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Clots cause vaccine hurdles; U.S. troops in Afghanistan: In The News for April 14

Last Updated Apr 14, 2021 at 4:24 am EDT

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 April 14 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Health Canada is expected to release updated data today as concerns about vaccine safety emerge again. 

Canada reported its first case of vaccine-induced blood clots linked to Oxford-AstraZeneca yesterday, and the United States put the brakes on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following six reports of blood clots there. 

The Johnson vaccine held immense promise because its single-dose regimen and relatively simple storage requirements would make it easier to use, especially in less affluent countries.

The clots, which happened six to 13 days after vaccination in veins that drain blood from the brain, occurred together with low platelets — the fragments in blood that normally form clots.

Canada has approved Johnson & Johnson but isn’t expecting any deliveries until the last week of April. 

However, officials in both countries continue to stress the vaccines are safe, and their benefits outweigh their risks, even as investigations into what is causing the clots continue. 

Also this …

When British Columbia’s provincial health officer declared an emergency over the overdose crisis five years ago, he said it was because those who died deserved more of a response.

Since then, more than 7,000 have died in “unnecessary” deaths, said Dr. Perry Kendall. 

“If you look at the map of B.C., people are dying in every town and village in this province,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “They’re not all people who are homeless … we have people who are employed, or unemployed, who have families and children. They are us,” said Kendall, who was B.C.’s public health officer from 1999 to 2018.

Annual deaths hit an initial peak of 1,550 in 2018 before dropping in 2019 and then surging to record numbers during the COVID-19 health emergency to 1,724 in last year. 

B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe blamed deadlier street drugs for part of the rise. Almost one in five deaths in January involved extreme levels of fentanyl concentration. She also said COVID-19 was isolating people and they were dying alone. 

Safe supply and drug treatment for those who want it should be the main focus now, Kendall said.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

A white police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb resigned Tuesday, as did the city’s police chief — moves that the mayor said he hoped would help heal the community and lead to reconciliation after two nights of protests and unrest.

The resignations from Officer Kim Potter and Police Chief Tim Gannon came two days after the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Potter, a 26-year veteran, had been on administrative leave following Sunday’s shooting, which happened as the Minneapolis area was already on edge over the trial of an officer charged in George Floyd’s death.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said at a news conference that the city had been moving toward firing Potter when she resigned. Elliott said he hoped her resignation would “bring some calm to the community,” but that he would keep working toward “full accountability under the law.”

Meanwhile, a use-of-force expert testified for the defence Tuesday that former officer Derek Chauvin was justified in pinning George Floyd to the ground because he kept struggling.

Taking the stand at Chauvin’s murder trial, Barry Brodd, a former California officer, stoutly defended Chauvin’s actions, even as a prosecutor pounded away at the witness, banging the lectern at one point during cross-examination and growing incredulous when Brodd suggested Floyd was struggling because he wasn’t “resting comfortably” on the pavement.

“It’s easy to sit and judge … an officer’s conduct,” Brodd testified. “It’s more of a challenge to, again, put yourself in the officer’s shoes to try to make an evaluation through what they’re feeling, what they’re sensing, the fear they have, and then make a determination.”

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

Leaders of volcano-wracked St. Vincent said Tuesday that water is running short as heavy ash contaminates supplies, and they estimated that the eastern Caribbean island will need hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the eruption of La Soufriere.

Between 16,000 to 20,000 people have been evacuated from the island’s northern region, where the exploding volcano is located, with more than 3,000 of them staying at more than 80 government shelters.

Dozens of people stood in lines on Tuesday for water or to retrieve money sent by friends and family abroad. Among those standing in one crowd was retired police officer Paul Smart.

“The volcano caught us with our pants down, and it’s very devastating,” he said. “No water, lots of dust in our home. We thank God we are alive, but we need more help at this moment.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in a press conference on local station NBC Radio that St. Vincent will need hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from the eruption but did not give any details.

He added that no casualties have been reported since the first big blast from the volcano early Friday. “We have to try and keep that record,” he said. Gonsalves said some people have refused to leave communities closest to the volcano and urged them to evacuate.

Also this…

President Joe Biden will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America that were co-ordinated from that country, several U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The decision defies a May 1 deadline for full withdrawal under a peace agreement the Trump administration reached with the Taliban last year, but leaves no room for additional extensions. A senior administration official called the September date an absolute deadline that won’t be affected by security conditions in the country.

While Biden’s decision keeps U.S. troops in Afghanistan four months longer than initially planned, it sets a firm end to two decades of war that killed more than 2,200 U.S. troops, wounded 20,000, and cost as much as $1 trillion. The conflict largely crippled al-Qaida and led to the death of Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks. But an American withdrawal also risks many of the gains made in democracy, women’s rights and governance, while ensuring that the Taliban, who provided al-Qaida’s safe haven, remain strong and in control of large swaths of the country.

Biden has been hinting for weeks that he was going to let the May deadline lapse, and as the days went by it became clear that an orderly withdrawal of the roughly 2,500 remaining troops would be difficult and was unlikely. The administration official said the drawdown would begin by May 1.

Biden’s choice of the 9-11 date underscores the reason that American troops were in Afghanistan to begin with — to prevent extremist groups like al-Qaida from establishing a foothold again that could be used to launch attacks against the U.S.

The administration official said Biden decided that the withdrawal deadline had to be absolute, rather than based on conditions on the ground. “We’re committing today to going to zero” U.S. forces by Sept. 11, and possibly well before, the official said, adding that Biden concluded that a conditioned withdrawal would be “a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

On this day in 1912 …

The Titanic struck an iceberg south of Newfoundland’s Grand Banks during its maiden voyage from England. The luxury liner sank overnight with the loss of more than 1,500 lives. The wreckage was found on the ocean floor in 1985.

In entertainment …

“Kim’s Convenience” has just ended but cast member Andrew Phung is already “knee-deep in ideas and stories” for his next project, “Run the Burbs.”

The Calgary-raised actor, who played quirky car-rental employee Kimchee on “Kim’s,” co-created the upcoming comedy series and will star in it as a stay-at-home dad with an entrepreneur wife and two kids.

“I’m a kid who did improv in church basements and now I get to lead a show, so I’m taking the responsibility very seriously,” Toronto-based Phung said in a recent phone interview. 

“I’m trying to make it a production that represents the best practices of what we want from an industry. So that takes a bit of time takes a bit of extra elbow grease, but I’m happy to do it.” 

The CBC announced “Run the Burbs” late last month after news broke that its hit sitcom “Kim’s Convenience” would be ending for good with the season 5 finale, which aired this past Tuesday.

Phung said he’s been developing his half-hour show with his best friend and collaborator, filmmaker Scott Townend, for about a year. The CBC ordered it as a series while “Kim’s Convenience” was planning to go into production on a sixth season. 

ICYMI …

The Yukon territorial election has ended in a tie. What’s next?

The Liberal and Yukon parties sit at eight seats each and the NDP has two, with 10 seats needed to win a majority.

But with a tie between the Liberals and NDP in one riding, the election is still undecided. 

Elections Yukon says a recount is to be held Thursday and, if the tie still stands, a name will be chosen in a draw.

That means putting the names of both candidates into anything from a hat to a coffee mug and pulling one out to determine the winner.

Believe it or not, it’s happened before, in 1996,  in the same riding.  

A vote held on Sept. 30 that year resulted in a tie between the NDP’s Robert Bruce and the Yukon Party’s Esau Schafer. A draw was held and Bruce was declared the winner.

The Liberals, led by Premier Sandy Silver, held a majority government for one term prior to this week’s vote. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021

The Canadian Press