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Myanmar military imposes martial law over country’s largest city after dozens killed

Myanmar’s ruling junta has declared martial law in a wide area of the country’s largest city, as security forces killed dozens of protesters over the weekend in an increasingly lethal crackdown on resistance to last month’s military coup.

The United Nations said at least 138 peaceful protesters have been killed in Myanmar since the Feb. 1 military coup, including at least 56 killed over the weekend.

The developments were the latest setback to hopes of resolving a crisis that started with the military’s seizure of power that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. A grassroots movement has sprung up across the country to challenge the takeover with almost daily protests that the army has tried to crush with increasingly deadly violence.

State broadcaster MRTV said on Monday that the Yangon townships of North Dagon, South Dagon, Dagon Seikkan and North Okkalapa have been put under martial law. That was in addition to two others — Hlaing Thar Yar and neighbouring Shwepyitha — announced late Sunday.

More violence was reported around the country on Monday, with at least eight protesters killed in four cities or towns, according to the independent broadcaster and news service Democratic Voice of Burma.

Photos and videos posted on social media showed long convoys of trucks entering Yangon.

The body of Saw Pyae Naing is placed in a hearse in Mandalay on Sunday. Saw Pyae Naing, a 21-year old anti-coup protester, was shot and killed by Myanmar security forces during a demonstration on Saturday, according to his family. (The Associated Press)

At least 38 people were killed Sunday, the majority in the Hlaing Thar Yar area of Yangon, and 18 were killed on Saturday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said. The total includes women and children, according to the figures from the UN human rights office.

UN condemns ‘continuing bloodshed’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemns this ongoing violence against peaceful protesters and the continuing violation of the fundamental human rights of the people of Myanmar,” Dujarric said.

The UN chief renewed his call on the international community, including regional countries, “to come together in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier Monday, UN Special Envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener condemned the “continuing bloodshed,” which has frustrated calls from the Security Council and other parties for restraint and dialogue.

“The ongoing brutality, including against medical personnel and destruction of public infrastructure, severely undermines any prospects for peace and stability,” she said.

WATCH | Myanmar’s military tightens its grip on power, targeting politicians and journalists:

Myanmar’s military has tightened its grip on power, further cracking down on protesters and targeting politicians and journalists. 2:07

Complicating efforts to organize new protests — as well as report on the crisis — cellphone internet service has been cut, although access is still available through fixed broadband connections.

Mobile data service had been used to stream live video coverage of protests, often showing security forces attacking demonstrators. It previously had been turned off only from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. local time for several weeks, with no official explanation.

The blockage of internet service forced postponement of a court hearing in the capital, Natpyitaw, for Myanmar’s detained leader Suu Kyi, who was supposed to take part via a video conference, said her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw. Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained during the coup, and have been charged with several criminal offences that their supporters say are politically motivated to keep them locked up.

Chinese-owned factories torched

Since the takeover, Myanmar has been under a nationwide state of emergency, with military leaders in charge of all government. But Sunday’s announcement was the first use of martial law since the coup and suggested more direct handling of security by the military instead of police.

Sunday’s announcement said the junta, formally called the State Administrative Council, acted to enhance security and restore law and order, and that the Yangon regional commander has been entrusted with administrative, judicial and military powers in the area under his command. The orders cover six of Yangon’s 33 townships, all of which suffered major violence in recent days.

Members of a volunteer rescue team carry an injured man on a stretcher in Mandalay on Sunday. (The Associated Press)

Thirty-four of Sunday’s deaths were in Yangon. At least 22 occurred in Hlaing Thar Yar township, an industrial area with many factories that supply the garment industry, a major export earner for Myanmar. Several of the factories, many of which are Chinese-owned, were set aflame Sunday by unknown perpetrators.

The torching earned protesters a rebuke from the Chinese Embassy, which in turn received an outpouring of scorn on social media for expressing concern about factories but not mentioning the dozens of people killed by Myanmar’s security forces.

Four other deaths were reported in the cities of Bago, Mandalay, and Hpakant, according to the AAPP and local media.

Increased violence

In response to increased police violence, protesters in the past week have begun taking a more aggressive approach to self-defence, burning tires at barricades and pushing back when they can against attacks.

A statement issued Sunday by the Committee Representing Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw, the elected members of Parliament who were not allowed to take their seats, announced that the general public has the legal right to self-defence against the junta’s security forces.

Anti-coup protesters flash the three-fingered salute during a candlelight night rally in Yangon on Sunday. (The Associated Press)

The group, which operates underground inside the country and with representatives abroad, has established itself as a shadow government that claims to be the sole legitimate representative body of Myanmar’s citizens. It has been declared treasonous by the junta.

A small respite from the latest violence came before dawn Monday, when several dozen anti-coup protesters in southern Myanmar held candlelight vigils with calls for the end of the military government and a return to democracy.

In Kyae Nupyin village in Launglone township, villagers read Buddhist texts and prayed for the safety and security of all those risking their lives in the face of the increasingly lethal response of the security forces.

The area around the small city of Dawei has become a hot spot for resistance to the military takeover. On nearby country roads, a long convoy of motorcyclists carried the protest message through villages.

In Dawei itself, demonstrators built barricades out of rocks to hinder police on the main roads. There were marches, both in the morning and the afternoon, to try to keep up the momentum of weeks of resistance to the takeover.

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CBC | World News

None of Ottawa’s new travel rules apply to the largest group of people entering Canada — truckers

None of the federal government’s recently announced new travel measures — which include COVID-19 testing upon arrival — apply to the largest group of people regularly entering Canada: Commercial truck drivers.

Of the 10 million entries into Canada since March 21, 2020, close to half — 4.6 million — were made by commercial truck drivers crossing by land, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Because truck drivers deliver essential goods across the border during the pandemic, the government has exempted them from quarantine and all COVID-19 test requirements. Ottawa says it’s exploring tests for truckers at the border but has not yet presented concrete plans.

Meanwhile, some Canadian truck drivers want more protections now, as highly contagious COVID-19 variants spread rapidly in the United States

“You hear how this thing is spreading like wildfire,” said long-haul trucker Luis Franco of Calgary, who transports goods to the U.S. four to five times a month. 

“I’m very concerned about my family when I come back,” Franco said. “I don’t want to get them sick.”

Close to half the entries into Canada since March 21 have been made by truck drivers crossing by land, according to the Canada Border Services Agency. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Even though truck drivers are exempt from quarantine, they must follow other protective measures such as wearing masks, social distancing and answering health questions at the border. 

Despite following all the rules, Franco said he still feels unsafe because he encounters many people at U.S. rest stops who don’t take precautions.

“A lot of the Americans like in the southern states, or in the western states, they don’t believe in COVID,” he said. “You walk into a truck stop or fuel up, or to do whatever you got to do and [it appears as though] 80 per cent of the people, they’re not wearing masks, they’re not social distancing.”

Watch: Truck driver Luis Franco talks about the dangers trucker face

Calgary-based Luis Franco says the essential worker exemptions for border crossing truck drivers like himself are dangerous. He makes four to five trips into the U.S. every month, where he says too many people aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously. He worries he could be infected and bring the virus — or one of the highly-contagious new variants — into Canada, and into his own home. He wants to see the federal government take action, to either enforce rapid testing at the border or to give truckers priority for the COVID vaccine. 2:02

As an added protection, Franco wants the government to test truckers for COVID-19 each time they cross into Canada. 

“A lot of us could very well be asymptomatic,” he said.

Franco’s not alone. More than 100 Canadian science and health experts have signed a petition calling for the federal government to implement strict border measures, including COVID-19 tests for everyone entering Canada — including essential workers. 

“Canada faces a very significant risk of an escalated new, variant driven COVID wave,” says the petition. 

Ottawa explores testing truckers

On Jan. 29, eight days after the petition was launched publicly, the government announced it was toughening up its border measures.

Effective Feb.15, travellers entering Canada by land must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test at the border. And starting on Feb. 22, they will also be required to take another COVID-19 test on arrival, as well as one near the end of their 14-day quarantine.

However, truckers and other essential workers — who are already exempt from quarantine — are exempt from the new test requirements.

On Sunday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the government is also exploring the introduction of COVID-19 tests for essential workers crossing the border.

“We’re working very closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and also with our provincial health authorities to [look] at implementing a system of regular testing to help protect those essential workers and truck drivers that are coming into the country and also to ensure that they’re not the source of any new infection,” Blair said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live.

But infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jeff Kwong said the government needs to take action now.

“It only takes a handful of [truckers] to be infected when they’re coming back and then they’re seeding infections here in Canada,” said Kwong, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. 

Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jeff Kwong said the government needs to take immediate action to start testing truckers at the Canadian land border. (CBC)

Kwong recommends Ottawa immediately introduce COVID-19 rapid tests for essential workers crossing the land border. Rapid tests are known to be less sensitive than regular COVID-19 tests, but provide results within minutes.

“Just do a test at the border. If they’re positive, then don’t go home to your family,” Kwong said. “I’m not sure why it hasn’t been implemented.”

Following the swift spread of a new COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom in December, several European countries began demanding that truck drivers entering from the U.K. provide proof of a negative COVID-19 rapid test.

What about vaccinating truckers?

Long-haul truck driver Leanne Steeves said she also feels unsafe when transporting goods to the U.S., which has the highest COVID-19 case count across the globe. Steeves is diabetic which puts her at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19.

“It’s scary,” said Steeves who lives in Woodbridge, Ont. “We have to go to the states, we have to go to California, we have to go to Florida, you know what I mean? We’re going through these bad [COVID-19] areas.”

Despite the risks, Steeves isn’t a fan of testing truckers because she believes it would create a logistical nightmare. 

“The wait at the border would be insane,” she said. 

Leanne Steeves and her husband Gerald are both long-haul truck drivers who make frequent trips to the U.S. during the pandemic. Steeves said she would like truck drivers to get top priority for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Submitted by Leanne Steeves)

Teamsters Canada — which represents more than 15,000 long-haul truck drivers — agrees with Steeves, which is why the union recommends the government instead test truckers at truck stops and rest areas. It also wants truck drivers given top proriority for COVID-19 vaccinations. 

“More needs to be done to protect drivers as new and potentially more dangerous variants emerge,” said Teamsters spokesperson, Christopher Monette in an email. 

Truck drivers Franco and Steeves agree they should be vaccinated as soon as possible. However, neither of them are in the top priority group for their province, meaning they could wait months for their shots.

“If we can help protect ourselves a little bit more by having the vaccine [now], that’d be awesome,” said Steeves. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada did not respond to a request for comment on prioritizing vaccinations for truckers. 

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CBC | Health News

New COVID-19 outbreak declared at Cargill meat plant in Alberta — site of Canada’s largest outbreak

The site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Canada is now facing a new spate of cases.

Alberta Health confirmed there are 11 cases linked to the Cargill meat-processing plant near High River, Alta., as of Saturday. Of those, seven cases are active. 

The outbreak began on Dec. 16, 2020, Alberta Health said, and was reported publicly this week when it reached the threshold of five cases.

An outbreak last spring saw at least 950 staff at the facility — nearly half its workforce — test positive.

“This is how the prior Cargill outbreak started. With about 10 cases, and within days it was hundreds of cases, and people were dying,” said United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 president Thomas Hesse.

Daniel Sullivan, a spokesperson for Cargill, confirmed that six employees who tested positive are in isolation and are receiving medical care and support.

“At Cargill, the safety of our employees is our top priority. As essential workers, our team is on the front lines of feeding people across our communities,” he said in an emailed statement on Saturday.

Sullivan said the cases come as the town of High River “continues to experience a rise” in COVID-19 cases. According to the province, there are currently five cases of COVID-19 in the town of around 17,000.

He said Cargill is continuing to learn how to slow the spread of the virus, and is working with Alberta Health Services to implement safety measures as they become available and offer testing to employees who are close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“We want to work with everyone to focus on keeping people healthy and delivering safe food to people across Canada,” Sullivan said.

Hesse said the union is now in an investigative stage, trying to determine whether or not the numbers are in an isolated area of the plant and whether workers have had broader exposure.

“[We’re trying to determine] what is in place in terms of health and safety measures,” Hesse said. “Companies like Cargill say lots of nice things about caring about worker health and safety, but the proof is in the pudding and they have a terrible record.”

Two workers and one worker’s father died in connection with the 2020 outbreak. An RCMP investigation into the death of Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old immigrant from Mexico and a union shop steward at the plant, is believed to be the first police investigation into a workplace COVID-19 fatality in Canada.

The company is also facing a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of individuals who had close contact with Cargill employees during last year’s outbreak, who allege the company operated without adequate safeguards despite public health warnings.

The allegations have yet to be tested in court. 

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said in a tweet that she’s deeply concerned to see another outbreak at the Cargill plant — and that a repeat of 2020’s outbreak cannot happen.

“Cargill claims they have new safety measures in place. If those don’t hold, this plant must be shut down before we have hundreds upon hundreds of workers infected with a deadly virus again,” the Alberta New Democratic Party Leader wrote.

Adrienne South, press secretary for Alberta Labour and Immigration, said in an email statement that provincial occupational health and safety (OHS) officials continue to monitor workplaces for compliance with public health guidelines, and that OHS can issue stop work orders where non-compliance is observed.

South said OHS has been in contact with Cargill and is monitoring the situation, but at this time no more information can be provided.

The High River plant processes around 4,500 head of cattle per day — around one-third of Canada’s processed beef supply.

There are currently outbreaks at seven meat-processing or packaging facilities in the province — including an outbreak at the Olymel pork plant in Red Deer, which has seen 168 cases and one related death.

Take a look at a timeline of the 2020 Cargill outbreak:

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CBC | Health News

Paleontologists Might Have Discovered the Largest Dinosaur That Ever Lived

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The largest land animal alive today is the African bush elephant, weighing in at around 20,000 pounds. As big as elephants are, they’ve got nothing on some extinct megafauna. Scientists excavating a new species of dinosaur in Argentina have reported that the specimen might be the largest that ever lived. Even if it doesn’t set a record, the animal was much bigger than anything alive today. 

Only part of the animal has been exhumed from its stone coffin, but paleontologists know it’s from the sauropod family. These creatures, like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus, had long tails and necks along with four thick, pillar-like legs. This body design allowed some species to grow to unfathomable proportions — the current dino record-holder is a sauropod called Patagotitan mayorum. This animal was about six times more massive than a modern African elephant, and the new find looks to be even larger. 

The new dinosaur, which is being excavated not far from where scientists discovered Patagotitan mayorum, is still mostly buried in rock. So, it doesn’t have a name, and the team hasn’t ventured a guess as to how large the animal was in life. However, some human-sized bones are 10 to 20 percent larger than the same bones in Patagotitan mayorum. The location makes sense, too. Patagotitan mayorum is also from this region of Argentina, which has gained a reputation for being home to several species of enormous, record-breaking sauropods. 

A Patagotitan mayorum reconstruction on display at the Field Museum, Chicago. Credit: Ryan Whitwam

Researchers first spotted the remains of this animal in 2012. A team didn’t make it to the site for excavations until 2015, but the animal had been lying there for 98 million years. A few more seasons wasn’t going to matter. Currently, the team has uncovered the tail, a few pelvic bones, and some vertebrae. From these, paleontologists know they’re looking at a very large dinosaur, possibly even the largest. 

It’s rare for an entire animal to fossilize — in fact, many species of dinosaurs are only known from a few sets of incomplete skeletal remains. This specimen appears to be mostly intact, but the bulk of it is still buried in rock. The team expects to spend several more years carefully removing rock from around the fossils. Hopefully, the remains include intact femurs or humorous bones. From these, researchers will be able to make an accurate estimate of the animal’s size. When that happens, this unnamed creature might take the crown as the largest known dinosaur.

Now read:

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Australia’s second largest city heads back into coronavirus lockdown

Lockdown measures were reimposed in Australia’s second biggest city on Tuesday, confining Melbourne residents to their homes unless undertaking essential business for six weeks, as officials scramble to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

The decision, which affects around 4.9 million people, was announced just hours before the busy border between Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, and New South Wales is scheduled to close for the first time in a century.

WATCH | Almost 5 million Australians under lockdown after spike in coronavirus cases

Lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, includes the closure of the state border, creating headaches for people who routinely work or travel between Victoria and New South Wales. (Ross/AAP Image/Reuters) 1:08

From midnight on Wednesday, everyone in Melbourne will be required to stay home unless travelling to work, studying, shopping for food or attending medical appointments. Restaurants, cafes and bars will be able to provide takeaway service only, gyms and hair salons closed, household gatherings limited to two people and the current school vacation extended.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the restrictions were onerous but necessary.

“I would, with the greatest of respect, put it to you getting this virus and dying from it is very onerous too,” he said during a televised media conference.

Victoria was responsible for 191 of the 199 new cases reported nationally on Tuesday, the biggest one-day rise since early April. The spike has worried officials, even though the national total of almost 8,800 cases and 106 deaths is far below many other countries.

Police officers speak to residents as they enforce a lockdown at public housing towers in response to an outbreak of coronavirus in Melbourne on July 4. (David Crosling/AAP Image/Reuters)

“We have to be clear with each other that this is not over,” Andrews said. “And pretending that it is because we all want it to be over is not the answer. It is indeed part of the problem. A very big part of the problem.”

Andrews had over the weekend reinstated strict physical-distancing orders in more than 30 Melbourne suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown because of the recent outbreak.

State border used daily by commuters, schoolchildren

Hundreds of police officers and army troops were being deployed to enforce the closure of Victoria’s border with New South Wales from midnight on Tuesday.

The state line is highly porous, stretching hundreds of kilometres. It is heavily used daily by commuters, schoolchildren and road freight.

People caught crossing the border without permission via any of the 55 roads, or several river and wilderness crossings, will face penalties including a fine equivalent of roughly $ 10,500 Cdn and six months imprisonment.

Police stop drivers at a checkpoint in Melbourne on July 2. (Daniel Pockett/Reuters)

A second region in Victoria, where recent coronavirus cases have been detected and which is home to 44,000 people, will face lockdown restrictions similar to Melbourne.

Blow to hopes for quick economic recovery

The border closure and reintroduction of restrictions in Melbourne deal a blow to Australia’s hopes for quick economic recovery as it approaches its first recession in nearly three decades, driven by physical distancing restrictions imposed in March.

For businesses on the border, which last closed during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919, it also poses an immediate logistics headache.

Daily travel permits will be granted to people who live in border towns and cities but with the closure just hours away, the application system was still being developed.

Outside of the border towns, Victoria residents will be able to apply for a permit, but will need to prove a special need for their travel. Freight transporters will be free to cross the border without a permit, but will be subjected to random stops.

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CBC | World News

Canada’s largest mental health hospital calls for removal of police from front lines for people in crisis

Canada’s largest psychiatric facility is throwing its support behind mounting calls to remove officers from the front lines for people in mental health emergencies.

“It’s clear we need a new way forward,” the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto said Tuesday.

The move follows a string of deaths involving people in crisis, including Ejaz Choudry — a 62-year-old father of four with schizophrenia killed by police in Mississauga, Ont., after his family called a non-emergency line.

Choudry was the third Canadian in crisis to be killed by police over the past month. On June 4, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, was shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Eight days later, Rodney Levi, 48, was fatally shot by the RCMP in New Brunswick. The chief of his First Nation community later described him as troubled but not violent.

D’Andre Campbell, 26, was fatally shot in April in Brampton, Ont., after his family says he called 911 for help.

“For too long, the health-care system has relied on police to respond to mental health crises in the community,” CAMH said in its statement.

“Mental Health is health. This means that people experiencing a mental health crisis need health care.

“Police should not be first responders. Police are not trained in crisis care and should not be expected to lead this important work.”

Racism compounds crisis interactions, giving rise to the “tragic outcomes” Canada has seen recently, CAMH added.

In Toronto, mobile mental health teams consist of a registered nurse and police officer, but are mandated only to provide secondary responses. Police officers alone remain the first responders, particularly for calls involving a weapon.

WATCH | Ontario shooting death raises questions about sending armed officers to mental health calls:

Serious questions are being raised about sending armed police officers to respond to mental health crises after a Mississauga, Ont., man was shot to death over the weekend. The man’s family is now demanding a public inquiry, and the officer’s firing. 1:48

That was the case in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year old Black woman who fell to her death in Toronto after police were called to her home for reports of an assault involving a knife.

In the days afterward, police chief Mark Saunders said: “There’s no way I would send a nurse into a knife fight.”

Nearby Peel Region has a similar model: the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team, launched in January, deploys from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. every day. But whether the teams serve as first responders or take a secondary role depends on the nature of the call, the force told CBC News. 

John Sewell, former Toronto mayor and now the co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, says his organization has called on the Toronto Police Services Board to have a mental health nurse paired with a plainclothes officer respond to calls for people in crisis.

At every turn, he says, he’s been met with resistance.

‘The result is that people get killed’

“The board has consistently refused and said we’ve got to send the armed, uniformed officers first,” he told CBC News. “Well, the result is that people get killed.”

As for the argument that armed officers are needed because a situation might be violent, Sewell says trained mental health professionals handle such situations regularly and are trained in de-escalation — something that police aren’t primarily trained to do.

John Sewell, a former Toronto mayor and now the co-ordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, has been at the forefront of a push to restructure the system responding to people in crisis. (CBC)

“When someone has had experiences with people in uniform that involved in some way being restrained or tackled… there might be a certain amount of scar tissue so to speak when they’re put into a similar situation,” said David Gratzer, staff psychiatrist at CAMH, emphasizing the vast majority of people with mental health issues are not violent.

“Mental health professionals deal with agitated patients frequently and they understand that certain techniques can be highly successful.”

Alok Mukherjee, the former chair of Toronto’s police board from 2005 to 2015, says he was encouraged to see more mobile crisis units added during his time there, but says the program falls short because they don’t operate around the clock and aren’t designated as first responders.

“That’s where we hit a road block,” he said.  

Board ‘willing to explore’ other models

Of the nearly one million phone calls Toronto police receive every year, about 30,000 are mental health related, the force has said. Across Canada, from 2000 to 2017, a CBC News investigation previously found, 70 per cent of the people who died in police encounters struggled with mental health issues, substance abuse or both.

In an email to CBC News, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Jim Hart said the board remains “very supportive” of the existing mobile crisis team program, but that it is “committed to working to explore enhancements of and alternatives to this concept.

“The board is also willing to explore and consider other models that would provide better service to those in our community experiencing mental health or addiction issues; these models may include these services delivered by mental health experts without police,” Hart said. 

Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Chantel Moore both died after police were called to do wellness checks on them. (Facebook)

All of the above cases are being investigated by the relevant police oversight agencies.

In a statement, the Peel Regional Police Board said while it couldn’t comment on individual cases, “these deaths are a tragic reminder that there is much work to be done,” adding that the incidents will inform the board’s work on key issues including community engagement, strategic planning and the upcoming budget.

As Ontario’s police watchdog has itself pointed out, however, officers at the centre of cases involving serious injury or death of civilians cannot be compelled to turn over their notes or participate in interviews with the Special Investigations Unit.

Some say that means the SIU itself lacks the teeth to fully investigate allegations of police wrongdoing.

Asked Tuesday if the province would consider amending the legislation, Jenessa Crognali, spokesperson for Ontario’s attorney general said the rules stem from “principles against self-incrimination.”

She said those rules will remain even after the current Police Services Act is replaced with the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, passed earlier this year.

As for whether police services being funded through taxpayer money means officers should be compelled to answer to an oversight body, Crognali did not answer. 

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CBC | Health News

North America’s largest single coronavirus outbreak started at this slaughterhouse. Take a look inside.

Note: This story contains details that some may find upsetting.

Hiep Bui spent 23 years at the Cargill meat-packing plant in southern Alberta — picking out bones from ground beef in a refrigerated room.

The 67-year-old was one of around 2,000 workers at the plant, located near the town of High River, south of Calgary.

The plant is the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak linked to a single facility in North America, according to outbreak data from Canadian and U.S. health authorities. A total of 1,560 cases have been linked to the plant, provincial health officials say, with 949 employees testing positive and one death — Bui.

Her death, and the coronavirus outbreak, put into sharp relief the heavy toll meat-packing work can take on members of a workforce that often have few other opportunities.

“The union asked for help, the workers asked for help. The workplace was declared safe … and a worker has died,” said Alex Shevalier, president of the Calgary and District Labour Council, during an online vigil for workers who have lost their lives on the job.

“What we do now is what matters. We cannot bring that sister back but we have to fight for the living. We need a public inquiry and we need a criminal investigation and we need them now.”

Hiep Bui, left, and husband Nga Nguyen. Bui died of COVID-19 amid an outbreak that has affected hundreds of her fellow workers at Cargill. (ActionDignity Facebook page, Dave Gilson/CBC)
Hiep Bui, left, and husband Nga Nguyen. Bui died of COVID-19 amid an outbreak that has affected hundreds of her fellow workers at Cargill. (ActionDignity Facebook page, Dave Gilson/CBC)

Hiep Bui, left, and husband Nga Nguyen. Bui died of COVID-19 amid an outbreak that has affected hundreds of her fellow workers at Cargill. (ActionDignity Facebook page, Dave Gilson/CBC)
Hiep Bui, left, and husband Nga Nguyen. Bui died of COVID-19 amid an outbreak that has affected hundreds of her fellow workers at Cargill. (ActionDignity Facebook page, Dave Gilson/CBC)

On Monday, the same day the Cargill plant reopened after a two-week closure, Bui’s memorial service was livestreamed on social media.

Bui’s husband of more than 25 years, Nga Nguyen — who also works at Cargill and contracted COVID-19 — was asked whether Cargill had called him to express its condolences.

Nguyen shrugged and shook his head. Communicating in Vietnamese through an interpreter, he said, no, the company hadn’t called.

“He’s feeling numb,” his interpreter said. “He doesn’t know if he’s angry. Just numb.”

Cargill, a company worth billions, has been accused by employees and the union of caring more about its bottom line than worker wellbeing.

“Honestly speaking, they don’t care about their employees,” one worker said. “They’re saying they can replace people at any time. They don’t care.”

John Keating, president of Cargill Meat Solutions, a subsidiary of Cargill, said the company puts people first. He said his heart hurts to lose an employee, and he was surprised to hear the company has yet to reach out to Bui’s husband.

He said the company was “hit overnight” by the outbreak and there are lessons to be learned.

“If we need to feel the need to apologize, absolutely, we will apologize. We’re a very humble organization, we feel bad about what happened but at the same time we’re very confident in how we run our businesses, how we run our processes.”

On Tuesday, the day after CBC News spoke to Keating, the company said it had reached out to Nguyen to offer condolences.

After employees first began to test positive for the coronavirus, some told CBC News they continued to work in close quarters with colleagues despite physical distancing measures put in place by the company and said Cargill pressured them to return to work even after they contracted COVID-19.

The number of cases at Cargill is staggering even when compared with the U.S., which has the highest total number of active COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world. As of May 1, there were 4,913 COVID-19 cases in total among all meat-packing plants in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

CBC News interviewed 14 current employees of Cargill for this story. Their identities have been kept confidential because they fear negative impacts on their employment should they be identified.

Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by name withheld)
Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by name withheld)

Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by name withheld)
Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by name withheld)

The workers at the plant are primarily immigrants to Canada or temporary foreign workers and many speak limited to no English. Some say their job security is key to them remaining in the country.

Employees have said they’ve sustained injuries at the plant, from blackened fingers to knee damage that has made it difficult to walk.

Cargill said ergonomic experts were in place at the facility to guide the work.

“We have a ramp-up plan in place to ensure our team builds strength and protects their long-term health. We are focused on keeping our employees safe and healthy now and for the future,” company spokesperson Daniel Sullivan said in an email.

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Alberta meat-processing plant tied to Canada’s largest COVID-19 outbreak to reopen within days

An Alberta meat-packing plant hit by the largest single-site outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada plans to reopen within days, after shutting down for two weeks when hundreds of workers fell ill with the virus and one woman died.

Cargill announced Wednesday that its meat-packing plant near High River, Alta., will reopen with one shift beginning May 4 — a move the union representing the workers says is “incredibly concerning.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the facility had been linked with more than 1,200 COVID-19 cases, 821 of whom are workers. One worker in her 60s died, and her husband was hospitalized with the illness.

The Cargill plant and a JBS plant in Brooks, Alta., which has 276 cases among its workers, supply more than two-thirds of Canada’s beef. 

All employees who are eligible to return to work in the harvest department are asked to report to work, Cargill said.

Cargill is one of the two primary beef suppliers for McDonald’s Canada, and normally processes about 4,500 cattle per day at this time of year. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The company said returning employees must be healthy, and must not have had contact with anyone who has COVID-19 for 14 days.

“We look forward to welcoming our employees back and are focused on our ongoing commitment to safety,” Jon Nash, Cargill Protein’s North American lead, said in a release. 

“We know being an essential worker is challenging and we thank our team for working so hard to deliver food for local families, access to markets for ranchers and products for our customers’ shelves.”

The company said new safety measures have been introduced since the facility shut down.

Some employees at the plant previously accused the company of ignoring physical distancing protocols and trying to lure them back to work from self-isolation. 

After the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, no preventative inspection was done. A live video inspection by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, conducted after dozens at the plant were already sick, concluded the work site was safe to remain open.

Days later, the outbreak had grown to hundreds and the plant was shut down after the woman’s death.

Union pursuing legal action

UFCW local 401 spokesperson Michael Hughes said the union was not informed ahead of time that the facility was set to reopen.

“We’ve learned this at the same time everyone else has,” Hughes said.

“It’s incredibly concerning that Cargill would be even thinking of reopening in a matter of days while presiding over the biggest outbreak in [Canada] and while half of its employees are sick with COVID-19.”

Hughes said Cargill has not adopted safety initiatives suggested by the union. He said the union will now work with its legal counsel to pursue action to try to keep the plant from opening.

The union is concerned Cargill has been “emboldened” by U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order Tuesday to compel meat plants to continue operating, he said.

“If COVID-19 is a fire, they’re throwing us into it.”

A sign outside JBS meat-processing plant in Brooks, Alta., thanks workers for continuing to show up during the pandemic. Hundreds of workers at the plant have now contracted COVID-19. (CBC)

New measures

During the shutdown, Cargill said it would reduce the likelihood of carpooling by providing buses with protective barriers between the seats to transport workers. Those employees who live in the same household will not be required to follow the carpooling restrictions, the company said.

The company says it has worked with OHS through virtual and in-person tours, and has added additional barriers in the washrooms and reassigned lockers to allow for more spacing.

Protective barriers have also been installed on the production floor to allow for more spacing between employees, the company said, and face shields have been introduced in places where protective barriers are not possible.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wouldn’t say whether Canada would follow the Trump administration’s lead in compelling meat-processing plants to remain open, stressing worker safety as a priority.

Cargill, Smithfield Foods Inc., JBS USA and Tyson — the world’s biggest meat companies — have paused operations at around 20 slaughterhouses and processing plants in North America.

As of Wednesday’s provincial update, 276 employees have tested positive at the JBS meat-packing plant in Brooks, about 180 kilometres southeast of Calgary.

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The CIA Secretly Ran One of the World’s Largest Encryption Firms for Decades

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For decades, Swiss firm Crypto AG supplied governments around the world with encrypted communication systems. Most of its 62 customers never suspected anything was amiss, but a new report from The Washington Post and German broadcaster ZDF reveals that Crypto AG was actually owned by the CIA and West German intelligence (BND). For decades, the agencies effortlessly eavesdropped on the secure communications of allies and enemies alike. 

Crypto AG didn’t start as a CIA operation — it was the brainchild of Russian-born inventor Boris Hagelin. Hagelin fled to Sweden when the Bolsheviks took power in Russia and then fled again to the US when the Nazis swept into Sweden. While in the US, he helped develop the M-209 encryption machine for US forces. After the war, Hagelin returned to Europe to reestablish Crypto AG in Switzerland. There, he developed more advanced versions of the pin-and-lug type encryption he used in the M-209. 

According to the classified CIA documents obtained by The Post and ZDF, the CIA became concerned that Hagelin’s machines would allow other nations to completely obscure their communications, so it developed a plan to “deny” that technology to them. Knowing Hagelin held a great fondness for the US, intelligence officials approached him with a proposal. The CIA would pay Crypto AG to keep its more sophisticated cipher machines out of the hands of select nations. That would make their communications easier to intercept. 

That arrangement suited the CIA just fine throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but the agency worried what would happen when Hagelin retired or died. In the mid-60s, the CIA and Crypto AG began cooperating more closely. As integrated circuits replaced geared encryption, the CIA designed a seemingly secure system that it could easily decipher. That formed the basis of Crypto AG’s new flagship products. In 1969, the CIA and BND purchased Crypto AG in secret, obscuring their control of the company with the help of a law firm in Liechtenstein. 

A 1950s era Crypto AG cipher machine known as the CX-52.

Crypto AG continued operating as one of the world’s most successful secure communication firms throughout the late 20th century. Employees of the company thought they were providing powerful encryption systems to customers like Argentina, Libya, Iran, Brazil, India, and Egypt. However, the CIA and BND were able to read any correspondence they intercepted from Crypto AG machines. 

Several nations became suspicious of Crypto AG in the late 80s when US President Ronald Regan chastised Libya for the way it gloated over a Berlin terrorist attack. He was so specific that Iran became concerned that the US had compromised the Crypto AG systems both it and Libya used. Iranian authorities detained a Crypto AG salesman for nine months. Upon his release, the man spoke to the media about his suspicions that Crypto AG was not what it appeared to be. 

BND pulled out in the early 90s, fearing the operation might be revealed. However, the CIA remained in control of Crypto AG until 2018 when the firm was liquidated. By then, widely available online technologies had largely replaced Crypto AG products, but its hardware is still in use around the world. Probably not for much longer, though.

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Largest study yet offers no clear talc link to ovarian cancer

U.S. researchers who conducted the largest study yet into whether applying powder to the genitals increases a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer were unable to definitively put to rest the issue that has prompted thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other companies.
Overall, the study did not find a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer, but there appeared to be a heightened risk among certain women who used the products.
The data found that women with an intact reproductive tract — those who never had a hysterectomy or their tubes tied — who reported using baby powder had a 13 per cent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to women who never used the product. That risk rose to 19 per cent among women who used baby powders at least once a week.
The U.S.-funded study published in the medical journal JAMA on Tuesday pooled data on 252,745 women from four government studies that asked women whether they had ever used powder on their genitals. The study did not consider individual brands.
The data, compiled by a team at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), set out to provide a clear answer to whether use of such powders could cause ovarian cancer when applied near the genitals.
Instead, “we got an ambiguous answer,” said Katie O’Brien, an NIEHS epidemiologist who led the study.
“This was the largest study ever done, but because ovarian cancer is such a rare disease, it was still not big enough to detect a very small change in risk,” O’Brien said.

Prior studies have largely relied on asking women who had already developed ovarian cancer if they remember ever using baby powder on their genitals.
Such retrospective studies “can sometimes find links that do not exist,” Susan Gapstur, senior vice president of Behavioral and Epidemiology Research at the American Cancer Society, said in an email.

‘Incremental insight’

“The analysis by O’Brien and colleagues provides incremental insight into the link between genital powder use and ovarian cancer risk but does not provide the definitive evidence,” Gapstur said.
About 40 per cent of the women overall said they used baby powder. A total of 2,168 in the studies developed ovarian cancer, which has a lifetime risk of 1.3 per cent.

Overall, the team found that women who had ever used talc for feminine hygiene during their lifetimes had an 8 per cent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer compared with those who were not exposed. That difference was deemed to be not statistically significant.
Given that ovarian cancer is rare, O’Brien said, “that amounts to an additional nine ovarian cancer cases per 10,000 women. That’s pretty small.”
The prevailing theory of how powder could cause ovarian cancer is that it would travel up the vagina, through the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes and come into contact with the ovaries, where it causes inflammation that leads to cancer.
To examine this more closely, O’Brien and colleagues looked specifically at women with intact reproductive tracts. Among this group the higher risk among powder users was statistically significant, they found.

In an editorial accompanying the paper, Dr. Dana Gossett of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues, cautioned that women who had their tubes tied or hysterectomies might have used talc before these procedures, so stratifying women this way does not clearly translate into whether a woman has been exposed or not.
Gossett, who was not involved with the study, said the finding of higher risk of ovarian cancer in women with intact reproductive tracts is below the size that most epidemiologists consider important.
The team could not determine what type of powder was used, and information on frequency of powder use differed by study group.
J&J, which faces more than 16,000 lawsuits claiming its baby powder and talc products cause cancer, said the finding of no statistically significant association between powder use and ovarian cancer affirms the safety of its products.
“The facts are that Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” the company said in a statement.
The study did not address the possibility of exposure by breathing powder into the lungs. Some consultants hired by plaintiff attorneys who blame their client’s ovarian cancer on asbestos contamination in talc say inhaled powder can be a cause of ovarian cancer.
O’Brien said the study specifically focused on application to the genital or perineal area.
“We did not attempt to estimate exposure due to inhalation. That would be extremely difficult, given the information we had to work with.”

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