A red fox approaches a deck while a cat sits and watches, but the fox gets a little too close.
A red fox approaches a deck while a cat sits and watches, but the fox gets a little too close.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Community centres across the South Peace have partially closed due to three-week COVID restrictions that came into effect for enhanced-status areas last Friday. The Beaverlodge Community Centre and multi-purpose room are both closed, said Tina Letendre, Beaverlodge acting chief administrative officer. The Christmas Festival hasn’t been booked at the centre this year and that means lost revenue of approximately $1,800, she said. “We’re unable to do the Christmas Festival this year with the COVID restric- tions,” said Alysha Martin, Beaverlodge Daycare Society executive director. She said last year the festival was held at St. Mary School, which is also closed for private rentals. Letendre said most other lost rental revenue at the community centre will be “very minimal,” or about $143 in November. Planned private rentals were cancelled and postponed, with Letendre saying birthday parties, fitness classes and meetings were the most common rentals. Both the Sexsmith Community Centre and civic centre have been affected by the restrictions. Dennis Stredulinsky, an Elks member who manages bookings for the civic centre, said the centre is largely shut down. Shannon Municipal Library remains open at reduced capacity, but the Sexsmith Tumbling Club has postponed group classes in favour of Zoom classes and one-to-one appointments, he said. The civic centre had booked one church service in December, but that has been postponed until next year, he said. The Elks won’t be meeting at the civic centre again until possibly January, and that might be by phone, Stredu- linsky said. Council had also been meeting at the civic centre in recent months but moved to the community centre two weeks ago. The Sexsmith Community Centre is also mostly closed, said Beth Endresen. Council meetings will still take place there but two private parties and a yoga session had to be cancelled, she said. There won’t be much lost revenue for December, as typically the space is donated to the Sexsmith Christmas hamper campaign, Endresen said. The centre is commonly used for yoga and fitness classes, playschool and family rentals, as well as annual general meetings, she said. Endresen said the “primary user” is the Lighthouse Seventh Day Adventist Church, which holds services Saturdays. Under COVID restrictions the services will continue with one-third attendance, she said. The Hythe Community Centre is “basically closed to public access,” but Montana’s Hair Salon, the food bank and South Peace Rural Community Learning are open by appointment, said facilities manager Candy Robertson. Appointments aren’t necessary for the thrift store but the north access should be used, Robertson said. The Demmitt Community Centre is also closed, said Teresa von Tiesenhausen, a Demmitt Cultural Society volunteer board member. Von Tiesenhausen said the society had to cancel yoga classes, which have been running with a cap of 15, as well as the annual community Christmas party. Typically at this time of year the hall would see activity like dances, documentary nights, workshops and the Borderline Culture Series concerts, she said. The Saskatoon Lake Community Hall is closed as well, said Teri Ondrick, hall manager. Girl Guides, 4-H and other community group meetings and Christmas parties had to be cancelled, along with many rentals over the upcoming weeks, she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole says his party wants to see specific elements around how Canadians will eventually receive the COVID-19 vaccine. They’re seeking to debate the issue in the House of Commons on Thursday.
Dale Woodard Lethbridge Herald The Winter Light Festival at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is ready to light it up. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that will mean a few adjustments, but the annual festival is still going forward starting Thursday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Speaking Tuesday, Michelle Day, executive director for Nikka Yuko, said things could change as the event goes on and to stay tuned for updates and check online for any other details. “We need our community support and that comes with patience and being able to be flexible,” said Day. “Working with Alberta Health Services and the City of Lethbridge, we are going to be able to continue our Winter Light Experience. We’re going to continue to monitor the guidelines as they may change. They may have new ones or they may relax them in the future. By this time, it’s going to be as much of a touch-less experience as possible. But we’re encouraging everybody in our community to show support and come out to our Winter Light Festival as it is a safe experience.” With the current guidelines, the first weekend of the Horse and Wagon rides and the first Shakespeare in the Garden performance have been cancelled. “But we’ll continue to monitor (the situation) and as we go along, we might be able to add more programming as the guidelines change, and that’s where we need the communities support and flexibility in the sense (the events) might happen after Christmas or in January,” said Day. As for the events going forward — following COVID guidelines laid out by AHS – a maximum of 100 people will be allowed in the garden per half hour, said Day. “We’re staging the entry ways and all access to the garden has to be done online,” said Day. “I know our community is used to just showing up and going to the visitors’ centre but, unfortunately, we can’t do that. We feel it’s important we work with Alberta Health Services to ensure the tracking is there.” Private events are still able to be booked, said Day. “What we’re asking our companies and our customers during their private events is no gathering-like activities, so no speeches. But we can hand out things at the door and stage entry. “We’re also making sure we have things for people to take home. We’re going to have an enhanced brochure to give everybody when they come to learn more about Japanese and Canadian winter customs.” For the kids, Nikka Yuko has teamed up with local artist Eric Dyck to provide a colouring package. “With Panasonic and their projectors, we’ve teamed up with a local anime gentleman, Keith Morgan (a local CG-Generalist and compositing artist) and he’s going to be telling a story throughout the garden (with) one-minute episodes,” said Day. “So people can space, but enjoy a story and experience along with the lights. They’ll still be leaving with some programming and some memories to take home with them.” Tickets can be purchased on the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden website events calendar (www.nikkayuko.com/events) or through the Enmax Centre. “I stress to like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/search/top?q=nikka%20yuko%20japanese%20garden) and watch our website (www.nikkayuko.com) for ongoing updates,” said Day. Day said even before the pandemic, the Winter Light Festival experience was an essential one. “I’ve had many families say it’s affordable, it’s accessible and that the community really enjoyed. I think in the summer when we opened there was much of a need for people to get outdoors in a safe place and connect to nature. We heard that, so I think this Winter Light Festival is so important to our community for both those reasons. It’s outdoors, it’s a connection to nature and it’s a safe location to go.” Day added the Garden was built and designed to promote mental health and wellness and a place to go to reflect. “We don’t lose sight that sometimes the winter months are hard. I think there is seasonal depression and winter holiday anxiety and I think sometimes people just need a place to go to walk and we are honoured to provide a safe place for people to do that.” Follow @DWoodardHerald on TwitterDale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald
With more of us nesting at home and yearning for some extra holiday cheer during the pandemic, Christmas tree farms around Ottawa are reporting increased and earlier demand this year.Kenny Stuyt, owner of Fallowfield Tree Farm, said he's seen a 30 to 35 per cent boost in business already. Stuyt told CBC many customers aren't stopping at just one tree."They're decorating and saying, 'Let's even put one outside this year.... Let's make it real nice for our family.'"Stuyt said with people stuck at home and unable to travel, he's seeing many first-time buyers."[They're] saying, 'This is our first time, we've never done it before,'" he said. "They're at home right here in Canada, and they gotta make the best of it."Stuyt, whose farm offers both fresh-cut and cut-your-own trees, said he's already had to restock his cut trees to keep up with demand, but added he's not worried about running out.WATCH | Christmas tree sales up more than 30 per cent:Mark MacGowan, owner of MacGowan's Christmas Tree Farm, agreed people seem to be buying earlier than usual, and said he's also seeing more first-timers. "[They've] never had a real tree before and [are] asking lots of questions around how to take care of them and maintain them well through the holiday season," he said.MacGowan's started an online service last year that lets customers order their tree for delivery or pickup, and said those sales have already quadrupled this season. WATCH | First-time tree buyers during the pandemic:Briggs Tree Farm owner Robin Briggs said sales at his cut-your-own operation still depend largely on the weather, but has noticed some people are turning up just for something different to do during the pandemic."We're finding there's quite a few people that are doing that this year because they, with COVID and stuff, they're looking for exercise and they're looking for something to do that's not inside a building," he said. Briggs said the true measure of the year will be the next two weeks, typically his busiest.
Les travaux s’élevant à près de 5 M$ sur le traversier L’Héritage I, qui relie Trois-Pistoles et Les Escoumins, sont terminés à 95 %, selon le président de la Compagnie de navigation des Basques, Martin Dufour. Le navire est sorti de sa cale sèche, située au chantier naval du Groupe Océan, le 1er décembre en après-midi pour se rendre à la marina de l’Isle-aux-Coudres où il passera l’hiver. « Il ne restera que 5 % des travaux à réaliser à sa sortie d’hivernation au printemps avant d’entamer la saison 2021, soit l’installation des arbres de moteurs et des hélices », indique M. Dufour, aussi chef de la Première Nation des Innus Essipit. Les travaux se sont bien déroulés, malgré les imprévus qui ont fait surface. « On a été contraint de traiter de l’amiante et de la peinture au plomb, ce qui a nécessité une décontamination. Mais, les dépassements de coûts n’atteignent que 400 000 $ jusqu’à maintenant. Ça rentre amplement dans les 10 % prévus au budget », soutient le président. Les mesures qui ont été mises en place pour contrer la propagation de la COVID-19 au chantier naval, telles que la distanciation sociale entre les employés, ont engendré la réduction des effectifs attitrés à la réparation du navire. « Deux quarts de travail ont été créés afin d’entrer dans les délais. On est très satisfaits du déroulement des travaux », déclare Martin Dufour. Rappelons que l’Héritage I n’a pu servir de traversier la saison dernière en raison de la pandémie qui a forcé le report des travaux de mars à juillet et, ainsi, le non-respect de l’échéancier prévu au départ. Aucune liaison maritime n’a donc été offerte entre Trois-Pistoles et Les Escoumins. Après des mois de mobilisation citoyenne, le ministère des Transports a finalement confirmé en mars une aide financière de 4,9 millions de dollars à la Compagnie de navigation des Basques pour la réfection et la mise aux normes du traversier.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
A report from an international organization that monitors global biodiversity says climate change is an immediate threat to one-third of all World Heritage Sites, including one in Canada's North. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says of 252 natural World Heritage Sites, 83 are threatened by climate change. The group's World Heritage Outlook 3 report, released Wednesday in Switzerland, says those sites include the Great Barrier Reef and locations ranging from South Africa to Brazil along with Kluane Lake in southwest Yukon. The report assigns a "critical" rating to the Great Barrier Reef for the first time, while it says the rapidly melting Kaskawulsh Glacier has changed the water flow into Kluane Lake, depleting fish populations. The study assesses threats to the protection and management of unique values within each World Heritage Site and finds 30 per cent face threats of "significant concern," while critical threats exist in seven per cent of the sites. The report says half of the sites have "effective" or "highly effective" protection and management, with sustainable funding being the most common issue rated as a serious concern. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is composed of government and private groups from 170 countries, including Canada, and spokesman Peter Shadie says it aims to ensure a "brighter future for nature's finest." "The findings of the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 3 point to a dire need for adequate resources to manage our irreplaceable natural areas," he says in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
This past summer of discontent against police has set the stage for Norm Lipinski, the new top cop in Surrey, who is vowing a slew of changes in one of Canada’s fastest growing and most culturally diverse cities. From more cops on bikes to walking the beat and welcoming soirees for new Canadians, Lipinski’s central goal revolves around creating a force that will police the plurality of Surrey with constant engagement and strident enforcement. “That will begin with creating a command structure that reflects the diversity of Surrey both in ethnicity and gender,” Lipinksi told NCM as he prepared for his new role that will begin later this month. “We can learn a lot from the anti-police sentiment that has swept many parts of the world this past summer, especially in the U.S. and from the great work of the RCMP has done in Surrey. But now is a time for change to remove tensions and rebuild confidence in police,” he said. “We can do it and build a more modern, inclusive, accountable, and community-based model,” said Lipinski, who brings 42 years of policing experience to Surrey, where close to half of residents are immigrants. Lipinski said the first order of business will be to hire a complement of senior staff and officers that will be reflective of the community with recruitment efforts targeting ethnic and Indigenous communities and women. The RCMP employs nearly three-quarters of B.C.’s 9,500 police with 18 per cent of its officers coming from visible minority groups and another five per cent comprising Indigenous persons. About 20 per cent of RCMP members across the country are women. While these numbers may be representative for rural communities, it is out of whack for places like Surrey, where 34 per cent of residents speak English as a secondary language and where females outnumber males in the general population. Statistics Canada said in a report last week that people designated as visible minorities report less confidence in police than non-visible minority people. Just over one-third (35 per cent) of Canadians belonging to population groups designated as visible minorities reported having a great deal of confidence in the police in 2019, compared with 44 per cent among non-visible minority people, the national number crunchers said. Confidence levels also varied among different visible minority groups. For example, Southeast Asian (25 per cent) and Chinese (26 per cent) Canadians were less likely to report a great deal of confidence in the police compared with non-visible minority people (44 per cent). Lipinski, a former assistant commissioner for the RCMP’s E-Division in B.C., said he will be reaching out to faith leaders, community groups, NGOs, neighbourhood associations and local media among others as he works on a strategic plan for the Surrey Police Force, which will have 1,150 employees — 805 police officers, 325 civilian positions and 20 Community Safety Personnel (CSP). Surrey currently is the only one of 19 major Canadian population centres with more than 300,000 people without a local police department. A self-described data geek, with a Master of Business Administration degree as well as a Bachelor of Laws degree, Lipinski plans to use the community consultations to draw up a delivery service model that will hinge on a $200 million budget annually. “If the data shows we can deliver better service by having officers out of their cars and walking the beat or on bikes, we will do it,” said Lipinski. The veteran cop also plans meet and greet sessions for immigrants and refugees as they settle in Surrey which is home to about a fifth of all new arrivals to B.C. “Our recruiting will be different, our tone will be different and our engagement will be different,” Lipinski added.Fabian Dawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Canadian Media
JERUSALEM — Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers — supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner — passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament.The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just over a year. Netanyahu's Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting.The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Gantz and Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance.By joining the opposition in Wednesday's vote, Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country.Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Gantz accuses the prime minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Gantz and other critics believe Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution.Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.”The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at over 20% because of the pandemic.In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Gantz to remain in the government but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail.Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region.He derisively referred to Gantz's party as “an opposition within the coalition" and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Gantz.“In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines, and not campaign ads,” he said. "The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.”Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic.“We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.”Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning that rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted.If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March.Under the coalition deal, Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November 2021, with the job rotating to Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held.There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held.Although Gantz's party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better.By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial.Starting in February, Netanyahu's corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The prime minister expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom.Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes that a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hardline coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case.“Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu," Gayil Tashir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer.One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with President Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear that Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with archenemy Iran.Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign.“Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument which says 'I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,'" she said.Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
TORONTO — A hospital in midtown Toronto is offering a "virtual emergency room" so patients can see a doctor without risking exposure to COVID-19.Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre says the service is available for anyone over the age of 16 with a valid Ontario health card.The hospital says patients will connect with the doctor via secure video on the same day, on a first-come, first-served basis.Virtual 15-minute appointments are available Monday to Friday, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the online booking system opening at noon every weekday.Sunnybrook says that the service is intended for non-life threatening injuries or sickness.Examples of symptoms or conditions that the hospital says the online system is designed for include bites and stings, rashes, frostbite or sprains and minor injuries.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Refugee advocates are criticizing Canada's decision to resume deportations before the country irons out the details of a program to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers who have been working in the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frantz Andre, who advocates on behalf of asylum seekers, says the decision has heightened the feelings of insecurity among the essential workers dubbed "guardian angels" by Quebec Premier Francois Legault. The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed it resumed deportations as of Nov. 30, after halting most removals in March due to the pandemic. The agency clarified that it would not be deporting people who are likely to qualify for permanent residency under a federal program announced in August to grant a path to residency for people working in the health-care sector or in long-term care or assisted living facilities. "The CBSA would like to clarify that the agency will not be removing those who may be eligible to qualify for permanent residency under the guardian angels public policy," the agency wrote in an email Tuesday. Advocates estimate that hundreds of asylum-seekers have been working in long-term care homes in Quebec, which bore the brunt of the first wave of COVID-19 this spring. Andre notes that the final details of the program have yet to be made public, leading many of the so-called guardian angels to fear they may yet be deported. "So, we’re starting (deportations) three weeks before Christmas, when the program and the details of this special program for the asylum-seekers or orderlies cannot be announced," he said. "I call this criminal. This is not right." Andre said the initial elation over the announcement of the program has faded, leaving many asylum-seekers feeling fearful and unsure if they'll qualify. He says some workers who could have been eligible have given up and decided to return home; others have contemplated suicide. Wilner Cayo, the president of a group that advocates for asylum-seekers and visible minorities, notes that even asylum-seekers working in long-term care — the exact group targeted by the program — are not sure they'll qualify because there are other criteria to meet, including having been issued a work permit and having a certain amount of experience and hours worked. He said the uncertainty is causing people "enormous anxiety." "When they take such a long time and the rules are not clear, we don’t know what to expect," he said in a phone interview. Quebec has a large degree of control over immigration criteria for the province, and it will select the applicants who qualify under the federal program and wish to reside in Quebec. In an email, a spokesperson for the Quebec Immigration Department said the program is expected to come into effect over the winter, and the details of how it will apply in Quebec will be announced "shortly." Cayo said the program also does not address the situation of other essential workers, including security guards and cleaning staff in care homes, truck drivers and those working in food production. "These people sacrificed for Quebec, sacrificed for Canada," he said. "When many people were staying home, these people went out to work." Their contribution has shown they are not a burden to Canada, but a gift, he added. Andre believes the deportation order should be suspended until it becomes clear who exactly is eligible for the guardian angels program. But in his opinion, all the asylum-seekers who have been in the country since the pandemic began deserve to stay. "I think they all have contributed economically, to saving lives, and Canada is better thanks to these people," he said. In its email, the CBSA defended its decision to deport, noting that the "timely removal of failed claimants plays a critical role in supporting the integrity of Canada’s asylum system." Removals to some regions remain suspended, including the Gaza Strip, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq. The agency also said the volume of deportations is expected to be reduced for some time, and that claimants will continue to have access to all the appeals and recourses available under the law. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — A long-running study of more than 50 dead killer whales in the Pacific Ocean concludes human activities pose deadly threats to the orcas. Killer whale deaths from Alaska to British Columbia, south to California and west to Hawaii linked to human activities were found in every age class from calves to adults, said the study published Wednesday in the open access journal Plos One. The findings indicate that understanding and being aware of each threat is vital for the management and conservation of orca populations, said Stephen Raverty, a B.C. scientist and the report's lead author. Some of the direct causes of orca deaths were attributed to blunt force trauma from collisions with ships or cuts from the propellers of vessels, while indirect causes were related to ingested fish hooks, various human-caused pollutants and malnutrition, Raverty said in an interview. "In one case in Alaska, a young animal swallowed a hook that perforated the back of the throat and resulted in bacteria entering the body and the animal died of a blood-borne bacteria infection," he said. In another necropsy conducted on an older orca, a triple-barbed fishing hook was found in the animal's colon, but it did not appear to impact its health, Raverty said. Raverty, who's a veterinary pathologist at the B.C. Agriculture Ministry and a marine mammal researcher, said the study also provides a baseline understanding of orca health necessary for future research. "There have been a variety of indirect things that have been demonstrated to impact killer whale health and what we're saying is this is more direct evidence of human activities that impact the overall well-being of these animals," he said. The study involved necropsies on the remains of 53 killer whales found from the North Pacific to Hawaii from 2004 to 2013. It also examined the data from 35 other orca deaths from 2001 to 2017, said Raverty. The study was able to confirm the cause of death in 22 of the 53 orcas, and "death related to human interaction was found in every age class." It said necropsies showed evidence of 15 infectious agents and 28 pathogens with the potential to affect orca health, but "non-infectious health concerns include impacts from accumulated persistent pollutants, human interactions including vessel collisions, interaction with fishing gear, the effects of noise and consequences of reduced prey availability." Raverty said the study's results should support federal government efforts to reduce and slow down shipping traffic and noise pollution to protect threatened orca populations, including the West Coast's southern residents that now number 73 members. The federal government recently expanded orders for B.C. whale-watching vessels, requiring them to stay 400 metres away from orcas on their viewing voyages. "You think of these animals as being very agile and being able to avoid impact with vessels, but that doesn't appear to necessarily be the case," Raverty said. "Whether it's just the vessel's speed or there's increased shipping traffic or these vessels are going into some fairly narrow channels where whales may not be able to avoid or evade these vessels, these might be some of the conditions that are occurring." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled the name of the science journal Plos One.
With just over three weeks until Christmas, going out and getting your own live Christmas tree or getting a load of wood to stay toasty over the holidays just got easier. The Alberta government announced Nov. 26 that the $5 fee for a permit to harvest trees for personal use is no longer being collected. The change will save Albertans close to $100,000. It is important to note, however, that getting a permit before harvesting Crown timber is still the law since it helps the province track how many trees are harvested. Fines for harvesting without a permit can range from $50 to several thousand dollars, as well as running the risk of further legal prosecution. Timber harvested under a Personal Use Forest Products Permit is limited to three Christmas trees, five cubic metres (or three level truckloads) of firewood, five cubic metres of roundwood and 20 tree transplants. The permit is good for 30 days. Permits can be obtained online at https://bit.ly/TreePermit, and anyone with questions is encouraged to contact one of Alberta’s forest area offices at www.alberta.ca/forestry-area-office-contacts.aspx. Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, is launching her bid for a third two-year term heading the GOP's governing organization after the party’s stronger-than-anticipated showing in November’s election, even though President Donald Trump lost. In a letter Wednesday to the 168 members of the RNC announcing her candidacy, McDaniel said she has the support of Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader McCarthy of California, as well as a supermajority of committee members — all but assuring her victory. McDaniel was selected by Trump for the role four years ago and he endorsed her for a new term about a week after the Nov. 3 election. That could give the outgoing president additional sway over the party as he ponders his own future, including a potential presidential run in 2024. McDaniel, in her letter, echoed Trump's rhetoric about the election and said she would step up the RNC's voting-related litigation efforts and form a committee on election integrity "to continue battling the Democrats’ unprecedented attempts to change election laws." While she did not repeat Trump's false claims that he won the election, McDaniel said the GOP continues “to fight for President Trump" as he makes legal challenges across the country. McDaniel also promised “to explore ways to transition” from what she called the “biased” Commission on Presidential Debates.” Trump has vented about the nonpartisan commission, which instituted tight safeguards against the coronavirus after Trump came down with COVID-19. Trump refused to participate after the commission decided the second debate would be virtual; it ended up being cancelled. Despite Trump's musing about running again in four years, McDaniel pledged to uphold the party's neutrality in primaries. The GOP "will remain neutral and focus on laying the groundwork," she wrote. “I will work to ensure that all Republican candidates can be successful.” Under McDaniel, the GOP deployed the largest field operation in politics, including more than 3,000 staffers and 2.6 million volunteers, and raised more than $1.3 billion for GOP candidates. Republicans restored much of their field program this summer despite the pandemic while Democrats largely kept to all-virtual voter contacts. Republicans believe that helped them outperform expectations by retaining vulnerable Senate seats and narrowing Democrats’ majority in the House. “President Trump earned more minority votes than any Republican candidate in decades, and a record number of women, minorities and veterans were elected to office,” McDaniel wrote. “This is a legacy our Party can be proud of, and we must continue to build on this historic momentum.” Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel."Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer: * Fort Providence, N.W.T. * Sambaa K'e, N.W.T. * Fort Simpson, N.W.T. * Norman Wells, N.W.T. * Fort Resolution, N.W.T. * Aklavik, N.W.T.As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 Recycling company Geep is in a legal battle with Apple Inc. over the tech giant’s claim that the Barrie-based company allegedly stole and resold nearly 100,000 iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches it was supposed to destroy. According to a report in the Financial Post, Apple has filed a lawsuit demanding $31 million in damages and any proceeds from the resale of goods. In September 2019, Geep Canada merged with the Shift Group of Companies to form Quantum Lifecycle Partners, which has a large recycling plant on John Street in Barrie. Quantum is not named in the lawsuit. The Financial Post also reports that Geep has denied all wrongdoing and filed a third-party suit claiming employees stole the Apple devices without its knowledge. Apple’s lawsuit claims 11,766 pounds of Apple devices left Geep’s premises without being destroyed. These allegedly misappropriated devices were then subsequently sold at a significantly higher price than other recycled materials, the lawsuit claims. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Quantum Lifecycle Partners (formerly Geep) has no comment because the case is before the courts. Apple hired Geep in 2014 to destroy its old products and ensure they didn’t end up in landfills. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
SIOUX LOOK — Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police have released the name of a woman who died in a house fire last month as they continue to determine the cause of the fire. Clara Ash, 37, of Sioux Lookout has been identified as the individual who died in a house fire on Nov. 19. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dec. 2, police say the cause of death was smoke inhalation. Police responded at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 along with fire and emergency crews to an apartment on First Avenue in the municipality of Sioux Lookout. Two individuals were extracted from the building and neighbouring units were safely evacuated, according to a news release. A third deceased individual was located by firefighters. OPP continue to investigate the cause of the fire under the direction of the criminal investigations branch, the chief coroner, and the Ontario Fire Marshal. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact OPP or their local police service.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
VAUGHAN, Ont. — CannTrust Holdings Inc. is staging a comeback more than a year after its licences were suspended for illegally growing thousands of kilograms of dried cannabis in unlicensed rooms.The Vaughan, Ont., cannabis firm announced Wednesday that it will reintroduce two recreational brands, Liiv and Synr.g, to the Canadian market this month."We're confident that when the customers come back and try our products again, then they'll remember how good and how consistent and high quality they are," CEO Greg Guyatt said in an interview."We think we will win them back."That task may not be easy.CannTrust remains under Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act protection as it deals with multiple class action lawsuits and other litigation.The cases were filed after Health Canada discovered illicit cultivation at CannTrust's Pelham, Ont., greenhouse and seized cannabis from unlicensed rooms in the summer of 2019.Health Canada launched an investigation into the matter, while CannTrust dismissed chief executive Peter Aceto and board chairman Eric Paul departed the company.The company's licences for growing and processing cannabis were suspended at the time, but earlier this year, Health Canada reinstated those linked to CannTrust's Fenwick and Vaughan facilities.Guyatt is confident those problems are behind the company. "It's been a long journey, many hours and a lot of effort from everybody," he said.CannTrust spent the last 18 months going through a comprehensive remediation program focused on compliance and simplifying the business.It took a deep dive through its data and analyzed which customers it should target and what brands would resonate with them. "I'm very confident that the company's back on track," said Guyatt."So now the attention changes from the remediation and relaunch into the actual relaunch execution phase right now and getting those products back in the hands of consumers."So far, CannTrust's strategy is to focus first on Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Once CannTrust has established a consistent supply of cannabis in those provinces, it will expand to other markets and introduce new products in 2021. It is also promising its full line of medical products will return in the near future and that it will enter the nearly year-old cannabis 2.0 market that has focused on edibles, vapes and topicals.Unlike CannTrust initial entry into the cannabis market, these launches will include addressing a new challenge: COVID-19.Measures meant to quell the pandemic have created a patchwork of policies that have left cannabis retailers open in some cities, but temporarily closed or operating through curbside pickup in others.Postal delivery is taking longer in most provinces for cannabis orders made online.While pot companies saw a surge in sales in the early days of the pandemic, executives now say those spikes are dissipating and they're having to get creative to reach first-time or casual cannabis users.Guyatt admits these are not ideal circumstances for a comeback."Obviously the market has changed and we've been out of the market for some time, but we're going to continue to work hard to educate and inform our customers and patients about our products," he said.He believes consumers will grow to love CannTrust again and that being late to cannabis 2.0 won't be a downfall.Getting into such products after competitors allows CannTrust to quickly adjust to new demands in the market and learn from mistakes other cannabis companies made, he said."Now we're able to look at the market and look at what's worked and what's not worked and really tailor our product much more specifically to ensure that we can win."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press