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Smoke from U.S. West wildfires leaves Easterners gasping

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Dozens of wildfires in the western United States and Canada, led by a massive blaze in Oregon, are sending smoke eastward, worsening air quality and causing colorful sunsets in some places.

More than 80 large wildfires in 13 western states charred nearly 1.3 million acres (526,090 hectares), an area larger than the state of Delaware, by Tuesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.

But due to the jet stream and other cross-continental air currents, the regional disasters were being felt nationally.

Wildfire smoke prompted an advisory from New York health and environmental authorities on Tuesday for fine particulate matter as the region’s Air Quality Index hit 118, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups such as people with breathing problems.

AQI readings well above 100 were also recorded in other Northeast cities, including Boston, Hartford and Philadelphia.

In Cleveland and Detroit, AQI topped 125, which NIFC meteorologist Nick Nauslar said was likely caused by smoke from Canadian wildfires in southeast Manitoba and southwest Ontario.

“Sunsets look prettier, redder, more colorful.” said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Orevec of the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

While some smoke diffuses into the upper atmosphere after traveling thousands of miles, it still can lower air quality, Nauslar said.

Unhealthy AQI readings were recorded on Monday in parts of Idaho and Montana, which, along with Washington state, are in the wind-driven path of smoke from southern Oregon’s Bootleg fire, according to air resource adviser Margaret Key.

“Wildfire smoke exposure also increases susceptibility to respiratory infections including COVID, increases severity of such infections, and makes recovery more difficult,” Key said by email.

The Bootleg fire, already the country’s largest wildfire, grew by 24,200 acres overnight to nearly 388,600 acres (157,260 hectares), about half the size of Rhode Island. Some 2,200 personnel managed to contain 30% of it, officials said.

As of Tuesday, the fire had destroyed 67 homes and was threatening 3,400 more. An estimated 2,100 people were under evacuation orders or on standby alert to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

Rising smoke from the fire raging in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest about 250 miles (400 km) south of Portland has already produced at least two pyrocumulonimbus clouds, an unusual phenomenon often called fire clouds, the NIFC’s Nauslar said.

“It can start to produce its own lightning, and essentially become a fire generated thunderstorm,” he said by phone. This can cause rapid and erratic fire spread.”

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Are fake vaccine cards being used to enter Canada? – Global News

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The debate surrounding the need for COVID-19 vaccine passports continues, but it seems some people are already looking for ways around the system.

There are multiple reports of fake vaccine cards and passports emerging online — sold on the dark web for hundreds of dollars, and some as low as “the price of peanuts.”

On Amazon.ca, you can get a pack of 10 blank CDC cards for just $18.98. Lanyards and card protectors come at an extra charge.

In Canada, many wonder how easy it may be to reproduce their proof of inoculation.

In Manitoba, inoculated residents receive an immunization card with a scannable QR code.

Meanwhile, vaccinated Ontarians are handed — or emailed — a sheet of paper with seemingly no security features, just the patient and doctor’s info.

“I think there’s a good reason to worry, but I’m not at all surprised,” said Karen Wendling, an associate professor at University of Guelph who often discusses medical ethics.

“From a Canadian perspective, we can be worried that there are going to be non-vaccinated Americans trying to cross the border.”

Read more:
Growing market for fake COVID-19 vaccine passports sparks alarm

Altering or recreating a legitimate document (like a vaccine card), with the intent of using it as real, is a federal crime.

“This can be liable to a variety of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada” said SuJung Lee, criminal defence lawyer at Daniel Brown Law.

“The most applicable, I would say, offence for these types of actions would probably be forgery.”

Lee says this can land you between 18 months and 10 years behind bars. Possessing, using or trafficking the forged document would count as separate offences.

If financial loss is involved, you can also be charged with fraud. That’s between two and 14 years behind bars if convicted, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Due to the devastating global impact of COVID-19, though, Lee suspects courts will go for maximum penalties to those found guilty.

“These types of offences, if they come to the forefront, is something that courts will probably take very very seriously…. They’ll want to signal to the community that (they) will not go unpunished.”

Read more:
Winnipeg restaurant spots phony QR codes among vaccinated customers

When asked if forged proof of COVID-19 vaccinations was used to enter the country, a spokesperson with the Canada Border Services Agency told Global News: “(CBSA) is aware that some travellers may attempt to use fraudulent documentation when seeking entry to Canada.”

In an email to Global on Tuesday, the CBSA added that 591 travellers arriving in Canada (237 travellers by air and 354 by land) were referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada for “issues related to their proof of vaccination.” This includes people whose proof of vaccination needed further verification, or if they did not meet required criteria, like vaccine date or vaccine type. Note that these numbers are between July 5, when proof of vaccine became required for Canadians and permanent resident travellers, and July 18.

The CBSA would not say how many individuals were suspected to be carrying forged vaccine cards, if any.

When asked how border agents would be able to tell a real vaccine card from a fake one with no security features within the cards, the CBSA would not specify, responding: “Border services officers (BSO) are trained in examination techniques and use indicators, intelligence, and other information to determine a person’s admissibility to Canada. This includes confirming that the documentation required to be found admissible or to meet the criteria for modified public health measures is valid and authentic.”

“All travellers should be aware that providing false information to a Government of Canada official upon entry to Canada or making false or fraudulent attempts is a serious offence and may result in penalties and/or criminal charges,” the agency added.

Nonetheless, Canadians are divided on whether or not proof of vaccine should be required in the first place, with some calling it an “ethical dilemma.”

Read more:
A Canadian vaccine certificate faces science, privacy hurdles, officials say

“The answer is yes, I do believe they should be required. People have been dying from (COVID-19),” said Wendling. “For going across countries, there just is no doubt that’s going to be required.”

Wendling also stressed the need to prove you’re vaccinated in high-risk congregate settings, or in crowded spaces like concerts. However, she thinks this could only be justified for a disease as deadly and far-spreading as COVID-19.

“When it’s a pandemic, you just don’t have the right to harm others,” she said.

Meanwhile, Nancy Walton questions whether a blanket requirement for all scenarios is actually going to work.

“It’s always important to look at the context,” said Walton, the associate dean of graduate studies at Ryerson University and the director of the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing.

“If we’re looking at a context like a health-care environment, a hospital, a long-term care centre — yes the pros outweigh the cons, definitely. We have an obligation and it’s justified to require health-care workers to be vaccinated.”

But in other contexts like workplaces, concerts, grocery stores or malls, Walton says there are other available options to consider, short of demanding vaccine proof.

“Distancing, personal protective equipment, masking, physical barriers.”

Walton also says inadequate and inequitable access to vaccines, especially in poorer countries, may be a deciding factor on travel restrictions.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about the global supply, and of course that requiring vaccination as part of travel then further restricts people who may already be disadvantaged … so you’re putting additional burdens on people.”

Read more:
WHO cautions against vaccine passports for international travel

Either way, both Walton and Welding say health officials need to come up with some kind of way to authenticate COVID-19 vaccine cards — as some cybersecurity experts say the demand for forged cards will grow on the dark web.

“There has to be something. It’s not recreating the wheel,” said Walton.

“If I’m going to Germany, for instance, I hope they ask me for something more secure than my printout from Ontario,” said Wendling.

Meanwhile, Lee says being charged with forgery or fraud for faking a vaccine card can be challenged in court, as can any charge.

However, it would be “very difficult” to show the court that being demanded proof of vaccine infringes on your everyday rights.

“In everyday life, we see instances where requiring proof of other kinds of identifying documents — such as driver’s licences to access public or private services — are a commonplace occurrence that are not necessarily rights-infringing, but a cost, for example, of living harmoniously in society.”


Click to play video: 'Science advisory table proposes COVID-19 vaccine certificates for Ontario'



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Science advisory table proposes COVID-19 vaccine certificates for Ontario


Science advisory table proposes COVID-19 vaccine certificates for Ontario

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: Health Canada recalls 2 more hand sanitizers – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Health Canada is adding two more products to its growing list of recalled hand sanitizers.

The two products in question are MediCare Foaming Hand Sanitizer, which is produced by Dollarama L.P., as well as Pur-Vie, produced by Literies Universelles Paga Inc.

The agency says that Pur-Vie was found to contain “elevated levels” of benzene, an impurity that may increase the risk of cancer and can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat as well as headaches.

As for MediCare Foaming Hand Sanitizer, Health Canada says this product may contain undeclared acetaldehyde, another potentially carcinogenic impurity, at elevated levels.

As a result of the increased demand for hand sanitizers because of the pandemic, Health Canada greenlit the use of technical-grade ethanol for hand sanitizers. Sanitizers containing technical-grade ethanol must adhere to strict labelling requirements to protect vulnerable populations, such as adding statements that say, “Adults only” and “Not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.” The agency says that MediCare products were missing this information on its labels.

The MediCare products in question have expiry dates of October, November and December 2023, while the Pur-Vie products have an expiry date of November 2022.

Since June 17, 2020, Health Canada has recalled 179 hand sanitizers. A full list of the recalled hand sanitizers can be found on Health Canada’s website.

A list of hand sanitizers and hard-surface disinfectants authorized by Health Canada can also be found on the agency’s website.

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Thousands of Afghan contractors, family members could be eligible to resettle in Canada, says minister – CBC.ca

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The federal government is promising to resettle more Afghan interpreters and other workers who helped the Canadian Armed Forces during the war — people now in danger of being killed by a resurgent Taliban.

Today, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino and his cabinet colleagues announced the launch of a new resettlement program for interpreters who worked with the Canadian Armed Forces, cooks, drivers, cleaners, construction workers, security guards and locally engaged staff employed at the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan, and their family members.

During the war, Afghan interpreters worked with Canadian troops to connect them with local leaders, translate conversations and help them build trust on the ground.

Considered traitors by some in their country, translators say they live in fear of being attacked or killed. Some have received phone calls and letters threatening death and disfigurement for themselves and their families.

In 2009, Canada offered refuge to approximately 800 interpreters fearing for their lives in Afghanistan, but the program had restrictive criteria. Two-thirds of the Afghans who applied for refuge were turned away, according to figures compiled by The Canadian Press.

To qualify under the old program, the advisers had to demonstrate they worked for Canadian troops, diplomats or contractors for 12 consecutive months between October 2007 and July 2011.

That excluded a lot of interpreters. Canada first deployed special forces troops to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, followed by a battle group in 2002 and then a mission in Kabul before Canadian soldiers returned to Kandahar in 2006.

The new criteria would be “based on applicants’ significant or enduring relationship with the government of Canada,” says a government news release.

“It is not a precondition that their family members played the same role that the Afghans have, in part because they too have been targeted very deliberately by the Taliban [with] intimidation, violence and even death,” said Mendicino.

“We have tried to take an approach here that is inclusive and in full recognition of the contributions of those Afghans who have helped Canada in that region for the better part of 20 years.”

Applicants also have to meet other admissibility requirements, such as security, criminal and health screenings. The federal government says processing timelines will be expedited.

Citing privacy and safety concerns, government officials aren’t saying how these Afghans will be evacuated, or when — although Mendicino said his department will begin processing individuals “immediately.”

Mendicino said that he expects “several thousand” Afghans will be eligible to come to Canada under the new program.

Friday’s announcement follows mounting pressure from former generals, veterans, politicians and others for government action.

‘Unconscionable’ delay: NDP

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the government should have made this announcement weeks ago.

“The Americans made it clear that they would be leaving Afghanistan months ago, and the rise of the Taliban was an expected result. Instead of putting forward a plan to help the heroic Afghan interpreters, support staff, and their families, the Trudeau Liberals sat on their hands and did nothing,” he said in a statement Friday.

“It’s quite disappointing that these Afghans who saved the lives of our men and women in uniform were an afterthought to this Liberal government.”

Federal NDP defence critic Randall Garrison, who worked in Afghanistan for Amnesty International before entering politics, also attacked the government’s timelines.

“It’s unconscionable that a decade later we are still here,” he said in a statement.

“These collaborators, who played a vital role, have been abandoned for a decade without the support they desperately needed to find safety in Canada, and deserve better. Countless interpreters and vital staff, along with their families, have been living in danger while the Liberals dragged their feet.”

Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan formally ended in 2014.

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