Gryffin the puppy befriends a much-larger Bernese Mountain Dog named Eiger. Too cute!
Gryffin the puppy befriends a much-larger Bernese Mountain Dog named Eiger. Too cute!
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
A new, government-funded, not-for-profit organization opened its doors Tuesday in Winnipeg, with the express purpose of helping the Prairie region recognize the risks, and potential opportunities, presented due to climate change. ClimateWest will serve as a resource hub supported by some of the top climate-focused research organizations in the country: Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, based at the University of Regina; Prairie Climate Centre, based at the University of Winnipeg; and International Institute for Sustainable Development, with its headquarters in Winnipeg. ClimateWest will focus on research and recommendations that address how communities will need to change and adapt in a warming world, instead of on the emissions mitigation side of the equation. “Our mandate is to support greater climate adaptation across the Prairies by empowering people, businesses, communities, governments to use climate information and data in their decision making,” executive director Jane Hilderman said in an interview with the Free Press. Hilderman said she knows, especially for smaller communities that can’t afford to bring someone onto the municipal payroll to look at climate change impacts, the amount of information available is daunting and hard to sort through. The hope is ClimateWest can help bridge the gap. David Sauchyn, Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative director, said the time has come: adaptation must be a bigger part of the conversations had about climate change. “PARC’s been in the adaptation business for more than 20 years now. Initially, when we were launched, people complained that we’d given up on climate change, that if you focus on adaptation then you’re assuming that the climate is changing. And people weren’t sure 20 years ago, now they’re absolutely certain the climate is changing,” he said. “So, even though mitigation is absolutely necessary to slow the rate of climate change, we know we’re living in a changed climate and therefore a certain amount of adaptation is required.” Economic analysis of adaptation costs proves time and time again investing in adaptation earlier rather than later is beneficial, he said. The first order of business for ClimateWest will be to establish a help desk, which will provide a public service of answering climate adaptation questions. “Whether it’s a small town trying to track down the most relevant climate data for its geography and region, whether it’s a city planner that’s wondering if they have the right kind of design specs in terms of building for anticipated weather extremes,” Hilderman said, the vast research knowledge of the founding three partners will be tapped. Sauchyn was one of the lead authors on a recent report released by Natural Resources Canada that identified how significant the impacts of climate change in the Prairies already have been, as well as how it will progress. “Probably, the most challenging impact of climate change is going to be how it’s amplifying the severity of our weather. So, the wet seems to be getting wetter, the dry seems to be getting dryer,” Sauchyn said. Funding for the research hub comes from the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta provincial governments, as well as the federal government. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
DENPASAR, Indonesia — An American graphic designer is being deported from the Indonesian resort island of Bali over her viral tweets that celebrated it as a low-cost, queer-friendly place for foreigners to live. Kristen Antoinette Gray arrived in Bali in January 2020 and wound up staying through the coronavirus pandemic. Her posts on Twitter, including comparisons between Bali and Los Angeles and links to buy her e-book, began going viral in Indonesia on Sunday. “This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at much lower cost of living. I was paying $1,300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400,” one of Gray’s posts on Twitter said. Gray’s posts were considered to have “disseminated information disturbing to the public,” which was the basis for her deportation, said Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. A statement from the office cited her descriptions of Bali providing comfort for LGBT and being easily accessible during the pandemic. It also referenced tweets with links to her e-book, which had direct links to agents who could help foreigners move to the island. “She stated that she could provide easy access to Bali through the recommended agency and offered the low living costs in Bali, that it is comfortable and LGBTQ-friendly,” Manihuruk said at a news conference Tuesday. Her tweets also referenced her e-book costing $30 and a follow-up consultation about becoming an expatriate in Bali for $50. “She is suspected of carrying out business activities by selling e-books and put a rate for consulting (about) Bali tourism,” Manihuruk said. Many Indonesian social media users were furious that she was showing off living and working in Bali without a proper business visa. “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my (tourist) visa. I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am deported because of LGBT,” Gray told reporters after Immigration officials announced the deportation. Indonesia has temporarily restricted foreigners from coming to the country since Jan. 1 to control the spread of COVID-19, and public activities have been restricted on Java and Bali islands. “The Bali Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights urges foreign nationals to comply with the current COVID-19 pandemic to comply with health protocols and to follow right procedures regarding visa processing and while in Indonesia,” Manihuruk said. Gray and her partner, Saundra Michelle Alexander, are currently in immigration detention while waiting for a flight to the United States. Firdia Lisnawati, The Associated Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
In what could be the longest of legal long shots, several of those arrested for storming the U.S. Capitol are holding out hope that President Donald Trump will use some of his last hours in office to grant the rioters a full pardon. Longtime advisers to Trump are urging him against such a move but the rioters contend their argument is compelling: They went to the Capitol to support Trump, and now that they are facing charges carrying up to 20 years in prison, it’s time for Trump to support them. “I feel like I was basically following my president. I was following what we were called to do. He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there. So I was doing what he asked us to do,” said Jenna Ryan, a Dallas-area real-estate agent who took a private jet to the Jan. 6 rally and ensuing riot to disrupt the certification of the election of President-elect Joe Biden. Ryan — who prosecutors say posted a now-deleted video of herself marching to the Capitol with the words, “We are going to f---ing go in here. Life or death” — told Dallas television station KTVT: “I think we all deserve a pardon. I’m facing a prison sentence. I think I do not deserve that.” Perhaps the most high-profile rioter, the so-called “QAnon Shaman” who broke into the Senate chamber and posed at the dais with a spear, wearing a horned fur hat and animal skins, is also pleading for a pardon. Jacob Chansley’s lawyer told The Associated Press that he reached out to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about a possible pardon on behalf of the Arizona man, acknowledging it might be a reach but that there’s nothing to lose in seeking one. If Chansley is not granted a pardon, attorney Albert Watkins said, it could offer the added benefit of further awakening his client to the fact that his devotion to Trump has not been reciprocated, comparing it to being a jilted lover or even a member of a cult. “The only thing that was missing at the Capitol was the president, our president, stirring up the Kool-Aid with a big spoon,” Watkins said. Dominic Pezzola, a Rochester, New York, man and far-right Proud Boys supporter who was seen in a video using a clear police shield to shatter a Capitol window, also explored seeking a pardon but his attorney said there was not enough time to make it happen. “To believe the president is going to carte blanche issue these pardons is kind of a fantasy,” defence attorney Mike Scibetta told the AP. “I think it would cast a shadow on his own impeachment defence.” Trump, who has long reveled in suspense, was expected to spend his last full day in office issuing a flurry of pardons to as many as 100 people, two people briefed on the plans told the AP. But if Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz has his say, the more than 150 rioters arrested so far and the thousands more suspected should not be among them. Dershowitz, who represented Trump in his first impeachment last year, told the AP he has not been approached by any of the rioters about seeking a pardon but even if he had, “it would be wrong to pardon rioters who committed crimes.” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who speaks often with Trump, was among the confidantes urging the president not to go there. “I don’t care if you went there and spread flowers on the floor, you breached the security of the Capitol, you interrupted a joint session of Congress, you tried to intimidate us all,” Graham said on Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures.” “You should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and to seek a pardon of these people would be wrong. He warned that such a move “would destroy President Trump.” Pardons normally go through an extensive vetting process within the Department of Justice. The Office of the Pardon Attorney, which handles these reviews, did not respond to a request for comment, but former federal prosecutors said Trump giving clemency to those at the Capitol would be highly unusual. Such pardons would be “a slap in the face to the law enforcement officers who protected the Capitol and our leaders who were inside,” said Joe Brown, who until last year was a U.S. attorney in Texas. Not all of those charged in the Jan. 6 riot are in the market for a pardon. Victoria Bergeson of Groton, Connecticut, who faces charges of violating curfew and unlawful entry wants her case to “just go away” but sees accepting a pardon “as an admission that she knowingly did something wrong,” said her attorney Samuel Bogash. “She does not want to do that due to a justifiable fear of how the public would perceive it,” he said. “She is already being trolled online.” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, said Trump’s use of his clemency powers has set up a “spoils system” for his allies and pardoning the insurrectionists would just be a more extreme version. “That this president might be willing, even to pardon those who rose up against the United States," he said, “would be the ultimate statement of his perversion of the purpose behind pardons.” ___ Bleiberg reported from Dallas, Mustian from New York. AP White House reporter Jill Colvin contributed to this report. Jake Bleiberg And Jim Mustian, The Associated Press
Six deaths related to COVID-19 reported Tuesday There were five deaths reported in the 80-years-old and over age group with two in Regina and the South East and one in the Saskatoon zone. One reported death in the Central West zone was in the 60 to 69 age group. The number of deaths in the province has grown to 225. There were 309 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province on Tuesday. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported 30 new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 283 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 141 active cases and North Central 3 has 140 active cases. There were also four cases with pending information added to the North Central zone. The current seven-day average is 300, or 26.4 cases per 100,000 population. The recovered number now sits at 16,490 after 412 more were reported. On Jan. 18 there were 1,957 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered, bringing the total number of vaccinations to 25,475. There were 36 doses administered in North Central yesterday. None were administered in the adjacent North East zone. There were 2,929 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on Jan 18. COVID-19 recovered numbers to change over next few days According to a release, theMinistry of Health and Saskatchewan Health Authority continue to ensure that public reporting of COVID-19 cases reflects current, active case counts including those who require hospital care. They explained that currently the reporting database is being updated to reconcile a significant backlog in the number of recoveries and these will be reflected in the daily case statistics over the coming days. Reporting procedures will be amended to ensure such reconciliations are not required going forward. The data reconciliation includes updates to active cases in the following areas: 21 days past their test positive date or date when their symptoms first appeared - approximately 588 cases, 15-20 days past their test positive date or date when their symptoms first appeared - approximately 567 cases and 11-14 days past their test positive date or date when their symptoms first appeared - approximately 882 cases. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
NEW YORK — Testimony by Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend about her sexual experiences with consenting adults can remain secret when a transcript is released next week, a judge said Tuesday. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska in Manhattan pertained to a July 2016 deposition of Ghislaine Maxwell in a civil lawsuit brought by one of Maxwell's accusers that has since been settled. “Although the prurient interest of some may be left un-satiated as a result, Ms. Maxwell’s interest in keeping private the details of her sexual relationships with consenting adults warrants the sealing of those portions of her testimony,” Preska said at a hearing conducted electronically because of the coronavirus. Lawyers for the 59-year-old British socialite had objected to the transcript being made public on the grounds that it could damage her chance at a fair trial on charges that she recruited three underage girls in the 1990s for Epstein. Preska said Maxwell's lawyers had failed to show how the unsealing of the deposition transcript will jeopardize a trial that isn't slated to begin until July or why publicity about the document cannot be overcome through a fair jury selection process. The judge also ordered the release in eight days of dozens of other documents sought by the Miami Herald. A message seeking comment was left with a lawyer for Maxwell. Epstein, a wealthy financier and convicted sex offender, killed himself in a Manhattan jail in 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial. Maxwell, who is held without bail at a Brooklyn federal lockup, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she recruited girls for Epstein and sometimes joined in the abuse of them. The hearing Tuesday was briefly interrupted when the judge was told that audio of the proceeding was being aired online. “Whoever is doing it, you are operating against the law. I suspect there is a way to find out. So I will ask you, most respectfully, to stop doing it. We have had enough of lack of the rule of law around here. Let’s try to observe it,” Preska said. The audio was online on a page that included comments by individuals who seemed to embrace QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory. Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said vaccination numbers for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are improving after a holiday slowdown. Pfizer recently announced that doses would be slowed due to a situation at a factory and Moe reiterated a point made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford in a press conference earlier in the day. “I think Premier Ford made some comments about what he would urge the Prime Minister to do and that was to find someone if not the CEO of Pfizer and maybe light a firecracker up his yin-yang I believe was the words that I heard. He did say that … if the Prime Minister was able to do that there would be a lineup of premiers behind and I would bring a lighter,” Moe said. Moe gave credit to healthcare workers for and policy changes for the improvement in vaccination numbers. “In the past week we have administered vaccines in long term care facilities in a number of communities throughout the province and to many other people aged 70 and over in those very same communities. As a result we were able to deliver about 15,000 vaccination shots this past week,” Moe said. He explained that Saskatchewan is currently second on a per capita basis to Prince Edward Island on delivery of vaccinations. “In fact, if Saskatchewan were a country our pace of vaccines delivered would now be in the top ten among all countries worldwide. So that is very good news. And we will continue to deliver vaccines as safely and as quickly and as efficiently as possible just as soon as we are able to receive them from the federal government.” The provincial NDP took issue with the way vaccines have been rolled out. During a press conference Tuesday, they cited a situation at a Regina assisted living resident where leftover vaccines were divvied up by drawing names from a hat. NDP deputy leader Nicole Sarauer said it’s a sign of a wider problem of a confusing and disorganized vaccine roll-out. Administrator of the Qu’Aappelle House in Regina, Bev Desautels, doesn’t see it that way. She told the Regina Leader-Post she requested enough doses to vaccinate all 75 residents and staff at the facility on Tuesday. But public health alerted her that morning they wouldn’t be vaccinating 15 assisted-living residents. The vaccine was only for those in long-term care, a higher level of care. Yet there was enough vaccine left in vials already opened to make up six doses. Public health nurses didn’t want to waste the precious fluid, so they asked Desautels to pick six assisted-living residents to get the shot, she recalls. She’d have to leave nine unvaccinated and still at risk. “They asked me to choose, and I said, no, I’m not going to choose,” she recalls. “So I put the names in a hat and the nurses pulled out names.” The SHA said that the incident will be reviewed, but applauded staff for their ingenuity. The slowdown of Pfizer shipments will mean only 2,925 more doses of the vaccine are delivered next week. “Those doses will be delivered to Regina to Fort Qu’Appelle and to North Battleford. Where they will be administered to residents and staff in long term care as well as personal care homes. At the pace we are going and with the slowdown in deliveries from Pfizer we expect that Saskatchewan will run out of vaccines over the course of the next few days,” Moe said. For the next month, the province will be receiving 17.5 thousand doses from Pfizer which is over half of what was expected. “We did almost that many shots this past week alone. And just this morning Major General Fortin said that Canada is expecting more deliveries from Pfizer next week. So we are in the process of seeking clarification if that will further impact Saskatchewan’s total supply of vaccines over the course of the next four weeks,” Moe said. According to Moe, the province will have to revise their vaccine rollout plan and needs the federal government to pick up the pace on deliveries as well as negotiations with Pfizer. Moe expects life to return to normal after a significant portion of the province has received both doses of any of the vaccines available. “I would encourage everyone to sign up to get vaccinated as soon as it is your turn and to continue in the meantime to follow all of the public health orders and the guidelines that are in place. We will get through this as we get more of our population vaccinated yes, but until then I am asking everyone to keep following all of these public health orders that are in place. Keep yourselves safe and keep those around you safe and keep your family safe,” Moe said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama announced plans Tuesday to restore the world’s only full-sized mockup of a space shuttle coupled with an external fuel tank and twin rocket boosters. The shuttle test model, called Pathfinder, has been weathering outside the museum in Huntsville for more than three decades. The restoration work will be funded with a $500,000 federal grant and additional corporate donations, officials said. The shuttle mockup was mated with a huge fuel tank and two prototype solid-rocket boosters for display at the state-owned museum in 1988. The multimillion refurbishment will take several years and involve removing the display, repairing it and returning it to its giant concrete stand. Consisting of a shuttle-shaped metal frame covered with sheeting, Pathfinder was originally used to test ground handling, transportation and other procedures for the space shuttle. Once testing was completed and it wasn't further needed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Pathfinder was outfitted with fiberglass, plywood panels and engines to more closely resemble an actual shuttle. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first . “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) announced on Jan. 17 that they were ending the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak declared in Sturgeon Lake First Nation on Dec. 30, 2020. Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, Medical Health Officer with NITHA, has declared the outbreak over after the standard 28-day period has passed after the onset of the last case that had the potential to contribute to transmission in Sturgeon Lake First Nation. “This does not mean there are no cases in the community. The public is reminded that during the COVID-19 pandemic it is important to continue to take precautions to protect yourself, your families and everyone who lives in the community. COVID-19 is present in Saskatchewan and we all have a responsibility to minimize the spread of the disease,” the release stated. They reminded people that masking in all indoor public spaces and physical distancing should be done at all times to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Another reminder was for everyone to follow the public health guidelines for hand washing, physical distancing, self-monitoring and self-isolating to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable populations. “Together we can make a positive difference in our community by reducing the spread.” Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Months-old embers from a deadly California fire were blown back to life Tuesday by powerful winds that raked the state and prompted safety blackouts to tens of thousands of people. Firefighters chased wind-driven blazes up and down the state, trees and trucks were toppled, Yosemite National Park was forced to close and two coronavirus vaccination centres were shut down. South of San Francisco, the state’s firefighting agency said it responded to 13 vegetation fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in 12 hours, and isolated evacuations were ordered for a total of 120 homes near two of them. The fires were small, with the largest no more than a couple dozen acres, and by nightfall were “creeping" rather than racing, according to state fire website descriptions. Two were within the area burned by last year's CZU Lightning Complex inferno. “Fires within the CZU Lightning Complex burn area were regenerated by high winds,” the local unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted. The complex started Aug. 16, 2020, during a barrage of lightning strikes. Separate fires merged, torching 1,500 buildings across 135 square miles (350 square kilometres) in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. One person died. The Santa Cruz Mountains have a thick layer of “duff,” dead vegetation under heavy timber in which deep smouldering embers can be revived by the wind, said Cecile Juliette, a Cal Fire spokeswoman. Cal Fire received nonstop reports of toppled trees and branches during the windstorm, Juliette said. Small fires blazed throughout the state, though most were quickly stopped from spreading and posed no serious threat to homes. The largest, near Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, burned about 1 square mile (2.77 square kilometres) but was mostly surrounded. In both the north and south, residents were blacked out by utilities to prevent downed or damaged power lines from sparking blazes. Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 78,000 homes and businesses in seven counties and was considering blacking out well over a quarter-million more. Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to more than 5,000 customers. Most of California is experiencing drought conditions and the remainder is considered abnormally dry. Winter snowfall and rain have largely been woeful. Gusts howled at speeds up to 95 mph (152.8 kph) in the Mayacamas Mountains to the north of San Francisco Bay, and winds raised clouds of ash and dust from wildfire burn scars across Monterey County, the regional National Weather Service office said. High wind warnings were posted in the Sierra Nevada and adjacent foothills. “People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches,” the Hanford weather office wrote. “If possible, remain in the lower levels of your home during the windstorm, and avoid windows. Use caution if you must drive.” Yosemite National Park closed for the day, citing the winds and downed trees that smashed trucks and at least one building. In Southern California, the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds were ramping up, making travel hazardous for big rigs. Some were blown over. One gust hit 86 mph (138.4 kph) in northern Los Angeles County, the National Weather Service said. The wind forced closure of a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley. Another site at a Disneyland parking lot was closed in advance of the gusts. The city of Los Angeles instituted its program of restricting parking in hilly neighbourhoods where narrow, winding streets can be difficult for fire engines to manoeuvr. Downtown Los Angeles has had only 1.95 inches (4.95 centimetres) of rain since the Oct. 1 start of the “water year,” nearly 4 inches (10.16 centimetres) below normal. The Associated Press
Specific details about workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 are not made public in most of Canada. Toronto is starting to make the information available, arguing that transparency increases accountability, but others wonder whether ‘naming and shaming’ does more harm than good.
LANSING, Mich. — Attorneys for former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder are striking back, telling prosecutors Tuesday that the Flint water case should be dismissed because he was charged in the wrong county. Snyder was charged last week with two misdemeanour counts of wilful neglect of duty. He was indicted by a Genesee County judge who sat as a grand juror and considered evidence presented by prosecutors. “Neither of these allegations of non-feasance, or failure to act, occurred while the former Governor was in the City of Flint. At all times set forth in the Indictment, our client was the presiding governor of the State of Michigan with the Executive Office of the Governor located at the Romney Building in downtown Lansing,” attorney Brian Lennon said in a letter to prosecutors. The letter was attached to a request for documents and other evidence possessed by prosecutors, a typical step by the defence in a criminal case. Lennon indicated in the letter that he soon would formally ask Judge William Crawford to dismiss the case against the Republican former governor. A hearing took place Tuesday in Snyder’s case. The next hearing was scheduled for Feb. 23. “The reason we didn't file a motion to dismiss is we're trying to give the government an opportunity to recognize this mistake and voluntarily dismiss the indictment against Gov. Snyder,” Lennon told the judge. Assistant Attorney General Bryant Osikowicz sought time to see and respond to the pending dismissal motion. A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office declined to comment on the venue issue. Snyder was one of nine people charged in a new investigation of the Flint water crisis, including former state health department director Nick Lyon. The catastrophe in the impoverished, majority-Black city has been described as an example of environmental injustice and racism. The city, under Snyder-appointed emergency managers, used the Flint River for drinking water in 2014-15 without properly treating it to reduce corrosion. Lead from old pipes contaminated the system. Separately, the water was blamed by some experts for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which killed at least 12 people in the area and sickened dozens more. Lyon and former state chief medical executive Eden Wells face nine counts of involuntary manslaughter. Snyder's lawyer said the defence will soon seek grand jury records. It also wants potentially millions of documents and hundreds of electronic devices that were seized, and to know if steps were taken to ensure investigators did not have access to attorney-client communications or other privileged materials. “If a taint team was not used, it challenges and could undermine the integrity of the entire investigation against Gov. Snyder and others,” Lennon said. As it did during the old criminal probe, the state will cover the legal expenses of former state officers and employees who face charges. But in a change, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration will cap costs. The maximum hourly rate for attorneys cannot exceed $225. Some lawyers were paid two to three times that previously. The state also will impose a “ceiling” of $175,000 for a defendant's legal services before and during a trial, which can only be raised if a contract administrator recommends it. The goals are to ensure consistent treatment across the defendants' former departments and to control costs to ensure accountability, the governor's office said. Jim Haveman, a former state health director who supports Lyon, criticized the new policy. Legal fees and expenses in the first case against Lyon totalled $1.6 million over 19 months, he said. In 2019, prosecutors working under a new attorney general, Dana Nessel, dismissed charges against Lyon and seven other people and began a new probe. In an email, Haveman called on Whitmer and lawmakers to “correct this capping injustice and to assure all defendants have the best defence possible.” ___ White reported from Detroit. Ed White And David Eggert, The Associated Press
RCMP are investigating after a 25-year-old man died suddenly at a business in Brooks, Alta., on Tuesday. In a news release, police said officers responded to the business at around 11 a.m. The major crimes unit is investigating, and an autopsy is scheduled in Calgary later this week. While the investigation is ongoing, police said the incident is believed to be isolated and it's not believed there is any risk to the public. Brooks is located about 160 kilometres southeast of Calgary.
CARACAS, Venezuela — With the clock winding down on his term, U.S. President Donald Trump shielded tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants from deportation Tuesday night, rewarding Venezuelan exiles who have been among his most loyal supporters and who fear losing the same privileged access to the White House during the Biden administration. Trump signed an executive order deferring for 18 months the removal of more than 145,000 Venezuelans who were at risk of being sent back to their crisis-wracked homeland. He cited the “deteriorative condition” within Venezuela that constitutes a national security threat as the basis for his decision. “America remains a beacon of hope and freedom for many, and now eligible Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. will receive much-needed temporary immigration relief,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican of Florida, said in a statement praising the decision. The last-minute reprieve — in sharp contrast to Trump’s hardline immigration policies the past four years — capped a busy final day in office that also saw Trump issue a sweeping new round of financial sanctions targeting the alleged front man of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and tighten controls to keep spying technology out of the hands of the Venezuelan military. But ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, far greater attention was focused on the president-elect’s choice to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing in Washington showed continued support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Blinken, in his first comments on Venezuela, said he would continue recognizing Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president and indicated he has no illusions of an eventual dialogue with Maduro, who he called a “brutal dictator.” Still, the veteran diplomat expressed frustration with the results of current U.S. approach, which hasn’t shaken Maduro’s grip on power or led to free and fair elections. He said there is room for fine tuning sanctions and better co-ordination with allied nations to restore democracy to the crisis-stricken South American nation. “The hard part is that for all these efforts, which I support, we obviously have not gotten the results that we need,” Blinken said. The Trump administration was the first of now more than 50 countries in the world to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s president shortly after the young lawmaker rose up to challenge Maduro’s rule two years ago. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo spoke Monday by phone with Guaidó, expressing his “personal respect and appreciation” to the opposition leader for his “commitment to the cause of freedom,” the State Department said in a statement. Venezuela, a once wealthy oil-producing nation, has fallen into economic and political crisis in recent years that has seen a flood of more than 5 million residents flee a breakdown in public services and shortages including a lack of running water, electricity and gasoline. Most have migrated to other parts of Latin America. But an estimated 350,000 are believed to reside in the U.S., and about 146,000 of them have no legal status, according to the Center for Migration Studies in New York. More than 700 Venezuelans have been removed from the U.S. since 2018, while 11,000 more are under deportation proceedings, according to the TRAC immigration data base of Syracuse University. For years, Venezuelans, with bipartisan support, have been clamouring for so-called temporary protected status to no effect as Trump has tried to end the program for migrants from six other countries, including Haiti, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Trump’s order provides similar protections, including protection from deportation and the right to work, but was still met by resistance by some Democrats who want Biden to introduce legislation providing additional safeguards. “Our community will not be fooled and used for political games anymore,” said Leopoldo Martinez, the first Venezuela-born member of the Democratic National Committee. In the latest round of sanctions trying to pressure Maduro out, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three individuals, 14 businesses and six ships. All are accused of helping the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA evade earlier U.S. sanctions designed to stop the president from profiting from crude sales. The sanctions target people and businesses linked to Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who U.S. officials say is the front man for Maduro responsible for everything from the importation of food to the export of the nation's crude. Saab was arrested on a U.S. warrant last year in the African nation of Cape Verde on what Maduro says was an official mission to Iran to purchase supplies. He is now fighting extradition to Miami, where he faces corruption charges. Maduro’s government blasted the sanctions as another act of “imperialist aggression” aimed at destroying Venezuela’s ability to meet its own needs through oil sales after four years of attacks from the Trump administration. The U.S. Department of Commerce also announced measures Tuesday to block U.S. technology from being used by military intelligence in nations including China, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela. Such stiff measures have become an almost routine feature of the outgoing administration's hardline approach to Venezuela, which has proven popular with exile Latino voters in Florida. ___ Associated Press writer Scott Smith reported this story in Caracas and AP writer Joshua Goodman reported from Miami. AP writers Adriana Gomez Licon and Gisela Salomon in Miami contributed to this report. Scott Smith And Joshua Goodman, The Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's trailblazing Black food writer Dorah Sitole's latest cookbook was widely hailed in December as a moving chronicle of her journey from humble township cook to famous, well-travelled author. The country's new Black celebrity chefs lined up to praise her as a mentor who encouraged them to succeed by highlighting what they knew best: tasty African food. Now they are mourning Sitole's death this month from COVID-19. She was 65. In “40 Years of Iconic Food,” Sitole engagingly described how she quietly battled South Africa's racist apartheid system to find appreciation, and a market, for African cuisine. Her book became a holiday bestseller, purchased by Blacks and whites alike. Sitole's career started in 1980 at the height of apartheid when she was hired by a canned foods company to promote sales of their products by giving cooking classes in Black townships. She found that she loved the work. In 1987, Sitole became the country's first Black food writer when she was appointed food editor for True Love, one of the few publications for the country's Black majority. The magazine, and its competitor Drum, were known for giving Black writers, photographers and editors the freedom to write about the Black condition and experience. With stories that were about much more than food, Sitole described how traditional African dishes brought pleasure to families and communities in troubled times. She was known for her distinctive takes on well-known recipes and tips on how to make them on a budget. She won an avid readership and became a household name, even as South Africa's townships were roiled by anti-apartheid violence. When apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, Sitole found new opportunities. She trained as a Cordon Bleu chef and got a diploma in marketing. She travelled across Africa to learn about the continent's cuisine, producing the book “Cooking from Cape to Cairo.” In interviews, she pointed out her East African fish dish with basmati rice that she developed while travelling through that region, and the seafood samp recipe, which is basically a paella using chopped corn kernels instead of the traditional rice. In 2008, Sitole's success was acknowledged when she was appointed True Love's editor-in-chief. Sitole's warmth and generosity is credited with opening doors for many Black chefs, food writers and influencers who are thriving in South Africa today. “Mam (mother) Dorah’s approach to food was a mixture of things. First, it was something that was driven by her background, she was very true to who she was," said Siba Mtongana, one of South Africa's brightest new chefs, who started out as food editor for Drum magazine and now has a television series and cookbooks. “She would take what we grew up eating and add a twist to them, and add flavours that we would not ordinarily have thought of putting together,” said Mtongana who has opened a restaurant in Cape Town, featuring food from all over Africa. She said Sitole imbued her with a passion for exposing the world to Africa's many cuisines saying she loved describing to her readers what others enjoy eating across Africa, and around the world. Another chef who credits Sitole for assisting her is Khanya Mzongwana, a contributing editor for food retailer Woolworths’ Taste magazine. “Mam Dorah wore so many hats — she was a writer, a creator, a mother, a friend, a real artist. I remember just how awesome it was to see a Black woman blazing trails in food media. Nobody was doing that," said Mzongwana. “What made Mam Dorah the best was definitely how she could fill a space with pleasantness," said Mzongwana. “She was so generous with her resources and wanted to see all of us — her daughters — win. Paying it forward in meaningful ways is something I saw Mam Dorah do first," she said. “She loved and respected everybody and made what seemed like such a wild dream appear so reachable and normal. She was one of the most impactful Black women in the food world.” Sitole received numerous awards for her contribution to South African culture. In one of her last interviews, Sitole said the highlight of her four-decade career was her trip across the continent. “I had always wanted to travel through Africa and I had no clue what to expect," she said on Radio 702. "It was almost like you don’t know what you are going into, and then you find it. I loved every moment and every country that I went to, I loved the food and the experience." Sitole is survived by her children Nonhlanhla, Phumzile and Ayanda. Mogomotsi Magome, The Associated Press
“Enough is enough,” Premier Moe said during Tuesday’s provincial COVID-19 update, referring to a video taken over the weekend at a pub in Regina. In the video some patrons without masks dance and defy the Public Health orders. However, the government plans to stay the course with the current measures despite the continuing high seven-day average of new cases. Today’s average rebounded to 300 and remains the highest in the country. The current measures which were introduced in mid-December have been extended to January 29, 2021. The Premier said he does not want to roll out more restrictive measures, but did hint that venues which allow for the contravention of the public health orders may be facing more serious consequences. “I’ve asked public health to look at if there is [sic] other opportunities, in addition to fines, including closing these bad actors indefinitely.” Dr. Shahab asserted that the current measures would work if there was 100% compliance across the board, but obviously that isn’t happening. The province is “stuck”, Shahab said, in that 300 new cases per day range and obviously he would prefer that number to be trending downward instead. With baseline transmission so high, it continues to feed the growth of the virus and hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths slowly but steadily are creeping up and increasing the stress on our healthcare system. Shahab has said that while the health system is not at the breaking point yet, when it gets there, the “hammer” needs to come down. “We may not be there yet, but that hammer is a very blunt instrument. It causes many unintended consequences, It’s not the preferred instrument but when the health-care system is on the brink of collapse, then unfortunately those desperate measures have to be taken as well.” The question that begs asking is do we really want to push the health system to that brink? Lang McGilp, Research Director of Insightrix Research Inc. says that surveys taken over the past couple of months show the longer the pandemic goes on the less people are inclined to follow the restrictions and that mental health is playing a part in that. Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
CAMEROON, Cameroon — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he intends to invite the rival leaders on Cyprus to an informal meeting “as soon as practicable,” but he warns that this meeting must be different and help clarify “the true extent" of their common vision “and outline steps necessary to chart a way forward.” The U.N. chief also warned in a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Tuesday that “time is working against a mutually acceptable political settlement in Cyprus.” After decades of status quo, he said, “changes are happening on the ground that may become irreversible, should the two communities not recommit themselves to resolving their differences peacefully, proactively and with determination.” Guterres gave no date for the meeting of Cyprus’ rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders along with the three “guarantors” of the Mediterranean island nation's independence -- Greece, Turkey and Britain. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Tuesday that “there’s no date I’m able to share with you.” The Security Council was briefed virtually behind closed doors Tuesday on the latest developments by U.N. special representative Elizabeth Spehar, who heads the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Cyprus. Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the briefing and discussions were private, said there was broad support among the 15 members for Guterres’ intention to convene a U.N. meeting at the earliest opportunity. Members also welcomed the positive response of the rival leaders who signalled their agreement to take part with no preconditions, the diplomats said.. Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 following a Turkish invasion that was triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece. Numerous rounds of U.N. mediated talks have ended in failure, with the last push for a peace deal in July 2017 ending in acrimony. That meeting also led to an apparent shift by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots toward seeking a two-state deal rather than pursuing their stated aim of reunifying the country as a federation made up of Greek and Turkish speaking zones. Guterres stressed that “the primary responsibility for the future of the process remains with the parties.” Following consultations over the past months by U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute, he said both sides and the guarantors have expressed a willingness to attend an informal meeting under his auspices. “The purpose of the meeting will be to determine whether common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a sustainable, lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon,” the secretary-general said. Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic has widened longstanding fractures within and between the island's two communities. He also pointed to rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region over exploration for oil and gas, and delineating maritime boundaries. Guterres called for serious efforts to defuse tensions and urged dialogue to resolve disputes. “I continue to stress that natural resources located in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and constitute a strong incentive to reach a mutually acceptable settlement in Cyprus without any further delay,” he said. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Thirty-five homeowners in the small B.C. community of Old Fort — just south of Fort St. John — are suing the province and BC Hydro after two landslides they claim were caused by Site C dam construction rendered their properties worthless. On Monday, the group filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court saying the excavation activities carried out by BC Hydro on the $10-billion dam project have destabilized the soil that supports their properties. The first landslide, which happened in September 2018, damaged the only road that provides access in and out of Old Fort and put the entire community under evacuation for a month. Another landslide damaged the same road in June 2020. The homeowners also accuse Deasan Holdings of causing soil instability with mining activities near Old Fort. Malcom MacPherson, lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the families involved cannot sell, mortgage or insure their homes because there is no property value. He says they support industrial development but don't feel they should pay for it with their homes' worth. "They shouldn't be de facto subsidizing the broader wealth creation, which is good for the whole province," he said. "It's not fair that they have to unreasonably bear that burden." In October, the B.C. government posted a report saying despite geotechnical assessments, the root cause of the slide in 2018 remains "inconclusive." The report doesn't address the slide in 2020. In 2018, BC Hydro said there was no evidence the slide was related to the Site C project. Last week, Premier John Horgan said Site C dam construction would continue while his office awaits geotechnical reports written by experts from outside B.C. The lawsuit names the province and the Peace River Regional District for approving the construction work of BC Hydro and Deasan Holdings. They are also suing the City of Fort St. John for operating a sewage lagoon they claim has led to soil instability in the Peace River community. None of the five defendants has responded in court. CBC News has contacted the City of Fort St. John, the Peace River Regional District and BC Hydro. The municipality didn't respond, and the other two parties declined to comment.