Here's the latest for Monday February 15th: Power cut across Texas as snow, ice blanket southern Plains, WHO grants emergency authorization to AstraZeneca; UK begins to impose hotel quarantine for arrivals and Icebergs dot Polish coast
Here's the latest for Monday February 15th: Power cut across Texas as snow, ice blanket southern Plains, WHO grants emergency authorization to AstraZeneca; UK begins to impose hotel quarantine for arrivals and Icebergs dot Polish coast
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
From spring through fall, it’s not unusual to find Beck Aurell swinging from limb to limb through the crowns of Island oak, maple or poplar trees. Gear similar to a rock climber’s holds her safely in the tree and she carries a pruning saw or chainsaw at her side. “I might be the only female bodied climbing arborist on PEI,” Beck said, explaining that arborists are tree workers with specialized skills and certifications. They typically focus on managing and taking care of trees in residential areas. She was most recently employed with Laird Tree Care out of Cardigan. While Beck identifies as gender non-binary she is perceived by most as female and is comfortable with she/her or they/them pronouns. This puts her at odds with the majority of people she has worked with in Canada and around the world. Beck loves outdoor, hands-on work and any day she can help preserve the life of a tree is a good day in her opinion. She said making her way into a male dominated field of work wasn’t particularly easy but there were a few things that lifted her up into the treetops. “My dad was very helpful,” she said. Beck’s father owns an arborist business in New Brunswick and encouraged her to challenge herself by climbing in her teens. “It was something fun we did together and he never questioned if I could do it.” While the average arborist seems to be a tall bulky or lean guy, Beck has found smart techniques and tools tend to level the playing field. With a 5 foot 2 inch tall female body, she is stronger than some might expect. Beck said sometimes customers meet her with surprised comments like “Oh, are you doing the work?” or “Where’s the foreman?” when she is the team lead for the day. “It might be hard to believe, but it doesn’t actually take a 6-foot bulky man to transport logs from point A to B, to work hard all day, or to do the work we do efficiently,” she said. Luckily most customers meet her with supportive comments. “Customers that are older women especially seem supportive, I think it might be because they’ve seen so much change over the years.” Beck said local queer and some feminist communities have been a tremendous source of support and their ideas have helped her the whole way through. “Queer communities tend to share the idea, if it feels right for you, break gender expectations without fear or embarrassment, with pride,” she said. “They’ve really showed me there are different ways to be a person that don’t fit specific gender roles.” Beyond that, seeing female arborists in the industry when she worked in Sweden or at events (like women’s arborist skills camps in the US or in iternational arborist climbing competitions) reassured her that she could succeed in this line of work. Co-workers who have welcomed her into group environments and given her the opportunity to do what she is capable of without underestimating her abilities have also played a helpful part. “Most of my co-workers have been great,” Beck said. “Most don’t think twice about having me on the crew and working together, especially once they see I am capable and reliable.” “This means a lot because sometimes it takes a minute for some of the guys to settle with the idea that I’ll be climbing and working on the same level or even as a leader with them. “Sometimes when a crew shows up on a job they’re not expecting a blonde woman in her 20s to be the foreman and there seems to be a bit of an ego thing that can go on. “Sometimes there is some pushback but for the most part, it’s no problem.” Beck said her crew on PEI has been an excellent and fun team to work with. She has some advice for anyone considering a field of work that may seem unusual for their gender. “Don’t be afraid to break expectations and don’t underestimate yourself,” she said. “And if you can’t find anyone supportive, give me a call.” Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
The Paradise Warriors Minor Hockey Association may be formidable foes on the ice, but they’ve been doing plenty of good off the ice. In mid-February, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, who has become a household name during the pandemic, asked residents to consider donating to local food banks and charities, rather than sending her personal gifts. Groups, businesses, residents, and sports leagues across the province, including the Warriors, took Fitzgerald’s request to heart. The Warriors hosted a virtual fundraiser which ran from February 19 to February 28. In just that short amount of time, the association raised $5,540. “As an association, we are extremely proud of our members for being able to help out the community during this latest lockdown,” said Paradise Warriors Minor Hockey President Greg Barton. “It is a testament to how lucky we are to have so many great people involved with our association.” Barton said the virtual food drive helped meet a community need while keeping players, who are currently unable to play due to the pandemic restrictions, active in the association. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Most kids are introduced to probability math by rolling dice over and over on a desk or floor. But Maureen Richardson’s Grade 3 class will learn the likelihood of rolling snake eyes (hint: it’s low) by programming a small hand-held device to display numbers on a screen at the push of a button. “Instead of just going and getting a bag of dice ... we can code a dice or coin flipper,” she said. “They’re learning code, but we’re using it as a tool to help us with our math.” Richardson, a teacher at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Elementary School in Waterdown, is using code to teach her Grade 3 class everything from probability and temperature to spelling to social-emotional skills. Thanks to Microsoft and Fair Chance Learning, a Canadian company working to bring technology to classrooms, Richardson has a class set of micro:bits, which are minicomputers “the size of a child’s palm” — about $25 each — that she uses to teach kids the basics of coding. “When they get a device in front of them, their eyes light up,” she said. “They’re excited about it.” Richardson uses block coding, a language in which Lego-like bricks are connected to create commands. “You just sort of click and drag the code that you need over into the workspace and that’s how they write their code,” she said. “It’s very simple.” In the fall, Richardson introduced the class to coding through a simple activity: programing the micro:bit to “write” letters in the device’s 25 LED lights. “When you start the program, it will then spell their name based on the blocks they put it in the order,” she said. “It’s just teaching them that each of these little blocks connect together.” Once they mastered the device’s functions, the students could practise spelling other words using the device. Other activities include programming the micro:bit, which has a temperature sensor, to act as a thermometer, coding happy — or sad — faces to express emotion and using the built-in accelerometer as a step-counter to measure physical activity. “We know that’s what’s ahead for them, that coding will be part of their jobs in the future,” said Richardson, who has two daughters in post-secondary STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. “Knowing what their career path is like, I thought, ‘You might as well start introducing them now.’” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced more than $518 million in funding for research projects at colleges, universities and hospitals across the country. The funding will finance 102 "state-of-the-art" projects at 35 post-secondary institutions and research hospitals covering a variety of subjects, from vaccine production and climate change to smart cities and Indigenous reconciliation, the Canada Foundation for Innovation said in a news release. Some of the funding will go toward projects aimed at speeding up domestic vaccine production. The Liberal government has faced criticism over what critics say were insufficient efforts to invest in domestic COVID-19 vaccine research and manufacturing capacity early in the pandemic. The Canada Foundation for Innovation will provide the money, which will cover 40 per cent of the costs of eligible infrastructure for each project. The projects being funded include: A public vaccine production program to build and test vaccines, launch startup companies and support existing ones, led by researchers at the University Hospital of Quebec and Laval University ($1.8 million). A project to deploy sensors in the North Atlantic Ocean to collect information about ocean warming and carbon capture, led by researchers at Dalhousie University ($3.5 million). A data analysis study of more than four million pregnant women and children to better understand the effects of medications on expectant mothers and kids, to be led by researchers at the University of Montreal and the pediatric hospital CHU Sainte-Justine ($1.1 million). A 'smart campus' testing lab at Ryerson University to allow researchers to test new smart building, security, lighting, construction and energy efficient technologies ($1.9 million). A digital archive of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation's records, to be built by the University of Manitoba ($2.4 million). Each project was chosen through competitions held by the the CIF's Innovation Fund which take place every two to three years and involve a rigorous review process, the release said. At a press conference today, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the funding will help fund research facilities, lab equipment and research databases. "Our Canadian researchers need these kinds of tools to turn their bold ideas into reality," said Champagne.
WASHINGTON — The United States is at a COVID-19 crossroads — and public health officials are worried about which path it will choose. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is urging Americans not to let their guard down. For a second straight day, Walensky is warning about the potential for highly contagious COVID-19 variants to undo the country's hard-won progress. Her message is competing with a torrent of seemingly good news. President Joe Biden says the U.S. will have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses in stock for every adult American by the end of May. And a number of states are easing their pandemic restrictions, most recently Texas, which is planning to reopen completely by next Wednesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
BISMARCK, N.D. — Republican and Democratic legislative leaders were finalizing a resolution Wednesday to expel a North Dakota House member accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the state capitol. House Majority Leader Chet Pollert told The Associated Press that the resolution to expel GOP Rep. Luke Simons will be introduced on the House floor Thursday. Simons, who has denied wrongdoing and refused Republican leaders' calls for him to resign, is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behaviour, dating back to shortly after he took office in 2017. The GOP-controlled Legislature reconvened Wednesday after its midsession break known as crossover. Pollert and Democratic House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said they worked together over the recess to craft the expulsion resolution. Legislative officials said there is no record of any lawmaker being expelled since statehood. Pollert said lawmakers on Wednesday will discuss the process outlining the potential removal of Simons. The resolution could be debated by a yet-to-be formed committee, an existing committee, or by the entire House, the leaders said. Pollert and Boschee said they preferred the latter. “Rep. Simons will have his day and will be able to defend his actions,” Pollert said. A 14-page document compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Council includes allegations that Simons made “advances” toward female staffers and interns, commented on their appearances and tried to give one staffer an unsolicited shoulder massage. One staffer described his behaviour as “really creepy.” Simons, 43, said in a statement issued late Tuesday that the allegations “have been totally misconstrued and taken out of context.” “If the Legislature decides to inquire into any of my conduct or any of the allegations made by the director of the Legislative Council, then I look forward to a full and complete public hearing in which witnesses are heard, the true facts are determined, and where I am provided all of my due process rights and afforded the opportunity to require the attendance of witnesses, if necessary by subpoena,” Simons’ statement said. Simons, a barber and rancher, is a member of the loosely organized Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government and gun rights. Simons has insisted on social media that he’s being targeted for his politics. Simons’ attorney, Lynn Boughey, said he believes the House cannot expel Simons, and beyond censure, can only impeach him, which would require a Senate trial. Legislative leaders and their lawyers note the North Dakota Constitution says either chamber can expel a member with two-thirds approval. That would mean 63 members of the House would need to approve. Republicans hold an 80-14 advantage in the chamber. James MacPherson, The Associated Press
Brad Gushue won his first Canadian men's curling championship in a sold-out hometown venue that erupted in joy after his game-winning throw. The three-time champion will try to win another Tim Hortons Brier title in an arena setting that will be the complete opposite. Play begins Friday night in a spectator-free Markin MacPhail Centre as elite men's domestic curling returns after a long absence due to the pandemic. The Scotties Tournament of Hearts provided a successful kickoff to a run of six straight bonspiels at Canada Olympic Park. Now the Brier takes centre stage as 18 teams — many of them competing for the first time in months — square off for the right to hoist the Tankard. "It's going to be interesting and really I have no idea what to expect," Gushue said. "I think once we get through the first weekend, you'll probably settle in and know the level (everyone) is at and then you just kind of accept it and battle it out." The preliminary round will continue through March 11. The top eight teams will qualify for the two-day championship round. The top three teams will advance the playoffs on March 14. The second- and third-place teams will meet in an afternoon semifinal with the winner to face the first-place side in the evening final. It has been four years since Gushue won his first Brier in front of a euphoric crowd in St. John's, N.L. He beat Alberta's Brendan Bottcher last year in Kingston, Ont. The Canada skip is listed as an early 2.35-to-1 favourite to repeat by online sports book Coolbet Canada, just ahead of Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs, wild-card entry Kevin Koe and Bottcher. "I think the fact that there have been so few games and the practice time hasn't been there for a lot of teams, it's a bit of a crapshoot to be honest," Gushue said. "I think this could go a lot of different ways than what it would if we had all had our regular run-up to the Brier." Like many rinks at the recent Scotties Tournament of Hearts, most Brier teams were invited by their respective associations to play after the cancellation of annual playdowns due to the pandemic. "I think we'll probably be as patient as we can because I think everybody is going to make some mistakes," Gushue said. "It's the teams that don't compound those mistakes that are going to be successful." There is no play-in game this year. Ontario's Glenn Howard, Koe's Alberta-based team and Mike McEwen's rink from Manitoba are the wild-card entries. Koe will attempt to win a record fifth Brier title as a skip, a mark he shares with Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin. Koe is a headliner in Pool B along with Gushue, Ontario's John Epping and Saskatchewan's Matt Dunstone, who finished third last year in Kingston. They're joined by Quebec's Mike Fournier, Greg Smith of Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I.'s Eddie MacKenzie, Nunavut's Peter Mackey and Jamie Murphy's Nova Scotia team that will be skipped by Scott McDonald. Bottcher, McEwen and Howard are in Pool A along with Jacobs, Manitoba's Jason Gunnlaugson, B.C.'s Steve Laycock, New Brunswick's James Grattan, Greg Skauge of the Northwest Territories and Yukon's Dustin Mikkelsen. The Brier winner will represent Canada at the April 2-11 world men's curling championship in the Calgary bubble. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Friends and family from near and far have come together to help a Goulds farming family following a devastating barn fire that claimed as many as 70 cattle last week. “It was surreal,” said Heather Penney-Stanley, a lifelong family friend currently residing in Florida. Penney-Stanley is one half of a duo who banded together to start a social media fundraising campaign to help farmer Michael Dinn and his family. “Jill O’Reilly-Kavanagh and I were really good friends with Michelle (Michael’s sister), we all grew up together,” said Penney-Stanley. “So, we said, ‘We need to do something, lets start a fundraiser.’ So, Jill started the Facebook page, and it was just meant to be for our high school friends, but it took off. I guess you could say it went viral. Everybody wanted to help, we started letting more people into the group, and the word spread.” Soon, they created a GoFundMe page as another avenue to collect funds. As of Thursday, the group had received about $30,000 in email transfers, plus $2,000 raised through the GoFundMe. But folks have been finding other ways to help too. “One lady wants to do a Tupperware party, and she plans to donate her profits,” said Penney-Stanley. “I had another lady reach out, she’s a local artist, and she donated a painting, and we’re going to auction that off. We even had a local rescue (group) offer to donate barn cats, if and when the time came for them to need barn cats.” Penney-Stanley said a couple of thousand dollars raised amongst friends would have been counted as a success. “We didn’t really have a goal set,” said Penney-Stanley. “But we didn’t expect it to blow up like this. It’s incredible. It just shows what I’ve always thought; that Newfoundlanders are the kindest people on the planet. It restores your faith in humanity to see how people have come together to support the Dinn family. They are the kindest, most giving family, so it’s nice to see how the community has come together to support them, how the farming community has come forward to show their support, businesses have donated, people have been donating money, and they want to help in other ways. It’s incredible.” Dinn was involved in the 4H program and would often have children from the 4H club over on the farm. For Agriculture Canada’s Open Farm Day, he would open the farm for the community to show off the livestock and what was involved in the day-to-day operations. “They’ve been devastated,” said Penney-Stanley. “They have a lot to process and figure out moving forward. But everybody is hoping that Michael will rebuild, and his family, and his friends and the community are behind him 100 per cent.” Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Toronto police say a man who was in a position of authority with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program has been charged with sexual assault. The force says the man was with the cadet program in Toronto in November 2019 and allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl. They say the 27-year-old man surrendered to police on Feb. 24 and is no longer in his position of authority. Police say the man faces charges that include sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a young person. He is scheduled to appear in court on April 12. Police say there may be other alleged victims. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Waterous Energy Fund says it has prevailed in its takeover of private junior oilsands producer Osum Oil Sands Corp. It says a total of 45.7 million Osum shares, about 34 per cent of the outstanding total and more than 50 per cent of the shares the fund didn't already own, were deposited to its offer of $3 per share by the expiry date. The fund says it intends to buy the remaining shares within four months. Osum leaders reversed their strong opposition to the Waterous deal last month after the initial offer of $2.40 per share was increased by 25 per cent. Waterous, a Calgary investment firm established in 2017 and headed by CEO Adam Waterous, said it bought 45 per cent of the outstanding shares last July from Osum's three largest shareholders. It says five of Osum's directors and four executive officers, including CEO Steve Spence, have voluntarily resigned. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne says the federal government is spending $518 million on efforts to boost Canada’s ability to produce vaccines, among more than 100 research projects receiving new money. He says the funding will help provide Canadian researchers with equipment and shared databases, among other things.
MARIE JOSEPH – The long and fateful sojourn of MV Caruso, beached below the highway outside this tiny St. Mary’s community, is coming to an end one way or the other. In a statement to The Journal, the Canadian Coast Guard says, “On January 25, 2021, personnel from the Coast Guard’s Environmental Response branch mobilized to Marie Joseph, Nova Scotia, to conduct bulk pollution removal operations on the MV Caruso,” adding: “Coast Guard is developing a permanent solution to the threat of pollution posed by the vessel.” According to Lloyd Hines, MLA for Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie and Minister of Transportation and Active Transit (formerly Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal), the Coast Guard’s remediation is a “preliminary step to removing the vessel,” adding: “They came in with hazmat suits. It wasn’t like they were hiding.” Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald confirmed that the Coast Guard notified his office in advance and that the move has been in the works for some time. “They told us they were coming to the area to remove fluids,” he says. “It is my understanding that they’ve had a file on Caruso for a while.” Residents of this coastal village know the boat by its former name, the Sir Charles Tupper, a decommissioned Canadian Coast Guard buoy tender and icebreaker that had been towed into the community’s harbour in 2011 and subsequently hauled onto the shoulder of Highway 7, where it has rusted in the salt air ever since. Since then, the hulk (and the derelict tugboat Craig Trans, which rests beside it) has been an abiding source of complaint and controversy in this community of fewer than 100. In 2017, St. Mary’s municipal council issued a statement declaring that it had “concerns regarding the potential risks that these vessels may pose to the surrounding environment and the economic well-being of the area” and that it had shared its concerns with relevant authorities even though it had “no jurisdiction over ocean salvage operations.” It’s never been entirely clear whether Caruso or Craig Trans are even technically abandoned. Formerly owned and operated by the Government of Canada, they appear to have floated in and out of private hands, like so much driftwood, for years. Meanwhile, neither branch of government has the authority to unilaterally alter or dispose of private property. Still, MacDonald points out, “The federal government doers have jurisdiction over the water that the boats are in. The owners of [Caruso], whoever they may be, are required to meet the standard and make sure that the environment and the waters there are protected.” Indeed, according to the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, 2019, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans “may take the measures that he or she considers necessary in respect of the dilapidated vessel or its contents, including repairing, securing, moving or removing the vessel or its contents or selling, dismantling, destroying or otherwise disposing of them.” Moreover, under a different Act, the Coast Guard can “mobilize” against a vessel that “causes any pollution damage and/or need for cleanup”, according its Emergency Response Levels of Service regulations: “Where the polluter is identified, [we] will advise the polluter of its responsibilities under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and once the polluter’s intentions/plans are known and an On-scene Commander (OSC) is appointed by the polluter, [we] will assume the role of Federal Monitoring Officer. In the event that the polluter is unknown, unwilling or unable to respond, the CCG will assume the role of OSC.” Regardless, the Caruso’s fate now seems sealed, according to Hines, who says he received first-hand accounts of the Coast Guard’s activities in Marie Joseph last month. “The federal folks had a lot of personnel, equipment, and vehicles in there for quite a long time,” he reported. “They had a tanker truck in there, and they pumped … [Caruso]… out. They took out the bilge water and, I guess, any other pollutants they came across. They were not sleuthing around.” Last August, Hines told the Journal: “This [removing Caruso] has been my passion for the last seven years. I see [it] every week when I drive by, and every week [it] drives me crazy.” In its statement, The Coast Guard says: “The safety of mariners and the protection of the marine environment are the top priorities for the Canadian Coast Guard.” In an accompanying email, Fisheries and Oceans Communications Advisor Stephen Bornais adds, “Check back with us in a week for an update.” Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
TORONTO — Veteran Canadian strawweight Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos will face Luana Pinheiro at UFC 260 on March 27. It will mark the 17th UFC fight for the 35-year-old from Windsor, Ont., who made her debut in the promotion in December 2014. Markos (10-10-1) has lost three straight and four of her last five, dropping her record in the UFC to 6-9-1. Markos lost a decision to Japan's Kanako Murata last time out in November. Pinheiro (8-1-0) is making her UFC debut after posting a first-round KO win in November over Stephanie Frausto in Dana White's Contender Series. The 27-year-old Brazilian has won her last six outings. The main event at the UFC's Apex production facility in Las Vegas sees Stipe Miocic (20-3-0) put his heavyweight title on the line against No. 1 contender Francis (The Predator) Ngannou (15-3-0). Miocic won by unanimous decision when they met at UFC 220 in January 2018, There are two other Canadians on the UFC 260 card. Flyweight Gillian (The Savage) Robertson, a native of Niagara Falls, Ont., who makes her home in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., faces Miranda (Fear The) Maverick and Quebec middleweight Marc-Andre (Power Bar) Barriault takes on Morocco's Abu (Gladiator) Azaitar. Robertson and Miranda were supposed to meet Feb. 13 at UFC 258 but the Canadian had to withdraw due to a non-COVID-related illness. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
JERUSALEM — The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor on Wednesday launched an investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, turning the tribunal’s focus toward Israeli military actions and settlement construction on lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The decision dealt an embarrassing blow to the Israeli government, which had conducted an aggressive public relations and behind-the-scenes diplomatic campaign to block the investigation. It also raised the possibility of arrest warrants being issued against Israeli officials suspected of war crimes, making it potentially risky to travel abroad. “The state of Israel is under attack this evening,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “The biased international court in the Hague made a decision that is the essence of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy.” “I promise you we will fight for the truth until we annual this scandalous decision,” he said. The decision by Fatou Bensouda, the court’s outgoing prosecutor, had been expected since the court determined last month that she had jurisdiction over the case. A preliminary probe by Bensouda in 2019 had found a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes case. In a statement, Bensouda said the investigation will look into “crimes within the jurisdiction of the court that are alleged to have been committed” since June 13, 2014. She said the investigation will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour.” That task will now be handed to Karim Khan, the British lawyer who is set to become the court's chief prosecutor in June. Wednesday's decision turns the court’s focus toward two key Israeli policies of recent years: its repeated military operations against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, highlighted by a devastating 2014 war, and its expansion of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Experts say that Israel could be especially vulnerable to prosecution for its settlement policies. Although the Palestinians do not have an independent state, they were granted nonmember observer status in the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, allowing them to join international organizations like the ICC. Since joining the court in 2015, they have pushed for a war crimes probe against Israel. Israel, which is not a member of the court, had said it does not have jurisdiction because Palestine is not a sovereign state. The Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, welcomed Wednesday’s move. “This long-awaited step serves Palestine’s vigorous effort to achieve justice and accountability as indispensable bases for peace,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said. The Palestinians chose June 2014 as the start of the investigation to coincide with the run-up to Israel’s devastating Gaza war that summer. In the fighting, over 2,200 Palestinians, including nearly 1,500 civilians, were killed by Israeli fire, according to U.N. estimates. At least 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side, according to Israeli figures. Israel has argued that it waged a war of self-defence against nonstop rocket fire against its cities. It blames Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers for the high civilian death toll because the group launched attacks from residential areas, drawing Israeli retaliation. Bensouda has also said her probe would look into the actions of Hamas, which fired rockets indiscriminately into Israel during the 2014 war. In Gaza, Hamas nonetheless welcomed the initiation of the investigation and called on Bensouda to “resist any pressure” that could scuttle the process. “This is a step forward to implement justice, punish the occupation and do justice to the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told the Associated Press. He said he was confident that the rocket attacks on Israeli cities was legitimate under international law. The ICC is meant to serve as a court of last resort when countries’ own judicial systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute war crimes. Israel does not recognize its authority, saying it has an independent, world-class judicial system. But the Palestinians, and human rights groups, say Israel is incapable of investigating itself and has a history of whitewashing military crimes. After the war, the military opened dozens of investigations into the conduct of troops. Although there were only a handful of convictions on minor charges, that could be enough for the court, which dropped a similar case against British troops in Iraq last year because U.K. authorities had investigated. In a reference to Israel’s justice system, Bensouda said the investigation will “allow for a continuing assessment of actions being taken at the domestic level in accordance with the principle of complementarity.” Experts have warned that Israel could have a harder time defending its settlement policies in in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Settlements are widely viewed as illegal based on the Geneva Convention principle that an occupying power is barred from transferring its population to territories captured in war. Population transfers are listed as a war crime in the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute. Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast war, and considers the West Bank disputed territory. But its positions are not internationally recognized, and most of the world considers both areas occupied territories. Today, some 700,000 settlers live in the two areas, which the Palestinians claim, along with Gaza, for a future state. Israel says the fate of these areas should be resolved in negotiations, and that ICC involvement will push the Palestinians away from the negotiating table. Bensouda said that priorities in the investigation will be “determined in due time” based on constraints including the coronavirus pandemic, limited resources and prosecutors’ existing heavy workload. While Wednesday’s decision does not pose any immediate threat to Israel, the court has the authority to quietly issue arrest warrants for people suspected of crimes. Netanyahu was prime minister during the 2014 Gaza war and has been a strong advocate of the settlements. His defence minister, Benny Gantz, was Israel’s military commander during the war. Israeli media have said that Israel is in touch with allies who are members of the ICC to receive warnings about potential arrest warrants against its citizens. In his statement, Netanyahu said Israel was being unfairly singled out. He accused the court of “turning a blind eye to Iran, Syria and the other dictatorships that are committing real war crimes.” International human rights groups praised the decision as a step toward justice for Israeli and Palestinian victims. “The court’s crowded docket shouldn’t deter the prosecutor’s office from doggedly pursuing cases against anyone credibly implicated in such crimes,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “ICC member countries should stand ready to fiercely protect the court’s work from any political pressure,” she said. ____ Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed. Josef Federman And Mike Corder, The Associated Press
Jasper is another step closer to seeing the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments become reality following a decision by municipal council at their March 2 regular meeting. Council approved installation of utility services to the GC, GB and GA parcels in 2021 in conjunction with the construction of a 40-unit apartment building, a modular construction containing 32 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom suites. The project represents the first phase for lands identified to host new affordable housing in the community. Council also directed administration to develop the borrowing bylaws required to fund Connaught site utility services, to a maximum of $3.647 million and present them at a future regular council meeting. Administration will also allocate $350,250 in the 2021 budget for upfront project costs for the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments, subject to approval of a Rapid Housing Initiative grant applied for by the Jasper Community Housing Corporation. At the start of council’s discussion, Coun. Bert Journault said he was opposed to spending the money to extend the services to parcel GA, noting that it was unfair to saddle the taxpayer with the costs. “But I certainly support the proposal for the development of that area,” Journault said. “That’s a late property. It will provide our community with a lot of houses.” Deputy mayor Helen Kelleher-Empey noted all the work should be done simultaneously as the area had many residents and two hotels. “I know it’s a lot of money up front but if we’re going to tear up the west end of Connaught I think we should do the work all at once,” Kelleher-Empey said. “Let’s do the work. Let’s get it done and safe (for) the residents and the businesses on that end of town, to not be doing this piece by piece. Do it at once. It saves money in the end.” Coun. Paul Butler agreed with Journeault initially, while Coun. Jenna McGrath pointed out that administration said parcel GA is important for technical reasons. Chief administrative officer Bill Given said the recommendation is built on the requirement to reduce and eliminate the risk of water stagnation via a dead ending, which would make installing utilities for just sites GB and GC more challenging and costly if not impossible. He also noted an additional challenge is about firefighting capacity. “In order to maintain the appropriate volume of water required for fire flows for the hydrants and for high density housing, as is likely on GB and GC parcels, we need to have a high volume of water coming into the sites,” Given said. “This is not about encouraging or supporting development on GA. It is about maintaining appropriate fire flows.” A table showed that servicing just parcel GC would total about $1,840,434, while servicing all three sites at the same time would cost an additional $1,806,666 for a total of $3,647,100. In contrast, if a phased approach is taken, additional incremental costs of $211,100 would be required. By servicing all three parcels at once, $211,000 would be saved and there would be support for private sector interest in near term development on parcel GB. As well, disruption would be minimized to Connaught Drive. The annual debt servicing costs on a $1.8-million debenture over a 25-year term are about $97,500 and about $195,000 on a $3.6-million debenture over a 25-year term. Wastewater Treatment Plant Council directed administration to enter into contract negotiation with Aquatera Utilities Inc. for a 10-year operating contract of the Jasper Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Since Jan. 27, 2020, the WWTP has been operated by a contracted service provider (EPCOR) under a one-year service agreement. The agreement was extended until June 30, 2021 to complete the RFP process and ensure an orderly transition. A standard services agreement (SSA) was included in the RFP to help proponents refine their services proposals while mitigating the risk of misunderstanding and disagreement during final contract negotiation. “This is a substantial contract,” said Mayor Richard Ireland. The SSA contract will be negotiated and ratified by council and utility rates will need to be adjusted annually. Administration doesn’t anticipate an increase of utility rates for the 2021 year. Canada Healthy Communities Initiative Council carried a motion to approve the submission of an application to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative for up to $250,000 for improvements to public spaces within the townsite. The improvements include a streetscape plan, sidewalk improvements, planters, benches, wayfinding improvements and a patio grant. Applications must be submitted by March 9. Review committees will start meeting to make decisions on March 10 and all applicants will receive results by April 30. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
Buoyed by a surge in vaccine shipments, states and cities are rapidly expanding eligibility for COVID-19 shots to teachers, 55-and-over Americans and other groups as the U.S. races to beat back the virus and reopen businesses and schools. Arizona, Connecticut and Indiana have thrown open the line to the younger age bracket. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are reserving the first doses of the new one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson for teachers. And in Detroit, factory workers can get vaccinated starting this week, regardless of their age. Up to now, the vaccination campaign against the scourge that has killed over a half-million Americans has concentrated mostly on health care workers and senior citizens. Around the U.S., politicians and school administrators have been pushing hard in recent weeks to reopen classrooms to stop students from falling behind and to enable more parents to go back to work instead of supervising their children's education. But teachers have resisted returning without getting vaccinated. The U.S. has administered nearly 80 million shots in a vaccination drive now hitting its stride, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 20% of the nation's adults, or close to 52 million people, have received at least one dose, and 10% have been fully inoculated. President Joe Biden said Tuesday the U.S. expects to have enough vaccine by the end of May for all adults, two months earlier than anticipated, though it is likely to take longer than that to administer those shots. He also pushed states to get at least one shot into the arms of teachers by the end of March and said the government will provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program. In Wisconsin, teachers will get priority when the state receives its first shipment of about 48,000 doses of the J&J vaccine, health authorities said. Pennsylvania teachers will likewise be first in line when an expected 94,000 doses of the J&J formula arrive this week. Giving the vaccine to teachers and other school staff “will help protect our communities. It’s going to take burdens off our parents and families. It’s going to make our schools get back to the business of teaching our kids,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week that educators, school staff and child care workers can now get shots. And in Massachusetts, about 400,000 teachers, child care workers and school staff will be eligible to register for vaccinations starting March 11, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday, though he warned that it could take some time to book appointments because the supply remains limited. Tennessee will open up vaccinations Monday to an estimated 1 million people over 16 who have high-risk health conditions and those in households with medically fragile children. “This is a massive population,” Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said. “There are a lot of people who will qualify.” The rush to vaccinate comes as many states, including Texas, Michigan, Mississippi and Louisiana, move to lift mask rules or otherwise ease restrictions on people and businesses, despite repeated warnings from public health officials that the U.S. is risking another lethal wave. While deaths and newly confirmed infections have plummeted from their peaks in January, they are still running at high levels. The U.S. is averaging close to 2,000 deaths and 66,000 cases per day. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky encouraged Americans to “do the right thing” even if states lift their restrictions. “Fatigue is winning and the exact measures we have taken to stop the pandemic are now too often being flagrantly ignored,” she said. Vaccinations are seen as key to getting people back to work and revitalizing the battered economy. Cindy Estrada, a vice-president at the United Auto Workers, said there have been illnesses and deaths among factory workers, so Detroit’s decision to offer them shots “is incredibly important." "It’s going to give them some peace of mind,” she said as she bared her arm for a shot. ___ Associated Press writers Chris Gygiel in Olympia, Washington; Ed White in Detroit; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee; and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this story. Mark Pratt And Tammy Webber, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The judge who found Alek Minassian guilty of murder and attempted murder in the Toronto van attack has set Canadian precedent by considering autism a "mental disorder" under the Criminal Code.Justice Anne Molloy ruled that autism did not leave the 28-year-old not criminally responsible for killing 10 people and injuring 16 others, but her decision to consider that possibility means the argument could be made in future cases.Molloy noted, however, that the decision does not "say anything at all about any connection between ASD and criminality," and each case must be decided based on the specific circumstances. The only other Canadian case that had argued someone was not criminally responsible due to autism was appealed, and Molloy said the appeal judge did not rule on whether autism left the accused criminally responsible.Molloy ruled that autism is a mental disorder by the Criminal Code's definition because it is a permanent condition with an "internal cause, rooted in the brain" that "has an impact on brain functioning and thought processes." "In its severe manifestations, and particularly where there are comorbidities, ASD might cause a person to lack the capacity to appreciate the nature of an action or to know that it is wrong," she wrote, underlining the word "might" in the decision. "It is not possible to rule out ASD at this threshold stage by holding that it cannot ever qualify as a mental disorder under (the Criminal Code.)" Molloy said that autism can affect a person's ability to empathize with others or understand their emotions, but rejected the defence's argument that Minassian's lack of empathy for his victims left him not criminally responsible. She said Minassian understood that mass murder is morally wrong by society's standards, and that he knew the consequences of his actions, leaving him criminally responsible for the killings. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will not allow his players to travel to international matches this month if they have to quarantine on their return. Under current coronavirus guidelines, arrivals from countries that Britain regards as high risk are subject to 10 days of hotel confinement. Portugal and all of South America are on the so-called “red list” so it would apply to Liverpool’s Brazil internationals — Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho — and Portugal forward Diogo Jota. FIFA has given clubs dispensation during the pandemic to prevent players who may be affected by the regulations from joining up with their countries, and Klopp intends to do so. “I think all the clubs agree that with the same problems, we cannot just let the boys go and then sort the situation when they come back by placing our players in a 10-day quarantine in a hotel. It is just not possible,” Klopp said. “I understand the needs of the different FAs but this is a time where we cannot make everyone happy and we have to admit the players are paid by the clubs so it means we have to be first priority.” Klopp said Liverpool will “wait until the last second” to make a decision. “We just deal with what other people decided so we got kind of used to it,” he said, “but I think everyone agrees we cannot let the players go and play for their country and come back and quarantine for 10 days in a hotel. That is not how we can do it.” Brazil is in first place in South American qualifying for the 2022 World Cup after winning its opening four games, and is scheduled to play against Colombia on March 26 and at home to Argentina four days later Portugal has a home game against Azerbaijan and away matches against Serbia and Luxembourg. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80 The Associated Press
The Healthy School Foods Program has adjusted its menu this term to offer items more familiar to Island students. “Some families loved the old menu,” said Katelyn McLean, the registered dietitian who has been leading the program. “But maybe the menu items were a bit too unfamiliar, especially in rural areas.” As a food literacy initiative, last semester’s pay-what-you-can lunch menu included items intended to introduce students to new ingredients and foods such as butter chicken, hummus or taco bowls. Some of the lesser known items discouraged some students from ordering the meals rather than trying new foods, according to Ms MacLean. Through talking with parents and students, she has witnessed, the definition of familiar food varies greatly in the province. “When we were developing the new menu and asking some students what they thought, we tried chili with a roll. One of the students had never heard of chili before. This student was in Grade 6.” Ms MacLean explained that the menu will continue to offer foods that are new to some. Providing hot, healthy foods daily even if they are familiar is still a component of food literacy. The pay-what-you-can model continues to ensure equitable access to healthy food for all students. This may be even more crucial as families deal with economic fallout from the pandemic. Ms MacLean didn’t have specific numbers but families paying the full price of $5 for a meal is less than projected. “There are a lot of factors going into that. One being we launched this program in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. Overall the program has been well received. Local vendors had served more than 235,000 meals to Island students by the program’s 24th week running in February. Jayme Brown, Marlee Howlett and Lauren Howlett, Grade 7 students at Souris Regional School have all tried the lunches. They say the program is something that should definitely continue. “It’s great to have a reasonable price for lunches that are good quality,” said Marlee who knows not everyone in her school can afford a cafeteria meal every day. “Some of it is amazing; for the most part it is really good,” Lauren said. Occasionally Lauren has skipped items that didn’t personally appeal to her. “There was a stir-fry I just wouldn’t eat,” she said. The group, however, loves items such as pulled pork and potatoes or spaghetti. They all noted the menu appears to have improved over time. Ms MacLean said that could be attributed to vendors getting used to the flow of things or to the work necessary to come up with a new menu and with Canada’s Smartest Kitchen. Canada’s Smartest Kitchen helped Ms MacLean and her team to thoroughly review what students would like and helped to refine recipe instructions right down to the weights of each ingredient. Jack Kristinsin is in Grade 3 at Souris Regional. After finishing a meal he approved of (carrots, mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy) he said he likes the lunches most of the time because he gets a nice hot meal rather than a sandwich that gets “squished” in his lunch box. Just as his peers said, Jack doesn’t like all of the meals. Chloe LaBrech, in Grade 12, says she likes the convenience of pre-ordering online. She doesn’t have to rush in the morning to make a lunch and cafeteria food can be expensive. Ms MacLean sees improving food literacy and maximizing the program’s potential as a marathon of work rather than a sprint. “It’s something that will evolve.” Ms MacLean looks forward to reviewing Island schools’ curriculum and identifying gaps that could be filled. Right now Food Literacy items are learned in science, health, home economics and cooking classes. “I think we’ve already done a good job of incorporating nutrition information and the Canada Food Guide information into the curriculum,” she said. Other areas of Food Literacy could likely use some attention, Ms MacLean said. “Where does our food come from, how do you grow it? How do you prepare it? How does a potato get from the ground to our plate?” She expects Island students could gain a better understanding of answers to these questions. Right now various local food vendors make and deliver the hot meals to most Island schools. However a non-profit has been developed and its board is looking to hire and organize staff to prepare and deliver the meals possibly by September. Ms MacLean said a variety of models may work in tandem next year. Some vendors may continue to provide the meals alongside the non-profits. Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic