Miki has reached the ultimate level of zen. He is always peaceful and relaxed. Namaste, Miki! @mikitheket
Miki has reached the ultimate level of zen. He is always peaceful and relaxed. Namaste, Miki! @mikitheket
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
A 59-year-old man has died in hospital after the vehicle he was driving collided with two others in Etobicoke on Tuesday afternoon, Toronto police say. The crash happened in the intersection of Kipling Avenue and Belfield Road. Emergency crews were called to the area for reports of a crash at about 1:35 p.m. According to police, the man was driving a blue 2019 Volkswagen Jetta westbound on Highway 409 and was exiting onto the Kipling off-ramp when he struck a 2015 Toyota RAV-4 northbound on Kipling Avenue. Police said the man then struck a 2017 cargo van southbound on Kipling Avenue. The man suffered life-threatening injuries. Toronto paramedics took him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead later in the day. A 64-year-old woman, who was a passenger in the Volkswagen Jetta, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The drivers of the two other vehicles suffered minor injuries and remained at the scene. Police said they are urging residents, businesses and drivers, who may have security or dashboard camera footage of the area or crash, or saw the vehicle before the collision, to come forward.
Calgary fire Chief Steve Dongworth called reports of racism in his fire halls "concerning" and says problem employees are difficult to deal with because they're "very clever" and "very subtle" in how they operate. "We have a culture where people tend not to report things for fear of retaliation," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. "That becomes a barrier to us finding out who those laggards are." But Dongworth said "there will be zero tolerance" when the problem employees are identified. The N-word On Monday, CBC News published detailed accounts from seven current and former members of the Calgary Fire Department who confirmed that although it's become less blunt over the years, BIPOC firefighters still experience insidious racism within the city's fire halls. Last summer, several current and retired BIPOC members and their allies sent a letter to the chief demanding change. The group alleges racialized bullying has led to suicides of CFD members. In interviews, several members, who CBC News agreed not to name because of fear of workplace retribution, said even to this day, the N-word is occasionally tossed around casually inside fire stations. Two people said that in fire halls, Black Lives Matter news reports, in particular, seemed to incite microaggressions from some coworkers. Dongworth faced criticism from retired captain Chris Coy, the first Black firefighter with CFD who retired Dec. 1. Coy said the chief has known about the racism within CFD for years and hasn't done nearly enough to change the culture. WATCH | Chris Coy on racism within the Calgary Fire Department: "Have I done enough quickly enough?" asked Dongworth, who was promoted to chief in 2014. "It never feels like that but I will tell you but I know we've steadily moved the needle on this." 'Changing minds takes an awfully long time' There are two prongs to Dongworth's anti-racism strategy. One is to set a hard line of what's considered unacceptable behaviour. "The second part is to start changing people's minds, explaining why racism is wrong, why discrimination is wrong. Changing minds takes an awfully long time." Several active and retired firefighters said their experiences with coworkers inside the fire halls were more traumatizing than the often gruesome scene calls they're dispatched to. "Every time we hear these kinds of accounts, we commit ourselves to double down on that work and make sure we do," said the fire chief. Council motion acknowledges CBC News report On Tuesday evening, the City of Calgary reaffirmed its commitment to anti-racism with a motion including wording specific to the Calgary Fire Department in light of CBC's story. "With respect to concerns related to the Calgary Fire Department, direct administration to specifically include these issues in their continuing work on internal practices and movement toward cultural change," reads the motion. Following a closed door session Tuesday evening, city manager David Duckworth and general manager of community and protective services Katie Black acknowledged the article, which reports a toxic culture suffered by some BIPOC firefighters. A day after calling the racism within CFD "horrifying," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he'll be pushing the release of information from two workplace reviews done in recent years. Chief 'absolutely committed to this work' Currently, there are no women or BIPOC members serving as deputy chiefs. Both groups account for less than three per cent of the 1,400 firefighters in Calgary. "If you don't have many people in the organization who are female or who are people of colour, Indigenous, Black, it's almost inevitable you're not going to have many in leadership positions," said Dongworth. The chief said his organization is actively trying to recruit visible minorities and women to the department. "I'm absolutely committed to this work," said Dongworth. "This has to be seen as a time where we double down on the work that we do, that we embrace those people that bring diverse cultures, genders, views to the workplace."
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.
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
At the South Algonquin Township council meeting on Jan. 13, Councillor Bongo Bongo proposed a notice of motion to adopt an official social media engagement policy for the township, to improve their searchability online and their engagement with constituents overall. After hearing his proposal, and discussing it a little, Mayor Jane Dumas suggested having a more thorough discussion about it at the township’s next Economic Development Committee meeting on Jan. 20, which was agreed to by Bongo and the rest of council. Bongo says that he’s gained a new appreciation for social media since COVID-19 emerged, and has gone from thinking of it as a digital distraction to having a crucial role in government operations going forward. His proposal for a social media strategy is to involve the township with more online public engagement. “I am fully prepared for an uphill battle because I can see how this might be a tough sell. My impression is that most members of the township (council and staff) are skeptical of social media. Let’s be honest, it can be terrifying. To face criticism of yourself online is a very tough thing. But regardless of how social media makes me feel, as an elected official, I truly feel it is part of my duty to connect with the public, so I’m simply going to have to embrace the challenges of social media,” he says. While Bongo thinks that the township has used Facebook and other social media well to broadcast time sensitive messages, he would like to see a set posting schedule for information to be posted. “I’d love to see posting schedule of at least two to three posts a week. Right now, messages are broadcasted sporadically. The basis of my social media proposal is that the quarterly newsletter is not enough. Rather than publish important information four times a year, we should be using social media to publish messages every week,” he says. Bongo formally proposed the social media engagement policy to council during the council meeting on Jan. 13, acknowledging that a lot of people on council and the staff have differing opinions on social media and its usefulness and the role that it plays. “But in my motion, I’d like to recommend that we have comments on our livestream YouTube videos and that we somehow incorporate a step where we nominate bits of information that come up in meetings that would be scheduled to be posted on some kind of routine schedule in our social media routine,” he says. Bongo also suggested to council that the forthcoming economic development intern dedicate around 25 per cent of their time to social media engagement. He also put forward the idea of using software such as Hootsuite to help manage the township’s social media communications. “I totally understand that this would probably be discussed at a committee meeting but I just wanted to throw this out there,” he says. Dumas thanked Bongo for his proposal and agreed that what he had suggested would need to be taken to an Economic Development Committee meeting. “It would need fulsome conversation and perhaps some investigation as well. We should have that dialogue at the committee level and then decide on a plan as how you’d like to go forward with that,” she says. Holly Hayes, the clerk and treasurer, had a comment on Bongo’s proposal, specifically with the idea of allowing people to comment on the YouTube livestream of the council meetings. She thought that people could already do so, and mentioned that she had seen comments there in the past. Bongo replied that he hadn’t, and had thought that the ability to comment was unavailable, but that he would take another look. Hayes also wondered if Bongo’s proposed social media engagement was necessary, as residents can already get in touch with their councillors or the town office by phone or by email. Bongo was adamant that it was, and that it would improve the township’s searchability and their overall engagement. “I want our meetings to be as transparent as possible and as public as possible. I think it helps our analytics if that engagement appears on our YouTube videos. I agree there is a formal process for us to accept feedback from the public. To me, allowing comments on the YouTube council meeting video, that’s an open public forum and I don’t see how that would hurt,” he says. Dumas interjected, and reiterated that further discussion should be had at the next Economic Development meeting. “I would want to know what my responsibilities would be as mayor and as a member of council if we make this commitment. So, I think we have to have this discussion at the committee level,” she says. With that comment, she thanked Bongo for his proposal and Hayes for her input on the issue. After the meeting, Bongo reflected on his proposal and thought the limited discussion on it was very useful. “Our procedure is set up in a way that the committee meetings serve as the venue for discussion and the general meetings are where the actual decisions are confirmed. We didn’t talk about the social media at length when I pitched the notice of motion, although the seed for this discussion has been planted, which is key if I want to get the ball rolling with this discussion,” he says. That discussion will take place at the next Economic Development meeting on Jan. 20, right after the township’s 9 a.m. EMS meeting. “We will have a discussion about my proposed initiative and I’m looking forward to hearing what my colleagues think!” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
WASHINGTON — Inauguration Day for President-elect Joe Biden will look unlike anything the nation has seen before as the scars of COVID-19 and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol turn the West Front into a virtual ghost town compared to years past. Instead of a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, there will be a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Instead of balls, there will be Zoom parties. Instead of hundreds of thousands congregating on the Capitol grounds and on the National Mall, there will be thousands of National Guard members. What to watch for on Inauguration Day: THE SWEARING-IN Biden's oath of office is the only essential. The Constitution sets out a 35-word oath for the new president. Some presidents make it 39 by tacking on “so help me God.” There are conflicting stories about when the ad lib started. Some say George Washington added the words when he took the oath at his 1789 inaugural. Others say the first eyewitness account of a president using those words came at Chester Arthur’s inauguration in 1881. Regardless of who started the add-on, every president since 1933 has done it. Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Biden; Justice Sonya Sotomayor will swear in Kamala Harris as vice-president. Among the celebrities who will bring star power to Biden’s inauguration are Lady Gaga, who will sing "The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Jennifer Lopez, who will give a musical performance. Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman will read an original poem, “The Hill We Climb.” THE SPEECH A president’s inauguration speech is designed to set the tone and the policies the new administration will pursue. Biden’s speech will focus on how he will seek to make good on the theme he has chosen for the inauguration, “America United” As the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol showed, the challenge before him is daunting. WHO WON'T BE THERE President Donald Trump has opted not to attend the inauguration, becoming the first president to do so since Andrew Johnson in 1869. The tradition of a president attending his successor’s inauguration began with George Washington and projects to the country and the world that America is transitioning to new leadership freely and in peace. Biden and Harris are urging supporters to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The National Mall is closed and just a fraction of the tickets usually handed out for an inauguration will be distributed. About 200,000 small U.S. state and territorial flags have been installed on the National Mall, representing those who can't attend. A few lawmakers from both parties have indicated that they will not be attending out of safety concerns following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. WHO WILL BE THERE Vice-President Mike Pence and most members of Congress are expected to attend. The lawmakers can bring one guest. In previous inaugurations, lawmakers scored hundreds of tickets to distribute to friends, donors and constituents. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton are expected to attend. Former President Jimmy Carter, 96, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 93, will not, though they have extended their “best wishes.” Security forces in and around the Capitol and the White House are expected to widely outnumber inauguration guests. After the insurrection at the Capitol by Trump followers as lawmakers confirmed Biden's victory, about 25,000 National Guard were being brought into the nation's capital. AFTER THE OATH The new president will make his way to the other side of the Capitol for the long-standing tradition of the new commander in chief inspecting the troops. The Pass in Review ceremony is designed to reflect the peaceful transfer of power. Every branch of the military will be presented, though this year’s participants will socially distance to deter the spread of the virus. The traditional congressional lunch won't occur because of COVID-19 concerns, but Biden is expected to take care of some business before leaving the Capitol. A NEW TRADITION? After the Pass in Review ceremony, the Bidens and Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The former presidents and first ladies will join them. WHAT ABOUT THE PARADE? The traditional inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue has been dramatically scaled back. Instead, after visiting Arlington National Cemetery, Biden will receive a presidential escort — and a short one, at that. It will extend just a few hundred yards to the White House rather than the 1.6-mile route of previous inaugurations. The proceedings will provide the world with the images of Biden going to his new home without attracting large crowds. Again, every branch of the military will participate in the escort, and the marchers will socially distance. Virtual parades will be televised and feature performances from around the country. The inaugural committee says the programming will include musical acts, local bands, poets and dance troupes. An emphasis will be placed on paying homage to Americans on the front lines of the pandemic. INAUGURATION NIGHT PARTIES In past inaugurations, participants would don their tuxedos and ball gowns and attend one of the many inaugural balls and galas taking place around town. This year, state Democratic Parties and advocacy groups will hold virtual balls. Actor Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute prime-time TV special with performances by Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. According to producers, the program “will showcase the American people’s resilience, heroism, and unified commitment to coming together as a nation to heal and rebuild.” Kevin Freking, The Associated 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
Local reactions to the provincial government’s latest lockdown restrictions have been mixed to say the least, and moving into another nearly total shutter on small business operations has many concerned for their future. After Premier Doug Ford announced the second provincial emergency and stay-at-home orders on Jan. 12 in response to alarming surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the province, there was near immediate confusion. Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson said there was a major lack of details from the province. “A lot of people are left scratching their heads, trying to figure out exactly what this staying-at-home order is. The Premier says, ‘I don't believe in curfews’ but he’s doing a stay-at-home order, and quite frankly a stay-at-home order is a type of curfew,” Bisson told The Daily Press. The province's release read that the stay-at-home order was “requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for permitted purposes or activities, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for work where the work cannot be done remotely.” Bisson wondered why there was no stringent travel restrictions included in the plan. “I was told there was no ban on travel between regions. So, somebody can go from Timmins to Sudbury or Toronto or wherever. I was also told by the Minister of Solicitor General that if you’ve got to pick up your son or daughter at university and bring them back home, you can do that.” He said the plan is rife with confusion and mixed messages. “The staying-at-home order needs to be clarified. Northerners are prepared to do their bit, but we need to know why government does things, based on good medical and scientific evidence, and make sure that what their orders make sense.” Bisson said he's received lot of calls from constituents over the past few days, critical of the provincial orders. “They’re saying, ‘How come I can go into Walmart and buy something, but I can’t go into my local business and buy the same thing?’ They can provide the same type of security and probably better safety when it comes to COVID, than what Walmart and other large stores are doing. “People are wondering about this stay-at-home order. They’re thinking this is rather ridiculous. If there's a five-person limit on meetings and gatherings, why are we putting kids on buses that have more than five people and putting them in classrooms of more than five people? A lot of people are just very confused.” Bisson said he is also concerned with the recent surge in cases, but this latest approach might not be the right move. “Do we need to do something? Absolutely. But what the government needs to do is be clear about what it is they’re asking us to do — and they’re not doing so.” Loralee Boucher, who operates a hair salon as well as a private party lounge in Downtown Timmins, is very concerned about the next few weeks until a new announcement comes from the province. Hair appointments are not considered essential at this time, which is a massive portion of her income. She has been unable to provide her services since Dec. 26. Her hair salon has been in operation for more than nine years. Her second venture, above the salon, is the Top Shelf Lounge which is a licensed rental space popular for parties and private functions, and sometimes offers live entertainment. It opened in August 2019. Boucher said it has been a brutal stretch for the lounge. “Top Shelf has had a minimum 80 per cent decrease in revenue over the holidays, compared to last year, because I wasn't able to rent it out nearly as much as I did last year,” she said. In the meantime she has been applying for the various assistance programs offered by the federal government. “I applied for the $900 every two weeks, which is what they gave us, online through the government, and then I applied for the grant that they’re offering, somewhere between 10 to 20 thousand,” she said, still awaiting the results. She said it would be a much-needed financial boost. “I’m hoping some kind of funds become available. I own the building. So on a single income, by myself, I have two mortgages, my home and my business. I also have double the bills, two hydro bills, two gas bills, two property tax bills and I have multiple insurances, because you have to have two business insurances, health insurance, you name it; car insurance; my vehicle payment on top of that. “I need to make a minimum of $10,000 a month just to pay that.” Boucher expressed frustration at the blanket approach the feds took with programs like The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). “The government treats everybody like they’re the same, offering everybody just 900 bucks every two weeks. Well how do you explain that I can’t pay my mortgage now, or I can’t get groceries now, things like that off just a tiny amount? For some people, it’s OK, but you’re treating everybody equally and some people have a lot more bills than others to account for.” The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) is a program offered to help businesses and landlords to cover part of their commercial rent or property expenses. “You can apply for a property tax rebate, but the percentage of that is not clear. I guess it’s for them to decide. I know somebody applied for a hydro rebate, and they got $21.” Before the pandemic, her salon was booked full nearly every day. She shudders to think about the total of her lost business. “I’m losing so much money, it’s crazy.” To make it sting a little more, Boucher had also recently made a major investment by adding spa facilities to her salon, including another employee, and some very pricey equipment, only to be shut down a few months later. The only current income is selling some of the hair care products online. “They said they initially closed small businesses to stop the spread of the virus, but after our initial two week shutdown, our numbers went up dramatically.” She realized the blame will be on the holiday season, which is likely accurate, but that it proves some people will gather in large groups regardless of provincial orders, which essentially has nothing to do with small businesses. “Small businesses follow the rules. We don’t want to get closed down. We don’t want to get fines. We wear our masks. We wash our hands. For example, a salon, we’re working one on one. There’s no more risk going into a hair salon than there is going into a grocery store or Walmart.” Boucher said the vast majority of small- to medium-sized businesses have taken the protocols very seriously, and have made the necessary adjustments to their operations in order to be able to provide services safely. “There is no reason why any small business should be shut down, if you’re following protocol. If you’re not following protocol, that’s when you should be shut down.” Boucher said she started a local Facebook group called Outside The Box where small business owners can share ideas, supports, advice on grants, and other initiatives. “It’s all about helping each other. That’s why I created the group in the first place.” Although her online sales have been decent, it is but a small fraction of her standard income which relies on personal appointments. However, she does appreciate the support she is getting and feels a silver lining of this whole thing might be a renewed appreciation for local businesses. “The community has been very supportive. A lot of people are doing their part to support local, so that is a very positive outcome.” said Boucher. Another downtown business and building owner, Matthew Poulin of Total Martial Arts Centre, is irked by the fact his business can’t operate, despite the province stating that people can go out for exercise purposes. “We're actually not sure why. Based on government data, which is on their site, transmission from gyms is under 2.2 per cent and other things that are still open contributed a much higher percentage. Also the restrictions we had in place make us even safer than most gyms. Booking systems, high amount of cleaning daily, 50 per cent capacity for us is 18 people, which is extremely low for a facility of our size,” he said. In the meantime, TMAC has attempted to generate some revenue by opening up some online gear sales. “Currently we’re bringing back our online gym, which isn’t ideal but it’s something nonetheless. Also we will be selling memberships for the online gym too,” said Poulin. He said he has also applied for “as many grants as possible” to keep his business afloat. “Some of our members were able to keep their accounts open with us to support the gym during this time. Really, if it wasn’t for that, we would likely have to close. This second lockdown is scary but we’re confident we will make it through.” Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily 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.
Two probable cases of COVID-19 in Fort Liard announced Monday have been confirmed, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer announced in a press release Tuesday evening, but no others have been detected despite increased testing. No further cases have been detected in Yellowknife since a case with no known source was announced last week. "As time passes, if nothing is detected, confidence will grow that widespread community transmission did not occur and that this was a single locally acquired case with no identified source," said Dr. Kami Kandola of the Yellowknife case. No cases were found in Hay River. Kandola said there is a "high probability" the positive wastewater signal in that community last week was related to the cluster in Fort Liard. That means the territory currently has six confirmed cases of COVID-19, one active case in Yellowknife and five in Fort Liard. Fifty contacts are currently isolating in that community to prevent further spread. Low risk to 'contacts of contacts' Kandola said people in Fort Liard who have not been contacted by public health and asked to isolate are not considered close contacts, even if they've been in contact with someone who has been asked to isolate. A "contact of a contact" is considered low risk, she said. "With that low risk, there's no reason to be fearful — or to disrupt your life for 14 days." In other words, "If you haven't been contacted by public health and told you're a contact, if you haven't spent time with someone who has COVID-19, and you haven't been in a location at a date and time there was an exposure notification, you have no reason to be worried," Kandola said. However, anyone who still has concerns is asked to call public health. In all, about 100 tests have been completed in Fort Liard. Forty-one of those were completed Monday and verified at Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife. All were negative. Wastewater testing continues in Yellowknife and Hay River, as well as Inuvik, Fort Smith and Fort Simpson.
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.
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — Mexico reported its highest daily death toll since the coronavirus pandemic began, with 1,584 deaths confirmed Tuesday. There was also a near-record one-day rise in new virus cases of 18,894. Mexico has seen almost 1.67 million confirmed coronavirus infections and almost 143,000 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. With the country’s extremely low testing rate, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000. The country’s Defence Department, meanwhile, said four doses of coronavirus vaccine were stolen at a public hospital in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, probably by a hospital employee or with the aid of an employee. “This theft was able to be carried out through the dishonesty and greed of a member of the hospital's vaccination staff,” the department said in a statement. The army has been given responsibility for transporting and guarding vaccines in Mexico, but a private security firm was apparently in charge inside the hospital. Before Tuesday, Mexico had received only about 750,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and several people have been sanctioned for cutting lines to get doses. Mexico's total amount so far is enough to vaccinate about half of the country's 750,000 front-line medical personnel, all of whom will need two doses. Also Tuesday, authorities launched a campaign urging people to return rented oxygen tanks they no longer need, saying enormous demand amid the pandemic has created a shortage of the cylinders. The consumer affairs agency launched an online campaign under the slogan “Return Your Tank, For The Love of Life.” With hospitals in Mexico City and other states overwhelmed by a wave of COVID-19 cases, many families have turned to treating their relatives at home with supplementary oxygen, creating spot shortages of tanks and oxygen for refills. But once patients recover, the agency said, many people simply keep the cannisters just in case someone else falls ill. “By doing this they are depriving other patients of something they need at a given moment, and cannot get,” the agency said. The shortages of oxygen, like those of vaccines, has also led to thefts. On Tuesday, police in the town of Tultepec, just north of Mexico City, chased down a small freight truck carrying dozens of oxygen tanks, after the truck was reported stolen. Two suspects were detained at the scene. The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California sheriff’s deputy was killed and another deputy was wounded in a shootout with a suspect who gunned down a K-9 dog before he was fatally shot, authorities said. The gunbattle erupted in Sacramento near a racetrack at the Cal Expo event venue after a vehicle pursuit late Monday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said. The deputy who died was identified as Adam Gibson, a six-year veteran of the department, Jones said. “He leaves behind a wife and an infant child,” the sheriff said. The injured deputy was in stable condition, Jones said. Jones said the suspect was a man in his 40s but didn't release his name He was identified Tuesday as Robert Stephen Calderon by his mother, Jenny Calderon, who talked to the Sacramento Bee. He had a history of criminal activity, drug use and mental illness, according to his family and court records. Calderon said that her son had been on drugs in the past, and “I think he was bi-polar.” “He saw people coming out of the walls,” she said. “They would come, and they would abuse him. And he was mad at me because he thought I was letting them into his room." Calderon said that led him to get a gun and that she had no idea how he was able to obtain it. “I told him to get rid of it, I told him you have to go get some help, and you have to get rid of that gun,” she said. The pursuit and shooting followed an attempted traffic stop, Jones said, and the driver ended up crashing on the Cal Expo grounds. “One of the K-9 officers deployed a K-9 dog up to the vehicle to try and assist getting the suspect out of the vehicle. The suspect immediately shot and killed the K-9 unit, then immediately started firing at the officers,” Jones said. It wasn’t immediately known what prompted the attempted traffic stop. The Sacramento Police Department plans to handle the investigation, Jones said. Gov. Gavin Newsom offered condolences to the slain deputy's family. “Deputy Gibson will forever be remembered for his selfless sacrifice and his commitment to providing safety and security for the Sacramento community,” Newsom said in a statement. Calderon's family described him as a former truck driver and in-home health services worker who loved animals and had a small pug named Max. They said he was frequently homeless and living in a Chevrolet Suburban, often parking it outside the used clothing store where deputies contacted him Monday night. Calderon cycled in and out of custody for decades, according to court records. He had a combined nine felony and misdemeanour cases out of Sacramento County dating to 1993, Superior Court records show. The cases generally involve drugs and stolen vehicles. His most recent local case, a felony, came in 2012. He was sentenced to 16 months in state prison for vehicle theft. Jenny Calderon broke down several times speaking about her son and what he had done. Speaking in her apartment, Calderon said she was mourning not only her son, but especially the fallen deputy and his family. “I’m glad he’s dead because if he knew what he had done to that deputy’s family, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself,” she said. The Associated Press
The Blue Jays have signed star free agent outfielder George Springer, with Toronto and the three-time All Star agreeing to a deal on Tuesday pending a physical. ESPN was first to confirm the two sides reached an agreement on a deal, while adding Springer was heading to Toronto's spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., for the physical. MLB Network reports the deal to be for six years and US$150 million. The Blue Jays confirmed the deal was for six years pending a physical when reached for comment by The Canadian Press. No further details were provided. The 31-year-old Springer was considered one of the premier players available after declining his qualifying offer from the Houston Astros — the team he has spent his entire seven-year career with — in October to become a free agent. The New York Mets and Blue Jays were reportedly the two frontrunners for Springer, with his name being linked to both clubs for weeks. The centre fielder was named an All Star for the first time in 2017, and went on to become World Series MVP that season when Houston beat the L.A. Dodgers in seven games for a championship, now tainted by the Astros sign-stealing scandal that became public in 2019, and confirmed by MLB in January 2020. He was also named an All Star in 2018 and '19, and took home the AL Silver Slugger Award in both seasons. Springer brings Toronto plenty of playoff experience after reaching the American League Championship Series four seasons in a row, falling just one win shy in 2020 from reaching the World Series for the third time in four campaigns. Springer, from New Britain, Conn., was selected by Houston 11th overall in 2011, and made his debut in 2014. He has 174 home runs and 458 RBIs, with a .270/.361/.491 slash line in his career. This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
At the Limerick Township planning meeting on Dec. 21, an update was provided by Councillor Jan MacKillican on the letters sent out to the residents occupying the boathouses located on public lands at the St. Ola boat launch. In addition to the new Licence to Occupy bylaw and a current map of the area showing the location of the boathouses, a second letter was sent out with a correction on the application to state that the application cost is $2,500 over 25 years versus $1,500 as was originally stated within the application. This whole process with the boathouses on the public lands at the St. Ola boat launch began when the township had wanted, under the authority of the Municipal Act 2001 S.O. Ministry of Natural Resources Policy Number PL 4.11.07, to implement a licencing structure for the boathouses in question. Back in April, the council had sent out a public notice to identify the occupants of these boathouses to register with the municipality to make sure they are represented in the licencing process. Ultimately, the cost to licence these boathouses is $2,500 for 25 years. The exception to this process is boathouse #3, as it is included within the owner’s roll number and taxes are paid on it. MacKillican stated during the Dec. 21 meeting that the letters to the boathouse occupants were sent out on Nov. 30 with the bylaw via email and was also posted on the township’s website. This had been brought forth as a motion and passed at the last planning meeting on Nov. 16. “Basically, the letters have gone out to the owners that we identified with the map and the bylaw. We did get an email within the last couple of days saying that there were issues with what we sent out and I’ll work with Victoria [Tisdale, clerk and treasurer of Limerick Township] on that. I think we need to just reissue the bylaw one more time, get rid of the section that refers to insurance from the township. We just need to check to make sure we have the right bylaw and the right map. There are two maps. An original one and then there’s two boathouses that aren’t on shore, number 15 and 16, so there was a second map done so we should make sure that final map gets out and we can send it out and say we’re still on track here. There’s been some revisions, and perhaps you didn’t get the right version but here it is once and for all.” According to Mayor Carl Stefanski, no replies to the boathouse letters had been received as of Jan. 15, and the issue should be the first on the agenda at their next planning meeting, date and time to be decided soon. Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
Premier Scott Moe floated further enforcement of ‘bad actors’ Tuesday in response to videos circulating of alleged flagrant violations of COVID-19 restrictions at restaurants and bars. Moe said he has asked public health to look at stricter enforcement, including ordering businesses to close. In a press conference on Tuesday Moe addressed a video that surfaced of the Tap Brewhouse and Liquor Store in Regina over the weekend. “I’m sure many saw the video this past weekend with patrons in a bar or restaurant here in Regina where they were evidently and flagrantly outside of what the public health orders recommend and certainly outside of what the public health laws allow for. But the vast majority of our restaurants in this province are adhering to our public health orders that are in place but there are these few outliers that are not,” Moe gave the example of sports still being restricted in the province and a petition circulating for a return of sports in the province. “I have sitting on my desk right now a petition with over 10,000 signatures on it, signatures from parents, form adults that are asking to allow their children to play hockey or to have the opportunity for competitive youth recreation,” Moe said. Moe explained that he asks himself if all restaurants need to be punished for the actions of a few who don’t adhere to public health restrictions. “We don’t need to punish all of those that are following the public health orders. But to those establishments and those individuals who flagrantly operating outside of the public health orders — they do need to be punished,” he said. However introducing new measures was off the table until the current measures have completed on Jan. 29. “I don’t believe that we need new measures put in place to bend the COVID curve here in Saskatchewan. We do need everyone to follow the measures that are in place and enough is enough. It is time for us to start enforcing those that are not following those measures,” Moe said. Moe said that children are making sacrifices including sports and it is time for adults to make the same. Moe said he has talked to public health and encourages law enforcement, when there is flagrant violations of orders in establishments, to ramp enforcement up. “We are not going to punish everyone for the acts of a few,” Moe said. Chief Medical Health Officer Saqib Shahab described his own dilemma regarding case numbers. “It is a hard and difficult situation because we continue to be stuck in this 300 range and you know like I said before we want to be heading down below 250, below 200, below 150 that is where we need to go and in December we were heading in that direction and over the holidays we really went down but that was artificial because our testing went down,” he said. Shahab said that case numbers so far in January are spiking due to a lack of compliance with public health orders over the Holiday season. “We saw cases over 300 or 400. Now, we are not seeing those numbers so much but we are seeing examples where people aren’t complying with the guidance and it seems to be mostly younger people or in situations where people seem compelled to go because of the death of a loved one and we are seeing transmission there.” Baseline transmission is high at 300 cases a day. Shahab said small gatherings can create transmissions. There have also been outbreaks connected to funerals and wakes in the north that have created uncontrolled spread. “I think we need to pay our respects virtually as much as possible. Guidance allows for close family and friends to get together for those occasions. But I think overall we have to be very cautious,” The trend numbers also show hospitalization numbers creeping up to a level that is unsustainable. “They are creeping up and over time I think that creates its own pressures on the health care system and unfortunately it generates deaths as well,” Shahab said. Moe reiterated that the measures are significant and did show some success after they were enacted in December and before the holiday increase “We peaked in the time after the holiday bump, which we had predicted would occur, with about 328 cases per day on the seven day rolling average and we are down now to about 300 so we need to continue that downward trajectory,” he said, Moe explained that he thought the cases were trending down those trends will be watched in light of the extension of public health measures to Jan. 29. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
On his way out, President Donald Trump claimed credit for things he didn't do and twisted his record on jobs, taxes, the pandemic and much more. Falsehoods suffused his farewell remarks to the country. As well, in noting Americans were “horrified” by the storming of the Capitol this month, he brushed past the encouragement he had given to the mob in advance and his praise of the attackers as “very special" people while they were still ransacking the seat of power. A look at some of his statements Tuesday: COVID-19 TRUMP: “Another administration would have taken three, four, five, maybe even up to 10 years to develop a vaccine. We did in nine months.” THE FACTS: Actually, the administration didn’t develop any vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies did. And one of the two U.S. companies that have come out with vaccines now in use did not take development money from the government. Trump’s contention that a vaccine would have taken years under a different administration stretches credulity. COVID-19 vaccines were indeed remarkably fast, but other countries have been developing them, too. A vaccine for the coronavirus is not a singular achievement of the United States, much less the Trump administration. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer developed its vaccine in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, eschewing federal money for development, though benefitting from an advance commitment from Washington to buy large quantities if the vaccine succeeded. A vaccine by Moderna, from the U.S., is also in widespread use. But Britain’s AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is being administered in several countries and vaccines from China and Russia are also in limited use. More than a dozen potential vaccines are in late stages of testing worldwide. ___ VETERANS TRUMP: “We passed VA Choice.” THE FACTS: No, he did not get the Choice program passed. President Barack Obama did. Trump expanded it. The program allows veterans to get medical care outside the Veterans Affairs system under certain conditions. Trump has tried to take credit for Obama's achievement scores of times. ___ TAXES TRUMP: “We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history.” THE FACTS: His tax cuts are not close to the biggest in U.S. history. It’s a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. As a share of the total economy, a tax cut of that size ranks 12th, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest, followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War II. Post-Reagan tax cuts also stand among the historically significant: President George W. Bush’s cuts in the early 2000s and Obama’s renewal of them a decade later. ___ ECONOMY TRUMP: “We also built the greatest economy in the history of the world.” THE FACTS: No, the numbers show it wasn’t the greatest in U.S. history. And he is the first president since Herbert Hoover in the Depression to leave office with fewer jobs than when he started. Did the U.S. have the most jobs on record before the pandemic? Sure, the population had grown. The 3.5% unemployment rate before the recession was at a half-century low, but the percentage of people working or searching for jobs was still below a 2000 peak. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer looked at Trump’s economic growth record. Growth under Trump averaged 2.48% annually before the pandemic, only slightly better than the 2.41% gains achieved during Obama’s second term. By contrast, the economic expansion that began in 1982 during Reagan’s presidency averaged 4.2% a year. ___ TRUMP: "We reignited America’s job creation and achieved record-low unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, women — almost everyone. THE FACTS: Not an ignition. Job creation actually slowed in 2017, Trump’s first year in office, to about 2 million, compared with nearly 2.5 million in 2016, Obama’s last year in office. The low unemployment rates refer to a pre-pandemic economy that is no more. The pandemic has cost the U.S. economy 10 million jobs and has made Trump the first president since Herbert Hoover to oversee a net loss of jobs. The U.S. has about 2.8 million fewer jobs now than when Trump was inaugurated, and lost 140,000 just in December. And the job losses have fallen disproportionately on Black Americans, Hispanics and women. ___ TRUMP: “We rebuilt the American manufacturing base, opened up thousands of new factories, and brought back the beautiful phrase Made in the USA.” THE FACTS: That's a stretch. There are now 60,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in the U.S. than when Trump took office. Despite gains before the pandemic, the manufacturing base had not exactly been “rebuilt.” Before the coronavirus, nearly 500,000 manufacturing jobs were added under Trump, somewhat better than the nearly 400,000 gained during Obama’s second term. Still, even before the pandemic, the U.S. had 4.3 million fewer factory jobs than it did in 2001, the year China joined the World Trade Organization and a flood of cheaper imports from that country entered the U.S. ___ CAPITOL INSURRECTION TRUMP: “All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated.” THE FACTS: That may sum up the reaction of most Americans but it ignores his own part in stirring the anger of his supporters before they staged the violent melee. For months, Trump falsely claimed the November election was stolen, then invited supporters to Washington and sent them off to the Capitol with the exhortation to “fight like hell.” With the uprising still under way and the velocity of the attack apparent from video and reports from the scene, Trump released a video telling them “to go home now” while repeating “this was a fraudulent election” and adding: “We love you. You're very special.” The House impeached Trump, accusing him of inciting an insurrection. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a Trump political ally for four years, said Tuesday the Trump supporters were “fed lies” and ”provoked by the president and other powerful people." ___ CHINA TRUMP: “We imposed historic and monumental tariffs on China. ... Our trade relationship was rapidly changing, billions and billions of dollars were pouring into the U.S., but the virus forced us to go in a different direction.” THE FACTS: That’s a familiar assertion, false to the core. It’s false to suggest the U.S. never collected tariffs on Chinese goods before he took action. Tariffs on Chinese goods are simply higher in some cases than they were before. It’s also wrong to suggest that the tariffs are being paid by China. Tariff money coming into the government’s coffers is mainly from U.S. businesses and consumers, not from China. Tariffs are primarily if not entirely a tax paid domestically. ___ ISLAMIC STATE TRUMP: “We obliterated the ISIS caliphate.” THE FACTS: His suggestion of a 100% defeat is misleading as the Islamic State group still poses a threat. IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, then lost the last of its land holdings in Syria in March 2019, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate. Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces. The continued attacks are a sign that the militant group is taking advantage of governments otherwise focused on the pandemic and the ensuing slide into economic chaos. The virus is compounding longtime concerns among security and U.N. experts that the group will stage a comeback. ___ Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. ___ EDITOR'S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures. ___ Find AP Fact Checks at http://apnews.com/APFactCheck Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck Hope Yen, Christopher Rugaber And Calvin Woodward, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — Federal lawyers told a bail hearing Tuesday that they have serious concerns about two of Peter Nygard's former employees who have offered to ensure the fashion mogul follows the rules if he is released. Nygard was arrested in Winnipeg in December and is facing extradition to New York on nine charges, including sex trafficking and racketeering. The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that for 25 years Nygard targeted women and underage girls from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and forcibly sexually assaulted them.The charges have not been tested in court and Nygard denies them. He is seeking release in Winnipeg, where he founded his fashion company, while the issue of his extradition is dealt with by the court.One of Nygard's former executives and a director of construction have offered to ensure he follows bail conditions if he is released while awaiting a hearing.But Scott Farlinger, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada, told court his office is opposing release. He has said the 79-year-old Nygard has the means to flee and a history of not showing up to court.Former Nygard executive Greg Fenske, who is still involved in the receivership of Nygard's clothing companies, was the first to take the stand Tuesday. Fenske doesn’t work directly for Nygard now, he testified, but pays himself through a numbered company that does consulting work for Nygard. That company purchased a $989,000 home suggested for Nygard if he is released on bail.Fenske described his relationship with Nygard as mutually respectful, but said they never associated outside of business. “He was my boss,” Fenske told court.When asked about his continued support for his former employer, Fenske responded, “I believe in Mr. Nygard’s innocence.” Farlinger asked about allegations by U.S. authorities that Fenske played a role in facilitating payments between Nygard and women who were allegedly abused. “I wholeheartedly disagree with it,” Fenske responded. He said Nygard would sometimes pay for dental or health treatments for assistants and models, but denied the recipients were girlfriends. “Mr. Nygard was very generous though the years,” Fenske said.Lawyers questioned why money meant for payroll moved into a separate consulting company that employs former Nygard staff, as well as a $60,000 overpayment to a utility company on the day before receivership. Fenske denied any malice in the action and said both situations have been rectified.Lawyers also questioned Steve Mager, a former director of construction for Nygard International. He has put up his home as a surety for Nygard. Mager testified he has two drug-related convictions. The last in 2012, for trafficking cocaine, resulted in a five-year sentence.Court heard Mager met Nygard playing poker and was hired to do work on a Winnipeg property. He moved up in Nygard's company and was quickly making $130,000 a year with full benefits until he lost the job in April.Mager told court he still talks to Nygard daily.“We are friends,” Mager said. Nygard appeared in court by video and his face was projected on a large screen in the corner of the room. His long grey and white hair was tied up in a bun and he wore a blue mask, grey shirt and had a grey sweater draped over his shoulders. Lawyer Jay Prober told court his client is an old man and should be released on bail because keeping him in jail where there are COVID-19 cases could be a “death sentence.” Prober asked Mager to look at Nygard on the video screen in court. “He looks like crap,” Mager said. The bail hearing continues Wednesday.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press