Coronavirus

New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World

As we learn yet another Greek letter through the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, around the world the new wave is starting to sound very familiar.

It’s been another 72-hour global moment.

It came in the days after the news first broke last Friday that B.1.1.529, named Omicron, had been identified by scientists in South Africa and assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has supplied a series of these collective worldwide “moments:” from the first wave of lockdowns to the discovery that the vaccines were effective to the Delta variant’s new wave of infections.

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Urban Jungles? See Wildlife Moving Into 7 Cities Around The World

Wild boars in Rome, big cats in Colombia cities, polar bears in Russian towns: a series of factors, including climate change and urbanization, is creating unlikely encounters between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.

Wild boars jogging down the street, pumas sauntering through the neighborhood, coyotes patiently waiting for the traffic light to turn green… This isn't the stage set for a new Jumanji or Ace Ventura movie, but an increasingly common sight in residential areas around the world. In recent decades, deforestation, changing agriculture and livestock practices, global warming and the rapid expansion of urban areas into the natural habitats of animals have forced a growing number of species to adapt to life in the city.

And with no sign of urbanization slowing down, some experts suggest that we have entered into a new era where city dwellers must get used to sharing their space with four-legged neighbors.

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Malaysian Latex Gloves For Nurses In Canada, Workers' Rights In COVID Times

Revelations of slavery-like conditions for migrant workers in Malaysia manufacturing hospital supplies says much about how worker exploitation has extends across the supply chain through the pandemic.

British labor rights activist Andy Hall had been working for years to defend migrant workers rights in Asia, particularly in Thailand and Myanmar. And when the COVID-19 crisis put unprecedented pressure on the global supply chain, he knew it was a situation ripe for exploitation.

In particular, the pandemic was creating unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment, with governments around the world rushing to secure millions of masks, gowns and gloves which would sometimes be sold to the highest bidder.

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Time To Triage (Out!) The Anti-Vaxxers Who Get COVID

In Canada's Western province of Alberta, hospital beds are running out and forcing officials to "triage" to decide who does and doesn't get care. The same formula should not apply to those who have chosen not to get the COVID vaccine.

-OpEd-

CALGARY — The province of Alberta in western Canada has a reputation for being outdoorsy, somewhat conservative, and laid back. Well, it's not laid back anymore. Over the past week, both medical administrators and the media have been warning that due to steeply rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and rapidly filling hospitals, medical workers may soon have to apply the triage policy to determine who is allocated medical care …and who is not.

In reality, triaging already began several weeks ago — and to the detriment of the vaccinated and children.

A common definition of triage is "a practice invoked when acute care cannot be provided for lack of resources. The process rations care towards those who are most in need of immediate care, and who benefit most from it"

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Society
Hélène Jouan

Poutine, The Greasy Canadian Delicacy Tempting Global Diners

The Quebecois soft cheese fries drowned in brown sauce, wants to make it as the "next culinary trend" worldwide

MONTREAL — Some national culinary "treasures' were never destined for export, which only adds to their status at home. That's how many have seen poutine, a dish composed of soft French fries drowned in gravy and topped with molten cheese curds. It's found everywhere in Canada, from upscale restaurants in Montreal to fast food joints in Vancouver, from highway chains to village snack bars where they're served on traditional aluminum plates. It's a link that culturally unites an entire nation, alongside ice hockey and Leonard Cohen.

Undeniably hearty and of questionable taste, it seems the meal was specifically concocted to be enjoyed after a hockey game or a snowshoeing trip at -20°C. Some Quebecois, however, are convinced that poutine is "the next global culinary trend," like the hot dog, the hamburger, pizza, tacos or sushi.

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WHAT THE WORLD
Clémence Guimier

Quebec's Latest Demand For Recognition: An Emoji

At 3,304 and counting, the list of officially recognized emojis includes more than just happy faces, hearts and clinking beer mugs. With certain icons there are politics at play, and even questions about regional pride and sovereignty, as lawmakers in the Canadian province of Quebec made clear in recent days.


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WHAT THE WORLD
Anne Sophie Goninet

In Quebec, 'Hot Mic' Gaffe Reveals What Judge Really Thinks

The truth, the whole truth ... and exactly what he thinks — but should never say out loud.

We all know the risks of teleworking and what can happen when someone accidentally forgets to turn off a camera or mute a microphone. Just last week a Canadian member of Parliament was caught naked during a Zoom conference when his laptop camera switched on as he was changing into his work clothes.

Doh!

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Sources

In Ottawa, The Neighborhood Bully Is A House Cat

While some cities are plagued by youth gangs and others by encroaching wild animals, one neighborhood of Ottawa is reckoning with a small but very scary cat.


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Sources
Hélène Jouan

Montreal's #MeToo Comedy Crisis Is No Laughing Matter

Long considered the 'capital of Canadian humor,' the Quebec city is currently facing simultaeous storms: the pandemic, #MeToo accusations and a deeper debate on the limits of comedy.

MONTREAL — At the Just for Laughs festival ticket office, on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, the windows are dirty, the walls covered with graffiti and the doors are decidely closed. An old poster announces the shows "from July, 10 to 28, 2019." Only a few red lanterns remain lit. The heart of humor in Quebec seems to have stopped beating.

For nearly a year, the coronavirus has frozen laughter. The curfew, in effect in the province since Jan 9, has once again forced local stars of the comedy scene — like Katherine Levac, François Bellefeuille and Rachid Badouri — to postpone their shows.

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La Presse
Anne Sophie Goninet

How The Pandemic Is Changing Birth Control Choices

As the pandemic's first wave of lockdowns began, there was plenty of chatter about how it would affect couples, relationships and sex — and consequently what it would mean for contraception. Earlier this year, the UN warned in a report that more than 47 million women in 114 countries could lose access to contraception if health services continue to be heavily disrupted.

As many now brace for COVID-19's second wave, and renewed restrictions, birth control is again on people's minds. A recent report in Canada found that the health crisis has prompted many to reassess their main method of contraception.

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La Presse
Sylvain Charlebois*

From Canada To The UK, Shedding Light On Quarantine Weight

In developed countries, this long period of self-isolation has caused waistlines to bulge — a serious matter, especially since obesity is a clear COVID-19 risk factor.

-OpEd-

There's a heaviness to the pandemic that's weighing people down, including in a very literal sense. Here in Canada, polls show that some 40% of the population gained weight since mid-March.

The issue isn't, of course, limited to this country. Nor is there one single explanation for why some people have put on a few extra kilograms of late. But governments are choosing to act now, during the pandemic, to raise awareness among their citizens.

Leading the way is the government of Great Britain, where public initiatives include a ban on television and online junk food advertising before 9 p.m. Restaurant menus will also be required to display calories, while over-the-top marketing campaigns for calorie-heavy foods will have to stop: No more chocolate bars near cash registers that encourage impulse buying.

British authorities are even considering a requirement that calories be displayed on alcoholic products. The "Better Health" campaign, as it's known, will be introduced with expanded weight management plans to serve citizens, and will run for nine months.

But governments are choosing to act now, during the pandemic, to raise awareness among their citizens.

The timing of the campaign is no coincidence: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who lost more than 6 kgs (13 lbs) after suffering a life-threatening COVID-19 infection last May — acknowledged that overweight people are more likely than people of average weight to contract the virus. About 60% of Britons are overweight, including the prime minister himself.

The food and drink industry was quick to react by saying that the initiative was a good thing, even though this kind of campaign isn't to everyone's liking, since certain products are intentionally targeted. Some companies claim that the program is unfair and prevents the British from enjoying themselves.

Here in Canada, research suggests that about 25% of the people have used self-isolating as an opportunity to change their habits and adopt healthier behaviors. But there's also evidence that more than half of the population has had more difficulty staying healthy during this period.

Gaining the infamous "quarantine 15"... — Photo: Szabo Viktor

Either way, the "Great Quarantine" — aside from the stress it caused — has changed our habits. While it is important to stay active to successfully lose and maintain weight, it is also essential to improve diets, as most people consume more calories than they need. Snacks and sales of alcoholic beverages are increasing throughout the West.

Along with nationwide mass advertising, the British campaign will specifically target areas and groups most affected by obesity. Evidence shows that Black, Asian and minority communities are disproportionately affected by obesity and COVID-19.

The British government's effort should be acknowledged for going much further than any other campaign of its kind. First, it is timely, given the pandemic and its impact on certain demographic groups. The program addresses the taboo of obesity, an important factor in the prevention of COVID-19. It is also the first time a health-oriented program has interfered with the way products are sold in stores without using a regressive tax.

Yes, retailer revenues will be affected. But the program will only last nine months. The same goes for advertising and media revenues. But again, these measures are intended to be temporary. It is a kind of pilot project, and one that will no doubt cost the British state a lot of money for advertising and promotion.

Either way, the "Great Quarantine" — aside from the stress it caused — has changed our habits.

Paradoxically, the announcement of the British approach came just 10 days after the same government spent roughly $750 million on restaurant discounts to encourage its citizens to go out more. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August, every citizen will be entitled to a savings of $15 a day every time they visit a restaurant. Any restaurant can participate in the program, even fast-food restaurants where calorie-filled and unhealthy products are sold in abundance. In this regard, there's a glaring lack of consistency.

In Canada, certain practices are already in place: For example, the number of calories is displayed next to each dish on menus. A next and necessary step is to publicly admit that our population is too fat and even fatter than before.

We should use our COVID-19 public service announcements to encourage people to exercise more and lead active lifestyles. True, the importance of protecting oneself should not be overlooked, but it's also a good opportunity to share a more positive message — while giving Canadians a welcome light push.

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La Presse
Patrick Legacé

Far From Alabama: Quebec Must Face Its Own Systemic Racism

-OpEd-

Let's talk about the words that are at the center of this wake-up-call of a debate.

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BBC

The Latest: China’s Two-Child Policy Ends, Netanyahu’s Job At Risk, Darth Vader’s House

Welcome to Monday, where China ends its two-child policy, Netanyahu risks losing his job, and Darth Vader's house is up for sale. We've also zoomed in on a single photo to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in our This Happened video.

• China bumps two-child policy up to three: China announces that married couples may have up to three children, after data showed a steep decline in birth rates in the country. The move puts an end to the existing limit of two, in place since 2016, which itself replaced the 1979 one-child policy.

• Netanyahu vs. coalition: Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that a proposed coalition would be "a danger to Israel's security and future," a day after nationalist Naftali Bennett announced he would join forces with a centrist party to form a unity government by Wednesday, which would end the rule of the country's longest-serving prime minister.

• Canada mourns 215 indigenous children: Flags were flown at half-mast across Canada yesterday, in homage to the 215 children whose remains were found on the grounds of a former boarding school in Kamloops, British Columbia, earlier last week. The preliminary findings of the investigation into what was part of a nationwide effort to force-assimilate Indigenous children into Canada, are expected to be published in a report this month.

• Denmark helped NSA spy on Merkel: A European media investigation reveals how Denmark's secret service helped the U.S. spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European officials from 2012 to 2014. The report confirms NSA wiretapping allegations originally made by whistleblower Edward Snowden back in 2013.

• COVID Vietnam variant: Vietnam has started a mass COVID-19 testing campaign and toughening lockdown measures to respond to a new spike in COVID cases and the discovery of a new hybrid discovered in the country, said to combine features of the Indian and UK variants.

• Tarzan's Joe Lara presumed dead in plane crash: American actor Joe Lara, known for his role as Tarzan in the 1990s TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, is presumed dead after a plane crash in Tennessee along with his wife and five other people.

• Living like Darth Vader: An ominous-looking home, nicknamed "the Darth Vader House," in Houston, Texas, is now on the market for $4,3 million. At 7,000 square-foot, it has plenty of breathing space ...

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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

Not Quite Groundhog Day

I had to be quick to snap a photo of this little fellow in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, before it dashed back into its burrow. I'd always assumed it was a groundhog, like those I'm used to seeing in the French Alps. But looking at it now, I'm quite sure it's a prairie dog.

food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

Miles And Miles Across Canada

In the westernmost point of British Columbia, we found the "Mile 0" marker of the Trans-Canada Highway. Though we covered a lot of Canadian ground, we never made it the 4,860 miles across to the "Mile 1" marker in St. John's, Newfoundland Labrador. I'm not sure whether it makes more sense to call the starting point Mile 0 or Mile 1, but it's worth noting that the Trans-Canada Highway has been posted in kilometers since 1977, when all Canadian roads switched to metric. So for the record, it's 7,821 kilometers from Mile 0 to Mile 1...

Migrant Lives
Petra Molnar and Samer Muscati

How Canada Is Using AI To Help Decide Immigration Cases

Algorithms can certainly speed things up. But are they an appropriate tool processing residency and asylum claims that are nuanced and complex by nature?

-Analysis-

OTTAWA — The large-scale detention of undocumented immigrants in the U.S; the wrongful deportation, in the UK, of 7,000 foreign students accused of cheating on a language test; racist or sexist discrimination based on a social media profile or appearance. What do these seemingly disparate examples have in common? In every case, an algorithm made a decision with serious consequences for people's lives.

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