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
MADRID — Lionel Messi is back in the Barcelona squad that will face second-division club Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. Messi has not played in the Copa del Rey this season but coach Ronald Koeman is expected to use him in the round-of-16 game after missing two matches because of a suspension. Messi had been rested before that because of an unspecified minor fitness problem. “He's fresh and isn't feeling any ailments,” Koeman said Tuesday. “To win things we need Messi to be in good shape and playing at the level that he can play. He is excited to play. He is the kind of player who wants to play in every match. We will look at our opponent and tomorrow we will know exactly who will be in the starting 11.” Messi received a two-match suspension for hitting an opponent away from the ball late in the team’s 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final on Jan. 17. He did not play against Cornellà in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey last week, nor against Elche in the Spanish league on Sunday. Barcelona won both matches 2-0. The Catalan club trails Spanish league leader Atlético Madrid by 10 points and is three points behind second-place Real Madrid entering the second half of the season. Atlético has a game in hand. Barcelona has played well this year despite the loss to Athletic in the Spanish Super Cup. It has won four straight league matches, all away from home. The Catalan club is unbeaten in nine consecutive league games. Rayo is coming off a loss to Mallorca but previously had won six in a row in all competitions. It sits fourth in the second-division standings, in good position to earn promotion. Barcelona defender Sergiño Dest will not play Wednesday because of a “thigh discomfort,” the club said. The Copa del Rey's round of 16 is still played in one-game matchups. “The Copa is a shorter tournament, with fewer games, and we play to win it," Koeman said. “I want to see my team with this winning mentality, just like it showed until now.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
Ani Di Franco, "Revolutionary Love” (Righteous Babe Records) Pioneering folkie activist Ani Di Franco is a standout instrumentalist whose guitar could kill fascists. Alas, on “Revolutionary Love,” her six-string doesn’t play a major role — or many notes. Not that Di Franco has gone mellow. With characteristic passion on her first studio album since 2017, she makes the personal universal, and the political personal. Her title cut is a seven-minute pledge to propel social movements with love and forgiveness, the message underscored by a slow-burn soul groove. Elsewhere Di Franco quotes Michelle Obama, skewers an ex-president and calls for resilience in the wake of depressing news headlines. Such topics are mixed with couplets about personal pain and bliss, sometimes within the same song. The best of “Revolutionary Love” is very good. Di Franco's acoustic guitar is most prominent on “Metropolis,” and it's beautiful — a love ballad with shimmering reeds that evoke her description of “fog lifting off the bay.” The equally compelling “Chloroform” laments domestic dysfunction as a string quartet creates dissonance of its own. Elsewhere Di Franco blends elements of folk, jazz and R&B, and makes music suitable for a rally. She's at her most politically vociferous on “Do or Die,” singing about “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to a Latin beat. Di Francophiles will find it positively patriotic. Steven Wine, 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
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
An RCMP project to build two new detachments in Faro and Carcross, and renovate another one in Ross River, Yukon, is on track to come in $6 million above its initial budget, according to documents obtained by CBC News. An October briefing note prepared for Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee says a funding shortfall was known since at least November 2019. In September, the project management team told government officials "the program budget remains at $11.69M and [is] currently trending at $13.4M." Justice department spokesperson Patricia Randell said in an email that the combined cost for all three detachments is now nearly $17.7 million. But she said the RCMP moved money around within its capital budget, which means there won't be any additional costs for the Yukon government. "Typical projects start with a preliminary concept and then move through planning, design, procurement and construction phases," Randell wrote. "As projects move through these phases, different options may be considered and decisions are made to keep costs within the assigned budget." Randell said the Yukon government's share of the project costs remains approximately $9.9 million. The federal government is contributing $7.8 million New detachments to be green buildings Randell said the Carcross detachment is forecast to cost $8.2 million and the Faro detachment $5.5 million. The current Ross River detachment is slated to undergo renovations at a cost of around $3.9 million. The three projects fall under a five-year capital plan that expires in 2022. Construction is scheduled to be completed by that year. Assessment documents filed with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) for the Faro project say the new detachment will be built on the site of the existing one. The building is to be built with modular components and will be net-zero carbon emissions, with solar panels and geothermal energy. No YESAB applications have yet been filed for the Ross River and Carcross projects. The briefing note says the Yukon government urged the RCMP to "consider a smaller detachment in Carcross that align with the current staffing model." The government also requested that the Faro detachment be built as a "community policy office" linked to a "hub policing model based in Ross River." The Yukon RCMP did not respond to a request for comment.
GENEVA — The candidate for FIFA’s top decision-making body who lost after facing gender bias and improper influence said on Tuesday the Asian Football Confederation should re-run its tainted election. Mariyam Mohamed said the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s verdict Monday -- after she alleged misconduct by the AFC and Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah -- undermined the winning candidates at Asian soccer elections in 2019. The court found the allegations of discrimination against women and inducements offered to be proven in Mohamed’s appeals but let the election results stand. “The currently elected officials at the AFC and FIFA have no legitimacy and there should be new elections as soon as possible,” she said in a statement to the Associated Press. The AFC said on Tuesday it would “review the CAS awards to understand what appropriate action(s) can be taken.” “The AFC notes that it is always determined to maintain the highest possible standards in these important areas.” Mohamed filed formal complaints to the AFC in April 2019 saying pressure put on her by its officials and Sheikh Ahmad left her feeling “unsafe (and) threatened.” She alleged the Kuwaiti sheikh offered her inducements to withdraw from a vote to join the FIFA Council as Asia’s female delegate. In 2017, U.S. federal authorities implicated him in buying influence in soccer elections. He denied wrongdoing but was forced out of his own FIFA Council seat. She said Sheikh Ahmad told her at a luxury hotel in Kuala Lumpur she would have no future in soccer if she stood against his favoured candidate. Mohamed lost to her opponent from Bangladesh 31-15 in a poll of AFC member federations. All 15 candidates for AFC positions on a list circulated before the vote, and reportedly backed by the Olympic Council of Asia which Sheikh Ahmad leads, ended up winning. The OCA declined to comment after the elections. Mohamed filed two appeals at CAS in the Olympic home city of Lausanne, Switzerland. The court said its judges agreed with both, finding fault with the AFC election committee’s refusal to investigate Mohamed’s complaint of discrimination, and the disciplinary committee’s failure to do a timely investigation of improper third-party influence. “The CAS panel found denial of justice, serious corruption and discrimination,” Mohamed said, hailing the verdict “a fabulous result.” However, it was a partial win for the Maldives soccer official as the three judges did not annul the vote or order new AFC elections. The court decided the proven offer of inducements had no effect because Mohamed did not withdraw her candidacy. The judges also said the AFC’s electoral and disciplinary committees had no authority to annul or re-run polls, nor amend the soccer body’s legal statutes. The AFC legal director in 2019, Benoît Pasquier, declined comment on the case on Tuesday to the AP. He cited having left the soccer body and now being on the CAS list of approved arbitrators. The court has not yet published the full written verdict of its judging panel chaired by John Boultbee, an Australian barrister and former long-time official at rowing’s governing body. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press
Uplifting music, engaging speakers and eye-catching posters. This year's African Heritage Month celebration was launched online today. Premier Stephen McNeil, Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc, and African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince spoke at the event. "I encourage all Nova Scotians to listen, learn, share and act as we celebrate African Nova Scotian heritage month," said McNeil, officiating the launch of the event. The provincial theme, Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share and Act, calls on all Nova Scotians to make a better society by recognizing the long-standing history and legacy of African Nova Scotians, and by acknowledging racialized issues and adversity for people of African descent. Led by Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, mayors from 18 municipalities in the province acknowledged the launching of the heritage month during the virutal event, marking the first joint municipal proclamation. The kickoff event also featured local musicians: Zamani Benard-Millar and Amariah Bernard Washington. The artists performed O' Canada in the beginning and later a song named Outside, together with Nzingha Bernard-Millar. Ince unveiled the poster at Government House, together with LeBlanc and his wife Patsy. "For this year's theme and poster design, we wanted to highlight key important accomplishments, successes and milestones by African Nova Scotians. We also felt it was important to incorporate elements of the Black Lives Matter social movement which has been a significant influence in advocating for racial justice and diversity," said Russell Grosse, the executive director of the Black Cultural Centre and organizational lead of the African Heritage Month Information Network. Over 70 per cent of African Nova Scotians have roots in the province going back three generations or more, and 2.4 per cent of Nova Scotians identify as African Nova Scotian. Some the highlights of this year's events include an online sing-along, a skating party in Guysborough, and a panel discussion on fitting African-centred perspectives into social work practice. Details of the events throughout the month can be found here. Lu Xu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
Canada will soon make foreign travel harder in a bid to clamp down on the coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday without giving details, prompting major provinces to demand action. A second wave of coronavirus is sweeping Canada and health officials say some hospitals run the risk of being overwhelmed. Trudeau is urging Canadians not to travel abroad and said Ottawa intended to introduce more restrictions.
WHISTLER, B.C. — A cougar has attacked and severely mauled a man in British Columbia.A statement from the Environment Ministry, which oversees the Conservation Officer Service, says the 69-year-old victim is recovering in hospital from serious injuries to his face and hand.The attack occurred Monday near the man's property in the Soo Valley, about 150 kilometres north of Vancouver, between Whistler and Pemberton.The ministry says Whistler RCMP officers were first on the scene and shot and killed a cougar prowling nearby.Conservation officers with a specialized team that investigates predator attacks also responded.The ministry says those officers don't believe there is any ongoing risk to the public and further details could be released soon.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
BETHEL, Alaska — Residents of an Alaska village met with health officials and government agencies to consider methods to restore running water after a fire destroyed the community's water plant. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has provided bottled water and hand sanitizer to residents of Tuluksak since the community's water plant and laundromat burned Jan. 16. Alaska State Troopers said the fire burned as residents of the Alaska Native community northeast of Bethel unsuccessfully tried to douse the flames with water hauled from the Tuluksak River. Health corporation President Dan Winkelman said in a statement that everything possible will be done to help restore Tuluksak's water service. “We understand the importance of this resource, and our staff will continue to work hand-in-hand with Tribal, state, and federal representatives to bring about solutions to restore access to it as quickly as possible,” Winkelman said. The corporation hosted a meeting last week for local, state and federal agencies. The groups discussed connecting a community well to the school, which is equipped to provide running water. Residents could temporarily use the system for laundry and to transfer water to their homes. John Nichols of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, who attended the meeting, said the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has a portable water treatment plant in Bethel that could be operational in the village by the summer. But officials must determine if the plant can purify water from the Tuluksak River, a tributary of the Kuskokwim River. Residents have previously complained to the state Legislature about sediment making Tuluksak River water unsafe to drink. Nichols said purifying the water would require different processes than those used in other water sources. “If you were to, say, look at the waters of the Kenai River versus the Copper River versus the Kuskokwim River, you can tell just by looking that the water quality is very, very different,” Nichols said. If the corporation's purifier does not work, a portable system from the continental U.S. may be required. The tribe must verify whether the building was insured before agencies can release funds to subsidize any system. Community officials said the person who has the insurance information was not immediately available after testing positive for COVID-19. The Associated 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
OTTAWA — A man accused of ramming through a gate at Rideau Hall while heavily armed is slated to enter a plea in Ontario court Feb. 5.Corey Hurren, a Manitoba military reservist and sausage-maker, faces 21 weapons charges and one of threatening Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.Hurren allegedly drove a truck onto the grounds of the official residence July 2 and set out on foot toward the house where the prime minister lives.Hurren is accused of uttering a threat to "cause death or bodily harm" to Trudeau, who was not home at the time.He was allegedly armed with several guns, including one with an illegal magazine.Hurren made a brief court appearance Tuesday as a judge and lawyers worked out a date for the plea.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Sharon Bala knows the power of recognizing yourself in a story, and the pain of seeing your identity smeared across the page. The Sri Lankan-Canadian author says misrepresentations in fiction can feel like a form of literary violence, warping the way some readers see the real-life harms against people who aren't like them. "When we see ourselves misrepresented on the page, it just feels like the writer has taken their pen and shoved it into our eyes," said Bala, who won awards acclaim for her 2018 debut novel "The Boat People." "We can't pretend that we live in some rarefied bubble as writers where we are separate from the world." From using sexual violence against women as a plot point in a male hero's arc, to killing off an Indigenous character for dramatic tension, Bala said storytelling tropes often serve as a mirror of the systemic indifference toward the suffering of marginalized groups. But as society reckons with these injustices, the St. John's, N.L.-based novelist said a long-simmering conversation among authors about how to responsibly write about identities other than their own, whether that be a character of a different race, gender, sexuality, ability or class. In the past, she said, the public discourse about literary representation has been dominated by a privileged few stoking fears over perceived threats to authors' purported "right" to pluck inspiration from other communities as they please, said Bala. Examples include the 2017 CanLit controversy over an online campaign to fund a writing prize for cultural appropriation, or the tastemakers who rose to American author Jeanine Cummins' defence after the January release of her much-hyped book, "American Dirt," drew criticism from Latino writers and activists for trading in stereotypes about Mexicans. But Bala, who hosted an online workshop on literary representation earlier this month, says the strong turnout shows that writers know they can no longer afford to weaponize "the other" as a cudgel in someone else's narrative. Rather, she said, creators are grappling with questions that in some ways cut to the core of the mission of fiction: How do you write about who you don't know, and should you? "None of us are perfect. We're all going to make mistakes," said Bala. "But I think that if we ... have tried and still made the mistake, there's actually a lot of empathy for that within the writing community." Bala said she only writes about communities she has ties to, and people she'll have to answer to for any distortions. She's also a proponent of bringing in "sensitivity readers" — cultural experts who review manuscripts for inaccuracies — early in the writing process to catch misconceptions before they become embedded in the narrative. Emma Donoghue, the London, Ont.-based author behind "Room," said she's also enlisted the help of cultural consultants as part of her process. But ultimately, Donoghue said she and other white writers have a responsibility to assess their own abilities and motives before depicting different demographics. "I think it's a richer cultural landscape," she said. "If that means that the writers who used to sort of costlessly write about anything have to be a bit more careful, then that just comes with the territory." Acclaimed author Thomas King, who is of Greek and Cherokee descent, said he tries not to stray too far from his realm of experience in writing his protagonists. Characters of diverse backgrounds often populate his narratives, but King said he wouldn't write from another community's point of view because he wouldn't feel comfortable "taking on that skin." King said some of the most persistent pop culture narratives play into cliches and stereotypes to reinforce the audience's pre-existing biases. "While they're not authentic, to the public mind, they appear to be," he said. "Certainly, for Native people that happened with non-Native writers writing about Native characters." Novelist Andre Alexis holds that being too beholden to the burden of accurate representation can restrict the imaginative possibilities of literature. The Trinidad-born, Ottawa-raised writer said problems can arise when playing pretend with someone else's reality, and writers should have to answer for their misrepresentations. However, Alexis maintains that imagining "the other" serves a vital function not only in the arts, but for society at large. "It's important for the Americans to imagine what it's like to be a member of one of the countries they've attacked and ruined," said Alexis, who won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize for "Fifteen Dogs." "That imagining of the others who you have made to suffer is a tremendously significant moral step." Sanchari Sur, a genderqueer writer who uses the pronouns "she" and "they" interchangeably, said growing up they never saw queer characters, particularly South Asian ones, represented in fiction. "When you don't see yourself represented, or when you see yourself represented as a stereotype or negatively, that does impact you," said Sur, who is earning a PhD in English at Wilfrid Laurier University. Still, Sur said there needs to be space for writers to make mistakes and engage with critical feedback. Sur confronted this issue during a writers' retreat when they received a negative response to a piece they wrote that centred on a transgender woman's experience of familial emotional trauma. Sur, who was wrestling with their own gender identity at the time, said some trans participants at the retreat took issue with a non-trans author writing about the trans body in relation to trauma. Sur said the critiques caught them off guard, and it took months to work up the wherewithal to return to fiction. In the time since, Sur has come to see that there were technical problems with the story that contributed to the blowback, and feels they're a better writer because of the incident. "If you're being called out for something that is inherently wrong or dehumanizing in some way, then you have to acknowledge that and you have to learn from it." Kim Davids Mandar, an emerging writer in Guelph, Ont., said the complexities of literary representation have personal resonance for her as the daughter of immigrants who fled post-apartheid South Africa to provide a better life for their mixed-race family in Canada. When a publisher approached her about conducting a series of interviews for a collection, Davids Mandar said she jumped at the chance to ask some of Canada's finest literary minds about how they work through questions of difference, identity and appropriation. The editor of "(In)Appropriate," which was released earlier this month, said she didn't reach any tidy conclusions during her conversations with the book's contributors, including Sur, Eden Robinson, Michael Crummey and Ian Williams. One theme that emerged was the role that publishers and booksellers play in amplifying certain voices at the expense of others, she said. A 2018 survey by the Association of Canadian Publishers on diversity found 82 per cent of the 279 respondents who worked in the industry identified as white. "I think we can't pretend that we don't live within this context, and that it doesn't actually impact the books industry," said Davids Mandar. Overall, Davids Mandar said she walked away from the book with a renewed sense of urgency for Canada's literary community to engage in these shifting, sometimes messy conversations. "It really reflects where we're at, each of us as individuals, but also as a community, in truthfully embracing the fact that we need unity, but we also need diversity and we have to have them together." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
More than two weeks after Canada implemented a rule that incoming airline passengers must show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a plane, the country still appears to be seeing some travel-related cases and the federal government is exploring ways to make it harder to go on trips. As more transmissible variants of the COVID virus emerge across the globe, experts say tightening the leaks around travel becomes even more important, and that the new testing requirements are not likely to catch all cases. COVID projections from Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist with Simon Fraser University, show a potentially grim picture for the next few months, with a skyrocketing spring wave fuelled by community spread of a more contagious variant. Colijn says clamping down on travel is her "top recommendation right now." "There's still a good chance that we can prevent — or at least really delay — large numbers of this high-transmission variant coming into Canada," she said. "And if we can push that peak out to September, we may be able to avert it if most of us are vaccinated by then." Colijn says essential travel needs to be more clearly defined by leaders, and quarantine rules more strongly enforced once people arrive. More stringent restrictions on land border crossings and further limitations on travel within the country will also help, she adds. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canadians should cancel all upcoming non-essential trips they may have planned, other options the government is looking at include implementing a mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers. On Jan. 7, the government implemented a requirement that airline passengers entering Canada must show proof of a negative PCR test that was taken within 72 hours before their flight. Colijn and other experts are hopeful this rule is catching a large number of positive COVID cases, but the 72-hour window — necessary to ensure people have enough time to get results back — also allows the virus more chances to wiggle through. In some cases, very small amounts of the virus, which could grow to infectious levels days later, aren't picked up in testing. Others cases could contract the virus between taking the test and boarding the plane. Dr. Christopher Mody, the head of the microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases department at the University of Calgary, says PCR tests offer "a snapshot in time," meaning the result is only valid on the day the test is taken. "A positive test means you're infected, but a negative test doesn't absolutely exclude infection," Mody said. A Government of Canada online database that keeps track of possible exposure on domestic and international flights shows that since Jan. 7, hundreds of planes have had at least one passenger on board who tested positive for the virus days after landing, and may have been contagious on their flight. Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University, says while the negative test requirement is likely helping on a large scale, "it's gonna miss a few people for sure." "Clearly it isn't a perfect system, but there are also a number of people who have been rejected for flights based on their tests," he said. "This just isn't enough to say everyone coming into Canada is completely not infectious at the border." Some experts have suggested the use of rapid antigen tests at airports, either right before boarding or right after landing, as a potential way to ensure positive cases aren't travelling between countries or regions. Dr. Don Sin, a respirologist and UBC professor who's co-leading a rapid test pilot project with WestJet at Vancouver International Airport, says rapid testing could offer a measure of insurance — a second step to be used in addition to the PCR negative test requirement. Rapid antigen tests, which turn results around in 15 minutes, aren't as sensitive as the PCR nasal swab, Sin says, but they work very well in catching positive cases. "If you test positive on the antigen test, you'll test positive with a PCR," he said. "So I think the public can have confidence in the ability of these tests to accurately pick up those who are infectious." Experts say testing can only be part of the strategy to contain the spread of new cases though. The mandatory 14-day quarantine period, which Canada is still implementing, needs to be followed properly. Mody says people also need to understand that a negative test taken days before flying isn't a free pass to skip that isolation period. "We are in a very tenuous time with these variants," Mody said. "If there is community transmission of the variants, we will be in a very serious situation." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version erroneously reported that travellers flying from city to city within Canada must show a negative COVID-19 test. In fact, the requirement is for air travellers coming from international destinations.
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.
Greg Funston, a University of Alberta PhD student, and his team uncovered the first tyrannosaur embryo fossils ever recorded.
Orangeville Hydro plans to borrow $1 million to sustain its capital works plan, half the amount it originally planned, as it attempts to cut costs. A report, presented to Grand Valley council on Jan. 12, states this is done to fund regulatory-related payments, such as increased Hydro One low voltage, network and connection charges. “Historically, Orangeville has provided safe and reliable and cost-effective power to our customers, and our business plan shows that,” said Rob Koekkoek, president of Orangeville Hydro. A $2-million loan was previously budgeted in 2021, but with some expenditures deferred due to COVID-19, as well as a corporate-wide attempt to reduce expense, including financing costs, the forecasted loan was reduced to $1 million. The business plan calls for another $1 million increase in borrowing in 2022 and $2 million in borrowing in 2024. In terms of revenue, the total cost per customer is calculated as the sum of Orangeville Hydro’s capital and operating costs and dividing this cost figured by the total number of customers it serves. Orangeville Hydro’s cost performance increased in 2019 to $568 per customer, above the cost performance in 2018 at $551 per customer. Koekkoek states the number of the company’s customers go up, as the population continues to grow, and infrastructure is constantly upgraded. Orangeville Hydro’s service areas have a population of about 32,000 and are expected to grow to 42,540 by 2036, according to forecasts contained within the Dufferin County Official Plan. Koekkoek said he understands the devastating impacts COVID-19 may have had on customers' budgets and he discussed a way for them to save money. “For businesses and residential that are struggling with their bills, that have been economically impacted by COVID-19, we have the energy response program available for residential and business customers,” he said. “They can get, basically a rebate, on their electricity bills to help them with their costs if they are falling behind.” Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
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.