Gov. Greg Abbott says more than 1 million Texans are expected to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of the month. In the state’s biggest city, thousands of medical staffers continue getting their first coronavirus shots. (Dec. 17)
Gov. Greg Abbott says more than 1 million Texans are expected to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of the month. In the state’s biggest city, thousands of medical staffers continue getting their first coronavirus shots. (Dec. 17)
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
She has served as a member of the Central York Fire Services for more than a decade. It is a job she loves, serving the community which has become a second home and, earlier this year, Kristy Paterson became a somewhat reluctant trailblazer as the Central York Fire Service’s first female Acting Captain. A historic first, to be sure, but Paterson has a different perspective. “I am proud of my accomplishment because I think it is a great position, but I don’t think it is special that I am the first woman,” Patterson tells The Auroran. “I am super happy for everyone who passed the test and was a successful candidate, but I don’t think I should be given any more recognition as the first female because everyone passed the same time. The public doesn’t care, or shouldn’t care, if it is a man or a woman who is responding to [a call], all they really care about is if you can do the job when the time comes.” Instead, the Barrie resident wants to be seen as a good role model for all genders, regardless of whether they want to follow in her footsteps to a local fire station. Being a fire fighter was not a life-long dream for Patterson. As a student at the University of Toronto, she was a player on their varsity hockey team. Athletics came to her naturally and she focused on kinesiology. In her fourth year, however, a conversation with a firefighter left her pondering a career pivot. “It just sounded like a super interesting path to follow,” she says, noting she undertook college training to become a firefighter soon thereafter. It didn’t take long for her to be hired by the CYFS – and, perhaps most importantly, realize she made the right choice. “I loved it probably from Day One,” she says. “Every day is different, you’re always learning. It’s a team environment and everybody works together. You’re constantly learning new things and every shift is different and you don’t know what you’re going to get. You’re not confined to an office; you’re out, you’re helping the community, you’re involved and you’re just helping people. It is a good feeling to be there for the community. “I am super happy to come to work every day and to work with really awesome people just being part of a team and knowing we get to help the towns of Aurora and Newmarket.” Currently stationed in Aurora, Patterson hopes that in her new role she will continue learning and being there for the community. “In my new role, I want to be a good role model to not only young girls but young boys as well, that if you work hard, you’re able to achieve it,” she says. If it is something you want, then work hard, take the right schooling and you will be able to do it. I understand the support [stemming from being the CYFS’ first female Acting Captain], but at the same time, why is it special? I am proud of my accomplishment and it didn’t have anything to do with being female. My goal is to just be better every day than I was yesterday. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it is just that you’re capable of doing the job.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
MEXICO CITY — Mexico posted new one-day highs for the pandemic Thursday, with 22,339 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,803 deaths from COVID-19 recorded for the previous 24 hours. The recent surge in cases has swamped hospitals. Mexico City is the country's epicenter of the pandemic, and its hospitals are at 89% capacity, while nationwide 61% of hospital beds are filled. The difficulty in finding space in hospitals has led many families to try to treat their relatives at home, which has created spot shortages of oxygen and tanks. That has been accompanied by a jump in prices as well as an uptick in thefts targeting oxygen tanks. The situation has also sparked home remedies, including home-made oxygen concentrators that officials warned are dangerous. One video circulating on Facebook shows a Mexican couple connecting a fish-tank air pump to a hose in an effort to boost the man's oxygen levels. The head of civil defence for the city of Puebla, Gustavo Ariza, issued a public warning against such improvised devices, noting they do not increase oxygen concentration and simply re-circulate air. “This is trickery. Please, people, don't do this," Ariza said. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell joined in the warnings. “We are concerned that people might waste time in te hope that this would work, and over the course of hours or days, very few days, the person's condition worsens,” hel said. López-Gatell said the Mexican government is going to pass rules that would give priority to medicinal oxygen production over industrial uses to free up supplies. The government is also looking to buy oxygen tanks abroad. The Associated Press
Amazon Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney, who announced the plan in a news conference with Washington Governor Jay Inslee, said a company executive will be working with Washington State's Vaccine Command Center. The clinic will be hosted in partnership with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.
Elected president of the Métis Nation B.C., Clara Morin Dal Col, has been suspended from her position amid escalating tension within its leadership. Nine members of the board voted to suspend her from her role as president in an unexpected meeting on Monday, tapping vice-president Lissa Dawn Smith to step in as acting president. Tension between Dal Col and board members has been playing out publicly for weeks, with waves of reactions from Métis people in B.C. throughout the turmoil. There are more than 21,000 registered citizens with Métis Nation B.C. which has 11 board members, including Dal Col. Some citizens have publicly taken sides, while others are expressing confusion and concern. Many are calling for more transparency around the events that led up to Dal Col's suspension after it was publicly announced on Tuesday. "This was not a decision taken lightly by the board," read a public statement released by Métis Nation B.C. on Tuesday. The specific reasons for the suspension were unclear in the statement — beyond broad allegations that Dal Col had contravened the oath of office and breached policies and procedures. The statement said, "the board was left with no other option but to issue a suspension." Métis National Council calls suspension a 'shocking coup' Leadership of the Manitoba Métis Federation and Métis National Council published a joint press release about Dal Col's suspension on Thursday, characterizing the board's actions as a "shocking coup." "This is a black eye for democracy," wrote Métis National Council president Clément Chartier. "We are disgusted by this underhanded attempt to eliminate a rightfully elected leader." The press release also stated that the federation and national council will not recognize Smith as the Métis Nation B.C. president. The mandate and direction of the national council flows from regionally elected leadership from the Métis governing bodies in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. There is ongoing tension and disagreement around the standing of the Métis Nation of Ontario at the national council. Public statements from Métis Nation B.C. and Dal Col in the lead-up to her suspension show that dispute over the status of the Ontario organization is among many points of disagreement between board members and Dal Col. Daniel Fontaine, CEO of Métis Nation B.C., was limited in what he would say about the suspension citing due process and Dal Col's right to appeal. "For us as public servants working at Métis Nation, our role is really to make sure that due process is undertaken. We want to make sure that all of our bylaws, our constitution, everything is properly adhered to," he said. "I'm confident that the process is unfolding as it should and we'll see what happens." When asked about the statement put out by the Manitoba Métis Federation and the National Council, Fontaine said he anticipates the board will issue a response soon. Dal Col was first elected president of the Métis Nation B.C. in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, securing 48 per cent of the votes cast for three candidates. Dal Col was not available for an interview prior to publishing.
President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. "It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber," said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cybersecurity was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration.
Sask Polytech and three partner institutions have received a funding boost from the Lawson Foundation for a project that will help in their efforts to advance outdoor early learning and teaching across Canada. The collaborative project by Bow Valley College, New Brunswick Community College, Okanagan College and Saskatchewan Polytechnic is called Outdoor Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education: From Colleges to Communities and has been awarded a grant of a grant of $750,000. Project lead Dr. Beverlie Dietze, director of learning and applied research at Okanagan College, explained that outdoor education is vital for children because of health benefits, physical literacy and connecting with nature. “Those are core components in children’s development as well as we look at it from a social development, peer play and experiences that support children in preparing for later academic skills. Much of the foundations, for example, of science and math are started as children engage in outdoor experiences,” Dietze said. She explained that outdoor education is vital as part of health and wellness and supports students in returning to the outdoors as a place where they participate in daily lives. “This is how we build environmental stewardship and how children are going to become further connected with their environment and care for their environment,” she explained Nancy Holden, Sask Polytech School of Human Services academic chair agreed. She added that children could be educated in various curriculum through outdoor learning. “They are doing it without realizing what they are doing. So there is science when they try to put two sticks together and wonder if they are going to hold each other up or they are going to do math when they are playing in the rocks and they want everyone to have the same number. All parts of their being and growth — whether it is creatively, cognitively — all of those pieces can be tapped into when they are playing outdoors,” Holden said. According to Dietze, there is social learning and physical learning in outdoor learning including strengthening body structures as a physical aspect. “The whole notion of what we call self-regulation or knowing how far they can push and pull with their friends — that happens when they are outdoors in a rough and tumble experience. And when we look at it emotionally it’s a very important place for children to again gain that sense of calmness and ability to deal with some of their stressors and to really be able to refocus,” Dietze said. She explained that it is important from a health and educational perspective. “When we look at young children and preparing them for later academic skills it very much is connected to those earlier experiences. When we look at the increase in children with diabetes, when we look at the children having visual difficulties, those are all related to them requiring action and activity in the outdoor environment. We can actually contribute a great deal to reducing our heath care costs when we have children engaged in regular outdoor experiences.” The goal of the three-year project is to demonstrate a model of outdoor pedagogy practices, teaching, learning and mentoring that will create a shift in curriculum in post-secondary Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs and in community early learning and child care programs. According to a press release, in 2018 only five out of 100 college ECE programs had explicit outdoor pedagogy courses and no practicum experiences for students had outdoor play requirements. In addition, a Canadian survey of 896 ELCC educators who enrolled in an online outdoor play training course found that 89 per cent of respondents had never received any training in outdoor pedagogy, and 72 per cent indicated that they lacked the training and experience to implement outdoor pedagogy in their work. “Pedagogy means a combination of experiences and knowledge creates learning. So when we look at it from an outdoor perspective, we use the term outdoor pedagogy because it’s going to be the experiences, the play, the connections to land that will contribute to children building on their learning and their knowledge foundations,” Dietze said. Through the collaboration, the group aims to support college instructors, their students, and early childhood educators, in implementing high quality outdoor experiences and play opportunities to and with children. Dietze explained that the project’s purpose is to support ECE students to work on understanding the impact of outdoor play and experiences with children. “So that is the intent that we will increase the amount of education that those educators see. And then when they are working with children they will see the outdoor environment as a very important part of the experiences that children require,” Dietze said. Holden explained that the learning occurs naturally. “It is adults who put labels on things. Children don’t sit around and say okay I am going to engage in a cognitive activity now and I am going to sit down and do some science, but yet, that is what they are doing,” Holden said. Children playing in nature can learn through the labels and language that already exist. “So it is a great opportunity and when you think about. We often ask our students to think about one childhood memory that brings you joy and it’s interesting because 98 per cent of the students will reflect on an outdoor activity,” she added. Dietze explained that land-based learning is part of the package for children. She said that it supports children in looking at the place they are and utilizing, preserving and getting to what is in the land. “It’s all interconnected. Whether we utilize the term land-based or outdoor pedagogy the principles are the same. We are wanting children to connect to their environment and to use that as a lab for their play,” Dietze said. According to Dietze. Saskatchewan is a large part of adding to the knowledge base of the project because of experiences in the land. That will be part of the research as it spreads internationally. “Your communities are very important to this project as we learn and create that new awareness of how land-based and outdoor pedagogy can be implemented in communities such as yours,” Dietze said. “Further from the college perspective how it makes a difference in their graduates in being prepared when they graduate to bring this new knowledge base to the children and the families of your communities.” Holden explained that one goal would be ideally to develop an outdoor demonstration center similar to one that currently exists for ECE programming. “We may be able to develop a demonstration center in outdoor play where we have an opportunity for children to come and they live outdoors for the entire time that they are in there,” she said. “When you say to someone that they are going to send a three-year-old outside at minus 20 degree weather most people would cringe. There are ways around that and this will be part of the project that we will be able to prove to people that there are safe ways to allow children to be outdoors during those times,” she explained. Holden explained that the different institutions bring different experiences with four partners each bringing their own perspective. “Saskatchewan plays a really key part in a lot of different ways. Definitely in our harsh winters comparative to places like British Columbia or New Brunswick. But also our level of Indigenous and how can we incorporate Indigenous ways of doing that are very much ties to the outdoors and nature and what can we offer there.” Sask Polytech is happy to be part of the partnership as it grows. “Really we see it as a Canada-wide opportunity to really make a difference in the future for our communities and for our society,” Holden said. “When children get these opportunities to be outdoors and to learn through nature and improve their health it is nothing but a win-win and I think this is just the beginning of what is to come.” Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
OTTAWA — Four different Winnipeg players scored as the Jets defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Thursday night at Canadian Tire Centre. Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry and Blake Wheeler tallied as the Jets (3-1-0) controlled most of the game. All four players had two points apiece. Chris Tierney ended Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck's shutout bid at 17:03 of the third period. The Senators (1-2-1) looked flat throughout the contest and simply made too many careless mistakes. Winnipeg was coming off a 4-3 overtime win over Ottawa on Tuesday night. Ehlers opened the scoring at 11:50 with a low wrist shot from the high slot. The puck went between the legs of netminder Matt Murray, who was partially screened. Ehlers helped make it a 2-0 game early in the second period. He made a pass from the corner to Kyle Connor, who directed it to the side of the goal for Scheifele to sweep in at 4:22. Scheifele took advantage of some lax defending by Thomas Chabot, who was a minus-3 on the night. The Jets pulled away with two more goals later in the stanza. Derek Forbort made a crafty bank pass off the side boards to spring Trevor Lewis, who deked Murray but watched the puck hit the post. Lowry banged it in at 7:05. An Ottawa timeout did little to stem the momentum. Moments later, Connor knocked down a poor clearing attempt by Chabot and flipped it to Scheifele for a one-time pass to Wheeler, who made it 4-0 at 13:55. Hellebuyck, meanwhile, was steady when needed. His best stop came early in the third period when he stacked the pads to deny Connor Brown on a breakaway. Netminder Marcus Hogberg played the final 20 minutes for Ottawa. The Jets outshot the Senators 29-28. Centre Colin White was back in the lineup after being scratched in two of Ottawa's first three games. Defenceman Ville Heinola made his season debut for Winnipeg. Ottawa rookie Tim Stutzle and Winnipeg sniper Patrik Laine were out with injuries. The teams will face off again Saturday at Bell MTS Centre. It will be the opener of a seven-game road trip for the Senators. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
Amazon won't be forced to immediately restore web service to Parler after a federal judge ruled Thursday against a plea to reinstate the fast-growing social media app, which is favoured by followers of former President Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle said she wasn't dismissing Parler's “substantive underlying claims” against Amazon, but said it had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction forcing it back online. Amazon kicked Parler off its web-hosting service on Jan. 11. In court filings, it said the suspension was a “last resort" to block Parler from harbouring violent plans to disrupt the presidential transition. The Seattle tech giant said Parler had shown an “unwillingness and inability” to remove a slew of dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others. The social media app, a magnet for the far right, sued to get back online, arguing that Amazon Web Services had breached its contract and abused its market power. It said Trump was likely on the brink of joining the platform, following a wave of his followers who flocked to the app after Twitter and Facebook expelled Trump after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Rothstein said she rejected “any suggestion that the public interest favours requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.” She also faulted Parler for providing ”only faint and factually inaccurate speculation” about Amazon and Twitter colluding with one another to shut Parler down. Parler said Thursday it was disappointed by the ruling but remains confident it will “ultimately prevail in the main case,” which it says will have “broad implications for our pluralistic society.” Amazon said it welcomed the ruling and emphasized that “this was not a case about free speech,” a point also underscored by the judge. Parler CEO John Matze had asserted in a court filing that Parler’s abrupt shutdown was motivated at least partly by “a desire to deny President Trump a platform on any large social-media service.” Matze said Trump had contemplated joining the network as early as October under a pseudonym. The Trump administration last week declined to comment on whether he had planned to join. Amazon denied its move to pull the plug on Parler had anything to do with political animus. It claimed that Parler had breached its business agreement “by hosting content advocating violence and failing to timely take that content down.” Parler was formed in May 2018, according to Nevada business records, with what co-founder Rebekah Mercer, a prominent Trump backer and conservative donor, later described as the goal of creating “a neutral platform for free speech” away from “the tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.” Amazon said the company signed up for its cloud computing services about a month later, thereby agreeing to its rules against dangerous content. Matze told the court that Parler has “no tolerance for inciting violence or lawbreaking” and has relied on volunteer “jurors” to flag problem posts and vote on whether they should be removed. More recently, he said the company informed Amazon it would soon begin using artificial intelligence to automatically pre-screen posts for inappropriate content, as bigger social media companies do. Amazon last week revealed a trove of incendiary and violent posts that it had reported to Parler over the past several weeks. They included explicit calls to harm high-profile political and business leaders and broader groups of people, such as schoolteachers and Black Lives Matter activists. Google and Apple were the first tech giants to take action against Parler in the days after the deadly Capitol riot. Both companies temporarily banned the smartphone app from their app stores. But people who had already downloaded the Parler app were still able to use it until Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on the website. Parler has kept its website online by maintaining its internet registration through Epik, a U.S. company owned by libertarian businessman Rob Monster. Epik has previously hosted 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Parler is currently hosted by DDoS-Guard, a company whose owners are based in Russia, public records show. DDoS-Guard did not respond to emails seeking comment on its business with Parler or on published reports that its customers have included Russian government agencies. Parler said Thursday it is still working to revive its platform. Although its website is back, it hasn’t restored its app or social network. Matze has said it will be difficult to restore service because the site had been so dependent on Amazon engineering, and Amazon’s action has turned off other potential vendors. The case has offered a rare window into Amazon’s influence over the workings of the internet. Parler argued in its lawsuit that Amazon violated antitrust laws by colluding with Twitter, which also uses some Amazon cloud computing services, to quash the upstart social media app. Rothstein, who was appointed to the Seattle-based court by Democratic President Jimmy Carter, said Parler presented “dwindlingly slight” evidence of antitrust violations and no evidence that Amazon and Twitter “acted together intentionally — or even at all — in restraint of trade.” ___ AP Technology Writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Boston. Matt O'Brien, The Associated Press
More than 90 per cent of residents at a Barrie, Ont. long-term care home have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday. At least 122 of 130 residents at Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home have been infected, the home said in a statement to CBC Toronto on Thursday. Since the outbreak, 19 residents have died and 69 staff are infected. Jeremy Taggart found out on Wednesday that his mother, Beryl Taggart, was one of the residents who had tested positive. Taggart said only two weeks ago they were assured by the home that the outbreak would be contained. "Now it's just this heaving cesspool that's just, 'Dare go in there and you're going to get COVID-19,' I don't understand," he said. Taggart says his mother has not experienced any symptoms yet but he is frustrated with the communication from the home. "Clearly, they're overwhelmed. They're not admitting they're overwhelmed, I don't know why. They've needed help for two weeks and it's a disaster and here I am, just kind of sitting and waiting." On Thursday, local public health officials said there is cause for concern for the yet-to-be identified variant of COVID-19 at the home. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said the unusually rapid spread of the virus at Roberta Place earlier this month prompted officials to start testing for a variant strain. Fifty-five people at the nursing home became ill within 48 hours of the first COVID-19 case being identified, said Dr. Colin Lee, the unit's associate medical officer of health. The variant was identified in six cases and further results are expected in the coming days, the unit said. "The problem is that this spreads so quickly to so many people that ultimately you're going to have a higher chance of more people severely ill and [more] deaths," Lee said. 'I can only wish I could turn the clock back' Lee told CBC Toronto that the first variant case appears to be in a staff member. He said the person did have close contact with someone who travelled outside the country. "I can only wish I could turn the clock back if we had a vaccine a month before we went in on Saturday. I think this outbreak would be a lot less severe," Lee said. There's a "very high probability" that the variant detected at the home is one of three known COVID-19 variants — strains from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, said Lee. Public health officials will be carrying out more testing at the home and will be trying to immunize as many residents and staff at the facility as possible, he said. An earlier immunization effort saw only 21 residents vaccinated as most others were already infected with COVID-19, he said. "We went in there on Saturday and immunized as many as we could," he said. Primary goal is to prevent further spread The health unit is trying to reach all close contacts of those infected as quickly as possible so they can self-isolate if needed, said Lee. "One of our primary goals right now is to prevent the spread further, as it gets into households and other hospitals," Lee said. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical of health, said public health officials will also be stepping up infection prevention and control at the home. Yaffe said the source of infection is still hard to determine as the outbreak at the home is still under investigation. "At this point, we know a mutation is in there. The 501 mutation that's associated with increased transmissibility ... We don't know which mutant it is, or which variant of concern," she said. "So it's hard to say right now how widespread it is because we don't even know exactly what it is." Last week, the Canadian Red Cross was deployed to Roberta Place to help with the growing outbreak. Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital, along with other local organizations, has also been asked to help manage it. The Ministry of Long-Term Care said Thursday that it was working with its health partners to ensure staffing levels at the home were sufficient. "This development underscores the need for everyone to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our long-term care homes, especially as we find more evidence of new variants in our communities," said spokeswoman Krystle Caputo. Taggart says he wants Canadian Forces to come in to help his mother and other patients at the facility in the same way the military assisted a number of Ontario long-term care homes during the first wave of the pandemic. "They had the military in the spring. What the hell is going on? Where are they? Anything! We need all hands on deck," Taggart said.
A Seismic shift occurred Wednesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden took the oath of office and stood before the American people, and the world, and vowed the climate crisis was among his top priorities for the nation. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” After four years of slashed environmental regulations, inaction on climate change and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement under former president Donald Trump, the gap between the two approaches to the existential threat is enormous. “It represents a tectonic shift globally, in terms of how we decide, as humanity, to respond to climate change. And I think one of the most significant parts of this is that the American government has now realigned itself with science,” said Ian Mauro, executive director of the University of Winnipeg-based Prairie Climate Centre. That move towards embracing science and fact-based approaches applies not just to climate change but also the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. “And so, as a foundation for moving forward, we will be using evidence. And evidence indicates that this is a problem that requires absolutely enormous amounts of effort, strategy and resources devoted to solving the issue of climate change.” Mauro points out this shift effectively means, overnight, the U.S. has leapfrogged Canada in terms of climate goals and progressive rhetoric. On his first day as president, Biden took two notable actions in the climate file: the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement and revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL was intended to move 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the oilsands in northern Alberta to Nebraska, where it would connect to a previously-built pipeline and carry oil to the Gulf Coast. Jane McDonald, executive vice-president for Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, previously served as a policy adviser to Liberal MP Catherine McKenna, when McKenna was Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. From McDonald’s perspective, a lot of media attention has been focused on the loss of the pipeline and potential drawbacks of the Biden presidency on the Canadian economy. What she hopes to see more of moving forward is a recognition of how much this could instead benefit Canada’s green economy. “Biden’s platform talked about a shared strategy around the shift to electric vehicles, about increasing cross-border electricity — which is definitely in Canada’s interest. He talks about environmental spending, that means a much bigger market for Canada’s clean-tech companies. So there are a lot of places here that we can engage, and where there are market opportunities to get moving on with our largest trading partner,” McDonald said. Despite the fact Canada has moved forward on the climate file in the last four years, meaningful progress is difficult when your largest trading partner isn’t at the table, she added. Manitoba Minister of Conservation and Climate Sarah Guillemard echoed McDonald’s focus on the opportunities created under the new U.S. administration. “I look forward to working toward common objectives in our efforts to address climate change, as well as creating opportunities for economic growth in green technologies,” she said Wednesday in a statement to the Free Press. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential.
An additional $50 million in provincial funding is being earmarked for K-12 school capital projects, ranging from roof replacements to ventilation system upgrades, Manitoba’s education minister announced Thursday. Combined with a prior 2020 budget commitment of $160 million, the sum will both help facilities get much-needed upgrades and bring the province closer to its goal of opening 20 new schools in 10 years, Education Minister Cliff Cullen told reporters. “We must continue Manitoba’s ongoing investment in school infrastructure for the longevity of our schools and to improve accessibility for all students,” he said during a news conference. Cullen said investments will be made into multi-year projects already underway, purchasing future school sites, upgrading mechanical systems in schools, structural projects, and building new portable classrooms across Manitoba. Of the $210 million in total funding for infrastructure projects, $76 million has been allocated for existing projects and $61 million for new schools. Six new schools have opened, two are going to tender in the spring, and design will start on four projects during the 2021-22 school year, Cullen said. New schools are expected to be built in the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine and the Brandon, Louis Riel, River East Transcona, Seven Oaks, and Pembina Trails school divisions in the coming years. The province plans to spend $64 million on 84 renewal projects. That sum is broken down into: $10 million for access projects, such as elevator and wheelchair lift installations; $21 million for mechanical system upgrades for infrastructure, such as boilers and ventilation systems; $16 million for roof replacements; and $16 million to fix structural problems with aging foundations, walls and historic entrance stonework. The remaining $8 million is for building portable classrooms that can be moved wherever needed. Following the announcement, NDP education critic Nello Altomare called on the province to make “a real” investment in schools. “Now more than ever, kids deserve a quality education system that helps them succeed despite the pandemic. The Pallister government can continue to make promises, but the reality is they would rather underspend than help kids,” Altomare, MLA for Transcona, said in a statement. Last year, for the third year in a row, public schools received a $6.6-million boost in funding, totalling $1.33 billion — an approximately 0.5 per cent increase. Critics voiced concerns about the operating funding allocations — which are typically announced in late January — not keeping up with inflation and the province hamstringing divisions by capping education property tax increases to a maximum of two per cent. Also on the education file, Manitoba Education confirmed Thursday it is calling off spring senior provincial exams for the second year in a row. The province previously cancelled Grade 12 winter exams, citing learning disruptions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re still expecting that teachers will be evaluating Grade 12 students, whether that be some form of exam or testing,” Cullen said, adding the decision was made to ease the burden on students and teachers this year. The minister added Manitobans can expect an announcement on the teacher COVID-19 rapid-testing pilot in the coming days. Sixty rapid tests had been completed, as of Thursday afternoon. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants' efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google "news source", making it the country's first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a "news source" tag.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is back. In truth, the nation’s leading infectious-diseases expert never really went away. But after enduring nearly a year of darts and undermining comments from former President Donald Trump, Fauci now speaks with the authority of the White House again. He called it “liberating” Thursday to be backed by a science-friendly administration that has embraced his recommendations to battle COVID-19. “One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said in one pointed observation during a White House briefing. “Just say you don’t know the answer.” Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration's confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment. His day began with a 4 a.m. virtual meeting with officials of the World Health Organization, which is based in Switzerland, and stretched past a 4 p.m. appearance at the lectern in the White House briefing room. The breakneck pace showcased the urgent need to combat a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and reached its deadliest phase just as the new president comes to office. Fauci made clear that he believed the new administration would not trade in the mixed messages that so often came from the Trump White House, where scientific fact was often obscured by the president’s political agenda. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know and what the science is ... it is something of a liberating feeling,” Fauci told reporters. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had invited Fauci to take the podium first at her daily briefing. While choosing his words carefully, Fauci acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to work for Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic, refused to consistently promote mask-wearing and often touted unproven scientific remedies, including a malaria drug and even injecting disinfectant. “It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Fauci said. He added that he took “no pleasure” in having to contradict the president, a move that often drew Trump’s wrath. Biden, during his presidential campaign, pledged to making Fauci his chief medical adviser when he took office, and the 80-year-old scientist was immediately in motion. Fauci was up well before dawn Thursday for the virtual meeting with WHO, which Biden had rejoined the previous day after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the group out of anger over how it dealt with China in the early days of the pandemic. Fauci told the group that the United States would join its effort to deliver coronavirus vaccines to poor countries. In the afternoon, the doctor stood alongside Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris in the White House as they unveiled a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which is killing more than 4,000 Americans a day, as well as bolstering the nation’s sluggish vaccine distribution program. Fauci had chatted amiably with reporters while awaiting the tardy new president. He acknowledged it was a long day and said that while he’d prefer to go for a run, he planned to powerwalk a few miles Thursday evening. It was all a stark contrast after being kept on a tight leash by the Trump administration. Their West Wing press shop had tightly controlled Fauci’s media appearances — and blocked most of them. The doctor went from being a constant presence in the briefing room during the first weeks of the pandemic to largely being banished as Trump grew jealous of the doctor's positive press and resentful of Fauci's willingness to contradict him. Moreover, Trump frequently undermined Fauci’s credibility, falsely insisting that the pandemic was nearly over. The president regularly referenced Fauci's early skepticism about the effectiveness of masks for ordinary Americans, a position that Fauci quickly abandoned in the face of more evidence. And he even made fun of Fauci's first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. The president's attacks on Fauci — and his dismissiveness of the science — handicapped medical professionals trying to get Americans to take the virus seriously. “There was clear political influence on the message of the pandemic. It became political to say that the pandemic was devastating our community because it was interpreted as a judgement on Trump,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious-diseases physician and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. “It actively created enemies of the public health folks in a segment of the population.” Having Fauci return to a central role, Bhadelia said, is a sign “that science was being repressed and now back.” As his handling of the pandemic became the defining issue in the 2020 campaign, Trump insisted on portraying the virus as a thing of the past. He also mercilessly attacked Fauci, retweeting messages that called for the doctor’s dismissal and reveled in “Fire Fauci!” chants at some of his rallies. Trump sidelined Fauci but dared not dismiss him, after aides convinced him of the move’s political danger. But Fauci, who has now served under seven presidents, persevered, telling friends that he would keep his head down and aim to outlast Trump and the obfuscations of his administration. “Clarity of message is the most important thing the government can be doing right now; the single biggest disservice Trump did was constantly telling people that pandemic was about to be over,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who has known Fauci for more than 20 years. In his return to the briefing room, Fauci joked with reporters, seemingly far more relaxed than at any point last year. And as he stepped off the stage, Psaki said she'd soon have him back. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
Windsor is the first Canadian city to partner with the Ford Motor Company on a pilot project looking to improve traffic safety. Ford vehicles purchased after 2017 collect and send data, such as speed, forward collision warnings and harsh braking events, to computers at Ford over a cellular network. A Ford program, known as Safety Insights, is now going to use that data to inform the City of Windsor of emerging traffic safety concerns and areas that need to be improved. "Sometimes it can be a change in policy or providing information to police where enforcement might be better to address speeding issues resulting in collisions," said the city's transportation planner Jeff Hagan. The collaboration between Ford and Windsor is a one-year pilot that is being funded through the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corp's $30,000 FedDev grant for Automobility Ecosystem building. "This collaboration will contribute to safer roads and more efficient traffic planning and infrastructure in the City of Windsor and strengthen Windsor's growing reputation as the automobility capital of Canada," said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. The collected data also includes the vehicle identification number (VIN), but Ford said that that information is not shared with the city, adding that vehicle owners need to give consent for their data to be used. Ontario's former information and privacy commissioner says that gives the car owner more assurances. "I think that's the way to go because the whole point is you want individuals to have the choice as to whether they want to be tracked or not," she said. While there are millions of Ford vehicles providing information, tens of thousands are located in the Windsor area — enough to provide some good insight, according to Ford. "Still a significant number that can be generating this data and again that sort of aggregate view to help power very rich insights about overall driving trends," said Cal Coplai from Ford mobility, Ford Motor Co.
The “Shop Local” movement is in full swing as we endure a second lockdown, but there’s another movement one resident says we should take to heart as well: grow local – at least when it comes to eggs. That was the message delivered to Council last week by local resident Darryl Moore. Mr. Moore, a long-time proponent of a being able to keep backyard hens in Aurora, said going down this road and adopting the necessary bylaws to make it happen could pave the way not only for home-raised food in the form of eggs, but also pets, companionship, and even educational opportunities. “These are small things, but they’re important,” said Mr. Moore. “I know I have autistic children and animals are a very good thing for them, and chickens work very well that way. As well, people are learning where their food comes from.” This is not the first time Council has considered a backyard hen program, but previous efforts have fallen on the issues of odour, noise, and potentially attracting predators into neighbourhoods. Mr. Moore tackled these issues point by point, contending that backyard hens have no greater impact than dogs, cats or other conventional pets when it comes to odour and any scents are easily mitigated. As for noise, roosters would be the main culprits and would fall outside of any backyard hen program. But the issue of predators, however, was less clear cut. “It depends on where you live,” said Mr. Moore. “Where I live on Victoria Street, wolves and coyotes are not a big issue. Next to a ravine, they might be. It is easy enough to fortify the coops so it is not a big issue and you fortify them as much as you need depending on the types of predators you can expect. Chickens are on the bottom of the food chain, so animals are going to want to eat them, but it is easy enough to take care of.” The impact of backyard hens on property values, he admitted, was harder to evaluate but research and conversations with realtors, he contended, indicate it is minimal. “The main issue is people’s perceptions,” he said. “Property value is a perception. It isn’t really there because there isn’t an issue – people often don’t notice the chickens. Everyone has the right to enjoy their property to the best they can and that is probably the thing that comes up: they don’t want the nuisance of a chicken next door. There’s a lot of interest in this Town for backyard hens and I am really hoping that given the experience other municipalities have had, including ones right next door, that we can move quickly and implement based on knowledge and come up with some pilot project to get started and then move from there.” If Aurora adopted a backyard hen program, they wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel. Similar programs have been piloted in the City of Toronto while the Town of Newmarket has incorporated provisions into their bylaws whereby all one has to do is apply for a permit with the Town, with some restrictions tied to yard size. Mr. Moore’s pitch received a mixed reception from Council. One lawmaker to signal their tentative support was Councillor Rachel Gilliland, who questioned the best method of getting a pilot project up and running. While the earliest a motion to do can be brought forward is February, she said there is much to consider. “It seems there is an appetite and other municipalities have taken that step,” she said. “Maybe there is some room to foster this idea and something we can implement here.” Less enthusiastic, however, was Councillor Harold Kim, who said he would not be able to support the idea “at this time.” “It is not because I don’t necessarily agree with your project, because it is certainly a noteworthy one…but this reminds me of when a couple of members of Council, including the then-mayor introduced the transparent garbage bags [initiative]. It was a very worthy project to move forward with, but do we have acceptance from the general community and the public? They have also inherited an intrinsic right to enjoy their property. Even though everything you say might be scientifically correct, it is about convincing everyone around you and that is a big problem and the challenge for me. I think it is just a matter of time. “It is about convincing our fellow neighbours and our community members to adopt it. It is not necessarily an overcoming [of] the fears of coyotes or salmonella…even though we have all the facts on the presentation. It is about convincing the general public. For those reasons, it is going to be challenging for me to sponsor it.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
CHICAGO — An Illinois man was ordered held without bond Thursday for allegedly threatening the lives of President Joe Biden and other Democrats before this week's inauguration. U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes rejected a defence argument that there was no evidence Louis Capriotti had any real plan to act on the threat. Capriotti, 45, of Chicago Heights faces a federal charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. In rejecting bail for Capriotti, Fuentes said it was concerning Capriotti continued to make threats of violence to members of Congress even after the FBI told him a year ago to stop making threats. “Threats hurt people,” Fuentes said at the end of a nearly 90-minute hearing. “They terrorize people. They make people afraid. There’s an argument to be made that’s what they’re intended to do in the first place.” During the hearing, prosecutors played an excerpt of the Dec. 29 call at the heart of the criminal complaint, left on the voicemail of an unidentified New Jersey congressman. The message was peppered with obscenities. “If they think that Joe Biden is going to put his hand on the Bible and walk into that (expletive) White House on January 20th, they’re sadly (expletive) mistaken,” a man alleged to be Capriotti can be heard saying. A similar threat was made concerning now Vice-President Kamala Harris. The arrest of Capriotti came less than a week after supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from ratifying the electoral vote for Biden, leading to the deaths of a police officer and four others. Capriotti’s lawyer, Jack Corfman, argued home detention would be sufficient to ensure the safety of the community, especially since Biden's and Harris' inaugurations passed and “went smoothly.” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Dunn disagreed, saying Capriotti has a long history of ignoring court orders and only needs a phone to continue his campaign of harassment. The Associated Press
Jurisdictional issues are causing concerns when it comes to the distribution of coronavirus vaccines to Indigenous people. “There … (are) challenges to overcome when we try to work in partnership with multiple levels of governments and the prioritization province-by-province,” said Marion Crowe, CEO for the First Nations Health Managers Association (FNHMA). During the weekly virtual townhall Jan. 21 hosted by FNHMA, Crowe referenced comments by premiers who have questioned the need to provide their provinces’ allocated vaccines to Indigenous peoples because First Nations are a federal responsibility. Crowe said one premier even went so far as to say that First Nations were not a priority. She did not report which premiers she was referring to in her comments. The federal government’s role is to procure the vaccines. It’s up to the provinces to distribute them. However, said Dr. Tom Wong, executive director and Chief Medical Officer of Public Health with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), that distribution should follow the guidelines set out by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Wong, who sits on NACI, told the virtual forum audience that NACI did a “thorough evidence review” and developed prioritization recommendations, including Elders and residents and staff in long-term care and Elder care facilities; frontline healthcare workers; and Indigenous peoples in communities in settings where they are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. “Those are the groups right at the very, very beginning. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is telling the whole country please follow these evidence-based guidelines and that includes marginalized, racialized groups in urban settings, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit in those settings,” Wong said. Issues have arisen in dealing with the urban Indigenous population and Wong highlighted outbreaks in Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg. “In particular, the (intensive care unit) admissions for off-reserve in urban areas in Manitoba has been found to be even worse than that on reserve. So this really highlights the point that, yes, there are great needs in the north, but equally that there’s huge needs in some of the urban centres where there’s a lack of services, overcrowding, in homeless shelters,” he said Kim Daly, senior nurse manager, Communicable Disease Control Department with ISC, is also with the COVID-19 vaccine working group for urban Indigenous populations. She told the virtual audience that working with provinces goes beyond prioritizing Indigenous groups. It’s also about making the vaccine accessible. “When we’re talking about items such as systemic racism, it’s important that provinces recognize that just opening a clinic down the road does not mean equal access for all the populations. We’re really trying to break down those barriers so that they know that it’s not just on reserve. It’s not just on remote and isolated (communities). There are barriers all across this country and we’re working together with them,” she said. Epidemiology, said Daly, also dictates how the vaccine is used province-to-province and that was clear throughout the country. Some provinces, like Newfoundland/Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia prioritized remote, isolated or fly-in communities, while other provinces, like Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, prioritized those 18 years and over in Indigenous communities. Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories prioritized Elder care homes. In Saskatchewan, northern communities were included in the first phase. Daly applauded provinces, like Quebec, which initially saw only about a 50 per cent uptake from Indigenous residents in remote communities for the vaccine. “The province was really gracious with communications, stating, ‘When you’re ready, the vaccine will be here.’ And there was a provision they kept back vaccines… So we really like that approach so people don’t have to make an on-the-spot decision, that they feel comfortable to come back through,” said Daly. Vaccine hesitancy, she added, should be answered with “kindness and understanding and facts.” Daly also pointed out that there were some First Nations and organization like Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which led the process, setting the example for how the vaccine should continue to be rolled out. Wong said more than 160 Indigenous communities have started immunization clinics. “As vaccine deployment continues it remains critical that First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders and partners are included at decision-making tables in each province and each territory and continue to engage in co-planning to determine ongoing capacity and needs with respective communities,” he said. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the final days of the Trump administration issued a grazing permit to Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment sparked the 2016 armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge by right-wing extremists. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s restored Dwight and Steven Hammond’s grazing permit earlier this week, which lasts for 10 years, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The father and son had their permit revoked after a jury convicted them in 2012 of arson on public lands a decade earlier. The men went to prison, served time and were released, but the U.S. Department of Justice later ordered them back to prison to finish the mandatory minimum five-year sentence. That kicked off the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which is 300 miles (483 kilometres) southeast of Portland. The Oregon State Police fatally shot one occupier, saying he reached for a pistol at a roadblock. The leaders of the takeover, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and five others were later acquitted of conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs at the refuge. In 2018, Then-President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammonds, allowing them to be freed from federal prison. In a proposal to grant the Hammonds grazing rights on Dec. 31, the land agency said Hammond Ranches should be allowed to graze their cattle on about 26,000 acres (10,522 hectares) in the high desert of eastern Oregon. The federal agency cited the Hammonds’ “extensive historic use of these allotments, past proper use of rangeland resources, a high level of general need, and advantages conferred by topography.” In 2014, when Barack Obama was president, the agency denied Hammond Ranches a renewal of its grazing permit, saying the business “does not have a satisfactory record of performance” and cited numerous incidents of arson. At the father and son's trial, witnesses testified that a 2001 arson fire occurred after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered deer on federal property. One said Steven, the younger of the Hammonds, handed out matches with instructions to “light up the whole country.” The jury also convicted him of setting a 2006 blaze. Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians have said they would protest the decision to grant the Hammonds a grazing permit. The Associated Press