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Airlines support vaccine passports, Meng hearing continues : In The News for Aug. 12

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Aug. 12 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Aug. 12 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Canada's airline association says it's pleased to see the federal government implementing a vaccine passport for international travel.

Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, said a standardized digital certification of vaccine status is critical to restart the country's travel and tourism sectors.

The federal government announced the passport system Wednesday, saying it's intended to certify Canadians who choose to travel abroad.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the digital pass will include data on the type of vaccine received, and the dates and location they were given.

The news comes after the government scrapped quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers earlier this summer.

McNaney said he hopes all governments will work together to ensure that a fall release date for vaccine passports will be met.


Also this ...

Government lawyers are expected to argue today that an international bank risked losses due to the alleged misrepresentations by one of Huawei's most senior executives.

Meng Wanzhou, who is the Chinese telecom giant's CFO and daughter of the company's founder, is facing extradition to the United States on fraud charges that both she and the company deny. 

Today is the second day of formal arguments in her extradition hearing, which is unfolding more than 2 1/2 years after her arrest at Vancouver's airport soured Canada's relationship with China. 

Meng is accused of lying to HSBC about Huawei's control of another company during a 2013 presentation, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions in Iran. 

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general, who represent the United States in the case, are trying to convince the judge that American prosecutors have provided enough evidence to support a case against her, while Meng's team has consistently denied any wrongdoing. 

Her long-awaited extradition hearing is proceeding as courts in China prosecute Canadians whose sentencing or detentions are widely seen as retaliation for her arrest.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON _ Top Republicans are battling school districts in their own states' urban, heavily Democratic areas over whether students should be required to mask up as they head back to school _ reigniting ideological divides over mandates even as the latest coronavirus surge ravages the reddest, most unvaccinated parts of the nation.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has issued an executive order threatening to cut funding from school districts that defy a statewide ban on classroom mask mandates. He's now suggesting his office could direct officials to withhold pay from superintendents who impose such rules anyway.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is threatening to withhold funding to schools in his state's capital of Columbia over masking rules, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to enforce a similar order against mask mandates _ despite large school districts around the state, including Dallas and Austin, promising to go ahead with classroom face covering requirements.

The posture comes with some clear political incentives for Republicans. The party's base has opposed mask rules for more than a year and long recoiled at the word "mandate.'' Still, some within the GOP's own ranks have begun to warn of the safety and political risks involved in making schools _ and children's health _ the chief battleground for an ideological fight.

It all comes as some Democrat-run states are moving in the opposite direction, reimposing masking rules for classrooms and other public spaces after easing them in recent months, when it seemed the pandemic might be waning.

That's consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that children mask up in school. A recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association found that nearly 4.3 million U.S. COVID-19 cases have affected children. That's about 14 per cent of all cases nationwide, though the report said hospitalization and death among children is "uncommon.''


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

KABUL, Afghanistan _ Two Afghan officials and the Taliban say the militants have seized the provincial capital of Ghazni, the 10th such seizure in the last week.

Fighting was still ongoing on the outskirts of the city some 130 kilometres southwest of Kabul. However, officials say the Taliban were raising their flag and the city had calmed after hours of heavy fighting.

It follows the Taliban capture of a police headquarters in a provincial capital in southern Afghanistan teetering toward being lost to the insurgents.

Fighting raged in Lashkar Gah, one of Afghanistan's largest cities in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, where surrounded government forces hoped to hold onto the capital after the militants' weeklong blitz has seen them already seized nine others around the country.

Afghan security forces and the government have not responded to repeated requests for comment over the days of fighting. However, President Ashraf Ghani is trying to rally a counteroffensive relying on his country's special forces, the militias of warlords and American airpower ahead of the U.S. and NATO withdraw at the end of the month.

While the capital of Kabul itself has not been directly threatened in the advance, the stunning speed of the offensive raises questions of how long the Afghan government can maintain control of the slivers of the country it has left. The government may eventually be forced to pull back to defend the capital and just a few other cities as thousands displaced by the fighting fled to Kabul and now live in open fields and parks.

The success of the Taliban offensive also calls into question whether they would ever rejoin long-stalled peace talks in Qatar aimed at moving Afghanistan toward an inclusive interim administration as the West hoped. Instead, the Taliban could come to power by force _ or the country could splinter into factional fighting like it did after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

The latest U.S. military intelligence assessment is that Kabul could come under insurgent pressure within 30 days and that if current trends hold, the Taliban could gain full control of the country within a couple of months.


On this day in 1889 ...

The boundaries of Manitoba and Ontario were defined by an imperial act.


In health news ...

New research suggests a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine could help better protect organ transplant patients.

Researchers at the University Health Network in Toronto say their study “shows a clear benefit” to offering a booster to this immunocompromised group.

The study's joint senior author Doctor Deepali Kumar says some transplant patients “are completely unprotected” with two doses and should be offered a third.

Researchers compared 60 participants in Ontario who received a third shot of the Moderna vaccine to 60 who got a placebo.

Just over half, or 55 per cent, of those who received a third dose saw their antibody response rate reach at least 100 units per millilitre, which previous modelling suggests offers some protection.

In comparison, 18 per cent of the placebo group reached 100 units.

Kumar says antibody levels typically reach 1,000 to 10,000 units per millilitre in healthy people, and some of the transplant study participants showed similar numbers.

The study is billed as the first randomized placebo-controlled trial of COVID-19 boosters in transplant patients.

It was published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.



Mounties say a man is in hot water for landing a helicopter to pick up a cool treat in a Saskatchewan town.

RCMP say they received a complaint on July 31 that a helicopter had landed in a high-traffic parking lot in Tisdale, which is about 215 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

They say the helicopter blew up dust and debris through the area that includes schools and an aquatic centre.

Police say an investigation determined the landing was not an emergency.

They say a passenger left the helicopter and went into a nearby restaurant to buy an ice cream cake.

Officers say the pilot, who is a 34-year-old man from Leroy, Sask., had a licence to fly the helicopter but landed in an illegal spot.

The man, who has not been named, has been charged with dangerous operation of an aircraft and is to appear in court next month.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2021

The Canadian Press