An allergy doctor says vaccine reaction risk is extremely low and the chances are greater that someone would have a bad outcome from COVID-19. (Dec. 17)
An allergy doctor says vaccine reaction risk is extremely low and the chances are greater that someone would have a bad outcome from COVID-19. (Dec. 17)
Pavel Zelensky, a member of the Anti-Corruption Foundation team of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, was jailed by a Moscow court on Saturday until Feb. 28 on charges of inciting extremism on the internet, according to a court statement. His detention by the Presnensky District Court comes a day before Navalny's planned return to Russia since being poisoned in August and evacuated to Germany where he has been recuperating. Zelensky is a camera operator for the opposition leader's Anti-Corruption Foundation, which specialises in publishing high-impact investigations into what it says is official graft.
Plateau Mountain is the first thing John Smith looks at every day on his ranch near Nanton, Alta. "They're a barometer of weather. That's where our chinook arches are. You can tell when there's big wind coming, they blow snow off, and they're just cool to look at," Smith said. The 48-year-old third-generation rancher named his business after it — Plateau Cattle Company. He has nearly 600 head of cattle and 1,500 acres near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. If open pit mining happens on the eastern slopes, it threatens his operation. "Thirty-five per cent of our cattle go up there," Smith said. "So in these COVID times, I'm sure everybody understands what a 35 per cent reduction in wage or the bottom line of a business [does]. So yeah, it's definitely a threatening thing." Along with his wife Laura Laing, Smith is pushing back against the provincial government's decision to revoke a 1976 policy that kept coal mines out of most of the province's Rocky Mountains and Foothills. WATCH | Why Alberta is looking to the Rockies for coal: One mine is under review, and others could follow. Some residents of former mining towns have applauded the prospect of potential jobs returning to their communities. But others, including Smith, worry about what the change might have on quantity and quality of local water — which at the moment runs good and clear. "Every kid in agriculture has always been told this. Your grandfathers tell you, if you haven't got water, you haven't got [nothing]," Smith said. Laing said speaking up against the changes is not a comfortable thing to do, but it's important. "We've been challenged in lots of adversities. We're fighting for a bigger picture here. Everybody's water, the landscapes, the mountains," Laing said. The couple's plight has been boosted by star power recently. Alberta-born country stars Corb Lund and Paul Brandt posted their feelings on social media, saying they oppose coal development in the region. WATCH | Country star Corb Lund comes out against proposed coal mines: "I know a lot of people are afraid to speak out. It's not easy, I get it. But I'm so glad they're taking the lead and sharing the story," Laing said. The mayor of High River, Craig Snodgrass, doesn't want it either. He said provincial maps show Category 2 lands where mines will be allowed stretch into Kananaskis Country and the headwaters of the Highwood River and Cataract Creek. "Reinstate the policy, the protections in these [Category 2] lands and let's have a discussion, and we'll give you the chance openly to prove to us that everything's going to be good," Snodgrass said. Snodgrass put forward a motion this week to send the province a letter of opposition. It was unanimously approved by town council. David Luff is a former assistant deputy minister and was a resource planner for former premier Peter Lougheed's government when the policy was created. He said the process the United Conservative government used was ethically and morally wrong, adding the policy was based on a vision for a long-term priority. "The eastern slopes were to be recognized as having the highest priority for watershed protection, recreation and tourism," Luff said. For Smith, who would like to see his family's ranch reach a fourth generation, the situation is one that weighs heavy. "This place can provide a living for multiple families for a hundred or two hundred years," he said. "I don't think there's a coal mine that can do and create what agriculture is doing here." Representatives with Alberta's energy and environment ministries were unavailable to comment for this story.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said it is "deeply disappointed" by Mexico's decision to close its investigation of ex-Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos, after the Mexican attorney general decided not to press charges. The decision, which Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador publicly backed on Friday, and a document dump by Mexico's government of U.S. evidence against Cienfuegos, threatens to strain strategic U.S.-Mexico security ties. On Friday, on Lopez Obrador's instructions, the foreign ministry tweeted the link to a 751-page document that included detailed logs of alleged Blackberry communications.
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have cancelled their practice today due to a potential exposure to COVID-19. The NHL team did not provide further details and said information regarding their schedule for Sunday will come at a later time. The Jets are scheduled to visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. Winnipeg opened the season with a 4-3 overtime loss to visiting Calgary on Thursday. The NHL started its 2020-21 season Wednesday amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in both Canada and the United States. Several teams have had their start affected by some degree by the global pandemic. The Dallas Stars had their first four games postponed after 17 players tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Other teams have held players out or cancelled workouts due to suspected cases. Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers was held out of practice Wednesday while in COVID-19 protocol, but played in Winnipeg's season-opener. Canucks forward J.T. Miller and defenceman Jordie Benn missed Vancouver's two games against Edmonton this week while in COVID-19 protocol. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021. The Canadian Press
The public won’t see President Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there’s growing concern that the collection won’t be complete, leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies. Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House staffers to spend hours taping them back together. “They told him to stop doing it. He didn’t want to stop,” said Solomon Lartey, a former White House records analyst who spent hours taping documents back together well into 2018. The president also confiscated an interpreter’s notes after Trump had a chat with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump scolded his White House counsel for taking notes at a meeting. Top executive branch officials had to be reminded more than once not to conduct official business on private email or encrypted text messaging systems and to preserve it if they did. Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud, which postponed for weeks an acknowledgement of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, is delaying the transfer of documents to the National Archives and Records Administration, further heightening concern about the integrity of the records. “Historians are likely to suffer from far more holes than has been the norm,” said Richard Immerman at the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. In the Trump White House, “not only has record-keeping not been a priority, but we have multiple examples of it seeking to conceal or destroy that record.” But even with requests by lawmakers and lawsuits by government transparency groups, there is an acknowledgment that noncompliance with the Presidential Records Act carries little consequence for Trump. The Presidential Records Act states that a president cannot destroy records until he seeks the advice of the national archivist and notifies Congress. But the law doesn’t require him to heed the archivist’s advice. Most presidential records today are electronic, and records experts estimate that automatic backup computer systems capture a vast majority of them, but cannot capture records that a White House chooses not to create or log into those systems. THE MOVE Moving a president’s trail of paper and electronic records is a laborious task. President Barack Obama left about 30 million pages of paper documents and some 250 terabytes of electronic records, including the equivalent of about 1.5 billion pages of emails. When Trump lost the November election, records staffers were in position to transfer electronic records, pack up the paper ones and move them to the National Archives by Jan. 20 as required by law. But Trump’s reluctance to concede has meant they will miss the deadline. “Necessary funding from the (White House) Office of Management and Budget was delayed for many weeks after the election, which has caused delays in arranging for the transfer of the Trump presidential records into the National Archives’ custody,” the National Archives said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Even though the transfer of these records will not be completed until after Jan. 20, the National Archives will assume legal custody of them on Jan. 20 in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment about preserving Trump’s records. One person familiar with the transition said guidance typically emailed to executive branch employees, explaining how to turn in equipment and pack up their offices, was sent out in December, but quickly rescinded because Trump insisted on contesting the election. With little guidance, some staffers in the White House started quietly calling records workers to find out what to do. Departing employees are instructed to create a list of folders in each box and make a spreadsheet to give the National Archives a way to track and retrieve the information for the incoming Biden team. The public must wait five years before submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to see the Trump material. Even then, Trump — like other presidents before him — is invoking six specific restrictions to public access of his records for up to 12 years. RECORD-KEEPING PRACTICES On impeachment and other sensitive issues, some normal workflow practices were bypassed, a second person familiar with the process said. Higher-ups and White House lawyers became more involved in deciding which materials were catalogued and scanned into White House computer networks where they are automatically saved, the person said. The individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the inner workings of the White House, said that if uncatalogued materials ended up in an office safe, for instance, they would at least be temporarily preserved. But if they were never catalogued in the first place, staffers wouldn’t know they existed, making them untraceable. Trump’s staff also engaged in questionable practices by using private emails and messaging apps. Former White House counsel Don McGahn in February 2017 sent a memo that instructed employees not to use nonofficial text messaging apps or private email accounts. If they did, he said, they had to take screenshots of the material and copy it into official email accounts, which are preserved. He sent the memo back out in September 2017. Government transparency groups say the screenshots are not adequate because they do not capture attachments or information such as who contacted whom, phone identifiers and other online information. “It’s an open question to me about how serious or conscientious any of those people have been about moving them over,” said Tom Blanton, who directs the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which was founded in 1985 to combat government secrecy. Trump was criticized for confiscating the notes of an interpreter who was with him in 2017 when Trump talked with Putin in Hamburg, Germany. Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to obtain the notes of another interpreter who was with Trump in 2018 when he met with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Several weeks ago, the National Security Archive, two historical associations and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued to prevent the Trump White House from destroying any electronic communications or records sent or received on nonofficial accounts, such as personal email or WhatsApp. The court refused to issue a temporary restraining order after government lawyers told the judge that they had instructed the White House to notify all employees to preserve all electronic communications in their original format until the lawsuit was settled. Anne Weismann, one of the lawyers representing the groups in their lawsuit, suspects “serious noncompliance” of the Presidential Records Act. “I believe we will find that there’s going to be a huge hole in the historical record of this president," Weismann said. Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Thousands of genomic sequences have been identified from the original strain of the novel coronavirus. Depending on the rate of transmission and efforts to curb infections, the variant will either die out or dominate. Crystal Goomansingh explains how researchers are tracking the virus as it evolves.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern): 11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. The number of hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients, and four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227. The province added 2,430 more recoveries, for a total of 210,364. The province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. --- 10:45 a.m. Ontario is reporting 3,056 new cases of COVID-19 today along with 51 new deaths related to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliot says 903 of the latest diagnoses are in Toronto, with 639 in neighbouring Peel region and 283 in York Region. The province says 1,632 COVID-19 patients are currently in hospital, with 397 in intensive care. Elliott says the province had administered 189,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of 8 p.m. on Friday. --- 10:30 a.m. Ontario says a shipping delay from Pfizer BioNTech means residents who receive an initial dose of the company's COVID-19 vaccine will have to wait longer than expected to receive their second one. The government says long-term care residents and staff who have been inoculated already will wait up to an extra week before a second dose is administered. Anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine were initially supposed to get a econd dose after 21 days, but will now see that timetable extended to a maximum of 42 days. The government says it's on track to ensure all long-term care residents, essential caregivers and staff, the first priority group for the vaccine, receive their first dose by mid-February. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Hat Art Club has been a staple in the community for decades and is celebrating an important milestone this month – 75 years in existence. The club sits around 100 members on a given year and was founded in 1946 by Mrs. Helen Beny Gibson and Rev. L.T.H Pearson. The group began with a program teaching people how to draw at city council chambers. “The Hat Art Club has grown to be one of the foundational art clubs in the city,” said club president Bev Duke. “For a very long time, there were no other organizations that provided art training for adult artists in our community. “There have been programs offered through the college over the years, but they were sporadic. The art club has offered a consistent place for artists of any age or skill to come and learn.” The Hat Art Club has operated out of the Cultural Centre since it was built, and is now offering digital art programming. The club shifted to online classes last October and invested into its new website to help keep members in the loop. Duke has been a member of the club for 25 years and is in her second term as president. She says the club aims to offer something for everyone. “We have programs around all mediums,” she said. “One of our big programs is around drawing, because it is so foundational to art, a lot of people are interested. “We offer acrylic, oils, pastels and art journaling.” The art club’s shift to online has helped Hatters fill their time at home with fun, creative activities to focus on during the pandemic. “Art is a creative outlet,” said Duke. “It gives you something to work on and it lets you develop different skills.” The club has also announced a special promotion to get new members involved. For a limited time, get a membership for $75 to celebrate the anniversary. More information can be found at http://www.hatartclub.com. Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
ÉDUCATION. La Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l'éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ) apprécie que le ministre de l'Éducation se montre préoccupé de la santé mentale et de la réussite des élèves du primaire et du secondaire. Ceci dit, la FPPE-CSQ regrette qu'aucune solution concrète, à court ou à long terme, n'ait été annoncée pour donner plus de ressources aux professionnels afin de répondre aux besoins des élèves en termes de persévérance scolaire et de santé mentale. «Nous sommes conscients qu'il faut tout mettre en œuvre pour accompagner les élèves vers la réussite. Cependant, ce que le ministre Roberge a eu aujourd'hui est une fausse bonne idée. Aucune de ces mesures ne pourra remplacer un plan d'intervention, ne pourra poser un diagnostic, ne pourra contribuer au travail multidisciplinaire des membres des équipes-écoles pour mettre en place des stratégies et faire des suivis particuliers. Dommage qu'encore une fois, le ministre Roberge ne reconnaisse pas l'importance de notre expertise, malgré la crise. Il ne faut pas perdre de vue qu'il y aura aussi une sortie de crise à assumer!», souligne le président de la FPPE-CSQ, Jacques Landry, qui s’inquiète de l'externalisation des services professionnels qu’amène le programme de tutorat mis en place par le ministre de l’Éducation. Bien que le programme de tutorat puisse répondre, dans l'immédiat, à certains enjeux, le support aux élèves vulnérables doit se traduire, à moyen et à long terme, par un investissement accru dans les services complémentaires selon l’organisation qui représente 10 000 membres. «Les interventions doivent s'inscrire en cohérence avec les équipes-écoles et les milieux et la FPPE-CSQ doute des capacités des tuteurs d'effectuer des suivis plus élaborés et entrevoit des problèmes d'imputabilité, de compétences ou même de gestion de ces personnes qui ne contribueront pas au développement des services dans le réseau scolaire. Des questions restent d'ailleurs en suspens : qui encadrera les tuteurs, auront-ils des mandats clairement définis, comment seront-ils évalués, seront-ils bénévoles, comment la sécurité des élèves sera-t-elle assurée?», se demande le syndicat. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
BERLIN — Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus missed a penalty in a 1-1 draw with lowly Mainz while Leipzig again missed the chance to move to the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday. Leipzig, which was denied top spot in losing to Dortmund 3-1 last weekend, could manage only 2-2 at Wolfsburg and it remains a point behind league leader Bayern Munich. Bayern hosts Freiburg on Sunday. Dortmund was looking for its fourth win in five league games under new coach Edin Terzic but was frustrated by a committed performance from Mainz in Bo Svensson’s second game in charge. The draw was enough for Mainz to move off the bottom on goal difference from Schalke, which visits Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. Dortmund got off to a fine start with Erling Haaland firing inside the left post in the second minute. But the goal was ruled out through VAR as Thomas Meunier was offside in the buildup. Jude Bellingham struck the post toward the end of the half and it was as close as Dortmund came to scoring before the break. Mainz defended doggedly and took its chance in the 57th when Levin Öztunali eluded Mats Hummels with a back-heel trick and let fly from 20 metres inside the top right corner. The visitors almost grabbed another shortly afterward when Alexander Hack struck the crossbar with a header. The 16-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko had just gone on for Dortmund and he played a decisive role for his side’s equalizer in the 73rd, keeping the ball in play before sending in a cross that was cleared by Mainz defender Phillipp Mwene – only as far as Meunier, who fired back in to equalize. Meunier was then fouled in the penalty area by Hack, giving Reus a chance to score from the spot. The Dortmund captain sent his kick outside of the left post. It could have been worse for Reus’ team as Mainz captain Danny Latza hit the post late on. Dortmund remained fourth, four points behind Bayern, which has a game in hand. Werder Bremen scored late to beat Augsburg 2-0 at home, Cologne drew with Hertha Berlin 0-0, and Hoffenheim vs. Arminia Bielefeld also ended scoreless. Stuttgart hosted Borussia Mönchengladbach in the late game. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP CiaráN Fahey, The Associated Press
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party on Saturday chose Armin Laschet, the pragmatic governor of Germany’s most populous state, as its new leader — sending a signal of continuity months before an election in which voters will decide who becomes the new chancellor. Laschet will have to build unity in the Christian Democratic Union, Germany's strongest party, after beating more conservative rival Friedrich Merz. And he will need to plunge straight into an electoral marathon that culminates with the Sept. 26 national vote. Saturday’s vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the centre-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s Sept. 26 election, but Laschet will either run himself or have a big say in who does. He didn't address his plans at Saturday's party convention. Laschet, 59, was elected in 2017 as governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, a traditionally centre-left stronghold. He governs the region in a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats, the CDU’s traditional ally, but would likely be able to work smoothly with a more liberal partner, too. Current polls point to the environmentalist Greens as a likely key to power in the election. Laschet pointed Saturday to the value of continuity and moderation, and cited the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump as an example of where polarization can lead. “Trust is what keeps us going and what has been broken in America,” he told delegates before the vote. “By polarizing, sowing discord and distrust, and systematically lying, a president has destroyed stability and trust.” “We must speak clearly but not polarize,” Laschet said. “We must be able to integrate, hold society together.” He said that the party needs “the continuity of success” and “we will only win if we remain strong in the middle of society.” Laschet said that “there are many people who, above all, find Angela Merkel good and only after that the CDU.” He added that ”we need this trust now as a party” and that “we must work for this trust.” Laschet beat Merz, a former rival of Merkel who was making his second attempt in recent years to win the CDU leadership, by 521 votes to 466. A third candidate, prominent lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, was eliminated in a first round of voting. Merz's sizeable support suggests that a strong contingent would like a sharper conservative profile after the Merkel years. Merkel has led Germany since 2005 but said over two years ago that she wouldn't seek a fifth term as chancellor. Merkel, 66, has enjoyed enduring popularity with voters as she steered Germany and Europe through a series of crises. But she repeatedly abandoned orthodox conservative policies, for example by accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy and ending military conscription. Her decision in 2015 to allow in large numbers of migrants caused major tensions on the centre-right and strengthened the far-right Alternative for Germany party. Saturday's vote ends a nearly year-long limbo in Germany’s strongest party since outgoing leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who narrowly beat Merz in 2018 to succeed Merkel as CDU leader but failed to impose her authority, announced her resignation. A vote on her successor was delayed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic. Laschet called for unity after Saturday's vote and said Merz remains “an important personality for us.” “All the questions that will face us after the pandemic need a broad consensus in our party,” he said. “And we will need this consensus for all the elections that are ahead of us, too. Everyone will be against us.” Laschet, a miner's son who served as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2005, shouldn't expect much of a honeymoon in his new job. In addition to the national election, Germany is holding six state elections this year, the first two in mid-March. And at some point, he will confer with allies in Bavaria on who runs for chancellor. The CDU is part of the Union bloc along with its sister party, the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, and the two parties will decide together on the candidate. The Union currently has a healthy poll lead, helped by positive reviews of Merkel’s handling of the pandemic. CSU leader Markus Soeder, the governor of Bavaria, is widely considered a potential candidate after gaining in political stature during the pandemic. Some also consider Health Minister Jens Spahn, who supported Laschet and was elected as one of his deputies, a possible contender. Polls have shown Soeder’s ratings outstripping those of Saturday’s CDU candidates. Laschet has garnered mixed reviews in the pandemic, particularly as a vocal advocate of loosening restrictions after last year’s first phase. “It's very good that a year-long discussion process is over,” Soeder said. “I am sure that Armin Laschet and I will find a joint, wise and united solution to all other pending questions.” Saturday’s result will now be officially endorsed in a postal ballot. That is expected to be a formality but is required by German law. Geir Moulson, The Associated Press
The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) council plans to waive penalties on tax payments in the initial few months of 2021. “I think residents and businesses across the town have been severely impacted by COVID. This last shutdown over the Christmas season has been particularly painful for a lot of businesses and residents,” said TBM councillor Rob Sampson. “I think we should, as a council, show some recognition of that pain and provide some relief,” he added. TBM staff will be preparing a draft bylaw for council consideration that will look to waive penalties on tax payments for April, May and June of 2021. The bylaw is expected to waive penalties for both commercial and residential taxpayers. According to Ruth Prince, director of finance for TBM, waiving the penalties may cost the municipality approximately $100,000. However, she says that if an additional round of COVID relief funding were to come from the province, the cost could be covered should the town obtain some of that funding. “I’ve got to believe the province is going to have to provide a third round of funding. It is not as though COVID has stopped impacting municipalities. In fact, I would argue that's probably gotten worse,” Sampson said. TBM previously waived penalties for tax payments at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to Prince, most TBM residents continued to make the payments on-time and in-full. “Last year most people did make their payments even though there was a waive of the penalty and interest,” she said. “Most people are in the habit of making the payments and understand that they will have to pay the money eventually anyways.” A related staff report and draft bylaw are expected to be brought to a committee of the whole meeting in early February. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
The second batch of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrived in Argentina on Saturday, allowing the South American country to apply the second part of the two-dose program aimed at inoculating front-line health workers. More doses are expected to arrive in Argentina later this month and in February. Paraguay this week became the eighth country outside Russia to approve the Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute.
Ce sont 34 nouveaux cas de COVID-19 qui s’ajoutent au bilan régional ce samedi. Au total, depuis le début de la pandémie, ce sont 8 540 cas qui ont été déclarés dans la région. On ne répertorie aucun nouveau décès lié au virus ce samedi au Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Le total depuis le début de la pandémie est de 240 décès. On retrouve actuellement 20 hospitalisations, dont sept aux soins intensifs. Janick Emond, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Lac St-Jean
MANCHESTER, England — Abby Dahlkemper became the third U.S. international to join Manchester City in England’s top women’s league this season after completing her move on Saturday. Americans Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle have been at City since August. Dahlkemper, a defender, signed a 2 1/2-year deal after four seasons with the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League. She has been playing for the U.S. team since October 2016 and was a member of the World Cup-winning squad from 2019. City is fourth in the Women’s Super League this season. The team has been runner-up the last three years. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday filled out his State Department team with a group of former career diplomats and veterans of the Obama administration, signalling his desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy after four years of uncertainty and unpredictability under President Donald Trump. Biden will nominate Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state and Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs — the second- and third-highest ranking posts, respectively. They were among the 11 officials announced to serve under the incoming secretary of state, Antony Blinken. The team “embodies my core belief that America is strongest when it works with our allies,” Biden said in a statement. He said he was confident "they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back.” Among the others are: —longtime Biden Senate aide Brian McKeon, to be deputy secretary of state for management. That deputy position has been vacant for some time and McKeon and Sherman are expected to share duties as the department's No. 3 official. —former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively. —Derek Chollet, a familiar Democratic foreign policy hand, to be State Department counsellor. —former U.N. official Salman Ahmed, who also served as head of strategic planning in the Obama National Security Council, as director of policy planning. —Suzy George, who was a senior aide to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will be Blinken's chief of staff. —Ned Price, a former Obama NSC staffer and career CIA official who resigned in protest in the early days of the Trump administration, will serve as the public face of the department, taking on the role of spokesman. —Jalina Porter, communications director for Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is leaving Congress to work in the White House, will be Price's deputy. Price and Porter intend to return to the practice of holding daily State Department press briefings, officials said. Those briefings had been eliminated under the Trump administration. Jeffrey Prescott, a former national security aide when Biden was vice-president, is Biden's pick to be deputy ambassador to the United Nations, He would serve under U.N. envoy-designate Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Five of the 11 are either people of colour or LGBTQ. Although most are not household names, all are advocates of multilateralism and many are familiar in Washington and overseas foreign policy circles. Their selections are a reflection of Biden's intent to turn away from Trump's transactional and often unilateral “America First” approach to international relations. Sherman led the Obama administration’s negotiations leading to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which Trump withdrew, and had engaged in talks over ballistic missiles with North Korea during President Bill Clinton's second term. Nuland served as assistant secretary of state for European Affairs during the Ukraine crisis.. Sherman, McKeon, Nuland, Jenkins and Zeya will require Senate confirmation to their posts while the others will not. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
The provincial government has begun vaccinating British Columbia's most vulnerable against COVID-19 and an advocacy group for people with Down syndrome is hoping the group it represents will be added to this priority queue. Wayne Leslie, CEO of the Burnaby-based Down Syndrome Resource Foundation (DSRF), laid out his reasons why in a letter addressed to Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry earlier this week. Down syndrome is a genetic condition that can result in physical, mental, and developmental disabilities and, as a result, people with the condition can have complex health and mental health needs. In his letter to Henry, Leslie says people over the age of 40 with Down syndrome can develop high-risk medical conditions that are comparable to someone over the age of 70 in the general population. Leslie's complete letter to the province on behalf of the DSRF can be found here. According to the foundation, the average life span of a person with Down syndrome is approximately 60 years. The average life expectancy for British Columbians, according to 2017 Statistics Canada data, is 84 for women and 79.9 for men. The province has taken a phased-in approach to its vaccination program, with the first available doses being doled out to front-line health-care workers, and staff and residents in long-term care facilities. After that, the plan is to primarily vaccinate people by age, beginning with the most elderly. The priority vaccine groups can be found here. Recommendations to province Leslie's letter makes two recommendations — that adults with Down syndrome over the age of 40 be considered high priority for vaccination, and that individuals with Down syndrome between the ages of 16 and 39 also be given priority consideration. His letter highlights that adults with Down syndrome are four times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and 10 times more likely to die from the virus. Leslie's statistics are based on research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in October that looked at a cohort of over eight million adults, of which just over 4,000 had Down syndrome. Twenty-seven of those with Down syndrome died of COVID-19. "One of the key reasons is that someone in their forties typically has the health issues associated with aging of the typical population in its seventies," Leslie told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition, on Thursday. He said people with Down syndrome in the 16 to 39 category should be considered a priority because many individuals in that age group, due to the pandemic, are without critical programs and services such as mental health supports. People with developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome, often also depend heavily on predictable routines to successfully navigate daily life — routines that have been completely upended by COVID-19. "It's very hard for me and my friends," said 27-year-old Andrew Bingham, who has Down syndrome and is an ambassador for the foundation. Bingham said while he tries to stay connected with friends by text message, COVID-19 has already cost him a job, sports, and his social life. Provincial responses Premier John Horgan, addressing reporters on a wide range of issues Thursday, said he has received "piles of mail" from individuals and groups asking to be prioritized for a vaccine. "We want to start, I think the rule of thumb, is the older you are the more at risk you are," said Horgan. In a Thursday statement to CBC, the Ministry of Health said vaccines are not available to everyone at once and because of the challenges in storing and shipping the doses, certain groups have been prioritized. "As Dr. Henry has said, everybody is important in B.C. and everyone who the vaccine is recommended for will have access to it. But we know that some people are at higher risk, and that is why they are getting immunized first," said the statement. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix will provide an update next week about when the general population in B.C. will be able to receive the vaccine. Leslie is optimistic the province will respond to his letter and consider his request. Using general population figures, the foundation estimates the Down syndrome population in B.C. to be somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 people and about 2,000 of that group to be over age 16. Tap here to listen to Wayne Leslie and Andrew Bingham interviewed on CBC's The Early Edition.
For much of 2020, the COVID-19 story in British Columbia was a tale of two pandemics: the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths were in the Lower Mainland, with the rest of the province only seeing intermittent outbreaks. Not anymore. For the last month, active cases have plunged in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and risen everywhere else. Adjusted for population, the biggest hot spots in the province are now places like Fort St. John, Terrace, Burns Lake and Revelstoke. There's 10 months of data to show what happens if outbreaks aren't dealt with quickly, if people don't self-isolate, if firm measures aren't taken. Which is why some of the conversation by local leaders in the Interior is how to — or whether to — ignore the small minority advocating for the opposite approach. "It's been rough. It's not been good," said 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall, who says his community and the surrounding area now have more than 60 cases. Campsall estimates only one or two per cent of the community are attending anti-mask rallies or blatantly ignoring provincial health guidelines. But says it does have an impact. "I'll be blunt. We live in a me, me, me world. It's all about me, it's not about the community … people have got to get the right information." 'We know what has to be done' While the term "COVID fatigue" is often used in the Lower Mainland, beyond Hope there's a concern of COVID complacency — communities that haven't seen the same level of transmission or hospitalizations, who may be slow to respond to the moment. "We know what has to be done. You just have to be very careful, you've got to keep your bubble very small," said Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming. At the same time, his own council passed a motion pushing the province to reopen places of worship, over Cumming's opposition. "There's clearly people within the community finding this not something they truly back or believe in … but the science is clear." Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has seen his community become the centre of large rallies against health orders in recent months and struggles with whether criticizing those folks only amplifies their message. "I don't think it's going to stop people from doing this behaviour," he said. "All I would say is I'd rather speak to the vast majority of people who believe in science, who believe this is real, and who have done their best to stop the spread." And with thousands of people being vaccinated every day, Basran hopes people can see light at the end of the tunnel. "Everyone is really frustrated. Unfortunately, we're going to have to keep the fight up," he said. "We are so close to the end here." Deaths still happening in care homes That end, however, will come too late to people like Chris Ashburn in Vernon. His father John died Jan. 5 in the Heritage Square long-term care home, where seven people have passed away since an outbreak was declared in late December. "His only symptoms they had noticed at [first] were a runny nose," said Ashburn, who was grateful for the efforts of health-care workers and said his dad had "led a very robust, great life." As more and more communities across British Columbia deal with large outbreaks, Ashburn is optimistic the vaccine will bring stability. But he also has a message for people downplaying the effects of the virus. "It's unfathomable to me that we're basically a year into this, and they still find a platform for an opinion that this isn't real," he said. "I hope for the sake of them, they don't have to go through what we went through." With files from Brady Strachan and Daybreak South
Prince Rupert resident Sharlene Wilson was in her early 60s when she lost her job of more than 30 years in October 2019. A month later, legal advocate Paul Lagace with the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre filed a complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch on her behalf, arguing she should be entitled to eight weeks' severance. More than a year later, Wilson is dead, and the branch has yet to look at her case. Lagace is now acting on behalf of her estate. "I'm so frustrated and I'm tired of the runaround," Lagace said. 'Severe stress' on workers The Employment Standards Branch is the service that oversees B.C.'s Employment Standards Act. It deals with complaints like severance, working conditions and lost wages. Legal advocates like Lagace say wait times at the branch have become unacceptable, especially given that many of the people who file complaints are low-wage workers with no other recourse. David Madiros, a lawyer with Kent Employment Law, says his clients have had to wait 10 months or longer before the branch will even touch their case. "It puts a severe stress on people," Madiros said. "Many people who are in the service industry or who are hourly wage workers don't have a lot of a cushion to fall back on." Madiros says he advises his clients to take their matters to B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal for small claims when possible. But he says some cases have to be filed through the Employment Standards Branch. Backlog due to pandemic, increased services Lagace says even trying to just call the branch for an update has become unbearable, with wait times of two hours or more. In a written statement, B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains admits there is a backlog of complaints. Although it's been more than three years since they were in power, Bains blames it on the previous Liberal government. "In 2017, our government inherited a system that was failing to serve workers," Bains said in the statement. Other reasons the ministry gave for the backlog include the elimination of the branch's self-help kits in 2019, doubling the time to submit a complaint to a year, the new inclusion of temporary foreign workers and, of course, the pandemic. "I think everyone understands that COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on British Columbians," Bains said. "The pandemic has certainly contributed to the increase in worker complaints coming into the branch." Complaints nearly double in 4 years The ministry says the Employment Standards Branch received about 7,700 complaints in 2020, compared to 4,260 complaints in 2016. But legal advocate Lagace says Wilson's case was filed months before the pandemic was declared. Regardless of what's causing the problem, Lagace says, wait times of more than a year to even get a case started, let alone resolved, is unacceptable for the people who rely on the Employment Standards Branch for lost wages. 'It was very difficult' Wilson's husband, Henry Richard Wilson, says waiting to find out about her severance put a lot of stress on his wife, who died in June from heart surgery complications. "Just seeing her reaction to her job was extremely devastating," Wilson said. "It was very difficult." Wilson, a stroke survivor, says waiting to hear about his wife's case has been frustrating, and a resolution would help put him and his two daughters at ease. Lagace wants the Labour Ministry to apologize to Wilson, and make significant changes at the branch so cases like hers can be expedited. Bains says in 2019 the ministry did invest an additional $14 million in the branch over three years, including hiring 35 more staff, streamlining processes and triaging cases.
Denmark on Saturday found its first case of a more contagious coronavirus variant from South Africa, and saw a rise in the number of infections with the highly transmissible B117 variant first identified in Britain, health authorities said. The Nordic country extended a lockdown for three weeks on Wednesday in a bid to curtail the spread of the new variant from Britain, which authorities expect to be the dominant one by mid-February. Denmark has become a front-runner in monitoring coronavirus mutations by running most positive tests through genome sequencing analysis.