Pink and orange skies at sunrise
Pink and orange skies at sunrise
China's medical products regulator said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four. The two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). They join a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech approved earlier this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit approved last year.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Caster Semenya is going to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge “discriminatory” rules that prohibit her from competing in certain track events because of her high natural testosterone, her lawyers said Thursday. The two-time Olympic champion in the 800 metres has already lost two legal appeals against World Athletics' regulations that force her to medically lower her natural testosterone level if she wants to run in women's races from 400 metres to one mile. The South African's lawyers said there's been a “violation of her rights” and wants the human rights court to examine the rules. Semenya has one of a number of conditions known as differences of sex development. Although she has never publicly released details of her condition, World Athletics has controversially referred to her as “biologically male” in previous legal proceedings, a description that angered Semenya. Semenya has the typical male XY chromosome pattern and levels of testosterone that are much higher then the typical female range, World Athletics says. The track and field body says that gives her and other athletes like her an unfair advantage over other female runners. The 30-year-old Semenya was legally identified as female at birth and has identified as female her whole life. She says her testosterone is merely a genetic gift. The regulations have been fiercely criticized, mainly because of the “treatment” options World Athletics gives to allow affected athletes to compete. They have one of three options to lower their testosterone levels: Taking daily contraceptive pills, using hormone-blocking injections, or having surgery. “The regulations require these women to undergo humiliating and invasive physical examinations followed by harmful and experimental medical procedures if they wish to compete internationally in women’s events between 400m and one mile, the exact range in which Ms. Semenya specializes,” Semenya's lawyers said. World Athletics, which was then known as the IAAF, announced in 2018 it would introduce the rules. Semenya challenged them and lost at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2019. She also lost a second appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal last year. That second case will be central to her appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. “Caster asks the Court to find that Switzerland has failed in its positive obligations to protect her against the violation of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights," her lawyers said. They said the track body's rules were “discriminatory attempts to restrict the ability of certain women to participate in female athletics competitions.” Because of her refusal to lower her natural testosterone, Semenya has been barred from running in the 800 since 2019, when she was the dominant runner in the world over two laps. She is currently not allowed to run her favourite race — the race she has won two Olympic golds and three world titles in — at any major event. Semenya is not the only athlete affected. Two other Olympic medallists from Africa, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, have said they are also bound by the rules. They also said they would refuse to undergo medical intervention to reduce their testosterone levels. “I hope the European court will put an end to the longstanding human rights violations by World Athletics against women athletes," Semenya said in a statement. "All we ask is to be allowed to run free, for once and for all." Semenya, Niyonsaba and Wambui finished 1-2-3 in the 800 metres at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, strengthening World Athletics' argument that their medical conditions gave them an athletic advantage over other women. It's unclear if the human rights court would be able to hear Semenya's case before the delayed Tokyo Olympics, which might be Semenya's last. The games are set to open on July 23. Previous sports cases that have gone to the European Court of Human Rights have taken years to be decided. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Gerald Imray, The Associated Press
People 95 and older, as well as First Nations people 75 and older, are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. "I’m personally very excited to be announcing that we’re expanding into general population, and I’m looking forward to decrease the age of eligibility continually over time," said Dr. Joss Reimer at Wednesday’s news conference. Calls for the newly eligible can be made beginning this week, with vaccines beginning next week. The vaccine call centre, at 1-844-MAN-VACC (1-844-626-8222) now has 2,000 lines, with more than 370 trained agents. The online booking self-serve tool is in its pilot phase, but will not replace the call centre. "We do know it’s possible the call centre will receive an overwhelming number of calls. We know Manitobans have been eager for this moment, and many of you are going to want to call right away," said Reimer. She asked that only eligible people, or the people calling for an elderly person, ensure they fit the criteria. These days, the wait time is less than a minute on the booking line, with a call-back option. If the wait time does increase, people can opt to have their call returned rather than waiting on the phone. Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead for the First Nation Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team, explained that in the coming weeks, people who call to make an appointment and self-identify as First Nations would be transferred to a member of a specialized team. "These specialists will have additional training and cultural safety to ensure that they support callers and facilitate access to an appointment for those who are eligible," Anderson said. At first, self-identification will be the method by which First Nations can access the vaccine. But, in the future, because some people do falsely identify as First Nations — called "pretendians" — the system will be tightened up over time. "This is a phenomenon that I have been aware of and had to work through in multiple different contexts, but I never imagined that one of the harmful ripple effects would be that non-registered or non-status First Nation people would face the risk of not being able to get a vaccine at a time when they rightly should be able to," said Anderson. In the future, First Nations people in Manitoba will be asked to verify their identity, she added. "We want to make sure that this is done in a way that is safe for people and does not exclude our First Nations relatives, that because of the complicated and various processes of colonization, do not have Indian status cards," she said. If a First Nations person does not have a status card under the Indian Act, there will be an escalation process to deal with the more complex cases in a trauma-informed and culturally safe way. Anderson reported that, as of last Friday, 7,023 doses of vaccine have been administered on-reserve — four per cent of the eligible population received first doses, while .08 per cent are fully vaccinated. Off-reserve, 2.96 per cent of the population have received one dose and .07 per cent are fully vaccinated. Of Manitoba’s eligible population, 2.4 per cent are fully vaccinated. As Anderson explained, First Nations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — making up 54 per cent of new cases in the overall Manitoba population and 70 per cent of active cases, and the virus does affect them more harshly, as demonstrated by hospitalization rates. The median age of death in Manitoba is 83, while in First Nations it is 66. Meanwhile, full two-dose vaccination at personal care homes is set to wrap up this week. "This is a tremendous accomplishment," said Reimer, adding results are already showing. "While we are seeing decreases in rates in the community overall, and we know that there are strong public health measures still taking place in personal care homes, we’re also seeing quite a sharp drop in the number of outbreaks happening in personal care homes." Additionally, the focused immunization teams began first doses at congregate living sites in Brandon and Winnipeg on Feb. 19, with regional health authorities scheduling high-priority congregate living sites starting this week. There are 1,400 congregate living sites in the province. A list of those sites can be found at bit.ly/2P9KaWX The vaccination task force has looked ahead in terms of doses coming to Manitoba to the end of March — which Johanu Botha, co-lead for the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said will be 15,000 Pfizer doses weekly, up slightly from the roughly 12,000 doses it is receiving currently. "These are not large quantities," said Botha, adding all Pfizer doses go to supersites due to the storage requirements. There are currently two supersites — in Winnipeg and Brandon — with two more scheduled to open. The plan is to open Selkirk’s site in early March and Morden/Winkler’s in mid-March. Apart from the doses received from Moderna this week, next shipments of that vaccine are unknown. "We have just over 8,000 doses on hand remaining," said Botha, who added that those are tagged to complete vaccinations at personal care homes and support the congregate living campaign. Moderna is the vaccine of choice for First Nations, due to its less stringent storage requirement. That’s concerning, said Anderson. "We certainly want to respond to the data and have everybody — First Nations people living both on and off reserve — vaccinated as quickly as possible, especially as we start to think about heading into flood season, fire season, and what a large-scale evacuation at the same time as we’re dealing with the pandemic would mean," she said. But Anderson referenced Reimer’s news that Pfizer is looking into changing some of its shipping and storage restrictions. That may mean Pfizer can be used at First Nations in the future. "And I would say my experience has been both our provincial and federal counterparts are very willing to have that dialogue," she said. Anderson said it’s hard to calculate First Nation uptake of the vaccine at this time. "In general, in 61 of the 63, the anecdotal feedback that we got was that uptake was very high among those who were eligible. In one community, some further communication was needed, and support. Then uptake improved," she said. Anderson said the experience is much more in line with H1N1, which was higher than usual vaccine uptake. "We’re very encouraged by this progress." It was also revealed at the news conference that the Manitoba Metis Federation continues to be in conversation with the province for a vaccine program targeting vulnerable Métis populations. Reimer suggested Manitobans monitor the eligibility criteria website. The eligibility criteria will expand — sometimes quickly — by decreasing age, and can be found at bit.ly/3ssXBQb Additionally, 213 pharmacies and doctors across the province have signed up to deliver vaccines when more, with less stringent storage needs, are approved. The Wednesday technical briefing for media, which preceded the news conference, can be found at bit.ly/37LRuhP Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
Almost one year later, there has been little progress in the case against a man accused of holding a girl against her will at a remote northern Saskatchewan cabin. There have been numerous adjournments and delays in the case against Aaron Gardiner, 42, since his arrest in April 2020 because he has gone through about five lawyers. Gardiner has either fired the lawyers or they have withdrawn from representing him. He had another appearance scheduled in Meadow Lake Provincial Court Feb. 22 and the matter was adjourned to March 1. Gardiner remains in custody and is charged with unlawful confinement, assault, overcoming resistance, uttering threats, resisting arrest, possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose, use of a firearm in commission of an indictable offence, proceeds of crime, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Gardiner allegedly held a girl captive for four days at a remote cabin across from Île-à-la-Crosse Lake. A specialized RCMP tactical unit was flown to the isolated cabin by two military CH-146 Griffon helicopters to rescue the girl and arrest Gardiner. Three months after his arrest, police added more charges after more alleged victims came forward. In July 2020, police additionally charged Gardiner with four counts of sexual assault, three counts of forcible confinement, uttering threats, assault, reckless discharge of a firearm, use of a firearm in commission of an offence, obstruction and breach of an undertaking. The charges against Gardiner haven't been proven in court. Île-à-la-Crosse is about 380 kilometres north of Prince Albert. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Alphabet Inc's Google will change procedures before July for reviewing its scientists' work, according to a town hall recording heard by Reuters, part of an effort to quell internal tumult over the integrity of its artificial intelligence (AI) research. In remarks at a staff meeting last Friday, Google Research executives said they were working to regain trust after the company ousted two prominent women and rejected their work, according to an hour-long recording, the content of which was confirmed by two sources. Teams are already trialing a questionnaire that will assess projects for risk and help scientists navigate reviews, research unit Chief Operating Officer Maggie Johnson said in the meeting.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Better Call Saul,” the prequel spinoff to the hugely successful series “Breaking Bad,” will begin production in New Mexico on its sixth and final season beginning in March. White Turtle Casting officials told the Albuquerque Journal that production will begin in the second week of March and the agency is looking for stand-ins for the series. Pre-production is currently underway, and the crew is being quarantined and tested for the upcoming start, the Journal reported Wednesday. Production originally was set for March 2020, but it was moved because of the pandemic. There will be 13 episodes in the final season, although no air date has been confirmed. “Better Call Saul” has been shot in New Mexico since 2015. The production has given nearly $178,000 to the state’s film programs. The Associated Press
(Submitted by The Front Yard Flower Co. - image credit) Flower vendors are worried B.C.'s COVID-19 rules for farmers' markets could lead to greenhouses full of blooms going to waste. Farmers' markets are considered an essential service and have been allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic. However, non-food vendors like potters, jewelry and soap makers and flower sellers are excluded from in-person sales. This rule was lifted for a time last summer before being reinstated in December. Flower farmers plan months ahead, ordering seeds and growing plants throughout the winter, said Rachel Ryall, who owns River and Sea Flowers in Ladner. "We planted the current flowers that will be blooming over the next month back in September and October, assuming things would be alright to sell them again," Ryall said. "I can't stop them from flowering. They're coming." Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition urging non-food vendors be allowed back. She has sold her flowers at the Vancouver Farmers Market for years and says the market has maintained strict rules throughout the pandemic to keep visitors and vendors safe. Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and she's worried about lost sales and wasted blooms — she says she's not equipped for large-scale delivery across the Lower Mainland. "I feel like maybe we've been forgotten, because we're not vegetable farmers, we're kind of a smaller segment of vendors," Dykstra said. Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition asking that non-food vendors be allowed back. Laura Smit, executive director of Vancouver Farmers Market, says although she is grateful the province has permitted markets to continue operating, it's never been made clear why non-food vendors aren't allowed. The farmers' market has been working since December to bring back non-food vendors, and she says if the rule is not overturned, it will have a big impact on the bottom line for flower vendors in particular. "Their product is absolutely seasonal," Smit said. "It's not something that is shelf-stable and can sit around to be sold later on in August. Literally the spring time is when these flower farmers are planning for, preparing for, and they don't understand why they can't come to market and we don't either." Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and Rose Dykstra is worried about lost sales and wasted blooms if she can't bring them to the market. In an email to CBC News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said the rule is in an effort to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission down, and added that non-food vendors can do online sales and pick-up orders. "The reason that food vendors are allowed is that farmers' markets are essential food and agriculture service providers," a spokesperson said. "The B.C. government will continue to listen to feedback from the community and stakeholders and adjust our response to support businesses as needed." Soap also not allowed — during a pandemic It's not just flower farmers who are concerned. Shea Hogan hopes he will be able to sell his natural bar soap at farmers' markets again this spring. The owner of PoCo Soap Co. says farmers' markets used to be a big part of his business and a way to build relationships with customers. He says it's ironic that, as a non-food vendor, he can't sell soap in a pandemic. He believes buying items from an outdoor farmers' market is among the safest ways to shop. "It was frustrating because other than being arbitrary and general, we're being told to wash our hands with soap and water," Hogan said. "And as a maker and seller of soap, to not be allowed to sell soap somewhere seems ... extra weird."
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The advocate general for European Union's highest court on Thursday urged the court to rule that Hungary violated the bloc's laws on asylum when it passed legislation narrowing the possibilities for asylum-seekers to receive international protection. The non-binding opinion from the European Court of Justice's Advocate General, Athanasios Rantos, states that the 2018 amendments to Hungary's asylum laws — which prohibited asylum-seekers who passed through safe countries en route to Hungary from receiving international protection — violated EU law. “By introducing that ground for inadmissibility, Hungary has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Procedures Directive,” Rantos wrote, referring to the EU's asylum protocols. Opinions by advocates general are often but not always followed by the European Court of Justice, which will make a final ruling on the case at a later date. The European Commission, the bloc's executive branch, brought the case before the court as part of an infringement procedure it launched against Hungary in 2018 over its non-compliance with asylum law. Rantos also advised the court to rule that a Hungarian law that cracks down on organizations and individuals that provide legal assistance to asylum-seekers violates EU law. The legislation, known as the “Stop Soros” law, was an amendment to Hungary’s criminal code that threatened aid workers and human rights advocates working with asylum-seekers with up to a year in prison. It was approved by the Hungarian parliament in 2018. The law was named after Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, a pro-democracy advocate who has long been a target of the Hungarian government. Hungary's right-wing government has been a staunch opponent of immigration, and its treatment of migrants have brought it into frequent conflict with the rest of the 27-nation EU. Last year, the country closed its transit zones — enclosed areas along the southern border with Serbia used to hold asylum-seekers while their asylum requests were being decided — after the European court ruled they amounted to detention and thus violated EU law. Last month, the EU’s border control agency, Frontex, suspended operations in Hungary after the government in Budapest did not comply with a December ruling by the European court that ordered Hungary to grant protection to asylum-seekers as required by law and to stop returning them to Serbia. The country's prime minister, Viktor Orban, claims he is seeking to protect Hungary's conservative Christian identity and to defend Europe from immigration from the Mideast and Africa. ___ Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration Justin Spike, The Associated Press
A North Battleford woman and alleged Westside gang member had court appearances scheduled in Lloydminster and Meadow Lake Provincial Courts and the matters were adjourned. Tonia Cantel, 22, is charged in connection to several separate incidents. She was denied bail in January. In February the Crown said they continue to oppose her release. Cantel has been in custody at Pinegrove Correctional Centre for women in Prince Albert since her arrest in November 2020. In the November 2020 incident, where Cantel and four others allegedly took police on a 150-kilomtre, two-hour chase, she is charged with theft of a vehicle, storing a prohibited firearm, four counts of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a firearm without a license, being in a vehicle with an unauthorized firearm, possessing a prohibited firearm with accessible ammunition without registration, possession of a firearm with an altered serial number, endangering the safety of the public and flight from police. For those charges Cantel had an appearance scheduled in Lloydminster Provincial Court on Feb. 23 and the matter was adjourned. In that incident, police also arrested Juanita Wahpistikwin, Kyle Lajimodiere and two young offenders who can’t be named in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Earlier this month, Wahpistikwin was sentenced to 18 months in jail for her part in that incident. Lajimodiere’s trial is set for June 29 and 30, 2021, in Lloydminster Provincial Court. Cantel also has charges out of Big River including aggravated assault, operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm, robbery, and possession of property obtained by crime. For those charges she had an appearance scheduled in Pierceland Circuit Court on Feb. 16. The charges against Cantel haven’t been proven in court. She is now scheduled to appear in Meadow Lake Provincial Court on March 9. If you are associated with a gang and want to leave it, contact STR8 UP in northern Saskatchewan at 306-763-3001, STR8 UP in central Saskatchewan at 306-244-1771, or Regina Treaty Status Indian Services in southern Saskatchewan at 306-522-7494 to get assistance. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was full of uncertainty. Almost a year later, people and businesses have found ways to adapt and help each other in the community. In March 2020, local teen Ray Calder created the Rainy River District COVIDelivery group on Facebook, that aimed to help deliver essential groceries and supplies to those unable to go out themselves due to self-isolation or being part of a high risk group. “I think we had around 25 volunteers the first time around probably late March or the first part of April last year, right when things were just starting to shut down and a lot of people were returning from travels and having to quarantine for 14 days. We had quite a few requests in the early days because of that,” said Lisa Brockie, who handles calls and messages for the Rainy River District COVIDelivery. The initial response was overwhelming because many people were self-isolating after returning from trips and many seniors could not risk leaving their homes, Brockie said, adding that since then, requests have decreased. Brockie got involved with the service as a volunteer and later came on board to help Calder when the requests were too overwhelming to handle on his own, but they have not had any requests this month. Brockie said they did just over 100 deliveries in total from March until now. There were not many requests in June so they decided to suspend the service, Brockie added. “We thought that was the end of it and then we got a handful in January,” Brockie said. “A lot of our volunteers who were off work last year are now back so we had a smaller group of volunteers sign up to help and then all of a sudden, we didn’t get any more calls.” Brian Cawston, owner of Einar’s Foods in Fort Frances, has quite a popular grocery delivery service. Cawston said the service was busy because of the pandemic but has now gone back to its usual flow. Cawston said he is happy that the delivery service which runs twice a week, has been steady. He said that more people are opting for it or for curbside pickup. “We have some people who do more curbside,” Cawston said. “A lot of people phoning in and we get ready for them and then they just come in and pick it up.” Brockie said she thinks one of the reasons the demand for the COVIDelivery service dropped was because stores were pivoting to curbside pickup and that many people were able to get family members to buy their necessities. “Overall I think it was really positive, especially back when there weren’t really many options for people and there was a lot of fear when we didn’t know much about the virus, how it was spread and who was most at risk,” Brockie said. “There was a lot of gratitude from the people who were getting the delivery to know that they didn’t have to put their health at risk or go without their necessities.” Brockie said the service is currently running but they are in discussion of whether to continue it. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus will reopen high schools, gyms, pools, dance academies and art galleries on March 1 in a further, incremental easing of the country’s second nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the government said Thursday. Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said easing the six-week-old lockdown should proceed “slowly, cautiously and in a controlled manner.” He warned that the situation could easily get out of hand again as the country’s infection rate remains slightly above safety limits set by the European Union’s disease prevention agency. According to Ioannou, the number of infections now stands at 164.3 per 100,000 people. Middle school students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 8, Ioannou said, signalling the reopening of all schools after weeks of online instruction. Primary schools are already holding in-person classes. But the minister made it clear that twice-daily excursions requiring SMS approval and a 9:00pm-5:00am curfew will remain in effect. “We'll do without certain things for the next two or three months, some measures will carry on until there's (sufficient) vaccination coverage which is estimated to happen by June," Ioannou said. A ban on public gatherings also continues to apply despite growing public fatigue that culminated with thousands demonstrating last weekend in the capital to protest the restrictions, alleged police heavy-handedness and corruption. Police didn’t intervene in that protest, but used a water cannon, pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse a much smaller group of left-wing demonstrators a week earlier. One young woman required surgery for an eye injury following a blast from the water canon. The force’s actions triggered a public outcry and prompted a probe to determine whether riot police used disproportionate force. On Wednesday, Amnesty International urged Cypriot authorities to lift what it called “an unlawful and disproportionate blanket ban” on demonstrations. Amnesty International Greece and Cyprus official Kondylia Gogou said police made “unnecessary and excessive use of force" during the earlier protest. She said the violence was also part of a “deeply worrying pattern" in Cyprus where “human rights are coming under sustained attack." ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
The invitation to a foot race set Dave Murphy on the path to changing his life. In 2018 he was leaving the neighbourhood park with his daughter. The pair were walking back to their Calgary home when she asked her father if he wanted to race home. The now 45-year-old Murphy was pushing 400 pounds and still dealing with the ramifications of a late-night altercation in Ontario more than two decades earlier. He was 17 then and that altercation left the Grand Falls-Windsor native without part of the muscle in his left leg. Parents can have a hard time saying no to their children, and Murphy is no different. However, due to his health, he had to tell his daughter they couldn’t race. The look he was met with sparked something. “That look of disappointment on her face, I will never forget. That lit a fire under me,” said Murphy. “That was the thing and the biggest reason for her and my wife, to be around longer for them. “I was headed in a bad direction.” He was 391 pounds when he started, and he now sits at 235 pounds. Almost three years later, Murphy has dropped 155 pounds and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. When he started, Murphy set himself a 100-pound goal to reach. To help keep himself in check, he added a stipulation to that goal. For every pound he lost, he would make a $1 donation to military veterans and first responders. “First responders saved my life in 1994. I was attacked and knifed 13 times, so I wouldn’t have even made it if it wasn’t for first responders,” said Murphy. “So, I needed a way to stay motivated, so I made a pledge online that I was going to lose 100 pounds and donate a dollar a pound.” The son of preachers — his parents were Salvation Army officers — Murphy always believed in paying it forward. At each of his family's stops, he saw the benefits of giving and supporting something bigger than himself. First responders saved his life in Ontario, and he has spent the last two-plus decades paying them back. It started with dropping off a tin of coffee at fire stations every week and that morphed into several other initiatives that supported military veterans. Things like sending Tim Hortons gift cards to soldiers and The Gratitude Project were a way for Murphy to say thank you. “I just want to pay it forward and help as many people as I can,” said Murphy. To date, Murphy figures he’s donated more than $3,000 with the help of people who have matched his donations to the volunteer organization Can Praxis. Can Praxis is an organization that offers mental-health recovery programs to Canadian military veterans and first responders who have an operational stress injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. Founded in 2013, the Alberta-based group uses equine therapy to accomplish its goals. “Dave has done great and his support for Can Praxis and for veterans and first responders has been meaningful,” said Steve Critchley, a facilitator with Can Praxis. Weight loss journeys are never easy. Ask anyone in the middle of one. For Murphy, there were days when he didn’t want to hit the gym or head to his boxing sessions. On those days, he’d think of his family and of the first responders he was raising money for. “They're running into burning buildings and fires while people are running out of them, and here I am not wanting to go (to the gym),” said Murphy. “Whenever there is a day I don’t want to go, I think about those guys and I’m like, ‘alright, let's go.’” Benchmarks for success come in different forms. When looking at the work Murphy has done for his well-being, these benchmarks come in the form of his family. It was an interaction with his daughter that started him on his fitness journey and it’s another interaction with his daughter that reaffirms his commitment. Often the pair would go to a play centre near the family home. Whenever his daughter would hit the obstacle course, Murphy would sit on the benches and watch. There was no way he could muster the energy to join her. Before the centre’s shutdown due to the pandemic, Murphy was able to hit the course alongside his daughter. “I got a second chance at life,” said Murphy. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
ROME — Italy paid tribute Thursday to its ambassador to Congo and his bodyguard who were killed in an attack on a U.N. convoy, honouring them with a state funeral and prayers for peace in Congo and all nations “torn by war and violence.” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for Rome, presided over the solemn funeral at the Santa Maria degli Angeli basilica that was attended by Premier Mario Draghi, top lawmakers, representatives of the armed forces and relatives of the young men. Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci were killed Monday north of Goma when an armed group stopped them as they travelled in a two-car convoy to a World Food Program school feeding project. WFP's Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, was also killed in the attack. Italy has formally asked the U.N. for an inquiry into what happened amid questions about whether the U.N. security arrangements were sufficient for the mission. In his eulogy, De Donatis decried the “stupid and ferocious” attack and said it was right that Italy, Congo and the community of nations weep over such violence that “tore Luca and Vittorio from this world." “Let us pray together that today is a day in which the prayer for peace in Congo and in all nations torn by various forms of war and violence is raised to heaven," he said. He denounced how so many Congolese feel the constant threat of danger from rebel groups “knocking at their door,” saying the country had been “cruelly devastated by violence that sees their children die every day.” But he praised the men for working for peace and looking out for others “even at the cost of their own lives.” “If this the fate of peace workers, what will be the fate of the rest of us?” he asked. The funeral, carried live on state RAI television, featured masked Carabinieri officers as pallbearers and altar servers, with a military band performing Chopin’s haunting “Funeral March” as the flag-draped coffins were carried in and out of the basilica. After the service, the socially-distanced crowd applauded as the two hearses pulled out of the piazza carrying the coffins for burial, flanked by a police escort. Attanasio is survived by his wife and three young daughters, at least one of whom attended the funeral, as well as his parents and siblings. Iacovacci is survived by his fiancee and other family members. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
Hawksbills are the most beautiful of the sea turtles, and this video is proof! Check it out!
(Tyler Pidlubny/CBC - image credit) Five people have been arrested after allegedly invading a home more than a year ago in the city's University Park East neighbourhood. The incident took place in the afternoon on Jan. 20, 2020 on Westminster Road. Regina Police Service said three male suspects were dropped off at the home by two others. The three masked men forced their way into the home of a 71-year-old woman after threatening her with a Taser, said police. They allegedly stole 14 pellet guns, prescription medicine and a laptop before fleeing in the woman's Chevrolet Impala, just as two other residents were coming home, police said. The five suspects were arrested between December 2020 and Feb. 23, 2021. They are jointly charged with break-and-enter and robbery. One male suspect faces an additional charge of assault.
Twitter Inc will launch new features and products faster to refresh its business after years of stagnation, the company said on Thursday, aiming to double its annual revenue in 2023. "Why don't we start with why folks don't believe in us," said Chief Executive Jack Dorsey at the start of Twitter's virtual investor day presentation. The social media network outlined plans including tipping and paid subscriptions to "super follow" some accounts, to attain at least $7.5 billion in annual revenue and 315 million monetizable daily active users (mDAU), or those who see ads, by the end of 2023.
Coinbase, the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, moved a step closer to listing on the Nasdaq with a filing on Thursday to go public, revealing that it had swung into profit last year as bitcoin surged. Approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a listing would represent a landmark victory for cryptocurrency advocates, vying for mainstream endorsement for a sector which has struggled to win the trust of mainstream investors, regulators and the general public. It would pave the way for the highest-profile share listing of a company whose business is primarily focused around the trading of cryptocurrencies, and could also be seen as a tacit regulatory approval of assets traded on its platform.
Le président de la Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec (FCMQ), Réal Camiré, rejette du revers de la main, les critiques exprimées par les dirigeants de trois clubs du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean au sujet de la mise en application du nouveau modèle de financement Objectif 2020. En entrevue avec Le Quotidien, M. Camiré a expliqué que la décision d’établir un nouveau modèle destiné à mieux répartir les revenus des droits d’accès entre les clubs de la province a été prise au congrès de 2018 et que, depuis, beaucoup de travail de consultation et d’information a été réalisé pour son peaufinement. « Il y a 10 clubs sur 13 qui ont embarqué sur une base volontaire, dans votre région. Tout a été expliqué lors de réunions régionales annuelles. On a donné tous les détails, les paramètres, le paiement par kilomètre. Ils ont présenté ça à leur conseil d’administration et ç’a été accepté », déclare-t-il. Les directions de clubs riches savaient au départ qu’il y aurait des fluctuations à la baisse dans les flux de trésorerie et que les surplus engendrés dans le passé seraient beaucoup moindres parce que l’intention est de mieux répartir la richesse, explique-t-il. M. Camiré ajoute qu’il existe du mécontentement en raison des faibles précipitations de neige dans certains secteurs de la région, touchant deux ou trois clubs, sauf que les autres clubs voient leurs finances stabilisées et améliorées. En ce qui a trait à la mécanique des paiements du surfaçage et le 200 $ du kilomètre reconnu, M. Camiré affirme que les opérations se déroulent rondement, les clubs n’ayant qu’à produire leur rapport mensuellement pour recevoir un paiement rapide. Les revenus des droits d’accès sont distribués en trois versements avant les Fêtes jusqu’à la mi-décembre, par versements électroniques, ce qui évite aux clubs d’avoir à mobiliser des bénévoles pour cueillir les fonds comme ça se faisait dans le passé. Un des aspects que n’ont pas fait ressortir les clubs récalcitrants, selon lui, est que dans le nouveau modèle, la FCMQ accorde désormais du financement aux clubs pour le remplacement des surfaceuses (90 %), la réparation des ponts et ponceaux jusqu’à 100 %, les réparations pour deux surfaceuses entre 75 % et 100 %, etc. Selon lui, lorsqu’il faut parler du nouveau modèle, il est important de mettre dans la balance tous les avantages et critères. Le président de la FCMQ se dit prêt à écouter les dirigeants de clubs qui ont des critiques à formuler, mais il n’est pas question de faire marche arrière. « Est-ce que deux ou trois clubs qui ne sont pas satisfaits vont faire revirer la situation lorsque 33 clubs sont satisfaits? Il y a des situations particulières au Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. » Parmi ces situations qui ne font pas partie du nouveau modèle, M. Camiré fait référence aux compensations aux agriculteurs accordés pour les droits de passage par les instances municipales de Saguenay jusqu’à 100 000 $. Pas question de soutenir les clubs qui voudraient maintenir des relais à même leurs fonds. En ce qui a trait aux prétentions d’un club qui se plaint beaucoup au Saguenay, M. Camiré soutient qu’après vérification, il y aura une différence de 20 000 $ sur les revenus dans le nouveau modèle. Ceux qui prétendent qu’il en coûte 120 $ de l’heure pour le fonctionnement d’une surfaceuse doivent être questionnés afin de déterminer si, dans le calcul, on inclut les frais de fonctionnement de garages, selon lui, alors que certains clubs n’en disposent pas. Selon lui, le 70 $ du kilomètre couvre le taux horaire d’un opérateur à 20 $ et le 50 $ pour les frais de fonctionnement de la surfaceuse. Selon le président de la FCMQ, toutes les pierres doivent être retournées puisque l’argent payé par les motoneigistes doit avant tout servir au développement et l’entretien des sentiers. Ceci dit, M. Camiré se montre ouvert à ce que le modèle puisse être adapté aux réalités de certaines régions et revalidé. Il est possible que certains clubs aient été mal évalués. M. Camiré et son directeur général, Stéphane Desroches, auront l’occasion de discuter avec les directions des clubs régionaux, puisqu’ils seront de passage dans la région pendant trois jours, à compter de lundi, afin d’effectuer une virée dans le haut du Lac-Saint-Jean et sur les Monts-Valin. Dans les derniers jours, les conseils d’administration des clubs se sont rencontrés en prévision d’une rencontre. C’est le cas pour le Club du Fjord et le Club Lac-Saint-Jean. Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
(Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit) The executive director of the Downtown Mission says a new emergency shelter for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 is opening up to the city's most vulnerable. Rev. Ron Dunn said on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning that people will begin moving to the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre on Thursday. "My staff are going to be staffing it mainly and so many of them are going to be reporting there this morning," he told host Tony Doucette. Clients are expected to start moving in Thursday afternoon. The opening of the shelter was prompted by large COVID-19 outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness in Windsor-Essex. As of Wednesday, there are 81 cases among clients and staff at the Downtown Mission, and 34 related to an outbreak at the Salvation Army shelter. The city's existing isolation and recovery shelter had become full amid the outbreaks, creating a scramble to accomodate those affected. Windsor's International Aquatic and Training Centre is being transformed into an emergency shelter. When the city announced that a second space would be opening up to respond to the crisis, officials initially said Wednesday would be the target date but as of that afternoon, it had still not opened and the city gave no indication of why the opening was delayed or when it may be opened. The Mission's two main locations were shut down officially by order of the health unit earlier this week, though the organization had already taken that step and moved into the former Windsor Public Library site on Ouellette Avenue. Dunn said on Windsor Morning that screening measures and other protocols were in place prior to the outbreak and the Mission was in contact with city officials and the health unit on outbreak plans. Nonetheless, Dunn said he felt it was inevitable that someone at the shelter would contract COVID-19. Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for the region, has previously noted the vulnerabilities within the homeless population to COVID-19, and challenges in preventing transmission.
Mississauga–Streetsville Liberal MP Gagan Sikand, who has not participated in a legislative vote since October, will remain absent from Parliament “until further notice” according to his staff. The MP is on an unspecified medical leave that has stopped him from working since the fall and there appears to be no timeline for his return. It means just over 118,000 Mississaugans are without direct representation in Ottawa, reliant on bureaucrats to respond to their needs. None of their concerns or positions on issues are currently being represented in the House of Commons. “With the full knowledge and consent of MP Mark Holland, the Chief Government Whip, MP Sikand is officially on a medical leave of absence until further notice,” a staffer told The Pointer in an email. The Pointer sent a request to the Whip’s office asking if the party was aware of Sikand’s absence. No response was received in time for publication. The Pointer could not find any public notice of the medical leave on Sikand's Twitter feed or his official website, which does not have any press release or other communication informing constituents of the leave. The Parliament website which lists all members also does not indicate that Sikand is on a medical leave. Eight calls to Sikand’s constituency office went unanswered; the number for his Ottawa parliamentary office failed to connect on multiple attempts. An advisor provided a short response by email, but the MP’s staff, tasked with handling matters in his absence, could not be reached by phone. “Our office is experiencing a high volume of inquiries at this time,” an automated email response tells those who reach out to Sikand’s constituency inbox. It is unclear exactly when Sikand’s medical leave began, but parliamentary voting and speech records suggest it was in the latter half of 2020. During the first session of Parliament, between December 5, 2019 and prorogation on August 18 2020, Sikand had a standard participation record for a backbench MP. He spoke in the chamber with relative frequency and voted 18 times. His record compares to Omar Alghabra (Mississauga Centre, recently elevated to the position of Transport Minister) and Sven Spengemann (Mississauga—Lakeshore) who had 22 and 18 votes respectively. But, when the legislature returned for its second session on September 23 2020, Sikand’s record began to fade. Since September, he has participated in just six votes compared to 53 for both Alghabra and Spengemann. At the end of October, Sikand’s parliamentary participation ended abruptly. He hasn’t spoken or voted in Parliament since October 29, according to records maintained by the government and Open Parliament, an independent, non-governmental website that tracks votes, speeches and committees in Parliament. On social media, Sikand’s activity remained longer than in Parliament. Twitter, where many politicians communicate their core messages to residents, saw Sikand continue engaging with constituents until he took a break. His digital posts included Christmas greetings and messages shared in December and the first half of January. On January 21, the MP congratulated US President Joe Biden on his inauguration, his last tweet before apparently unplugging from social media. He has not replied to or liked a tweet since his absence from Parliament began after his final vote on October 29. A medical absence for a serving MP is not unprecedented. Almost immediately following the 2019 election, Winnipeg MP Jim Carr was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, he stepped back from his parliamentary duties, leaving his staff in charge of helping the constituents who elected him. Sikand was first elected during the Liberal red wave in 2015, when Justin Trudeau’s party swept through Brampton and Mississauga taking every seat. He won reelection in 2019, finishing almost 10,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival, Conservative candidate Ghada Melek. Sikand has been relatively quiet during both his terms as an MP, showing a particular interest in the Criminal Code. Between 2015 and 2019, he introduced one Private Members Bill in 2016 which would have amended the Code, also speaking regularly on the topic. Sikand wanted to introduce the use of a passive detection device that would allow police officers to detect the use of alcohol within a few hours of operating a vehicle. His Bill died in 2017. A lawyer by training, Sikand worked for the Ontario government’s Attorney General before he made the leap to federal politics. It remains unclear how long Sikand will be away, but staff say the Mississauga—Streetsville office continues to operate as normal. “All constituency matters are being handled diligently by our staff without disruption on a remote basis,” one of his staff members said. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer