With the United States and its allies, Canada included, having left Afghanistan firmly in the hands of the Taliban, another world power is stepping into the void to exert its influence on the troubled country — China.
Analysts predict that could transform the recent political foe into an unexpected Western ally on a shared priority: fighting terrorist groups within Afghanistan and preventing them from threatening neighbouring countries.
That’s because Afghanistan and China share a small piece of land border that abuts the Chinese province of Xinjiang where Beijing has detained hundreds of thousands of ethnic Muslim Uyghurs.
Canada and dozens of countries have denounced China at the United Nations for what it sees as the systematic abuse of the Uyghurs. Human rights advocates, political figures and scholars gathered last week in Britain for a major conference to discuss what they allege is a genocide being perpetrated by Beijing.
China denies the allegations and has vigorously defended its actions in Xinjiang, saying it is trying to stamp out domestic terrorism through re-education efforts.
China does not want to see any infiltration of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate known as ISIS-K, which staged a suicide attack on Kabul airport late last month killing 13 American military personnel and dozens of Afghans.
Cong Peiwu, China’s ambassador to Canada, said his country wants Afghanistan to be on good terms with the international community, especially its neighbours.
“China sincerely hopes all parties of Afghanistan can echo the eager aspirations of the Afghan people, and the common expectation of the international community: build an open and inclusive political structure, adopt moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, make a clear break with terrorist organizations in all forms,” Cong said in an interview.
Relations between China and the U.S. are at an all-time low for a number of reasons. China’s aggressive military provocations and claims to the vast waters of the South China Sea have angered regional neighbours and Washington.
Beijing’s clampdowns on Hong Kong and ethnic Muslim Uyghurs have also exposed the Chinese government to widespread international condemnation, including from Canada, that it is violating the human rights of a vulnerable group.
“The number 1 priority is avoiding the spillover of terrorist groups into China, their connection through Xinjiang,” said Paul Evans, a China expert at the University of British Columbia.
“We’ve had something of a common agenda with China since 9/11, but in practical terms, it was not too far developed.”
The al-Qaida terrorist group used Afghanistan to stage the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, but was routed along with the then Taliban government by U.S.-led forces.
Canada joined with its American-led NATO allies to fight a resurgent al-Qaida based in Kandahar in 2006, and fully withdrew its military from the country in 2014. There were 158 Canadian military personnel and seven civilians who died in Afghanistan.
“When I was serving in Afghanistan, China certainly had an interest and it wasn’t in any kind of antagonistic manner,” said Ben Rowswell, the top Canadian political representative to Kandahar just over a decade ago.
China’s main interest in Afghanistan back then was primarily economic, which included an interest in a copper mine. “They were relatively content to have someone else provide the security backstop for the Afghan state,” he said.
Today, Rowswell said, China has “massively exaggerated the threat of political Islam within its borders” and it doesn’t need to be worried about an infiltration of terrorists from Afghanistan.
“I would expect there to be difficult times ahead for the Uyghurs as the Chinese crack down even further out of fear, out of perceptions there may be some kind of threat,” said Rowswell, now the president of the Canadian International Council think-tank.
Bessma Momani, an international affairs specialist at the University of Waterloo, said the fact the Taliban sent its second-in-command to Beijing for a meeting in late July sends a clear signal that it wants amicable relations with China.
“The Taliban have actually made it very clear that they don’t have any interest in picking a fight with China or to provide sympathy to the Uyghurs in some way,” she said.
But with no diplomatic footprint on the ground, it will be hard for Canada to monitor the effectiveness of its three-year, $270 million foreign aid spending commitment to international organizations operating inside Afghanistan, said Momani.
“For us, the big question is: will we continue to have a foreign aid program there?”
Momani and other analysts are also dismissive of a growing school of thought that China is interested in pursuing new economic interests in Afghanistan, whether it is their old copper mine or attempting to exploit the country’s rare-earth mineral potential.
“When you look at it, China plays a pretty conservative game. They want to get a return on their investment,” said Ian Johnson, a Montreal native who is the senior fellow on China studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.
“Yes, there are natural resources. But it’s hard getting them out of the ground and getting them to China, as other countries have experienced in the past.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2021.
Canada COVID-19 booster update coming 'very shortly': Tam – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News
Canadians can expect an update on the potential use of additional COVID-19 shots for the most at-risk “very shortly,” the country’s top doctor says.
Speaking at a news conference Friday morning, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters she expects the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make recommendations on whether or not additional doses for those at the highest risk are needed.
In particular, the committee is looking at those who received a COVID-19 vaccine around the beginning of the year, Tam added.
“So that includes, for example, those in long-term care homes or congregate living for seniors,” she said. “So I expect the committee to have their deliberations completed on this group … very shortly.”
Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot
Tam did not elaborate on a timeline further, but her comments come after the United States approved booster shots for Americans aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk settings, like a workplace or congregate living.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the plan on Thursday, which is in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the extra shot earlier this week.
Pfizer-BioNTech is the vaccine of choice. The extra shots will also be rolled out in long-term care facilities and are open to more than 20 million Americans who received their second Pfizer shot more than six months ago.
Tam said in addition to looking at American data on boosters, Canada has its own measures to follow as its vaccine approach is different.
“For example, while we use the mRNA vaccines that are the same as the United States, many Canadians actually had an extended interval compared to the United States, and what the data is showing us is that the extended interval produces a more robust immune response and vaccine effectiveness is better with a longer interval,” she said.
“So the Canadian data must be analyzed on top of what we’re gathering from the international community as well, and we are taking a thorough, thoughtful and phased approach to looking at additional doses.”
Canada has already OK’d additional doses for some immunocompromised individuals, announcing the new measure on Sept. 10.
“NACI continues to examine the need for booster doses, which unlike additional doses are intended to restore initially adequate immune protection that may have waned over time,” Tam said at the time.
Booster shots, however, continue to be a divisive issue among health experts and internationally.
Vaccine inequity was among the agenda items at the United Nations’ annual meeting this week. The leaders of many African countries, whose populations have little to no access to the shots, spoke out.
It is “of great concern” that the global community has not supported the principles “of solidarity and co-operation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, said.
“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 per cent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one per cent has gone to low-income countries.”
U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines
On Wednesday during a global COVID-19 summit, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would double its purchase of Pfizer’s shots to share one billion doses with the world, in an effort to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population within the next year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was also in attendance, committed to that goal.
“In order to get this done, Canada will build on the important progress we have made so far, and focus on increasing the production, availability, and delivery of vaccines,” a read-out of the summit said.
“To date, Canada has contributed more than $2.5 billion to help address this crisis globally. We have also committed to sharing tens of millions of vaccine doses with the rest of the world, including through the COVAX facility.”
Tam said on Friday that more than 80 per cent of Canada’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Johns Hopkins University, 32.71 per cent of the world’s population is fully inoculated.
Earlier this month, University of Toronto bioethics professor Kerry Bowman told Global News that Canada needs to fight the pandemic with a global approach.
“Booster shots may well be required for immunocompromised people and a subset of people, (but) I think in the short term, we should not have widespread booster shots — meaning third doses — at all, for ethical reasons and epidemiological reasons,” he said.
“We really have to start making a deeper commitment to the larger world to protect ourselves and because it’s the right thing to do.”
–with files from Reuters and The Associated Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca
New Brunswick has reinstated its COVID-19 state of emergency as the province’s chief medical officer of health warned the province is at a “tipping point.”
“The pace of the fourth wave is beyond what we had anticipated,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell at a briefing Friday as the province reported a single-day record of 78 new cases and three additional deaths.
As part of the mandatory order, which will take effect at 11:59 p.m. AT Friday, residents must stick to their household bubbles and a “steady 20” of close contacts.
The order will be reviewed every two weeks and come into effect whenever there are 25 people hospitalized with COVID-19, said Premier Blaine Higgs. The number of people hospitalized currently stands at 31, including 15 in intensive care, he said.
Dr. Gordon Dow, infectious disease specialist with the Horizon Health Network, said the lifting of health-protection measures almost two months ago was an error.
“Many other jurisdictions made the very same mistake,” he said at a technical briefing earlier Friday, citing Alberta, Saskatchewan, the U.S. and the U.K.
Dow said the province’s previous efforts to combat the virus focused on a successful “elimination strategy” that was used to rapidly shut down seven distinct outbreaks. But the province wasn’t ready for the delta variant, he said.
“Did we under-call this one? I would say yes, and I think most New Brunswickers would agree with that,” he said. “But I would also say that we got it right 85 per cent of the time.”
Meanwhile, Ontario is easing capacity limits at certain venues where proof of vaccination is required, including sports facilities, cinemas and concert venues.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says the province’s COVID-19 cases and health indicators have been stable recently, though it doesn’t mean the province can let its guard down in the face of the delta variant.
Ontario on Friday reported 727 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. There are 193 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19.
— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Canada’s chief public health officer says the country is seeing about 4,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day, up from about 3,500 per day three weeks ago.
The bulk of cases and severe outcomes are among the unvaccinated, Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news briefing Friday.
From early August to early September, the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 was 11 times higher in those who were unvaccinated than in fully vaccinated people, she said, while hospitalization was 38 times higher.
While more than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, more than six million people still have not received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Tam said.
— From The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday afternoon, more than 230.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as people returned from the country’s biggest holiday of the year.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 1,750 of the 2,434 new cases reported Friday were from the greater capital area, where officials have raised concern over an erosion in citizen vigilance despite the enforcement of the strongest physical distancing rules short of a lockdown since July.
In the Americas, a live televised interview with U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris was slightly delayed Friday after two hosts of the The View learned they tested positive for the coronavirus just before she was to join them on the set.
Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro were at the table for the start of the show, but were pulled from the set. Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York.
In Europe, Portugal is scrapping many of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions after becoming the world leader in vaccination rollout. The country has fully vaccinated nearly 85 per cent of the population, according to Our World in Data.
The government says starting Oct. 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in cafés and restaurants, at weddings and baptisms, shopping malls, concerts and cinemas. Bars and discos will reopen, although only for vaccinated people and people with negative coronavirus tests.
Meanwhile, Norway’s government says the country will reopen society on Saturday, ending pandemic-curbing restrictions that have limited social interaction and hobbled many businesses.
“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime …. Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.
The decision to no longer require physical distancing will allow culture and sports venues to utilize their full capacity, rather than just a portion of seats, while restaurants can fill up and nightclubs reopen.
About 76 per cent of all Norwegians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 67 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Institute of Public Health.
In the Middle East, Yemen received its third batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, the health ministry said
In Africa, Egypt has authorized Russia’s single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the shot abroad, said on Friday. The country approved Russia’s two-dose Sputnik V vaccine in February.
— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
BENANTHONY LAVOZ AND DELON OM GET RAW WITH “The Gentleman and Scholar”
Toronto, ON – Canadian Latin Pop sensations BenAnthony Lavoz and Delon Om, dropped their new EP “The Gentleman & Scholar.” Coming off the success of their summer hit single “One More Time” the pop sensations went dark for their new project. The multi-talented artists wanted the lyrics of their new EP to describe the struggles we keep to ourselves, the ones that lead us to walk in the darkness. Lavoz and Om brought in some heavy hitters to produce “The Gentleman and Scholar.” The EP was produced by David Neale (Karl Wolf, Danny Fernandes, Peter Jackson) and multi-platinum Grammy award winning producer, Sensei Musica (Fat Joe, Pitbull, and Shakira). The project serves as an emotional outlet for Lavoz and Om, who bring to the table a genuine connect and passion. “The Gentleman and Scholar” reminds us that there are many parts that make up who we are, but at the heart of it all … is our truth. Do we own it, or do we hide? One of the singles on the EP, “Follow the Leader” features Canada’s own Danny Fernandes. The three artists connected over their dark pasts to create the song about vulnerability, redemption and finding a new and forgiving path to walk.
BenAnthony Lavoz, a Toronto native and Latin Grammy award winner has performed with Prince Royce, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny and Ozuna. Delon Om, is a former Canadian Idol contestant, song writer and music producer signed to Ultra Records. Om’s single, “Someone Special To Me” was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary “This is for Toronto.” Together they produced an EP that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit, in hopes that lessons learned, and paths walked will give others hope and encouragement to step out of the dark and into the light.
“The Gentleman and Scholar” is raw and ready. Step into the light on all music platforms today…
FOLLOW Delon OM:
FOLLOW BENANTHONY LAVOZ:
Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management:
Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804
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