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Fix needed for issue behind Cyclone crash, Barton sentencing: In The News for July 27

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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 July 27 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

The software issue identified as a cause of last year's naval helicopter crash off Greece that killed six Canadian crew members needs to be fixed without delay, say experts on the interplay between automation and humans in aircraft.

Two internal reviews by the Canadian Armed Forces found the autopilot took control of the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, plunging it into the Ionian Sea as the pilot was turning to return to HMCS Fredericton on April 29, 2020.

Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, Capt. Kevin Hagen, Capt. Brenden MacDonald, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin and Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke died in the crash.

Mary (Missy) Cummings, an engineer and former U.S. Navy pilot, reviewed the Flight Safety Investigation Report, the second of two reports by the military, after its release June 28. Cummings, director of the humans and autonomy lab at Duke University, called the pilot's inability to regain control from automated software "a very serious problem."

"This needs to be addressed forthwith. It should be fixed, bottom line. Who bears the costs, that’s up to the lawyers to decide,” she said in a recent video interview from Durham, N.C.

She said the automation on the aircraft is flawed. "There is known confusion for pilots, and instead of addressing this problem head on, people are trying to make excuses for either how the system is or was designed,” she said.

"It’s very likely that another fatality is going to happen if they don’t address this problem."

According to the two reports' findings, the autopilot was left on as the pilot executed a sharp turn, and as a result the software built up commands, preventing the pilot from resuming manual control at the end of his turn. The first military report — the Board of Inquiry report — referred to this accumulation of calculations from the automated software as "attitude command bias."

The Board of Inquiry report said these commands in the software "can accumulate to such a degree that it severely diminishes, or even exceeds," the pilot's ability to control the aircraft manually.

"It wasn’t a hotdog manoeuvre," said Cummings, a former director of the U.S. Navy's advanced autonomous rotorcraft program. "So something was wrong with the software code base, and if it were me, and I was in the Canadian military, I would stop everyone from using autopilot until I got this problem fixed."

Greg Jamieson, a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Toronto who studies human-automation interactions, said the software issue "is a present safety issue that the Defence Department needs to immediately address with Sikorsky."

"Of course, you don't tell someone to change code and put it in helicopters next week. Yes, it takes time ... but that process must be started immediately," he said in a recent interview, adding he hesitates to advocate suspending use of the autopilot until the fix is completed.

The military responds that the aircraft manufacturer, Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, and the Royal Canadian Air Force have done a thorough exploration of the ways similar problems might emerge and have concluded the aircraft is safe.

In an emailed statement sent July 16, Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said that as a result of a detailed assessment, the aircraft is being modified to make pilots more aware of when they're using autopilot and to provide more warning signals for the flight crew.

As for a fix to the software issue, Lamirande wrote that the military is working with Sikorsky to "determine the exact parameters of how to implement this modification."

"The Cyclone is a complex system, and we need to make sure that, by introducing this change, we are not causing adverse or unintended issues to other parts of the system," she said. She called the change "a very high priority modification for the fleet" that will be completed as soon as possible.

She added that in the meantime, the Royal Canadian Air Force has trained the aircrews to ensure they are aware of the scenario that led to the crash and understand how to avoid it or recover from it. 

"We also made some changes to the aircraft documentation, and it now provides clearer warnings, restrictions, and limitations for the aircrew," she wrote.

The crash was the largest single-day loss of life for Canada's military since Afghanistan. It also cast a harsh spotlight on the Cyclone's long and problem-plagued development, which remains a work in progress.

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Also this ...

An Ontario trucker found guilty for killing a woman in his Edmonton hotel room a decade ago is to learn his sentence today.

Bradley Barton was convicted in February in the manslaughter of Cindy Gladue, a 36-year-old Metis and Cree woman, who died in his room at the Yellowhead Inn in June 2011.

Barton's trial heard that Gladue had four times the legal limit of alcohol in her system and bled to death from a severe wound in her vagina.

The Crown is asking that Barton be sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison, listed on the national sex offenders registry and banned for life from owning restricted firearms.

The defence argued for a five- to nine-year sentence for Barton because the trucker did not foresee Gladue's death.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Stephen Hillier is to give his sentencing decision this morning in a downtown Edmonton courtroom.

It was the second trial for Barton. 

A jury found him not guilty in 2015 of first-degree murder, which sparked rallies and calls for justice for Indigenous women.

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

California and New York City will require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly COVID-19 testing. 

And the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to receive the shot.

Meanwhile, in a possible sign that increasingly dire health warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates began to creep up over the weekend. The numbers offer hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated.

The announcements are the “opening of the floodgates” as more government entities and companies impose vaccine mandates after nationwide vaccination efforts “hit a wall,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s school of public health.

“Some people find mask mandates annoying, but the reality is they’re temporary. We can’t do them forever,” he said. “Vaccine mandates have to be one of the major paths moving forward because they get us closer to the finish line. Mask mandates just buy you a little more time.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. to take such action.

California said it will similarly require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers and millions of public- and private-sector health care employees starting next month.

The move by Veterans Affairs came on a day when nearly 60 leading medical and health care organizations issued a call through the American Medical Association for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.

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

CHUGUR, Peru — Lilia Paredes packed up the family’s belongings within the last week from their humble two-storey, adobe home in one of the poorest districts of Peru deep in the Andes.

She neatly folded her husband’s shirts and picked some plates and silverware in between visits from farmers from nearby villages stopping by to say goodbye. Their lives are about to change as they become Peru’s new first family. Paredes’ husband, Pedro Castillo, will be sworn in as Peru’s president Wednesday, less than two weeks after he was declared the winner of the June 6 runoff election.

A neo-baroque presidential palace awaits Paredes, her husband and their two children — should the family chose to live in the historic building.

Castillo, a leftist rural teacher, who has never held office, defeated his opponent, right-wing career politician Keiko Fujimori, by just 44,000 votes.

Castillo’s supporters included the poor and rural citizens of the South American nation. He popularized the phrase “No more poor in a rich country,” and stunned millions of Peruvians and observers by advancing to the runoff.

The economy of Peru, the world’s second-largest copper producer, has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the poverty level to almost one-third of the population and eliminating the gains of a decade.

Unlike all of Peru’s former presidents of the last 40 years, the Castillos have no home in Lima. Paredes, also a teacher, said she and her husband have to decide whether they will live in the presidential residence, but it is likely they will call it home. 

Choosing their home is a significant decision given Castillo’s anti-elite rhetoric. His campaign slogan could be called into question if the family moves into the ornate presidential palace.

Before leaving for Lima, Paredes and her family attended a service in the Nazarene church that is located a few metres from their home.

“Everyone knows us, we will never forget where we are from and where we have to return because the positions are not forever,” Paredes said at the end of the service.

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On this day in 1921 ...

Insulin was discovered by Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto. The discovery and the demonstration of insulin's beneficial effects on diabetes are considered one of the great medical achievements of the 20th century and earned Banting the Nobel Prize in 1923.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO — Former cast member Cathy Jones says her controversial criticisms of COVID-19 measures didn't hamper her relationships on set in her final season "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" on the CBC.

Jones says she plans to pursue other creative ambitions after wrapping her nearly three-decade-long run on the satirical news show. She announced in March that she wouldn't return to the show.

CBC's Sally Catto says in a statement that "while we are sad Cathy is leaving the show, we fully respect her decision."

The 66-year-old Jones denies rumours that her vocal opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns, masks and vaccination contributed to her departure, which was first reported by Halifax weekly the Coast last month. 

Jones admits that her views are a "little different than most people," but says that didn't cause discord during production.

"Everybody at '22 Minutes' are really old friends," Jones said by phone from Halifax on Monday.

"Everybody is full of grace and kindness, and really doing their best. Nobody is having an easy time with these protocols."

After "28 wonderful years" on the show, Jones said she felt it was time to move on.

"I should have walked out of there like 10 years ago, 20 years ago. ... I think I would have done a lot of interesting creative projects if I hadn't had that kind of safe place to land," Jones said.

"But I really do appreciate that it was there. It meant a lot to me to have a show for that long and for those people to be always so welcoming."

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ICYMI ...

SAN FRANCISCO — Fishermen who make their living off adult salmon in the Pacific Ocean are sounding the alarm as blistering heat waves and extended drought in the U.S. west raise water temperatures and imperil fish from Idaho to California.

Hundreds of thousands of young salmon are dying in norther California's Klamath River as low water levels brought about by drought allow a parasite to thrive. And wildlife officials said the Sacramento River is facing a “near-complete loss” of young Chinook salmon due to abnormally warm water.

The plummeting catch already has led to skyrocketing retail prices for salmon, hurting customers who say they can no longer afford the $35 per pound of fish, said Mike Hudson, who has spent the last 25 years catching and selling salmon at farmers markets in Berkeley.

Federal fisheries officials predicted in May that more than 80 per cent of baby salmon could die because of warmer water in the Sacramento River. Now, state wildlife officials say that number could be higher amid a rapidly depleting pool of cool water in Lake Shasta. California's largest reservoir is filled to only about 35 per cent capacity, federal water managers said this week.

Scientists say the salmon population in California historically has rebounded after a drought because they have evolved to tolerate the Mediterranean-like climate and benefited from rainy, wet years. But an extended drought could lead to extinction of certain runs of salmon.

“We're at the point where I’m not sure drought is appropriate term to describe what's happening,” said Andrew Rypel, a fish ecologist at the University of California, Davis. He said the West is transitioning to an increasingly water-scarce environment.

Hudson said he used to spend days at sea when the salmon season was longer and could catch 100 fish per day.

This year, he said he was lucky to catch 80 to sell at the market.

“Retiring would be the smart thing to do, but I can’t bring myself to do it because these fish have been so good to us for all these years,” Hudson said. “I can’t just walk away from it.”

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021

The Canadian Press