Monthly Archives: November 2018

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Ship forged with 9/11 steel sails into New York

NEW YORK – The USS New York, a naval vessel whose bow was forged in part with steel from the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 9/11, sailed for the first time Monday into the city’s harbor.

The newly built 684-foot (208-meter) amphibious assault ship, designed to carry up to 800 marines and helicopters, marked its maiden voyage into New York with a 21 gun salute just off Ground Zero.

Thousands gathered along the Hudson River to remember the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001 and to salute the ship, whose bow section contains 7.5 tons of steel from the towers destroyed by the hijacked airliners.

"I am here because my son Michael was killed on 9/11. He was a firefighter," said Nancy Cinei.

"He was on the job only nine weeks. Knowing that the World Trade Center is a part of the USS New York means a lot to me. To know that that ship will go all over the world, and that the world and people will realize that it is part of the WTC which will never be forgotten."

Brian Dunwoody, with the Port Authority police, had mixed emotions on seeing the navy’s latest vessel steam into his native city.

"It is a happy occasion. Unfortunately it is the result of something tragic. My police department lost 37 officers that day," he said.

"The fact that they built this battleship with that steel is a nice way to remember those that we lost that day."

The 1.2 billion dollar USS New York, an ultra-modern vessel with a low radar profile, was built in Louisiana.

Two other ships – the Arlington and Somerset – are being built in honor of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, incorporating materials from the Pentagon, which was struck by an airliner, and United Flight 93, which crashed into a field after being hijacked.

The arrival of the USS New York was carefully choreographed, tapping into patriotic sentiment over 9/11 and near universal respect for the military, despite the unpopularity of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, standing for a third term in an election Tuesday, seized the opportunity to greet the city’s namesake ship.

He boarded a hovercraft to reach the USS New York late Sunday as they went from the naval base of Norfolk, Virginia, to Manhattan.

Once aboard he joined sailors watching on television the New York Yankees take on the Phillies in the World Series baseball championship.

The navy is to commission the USS New York, whose crest includes images of the Twin Towers behind a phoenix and the words "Never Forget," on Saturday.

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Officer tells Kembo trial of grisly discovery of body

The trial of accused killer Charles Kembo on Monday heard from a police officer who found the body of Kembo’s stepdaughter Rita Yeung with the help of a GPS tracking device.

RCMP Cpl. Paul Johnston told a B.C. Supreme Court jury that on July 25, 2005 he was assigned to help locate Rita, 20, whose whereabouts were unknown.

He said that on the following day, using information from a GPS tracking device that police had placed on Kembo’s red Land Rover, he helped search an area near the Vancouver Airport.

On July 27, he and another officer were directed to search the banks of the Fraser River, where a green plastic bag had been spotted, he said.

Johnston said he headed down an embankment and spotted some green garbage bags covered by loose stones.

After removing the stones, he pulled apart layers of garbage bags and saw a white object that was “soft and cushy” to the touch, he said.

“We determined that it was a bra strap and it was a body inside,” he said.

“Once I located the body, I removed myself from the area and proceeded to help in securing the crime scene area.”

Johnston said he’d been involved in police surveillance of Kembo that began in December 2004.

Court has heard that on the day of her murder, Kembo was driving his step-daughter around to various locations, including the airport.

The Crown says that early on July 24, 2005 Kembo, 40, convinced her to leave the vehicle and go for a walk and that a muffled scream could be heard.

Yesterday the Crown began playing wiretaps. One of them captured Rita Yeung leaving a message for Kembo in May 2005, telling him that her roommate was going to move out of the Dunbar basement suite that they shared.

“She’s going to go to Korea,” said Rita. “I don’t know if I should get a new roommate or go back home.”

The jury also heard from Scott Baker, who had rented the suite to Rita, whose $550 a month share of the rent was paid for by Kembo.

The accused has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murders of Rita Yeung, his wife Margaret Kembo, his girlfriend Sui Yin Ma and his friend Ardon Samuel. The Crown’s theory is that Kembo killed his victims and took over their identities for financial gain.

The trial continues.

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U.S. court rejects Arar lawsuit bid

NEW YORK — A U.S. appeals court ruled Monday that Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar cannot sue the United States over his forced deportation to Syria after his arrest in New York as a suspected terrorist.

The decision by the full 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the lawsuit may not proceed unless the U.S. Congress expressly authorizes such suits. Judges on the 12-member bench filed four dissents along with the majority opinion.

The decision follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May that FBI Director Robert Mueller and former attorney general John Ashcroft were among Bush-era officials who could not be sued over alleged abuse of a Pakistani Muslim jailed in New York as a terror suspect.

Mr. Arar was changing planes in New York a year after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States when U.S. officials detained him, then sent him to Syria, where he has testified he was tortured.

He was paid $10.5-million by the Canadian government after Ottawa ordered a commission of inquiry into his deportation.

It cleared him of having had terrorist links and said his name appeared on a U.S. terror watch list based on false information supplied by Canadian officials.

Mr. Arar’s lawsuit against the United States sought unspecified monetary damages as it challenged his “extraordinary rendition” — a process by which federal authorities at the time of the Bush administration were said to have deported suspected terrorists to countries where torture is known to be practised.

The U.S. Justice Department has said that Mr. Arar was legally deported to Syria and that Syrian government assured Washington he would not be tortured.

The 12 judges took the unusual step in December of attending a hearing on Mr. Arar’s lawsuit against the U.S. government, even though they had received no request to do so from either legal team.

Their action effectively reversed a ruling in June by a smaller panel of the court that judges had no jurisdiction over the case because of the circumstances of Mr. Arar’s presence on U.S. soil.

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Calgary’s essential workers waiting to get vaccine

CALGARY – As absentee rates climb among city police and firefighters, the man in charge of the City of Calgary’s response to the swine flu pandemic is frustrated enough to consider hiring a private health-care company to administer the H1N1 vaccine to staff on the front lines — if he could get any.

Tom Sampson, deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, believes first responders and other essential services workers should be allowed to join health-care workers at the front of the line for the vaccine. He said he’s been asking Alberta Health Services for access to the vaccine since Oct. 19.

"Regretfully, I’ve yet to be able to secure any vaccine, although we have a provider who’s prepared to administer it for us who’s separate from the health system," said Sampson.

"Our position is, if you give us the vaccine, we will administer it our own staff.

"We looked at the long lineups that started this week and, realistically, we can’t put 4,000 essential services staff into those lineups. It’s not good use of taxpayers’ money."

The absentee rate in the Calgary Police Service has doubled, said Sampson, and tripled in the Calgary Fire Department.

"We think it’s prudent timing now to implement a vaccination program for those essential personnel within the City of Calgary–those people who keep the core of our city operating."

He’s been told that may not happen until the second week of November.

For now, essential service workers will have to get in line with the public at the mass immunization clinics, said Sheila Rougeau, a spokesperson for Alberta Health Services.

"First responders, whether that be EMS, fire or police and other essential workers . . . are all important, and we are working very hard to immunize as people we can, as quickly we can," said Rougeau.

"It’s only because we have to balance the resources and the vaccine supply that we currently have, which is why we can’t expand on the program right now."

Since Monday, doctors, nurses and other health-care workers have been first in line for H1N1 flu shots at four city hospital clinics.

Open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., they’re exclusively for health-care workers, said Mac-Donald. Their family members are not allowed.

As of Wednesday, 14,744 health-care workers had been vaccinated; 38,000 across Alberta.

AHS has approximately 90,000 health care workers.

Until Wednesday, one group of health-care providers new to the AHS fold didn’t realize it could access staff clinics.

Some of Calgary’s 500 paramedics and emergency medical technicians had been standing in line at mass immunization clinics, or getting shots in hospital when they brought in patients, said Rick Fraser, head of CUPE Local 3421, the union that represents them.

"Part of the problem has been the transition of EMS from the City of Calgary and other municipalities into Alberta Health Services. It’s also the transitioning of how we communicate internally," he explained.

"Because EMS are now considered health-care providers, they are one of the priority groups that we want to get vaccinated as quickly as possible," said Rougeau.

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H1N1 vaccine shortage feared; people turned away at clinic

CALGARY – Some Calgarians who showed up at the Richmond Road Diagnostic Treatment Centre this morning for their H1N1 vaccinations say they have been turned away as of 9:30 a.m. – less than two hours after the clinic opened for the day.

There are also reports that the line-up at the southwest Calgary location, at 1820 Richmond Rd. S.W., may have been closed for the day.

Alberta confirmed its 13th H1N1-related death Thursday, as the federal government warned the province to expect next week less than half the H1N1 vaccine it had ordered.

As long lineups continued on the fourth day of vaccination clinics in Calgary and across the country, provincial health authorities are awaiting final numbers from Ottawa on what portion of their orders they will have at their disposal.

But if this week’s overwhelmed flu shot clinics are any indication, their shipments could fall well short of demand.

Alberta had been expecting a shipment of 200,000 doses for next week, but has been told it may only get 90,000.

"That means we’ll be ensuring we use that vaccine wisely," said John Tuckwell, spokesman for Alberta Health and Wellness.

The province will have received 600,000 doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine by the end of today.

News of the supply shortage comes as one more Canadian H1N1 death was reported: a middle-aged woman from Edmonton.

The reduced numbers mean local public health units, which are responsible for administering the vaccine, may have to modify plans over the weekend for how they operate clinics next week.

The federal government said it was informed by Canada’s H1N1 vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, that vaccine supply will be lower next week because its facility only has one production line for two types of vaccine.

Glaxo first produced batches of vaccine with an adjuvant–an additive that boosts the immune system –and by the end of the day today six million doses will have been shipped to the provinces and territories.

Glaxo temporarily switched its production line to manufacture 1.8 million doses without the adjuvant, the vaccine that is preferred for pregnant women. It has now switched back to making the adjuvanted vaccine but, because of the interruption, there is a reduced number of doses for next week.

"It is important to also note that every batch of vaccine is quality tested before it is shipped to the provinces and territories. This also affects the amount of vaccine delivered each week," said a statement from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

"GSK assures us that they will be back up to providing the provinces and territories with millions of doses the following week."

The minister said the goal is to have Canadians who want the shot immunized by Christmas and that "we remain on track to meet this goal."

Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert noted the province is preparing to deal with a limited amount of the vaccine being available.

"The intent always was the vaccine would be manufactured and distributed over a two-month period," he said.

"We have to be careful that it is distributed in a way that we’re getting maximum benefit out of the vaccine and that we don’t have a provincewide shortage of vaccine."

Liepert also said the province doesn’t yet have an assurance that more vaccines are coming next week.

"We are hopeful," he said, adding that the province has placed orders to acquire vaccines for every Albertan.

On Wednesday, 30,637 H1N1 flu vaccines were administered in the greater Calgary area alone, including urban and rural flu shot clinics and specialized programs for medical staff.

Some Calgarians have already spent upwards of six hours waiting in line to receive their flu shots this week.

It’s unclear if the delay in resupplying the vaccine will mean Calgary’s five flu clinics could run out of the drug.

"What this means is things will slow down. We’ll keep providing vaccine as long as we’ve got it," MacDonald said.

"If we have the non-adjuvanted, then we’ll be directing that to the appropriate groups, pregnant women that are eligible for the non-adjuvanted vaccine. If we don’t have the adjuvanted vaccine, then we’ll take a breather (from the clinics) and wait for it to come to us."

Young children have been receiving their H1N1 vaccines in half doses, with the intent they return 21 days later for the second injection.

A possible vaccine shortage shouldn’t affect these children because the second dose doesn’t have to be administered on the 21st day. It can occur any time after the initial three-week waiting period, said MacDonald.

Premier Ed Stelmach said Thursday lineups have been longer in Alberta because the province decided to make the vaccine available to all residents off the bat, not just to high-risk groups.

"This is a serious matter. We’re doing the best we can, right across Canada. Overall, people are pleased we do have the vaccine and we’re offering it to all Albertans."

Liberal Leader David Swann said the vaccine-crunch should prompt the province to alter the first phase of its immunization plan, focusing on high-risk groups instead of offering the shots to all Albertans.

He said it’s vital to ensure Albertans most vulnerable to H1N1 get the vaccine first.

"We should be focusing on the high-risk groups and the essential-services workers or we could compound the problems very seriously," said Swann, a former medical doctor.

"We cannot be giving this out to just the average person who is anxious and wants this –and should have it–but isn’t the highest priority."

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