Many people with disabilities say the move to mail-in voting for the Newfoundland and Labrador election is taking away their right to vote because they are unable to properly fill out the mail-in ballots.
Many people with disabilities say the move to mail-in voting for the Newfoundland and Labrador election is taking away their right to vote because they are unable to properly fill out the mail-in ballots.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies gradually ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec The province's proposed order of priority for vaccination according to its website is those in residential and long-term care centres, workers in the health and social services network, followed by those in isolated and remote communities, people 80 years or older, and then the general population in 10-year increments. Health officials launched an online and telephone system for vaccine registrations on Feb. 25 and will begin vaccinating people aged 85 years and older in Montreal on March 1. Officials said that while residents across the province aged 85 and older can register for a vaccine, priority will be given to people in the greater Montreal area, which has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Quebec. On Feb. 26, officials opened registration for Montrealers as young as 80 years old. It has not yet been announced when the next age group can begin to register for vaccines. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province has mapped out a three-phase approach to its rollout. Phase 1, which is still ongoing, reserves shots for those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers, and people who live in congregate care settings. All Indigenous adults, people aged 80 and older and adults receiving chronic home care will be next in line. The province says it will begin vaccinations among the 80 and older age cohort starting the third week of March. Vaccinations will begin for people 75 and older starting April 15. The province will then move to offer shots to those 70 and older starting May 1; 65 and older starting June 1; and 60 and older the first week of July. Indigenous adults and patient-facing health-care workers will receive vaccinations as the province works through those age groups. The government is still finalizing the list of essential workers who will receive vaccinations in May if supply is available. The province has not detailed when people younger than 60 can expect to be vaccinated. Appointment bookings can be made online and by phone starting March 15 for those in eligible age cohorts. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. They say most people over 80, and First Nations individuals over 60, could be eligible in early March. The province plans to have all personal care home residents vaccinated with two doses by the end of February, and has started sending team to other congregate living settings such as group homes and shelters. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, say inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if new vaccines are approved and supplies are steady. The plan does not include a separate category for essential workers — something that Reimer says will be considered as vaccine supplies increase. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. When bookings opened to this age group Wednesday, the website was temporarily overwhelmed when more than 150,000 people tried to get access. Within a day, 100,000 appointments were booked. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. Some 28,000 seniors in long-term care have already been vaccinated. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia The first phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign launched in December and focused on health-care workers in hospitals, paramedics, residents and staff at long-term care homes, and remote Indigenous communities. The second phase set to wrap up in March includes people aged 80 and above, Indigenous elders 65 and up, Indigenous communities that didn't receive vaccine in the first phase, as well as more health-care workers and vulnerable populations living and working in certain congregate settings. The third phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign is set to start in April and last until June, reaching people between the ages of 60 and 79, along with those who are highly clinically vulnerable, such as cancer patients. B.C.'s plan for the general population is based on age, with the oldest residents first in line. --- Nunavut Nunavut's vaccination rollout is underway, with vaccine clinics for the general population scheduled or completed in all 25 communities. In Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, a general vaccination clinic is underway for priority populations, including staff and residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. Starting March 1, the vaccine clinic will be extended to all adults in Iqaluit ages 45 and up. Nunavut still expects enough vaccines to immunize 75 per cent of its residents over the age of 18 by the end of March. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories says it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population since its vaccine rollout began in early January. Vaccine clinics are either completed or underway in all 33 of the territory's communities. In Yellowknife, residents and staff in long-term care homes are being prioritized for the vaccine. Vaccination of Yellowknife's general population will begin in late March. The N.W.T. still expects to receive enough vaccines to inoculate 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
HOUSTON — President Joe Biden heard firsthand from Texans clobbered by this month's brutal winter weather on Friday and pledged to stick with them “for the long haul” as he made his first trip to a major disaster area since he took office. Biden was briefed by emergency officials and thanked workers for doing “God's work.” He promised the federal government will be there for Texans as they try to recover, not just from the historic storm but also the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “When a crisis hits our states, like the one that hit Texas, it’s not a Republican or Democrat that’s hurting," Biden said. “It's our fellow Americans that are hurting and it's out job to help everyone in need." With tens of thousands of Houston area residents without safe water, local officials told Biden that many are still struggling. While he was briefed, first lady Jill Biden joined an assembly line of volunteers packing boxes of quick oats, juice, and other food at the Houston Food Bank, where he arrived later. The president's first stop was the Harris County Emergency Operations Center for a briefing from acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton and state and local emergency management officials. Texas was hit particularly hard by the Valentine's weekend storm that battered multiple states. Unusually frigid conditions led to widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water. At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents are still under orders to boil water before drinking it. “The president has made very clear to us that in crises like this, it is our duty to organize prompt and competent federal support to American citizens, and we have to ensure that bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way,” said Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, who accompanied Biden to Houston. Biden was joined for much of his visit by Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn, both Republicans, four Democratic Houston-area members of Congress and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. The president also stopped by a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at NRG Stadium that is run by the federal government. Biden on Thursday commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease. Democrat Biden suggested that he and Republicans Abbott and Cornyn could find common cause in getting Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. “We disagree on plenty of things,” Biden said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are plenty of things we can work on together. And one of them is represented right here today, the effort to speed up vaccinations." Texas' other U.S. senator, Ted Cruz, an ally of former President Donald Trump and one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who had objected to Congress certifying Biden’s victory, was in Florida Friday addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. Cruz, who has been criticized for taking his family to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Texans shivered in unheated homes, later said the trip was a mistake, but he made light of the controversy on Friday. “Orlando is awesome,” he said to laughs and hoots. “It’s not as nice as Cancun. But’s nice.” At the peak of the storm, more than 1.4 million residents were without power and 3.5 million were under boil-water notices in the nation's third largest county. Post-storm debate in Texas has centred on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and its lack of better storm preparation, including weatherization of key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas relies heavily on oil and gas. In Washington, Biden's climate adviser said the deadly winter storm was a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems that can withstand extreme weather linked to climate change. “We need systems of energy that are reliable and resilient,” Gina McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press. The White House said Biden's purpose in visiting was to support, not scold. Biden was bent on asking Texans "what do you need, how can I help you more," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “And what can we get more for you from the federal government.” Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and blankets. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said in an interview that he didn't know what more the federal government could do to help because the failures were at the state level. But Henry, a Republican who is the highest county official in the suburban Houston county, said that if Biden “thinks it's important to visit, then come on down.” Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn’t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort. Houston also was the destination for Trump's first presidential visit to a disaster area in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding that August. Trump, who is not known for displays of empathy, did not meet with storm victims on the visit. He returned four days later and urged people who had relocated to a shelter to “have a good time.” —- Associated Press writers Juan Lozano in Houston, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, and Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed reporting. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce joined many in its network in urging the provincial government to address key economic points of pain on Friday. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with its network of local chambers across the province, released its pre-budget submission to the provincial government. The submission released ahead of Ontario's 2021 budget focuses on three themes: Recovery, growth and modernization. A major part of the submission calls on the government to offer relief to small businesses and municipalities that lasts beyond a short-term timeline. "We want to hear recovery; we don't want band-aids anymore," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. "We want to continue to make sure that small businesses and small-medium sized businesses are very well taken care of," added Kirkland. "We want to see everybody recover and we need the support of our government officials in order to do that." Targeted funding towards the hardest-hit sectors is established as a key request early in the submission to the government. "The number one affected industry by COVID-19 is tourism," said Kirkland. She added that is one reason why the pandemic has hit the areas of Gananoque and the Thousand Islands hard, as they rely on tourism through boaters and summer travellers for a portion of revenue. The submission acts as a messaging piece for chambers and districts across the province, bringing in a large variety of recommendations and requests. Population areas as large as Toronto to smaller towns like Gananoque are represented. "With Ontario's economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact," said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians," added Rossi. Recommendations under the growth section that would directly support the area include accelerating broadband expansion and supporting farmers and producers with online sales. "We need to not only support tourism but also the agriculture sector as well," said Kirkland. Under the recovery section of the submission, the OCC also argues that the government must minimize the economic impacts of business closures. One of the methods the chambers are asking for beyond physical distancing is through testing. Prioritizing rapid testing and contact tracing would facilitate more targeted decisions regarding business restrictions. Kirkland also said that better distribution of the vaccine would greatly help businesses. "We need a solid plan moving forward to get out to a post-COVID environment," said Kirkland. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office confirmed that the provincial budget will be presented no later than March 31, but no exact date has been announced. With regards to the OCC submission, ministry spokesman Scott Blodgett said: "The Ministry of Finance does not speculate as to what may or may not be in the forthcoming budget." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
“The connection is me,” said Tsuut’ina Nation artist seth cardinal dodginghorse, linking his work for Contemporary Calgary and his protest at the opening of the southwest Calgary ring road last October. dodginghorse spoke virtually yesterday, the final speaker for Contemporary Calgary’s Water Event. His exhibit, entitled The Glenmore Rezerveoir, is a water jug with a label made from elk hide parfleche. Writing is painted on the inside of the label and can only be read if it’s “really bright out” and the jug is angled. The label reads: “You drink Tsuut’ina land.” dodginghorse said he was approached in August by the gallery to be one of six Indigenous artists to produce a water sculpture as part of political activist Yoko Ono’s exhibition, Growing Freedom. Two months later, he stood at the opening of Tsuut’ina Trail, unofficially called Calgary’s southwest ring road, and cut off his braids, offering them to the portion of the road that displaced his family six years earlier from their generations-held land. “The connection is story-wise and intent behind making the work. They weren’t directly related at all. But a lot of my intent … all my own personal experiences, traumas informed making this work and those were the same things that informed me speaking out at the opening … (and) resulted in me cutting my hair and everything. It’s more like the connection is that I made the artwork and the connection is that I ended up cutting my hair. The connection is me,” said dodginghorse. dodginghorse’s family was forced off their land in 2013 because of the ring road. That land had been in the family since his great-great grandmother. His mother and her siblings had grown up there. Many Tsuut’ina people beyond dodginghorse’s family members had connections to that land. When living there, dodginghorse said the water they drank was “some of the most beautiful, delicious water you could drink.” His family moved to another piece of land on the Tsuut’ina reserve. They were told not to drink the water from the tap because of numerous environmental concerns, including nearby fracking. His family had to drink water from jugs. “We didn’t grow up having to purchase water. We didn’t grow up having to be afraid of what was coming from our tap. We’ve been drinking from these water bottles for quite a bit now and I thought, ‘Why don’t I just use one of these and highlight the issue of drinking water and where does the water I’m purchasing come from?’” he said. In 1932, dodginghorse said Tsuut’ina Nation was “pressured” by Calgary and the government to sell 400 acres of reserve land to the city. That land became the Glenmore reservoir and provides safe drinking water for Calgary residents. “There’s just so much loaded history behind Glenmore reservoir and my family as well ... It’s very strange and very ironic that my family, once we moved, in order to drink water we had to drink water from land that was originally part of Tsuut’ina. That was like essentially purchasing water back from ancestral lands,” said dodginghorse. Having to be concerned about safe drinking water is not unique to Tsuut’ina, said Dodginghorse, noting that boil water advisories are common in many First Nations communities right across the country. While some artwork takes time to conceive and time to determine the medium, this piece was readily conceived, dodginghorse said. “It was very easy to make but then thinking about the history behind the objects, behind my family’s history, all of these connection, is one of those really nice pieces in a way where I made this and then afterwards I started thinking and analysing and really understanding what I had made,” he said. dodginghorse said he prefers his work to be “blunt and in your face.” He wants people to “get” what he is saying with his art and not have to ponder it for “three hours” before the message sinks in. dodginghorse has been showing his work in Calgary galleries for about six years. He said he understands that this venue only reaches “a certain crowd.” “A lot of the people that were involved in a lot of these decisions historically that are still here, aren’t really the type of people that go to galleries. With this type of work has like the focus on reaching out to the average white Calgarian that goes to galleries,” he said. Ryan Doherty, chief curator of Contemporary Calgary, who hosted the virtual talk, said dodginghorse’s piece was popular with gallery goers, many of whom came after dodginghorse cut his braids at the ring road opening. “That seemingly mundane container is in fact so loaded,” said Doherty. When Contemporary Calgary was tasked with asking a new group of artists to collaborate with Ono in this iteration of Water Event, Doherty said he knew it had to be a group with which water had an “enormous significance.” “When you consider the long history and impact of the Bow and Elbow rivers to the Indigenous population past and present it seemed the best thing would be to invite artists for whom that connection would resonate in the collaboration with Yoko,” said Doherty. The other Water Event collaborators are Adrian A. Stimson, Faye HeavyShield, Jessie Ray Short, Judy Anderson and Kablusiak. In 1971, Ono held her first museum exhibition, Water Event, in which she invited over 120 participants to produce a water sculpture. “As Yoko herself noted to us, (this) was one of the best iterations to date,” said Doherty. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
NEW ORLEANS — Prosecutors in New Orleans moved Friday to have convictions overturned for 22 people found guilty of felonies by non-unanimous juries, and to review hundreds of other such convictions obtained under a law with roots in the Jim Crow era. District Attorney Jason Williams, who took office last month after running on a reform platform, announced the move at a news conference outside the criminal courthouse in New Orleans. He was flanked by his staff, criminal justice advocates and Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Emily Maw, head of the civil rights division of Williams' office, said five cases being vacated are being reviewed to see whether charges ever should have been filed. Seventeen are being re-prosecuted. However, 16 of the defendants have agreed to plead guilty as charged or to lesser charges, seeking reduction of sentences that would likely have kept them behind bars for life. “This doesn't mean that 22 people walked out onto the streets today,” Williams stressed. Until January 2019, felony convictions in Louisiana could be obtained with a 10-2 or 11-1 jury vote under laws that opponents said were aimed at making sure Black jurors' votes could be negated in cases against Black defendants. Oregon was the only other state with a similar law. Voters approved a constitutional amendment that outlawed non-unanimous verdicts beginning in 2019, a vote that followed a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of stories in The Advocate analyzing the origins of the law and the racial disparities in verdicts. And, last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-unanimous verdicts were unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court’s decision in April affected only future cases and cases in which the defendants' appeals had not been exhausted. That left an estimated 1,600 cases in Louisiana unaffected. Advocates estimate more than 300 of them are in New Orleans. Pending before the high court now is the question of whether the decision should be made retroactive. Williams opted not to wait for that decision. Williams' dubbed his initiative “the DA's Jim Crow Jury Project" and said it is aimed at “repairing 120 plus years of injustice by methodically and efficiently reviewing all applications to the court of cases where persons were convicted by a non-unanimous jury.” Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, praised the move. Jamila Johnson, of the Promise of Justice Initiative, said her organization represented many of the clients in Friday's court proceedings. “It was incredibly moving,” she said, describing the case of one man who agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter — he had been convicted of murder in a non-unanimous verdict in 1974 — in a deal that made him instantly eligible for release from the state prison. The Promise of Justice Initiative said in a news release that it will reach out to crime victims who might be affected by the revisiting of some convictions. “While it is absolutely necessary to dismantle this intentionally racist practice of non-unanimous juries, it will have a huge impact on those who assumed the legal process was over,” Katie Hunter-Lowery, of the PJI said in a news release. "We invite survivors and victims’ loved ones to contact us at and we invite city and state leaders to allocate more funding and resources directly to impacted communities.” Kevin McGill, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials say the federal government's approval of two new vaccines is encouraging news and one more layer of protection to help get the province through the pandemic. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a statement that approval of the vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Verity-Serum Institute of India is an "exciting" step forward.The statement says the new vaccines are "fridge stable," making them easier to transport and distribute across the province.British Columbia announced 589 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday along with seven more deaths.But the statement cautioned that the case numbers are considered provisional, due to delays in its lab reporting system.More than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., while roughly 73,000 of those are second doses.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday that Iran should view his decision to authorize U.S. airstrikes in Syria as a warning that it can expect consequences for its support of militia groups that threaten U.S. interests or personnel. “You can't act with impunity. Be careful,” Biden said when a reporter asked what message he had intended to send with the airstrikes, which the Pentagon said destroyed several buildings in eastern Syria but were not intended to eradicate the militia groups that used them to facilitate attacks inside Iraq. Administration officials defended the Thursday night airstrikes as legal and appropriate, saying they took out facilities that housed valuable “capabilities” used by Iranian-backed militia groups to attack American and allied forces in Iraq. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, said members of Congress were notified before the strikes as two Air Force F-15E aircraft launched seven missiles, destroying nine facilities and heavily damaging two others, rendering both “functionally destroyed.” He said the facilities, at “entry control points” on the border, had been used by militia groups the U.S. deems responsible for recent attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. In a political twist for the new Democratic administration, several leading Congress members in Biden's own party denounced the strikes, which were the first military actions he authorized. Democrats said the airstrikes were done without authorization from lawmakers, while Republicans were more supportive. “Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said lawmakers must hold the current administration to the same standards as any other. “Retaliatory strikes not necessary to prevent an imminent threat,” he said, must get congressional authorization. But Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, backed the decision as “the correct, proportionate response to protect American lives.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Biden used his constitutional authority to defend U.S. personnel. "The targets were chosen to correspond to the recent attacks on facilities and to deter the risk of additional attacks over the coming weeks,” she said. Among the recent attacks cited was a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. At the Pentagon, Kirby said the operation was “a defensive strike” on a waystation used by militants to move weapons and materials for attacks into Iraq. But he noted that while it sent a message of deterrence and eroded their ability to strike from that compound, the militias have other sites and capabilities. He said the strikes resulted in “casualties” but declined to provide further details on how many were killed or injured and what was inside the buildings pending the completion of a broader assessment of damage inflicted. An Iraqi militia official said Friday that the strikes killed one fighter and wounded several others. Kirby said the facilities hit in the attack were near Boukamal, on the Syrian side of the Iraq border, along the Euphrates River. “This location is known to facilitate Iranian-aligned militia group activity,” he said. He described the site as a “compound” that previously had been used by the Islamic State group when it held sway in the area. The Iraqi militia official told The Associated Press that the strikes against the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, hit an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side. The official was not authorized to speak publicly of the attack and spoke on condition of anonymity. Speaking to reporters Thursday evening shortly after the airstrikes were carried out, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “I’m confident in the target that we went after. We know what we hit.” Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq and send a message to Iran. The Biden administration in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. The U.S. has previously targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq. The Iraqi Kataeb is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the war in Syria, said the strikes targeted a shipment of weapons that were being taken by trucks entering Syrian territories from Iraq. The group said 22 fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi umbrella group of mostly Shiite paramilitaries that includes Kataeb Hezbollah, were killed. The report could not be independently verified. In a statement, the group confirmed one of its fighters was killed and said it reserved the right to retaliate, without elaborating. Kataeb Hezbollah, like other Iranian-backed factions, maintains fighters in Syria to both fight against the Islamic State group and assist Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in that country's civil war. Austin said he was confident the U.S. had hit back at “the same Shia militants” that carried out the Feb.1 5 rocket attack in northern Iraq. Kirby credited Iraqis with providing valuable intelligence that allowed the U.S. to identify the groups responsible for attacks earlier this year. The U.S., he said, then determined the appropriate target for the retaliatory strike. He said the U.S. also notified Russia shortly before the strike as part of the ongoing deconfliction process of military activities in Syria. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel,” Kirby said. Syria condemned the U.S. strike, calling it “a cowardly and systematic American aggression,” warning that the attack will lead to consequences. U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group. Lolita C. Baldor, Robert Burns And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
Ten new cases are being announced in Nova Scotia on Friday, bringing the total number of cases announced this week to 25. Nine cases are in the central health zone: three are under investigation, five are close contacts of previously reported cases, and one is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. One case is in the eastern zone and is also related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. The travellers are self-isolating, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Wellness. There are 35 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. One person is currently in a hospital's intensive care unit. At a live briefing Friday, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said cases with an unknown source have been identified in Dartmouth, Bedford, Spryfield, Peninsula Halifax, Sackville, and Beaver Bank. "In many of our cases the broad list of contacts tells us that people are continuing to socialize and act as if we're not in a pandemic," he said. "We all need to take all the public health measures seriously even if we don't feel personally at risk." Strang said the cluster that public health had been monitoring in the western part of Annapolis Valley seems to be contained. There has also been great uptake for testing in the area. In response to the rise in case numbers, Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Strang announced tighter restrictions in areas of Halifax Regional Municipality and neighbouring municipalities. "We have done this before and it worked," said Strang. "We are now moving even more quickly than we did in December to resolve this outbreak. What we're working to avoid is ... situations such as Newfoundland has faced recently." Newfoundland and Labrador has been grappling with a sharp increase in cases since mid-February. The variant first identified in the U.K., also known as B.1.1.7, is responsible for the outbreak in the provine. As of 8 a.m. on Saturday, the areas of HRM up to and including Porters Lake, as well as the communities of Enfield, Elmsdale, Mount Uniacke and Hubbards, will undergo the following restrictions until at least March 27. In a news release sent Friday evening, the province added Lantz to the communities where restrictions apply. Nova Scotians are also being asked to avoid non-essential travel within the province, especially to and from restricted areas of HRM, Hants and Lunenburg counties. "We had hoped we would not be back in the situation where these restrictions are necessary. We understand that they are disruptive but they are absolutely critical to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Strang said in a news release. “Everyone needs to behave with the same caution as they did last spring when the virus first arrived in Nova Scotia.” Restrictions previously put in place across the province still remain. For example, gatherings will contniue to be limited to 10 people. "We'll continue to watch the epidemiology and if it continues to climb the next week, we will certainly be looking at whether further restrictions or expanding to other geographic parts of Nova Scotia will be necessary," said Strang. Nova Scotia Health Authority's labs completed 2,797 Nova Scotia tests on Feb. 25. There were 1,870 tests administered between Feb. 19 and 25 at the rapid-testing pop-up sites in Halifax, St. Peter's, New Minas, Port Hawkesbury and Eastern Passage. Effective Monday, domestic rotational workers will be required to get three tests through out their modified quarantine. Parents ans children whose child custody arrangements require travel outside of Nova Scotia and P.E.I., will also have to get tested. More information about the province's new child custody protocols will be available on novascotia.ca/coronavirus. Strang said he's seeing people go to work with cold and flu symptoms, but it's very likely that they're symptoms of COVID-19. "I've been working for 20 years and this is the first year we have zero lab-confirmed cases of influenza. Very low numbers of other cold viruses around," he said. "So even if you have a single mild symptom, like a sore throat, or maybe a sore throat and a stuffy nose, that could be COVID." He added that people with even one symptoms should stay home and book a test. Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has completed 202,939 tests. There have been 545 positive COVID-19 cases and no deaths. Nebal Snan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
And do you make your own jewelry?
LOS ANGELES — Bruce Meyers was hanging out at Pismo Beach on California's Central Coast one afternoon in 1963 when he saw something that both blew his mind and changed his life: a handful of old, stripped-down cars bouncing across the sand. It sure would be fun to get behind the wheel of one of those, Meyers thought, if only they weren't so ugly and didn't appear so uncomfortable. He built his own solution: a “dune buggy" fashioned out of lightweight fiberglass mounted on four oversized tires with two bug-eyed looking headlights and a blindingly bright paint job. The result would become both an overnight automotive sensation and one of the talismans of California surf culture, especially when he created a space in the back to accommodate a surfboard. He called the vehicle the Meyers Manx and it turned the friendly, soft-spoken Meyers into a revered figure among off-roaders, surfers and car enthusiasts of all types. Meyers died Feb. 19 at his San Diego-area home, his wife, Winnie Meyers, told The Associated Press on Friday. He was 94. Meyers built thousands of dune buggies in his lifetime but he did far more. He designed boats and surfboards, worked as a commercial artist and a lifeguard, travelled the world surfing and sailing, built a trading post in Tahiti and even survived a World War II Japanese kamikaze attack on his Navy aircraft carrier the USS Bunker Hill. “He had a life that nobody else has ever lived,” his wife said with a chuckle. Bruce Franklin Meyers was born March 12, 1926, in Los Angeles, the son of a businessman and mechanic who set up automobile dealerships for his friend Henry Ford. Growing up near such popular Southern California surfing spots as Newport, Hermosa and Manhattan beaches, it was wave riding, not cars, that initially captivated Meyers, who liked to refer to himself as an original beach bum. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy and was aboard the Bunker Hill when it was attacked near Okinawa, Japan, on May 11, 1945. As fire raged aboard the ship, he jumped overboard, at one point handed his life preserver to someone who needed it more, and helped rescue others. Later, his wife said, he returned to the ship and helped remove the bodies of the nearly 400 sailors killed. After the war he served in the Merchant Marine and attended the Chouinard Art Institute, now part of the California Institute of the Arts. He also designed and built boats, learning to shape lightweight but sturdy fiberglass. That experience gave him skills he would put to use in building the first dune buggies. He built his first 12 mainly for himself and friends, and decades later was still driving No. 1, which he named Old Red. He and his friends had fallen in love with surfing the more rugged and less crowded beaches of Mexico's Baja California and they figured a Meyers Manx would be perfect for driving over and around the area's sand dunes. “All I wanted to do was go surfing in Baja when I built the dang thing,” he told broadcaster Huell Howser when he took the host of Public Television's California Gold program for a spin in Old Red in 2001. Those first dozen cars were built without chassis, which hold in place the axels, suspension and other key parts of a vehicle's undercarriage. Not having one made the car lighter but illegal to drive on public roads. Meyers began adding chassis to his models and created kits that people could initially buy for $985 and build their own cars. What really caused sales to take off, though, was when Meyers and friends took Old Red to Mexico in 1967 and won a 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometre) off-road race that took drivers through steep gullies, across soft sand and past other obstacles. Old Red won in record time, shattering the previous mark by more than five hours. “Almost overnight we had 350 orders,” Meyers told The New York Times in 2007. Soon afterward, the road race became officially known as the Mexican 1,000 — since renamed the Baja 1.000 — and when a Meyers-built dune buggy won that one too the orders poured in. In all, B.F. Meyers & Co., built more than 6,000 Meyers Manx dune buggies. Although he trademarked the design, it was easy to borrow from it, and deep-pocketed competitors sold more than 250,000 copycats. The Historic Vehicle Association says the Meyers Manx is the most replicated car in history. Fed up with losing control of his invention, Meyers closed his company in 1971 and went on to other things. At one point, his wife said, he sailed to Tahiti with a wealthy sponsor and built and ran a trading post. He and his wife re-established the car business in 1999, by which time there were dune buggy clubs all over the world. They sold the business to a venture capital firm last year. Asked over the years what it was about the dune buggy that so captivated the public, Meyers said several things played into its success. One was the cars' bright colours and big tires, which gave them almost a cartoonish look. Another was the flat surface of the fenders, which were a perfect place to put a beer. There was also the spot in the back designed for a surfboard. That, he and others noted, captivated people at a time when California surf culture was being glorified in movies and song. The car, with Elvis Presley at the wheel, is featured in the opening credits to the 1968 film “Live a Little, Love a Little.” To this day, children still play with Meyers Manx Hot Wheels. As Road and Track Magazine stated in 1976: “The Manx has to rank as one of the most significant and influential cars of all time. It started more fads, attracted more imitators … and was recognized as a genuine sculpture, a piece of art.” In addition to his wife, Meyers is survived by a daughter, Julie Meyers of Colorado. Two children, Georgia and Tim, preceded him in death. John Rogers, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Major League Soccer says Ron Burkle has backed out of plans for an expansion team in Sacramento, California, that was scheduled to start play in 2023. The league said in a statement Friday night that Burkle's decision was “based on issues with the project related to COVID-19.” MLS announced the Sacramento Republic as its 29th team on Oct. 21, 2019, and said then the team would start play in 2022. MLS said July 17 that Sacramento would not start play until the 2023 season because of the pandemic. At the time, the league delayed Charlotte, North Carolina, until 2022 and St. Louis until 2023. MLS expanded to 26 teams last year with the addition of Miami and Nashville, Tennessee. Austin, Texas joins this season, which is scheduled to start April 17. Sacramento's announced ownership group included Burkle, founder of The Yucaipa Cos. and an owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, as lead investor. He was joined by entertainment executive Matt Alvarez and Kevin Nagle, an investor in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who had spearheaded the bid for MLS expansion since 2014. Burkle's group had planned a $300 million soccer-specific stadium on a 14-acre site downtown and signed a deal with UC Davis Health to be its MLS jersey sponsor. But the group had run into cost issues with the proposed stadium site and had yet to break ground on the proposed 21,000-seat stadium. There also was growing concern the team would not be able to start until 2024. The current Sacramento Republic, founded in December 2012, plays in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship. “After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the league continues to believe it can be a great MLS market,” MLS said in a statement. “In the coming days, the league will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he remains optimistic about finalizing plans for the league's 30th team. MLS's 2020 season started Feb. 29 but was interrupted after March 8 by the pandemic. The season resumed July 8 and each team played 23 regular-season games, down from 34 originally scheduled. As a fallout from pandemic restrictions, attendance dropped from nearly 9 million to about 750,000. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
A new report says the Manitoba government failed to provide proper oversight as costs spiralled on two mega projects at Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro. The review was done by former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney John Durham said Friday that he will resign from his position as the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut but is remaining as a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that shadowed Donald Trump’s presidency, Durham will resign from his post as U.S. attorney for Connecticut on Monday. But Durham, who was appointed in October by then-Attorney General William Barr as a special counsel to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, will remain in that capacity. Like Durham, nearly every other U.S. attorney who served in the Trump administration was asked earlier this month to submit their resignations as the Biden administration moves to transition to its own nominees. The FBI in July 2016 began investigating whether the Trump campaign was co-ordinating with Russia to sway the outcome of the presidential election. That probe was inherited nearly a year later by special counsel Mueller, who ultimately did not find enough evidence to charge Trump or any of his associates with conspiring with Russia. The early months of the investigation, when agents obtained secret surveillance warrants targeting a former Trump campaign aide, have long been scrutinized by Trump and other critics of the probe who say the FBI made significant errors. A Justice Department inspector general report backed up that criticism but did not find evidence that mistakes in the surveillance applications and other problems with the probe were driven by partisan bias. Durham’s investigation, which the Justice Department has described as a criminal probe, had begun very broadly but Barr said in December that it had “narrowed considerably” and that it was “really is focused on the activities of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation within the FBI.” Durham’s investigation has so far resulted in one prosecution so far. A former FBI lawyer was sentenced to probation last month for altering an email the Justice Department relied on in its surveillance of an aide to President Donald Trump during the Russia investigation. The U.S. attorneys transition process, which happens routinely between administrations, applies to a few dozen U.S. attorneys who were appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Senate and many of the federal prosecutors who were nominated by Trump already left their positions. A senior Justice Department official told the AP earlier this month that David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, overseeing the federal tax probe involving Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, will remain in place. The 93 U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and are responsible for overseeing offices of federal prosecutors and charged with prosecuting federal crimes in their jurisdictions. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
An emergency homeless shelter in North Battleford is closing its doors. The North Battleford Lighthouse emergency shelter program is being forced to close after losing about $500,000 from the Provincial Métis Housing Corporation — the bulk of its funding, noted Don Windels, executive director of Lighthouse Supported Living. "It's not an easy decision," Windels said. The shelter is set to close on April 1. Windels said he has approached the province and federal government for funding, but there have been no takers so far. He added that the closure isn't a slight against PMHC, which he described as supportive of the shelter. The service has retained its smaller donors, but they don't provide enough money to keep it open, Windels said. The emergency shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, has a maximum capacity of about 37 people, but it provides food for many more than that, he said. Those long hours also make it more difficult to pay staff and keep the service open, he added. The closure also affects roughly nine long-term transitional housing units, Windels said. The Lighthouse's other supportive and transitional housing programs won't be affected. The closure comes roughly seven years after community leaders first expressed interest in opening The Lighthouse in North Battleford. After buying the Reclaim Outreach Centre and undergoing months of renovations, The Lighthouse opened its services in January 2015. Windels said he hopes to either find new funding partners or hand the shelter over to another organization. Meanwhile, the closure will affect a vulnerable homeless population in the midst of the pandemic. "The province needs to come up with a housing strategy that includes shelters. And shelters need to be funded properly," he said. "Because it's really difficult to have a quality program without funds." Pointing to the overdose crisis and the pandemic, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called on the province to provide the money that would keep it open. In a prepared statement, he said it's unacceptable to "allow the crucial work the North Battleford Lighthouse does in service of the most vulnerable to be shut down due to lack of funding." Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
NEW YORK — A photographer who was shoved by a man who then came at him with a metal pole during a trip on the Staten Island ferry on Friday was able to get out of harm's way when New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang intervened. Spencer Platt, a photographer with Getty Images, said he was on the top deck of the boat heading toward Staten Island around 11 a.m., talking on the phone after taking some photos of Yang, who was headed to campaign events. Platt said when he turned around, the man was “just right in my face, like an inch away." The man pushed him, sending him down onto a bench, and Platt said he saw he was carrying some kind of metal rod. “He immediately lifts that up, comes at me and has it raised over me," he said. The photographer got the attention of Yang and his campaign, who were inside, and he said they came out, with Yang in the lead. “He came out ... and he just kind of yelled, the guy turned around, and that allowed me to just kind of bolt out of there," Platt said. “I think most people would have the same impulse I had - to try and do anything that you can to protect somebody who might be threatened or endangered," Yang said in a statement. "I got up and tried to intervene as quickly as I could. I’m glad that when he turned he saw me and recognized me, and the situation deescalated quickly.” Platt told some New York Police Department officers who were on the boat and who then went to keep an eye on the man. The NYPD said no arrest was made. The Associated Press
VIDALIA, La. — The onetime lead singer for the now defunct rock and country band Bishop Gunn has been arrested in Louisiana on drug and traffic charges, authorities said. Travis McCready was arrested Thursday in Concordia Parish in the east-central part of the state. McCready, 33, of Natchez, Mississippi, was taken to the Concordia Parish Jail on charges of failure to dim the lights on his vehicle, expired vehicle tag and no proof of insurance as well as charges alleging possession of Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III drugs, authorities said. McCready, a resident of Natchez, Mississippi, where the band also had been based, was released on a $25,000 bond, The Natchez Democrat reported. It was unknown if McCready has an attorney who could speak on his behalf. The Bishop Gunn band broke up in February 2020, citing “internal issues." It suspended all future activity including tour dates and new music releases. With McCready as the group's lead singer, Bishop Gunn made it to the top of the Billboard Blues Album chart in 2018 with their debut album “Natchez.” At the height of its run, Bishop Gunn toured in Europe with Slash after playing two cruises with Kid Rock and received multiple accolades from Rolling Stone Magazine’s top country charts. Although the band has called it quits, McCready has performed solo in Natchez and elsewhere. The Associated Press
Staff vaccination rates at the site of one of Hamilton’s worst outbreaks still have some ways to go to reach the provincial target, as the city resumed vaccinations for health-care workers on Friday. This week, the CEO of Shalom Village in Westdale released the number of the home’s staff who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccination. The numbers offer a glimpse into the rollout and uptake of vaccines in this high-priority group in long-term care. Shalom Village, a facility offering long-term care and assisted living, was home to the second-worst outbreak in the city, with 218 cases and 20 deaths from Dec. 9 to Feb. 5. In an email this week, CEO Ken Callaghan said 120 staff out of about 173 “active” staff have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, he said “the vast majority” have received two doses, but didn’t provide numbers. Four additional staff received their first doses on Tuesday, when the city’s mobile clinic came to vaccinate more residents, Callaghan said. At 69 per cent, Shalom Village’s current vaccination numbers fall below a provincial goal of 75 per cent vaccination rate for the city, and a “per organization” target set by a Hamilton “vaccination strategy” group, of which Callaghan is a member. The province’s goal is a “planning target” which represents the proportion of Hamilton adults expected to volunteer to receive the vaccine. The number is based on previous annual vaccine uptake, but does not limit who can receive the vaccine. Shalom staff began receiving vaccines on Dec. 28, with 10 spots allocated per day to the home at the Hamilton Health Sciences clinic. However, the clinic shut down on Jan. 27 after the province ordered that vaccines should only be given to seniors’ home residents due to shortages. That clinic reopened on Friday. Shalom’s numbers are also less than vaccination rates at Grace Villa, the site of the city’s worst outbreak with 234 cases and 44 deaths from Nov. 25 to Jan. 19. In an email Friday, the CEO of APANS Health Services, which runs the east Mountain home, said 123 out of 139 staff have received both vaccine doses, about 88 per cent. Mary Raithby added that 105 out of 108 residents have received both vaccine doses. “We continue to have staff and residents vaccinated according to the public health guidelines and vaccine availability,” she said. Callaghan said by email on Thursday that he is “comfortable where Shalom is on staff vaccinations,” noting the current numbers are “not where we will end up with the vaccination site reopening.” He said there are additional staff on the list to receive their first doses as the city’s fixed-site clinic resumes. But Callaghan didn’t specify how many staff were on that list, only saying there are 34 staff and essential caregivers combined. Some have expressed concern over a reluctance among staff to receive the vaccine, or barriers preventing them from easily doing so. In mid-January, The Spectator reported concerns from SEIU Healthcare — a union representing health-care workers, including at Shalom Village — that workers faced barriers to accessing vaccines. The union advocated for paid sick leave for workers who experience side effects from the vaccine, as well as travelling costs and time for staff to consult with a doctor prior to receiving the vaccine. Language barriers and scheduling issues were also concerns. Staff vaccinations in long-term care are essential, as experts have pointed out that COVID-19 only enters a home from the outside. At the time, Hamilton’s medical officer of health was pleased that vaccine uptake in long-term-care and retirement home workers was more than 65 per cent. Callaghan declined an interview request about staff responses to vaccinations and whether Shalom Village took or is taking steps to address any concerns. As for residents, Callaghan said about 97 per cent have received both doses of the vaccine. It is not clear how many residents that represents. “The only residents not receiving both vaccinations were due to their refusals to be vaccinated,” he said, noting all residents who consented directly or through their attorneys have received both doses of the vaccine. Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia's crown prince likely approved the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence report released Friday that instantly ratcheted up pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew worldwide outrage. The intelligence findings were long known to many U.S. officials and, even as they remained classified, had been reported with varying degrees of precision. But the public rebuke of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is still a touchstone in U.S-Saudi relations. It leaves no doubt that as the prince continues in his powerful role and likely ascends to the throne, Americans will forever associate him with the brutal killing of a journalist who promoted democracy and human rights. Yet even as the Biden administration released the findings, it appeared determined to preserve the Saudi relationship by avoiding direct punishment of the prince himself despite demands from some congressional Democrats and Khashoggi allies for significant and targeted sanctions. Questioned by reporters, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the approach. “What we’ve done by the actions we’ve taken is not to rupture the relationship but to recalibrate it to be more in line with our interests and our values," he said. “I think that we have to understand as well that this is bigger than any one person.” The conclusion that the prince approved an operation to kill or capture Khashoggi was based on his decision-making role inside the kingdom, the involvement of a key adviser and members of his protective detail and his past support for violently silencing dissidents abroad, according to the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Though intelligence officials stopped short of saying the prince ordered the October 2018 murder, the four-page document described him as having “absolute control” over the kingdom’s intelligence organizations and said it would have been highly unlikely for an operation like the killing to have been carried out without his approval. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry responded by saying the kingdom “categorically rejects the offensive and incorrect assessment in the report pertaining to the kingdom’s leadership.” Shortly after the findings were released, the State Department announced a new policy, called the “Khashoggi Ban,” that will allow the U.S. to deny visas to people who harm, threaten or spy on journalists on behalf of a foreign government. It also said it would impose visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals who have engaged or threatened dissidents overseas. The State Department declined to comment on who would be affected, citing the confidentiality of visa records. But a person familiar with the matter said the prince was not targeted. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The Treasury Department also announced sanctions against a former Saudi intelligence official, Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, who U.S. officials say was the operation's ringleader. Democrats in Congress praised the administration for releasing the report — the Trump administration had refused to do so — but urged it to take more aggressive actions, including against the prince. Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the Biden administration to consider punishing the prince, who he says has the blood of an American journalist on his hands. “The President should not meet with the Crown Prince, or talk with him, and the Administration should consider sanctions on assets in the Saudi Public Investment Fund he controls that have any link to the crime,” Schiff said in a statement. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, called for consequences for the prince — such as sanctions — as well as for the Saudi kingdom as a whole. Rights activists said the lack of any punitive measures would signal impunity for the prince and other autocrats. Without sanctions, “it’s a joke,” said Tawwakol Karman, a Nobel Peace Price winner from neighbouring Yemen and friend of Khashoggi's. While Biden had pledged as a candidate to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the killing, he appeared to take a milder tone during a call Thursday with Saudi King Salman. A White House summary of the conversation made no mention of the killing and said instead that the men had discussed the countries’ long-standing partnership. The kingdom’s state-run Saudi Press Agency similarly did not mention Khashoggi’s killing in its report about the call, focusing on regional issues like Iran and the war in Yemen. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has told reporters that the administration intends to “recalibrate" the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Biden previously ordered an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and said he would stop the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia but has given few details of his plans. Though the Biden administration's relationship with Riyadh is likely to be more adversarial than that of Donald Trump's, the reality is that Riyadh's oil reserves and status as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East have long made it a strategic — if difficult — ally. The broad outlines of the killing have long been known. The document released Friday says a 15-member Saudi team, including seven members of the prince's elite personal protective team, arrived in Istanbul, though it says it's unclear how far in advance Saudi officials had decided to harm him. Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to pick up documents needed for his wedding. Once inside, he died at the hands of more than a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who had assembled ahead of his arrival. Surveillance cameras had tracked his route and those of his alleged killers in Istanbul in the hours before his killing. A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensics expert, dismembering Khashoggi’s body within an hour of his entering the building. The whereabouts of his remains remain unknown. The prince, an ambitious 35-year-old who has rapidly consolidated power since his father became king in 2015, said in 2019 that he took “full responsibility” for the killing since it happened on his watch, but denied ordering it. Saudi officials have said Khashoggi’s killing was the work of rogue Saudi security and intelligence officials. Saudi Arabian courts last year announced they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison in Khashoggi’s killing. They were not identified. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Ben Fox in Washington and Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City contributed to this report. Eric Tucker And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — It’s a promotion that could be straight out of the “Mad Men” Don Draper playbook. Brooklyn's famed Peter Luger Steak House has teamed with Madame Tussauds to have celebrity wax figures mingle with patrons, promoting the easing of coronavirus pandemic restrictions on indoor dining in New York City. A wax Jon Hamm — known for his portrayal of ad executive Draper in the hit TV series — could be found at the restaurant's bar Friday with a cocktail in hand. Other figures on loan from Madame Tussauds include Michael Strahan, Jimmy Fallon, Al Roker and Audrey Hepburn in Holly Golightly of “Breakfast at Tiffany's” mode. Peter Luger “thought this would be a fun, safe way to fill some of the seats that need to remain empty as we continue to fight the pandemic,” said restaurant vice-president Daniel Turtel. As of Friday, restaurants in the city were allowed to fill 35% of their indoor seats, up from 25% previously. Peter Luger, in business for more than 130 years, will keep the mannequins until Monday. After that, they'll return to the recently reopened Madame Tussauds in midtown Manhattan. The Associated Press
(Émilie Vast/CBC - image credit) Alberta finance officials are pushing back against a proposal in a private members' bill that would add members representing public sector plans to the board of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). Shannon Phillips, the NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, presented Bill 208, Alberta Investment Management Corporation Amendment Act, 2020, to the Standing Committee on Private Bills and Private Members' Public Bills on Friday. The bill proposes adding four members representing the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund, Special Forces Pension Plan , Local Authorities Pension Plan and Public Sector Pension Plan to AIMCo's 11-person board. Since taking office nearly two years ago, the current United Conservative government has compelled the pension funds to use AIMCo as their investment manager. MLAs have been inundated with phone calls, emails and letters about this issue, Phillips said. Adding representation from the four largest public sector pensions to the AIMCo board would help ease those worries, she said. "Those funds then deserve a better window over governance at AIMCo and input into how they make investment decisions and ultimately how they serve their clients," she told the committee. AIMCo is an investment firm owned by the provincial government. Management came under fire last year after losing $2.1 billion from a bet on market volatility. Managers of the four pensions, which provide retirement income for teachers, provincial and local government workers, health care workers and municipal police officers have expressed concern that AIMCo would mishandle their funds. Lowell Epp, assistant deputy minister for Treasury Risk and Management for the Alberta government, rejected Phillips' proposal in his presentation to the committee. He says a 15-member board is unwieldy and would be less productive than a smaller board. He also suggested the proposed new members would represent the interests of their individual pension plans and not AIMCo as a whole. "Representative boards frequently take a combative approach to decision making rather than a much more productive, consensus-based approach," he said. Epp said each public sector pension retains control over their investment policies. UCP MLAs, who make up the majority on the committee, echoed some of Epp's concerns. Referendum question The Alberta government has the power to issue investment directives to AIMCo. Bill 208 would remove that provision from existing legislation. Concerns have been raised that the UCP government could order AIMCo to invest funds in oil and gas projects. Phillips said the power has never been used, so it shouldn't be a problem to remove it. "Removing that section of the act is a very simple solution to some of the concerns that have been raised by the public," she said. The government is currently studying the feasibility of leaving the Canada Pension Plan and creating an Alberta Pension Plan in its place, a measure recommended by the Fair Deal Panel last year. Bill 208 proposes asking Albertans in a referendum whether they want to switch to a provincial pension plan and if they want AIMCo to manage the fund. Epp, in his presentation, said early evidence suggests a provincial pension plan could be beneficial, but that no decisions have been made on who would manage the funds. MLAs on the committee agreed to hear stakeholder presentations on Phillips' bill before deciding whether to send it back to the legislative assembly for additional debate.