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Long-COVID and autoimmune diseases, new Canadian airline : In The News for Sept. 22

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. 22 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
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Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., Thursday, March 26, 2020. Some long COVID patients suffering symptoms including fatigue and shortness of breath are showing signs of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, suggests a Canadian study that builds on similar findings elsewhere. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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. 22 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Some long COVID patients suffering symptoms including fatigue and shortness of breath are showing signs of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, suggests a Canadian study that builds on similar findings elsewhere. 

Manali Mukherjee, who led the study and is a respiratory researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, said two specific abnormal antibodies, or autoantibodies, which attack healthy tissues and are known to cause autoimmune disease, persisted in about 30 per cent of patients a year after they became infected.

The research was based on blood samples from patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 between August 2020 and September 2021 and received care at two hospitals in Vancouver and another in Hamilton.

The persistence of autoantibodies for a year or longer points to the need for patients to see a specialist who could test for signs of autoimmune disease, she said of conditions that also include Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

"If you are having long COVID symptoms, even 12 months after getting COVID, please consider getting a rheumatological checkup, just to make sure that there is no trajectory towards systemic disease," Mukherjee said.

The study, which also involved Dr. Chris Carlsten, from the University of British Columbia's division of respiratory medicine, was published Thursday in the European Respiratory Journal and involved 106 patients.

The work supports emerging research on long COVID, which mostly affects women, Mukherjee said.

A study of 300 patients published earlier this year in the journal Cell by researchers in the United States was the first to show that autoantibodies among those infected with the virus can lead to long COVID symptoms, but it was limited to three to four months after recovery, Mukherjee said.

A Swiss study of 90 patients published last April in the journal Allergy suggested autoantibodies can be present a year following infection in 40 per cent of patients.

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Also this ...

The next airline hoping to pose a threat to the country's Air Canada-WestJet duopoly is slated to take its inaugural flight Thursday.

Canada Jetlines, a new startup airline headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., is scheduled to begin service with twice weekly flights from Toronto's Pearson International Airport to Calgary International Airport.

The airline said it will hold a ribbon cutting celebration to mark the occasion when its first flight arrives in Calgary Thursday morning.

Canada Jetlines bills itself as an "all-Canadian, value-focused leisure carrier." While Toronto-Calgary is its only scheduled route right now, the company's chief commercial offer, Duncan Bureau, said the airline plans to service the leisure market both domestically and trans border with flights to the Caribbean and the Americas.

The airline currently has one Airbus A320 and a second to join in December, with plans to expand the fleet to 15 Airbus A320s by 2025 at a rate of five aircraft per year, said Bureau.

Canada Jetlines is the latest startup airline to launch in Canada and joins the likes of Flair, Lynx and WestJet's Swoop.

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And this too ...

Federal ministers are expected to launch a long-awaited review of the government's cannabis legislation today.

The Liberals lifted a century-long prohibition on the recreational use and sale of cannabis in October 2018, with the provision that they review the law three years after to comes into force. 

That review is nearly one year overdue.

The legislation dictates that the federal government must investigate the impact of legalization on public health, youth consumption and Indigenous persons and communities.

The review will also look at the cultivation of cannabis in homes. 

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett must present a report to the House of Commons and Senate within 18 months of the launch of the review. 

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

WATERBURY, Conn. _ Seven days into his trial for calling the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is expected make his first courtroom appearance and begin testifying Thursday, as he and his lawyer try to limit damages he must pay to families who lost loved ones in the massacre.

Jones has been in Connecticut this week in preparation for his testimony, but appeared only briefly in the courthouse Tuesday and did not enter the courtroom. The Infowars host has bashed the proceedings as a "travesty justice'' and the judge as a "tyrant'' in comments outside the courthouse in Waterbury, about 32 kilometres from the scene of the 2012 shooting in Newtown.

Twenty first graders and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Several victims' relatives, meanwhile, have given emotional testimony during the trial about being traumatized by people calling the shooting fake, including confrontations at their homes and in public and messages including death and rape threats. The plaintiffs include an FBI agent who responded to the shooting and relatives of eight of the victims.

Judge Barbara Bellis last year found Jones liable by default for damages to plaintiffs without a trial, as punishment for what she called his repeated failures to turn over documents to their lawyers. The six-member jury only will be deciding how much Jones and Free Speech Systems, Infowars' parent company, should pay the families for defaming them and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Bellis said in court on Wednesday that she was prepared to handle any incendiary testimony from Jones, with contempt of court proceedings if necessary.

Bellis also was expected to tell Jones, when he first takes the stand and with the jury not in the courtroom, what topics he cannot talk about _ including free speech rights and the Sandy Hook families $73 million settlement earlier this year with gun maker Remington, which made the Bushmaster rifle used to kill the victims at Sandy Hook.

Jones also was found liable by default in two similar lawsuits over the hoax lies in his hometown of Austin, Texas, where a jury in one of the trials ordered Jones last month to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed. A third trial in Texas is expected to begin near the end of the year.

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

MEXICO CITY _ A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 struck Mexico early Thursday, causing buildings to sway and leaving at least one person dead in the nation's capital.

The earthquake struck shortly after 1 a.m., just three days after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook western and central Mexico, killing two.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Thursday's earthquake, like Monday's, was centred in the western state of Michoacan near the Pacific coast. The epicentre was about 246 kilometres south-southwest of Aguililla, Michoacan, at a depth of about 24.1 kilometres.

Michoacan's state government said the quake was felt throughout the state. It reported damage to a building in the city of Uruapan and some landslides on the highway that connects Michoacan and Guerrero with the coast.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said via Twitter that it was an aftershock from Monday's quake and was also felt in the states of Colima, Jalisco and Guerrero.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said via Twitter that one woman died in a central neighborhood when she fell down the stairs of her home. Residents were huddled in streets as seismic alarms blared.

The earthquake rattled an already jittery country. Monday's more powerful quake was the third major earthquake to strike on Sept. 19 _ in 1985, 2017 and now 2022. The 2017 and 2022 Sept. 19 quakes came very shortly after the annual earthquake drill conducted every Sept. 19 to commemorate the devastating 1985 temblor that killed some 9,500 people.

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On this day in 1851 ...

The capital of Canada was moved from Toronto to Quebec City.

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In entertainment ...

NEW ORLEANS _ Actor Anthony Mackie was not carrying his Captain America shield when he returned to his hometown of New Orleans to help repair hurricane-damaged roofs but for people in his old neighborhood knowing their tarp-covered roofs were getting repaired was a blockbuster hit.

Mackie is working with GAF, one of the country's leading roofing manufacturers, to fix roofs for homeowners in New Orleans who sustained damage during last year's Hurricane Ida. The project is especially close to Mackie's heart. The actor who is currently portraying Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe grew up in New Orleans working at his family's roofing business.

"It gives me a sense of pride that I'm doing my people a service. I know what people go through in this neighborhood because I was born in this neighborhood, I grew up in this neighborhood,'' he said. "It's important to me to bring back the gifts and blessings I received outside the city.''

GAF, a subsidiary of Standard Industries that makes things like shingles, underlayment and other roofing related products for homes and businesses, has committed to installing 500 roofs throughout the Gulf Region. That includes 150 roofs in the 7th Ward of New Orleans, an area that was hammered by both Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then Ida that hit on the same day 16 years later. The roofing effort is part of the company's Community Matters program started in 2020 that has already repaired or replaced 3,000 roofs.

The company and Mackie were in New Orleans recently to remove blue tarps on homes that had been damaged by Ida and replace the tarps with new roofs.

Mackie, whose family owns Mackie One Construction, grew up working in the roofing business before going on to an acting career that has included such hits "We Are Marshall'' and "The Hurt Locker.'' In recent years he's appeared in numerous Avengers movies as Sam Wilson _ aka Falcon _ and is taking over the Captain America role.

Mackie jokingly remembers the time he fell off a roof when he was working in his family's construction business. A thick layer of mud cushioned his fall. That memory didn't stop him this time around from getting back on the roof and helping pull off tarps and pop off old shingles. Mackie said the resources that GAF is putting toward the project is helping people who wouldn't be able to otherwise afford to get their home repaired.

"There's so many houses in this neighborhood and city that are still tarped. When you fly into New Orleans, it's become a sea of blue tarps. The hundred and fifty homes that GAF is doing in the 7th ward, that breaks a lot of barriers down for people that won't be able to afford to do that. The 500 homes that they've committed to doing, that breaks a lot of barriers down for people,'' he said.

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Did you see this?

OTTAWA _ Online streaming giants YouTube and TikTok are asking Canadian senators to take a sober second look at an online streaming bill that they say would cause significant harm to Canadian digital creators.

TikTok executive Steve de Eyre said in a Senate committee meeting on Wednesday evening that the federal Liberals' Bill C-11 doesn't just fail to protect digital creators from regulation, but makes them collateral damage.

He said the Senate should more explicitly exclude user-generated content from the bill, which was designed to modernize Canadian broadcasting legislation and bring online streaming platforms into the fold.

Senators should also consider rules around how Canadian content is identified, he said, saying much of the content that Canadians create on TikTok wouldn't qualify as such.

The onus could end up on users to prove how Canadian they are, meaning that "established media voices and cultural voices'' with more resources could end up at the front of the line, said de Eyre, who is the company's director of public policy and government affairs in Canada.

YouTube executive Jeanette Patell told senators that the bill gives far too much discretion to Canada's broadcasting regulators to make demands around user-generated content.

She said the provision that the regulator can consider whether someone has directly or indirectly generated revenue from the content would affect ``effectively everything'' on the platform.

"This is a global precedent,'' said Patell, who is YouTube's head of government affairs and public policy.

She warned that if other countries follow suit, Canadian creators, for whom 90 per cent of YouTube views come from outside the country, will have a harder time getting noticed.

"There's nothing like this in the world for open platforms. It really puts the international audiences of creators at risk.''

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2022

The Canadian Press