Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday warned that COVID-19 cases are increasing at an alarming rate but stopped short of implementing any major virus prevention restrictions or imposing a statewide mask mandate. (Nov. 18)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday warned that COVID-19 cases are increasing at an alarming rate but stopped short of implementing any major virus prevention restrictions or imposing a statewide mask mandate. (Nov. 18)
WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Premier Scott Moe recently raised the possibility of lifting some of the restrictions on gatherings during the holiday season, if it is safe to do so. But some Saskatchewan doctors are ringing alarm bells — not Christmas bells — about the rising case numbers. At a physician town hall last week, Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, senior medical health officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said the current trajectory puts Saskatchewan on track to have 14,000 cases of COVID-19 by mid-December.As of Tuesday, there have been 8,745 cases to date, with 3,819 considered active.Kryzanowski also worries about the possibility of under-counting active cases at this stage in the pandemic. "When we're in exponential growth, we know active cases are just the tip of the iceberg, and we know there's a huge iceberg under the water that represents the undiagnosed cases," she said."That's also growing exponentially, and we have momentum behind the growth in cases that's increasingly difficult to turn around." According to models presented by senior medical information officer Dr. Jenny Basran, COVID-19 patients may soon account for half of all available hospital beds — and that situation is projected to last well into the spring. By January, there may not be enough ventilators in Saskatchewan's ICUs for all the patients who will need them, the models suggest. Skip this Christmas so family is here next year: doctorKyle Anderson, an assistant professor in the college of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, says Moe's comments about lifting restrictions do not reflect the reality of where the pandemic is headed. He worries that type of thinking will lead to a false sense of security. "People will think things are going to be turning around, because the premier must have the most up-to-date information, and he would be guiding us with the best medically sound advice," said Anderson. "In this case, there's no way you could claim that the best sound medical advice would allow us to start loosening things up. We are not there."Anderson hopes residents will remember that a great deal of community transmission is driven by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people. In many cases, these people have not even gone to get a COVID test, because they don't feel ill. "These are the people who are spreading it to other people," Anderson said. "They're going to play hockey. They're going to a restaurant. They're going for that one-on-one dinner with a friend. They're getting in close contact, unmasked, because they think they're safe."If more people are allowed to gather for the holidays, more people will unknowingly spread the virus to their families and loved ones at a time when the hospital system is already overloaded. "The only way we can try to make sure we don't worsen the situation at Christmas is to say, just like we told the kids at Halloween, we're skipping it this year," said Anderson. "We can skip these holidays. Having someone here next Christmas is more important than going to see them this Christmas." Looking for loopholesAs case numbers in the province continue to rise despite the new public health measures, doctors are advocating for more public education and greater clarity about why certain things are allowed and others forbidden. At the town hall meeting, Moose Jaw family doctor Brandon Thorpe said the uncertainty is leading some people to look for loopholes."I'm hearing all sorts of devious ways of how people are getting by the new rules," he said."The joke is that 'I'm going to go and have a funeral for my turkey on Christmas day with 30 people in a restaurant.' So … I just feel that the presentations Mr. Moe and [Chief Medical Health Officer] Dr. [Saqib] Shahab are doing are not sufficient. They're too vague, and they don't give enough education." For the government to promote an effective public health message at this point in time, everyone must present a clear and united front, Anderson says."Education is one of the biggest things we can do to get us out of this mess, and I think the government is sort of dropping the ball on that," he said."They're not consistently getting the messaging out about what we need to do to actually succeed at this pandemic. They're saying, 'Well, maybe if you could, it would be nice if some people did this.' That's really not the messaging people need right now."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to shorten the recommended length of quarantine after exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19, as the virus rages across the nation. According to a senior administration official, the new guidelines, which are set to be released as soon as Tuesday evening, will allow people who have come in contact to someone infected with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days, or 7 days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the onset of the pandemic. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement, said the policy change has been discussed for some time, as scientists have studied the incubation period for the virus. The policy would hasten the return to normal activities by those deemed to be “close contacts” of those infected with the virus, which has infected more than 13.5 million Americans and killed at least 270,000. While the CDC had said the incubation period for the virus was thought to extend to 14 days, most individuals became infectious and developed symptoms between 4 and 5 days after exposure. It’s not the first time that the CDC has adjusted its guidance for the novel coronavirus as it adjusted to new research. In July the agency shortened, from 14 days to 10, its advice on how long a person should stay in isolation after they first experience COVID symptoms — provided they’re no longer sick. The new guidance was presented Tuesday at a White House coronavirus task force meeting for final approval. — AP writer Mike Stobbe contributed. Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta Health projections released by the Opposition predict COVID-19 hospitalizations could soar to 775 by mid-December and the number of intensive care patients could reach 161.NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the numbers suggest the United Conservative government waited too long to act, then introduced ineffective half measures to combat the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.“Our province is reporting the highest rate of COVID in the country,” Notley told Premier Jason Kenney during question period Tuesday. “The models showed you a second wave was coming. Why did you not prepare?”Kenney’s government has in recent weeks declined to provide internal projections on potential COVID-19 effects on hospital and intensive care wards, although Kenney said this week those numbers might be provided in the coming days.The latest numbers were leaked to the NDP.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said the projections are the "worst-case scenario" and don't take into account the recently announced new restrictions."That is exactly the point of those restrictions ... to prevent us from hitting those high projections because what we need to do is bend that curve down," said Hinshaw.Alberta's daily case count has sat above 1,000 for almost two weeks, putting a significant strain on the health-care system.There are a total of 173 intensive care beds in Alberta. On Tuesday, there were 97 COVID-19 ICU patients of a total 479 in hospitals.Alberta Health Services, the front-line operational arm of Alberta Health, is rearranging and reassigning space, staff and patients to create another 250 ICU beds. AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson said in an email that Calgary exceeded maximum ICU capacity Monday, but had space because 10 new beds had been added. Edmonton was at 95 per cent ICU capacity, but had 18 spaces available because of 20 new beds.Twenty acute-care hospitals, including the major ones in Calgary and Edmonton, are dealing with COVID outbreaks of their own.To stem the surge in cases, Kenney announced tighter health restrictions last week aimed at reducing community spread while keeping businesses and the economy as open as possible.No social gatherings are allowed in people’s homes. Restaurants and bars can stay open, but only six people can be at one table and they all must live under the same roof.The province is to review the measures mid-December and may intensify or add to them if the skyrocketing spread continues.The NDP and some doctors say the public-health orders, while aimed at balancing health and the economy, will ultimately fail both and a short, sharp lockdown is the way to go.Alberta is also facing the challenge of tracking spread. Health officials do not know where about 80 per cent of recent cases came from. Kenney reiterated that the province has 800 contact tracers and is working to hire 400 more while moving more part-time tracers to full-time status.“Alberta Health Services is pulling out the stops and has been for weeks to add capacity,” Kenney told the house.“We made it clear to them from Day 1 that budget is not an issue, that we are giving them maximum resources ... in hiring and training, and bringing people on board."Notley criticized Kenney for not moving faster during the summer to hire more contact tracers. She noted Alberta lags behind other comparable provinces.“B.C. has 26 contact tracers per 100,000 (people). Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 30. Ontario, 27. Alberta, 18,” said Notley.“Contact tracing is strained across the country, that is true, but only in this province is it broken.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Port Hardy and North Island Secondary Schools’ athletic tracks are now closed to the public during school hours — from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. The tracks are popular with walkers, runners and dogs playing fetch almost every day of the week. But in order to keep the school safe for students while provincial COVID-19 cases continue to rise, School District 85 made the choice to restrict access. Students are separated into cohorts, with separate entries for each grade, and staggered schedules to reduce congestion in hallways. It just made sense to keep the track area clear for P.E. classes as well. The decision went into effect Monday, Nov. 30 until further notice. A sign has been posted at the PHSS track from the parking lot entrance, but is not yet posted at the Huddlestan trail entrances. NISS has a sign posted as well. The district provided the following statement “Due to Covid19 and our protocols regarding safety for students and staff, it was decided that during school hours, the public would be asked to refrain from using our school tracks and other SD85 facilities. Student and Staff safety is our number one priority at all times. (Outside of school hours, school tracks remain open to the public).” Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgZoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
San Francisco Mayor London Breed dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California's governor was there. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo went to his parents' house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors just hours after voting to ban outdoor dining there.All three local officials were on the hot seat Tuesday after various reports that they violated rules aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at a minimum, violating the spirit of the rules as they repeatedly urged others to stay home.Breed joined seven others at the three Michelin-starred French Laundry on Nov. 7 to celebrate the 60th birthday of socialite Gorretti Lo Lui, the mayor's spokesman confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. She dined in the same kind of partially enclosed indoor/outdoor room Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated in a day earlier.Newsom, who has appealed to Californians to “do your part" and stay home, apologized when the 12-person dinner was reported, then again when photos emerged showing him, his wife and others sitting close together at the same table without masks.Breed's spokesman, Jeff Cretan, called the mayor's French Laundry dinner a “small family birthday dinner." He did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday inquiring whether the dinner involved more than three different households, which are prohibited under the state's rules.Before the Chronicle's story was posted Tuesday, Breed thanked residents for doing their part by limiting contact with others, saying on a live stream that “as someone who basically lives alone, it’s been a tough year for me personally."Earlier in the day, Liccardo apologized for attending a Thanksgiving get-together at his parents' home that included people from five different households.“I apologize for my decision to gather contrary to state rules, by attending this Thanksgiving meal with my family," Liccardo said in a statement. “I understand my obligation as a public official to provide exemplary compliance with the public health orders, and certainly not to ignore them. I commit to do better.”Liccardo said there were eight members from five different households and that they all dined outside at separate tables on the back patio, wearing masks when they were not eating.The outing was first reported by KNTV in San Jose.A day earlier, Liccardo tweeted that cases were spiking because people were letting their guard down with family members and friends. “Let’s cancel the big gatherings this year and focus on keeping each other safe," he wrote.Meanwhile, KTTV in Los Angeles reported that LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl enjoyed an outdoor meal at a restaurant just hours after voting last week to ban outdoor dining at the county’s 31,000 restaurants over coronavirus safety concerns.Kuehl was seen eating outside on Nov. 24 at Il Forno Trattoria near her home in Santa Monica, the station reported. Earlier in the day, Kuehl was among the supervisors who voted 3 to 2 to prohibit outdoor dining in Los Angeles County. Indoor dining has been banned for months during the pandemic.“She did dine al fresco at Il Forno on the very last day it was permissible," Kuehl’s office said in a statement Monday. "She loves Il Forno, has been saddened to see it, like so many restaurants, suffer from a decline in revenue. She ate there, taking appropriate precautions, and sadly will not dine there again until our Public Health Orders permit."Los Angeles County imposed a new stay-at-home order for its 10 million residents effective this week as coronavirus cases surge across the state and country.During last week's Board of Supervisors meeting, Kuehl referred to outside dining as “a most dangerous situation” because of the possibility of virus transmission among unmasked patrons.“This is a serious health emergency and we must take it seriously,” Kuehl said.Juliet Williams, The Associated Press
SAN RAMON, Calif. — Business software pioneer Salesforce.com is buying work-chatting service Slack for $27.7 billion in a deal aimed at giving the two companies a better shot at competing against longtime industry powerhouse Microsoft. The acquisition announced Tuesday is by far the largest in the 21-year history of Salesforce. The San Francisco company was one of the first to begin selling software as a subscription service that could be used on any internet-connected device instead of the more cumbersome process of installing the programs on individual computers. Salesforce’s flamboyant founder and CEO Marc Benioff hailed the “cloud computing” concept as the wave of the future to much derision initially. But software as a service has become an industry standard that has turned into a gold mine for longtime software makers. Microsoft for one has developed its own thriving online suite of services, known as Office 365, which includes a Teams chatting service that includes many of the same features as Slack’s 6-year-old application. Slack in July filed a complaint in the European Union accusing Microsoft of illegally bundling Teams into Office 365 in a way that blocks its removal by customers who may prefer Slack. Microsoft also has been posing a threat to Salesforce’s main products, a line-up of tools that help other companies manage their customer relationships. “For Benioff, this is all about Microsoft,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said of Tuesday's deal. “It’s just clear Microsoft is moving further and further away from Salesforce when it comes to the cloud wars.” Benioff left no doubt he considered the deal to be a major coup, after losing out to Microsoft in 2016 when the two companies were both vying to buy the professional networking service LinkedIn. “It's a match made in heaven," Benioff said during an ebullient conference call. “We see in Slack a once-in-a-generation company and platform. It’s a central nervous system for so many companies." Salesforce has been building on its success in recent years to diversify into other fields, largely through a series of acquisitions that included its previous largest deal, a $15.7 billion purchase of data analytics specialist Tableau Software last year. Many of the deals have been financed with Salesforce’s stock, which is worth nearly seven times more than it was a decade ago to lift the company's current market value to $220 billion. Salesforce is using its stock to pay for roughly half of the Slack purchase, with the rest being covered with some cash, with some of the money being borrowed during a time of extraordinarily low interest rates. Slack, on the other hand, hasn’t proven as popular with investors, even though its service that publicly launched in 2014 is being increasingly used by companies and government agencies looking for more nimble alternatives than email. Before news reports of a potential deal with Salesforce surfaced last week, Slack’s stock was still hovering around its initial listing price of $26 when the company went public nearly 18 months ago. “This is a stellar exit strategy for Slack,” said Kate Leggett, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Microsoft Teams is eating Slack’s lunch.” Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield will be hoping this sale works out better than when another company he started, photo sharing service Flickr, was sold to Yahoo 15 years ago. Flickr got lost in the shuffle at Yahoo amid years of turmoil before it was finally sold again in 2018 to SmugMug. In his next act after leaving Flickr, Butterfield decided to focus on gaming with a startup called Tiny Speck that launched in 2009. A few years later, he shifted to the instant messaging service whose name was an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge." Leggett predicted Salesforce would benefit from owning Slack because it will add a popular collaboration tool to its own software suite, which is focused on managing customer relationships for businesses and government agencies. She said the need for customer-relations agents and other Salesforce users to swarm around a topic and collaborate remotely has only grown with the coronavirus pandemic that has sent so many office workers home and got many hooked on new online tools. If all goes smoothly, Salesforce hopes to take control of Slack sometime from May to July next year. Slack, which is free for people who use the basic version, found quick adoption in the tech industry for its ease of use and its fostering of a more casual mode of conversation than email. The company stopped releasing its daily user count after topping 12 million last year, focusing instead on paid customers, which Butterfield said in March have shown a “massive outpouring of interest” because of the way the pandemic has forced people to work from home. “I think the pandemic’s played a massive role" in paving the way for the deal, Ives said. “The Zooms, the Slacks, the Microsoft Teams, that’s going to be a new part of the workforce.” Ives said Benioff was also running out of time to catch up to Microsoft, which remains a secondary player in Salesforce’s core customer-relations-management business, known as CRM, but way ahead in providing a broader array of cloud-based services. Slack and Salesforce are headquartered about a block away from each other in San Francisco. Slack's office is in the shadow of the 62-story Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in Northern California. “I get to look right out my window and you know what I see? Slack," Benioff said. ___ O'Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Michael Liedtke And Matt O'Brien, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia recorded 656 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday as officials urged residents not to bend public health rules. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a joint statement that an additional 16 people have died, pushing B.C.'s death toll to 457. The new positive tests bring the total confirmed cases in the province since the pandemic began to 33,894, while about 70 per cent of those are considered recovered.The statement says there are 8,796 active cases in the province and another 10,123 people exposed to known cases are under active public health monitoring. There are 336 people are being treated in hospital and 76 are in intensive care. The majority of new cases are in the Fraser Health region, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health. "Without exception, follow the provincial health officer's orders in place," Henry and Dix say in the statement. Any events that gather people are not currently allowed, whether on a one-time, regular or irregular basis, they say. This includes religious, cultural or community events. "Do not gather at home with anyone other than your household or core bubble," the statement says."Let's make today a day to slow community transmission and continue to protect everyone in our province."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Enbridge Energy began construction on its Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement in Minnesota on Tuesday, a day after state regulators approved the final permit for the $2.6 billion project amid legal challenges from local activist and Indigenous groups.Spokeswoman Juli Kellner said Enbridge began construction in several locations around the state in the morning. Enbridge spent years pursuing permits for the project before the last one, a construction stormwater permit, was granted Monday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.“Line 3 can now begin to be an economic boost for counties, small businesses, Native American communities, and union members,” Kellner said in a statement. “The workforce will ramp up as construction continues eventually creating over 4,000 family-sustaining, mostly local construction jobs, millions of dollars in local spending and additional tax revenues at a time when Northern Minnesota needs it most.”Two tribes — the Red Lake and White Earth Bands of Chippewa — asked the PUC last week to stay its approval of the project, saying the influx of construction workers would put residents along the route at higher risk of COVID-19. A consolidated appeal by environmental and tribal groups is also pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.Several activists and Indigenous groups filed a lawsuit Monday evening challenging the MPCA’s permit approval, citing the pipeline’s threat to waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice and negative effect on climate change.Enbridge said replacing the deteriorating pipeline, which was built in the 1960s and runs at only half its original capacity, is the best option for protecting the environment while meeting the region’s energy needs.Kellner said Enbridge has enacted strict guidelines to guard against spread of the coronavirus, including testing workers regularly and repeatedly, requiring mask-wearing and social distancing and sanitizing work areas regularly.In a statement on Tuesday, Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said Enbridge will continue to see legal challenges from activists and Indigenous groups to “prevent this tar sands pipeline from ever being completed.”“As construction begins, some big questions need to be asked: What if the Appeals Court sides against Enbridge in the legal cases before it? What if the new Biden administration squashes this pipeline? What is Enbridge’s plan if its workforce gets corona?" LaDuke said. "Its ‘safety’ plan doesn’t address what its workers do or where they go when they’re not on the job.”Line 3 begins in Alberta, Canada, and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing Minnesota on its way to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The replacement segments in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already complete, leaving only the 337-mile (542-kilometre) stretch in Minnesota. Altogether Enbridge expects to spend $2.9 billion on the U.S. portion.___Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.Mohamed Ibrahim, The Associated Press
TRAVAIL. S’inquiétant que la rémunération des salariés de l'administration publique accuse un retard grandissant par rapport à celle de l'ensemble des salariés québécois, le député de Rosemont et responsable pour Québec solidaire en matière de services publics, Vincent Marissal, appelle le gouvernement à commencer dès maintenant à combler cet écart dans le cadre des négociations avec les employés du secteur public. «La pandémie qui a frappé le Québec de plein fouet cette année nous a fait réaliser à quel point on a besoin d'une fonction publique forte pour offrir des services publics de qualité aux citoyens. L'écart important entre la rémunération des salariés de l'administration publique et celle des autres salariés a clairement un impact négatif sur la capacité du secteur public à attirer et retenir les travailleurs dont il a besoin pour remplir sa mission», déplore Vincent Marissal. Pour le député de Rosemont, cet écart de rémunération est un signal alarmant que l'État québécois doit offrir une meilleure rémunération aux salariés de l'administration publique. «Il est plus que temps que le gouvernement mette les bouchées doubles pour s'assurer que les salariés du secteur public bénéficient de rémunérations à la hauteur de l'importance de leur travail. La Présidente du Conseil du trésor ne peut plus faire fi de cette réalité et cela doit se refléter dans le cadre des négociations des employés du secteur public, qui doivent être l'occasion d'un début de rattrapage qui est plus que nécessaire», ajoute-t-il. Rappelons que selon les chiffres dévoilés par l'Institut de la statistique, l'écart de la rémunération globale entre les salariés de l'administration québécoise et les autres salariés du Québec est passé de 6,1 % en 2011 à plus de 9,2 % en 2020. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Two non-profit groups in Charlottetown dealt with separate incidents of vandalism this week. At Beaconsfield Historic House, staff arrived Monday morning to find four of the property's five antique lamp posts smashed. One of the posts was knocked completely down. And at the Stars for Life Foundation on Maypoint Road, a home for adults who have autism, someone spray-painted graffiti on the front sign. Ron Casey, executive director of Stars for Life, cleaned the spray paint off the sign himself — a job he said took about 45 minutes. > We've been really good that nobody's been around bothering us. — Ron Casey, Stars for Life "I had to go and get some graffiti remover and just sprayed it on and took it off. [You've] got to do a little elbow grease," said Casey. Casey added that it's the first time Stars for Life has been the target of vandalism. "I've seen some down around the downtown a little bit, but it's the first time I've seen any around here," Casey said."We've been really good that nobody's been around bothering us and stuff like that."Beaconsfield preparing for Christmas tours Staff at Beaconsfield wrote about the "unfortunate vandalism" of the damaged lamp posts on Facebook, adding that "A few broken lights won't dampen our festive spirit!"Beaconsfield site manager Nicholas Longaphy said it could take staff some time to repair the lamp posts, as it's a busy few weeks at the house. Staff began decorating Beaconsfield for Christmas on Monday, in preparation for their special Victorian Christmas tours, starting next week. Both property owners said they will notify police about the vandalism.More from CBC P.E.I.
MILLBROOK, Ala. — The owners of an outdoor recreation destination in Alabama fear a days-old baby goat has been stolen from a free-ranging herd near a former movie set and tourist attraction.Two newborn goats from the herd on Jackson Lake Island in Milbrook have disappeared since November, according to the owners.The property has public access for fishing and camping, as well as the fictional town of Spectre, where scenes for the 2003 Tim Burton film “Big Fish” were shot, The Montgomery Advertiser reported. There are about 55 grown goats on the property and they sometimes sleep under the church on the set, the newspaper said.One of the goats, Bambi, was taken in early November but was returned about a day later, said Lynn Bright, who owns the property and goats and is the former first lady of Montgomery.Bambi died after being away from his mother, she added. Bluebell, who was born Friday, has since gone missing.“We know who took Bambi,” Bright said. “We have addressed that with the young man’s family, and we are still considering taking legal action. We can’t be certain if Bluebell wasn’t carried off by an animal. But we had reports of a family passing her around before she went missing.”The owners posted photos of Bluebell to Facebook on Monday calling for the public's help in returning the animal and putting a stop to stealing the goats. Bright added that baby goats have gone missing from the property before.“We love sharing our goats for everyone to enjoy," the post said. "However, we can’t continue to let them roam free and play with everyone if this keeps happening. We love our babies too much, and we must keep them safe. We are now installing even more cameras on the island, and we hope this post helps.”The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A second inmate at an Alaska prison experiencing a coronavirus outbreak has died from complications related to COVID-19, as the total number of active cases at the state's largest prison has reached 480, the Alaska Department of Corrections said Tuesday.The 77-year-old with underlying health issues, who was serving sentences for sexual abuse and release violations, died Monday after being taken to a Palmer hospital on Nov. 22, the department said.It's the second death of an inmate related to COVID-19 that has been reported by the department. The first was last month. In each case, the department declined to release the names of the individuals, citing privacy concerns.Both were inmates at Goose Creek Correctional Center near Wasilla, which has been experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.The department said it offered tests to about 1,300 inmates at the prison to try to find undetected cases. Results brought the facility's active case count to 480, with results in 120 cases pending and another roughly 190 inmates considered recovered, the department said.Sarah Gallagher, a department spokesperson, said it “can only offer and recommend testing" — not require it — but she said there were few refusals to be tested.The total inmate population at the prison stood at about 1,260 on Tuesday, she said.In housing units that have had positive tests, those who have tested negative are retested every three days until there are no additional positive results in the unit for 14 days, the department said.Dr. Robert Lawrence, the department's chief medical officer, said “testing sweeps” provide a picture of spread that has occurred and allow officials to "target isolation and quarantine strategies to particular areas in the facility in order to flatten the curve of the spread.”Inmate housing is determined by test results and clinical status, and staff members are required to wear masks in the prison and undergo screenings before their shifts, the department said.For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.The Associated Press
The Fort McMurray Knights of Columbus is still hosting its annual Community Christmas meal, albeit with significant changes because of COVID-19 health restrictions. Usually, the free meal brings hundreds of people for food, socializing and singing. Community gatherings are not possible this year, so the Knights of Columbus will serve plates of food for people to pick up and eat elsewhere. Stan Bartlett, an organizer with the Knights of Columbus, said distribution will be at Earls Kitchen and Bar between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Christmas Day. Meals will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. “It’s not going to be the big event we’ve done in the last few years,” said Bartlett. “We’re happy we can still do something for people on Christmas Day.” The plates will be pre-prepared to limit the number of volunteers needed for the event. People will have to eat elsewhere and will not have access to the restaurant. “We don’t want to put anyone at risk,” said Bartlett. “People can come in to use the washroom if they need to, but we have to follow guidelines.” The event celebrated its 25th anniversary last year at Father Turcotte School. The first community Christmas meal was held in 1994 at the basement of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. After 11 years, the Fort McMurray Knights of Columbus took over the event. While the event started as an outreach to homeless and low-income people, it has turned into an event where everyone is welcome, regardless of faith, language or economic status. April’s flood also impacted the Knights of Columbus when the church’s basement flooded, damaging the group’s supplies for events. The group is still working on replacing most of those damaged items. All things considered, Bartlett said he is happy the Knights of Columbus are still able to offer a community meal. “We hope everyone can have a good Christmas this year and we’re hoping we can be a little part of that with an expression of kindness,” he said. email@example.comSarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
DELTA, B.C. — A man has critical injuries after the vehicle he was driving plunged about nine metres from a BC Ferries exit ramp to the pavement below. BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall says the incident occurred Tuesday at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal as vehicles were leaving the vessel Coastal Renaissance, which had arrived from the Duke Point terminal near Nanaimo. She says the vehicle accelerated sharply after it left the vessel and crashed through a concrete barrier on the upper exit ramp, landing on its roof on the road below. A statement from BC Emergency Health Services says several paramedic crews were dispatched to the scene and the patient was transported to hospital in critical condition. Marshall says the man, who was driving a crew-cab pickup truck, was the lone occupant of the vehicle and no one else was hurt. Marshall says the man was conscious and talking after the incident. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
Un centre d’hébergement pour étudiant-e-s autochtones verra le jour sur le terrain du Cégep de Sept-Îles grâce à l’octroi d’une aide financière gouvernementale à la Société immobilière du Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec (SIRCAAQ). La ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur, Danielle McCann, et le ministre responsable des Affaires autochtones, Ian Lafrenière, ont fait l’annonce de ce partenariat avec la SIRCAAQ et du montant de 18,4 millions de dollars sur cinq ans alloué à ce projet le 27 novembre. Deux autres centres d’hébergement seront construits, dont un à Trois-Rivières et un autre dont l’emplacement sera déterminé plus tard. Le centre d’hébergement de Sept-Îles comprendra 32 unités d’habitation allant des studios pour une personne à des logements de six pièces et demie. Celui de Trois-Rivières offrira 40 unités. Les travaux débuteront au printemps 2021 pour une ouverture en août 2022, tandis que le troisième projet devrait accueillir ses premiers étudiants à l’automne 2025. En plus de logements abordables, des services « culturellement pertinents et intégrés » seront proposés aux locataires et à leurs proches pour encourager la réussite et la persévérance scolaire. « Ces conditions gagnantes permettront aux apprenants autochtones de réaliser leur plein potentiel », souhaite le président du Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec, Philippe Meilleur. La construction des centres vise avant tout à éliminer les obstacles « qui freinent trop souvent la poursuite des études pour les membres des Premières Nations », peut-on lire dans le communiqué de presse. « Ces milieux de vie communautaires diminueront les sentiments d’isolement et de solitude vécus par les étudiants qui fréquentent les grands établissements d’enseignement urbains », prévoit le ministre Lafrenière. Pour le ministre responsable de la région de la Côte-Nord, Jonatan Julien, la construction des trois centres représente « un pas de plus pour le développement socioéconomique de la région et le bien-être des communautés nordiques et autochtones à long terme ». La subvention provient de l’enveloppe de 200 millions de dollars destinée à répondre aux recommandations de la Commission d’enquête sur les relations entre les Autochtones et certains services publics (CERP) et de l’Enquête nationale sur les femmes et les filles autochtones disparues et assassinées (ENFFADA).Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
Maradona's doctor's home and surgery in Buenos Aires were raided by police to search for evidence of negligence.
BILLINGS, Mont. — Climate change, voracious beetles and disease are imperiling the long-term survival of a high-elevation pine tree that’s a key source of food for some grizzly bears and found across the West, U.S. officials said Tuesday. A Fish and Wildlife Service proposal scheduled to be published Wednesday would protect the whitebark pine tree as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, according to documents posted by the Office of the Federal Register. The move marks a belated acknowledgement of the tree's severe declines in recent decades and sets the stage for restoration work. But government officials said they do not plan to designate which forest habitats are critical to the tree’s survival, stopping short of what some environmentalists argue is needed. Whitebark pines can live up to 1,000 years and are found at elevations up to 12,000 feet (3,600 metres) — conditions too harsh for most tress to survive. Environmentalists had petitioned the government in 1991 and again in 2008 to protect the trees, which occur across 126,000 square miles (326,164 square kilometres) of land in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and western Canada. A nonnative fungus has been killing whitebark pines for a century. More recently, the trees have proven vulnerable to bark beetles that have killed millions of acres of forest, and climate change that scientists say is responsible for more severe wildfire seasons. The trees have been all but wiped out in some areas, including the eastern edge of Yellowstone National Park, where they are a source of food for threatened grizzly bears. More than half of whitebark pines in the U.S. are now dead, according to a 2018 study from the U.S. Forest Service. That has complicated government efforts to declare grizzlies in the Yellowstone area as a recovered species that no longer needs federal protection. Grizzlies raid caches of whitebark pine cones that are hidden by squirrels and devour the seeds within the cones to fatten up for winter. A 2009 court ruling that restored protections for Yellowstone bears cited in part the tree's decline, although government studies later concluded the grizzlies could find other things to eat. After getting sued for not taking steps to protect the pine trees, wildlife officials in 2011 acknowledged that whitebark pines needed protections but they took no immediate action, saying other species faced more immediate threats. An attorney with the Natural Resources Defence Council, which submitted the 2008 petition for protections, lamented that it took so long but said the proposal was still worth celebrating. “This is the federal government admitting that climate change is killing off a widely distributed tree, and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many species threatened,” said Rebecca Riley, legal director for the environmental group’s nature program. The government’s proposal describes the threats to the pine tree imminent and said it was one of many plants expected to be impacted as climate change moves faster than they can adapt. “Whitebark pine survives at high elevations already, so there is little remaining habitat in many areas for the species to migrate to higher elevations in response to warmer temperatures,” Fish and Wildlife Service officials wrote. The officials added that overall, whitebark pine stands have seen severe reductions in regeneration because of wildfires, a fungal disease called white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetles and climate change. Amid those growing threats, federal officials are working in conjunction with researchers and private groups on plans to gather cones from trees that are resistant to blister rust, grow their seeds in greenhouses and then plant them back on the landscape, said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Amy Nicholas. A draft of that nationwide restoration is expected by the end of next year. “We do have options to revive this species,” Nicholas said. The decision not to pursue protections for the tree's habitat is in line with another recent action by the Fish and Wildlife Service — the denial of critical habitat for t he endangered rusty patched bumblebee. The bee's population has plummeted 90 per cent over about two decades. As with whitebark pine, loss of the bee's habitat was considered less important than other threats. The two cases underscore a pattern of opposition to habitat protections by the administration of President Donald Trump, environmentalists said. The Fish and Wildlife Service under Trump also has proposed rules to restrict what lands can be declared worthy of protections and to give greater weight to the economic benefits of development. “It's clear that the intent is to limit protection of habitat for threatened and endangered species. Whitebark pine is another example of that,” said Noah Greenwald with the Center for Biological Diversity. Fish and Wildlife Service Wyoming Field Supervisor Tyler Abbott said it would not be prudent to designate areas for habitat protections since the major threats to the trees' survival can't be addressed through land management. “The driving factor (in the tree's decline) is that white pine blister rust, and that's working synergistically with mountain pine beetle, the altered fire regime, climate change," Abbott said. “These are biological factors that we really don't have any control over.” ___ On Twitter, follow Brown @MatthewBrownAP Matthew Brown, The Associated Press
Finding work continues to be a struggle for thousands of Albertans and some experts fear lower-than-normal employment levels could persist as the second wave of the pandemic rages, leading to more bankruptcies and mortgage delinquencies. Though Statistics Canada data shows Alberta added 23,000 jobs last month, employment levels are still below pre-pandemic levels. "There are still a lot of people struggling," said Aled ab Iorwerth, deputy chief economist for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Data from the CMHC this fall revealed Edmonton and Calgary led the country with mortgage deferral rates of 11 and nine per cent. With deferral periods ending, and bankruptcies increasing, some fear a jump in the mortgage delinquency rate could be coming. "It's something to be concerned about and something we are keeping an eye on," the economist said. Jackie Rafter, who runs the Calgary-based company Higher Landing, has been training out-of-work professionals in Alberta since 2015. Many of her clients have worked in oil and gas, but have been unable to find jobs in the industry. The pandemic has exacerbated their problems and affected their mental health, she said. People have lost their homes "These are the people who lost their homes, they've lost their marriages, they've exhausted their RRSPs and now their health is starting to collapse," Rafter said. With so much uncertainty in the job market, Rafter said job-seekers must do more than rely on their previous skills and experience. She advises clients to understand their value but be willing to change their approach and accept opportunities in other fields. Edmonton job seeker Juan Marin, 25, has embraced that advice. "My initial plan is to find a job in the engineering field, but I am open to different options," said Marin, a graduate of the University of Los Andes in Colombia and the University of Alberta. Marin enrolled in one of Higher Landing's programs this summer after experiencing a tougher-than-expected job hunt. Marin said he realized he needed to change his tactics, so he started reaching out to managers and potential employers directly instead of focusing on online applications. The networking seems to have paid off, leading to more interviews, but he is still looking for work. Alberta's outlook grim Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews spoke of "signs of some economic recovery" ahead of a fiscal update on the province's finances last week. Others say there may be signs of hope, but Alberta's economic outlook appears grim. "It's going to be a slow, slow recovery," said Mike Holden, chief economist at the Business Council of Alberta. Nearly half of Alberta chief executives surveyed by the council said they expect employment levels to drop in the coming year. Ab lorwerth said the more COVID-19 spreads, the more likely there will be significant economic disruption. "We're really in the hands of the virus at the moment, and that's why we're trying to remain prudent and cautious," he said.
After nine long months of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns people around the world are truly feeling the emotional and physical crunch. Humans are social creatures and this pandemic has succeeded in separating us from one another more than anything else in recent memory. In our desperate attempts to slow the spread of the virus throughout our communities, much of what we commonly experience together as communal acts of collective joy have become greatly restricted or shut down completely. One of the areas hardest hit is the live music industry. Venues have closed up, and over time we have seen repeated announcements in the news that many will not be able to ride out the storm and reopen in the future. Festivals both large and small were forced to go on hiatus this year sending out waves of financial crisis through the entire industry, from the producers at the top to the thousands upon thousands of musicians who rely more than ever on live performance engagements for their livelihood. In an attempt to utilize digital media to bridge the wide physical expanse, many organizations working in the music industry have turned to live streaming over the Internet to remain connected with their audiences. One organization operating as a music industry hub is the non-profit Canada's Music Incubator - Canada's Music Incubator (CMI). “We’re national. So we're based out of Toronto, but we also do a lot of our programming in the west as well in Alberta, out of the National Music Centre,” said CMI Live Events director Jesse Mitchell. The centre is a music performance venue located in Calgary. Much of the work that CMI does involves live music curation, as well as connecting musicians and managers with promoters and performance opportunities. But the organization also goes beyond that by producing music industry workshops and mentorships which serve to educate music creators and to invigorate the Canadian music landscape. Because of CMI’s success over their 10-year history, Mitchell and his associates were approached by representatives at the TD Bank, an organization with a long and prominent history of sponsoring and supporting many high profile music and cultural events across Canada. During these times of quarantine TD was seeking alternatives to sponsoring live events and approached CMI to spearhead a nationally-produced streaming performance program. Together the two partners came up with the Connected Music Series. Produced over the last few months and premiering on CMI’s YouTube channel, the Connected Music Series features 20 performances by Black, Indigenous and South Asian musicians. The artists selected were asked to stage their performances at venues in their community that held significance to that place. CMI also had a mandate to include local creators and media production crews to capture the performances. “The series has a focus on showcasing artists, but at the same time we’re interested in also showcasing significant spaces,” Mitchell explained. “But because this is online and it’s being videoed, we’re also highlighting media creators who work in these different communities.” The Connected Music Series features 20 prerecorded 30-minute musical performances airing between Nov. 19 and Dec. 20. The series hosts an incredible selection of Canadian talent, including many acclaimed Indigenous artists such as 2020 JUNO Indigenous Artist of the Year Celeigh Cardinal; Mi'kmaq Rapper Wolf Castle; two-spirit Mohawk singer Shawnee; Cree R&B; musician Sebastian Gaskin; Mohawk musician Logan Staats, and Dene singer-songwriter Leela Gilday. The venues chosen by the performers range from the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre and the Art Gallery of Alberta, both in Edmonton, and the Pabineau First Nation Band Hall in Bathurst, N.B., to intimate locations like The Garden Strathcona in Vancouver and community-minded retail spaces like hip hop fashion store Friday Knights in Winnipeg. “There's lots of beautiful and incredible places where I could have taped my performance, but it was already winter here,” said Gilday, who makes her home in Yellowknife. “So shooting a half-hour performance outside in winter here is not possible because I play guitar.” “I chose the Bullock’s Bistro, which is our local fish and chips place, and it's like an iconic Yellowknife location.” Gilday appreciates the Yellowknife restaurant’s attraction as a community and tourist hub, established over the past three decades, and how “it’s connected to the water in a very special way.” Owners “Renata and Sam Bullock get their fish fresh out of Great Slave Lake literally a hundred feet away.” For Gilday, that speaks to her deeply about “food security and that connection to the water.” Whether locked down within the vast urban landscape of a city like Toronto or tucked in for the winter in the remote communities of Northern Canada there’s no denying the significance of how much digital media is helping to keep everyone connected in these trying times. Many of the artists featured in the series would normally be touring and performing in various corners of the world. During the pandemic, however, sponsored streaming events have been adopted by many producers and promoters to serve as an antidote to the moratorium placed on public gatherings and live music events. The Connected Music Series returns Dec. 3, streaming dynamic performances from unique Canadian locations by acclaimed Canadian BIPOC musicians and creators right through until Dec. 20. Visit the Connected Music Series YouTube channel to view the recorded performances so far. Windspeaker.com By David Owen Rama, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com