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Blood donor rules changing and Supreme Court ruling due: In The News for May 27, 2022

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A bag of blood is shown at a clinic in Montreal, Thursday, November 29, 2012. There are no immediate plans to further relax restrictions on gay and bisexual blood donors despite the fact officials are testing the waters on the idea, says the agency responsible for Canada's blood supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

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 May 27, 2022 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Canadian Blood Services wants to scrap a lifetime ban on sex workers giving blood in a further move to make blood donation more equitable. 

The blood-donation service this month recommended to Health Canada that it abolish the lifetime ban on donation by people who have taken money or drugs in exchange for sex. The ban, introduced 45 years ago, is set to be replaced by a one-year "deferral" after paid sex work. The move follows an end last month of the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood, which was welcomed by MPs and LGBTQ advocates. Justin Trudeau's Liberals had promised to scrap the ban on gay men donating blood during the 2015 election campaign. But it took years and $5 million worth of research into safety before it was recommended to Health Canada. 

Canadian Blood Services said it would be prepared to recommend that Health Canada reduce the time sex workers have to wait before donating blood to less than a year, but wanted to make changes incrementally. The length of time gay men were banned from giving blood was gradually reduced before being scrapped completely last month. 

Catherine Lewis, a spokeswoman for Canadian Blood Services, said it had made the request to Health Canada to end the lifelong ban on sex workers donating blood in the past few weeks, having done research to ensure the recommendation would keep the blood supply safe. 

The blood service is moving toward basing screening on higher-risk sexual behaviour. It believes asking about sexual behaviour will allow it to more reliably assess the risk of infections such as HIV that can be transmitted through transfusions. 

All donated blood is tested and screened before it is given to patients. 

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Also this ...

A ruling is expected this morning from the Supreme Court of Canada on the sentencing of a man who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque. 

The high court decision in Alexandre Bissonnette's case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple murder convictions. Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder in the January 2017 assault that took place just after evening prayers. 

In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder. 

A judge found the provision unconstitutional but did not declare it invalid, ultimately ruling Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole. 

Quebec's Court of Appeal struck down the sentencing provision on constitutional grounds and said the parole ineligibility periods should be served concurrently, meaning a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette's case. 

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

This week's tragic school shooting in Texas has rocked the U.S. and the world, with many asking what can be done.

Now, a bipartisan group of senators is trying to find a compromise on gun legislation. This latest attempt follows a push by Democrats to pass a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened debate on hate crimes and gun policy. Republicans blocked debate on the bill.

Rejection of the bill, just two days after the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers, brought into sharp relief Congress' persistent failure to pass legislation to curb the nation's epidemic of gun violence. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he will give negotiations about two weeks. The bipartisan group met after the vote, and for a second time Thursday searching for any compromise that could win approval in Congress. The talks focused on background checks for guns purchased online or at gun shows, red-flag laws designed to keep guns away from those who could harm themselves or others and school security measures.

Still, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina exited the meeting saying there is no appetite for a federal red flag law or a so-called yellow flag law, which permits temporary firearm confiscation from people in danger of hurting themselves or others, if a medical practitioner signs off.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv's inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products while under attack.

Britain immediately accused Russia of "trying to hold the world to ransom," insisting there would be no sanctions relief, and a top U.S. diplomat blasted the "sheer barbarity, sadistic cruelty and lawlessness" of the invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow "is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted," according to a Kremlin readout of the call.

Ukraine is one of the world's largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and a Russian blockade of its ports have halted much of that flow, endangering world food supplies. Many of those ports are now also heavily mined.

Russia also is a significant grain exporter, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the West "must cancel the unlawful decisions that hamper chartering ships and exporting grain." His comments appeared to be an effort to lump the blockade of Ukrainian exports with what Russia says are its difficulties in moving its own goods.

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On this day in 1957 ...

The single "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly's group The Crickets was released by Brunswick Records.

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In entertainment ...

Ray Liotta, the actor best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese's 1990 crime drama, "Goodfellas,''  has died.

Representatives for Liotta told The Hollywood Reporter and NBC News that he died in his sleep Wednesday night in the Dominican Republic, where he was filming a new movie. 

An official at the Dominican Republic's National Forensic Science Institute who was not authorized to speak to the media confirmed the death of Ray Liotta and said his body was taken to the Cristo Redentor morgue.

Reaction to his passing has poured in, with "Goodfellas" co-star Robert De Niro saying "he is way too way young to have left us." Canadian funny man, Seth Rogen,  who worked with Liotta on 2009's "Observe and Report," said via Twitter, "He was such a lovely, talented and hilarious person. Working with him was one of the great joys of my career and we made some of my favourite scenes I ever got to be in. A true legend of immense skill and grace."

Liotta, whose stellar career also saw him portray baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1989's "Field of Dreams," was 67.

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Did you see this?

A dead whale found today in the St. Lawrence River, northeast of Montreal, is probably one of two minke whales seen near the city earlier this month.

That's according to Robert Michaud, president of a Quebec marine mammal research group. Michaud says experts have yet to examine the carcass found in Contrecoeur, about 50 kilometres downstream from Montreal. He says that a necropsy could be performed depending on that assessment. He adds that the task would fall to veterinary medicine students at the Universite de Montreal.

 Two minke whales were spotted this month near Montreal and there were concerns for their well-being as they were about 450 kilometres upstream of their usual range. Minke whales are common in Quebec but they don't generally venture west of the saltwater St. Lawrence estuary around Tadoussac.

It's unclear why whales occasionally venture into freshwater habitats, but Michaud has said there isn't much that can be done to help them besides hoping they turn around and head home.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022

The Canadian Press