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U.S. warship again transits sensitive Taiwan Strait

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A U.S. warship again sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, part of what the U.S. military calls routine activity but which always riles China whose government believes Washington is trying to stir regional tensions.

The U.S. Navy said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Milius conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” through international waters in accordance with international law.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows,” it added.

There was no immediate response from China.

Last month, the Chinese military condemned the United States and Canada for each sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, saying they were threatening peace and stability in the region.

China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has mounted repeated air force missions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the past year or so, provoking anger in Taipei.

The United States like most countries has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is its most important international backer and arms supplier.

Beijing calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with Washington.

U.S. Navy ships have been transiting the strait roughly monthly, to the anger of Beijing. U.S. allies occasionally also send ships through the strait, including Britain in September.

 

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Thailand seizes $88 million worth of crystal meth bound for Taiwan

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Thai authorities intercepted nearly 900 kg (2,000 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine hidden in a cargo shipment at Bangkok’s Port Custom Office and bound for Taiwan where it could be sold for up to $88 million, a customs official said on Saturday.

The drug was seized by customs officials late on Friday, hidden in powder form inside 161 white silicon slabs in packages destined for Taiwan.

“The 897 kg of crystal meth is worth about 500 to 600 million baht ($15 million to $18 million), but once they reach their destination they will be worth 3 billion baht in market price,” Thai Customs Director-General Patchara Anuntasil told a press conference on Saturday.

Patchara said that Thai and Taiwanese authorities were both investigating.

The methamphetamine market has continued to expand and diversify in East and Southeast Asia, unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In October, police in neighboring Laos seized a record https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/laos-police-seize-record-drugs-haul-golden-triangle-2021-10-28 haul of 55 million methamphetamine tablets and over 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine tablets in the Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.

The Golden Triangle has a long history of illicit drug production and has recently served as a massive production centre for amphetamine-type stimulants, especially methamphetamine, used by Asian crime syndicates with distribution networks reaching as far as Japan and New Zealand.

($1 = 33.8400 baht)

 

(Reporting by Artorn Poonkasook and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Orthodox priest shouts ‘Pope, you are a heretic’ at Francis in Athens

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An elderly Greek Orthodox priest shouted “Pope, you are a heretic” as Pope Francis was entering the Orthodox Archbishopric in Athens on Saturday and was taken away by police, a reminder of the lingering distrust between the two divided churches.

Video showed the man, who was dressed in black robes and black hat and had a long white beard, shouting the words in Greek outside the building before police bundled him away.

Witnesses said he shouted loud enough for the pope to hear the commotion. The man appeared to have fallen while being taken away and was lifted up by police.

Francis arrived in Greece on Saturday for a three-day visit that Greek Catholics hope will bring the Eastern and Western churches closer together.

Christianity split into the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in 1054 in what is referred to as the Great Schism, and for centuries relations were rocky.

In his address to the archbishop, Beatitude Ieronymos II, Francis asked forgiveness in the name of the Roman Catholic Church for its part in the historical wrongs that led to the breakup.

“Tragically, in later times we grew apart. Worldly concerns poisoned us, weeds of suspicion increased our distance and we ceased to nurture communion,” Francis told Ieronymos, whom he met during his first trip to Greece in 2016.

“I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics,” Francis said.

Pope John Paul II first asked forgiveness for the Catholic role in the break-up when he visited Greece in 2001.

Catholics and Orthodox have been involved in dialogue aimed at eventual reunion for decades and cooperate in many social initiatives but the two sides are still far apart theologically.

“We believe you have the courage and the sincerity to examine the failures and omissions of your fathers,” Ieronymos told Francis. “Between those who want to be called Christian brothers, the best language is, and always will be, honesty.”

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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The COVID-19 baby dilemma: Why Canadians are rethinking parenthood in 2021 | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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When Jessa Lira got married in 2017, she didn’t anticipate being ready to have children for at least a couple of years; she wanted to enjoy life as a newlywed for a while and travel.

She finally felt ready to start trying in early 2020, just as COVID-19 hit.

Lira and her husband, who both live in Toronto, immediately reassessed this plan as their concerns about trying to have a baby in a pandemic mounted: what would doctor’s appointments look like? Would she have to give birth alone? What were the health implications of contracting the virus while pregnant?

“We knew for a fact that it was not the safest time to have a baby in a time of a pandemic,” Lira told Global News. “So we decided to wait for a couple of months and to see how it goes.”

In deciding to put off having a baby due to COVID-19, Lira and her husband joined the ranks of a growing number of Canadian couples who are deciding to delay having children or to have fewer children than previously planned.

1 in 4 Canadians altering family plans

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of Canadians aged 15 to 49 have changed their fertility plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Statistics Canada paper released on Wednesday.

The study, conducted between April and June 2021, found almost one in five (19 per cent) of Canadians now wanted to have fewer children, while 14 per cent said they wanted to have a child later than they had originally planned. These answers were more common in people that didn’t have any children already, or people from minority groups.

Medical professionals agree with the findings, saying many of their clients’ plans to start or expand families were severely altered by the pandemic.

Economic pressures, uncertainty around jobs and living affordability were the main factors for those delaying having children.

Despite rumours of a lockdown-induced baby boom, according to StatsCan, just four per cent of respondents in the wellness survey said they now want more children or to have children sooner than previously planned.

Experts say this is likely due to inordinate periods of time spent at home reassessing their families and being unable to travel abroad.

Women give birth ‘late’ in Canada

Canada is already considered a “late” childbearing country. In 2020, the average age of mothers at the time of delivery was 31.3 years old.

The country’s fertility rate has also been steadily declining since 2008 — a trend seen in much of the rest of the Western world. France, England and the United States have also reported fewer babies born in 2020 compared with 2019.

Read more:

The number of births in Canada has fallen to a 15-year low amid COVID-19 pandemic

Since the onset of the pandemic, that decrease has intensified: Canada’s fertility rate decreased from 1.47 children per woman in 2019 to a record low of 1.40 children per woman in 2020.

There were 13,434 fewer births in 2020 than in 2019, the greatest year-over-year decrease (3.6 per cent) since records began and the lowest number of births in any year since 2006.

Tali Bogler, chair of family medicine obstetrics at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said this decline was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Many of her clients were either delaying starting a family or cancelling plans to expand their brood due to recent economic pressures.

“I’m seeing young couples who have gone through job insecurity and job loss and are delaying, maybe a year from now, two years from now,” she said.

“And then I’m also seeing couples that have one or two kids who might have thought about having a third kid, and are now asking for either a vasectomy for the partner and saying no, this is it.”

Affordability a factor in smaller families

Rising costs of living were an important factor in those choices, she said. It was especially pertinent to those living in the GTA, where house prices soared to an average of nearly $1.2 million in October.

“Affordability is a huge concern for families. It’s worsened during the pandemic, especially here in Toronto, and that might have further stress and further impact on desired family sizes and when people plan to have a child,” she said.

This notion is supported by the StatCan data, which showed that those living in one of the Atlantic provinces (16 per cent) or Quebec (13 per cent) were less likely to have made changes to their parenthood journeys, compared to those living in Ontario (22 per cent). The report authors pointed to housing affordability and COVID-related economic pressures as a possible factor, as well as Quebec’s low-fee childcare programme.


Click to play video: 'Cost of housing biggest crisis outside the pandemic: Singh'



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Cost of housing biggest crisis outside the pandemic: Singh


Cost of housing biggest crisis outside the pandemic: Singh

Affordability was a big factor in Samantha Tranter’s decision to stop after her second child, who was born in March 2021, after she also delayed getting pregnant due to the pandemic.

Tranter planned to get pregnant in February 2020, after her son’s first birthday. When COVID-19 hit, the Waterloo resident says she “gave up for a while,” as she and her fiance couldn’t find the time to try to conceive.

“My job went from being in the office full-time, to working from home and navigating that whole obstacle with an array of technology problems, while trying to take care of a newly one-year-old,” she said.

“It was difficult to just find time to spend together. By the end of the workday, we were both just so exhausted that the mere thought of being intimate was exhausting.”

Read more:

Can you afford a baby? Fertility advocates call on workplaces to update benefit plans

Tranter and her fiance also cancelled the wedding they had planned for June 2020.

But as Ontario began to tentatively reopen a few months later, Tranter and her now-husband decided to move forward with their nuptials and ended up getting married in the backyard of a bed-and-breakfast with 20 guests.

They decided to extend their family soon after. Tranter’s second child was born in March 2020.


Samantha Tranter, pictured with her two children and husband. Tranter delayed having her second child due to the pandemic. Supplied.


Supplied

The couple don’t plan on having more, mostly due to the housing crisis and rising inflation, which rose to 4.7 per cent in October — the largest year-over-year gain since 2003.

“In 25 years when my kids are in the same position I am, they’re probably going to still be living with me because they can’t afford to leave,” Tranter said.

‘We barely bring him outside’

For Lira, the pandemic-related baby delay was also short-lived. As the months dragged on, she felt they weren’t “getting any younger” and the pandemic did not seem to be abating.

So the couple decided to try, and found out they were pregnant in November 2020. But Lira, who works in the medical field, recounts the experience of being pregnant in a pandemic as “terrifying.”

“Going to work every single day and dealing with doctors, patients and other colleagues, not knowing if they were exposed, or might have the virus [was difficult],” she said.


Jessa Lira and her husband welcomed their first child in May 2021. Supplied.


Supplied

In the end, however, the couple were able to attend in-person appointments, ultrasounds and had a healthy baby in July 2021. However, the anxiety around being pregnant in the pandemic has boiled over to having a young child in a pandemic.

“Right now, we barely bring him outside — only for a doctor’s appointment or for a walk at the park maybe once a week. I know we can do better but the anxiety that COVID is giving us, it’s just so scary. As much as we want him to enjoy the world, we also want to protect him the best way we can.”

The experience has not altered her plans of having three children in total, however. But she hopes the pandemic is over before she tries for her second child.

For Tiffany Ermine, from Prince Albert, Sask., having a baby in the pandemic was enough to put her off ever having another. Ermine gave birth to her second child in June 2020, and the experience “terrified” her. That, coupled with unaffordable living costs mean her dream of having four or five kids will likely never become a reality.

“It devastates me, but I’d rather live comfortably and be able to give my kids the things they want and need,” she said.

Fertility clinics in high demand

But what about those who can’t conceive naturally? Anecdotally, things appear to be going in the opposite direction, with fertility specialists in high demand.

Dr. Sony Sierra, deputy medical director and partner at Trio Fertility, said she was seeing a rise in new clients wanting fertility assessments, to either understand where they were at with their fertility or to begin fertility treatment. For those wanting to conceive, this was largely due to long periods of time spent at home and international travel being off the table, Sierra said.

Trio, like many other clinics across the country, was forced to close for three months as Canada grappled with the pandemic. When the clinic reopened in May 2020, people were rushing to get appointments.

“When our fertility clinics were closed, that was very stressful for people who wanted to start their families or move forward with their families. So when we reopened, there was this huge surge of people who wanted to get in quickly before something like that was to happen again,” Sierra said.

“We had a very long lockdown in Ontario, and we were forced to be in our homes, thinking about your family and what that looks like. And so people were wanting to sort of get started sooner rather than later.”

Canada ‘may never catch up’

However, the clinic also had clients who did not return when they reopened, after reassessing their outlook on children or wanting to delay fertility treatment. This was due to economic pressures, people losing jobs, people relocating across the country and people “choosing to spend their money differently,” Sierra said.

Sierra said 2020 was a tough year for a lot of reasons, and not just the pandemic. “Socially, culturally, there were a lot of things that were going on that made people sort of stop and say, ‘Is this the right time to bring a baby into the world’?”

But this delay in fertility treatments was also likely to have contributed to the lower birth rate in 2020.

While Bogler and Sierra said women should not be concerned over delaying pregnancies for a year or two, those waiting too long past what’s considered a woman’s fertile window, generally between 20 and 25 years of age, risked not being able to have the family sizes they planned for.

Bogler said the pandemic would also likely impact Canada’s declining birth rate for years to come.

“Historically, what we’ve seen is the longer you delay, families might not be able to catch up. And so as a country, we might not ever catch up to the number of deliveries that we might have seen if the pandemic hadn’t happened,” Bogler said.

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

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