On the campaign trail, new COVID rules in Alberta : In The News for Sept. 16

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. 16 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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With less than a week to go before Monday's federal election, the three main party leaders are continuing their tours of Eastern and Central Canada.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is back home in Montreal, where he will make an announcement in the morning.

Conservative boss Erin O'Toole is visiting two Atlantic provinces, starting with an announcement in Saint John, N.B., and ending with an evening event with supporters in Truro, N.S.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is staying in Ontario, with an affordable housing announcement in Toronto in the morning, followed by visits with supporters in Oshawa and Kingston.

Affordability was the hot topic yesterday after Statistics Canada reported prices increased by 4.1 per cent in August compared with the same month one year earlier, fuelled by rising consumer demand and supply-chain constraints for many goods.

Singh and O'Toole blamed rising prices on what they called Trudeau's inaction on multiple fronts, including the country's hot housing sector.

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Also this ...

As Alberta faces a COVID-19 crisis that threatens to collapse its health system in just over a week, Premier Jason Kenney has reintroduced limits on gatherings along with elements of a vaccine passport system.

The United Conservative government declared a state of public health emergency on Wednesday, asking for help from other provinces to use their intensive care beds and staff while prepping its triage protocols, which would see doctors forced to choose who gets life-saving treatment and who does not.

"Unless we slow (virus) transmission, particularly amongst unvaccinated Albertans, we simply will not be able to provide adequate care to everyone who gets sick," Kenny said, adding hospitals may run out of staff and intensive care beds within the next 10 days.

Alberta has more than 18,000 active COVID-19 cases, by far the highest in Canada. There are 269 patients in intensive care in a system set up for 173. Of the 269 patients in ICUs, 218 have COVID-19 -- the vast majority unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

Alberta has been lagging on vaccinations, with less than 72 per cent of those 12 and older fully immunized.

To stem transmission, Kenney's government introduced an array of measures including a form of the vaccine passport.

Starting Sept. 20, people will need to show proof of vaccination to enter select non-essential businesses, including retail shops, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, concerts and libraries.

However, businesses that opt out of the program can operate at reduced capacity and with distancing rules or restrictions, such as no more than six people at a table in a restaurant.

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And this ...

The president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation says it's illogical that students who are exposed to classmates who are COVID-19 positive are not required to self-isolate.

Patrick Maze says the exemption made by the government does nothing to protect children.

Close-contact pupils can continue to go to school following exposure, but are excluded from extracurricular activities and must wear masks unless eating.

Only students who have been exposed outside a school setting must self-isolate.

The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment.

A public health order says close contact pupils are exempt from isolation, so that parents don’t have to deal with the burden of taking time off work.

Just over 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan are in children 12 and under, who are ineligible for a vaccine.

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

BOSTON (AP) — Voters in the city have for the first time narrowed the field of mayoral candidates to two women of colour who will face off against each other in November.

City councillors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George bested acting Mayor Kim Janey, Coun. Andrea Campbell and John Barros, the city’s former economic development chief, in this week's preliminary runoff.

Whoever wins on Nov. 2 will make history in a city where the mayor's office has been held by a white man for the past 200 years.

Earlier this year, Janey became the first Black Bostonian and first woman to occupy the city’s top office in an acting capacity after former mayor Marty Walsh stepped down to become President Joe Biden’s labour secretary.

All of the candidates were Democrats. Mayoral races in Boston do not include party primaries.

Wu was elected to the Boston city council in 2013 at age 28, becoming the first Asian-American woman to serve on the council. In 2016, she was elected city council president by her colleagues in a unanimous vote, becoming the first woman of colour to serve as president.

Essaibi George won a series of key endorsements during the race including from unions representing firefighters, nurses and emergency medical technicians. She also won the backing of former Boston police commissioner William Gross.

Essaibi George grew up in the city’s Dorchester neighbourhood and taught in the Boston Public Schools. She was elected to the city council in 2015. Her father immigrated to the United States from Tunisia in 1972. Her mother was born in a displaced persons’ camp in Germany of Polish parents.

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

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan man who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last month was an enthusiastic longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization, say his colleagues, who paint a stark contrast to the Pentagon’s claims that he was an Islamic State group's militant about to carry out an attack on American troops.

Signs have been mounting that the U.S. military may have targeted the wrong man in the Aug. 29 strike in Kabul, with devastating consequences, killing seven children and two other adults from the man's family.

The Pentagon says it's further investigating the airstrike, but it has no way to do so on the ground after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Accounts from the family, documents from colleagues seen by The Associated Press, and the scene at the family home — where Zemerai Ahmadi’s car was struck by a Hellfire missile just as he pulled into the driveway — all seem to sharply contradict the accounts by the U.S. military. Instead, they paint the picture of a family that had worked for Americans and were trying to gain visas to the United States, fearing for their lives under the Taliban.

The family wants the United States to hear their side of the story and see the facts on the ground.

"We just want that they come here. See what they did. Talk to us. Give us the proof," Emal Ahmadi, Zemerai’s younger brother, said of the U.S. military.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged he did not know if the man targeted in the strike was an IS operative or an aid worker. "I don’t know because we’re reviewing it," he said at a Senate foreign relations committee hearing.

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On this day in 1974 ...

The first female recruit was sworn in as a member of the RCMP. Thirty-two women began training in Regina on Sept. 23, 1974, and later became the force's first female troop. Today, women undergo the same training as male constables and are assigned duties on the same basis.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — Kristen Stewart says she sees the role of Diana as part of a body of art that seeks to bring people closer to the larger-than-life figure, and she doesn't presume to possess special insight into the reality of the late Princess of Wales after portraying her in "Spencer."

Billed as "a fable from a true tragedy," "Spencer" conjures the private turmoil of the so-called "People's Princess" as she endures a tense Christmas holiday with the Royal Family.

Appearing remotely for a live talk at the hybrid Toronto International Film Festival, Stewart says she hopes "Spencer" doesn't contribute to the public invasion of privacy that has plagued Diana's life and legacy.

The actor says the film doesn't present new biographical details or "profess to know anything" about the royal icon, who died at age 36 in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997.

Stewart says the project instead seeks to honour Diana's preternatural power to foster human connection.

"I've been asked a lot about whether or not it's cool to try to tell someone's story when they're not around," Stewart said at a TIFF digital talk Wednesday before the film's premiere.

"We can imagine and dream and write poetry about how she makes us feel, and (try) to get closer to her and how she felt. I think that she provides this incredibly lush and complicated terrain to make art about."

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ICYMI ...

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A cassette tape of a 33-minute audio recording four Danish teenagers had with John Lennon half a century ago will be auctioned later this month.

The tape includes an apparently unpublished song by the late Beatle.

The four 16-year-olds did the interview on Jan. 5, 1970. At the height of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono had "a message of peace, and that was what was important to us," recalled Karsten Hoejen.

The tape chiefly consists of Lennon and Ono speaking about being in Denmark and world peace, Hoejen said Wednesday. Alternative societies mushroomed in Denmark from the late 1960s, attracting people from abroad, and music festivals were organized inspired by those on the Isle of Wight and Woodstock.

The four youths wanted to interview Lennon for their school magazine but turned up late for the official press conference.

They knocked on the door and moments later they sat next to the British musician and Ono.

At some point, "someone ... I cannot recall who ... asked Lennon if could play the guitar for us." He played and sang with Ono ‘Give peace a chance’ and "then they sang ‘Radio Peace.’" It was made for a radio station in The Netherlands but was never aired, Hoejen said.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021

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