Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq talks about Canadians repairing finances with the new year and provides the latest financial headlines.
Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq talks about Canadians repairing finances with the new year and provides the latest financial headlines.
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Après avoir été contraint d’annuler l’édition 2020 des Expo-Sciences, l’édition de cette année sera présentée virtuellement. Les jeunes qui avaient préparé des expériences en 2020 pourront également y présenter leur projet. « Toutes nos activités ont été bouleversées par la pandémie », souligne d’emblée Dominique Girard, le directeur général de Technoscience Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. Habitués à se rendre dans les écoles pour réaliser des activités scientifiques, les animateurs de l’organisation ont dû repenser leur façon de faire, en collaboration avec leurs collègues scientifiques du réseau Technoscience des quatre coins du Québec. Pour éviter d’annuler une autre édition des Expo-Sciences, l’événement sera présenté en ligne cette année. « On est en train de mettre en place toute la structure, souligne Dominique Girard. Les jeunes présenteront leurs projets aux juges et la remise de prix se fera un peu comme lors du repêchage des joueurs de la Ligue nationale de hockey. » Le défi Génie inventif sera aussi offert en ligne, remarque le directeur général, mais le projet Chrysalides, qui visait à élever des papillons dans les classes, a été remis à l’an prochain.Guillaume Roy, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
CALGARY — Obsidian Energy Ltd. is extending its hostile takeover offer for Bonterra Energy Corp. until March 29. The offer was set to expire today. Bonterra has repeatedly recommended shareholders reject the bid. Obsidian has offered two of its shares for each Bonterra share. In December, Obsidian reduced the minimum number of tendered shares needed to complete the transaction to 50 per cent from two-thirds. Obsidian has said a combined Obsidian-Bonterra could save $50 million in the first year and a total of $100 million in the first three years, however Bonterra has said those savings are "uncertain." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:BNE, TSX:OBE) The Canadian Press
Sylvia Sassie liked to listen to CBC Radio One in her kitchen, her bedroom or her car. She tuned in to the N.W.T. morning show, The Trailbreaker, and to Dehcho Dene, CBC's daily South Slavey language program. That all came to a halt about a year ago. "I didn't know what had happened," she said. "I thought maybe it just went digital?" Sassie, who lives in Fort Liard, N.W.T., called the CBC in Yellowknife and began exchanging emails with technical staff about how to diagnose the problem. "I guess it's the wiring or something that's disconnected here," she said. "I was supposed to take pictures [of the radio equipment] but I can't because there's too much snow." Fort Liard is now in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak. Six people in the hamlet of 500 have tested positive and the community was put under a 14-day containment order (that is, people were advised not to travel) starting Jan. 16. The community has two other radio stations: CKLB 101.9, run by Native Communications Society of the NWT; and 95.1, which was recently established as a Christian radio service. "I prefer personally to listen to CBC North because they talk about all kinds of things," Sassie said. "What I would really like about this channel is listening to the information on the COVID." Not 'CBC-owned' "Unfortunately," said Philippe Aubé, "since this is not CBC-owned infrastructure we are ... limited in the way we can support these issues." Aubé is the CBC's senior director of transmission operations in Montreal. His department looks after about 750 transmitters across the country. He also looks after CBC-owned satellite receivers in about 70 small, mostly northern locations known as "community-owned rebroadcasters" or CORBs — including Fort Liard. As Aubé explains it, decades ago, a program was launched to help small communities take control of transmitters, antennas and radio towers installed for radio. CBC maintained control of the satellite receivers bringing in the signal, but the community — which could be a communications society or the hamlet — took ownership of the transmitter that relays that signal into the community and any other hardware. 'Community-owned rebroadcasters' Several people interviewed for this article said that at one point, the N.W.T. government played a role in funding the CORBs. In an email, a spokesperson for the department of Municipal and Community Affairs said the department does not specifically fund community-based radio, though local budgets could be used for the purpose. The same spokesperson said "most community-based radio societies are established as societies separate from the community government." The Fort Liard Communication Society, established in 1979, dissolved in 2002, according to the N.W.T. Legal Registry. It's slightly different in the Yukon. "The Department of Highways and Public Works maintains community radio sites in some Yukon communities where there would otherwise be no radio broadcast service," spokesperson Brittany Cross said in an email. That includes five sites where they "maintain the equipment and radio licensing for the CBC FM transmitters ... as well as covering the costs of building maintenance and electricity." They also make room for other Yukon radio broadcasters' equipment. "These sites are generally low maintenance, but ongoing support ... is provided through a combination of in-house staff, contractors and contributions from the other radio tenants," Cross said. 'For them, it's a CBC service' But few people know how exactly their radio gets into their houses, workplaces or vehicles. "That's where it gets a bit sketchy sometimes," said the CBC's Aubé, "when one of those communities loses their signal and people start sending emails or chat on Facebook, saying, 'Hey our transmitter's off.' Because for them, it's a CBC service." "We try to help them over the phone as much as we can, but that's pretty much where it stops." Aubé said Friday that he still hasn't confirmed what's going on in Fort Liard, though he's asked staff to follow up. "It appears it is not related to our satellite receiver," he said. 'You can always Google stuff' Chief Wilbert Kochon of Colville Lake, N.W.T., has experienced some of that technical assistance over the phone. When the community's transmitter gave out a few weeks ago, Kochon volunteered to sort it out. "I talked to your technician who helped me on the phone," Kochon said. They discovered the heat had gone out in the old band office where the transmitter is. Kochon put a portable heater on in the building and in the morning, it started working again. Kochon says repairs like these are something he does for the elders. "CKLB, they always call me too," Kochon said. "You can always Google stuff and then figure it out really fast." Even better, he laughed, would be if the community could hire its own technician and get some training from the CBC. A costly 'conundrum' That's exactly what Bert Cervo would like to see. Cervo retired from the CBC in 2015 and lives in Whitehorse. He started as a remote area transmitter technician (RATT for short) in the 1980s and has visited nearly every small community in the North. He sees the situation in Fort Liard as part of a bigger problem. He's been contacted by people in several communities where CBC radio is down, "in some locations for two years," asking whether he can help get the signal back. The cost to fly in and do so, however, is simply too high, as is the cost of moving equipment or worse, buying new gear. All of which is made worse by the pandemic, which has severely restricted northern travel. "This is a conundrum that we've all been looking at for quite a while," Cervo said. He'd like to see the CBC take over the care and maintenance of the sites, or at least reimburse whoever goes there. He'd also like to see local people trained and paid to handle technical problems. "It's just not a cheap enterprise," Cervo said. Especially if older equipment needs to be replaced. "There is nothing that costs less than $1,000 or $2,000. Nothing. Then comes travel and everything else."
Sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers melting 60 per cent faster than in the 1990s
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska held the enviable position of having the highest rate of coronavirus vaccinations per capita in the nation as of last week, the state's top health official said. Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said last Thursday that the progress was the result of community efforts to quickly distribute vaccinations and additional allotments for federal agencies within the state, KTOO-FM reported. Zink told the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce that Alaska receives more doses of vaccine because of allowances above the state’s share for the Department of Defence, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service. “We have the highest veterans per capita population. We have a large military presence. And we have a large Indigenous population with over 229 sovereign tribes,” Zink said. “And so, because of those reasons, we did get some additional vaccine in the state via those federal partnerships.” The allotment for the Indian Health Service, which works with tribal entities to deliver health care to Alaska Native residents, could have been subtracted from the state’s share of the federal supply, but ultimately was allowed to be added, Zink said. “That’s been transformational for Alaska, that decision for Operation Warp Speed,” Zink said of the Trump administration's name for the national vaccine distribution initiative. More than 14,000 people had received both required doses of a vaccine cycle as of last Thursday, while more than 67,000 people had received at least one of the shots in the series. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
The U.S. House of Representatives delivered to the Senate on Monday a charge that former President Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial. Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Trump's trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the charge against Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol. Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police.
Le conseil de la MRC du Domaine-du-Roy a entériné un premier projet de partage de services. En partenariat avec les cinq municipalités, la MRC mettra en place un service de mise en commun de l’inspection municipale. Le partage des services fait partie des batailles que souhaite mener le préfet de la MRC du Domaine-du-Roy, Yanick Baillargeon. « On ne peut pas continuer comme ça sans rien faire, parce que les coûts augmentent et qu’on a de la difficulté à trouver de la main-d’oeuvre, dit-il. On doit essayer des partages de services, même si le changement dérange ». Plusieurs municipalités partagent déjà des services entre elles. C’est le cas avec le service des loisirs entre Chambord, Lac-Bouchette, Saint-François-de-Sales et Saint-André. Saint-Félicien et La Doré partagent aussi des services en lien avec l’eau potable. D’autres regroupements sont possibles, estime le préfet. « Les cinq municipalités du sud de la MRC (Chambord, Lac-Bouchette. Saint-François-de-Sales, Saint-André et Sainte-Hedwidge) se sont concertées pour mettre en place un service d’inspection commun et, comme la MRC a aussi des besoins, nous avons décidé de lancer un premier projet de regroupement de services », explique-t-il. Ainsi, le conseil de la MRC a entériné la mise en place d’un service d’inspection en bâtiment et en environnement pour 2021. « Je pense que ça va ouvrir la voie à d’autres regroupements, mais il faut commencer par un projet concret », remarque Yanick Baillargeon. 83 000 dollars pour le sentier Ouiatchouan Lors de la séance du conseil de la MRC, tenue la semaine dernière, les élus ont aussi accepté de céder l’aide financière confirmée par le ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur de 83 000 $ à la Corporation de gestion du sentier pédestre Ouiatchouan, gestionnaire du sentier et détentrice des droits de passage. Cette somme servira à la mise à niveau et à l’amélioration du sentier, ainsi qu’à la mise en oeuvre du projet « Sentier Ouiatchouan : L’aventure pour tous ! ». « Il y a quelques années, il n’y avait plus d’organisation pour s’occuper du sentier Ouiatchouan et la MRC avait fait des démarches pour développer le sentier, explique le préfet. Avec le renouvellement de l’implication bénévole et la mobilisation, on a pris la décision de céder les montants reçus pour développer le sentier à la Corporation. » Un sentier de quad entre La Doré et La Tuque La construction de la ligne de transmission Chamouchouane-Bout-de-l’Île a créé un réseau de sentiers en pleine forêt, et au lieu de les détruire comme il était prévu par Hydro-Québec, la MRC et la municipalité de La Doré comptent en faire un sentier de quad. Le conseil de la MRC a donc passé une résolution pour demander au ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs de permettre l’utilisation des ponts forestiers pour le tracé d’un sentier entre La Doré et le Relais 22, sur le territoire de La Tuque, à plus d’une centaine de kilomètres.Guillaume Roy, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
COVID-19. Les plus récentes données sur l'évolution de la COVID-19, au Québec, font état de 1 457 nouveaux cas pour la journée d'hier, pour un nombre total de 253 633 personnes infectées. Parmi celles-ci, 227 215 sont rétablies. Elles font également état de 41 nouveaux décès, pour un total de 9 478. De ces 41 décès, 12 sont survenus dans les 24 dernières heures, 26 entre le 17 et le 22 janvier, 2 avant le 17 janvier et 1 à une date inconnue. Le nombre total d'hospitalisations a diminué de 56 par rapport à la veille, avec un cumul de 1 327. Parmi celles-ci, le nombre de personnes se trouvant aux soins intensifs a augmenté de 3, pour un total actuel de 219. Les prélèvements réalisés le 22 janvier s'élèvent à 33 719, pour un total de 5 646 660. Au cours des 7 derniers jours (depuis le 16 janvier), ce sont 72 396 personnes qui ont été vaccinées, pour une moyenne quotidienne de 10 342 personnes vaccinées.Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Niagara Falls Transit has elected to revert to its pre-pandemic winter schedule. The city said in a press release in order to provide the best level of service to riders given provincial restrictions, it will return to regular winter city and WEGO service, minus 30-minute peak services, on day routes. Changes take effect Monday. On Jan. 18, in an attempt to comply with the state of emergency orders issued by the province, Niagara Falls Transit preemptively adjusted its hours of operation to reflect the average business closure of 8 p.m.; however, it acknowledged that it could have been stranding essential service workers. The city issued an apology on its website for any inconvenience it caused transit users. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
VANCOUVER — A weekend of Environment Canada warnings about snow over the south coast of British Columbia produced very little of the white stuff and all warnings except the one covering Metro Vancouver have now been lifted. But the weather office says up to five centimetres of snow is still likely for higher elevations of North and West Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge. Other areas of the Lower Mainland can expected to see rain or occasional sleet through the day, but little or no snow on the ground. Environment Canada had been calling for as much as 15 centimetres in some south coast regions by Monday morning. Parts of eastern Vancouver Island, higher areas of Greater Vancouver and the eastern Fraser Valley reported modest accumulations over the weekend. Snow also covered highways leading into the southern Interior early Monday, but no warnings or advisories were posted. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit on Monday against Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who led the former president's efforts to spread baseless claims about the 2020 election. The lawsuit seeks more than $1.3 billion in damages for the voting machine company, a target for conservatives who made up wild claims about the company, blaming it for Trump's loss and alleging without evidence that its systems were easily manipulated. Dominion is one of the nation's top voting machine companies and provided machines for the state of Georgia, the critical battleground that Biden won and which flipped control of the U.S. Senate. The company faced such a mountain of threats and criticism that one of its top executives went into hiding. The suit is based on statements Giuliani made on Twitter, in conservative media and during legislative hearings where the former mayor of New York claimed the voting machine company conspired to flip votes to President Joe Biden. Dominion's lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, is among the first major signs of fallout for the former president's allies and the failed effort to subvert the 2020 election that ended with a Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that claimed the election had been stolen. “For Dominion — whose business is producing and providing voting systems for elections — there are no accusations that could do more to damage Dominion’s business or to impugn Dominion’s integrity, ethics, honesty, and financial integrity,” the lawsuit says. “Giuliani’s statements were calculated to — and did in fact — provoke outrage and cause Dominion enormous harm.” There was no widespread fraud in the election, which a range of election officials across the country including Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices. “Dominion brings this action to set the record straight, to vindicate the company’s rights under civil law, to recover compensatory and punitive damages, and to stand up for itself, its employees, and the electoral process,” the lawsuit read. Giuliani did not respond to a reporter's message seeking comment. During an episode of Giuliani’s podcast, he charged that “Dominion had stolen the election ‘technologically,’” the lawsuit alleges, and warned listeners that cybercriminals could steal the titles to their homes online. The lawsuit also details Giuliani pitching supplements to cure their achy joints and muscles, offering a special discount code as he held up the bottles. The lawsuit also includes a photo of Giuliani holding a cigar, hocking cigars with a deal for $20 off orders over $100 after he pushed accusations about Dominion and falsely alleged that the election had been fixed by a Venezuelan company. The lawsuit argues that Giuliani worked in concert with Trump supporters and lawyers Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood and conservative media outlets “determined to promote a false preconceived narrative about the 2020 election.” Dominion has also sued Powell, who claimed that the company was created in Venezuela to rig elections for the late leader Hugo Chavez and that it has the ability to switch votes. The lawsuit also alleges Giuliani’s false statements about Dominion and the election being “stolen” helped to perpetuate the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to vote to certify Biden as the winner of the election. “Having been deceived by Giuliani and his allies into thinking that they were not criminals — but patriots ‘Defend(ing) the Republic’ from Dominion and its co-conspirators — they then bragged about their involvement in the crime on social media,” the lawsuit states. ___ Associated Press Writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report. Colleen Long, The Associated Press
Italian consumer association Altroconsumo said on Monday it had told Apple it has launched a class action against the U.S. tech giant for the practice of planned obsolescence. In a statement Altroconsumo said it was asking for damages of 60 million euros ($73 million) on behalf of Italian consumers tricked by the practice which had also been recognised by Italian authorities. Altroconsumo said the lawsuit covers owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, 6S and 6S Plus, sales of which in Italy totalled some 1 million phones between 2014 and 2020.
POLITIQUE. Le Bloc Québécois et la députée de Shefford, Andréanne Larouche, sont convaincus que le NPD et les conservateurs accepteront de procéder rapidement à un court amendement législatif à la loi C-4 sur la prestation canadienne de maladie pour la relance économique (PCMRE) si le gouvernement rappelle le Parlement. Selon le chef du Bloc, Yves-François Blanchet, «le premier ministre hésite à régler tout de suite et clairement le grave problème de la prime au voyage de 1 000 $ qui découle de cette loi» malgré la volonté louable de remédier à la situation. Face aux critiques contre le versement de la PCMRE aux personnes de retour d’un voyage d’agrément, Justin Trudeau a promis plus tôt de rectifier le tir sans donner plus de détails. Il a précisé que l’objectif n’avait jamais été d’envoyer un chèque à ceux qui décident de partir en voyage, à l’encontre des avis de la santé publique. «La façon la plus rapide et efficace de procéder est un court amendement législatif à la loi C-4 qui réserve la prestation (PCMRE) uniquement en cas des déplacements essentiels. Cela exclut évidemment les vacances», a tranché la députée de Shefford, Andréanne Larouche, selon un communiqué de son bureau. Elle précise que le rappel du Parlement peut se faire avec moins de 50 députés présents afin d’adopter une motion sur les procédures pour une durée de 24 heures et ensuite voter une loi. «Je n’imagine pas que quiconque voudra profiter de la situation pour soutirer des gains partisans». L’élue de Shefford estime que la solution du Bloc évite au gouvernement «un règlement unilatéral» ou de «pelleter vers l’avant la solution jusqu’au moment des impôts à la fin avril». Manque de leadership «Non seulement le gouvernement de Justin Trudeau a manqué de leadership depuis mars et suscité une vive inquiétude au Québec, mais il n’était pas du tout préparé à livrer les vaccins en quantité et en temps opportun, ce que dénoncent les experts en santé», a expliqué Yves-François Blanchet dans le communiqué. Les bloquistes reprochent à Ottawa d’avoir réagi trop tard lors de l’apparition de la nouvelle variante du coronavirus au Royaume-Uni et de n’avoir pas été rigoureux dans les contrôles auprès des voyageurs. Andréanne Larouche exhorte le gouvernement Trudeau à réduire les passages aux frontières aux déplacements essentiels, à demander des tests au départ et à l’arrivée et à « superviser lui-même de façon étroite les quarantaines.» «Il faut qu’Ottawa, comme les États-Unis et l’Europe, impose le remboursement des billets à des compagnies aériennes qu’il s’apprête à aider généreusement. Il est inacceptable que des gens qui ont acheté de bonne foi un voyage pour leur famille, avant même la pandémie, se fassent dire de renoncer au voyage et à l’argent», a-t-elle plaidé sur les vols annulés, assurant les libéraux de la collaboration sincère du parti. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
Niagara College now requires staff and students to wear enhanced personal protective equipment where physical distancing is not possible. In a recent release, Niagara College said in consultation with Niagara Region Public Health, and in light of the spread of the new United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 in Ontario, it has implemented the enhanced PPE requirements on campus. A medical-grade face mask and eyewear is now required for all staff and students attending classes, labs and workspaces where it is not always possible to maintain a physical distance of two metres. The college said a reusable fabric face mask is acceptable when outside of classrooms and labs and when physical distancing can be maintained, It will be providing staff and students enhanced PPE with medical-grade face masks and eye protection. The college will address staff and students who have a medical exemption that prevents them from wearing PPE on a case-by-case basis. The college also implemented schedule changes. To comply with provincial orders regarding on-campus/in-person instruction that requires classes and labs to be limited to 10 students or fewer plus faculty, several courses will be re-sectioned to ensure class sizes are within provincial limits. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.com Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials that showed it was safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unfounded theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm. State media and officials are sowing doubts about Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus in an apparent bid to deflect the attacks. Both issues are in the spotlight because of the rollout of vaccines globally and the recent arrival of a World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the virus. Some of these conspiracy theories find a receptive audience at home. The social media hashtag “American’s Ft. Detrick,” started by the Communist Youth League, was viewed at least 1.4 billion times last week after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson called for a WHO investigation of the biological weapons lab in Maryland. “It’s purpose is to shift the blame from mishandling by (the) Chinese government in the pandemic’s early days to conspiracy by the U.S.,” said Fang Shimin, a now-U.S.-based writer known for exposing faked degrees and other fraud in Chinese science. “The tactic is quite successful because of widespread anti-American sentiment in China.” Yuan Zeng, an expert on Chinese media at the University of Leeds in Great Britain, said the government’s stories spread so widely that even well-educated Chinese friends have asked her whether they might be true. Inflaming doubts and spreading conspiracy theories might add to public health risks as governments try to dispel unease about vaccines, she said, saying, “That is super, super dangerous.” In the latest volley, state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after they received the Pfizer vaccine. An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news. Health experts say deaths unrelated to the vaccine are possible during mass vaccination campaigns, and a WHO panel has concluded that the vaccine did not play a “contributory role” in the Norway deaths. The state media coverage followed a report by researchers in Brazil who found the effectiveness of a Chinese vaccine lower than previously announced. Researchers initially said Sinovac’s vaccine is 78% effective, but the scientists revised that to 50.4% after including mildly symptomatic cases. After the Brazil news, researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a government-supported think-tank , reported seeing an increase in Chinese media disinformation about vaccines. Dozens of online articles on popular health and science blogs and elsewhere have explored questions about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine at length, drawing on an op-ed published this month in the British Medical Journal that raised questions about its clinical trial data. “It’s very embarrassing” for the government, Fang said in an email. As a result, China is trying to raise doubts about the Pfizer vaccine to save face and promote its vaccines, he said. Senior Chinese government officials have not been shy in voicing concerns about the mRNA vaccines developed by Western drug companies. They use a newer technology than the more traditional approach of the Chinese vaccines currently in use. In December, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, said he can’t rule out negative side effects from the mRNA vaccines. Noting this is the first time they are being given to healthy people, he said, “there are safety concerns.” The arrival of the WHO mission has brought back persistent criticism that China allowed the virus to spread globally by reacting too slowly in the beginning, even reprimanding doctors who tried to warn the public. The visiting researchers will begin field work this week after being released from a 14-day quarantine. The Communist Party sees the WHO investigation as a political risk because it focuses attention on China’s response, said Jacob Wallis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The party wants to “distract domestic and international audiences by pre-emptively distorting the narrative on where responsibility lies for the emergence of COVID-19,” Wallis said. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying got the ball rolling last week by calling for the WHO investigation of the U.S. military lab. The site had been mentioned previously by CGTN and other state-controlled outlets. “If America respects the truth, then please open up Ft. Detrick and make public more information about the 200 or more bio-labs outside of the U.S., and please allow the WHO expert group to go to the U.S. to investigate the origins,” Hua said. Her comments, publicized by state media, became one of the most popular topics on Sina Weibo. China isn’t the only government to point fingers. Former President Donald Trump, trying to deflect blame for his government’s handling of the pandemic, said last year he had seen evidence the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory. While that theory has not been definitively ruled out, many experts think it is unlikely. Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press
Before Wilf Doyle scratched the Set For Life ticket he had received for Christmas from his partner, Rowena King, he had a rule to follow. It was Jan. 7 and Doyle made sure to remove the Christmas tablecloth that was still on the table in their Gander home. “I said, ‘don’t you dare scratch that ticket on the tablecloth’,” recalls King. Whether Doyle’s adherence to the order had anything to do with what happened next can never be known, but if you suggest that it brought him good luck, it would be tough to argue. Because when he was finished, staring back at him were all the required number of Set For Life symbols, meaning he had won the grand prize. “I really didn’t believe it,” said Doyle. “It was a weird feeling.” As people tend to do in these situations, Doyle checked everything twice. They even called their daughter so she could provide a fresh set of eyes for confirmation. All agreed the numbers made Doyle a big winner. ”It is life-changing,” he said. The ticket was a part of a bundle the couple had purchased at the lotto booth at the Gander Mall as Christmas stocking stuffers for loved ones. King saved the last ticket for the stocking she had for Doyle. “I can’t say how I felt,” said King of first discovering it was the winning ticket. But she knows how it feels now. “It feels good.” Winners of the Set For Life grand prize are presented with a pair of options. They can choose to receive $1,000 a week for the next 25 years or take a one-time payment of $675,000. In this instance, the Gander couple elected to take the lump sum. The decision will pay immediate dividends. Where once they didn’t own a home, they do now. They’ve already picked out their dream house in Bay Roberts — quickly becoming a destination for jackpot winners — and have made a successful offer. They are especially looking forward to making the move since both have family in the Conception Bay North area. As well, their winnings will allow them to eliminate car payments; they recently purchased a new vehicle. They also have plans to purchase an RV sometime in the future. That will allow them to do some travelling around the province. “It could not have come at a better time,” said Doyle. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
After much discussion, the Township of McMurrich/Monteith will remain in the regional fire training program. The Township received 16 letters from residents on Jan. 18, relating to concerns of not entering into the shared fire training agreement. Here are some key quotes from the discussion: “My concern is that I will not be able to get my people trained anymore or be able to get them certified; as a result, I won’t have firefighters to meet what we need to do in our municipality,” said McMurrich/Monteith’s fire chief John Ross. “I do not have the manpower to take on a single-family dwelling, so the automatic aid has been a huge plus for us, along with everything else that comes with it: the training, the bulk purchasing … the collaboration with the other departments. Leaving just the training has such a huge fallout.” “The contract is the problem, not the trainer — I’ve never had a problem with the trainer so to be clear on that, it’s the contract,” said Coun. Alfred Bielke. “The only way I know we’re going to get the service we require is to enter into this agreement because, right now, we’re being told we can’t get the training. We don’t have the personnel to even fight a fire in our own township … we’re putting our people at risk, we’re putting their homes at risk and we’re putting lives at risk, so the only way to get this back is to rescind the motion we defeated and put it back on the table,” said Coun. Dan O’Halloran. “For the authors of our letters, and the people that are listening, this agreement (is) a prelude to the regional fire training and regional fire department …” said Coun. Lynn Zemnicky. “I just want people who are listening to realize that the previous council jumped on board to chip in on this equipment, (the) ice and fire rescue boats … they were thousands of dollars; one is housed in, I believe, Kearney and the other in Magnetawan. If you fall into Bear, Doe or Buck Lake, I hope you can stay treading water until it comes all the way from Magnetawan. That’s where your taxpayer money is sitting.” “Our stations are going to stay our own and be operated by our council and our fire chiefs. Purchases will still be done through our council and not through the region …” said Reeve Angela Freisen. “If we opt out of this, we’re losing the automatic aid and, as Chief Ross said, we don’t have enough personnel to handle our own fires, (and) we’re going to lose the benefit of group purchasing.” “I would like to see council agree to continue with the training and take an active part in the working out of the funding model over the (next three) years, but in the meantime, our fire department doesn’t suffer,” said Ross. McMurrich/Monteith council directed staff to notify the six municipalities participating in the regional firefighter training agreement that the following should be added to the draft agreement. The funding model will be discussed within three months of signing; the proposed allowance be submitted by invoice, not automatic payment, and all cost increases must be decided by unanimous vote of all the municipalities. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Canada's opposition leaders attacked the federal Liberal government's COVID-19 vaccination program today in their first encounter in the House of Commons following the winter break. Vaccine deliveries will grind to a halt this week as a shutdown at Pfizer's plant in Belgium disrupts shipments from that company. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said that while the prime minister promised a steady supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots in the first three months of 2021, the country's inoculation efforts are now "in jeopardy" and provinces are scrambling to meet vaccination targets. The delivery delay is already prompting some provinces — notably Alberta and Ontario — to warn that they will have to curtail vaccination appointments in the weeks ahead as they direct the existing supplies of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to patients who need their second shots. "We want to see our government succeed but this prime minister has abandoned us. The Liberal plan for vaccines must be reviewed by all of Parliament. We must work together to improve the Liberal vaccine plan and get Canadians back to work," O'Toole said. "We wish we could trust the prime minister but this situation demands Parliament's urgent attention." WATCH: Opposition leader calls out Liberals over vaccine planning: Earlier this month, the federal government projected that 208,650 Pfizer doses would arrive this week. Instead, Canada is getting no doses at all this week — and a dramatically reduced shipment next week — as the company retools its plant to pump out many more shots this year than planned. While Canada was expecting 366,000 doses of the Pfizer product to be delivered the week of Feb. 1, just 79,000 are now slated to arrive. O'Toole said the Liberal government should have prepared for delivery disruptions like this one with a contingency plan to prevent the provinces from running dry. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, has said Pfizer deliveries will be reduced by roughly 50 per cent over a four-week period — and Canada doesn't know for certain how many doses will arrive over that time period. The Health Canada website that tracks vaccines has been scrubbed of all Pfizer delivery forecasts, citing "changes to manufacturing timelines." "Unknown means there is no real plan," O'Toole said. "Canadians are worried. We're in the second wave of the pandemic, there's U.K. strains and this week we're receiving zero Pfizer vaccines." Moderna, which delivers shots to Canada every three weeks, is expected to deliver roughly 230,000 doses over the first week of February. Later in question period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the "ongoing challenges" with the global supply vaccine chain but said Canada is expecting "hundreds of thousands" of Pfizer doses, some in February. He said Canada expects to have enough doses on hand this year to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot by the end of September. WATCH | Opposition slams government for vaccine delays: Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative health critic, questioned that promise, saying that Canada needs to start getting through tens of thousands of vaccinations each day to reach that target. With only 100,000 people fully vaccinated so far, Canada would have to administer well over 200,000 shots a day for the next 248 days to fully vaccinate Canadians with the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna products. O'Toole said the Liberal government never should have partnered with the Chinese firm CanSino Biologics to develop a vaccine — a collaboration that was derailed last summer when China refused to ship vaccine samples to Canada for clinical trial testing. After that partnership was shelved, O'Toole said, Canada then turned to procuring promising vaccine candidates from U.S. firms like Pfizer and Moderna. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand has disputed this version of events. Speaking to reporters in December, Anand said the CanSino deal fell within former industry minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies. Anand has said she started talks with the companies behind promising vaccine candidates in July — companies that were recommended by the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force — before Canada walked away from the ill-fated CanSino partnership in late August. Canada was among the first countries in the world to sign deals with Pfizer and Moderna. "Engagement and negotiations with COVID-19 vaccine suppliers began in early July 2020, following the receipt of recommendations from the vaccine task force in June," a spokesperson for the minister told CBC News. WATCH | NDP's Singh questions PM Trudeau about vaccine delivery O'Toole said Canada should have sought domestic manufacturing of vaccine candidates to avoid having to depend on other countries for supply. The government did not pursue domestic manufacturing rights for the AstraZeneca product. Asked what he'd do to jump-start the stalled vaccination campaign, O'Toole said he would encourage Trudeau to obtain doses from the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., which is not experiencing the same disruptions as the Belgian facility and is only 220 kilometres away from the Detroit-Windsor border crossing. "There are vaccines being made not far from us, in Kalamazoo. Did the prime minister ask for the ability to have that plant used, not just rely on the retooled plant in Belgium?" O'Toole said. "There are a lot of options here, but there's never any leadership from Mr. Trudeau." Anand has said the Michigan facility's product is earmarked for the American market in the first quarter of this year. While there will be significant delivery disruptions over the next month, Anand has said that Canada still expects to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer product and 2 million Moderna shots in the first three months of this year. That would be enough to vaccinate 3 million people by the end of March. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pointed out that the prime minister and his office are mired in a scandal of their own making over the abrupt resignation of former governor general Julie Payette amid reports of workplace harassment. "The focus should be on the pandemic and the struggles that we're going through. This has become a distraction," Singh said of the Payette affair. "The focus ... should be entirely on making sure people are vaccinated."
“Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” by Joan Didion (Alfred A. Knopf) Back in 1968, Joan Didion identified a problem with the mainstream media. “The only American newspapers that do not leave me in the grip of a profound physical conviction that the oxygen has been cut off from my brain, very probably by an Associated Press wire …,” she begins in an essay that goes on to criticize traditional news outlets, including the wire service carrying this review, for pretending that there is such a thing as neutral, unbiased, objective reporting. That article, “Alicia and the Underground Press,” was a snarky ode to alternative newspapers in the 1960s like the East Village Other and Berkeley Barb that might have been “amateurish and badly written” but at least had the virtue of speaking directly to their readers, and speaking to them as friends. Some 50 years later, in a media landscape dominated by players who present “alternative facts” with a straight face, and consumers who get their news through platforms tailored to their specific interests, Didion’s critique seems more prescient than ever. The essay is one of 12 she wrote between 1968 and 2000 that have been collected in a new volume, “Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” sure to be of interest to Didion completists and fans of such cultural touchstones as “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” and “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Others haven’t aged as well. Another piece from 1968, about Gamblers Anonymous, quotes the people at a meeting in ungrammatical English, speaking “as if from some subverbal swamp.” In “A Trip to Xanadu,” she sneers at tourists at the Hearst Castle in their “slacks and straw hats and hair rollers.” But when she punches up instead of down, the results can be devastating, as in her portrait from the same year of Nancy Reagan, then the wife of the California governor, portrayed as a media-savvy control freak and distant mother to her then 10-year-old son. Similarly, her 2000 profile of Martha Stewart captures what most observers missed at the time — that Martha wasn’t selling homemaking, she was selling success. The best of the bunch have to do with the subject Didion, 86, knows and cares about most — being a writer. In essays like “Why I Write,” whose title she borrowed from George Orwell, “Telling Stories” and “Last Words,” she makes it clear why she has been an essential voice in American arts and letters for more than half a century. Ann Levin, The Associated Press