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Proud of vaccine success, Warp Speed's ex-science head talks politics, presidents, and future pandemics – Science Magazine

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Moncef Slaoui last spring spoke at a White House ceremony that announced his appointment as scientific head of Operation Warp Speed.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

When President Joe Biden took office last week, his administration swiftly announced it would be renaming Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s crash program to develop COVID-19 vaccines. The decision puzzled immunologist Moncef Slaoui, scientific head of Warp Speed, but he attributes it to a word he says with disdain: politics. 

Slaoui recently resigned from his post, but has agreed to help the Biden transition team into February. In a lengthy chat with Science from his home in Pennsylvania last week, he reflected on his time with Operation Warp Speed, discussing challenging interactions with former President Donald Trump and how to be better prepared for a future pandemic. Never a Trump supporter—he’s a Democrat—Slaoui had reluctantly taken the Warp Speed job because, as the former head of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), he thought he could help solve one of the world’s most urgent problems.

But long before COVID-19 surfaced, Slaoui had become frustrated that the vaccine industry had such a haphazard, ad hoc response to emerging infectious diseases. About 6 years ago at GSK, he began working with the company to create a nonprofit division they called a Biopreparedness Organization (BPO) that would exist solely to make vaccines to prevent pandemics. In 2016, after recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika had made headlines, he explained why the project was sorely needed. “Unfortunately, one of these days, one of these agents is going to be global and very lethal. It’s going to be catastrophic,” he said on a TV show. “So we have to have a longer term commitment and solution that governments and a long-term institution should drive and fund.”

The company ended up buying a defunct drug manufacturing plant in Rockville, Maryland, but it wanted financial help to launch the BPO. The U.S. government, which has sunk more than $11 billion into Warp Speed vaccine R&D, wasn’t interested. GSK helped form the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations in 2017, a nonprofit that would fund vaccine development, but it, too, ultimately didn’t want to bankroll the BPO, and the idea died. The plant is now called GSK’s Slaoui Center for Vaccines Research.

During his undergraduate years at the Free University of Brussels, Slaoui was a militant in a secret organization that wanted to spark a revolution in Morocco, his native country. “What I realized at the very end as I got in trouble with the regime was that, at least as far as I’m concerned, I want to participate in changing the world.”

Deeply proud of what he and the Warp Speed team accomplished, Slaoui is chagrined that Biden has called the vaccine rollout a “dismal failure.” He shares the dismay that there have been significant problems administering the vaccine doses Warp Speed has sent to the states—the troubles make him “sad” and “reflective” about what else he could have done. But he says most of the troubles stem from overwhelmed local public health systems, issues outside of Warp Speed’s purview. “Hundreds of people worked 20-hour days for the last 8 months,” he says. “I cannot wait to actually celebrate with all the people that worked together, someplace where we have a great dinner and we just take time to say, ‘great job, everyone.’”

Earlier today, Slaoui received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, from Moderna, on whose board he once sat. “I feel a joy I am sure every person that has been vaccinated has felt—a form of liberation,” Slaoui told Science immediately afterward. The interview below  has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: We met 4 years ago to talk about your vision for a pandemic preparedness vaccine manufacturing plant. It didn’t get off the ground. Would it have made a difference?

A: Absolutely. The whole concept—after we went through the flu pandemic, the Ebola outbreak, the Zika outbreak—was to say, “Listen, the problem is always the same, which is there are no manufacturing facilities sitting there idle, waiting to be used. Even if we had one, we would have trouble because we would have to stop manufacturing other vaccines, which are essential for saving people’s life.” So we thought, “Why don’t we take a dedicated facility and have them work on discovering vaccines against known potential outbreak agents, one after the other?” They would become incredibly skilled and trained at going fast, discovering vaccines. The company was prepared to make available the facility and ask just for the cost of running it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fly. [For the COVID-19 vaccines,] the biggest challenge we’ve had to work on the hardest has been manufacturing.

Q: So you think you would have been better prepared if the BPO was up and running?

A: Yes. I have already started discussing this with my successor with the new administration, David Kessler [Biden’s chief science officer for COVID-19 response]. This pandemic is costing $23 billion a day to the U.S. economy, every single day. Investing $300 million to $500 million a year into such a facility is peanuts and would save countless lives.

Q: There must be some “I told you so.”

A: It’s never my philosophy to say, “I told you so.” I think it’s a negative, it’s not helpful. For me, it’s more, OK, we learned more. Let’s set ourselves an ambitious objective and try to now make this happen, capitalizing on everything we’ve learned. Clearly, we can develop vaccines within 8, 9 months against an unknown pathogen. That’s just amazing.

Moncef Slaoui receives his first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Moncef Slaoui

Q: What did you think of Donald Trump?

A: I completely disagree with the values that he projects, as a person, in terms of respect, in terms of capacity to listen, accepting diversity. Many of the policy decisions that ended up politicizing this pandemic were wrong, particularly around wearing the mask. But at the same time, I do think that Warp Speed was absolutely visionary to put together science, government, the military, and the private sector and just give us full empowerment. It was the right thing to do.

My preference is even after the fact, not to politicize this. I worked so hard to stay out of any politics, because I was convinced it would derail it. Even now I think it could derail it when I see the headlines. It just kind of makes me sad.

Q: What headlines are you referring to?

A: That there’s absolutely no plan for the vaccines. I saw that today on CNN. How can you have discovered two vaccines, developed them all the way to approval, manufacture, and distribute with 99.9% precision 14 million doses to 14,000 sites and it’s labeled as there is no plan? We had to do everything from scratch. The biggest lesson for politicians in public health is: Never politicize. Just let people do the work, and if there are things that are wrong, let’s fix them versus make a whole story out of that because it freaks out people.

Q: Trump had a concern about a deep state, the worry that people in the government were working against him. Did he ever confront you and say, “You’re a Democrat, you didn’t vote for me, are you working behind my back?” Did he ever get in your face?

A: Absolutely not. He never told me, “Why can’t you make it happen sooner?” He asked me, “Can it happen sooner?” And I should say also, frankly, that Jared Kushner, with whom I had a lot of interactions, was absolutely straight, no interference, very rational, and very balanced.

Q: Trump made an assertion that Pfizer delayed announcing its efficacy data until after the 3 November 2020 presidential election to hurt him. What was your reaction when you heard him say that?

A: He asked me. And I said, “No, this is not how it works.” There is a data safety monitoring board and they’re independent. These companies have processes, they have tens of thousands of people in them. They can’t do this. It would be the end of the company if they did that, and I’ve been on the board of a big pharma company and an executive in a big pharma company. I know how it works. The CEO will be fired in a second. I have frankly big respect for [Pfizer CEO] Albert Bourla for just having said it’s going to be this day and then it was that day and that’s what it is.

Q: Where were you when you learned the Pfizer data?

A: Albert Bourla emailed and then called me. I was in my hotel place in Washington, D.C., which is very close to the White House. I was expecting high efficacy, but it was an unbelievable joy. It may have been 5 a.m., and I remember telling myself, “I’m not going to scream.” When I think about this now, it gets emotional. I just realized, “Oh my God, we’re going to control this pandemic.”

Q: One of the problems you had from the very beginning was allegations of your own conflicts of interest and you were very upset by Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D–MA) attack on you and all the media accounts. What do you think of the way you were criticized? [Slaoui was on Moderna’s board, which received substantial Warp Speed support, and also retained GSK stock, though offered to donate to research any increase in value it had turning his tenure.]

A: I was proactive and decided to resign from the Moderna board and agreed I would sell my shares to make sure there is no conflict whatsoever. I don’t complain about that, but if you look at the share price at the time I sold and the share price now, I left an enormous amount of money on the table.

Q: How much approximately would you have made had you not taken this job?

A: Maybe between 8 [million] and 12 million. But honestly, I’m not calculating, that’s not what I stand for, believe it or not. I’ve dedicated all my professional life to make sure I help and support global health by being inside a big company and driving its policies. I was shocked by people saying, “You’re corrupt, you’re doing this for the money,” by making an assertion that because you’re a pharmaceutical executive, you have to be a person with no values and no principles. That crossed a line. Even now I’ll ask, Elizabeth Warren, which vaccine did you take as a senator? The Pfizer vaccine maybe or the Moderna vaccine? Aren’t you happy you had the vaccine? Did I make a penny? Was I helpful?

Q: Warp Speed has been heavily criticized for not getting vaccines into more arms. What do you think about that? [To date, 41 million doses have been distributed to states and about half have been administered.]

A: There has been a huge misunderstanding. Between May [2020] and now, we’ve moved five vaccines into phase III trials, two have been authorized, two are completing phase III—and one of those could be approved imminently. One other vaccine is in phase IIb. By all standards, this is absolutely exceptional.

Moncef Slaoui (left) and Gen. Gustave Perna, co-leaders of Operation Warp Speed, hold a vial of COVID-19 vaccine on the day they both get vaccinated.

Moncef Slaoui

Our mission in its second piece, with my co-leader Gen. [Gustave] Perna, was to distribute the vaccines, take them from point A to the point of immunization. That’s how we designed it and worked it out with all the jurisdictions in the country. We went to the departments of health of various states, we explained that we’re going to ship vaccine on a weekly basis as they are produced and quality controlled. We will proportionately give doses to each jurisdiction based on the population so that it’s fair.

Indeed, the immunization definitely is not working appropriately. And as long as that is not working appropriately, we’re failing. Overall, we’re failing, because the objective is to immunize.

Q: The Trump administration from the beginning of the pandemic response said, “We’ll help, but this is up to the states and local jurisdictions.” The Biden administration comes in and says, “No, the federal government can coordinate this.”

A: Frankly I’ve been caught in the middle of that. But if I am [a state or local official] who is deciding how many doses I need, I should at least say, “Hey guys, I don’t have the resources to immunize.” We have never been told that.

Q: But the Trump administration told us there would be 300 million doses by January. We were not told in a transparent fashion how many doses are coming week by week—there’s no dashboard that everyone can see. So there’s confusion about how many doses really are available.

A: What’s really important is to truly understand how we can solve the problem. I have always said, “Listen, if there is a problem, please come and help us with a specific proposal and let’s pull up our sleeves together and work it out.” I did vaccines for a long time. Manufacturing is very difficult and very complex.

Q: In addition to what the companies are producing, would you have the government build another manufacturing plant?

A: Yes. My proposal would be for the government to have a license to these technologies for pandemic agents exclusively, not for commercial use.

Q: The Trump administration has been criticized for not being helpful to the Biden administration during the transition. Was it bumpier than you had hoped it would be?

A: I had interactions with David Kessler during the summer. I spoke to him regularly. Once the election happened, it was absolute silence—it was against the law for us, as federal employees or contractors, to talk to nonfederal people. I was surprised that nothing happened. We had no contact, no meeting, no nothing. And then somewhere in the second half of December [2020], we had a first meeting with Jeff Zients [coordinator of Biden’s pandemic response] and David Kessler and others, where we just introduced each other and discussed what was involved.

Q: Do you think that Trump’s failure to concede made it more difficult to transition the information to the next team?

A: For sure. It was at least very, very unfortunate, to use a polite word.

Q: When will you leave?

A: I am very supportive of the new administration. I don’t want to turn my back and leave. They proposed that we could have a notice period of 30 days after I resign, and that gives us time to cover the transition. So I did that on that on 12 January, and my last day will be 12 February.

I’ve since had many very good discussions with David Kessler over the phone that last more than an hour each to share everything I know. I’m totally committed to help 100%.

I’m surprised we got an email yesterday saying, “As of tomorrow, you cannot use the name Operation Warp Speed any more.” I asked myself, why? What’s the added value? This is probably why I’m not a politician. It just escapes rationality and understanding. Because in a way, everybody that works under Operation Warp Speed feels like, “What did we do wrong?”

I’m not married to that name. I don’t care. Honestly, I feel so fortunate and happy to have served and hey, that’s all that counts. I would redo it in the blink of an eye. But next pandemic virus, please, do not come during an election year.

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The politics of climate change | TheRecord.com – Waterloo Region Record

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In her brilliant 2019 article “The challenging politics of climate change,” Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Brookings Institution, explores how “the lack of intensity around (climate change) is simultaneously incomprehensible and totally understandable.”

She offers four explanations: “complexity; jurisdiction and accountability; collective action and trust; and imagination.”

Our climate crisis is a political hot potato because it is complex and voters don’t like complexity. As well, it isn’t obvious how our actions impact the climate — for good or bad. We can’t see greenhouse gas emissions the way we can see water pollution from a chemical plant, or toxic smoke pouring out of a smokestack.

Kamarck says climate change and cybersecurity are “two of the stickiest problems of the 21st century … because it’s so difficult to nail down jurisdiction.” Who is responsible for what? Where does the buck stop? And do we trust our government and politicians to do the right thing?

A half-credit of Civics in high school is not enough for most of us to untangle the Gordian knot of responsibilities in the multiple levels of government impacting our lives.

The politics of climate change is about government action, or the lack of it, but it’s also about navigating the strategies we use to tackle the issue. Since we politicized climate change in the 1970s, our response has been highly divisive. This has to change because everyone is affected and a vigorous and collaborative political response is essential.

Despite the sound science, we still have climate deniers and liars, who come in many forms. The Guardian’s environment editor, Damian Carrington, categorizes them as “the shill, the grifter, the egomaniac and the ideological fool.”

In a Scientific American interview, climate scientist Michael Mann, famous for his hockey stick graph showing the exponential growth in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from human activity, said that climate deniers have been replaced by inactivists. The deep pockets from the fossil fuel industry are now funding “legislative efforts blocking clean-energy policies” through “deflection, delay, division, despair mongering, doomism.”

Both the oil and tobacco industries share the same devious strategy to shift the blame and responsibility from the corporation to the individual. In 2005, British Petroleum created a marketing campaign for people to calculate their personal carbon footprints. There is no question that we each bear responsibility for our own actions to live sustainably, but who is holding corporations to account?

For the past 10 years, Ottawa-based Gerald Kutney has taken on the climate denialists, bots and trolls to clean up the Twitter-verse. His goal is to stop the propaganda and lies being repeated by the “denial-saurs” from becoming the truth.

Kutney picked Twitter because it’s “the best, ongoing teaching ground about climate denialism in the world, day in and day out.” To counter the piling on from followers of the biggest climate deniers, Kutney introduced #climatebrawl. Just like the bat signal in Batman’s Gotham City, the hashtag alerts an international support system prepared to do battle, armed with the truth about our climate crisis.

We have to trust the evidence-based solutions from our best climate scientists and not the ramblings and rants of disbelievers. Denial-saurs, like most of the contenders for the Canadian Conservative party leadership, are treating our future like a political football.

Kutney’s best advice is “Vote. Just vote,” and hold our elected officials to effective climate-action plans. We cannot afford to be silent in our winner-take-all electoral systems unless we want to be governed by the choices of a minority of climate denialists.

This goes for municipal politics as well. There will be many new faces on councils after this fall’s municipal elections. Our future depends on their commitment to climate action.

Susan Koswan is a freelance contributing columnist for The Record, based in Waterloo Region. Follow her on Twitter: @SKoswan

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Afghans are suffering and dying while Canada plays politics, says aid worker – CBC.ca

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Aid worker Samira Sayed Rahman was in eastern Afghanistan recently, where she met a woman struggling to survive in a one-room mud structure that she shared with her six children.

“If she is able to get food on the table, it is because she’s picking from the garbage. And if she can get enough of the hair and dirt off, she brings it home for her six children,” said Sayed Rahman, a Canadian who has been in Afghanistan for seven years, and works with the NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC). 

“Otherwise [they] go days without eating,” she told The Current’s guest host Michelle Shephard.

The IRC was in the area to provide economic training to locals; this particular woman learned how to make pickles, as a source of income for her family.

Sayed Rahman said her story of deprivation is the story of millions of Afghans, who are having to resort to “horrific means to survive” since the Taliban’s resurgence in the country sparked a humanitarian crisis. And she added that it’s fuelled by an economic crisis that “is a direct result of the decisions of the international community.”

Afghans are resorting to “skipping meals, taking on debt, pulling children out of school — and … extreme measures, such as selling daughters into marriage or selling organs,” she said.

WATCH | Afghanistan gripped by humanitarian crisis

One year after Taliban takeover, Afghanistan gripped by humanitarian crisis

2 days ago

Duration 3:00

Afghanistan is marking a year under Taliban rule. While the repressive regime is celebrating the anniversary, the country is now facing a humanitarian crisis with millions of ordinary Afghans struggling to find food, while women and girls have been stripped of their basic rights.

The humanitarian crisis is being fuelled by economic sanctions levied by the international community after the U.S. and its allies pulled out of Afghanistan last summer, and Kabul quickly fell into the hands of the Taliban. Funding and aid to the country was widely suspended in line with international policies around interacting with the Taliban, designated by many countries as a terrorist organization.

The UN estimates that of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million, roughly 25 million people are living in poverty, in need of humanitarian assistance. That number has risen from 14 million in July 2021, just before the Taliban’s takeover. 

Some countries have created exceptions to their laws, to allow the delivery of aid to ordinary Afghans — but Canada’s strict policies remain in place. Last week, Canada-based aid agency World Vision cited the ban when it cancelled a large shipment of food to Afghanistan, which the charity said could have fed around 1,800 children

“Aid organizations in Afghanistan that are heavily dependent on Canadian foreign aid are now struggling,” said Sayed Rahman, adding that policies intended to “isolate the Taliban” have instead “punished the Afghan people.”

“We are punishing 38 million people just because a few hundred are in power.”

WATCH | Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland discusses Afghan refugees

Deputy prime minister answers questions about Afghanistan

6 days ago

Duration 2:23

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada’s priority is to focus on the women and children of Afghanistan ‘who have suffered real setbacks.’

Taliban ‘remains a terrorist group’: GAC

In an emailed statement to The Current, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said that “Canada remains committed to facilitating life-saving assistance to vulnerable Afghans.”

“In 2022, Canada has allocated $143 million in humanitarian assistance to support vulnerable populations in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries,” the statement read.

But the statement added that “although the Taliban has taken over as the de facto national authority of Afghanistan, it remains a terrorist group and is a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code.”

Departments across the federal government are “working to identify a solution that upholds Canada’s national security interests while facilitating the effective delivery of assistance to the Afghan people in this unprecedented situation,” it said.

The Taliban’s early assurances that it would not row back progress for Afghan women and girls have not been borne out in the last 12 months. In March, the group decided against reopening schools to girls above the sixth grade.

GAC said that “Canada continues to engage with international partners to hold the Taliban to account for its horrific treatment and discrimination of women and girls.”

Last year, Canada’s then-minister of foreign affairs Marc Garneau said Canada could exert economic leverage over the Taliban, citing international aid earmarked for the country.

WATCH | Afghans urgently need help, says UN co-ordinator

Afghans urgently need help, says UN co-ordinator

2 days ago

Duration 8:26

The world should find ways to get more medicine and food deliveries into Afghanistan, says Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator based in a country where he says people are selling their belongings to survive.

Speaking to The Current on Tuesday, former member of Afghanistan’s parliament Fawzia Koofi said the Taliban too was exerting leverage, by weaponizing the rights of women and girls in their quest for international legitimacy.

“They are bargaining our rights for their political interests,” said Koofi, who was the country’s first female deputy parliamentary speaker.

Sayed Rahman agreed that the issue of girls’ education is important, but the humanitarian crisis is “a matter of survival for the Afghan people.”

She argued that Afghanistan’s population has relied on international aid and funding for years, only to have it suddenly removed in the last 12 months.

“Are we going to let more Afghans die in the meantime while we play our politics?” she said.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Samira Mohyeddin and Niza Lyapa Nondo.

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau says approval of U.S. Inflation Reduction Act 'is good news for Canadians' – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is praising the approval of major new climate-focused legislation south of the border, calling it “good news” for Canadians.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed the landmark Inflation Reduction Act on Tuesday, which is a watered-down version of the Democrats’ original “Build Back Better” plan.

From a Canadian perspective, the most significant change to the bill is the fact that the final version removed an earlier provision that would have excluded vehicles made outside of the U.S. from qualifying for generous new consumer tax incentives. The final version allows those incentives to apply to North American-made vehicles, which was a big win for Canadian officials and industry leaders who had lobbied Congressional decision makers for the change.

“It’s official: @POTUS signed legislation that will include Canada in a new tax incentive for electric vehicles purchased in the US,” Mr. Trudeau tweeted Tuesday evening. “This is good news for Canadians, for our green economy, and for our growing EV manufacturing sector.”

The U.S. plan is widely viewed by climate advocates as a serious effort to reduce emissions, but its incentive-focused approach is very different from Canada’s plan, which is based on imposing a growing price on carbon emissions via a patchwork of provincial programs and federal backstops.

The Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski recently wrote a detailed analysis of what the new U.S. bill means for Canada’s climate plans.

“What the breakthrough south of the border does demand is swift movement on policies that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised but not yet acted on, especially to use public dollars to attract private capital for clean technology,” he wrote. “It also requires a sharpening of existing programs with that aim. And it underscores the need to plug major gaps in Canada’s current climate strategy – especially when it comes to the cleanliness and reliability of the electricity grid, which is by far the biggest focus of the U.S. package.”

The Globe also recently reported that the substantial tax changes in the U.S. bill that will be imposed to cover some of the cost of the new incentives present tax policy challenges for Canada.

While the U.S. changes are substantial, they are not currently in line with OECD-led efforts to forge a common front on corporate taxation, especially with respect to large multinationals in the technology sector.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada strongly supports the OECD plans, but is prepared to go it alone in 2024 with a digital sales tax on foreign multinationals if the global talks are not finalized by then.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Bill Curry, who is filling in for Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

MOUNTIES STAND BY POLITICAL-INTERFERENCE ALLEGATIONS: Nova Scotia Mounties have told Parliament that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki put politics ahead of policing after Canada’s deadliest mass shooting when she pressed her investigators to make disclosures about firearms in a bid to reinforce the Liberal government’s gun-control agenda. Story here.

PROPORTION OF FRENCH SPEAKERS IN DECLINE: CENSUS – The proportion of Canadians who predominantly speak French at home declined in all provinces and territories except Yukon between 2016 and 2021, according to the latest census release. That includes Quebec, where a provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 3. Story here.

WASHINGTON POST FEATURE DESCRIBES STEVEN GUILBEAULT AS “CANADA’S ONETIME ‘GREEN JESUS’ WHO OKAYS OIL MEGAPROJECT”: “Guilbeault, now 52, is under fire for his decision in April to greenlight the Bay du Nord deep-sea oil drilling project off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, finding that it is ‘not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.’ He says that — to his knowledge — it will be the lowest-emitting project of its kind in the world.” Feature story on the federal environment minister is here.

INTELLIGENCE REPORT FLAGGED POSSIBLE ‘VIOLENT REVENGE’ AFTER OTTAWA CONVOY PROTEST SHUTDOWN: Newly disclosed documents show federal intelligence officials warned decision-makers that the police dispersal of “Freedom Convoy” protesters in Ottawa last winter could prompt an “opportunistic attack” against a politician or symbol of government. Story here.

ANTI-TERROR LAW CAUSING PROBLEMS: Humanitarian groups say the federal government should exempt their on-the-ground work in Afghanistan from its anti-terror law, warning that Ottawa’s current policies are preventing them from delivering crucial aid to people in desperate need. The law also hinders the work of groups helping evacuate Afghans to Canada. Story here.

CARDINAL OUELLET ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: A prominent Vatican cardinal from Quebec, long considered a top candidate for the papacy, is one of dozens of clergy members facing allegations of sexual assault as part of a class-action lawsuit against his former diocese. Story here.

LAFLAMME’S CTV NEWSCAST ONE OF CANADA’S MOST POPULAR, RATINGS SHOW: Before her ouster as anchor of CTV National News this week, Lisa LaFlamme presided over one of the most-watched newscasts in Canada, whose ratings significantly outpaced competitors – raising questions about the rationale presented by CTV’s parent company, Bell Media, which referred to the abrupt change as a business decision. Story here.

CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS HEADING TO TAIWAN: Liberal MP Judy Sgro, who chairs the standing committee on international trade, told CBC News that a group of MPs and Senators may visit Taiwan this fall. Story here.

NORTHERN NURSES GET A BOOST: Indigenous Services Canada will nearly triple incentives for nurses who work on remote Manitoba reserves, the Winnipeg Free Press reports here.

NEW PASSPORT OFFICE LOCATIONS ANNOUNCED: The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues. Story here.

THIS AND THAT

The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20.

RBC CEO SAYS EMPLOYEES SHOULD BE IN THE OFFICE MORE OFTEN: Dave McKay says in an internal memo to staff that more frequent office attendance is needed. He said technology can’t replicate the “energy, spontaneity, big ideas or true sense of belonging” that come from working together in person. He added that mentorship and skills development, critical parts of the bank’s culture, are challenging when done through video screens. Globe story here.

THE DECIBEL

The Globe’s Asia correspondent James Griffiths is on the show to talk about how Taiwan came to dominate the semiconductor and microchip industry and why it’s crucial to the delicate geopolitical situation today. A link to Wednesday’s podcast, as well as earlier episodes, can be found here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister’s public itinerary says he is in private meetings Wednesday in the National Capital Region.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) says the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act places the province on the verge of the constitutional abyss: We are potentially seven weeks away from a constitutional crisis, the likes of which this country has not seen. Because the front-runner for the UCP leadership is Danielle Smith, and because the centrepiece of her campaign is a wholly unworkable, flagrantly unconstitutional and massively destabilizing proposal called the Alberta Sovereignty Act.

Matt Gurney (TVO) wades into Toronto’s Car vs. Bike debate raging in High Park and concludes it’s time for widespread photo radar: Put a robot on every corner. In every park. Or at least have enough of them that they can be rotated through all of the city, ensuring coverage in all areas on a regular basis. I really wish this weren’t necessary. Really. But no one can spend any time at all on Toronto’s roads and walk away unconvinced that they are necessary. Toronto drivers are terrible. The police have more important stuff to do than hand out tickets. Neighbourhoods need help controlling reckless drivers. And we have a ready-made, proven technological solution that will eventually pay for itself. Not every problem in life has such a clear solution. This one does. What the hell are we waiting for? Bring on the robots.

The Globe and Mail’s editorial board says Canada’s Conservative Party should not be drawing inspiration from U.S. Republicans: What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in American politics does not remain in the United States. It drifts across the world’s longest undefended intellectual border, and it falls like acid rain. Prolonged exposure – too much MSNBC or Fox News – can lead to hallucinations, delusions and loss of contact with (Canadian) reality. Voters and politicians are both susceptible to infection … But the party most at risk from cross-border emissions these days is the Conservative Party. There’s a lot of crazy in American politics right now, and the majority of it is coming from the people that Conservatives think of as their American cousins. The Republican Party is increasingly going off the deep end.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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