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Prince Philip, 97, recovering after car crash

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LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s 97-year-old husband was recovering Friday at the royal Sandringham estate after the Land Rover he was driving rolled on a nearby highway in a collision with another vehicle.

Witness Roy Warne told the BBC he was driving home from work when the accident involving Prince Philip’s black Land Rover and a compact car unfolded in front of him. Warne said he helped free a baby from the second car, a Kia, before helping the prince out of his vehicle, which was lying on its side.

“I saw a car, a black (Land) Rover, come out from a side road and it rolled and ended up on the other side of the road,” Warne said. “I saw it careering, tumbling across the road and ending up on the other side.”

Warne found Philip trapped in the car, but persuaded him to move one leg at a time to get out. He then pulled him out of the Land Rover through the windscreen or sun roof. The prince was able to immediately stand and walk around.

“He was obviously shaken, and then he went and asked if everyone else was all right,” Warne said.

Police conducted breath tests on the drivers after the accident shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday. Both tested negatively.

The driver of the Kia, a 28-year-old woman, suffered cuts to her knee while her passenger, a 45-year-old woman, suffered a broken wrist. Both were taken to the hospital and sent home. A 9-month old baby in the Kia was not injured.

The prince was checked by a doctor after the accident and determined to be fine, Buckingham Palace said.

“We are aware of the public interest in this case, however, as with any other investigation it would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the collision until an investigation is carried out,” Norfolk Constabulary said in a statement.

By coincidence, authorities in the area had planned to consider improving safety on the road, the A149. Norfolk County Council will discuss reducing the speed limit on the road from 60 mph to 50 mph and installing safety cameras.

Philip has largely retired from public life but is well known for his fierce independence and his love of cars. He has seemed to be in generally good health in recent months.

He and Elizabeth, 92, have been on an extended Christmas vacation at Sandringham, one of her favoured rural homes.

Danica Kirka, The Associated Press





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Supreme Court to rule on constitutionality of genetic discrimination law

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule this morning on the constitutionality of a federal law that forbids companies from making people undergo genetic testing before buying insurance or other services.

The Genetic Non-Discrimination Act also outlaws the practice of requiring the disclosure of existing genetic test results as a condition for obtaining such services or entering into a contract.

The act is intended to ensure Canadians can take genetic tests to help identify health risks without fear they will be penalized when seeking life or health insurance.

The law, passed three years ago, is the result of a private member’s bill that was introduced in the Senate and garnered strong support from MPs despite opposition from then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The Quebec government referred the new law to the provincial Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2018 that it strayed beyond the federal government’s jurisdiction over criminal law.

The Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness then challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada, which heard the appeal last October.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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North Atlantic right whales nearing extinction, international nature body says

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OTTAWA — North Atlantic right whales are now considered one step away from complete eradication.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is moving the whales from “endangered” to “critically endangered” on its red list of global species facing threats to their survival.

The only step beyond “critically endangered” is extinction.

Fewer than 250 mature whales were known to exist at the end of 2018, in a total population of only about 400.

More than 30 whales have been killed by ships or fishing gear entanglements in the last three years, two-thirds of them in Canadian waters.

The conservation group classified right whales as endangered in 2008, and since then the population has declined more than 15 per cent.

Sean Brillant, a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in Halifax, says the change in status is not surprising and should put even more pressure on governments in Canada and the United States to do more to stop these whales from being wiped out.

“We are an affluent country with an incredible amount of knowledge and resources, we have good controls over our oceans industry,” he said. “And we can’t figure this out? How embarrassing. We need to step up and solve this problem.”

He said Canada has done a lot in recent years to try to protect the whales, including closing fisheries and implementing speed limits for boats. This year, more than 12,000 square kilometres of the Gulf of St. Lawrence has already been closed to fixed-gear fishing until November, because so many North Atlantic right whales were spotted in the region this summer.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans rules close about 2,000 square kilometres for 15 days around a place where a whale is spotted; if a whale is spotted within that area again in that period, the area closes for the rest of the season.

Brillant said it’s still not enough. Oceans Canada recently called on Ottawa to make speed limits in the Cabot Strait mandatory instead of voluntary after research showed most ship captains were choosing not to follow it. The Cabot Strait is the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Newfoundland and Cape Breton that most of the whales use.

Brillant also said speed limits are better than nothing but the only full solution is to prevent the ships from going near the whales at all.

Amy Butcher, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Marc Garneau, said the government has mandatory speed restrictions in most of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and this year imposed a new restricted area that requires ships to stay away or reduce speeds even further from 10 knots to eight.

“Our government takes the protection and recovery of the North Atlantic right whale very seriously,” she said.

Brillant said so far this year has been positive with no whales dying in Canadian waters thus far. Two calves have died in American waters, and one of their mothers has not been seen since the calf showed up dead. Both calves were killed by ships, and one was hit by ships twice in its seven months of life.

The whales, which migrate along the eastern coast of North America, spend winters off Florida and Georgia before migrating north to New England and Atlantic Canada in the summer. 

The whales are threatened by a combination of factors, including climate change, which appears to be driving them further north in the summer months to find food. Brillant said before 2017, surveys of the whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were limited, but when that work began in more detail, it was clear there were a lot of whales present in waters that opened them up to serious risk of being hit by big ships or tangled in fishing lines.

Brillant said in addition to the 31 whales that have died, at least another 10 have been entangled with fishing gear, most of them in Canada. Whales tangled up in fishing gear are “as good as dead” because they cannot reproduce and their prospects for survival are not good.

“We are not going to be graded on good intentions and good decisions unless we get the results. And the results have to be that we don’t drive this species to extinction.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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july, 2020

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