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Thanksgiving on hold and coronavirus-sniffing dogs: In The News for Sept. 24

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Sept. 24 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Sept. 24 ...

What we are watching in Canada ... 

A dramatic tripling of daily new cases of COVID-19 in the past month, mostly among young people, has prompted the prime minister to declare the arrival of the second wave of the pandemic and that Canadians likely won't be able to gather for Thanksgiving.

"In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn't just starting, it's already underway," Justin Trudeau said Wednesday evening in a rare television address to the nation.  

"We're on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring."

Trudeau said Canadians can't do anything to change the numbers now, or even tomorrow.

"But what we can change is where we are in October, and into the winter," he said. 

"It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas."

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the country had seen an average of more than 1,100 new cases of the novel coronavirus a day this past week compared with about 380 a day in mid-August.

"Canada is at a crossroads with the COVID-19 epidemic trajectory," Tam said before Trudeau's address. "Unless public health and individual protective measures are strengthened and we work together to slow the spread of the virus, the situation is on track for a big resurgence in a number of provinces."

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Also this ...

The fate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority Liberal government hangs in the balance as Parliament resumes all normal operations today for the first time in six months.

Opposition parties will give their official responses to Wednesday's speech from the throne but they've already signalled that Trudeau can't count on support from any of them to survive the eventual confidence vote and avoid plunging the country into an election in the midst of a second wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The Conservatives were unequivocal: they will not support the throne speech.

The Bloc Quebecois was almost as categorical: Bloc MPs will not even consider supporting the throne speech unless Trudeau agrees to fork over at least $28 billion more each year in unconditional transfer payments to provinces for health care, as demanded unanimously last week by premiers.

Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is giving the government just one week to accede to that demand, in the expectation that the confidence vote on the throne speech will take place next week.

That leaves New Democrats as the Liberals' most likely dance partner but NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has conditions of his own: legislation assuring that Canadians left jobless due to the pandemic won't have their emergency benefits cut and that Canadians who fall ill will get paid sick leave.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

President Donald Trump marveled at a rally this week about how important Supreme Court nominations are to voters.

But Senate Republicans are with the voters on that. Despite Democratic cries of hypocrisy, they're hoping the battle over replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg will help them keep their Senate majority as well as Trump's job in the White House.

Beyond the Nov. 3 elections, some feel the generational goal of a solidly conservative court is worth the potential blowback.

“Most of us came to the Senate, ran for the Senate, in a lot of ways for big moments like this — for an opportunity to fill seats on the Supreme Court,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the GOP whip who is not up for reelection this year.

And whatever their personal views of Trump and his presidency, Republicans also see a political payoff in sticking with him and plunging ahead to confirm his pick to fill the court vacancy before the election.

By Wednesday, as mourners gathered to view Ginsburg's casket on the court's iconic steps, objections from Democrats that the presidential winner should name the nominee had slipped by GOP senators. They were preparing for confirmation hearings as soon as Oct. 12, with a possible full Senate vote Oct. 29. Trump is to announce his choice Saturday.

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And...

Hours after a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for Breonna Taylor's death and protesters took to the streets, authorities said two officers were shot and wounded Wednesday night during the demonstrations expressing anger over the killings of Black people at the hands of police.

Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said a suspect was in custody but did not offer details about whether that person was participating in the demonstrations. He says both officers are expected to recover, and one is undergoing surgery.

He says the officers were shot after investigating reports of gunfire at an intersection where there was a large crowd.

Several shots rang out as protesters in downtown Louisville tried to avoid police blockades, moving down an alleyway as officers lobbed pepper balls, according to an Associated Press journalist. People covered their ears, ran away and frantically looked for places to hide. Police with long guns swarmed the area, then officers in riot gear and military-style vehicles blocked off roadways.

The violence comes after prosecutors said two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor, a Black woman, were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend. The only charges were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into a home next to Taylor's with people inside.

The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in connection with the raid at Taylor's home on March 13.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor's family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive,” and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” immediately marched through the streets.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

Finland has deployed coronavirus-sniffing dogs at the Nordic country’s main international airport in a four-month trial of an alternative testing method that could become a cost-friendly and quick way to identify infected travellers.

Four dogs of different breeds trained by Finland’s Smell Detection Association started working Wednesday at the Helsinki Airport as part of the government-financed trial.

“It’s a very promising method. Dogs are very good at sniffing,” Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a University of Helsinki professor of equine and small animal medicine, said.

“If it works, it will be a good (coronavirus) screening method at any other places,” she said, listing hospitals, ports, elderly people’s homes, sports venues and cultural events among the possible locations where trained dogs could put their snouts to work.

While researchers in several countries, including Australia, France, Germany the United States, are also studying canines as coronavirus detectors, the Finnish trial is among the largest so far.

Hielm-Bjorkman told The Associated Press that Finland is the second country after the United Arab Emirates - and the first in Europe - to assign dogs to sniff out the coronavirus. A similar program started at Dubai International Airport over the summer.

On this day in 1996 ...

Justice Jean Bienvenue resigned from the Quebec Superior Court, avoiding the possibility of becoming the first federally appointed judge in Canadian history to be fired. Bienvenue had raised a storm of controversy when he said during a murder trial that women can be crueller than men and "the Nazis did not eliminate millions of Jews in a painful and bloody manner. They died in the gas chamber without suffering.''

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In entertainment news ...

Tenille Townes is making waves in Nashville, but the Alberta-raised musician says her heart will be back home this weekend for the biggest night in Canadian country music.

The 26-year-old singer-songwriter from Grande Prairie, Alta., is the leading six-time nominee at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards on Sunday where she'll also perform.

And while it certainly marks a career milestone for Townes, she'll be experiencing the thrill from south of the border, watching the pre-taped awards ceremony that was produced last month.

"It is a very strange way to celebrate those victorious moments... That collaborative spirit of everybody being in the same city, in the same room, is irreplaceable," she says of this year's COVID-19 edition of the CCMA Awards, which airs on Global TV.

But Townes doesn't waste a second before shifting towards a more optimistic perspective.

She's happy the CCMA Awards came together in a desperately tough year for the music industry, one which has seen concert tours scrapped and many performers left with few options but to wait out the virus.

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ICYMI ...

Alberta's police watchdog says a Lethbridge police officer is stable in hospital after being injured when another officer fired a gun in a training accident.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says officers were training in a room at a gun range on Tuesday when an officer fired a round into a table.

The agency says a piece of the table struck a 35-year-old officer in his left leg.

The fired round was recovered from the wall.

The officer's injury was serious, but non-life-threatening.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2020

The Canadian Press




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