Connect with us


Ottawa fast-tracking travel visas for AIDS conference amid sharp criticism



OTTAWA — The federal government is prioritizing temporary travel visas for people seeking to attend the International AIDS Conference in Montreal at the end of July.

But the conference begins in two weeks and hundreds of people hoping to attend are still in limbo about their travel plans. Many others, mostly from Africa, Asia and South America, already had their visa requests rejected, including some who received scholarships partially funded by the federal government in order to attend.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in an emailed statement to The Canadian Press that overseas visa offices were recently sent lists of attendees to the conference and told to put their applications to the top of the pile for processing.

“(Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) has taken every measure available to expedite the applications as quickly as possible and facilitate travel for this event,” said Aidan Strickland.

Almost three weeks ago, Fraser received a letter signed by more than 250 Canadian and international humanitarian organizations heavily critical of Canada’s visa process and demanding he intervene. The letter said at least 400 delegates were still waiting for a visa.

“As things stand, the upcoming conference in Montreal will have doctors, scientists, and advocates from high-income countries attending in person — while many people living with HIV/AIDS from the most affected communities, as well as experienced health-care workers from the front lines, will either have to attend virtually or not at all,” reads the letter, which was led by the Quebec coalition of community AIDS organizations.

“This is not acceptable and not the image of Canada we want to showcase to the world.”

Tian Johnson, founder of the African Alliance, a health rights organization, slammed Canada in a recent statement, calling it “truly vile” that Canada had bid to host the conference, offered millions of dollars to make it happen, and then prevented the voices of those affected most by HIV/AIDS from participating.

“Without us, AIDS 2022 will (continue to) be white, privileged and academic,” Johnson said.

The pre-conference starts July 27 and the full conference July 29. The International AIDS Conference usually attracts up to 20,000 people. The last version was to be held in San Francisco in 2020, but ended up being entirely virtual because of COVID-19.

Javier Bellocq, an Argentine who sits on the communities delegation to the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said there are some positive signs that the Canadian government is trying to solve the visa delays.

He said in Argentina and Peru, people who have submitted the required fingerprints and submitted their applications have recently started receiving the documents they need to submit their passport for the final visa to be issued.

But he said even that is a lengthy process, noting he waited in line for hours in Buenos Aires recently, gave his passport over to the Canadian government, but has no idea when he’ll get it back with a visa.

“We only have two weeks,” he said.

He said for those living outside the major cities, they have to submit their passports by courier, which will take even longer to get the documents processed.

Jonathan Ssemanda, a PhD student at Makerere University in Uganda, who waited more than two months for his visa, said it was finally approved in late June.

“We have seen a significant change,” he said in a text message.

Ssemanda is to present his research at the conference on improving adhesion to antiretroviral medication at the conference, said he applied for a visa more than two months ago. He was told it would take 30 business days to process, but he still has not received a response.

Bellocq said this is not the first time visa limitations in developed countries have restricted people from developing countries from attending the AIDS conference and it won’t be the last. He said he is pushing to have a session at the Montreal event dedicated to discussing the problem.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2022.

— With files from Jacob Serebrin in Montreal.


Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Zimbabwean lecturer develops low-cost sun cream set to help people with Albinism



Harare, Zimbabwe- Dr. Joey Chifamba, a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) chartered industrial chemist and pharmaceutical nanotechnology expert has developed a low-cost sun cream which is set to help people with Albinism.

According to Dr. Chifamba, the sun cream harnesses zinc and titanium from natural sources as well as indigenous trees and was made using 5th generation emerging technologies including nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Speaking to a local publication, The Herald, Dr. Chifamba said his ground-breaking sun cream will help people living with Albinism who suffer from actinic (solar-induced) skin damage, freckles, sunburn as well as other various skin cancers.

“No product has ever been developed to protect Albinistic persons from actinic damage. The sunscreens that are given to them are designed for white-skinned people and do not take into consideration specific conditions and differences found on Albinistic skins.

This makes them not very effective and not very suitable especially for all-day everyday wear since Albinism is a lifelong condition.

We employ nanosized metallic oxides sunblocks conjugated together with nano-optimized indigenous herbs with antibacterial, antifungal and wound healing effects to create aesthetically pleasing cosmeceutical products for every day all day use by Albinistic persons.

In our innovation we have developed ground-breaking cosmeceuticals which are not only sunscreens but complete actinic damage retarding treatments that consider Albinistic skin differences and deal with various symptoms of actinic damage including wrinkles, premature aging, inflammation, bacterial and fungal infections,” said Dr. Chifamba.

Furthermore, Dr. Chifamba said the products which were developed in consultation with the Albino charity organization of Zimbabwe and other Albino welfare groups, are already available to people living with Albinism who are registered with the charity organization.

People with Albinism have skin that is very sensitive to light and sun exposure. Sunburn is one of the most serious complications associated with Albinism because it can increase the risk of developing skin cancer and sun damage-related thickening of the skin.

Albinism is a rare genetic condition caused by mutations of certain genes that affect the amount of melanin your body produces. Albinism can affect people of all races and all ethnic groups

For most types of Albinism, both parents must carry the gene in order for their child to develop the condition. Most people with Albinism have parents who are only carriers of the gene and don’t have symptoms of the condition.

Other types of Albinism, including one that only affects the eyes, mostly occur when a birthing parent passes the gene for albinism on to a child assigned male at birth.

Continue Reading


Donald Trump loyalist, Alex Jones ordered to pay US$49 million in punitive damages



Donald Trump loyalist, Alex Jones ordered to pay US$49 million in punitive damages

Austin, United States of America (USA)- A jury in Texas on Friday ordered Alex Jones, a loyalist to former US President Donald Trump, to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a child who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012.

The jury announced its decision a day after awarding the parents more than U$4.1 million in compensatory damages and after testimony on Friday that Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his media outlet, Infowars, were worth US$135 million to US$270 million.

Prior to Friday’s Court proceedings, Jones told his audience that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax and that the grieving parents of those who died were actors.

The total of US$49.3 million is less than the US$150 million sought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was among the 20 children and six educators killed in the deadliest classroom shooting in US history.

“He stood up to the bully Adam Lanza and saved nine of his classmates’ lives. I hope that I did that incredible courage justice when I was able to confront Alex Jones, who is also a bully. I hope that inspires other people to do the same. This is an important day for truth, for justice, and I couldn’t be happier,” said Lewis.

Before the jurors began deliberating about the punitive damages, Wesley Todd Ball, a lawyer for the family, told the jury that it had the ability to send a message for everyone in the country and perhaps this world to hear.

“We ask that you send a very, very simple message, and that is, Stop Alex Jones. Stop the monetization of misinformation and lies. Please,” said Ball.

Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, conceded during the trial that the attack was 100 percent real and that he was wrong to have lied about it, but Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology wouldn’t suffice and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he has put them and other Sandy Hook families through.

The parents told jurors about how they have endured a decade of trauma, inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed, gunshots fired at the home, online and phone threats, and harassment on the street by strangers. They said the threats and harassment were all fueled by Jones and his conspiracy theory spread to his followers via Infowars.

Jones who was in the courtroom briefly on Friday but not there for the verdict still faces two other defamation lawsuits from Sandy Hook families in Texas and Connecticut.

Nevertheless, Jones has also claimed, among things, that the Pentagon was using chemical warfare to turn people Gay, that COVID-19 is not real and that September 11 was an inside job perpetrated by the government.


Continue Reading


FBI still worried of another attack from Afghan rebel groups



Washington D.C, United States of America (USA)- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), head, Christopher Wray has expressed grave concerns over another attack from Afghanistan rebel groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.

His comments come just days after the US killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan via drone strike.

“I am worried about the possibility that we will see al Qaeda reconstitute, ISIS-K potentially taking advantage of the deteriorating security environment, and I am worried about terrorists, including here in the United States, being inspired by what they see over there,” said the FBI director during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone strike, ending a years-long manhunt which placed al-Zawahiri near the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list. The 71-year-old Egyptian national headed up the group after the death of terrorist kingpin Osama Bin Laden in an American raid in 2011 and is thought to have helped plan the 9/11 attacks.

The Department of State also cited it believes there is a higher potential for anti-American violence given the death of al-Zawahiri.

Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating a possible assassination plot against Iranian-American journalist, Masih Alinejad.

According to US news sources, a man was arrested carrying a loaded AK-47 rifle in a possible plot to assassinate her.

Alinejad herself shared security camera footage of the suspect at her front door on Twitter on Sunday, saying, “My crime is giving voice to voiceless people. The US administration must be tough on terror.”

The arrested man was taken in by Police after a traffic stop. They said he ran a stop sign and when they checked his vehicle, they found a gun in the backseat, according to the complaint filed by the FBI.

He was charged with possessing a firearm without a proper serial number. At his Friday (last week) hearing, the Judge ordered him to be held without bail.

The suspect initially claimed that he knew nothing about the weapon and said he was just in the area looking for an apartment, but later he told the investigators that he owned the gun and that he was looking for someone in Brooklyn.

In July last year, US prosecutors charged four Iranian spies with trying to kidnap Alinejad from her home in Brooklyn and taking her to Venezuela. Investigators said that they had also tried to lure her to the Middle East before that.

Continue Reading