U.S. president-elect Joe Biden will have an all-female senior communications team at his White House, including longtime Democratic spokesperson Jen Psaki as his press secretary and campaign spokesperson Kate Bedingfield as communications director.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden will have an all-female senior communications team at his White House, including longtime Democratic spokesperson Jen Psaki as his press secretary and campaign spokesperson Kate Bedingfield as communications director.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
Avec le renouvellement du confinement provincial, Revenu Québec reconduit certaines mesures d’assouplissement, dont la simplification de la demande de déduction des dépenses liées au télétravail et le délai pour le renouvellement du crédit d’impôt pour maintien à domicile des aînés. Parmi les mesures d’assouplissement dédiées aux particuliers, l’utilisation de la signature électronique pour faciliter les démarches administratives, permise depuis mars dernier, demeure en place. Une personne qui aurait besoin d’un préparateur (personne autorisée à produire une déclaration de revenus en leur nom) peut utiliser cette formule électronique. Le délai pour le renouvellement du crédit d’impôt pour maintien à domicile des aînés est aussi reconduit, tandis que la demande d’une déduction pour dépenses relatives au télétravail sera simplifiée. Il sera possible de demander 2 $ pour chaque jour travaillé à domicile durant l’année 2020, et ce, jusqu’à un maximum de 400 dollars. Du côté des entreprises, Revenu Québec continuera de traiter en accéléré le versement des crédits d’impôt et des remboursements. Les entreprises peuvent également utiliser l’option de la signature électronique. De plus, un service en ligne sera mis en place sous peu afin de réduire la quantité de formulaires à remplir en ce qui a trait aux conditions générales d’emploi. De plus, Revenu Québec précise que les activités de recouvrement seront limitées. L’organisation invite les contribuables à communiquer avec leur service à la clientèle afin de se prévaloir d’une entente de paiement.Julie Sauvé, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
GUYSBOROUGH – Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) launched an initiative last year to reduce the amount of lost fishing gear, also called ghost gear, in Canadian and international waters. In a news release issued earlier this month (Jan. 7), DFO stated that early estimates show this initiative has helped to remove almost 63 tonnes of ghost gear; 80 per cent of which was retrieved from the Bay of Fundy and coastal waters off Nova Scotia, including the waters surrounding the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) – Lobster Fishing Areas 31 A and 31 B. The overwhelming majority of gear type retrieved was lobster and crab pots (86 per cent). Nets and longline from various fisheries comprised 14 per cent of gear retrieved. And 3.2 km of rope was removed from coastal waters in Atlantic Canada. Gear was retrieved by projects supported through DFO’s $8.3 million Ghost Gear Fund, self-funded third-party projects authorized by DFO to collect gear, fishery officer patrols and fish harvesters. In MODG, all retrieved gear was collected by harvesters who previously lost their fishing gear in these areas. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
OKLAHOMA CITY — One name missing in President Donald Trump's flurry of pardons is “Tiger King” Joe Exotic. His team was so confident in a pardon that they'd readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk away the zookeeper-turned-reality-TV-star, who is now serving a 22-year federal prison sentence in Texas. But he wasn't on the list announced Wednesday morning. Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot targeting his chief rival, Carole Baskin, who runs a rescue sanctuary for big cats in Florida. Baskin was not harmed. Maldonado-Passage, who has maintained his innocence, was also sentenced for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records. A jury convicted him in April 2019. In his pardon application filed in September, Maldonado-Passage’s attorneys argued that he was “railroaded and betrayed” by others. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is scheduled to be released from custody in 2037, but his attorneys said in the application that “he will likely die in prison” because of health concerns. Maldonado-Passage's legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday. The blond mullet-wearing zookeeper, known for his expletive-laden rants on YouTube and a failed 2018 Oklahoma gubernatorial campaign, was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” The Associated Press
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
OTTAWA — Canada's national annual inflation rate was 0.7 per cent in December, Statistics Canada says. Here's what happened in the provinces (previous month in brackets): — Newfoundland and Labrador: 0.6 per cent (0.8) — Prince Edward Island: -0.1 per cent (-0.5) — Nova Scotia: 0.6 per cent (0.2) — New Brunswick: 0.4 per cent (-0.4) — Quebec: 0.8 per cent (0.8) — Ontario: 0.7 per cent (0.9) — Manitoba: 0.1 per cent (0.6) — Saskatchewan: 0.9 per cent (0.8) — Alberta: 0.8 per cent (1.3) — British Columbia: 0.8 per cent (1.1) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021 and was generated automatically. The Canadian Press
Ontario's police watchdog is investigating after a 49-year-old man arrested by Ottawa police late Tuesday afternoon was found unresponsive in a police station cell hours later. He was later pronounced dead in hospital. Ottawa police arrested a man at a home around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday as officers carried out a warrant, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) wrote in a news release Wednesday morning. The unidentified man was taken to Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street and placed in a cell. The SIU said he was found unresponsive in the cell around 9:30 p.m. Paramedics were called to take the man to hospital, where he was pronounced dead just after 10 p.m. He had lost vital signs before arrival, said the SIU. An autopsy is scheduled to take place Wednesday. The SIU, which investigates when law enforcement officials are involved in a death, serious injury, shooting or allegations of sexual assault, is asking anyone with information to call 1-800-787-8529. Ottawa police said in a news release all information on the incident would be released through the SIU.
In an effort to limit outbreaks on campus, Bishop's University has hired a private firm to perform COVID-19 tests for students living in residence. The tests are voluntary. Students provide saliva samples, which are pooled and sent to a laboratory in the United States. If the coronavirus is detected in one of the pool samples, the test results won't identify the student who tested positive. Instead, everyone in that group will be encouraged to get a nasal swab test. Last fall, Bishop's University had to suspend the majority of on-campus activities after at least 15 people tested positive for COVID-19 on campus. "So far, the students are very willing to do it. It's not a painful test or anything, and it's quite easily done," said Stine Linden-Andersen, who is the dean of student affairs at Bishop's, and the chair of the university's COVID-19 taskforce. "I think some of the strategies we've taken, including this pool saliva testing, is going to help everyone more comfortable getting back." For most students, the winter semester began Monday, with the school offering online classes, except for some classes which offer a mix of virtual and in-person learning. Students who want to be tested are encouraged to stop by the campus dining hall, part of which has been turned into a temporary testing clinic. "We asked them to take a sip of water. They'll gargle for a minute, then they swallow the water," said Kendra Brock, the university's manager of health services. "They have to wait five minutes at least, and then they have to put at least five millilitres of saliva [in the container]." The university is hoping to expand the voluntary testing throughout the campus, including sports teams. Starting with students in residence was the right call, according to the university's communications director. "It's a strategic clientele," said Olivier Bouffard. "They live here, they eat here."
MOSCOW — Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader said Wednesday that his forces have killed six suspected militants, including a warlord accused of organizing a 2011 suicide attack at a Moscow airport. Ramzan Kadyrov, the regional leader of Chechnya, said that troops under his command had tracked down the suspects in the village of Katar-Yurt and killed all of them on the spot. Kadyrov claimed that the raid marked the elimination of the last group of militants that remained in the region. “All underground bands in Chechnya have now been eliminated,” Kadyrov said on his blog. He added that the security sweep had been planned long ago and followed two previous unsuccessful attempts to hunt down the militants. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate Kadyrov, who personally took part in the security sweep. Kadyrov said that those killed included warlord Aslan Byutukayev, whom Russian authorities accused of involvement in the January 2011 suicide bombing at the arrivals area of Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 37. Byutukayev appeared in a video alongside top Chechen warlord Doku Umarov and the suicide bomber. Umarov, who also claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Russia, was killed in a security raid in 2013. After Umarov's death, Byutukayev became the leader of militants in Chechnya and swore allegiance to the Islamic State group. He has been on the Russian wanted list for his involvement in the 2011 airport bombing and other attacks. The Kremlin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize Chechnya after two separatist wars in the 1990s and the early 2000s and has provided generous subsidies to help rebuild the region. International human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of rampant rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings by his feared security forces. Despite Kadyrov’s relentless crackdown on suspected extremists, some of whom have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, militants have continued to launch sporadic attacks in Chechnya and other regions in Russia’s North Caucasus. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Widespread compliance with the new stay-at-home order is being credited for the low number of tickets issued in Peel over the weekend, a shift in behaviour from the illegal parties that thrust the community into the spotlight in the summer. Peel’s police chief and politicians say the low number of tickets issued over the weekend speaks to the community now understanding the severity of the threat posed by COVID-19. “Hopefully, it’s an indication of compliance. We did not receive a lot of complaints from the public over the last few days,” Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah told the Star Tuesday. Peel Regional Police confirmed that it had issued five tickets and one warning since the stay-at-home order came into effect, but was unable to clarify the exact breach the fines were issued for. In the past week, Mississauga’s bylaw enforcement team issued fines for 14 violations, which included 11 to businesses and three for gatherings. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she’s pleased with how residents and businesses have been obeying the rules. She attributed the levels of compliance in Mississauga to the fact that Peel Region has been in varying degrees of lockdown for close to two months, and residents have adjusted their habits over time. “The message has been and continues to be the same: stay at home, only leave for essential activities and limit close in-person contacts to just your immediate household,” she said Monday. Brampton officials laid five charges related to COVID-19 rule violations over the weekend. Three of those tickets were due to a violation of the stay-at-home order after a small group was caught gathering in a parking lot. The other two charges, laid under the Reopening Ontario Act, were people visiting a resident that was not part of their own household, Brampton officials confirmed Monday. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said most residents now grasp the severity of the situation. “We have seen a high level of compliance in response to the stay-at-home order announced last week,” Brown said Monday. Each of the fines issued in Brampton over the weekend were $880, for a total of $4,400 in fines. Mississauga enforcement officers, inspectors from the labour ministry and local public health officials conducted inspections of six big-box store locations in Mississauga over the weekend and found that all were complying. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones told the Star the Mississauga enforcement of large outlets was part of a provincial blitz of big-box operations that started on the weekend. “They are going on site to both manufacturing and businesses that continue to operate to make sure they’re doing so in a safe manner,” said Jones. Brampton was thrust into the spotlight in the summer when it became the hotbed for large parties, one of which attracted an estimated 200 people in July and another where police ended up being called to a shooting. Brampton officials said that between March 31 and early November, officers laid 940 charges, including 66 summonses, for violation of the relevant provincial rules and city bylaws targeting large residential gatherings and other emergency measures violations. In Mississauga, 424 tickets and or fines were handed out over the same time. In both cities, people hosting residential gatherings accounted for most of the fines. Cases against people fined for hosting illegal parties in the summer are trickling through the courts." Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training and skills, said Wednesday that safety inspectors conducted a blitz of 242 big box stores over the weekend and found only 69 per cent of chain stores complied with COVID-19 guidelines. Infractions, he said, ranged from failing to following social distancing rules, failing to install PPE and neglecting to follow masking protocols.
Watching Kincardine native Sam Pearce entertain an audience is, well, magical. As early as four years-of-age, Pearce already knew that he wanted to be a magician. He credits his grandfather with providing him with the inspiration to pursue his career. Grandpa Frank Pearce, formerly of Kincardine and now living in Lucknow, loved to make people laugh, telling jokes and using sleight of hand to amaze and amuse friends and family. Pearce says “he is the reason I am doing this today.” Flashback to 2003, when a then 12-year-old Pearce was the subject of a feature article in The Kincardine Independent. Even then, he knew that he had to keep his illusions fresh and professional to keep his audience entertained. As a young man, he advertised his skills in the area, performing at birthday parties for just $20, while honing his skills and perfecting his delivery. A move to Kitchener in 2008 brought him closer to bigger opportunities, and he began to perform at awards galas, team building events and corporate conferences, acting as not only an entertainer, but as a master of ceremonies as well. His clients have included such companies as Sobeys head office, Epson and Canada Life. And in pandemic times, in order to accommodate gathering and physical distancing restrictions, Pearce has used technology to bring his services into the board rooms and living rooms of his customers. His expert team operates remotely from cities across southern Ontario and he has turned his living room into a professional television studio, where he shoots videos of his performances. Each event is customized to meet the needs of his clients, is interactive and very entertaining. “One thing I’m really proud of is the ability to broadcast with live closed captions,” said Pearce. “It’s so important to me that the events are accessible and welcoming to everyone. It was a bit tricky to develop, but we now have a solid system where we send live audio to a stenographer (working remotely in Toronto), they transcribe the event in real-time, and we sync the words with the video before broadcasting to our viewers.” His goal is to use his skills in comedy and magic to bring people together. “My goal is to connect people,” said Pearce. “…to give people a sense of community and connection from the comfort of their homes.” Examples of Pearce’s performances can be seen on his company’s website, www.canadianillusionist.com. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Representatives of the religious faiths recognized in Belgium have joined forces to urge federal authorities to increase the number of people admitted inside places of worship during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the current COVID-19 rules, such places can accommodate up to 15 people. In a letter to Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, the religious representatives argued that the number of people allowed should instead be linked to the space available. They proposed a return to the “one person per 10 square meters" rule which applied in June last year when Belgium exited the spring lockdown. “The use of this standard proved to be less restrictive for religious practice and at the same time very protective for public health,” they said in a statement on Wednesday. The letter was signed by representatives from the Roman Catholic, Protestant-Evangelical, Jewish, Anglican, Muslim and Orthodox faiths. “In these difficult and uncertain times, the need for meaning and spirituality is felt more than ever," they said. “For months now, a maximum of 15 people at a time have been able to gather in churches, mosques and synagogues in our country. Even if the life of a believer does not take place exclusively in the place of worship, many feel this measure in the long run as a drastic restriction of the latter." The government introduced the 15-person limit in December after the country’s highest court said the ban of services — with the exception of weddings and funerals in restricted company — which was introduced in October was disproportionate and impeded constitutional conditions on freedom of religion. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
BEIJING — China’s capital, Beijing, recorded seven more coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north. Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia, and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths. China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days. A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said. A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats. Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — India has began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country will send 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government will ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs as they supply partner countries in the coming months. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the vaccine that will be used by developing nations. The Associated Press
NEW YORK — As the coronavirus swept across the globe last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sank into the shadows, undermined by some of its own mistakes and stifled by an administration bent on downplaying the nation's suffering. Now a new CDC director is arriving to a mammoth task: reasserting the agency while the pandemic is in its deadliest phase yet and the nation’s largest-ever vaccination campaign is wracked by confusion and delays. “I don’t know if the CDC is broken or just temporarily injured,” but something must be done to bring it back to health, said Timothy Westmoreland, a Georgetown University law professor focused on public health. The task falls to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, 51, an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, who is expected to become CDC director this week — a time when the virus's U.S. death toll has eclipsed 400,000 and continues to accelerate. While the agency has retained some of its top scientific talent, public health experts say, it has a long list of needs, including new protection from political influence, a comprehensive review of its missteps during the pandemic and more money to beef up basic functions like disease tracking and genetic analysis. Walensky has said one of her top priorities will be to improve the CDC’s communications with the public to rebuild trust. Inside the agency, she wants to raise morale, in large part by restoring the primacy of science and setting politics to the side. The speed at which she is assuming the job is unusual. In the past, the position has generally been unfilled until a new secretary of health and human services is confirmed, and that official names a CDC director. But this time, the Biden transition team named Walensky in advance, so she could take the agency's reins even before her boss is in place. Walensky, an HIV researcher, has not worked at the CDC or at a state or local health department. But she has emerged as a prominent voice on the pandemic, sometimes criticizing certain aspects of the state and national response. Her targets have included the uneven transmission-prevention measures that were in place last summer and a prominent Trump adviser's endorsement of a “herd immunity” approach that would let the virus run free. She acknowledged the weaknesses in her resume. “When people write about me as the selection for this position, they will say, ‘But she has no on-the-ground public health experience,'" she said during a podcast with the Journal of the American Medical Association. The podcast’s host, Dr. Howard Bauchner, who is also editor of the journal, praised her effusively. “I can't imagine the CDC and the country being luckier ... mostly just because you can communicate, which is such an important task for the head of the CDC,” he said. Walensky did not respond to interview requests from The Associated Press. She will succeed Dr. Robert Redfield, 69, who came to the CDC with a similar resume as an outsider from academia. Redfield kept a low profile during his first two years in office after being appointed by the Trump administration in 2018. Veteran CDC scientists handled crises such as a deadly national surge in hepatitis A cases among homeless people and illicit drug users, and a mysterious spike in severe illnesses in people who vaped electronic cigarettes. The agency’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak began in a similar way. Staff scientists took the lead, holding regular news conferences to update the public on the emerging problem. But the agency stumbled in February when a test for the virus sent to states proved to be flawed. Then, later in the month, a top CDC infectious-disease expert, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, upset the Trump administration by speaking frankly at a news conference about the dangers of the virus when President Donald Trump was still downplaying it. Within weeks, the agency was pushed off stage. Redfield made appearances, but he was often a third-tier speaker after remarks dominated by Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and others. The CDC "has been sidelined, has been maligned, has been a punching bag for many politicians in the outgoing administration. And that has had a detrimental effect on the agency’s ability to fulfil its mission,” said Dr. Richard Besser, a former CDC official who now heads the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. White House officials also took steps to try to control the CDC's scientific reports and the guidance on its website. For instance, the agency removed guidance that advised limiting church choir activities even though studies had demonstrated the danger of transmission of extended singing indoors. The agency also dropped guidance advising that anyone who came into close contact with an infected person should get tested — then re-adopted it after criticism from health experts. “Folks across the political spectrum have had reason to doubt the veracity and accuracy, sometimes, of CDC’s messages,” said Adriane Casalotti of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. While public health veterans say they do not know everything that happened behind the scenes, they say Redfield apparently failed to stand up for agency scientists, declined to contradict Trump and those around him and passively allowed the Trump administration to post its messaging on CDC websites. “He wasn’t willing to resign when it was necessary or to be fired for standing up for principle,” said David Holtgrave, a former CDC staffer who is now dean of the public health school at the State University of New York at Albany. Redfield declined to be interviewed. The pandemic also exposed some CDC failures and weaknesses unrelated to politics. The test kit problem was tied to laboratory contamination at the agency’s Atlanta headquarters — a sign of sloppiness. The CDC also lost its standing as the nation's go-to source for case counts and other measures of the epidemic after university researchers and others developed better systems for tracking infections. Much of that has to do with cycles of funding for the national public health system that rise in reaction to a crisis and then fall, hurting efforts to prevent the next crisis. Last week, Biden said he would ask for $160 billion for vaccinations and other public health programs, including an effort to expand the public health workforce by 100,000 jobs. Georgetown's Westmoreland called for a law or other measure to prohibit political appointees from having editorial review of CDC science and to ban them from controlling when the agency releases information. He also recommended a review of the CDC to determine if the agency’s problems can be traced to mismanagement by Trump’s political appointees or whether there are deeper flaws in the organization. Some experts suggest that an administration that values science and increases funding could restore the CDC to preeminence. Biden has pledged to put scientists out front on COVID-19 matters, Besser noted. “That’s something I think will be fixed on Day One,” he said. “One of the things that gives me hope is I did not see a large exodus from CDC during this past year. I saw professionals doing their jobs. I saw the mental toll they were taking, but I did not see them giving up." ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
The fire department in Summerside, P.E.I., has a new pumper truck, and they marked its arrival with a tradition that is new to the city, but is centuries old in fire departments across the continent. Firefighters gathered Sunday to push the truck back into its new home. "In the early 1800s when they used to pull the steam engines or the hand pumpers with horses, the horses can't back them into the building. That's where the tradition started," said Chief Ron Enman. "Right across North America it's been a tradition. I just thought it would be something we'd start here and we had a lot of fun with it." Identical setups The new pumper replaces a 25-year-old truck that had reached the end of its life span Apart from being new, Enman said the new truck also will make work a little easier for firefighters because it is the same model as the other two pumpers at the station. "They're identical and they're set up identical," he said. "So if you're looking for a hydrant wrench on engine one or engine two, engine three, it doesn't matter what truck you're on when you go to that truck." The new pumper truck cost $681,000. More from CBC P.E.I.
Le rêve des deux amies derrière Pomme F se poursuit. Depuis 2015, l’entreprise de graphisme et de papeterie de Carolane Tremblay et Catherine Girard ne cesse de s’épanouir, avec une plus grande offre de produits, davantage de contrats, ainsi qu’une communauté grandissante de fidèles clients. L’entreprise de Saguenay compte maintenant quelque 4700 ventes sur sa page Etsy. Les deux amies se sont rencontrées sur un autre lieu de travail. Catherine avait été engagée pour remplacer Carolane lors de son congé de maternité. C’est le coup de foudre professionnel entre les deux employées, qui décident de quitter et de se lancer en affaires ensemble. En 2015, Pomme F ouvrait ses portes. Le sympathique duo se concentrait alors uniquement sur ses services de graphisme. Elles s’occupaient de tout ce qui touche l’image de marque des entreprises, en créant des logos et images originales de leur cru, selon les besoins de leurs clients. C’est encore aujourd’hui ce qui occupe le plus clair de leurs temps. « Toutes les images que l’on créées, ce sont vraiment tous nos dessins. On fait tout de A à Z. On ne fait jamais d’achat d’images pour créer l’un de nos produits, autant du côté du graphisme que de la papeterie. On fait vraiment tout par nous-mêmes, c’est ça notre créneau, on veut que tout soit original », explique Carolane, lors d’un entretien par visioconférence avec Le Quotidien. Toutefois, avec les années, une offre de produits de papeterie s’est ajoutée aux cordes de cette jeune entreprise. Son produit le plus populaire est son agenda inspiré du « bullet journal ». Un « bullet journal » est un cahier que l’on construit selon ses besoins et les personnes doivent donc monter les pages une à une. Les entrepreneures aimaient beaucoup le principe, mais trouvaient que ça demandait un grand effort. Elles avaient elles-mêmes passé plusieurs mois sur la construction du leur. Elles ont donc décidé de créer un agenda, destiné à la vente et basé sur ce style, dont les amateurs pourront se servir comme canevas et remplir selon leurs goûts et besoins. « Ça va vraiment bien pour la vente de ce produit. On l’appelle notre organisateur de bonheur. Il est vraiment fait pour s’aider à mieux s’organiser. D’année en année, ça grossit énormément », continue la créatrice. Plusieurs des produits vendus par Pomme F touchent ces agendas. Des volets, qui permettent de compléter son agenda selon des thèmes précis, des autocollants ou des rubans adhésifs, sont des exemples de ce qui se trouve dans l’inventaire de l’entreprise et qui permettent de personnaliser ces planificateurs. L’entreprise fait également la vente de cahiers de notes, de cahiers à colorier et plus. Pomme F est suivie par une communauté de passionnés de cette méthode d’organisation. Le groupe Agenda — Pomme F, sur Facebook, regroupe plus de 600 amateurs qui partagent quotidiennement trucs et réalisations. Au fil du temps, les créatrices sont devenues amies avec bien des personnes qui suivent cette page et puisent souvent dans leurs suggestions pour la création de nouveaux produits. Depuis peu, le duo organise également Les heures de bonheur avec Pomme F, un événement en ligne pour le groupe Agenda. Les deux amies invitent les membres à discuter avec elles, par visioconférence, une fois par semaine. La suite Carolane Tremblay et Catherine Girard veulent, pour 2021, prendre du temps pour leur entreprise, en mettant par exemple à jour leur site Internet, en travaillant sur leur image de marque avec un nouveau logo qui sera dévoilé prochainement et en consacrant davantage de temps à leurs différents réseaux sociaux. Lorsqu’elles pensent à l’avenir, elles souhaitent continuer à s’amuser et n’ont pas d’objectif précis en termes d’embauches d’employés ou de profits. Si les deux femmes pouvaient continuer ensemble pour cette entreprise encore des années, elles seraient comblées. Elles espèrent aussi continuer d’avoir l’appui de leur grande communauté de clients, qui les aident beaucoup plus qu’ils ne peuvent le penser. Sans faire de publicité, l’entreprise réussit à grandir grâce au bouche-à-oreille de sa fidèle clientèle, ce qui est bien gratifiant pour les femmes de 34 et 29 ans.Myriam Arsenault, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
MULGRAVE – When the Town of Mulgrave prepared its budget for 2020/2021, several issues stood out; in particular, the rising cost of policing, housing and education. At that time, and in the intervening months, Mulgrave’s CAO Darlene Berthier Sampson has been in contact with the RCMP and the Department of Justice about the cost of policing in the town. In September, council was informed that a policing review was slated to begin that month. At Monday night’s regular council meeting (Jan. 18), Department of Justice liaison Donna Jewers met with council to discuss the policing issue. Mayor Ron Chisholm told The Journal that the meeting was very informative and that the town expected to receive further communications from Jewers on the matters discussed. In other business, Mulgrave continues to wait for acceptance of the CAO job offer that was made in December. Mayor Chisholm said they expect an answer in the coming week. The current CAO has completed her contract obligations and doesn’t wish to extend her time in the CAO’s chair. Technical difficulties and the pandemic have meant that recent council meetings have neither been open to the public nor live streamed. Mayor Chisholm said they plan to have one of these options available before the next council meeting in February. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Priyanka Chopra Jonas was scrolling through Twitter a few years ago when she saw a headline that a film adaptation of “The White Tiger” was in the works. She immediately got on the phone to her agent. Her request: Please call the producers and offer her services. At the very least, she wanted to executive produce and help use her platform to get the word out. Aravind Adiga's novel about a driver in India who rises to become a successful businessman despite the stratified caste system was an international bestseller and critical darling, winning the Man Booker Prize in 2008. In the film, which hits Netflix Friday, Jonas not only got that producer credit, but co-stars as well. “(The book) had a profound effect on me,” Jonas said. “It made me uncomfortable and made me think about a part of the world that we sort of desensitize ourselves to.” People have been trying to get a film adaption of “The White Tiger” off the ground for years. Producer Mukul Deora scooped up the film rights a decade ago. But it’s safe to say no one has been hoping to make an adaptation as long as Ramin Bahrani. The “99 Homes” director and Adiga have been friends since their days at Columbia University in the '90s and he was reading rough drafts of the novel years before it was published. He’s even on the dedication page. “It’s an epic story that required a lot of financing and money and resources to get it made in India,” Bahrani said. “That wasn’t so easy when the novel came out.” Deora told him it was fated to be. But even with the precedence of films like “Slumdog Millionaire,” they didn’t think one of the traditional studios would make the film at the level they wanted because, as Bahrani said, “There are no comic book characters in it and they’re not flying around shooting and killing one another and encouraging us to go to war.” So they tried Netflix. “They were hungry for it,” Bahrani said. “They have an appetite for global stories, for voices that are not typically represented behind a camera or in front of the camera.” At the core of the story is Balram, who narrates his own journey from a small village to being the head chauffeur for a prominent and corrupt family. Big international and Bollywood stars were interested in the part, but Bahrani had a different idea. “It seemed to me that this story about an underdog from the underclass should be played by an Indian and hopefully an unknown Indian, not a movie star,” he said. The man they found was Adarsh Gourav, a local working actor who had not had a lot of luck lately. “I thought it was beyond my league,” Gourav said. He went to the audition without much hope. But Bahrani saw in him exactly what he was looking for. “His smile was so inviting and so charming and he could turn on a dime,'” Bahrani said. ‘He had that duality the part needed.” After a month of call backs, Bahrani told Gourav he’d gotten the role. “It felt so surreal I couldn’t even react,” Gourav said. “I couldn’t process it.” Gourav was a fan of the book, too. It made him realize his own privilege when he’d read it as a teenager and he wanted to do the role justice, so he committed to trying to understand the circumstances of his character’s life. He lived in a small village for a few weeks and even worked in a small food shop in Delhi, where he’d clean plates and sweep floors for the equivalent of $1.50 a day. “It was a very humbling experience,” Gourav said. The film does have a major Bollywood star in Rajkummar Rao, and, of course Jonas whose stardom is now global. But it may still be a revelation for U.S. audiences who have yet to see the scope of Jonas’ acting talents. “I see myself at the beginning of my career and in the States right now,” Jonas said. "I’ve never (thought) just because I’ve had a career with almost 50 movies somewhere else that I should have that same kind of reception in a country that doesn’t know me. (But) when I first came over to this side of the world, it was hard because not a lot of parts are written for people who look like me.” She had to fight for roles that were more than stereotypes. Even Pinky, who is married to Balram's boss, required a little bit of an update for the film. In the book she’s seen only through Balram’s voyeuristic eyes. In the film, she’s a more fully realized person. Jonas has also taken it upon herself to get more South Asian stories out in the world through her production company, Purple Pebble Pictures. “We’re one fifth of the world’s population, but you don’t see that represented in global entertainment,” she said. Eventually she’d like to direct, too. Her husband, Nick Jonas, has advised her to, “Stop overthinking it and just go do it.” And she thinks streaming services are helping to broaden people’s horizons and introduce them to global content. Jonas does hope that non-Indian audiences understand that “The White Tiger” is set at the turn of the 21st century and that modern India is very different from what is depicted in the book and film. The class divide, she said, is a metaphor for the vast wealth disparity in every country. Of course “The White Tiger” is also, first and foremost, entertainment with some “Goodfellas” touchstones. “We tried to make a fun, fast, propulsive movie with a great lead character and an amazing set of performances,” Bahrani said. “Anything else is a bonus.” ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press