Pornhub investigation urged and vaccinating for variants: In The News for March 4 News Staff

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 March 4 … 

What we are watching in Canada …

OTTAWA — More than 100 survivors of sexual exploitation along with hundreds of non-governmental organizations are urging Ottawa to pursue a “full criminal investigation” into Pornhub’s parent company.

In a letter this week, the coalition is asking the House of Commons ethics committee to push for a criminal probe into MindGeek, which they accuse of violating child protection laws and sharing intimate images without consent.

The Montreal-based company has come under heavy criticism in the past few months following accusations it failed to adequately screen for illegal material and distributed exploitive videos.

MindGeek executives have denied any wrongdoing and said their company is a “world leader” in preventing the distribution of content showing child sexual abuse and non-consensual acts.

In December several major credit card companies suspended payment services to Pornhub, prompting the world’s largest pornography platform to scrub some 10 million videos posted by unverified users.

At least five lawsuits have been filed against the company in the past year on behalf of survivors of child abuse, sex trafficking and non-consensual image uploads.

Also this …

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief medical adviser says her department is constantly receiving and reviewing new data on vaccines and COVID-19 variants and will be ready to quickly authorize needed boosters when they’re available..

Dr. Supriya Sharma says the makers of all three vaccines Canada has authorized are required to submit all the information they have on variants, and are also all working on boosters.

Sharma says the boosters will need to meet Canada’s high standards but testing and approving them is a quicker and simpler process than for the original vaccines.

There are more than 1,400 confirmed cases of three variants of concern in Canada as of Wednesday, including almost 1,300 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

Sharma says the existing vaccines, coupled with public health measures, will help slow the spread of the disease and reduce the risk that even more variants will emerge.

She says the vaccines Canada has approved offer excellent protection, and there are very good signs they will prevent most people from getting seriously ill or dying even if infected with the currently known variants.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — Capitol Police say they have uncovered intelligence of a “possible plot” by a militia group to breach the U.S. Capitol today, nearly two months after a mob of supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the iconic building to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. 

The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that Trump will rise again to power on March 4. That was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20.  

Online chatter identified by authorities included discussions among members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group, concerning possible plots against the Capitol today, said two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Members of the Three Percenters were among the extremists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

The announcement comes as the Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies are taking heat from Congress in contentious hearings this week on their handling of the Jan. 6 riot. Police were ill-prepared for the mass of Trump supporters in tactical gear, some armed, and it took hours for National Guard reinforcements to come. By then, rioters had broken and smashed their way into the building and roamed the halls for hours, stalling Congress’ certification effort temporarily and sending lawmakers into hiding. 

“The United States Capitol Police Department is aware of and prepared for any potential threats towards members of Congress or towards the Capitol complex,” the agency said in a statement. “We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4.” Police did not identify the militia group in the statement.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

Myanmar security forces were seen firing slingshots at protesters, chasing them down and even brutally beating an ambulance crew in video showing a dramatic escalation of violence against opponents of last month’s military coup. 

A UN official speaking from Switzerland said 38 people had died Wednesday, a figure consistent with other reports though accounts are difficult to confirm inside the country. 

That is the highest daily death toll since the Feb. 1 takeover and could galvanize the international community, which has responded fitfully so far. 

Demonstrators have flooded the streets en masse even as the crackdown against them intensifies — an unfortunately familiar occurrence in a country with a long history of peaceful resistance to military rule and brutal crackdowns.

On this day in 1971 …

Pierre Elliott Trudeau married Margaret Sinclair in Vancouver, becoming the first prime minister to marry while in office. They separated in 1977 and divorced in 1984. 

In Canadian business news …

Hudson’s Bay Co. hopes to transform its website into Canada’s next online shopping marketplace in a bid to position itself as a premium, home-grown alternative to e-commerce heavy hitters such as Amazon. 

The company will open its website to third-party sellers starting later this month, adding hundreds of new brands and thousands of items to its online assortment of products at a time when pandemic restrictions have curtailed in-person shopping. 

The new site will include electronics and sporting goods, pushing the retailer beyond tried-and-true categories such as clothing and home decor as it seeks to attract and retain customers who increasingly demand a strong online presence.

The Hudson’s Bay marketplace, hosted on the Mirakl software-as-a-service platform, comes a little over a year after the iconic company was taken private.

Since then, many of its department stores have been closed for months on end amid COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of workers have been laid off and competition online has soared as consumers take to internet shopping in record numbers. 

Meanwhile, Twitter will be bulking up on Canadian talent this year as it goes on a hiring spree meant to add dozens of engineers in the country to its staff.

The U.S. social media giant says it will form its first Canadian engineering hub with at least 24 workers it will soon hire. 

Twitter is focusing on the market because of its deep pools of talent and because several of its workers flocked to the company’s U.S. offices from Canada.

It wants future hires to be able to work where they currently live and not feel like they have to be in Silicon Valley to do engineering work for Twitter.

ICYMI …

Buckingham Palace says it has started an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. 

The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William.  

The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations.  

It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff.  

Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year.  

In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, Calif., and are expecting a second child.  

The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final.  

A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021

The Canadian Press

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