Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech - image credit) When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Robert Short/CBC - image credit) Public health officials in Windsor-Essex are working on a plan to soon vaccinate people experiencing homelessness, the region's medical officer of health said Monday. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is in conversation with the province and is working on a process to get the population their COVID-19 shots. "We hope to start vaccination later this week for that population group," Dr. Wajid Ahmed said at a media briefing on Monday. The rollout will come amid two COVID-19 outbreaks at two shelters, the Downtown Mission and the Salvation Army, that were declared several weeks ago. There were 115 cases associated with the outbreaks as of last week. The City of Windsor opened up an emergency shelter on Thursday to house those affected. People experiencing homelessness were not initially included in the first phase of Ontario's vaccination plan, which aims to prioritize those most vulnerable to the virus while supplies are extremely limited. Officials with the City of Toronto, which recently announced plans to vaccinate its homeless population, said the province has modified the framework so that people who are without housing can be vaccinated under Phase 1. Vaccine clinic opens up WECHU opened its vaccination clinic for seniors 80 and older on Monday morning. According to CEO Theresa Marenette, 11,300 eligible people have signed up to receive their shots so far, and about 148 appointments are scheduled for Monday. "It's pretty amazing to see our over 80-plus seniors coming into the centre," she said, adding that many would have been home for most of the pandemic. Those who got appointments were selected randomly and contacted by the health unit. Some couldn't believe they had been picked, Marenette said. "[Staff] said that some people did cry on the phone," she said. "They were really excited."
The Dragonfly Collective is an organization based out of Sprucedale that hopes to boost community spirit in the Township of McMurrich/Monteith. The Community Foundation Grey Bruce recently announced that it would be funding nine social purpose organizations in Central Ontario, and the Dragonfly Collective was awarded $25,000 to help with completing a business plan for its planned café and community hub. Dragonfly Collective chair Vicky Roeder-Martin said she was ecstatic to find out about the funding allotment. “It’s been a huge bonus,” said Roeder-Martin. “It’s basically a research-type grant so (we can) finish our business plan and get our professionals in line; someone to work on the website and get accountants lined up — to help move the project forward.” As it stands, the Dragonfly Collective is waiting to hear back from the Township of McMurrich/Monteith on the appraisal of the land the collective hopes to obtain, which is on George Street just off of Highway 518. “When I applied, I was hoping we’d have the land and be further along,” she said. “But it’s awesome, it’s very encouraging to receive the grant.” The Dragonfly Collective hopes to offer a café and community hub in Sprucedale to empower community members to share their skills and passions with one another through a variety of programming for all ages, as well as showcase local artisans and entrepreneurs. COVID-19 has made things difficult for Roeder-Martin and the rest of the Dragonfly Collective to hold events to promote the proposed café. “We wanted to have some events so people can find out what we’re doing as well as start doing some things that people can be part of, like fundraisers to get people interested,” she said. The Dragonfly Collective hopes to hear an update on land acquisition at the next McMurrich/Monteith council meeting. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Rural provincial advocates say provincial cuts to municipal funding detailed in the recent budget could be the final straw for some small communities. On Feb. 25, the Alberta provincial government released their annual budget, which prioritizes healthcare and jobs, while delivering a cut to municipal infrastructure funding by 25 per cent for the next three years. That budget shows $1.2 billion in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) dollars coming to municipalities across the province this year, $200 million more than was given out last year. MSI is a major source of provincial funding for Alberta’s municipalities, especially on the capital project side. However, the following two years will deliver cuts to the pot with municipalities having to share $485 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24, a 44 per cent decrease from the amount municipalities were expecting to receive. For each of those years, the province is putting an additional $375 million in a new pot of money it will invest in strategic capital projects, called the Economic Recovery Capital Envelope. Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), said rural communities are already owed $245 million in unpaid oil and gas property taxes from the industry. An additional cut to their MSI funding will mean some communities may have to hand in the keys. “The viability question starts to become very real,” McLauchlin said. Several municipalities have completely burned through their reserves paying for losses from unpaid oil and gas taxes instead of using the savings account for infrastructure projects, like replacing roads and bridges, he said. Rural communities were already faced with having to pay partly for policing services, a new cost dished out to them two years ago, which further strains their budgets. Oil and gas companies can also make up a big portion of some rural municipal budgets, so when the industry struggles, these communities have fewer tax dollars to collect. “We might see a spike in oil and gas prices when people get back to work, but we're going to see peak prices in 2025,” McLauchlin said. For McLauchlin, in his community of Ponoka County where he serves as reeve, some 70 per cent of their tax base is made up of oil and gas companies. Many rural municipalities with a few thousand residents just don’t have the tax base to make up for the shortfall. Those communities rely on grants, like MSI, to keep the lights on in the community, he said. A hit to that funding on top of an already strained local budget could be the final blow to some rural municipalities hovering on the brink. “They don't have the critical mass or the tax base to weather decreases in funding,” McLauchlin said. “If you had the unpaid taxes dealt with, you wouldn't have the distress.” Associate Minister of Natural Gas Dale Nally said the best thing the province can do to deal with unpaid taxes is to help the oil and gas industry get back on its feet. "(Unpaid oil and gas taxes) comes down to the fact that our oil and gas industry has just been battered over the last few years," Nally said. "We've got to get that economy going, we've got to create an environment where oil and gas companies can continue to hire Albertans, pay their municipal taxes and contribute to the economy in a meaningful way. And I'm confident that things look positive for that industry," Nally said. Diversification is key for rural municipalities to move forward, and time is of the essence, McLaughlin said. Rural communities need to make a plan for how to navigate the next decade. “I think reliance on one commodity as a rural municipal leader is fraught with disaster,” he said. “If we follow this path, we're going to get into an existential crisis as it relates to rural municipalities.” Considering the role cities play in getting people back to work and oil products to market, McLauchlin said he is disappointed municipalities took such a big hit in the provincial budget. But McLauchlin said he is optimistic for the future given the province's plan to diversify Alberta's economy. According to the budget, the province will invest $1.5 billion over four years into key economic sectors to build Alberta’s economy and create jobs. The diversification of natural gas, investment in hydrogen, value-added agriculture, electrification of transportation and broadband are all low-hanging fruit, McLauchlin said. The provincial government has shown they have an interest in energy diversification, and he said he is hopeful the coming year will see new initiatives across Alberta. “There is a lot of intellectual energy and innovation in this province,” McLauchlin said. While municipal funding delivered a blow to local governments, the budget wasn’t all bad news for rural communities. The Family and Community Support Services programs – which provide a slew of social support services to communities – didn’t get slashed, and McLauchlin said those offices are important hubs for rural centres. “Those are really a critical piece of the social hub in rural municipalities,” he said, adding libraries also maintained funding levels, which serve as key community centres. Agriculture service boards also maintained their funding, which work to serve different purposes including advocacy, education, weed inspections and pest control, McLauchlin said. The province will also be dishing out the administrative costs of running the upcoming referendum on equalization at the same time as the municipal election. Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
MILAN — AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out again with injury and could miss his side’s Europa League match against Manchester United. Ibrahimovic had to come off on Sunday in the second half of a 2-1 win at Roma after injuring a muscle in his left thigh. The Swedish forward will be re-evaluated in 10 days. That is the date of the trip to Old Trafford for the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 against his former club. The 39-year-old Ibrahimovic will definitely be out for the Serie A matches against Udinese and Hellas Verona. The Associated Press
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Health officials say the new case involves a person in their 30s in the Miramichi region, about 175 kilometres northeast of Fredericton. There are 36 active reported cases in the province and two people are hospitalized with the disease, both in intensive care. New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,431 COVID-19 infections and 27 deaths linked to the virus. Vaccination clinics for more than 2,400 residents of 121 licensed long-term care facilities are scheduled to take place this week. Residents of licensed long-term care facilities are expected to have received a first dose of vaccine by the week of March 14. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
DETROIT — The U.S. government is investigating complaints of engine compartment fires in nearly 1.9 million Toyota RAV4 small SUVs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating after getting 11 fire complaints involving the 2013 through 2018 model years. The RAV4 is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. that isn’t a pickup truck. In documents posted Monday, the agency says fires start on the left side of the engine compartment. A terminal on the 12-volt battery may short to the frame, causing loss of electrical power, engine stalling or a fire. Most of the fires happened while the vehicles are being driven, but four owners complained that fire broke out with the engine off. A Toyota spokesman would not answer questions about whether the SUVs should be parked outdoors until the matter is resolved, but said the company is co-operating in the probe. A spokeswoman for NHTSA said she is checking into whether the RAV4s should stay outdoors due to the risk of catching fire with the engine off. NHTSA says improper battery installation or front-end collision repair was a factor in the complaints. The agency says the RAV4 has a higher number of fire complaints in the battery area than comparable vehicles. Investigators will try to understand better what is contributing to the fires. The vehicles aren’t being recalled but the investigation could lead to one. The Associated Press
NICOLET. En temps normal, c’est dans les lieux publics qu’Alexandre Ayotte devrait effectuer sa tâche d’être une oreille attentive pour les aînés de Nicolet. Avec la pandémie qui a amené un isolement de la population en général et, particulièrement, chez les personnes âgées, le travailleur de milieu pour aînés les invite à ne pas hésiter à demander de l’aide. «Le travail habituel d’un travailleur de milieu pour aînés consiste à faire du repérage de personnes qui sont plus en marge du système de santé et du monde communautaire, des gens qui n’ont pas ou ont peu de famille et qui vivent de l’isolement. Ce n’est pas sans conséquence d’être isolé. Sur la santé mentale, il y a un effet c’est certain», explique Alexandre Ayotte qui a vu, avec la pandémie et ces mesures de confinement, une difficulté à identifier les personnes âgées concernées dans les lieux publics. «La donne a changé. Les restaurants et les clubs de la FADOQ sont fermés. Le contact direct n’est pas possible. Mon travail se fait maintenant par appel téléphonique et par d’autres moyens comme des lettres. Mais en ne pouvant pas rendre visite aux gens, on peut difficilement identifier des signes de perte d’autonomie ou de problèmes non verbalisés. En ce moment, on envisage de faire une vidéo promotionnelle pour promouvoir nos services», ajoute l’intervenant qui invite les aînés à le contacter pour, en premier lieu, de l’écoute. «Je suis là pour permettre aux gens de ventiler et d’avoir une oreille attentive. On va regarder ensemble ce qui pose problème et trouver des solutions», précise Alexandre Ayotte. «Quand on a vécu d’autres choses avec l’âge, on peut comprendre que l’on ne veut pas demander de l’aide. On a la conviction que l’on peut passer à travers et qu’on va faire preuve de résilience. Mais on vit une situation inhabituelle qui est déstabilisante pour tout le monde. On ne doit pas forcer personne à demander de l’aide, mais il ne faut pas avoir peur de le faire», conclut-il. Notons que l’on peut contacter Alexandre Ayotte au 819 293-4841. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Peel Public Health says it made a mistake in some of its information sent home to parents regarding advice for asymptomatic children sent home from school. While its website says they can isolate with a caregiver, the flyer did not. Matthew Bingley reports.
YEREVAN, Armenia — Political tensions in Armenia heightened Monday, with supporters of the embattled prime minister and the opposition each holding massive rallies at separate sites in the capital. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has faced opposition demands to resign since he signed a peace deal in November that ended six weeks of intense fighting with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The Russia-brokered agreement saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century. Opposition protests seeking Pashinyan's ouster abated during the winter but intensified last week amid a rift between him and the country's military leaders. The spat was sparked by Pashinyan firing a deputy chief of the military's General Staff who had laughed off the prime minister's claim that only 10% of Russia-supplied Iskander missiles that Armenia used in the conflict exploded on impact. The General Staff then demanded Pashinyan’s resignation, and he responded by dismissing the General Staff chief, Col. Gen. Onik Gasparyan. The dismissal has yet to be approved by Armenia's largely ceremonial president, Armen Sarkissian, who sent it back to Pashinyan, saying the move was unconstitutional. Pashinyan quickly resubmitted the demand for the general's ouster, and the prime minister's allies warned that the president could be impeached if he fails to endorse the move. Sarkissian's office responded with a strongly worded statement condemning “inadmissible speculation” about his move and emphasizing that his decision was “unbiased and driven exclusively by national interests.” Addressing a rally of thousands of his supporters, Pashinyan voiced hope the president would endorse the dismissal of the General Staff’s chief for meddling in politics. He blamed the country's former leader who lost power in the 2018 “velvet revolution” for influencing the military brass and trying to “set the army against the legitimately elected authorities and the people.” The prime minister also suggested calling a constitutional referendum in October to ask voters about expanding presidential powers to avoid future crises, although he didn't spell out specific changes. After an hour-long speech, Pashinyan led his supporters on a march across Yerevan under the heavy escort of police and security officers. Thousands of opposition supporters rallied at a separate location, demanding that the prime minister resign, and some later marched to the president's residence to support him in the rift with Pashinyan. The two marches proceeded along separate routes amid tight police cordons. At one point, scuffles broke out between some from the rival camps, but police quickly pulled them apart. Amid the escalating tensions earlier in the day, a group of protesters broke into a government building in central Yerevan to press for Pashinyan's resignation, but they left shortly afterward without violence. Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a leading member of the opposition Dashnaktsutyun party, promised that the protests will continue Tuesday. He also called for another rally Wednesday, when Pashinyan is expected to appear in parliament. Saghatelyan urged opposition supporters to gather in front of parliament that day “to clearly convey our voice.” Pashinyan, a 45-year-old former journalist who came to power after leading large street protests in 2018 that ousted his predecessor, still enjoys broad support despite the country's humiliating defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh and the opposition calls for his resignation. The prime minister has defended the peace deal as a painful but necessary move to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. The fighting with Azerbaijan that erupted in late September and lasted 44 days has left more than 6,000 people dead. Russia has deployed about 2,000 peacekeepers to monitor the Nov. 10 peace deal. Armenia has relied on Moscow’s financial and military support and hosts a Russian military base — ties that will keep the two nations closely allied regardless of the outcome of the political infighting. Last week, the Russian Defence Ministry rebuked the Armenian leader for criticism of the Iskander missile, a state-of-the-art weapon touted by the military for its accuracy. The Russian military said it was “bewildered” to hear Pashinyan’s claim because Armenia hadn’t used an Iskander missile in the conflict. In a bid to repair the damage to Armenia's ties with Moscow, Pashinyan rescinded his claim Monday, acknowledging that he made the statement after being misled. —- Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed. Avet Demourian, The Associated Press
(Submitted by Dylan Clark - image credit) Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 in the territory on Monday and 11 recoveries. The case brings the total number of active cases to eight, all of which are in Arviat. "Arviarmiut, we are on the right path to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the territory," Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said in a statement. "Today, as we see more people recover, it is important to remind Nunavummiut that public health measures are still in place and must be followed by everyone." All infected people currently are doing well and isolating at home, the territory says, while contact tracing is ongoing. As of Monday, Arviat has had 2,350 negative tests. To date, there have been a total of 314 cases in the community of nearly 3,000 people. The territory's rapid response team is still supporting the community health team. Travel in and out of Arviat is still restricted, unless for emergency or essential purposes, the territory says. Those in the community looking to get a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can call their health centre for an appointment. So far, 7,402 Nunavummiut have received at least one dose, and the vaccine clinics are ongoing. Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call the COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or notify their community health centre immediately. They should also begin isolating at home for 14 days. Residents are asked not to go to the health centre in person.
B.C. is moving into the second phase of its immunization plan, vaccinating seniors in the community aged 80 and up over the course of this month. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said the second dose of the three approved vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca—will be delayed to four months or 16 weeks, to provide more protection to more people sooner. Henry said the initial dose provides “a very high level of real-world protection.” In Phase 2, more than 400,000 people in B.C. will receive their first vaccine dose from March to early April, including: • seniors and high-risk people residing in independent living and seniors' supportive housing (including staff); • home-care support clients and staff; • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years and older); and • seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older). Today, first-dose immunizations begin for those living and working in independent living centres and seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff. Health authorities will directly contact those in this priority group to book appointments—there is no need to call. Beginning Monday (March 8), seniors aged 80+ and Indigenous peoples aged 65+ who are not living in independent living or seniors' supportive housing can make one call to book their appointment through their local health authority call centre according to a staggered schedule. This is to avoid long waits and system overload. Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15: • March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; • March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and • March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment. Health authority contact information, complete call-in schedules, hours of operations and step-by-step instructions on how to call to book an appointment for yourself, for a family member, for a friend or neighbour will be available on March 8, here: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst "We can now see the light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for us all. To get us through, we need to continue to work together and support each other," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We are working hard each and every day to make sure that everyone who wants a vaccine gets one, and my new provincial health officer order significantly expands the range of health professions and occupations who can support our immunization clinics, including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, firefighters and retired nurses." For health professionals who want to sign up to support B.C.'s immunization efforts as immunizers, visit: https://forms.hlth.gov.bc.ca/registry-covid-19 Immunizing other priority groups identified in Phase 2, many of whom have already received their first dose, is also underway, including: • Indigenous communities, Indigenous Elders, hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1; • vulnerable populations living and working in select congregate settings; and • staff in community home support and nursing services for seniors. In mid-April, Phase 3 will begin mass vaccination of people aged 79 to 60 years, and people aged 16+ who are extremely clinically vulnerable, at community immunization clinics throughout B.C. Mobile clinics will be available in some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues. In Phase 3, British Columbians will register and book their appointments to receive their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine through an online registration tool. People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79-75), and Indigenous peoples born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64-60), will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31. As of last week, 252,373 people in B.C. have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 73,808 who have received their second dose. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this,” said Premier John Horgan. “We have a long way to go.” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
(Submitted by Bill Schurman - image credit) Islanders who have lost their incomes or had their hours reduced by 12 hours a week between Feb. 28 and March 14 because of new COVID-19 restrictions are eligible for $500 in help from the provincial government, a P.E.I. cabinet minister said Monday. Matthew MacKay, the minister of economic growth, tourism and culture, said the King government is relaunching the P.E.I.'s Emergency Payment for Workers as of Tuesday. He said the payment will be provided in addition to any government assistance such as employment insurance. On Sunday, the province announced a 72-hour circuit breaker that left non-essential businesses closed or limited, meant no in-room dining at restaurants, shut down recreational facilities, and reduced the capacity at retail stores still allowed to serve the public. MacKay said the province is also relaunching $100 grocery gift cards for workers laid off from Feb. 28 to March 14, and rolling out a $1-million fund for Islanders who must take time off work due to illness and don't have paid sick leave. "We want to make sure people can put food on their table," MacKay said. MacKay said the province will be meeting with the business community as well, about support the owners of affected companies might need in order to stay afloat. Information on the new assistance will available on the provincial government website. No new cases yet After a weekend that saw 11 new COVID-19 cases confirmed, Islanders got good news Monday afternoon: No new cases have been identified since Sunday evening. "A total of 6,632 COVID-19 tests were completed on Saturday and Sunday," said a provincial government release issued just after 3 p.m. AT. "This includes 2,250 results from the Three Oaks Clinic in Summerside, which was set up for targeted testing of young people in the area. "All results so far are negative, and an additional 1,600 results are still pending." P.E.I. Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling later told CBC News: Compass that about 3,000 tests had been collected as of late afternoon Monday, with many more expected at clinics scheduled to stay open until 8 p.m. Since there are no new cases, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison was not holding a media briefing Monday, the news release said. Her regular weekly briefing will take place on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. AT, the usual time. The news comes on the first day of a three-day period of enhanced public health measures intended to slow transmission of the coronavirus after outbreaks in Summerside and Charlottetown late last week. "There are currently 18 active cases of COVID-19 in the province; all are self-isolating and being followed daily by public health," said Monday's news release. "Over 190 people have been identified as close contacts of the cases." P.E.I. continues to have no deaths or hospitalizations due to COVID-19, but there are 18 active cases thanks to two recent outbreaks. Officials feared the virus that causes COVID-19 might be spreading among asymptomatic teens and young adults, so Premier Dennis King and Morrison's office brought in what they called "Alert Level Red measures with modifications." Schools across P.E.I. have shut, non-essential businesses are closed to the public, and private and organized gatherings are being strongly discouraged. Meanwhile, testing is being ramped up at several locations, especially for those who visited sites of potential public exposure in the last two weeks. More from CBC P.E.I.
When Cara-Rae's sister-in-law Ashley began believing COVID-19 conspiracy theories, the close bond between the two began to fray and eventually the family tore apart. Ashley owns a gym in a Calgary suburb. Since the pandemic started, Cara-Rae said her sister-in-law became increasingly frustrated with health restrictions and began to believe more and more unfounded theories about the pandemic. Ashley's name has been changed to protect her identity. The Gazette is withholding Cara-Rae's last name for the same reason. The impact on the small family has been huge, Cara-Rae said. Ashley is her husband's only sibling, and became distant from the family as her beliefs shifted. Ashley recently started to follow the anti-masking movement and believes putting masks on children contributes to child abduction and trafficking. "It's hurtful for her parents, of course, as well. They're just devastated. We don't have a very big family. It pretty much feels like we've had to cut off a limb," Cara-Rae said. Cara-Rae and her husband live with his parents, and both her husband and father-in-law suffer from a heart condition. Testing positive for COVID-19 would put them at high risk of dying from the virus, so they must take public health measures very seriously. While the two households live hours away from each other, they cannot risk seeing Ashley and her family, even when restrictions are loosened. Visiting them would mean putting the vulnerable members of their family at risk. Ashley is married with children, and Cara-Rae said they deeply miss their young niece and nephew, who don't understand why they can't see their family. Cara-Rae said Ashley always believed in some of the tamer conspiracy theories, but COVID-19 and the circumstances around it escalated her views quickly. "I think it just kind of escalated from there when she started to find more extreme videos and theories. In for a penny, in for a pound. Once you start believing those things, it just becomes easier to justify more and more extreme levels," Cara-Rae said. "Once you can believe in one, all of them start to feel a little less ridiculous, right? A little more reliable." When COVID-19 hit, Ashley's gym business had to close and she took a huge financial hit. Ashley's husband also lost his job and the two have been facing a lot of financial stress. Once Ashley couldn't work, Cara-Rae said she spent more time on the internet, which she believes radicalized her. "I think she was looking for something to blame, looking for a place to put that anger and that frustration, and she found this online community and it serves that need for her." Cara-Rae said she continued to try to talk to her sister-in-law, but communication has all but halted because of how difficult it is to respond to theories Ashley believes. "I just don't even know how to respond anymore to some of this stuff, because it's just gotten to a level of ridiculousness," Cara-Rae said. Conspiracy theories cover a wide gamut of topics. In general, they're rooted in a belief that some covert but influential organization (say, a government or a powerful corporation) is responsible for a circumstance or event. These theories often challenge the official story and ascribe ulterior motives to the organizations involved. Mark Pickup, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, is researching COVID-19 conspiracy theories. He said uncertainty and anxiety are two relevant factors in why people may turn to these theories. While conspiracy theories have been around for a long time in one form or another, Pickup said there are many circulating at this particular time in history. The rise in anxiety during the pandemic, populists stoking conspiracy theories, and our social media environment can spread these theories like wildfire. The pandemic has caused feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, leading people to seek solutions, answers and explanations to what's happening in the world around them, he said. People who don't trust traditional authorities, like the government or public health bodies, start looking elsewhere for answers. There is also a lot of misinformation circulating online, Pickup said. Research has shown misinformation can spread quicker than the truth. A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found fake news travels farther, faster, deeper and broader than the truth in all categories of information due to people retweeting and sharing the misinformation – not because of bots. False news stories are 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than true stories, the study found. True stories can take about six times as long to reach 1,500 people compared to false news. When it comes to COVID-19 conspiracy theories, one in four Canadians believe there is at least some truth to the claim that the coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China – based on the results of a survey of 2,271 adults across Canada between April 24 and 28 last year. Pickup, who was part of the team researching these COVID-19 conspiracy theories in Canada, said this theory was given legitimacy in the public because there were people in authority, like former U.S. president Donald Trump, who suggested this theory could be a possibility, instead of immediately discrediting it. Nearly one in five Canadians believe the Chinese government engineered the virus in a lab, and almost one in ten believe the pandemic is a way for billionaire Bill Gates to microchip people. Populists, like Trump, attack institutions where people traditionally get their answers, Pickup said. As a result, people to latch onto alternative explanations, like conspiracy theories. "You end up with people being highly susceptible to those conspiracy theories." At this point in time, Pickup said more conspiracy theories in the world are coming from right-wing populist governments. In Canada, conservative politicians haven't embraced conspiracy theories openly as they have in the United States, where Trump spread theories about voter fraud. However, Canadians are exposed to similar reading materials through the internet and social media, so they are just as susceptible to coming across that information. In Canada, Pickup said people who are supporters of parties like the People's Party of Canada are more likely to support conspiracy theories than other party affiliations, due to right-wing populist leaders and candidates condoning conspiracy theories. According to Pickup's research, with the exception of a theory linking the pharmaceutical industry with COVID-19, it is the Conservative Party of Canada supporters who are the most likely to endorse these conspiracy theories Almost half (42 per cent) of Conservative Party voters believed that the coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan lab, compared to 13 per cent of Liberal voters and 10 per cent of NDP voters. Thirty-four per cent of Conservatives believed the Chinese government developed the coronavirus in a lab and another 18 per cent believed Bill Gates is using the coronavirus to push a vaccine with a microchip capable of tracking people, while five per cent of NDP voters and four per cent of Liberals believed the Bill Gates conspiracy. Pickup said people turn to others in their group, and look to them for answers. If others in your group believe in a conspiracy theory, then you are more likely to become convinced of one. Although conspiracy theories are currently believed by more people who follow right-wing populists, Pickup said research hasn't found all of the answers on who is universally more likely to believe in them. But one psychological factor can be useful in determining who is more at risk. People who do more reflective thinking – slowing down and rationalizing through a situation rather than just responding intuitively – are less susceptible to believing in conspiracy theories, Pickup said. People who use social media to get their news are more likely to believe in conspiracies if they score low in reflective thinking. If you score high in reflective thinking but still use social media to get your news, you are not as likely to believe in conspiracies. This research shows individual psychological factors are more important markers of who will believe in conspiracy theories rather than other factors, like demographics, Pickup said. People who are more highly educated are less likely to believe in conspiracy theories, but he said those underlying psychological factors are still more important than someone's education level. "Certainly there are plenty of people with university education who buy into conspiracy theories, so it more has to do with psychological factors," Pickup said. Once someone starts to believe in a conspiracy theory, that kind of thinking starts to snowball, Pickup said. "There's general susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and then there are specific conspiracies that might appeal to specific people." For people who score lower in reflective thinking, being exposed to conspiracies online that match their worldview make them more likely to believe in them. Anyone who gets their news through social media will have a higher exposure to conspiracies, and if they are more psychologically vulnerable to them, they are more likely to believe. The academic said the best way to combat this is to think about what you are reading on the internet, rather than internalizing the message you are reading immediately. Often, people will only read the headlines of news stories, and the headlines don't reflect the full story. "Stories in general, but particularly headlines that instill fear or anger are going to be more likely to be shared than ones that instill other emotions like joy," Pickup said. That means conspiratorial stories are more likely to be shared and seen on the internet than true stories. Once someone starts believing in conspiracies, it is extremely difficult to pull them out of their beliefs, as anyone who speaks out against the conspiracy is seen as brainwashed or part of the conspiracy. "The information that's telling me I'm wrong is part of the conspiracy, and so anyone who says you're wrong, you see them as part of the conspiracy. This is why conspiracy theories are so hard and it's so difficult to get people to stop believing in them," Pickup said. The conspiracies around COVID-19 are not harmless and have serious public health consequences, he added. "A lot of them affect people's behaviours, and that affects the spread of COVID-19," Pickup said. If many people don't wear masks or social distance because they believe in a conspiracy, they will increase the spread of COVID-19 in their communities, he added. Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
SUDBURY, Ont. — Public health officials have ordered the closure of two more schools in Sudbury, Ont., after more COVID-19 cases were linked to outbreaks. Public Health Sudbury and Districts is advising all students, visitors and staff at Jean Hanson Public School and Algonquin Public School to self-isolate and immediately get tested. Specific classes were dismissed at the two schools last week when COVID-19 outbreaks were declared. The health unit says it has since determined potential widespread infection at the schools. It says the schools have no confirmed cases of a COVID-19 variant to date. The closures follow the dismissal of two other schools – Lasalle Secondary School and Cyril Varney Public School – last week after five confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants were found. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 1, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — It's been bananas at a Calgary not-for-profit as it tries to find a use for more than 300 cases of the long, yellow fruit, which were donated all at once last week. Audra Stevenson, interim CEO of the Leftovers Foundation, says the group's goal is to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste. She says the priority is to get as many fresh bananas as possible to organizations that can use them, like homeless shelters. Stevenson says there will likely be one pallet left of bananas that are past their prime, but they can still be used in baked goods or ice cream. She says food artisans are on standby to grab whatever is left once service agencies get their fill of fruit. Stevenson says the pandemic has made it harder than usual for distributors to predict food orders because no one is sure when restaurants will be opened or closed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
(David Laughlin/CBC - image credit) A prison sentence of nearly six years has been handed down to a man after a shooting last year in the Halifax area that left another man seriously injured. Jeffrey Paul Mason, 38, was sentenced to five years and 11 months on gun-related charges, uttering threats and intent to cause bodily harm. He was originally charged with attempted murder after the incident in Terence Bay. Police were called after a disturbance outside a home on Lower Prospect Branch Road last April 9. Mason and the 46-year-old victim were involved in an altercation when Mason left the scene and returned with a gun. He shot the victim before fleeing in a vehicle. The victim was taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Officers found Mason at a nearby home and arrested him. Police say the two men were known to each other. MORE TOP STORIESwho shot a man last April in the Halifax-area community of Terence Bay.
NEW YORK — The audience watching the searing and provocative “Slave Play” on Broadway often caught a glimpse of themselves onstage — in more ways than one. That's because set designer Clint Ramos had built giant mirrors behind the actors, who initially appear to be on a plantation in the pre-Civil War South. Ramos, as he has done hundreds of time before, wanted to pull people into the raw story being told. “It always starts at an emotional response,” says Ramos, who is head of design and production at Fordham University. “It’s always driven by this sense to find the human.” For that striking scenic design, Ramos has earned one of two 2021 Tony Award nominations. He also got a nod for best costume design for “The Rose Tattoo.” “Slave Play” director Robert O’Hara says Ramos always hopes to elevate the onstage work, scouring the script for design clues. He remembers the moment Ramos came up with the idea of mirrors. “In talking with Clint about how we can get audience interaction — in terms of seeing themselves watching this and seeing each other watch this experience — he came up with this idea of mirrors, which was quite extraordinary,” O'Hara says. Ramos studied both scenic and costume design at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and was initially hired primarily for costumes. Then his set designs took off, too. “It’s never been an either/or,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in the bigger picture. What do the inhabitants of that world look like? It’s never been as siloed, as I think most people think.” He has designed sets or costumes for hundreds of theatre, opera and dance productions, including Broadway's “Burn This” with Adam Driver and Keri Russell, “Six Degrees of Separation” with Allison Janney, “Sunday in the Park With George” with Jake Gyllenhaal and “The Elephant Man” with Bradley Cooper. It was Ramos' idea to dress Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o in a filthy “Rugrats” T-shirt for Danai Gurira's powerful play “Eclipsed.” Nyong’o was playing a teen who had been abducted and enslaved in a rebel compound during a bloody civil war in Africa. “How are Broadway audiences ever going to identify with this person?” Ramos asked himself. His answer was a discarded T-shirt from America featuring an animated children’s TV series. It instantly connected the girl with the audience — and yet with heartbreak, recognizing a discarded soul. “It gave me an opportunity to be poetic about the destruction of innocence,” Ramos says. He won a Tony for it, becoming the first person of colour to win in the costume category. Ramos faced a similar dilemma with “Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’ bracing work about an antebellum fantasy therapy workshop that explores the legacy of slavery in sexual dynamics. Ramos wanted the audience to be uncomfortable voyeurs. "How can I make it so that a white person or a Black person or any other within that spectrum feels a level of discomfort?” he asked. “It occurred to me that if I just did a whole bank of mirrors, I could literally surround the actors with the audience.” The effect was enhanced by the fundamental fact of who usually pays for tickets on the Great White Way. “This being a Broadway theatre, the faces that are going to be reflected are going to be mostly white,” he said. While theatres may be shuttered, Ramos' work will be seen in “Respect,” the upcoming biopic of Aretha Franklin starring Jennifer Hudson. He was tasked with crafting 80 costumes for The Queen of Soul and had to dress 1,000 people to recreate a 1968 Madison Square concert. His love of theatre traces back to his childhood in the Philippines, where he experienced street theatre in rallies against the Marcos regime. “I saw the power that it could do. I still remember very vividly,” he says. He likes working collaboratively, with everyone in different jobs offering their visions and ideas. When he's hired, everyone gets his input. “Part of what I’ve learned is that there are just things that I cannot possibly see. And then there are things that I see that other people don’t," he says. "So, for me, it’s been sort of a spiritual journey learning that.” Ramos has long been an activist for an equitable landscape in theatre and film for Black, indigenous and people of colour. During the pandemic, he helped found Design Action, a coalition advocating for change. In the 2018-2019 theatrical season, 91% of Broadway design slots were filled with white designers. Ramos hopes Broadway gets to the point when half of all designers are non-white. “It is the right thing to do, but it actually will make the theatre better,” he says. “We really need to do a lot of things off stage. And that, to me, is where I am and I want to put my focus.” ___ Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A former hotel on the Vancouver's eastside has been purchased to create about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. The City of Vancouver, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the federal government say the former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November. Ahmed Hussen, the minister of families, children and social development, has also announced a separate $51.5 million plan to create 135 new affordable homes. Hussen says in a news release that the program will quickly provide homes for vulnerable people to keep them safe. The Canadian Press