European Union and British negotiators worked right into Christmas Eve to try wrapping up a deal.
European Union and British negotiators worked right into Christmas Eve to try wrapping up a deal.
WASHINGTON — The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. The two German shepherds are the first pets to live at the executive mansion since the Obama administration. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. Champ joined the family after the 2008 presidential election that made Joe Biden vice-president. The dogs moved into the White House on Sunday, following Biden's inauguration last week. “The first family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.” The dogs were heard barking outside near the Oval Office on Monday as Biden signed an executive order lifting the previous administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Last week, the Delaware Humane Association cosponsored an “indoguration” virtual fundraiser to celebrate Major's journey from shelter pup to first dog. More than $200,000 was raised. Major is the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House and “barking proof that every dog can live the American dream," the association said. The Bidens had promised to bring the dogs with them to the White House. They plan to add a cat, though no update on the feline's arrival was shared on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki predicted, while on video answering questions from members of the public, that the cat will “dominate the internet” when it arrives. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, a self-described germaphobe, does not own any pets and had none with him at the White House. Just like they do for ordinary people, pets owned by the most powerful people in the world provide their owners with comfort, entertainment, occasional drama and generally good PR. “Pets have played an important role in the White House throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images,” said Jennifer Pickens, author of a book about pets at the White House. Pets also serve as ambassadors to the White House, she said. Pickens added that she hoped the Bidens' decision to bring a rescue dog to the White House might inspire others to adopt. President Theodore Roosevelt had Skip, who is described by the White House Historical Association as a “short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier brought home from a Colorado bear hunt.” Warren G. Harding had Laddie Boy, who sat in on meetings and had his own Cabinet chair. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his beloved terrier Fala. At night, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed. More recently, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel Millie was featured on “The Simpsons” and starred in a bestseller, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.” Hillary Clinton followed Bush’s lead with a children’s book about family dog Buddy and cat Socks: “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” When he declared victory in the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama told his daughters: “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Several months later, Bo joined the family, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. A few years later, fellow Portuguese water dog Sunny arrived. Among the stranger White House pets was Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge’s raccoon Rebecca. She was given to the Coolidge family by a supporter who suggested the raccoon be served for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the White House Historical Association. But instead she got an embroidered collar with the title “White House Raccoon” and entertained children at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Some notable pets belonged to first kids, including Amy Carter’s Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, and Caroline Kennedy’s pony Macaroni. The Kennedy family had a veritable menagerie, complete with dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa. President Harry Truman famously said that “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and many successors have followed Truman's advice. The first President Bush once said, “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to help you get through the rough spots.” ___ Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Canada's natural resources minister accused the Opposition of beating their chests in a show of support for the oil and gas industry, during an emergency debate in the House of Commons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline expansion project Monday evening. "Do we, as some are suggesting, start a trade war with our closest ally and largest trading partner, with the single largest customer for Canadian crude? ... I have not yet heard a single argument that would convince me a trade war is in the best interests of our oil and gas workers," Seamus O'Regan said. O'Regan said the new U.S. administration represents an opportunity to work together with a government aligned with Canada's priorities on clean energy, pointing to TC Energy — the Calgary-based company behind the Keystone project — committing to buying renewable energy to achieve net zero emissions. Last week, on his first day in office, U.S. President Joe Biden scrapped the pipeline's permit as one of multiple actions intended to fight climate change, effectively killing the $8-billion US project. If completed, the 1,897-kilometre pipeline expansion project, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of oilsands crude from Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, where it would then connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole called for the debate earlier on Monday, accusing the government of not doing enough to advocate for the expansion. During the evening's debate, which stretched until just past midnight in Ottawa, O'Toole described empty office towers and job losses in Calgary. "Canada has been dealt a serious blow … these are Canadians, thousands of them, being totally forgotten and left behind by this government," he said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has repeatedly said it supports the project, and Trudeau expressed his disappointment with Biden during a call between the two nations' leaders on Friday. "We will stand up and have our workers' backs.… Let's talk TMX. We approved it, we bought it, we're building it," O'Regan said, referring to the federal purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is under construction. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has called for sanctions against the U.S. in response to the permit's cancellation. Kenney's government invested $1.5 billion Cdn in equity in the project alongside billions in loan guarantees.The provincial opposition NDP is calling on the Alberta government to release documents containing details of that deal, calling it a risky one. The project had been rejected under former president Barack Obama's government. It was later approved under former president Donald Trump, but Biden had repeatedly stated he intended to rescind that permit once elected. Canada's ambassador to the U.S. has said it's time to respect that decision, however disappointing it may be to proponents, and move forward. WATCH | Keystone XL pipeline project 'appears to be dead,' says Rachel Notley Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson said Biden's decision should have come as no surprise given Biden's opposition and legal challenges of the project. "Remember when Jason Kenney gambled on Donald Trump. He didn't gamble his money — he gambled ours … that was his plan to get jobs for workers in my province," she said. "Now, he wants to start a trade war with the U.S., the customer for 95 per cent of our energy exports." Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said while the decision did not come as a shock, it underlines that Canada is in a vulnerable position when it comes to its energy industry as the U.S. has increased domestic production. "With the stroke of a pen thousands of people are out of work in the middle of a global crisis ... Canadians whose livelihoods depend on the oil and gas sector are rightfully anxious about their future," she said. O'Regan referred to climate change as an "existential crisis." "The market has an important role here. It is the leading role in determining how investment decisions should be made, but it is our government's duty to set the parameters on that and to incent what we believe to be extraordinarily important goals, namely net-zero emissions by 2050. That is the goal we have set for ourselves, and many of our friends, colleagues and competitors around the world have also set that goal for themselves. This is an existential crisis, there is no question." It's also an economic crisis for the many people across the country who worry they may be left behind, he said. "We cannot allow that to happen." Former Green Party Leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May said it would be extremely unfair to say those who think the Keystone expansion cancellation was a good decision don't care about workers losing their jobs. "I would no more say that people who are supporting the oilsands are deliberately and consciously threatening my grandchildrens' future than I would say it's right to be celebrating when people suffer an immediate downturn in their economic prospects."
FREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick confirmed Monday that two residents of a long-term care facility in Saint John died last week after testing positive for COVID-19. Only one of those deaths, however, is being attributed to the novel coronavirus, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell told reporters Monday. The COVID-related death involved a person in their 70s, she said, adding that New Brunswick has reported a total of 14 fatalities linked to the virus. Seniors services company Shannex said Sunday that a resident of Parkland Saint John retirement complex died last Thursday and another died Friday. The company apologized for the delay in reporting the deaths, adding that identifying COVID-related deaths among residents can be complicated. Five of the 14 deaths in New Brunswick attributed to the virus have occurred at Parkland Saint John. New Brunswick health officials reported 27 new infections Monday, including 19 that were identified in the Edmundston region, which entered a 14-day lockdown on Sunday. Officials said the Saint John and Fredericton regions will move to the "orange" pandemic-alert level on Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. after they were at the "red," or highest level, for the past week. The Moncton region — where four new cases were reported Monday — will remain at the red level. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi regions could soon be moved into a more relaxed alert level because of the few daily reported cases in those areas. "We need to keep these zones in orange for now to ensure the health and safety of those who live there," Shephard said Monday, about those three regions. "But if trends continue to go well in these zones we will move all three to yellow once public health recommends we do so, hopefully later this week." Officials say there are 348 active reported infections in the province and six people in hospital with the disease, including three who are in intensive care. New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,151 infections since the start of the pandemic. Shephard said more than 14,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province and 2,839 people have received their second dose. "Vaccination clinics are planned for 20 long-term care facilities this week, using the Moderna vaccine to provide the first dose to more than 750 people," Shephard said, adding that "more than 1,600 health-care workers are scheduled to get their second dose of the vaccine this week." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not create the virus that causes COVID-19 and he is not forcing microchips into your body through vaccinations. Those pieces of misinformation are examples of what a group of Canadian scientists and health professionals is trying to discredit through a new campaign tackling inaccurate theories about the pandemic. About 40 misinformation debunkers are using the hashtag #ScienceUpFirst to provide science-based evidence on social media. "There's been misinformation about all kinds of things that you can do to treat COVID with crazy treatments like cow urine and bleach," said Prof. Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. Caulfield is spearheading the #ScienceUpFirst movement. "And now we're in the middle of trying to roll out the vaccine and we know that misinformation is having an adverse impact on vaccination. "Things like the vaccine will change your DNA. No, it won't. The idea that the vaccine is associated with infertility. No, it's not," Caulfield said Monday in a phone interview. "There is just an incredible amount of misinformation out there about COVID. I've been studying misinformation for decades. I've never seen anything like this." He said the campaign was already trending on Twitter on Monday, the day of its launch. Caulfield is known for taking actor Gwyneth Paltrow's wellness brand Goop to task in his book "Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything?'' as well as for a Netflix series called "A User's Guide to Cheating Death." The initiative is in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. "There's been research that has shown that the spread of misinformation is having an adverse impact on health and science policy, it's led to increased stigma and discrimination, and it's just added to the chaotic information environment that we all have to deal with," Caufield said. "The evidence tells us that debunking does work if you do it well, so we're trying to do it well. We're trying to listen. We're trying to be empathetic in our approach. We're trying to be creative in our messaging and, hopefully, even if we move the needle a little bit, we can make a difference." A spokesperson for #ScienceUpFirst says the campaign is pushing to involve Canadian athletes and celebrities to get the word out about tackling misinformation. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, 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.
Cases in Fort Frances and the region have decreased which is a good sign for the area but Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), said if cases rise again schools may have to return to online learning. It was announced on Thursday that schools in Fort Frances will open up to in-person learning on Jan.25. With the help of The Ministry of Education, additional safety measures will be implemented to help schools decrease the transmission of COVID-19. All school staff and visitors in both elementary and secondary schools must complete an on-site validation of COVID-19 screening before entering school property. The same on-site validation will be required by all secondary students beginning Feb. 10th, 2021 Young Hoon reminds parents and students of the new prevention measures which include mandatory masking in grades 1-3 in schools, on buses, in school board vehicles, and in before and after school programs, encouragement for masking in kindergarten students and masking outside when a physical distance of 2 meters or more cannot be maintained. As well, all students must be screened at home on a daily basis before going to school. This will be the first time Fort Frances students are back in the classroom since the holiday break. There were seven new cases reported in the region over the weekend, with three in the Kenora area, and four in the Rainy River District. There are now 19 active cases in the region. Since March there has been a total of 247 confirmed cases. Two people are currently hospitalized and there has been a total of 13 hospitalizations during the pandemic. Young Hoon is continuing to remind the public to continue practicing COVID-19 prevention measures and to avoid getting in contact with those outside of your household which is how COVID is often spread. “It’s really important for everyone to continue following public health measures because that helps to prevent a sudden increase in case numbers,” Young Hoon said. Restrictions are still in place in Manitoba, but some are slowly beginning to be loosened. Ontario remains under stay at home orders until at least Feb. 11 and Young Hoon said no one should be travelling to Manitoba unless for essential reasons like medical appointments. Young Hoon said it is normal for COVID-19 case numbers to fluctuate but it is important to look at the trend of how individuals are contracting the disease. She adds that the decrease in numbers has been a joint effort between the public follow prevention measures and contact tracing. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
CINCINNATI — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said Monday that he won’t seek reelection to a third term in 2022, expressing dismay with the deep partisanship and dysfunction in American politics. Portman, an establishment Republican who served in the House and in President George W. Bush's administration before joining the Senate, cited a political climate that has made it “harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress." “Our country is very polarized,” Portman said, adding that former President Donald Trump did not help with the polarization. “It’s shirts and skins right now. We need to tone it down.” The decision is one measure of the difficult politics facing many Republicans in Washington as they cede power in President Joe Biden's administration and watch their party split between hard-right Trump supporters and others eager to turn the page. Portman, who turned 65 last month, is among the longtime Republican lawmakers who often backed Trump, though not vociferously. Once dubbed “The Loyal Soldier” in a front-page profile story in his hometown Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman usually defended Trump or avoided criticism of him with carefully worded statements. After Trump called the presidential election rigged, citing no legitimate evidence, Portman said Trump had a right to a probe of any irregularities. But immediately after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of Trump backers, Portman said Trump needed to go on national TV to tell his supporters to refrain from violence. “Both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward, President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened,” Portman said. Portman’s announcement came the same day that the U.S. Senate is receiving the House impeachment article against Trump for his role in the Capitol riot. While some Republican senators have criticized going ahead with the trial with Trump out of office, Portman said last week that he would listen to the evidence presented by both sides before deciding how to vote. His retirement adds another open seat for the GOP to defend in 2022 as it seeks to regain control of a Senate that Democrats hold by virtue of Vice-President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaking vote. Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have said they plan to retire. Republicans have 20 seats up for reelection in 2022, compared to 14 for Democrats. Those GOP seats include presidential battlegrounds Wisconsin and Florida. Ohio, a perennial battleground for decades, has become more reliably Republican, carried by Trump by more than 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020. But Portman, like many mainstream GOP lawmakers viewed as insufficiently supportive of Trump, was considered likely to face a primary challenge from the right. Portman twice won election to the Senate by landslide margins. Still, his departure offers a glimmer of hope for Democrats in the state. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was reelected in 2018, but most other statewide officials are Republican. Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters said Portman should take “a long hard look in the mirror” before complaining about partisan gridlock and the end of civility in Washington. “Over the past four years, Rob Portman has been one of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders, so his attempt today to rewrite that history is ridiculous,” she said in a statement. Portman’s first federal government job started in 1989, when he served as an associate legal counsel in the George H.W. Bush White House. Portman considered Bush a mentor, one whose genteel style was far from that of the abrasive Trump and some of his Republican supporters in Washington Portman was elected to Congress from southern Ohio in a 1993 special election and won six more elections before President George W. Bush tapped him to serve as U.S. trade representative in 2005. He travelled the globe, negotiating dozens of trade agreements. Bush then nominated him to be White House budget director in 2006. Portman stepped down in 2007, then returned to politics in 2010 with a successful U.S. Senate run, and won again in 2016, both times by landslide margins. Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken said in a statement after Portman's announcement that his service has been “invaluable.” Generally voting with his party, Portman broke ranks in 2013 to announce his support for same-sex marriage. He said his son Will had come out as gay. Portman and his wife, Jane, have three children. After a long career, Portman said Monday that he was looking forward to spending more time with his family and in his community. He pledged to focus on legislative work in his last two years, working on pandemic relief — he participated in testing of a new vaccine — and issues he’s long been involved with such as fighting drug misuse. ___ Follow Dan Sewell at https://twitter.com/dansewell By Dan Sewell, The Associated Press
A variant of the COVID-19 virus known for its ease of transmission appears to have already entered the community, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a news conference Monday. "Let me be blunt: This now is very concerning," Shandro said. Alberta has found 20 cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, with all but one directly linked to travel, he said. That one case of the B117 variant has raised concerns that there may be more cases in the province. There are two coronavirus variants of concern, one first identified in the U.K. and one in South Africa. Five cases of the variant first identified in South Africa have also been found in Alberta, all related to travel. The ease in which these variants spread would cause huge spikes in Alberta's COVID-19 case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths, particularly without health measures in place to slow transmission, Shandro said. "These variants can spread very quickly," Shandro said. "The emerging research indicates that they have a significantly higher infection rate, estimated to be 30 to 50 per cent higher than the strain that we've had in Alberta to date." Cases skyrocket in U.K. England and Ireland have seen the variant spread rapidly throughout their populations and the U.K.'s daily mortality rate is the highest it's been since the start of the pandemic, he said. "Both countries saw a sharp increase in the number of cases, putting more strain on health-care resources, leading to more hospitalizations and ultimately strict lock down measures. Canada has not seen the variants spreading in large numbers, but that might be changing, he said. "There's no question this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink," he said. "It would significantly impact the health-care system and the services available to all Albertans." Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the non-travel case of the variant was the only one identified in the more than 1,000 samples screened last week by the lab. "While we continue to investigate this case to see if we can identify any contacts who may have had a travel exposure, this is a potentially concerning development," she said. "It underlines the importance of the work that our lab has been doing to expand their capacity to screen positive cases for genetic mutations of concern. "If additional steps are required to prevent the spread of variants in Alberta, we will take action to do so." The province is increasing its testing for variants with plans to have labs increase capacity for full genetic testing to 400 per week and 300 per day of the testing for variants, Shandro said. Restrictions remain The presence of the variants in the province complicates when health restrictions will be relaxed, he said. "We need to continue to proceed cautiously," Shandro said. "If we are not careful, the health system could be in dire straits." Alberta reported 362 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 25 additional deaths. There are now 637 people in hospital with the disease, 113 of them in intensive care. Labs performed 7,200 tests for the virus in the last 24 hours, with a positivity rate of about five per cent. Shandro acknowledged many businesses are anxious about the continuing restrictions. But, he said, easing restrictions depends on hospitalization rates and other metrics. "We understand that the balance of the restrictions against the social and the economic consequences of them but our focus is going to be on a risk-based approach, not essential versus non-essential." Shandro said the province will continue to work with sectors such as the restaurant industry to come up with a plan for easing restrictions. COVID-19 anniversary Monday marks one year since the first case of the virus that causes COVID-19 was confirmed in Canada, in a patient who had recently returned from Wuhan, China. On Jan. 21, 2020, Hinshaw issued her first warning about COVID-19, saying that Alberta was watching developments and taking precautions. The outbreak in China had tripled in size over the preceding weekend, with hundreds of people ill and six confirmed deaths. First cases had also been confirmed in Thailand, South Korea and Japan. One week later, on Jan. 28, Alberta activated its first low-level emergency response protocols. At that point, four cases had been confirmed in Canada, more than 9,000 across the globe. The province confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 5. Since then, 121,535 Albertans have been infected and there have been 1,576 deaths. As of Sunday, here is how the cases break down across the province: Calgary zone: 3,588 Edmonton zone: 3,245 North zone: 1,282 Central zone: 809 South zone: 399 Unknown: 14
B.C. health officials say they are extending the gap between shots to 42 days from 35 after learning fewer doses are on their way. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is at a critical juncture.
A man is in critical condition following a two-vehicle collision in Mississauga, Peel Regional Police say. Police earlier said the man had died but later issued a correction indicating he had lost vital signs and was revived. Emergency crews were called to the area of Dixie Road and Winding Trail at 2:47 p.m, where the man had been found with life-threatening injuries. He was rushed to a trauma centre and by 4:23, police said he had died. Shortly afterwards, they said the man had in fact lost vital signs and that medical staff were able to revive him. Dixie Road has been shut down in both directions from Burnhamthorphe East to Winding Trail, with drivers asked to use alternate routes. Peel police's major collision bureau has taken over the investigation. Anyone with dashcam or surveillance footage is being asked to contact police.
A Fort St. John man was sentenced last Tuesday to 20 months probation and 50 hours community service for an illegal cannabis grow-op in June 2017. Edward James Fennell, 51, pleaded guilty to to one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking, and for the production of more than three kilograms of cannabis seized from his home on 99 Avenue. Officers seized 170 plants from three hidden grow rooms inside the home, which RCMP described as a “typical two-stage grow op.” The cannabis had a street value between $60,000 to $95,000, court heard. Fennell previously had a medical licence to grow cannabis, which was expired at the time of his arrest, court heard. He declined an opportunity to speak to the court about his sentencing. He was issued a two-year suspended sentence, and released to serve 20 months probation and the requirement to complete community service. Cannabis became legal in Canada in October 2018. Email reporter Tom Summer at firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
POMPEII, Italy — Decades after suffering bombing and earthquake damage, Pompeii’s museum has been reborn, showing off exquisite finds from excavations of the ancient Roman city. Officials of the archeological park of the ruins of the city destroyed in 79 A.D. by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius inaugurated the museum on Monday. Known as the Antiquarium, the museum gives Pompeii a permanent exhibition space. Visitors can see sections of frescoed walls from the sprawling city's unearthed villas, examples of some of the graffiti unearthed by archaeologists as well as household objects ranging from silver spoons to a bronze food-warmer, items of the everyday life that was snuffed out by the volcanic explosion. First opened in about 1873, the Antiquarium was damaged by bombing during World War II and again in 1980, when a deadly earthquake rocked the Naples area. Since the quake, the museum had been closed, although it was reopened in 2016 as a space for temporary exhibitions. The Antiquarium's displays also document Pompeii's history as a settlement several centuries before it became a flourishing Roman city. Due to Italy's COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, currently only visitors from Italy's Campania region, which includes the Naples area and the Pompeii ruins, can see the museum. Pompeii is one of Italy's top tourist attractions, and when mass tourism eventually resumes, entrance tickets to the ruins will also include a visit to the Antiquarium. The re-opening of the museum after so many decades of travail is “a sign of great hope during a very difficult moment,” Pompeii's long time director, Massimo Osanna, said. He was referring to the harsh blow that the pandemic's travel restrictions have dealt to tourism, one of Italy's biggest revenue sources. On display in the last room of the museum are poignant casts made from the remains of some of Pompeii's residents who tried to flee but were overcome by blasts of volcanic gases or battered by a rain of lava stones ejected by Vesuvius. “I find particularly touching the last room, the one dedicated to the eruption, and where on display are the objects deformed by the heat of the eruption, the casts of the victims, the casts of the animals," Osanna said. “Really, one touches with one's hand the incredible drama that the 79 A.D. eruption was.” Large swaths of Pompeii remain to be excavated. While tourism virtually ground to a halt during the pandemic, archaeologists have kept working. Just a month ago, Osanna revealed the discovery of an ancient fast-food eatery at Pompeii. Completely excavated, the find helped to reveal dishes popular with the citizens of the ancient city who apparently were partial to eating out, including what was on the menu the day that Pompeii was destroyed. —- D'Emilio reported from Rome. Andrea Rosa,Frances D'Emilio, The Associated Press
TUNIS, Tunisia — Clashes in Tunisia between groups of young people and police broke out Monday evening, following the death of a local man in his 20s who participated in last week's protests. He is reportedly the first fatality of the demonstrations that swept the North African nation. Angry residents fired projectiles at police and attempted to enter a security post in Sbeitla in the Kasserine region, after blocking the town’s main road by setting tires on fire, according to state news agency TAP. Law enforcement responded with tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters, and a chase took place through city streets. TAP said that the army was deployed to calm unrest there and protect public buildings. The family of the victim, Haykel Rachdi, claims he was shot in the head by a tear gas canister Wednesday and was transferred to Sousse hospital, where he died Monday. Some reports said that the victim died after sustaining injuries from falling from a ladder near the protests. The death would represent the first fatality recorded since the outbreak of social unrest that rocked the country for a week and which resulted in around 1,200 arrests. More than 30% of those were minors protesting against unemployment and precarious living conditions in the country's poorest regions. The Interior Ministry said Monday that an investigation has been opened to determine the cause of Rachdi's death. The deputy public prosecutor of Kasserine told The Associated Press that investigators from Tunis will interview the doctor who had to treat the victim during his transfer to the hospital, as well as witnesses, pending a forensic autopsy report. The Associated Press
She’s had Dex since he could fit in her hand. As a puppy, Dex had an overbite that made nursing impossible. So Cindi Ilchuk adopted and hand fed the dog until he was able to eat. Now he’s 10 years old, 65 pounds, and the two are inseparable. “Dex is a support dog. He’s not an officially trained support dog, but he fell into the job and he’s filled the role wonderfully,” said Ilchuk’s stepfather Wayne Pierce. “That dog is everything to Cindi. I don’t know what she’d do without him. He’s the one constant in her life.” On Jan. 17, Dex broke his paw in the panic that ensued when a fire engulfed the hallway at Ilchuk’s apartment — the Town Park Apartment C block fire that has displaced everyone who lived in the 15 units. RELATED: ‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months RELATED: Fundraiser started for tenants left hanging after apartment fire In the panic of the fire, Ilchuck slid down the drain pipe to escape the fire and smoke in the hallway. A friend tried to pass Dex down to her. She half-caught, half-broke the dog’s fall, but he landed on one paw breaking it badly. “Everyone heard him yelp when that happened,” Pierce said. If the break had been a few inches higher, a simple cast could have been used. But the paw was broken at a joint, and requires surgery. Dex has been at the North Island Veterinarian Hospital since the fire and is getting anxious for Ilchuk, staff told Pierce. Pierce will take Dex to Campbell River Veterinarian Hospital for surgery on Jan. 25, but isn’t sure how their family will cover the $4,000 bill, plus over $1,000 due to the North Island Veterinarian Hospital. Ilchuk is on disability income for a variety of health challenges, and now faces the imminent challenge of finding new housing. She has been living in Town Park Apartment C-block in Port Hardy for just over a year — the longest home Pierce can remember in the last 20 years. Ilchuk’s mother Ann Ilchuk has started a GoFundMe account to raise funds towards the surgery costs: https://gofund.me/70f1ef35. Staff at both veterinarian hospitals will also accept payments to Dex’s account. RCMP consider the fire suspicious and are investigating. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.com Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
And you better believe Avril Lavigne is also having a pop-punk comeback.
WHITEHORSE — Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says a federal government decision to refer a proposed mining development back to a territorial assessment board sends a "troubling signal." A statement from Silver's office says the referral creates "unreasonable and unnecessary uncertainty" for developer BMC Minerals. The Kudz Ze Kayah project is a proposed open pit and underground zinc, silver, copper, gold and lead mine east of Whitehorse, and Silver says the territory's assessment board had already issued recommendations about it. He says Yukon was prepared to accept the recommendations and proceed, but the federal referral derails any action. The project has undergone four years of review since BMC Minerals took it over in January 2015. Natural Resources Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Silver says his government opposes the referral and believes the territory's assessment board was reasonable to allow work to proceed with added improvements and monitoring. "The Government of Canada absolutely needs to take steps to streamline these processes going forward to ensure greater clarity and certainty for the mining industry," Silver says in the release issued Monday. A statement on the Kudz Ze Kayah website says the project should have annual production of just under 107,000 tonnes of zinc and smaller amounts of lead and copper over its nine-year life span, with all the ore shipped overseas through the port of Stewart in northwestern B.C. BMC Minerals, an offshoot of United Kingdom-based BMC Ltd., says the project will provide jobs and business opportunities for Kaska First Nation citizens and local communities, supporting the territory and the rest of Canada. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Charges have been laid against several people at an anti-mask protest held in Moncton on Sunday. Codiac Regional RCMP arrested at least five people who appeared in Moncton provincial court Monday by phone from police holding cells. The arrests followed Codiac Regional RCMP telling Moncton council last week that officers would take action regarding anti-mask protesters flouting provincial rules meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. 2 people face criminal charges All five were issued tickets for alleged violations of New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Act. It's alleged they attended an outdoor gathering of more than five people while not wearing a mask. Jonathan Rossiter, 29, of Nackawic, and Dawn Teakles, 49, of Moncton, face charges of assaulting police officers and obstructing police officers. Crown prosecutor Remi Allard told provincial court Judge Lucie Mathurin he was objecting to their release from custody but wanted time to review their files in more detail. Later in the day, he told the judge the Crown would consent to their release on various conditions, including staying away from Moncton City Hall, where protests have been held. They are scheduled to return to court to enter a plea on Feb. 22. "We can no longer gather peacefully?" Teakles asked the judge Monday afternoon. "I'm not here to give you a legal opinion," Mathurin said, telling her she'd have to consult with a lawyer. Earlier in the day, Allard said he was seeking to have all five held pending bail hearings. "At this point it is repetition of the offence," Allard said. 'This is false imprisonment' Rossiter in a boisterous appearance told the judge he had a medical exemption that allows him not to wear a mask. Others charged also alleged they have medical exemptions that allow them not to wear masks. Rossiter, appearing by phone, yelled that he wasn't part of the protest and was only there filming. "This is false imprisonment," Rossiter said. After the judge outlined the ticket involving the alleged violation of the province's emergency order, Rossiter said "there is no emergency." "Everything you just said is fraudulent, it's pathetic," he said, going on to say he would charge all of the police officers involved." "Everything you're doing is illegal, you criminals," he said. David West, 54, of Riverview, Nicholas DeAngelis, 34, of Bathurst, and Britney Green, 31, of Bathurst, were issued tickets for violations of the Emergency Measures Act. Mathurin appeared skeptical when the Crown objected to their release earlier in the day. "This is the 10th such occasion that the RCMP have dealt with her," Allard said of Green, noting she had also been ticketed by the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force on Saturday. The judge noted that would have involved travelling between two health zones, something that's discouraged under COVID-19 rules. West, DeAngelis and Green remain in custody with a bail hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Julie Payette's access to a six-figure expense account is being reviewed in the wake of her resignation as governor general following a blistering outside report on the workplace environment at Rideau Hall. Under the Governor General's Act, former vice-regals are entitled to an annuity which, according to the 2020 Public Accounts, amounts to $149,484 per year. They are also given access to a lifetime expense program for office and travel expenses — a program that grew out of a Treasury Board decision in 1979. Documents obtained by the National Post in 2018 show that each former governor general is allowed to claim up to $206,000 per year under the program. In an interview with CBC News' Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos, Freeland said that former governors general are legally entitled to the annuity. "It is buttressed by laws and those laws include the pension to which all former governors general are entitled. That's just the law and I think we all agree we need to follow the law," she said. "In terms of the other aspects of the life of someone who has served as governor general after they are no longer serving as governor general, all of those issues are under careful consideration." WATCH / Chrystia Freeland on Payette's expense account: When asked specifically about the expense account, Freeland said "everything is under careful consideration." "It is going to be important for our government, and what I can 100 per cent commit to Canadians is we're going to follow the law here and the legal entitlements are entitlements we're going to honour, because we believe in honouring Canada's political institutions," she said. "The important thing at this point is not what I think. It is what the rules are, and that is something that is being looked into very carefully right now." Opposition questions Payette's access to funds A Rideau Hall spokesperson said the expense account is meant for former governors general who continue to serve the public after they step down or retire. "Once governors general end their mandate, there remains an expectation that they continue to serve as Canadian leading figures. This expectation of continued public life means that they are regularly solicited to support various causes, take part in important events and undertake official activities," said Rideau Hall spokesperson Rob McKinnon. "When submitting claims for reimbursement, supporting documentation are provided, including original receipts and invoices. Reasonable expenses of secretarial and temporary help services are reimbursed to all former Governors General through the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General." In a shock move, Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, resigned Thursday after an outside workplace review of Rideau Hall probed claims that she had belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole questioned Payette's access to the fund, given the report's findings. "She resigned her role, she should not be able to access the normal courtesies provided to governors general," he told reporters Monday morning ahead of Parliament resuming. "The office, sadly, has been sullied." Both O'Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to tell the public whether he and Payette came to an agreement before she resigned. "There's a couple things that people are really upset about," Singh said today. "One is that the governor general resigned and, secondly, resigned in light of a report that shows some really troubling examples of harassment of staff and poor work conditions. "Given those two elements, people are wondering why would someone receive what seems like a reward for this really bad behaviour. "So really, this question has to be directed to Justin Trudeau. What was the agreement that he put in place that precipitated the resignation?" CBC has requested comment from the Prime Minister's Office. WATCH | Opposition leaders say former governor general should not receive perks
The Bradley Barton manslaughter jury trial came to an abrupt halt on Monday morning, when the proceedings were paused while the accused finds out if he has COVID-19. Barton is accused of killing Cindy Gladue in June 2011. The retrial was ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada and was about to begin a third week of testimony in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench. Defence lawyer Dino Bottos told the court his client began to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms after court ended on Friday. He was tested Monday morning. The jurors were notified early Sunday evening not to report to court until further notice. A positive test result could delay the trial for two weeks or longer. "If he's positive and symptomatic, I know that Alberta Health Services will give him guidance directly on how long the quarantine should last for," Justice Stephen Hillier said. "We've got to anticipate some risk that he may need hospitalization." Bottos told the court that if Barton does test positive, he and all staff at his law firm would undergo testing for COVID-19. "The worst case scenario would require my whole firm — lawyers, students and staff to be tested," Bottos told CBC News. "If that were the case, if one of us tested positive, then that would cause another at least 10-day delay before we could proceed. If Barton's test comes back negative, the trial could resume as early as Thursday morning, according to Bottos and Hillier. Bottos said his client was beginning to feel better on Monday morning as he copes with the dual stress of being on trial and illness. "It is difficult," Bottos said. "He's having to relive and be prepared to retell a story that occurred over nine-and-a-half years ago. He's no longer 42. He's now 52 and that's going to be difficult." The trial is scheduled to last up to seven weeks.