Meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal has your national forecast for Jan 5, 2021
Meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal has your national forecast for Jan 5, 2021
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
Initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are set to roll into the country in the next few weeks, and Canadians will be wondering where they stand in the inoculation line.Which segment of the population will get the first doses, once Canada approves them for use, and how long will it take before most of us are inoculated and we can reach that point of herd immunity?The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has already recommended early doses be given to: residents and staff of long-term care homes; adults 70 years or older (starting with those 80 and over); front-line health-care workers; and adults in Indigenous communities — but there's still some debate among experts on whether that's the best strategy for a vaccine rollout.Dr. Ross Upshur of the University of Toronto's School of Public Health, agrees with NACI's recommendations, but he says there's also an argument to be made for vaccinating those more likely to spread the virus first — including people with jobs in the community that can't work from home."There is quite a vigorous debate and ... quite a varied set of arguments about who should go first and the priority list," Upshur said. "And that's because people have very deep and different intuitions about what fairness means, and which fundamental values should illuminate the distribution of scarce resources." Upshur says prioritization, which will fall to the provinces and territories to determine, will depend on the goal of the vaccination strategy.If the main objective is to ensure economic recovery by limiting community spread, essential workers might get vaccinated first, Upshur explained. But if the goal is to limit deaths by preventing our most vulnerable populations from getting COVID, older people, especially those in long-term care, should jump to the front of the line."Each one of those aims leads to favouring a different kind of population," he said. "So priority-setting is a complex task."But because there's going to be a limited number of doses available, choices will have to be made soon."Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine will arrive on Canadian soil by the end of the month, with the first doses delivered next week.Canada, which is currently reviewing several vaccine candidates, has purchased 20 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, and is set to receive four million doses — enough to inoculate two million people — by March.Kelly Grindrod, a researcher and associate professor at the University of Waterloo's School of Pharmacy, says the concept of prioritizing the COVID vaccine may be hard for some to grasp. Grindrod agrees with NACI's recommendations of where the first stage of vaccine distribution should go, but subsequent stages of rollout become trickier.Certain individuals may perceive themselves to be in a higher-risk group and therefore more deserving of a vaccine than others, she said, and it will be hard to determine for example, if a 50-year-old with asthma who works from home should be vaccinated over a taxi driver."What I always say is: if you don't know anybody who's gotten the virus, you're probably one of the last to get the vaccine," Grindrod said. "So that might mean you have a middle-class income and you don't work in a factory or a grocery store."If you're feeling like COVID is something that's not really in your world, that's probably a suggestion that you're fairly low-risk for getting the virus in the first place."Grindrod says it's important to remember that immunizing the majority of Canadians will take a long time. The first stage alone could take months, she said, estimating that Canada will be able to vaccinate roughly three million people (in a country of 38 million) in the first quarter of 2021. "If we're all vaccinated by next Christmas, we will have done a great job," she said.Upshur agrees that getting to herd immunity will take time, but having multiple vaccine candidates reporting high efficacy rates should speed up that process — at least in theory."As exciting as it is to have these studies showing really good results, there's still a lot more questions," he said. "There's a lot more that needs to be done before we can be sure that these vaccines are going to achieve the goals that we hope."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
A lot can change over the course of a year. A vehicle crashed through the wall of the Hockley General Store in late Aug. 2019 and as a result, the retailer was closed for an entire year as it underwent renovations. When the store near the intersection of Mono-Adjala Townline and Hockley Road in Mono reopened last fall, things had changed significantly. For starters, there was a global pandemic and retailers have had to integrate new measures to allow them to be agile in a constantly changing landscape. To this end, the store has integrated a new point of sale system to gather more insight into their business and allow for that needed agility. Square for Retail by Square, Inc. has enabled Hockley General Store to sell their inventory online, in-store and on social media. “It’s definitely made our lives, as an essential business, a lot easier,” said Katie Wookey, general manager of Hockley General Store. "It’s super user-friendly. It allows us to cater to our customer’s needs during the COVID-19 crisis.” The store’s original backend systems were antiquated, cumbersome and not user-friendly, The new system allows Wookey and her staff to see what their top-selling items are and what products aren’t. “It’s iCloud-based, which is great for us because it integrates with the other iCloud stuff we’re using as a business, as everything communicates with each other,” said Wookey. As Ontario entered the lockdown, the new system allowed the store to offer their customers options when it came to shopping for essentials. “With the current situation, people can order online and pick up their groceries as curbside,” said Wookey. "That has been another awesome aspect. We can use the website that square has already. That enables us to sell the products that we put up on our website.” Business has been good since reopening, Wookey said. “Our customers have been really supportive in the community, and they’ve been loyal to us." Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia kicked off with a virtual celebration on Tuesday featuring musical performances, speeches from members of the African Nova Scotian community and tributes from politicians and the lieutenant-governor. The theme for this year's African Heritage Month is Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share, Act. Tony Ince, the minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the emcee for the virtual launch, said the theme calls on Nova Scotians to recognize the history and legacy of African Nova Scotians, but also to acknowledge the "racialized issues" and adversity faced by people of African descent. "The theme reminds me of an African proverb: 'For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.' This means the change we seek will not happen until we teach and educate ourselves, which will ultimately lead to better awareness, empathy and respect towards each other. We must do this together," Ince said. Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc noted that the year 2020 was significant. "I speak not of the pandemic, which has touched all of our lives, but of the Black Lives Matter movement, that has prominently raised the issues of systemic racism and prejudice that exist in our world," he said. "The movement has burned into our consciousness that what has transpired in the past cannot be allowed to occur going forward and that we must take steps now to address this systemic racism." Premier Stephen McNeil noted progress on some issues including the land title initiative, the restorative inquiry into the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children and the apology for systemic racism in the justice system. "But we have more work to do. The Black Lives Matter movement motivated us to look inward and confront the systemic issues we have been overlooking for centuries," McNeil said. "It is important that government continue to collaborate with the African Nova Scotian community to build stronger relationships and an even stronger province." The virtual launch also included leaders of municipalities reading the proclamation of African Heritage Month. A list of African Heritage Month events can be found here. MORE TOP STORIES
When drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna learned to successfully incorporate messenger RNA technology into a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say they likely opened the door to a significant shift in the future of immunization.The milestone in vaccine development was met with enthusiasm from most, but the seemingly swift pace and novel approach is causing hesitancy in others. Experts say the new technique shouldn't dissuade people from getting the vaccine. While the mRNA method is new to inoculations, the actual technology has been around for decades. The difference now, they say, is scientists have ironed out the kinks to make a useful product."It sounds fancy, mRNA, but there's nothing outlandish about it," said Dr. Earl Brown, a virology and microbiology specialist with the University of Ottawa. "This is the way our cells operate — we live by mRNA."Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were the first inoculations approved for humans to use mRNA, which provides our cells with instructions to make proteins. In the case of COVID vaccines, the injected material shows cells how to make a harmless piece of the coronavirus spike protein, which then teaches our immune system to recognize the virus and fight off a future infection.Scientists made the vaccine by programming genetic material from the spike protein into mRNA, a process that theoretically could work for other viruses."As long as you know how to create those instructions — that genetic code you need to convince your body to create that target — you can design an mRNA vaccine against any antigen," said Nicole Basta, an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill."But the question is whether it will be effective, and whether it will be safe."The development of future mRNA vaccines might be quick, Basta says, but they would need to go through the usual evaluation process and clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. So vaccines for other viruses won't be popping up overnight.Still, Basta adds, there's potential for using mRNA to either improve upon existing vaccines or to develop new ones against other pathogens.Dr. Scott Halperin, a professor at Dalhousie University and the director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, sees mRNA vaccines as "evolutionary rather than revolutionary."Part of the reason COVID vaccines came together so quickly was the technology had been developing for years, Halperin said. The global pandemic offered scientists a pressing opportunity — and unprecedented funding and collaboration — to try again for a viable injection.Previous research had been done on creating mRNA vaccines against Zika and other viruses, Halperin added, and there were earlier efforts focused on cancer treatments. Coronavirus-specific research was further sped up by spike protein analysis from SARS and MERS.While the mRNA technology itself is impressive, Halperin says improvements need to be made to create a more temperature-stable product before these types of vaccines and treatments "truly take over.""The logistics of delivering mRNA vaccines right now, we wouldn't want to have to do that for every vaccine we produce," he said, referencing the ultra-cold storage temperature that's currently needed. "But I do think it's an important milestone."Scientists are expected to continue advancing the technology, just as they did recently in solving two confounding problems with mRNA — its fragility and instability.Brown says fragility was resolved by packaging the mRNA in a fat coating, giving it something to help bind onto cells so it wouldn't disintegrate upon injection. The instability was conquered by modifying the uracil component of RNA, one of the four units of its genetic code."The technology application is new, but the science is mature," Brown said. "We've just reached the point at which we can apply it." Traditional vaccines typically contain a killed or weakened virus, Brown said. Those methods are still being used in COVID vaccine development, including by AstraZeneca-Oxford, whose product has not yet been approved in Canada.A benefit to using mRNA is the speed at which a vaccine can be developed or updated once scientists know what to target, Brown says. While experts believe current vaccines will work against recent variants of the COVID virus — including one originating in the U.K. that's more transmissible — Brown says mRNA's adaptability could theoretically come in handy if new strains emerged that necessitated an update. "In six weeks they could produce something," he said. "It would still have to go through Phase 3 trials, but it does give you more flexibility and a big leg up."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Plusieurs pays ont pris l’engagement de réduire leurs émissions de gaz à effet de serre à zéro d’ici le milieu du siècle. Mais de nouvelles recherches montrent que ce n’est pas suffisant.
NDP MP Charlie Angus urges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop disputing Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings on First Nations child welfare. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the Liberal government is committed to fair compensation for those affected by inequitable First Nations child welfare and welcomes the appointment of a mediator to help Ottawa go through the process.
Whether it's a slight cough or a scratchy, sore throat, some may be tempted to dismiss mild symptoms as "just the flu" amid a serious global pandemic. But experts say a drastic drop in the circulation of the influenza virus this season means signs of flu are more likely to be COVID-19 than another respiratory virus. A FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released last week shows laboratory-confirmed incidents of flu are exceptionally rare this season, despite "elevated testing" for it during the pandemic. Experts say a confluence of factors are playing a role in the abnormally light flu season, including public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 and the reduction of international travel. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says the low prevalence of flu underscores the need to get tested for COVID if people develop symptoms. "You can't tell by looking if somebody has influenza or COVID," he said. "And right now, depending on where they live, if someone has acute viral symptoms, the chances of it being COVID over other things is much higher." PHAC's report shows there have been 51 influenza detections in Canada to date this flu season — significantly lower than the nearly 15,000 cases averaged by this point in the past six seasons — and there were zero lab-detected cases (from 13,000 tests) over the first week of 2021. Chakrabarti expects there to be more cases of influenza than what PHAC's data shows, since not everyone with flu-like symptoms is tested for that virus. But in the segment of the population that is getting tested — typically older adults seeking medical care — influenza isn't coming up. People admitted to hospital with symptoms are given respiratory multiplex tests that can detect multiple viruses at once, Chakrabarti said. "And we've picked up very little in the way of other viruses. So if you're seeing a reduction in those cases, it suggests that the overall amount of flu in the community has dropped." While experts assumed public health measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing would also lessen flu prevalence, the level of drop-off has been surprising, says Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist with McMaster University. He believes travel restrictions have likely played a significant role. Whereas COVID-19 can continue to spread easily because the virus is already entrenched here, Chagla says influenza is usually brought in each winter from tropical climates. A population confined largely indoors due to cold weather helps it spread. "Border restrictions, quarantine rules, that probably limits the amount of influenza coming in in the first place," Chagla said. "And the odd case that does come in, it's harder to spread because people aren't congregating." Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, agrees that a reduction in international travel likely explains the light flu season more than just the implementation of public health measures. He says places in South America are also seeing dips in flu numbers even though mask-wearing hasn't been as widespread there. A level of immunity to influenza may also be contributing to the stifling of the virus, he added. "More people got a flu vaccine this year," Deonandan said. "That can't be underestimated." Chagla says other respiratory viruses also seem to have decreased this season. While there was an uptick in the common cold rhinovirus in the fall — usually correlated with children going back to school — PHAC data shows it's been dropping since. Hand-washing and sanitizing high-touch areas may be playing a role in controlling viruses that are more transmissible on surfaces, experts say. Chagla says cold or flu-like symptoms should raise a red flag for anyone right now, and he worries about people mistaking COVID signs for another virus. "In years past you could say: 'this is just a cold,' doctors would say: 'don't even come in,'" Chagla said. "And now we have to switch the mentality to say: 'actually, no, go get tested.'" Chakrabarti warns the "just the flu" mentality also diminishes the significance of influenza, which can lead to serious disease in vulnerable people too. So there's need for caution, even if symptoms are from the flu virus. "A lot of people say 'it's the flu, who cares? I get it all the time,'" he said. "This is going to sound familiar, but the reason it matters is because you can spread it to somebody else." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Be careful what you wish for, they say. Community volunteer Robbie Jones is celebrating his 57th birthday today as a Town of Mattawa council member. Jones, who was the first runner-up in the 2018 municipal election, fills the seat left open after deputy mayor Corey Lacelle resigned at the end of November 2020. See: 10-year veteran resigning from Mattawa council Mayor Dean Backer said appointing the next in line candidate is the "fairest and most logical" way to fill the seat and council is getting a “great guy” who has volunteered for many years with minor hockey and a number of other initiatives. “It’s prudent we get Robbie on board as soon as possible,” Backer said, noting there is a lot of work ahead for council this year. Jones garnered 285 votes in the last election, 31 more than the next person on the ballot, Bernie MacDonald, and 58 votes behind Councillor Laura Ross, who earned the last of six seats with 343 votes. “I’m happy to get the opportunity to work with my fellow councillors and looking forward to see what we can accomplish,” Jones said Tuesday morning. Other than five years in the 1990s working out west, Jones has been a resident of Mattawa for his entire life. He worked in the rail road business for 30 years before changing careers to drive a logging truck to be closer to his family. He and his wife Lise have one son, Casey, 14, who runs his own landscaping business. The inaugural meeting for Jones will be Feb. 8 or earlier if a special meeting is called before then. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
Organizers of a food bank for Black Edmontonians say there will be many families left behind if the service ends in March. Each week, dozens of families of African and Caribbean descent ranging from two to 10 members collect hampers packed with culturally relevant food. Despite demand, organizers had to cap the program at 90 families so staff and volunteers could keep up with collection, packing and distribution. The service was launched in May thanks to the collaboration of multiple Black-led Alberta organizations under the banner of African Diaspora COVID-19 Relief. But the funding and food from donors such as the Edmonton Community Foundation, Islamic Relief Canada, The Ghana Friendship Society and Loblaws, as well as personal donations, will soon run out. "It is a need that needs to be filled," said Emmanuel Onah, youth program manager at the Africa Centre, where the program is coordinated, clients pick up hampers and donations are being accepted. "It's a gaping hole in all of the resources that are currently available." The Liberia Friendship Society of Canada, the Jamaica Association of Northern Alberta and the Black Students Association University of Alberta are also among more than a dozen groups involved that will meet Sunday to determine next steps. Nii Koney, executive director of the Nile Valley Foundation, who rallied the coalition to action, said the program emerged from weekly meetings among Black organizations looking for ways to best respond to the pandemic. Initially they were surprised by all the middle-class community members who needed help. "People are bringing nice cars, they will come and park in the front, they will come with their wife and husband, they will sometimes come, the whole family," Koney said. "So now I know that if we didn't provide these services, it would be a great disservice to the community." Onah said a large part of the appeal comes from offering culturally relevant food tailor-made for each family whether it's injera, an Ethiopian fermented flatbread, or turtle beans, popular in the Caribbean. "The peace of mind you get when you're eating something that you're familiar with or you grew up with and is inline with your culture and your background — that all contributes to overall wellness. That all contributes to mental wellness, especially in the time where we're in a pandemic," said Onah. The initiative also supports local businesses largely by sourcing food from community stores on 118th Avenue and Stony Plain Road.
Shortly after the first state of emergency was declared by the Ontario government last March 17, municipal bylaw officers across the province were given power by the province to enforce pandemic emergency orders after “stretched” policing agencies requested assistance. Despite having the option to issue tickets under the Provincial Offences Act for violations of provincial emergency orders, municipal and regional bylaw enforcement officers focused on education rather than enforcement. But that tone has changed after the province handed down additional powers to police and bylaw officers alike to enforce a recent provincial stay-at-home order which came into effect on Jan. 14. Niagara This Week reached out to municipalities, Niagara Region and Niagara Regional Police to find out what enforcement action has been like since the start of the pandemic. Niagara-on-the-Lake has relied the most on enforcement out of the Niagara municipalities approached for data, having issued 66 tickets between March and December of last year, according to a Jan. 5 report to council. Niagara Falls has issued 28 tickets since May; Fort Erie has issued 13 since the initial orders; and St. Catharines has issued two tickets between March last year and Jan. 21. Port Colborne and Lincoln have not issued a single ticket since the beginning of the pandemic. The City of Welland did not provide information for earlier than Jan. 14. City bylaw manager, Ali Kahn, said in an email that no tickets have been issued since the province’s stay-at-home order took effect. Across the peninsula, the region has taken the most enforcement action in the shortest amount of time, according to data provided by communications consultant Andrew Korchok. Between Sept. 18, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2021, region staff have issued 134 tickets. Niagara Regional Police Service has issued 75 tickets between April 5, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2021 — with 14 having been issued since Jan. 13. The “severity” of enforcement action can vary, depending on what charge is laid under the Provincial Offences Act. A Part One offence can be a set fine settled out of court, while a Part Three offence requires a person to attend court where a conviction and penalty can be imposed. According to solicitor general spokesperson, Brent Ross, Part One fines for individuals range between $750 for “fail to comply with an order,” and $1,000 for an offence such as “obstruct any person exercising a power in accordance with an order.” But Part Three offences carry a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in prison. Corporations and their officers face harsher limits. Ross said an imposed fine could be as high as $10 million, if convicted. Those wanting to put on a party or host an event over gathering limits may also face more stringent penalties, Ross said. “On conviction, this offence carries a $10,000 minimum fine.” Niagara This Week also inquired about the amount of warnings given and complaints received, but data is tracked and reported in vastly differently ways across the region. Some municipalities group together the amount of inquiries and complaints, while others don't track certain data, like complaints or warnings, making it difficult to discern exactly how many warnings are given versus tickets, for example. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Jan. 5 report shows 2,611 inquiries and complaints were received between March and December last year, with a total of 1,475 educational outcomes. Niagara Falls also reported a high number of complaints, at 2,946, but the data also includes “information.” There were 2,142 times where a business or the public were educated. The City of St. Catharines was unable to provide the amount of warnings given, but said 436 complaints had been received. Niagara Regional Police could not provide the number of complaints received, but said they've given 67 warnings. In Fort Erie, “in excess of 200 warnings” have been given, according to enforcement co-ordinator, Paul Chodoba. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
The B.C. government is investing up to $3 million in a grant program to help increase sustainable and regenerative food production in the province. The agritech grant program is part of the province’s economic recovery plan to accelerate the growth of B.C.’s agritech sector and help the province’s agritech companies grow and develop technologies to increase domestic food production. Grants of up to $500,000 are available to B.C.-based agritech and agrifood companies or agricultural producers, and the program is accepting applications till Feb. 12. “With the use of technology, they will be better equipped to enhance B.C.’s food security, strengthen our supply chains and keep people healthy,” Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, said in a press release. Agricultural technology, or agritech, aims to improve farming by supporting regenerative agriculture and farm management practices that promote conservation and farmland rehabilitation. Examples include agricultural biotechnology, farm robotics, drones, satellite photography and sensors, automated irrigation, pest and disease prediction or soil management, phase tracking, weather forecasts and lighting and heat control. Lenore Newman, director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, says agritech will play a large part in climate change mitigation and adaptation over time. “One of the only ways we can really make a dent in climate change is in the food system. And to me, that's about using agritech to localize production year-round, in intensive methods, so we can return more of the planet's land to primary forests,” Newman said. The agritech grant program will also benefit farmers and agricultural producers, technology companies, private investors, academia and all levels of government involved in food production, processing and distribution, thereby improving the farming industry. Countries like the Netherlands, Singapore, Taiwan and Israel are currently leading the agritech industry. And Newman believes B.C. has great potential to join the ranks. “We have a lot of resources, we’ve got great people, we're a desirable destination for big tech companies. We need to move away from clinging to the past in agriculture and really embrace what we can do in the future,” she said. Investment in agritech will also redefine what it means to be a farmer and help a new generation of farmers adapt to a high-paced, rapidly evolving agriculture industry. “I hope it isn't a one-off, but that we see a series of investments because the jurisdictions that really lead this are going to play a key role in building a sustainable food system,” Newman added. “And I really want to see B.C. be a part of that.” However, in a report prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, critics state purported advances in the agritech sector to mitigate climate change are unexamined and unsubstantiated and, therefore, have to be applied to farming with great caution. In B.C. greenhouses, most emissions are associated with heating uninsulated structures during winter. Therefore, vertical farming for food production, which takes place in a highly controlled environment, can increase the demand for energy and its dependence in the agricultural sector. It also reveals that soil-based production systems have consistently shown far superior environmental performance when compared to high-tech, soil-less production in terms of land, water and energy use as well as carbon and water footprints. For example, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-heated hydroponic greenhouses have been found to be about six times higher than emissions from soil-based farming operations producing equivalent products. The report mentions that technological advances can improve agricultural practices and efficiencies and also lead to greater food production in B.C., but the primary cause of food insecurity is poverty and economic inequality. Therefore, it calls for food security strategies that can address poverty and economic inequality. Abra Brynne, policy advisor for FarmFolk CityFolk, says farmers should identify their own needs, not tech companies with a pecuniary interest in selling their own products. She has seen farmers all over the province innovating every single day by adapting what they've got and seeking out new technologies in response to the particular circumstances of their farm. “There are certainly common issues and needs that arise across the province and across different sectors. It's really important that it (agritech) not be sort of an externally formulated concept but something that's genuinely going to meet a proven need on the farm,” she added. Priya Bhat / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Priya Bhat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
EDMONTON — Members of Premier Jason Kenney’s caucus have refused an Opposition NDP bid to make public details of Alberta’s $7.5-billion investment in the failed Keystone XL pipeline project. The eight members of the governing United Conservative caucus rejected an NDP motion in public accounts committee today to ask Kenney for the details, along with any financial risk advice he was given when he made the investment last March. At that time, the Keystone XL line was facing multiple court challenges and the emerging Democrat party candidate, now President Joe Biden, was on record against the cross-border pipeline. The line was to take more Alberta oil through the U.S. Midwest and on to refineries and ports along the Gulf Coast to fetch a better price on overseas markets. Biden promised in his election campaign to cancel Keystone and did so last week on his first day in office, saying more product from Alberta’s oilsands does not mesh with his larger goal of combating climate change. Alberta has directly invested $1.5 billion with another $6 billion in loan guarantees, but the NDP says Albertans need to know the rationale Kenney used to make what it calls a risky decision and what the final bill will be now that the project is shelved. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Movies US charts: 1. Tenet 2. News of the World 3. Promising Young Woman 4. American Skin 5. The War with Grandpa 6. National Treasure 7. Honest Thief 8. The Croods: A New Age 9. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets 10. Let Him Go Movies US charts - Independent: 1. Promising Young Woman 2. Our Friend 3. MLKFBI 4. The Dissident 5. No Man’s Land 6. Some Kind of Heaven 7. Love Sarah 8. Assassins 9. Kajillionaire 10. PG: Psycho Goreman The Associated Press
P.E.I. has no new cases of COVID-19 to report, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said in her regular weekly briefing on Tuesday. The Island has had 110 confirmed positive cases since the pandemic began in March. Six cases were still considered active as of Tuesday morning. Morrison said that despite the low number of active cases in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, it is too early to consider a bubble involving just those two provinces in which residents could travel back and forth without self-isolating — a partial Atlantic bubble, as it were. She said non-essential travel off P.E.I. is still strongly discouraged. While Nova Scotia has just 15 active cases, New Brunswick has not been as fortunate. It currently has 348 active cases. We learned that this virus is not easily contained and that half measures are not effective. — Dr. Heather Morrison "While we all yearn for a time when we can travel more freely within Atlantic Canada and elsewhere, now is not the time to leave P.E.I. unless it is absolutely necessary," she said. "We learned that this virus is not easily contained and that half measures are not effective." Hockey team must self-isolate Morrison said anyone who leaves the province — including the Charlottetown Islanders hockey team — must self-isolate for 14 days upon return unless they receive an exemption. Morrison said the team can apply to work-isolate, which means they can go directly back and forth to the rink for games and practices, but must self-isolate at all other times. That would rule out players, coaches or team staff going to school or off-ice jobs. So far, Morrison said, 85 people have been charged for violating public health measures during the pandemic, including eight new charges in the past week. She warned that people will continue to be charged if they fail to self-isolate when required. If a restaurant looks too crowded it likely is. We all have a responsibility to make good choices. Do not enter an establishment if it looks too crowded. - Dr. Heather Morrison Morrison also said there will be additional evening inspections at restaurants to ensure COVID-19 health protocols are being followed. She has heard concerns about crowded restaurants where social distancing is not taking place. "If a restaurant looks too crowded, it likely is," she said. "We all have a responsibility to make good choices. Do not enter an establishment if it looks too crowded." More vaccines next week Morrison said new shipments of the COVID-19 vaccines are due next week, and the province remains on track to have all front-line health-care workers, as well as staff and residents of long-term care facilities, vaccinated by Feb. 16. As of Saturday, a total of 7,117 doses had been administered. The province is now posting vaccine data online showing the breakdown between first and second doses; the dashboard shows that 1,892 Island adults had received both doses as of Jan. 23. Morrison told the briefing that a phone number will be set up next week for people over 80 to call to set up vaccine appointments starting in mid-February. Marion Dowling, P.E.I.'s chief of nursing, also took part in the briefing. She urged people visiting patients in Island hospitals to not bring food or drinks to their loved ones, and keep their masks on at all times. She also asked that visitors not congregate in waiting rooms after visiting patients. Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
Nonfiction 1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 2. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 3. How to Train Your Mind by Chris Bailey, narrated by the author (Audible Originals) 4. Atomic Habits by James Clear, narrated by the author (Penguin Audio) 5. Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White, narrated by the author (Thomas Nelson) 6. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, narrated by the author and Adam Skolnick (Lioncrest Publishing) 7. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, narrated by Robin Miles (Random House Audio) 8. Becoming by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 9. Fast This Way by Dave Asprey, narrated by the author (HarperAudio) 10. Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta, MD, narrated by the author (Simon & Schuster Audio) Fiction 1. 1984 by George Orwell, narrated by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) 2. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn, narrated by Rosalyn Landor (Recorded Books) 3. When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal, narrated by Sarah Naughton and Katherine Littrell (Brilliance Audio) 4. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn, narrated by Rosalyn Landor (Recorded Books) 5. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis, narrated by Amy Landon (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) 6. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton (Random House Audio) 7. Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner, narrated by Hillary Huber (Brilliance Audio) 8. Dragon Blood – Omnibus by Lindsay Buroker, narrated by Caitlin Davies (Podium Audio) 9. Dispossession by Tayari Jones, performed by Gabrielle Union (Audible Originals) 10. Extinction Shadow by Nicholas Sansbury Smith and Anthony J. Melchiorri, narrated by R.C. Bray (Blue Heron Audio) The Associated Press
Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of immunity to the virus, leading to questions of whether those who've already recovered from the disease still need a vaccine. And is there urgency to inoculate them, or can they move to the back of the vaccination line? Experts say a vaccine will likely offer the safest bet for longer-term protection, meaning those with previous infections should still get them. And prior COVID illness shouldn't determine someone's place in the queue. The exact level of immunity acquired from a natural infection is yet to be fully determined, says Dr. Andre Veillette, a professor of medicine at McGill who's also on Canada's COVID-19 vaccine task force. It may be that protection begins to wane quicker in some people, or that those with previous mild infections aren't as protected as someone who had more severe symptoms, he says. Still others may think they've had a COVID-19 infection but can't be sure if they didn't get tested at the time. "I would say the simple rule would be that we vaccinate people who've had prior infections, just like everybody else," Veillette said. "If you had the infection, yes, you may have some protection, but it may not last a long time, and it may not be as good as the vaccine." Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials in protecting against severe disease. But there are still questions around whether the vaccines can actually prevent someone from catching the virus and spreading it to others. While Moderna has some data that their product may protect against acquiring the virus, it's still unclear. Antibodies from natural infections suggest the same — that they may protect us from getting really sick again, but not from getting the virus a second time. While there have been some cases of reinfection around the world, immunology expert Steven Kerfoot says the fact we're not seeing more of those suggests the immune response from initial COVID-19 infections is probably "pretty strong." Kerfoot, an associate professor at Western University, says vaccines are designed in a way that should produce an immune response "at least as good or better" than what we get after a natural infection. "So it may help fill in holes where people may not have developed an immune response effectively to the virus," Kerfoot said. "If anything, the vaccine could as act as its own booster that would improve your immunity." While some studies have suggested antibodies may disappear relatively quickly after COVID-19 infections, others have found a more lingering immune response. An American study published this month showed antibodies present for at least eight months, and possibly longer. Even studies suggesting an early drop-off of antibody levels aren't concerning, Kerfoot says. Infections trigger the body to produce other immune cells and memory cells that reduce slowly over years and help fight off future invasions from the same virus. If the immune response in those with past COVID infection is expected to be lengthy, could there be justification to defer their inoculations, especially if vaccine supply is low? It will be up to provinces to decide priority in each stage of their rollouts, but Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba, says that will be a tricky decision. "I don't think we can use prior infection as an indicator of priority, because we just don't know what that person's immune response actually is," Kindrachuk said. "We don't know what long-term immunity looks like in those folks. "The recommendations are going to be that everybody gets vaccinated because that way we know — across vulnerable groups and all ages and different demographics — they'll all get a robust immune response." Veillette adds that many people with previous COVID cases were also in higher-risk settings — either because of their jobs or living environments — that would theoretically put them at risk for reinfection. And if they were to get the virus again but not show symptoms, they could still pass it on to other people. "There's probably a whole spectrum of situations there, and when there's so many variables it's better to have a simple rule," he said. "So I think that's another reason to vaccinate previously infected people." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — People arrested during three nights of rioting sparked by the Netherlands' new coronavirus curfew will face swift prosecution, the Dutch justice minister said Tuesday as the nation faced its worst civil unrest in years. Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said rioters would be quickly brought before the courts by public prosecutors and will face possible prison terms if convicted. “They won't get away with it,” he told reporters in The Hague. The rioting, initially triggered by anger over the country's tough coronavirus lockdown, has been increasingly fueled by calls for rioting swirling on social media. The violence has stretched the police and led at times to the deployment of military police. Grapperhaus spoke after a third night of rioting hit towns and cities in the Netherlands, with the most serious clashes and looting of stores in the port city of Rotterdam and the southern cathedral city of Den Bosch. “If you rob people who are struggling, with the help of the government, to keep their head above water, it's totally scandalous,” Grapperhaus told reporters. He stressed that the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew is a necessary measure in the fight against the coronavirus. Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb posted a video message on Twitter, asking rioters: “Does it feel good to wake up with a bag full of stolen stuff next to you?” He also appealed to parents of the young rioters, asking: “Did you miss your son yesterday? Did you ask yourself where he was?” The municipality in Den Bosch designated large parts of the city as risk areas for Tuesday night, fearing a repeat of the violence. Residents in Den Bosch took to the streets Tuesday to help with the cleanup as the city’s mayor said he would investigate authorities’ response to the rioting. A total of 184 people were arrested in Monday night's unrest and police ticketed more than 1,700 for breaching the curfew, a fine of 95 euros ($115). Officers around the country also detained dozens suspected of inciting rioting through social media. Police said rioters threw stones, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers. “This criminal violence must stop,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted. “The riots have nothing to do with protesting or struggling for freedom,” he added. “We must win the battle against the virus together, because that's the only way of getting back our freedom.” The unrest began Saturday night — the first night of the curfew — when youths in the fishing village of Urk torched a coronavirus testing centre. It escalated significantly with violence in the southern city of Eindhoven and the capital, Amsterdam. Gerrit van der Burg, the most senior Dutch public prosecutor, said authorities are “committed to tracking down and prosecuting people who committed crimes. Count on it that they will be dealt with harshly.” The rate of new infections in Netherlands has been decreasing in recent weeks, but the government is keeping up the tough lockdown, citing the slow pace of the decline and fears of new, more transmissible virus variants. The country has registered more than 13,650 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic,https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Mike Corder, The Associated Press
PARIS — French lawmakers on Tuesday debated an animal welfare bill that would ban using wild animals in travelling circuses and keeping dolphins and whales in captivity in marine parks, amid other restrictions. Circus workers held a protest against the bill outside the National Assembly, saying the measure would cause circuses and jobs to vanish, if it becomes law. “That’s death for circuses,” Royal Circus director William Kerwich told The Associated Press. The bill, which also bans the use of wild animals in television shows, nightclubs and private parties, calls for a transition period of five to seven years depending on the location. The wild animal ban would not apply to permanent shows or to zoos. Anther provision of the legislation is aimed at shutting down mink farms within the next five years. The bill would also require new pet owners to obtain certificates guaranteeing they have the specific knowledge needed to care for their animals. It would stiffen for penalty for committing abuse that leads to the death of pet animals to up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of 45,000 euros ($54,750.) Protesting circus workers said French law is already strict enough to ensure the welfare of the animals appearing in their shows. Kerwich, the Royal Circus director, said he is worried about what would happen to the 800 or so animals owned by French circuses. “They are alive, we won't be able to reintroduce them in nature and we won't be able to keep them. Who will pay?” he asked. “We don't want to abandon them.” Kerwich said that about 14 million spectators attend traditional circuses featuring animals in France while 1 million go to circuses with only human acts. Frederic Edelstein, a lion trainer for the Pinder Circus, advocated for “an art that is part of our country's culture.” “A trainer doesn't hurt an animal, he seeks complicity, respect between humans and animals," Edelstein said. “I have 12 magnificent white lions. They love me....It is out of question for me to let my animals go away.” Animal rights activists also organized a gathering near the National Assembly on Tuesday, saying they think the proposed law does not go far enough. “There's nothing about hunting. There’s nothing about intensive farming....So we are here to demand that these gaps be filled,” Muriel Fusi, a representative of the Animalist Party in Paris, said. One Voice, an animal defence organization, called the bill “a big step in the right direction” but said it wants the wild animal ban to be extended to non-travelling circuses and shows. “Maybe we won’t see elephants, lions and hippopotamuses on the roads any more, but a new category of sedentary circuses will be allowed to multiply,” it said in a statement. A vote on the bill is set to take place by Friday. Lawmakers in French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, which has the majority at the National Assembly, support the measure. After the lower chamber votes, the bill will go to the Senate. Most European countries have partially or totally banned the use of wild animals in circuses. In recent years, some major circuses in France announced they were voluntarily ending such acts. An amusement park north of Paris announced Monday it was shutting down its dolphin show. The Asterix park said its eight dolphins would be transferred within two months to other aquariums in Europe because they could not be reintroduced into their natural environment. Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press
At 10 a.m. on Monday, Chatham-Kent’s first COVID-19 vaccine shipment was dropped off at public health to the surprise of the chief medical officer of health; hours later, vaccinations were underway at local long-term care facilities. Dr. David Colby, C-K’s chief medical officer of health, knew the shipman was coming sometime during the week, but did not have an exact time or date. Within the next four hours, the first shot was given at Riverview Gardens. By the end of the night, hundreds of doses were gone. “We had a team primed and ready to go so it didn’t stress us out at all. We were eager to get going and had all our ducks in a row,” Colby said. There were 750 long-term care (LTC) residents waiting for a vaccine and almost 400 were given out, according to Jeff Moco, spokesperson for CK Public Health. Moco added that public health was still trying to figure that out if there are any more doses left to give and will provide more details throughout the day. The Ministry of Health asked the local public health units not to divulge how many doses they received in their first shipments. LTC residents received doses of the Moderna vaccine after Pfizer announced there would be delays in shipments as it refits its factory in Belgium. Colby said although there are delays in vaccine shipments, he will not be reserving second doses and plans to use up the vaccines as they come in. The provincial government set a hard deadline of Feb. 5 to get the first vaccine dose in all its LTC residents. Colby said he would not comment on the ministry’s decision to have public health units keep the shipment numbers from the public. He had no comment as to why public health was only aware of the shipment once it arrived. “I’m just grateful to have gotten the vaccine,” he said. “It’s an epic and momentous occasion for Chatham-Kent to begin vaccinating its high-risk residents.” In late fall, C-K Public Health partnered with IPSOS on a local survey, asking 540 residents by phone how they felt about the vaccine. The survey was conducted before Moderna and Pfizer had been approved by Health Canada. The results found that only 33 per cent of the local population will “definitely” take a COVID-19 vaccine, while 21 per cent will “probably” follow suit. Seventeen per cent are likely to not get vaccinated. The remaining 29 per cent are undecided. Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said he wanted to encourage everyone to get the vaccine when they have the opportunity to do so. “I’m just thrilled that we're getting some and let's get the party going here,” he said. It still remains unclear whether LTC homes will loosen visitor restrictions once all residents and staff have received their two doses of the vaccine, and whether or not staff will still have to get tested daily. Colby said these decisions lie with the province. Moco said CK Public Health is expecting a second supply next week. As of Tuesday morning, there were 28 COVID-19 recoveries reported with 18 new cases bringing the active total down to 93. Three individuals remain hospitalized and the death toll sits at five. Chatham-Kent continues to deal with three institutional outbreaks, four workplace and two congregate living outbreaks. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice