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63 Canadians dead in Iranian jet disaster

Iran has launched ballistic missile attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq.

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Iranian authorities say 63 Canadians are dead after a Ukrainian airlines 737 blew up shortly after takeoff in Tehran.

The jet, Flight PS752 to Kiev crashed into a farmer’s field killing all 176 people on board, including the Canadians.

In addition to the Canadians, the aircraft carried 82 Iranians and 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Brits.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “shocked and saddened.”

“Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered,” said Trudeau.

“Today, I assure all Canadians that their safety and security is our top priority. We also join with the other countries who are mourning the loss of citizens.”

Investigators have recovered the aircrafts black boxes.

The crash came after Iran launched a dozen ballistic missiles Tuesday night attacking two U.S. bases in Iraq.

The U.S. military confirmed the missiles were launched at two bases – including Al Asad airbase – and troops were hunkered down. They said it would take several hours for damage to be assessed.

Early reports said no U.S. soldiers were wounded in the attacks.

Canadian officials also confirmed there were no casualties in their contingent.

After the attack, Iranian state media reported a Ukrainian 737 jetliner crashed after taking off from Tehran airport. There were 180 people on board.

Unverified footage showed the aircraft on fire and then exploded after taking off.

Al Hadath News agency from Jordan reported the plane may have been shot down accidentally by an Iranian missile. That has not been confirmed.

Iranian state TV later said no one survived the crash.

Earlier, U.S President Donald Trump tweeted “All is well” about 7:45 (MST).

“Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning,” Trump tweeted.

The Iranian attacks come after the U.S. killed Qassem Soleimani, the Iraqi general who was the second in command of the country.

NBC reported Iran is warning if there is retaliation for the two waves of attacks they launched Tuesday night, their 3rd wave will destroy Dubai and Haifa, in Israel.

Fox News is reporting Canadian troops were housed at one of the attacked sites, but were in the process of being moved to Kuwait.

Later, the chief of defence Gen. Johnathan Vance tweeted: “CAF families: I can assure you that all deployed CAF personnel are safe & accounted for following missile attacks in Iraq. We remain vigilant.”

Iranian FM Zarif tweeted Iran “took and concluded” proportionate measures in self-defense: “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

Here’s what else we know at this point.

• Civilian flights over the area have been cancelled.

• Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was briefed on the attacks.

• A 4.9 magnitude quake struck in southwest Iran

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Quds Force, the unit Soleimani commanded, is within the IRGC.

“Iran says it has launched “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles at Iraq’s Ain Assad air base housing U.S. troops over the killing of Soleimani,” NBC News Tehran Bureau Chief Ali Arouzi wrote on Twitter.

“IRGC says this is sever(e) revenge for the killing of Soleimani. Iran says any countries that allow US attack(s) from their soil will also be attacked.”

Earlier in the day, at least 56 people were killed and hundreds injured during a stampede as mourners gathered to bury Soleimani.

The tragedy came as the Canadian military announced they would be pulling troops out of Iraq to the relative safety of Kuwait.

Chief of the Defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said in a tweet some of the 500 Canadian soldiers in Iraq are being temporarily moved due to safety concerns.

“Over the coming days, and as a result of Coalition and NATO planning, some of our people will be moved temporarily from Iraq to Kuwait – simply put, we are doing this to ensure their safety and security,” Vance wrote.

Canadian troops are in Iraq mainly to train the country’s army on how to fight ISIS.

“Naturally, the work we are doing on these missions, and the future of operations in Iraq, remain conditional on maintaining a sufficiently secure and productive operational environment,” Vance said.

Soleimani was buried early Wednesday in his hometown of Kerman, in southern Iraq, in a funeral that was delayed for hours by the crush of hundreds of thousands of mourners.

Iran’s news agency ISNA quoted coroner Abbas Amian as saying the stampede killed about 50 people. Officials said the Tuesday crush also injured 213 people.

Emergency medical services chief Pirhossein Kolivand told state television: “Today, because of the heavy congestion of the crowd unfortunately a number of our fellow citizens who were mourning were injured and a number were killed.”

Soleimani, responsible for foreign activities of the Qud force was slain in a U.S. drone strike as he was driven out of a Baghdad airport on Friday.

His death has prompted vows of bloody revenge from the people and leaders of Iraq.

“We will take revenge, a hard and definitive revenge,” the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, told mourners at the funeral before the stampede.

The Fars news agency said 13 revenge scenarios were being considered by Iran.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, told Fars that even the weakest option would prove “a historic nightmare for the Americans.”

Trump has vowed to hit back if Iran retaliates, saying he would target 52 sites within the country, including cultural places. That’s the same number of American hostages held by Iranian students in 1980.

The U.S. has deployed 6 massive B-52 bombers to standby in the Indian Ocean.

In other developments:

• The U.S. warned shipping through the Persain Gulf could be targeted by Iran.

• U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a press conference he was confident the assassination had saved American lives.

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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UCP MLA calls AHS ‘bloated’ and ‘underperforming’

“Even at a 90% inoculation rate in those 12 and older, we struggle with capacity,” said Guthrie criticizing AHS for the lack of available hospital beds throughout the pandemic and the many cancelled surgeries as a result.

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Alberta Health Services is “failing” and needs “transformation,” says UCP MLA for Airdrie-Cochrane Peter Guthrie in a Facebook post.

Guthrie posted the video on Tuesday and said after speaking with many of his constituents, he had been “wrestling” with his thoughts on the state of Alberta’s healthcare system.

Guthrie highlighted the two-year period of the pandemic going from “zero data and no vaccine” to having data from around the world and a vaccine, “yet we seem to be in a circular loop.”

“Even at a 90% inoculation rate in those 12 and older, we struggle with capacity,” said Guthrie, criticizing AHS for the lack of available hospital beds throughout the pandemic and the many cancelled surgeries as a result.

“And AHS seems to recite the same recycled ideas including masking, passports and other various restrictions.”

In September, Guthrie said he and other MLAs questioned AHS and the Alberta government on the use of vaccine passports saying they were “divisive and possibly ineffective in stopping transmission,” and were showing waning efficacy.

“I don’t feel our health leaders adjusted to this evidence,” said Guthrie.

Guthrie also criticized AHS for not investing in researching treatments for COVID-19 symptoms and for working to “deter” the use of early treatments.

“AHS and the College of Physicians (and Surgeons of Alberta – CPSA) have penalized, suspended and even revoked licenses’ of those Alberta doctors trying to find a treatment, including anti-viral medications, that may help a patient avoid symptoms.”

Guthrie took aim at the “billions of added dollars” the government has put into healthcare for AHS to hire more doctors yet said wait times have not improved across the province. He also referenced a report by the Fraser Institute that pegged Canada as second behind Switzerland for the most expensive universal healthcare system in the world, but added Canada also sits among the bottom on performance.

“This reinforces the need for reform,” said Guthrie, adding he doesn’t blame frontline workers and suggests we should be looking to those healthcare workers for suggestions on how to improve what he calls a “failing” healthcare system.

Guthrie said pre-COVID19 — and immediately after he was elected — he and other MLAs felt upper management changes in AHS were necessary.

“We felt that AHS was a bloated, underperforming entity that requires transformation,” said Guthrie.

“With the uninspiring performance of AHS over the last two years, right or wrong, that sentiment still holds with me.”

Guthrie said he believes “high-calibre candidates” should be sought outside of AHS and said the healthcare system in Alberta should not be left to continue struggling and suggested other strategies should be explored by professional consultants from outside AHS.

“We must endeavour to generate confidence, not fear,” said Guthrie encouraging people to share their ideas and thoughts on how to improve Alberta’s healthcare system.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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News

Omicron grounds every 1 in 5 WestJet flights in February

Customers affected by the new cutbacks will hear from WestJet within the next few days.

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A total of 20% of WestJet flights will be cancelled in February — Omicron and past layoffs are to blame.

“As we continue to navigate the unpredictability of the Omicron variant on our staffing levels, along with the ongoing barriers to international travel, we are making every effort to proactively manage our schedule in order to minimize disruption to our guests’ travel plans,” said President & CEO Harry Taylor in a press release. 

“To our guests impacted by these additional consolidations, we sincerely apologize for the disruption and appreciate your continued understanding and patience.”

Customers affected by the new cutbacks will hear from WestJet within the next few days.

The aviation industry is the only transportation sector in Canada requiring full vaccination status to use and is the highest COVID-19 tested consumer activity in the country.

“Canada remains one of the only countries in the world requiring multiple molecular tests for fully-vaccinated travellers — these testing resources should be redeployed to our communities,” said Taylor, commenting on the demand to stop arrival testing.

The measures are in addition to the 15% reduction in flights implemented in January because of staff shortages.

These events follow the December deadline for WestJet employees to be vaccinated, where hundreds of employees were fired because of their vaccination status.

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter for the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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Misery index places Canada in bottom ranks

“Canadians are rightly concerned about the country’s high inflation and unemployment rates, and when compared to other developed countries, Canada is not doing well.”

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Canada’s combination of high rates of inflation and unemployment have secured it the sixth most “miserable” advanced economy in the world.

Tuesday morning, the Fraser Institute released a study that ranked the International Monetary Fund’s top 35 economic countries.

With an inflation rate of 3.15% and unemployment rate of 7.72%, Canada’s 2021 Misery Index score is 10.88.

“Canadians are rightly concerned about the country’s high inflation and unemployment rates, and when compared to other developed countries, Canada is not doing well,” said Jason Clements, executive vice president of the Fraser Institute.

Fraser Institute

American economist Arthur Okun created the Misery Index to understand the level of economic strain felt on an everyday basis for regular citizens of a country.

Inflation and unemployment act as measures that drastically affect the costs of living that impacts economic well-being on an individual level.

Only five countries received worse scores than Canada, Spain in the last spot with a score of 17.61, followed by Greece (15.73), Italy (11.96) and Iceland (11.26)

Countries above Canada’s score include France (10.10), the United States (9.72), Australia (7.33), and the United Kingdom (7.17).

Japan (2.61) and Switzerland (3.57) received the top scores being the least miserable.

The Misery Index was prominent in policy discussions during the 1970s and 1980s, but fell out of the spotlight during the 1990s while inflation and unemployment was low.

“The fact we are again discussing the Misery Index and Canada’s high ranking on it is bad news for all Canadians, who will suffer as a result,” Clemens said.

“Governments across Canada, particularly the federal government, should prioritize those policies that will make Canadians less miserable by lowering inflation and unemployment.”

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter with the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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