ebola response over the past year, but the United Nations has said hundreds of millions of dollars more are needed.

The committee reported there were 3,002 confirmed Ebola cases with 1,974 confirmed deaths. 

The World Health Organization said Friday they recorded 40 new cases of Ebola — the lowest weekly incidence of Ebola since March 2019 — but said it was unclear if this positive trend would continue. 

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CBC | World News

Ontario slashes Toronto Public Health funds by $1B over a decade, board chair says

The Ontario government is slashing Toronto Public Health’s funding by $ 1 billion over a decade as part of a plan to consolidate local public health units across the province, says the chair of the city’s board of health — a move that’s prompting an outcry from city officials.

Chair Joe Cressy said the board was informed of a change in the cost-sharing structure from Premier Doug Ford’s government on Thursday afternoon, which he said amounts to an immediate $ 86-million hole in its latest budget.

The funding cut will impact various programs, he added, including infectious disease initiatives, communicable disease surveillance, immunization programs, food safety and water quality initiatives, as well as sexual health promotion.

“People will die,” Cressy said. “People are going to die.”

In last week’s provincial budget, the Ford government first outlined plans to chop the number of local health units from 35 to 10 over the next two years, coupled with an annual overall funding reduction of $ 200 million.

TPH alone has a gross operating budget of more than $ 250 million, with roughly three-quarters of the funding coming from the province — an element now set to change.

Cressy said various TPH programs fully funded by the province are eventually going to be hit by a 50 per cent cut. Other programs funded roughly 75 per cent by the province and 25 per cent by the city will also drop to a 50-50 split.

Starting immediately, he said, the cost-sharing will be a 60-40 split, with a different model for other units across the province.

Units ‘properly funded,’ province says

In a statement Mayor John Tory called the change “a targeted attack on the health of our entire city” — one he says the city will work to see reversed. 

“This change, hidden in the provincial budget and imposed without any consultation whatsoever, will hurt the health and wellness of Toronto residents,” Tory said. 

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said Toronto Public Health is “extremely disappointed” by the move, citing school immunization programs, keeping beaches and drinking water safe, and inspecting restaurants as part of the city’s public health services.

NDP member of the Legislature Marit Stiles called the news “alarming,” saying the cuts “will make the millions of people who live and work in Toronto less safe.”

“We’ve been down this road before. It isn’t pretty,” echoed Coun. Shelley Carroll in a tweet, citing the deadly SARS outbreak and E. coli contamination of the water supply in Walkerton, Ont., in the early 2000s.


But all public health units across Ontario, including Toronto, will “continue to be properly funded,” the province maintains.

“We are working directly with our municipal partners as we slowly shift the cost-sharing funding model over the next three years to reflect municipalities’ stronger role,” said HayleyChazan, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott, in a statement.

Earlier on Thursday, the province also enacted new health-care legislation, which will integrate multiple provincial agencies — including Cancer Care Ontario, Health Quality Ontario, eHealth Ontario, and 14 local health integration networks, or LHINS — into a single agency dubbed Ontario Health.

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CBC | Health News

‘Generation-long epidemic’: Compensation funds running out as 9/11-related illnesses rise

Thomas Wilson rarely left Ground Zero in the dizzying month following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

A New York City police sergeant at the time, Wilson spent his days sifting through the tangled, charred rubble of the World Trade Centre. When night came, he slept for a few hours in one of the makeshift dormitories that sprung up around the site — a fierce sense of duty prevented him from being anywhere else.

“A job had to be done,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Wilson counted himself lucky for escaping that day when so many others didn’t. But seven years later, 9/11 caught up with him. He was diagnosed with a rare tongue, and later, skin cancer—both of which doctors said were linked to his time spent at Ground Zero.

Cars smoulder in the street as the destroyed World Trade Center burns in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (Peter Morgan/Reuters)

Wilson, a father of five, was shocked but not entirely surprised. He remembered the lack of proper protective gear and the metallic odour of the toxic brew of carcinogens that hovered over what he, and other first responders, dubbed “The Pile.”

“It just perforated everything,” he said.

Wilson is one of more than 11,000 first responders and survivors who’ve been diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer, according to the World Trade Centre Health program, part of the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

In 2011, about 60,000 people were registered as having 9/11-related illnesses. By December 2018, that number was higher than 93,000, according to WTC Health Program.

The growing number has put crippling pressure on the September 11 Victim Compensation fund, set up by the U.S. government to provide financial aid for the sick and the families of those who’ve died from their illnesses.

Former NYPD sergeant Thomas Wilson was diagnosed with tongue and skin cancer related to his service at Ground Zero following Sept. 11, 2001. (Ellen Mauro/CBC News )

The fund is running out of money faster than expected and, to ration what’s left, future payments are set to be cut by up to 70 per cent — a decrease that could mean undue financial stress, in addition to life-changing health challenges, for people impacted by that awful day.

“I am painfully aware of the inequity of this situation,” the administrator of the fund, Rupa Bhattacharyya said in the fall. “But the stark reality of the data leaves me no choice.”

Before the cuts were announced, compensation rates for people diagnosed with 9/11-related ailments ranged from $ 200,000 to $ 340,000 US, depending on the type of illness and its severity.

In order to be eligible for compensation, first responders must have been working at Ground Zero and then diagnosed with one of 65 cancers doctors in the WTC program have linked to the aftermath of 9/11.

‘This is a generation-long epidemic’

Bhattacharyya’s announcement prompted a group of 9/11 first responders and their families to travel to Capitol Hill earlier this month to pressure Congress for a fix.

They appeared with Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate, as she announced a bipartisan bill that would make the fund — set to expire in 2020 — permanent.

Doing so would likely render the compensation cuts unnecessary and protect those diagnosed with 9/11-related illnesses in the future. But the bill currently does not have enough votes to pass.

“This is a no-brainer,” said John Feal, a leading advocate for 9/11 first responders, whose foot was crushed by a steel beam as he removed debris from Ground Zero.

“This is an ongoing thing; this is a generation-long epidemic.”

John Feal, whose foot was crushed by a steel beam while he was working at Ground Zero, stands in front of the future site of a memorial for those who’ve died from 9/11-related illness. (Ellen Mauro/CBC News )

And it’s only going to get worse, said doctors treating people with 9/11-related conditions.

Some doctors estimate that more people will eventually die of 9/11-related conditions than the nearly 3,000 people who died on the day itself.

Many of the cancers linked to breathing in toxic air potentially take decades to develop, meaning the scope of the crisis could grow exponentially in the coming years. 

“It’s a huge problem,” said Dr. Benjamin Luft, a physician at Stony Brook University Hospital who works with the WTC Health program. “Overall, the amount of suffering that occurs post-trauma far exceeds the amount of trauma that occurs at the time — even though that trauma itself was enormous.”

‘We’re coming down hat in hand’

The dire predictions make Feal’s work all the more important to him. He’s organized lobbying trips to Washington every time the fund has come under threat since it was first created in 2011.

In 2015, a similar push to make it permanent was quashed by Republican lawmakers concerned over costs.

Instead, Congress gave the fund $ 7.3 billion US with the 2020 expiration date. Only about $ 2 billion US remains, with thousands of claims waiting to be processed and more people registering everyday.

“We’re coming down hat in hand,” said Wilson. “We’re begging for our brothers and sisters who are too sick to go and lobby on their own.”

A firefighter walks amid rubble near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (Peter Morgan/Reuters)

And with each trip, the frustration grows. Wilson, who is still an active duty police officer, said it’s insulting to meet lawmakers who pay lipservice to remembering the attacks but refuse to actually take care of those who were caught in the aftermath of that day.

“If hypocrisy was a crime in Congress, I’d be locking people up,” he said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by fellow first responder, Charles Sullivan, a former NYPD officer. In 2015, Sullivan was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma doctors said was related to working in Lower Manhattan following the attack.

“Some people might say we’re tired of hearing about 9/11, let it go,” he said. “I’d love to let it go: if people weren’t dying everyday.”

The gift that keeps on taking

It’s a reality that Bridget Gormley and Robert Tilearcio Jr. know all too well. Their fathers were New York City firefighters who died prematurely after being diagnosed with 9/11-related cancers. 

Tilearcio’s father travelled to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress in the years before he died of brain cancer in 2017 at age 58. Now Tilearcio Jr. goes in his place.

Bridget Gormley and Robert Tilearcio Jr. lost their fathers, who were firefighters, to 9/11-related cancer. They both work at a law firm that advocates for those living with illnesses connected to September 11. (Ellen Mauro/CBC News )

“9/11 is the gift that keeps on taking,” he said. “Hopefully those angels watching over us can maybe get into the heads of the people who don’t want to vote yes.”

Both Tilearcio and Gormley work at law firm Barasch & McGarry, located just minutes from where the Twin Towers once stood. The firm specializes in advocating for those with 9/11-related illnesses.

“I lost my father and I’m not going to get him back,” Gormley said. “I’ve come to terms with that, but now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than me. It’s cathartic almost.”

Partner Michael Barasch represented both of their fathers before they died. On 9/11, he watched from his office window as the South Tower collapsed.

“I was like a deer in highlights,” he said. “We are some of the same people that you’ve seen in those famous photographs covered in dust and ash, running up Broadway.”

Lawyer Michael Barasch watched the South Tower of the World Trade Collapse collapse from his office window. He’s dedicated his career to helping those with 9/11-related illness. (Ellen Mauro/CBC News )

Like Feal, Barasch has made many trips to Washington on his clients’ behalf.

“In many cases, it’s the difference between keeping your house and not keeping your house,” he said of the compensation cuts. “Congress just didn’t set aside enough money for all the people getting sick.”

Gormley said one of the hardest parts of losing her father was thinking he survived 9/11 — that her family had dodged a terrible fate — only for that day to change his life so many years later. 

“You have survivors who are turning into victims,” she said. “Everyone’s looking over their shoulder wondering what’s going to happen next.”

Fear of the future

Rob Serra lives with that anxiety everyday.

He was 21 years old on 9/11, his first day on the job as an New York firefighter. His health problems began almost immediately as he suffered with an uncontrollable nosebleed while working at Ground Zero.

Other issues followed. Nasal polyps had to be surgically removed, respiratory problems arose, and nerve damage means he sometimes relies on a wheelchair. His downward health spiral forced Serra to retire from the FDNY at just 33.

“I feel like the sand is moving a little quicker through the hourglass,” he said.

Serra now spends his time advocating for the fund. Compared to those waiting for their claims to be processed or the yet-to-be diagnosed, Serra said he’s lucky. He received his compensation before the cuts were announced — money to help take care of his young children now that he can no longer work.   

But it does little to ease his fear — a fear that stalks so many of 9/11’s first responders — that he won’t get to see his kids grow up.

“I’m hoping to see them go to high school but I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t imagine that I got all these other illnesses so early on and I’m not going to get cancer.”

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$19M in federal funds for mental wellness in black communities desperately needed, experts say

Those on the front lines helping people in the black community who are dealing with mental health issues hope new federal funding goes to not only improving access to treatment, but also addressing the stigma that stops people from looking for help in the first place.

Tuesday’s federal budget included $ 19 million over five years to develop research in support of more culturally focused mental health programs in the black community and more support for youth at risk.

Samantha Chhom-Yousuf, a program director at LOFT Community Services, an agency that helps people with mental health challenges, dementia and substance abuse problems, has worked in the Jane-Finch community for a decade.

She sees the barriers to accessing mental health supports as two-fold.

“There isn’t a lot of resources for them in that community and we also find that there’s a stigma,”  said Chhom-Yousuf, who was part of an assessment of mental health needs in the community in 2013.

Samantha Chhom-Yousuf

Samantha Chhom-Yousuf, a program director at LOFT Community Services in the Jane-Finch community, says there’s not just a lack of mental health practitioners, but also a stigma preventing those who need help from seeking treatment. (linkedIn)

“There’s not enough practitioners — psychologists, psychiatrics, you name it. There’s not a lot of health-care professionals that can offer that support to them,” she says, adding marginalized communities find it harder to access such resources.

“They may have to go downtown to [the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health(CAM-H)] or some facility outside the community for service. Accessibility is challenging.”

But also, she says, many in the community misunderstand what mental illness is, and that discourages some from seeking help.

“There’s a lot of stigma associated with mental health in the community. It may be see as a sign of weakness or you weren’t brought up properly,”  says Chhom-Yousuf. “When your community is not supportive that can be really traumatic. So when someone suffers from depression, they’ll be like, ‘Get over it.'”

She says poverty and violence are also linked to mental illness, along with poor nutrition and a lack of stable housing. Socio-economic indicators such as unemployment, low family income and various forms of discrimination, including
racism, have been identified as risk factors for poor mental health.

‘Put you money where your mouth is’

Dr. Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatrist and director of health equity at CAMH, says federal funding for preventative mental health programs is sorely needed.

“You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. Mental health is the corner stone of social and economic development,” McKenzie told CBC Toronto.

“Positive mental health and well-being and resilience and being able to deal with stress. We don’t do and think through how you develop positive mental health in black communities.”

Dr. Kwame McKenzie

Dr. Kwame McKenzie, director of health equity at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says little is being done to make sure youth in the black community are mentally resilient. (CAM-H)

McKenzie says it’s even more stark for black youth.

“There’s very little work going on to build psychologically strong and resilient youth and not surprisingly with socio-economic problems and racism and poorer schools, poorer housing and with poorer job opportunities, we have people under significant stress,” he said.

And McKenzie says when a mental illness is diagnosed, the wait times for people in black communities to get treatment are double the provincial average  — 16 months compared with eight.

Delays in treatment affect outcomes, he says, and treatments tend not to take culture and race into account. He says while culturally adapted treatments have been developed, they haven’t been deployed.

“Just about everything needs improving,” says McKenzie. “There are many straightforward things out there that we just don’t do.”

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New York sues oil companies, plans divestment from pension funds

New York City announced on Wednesday that it filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against five top oil companies, citing their “contributions to global warming,” as it said it would divest fossil fuel investments from its $ 189-billion public pension funds over the next five years.

The lawsuit against BP, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell follows similar lawsuits filed last year by San Francisco and other California cities seeking billions of dollars in damages from rising sea levels due to climate impacts.

“Safeguarding the retirement of our city’s police officers, teachers, firefighters and city workers is our top priority, and we believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet,” Comptroller Scott Stringer said in the statement.

The lawsuits are the latest legal challenges against oil companies over climate change and come as the firms are searching for new business models amid pressure by governments and consumers for cleaner energy.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions,” Exxon said in a statement. “Lawsuits of this kind — filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life — simply do not do that.”

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New York filed its lawsuit against BP, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell. (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

Chevron also said the lawsuits only serve special interests. ConocoPhillips declined to comment. Neither BP nor Shell could immediately be reached.

Exxon this week hit back against the California lawsuits in a filing with a Texas state court that points out none of the cities disclosed such risks to bond buyers. The company’s filing also argued the lawsuits were politically motivated and linked to cases brought by the states of New York and Massachusetts.

In afternoon trading, stock prices for the companies were mixed. Shares of Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips were down slightly, while Chevron and BP shares were up slightly.

New York’s goal of eliminating about $ 5 billion in securities of nearly 200 oil companies would be among the biggest public pension divestments from fossil fuels to date, the city said in a statement.

Norway’s trillion-dollar wealth fund, the largest of its kind, in November proposed cutting billions of dollars in oil and gas stocks.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo previously has said he planned to halt future fossil fuel investments in the state’s public employee pension fund.

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NASA Funds Ultra-Thin Spacecraft for Clearing Space Junk

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Humanity has been launching probes, spacecraft, and even entire space stations into orbit around the Earth for decades, and we’re getting pretty good at it. We’re not so good at getting objects back down to Earth, though. That’s becoming a problem as more and more space junk piles up in orbit, posing a danger to future missions. Various solutions to the problem have been suggested, but The Aerospace Corporation says its Brane Craft will be able to deal with space debris efficiently. It’s an ultra-thin flexible sheet that envelopes debris and drags it back into the atmosphere.

The Brane Craft was originally funded by NASA in 2016 as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. This allowed The Aerospace Corporation to pursue the design theory behind the craft, and now it’s time to move forward. The Brane Craft has received phase 2 funding under the NIAC program, which enables The Aerospace Corporation to begin building and testing the spacecraft’s systems in a laboratory setting.

The Aerospace Corporation’s approach to ridding space of unwanted debris is pretty out there, but that’s exactly what NIAC is about — funding wild ideas that could make a big impact if they pan out. The Brane Craft is essentially a 2-dimensional design, with a total thickness of just 10 micrometers. With a total surface area of about a square yard, it would make a tempting target for tiny bits of space debris or micrometeorite. Something as small as 5 micrometers could blast through the main structural sheet if it were struck, so The Aerospace Corporation is working to make it as durable as possible.

Redundancy is key to the Brane Craft. The solar cells are spread across the surface and designed to work independently if one of them is damaged or destroyed. Likewise, the craft has multiple microprocessors and electronics packages spread across the surface. If one of those is damaged, the others can pick up the slack.

Even the propellant, which is stored in a thin layer between the two outer sheets, is split up into multiple segmented tanks that can survive an impact. This tiny bit of propellant will be used by the Brane Craft to rendezvous with a piece of space junk, wrap the flexible frame around it, then slowly deorbit itself along with the junk. The limited fuel means the Brane Craft would be limited to capturing objects with a mass of 0.9 kilograms (2 pounds) or less.

So, why go to all the trouble of making the Brane Craft so thin? After all, more robust spacecraft are easy to design. It goes back to the incredible volume of debris in orbit — at least half a million that are the size of a screw or larger. To even make a dent, we’d need a lot of deorbiting mechanisms, and the Brane Craft is incredibly compact and light. That makes it feasible to launch many of them on a single rocket.

NIAC provides two years of funding for laboratory demonstrations of the technology. If NASA is happy with the progress, these ultra-thin spacecraft could be operating several years later.

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Trump asks Congress for $7.85B in Harvey relief funds

U.S. President Donald Trump has sent lawmakers a $ 7.85-billion US request for an initial down payment for Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

The request, expected to be swiftly approved by Congress, would add $ 7.4 billion to rapidly dwindling Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid coffers and $ 450 million to finance disaster loans for small businesses.

The initial Harvey package is just the first instalment for immediate disaster response like housing assistance, cleanup and FEMA-financed home repairs. The White House says more than 436,000 households have registered for FEMA aid.

The request also reiterates the need for Congress to increase the government’s $ 19.9-trillion borrowing limit by the end of this month. Republicans are signalling that they may link the unpopular debt limit increase to Harvey relief.

‘Still so much to do’

Trump said there is “still so much to do” for Texas to recover from Harvey. He will travel again to Texas on Saturday.

Trump tweeted Friday that “Texas is heeling fast thanks to all of the great men & women who have been working so hard.” He later corrected the spelling of “healing.”

He added, “But still so much to do.”

Trump has proposed federal hiring and budget plans that raise questions about his promised recovery effort.

He also tweeted Friday to praise his new chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, and criticize former FBI Director James Comey over his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

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