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Monthly Archives: December 2018

Mines minister to meet Alaska fishermen, natives

VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s mines minister says he’s aiming to ease Alaska residents’ fears that their region could be harmed by a disaster similar to the Mount Polley accident in the province’s Interior.

Bill Bennett met with mining representatives in Alaska last November, four months after a tailings dam burst and spilled 24 million cubic metres of waste into area waterways, including salmon-bearing rivers.

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However, Alaskans living downstream from northwestern B.C. mines said Bennett ignored their worries about the potential for mining pollution flowing their way in the event of another catastrophe.

A year after the August 2014 spill, Bennett said he’s taking the lead from state officials who have arranged dozens of meetings with conservation groups and tribal associations.

A week-long tour that began Sunday replaced plans for a southeast Alaska symposium the ministry stopped pursuing after feedback that the gesture only amounted to lip service.

Local advocates remain skeptical, but have agreed to participate.

“I’m going to get around a bit and see what it’s like to live in southeast Alaska and why people feel so passionate about protecting what they have there,” Bennett said in an interview.

“We have taken our time and done it right.”

Bennett and senior officials will host the majority of meetings in the state capital of Juneau. They will also spend a day in the city of Ketchikan, visit commercial fishermen along the Taku River and fly to a B.C. mine site by helicopter.

The minister said his main goal will be to correct the impression that the B.C. government approves mine permits under any circumstance, with little care for the environment.

Imperial Metals (TSX:III), which has spent $67 million cleaning up the region, was given a restricted permit to return to limited production of Mount Polley last month. Bennett has said sediment testing will have to continue for decades.

Bennett has repeatedly called Alaskans’ concerns “legitimate” and believes that presenting detailed information about the Alaska government’s role in approving B.C. mines will alleviate concerns.

His delegation will also seek progress on a memorandum of understanding about how the two jurisdictions could deal with transboundary issues such as testing water that flows from British Columbia into Alaska.

Bennett expects much of the week’s discussions to revolve around the Mount Polley disaster and, to a lesser extent, approval of the Red Chris Mine. The mine, about 130 kilometres from the Alaska border, went into full production in June. Imperial Metals owns both projects.

“We’ll try to give some comfort to those who are worried,” Bennett said. “They have every right to ask these questions and I think we need to go there and provide good answers.”

But a collection of conservationists, tribal groups and industry associations believe Bennett is missing their point.

The issue for southeastern Alaskans isn’t a lack of information, it’s their need for “enforceable protections,” said Chris Zimmer, with Rivers Without Borders.

The groups are calling for concrete measures to protect Alaska’s water and fish, including bonds provided up front to cover another Mount Polley-type accident, compensation if Alaskan interests are harmed, and a study on the long-term effects of mining.

Zimmer said an agreement solely to share information would not change anything. He said the groups want regulations enforced by the International Joint Commission, a Canadian-American organization working to protect shared waters.

Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association, said the visiting minister should expect a “tough crowd.”

“I do welcome him to our region and I’m happy he’s making outreach,” she said. “But it’s going to take a lot more than some quick meetings.”

Alaska’s Lt.-Gov. Byron Mallott and a delegation from the state made their own unprecedented visit to British Columbia last May to tour the area where the Mount Polley dam collapsed.

Mallott and his officials invited Bennett back to Alaska for his current trip after their series of meetings in B.C.

Smoky skies prompt special weather statement for southern, central Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: Southern Alberta was shrouded in a cloud of smoke Monday, and as Doug Vaessen reports, for some people it can be downright dangerous.

EDMONTON – Much of central and southern Alberta, including Lethbridge, Calgary, and Red Deer and Edmonton, was put under a special weather statement Monday because of drifting forest fire smoke from Washington State.

Alberta Health Services issued an air quality advisory for the Calgary Zone, which will stay in effect until further notice. The air quality statement for the City of Edmonton had ended as of 3:10 p.m.

The Environment Canada warning said the wildfire smoke from the Pacific northwest was expected to move into Alberta early Monday morning. Smoke advisories were issued over the weekend in B.C.

The smoke is expected to mix down to the surface in Alberta later in the morning or early afternoon. The federal weather agency said it was uncertain as to how concentrated the smoke will be, but indicated there could be significant reductions in visibility and air quality.

A look at the air quality from the Shaganappi Golf Course in Calgary’s southwest on Aug. 24, 2015.

Doug Vaessen / Global News

The Government of Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), which uses a scale of one to 10 to indicate the risk, predicts Calgary and Red Deer to reach a nine and eight, respectively, by Monday night.

On the AQHI, four to six is considered a moderate risk, seven to 10 is high risk, and over 10 is very high. Northern wildfires back in July pushed the air quality health index to a 11 in some parts of Alberta.

The very young, very old and those with pre-existing health conditions are most affected by the poor air quality. However even healthy individuals may experience temporary irritation of the eyes and throat, and possibly shortness of breath, when the air quality is poor enough.

During times of poor air quality, the province suggests people reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities, and asks residents not to use backyard fire pits or fire boxes in parks.

To reduce exposure to the current poor air conditions, AHS suggests the following:

Reduce presence of smoke in indoor environments:Close and lock all outside windows and doors, including attached garage doors.Turn down furnace thermostats and furnace fans to the minimum setting. Do not attempt to extinguish pilot light.If you have an air-conditioner, keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.Avoid running fans, such as “whole-house fans” or “fresh air ventilation systems” that bring more smoky outdoor air inside.Switch all floor registers to closed position.Close fire place dampers on wood burning fireplaces.Do not use wood burning fireplace, wood stoves or other smoke-producing appliances or features, including candles.If you must drive to another location, keep windows and vents closed. Run car fans on re-circulate mode to avoid drawing in outdoor air.Reduce levels of physical activity, as necessary, to decrease the inhalation of airborne pollutants.Do not smoke tobacco – smoking puts added stress on your lungs and those around you.

For more information on the current air quality health risks, visit the Government of Alberta’s website. Anyone with symptoms can also call Health Link at 811 to speak to a registered nurse.

The Washington wildfire is burning about four and a half kilometres south of the Canada-U.S. border, near Grand Forks and Christina Lake in southern B.C.

WATCH: Fires in Washington State cause haze throughout southern B.C.

READ MORE: Washington state blaze threatens B.C.

Want your weather on the go? Download the Global News Skytracker weather app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

With files from Erika Tucker

Related

  • Stickpin fire in Washington State only 4.5 kilometres from B.C. border

    Fires in Washington State cause haze throughout southern B.C.

  • Hazy skies in parts of B.C. as smoke drifts across border from Washington state wildfires

  • Okanagan smoke may linger for a few days

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Lead Ebola scientist Gary Kobinger leaving national lab in Winnipeg – Winnipeg

TORONTO – The scientist who led the work to develop the Ebola drug ZMapp is going to leave the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Dr. Gary Kobinger is the lab’s chief of special pathogens, heading a team that works on some of the world’s worst disease threats.

Kobinger will be vacating that position next June to become the director of the Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases at Laval University in Quebec City.

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“We’re so proud. We consider we are very privileged to have the opportunity to have him,” said Dr. Michel G. Bergeron, the founder and current head of the centre, who is relinquishing the directorship — but staying on as a researcher — after 41 years.

“Gary is a fantastic human being and an extraordinary researcher.”

READ MORE: Expert hopes he’s fought last Ebola outbreak without treatment

Kobinger said the long notice will give the Public Health Agency of Canada time to find the right candidate to take over the special pathogens program, which has brought great acclaim to the national lab.

In addition to ZMapp, the Winnipeg group designed the first Ebola vaccine that has been shown to be effective in people. And it developed and pioneered use of small mobile laboratories — a lab in a suitcase, essentially — that have changed the way testing is done during Ebola outbreaks.

Kobinger grew up in Quebec and had hoped to return there someday. Still, he said deciding to step down from the Winnipeg job was difficult.

“It’s actually very hard to leave here…. A very tough decision,” said Kobinger, one of the world’s leading Ebola researchers.

“The amount of publications and contributions that this group has been doing … in the past five years is quite impressive.”

READ MORE: Canada’s lab an unlikely Ebola powerhouse

Kobinger has made many contributions to the field of research into viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola and Marburg. But the development of the drug ZMapp will likely be remembered as one of his major contributions during his time in Winnipeg.

The drug is made up of three specific antibodies that fight Ebola. The drug is currently being tested in West Africa, though it is possible the dwindling outbreak there may end before the trial can be completed.

Immune systems produce a variety of antibodies to protect against disease invaders; some are general and some highly specific. To produce monoclonal antibody drugs such as ZMapp, scientists try to home in on specific antibodies, then clone them to produce concentrations of them to infuse into a sick person’s bloodstream.

Kobinger and his team produced a cocktail of three Ebola monoclonals that looked promising against the virus in animal testing. Meanwhile, scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md., produced their own monoclonal cocktail of three antibodies. There was no overlap between the two.

Kobinger decided to try to optimize the cocktails, mixing and testing various combinations to see which was most effective when given to primates infected with Ebola. The resulting drug, ZMapp, is made up of two of Winnipeg’s monoclonals and one made by the U.S. team.

Kobinger took over as special pathogens chief from the group’s first head, Dr. Heinz Feldmann. Feldmann, who left the Winnipeg lab in 2008 to become chief scientist for Level 4 laboratories at the U.S. National Institute of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont., led the work on the Ebola vaccine.

Kobinger, who had been working on a different Ebola vaccine project at the University of Pennsylvania, had been collaborating with the Winnipeg group. Feldmann told then scientific director Dr. Frank Plummer he should hire Kobinger.

“So I hired him and it was one of the smartest things I ever did,” Plummer said in an interview with The Canadian Press last year.

Over the past 15 months, Kobinger and 26 other scientists from the Winnipeg lab have worked in rotations in West Africa, with two- or three-person teams operating mobile laboratories to help Ebola treatment centres diagnose those infected with the disease. At one point, Winnipeg had three lab teams in the field. One team is still in Guinea.

Though Canada first developed a mobile testing lab, other countries have followed suit.

“I think the concept really spread out and I think that’s awesome,” Kobinger said.

At Laval, Kobinger will lead a centre with a strong reputation and a roster of 200 scientists.

It does not have a Level 4 laboratory. Those are the most secure laboratories, where work on the most dangerous pathogens is done. But Kobinger doesn’t believe the move will spell the end of his Ebola work.

“I see this as expanding the horizons, not restricting them,” he said.

“I have so many friends in the field of Level 4 (research) that I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to keep collaborating with many of them.”

©2015The Canadian Press

Seoul: Talks between 2 Koreas over rising tensions end – National

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of – Marathon negotiations between senior officials of the two Koreas ended early Tuesday, the third day of an attempt to defuse a crisis that had the rivals threatening war. Chief South Korean delegate and presidential security adviser Kim Kwan-jin was to announce the results shortly, South Korea’s presidential office said in a statement.

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President Park Geun-hye had said that without a clear North Korean apology for a land mine attack that maimed two soldiers, the anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts that infuriate the North will continue. Her strong words provided a good hint at why the talks, which started Saturday evening and whose second session began Sunday afternoon, dragged on.

Both sides want a face-saving way to avoid an escalation that could lead to bloodshed, especially the North, which is outmatched militarily by Seoul and its ally, the United States.

But authoritarian Pyongyang must also show its people that it is standing up to bitter enemy Seoul. Pyongyang has denied involvement in the land mine explosions and also rejected Seoul’s report that Pyongyang launched an artillery barrage last week – so winning an apology will be difficult work. The North, for its part, demands that Seoul stop the propaganda broadcasts started in retaliation for the land mine attack.

READ MORE: South Korea, North Korea hold their first high-level talks in nearly a year

For now, the attempt at diplomacy has pushed aside previous heated warnings of imminent war, but South Korea’s military said North Korea has continued to prepare for a fight, moving unusual numbers of troops and submarines to the border.

These have been the highest-level talks between the two Koreas in a year. And just the fact that senior officials from countries that have spent recent days vowing to destroy each other were sitting together at a table in Panmunjom, the border enclave where the 1953 armistice ending fighting in the Korean War was agreed to, is something of a victory.

The length of the talks was not unusual. While the Koreas often have difficulty agreeing to talks, once they do, overlong sessions are often the rule. After decades of animosity and bloodshed, however, finding common ground is much harder.

President Park said during a meeting with top aides that Seoul would not “stand down even if North Korea ratchets up provocation to its highest level and threatens our national security.”

READ MORE: U.S. halts military exercise with South Korea

She said Seoul needs “a definite apology” and a promise that such provocations would not recur.

The decision to hold talks came hours ahead of a Saturday deadline set by North Korea for the South to dismantle the propaganda loudspeakers. North Korea had declared that its front-line troops were in full war readiness and prepared to go to battle if Seoul did not back down.

South Korea said that even as the North was pursuing dialogue, its troops were preparing for battle.

An official from Seoul’s Defence Ministry said about 70 per cent of the North’s more than 70 submarines and undersea vehicles had left their bases and were undetectable by the South Korean military as of Saturday. The official, who refused to be named because of official rules, also said the North had doubled the strength of its front-line artillery forces since the start of the talks Saturday evening.

READ MORE: South and North Korea reportedly exchange gunfire on border town

South Korean military officials wouldn’t confirm or deny a Yonhap news agency report, citing unidentified military sources, that said North Korea had moved toward the border about 10 hovercraft used for landings by special operation forces in the event of a war.

The standoff started with the explosions of land mines on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas that Seoul says were planted by North Korea. In response, the South resumed anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts for the first time in 11 years, infuriating the North, which is extremely sensitive to any criticism of its authoritarian system. Analysts say the North fears that the broadcasts could demoralize its front-line troops and inspire them to defect.

On Thursday, South Korea’s military fired dozens of artillery rounds across the border in response to what Seoul said were North Korean artillery strikes meant to back up an earlier threat to attack the loudspeakers.

A Defence Ministry official said the South continued the anti-Pyongyang broadcasts even after the start of the talks Saturday and also after the second session began Sunday. He said Seoul would decide after the talks whether to halt the broadcasts.

While the meeting offered a way for the rivals to avoid an immediate collision, South Korea probably can’t afford to walk away with a weak agreement after it openly vowed to stem a “vicious cycle” of North Korean provocations amid public anger over the land mines, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University.

At the meeting, South Korea’s presidential national security director, Kim Kwan-jin, and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo sat down with Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer for the Korean People’s Army, and Kim Yang Gon, a senior North Korean official responsible for South Korean affairs. Hwang is considered by outside analysts to be North Korea’s second most important official after supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

In Pyongyang, North Korean state media reported that more than 1 million young people have volunteered to join or rejoin the military to defend their country should a conflict break out.

Despite such highly charged rhetoric, which is not particularly unusual, activity in the North’s capital remained calm on Sunday, with people going about their daily routines. Truckloads of soldiers singing martial songs could occasionally be seen driving around the city, and a single minivan with camouflage netting was parked near the main train station.

Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul and Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang contributed to this report.

©2015The Canadian Press

Apple launches replacement program for blurry iPhone 6 Plus cameras – National

TORONTO – If you are having trouble taking clear pictures with your iPhone 6 Plus camera, you aren’t alone.

Apple has launched a replacement program for the iPhone 6 Plus after acknowledging that some of the devices have faulty cameras. According to the company, the defect affects units within a “limited” serial number range, sold between September 2014 and January 2015.

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The iPhone 6 Plus was released in September 2014, so you’re likely eligible if you were the first in line for the device. It’s unclear how many devices are affected by the recall.

“Apple has determined that, in a small percentage of iPhone 6 Plus devices, the iSight camera has a component that may fail causing your photos to look blurry,” reads Apple’s website.

“If your iPhone 6 Plus is producing blurry photos and falls into the eligible serial number range, Apple will replace your device’s iSight camera, free of charge.”

The problem only affects the iSight camera, located on the back of the device – the front-facing selfie camera isn’t affected.

iPhone 6 models are not affected by the faulty camera.

Users can check their eligibility on the Apple website by entering their phone’s serial number. You can find your serial number by tapping “Settings,” then “General,” then “About.”

Apple’s website noted that the phone must be producing blurry images to be eligible.

The device must also be in “working order” – which means you might not be eligible if your phone has water damage, or if it’s cracked or damaged. If your device is damaged, you might have to pay for it to be fixed before Apple will replace the camera.