Meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal has your national forecast for Dec 17
Meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal has your national forecast for Dec 17
The U.S. House of Representatives delivered to the Senate on Monday a charge that former President Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial. Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Trump's trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the charge against Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol. Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police.
Calgary police evacuated a condo complex in Inglewood on Sunday after reports of a woman with a weapon trying to force her way into several residences escalated into a standoff that lasted for several hours. Police were called to the SoBow complex at the 100 block of Inglewood Park southeast just before 4 p.m., the Calgary Police Service said in a release early Monday. The woman got into one of the units and the occupants fled to safety without injury, police said. "Officers conducted a rapid entry into the building, evacuating occupants while searching for the suspect, who was located and contained in a unit," the release said. Residents of the building were taken to a safe location while negotiators and the tactical unit were brought to the scene. The fire department was also called to assist because what was thought to be smoke was seen coming from the building. But it was later determined there was no fire and the apparent smoke was the result of a fire extinguisher that had been released, police said. The suspect was taken into custody at about 1:30 a.m. Police said the investigation is ongoing and no further information can be released at this point.
After much discussion, the Township of McMurrich/Monteith will remain in the regional fire training program. The Township received 16 letters from residents on Jan. 18, relating to concerns of not entering into the shared fire training agreement. Here are some key quotes from the discussion: “My concern is that I will not be able to get my people trained anymore or be able to get them certified; as a result, I won’t have firefighters to meet what we need to do in our municipality,” said McMurrich/Monteith’s fire chief John Ross. “I do not have the manpower to take on a single-family dwelling, so the automatic aid has been a huge plus for us, along with everything else that comes with it: the training, the bulk purchasing … the collaboration with the other departments. Leaving just the training has such a huge fallout.” “The contract is the problem, not the trainer — I’ve never had a problem with the trainer so to be clear on that, it’s the contract,” said Coun. Alfred Bielke. “The only way I know we’re going to get the service we require is to enter into this agreement because, right now, we’re being told we can’t get the training. We don’t have the personnel to even fight a fire in our own township … we’re putting our people at risk, we’re putting their homes at risk and we’re putting lives at risk, so the only way to get this back is to rescind the motion we defeated and put it back on the table,” said Coun. Dan O’Halloran. “For the authors of our letters, and the people that are listening, this agreement (is) a prelude to the regional fire training and regional fire department …” said Coun. Lynn Zemnicky. “I just want people who are listening to realize that the previous council jumped on board to chip in on this equipment, (the) ice and fire rescue boats … they were thousands of dollars; one is housed in, I believe, Kearney and the other in Magnetawan. If you fall into Bear, Doe or Buck Lake, I hope you can stay treading water until it comes all the way from Magnetawan. That’s where your taxpayer money is sitting.” “Our stations are going to stay our own and be operated by our council and our fire chiefs. Purchases will still be done through our council and not through the region …” said Reeve Angela Freisen. “If we opt out of this, we’re losing the automatic aid and, as Chief Ross said, we don’t have enough personnel to handle our own fires, (and) we’re going to lose the benefit of group purchasing.” “I would like to see council agree to continue with the training and take an active part in the working out of the funding model over the (next three) years, but in the meantime, our fire department doesn’t suffer,” said Ross. McMurrich/Monteith council directed staff to notify the six municipalities participating in the regional firefighter training agreement that the following should be added to the draft agreement. The funding model will be discussed within three months of signing; the proposed allowance be submitted by invoice, not automatic payment, and all cost increases must be decided by unanimous vote of all the municipalities. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Nunavut's main internet service provider has secured more satellite capacity to fix a shortage that forced them to stop taking on new customers. SSi has joined a multi-year agreement with a European satellite network SES to increase their internet capacity. SSi Canada runs the internet service Qiniq— which is the main provider for Nunavut communities outside Iqaluit. "They [SES] have actually liberated a satellite, a whole satellite that was already in space, and pointed it north," said Dean Proctor, SSi's chief development officer. Proctor says the satellite covers all of Canada and will allow SSi to continue to provide the same quality service to existing customers while being able to take on new customers. In the fall, Qiniq had to stop taking on new customers because they didn't have the bandwidth to take on more users without the quality of the existing service going down. "We have been running out of [internet] capacity in Nunavut because there are only so many satellites that deliver service there," said Proctor. "It has been a real issue." The deal with SES is the solution to that problem. "This is providing much more than we had, but there is much more to be done," said Proctor. However, Proctor says satellite is still a much more costly service than other internet options like fibre optic, DSL, or cable — options that don't currently exist in Nunavut because of a lack of infrastructure. "We're still not at a point where we can deliver the same capacity for the same price as you would find in southern Canada," said Proctor. Proctor says this deal is another step in closing the digital divide in the North and improving connectivity. "This is an essential step," said Proctor. "It's one that comes in the time of COVID where more than ever we need this."
CALGARY — Obsidian Energy Ltd. is extending its hostile takeover offer for Bonterra Energy Corp. until March 29. The offer was set to expire today. Bonterra has repeatedly recommended shareholders reject the bid. Obsidian has offered two of its shares for each Bonterra share. In December, Obsidian reduced the minimum number of tendered shares needed to complete the transaction to 50 per cent from two-thirds. Obsidian has said a combined Obsidian-Bonterra could save $50 million in the first year and a total of $100 million in the first three years, however Bonterra has said those savings are "uncertain." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:BNE, TSX:OBE) The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials that showed it was safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unfounded theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm. State media and officials are sowing doubts about Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus in an apparent bid to deflect the attacks. Both issues are in the spotlight because of the rollout of vaccines globally and the recent arrival of a World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the virus. Some of these conspiracy theories find a receptive audience at home. The social media hashtag “American’s Ft. Detrick,” started by the Communist Youth League, was viewed at least 1.4 billion times last week after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson called for a WHO investigation of the biological weapons lab in Maryland. “It’s purpose is to shift the blame from mishandling by (the) Chinese government in the pandemic’s early days to conspiracy by the U.S.,” said Fang Shimin, a now-U.S.-based writer known for exposing faked degrees and other fraud in Chinese science. “The tactic is quite successful because of widespread anti-American sentiment in China.” Yuan Zeng, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Leeds in Great Britain, said the government’s stories spread so widely that even well-educated Chinese friends have asked her whether they might be true. Inflaming doubts and spreading conspiracy theories might add to public health risks as governments try to dispel unease about vaccines, she said, saying, “That is super, super dangerous.” In the latest volley, state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after they received the Pfizer vaccine. An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news. Health experts say deaths unrelated to the vaccine are possible during mass vaccination campaigns, and a WHO panel has concluded that the vaccine did not play a “contributory role” in the Norway deaths. The state media coverage followed a report by researchers in Brazil who found the effectiveness of a Chinese vaccine lower than previously announced. Researchers initially said Sinovac’s vaccine is 78% effective, but the scientists revised that to 50.4% after including mildly symptomatic cases. After the Brazil news, researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a government-supported think-tank , reported seeing an increase in Chinese media disinformation about vaccines. Dozens of online articles on popular health and science blogs and elsewhere have explored questions about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine at length, drawing on an op-ed published this month in the British Medical Journal that raised questions about its clinical trial data. “It’s very embarrassing” for the government, Fang said in an email. As a result, China is trying to raise doubts about the Pfizer vaccine to save face and promote its vaccines, he said. Senior Chinese government officials have not been shy in voicing concerns about the mRNA vaccines developed by Western drug companies. They use a newer technology than the more traditional approach of the Chinese vaccines currently in use. In December, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, said he can’t rule out negative side effects from the mRNA vaccines. Noting this is the first time they are being given to healthy people, he said, “there are safety concerns.” The arrival of the WHO mission has brought back persistent criticism that China allowed the virus to spread globally by reacting too slowly in the beginning, even reprimanding doctors who tried to warn the public. The visiting researchers will begin field work this week after being released from a 14-day quarantine. The Communist Party sees the WHO investigation as a political risk because it focuses attention on China’s response, said Jacob Wallis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The party wants to “distract domestic and international audiences by pre-emptively distorting the narrative on where responsibility lies for the emergence of COVID-19,” Wallis said. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying got the ball rolling last week by calling for the WHO investigation of the U.S. military lab. The site had been mentioned previously by CGTN and other state-controlled outlets. “If America respects the truth, then please open up Ft. Detrick and make public more information about the 200 or more bio-labs outside of the U.S., and please allow the WHO expert group to go to the U.S. to investigate the origins,” Hua said. Her comments, publicized by state media, became one of the most popular topics on Sina Weibo. China isn’t the only government to point fingers. Former President Donald Trump, trying to deflect blame for his government’s handling of the pandemic, said last year he had seen evidence the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory. While that theory has not been definitively ruled out, many experts think it is unlikely. Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press
La Banque de développement du Canada (BDC) s’attend à une meilleure performance économique au Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean en 2021 que la moyenne québécoise, grâce à la reprise rapide de ses secteurs économiques clés et de l’emploi. Dans la région comme ailleurs dans la province, 2021 sera une année de relance et de croissance, après la contraction de 2020 imposée par la crise sanitaire de la COVID-19, estime Pierre Cléroux, économiste en chef de la BDC. Il aborde la prochaine année avec optimisme pour l’économie régionale, en soulignant la forte demande actuellement pour le bois d’oeuvre et l’aluminium, qui a des impacts sur la hausse des prix et des exportations. «Cela a un impact positif sur la production, et ces deux secteurs-là sont ceux qui vont avoir un impact positif sur la région», a souligné M. Cléroux, en entrevue avec Le Quotidien. Il cite également la relève du secteur manufacturier en général parmi les secteurs qui «performent bien» actuellement. L’économiste s’attend ainsi à une relance plus rapide que celle anticipée par Desjardins, qui estimait en septembre que le Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean connaîtrait l’une des reprises les plus lentes et difficiles de la province en 2021. Dans la région comme ailleurs, toutefois, il faut s’attendre à une reprise à deux vitesses, alors que certains secteurs demeurent durement touchés par la crise et les impacts du deuxième confinement. Les pertes d’emploi sont encore importantes dans la restauration, l’hôtellerie, le tourisme et dans les arts et spectacles. Des régions comme Montréal demeureront par exemple plus affectées sur ce plan, en raison de l’importance de ces secteurs pour leur économie, précise Pierre Cléroux. L’économiste demeure confiant de voir un rebond rapide des investissements et de la consommation dans ces secteurs lorsque la vaccination permettra de lever ou de réduire les mesures sanitaires. «Ce qu’on a appris en 2020, c’est que lorsqu’on enlève les restrictions sur un secteur, ce secteur-là revient rapidement», indique-t-il. Plusieurs consommateurs seront prêts à dépenser après avoir diminué leurs dépenses en voyages, activités et loisirs en 2020, croit-il, alors que l’épargne des Canadiens s’est élevée à 200 G$ en 2020. Rétablissement de l'emploi La reprise observée dans les secteurs manufacturier, de l’aluminium et de la forêt a contribué au rétablissement du marché du travail régional à l’automne, souligne en outre Pierre Cléroux. En octobre, l’emploi avait retrouvé son niveau d’avant la crise, le dépassant même légèrement, alors que 19 000 emplois avaient été perdus au printemps. «Ce n’est pas le cas dans l’ensemble du Québec, donc je pense que votre région va mieux performer que la moyenne québécoise», estime l’économiste. Dans la province, l’emploi s’était alors rétabli à 97,2% en octobre par rapport à février. L’emploi a cependant légèrement diminué en décembre dans la région, pour descendre sous le niveau de février, selon les données de l’Institut de la statistique du Québec. Son rétablissement demeure néanmoins au-devant de celui la province, où le niveau d’avant la crise n’a toujours pas été retrouvé. Après avoir été la région affichant le plus haut taux de chômage en mai et en juin, avec des sommets de 16,1% et 16,5%, le Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean se situait à 6,1% en décembre, sous le taux provincial de 7,2%. La région termine toutefois l’année 2020 avec un taux de chômage à 9,1%, dépassant légèrement la moyenne provinciale de 8,8,%. M. Cléroux sera d’ailleurs l’un des invités du prochain Rendez-vous économique de la Chambre de commerce et d’industrie Saguenay-Le Fjord. L’événement dédié aux perspectives économiques de 2021 qui aura lieu en ligne jeudi, de 11h à 13h. + LES ENTREPRISES EN MEILLEURE SITUATION Pierre Cléroux, économiste en chef de la BDC, demeure également optimiste pour les entreprises, alors que leur situation s’est améliorée récemment, selon la dernière enquête réalisée par l’institution financière en décembre. Les entreprises disposent de davantage de liquidités. «Dans la restauration, ce n’est pas le cas, mais en général, dans l’ensemble des autres secteurs, les entreprises semblent en meilleure position qu’elles ne l’étaient il y a six mois», constate M. Cléroux. L’endettement des entreprises demeure cependant élevé après cette année difficile qui a amené 7% des entreprises du Québec à mettre la clé sous la porte en 2020, pour un total de 60 000 au Canada. Le virage numérique demeure la clé pour les commerçants afin de leur permettre de tirer leur épingle du jeu, estime l’économiste, qui est également vice-président recherche de la société d’État qui se consacre aux entrepreneurs. L’institution possède d’ailleurs un centre d’affaires au centre-ville de Chicoutimi. Pénurie de main-d’oeuvre Les dirigeants et entrepreneurs ne seront toutefois pas au bout de leur peine, une fois que la relance sera sur les rails. Le défi de la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre, qui représentait l’enjeu économique d’avant la crise, refera surface et frappera plus durement, prévient l’économiste. «En plus, en 2020, on n’a presque pas eu d’immigration, donc ça va amplifier le problème», estime-t-il. En plus de l’immigration, les entreprises devront se tourner vers les investissements dans la technologie et la formation pour faire face à cette situation qui sera selon lui «l’enjeu d’une décennie».Myriam Gauthier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
Niagara Falls Transit has elected to revert to its pre-pandemic winter schedule. The city said in a press release in order to provide the best level of service to riders given provincial restrictions, it will return to regular winter city and WEGO service, minus 30-minute peak services, on day routes. Changes take effect Monday. On Jan. 18, in an attempt to comply with the state of emergency orders issued by the province, Niagara Falls Transit preemptively adjusted its hours of operation to reflect the average business closure of 8 p.m.; however, it acknowledged that it could have been stranding essential service workers. The city issued an apology on its website for any inconvenience it caused transit users. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.com Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Families battered by the pandemic recession soon may discover that the tax refunds they’re counting on are dramatically smaller — or that they actually owe income tax. Congress offered a partial solution, but the fix hasn’t been widely publicized, consumer advocates say. Refunds are crucial to many lower- and moderate-income households, which use the money to catch up on bills and medical treatments, pay down debt and boost savings. But the unemployment insurance that kept many people afloat last year may cause problems at tax time this year. Unemployment benefits are taxable, but tax withholding is typically voluntary — and many people who lost jobs either didn’t know their unemployment checks would be taxed, or they decided against withholding. (Relief checks, such as the $1,200 sent out last year, are not taxable.) Further, unemployment benefits are not earned income and so don’t count toward two crucial tax benefits that keep millions of working families with children out of poverty: the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. “If you’re a single parent or a couple with kids living on, say, $25,000 a year, you might see 25% or more of your annual income in the form of your federal tax refund because of these credits,” says Timothy Flacke, executive director of Commonwealth, a non-profit that promotes financial security. THERE’S A FIX ON CREDITS, BUT NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT There isn’t an easy workaround for tax refunds shriveled by inadequate withholding. But Congress provided a potential fix for the tax credits issue in the $900 billion coronavirus relief legislation passed last month: Filers can choose to use their 2019 income to determine their credits rather than their 2020 income. But that fix hasn’t been widely reported, says Leigh Phillips, chief executive officer of SaverLife, a non-profit that encourages working families to save. Not everyone uses up-to-date tax software or well-informed tax preparers, and Phillips worries that many eligible people won’t learn about it before filing their returns. The IRS will begin accepting returns Feb. 12. “People are going to start trying to file taxes as soon as they possibly can,” Phillips says. “If you think that you’ve got thousands coming in the mail or to your bank account, you’re there day one with your paperwork ready to go.” THOSE WHO RELY ON REFUNDS TEND TO FILE EARLY Research confirms that the earliest recipients of refunds each year tend to be lower income, says Fiona Greig, co-president of the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which studies data from millions of customer bank accounts. “(A tax refund) tends to be a larger relative cash infusion event for them, and as a result, they tend to seek their refund earlier in the tax refund season,” Greig says. In typical years, tax refunds equal almost six weeks’ take-home pay for the average recipient, the institute found. Last year the average refund was more than $2,500. Families who qualify for the earned income tax credit can receive thousands more. The maximum credit for working families with three or more children is $6,660 for 2020, and it’s refundable, which means filers get the money even if they don’t owe any tax. The amount you can earn and still qualify rises with family size, so that a married couple with three or more children could get at least a partial credit with adjusted gross income up to $56,844. A single person without children may qualify for a small credit with an adjusted gross income up to $15,820. Meanwhile, the regular child tax credit for children under 17 is $2,000 and not refundable. But low-income families may qualify for a refundable credit, which can be up to 15% of earned income over $2,500, up to $1,400 per child. TAX CREDITS HAVE WIDESPREAD SUPPORT The credits have been around for decades and have widespread bipartisan support among lawmakers, Commonwealth’s Flacke says. “It’s one of the few areas of some consensus across the parties that rewarding workers on the low end of the wage spectrum with these tax credits makes sense,” Flacke says. If you might qualify for one of the tax credits, make sure your tax software or tax preparer looks at both your 2019 and 2020 incomes before submitting your return. If you find out too late that you could have received a bigger refund, you can file an amended return, but you may face a longer wait. Instead of getting your refund in a few weeks, an amended return can take up to four months to process. Going forward, President Joe Biden has proposed one-year expansions of the credits as part of his coronavirus relief package. He wants to increase the maximum earned income tax credit for childless adults from $538 to nearly $1,500 this year and to raise the income limit. He also wants to increase the child tax credit to $3,000, plus an extra $600 per child under age 6, and make the full amount refundable. If enacted, these credits could be claimed on returns filed in 2022. ____________________________________ This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lizweston. RELATED LINK: NerdWallet: Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC): What It Is and How to Qualify in 2020-2021 http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-EIC-2021 Liz Weston Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
Police in Waterloo Region say a church allegedly held an in-person service yesterday despite a court order compelling it to comply with provincial pandemic rules. Investigators say they are working with public health officials to ensure "appropriate action" is taken regarding the Trinity Bible Chapel in Woolwich, Ont. They say the church already faces "numerous" charges under the Reopening Ontario Act. Ontario legislator Randy Hillier, an independent MPP and vocal critic of the province's lockdown measures, tweeted a photo yesterday that appeared to be from the service. He also posted a photo that appeared to be of the outside of the church. The government of Ontario declared a state of emergency and imposed a stay-at-home order on Jan. 12, which includes a ban on indoor gatherings and activities, including religious services. Some religious services, such as weddings and funerals, are permitted provided they include no more than 10 people and physical distancing can be maintained. The rules apply to the entire province and will remain in effect until at least Feb. 11. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
QUETTA, Pakistan — A Pakistani dissident and civil rights activist who died in exile in Canada last month was returned to Pakistan and laid to rest in her home village in southwestern Baluchistan province under tight security, activists said Monday. Only immediate family members of 37-year-old Karima Baloch were allowed to attend her funeral Sunday in the village of Tump in Baluchistan. Her supporters claim that Pakistani troops had sealed off the village and prevented them from attending her burial. Her remains were brought to Pakistan from Canada earlier Sunday. Baloch’s body was found Dec. 22 near Toronto’s downtown waterfront, a place that she liked and often visited, a day after she was reported missing. Toronto police have not treated her death as suspicious though there were allegations by her supporters that she was killed. A fierce critic of Pakistani spy agencies that are often accused of abducting activists in Baluchistan and elsewhere in Pakistan, Baloch was granted asylum in Canada in 2016. Her death has raised suspicions among rights activists, who on Monday denounced authorities for holding the funeral in near secrecy. “It is appalling to see how Karima Baloch’s dead body was treated," said Mohsin Dawar, a lawmaker from Pakistan's former tribal regions who campaigns for Pashtun minority right but like Baloch, has also criticized Pakistani spy agencies. “It is not difficult to understand how this will deepen the divide and fuel separatism," he tweeted. "Is this the strategy to deal with the Baloch insurgency, to sprinkle salt on the wounds of Baloch?" There was no immediate comment from the government, but a video that surfaced on social media shows soldiers turning back several mourners who are heard in the footage saying they wanted to pay their last respects to Baloch. Angered over the situation, a Baloch nationalist group — the Baloch Solidarity Committee — issued a call for a daylong strike and complete shutdown in Baluchistan on Monday. Its statement said Pakistani troops spirited Baloch's coffin away on its arrival from Canada and foiled a move by her supporters to hold her funeral in Karachi, instead taking her remains to her home village. Later on Sunday, hundreds of Baluch activists rallied in Karachi, denouncing the government for not allowing that Baloch's funeral be held in the city. They chanted antigovernment slogans and demanded justice for Baloch, who they say was a “voice of the Baloch people” that was “silenced.” The activists insisted she did not die a natural death though they offered no evidence to support their allegation. Baluchistan has for years been the scene of a low-level insurgency by small separatist groups and nationalists who complain of discrimination and demand a fairer share of their province’s resources and wealth. Although there are also militant groups in Baluchistan that stage attacks on soldiers, separatists also often attack troops in the province, prompting authorities to detain suspects. Human rights activists often blame security forces of illegally holding people. Such detainees are usually not charged and do not appear in court, which draws protests from their families and rights activists. ___ Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report. Abdul Sattar, The Associated Press
Former Google executive Carlo d'Asaro Biondo has been appointed as Chief executive officer of Telecom Italia's (TIM) newly-created cloud unit Noovle, Italy's biggest phone group said on Monday. The creation of the new company is part of the former phone monopoly's strategy to boost and diversify its revenues, providing services to businesses and state-controlled offices looking to improve their digital reach. D'Asaro Biondo, who has been Google's president for EMEA partnerships, joined the former phone monopoly last year after TIM struck a deal with the tech giant to expand its cloud business in the country.
Returning to work after layoffs in the first wave of the pandemic was daunting for Brampton resident Nathan Aitken. Between managing his asthma and fibromyalgia, and having just welcomed a newborn at home, COVID-19 was a significant risk due to his serious underlying conditions. As a welder, Aitken said there was some peace of mind in knowing his mechanic-grade respirator and uniform provided an added layer of protection at the Milton auto-industry plant where he works. “I'm just very diligent about…how I do my job, cleaning and everything else, but it’s definitely something I worry about all day,” Aitken said. In the building, floor markings indicate the pathways for workers to follow to promote safe distancing, and staff are also asked to sanitize their stations every four hours. Despite the protocols, Aitken said he’s concerned about the diligence of individual workers, especially those like him with no paid sick days. “I've never gotten that. If I call in sick, I don’t get paid,” he said. Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has joined the Opposition NDP, labour unions and other increasingly frustrated voices across the province calling for paid sick days. She characterized them as “essential” protection during the pandemic in a report two weeks ago and called for the ruling PCs under Premier Doug Ford to legislate five permanent paid sick days, and 10 during a pandemic like the one causing the current public health crisis. Ford continues to ignore the pleas, claiming there’s “no reason” for sick days. He has said the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program, and its $500 weekly payout (with a maximum of two weeks) to sick workers is enough for Ontario’s frontline employees. He has repeatedly said he would do anything to support these heroic residents who have kept the province running throughout the pandemic. From the early second-wave public health restrictions to the current stay-at-home order, little has changed for essential workers who continue to show up on the frontline, said Tim Deelstra, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 175 and 633, which represent about 70,000 members in the province. Data included in the 2016 Census provide a picture of Peel’s labour force that shows why the region has been particularly hard-hit by viral spread among the essential work force. The sector that employs more Peel residents than any other is manufacturing, including jobs that are deemed essential to keep supply chains running and the flow of needed products uninterrupted. Some 90,000 Peel residents worked in the sector, according to the Census figures. Other job categories that also include large numbers of essential workers are also heavily represented in the region’s labour force: There were 69,920 resident working in transportation and warehousing; 59,270 in healthcare and social assistance; 44,755 in construction; and 42,205 in accommodation and food services. Labour unions like UFCW have been calling on the government to implement more robust protections to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus at essential workplaces, including paid sick days as part of the Employment Standards Act and priority vaccine access for those workers most at risk. For many who may be experiencing minor symptoms, the risk of losing pay or even their job, is enough to keep them going to work, potentially putting their colleagues at risk. “Even before the pandemic, we were very critical of the Ford government, that one of the first things they did upon getting elected was removing the two paid sick days” from the Act, Deelstra said. He points to former Progressive Conservative party leaders, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, as being vocal supporters for sick leave. “They’re now seeing the need for their constituents,” he said. Mayor Brown is spearheading a campaign and motion – endorsed by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie – at the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario and GTHA Mayors group to advocate for higher levels of government to support better sick-day policies. He told Brampton city council on Wednesday the provincial and federal governments would be discussing the issue in a conference call this week. “I hope that there's going to be a mechanism that can be found to bring this to the table,” he said. Some of Peel’s largest employers include Maple Lodge Farms, Fiat Chrysler, and PepsiCo Foods Canada, as well as airport-related warehouses and businesses, including airline food catering company Gate Gourmet Group Inc., in Mississauga. In April, Maple Lodge Farms suspended operations at its Brampton poultry plant after three cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in the facility. At that time, there were about 2,864 confirmed and probable cases of infected residents throughout the Region, with about one-fifth of them in long-term care homes. Now, there have been almost 53,000 confirmed and probable cases in Peel since the start of the pandemic, along with 204 outbreaks, according to the Region’s January 22 epidemiological summary and its most recent data. In the 14 days up to January 21, 232 cases were reported as being linked to a workplace outbreak. The region’s test positivity rate fell to 11.9 percent for the week that ended January 16, down from 13.8 percent the previous week. Anything above 2.5 percent in a jurisdiction suggests viral spread is not under control. Peel’s weekly incidence rate, which has consistently been the highest of all Ontario regions since early in the pandemic, decreased slightly to 247 positive cases per 100,000 residents for the week that ended January 16, compared to 262 the previous week. Once the current emergency order is lifted, to be moved down through the grey-lockdown and red-control categories and into the Province’s orange-restrict category, under Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening framework, a region’s incidence rate has to be below 40 cases per 100,000 residents. Of the federal government’s $19-billion Safe Restart Agreement, about $1.1 billion is dedicated for helping workers through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. It has been criticized by some advocates who say that narrow eligibility criteria, including the requirement of an at least 50 percent reduction in income in the prescribed period, while only $500 per week is offered for a maximum of two weeks, leaves many without proper support. “Paid sick days are necessary. Continuing to lob things off to the federal government is not acceptable. We need people to know that they can immediately take time off, make the right decision, and not have to worry that their next pay packet is going to be short,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at a media conference Tuesday. She urged the premier to call Ontario MPPs back to the legislature to advance a private member’s bill introduced last month by Peggy Sattler, opposition critic for employment standards. Following the current winter break, Queen’s Park is set to resume business in mid-February. Among proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act in Bill 239 (the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act) the NDP are tabling the requirement of 14 paid sick days instead of “unpaid leave in situations related to declared emergencies and infectious disease emergencies.” In Brampton, in addition to the risks facing essential workers in the City’s prominent manufacturing, transportation and food processing sectors, non-unionized workers face even more precarious conditions. “They should be confident enough that if I'm feeling any symptoms, right away, I go [get] tested, and I sit at home…I don't have to worry about three or four days that I lose or how I eat, or how I will pay my bills. That should not be the thing to worry right now,” said Gurbaaz Sra, a community advocate and team member of Humans in Brampton, a social media campaign calling attention to the plight of essential workers. Sra, a mechanical engineer, has heard dozens of stories from members of the South Asian-Canadian community in Brampton who also fear professional reprisal for speaking out, and share their experiences anonymously with Humans in Brampton via their Instagram and Twitter. Despite the reach of social media, Sra said digital literacy among new immigrants remains a barrier for accessing updates about the local COVID-19 picture and public health guidance. “The information is changing rapidly…so that needs to be understood,” he said. “To capture that, they need to make sure that the messaging reaches everyone.” Language barriers can also affect workers who are trying to advocate with their employer for further protections. “In certain cases…they are not really able to express their demands fully because a lot of workers in the warehousing industry are new immigrants to this country,” said Gagandeep Kaur, a postal worker and an organizer at the Brampton-based Warehouse Workers Centre for Peel. Social distancing concerns within warehouses is another common concern, said Kaur, who has worked in warehouses for the last 12 years and with the Centre when it launched last January. “Employers are not doing enough to protect the workers, we know with this new variant of COVID-19 that spreads like crazy…people are scared,” she said. In Mississauga, a recent outbreak at the International Mail Processing Centre, also known as the Gateway Postal Facility located at Eglinton Avenue and Dixie Road, resulted in a total 182 postal employees testing positive for the novel coronavirus as of January 1, Canada Post confirmed in a statement to The Pointer. Rapid tests were used on-site to identify new cases. Responding to The Pointer at a Mississauga press conference on Wednesday, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, explained how rapid tests have been deployed in the community but did not detail where, specifically, this has been done. “The idea would be to try to deploy things in a bit of a concentric circle, around the cases and clusters that have been initially identified,” he said. For Nathan Aitken, the option of on-site rapid testing at his auto-sector plant, complemented by an app-based pre-screening protocol to pass through the security checkpoint, and frequent temperature checks, are “good standards and practises to keep things safe, and keep people safe,” he said. While the advocacy around paid sick days continues in Peel, Aitken is facing work precarity on another front, in his role as a hip-hop and R&B emcee and producer under the moniker TempoMental. He previously toured Ontario and did a small project in Japan right before the pandemic, relying on show and merchandise revenue to fund his art. He is holding back his latest music to release it when touring will be possible, but did one show when some venues could reopen, between the first and second waves. Aitken appeared behind a large plastic screen, with a barricade between the stage and audience, with masks mandatory inside the venue, likening the show to a jazz club experience. “I’m a hip-hop dude so everybody usually crowds the stage and jumps around, and we really can’t do that now,” he said. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
A report by the International Chamber of Commerce says that developed countries will still be hit hard by COVID-19 if poorer countries don't get better access to vaccines.
William Joseph "Bill" Hireen was always easy to spot if you lived in Abbotsford, B.C. His unmistakable '91 Cavalier was covered in decals — everything from the Teamster's union to Canadian veterans — each representing a proud chapter in his life. He never missed a Remembrance Day ceremony. If the city council was in session, you'd better believe he was sitting four rows from the front on the left aisle in his usual seat. It even had his name on it. "From city councillors to the homeless, he could chat it up with all of them," said his daughter, Valerie Noble. Hireen, a Navy veteran, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in December. His battle lasted two weeks until his death on New Year's Eve. He's one of at least 11 people who have died following an outbreak at Menno Home, a care home in Abbotsford. More than 70 people have been infected. "When they gave us the phone call to tell us he tested positive, it was devastating," said Noble. "He wanted to fight it, and he did his very best." Proud of his service Hireen was born in Vancouver on March 23, 1927. He grew up in the city, before joining the Navy in the early 1940s. He served overseas during the Second World War, stationed in the United Kingdom. "I was one of the lucky ones," he once wrote in a letter after a local newspaper published a photo of him in mourning while attending a Remembrance Day ceremony. "My thoughts went back to the 1940s and the thousands wearing the same uniform as me who would never come back," he wrote. After he was discharged from the Navy, Hireen started a family in Vancouver. His eldest daughter, Valerie Noble, was born in 1953. Noble said her father was a devout Catholic and a great public speaker, never afraid to speak in front of the congregation. Noble's fond memories of her father include ice skating, camping adventures and a trip to Disney Land, and she also recalled her dad's love for driving and cars. He worked as a truck driver. "He was very proud of all his cars, everything from his VW Volkswagen to his '67 Chevelle. With every car, he put his own touches on," she said. At age 55, he was diagnosed with a spinal cord disease that paralyzed him from the waist down. Determined to stay behind the wheel, he had hand controls installed in his Cavalier so he could keep driving, which he did up until 2018. "He was very independent," Noble said, adding that she had registered him for handyDART, a paratransit service in B.C. "But he never used it once." A council fixture Hireen spent the last three decades of his life in Abbotsford, where he became one of the most well-known members of the community. He wouldn't miss Remembrance Day ceremonies, and he could always be spotted at school board, police board, and transit meetings. When it came to city council, his attendance record would give any elected official a run for their money. "I've been a city councillor for five terms, and as long as I can remember, Bill was a fixture in our chambers," said councillor Dave Loewen. Plaque part of Hireen's legacy One morning, while making his way to council chambers on crutches, he was greeted by mayor and council. They unveiled a plaque on his usual chair. "This seat is reserved for William J 'Bill' Hireen during council meetings," it read. "We'd always looked at Bill's chair, and if he wasn't there, someone would be asking about Bill," said Loewen. "He was someone who encouraged us, without words, that we were doing alright ... he affirmed us." Loewen says there are no plans to remove the plaque. It's part of Hireen's legacy that includes war medals, more than 200 blood donations, the respect of his peers and the love of his family. Hireen leaves behind three children, seven grandchildren and three great granddaughters.
BERLIN — It’s back to the future for Hertha Berlin, a club tormented by its own ambition as it fails to deliver after huge investments and finds itself overshadowed by crosstown rival Union Berlin. The club re-hired former coach Pál Dárdai on Monday to shake up the team after yet another lacklustre start to the season. Dárdai replaces Bruno Labbadia, who was fired the day before. “Pál has Hertha Berlin in his blood and we are absolutely convinced that his clear manner will give the team the necessary new impetus,” Hertha chief executive Carsten Schmidt said. Hertha is 14th in the 18-team Bundesliga, two points above the relegation zone after winning only one of its last eight games, over last-place Schalke. Dárdai's return was made possible following the dismissal Sunday of general manager Michael Preetz, who opted not to keep him on as coach at the end of the 2018-19 season. Dárdai had been in charge since February 2015 and his team was solid but unspectacular. Hertha needs stability at this stage. “As a die-hard Herthaner, he knows everyone here and doesn’t need any time to settle in,” Schmidt said of Dárdai. It is just under a year since investor Lars Windhorst said Hertha should be mixing with the best in Germany and qualifying for European competition. “It’s not rocket science,” Windhorst said in February 2020. But Hertha has only disappointed since Windhorst first invested in the club in June 2019. The financier has pledged 374 million euros ($450 million) to Hertha altogether. He is yet to see any sign that his money is well spent. Underwhelming performances on the pitch have been accompanied by turmoil off it. There have been major boardroom changes and Hertha worked its way through four coaches last season – Ante Covic, Jürgen Klinsmann, Alexander Nouri and Labbadia. Labbadia came in while the Bundesliga was suspended due to the coronavirus, and was fired after nine months in charge on Sunday. Hertha lost four of its last five games last season, and four of its first five this time around. Hertha captain Niklas Stark, asked Saturday if the team was still behind the coach, would only say that it was not his decision to make. The firing of Preetz, who hired 11 coaches altogether, ended his 25-year association with the club that began when he was a player in 1996. Preetz is taking most of the blame for Hertha’s problems. Hertha fans called for his resignation in a socially distanced protest outside the Olympiastadion before Bremen’s visit on Saturday. They also protested against Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer, who remains at the club. Preetz oversaw a spending spree of well over 100 million euros ($121 million) since Windhorst arrived. Only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have spent more. Preetz jettisoned experienced players like Vedad Ibisevic, Per Skjelbred, Salomon Kalou and Thomas Kraft in a shake up of the squad, but none of the new arrivals have been able to impress so far. Hertha’s struggles have been amplified by Union’s success with much less means. Union was expected to struggle in its second season in the Bundesliga, but it is currently eighth after earning points against Bayern, Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, among others. Hertha has already adjusted its targets for the season. “Whenever you think you’re better than the others, you’re already a point behind,” Schmidt said. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP CiaráN Fahey, The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump’s former chief spokeswoman and one of his closest aides, announced Monday she’s running for Arkansas governor, vying for political office even as the former president’s legacy is clouded by an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. The former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, launched the bid less than a week after the end of Trump’s time in office and as the ex-president faces an impeachment trial. But her announcement reflected how much she expected voters in solidly red Arkansas to embrace the former president, if not his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a video announcing her bid. “In fact, your governor must be on the front line. So today I announce my candidacy for governor of Arkansas.” The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders had been widely expected to run for the office after leaving the White House — and Trump publicly encouraged her to make a go. She’s been laying the groundwork for a candidacy, speaking to GOP groups around the state. Sanders joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed current Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Sanders launched her bid weeks after a riot by Trump’s supporters at the U.S. Capitol left five people dead. More than 130 people have been charged in the insurrection, which was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s win over Trump. Sanders was the first working mother and only the third woman to serve as White House press secretary. But she also faced questions about her credibility during her time as Trump’s chief spokesperson. During her nearly two-year tenure, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her about administration policy and the investigation into possible co-ordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But Sanders earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. Trump’s tumultuous exit from the presidency may do little damage to Sanders in Arkansas. Republicans hold all of Arkansas’ statewide and federal seats, as well as a solid majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. Sanders’ nearly 8-minute video prominently features photos of Trump, along with references to his favourite targets such as “cancel culture,” socialism and the Green New Deal. Griffin and Rutledge have spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ announcement, lining up endorsements from the state’s top Republicans and raising funds. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million. The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat. Sanders, who published a book last year and joined Fox News as a contributor after leaving the White House, enters the race with a much higher profile than any of the candidates. She remains an unknown on many of the state’s biggest issues, though in her announcement she called for reducing state income taxes and cutting off funding for cities that violate immigration laws. Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Local police and town authorities are warning the public about the dangers of thin ice after four teens fell into a pond on the weekend. The incident happened on a pond at the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Complex on Sunday, just after 2 p.m. Police said the teens went out to play hockey, but shortly after getting on the ice, it broke apart. One of the group members ended up under the water, according to Const. Terry Seguin. "They were all scared," he said. "You're just getting ready to go out and have a little fun and you don't expect the ice to give way underneath you." Police say a parent who was standing on shore called 911, and paramedics assessed the teens for any injuries or hypothermia. The group member who was submerged was sent to hospital for further assessment. Seguin said people should never go out on ice without first telling someone where they'll be. Having that parent on shore gave the teens a chance to contact emergency services immediately, rather than if or when they managed to scramble out of the water. 'It is very, very terrifying' Ice needs to be at least 10 centimetres thick to be considered safe, said Seguin. Thickness can also vary in different places and it can be difficult to know just how much ice there is without chopping a hole to be sure, he added. Regardless, police say it hasn't been cold enough — for long enough — for any ice to be safe. "It takes a good two, three weeks for sure, at least, of sub-zero temperatures, to develop a thickness of ice that can be considered safe," Seguin explained. Lakeshore is also cautioning residents to stay off of ice in the municipality. Mayor Tom Bain said in a news release that retention ponds in the municipality are not safe for skating. The news release added that several of the ponds in the area have pumps that are set to automatically turn on and off depending on conditions in Lakeshore's drainage system. As a result, ice on the ponds doesn't get very thick. For his part, Seguin said a fall into freezing water decades ago taught him just how much of a shock it can be. "I can speak from experience. It ... instantaneously takes your breath away and it is very, very terrifying," he said. "The key is, keep your wits about you and get out of the ice as quick as possible and get help as quick as you can."
TRANSPORT. Dans le cadre d’une opération visant à repérer et à sanctionner les conducteurs dont le véhicule lourd était mal déneigé qui s’est déroulé le 18 janvier, la Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) a remis 88 constats d’infraction et 76 avis de non-conformité. Notons que l’article 498.1 du Code de la sécurité routière prévoit l’interdiction de circuler avec un véhicule couvert de neige, de glace ou de toute autre matière pouvant s’en détacher et susceptible de présenter un danger pour les usagers de la route. L’amende prévue est de 60 $ à 100 $ plus certains frais. La SAAQ rappelle que la neige qui couvre les phares, les feux et les vitres réduit le champ de vision du conducteur. Un véhicule enneigé est également moins visible des autres usagers de la route. Par ailleurs, la présence de neige ou de glace, particulièrement sur un véhicule lourd, peut présenter un danger pour les autres usagers de la route. Finalement, la neige qui poudroie en se détachant d’un véhicule réduit considérablement la visibilité, pour les véhicules circulant derrière, alors que les morceaux de glace qui se détachent peuvent blesser des piétons, endommager des voitures et même causer des accidents. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal