A bird breaks open a peanut shell while perched atop the cameraperson's hand.
A bird breaks open a peanut shell while perched atop the cameraperson's hand.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Homelessness in Hythe and the possibility of establishing a shelter in the village have become hot topics in the wake of this year’s economic downturn. The Village of Hythe is requesting feedback ahead of proposed virtual town hall to discuss the issue. “This is the first time to my knowledge that we’ve really experienced the issue, so we’re looking at options for how to deal with it,” said mayor Brian Peterson. No date has yet been set for a virtual meeting, said Leona Hanson, village chief administrative officer. Peterson said he doesn’t believe homelessness is widespread in Hythe, but it poses a great problem to those directly affected. “It’s a small-scale problem, but with large impacts to individuals,” he said. Peterson said he doesn’t believe the number of homeless residents exceeds a half dozen. There is a combination of causes of local housing instability; COVID, falling oil prices and their impact on the economy, he said. The former 7 Lakes Motel near Tags had provided long-term housing for many people and its closure earlier this year has contributed to the issue. Some of the former residents have found other accommodations, but others haven’t, Peterson said. Though rumours have been circulating on social media that the former motel will be re-purposed as a homeless shelter, nothing concrete has been received by the village, said Peterson. A number of concerned citizens have begun discussing how to address homelessness in Hythe, and the idea of re-purposing the motel has been suggested, he said. The group isn’t yet well-established and it hasn’t yet proposed a plan, Peterson said. If the former motel were to be converted into a shelter the village would need to approve that re-purposing through a development permit process, he said. Village CAO Hanson is working on a potential virtual town hall before a plan is advanced, Peterson said, adding the village isn’t considering funding a facility because it lacks the resources. Peterson said there’ve been no applications for a development permit yet, but the process has typically taken months. Homelessness is an urgent issue, but he said the process needs to ensure a good plan for a shelter is in place. “You need to do it right, and ask, ‘Is it the right place?’” Peterson said. “The shelter is a basic concept, but I need a lot more information than that.” He said he’s heard concerns from residents about having a shelter in the community, including whether the village can handle issues often associated with homelessness, mental health and addictions. “Those are valid concerns, and how do you deal with that and what resources are available?” Peterson said. “We certainly don’t have those resources available here today.” That said, some Hythe residents are already struggling with housing instability and mental health or addictions and Peterson said he’s not aware of anyone moving to Hythe to use the shelter. Other residents have expressed concerns about the rising crime they perceive would come with a shelter. Peterson said RCMP response times in Hythe are already an issue. “Adding extra stress to the system is not a good thing,” he said. Before the town hall, feedback is being accepted at 780-356-3888 or email@example.com and residents can also express interest in attending the meeting by using that email address.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
LOS ANGELES — Rafer Johnson, who won the decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympics and helped subdue Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin in 1968, died Wednesday. He was 86.He died at his home in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, according to family friend Michael Roth. No cause of death was announced.Johnson was among the world’s greatest athletes from 1955 through his Olympic triumph in 1960, winning a national decathlon championship in 1956 and a silver medal at the Melbourne Olympics that same year.His Olympic career included carrying the U.S. flag at the 1960 Games and lighting the torch at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to open the 1984 Games. Johnson set world records in the decathlon three different times amid a fierce rivalry with his UCLA teammate C.K. Yang of Taiwan and Vasily Kuznetsov of the former Soviet Union.Johnson won a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1955 while competing in just his fourth decathlon. At a welcome home meet afterward in Kingsburg, California, he set his first world record, breaking the mark of two-time Olympic champion and his childhood hero Bob Mathias.On June 5, 1968, Johnson was working on Kennedy's presidential campaign when the Democratic candidate was shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Johnson joined former NFL star Rosey Grier and journalist George Plimpton in apprehending Sirhan Sirhan moments after he shot Kennedy, who died the next day.“I knew he did everything he could to take care of Uncle Bobby at his most vulnerable moment,” Kennedy's niece, Maria Shriver, said by phone. “His devotion to Uncle Bobby was pure and real. He had protected his friend. Even after Uncle Bobby's death he stayed close.”Johnson later called the assassination “one of the most devastating moments in my life.”Born Rafer Lewis Johnson on Aug. 18, 1934, in Hillsboro, Texas, he moved to California in 1945 with his family, including his brother Jim, a future NFL Hall of Fame inductee. Although some sources cite Johnson's birth year as 1935, the family has said that is incorrect.They eventually settled in Kingsburg, near Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley. It was less than 25 miles from Tulare, the hometown of Mathias, who would win the decathlon at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics and prove an early inspiration to Johnson.Johnson was a standout student and played football, basketball, baseball and track and field at Kingsburg Joint Union High. At 6-foot-3 and 200-plus pounds, he looked more like a linebacker than a track and field athlete.During his junior year of high school, Johnson’s coach took him to Tulare to watch Mathias compete in a decathlon, an experience Johnson later said spurred him to take up the grueling 10-event sport.As a freshman at UCLA, where he received academic and athletic scholarships, Johnson won gold at the the 1955 Pan Am Games, and set a world record of 7,985 points.After winning the national decathlon championship in 1956, Johnson was the favourite for the Olympics in Melbourne, but pulled a stomach muscle and strained a knee while training. He was forced to withdraw from the long jump, for which he had also qualified, but tried to gut out the decathlon.Johnson’s teammate Milt Campbell, a virtual unknown, gave the performance of his life, finishing with 7,937 points to win gold, 350 ahead of Johnson.It was the last time Johnson would ever come in second.Johnson, Yang, and Kuznetzov had their way with the record books between the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.Kuznetzov, a two-time Olympic bronze medallist who the Soviets called their “man of steel,” broke Johnson’s world record in May 1958 with 8,016 points.Later that year at a U.S.-Soviet dual meet in Moscow, Johnson beat Kuznetzov by 405 points and reclaimed the world record with 8,302 points. Johnson won over the Soviet audience with his gutsy performance in front of what had been a hostile crowd.A car accident and subsequent back injury kept Johnson out of competition during 1959, but he was healthy again for the Olympics in 1960.Yang was his primary competition in Rome. Yang won six of the first nine events, but Johnson led by 66 points going into the 1,500 metres, the decathlon’s final event.Johnson had to finish within 10 seconds of Yang, which was no small feat as Yang was much stronger running at distance than Johnson.Johnson finished just 1.2 seconds and six yards behind Yang to win the gold. Yang earned silver and Kuznetsov took bronze.At UCLA, Johnson played basketball for coach John Wooden, becoming a starter on the 1958-59 team. In 1958, he was elected student body president, the third Black to hold the office in school history.“He stood for what he believed in and he did it in a very classy way with grace and dignity,” Olympic champion swimmer Janet Evans said by phone.Evans last saw Johnson, who attended her 2004 wedding, at a luncheon in his honour in May 2019.“We were all there to fete him and he just didn’t want to be in the spotlight,” she said. “That was one of the things I loved about him. He didn’t want credit.”Johnson retired from competition after the Rome Olympics. He began acting in movies, including appearances in “Wild in the Country” with Elvis Presley, “None But the Brave” with Frank Sinatra and the 1989 James Bond film “License to Kill.” He worked briefly as a TV sportscaster before becoming a vice-president at Continental Telephone in 1971.In 1984 Johnson lit the Olympic flame for the Los Angeles Games. He took the torch from Gina Hemphill, granddaughter of Olympic great Jesse Owens, who ran it into the Coliseum."Standing there and looking out, I remember thinking ‘I wish I had a camera,’" Johnson said. "My hair was standing straight up on my arm. Words really seem inadequate."Throughout his life, Johnson was widely known for his humanitarian efforts.He served on the organizing committee of the first Special Olympics in Chicago in 1968, working with founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Johnson founded California Special Olympics the following year at a time when positive role models for the intellectually and physically disabled were rare.“Rafer really paved the path for many of us to understand the responsibilities that come with being a successful athlete and the number of lives you can impact and change,” Evans said.Maria Shriver recalled meeting Johnson for the first time at age 10 or 11 through her mother Eunice.“He and I joked that I’ve been in love with him ever since,” she said. “He really was an extraordinary man, such a loving, gracious, elegant, humble man who handled his success in such a beautiful way and stayed so true to himself throughout his life.”Peter Ueberroth, who chose Johnson to light the Olympic torch in 1984, called him “just one great person, a marvelous human being.”Johnson worked for the Peace Corps, March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Association and American Red Cross. In 2016, he received the UCLA Medal, the university's highest award for extraordinary accomplishments. The school's track is named for Johnson and his wife Betsy.His children, Jenny Johnson Jordan and Josh Johnson, were athletes themselves. Jenny was a beach volleyball player who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is on the coaching staff of UCLA's beach volleyball team. Josh competed in javelin at UCLA, where he was an All-American.Besides his wife of 49 years and children, he is survived by son-in-law Kevin Jordan and four grandchildren.___More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsBeth Harris, The Associated Press
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
MULGRAVE – “This year with COVID, people have been struggling lately, some people have lost their jobs in the community. It is a tough time for everyone. I figured why not change it up to help the people in our community,” Town of Mulgrave Recreation Director Heather Brennan told The Journal regarding the new spin they put on its annual Festival of the Trees. This year, instead of dressing a tree to the nines, festival participants were asked to build a tree, or any Christmas-themed art piece, out of non-perishable food items to be donated later to the recently created food pantry. First, second and third-place winners will be selected through online voting. For residents not online, they can cast ballots at the town office. While a prize will be awarded, Brennan said, “Everybody is a winner.” The response to the competition was greater than Brennan had expected with 10 entries and a great amount of food donated to the food pantry. “I am pleasantly surprised by how many people have done it and the amount of food taken in has surpassed what I thought,” she said. Participants taking part in the festival include local businesses Mulgrave Machine Works and DSM, along with the Town of Mulgrave, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 37 Mulgrave, Mulgrave Heritage Centre, Atlantic Association of CBDCs and several groups of friends. Along with the food used in the displays, Brennan said community members have been dropping off food at the Mulgrave Memorial Centre, where the Festive of Trees is set up in the hallway, for the food pantry. The food pantry is an initiative of the Mulgrave Medical Centre Board that got off the ground this past summer. Board chair Al England told The Journal that the project has been a “greatsuccess to date; a lot of people are supporting it financially and with goods.” The pantry consists of a locker and a cooler constantly restocked with food. It is being moved from the medical centre to the vestibule in the Superport building where the East Coast Credit Union has an ATM. “They were gracious enough to allow us to use that space and we are very thankful and appreciative of that,” said England, adding that the location was temporary for the winter months and the pantry would return to the medical centre, when weather allowed. England said of the pantry project, “It has been an excellent project and it has been well received. We are grateful that it is being supported in the manor that it is and hopefully it is providing some help and assistance to those that really need the help at this time of year.”Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
NEW YORK — National lawmakers introduced a joint resolution Wednesday aimed at striking language from the U.S. Constitution that enshrines a form of slavery in America’s foundational documents. The resolution, spearheaded and supported by Democratic members of the House and Senate, would amend the 13th Amendment’s ban on chattel enslavement to expressly prohibit involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime. As ratified, the original amendment has permitted exploitation of labour by convicted felons for over 155 years since the abolition of slavery. The 13th Amendment “continued the process of a white power class gravely mistreating Black Americans, creating generations of poverty, the breakup of families and this wave of mass incarceration that we still wrestle with today,” Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon told The Associated Press ahead of the resolution's introduction. A House version is led by outgoing Rep. William Lacy Clay, of St. Louis, who said the amendment “seeks to finish the job that President (Abraham) Lincoln started.” It would “eliminate the dehumanizing and discriminatory forced labour of prisoners for profit that has been used to drive the over-incarceration of African Americans since the end of the Civil War,” Clay said. In the Senate, the resolution has Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland signed on as co-sponsors. “This change to the 13th Amendment will finally, fully rid our nation of a form of legalized slavery,” Van Hollen said in an emailed statement. constitutional amendments are rare and require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures. Should the proposal fail to move out of committee in the remaining weeks of the current Congress, Merkley said he hoped to revive it next year. The effort has been endorsed by more than a dozen human rights and social justice organizations, including The Sentencing Project, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Color of Change. “It is long past time that Congress excise this language from the U.S. Constitution which should begin to put an end to the abusive practices derived from it,” said Laura Pitter, deputy director of the U.S. program at Human Rights Watch, which also endorsed the amendment. The proposed amendment comes nearly one month after voters in Nebraska and Utah approved initiatives amending their state constitutions to remove language that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. In 2018, Colorado was among the first U.S. states to remove such language by ballot measure. Although nearly half of state constitutions do not mention human bondage or prison labour as punishment, just over 20 states still include such clauses in governing documents that date back to the 19th century abolition of slavery. In Merkley’s Oregon, voters in 2002 approved the elimination of constitutional language that prohibited Black Americans from living in the state unless they were enslaved. He said the movement toward a federal amendment is “kind of saying to the world, let’s not forget this big piece of injustice that’s sitting squarely in the middle of our Constitution, as we wrestle with criminal justice reform.” Many Americans will recognize modern-day prison labour as chain gangs deployed from prison facilities for agricultural and infrastructure work. The prevalence of prison labour has been largely accepted as a means for promoting rehabilitation, teaching trade skills and reducing idleness among prisoners. But the practice has a much darker history. Following the abolition of slavery, Southern states that lost the literal backbone of their economies began criminalizing formerly enslaved Black men and women for offences as petty as vagrancy or having unkempt children. This allowed legal re-enslavement of African Americans, who were no longer seen as sympathetic victims of inhumane bondage, said Michele Goodwin, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “These people became criminals, and it became very difficult for many abolitionists to use the same kinds of emotional messaging about the humanity of these individuals,” Goodwin said. Today, incarcerated workers, many of them making pennies on the dollar, work in plants, manufacturing clothing, assembling furniture and even battling wildfires across the U.S., much of it to the benefit of large corporations, governments and communities where they’ve historically been unwelcome upon release. Researchers have estimated the minimum annual value of prison labour commodities at $2 billion, derived largely through a system of convict leasing that leaves these workers without the legal protections and benefits that Americans are otherwise entitled to. And while prison work is largely optional for the 2.2 million individuals incarcerated in the U.S., it’s a grave mistake to disassociate their labour from the original intent of the penal system, Goodwin said. “Your freedom has been taken away — that’s the punishment that society has assigned,” she said. “The punishment is not that you do slave work, that is unpaid labour or barely paid labour.” ____ Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison. Aaron Morrison, The Associated Press
Regina– Ambulance fees are going down for Saskatchewan senior citizens, the fulfillment of a Saskatchewan Party campaign promise in this past fall’s election. Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said in a ministerial statement in the Legislature on Dec. 2, “Starting on December 14, our government will further support Saskatchewan seniors aged 65 and older by reducing their ambulance fees from $275 per trip to $135 per trip. “That is a reduction of more than 50 per cent. In addition, seniors will now receive full coverage for all inter-facility transfers between hospitals health centres, integrated health centres, mental health and addiction centres, and special care homes. As we know seniors tend to need ambulance services more frequently and that many seniors live on fixed incomes. Seniors will receive financial relief through this reduction in their personal health care costs for the service. Having the ability to discharge or transfer patients to a facility closer to their home community, without concern about their ability to pay, will improve patient flow between our health care centres. “This investment by our government is expected to cost $2.2 million for this fiscal year and $6.6 million annually. These costs were accounted for and the Minister of Finance’s recently released mid year update. Our government values seniors in this province. We're working to provide them with quality, affordable health care.” To be eligible for SCAAP coverage, patients must be age 65 or over, hold a valid Saskatchewan health card and not have insured coverage by any other government service such as Health Canada, Workers Compensation (WCB) or Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), according to a government release. In response, New Democratic Party Seniors Critic Matt Love said, “Certainly, we welcome any effort to make life more affordable for seniors, particularly those who might be ill and in need of an ambulance. We recognize this as a small step in the right direction. But ultimately, this is a drop in the bucket towards reforming the most unsupported and expensive ambulance system in the country. “Eliminating fees for seniors being transferred between health facilities makes sense. But what this government should be doing is eliminating interhospital transfer fees entirely. No other province in the country charges patients to transfer them within the health system. This issue was identified by this government's first EMS (emergency medical services) review in 2008, and again, the review conducted in 2018. We know the community paramedicine program has been successful in keeping seniors in their homes and out of the hospital. And we wonder why these changes do not expand access to these services? We also know there's been a long-standing practice of excluding First Nations seniors from provincial senior subsidy programs, and anticipate hearing whether these benefits will be extended to First Nations as well. Today's announcement does nothing to address the long-standing issues of short staffing in long term care much more as needed, including minimum care standards,” Love concluded.Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Another 12 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. and 834 new cases have been confirmed, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday.There are now 8,941 active cases across the province, and the number of patients in hospital has risen to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.Henry acknowledged that many British Columbians are feeling worn down by the pandemic and feeling fatigued by months of restrictions on daily life."COVID-19 is taking a toll on all of us," she said. "I am asking you all to continue and do a little bit more."To date, there have been 34,728 confirmed cases of the disease in B.C., including 469 people who have died. A total of 10,201 people are currently in isolation because of contact with known cases of the virus.New sports banWednesday's update also includes a new ban on indoor adult team sports, including everything from basketball and hockey to cheerleading and combat sports. Children's sports are returning to Phase 2 guidelines, which means no contact, no travel and modified training.Henry said she knows some sports teams have ignored her order against travelling, and that ended with an old timers' hockey team in the Interior bringing back the virus from games in Alberta, resulting in dozens of cases in their local community.Henry declined to identify the community, but said the returned players infected family members and co-workers. She also said that the situation is not unique in B.C.'I'm asking you to stay home'Wednesday's update included two new community outbreaks — one at the Cove Shelter in Surrey and another at Millennium Pacific Greenhouses.There are also three new outbreaks in the health-care system, including two hospital outbreaks announced by Island Health on Tuesday. Currently, there are 54 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and seven in hospitals.Though case numbers remain highest in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, the pandemic has caught up to the rest of the province. In the past three weeks, COVID-19 cases have stayed steady in Vancouver Coastal Health and doubled in Fraser Health — but they've gone up by nearly 500 per cent in the rest of B.C.As B.C.'s caseload continues to grow and hospitalizations creep ever higher, Henry said everyone needs to stay within their local communities when it comes to sports and recreational travel."I cannot order you not to get into a car or get onto a plane, but I'm asking you to stay home," she said.All community events and social gatherings involving anyone outside someone's immediate household remain banned as well.The current orders restricting social interactions, recreational activities and events are set to expire on Dec. 7. Henry said health officials will be reviewing them and looking at the evidence right up until the deadline to determine if they need to continue.Despite the grim news on the pandemic coming out of every daily briefing on COVID-19, Henry pointed to the U.K.'s approval of the Pfizer vaccine as a sign of hope."This is, of course, very exciting news for all of us … but it's going to be some time before we get there," she said.She added that while approved vaccines may arrive in Canada within weeks, in the meantime, B.C. continues to lose people to the disease every day and transmission is unchecked.Asked about whether the vaccine should be mandatory, particularly for those who work in the health-care system, Henry said Canada has never had mandatory vaccinations and that isn't going to change because of COVID-19.However, she said that anyone thinking of working in health who doesn't believe in vaccines or objects to immunizations should choose a different career.She was also asked about recent demonstrations by those who believe COVID-19 is a hoax and say she is hiding the truth. Henry said that those people represent a small minority in B.C., but it does make her angry to hear those things."This is very real. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one how real it is," she said.
VIENNA — Austria will allow skiing to start on Dec. 24, but will limit the capacity of ski lifts and keep restaurants, bars and hotels largely closed until early January, officials said Wednesday. It also will require many people entering the country over the Christmas period to go into quarantine.Tough lockdown measures took effect Nov. 17 and are due to expire on Sunday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said a limited curfew that has applied around the clock will be eased, and from Monday will apply only between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.Schools will be reopened next week, except for older students, as will nonessential shops, museums, libraries and some other businesses. But restaurants will remain closed for all but takeout and deliveries, as will bars, and hotels will remain closed except to business travellers.Austria has been hard hit by the resurgence of coronavirus infections in Europe, though its infection rate has declined over recent weeks. It currently is recording 335 new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days, down from around 600 last month — but still more than twice as many as in neighbouring Germany, which is in a milder partial shutdown.Kurz said that progress over recent weeks, and the expectation of more before Christmas, allows “cautious” reopening steps. But he said the tourism and catering sectors won’t start reopening until Jan. 7.That will effectively mean that, over the holiday season, skiing is possible in most cases only on day trips for those Austrian residents who live fairly close to the Alps. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said there will be mask-wearing and distancing requirements, and the capacity of cable cars will be limited.Kurz said that allowing skiing for locals but keeping the catering sector closed is “absolutely justified.”“Skiing is a sport that takes place in the open air, an individual sport, so epidemiologically it must be assessed differently from catering, where we know that there can time and again be infections,” he said.Kurz added that he, as a resident of eastern Austria, won't benefit but “for a large part of our population it will then be possible to go skiing at least for the day.”France and Germany, which has closed its ski resorts, are pushing for similar measures to be taken in other European countries, like Italy and Spain, for the Christmas season. Ski resorts are already open in neighbouring Switzerland, which has allowed skiing.Kurz rejected suggestions that Austria's limited reopening was a response to pressure from abroad.“We decide according to our infection situation, and our expectation is that we can push down our infections very, very strongly by Christmas,” he said.Austria also plans tougher border controls and quarantine rules in an effort to dissuade people from travelling abroad over the Christmas period. Austrian residents' summer trips to see relatives in the western Balkans, in particular, were blamed as a significant source of the resurgence of infections this fall.The quarantine rules will be imposed by mid-December and will apply “if you're coming from a country that exceeds a certain limit of infections,” Kurz said. Authorities set the limit at 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, an infection rate which the vast majority of European countries currently surpass.The requirement will be for new arrivals to go into quarantine for 10 days, which they can cut short by taking a test after five days, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.___Geir Moulson reported from Berlin.Geir Moulson And Philipp Jenne, The Associated Press
Hormone blockers are drugs that can pause the development of puberty and are sometimes prescribed to help children with gender dysphoria by giving them more time to consider their options.View on euronews
Families across the County of Grande Prairie can benefit from a diaper drive running now until Dec. 10, courtesy of county Regional Enforcement Services. During the campaign the county will collect disposable diapers and cash donations to assist residents in need during the Christmas season. The campaign marks the first diaper drive held by Regional Enforcement Services, but it will hopefully become an annual effort, said peace officer Lindsey Hennigar. “Being a mom of three, I know first-hand diapers are not cheap,” Hennigar said. “It touches every parent’s heart to think how worrisome it would for another parent to wonder, ‘Do I have enough diapers to change my child this day?’” Hennigar said she came up with the idea after considering how food banks have food drives and other organizations collect hygiene necessities and toys. She thought Regional Enforcement Services could fill a gap with a diaper drive, she said. “We’re a family-oriented department and we thought this would be a great way to help residents in need of diapers,” she said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community.” Disposable diapers, related products like wipes and diaper cream and cash donations can be made at numerous locations. These are the Beaverlodge, Wembley, Valhalla, Sexsmith, La Glace and Elmworth libraries, Clairmont’s Wellington Resource Centre, Hythe’s village office and Bezanson’s Knelsen Centre. Monetary donations can also be made online at www.countygp.ab.ca/diaperdrive. The diapers will then be distributed by the Sexsmith and Area Food Bank. While the Sexsmith Food Bank is distributing the donations, Hennigar said families in the west county can also benefit from the program. The drive began last Thursday and she said so far there’s been a lot of interest. During COVID people may not be able to easily access stores to purchase diapers to donate, but Hennigar said Regional Enforcement Services staff will buy some with the cash donations.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
OTTAWA — The federal government says it will not meet a marquee pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lift all boil-water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021. Indigenous Services Canada says at least 22 long-term water advisories in 10 First Nations communities will remain in place beyond that deadline, which was set following an ambitious 2015 Liberal election promise to lift them all within five years. "What communities want is not an Ottawa-imposed deadline," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday during a news conference in Ottawa. "It’s a long-term commitment to access to clean water." The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into efforts to upgrade water systems and carry out on-site training, with supply chains snarled and construction put off as some reserves opted to restrict travel, the department said at an earlier briefing. "COVID has really changed everything," Miller said. “Because of COVID, many projects lost a full construction season." The complexity of projects, which can include infrastructure overhauls and depend on increasingly unreliable winter roads, contributed to the delay even before the pandemic, he said. Hiring and retaining qualified operators for water and wastewater treatment plants on remote sites has posed another challenge. Miller, who has held the Indigenous services portfolio since November 2019, sought to shield Trudeau from blame for the failed goal. "Ultimately, I bear the responsibility for this, and I have the responsibility and the duty to get this done," he said, calling the continued lack of access to reliable drinking water "totally unacceptable." The department says 97 boil-water advisories have been lifted since 2016, while 59 remain in place — about three-quarters of them in Ontario — in 41 communities. In late October, about 250 residents of Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario, which has had a boil-water advisory in place for 25 years, were evacuated from their homes following the discovery of an oily sheen in its reservoir. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Wednesday he was frustrated but not surprised by Ottawa's shortfall. "First Nations have good reason to be disappointed by the federal government’s announcement that after more than five years in office, it will miss its own target to provide safe drinking water to all Indigenous communities across Canada," he said in a statement. "While there has been significant progress in recent years, it clearly is not enough." Miller acknowledged that initially, communities were not “sounded” out on whether the March 2021 target was reasonable. He said he hopes up to 20 more advisories will be lifted by year's end, but expects at least a dozen communities will still not have access to potable water by the spring. "You come down to about 12 or a few more communities, some of whom have seen serious delays due to COVID — and they’re working hard to clear them — and others that have priorities that they want addressed before they lift their water advisories," he said, noting that communities make the call on whether to lift advisories, not Ottawa. "I think we didn’t appreciate the state of decay of water systems when we came into power in 2015," he added, pointing to "decades of neglect." Opposition parties slammed the federal government for falling short of its goal. "We weren't totally surprised by this, but at the same time, there's a pretty significant disappointment in it being actually acknowledged and outright spoken ... by the minister today," Conservative MP Gary Vidal, his party's critic for Indigenous services, said in an interview. In a separate statement, Vidal called for a more commercially driven approach that draws on the "brightest business minds and entrepreneurs" to get taps flowing safely. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the problem "disgusting" and "inexcusable." "Imagine Minister Miller going to his riding in Montreal: 'I apologize, but we missed our deadline to get you clean drinking water.' Would he ever think it was appropriate?" Singh asked at a news conference. “This is not a broken promise. This is a betrayal of trust, and it sends a message that Indigenous people don't matter." In its fall economic statement Monday, the Liberal government pledged to invest $1.5 billion this year to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, on top of $2.1 billion already committed since 2016. More than $1.65 billion of that has already flowed to 626 water and wastewater projects, including 348 that are now completed, according to Indigenous Services. The beefed-up funding reflects a long-term commitment, particularly to operations and maintenance, so that communities can continue to tap into clean water indefinitely, Miller said. Under current funding policies for operations and maintenance on reserves, Ottawa typically provides about 80 per cent of the cash while First Nations have to float the remaining 20 per cent. Miller said Indigenous Services is still hammering out a policy adjustment, "but my full expectation is that will move to 100 per cent." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. — with files from Maan Alhmidi Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A noontime boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organization in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena.Witnesses across the area reported hearing the boom or seeing a fireball in the sky shortly after noon on Wednesday, said Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society in Geneseo. By 5 p.m., the organization had recorded 90 reports of the fireball seen in Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Virginia.Police agencies and fire departments around central New York received 911 calls reporting a boom that shook windows, but clouds prevented sightings in much of the area. Since most reports of the boom were around Syracuse, that's likely where the meteor blew to bits, Lunsford said.On the society's website, an observer in western New York reported the fireball was bright white with shades of yellow. An observer in Hagerstown, Maryland reported a fireball with red and orange sparks, smoke and a persistent train. A report from Welland, Ontario, described a long, bright green train.“Sunny day so it looked like a gold metallic flash against the blue sky,” said a report from Winchester, Virginia.“Astonishing, amazing, still get goosebumps talking about it,” wrote an observer in Port Dover, Ontario. “The train was flaming white, wide and long, no smoke.”“We tend to notice fireballs more at night because they stand out better, but it's not terribly unusual for very bright ones to be noticed during the day. It happens several times a year over populated areas,” said Margaret Campbell-Brown, a member of the Meteor Physics Group at Western University in London, Ontario.All fireballs, which are bright meteors, produce sound waves, sometimes detectable only by sensitive microphones, Campbell-Brown said by email. A large one may produce a thunderlike sonic boom with possible extra bangs from fragmentation, she said.The Associated Press
Midland Coun. Bill Gordon has found his way onto the 'wall of shame' --- again. This time, the elected official is being brought to the stand for inappropriate decorum, messaging that amounts to abuse, bullying or intimidation, and interfering in the operations of the town, thereby, undermining staff's capability in the field, an integrity commissioner's report found "This is just proving my whole weaponization of the code of conduct argument," Gordon said, adding he wasn't shocked by the move. "They didn't speak to me about any of this. "I'm not arguing any of these things didn't happen. I take full responsibility for it. But taken without context, anything can be found to be insulting and inflammatory." The three complainants this time are Deputy Mayor Mike Ross and councillors Jim Downer and Jon Main. However, in the integrity commissioner's report, which will be discussed at next week's council meeting, only an exchange between Main and Gordon has been mentioned. The report says that in the email exchange with Main, Gordon said, "Please don’t mistake my assertiveness for aggression. I have little to no personal respect for many of you or a couple of our senior team. I come by that honestly and have the bills to prove it. "I have to work with you and have managed to keep most of my contempt for many of you at bay preferring to simply ignore the public attacks on my integrity and carry on with my work despite everything that’s gone on this term." In a second exchange between the two, Gordon calls Main a 'snowflake.' The report says, in a Facebook direct message, Gordon said, "That is far from bullying Jon. Don’t be such a snowflake. The truth may not be a defence in the CoC [Code of Conduct] – which is absurd – but I will do politics my way just as you do it your way. "We are polar opposites it seems. That is actually quite healthy for democracy. As for decorum I think I toe that line with grace and dignity considering the despicable way you treat me. I have no respect for most of you as a result. Should not be a shock to you." Moreover, Gordon has also been accused of interfering with the operational aspects of the town staff's responsibility by asserting 'influence' on a developer responsible for clean up on Taylor Drive. The report details that, on Aug. 28, 2020, the developer emailed Gordon that following their discussion and for the developer to avoid a notice of motion, the developer would undertake grass cutting on the town parkette as a courtesy to the town and Taylor Drive clients/homeowners. Further, the developer also promised, relocation of masonry materials and reduction in the slope of stockpiled sand. In the report, Gordon defends his intervention with the developer as simply availing himself of the process. He denies that he engaged in any threats or intimidation, but merely pointed out that the town might be compelled to draw on the letter of credit to rectify performance issues. In a conversation with MidlandToday, Gordon said he wasn't willing to divulge his entire defence. "I don't want to give a statement because it gives them 'yeah, but...' arguments," he said. "The reason I don't want to do that in this case is because they didn't recommend any monetary sanctions, which I'm kind of shocked about. What I suspect to happen is that the three complainants, especially Jon Main, will be argue for monetary sanctions. I want to let that happen organically." Addressing the snowflake comment, Gordon said, it was during a private Twitter back and forth that occurred in March. "(Main) sat on it all this time and decided to advance it now," he said. "Basically, they were just collecting evidence." Gordon adds that if he had been approached about the issue 'like adults' there would definitely not have been this conflict. "I can only speak for Jon, because I never said this to Mike Ross or Jim Downer," he said. "If he'd contacted me or even during that interaction we had, I would have apologized and told him what I'd actually been meaning to say instead of the word snowflake." Gordon said he uses the word snowflake because it's a quicker way of spelling out someone who is indecisive or can't handle pressure and make decisions. As for interfering with the operational side of the corporation of the Town of Midland, he said, at its core, that's what people expect from their councillors. "They can come to them with whatever their tale of woe is...if they're having an issue with a lack of performance by the town," said Gordon. "Your elected official doesn't have a lot of influence. The only influence, which I promised during my Zoom chat, is that I would bring it forward to council as a notice of motion." And this is where it gets sticky, he added. "I didn't reach out to the developer," said Gordon. "The developer watched my Zoom meeting and called me to say if we do these things, would you bring the notice of motion to council. And why would I, if they were doing what was being asked?" He said he welcomed the integrity commissioner's report and findings and looked forward to speaking to council. "For me, the real tell is which councillors will argue that simply scolding me publicly and putting me on the wall of shame is not enough and they want to see their pound of flesh," Gordon said.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struggled with whether to require new trials for potentially thousands of prisoners who were convicted by non-unanimous juries before the court barred the practice earlier this year. The high court ruled 6-3 in April that juries in state criminal trials must be unanimous to convict a defendant. Previously, Louisiana and Oregon as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico had allowed divided votes to result in convictions. In striking down the practice, the court said Louisiana and Oregon had originally adopted their rules for racially discriminatory reasons. Now, juries everywhere must vote unanimously to convict. But the Supreme Court's decision affected only future cases and cases in which the defendants were still appealing their convictions when the high court ruled. The question for the court now is whether the decision should be made retroactive. That would benefit prisoners convicted by non-unanimous juries whose cases were final before the court's ruling, but the states and federal government said it would also be incredibly burdensome. Several justices noted the very high bar past cases have set to making similar new rules retroactive while also suggesting this case might clear it. And the case did not seem to be one that would split the court along traditional liberal-conservative lines. “Why isn't unanimity basic?” Justice Stephen Breyer asked during arguments, which the court heard by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Justice Samuel Alito expressed skepticism that the court should make this decision retroactive. He suggested the court has been hard pressed to find a similar case that should be made retroactive, comparing it to a “quest for an animal that was thought to have become extinct, like the Tasmanian tiger.” And Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that the court has “a long line of cases ... where we have declined to apply a new rule retroactively” once cases have become final. Louisiana, Oregon and Puerto Rico could be forced to retry hundreds or thousands of people if the court’s decision were to be made retroactive, Louisiana has said. And several justices pressed the lawyers before them on how many people might need to be retried, with one lawyer saying it could be 1,000 to 1,600 in Louisiana alone. The Trump administration, for its part, has sided with the states and told the court that applying the decision retroactively would be “massively disruptive” in both Louisiana and Oregon and may mean “the release of violent offenders who cannot practically be retried.” The court's ruling in April produced an unusual lineup of justices, with liberals and conservatives on both sides of the decision. That’s because a key part of the case was whether to overrule a 1972 decision, and overturning precedent is a particularly charged issue on the court. This time around, it seemed votes could shift. Justice Elena Kagan, who was in dissent last time, siding against the inmate challenging a non-unanimous jury, seemed nonetheless sympathetic to the idea that the decision should be made retroactive, saying at one point: “How could it be that a rule like that does not have retroactive effect?” The case before the justices involves Louisiana prisoner Thedrick Edwards. A jury convicted Edwards of rape and multiple counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. The jury divided 10-2 on most of the robbery charges and 11-1 on the remaining charges. Edwards, who had confessed to police, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Edwards, who is Black, has argued among other things that prosecutors intentionally kept Black jurors off the case; the lone Black juror on the case voted to acquit him. Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
The Town of Deer Lake is set to begin gradually reopening some of its municipal buildings on Saturday, after taking its own initiative in closing them down due to a small cluster of COVID-19 cases.Those cases — including one in an elementary school — sprang up in the community over the last two weeks, prompting town officials to turn out the lights at several public facilities. The Hodder Memorial Recreation Centre will reopen to the public on Saturday. The town is reminding groups to review the safety measures previously established for arenas, outlined on the provincial government's COVID-19 website.The Deer Lake town office will resume operations on Monday.Businesses in Deer Lake that were asked to cease regular operations can now begin to reopen, based on their own unique protocols, according to a town media release."The cooperation and dedication of Deer Lake residents in controlling the spread of this virus in our community is truly remarkable," said Mayor Dean Ball in the media release."This virus has changed our daily lives significantly, [and] this surely hasn't been an easy time for anyone. I am confident that our united commitment and community spirit will carry us forward as we deal with the COVID-19 virus."On Wednesday Fitzgerald said public health is still keeping an eye on small clusters of COVID-19 cases located throughout the province — including Deer Lake. "Some people in Grand Bank have gotten through their isolation periods, but not everyone has. So we're still following up, and same for Deer Lake — we're only about half way through that," said Fitzgerald in Wednesday's live COVID-19 briefing."We're watching things closely. Anyone who was a close contact may go on to develop symptoms, so that's certainly something we're watching out for. But, by and large, we know what's happening there and we feel comfortable with where we are now."Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
COVID-19. Le gouvernement du Québec emboîte le pas au gouvernement fédéral et annonce que, à l'instar de la taxe sur les produits et services (TPS), la taxe de vente du Québec (TVQ) sera éliminée temporairement sur les achats de masques et d'écrans faciaux. «Nous travaillons de concert avec le gouvernement fédéral pour offrir aux citoyens et aux entreprises tout le soutien nécessaire en cette période de crise. La détaxation temporaire des masques et des écrans faciaux s'inscrit dans cette volonté», souligne Eric Girard, ministre des Finances. La détaxation de ces produits essentiels dans le contexte de la pandémie figure dans l'énoncé économique fédéral du 30 novembre 2020. Une modification sera apportée au régime de la TVQ afin d'y intégrer cette mesure, qui sera applicable à compter de la même date que la mesure fédérale. Par ailleurs, le ministère des Finances du Québec analyse actuellement d'autres propositions législatives présentées par la ministre des Finances du Canada. Les décisions d'harmonisation à leur égard seront annoncées ultérieurement. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Leave the snow boots, parkas and glove warmers in the closet, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is coming down from the mountain and straight to your living room. Organizers on Wednesday said that this year they will premiere over 70 films on a custom online platform during the seven day event. There will also be some socially distanced screening opportunities around the country. The festival, which is normally held in Park City, Utah, has been preparing for various scenarios for months as the pandemic has raged on. Festival director Tabitha Jackson said that this model, “Gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are.” Over the course of the festival, feature films will premiere throughout the day at a dedicated time followed by a live Q&A. Ticketholders will have a three-hour window to watch. Second screenings will be available for 24 hours two days later. The rollout, organizers said, is designed to “preserve the energy of a Festival.” There will also be limited screenings at venues across the county, including Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidewalk Drive-In, Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl, Denver's Sie Film Center and Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center. “At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed,” Jackson said. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 through February 3, and tickets will be available for purchase for the general public beginning Jan. 7. The 2021 slate will be revealed in the coming weeks. Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Jasper Municipal Council had a lengthy discussion at their Dec. 1 regular meeting about the options for utility fees in Jasper in 2021, including whether they wanted to set a flat consumption rate or change tiered. Mayor Richard Ireland said utility fees had been discussed at five meetings and it was time to move ahead and council directed administration to prepare a bylaw that includes a flat consumption rate. The bylaw will generate about $750,000 of additional revenue, and will include a base rate related to meter size. The first reading of the utility fees bylaw is scheduled for Dec. 15. Administration was also directed to bring suggestions to council in the new year, for moving to a tiered consumption rate for 2022. Support for sidewalk seating A majority of businesses surveyed in Jasper want patio seating to continue in the upcoming season, Pattie Pavlov, general manager, Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce told council at their regular meeting on Dec. 1, and a decision is needed soon. There's room for fine-tuning the program that ran last summer. Suggestions from respondents included adding additional bike parking, closing Patricia Street access on the 600 block to all vehicle traffic as far as TGP, and having businesses who want to participate pay all associated costs. But the general consensus among council members was to get matters moving so businesses can prepare for next year's season. Ireland said the program was put in place this year "to give businesses the opportunity to survive”. “In fact, it was spectacularly successful,” he said. There was discussion about needing more consultation with groups including Tourism Jasper and Community Futures as well as Parks Canada. Ireland said there needs to be individual business representation as well and pointed out the program is not limited to restaurants. Overall, council approved of something similar to the pilot program that ran in 2020. A subsequent program has to be reviewed by the Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) with Parks Canada. Council hopes okaying a similar program for 2021 will lead to quick approval from Parks Canada. They're scheduled to make a decision about extended seating and retail areas at their regular meeting on Dec. 15.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.