U.S. president-elect Joe Biden told Georgia Democrats they had the power to 'chart the course' in Tuesday's Senate run-off. President Donald Trump repeated his baseless claims he won the state in November's election.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden told Georgia Democrats they had the power to 'chart the course' in Tuesday's Senate run-off. President Donald Trump repeated his baseless claims he won the state in November's election.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. He is expected to start work on Wednesday after being sworn in, according to State Department officials. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan's social services minister says the province will soon end the practice of social workers or health professionals informing government officials when a baby is born to a mother deemed high risk.Lori Carr says the government heard from First Nations groups who wanted to see an end to so-called birth alerts.The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and other advocates have criticized the alerts as leading to high numbers of Indigenous newborns being separated from their mothers and taken into government care. The final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called on governments and child-welfare agencies to end the practice.The Saskatchewan government says 53 of 76 alerts issued last year involved Indigenous women.Carr says the practice is to end Feb. 1 and the ministry will work with community groups to support expectant mothers and ensure hospital staff contact these groups if there are concerns. "We'll just make sure that mother is in contact with their right community-based organization to get the best help at that point in time," she said Tuesday. "As we move forward, it's just honestly working so closely with those community-based organizations and our health-care professionals to ensure that nobody does fall through the cracks and that they get the right service at the right time."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
SAINT JOHN, N.B. — A parking enforcement official in Saint John, N.B., has been fired after he allegedly told a woman who tried to contest a ticket that she should return when she could speak English. Mayor Don Darling confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the official, who had been hired by a federal agency that gives jobs to veterans, is no longer working for the city. "They are technically employed by the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, so we've informed them that the individual won't have any role with the city," Darling said. The mayor called the incident an act of racism. "It's very important for any organization, whether it be public sector or private sector, to act swiftly when it comes to acts of racism," he said. Yamama Zein Alabdin received a $100 ticket Monday after parking her car in a loading zone before delivering inventory to the family restaurant on Germain Street in the city's uptown. A bystander who witnessed a confrontation between Zein Alabdin and the parking employee posted a letter to social media describing the incident. Mishelle Carson-Roy wrote that the woman tried speaking French but was told to come back when she could speak English. Zein Alabdin and her family are originally from Syria. They arrived in Canada from Egypt five years ago. "These wonderfully hard-working newcomers are doing their best to build a life here while investing in the city, by giving the people of Saint John their goods and service and in return, a member of your team degraded her with their ignorance," Carson-Roy said. In an interview Tuesday, with her husband serving as interpreter, Zein Alabdin said she was surprised when her son told her she was getting a ticket. "As usual, every day we brought our inventory to our restaurant," she said. "The zone loading is not for personal cars. We have been in business for three years and always we have used this zone for unloading." Zein Alabdin said she tried to argue her case to the parking official, in French. "He said when you can speak English you can speak to me." Yamama's husband, Zein Alabdin, said his wife cried most of the day and was upset that other cars parked in the loading zone were allowed to move but she was given a ticket. He said she was overwhelmed by the support online from the public and by the fact the city cancelled the fine. Darling said it was important to have the incident investigated and dealt with promptly. "It is unacceptable, disappointing, sad and from one perspective, an opportunity," he said. "I am very passionate about rooting out racism and systemic racism. I'd love to tell you we're perfect, but we're not, no one is. "I think this gives us the opportunity to recognize that we have more work to do and that we can do better." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
VERNON, B.C. — Non-native, resident Canada geese in British Columbia's north Okanagan have overstayed their welcome and Vernon council has voted in favour of a cull. Councillors have approved a motion to spend an estimated $41,000 to euthanize up to 150 birds in several area parks. Culling programs aimed at habituated deer have been strongly opposed in the past, but the councillor who proposed the goose cull says she has been flooded with letters of support. Coun. Dalvir Nahal says the provincial government should get involved because most municipalities have similar concerns about aggressive geese and the piles of excrement they leave behind. A program set up to manage Canada geese in the Okanagan estimates about 2,500 resident birds nest between Vernon and Osoyoos, but 70 nests were found around Vernon last year, up from an average of 20. The federal and provincial governments must approve any cull before it can proceed. Non-native Canada geese were first introduced in the Okanagan in the 1970s and quickly outnumbered the few migratory geese that stopped during their annual journeys north and south. Experts say the migratory geese don't usually interbreed with residents, which can live for up to 30 years, produce more offspring than their migratory cousins and never leave the area where they are raised. Coun. Scott Anderson, who supports a cull, says the geese are affecting the use of many parks and beaches in Vernon. “To me, this is an unpleasant duty, but it’s a duty," says Anderson. "Kin Beach is unusable, Marshall Fields are just covered in manure and Polson Park is unusable." Vernon council now plans to write to other north Okanagan communities that don't have control measures, urging them to take steps to curb populations of resident Canada geese. (CKIZ) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan's autocratic leader has established a national holiday to honour the local dog breed, media reports said Tuesday. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov ordered the holiday praising the Alabai, the Central Asian shepherd dog, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of April when the ex-Soviet nation also marks the day of the local horse breed, according to the daily Neutral Turkmenistan. The Central Asian nation of 6 million prides itself in horses and dogs, honouring its centuries-old herding traditions. Berdymukhamedov has ruled the gas-rich desert country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that styles him as Turkmenistan’s “arkadaq," or protector. The Turkmen leader has extolled the Alabai for years. He published a book about the breed and in 2017 presented Russian President Vladimir Putin with a puppy. Last year, he inaugurated a massive gilded statue honouring the dog in the Turkmen capital. In 2019, then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was also given an Alabai puppy. Berdymukhamedov's son, Serdar, who heads the international Alabai association, reported to the president that the holiday will feature a beauty contest and agility competitions. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Easing off a stalemate, the Senate moved forward Tuesday with a power-sharing agreement in the evenly-split chamber after Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed off his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster. The stand-off between McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had all but ground the Senate to a halt in the early days of the Democratic majority and threatened President Joe Biden's agenda. Schumer refused to meet McConnell's demands. “I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said Tuesday as he opened the chamber. “My only regret is it took so long because we have a great deal we need to accomplish.” While the crisis appeared to have resolved, for now, the debate over the filibuster — the procedural tool that requires a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation — is far from over. Progressive Democrats see the tool as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden's agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat. Democrats control 50 votes in the split chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, and Biden's allies would typically need Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance Democratic priorities on COVID-19 relief, immigration or other issues. Even as he dropped his demand, McConnell warned Tuesday of all the ways the Senate business could still be tied in knots if Democrats try to press on with plans to pursue changes to the filibuster. “They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos,” McConnell warned. “Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.” Usually a routine matter, the organizing resolution for the chamber became a power play by McConnell once Democrats swept to control after the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia and the new senators took the oath of office after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. McConnell had been holding up the organizing agreement, which divides up committee assignments and other resources, as he tried to extract a promise from Schumer of no changes to the filibuster. Schumer would not meet the Republican leader's demands, but McConnell said late Monday he had essentially accomplished his goal after two Democratic senators said they would not agree to end the filibuster. Without their votes, Schumer would be unable to change the rules. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said in a statement. He was referring to West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema who have expressed reservations about doing away with the tool. Schumer's office said the Republican leader had no choice but to set aside his demands. “We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the Democratic leader. "We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.” But the debate over the filibuster, which has increasingly become weaponized as a tool to thwart the opposite party’s agenda, is far from over. A decade ago, then-Democratic majority leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold to confirm some judicial and executive branch nominees during the Obama administration that were being blocked by Republicans. Reid told The Associated Press recently that Biden should waste little time testing Republican’s willingness to work with him before eliminating the filibuster. He gave it three weeks. McConnell during the last administration upped the ante, and did away with the 60-vote threshold to confirm President Donald Trump's three nominees to the Supreme Court. He wanted to prevent Schumer from taking it to the next level and ending the filibuster for legislation. The details of the rest of the organizing resolution are expected to proceed largely as they did the last time the Senate was evenly divided, in 2001, with any immediate changes to the filibuster, at this stage, appearing to be off the table. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Free parking at Lynn Canyon Park will soon be coming to an end. District of North Vancouver council voted in favour of endorsing a pay parking pilot at the popular North Shore tourist destination at its Jan. 25 general meeting. The district will begin charging vehicle owners $3 per hour, for a maximum of three hours, to park at the Lynn Canyon parking lot seasonally from March 1 to Oct. 31. Be warned, overstaying your welcome or failing to pay for parking before hitting the trails will result in a fine of $75. However, district residents will have the option of buying an annual park pass for $10, lowered from $30, to exempt them from the parking payment, with the requirement that park passes are displayed in vehicles. Those with a disability card will also be exempt from the fee. Council voted five to two in support of the two-year pilot, with the hope it will help better manage demand and encourage visitors to try more sustainable modes of transport to get to the trails and enjoy the canyon. Before the pandemic hit, the park, which offers stunning canyon views while crossing a free suspension bridge, was getting one million visitors per year. That amounted to about 2,500 vehicles per day during peak season, jockeying for about 100 parking spots. The district has since paved and expanded the lot to offer 129 stalls. Staff highlighted the growing popularity of the park had resulted in “considerable strain not only on park trails, stairs, boardwalks, and supporting amenities but also on surrounding neighbourhoods from spill-over parking demand.” It’s estimated the pay parking will generate between $250,000 and $480,000 per season, which will go toward park maintenance, operations, and possible future initiatives. Councillors views on whether district residents should have to pay to park at the popular spot was a bit of a mixed bag. While still in support of the pilot going ahead, Coun. Betty Forbes said she was “disappointed” the district annual pass was going to cost $10. “I brought that up a couple of times, and I think I was the only one that was in favour of residents not getting charged at all,” she said. “We could have mailed out a sticker or something to hang from the windshield.” In stark contrast, Coun. Mathew Bond voted against the pilot because district residents aren’t being charged the $3 hourly parking fee like everybody else, saying “paid parking should apply equally to anyone that's coming to park their vehicle in the park.” “I still hold the unpopular opinion that having a resident exemption kind of defeats a lot of the purpose of a transportation demand management strategy,” he said. “I don't think it's necessarily fair to ask residents from the City of North Vancouver or from Burnaby to try and reduce their auto use to come to the park when they live farther away when we're not asking the same thing of our residents. “We should be leading by example, not getting a free pass.” Coun. Megan Curren also voted against the pilot, agreeing with Bond’s position on pay parking and advocated for more to be done to get the message across to the community that “everyone needs to be involved in this change” to help reach the district’s climate goals. Meanwhile, Coun. Jim Hanson strongly backed the position for a resident exemption, saying residents had "effectively already paid for that parking" through property taxes. Mayor Mike Little supported the pilot and suggested there were also further discussions to be had on using parking technology to find out what hikes and trails people parking were doing to better help safety and rescue organizations locate people if something were to go wrong. He said the $10 annual pass would also help give the district a better idea of how many residents were regular park users. “This is in my view a pilot. It's going to have to justify its existence, before both its existence is continued and if potentially, we use it to roll out into other areas,” he said. “I'm looking forward to the data return that we get out of this.” “I understand how frustrating it is going to be the very first time someone shows up for their daily hike, and they have to face the $3 fee until they get their pass sorted out, but we will be able to communicate that out and shock as few people as possible.” To measure the effectiveness of the pilot as a transportation demand management tool, the district will be tracking a number of metrics, including hourly parking demand and parking duration, parking demand on adjacent residential streets, pedestrian and cyclist volumes on approach to the park, visitation through DNV park trail counters, and TransLink ridership statistics at nearby transit stops. There is no entry fee for the park. Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News
Les jours de l'actuel hôtel de ville de Sept-Îles semblent comptés alors que le conseil municipal a indiqué à la séance du conseil du 25 janvier qu'il avait l'intention d'aller de l'avant avec la construction d'un nouveau bâtiment. Le conseil a d'ailleurs décidé de ne pas attribuer de citation patrimoniale à l'hôtel de ville qui est situé au 546 rue de Quen. Une telle citation aurait accordé un statut légal au bâtiment et aurait obligé son propriétaire à en assurer la protection. Pour le maire de Sept-Îles, Réjean Porlier, trois éléments expliquent cette décision. Tout d'abord, la Ville a besoin de plus d'espace pour répondre aux besoins de ses différents services municipaux et le bâtiment actuel, même rénové, ne conviendrait pas. Ensuite, il y a l'élément financier. Le maire indique que les réparations à l'hôtel de ville coûteraient environ 12 M$, mais qu'il faudrait ajouter entre 5 et 8M$ pour réintroduire les éléments patrimoniaux du bâtiment. Finalement, la Ville de Sept-Îles veut aussi collaborer avec le CISSS de la Côte-Nord qui a besoin d'espace pour procéder à un agrandissement de l'hôpital et ajouter des stationnements. La Ville de Sept-Îles est actuellement en négociation avec le CISSS de la Côte-Nord pour que ce dernier acquière l'hôtel de ville actuel. Un nouvel hôtel de ville Toujours durant la séance du conseil, le maire a indiqué que le futur hôtel de ville pourrait être construit entre le centre socio-récréatif et le boulevard Laure. Réjean Porlier affirme : « ce site permettrait la mise en valeur de l'hôtel de ville et il y a des avantages par rapport à la proximité des autres infrastructures municipales ». Le coût d'un nouvel hôtel de ville qui répondrait aux besoins de la Ville est estimé entre 16 et 20 M$. Le maire indique que les citoyens auront l'occasion de se faire entendre au cours des prochaines semaines avec le processus du règlement d'emprunt pour la construction d'un nouvel hôtel de ville. Il espère que les débats se feront de façon respectueuse.Vincent Berrouard, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nord-Côtier
A parking commissionaire who told an Arab business owner to come back when she's learned English will no longer be working with the city of Saint John, or any city until a further investigation is done. Saint John Mayor Don Darling said the commissionaire, who's employed by the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires through a third-party contract, will "no longer have any role with the city." The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires confirmed the man will not be reassigned while the organization conducts an internal investigation. However, the target of his racist comment didn't want to see him lose his job. On Monday morning, the commissionaire was writing a ticket for Yamama Zein Alabdin, who was parked in a loading zone. She tried to explain that she was unloading supplies for her Syrian restaurant, Mashawi Zein, on Germain Street and would move the car shortly, but he still wrote her the $100 ticket. As she continued trying to communicate with him in English and French, she said the commissionaire said, "Come back when you learn English" and walked away. The incident gained attention after a witness posted about it on social media. On Tuesday evening, Zein Alabdin said she is upset that someone would lose their job because of what happened to her. "I am the one affected and I forgive him," she said in Arabic. "There are millions of unemployed people, I don't want them to increase even by one because of me." She said she started working in Saint John "to make the community better." "I feel conflicted and frustrated when someone loses work because of me." Mishelle Carson-Roy, the co-owner of a store across the street, said she was nearby and heard the exchange. She wrote a letter to the parking commission and posted it in Twitter because the city's website has been down because of a cyberattack. The tweet garnered a response from many people, including Darling. In an interview Monday, Zein Alabdin said she wasn't expecting people's response to Carson-Roy's letter and was thankful the city reversed the ticket. However, she said she didn't want to see the commissionaire fired or punished. "What happened was shared everywhere, but I don't want him to be hurt by this," she said. "I came to Canada in search of safety, and I don't want to see anyone be harmed." City asked for removal Saint John spokesperson Lisa Caissie said the city takes "acts of racism and discrimination very seriously." She said as a result of an investigation started Monday, the Parking Commission told The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires the contracted employee "can no longer perform duties on behalf of the City of Saint John." The Corps complied, and is now conducting its own investigation, according to Bob Ferguson, CEO of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island division. He said any additional actions will be decided by the outcomes of that investigation. "The comments made by the commissionaire are unacceptable by any measure," he said in an email.
Twitter said, with the new product, academic researchers will be able to tap into all the tools released to date on the new API platform, which will enable them to listen to and analyze public conversations. The data will not, however, include tweets from accounts suspended for violations of Twitter rules, which means academics will be unable to use the API to study tweets by former U.S. President Donald Trump, company executives told reporters on Monday.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and address climate change. Two people with knowledge of Biden’s plans outlined the proposed moratorium, which will be announced Wednesday. They asked not to be identified because the plan has not been made been public; some details remain in flux. The move follows a 60-day suspension of new drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters announced last week and follows Biden’s campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change. The moratorium is intended to allow time for officials to review the impact of oil and gas drilling on the environment and climate. Environmental groups hailed the expected moratorium as the kind of bold, urgent action needed to slow climate change. “The fossil fuel industry has inflicted tremendous damage on the planet. The administration’s review, if done correctly, will show that filthy fracking and drilling must end for good, everywhere,'' said Kierán Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has pushed for the drilling pause. Oil industry groups slammed the move, saying Biden had already eliminated thousands of oil and gas jobs by killing the Keystone XL oil pipeline on his first day in office. "This is just the start. It will get worse,'' said Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma. "Meanwhile, the laws of physics, chemistry and supply and demand remain in effect. Oil and natural gas prices are going up, and so will home heating bills, consumer prices and fuel costs.'' Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas drillers in Western states, said the expected executive order is intended to delay drilling on federal lands to the point where it is no longer viable. "The environmental left is leading the agenda at the White House when it comes to energy and environment issues,'' she said, noting that the moratorium would be felt most acutely in Western states such as Utah, Wyoming and North Dakota. Biden lost all three states to former President Donald Trump. The drilling moratorium is among several climate-related actions Biden will announce Wednesday. He also is likely to direct officials to conserve 30% of the country’s lands and ocean waters in the next 10 years, initiate a series of regulatory actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and issue a memorandum that elevates climate change to a national security priority. He also is expected to direct all U.S. agencies to use science and evidence-based decision-making in federal rule-making and announce a U.S.-hosted climate leaders summit on Earth Day, April 22. The conservation plan would set aside millions of acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030, part of Biden’s campaign pledge for a $2 trillion program to slow global warming. Under Trump, federal agencies prioritized energy development and eased environmental rules to speed up drilling permits as part of the Republican’s goal to boost fossil fuel production. Trump consistently downplayed the dangers of climate change, which Biden, a Democrat, has made a top priority. On his first day in office last Wednesday, Biden signed a series of executive orders that underscored his different approach — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, revoking approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and telling agencies to immediately review dozens of Trump-era rules on science, the environment and public health. A 60-day suspension order at the Interior Department did not limit existing oil and gas operations under valid leases, meaning activity would not come to a sudden halt on the millions of acres of lands in the West and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico where much drilling is concentrated. The moratorium also is unlikely to affect existing leases. Its effect could be further blunted by companies that stockpiled enough drilling permits in Trump’s final months to allow them to keep pumping oil and gas for years. The pause in drilling is limited to federal lands and does not affect drilling on private lands, which is largely regulated by states. Oil and gas extracted from public lands and waters account for about a quarter of annual U.S. production. Extracting and burning those fuels generates the equivalent of almost 550 million tons (500 million metric tons) of greenhouse gases annually, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a 2018 study. Under Trump, Interior officials approved almost 1,400 permits on federal lands, primarily in Wyoming and New Mexico, over a three-month period that included the election, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. Those permits, which remain valid, will allow companies to continue drilling for years, potentially undercutting Biden’s climate agenda. The leasing moratorium could present a political dilemma for Biden in New Mexico, a Democratic-leaning state that has experienced a boom in oil production in recent years, much of it on federal land. Biden's choice to lead the Interior Department, which oversees oil and gas leasing on public lands, is New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland. If confirmed, she would be the first Native American to lead the agency that oversees relations with nearly 600 federally-recognized tribes. Haaland, whose confirmation hearing has been delayed until next month, already faces backlash from some Republicans who say expected cutbacks in oil production under Biden would hurt her home state. Tiernan Sittenfeld, a top official with the League of Conservation Voters, called that criticism off-base. “The reality is we need to transition to 100% clean energy” in order to address climate change, she said Tuesday. "The clean energy economy in New Mexico is thriving,'' Sittenfeld added, citing gains in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The Biden administration has pledged to spend billions to assist in the transition away from fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, and Biden has said creating thousands of clean-energy jobs is a top priority. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
ROCKY MOUNT, Va. — Two Virginia police officers charged in the storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington earlier this month have been fired, a town official announced Tuesday. Rocky Mount Town Manager James Ervin announced the firings in a statement, but did not provide any additional details on the firing of former Sgt. Thomas “T.J.” Robertson and former Officer Jacob Fracker, The Roanoke Times reported. The town had no precedent to refer to for how to deal with this situation, Ervin wrote. “The events of the past few weeks have been challenging for our town, as they have been for the entire nation. The actions by two have driven our beautiful town into the national spotlight in ways that do not reflect our whole community and the people who call Rocky Mount home.” Ervin said in the statement. Robertson had told the newspaper he and Fracker received letters of termination from the town Friday, offering them the opportunity to resign before the firing took effect. Fracker, reached via text message, declined to comment Tuesday. Federal authorities have charged Robertson, 47, and Fracker, 29, with a misdemeanouroffence of knowingly entering a restricted building without authority to do so to engage in conduct that disrupts government business. They also face a petty offence of engaging in disruptive conduct in the Capitol in order to interfere with a session of Congress. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanour is a year in jail. The maximum penalty for the petty offence is six months. In a selfie Fracker took inside the Capitol Crypt on Jan. 6, Fracker is making an obscene gesture. Robertson is pointing at Fracker while holding a wooden pole. Both officers have repeatedly said they did nothing illegal and did not participate in any of the violence that unfolded Jan. 6. The Associated Press
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as the province closely watches a small outbreak in a nearby French territory. St-Pierre-Miquelon, situated just off the Burin Peninsula, has reported seven cases of COVID-19 in recent days, all related to an outbreak at the prefecture's hospital. Authorities there said Tuesday afternoon they have registered 203 close contacts of those positive cases, all of whom are undergoing testing. The territory has closed its bars, restaurants and cultural centres to stem the outbreak. Prior to those seven active cases, the islands had registered 16 cases of COVID-19 since March, all of whom recovered. An Eastern Health spokesperson told CBC Tuesday it has contracts in place with health officials on the French islands that allow residents to receive COVID-19 care in Eastern Health facilities, if needed. Eastern Health has not yet received any requests from St-Pierre-Miquelon for physician support, medical equipment or supplies, the spokesperson said. The health authority also clarified that it could not send doctors to treat patients in the French territory itself because they would not be licensed to practise in that jurisdiction. St-Pierre-Miquelon residents with medical appointments in Newfoundland are permitted to enter the province, but must self-isolate. The Department of Health told CBC that it has limited those entries to urgent appointments only. Patients and caregivers must self-isolate, aside from attending their medical appointments, the department said. In a meeting Monday, the department said the prefecture agreed not to send any close contacts of the positive cases to Newfoundland. Eastern Health said over the last fiscal year, patients from St-Pierre-Miquelon made 1,495 trips to Newfoundland and Labrador to see specialists, including ophthalmologists, neurosurgeons and oncologists. Meanwhile, the number of active cases in Newfoundland and Labrador fell to three on Tuesday, with one person in hospital. Two people have recovered since Monday's update, and 78,477 people have been tested since March. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Cette initiative est lancée par les agents de découvrabilité territoriale (ADT) qui sont en poste depuis l’automne dernier. Les ADT, qui sont présents dans différentes régions comme l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, le Nord-du-Québec et le Nord-Est de l’Ontario, ont pour mission d’améliorer la visibilité et la quantité de l’information sur nos territoires qui se retrouvent sur la plateforme Wikipédia. Au départ, les ADT ont dû se familiariser avec le site Wikipédia pour ensuite répertorier tout ce qui s’y trouvait et ayant rapport aux régions concernées avant de débuter le travail de terrain. « Il a fallu effectuer un travail de terrain pour débroussailler ce qui se trouvait déjà sur Wiki. Pour ensuite modifier quelques informations, améliorer quelques pages. Il faut aussi créer du nouveau matériel », de nous mentionner Émélie Rivard-Boudreau, ADT Qu’est-ce qu’un Wiki club? Un Wiki club, c’est un regroupement de passionnés où chacun contribue, selon ses forces et compétences, à mettre en lumière différents aspects de son territoire dans la grande encyclopédie libre Wikipédia. Plusieurs manières de participer ont déjà été identifiées, soit à titre de rédacteur, de photographe amateur, de sourceur. La combinaison de ces formes variées de contribution permet ultimement de rehausser la représentativité des territoires de chacun sur Wikipédia. « L’un des objectifs visés est de recruter des ambassadeurs ou wikipédiens dans chaque territoire compris dans le Croissant boréal, c’est-à-dire l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, le Nord-Est ontarien francophone et la Baie-James », a précisé Edma-Annie Wheelhouse, agente de développement culturel numérique au Conseil de la culture de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue. « Nous partageons déjà de nombreux points communs en matière de territoire, d’économie, d’identité et de culture. En nous unissant, nous augmentons notre pouvoir d’attraction et favorisons notre déploiement à l’échelle nationale et internationale de la francophonie.» Pourquoi Wikipédia ? C’est parce qu’il n’y pas de limite avec Wikipédia. On peut y entrer des textes, bien sûr, mais aussi des photos, des graphiques, des diagrammes, des vidéos et chacun peut ajouter son grain de sel, peu importe quand il le fait. « Si on prend une personnalité X du Nord-du-Québec, il se peut qu’aujourd’hui nous n’ayons pas assez de matériel pour faire un article complet sur cette personnalité. Mais pourquoi ne pas commencer tout de suite? On peut créer sa page et mettre sa date de naissance. » C’est l’exemple que nous a donné Émélie Rivard-Boudreau. « L’initiative est de faire rayonner des gens de chez nous. Par exemple, au début du projet, il y a une page qui a été créée sur Godefroy de Billy qui a été un maire important de la ville de Chibougamau dans les années 1970. L’artiste peintre, Stéphanie Thompson de Matagami, a vu sa page créée », de renchérir Frédérique Brais-Chaput, ADT pour le Nord-du-Québec.» « Présentement, je travaille sur les pages des radios », de nous mentionner l’ADT du Nord-du-Québec. Il n’y avait pas de pages ou simplement des ébauches incomplètes et en anglais. C’est une vitrine importante pour eux. Un autre exemple, la page de Romeo Saganash est incomplète, selon Mme Brais-Chaput. C’est lui aussi un personnage important. Il faut que l’information que l’on y retrouve soit complète et exacte. » Selon les responsables du projet : « Ce n’est pas normal que les principales entreprises de la région soient absentes de la plateforme Wikipédia. » Au dire de Mme Brais-Chaput, les entreprises comme Chantiers-Chibougamau, Barrette-Chapais, Chapais Énergie et tout récemment, les Serres bleues, sont absentes. Elles se doivent d’être présentes pour que le monde puisse les découvrir. Ouvert à tous Le recrutement de personnes de chaque territoire intéressées à joindre les rangs du Wiki club Croissant boréal est déjà amorcé. « Les passionnés de la langue française, de l’histoire, de la politique, de l’actualité, de la culture, du sport ou des technologies peuvent tous trouver de l’intérêt à contribuer à Wikipédia », a-t-elle constaté. En consultant la page Wikipédia du projet « Croissant boréal », les nouveaux contributeurs pourront rapidement repérer comment ils peuvent y exploiter leurs intérêts et leurs forces. »René Martel, Initiative de journalisme local, La Sentinelle
U.S. president says 200 million more vaccine doses have been ordered, potentially enough to inoculate every American by the end of this summer.
Southgate has downtown revitalization high on its list of priorities. The proposed 2021 budget contains $40,000 for downtown improvements to put together with grant funding and provides money to fill the vacant Economic Development role that has been added to the CAO role. Also, the long-awaited Community Improvement Plan is in place. This plan is aimed to bring benefits across the municipality, as projects anywhere are eligible if they fit the criteria. “After today it will be up to council and the EDO to start, first of all, promoting it, and second to create a committee to review applications,” planner Clint Stredwick told council when the plan was approved. The last step before approval was having the plan reviewed and approved by Grey County. See related stories on the impact of the CIP in a nearby municipality. The Township agreed to defer half of the Development Charges for the new Dundalk Village Pharmacy building on Proton Street. The second instalment will have to be paid before occupancy. In answer to a question from council, CAO Dave Milliner said this is a policy tool for municipalities to support development. The first case in Southgate was the adult lifestyle apartments of Flato. Mr. Milliner said the pharmacy build would likely start in early spring and take 10 to 12 months. With interest rates so low getting half the money later would be irrelevant. “The benefit is an improvement of downtown.” Commented Coun. Michael Sherson, “to get that fencing down and a new building up there, would really change downtown. M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
The Swan Hills School Council held their Jan. 21 meeting at the school’s Flex Room, and the meeting was also live-streamed through Google Meet for those who could not attend in person. Student’s Union · The Div. 3/4 Students’ Union (SU) donated $200 to the food bank at Christmas time from their fundraising efforts. An article about their fundraising efforts is on the school website with a picture. · Around Feb. 15, the SU will host a small raffle for Valentine’s Day, similar to the Christmas raffle. · The SU met with the school administration at the end of November and discussed putting some small lockers in the gym change rooms for the students to secure their valuables. This could possibly be a Grizzly Cubs fundraising item to consider. Trustee Report Assurance Reporting Each school division needs to create four assurance reports annually by law; Education Planning and Reporting, Financials, School Plans and Reporting, and Infrastructure and Maintenance. Recently the Education Planning and Reporting report was addressed with a focus on the special needs section. Some interesting takeaways are that while there has been a slight increase in students who need higher support levels, there has been a decrease across the school division in the number of students needing supports overall. This may be because these students' parents may have decided to keep them at home because of COVID-19. Due to COVID-19, parents have been having virtual meetings with specialists, such as speech and occupational therapists, while working with their children. This development has been beneficial to parents because they have seen for themselves why their child is receiving special supports. Four concerns were brought forward during this report: 1. There is a need for a re-entry resource for students that have special needs. The belief is that the skills that these students have acquired will have diminished. 2. There has been a limited gain in inclusion since students left the schools due to COVID-19 3. Because of limited budgets, small schools have limited resources for mild/moderate Program Unit Funding (PUF) educational supports. 4. Alberta Health Services has given a mandate not to provide proactive programming in schools. Enrollment Projections Schools are now funded on a three-year spectrum; last year, this year, and the projected future year. Funding is based on the average of these figures, with the intention of allowing schools to cushion the effects of large drops in population. Pembina Hills has had a slight increase in population, so the funding for next year will be the same as the current year. In contrast, a lot of districts are seeing their funding decrease. Trustee Election Municipal and School Divisions will be holding elections for trustees in the fall. Last year Pembina Hills decided to reduce the number of trustees from seven to six. This means that the Swan Hills’ electoral area and Fort Assiniboine’s will be combined to make one Ward. It would be very beneficial to get a representative from Swan Hills to apply, preferably a single representative that the whole town could get behind (instead of multiple candidates that would potentially split the votes). Division One Update · Div. 1 wasn’t able to go sledding for their December monthly celebration due to cold weather. Students were able to decorate individually packaged cookies that had been sponsored by Home Hardware and watch the virtual Christmas Concert. · On Jan. 22, students will participate in a virtual presentation offered through the Earth Rangers program, which has been sponsored by Crescent Point Energy. · Many students showed their school spirit by wearing stripes for Stripes Day on Jan. 14. The next dress-up day will be Wild West Day on Jan. 22. · For the January monthly celebration, the last recess time will be extended on Jan. 28. · The bi-annual reading testing has started. This testing is especially important because the school was unable to perform this testing last June. This test focuses on the student’s word accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. · The school is currently discussing Valentine’s Day activities. The students will not be participating in a Valentine’s Day card exchange due to COVID-19 health restrictions. Division Two Update · The Swan Hills School Handbell Group will be hosting a curbside bottle drive. The proceeds will go towards purchasing additional materials and equipment for the Handbell Group (hand chimes, mallets, gloves, possibly another octave of bells). There are a lot of new participants in handbells this year. · Students have been requesting a virtual spring concert again, so plans are in the works for that. · Safety Patrol has been up and running since the end of October. Just a reminder that the patrols are out from 8:15 to 8:30 AM and from 3:25 to 3:40 PM. Parents and the public are asked to please use the drop off zone when dropping off students. Drivers are not allowed to enter or exit the staff parking lot if the patrollers have their signs out. Division Three and Four Update · See Students’ Union news above. The School Council will move from having monthly meetings to having bi-monthly meetings in September, November, January, March, and May. Principal’s Report · The draft alternate calendar for the next school year will be posted on the school website for review and feedback. · Discussed new or different options classes for grade seven students. The school currently offers art, woods, and foods classes; drama has been offered in the past and might be coming up again. · Career and technology studies (CTS) is often a room with a number of students with particular interests, but they often have different interests than their peers, which leads to smaller groups following separate studies. The teachers facilitate and assist the students in their projects. Some students respond well to this setup, and some do not. The school is looking for new ideas or thoughts about some hands-on options that the students would actually want to do. Some ideas would be woods, foods, visual arts, and wildlife courses. · Lost and found items are piling up. Discussed how to get lost and found items back to parents. · Recently went over satisfaction surveys for Div. 3/4 students, will be doing them for Div. 2 on Jan. 21. The surveys start with a preamble explaining what the questions mean and why the surveys are taken. The next School Council meeting will be on Mar. 17, at 7:00 PM. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
TORONTO — A former senior civil servant accused of embezzling $11 million in Ontario COVID-19 relief money betrayed his own family, according to his wife and two sons. In sworn affidavits, the wife of Sanjay Madan and their two adult sons disavow any knowledge of his alleged scheme, which is now the subject of an unproven civil action against them all. According to his affidavit, Chinmaya Madan said he became suspicious of his father around June last year after discovering unexplained money in his bank accounts, some of which he didn't know existed. Only after repeated questioning did his father admit to having "diverted" money and promise to return it, the affidavit states. "I felt betrayed by my father," Chinmaya Madan said in the document filed in Superior Court. "I was and remain absolutely shocked by the allegations." The Ontario government's unproven civil claim names Sanjay Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop a computer application for the COVID-19 benefit for families with children. Also named are his sons Chinmaya Madan and Ujjal Madan, and his wife of 28 years, Shalini Madan. The claim alleges the Madan family, who all worked for the government in information technology, defrauded the province of at least $11 million. No criminal charges have been filed. The claim asserts the family and others illegally issued and deposited cheques under the program aimed at defraying the cost of children learning at home. The province alleges the Madans opened hundreds of accounts at the Bank of Montreal between April and May 2020, then deposited around 10,000 cheques made out to fictitious applicants. Sanjay Madan had always been "controlling and secretive" about money and managed the family's finances, his wife said in her court filing. However, the actions alleged against him were totally out of character, she said, adding she learned of 1,074 Canadian bank accounts in her name, only three of which she said she had opened. "I am at a complete loss to understand why Sanjay would risk everything in the manner he did. We needed nothing. It all makes no sense to me," Shalini Madan says. "The Sanjay the plaintiff describes is like a completely different person than the man who is my husband and the father of our children." In a statement Tuesday, the Madan family's lawyer called the wife and children "victims not villains." "The Sanjay Madan who is alleged to have behaved so inappropriately is not the man they have known," Christopher Du Vernet said. "They are still struggling to understand what prompted him to act as he did, and especially to have used his own family when doing so." The children claim they were the victims of identity theft. They say in their court filings that they believed their father was returning the "diverted" money and was making things right, but also say they wonder if he was just stringing them along. Du Vernet said last week Sanjay Madan had returned more than the $11 million the government alleges he misappropriated. He said his client "deeply regrets" his actions and was awaiting results of medical opinions on his mental health. His family, Du Vernet said, could only conclude Sanjay Madan had long suffered from a mental disorder that profoundly distorted his judgment. "Mr. Madan’s wife and children are learning that Mr. Madan has actually had two sides to him: the dedicated husband and father they saw, and the miscreant they never saw." The lawyer also said none of Sanjay Madan's family had spent any of the money he allegedly took. In his affidavit, Ujjawal Madan said he never had any reason to suspect any wrongdoing by his father. "As long as I have known him, he has been a conservative spender," he said. The government, which fired Madan in November, has a court order freezing the family's assets, which included properties in Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Independent U.N. sanctions monitors accused Yemen's government, in a report seen by Reuters on Tuesday, of money-laundering and corruption "that adversely affected access to adequate food supplies" and said the Houthi group collected at least $1.8 billion in state revenue in 2019 to help fund its war effort. The annual report to the U.N. Security Council on the implementation of international sanctions on Yemen coincides with U.N. officials saying that the country is on the verge of a large famine with millions of civilians at risk. The monitors said Saudi Arabia deposited $2 billion with the Central Bank of Yemen in January 2018 under a development and reconstruction program.
The Ontario government may have temporarily paused the demolition on several heritage buildings in downtown Toronto, but a challenge to stop the work won’t be easy. Matthew Bingley looks into the powers of minister’s zoning orders and why a court challenge may not be enough to save the heritage buildings.