Bill 21 on trial

Quebec’s Bill 21, which passed in March of 2019, banned all public workers in positions of authority (such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, and politicians) from wearing religious symbols at work. The act was passed in an attempt to increase State neutrality towards religion. However, it has been condemned as “cruel and callous” by the Canadian and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) due to the way the Bill disproportionately targets and affects Muslim women by not allowing them to wear hijabs. Since its passing, four groups including the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the CCLA have challenged the constitutionality of the Bill. On 2 November, legal proceedings that combine the four lawsuits will begin. Various individuals will present examples of how the Bill has damaged the course of their careers. [CBC][By Miranda Zhao]

——————————-

4 Dead in Vienna Terror Attack

4 people are dead and 22 wounded after a shooter opened fire in Vienna on 2 November. The Islamic State (ISIS) quickly took responsibility for the attack. The gunman, a dual Austrian-North Macedonian citizen who was previously arrested while trying to join ISIS in 2019, was shot dead by police. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that “we will never forget the victims of this attack, and we will resolutely defend our fundamental values.” The Vienna attack marks the fourth terrorist attack in Europe in less than two months, following a series of previous ISIS attacks in France. [NYT][By KEVIN WANG]

——————————-

2020 US Election Still too Close to Call

On Election Day, 3 November, Americans cast their votes to decide the 46th President of the United States. A day later, the results are still being tallied, as the race between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden proves unexpectedly close. Trump prematurely declared victory in the early morning of 4 November and has launched lawsuits to cease vote-counting in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, citing voter fraud. This comment proved to be very controversial as many have described this as a threat to American democracy. As of 7:30 pm on 4 November, Biden has secured 264 Electoral votes, Trump 214. Each candidate requires 270 Electoral votes to win the election. All eyes are on Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, the last swing states without a decision yet. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has declared that all the votes would be counted “within a few days”. [Global News][By KEVIN WANG]

——————————-

2℃ Paris Climate Target in Jeopardy

On 4 November, the US officially left the Paris Agreement, signalling the end of a three year withdrawal process. The Paris Agreement was originally signed in 2016 by 174 countries, with the goal of keeping temperature rises under 2℃. American President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement almost immediately after being elected. During his time in office, Trump has reversed many environmental policies enacted by Obama and has gutted the Environmental Protection Agency. The US is the only country to have withdrawn from the accord, and Democratic candidate Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin “on day one” if he is elected. [Vox][By KEVIN WANG]

——————————-

Source of radio waves from space found after 13 years

In 2007, astrophysicists discovered radio bursts emanating from outer space while studying data from an observatory in Australia. These bursts are known as fast radio bursts (FRB) since they are able to travel billions of kilometres of seconds but only last a couple of milliseconds. On 4 November, three independent groups of scientists published articles in the Nature journal identifying the source of FRBs as magnetars (and not aliens, unfortunately). Magnetars are a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields. As the magnetic field decays, they emit electromagnetic radiation. Scientists linked FRBs to magnetars through new data from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope and the Survey for Transient Astronomical Radio Emission 2 (STARE2) telescope. They traced one particular burst of FRB to SGR 1935+2154, a known magnetar. Although this is a significant discovery, scientists still have much more to discover about FRBs; they hope to unearth the cause of FRB emission, as well as trace more FRBs back to magnetars. [CBC][By Miranda Zhao]

——————————-

Light pollution only down 13% after concerted efforts

A recent study was done in Tucson, Arizona over a period of 10 days assessing light pollution. With an effort to lower usage of light at night, the city would dim the lights at 1:30 a.m. daily during that period. Using satellites to monitor the light, the study found that light pollution dropped by a mere 13%, suggesting that there are other sources of light that are causing pollution such as billboards, parking lots, and car dealerships. We’ve heard of air or water pollution before but light pollution is an entirely new kind. It poses a threat to humans and animals with an abundance of nighttime light. It can affect animals and even insects negatively by altering migration patterns. There is added evidence of it disrupting the circadian rhythm of humans – an important biological process that regulates our sleep cycle. For such reasons, there is a fight to reduce light pollution. Less light pollution also equals less energy production needed which is another plus. As there is a growing awareness of the situation, people have come to realize that light pollution is unnecessary stress for the environment. [CBC][By Anirudh Goel]

——————————-

US Stock Indexes up 2% as people await a winner for the election

Stock markets were surprisingly up on Wednesday, November 4 despite the U.S. electoral uncertainty. US stock indexes such as S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were both up 2% with the Nasdaq doing even better. Companies who had done well in the pandemic including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google were all up 5% due to strong demand for their services regardless of who becomes the president. Although both parties have a detrimental effect on Canada’s oil and gas sectors, the election outcome is of particular interest to Canadian energy companies. Donald Trump is open to energy exploration but favors US firms, whereas Biden is an overall negative for Canadian energy companies. A clear loser for the day however were cannabis stocks which saw a downfall even after the legalization of recreational marijuana in 4 new states. Canada’s two biggest cannabis companies, Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis, both lost almost 10% of their value. As more states legalize the drug, this is good news for cannabis companies who are waiting to sell in the US market. While the election result is uncertain, predictions are that markets are already looking past the election and towards recovery. [CBC][By Anirudh Goel]

——————————-

60,000 HIV self-tests ready for January

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, HIV infections rose by about 25% between 2014 and 2018. And the worst part, many people with HIV don’t even know they have it. Canada has finally approved its initial self-test for HIV with belief that fewer Canadians will go undiagnosed. B.C. based bioLytical Laboratories came up with a finger-prick HIV blood test that provides results in just a minute. This is being described as a proud moment for Canada as it could be a game-changer in a country where HIV rates are on the rise. HIV has medications now that can aid one with HIV to live a normal lifespan. Making sure people get tested and diagnosed when they are HIV positive is the bigger issue. With the new self-test being simple, safe, accurate, and confidential, this problem will be tackled. Although it is a big thing to get the self-test licensed, it’s even harder to distribute it correctly, especially with Canada being such a vast country. The first step includes 60,000 HIV self-tests that’ll be accessible for free across the country in January 2021. There is a bright future for sure as HIV can end in Canada by 2025 if the plan surrounding self-tests is executed correctly. [CBC][By Anirudh Goel]