Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse discusses how he learned former assistant coach Chris Finch was leaving for Minnesota and what changes for the Raptors.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse discusses how he learned former assistant coach Chris Finch was leaving for Minnesota and what changes for the Raptors.
Former President Donald Trump has clashed again with his Republican Party, demanding that three Republican groups stop using his name and likeness for fundraising, a Trump adviser said on Saturday. The adviser, confirming a report in Politico, said lawyers for Trump on Friday had sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Campaign and National Republican Senate Campaign, asking them to stop using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise.
Quebec is reporting 749 new cases of COVID-19 today along with 10 new deaths linked to the virus. The province also says it administered 19,865 doses of vaccine on Friday as its vaccination campaign ramps up. The latest vaccination figures, the highest the province has reported in a single day so far, come as Quebec opens vaccine eligibility to more people. To date, provincial figures show 532,012 doses of vaccine have been administered out of a total of 638,445 that the province received. Quebec reported 601 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 today, a decrease of 16 from the day before. The number of people hospitalized includes 109 people in intensive care, down by two. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
The total number of Toronto residents vaccinated against COVID-19 is now 124,868, the city said on Saturday. In a news release, the city said the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Toronto is now 197,155. Because some residents have received two doses of the vaccine, the total number of residents vaccinated is lower than the total number of vaccine doses administered, the city clarified in an email on Saturday. The city said in the release that several clinics are underway on Saturday to vaccinate hospital and community-based healthcare workers who are in Phase 1 priority groups. Clinics are being held at Unity Health Toronto, University Health Network, Michael Garron Hospital, Humber River Hospital, North York General Hospital, Scarborough Health Network and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The city said it expects to vaccinate upwards of 6,700 people across 15 clinics over the weekend. Canada approved the first single shot vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, on Friday. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recently recommended a longer maximum interval between first and second doses of the three two-shot COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada to increase the speed at which Canadians get vaccinated. Toronto's population is more than 2.9 million.
TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 990 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths linked to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 284 new cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel Region, and 82 in York Region. Today's data is based on 57,829 completed tests. The province also reports a single-day high of 39,698 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered since Friday's update. A total of 860,412 doses of vaccine have been administered in Ontario so far. Ontario says that 1,152 more cases were resolved since the last daily update. There have been 306,997 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, including 289,735 classified as resolved and 7,052 that have resulted in death. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
A man in Regina has been issued a $2,800 ticket for disobeying the public health order on private gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, police say. Officers were called to the 3000 block of 25th Avenue at 11:30 p.m. Friday, a Regina Police Service news release said. When they arrived, nine people were in the residence, including one person from Saskatoon. Police said the gathering was in violation of the public health order which limits indoor private gatherings to people who already reside in the home. The resident at the home was issued the ticket.
A formal farewell to Walter Gretzky, the famed Canadian hockey patriarch, focused on his faith, his family and his love of the game during a pandemic-adjusted funeral service held in his hometown of Brantford, Ont., on Saturday afternoon. "He was a remarkable man who loved life, loved family," his son, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, said Saturday, as he paid tribute to his late father inside St. Mark's Anglican Church. "We'd be a way better world if there were so many more people like my dad." Walter Gretzky, died on Thursday at the age of 82. He left behind his five adult children and 13 grandchildren. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mourners wore masks at the service, which was limited to family and located just a few blocks from the home where Gretzky and his late wife, Phyllis, raised their family. WATCH | A look back at the life of Walter Gretzky: Canada and hockey Walter Gretzky's parents were immigrants, and Wayne Gretzky said his father, who was appointed a member of the Order of Canada, grew up to be a very patriotic individual. "I don't think I've ever met a prouder Canadian than my dad," he said. Walter Gretzky, seen here watching a Leafs-Kings game in 1988, died last Thursday at age 82.(Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press) But Walter Gretzky also loved hockey — so much so that the game wove its way into family history in many ways, including when Wayne Gretzky's brother Brent, a fellow future NHLer himself, was born. Wayne recalled that his father, who played minor and Junior B hockey, missed Brent's birth due to a hockey tournament out of town. "On a Friday night, we were going to the tournament, and my mom said to him: 'Walter, we're going to have this baby this weekend,''" Wayne Gretzky said, recounting the tale during the service. "And he said: 'It's OK, you can wait till we get back.'" Brent Gretzky was born the next day, and Walter Gretzky took a lot of ribbing about having missed his delivery — and he had one comment to make after one too many people chided him for what happened. "He was so mad," Wayne said. "He stood and he grabbed the trophy and he goes, 'Yes, but we got the trophy!"' 'We're all going to miss Wally' Tim Dobbin, the religious official delivering the homily at the service, described Gretzky as a gregarious and generous man who always made time for others. "This is a painful day for us, another chapter in our lives is drawing to a close," Dobbin said. "We're all going to miss Wally." People gathered along the sidewalk to pay their respects as the funeral procession for Walter Gretzky passed by in Brantford, Ont., on Saturday afternoon.(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press) Hockey Night in Canada fans would recognize the theme that was briefly played on the church organ as the funeral came to an end, and the casket with Gretzky's body was carried outside. An interment ceremony was to take place at the Farrington Burial Ground, according to an online obituary. As the funeral cortege left the church, people on the street — some wearing hockey jerseys — gathered along the sidewalk and gently tapped hockey sticks in tribute to Gretzky. Hundreds of people were there, according to a report from The Canadian Press. 'A profoundly sad day' Prior to Saturday's funeral service, Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis called Gretzky's passing "a profoundly sad day for all those who knew and loved Walter," saying the hockey patriarch's impact on his community extended beyond the ice. WATCH | Walter Gretzky, Canada's hockey dad: Glen Gretzky told the Brantford Expositor that his father had dealt with a series of health issues over the years. He said family had gathered at his father's Brantford home to be with him in his final hours. "We always said he's had nine lives," Glen said. "But he was unbelievable. He just wouldn't stop and nothing would keep him down." The backyard rink It was in Brantford that Walter Gretzky famously built a backyard rink where Wayne, who would go on to be known as the Great One, honed his hockey skills from an early age. "His birthday falls in January, so it was the winter that he turned three that he had skates on," Walter Gretzky said, when recalling Wayne's early days during a conversation with CBC back in 1982, as his eldest son was playing in the NHL playoffs. Hockey sticks, cards and flowers are seen on a snowbank beside Walter Gretzky's reserved parking spot at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ont., on Friday, following news of Walter's death. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press) That support continued throughout Wayne Gretzky's pro hockey career, something that the people who shared the ice with No. 99 noticed. "We all know that the relationship between Wayne and Walter was incredible," Mark Messier — the Hall of Fame hockey player who won four of his six Stanley Cups playing alongside Wayne during his Edmonton days — told CBC News recently. "I think it's something to be emulated, the way he nurtured Wayne." Wayne Gretzky is hugged by his father, Walter, after being presented with a car during the pre-game ceremonies for Gretzky's last game in the NHL, as a New York Ranger, on April 18, 1999.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press) That included supporting his famous son when a controversial trade sent Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. "If Wayne is going to be happy there and he enjoys it, then certainly I won't regret it," his father said at the time. Walter Gretzky was also on hand for the day his son became the NHL's all-time points leader. A woman places flowers at the foot of a statue depicting Walter Gretzky outside the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ont., following news of his death.(Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)
Britain's Prince Charles paid tribute to the courage shown throughout the Commonwealth in response to coronavirus in a broadcast that will air on Sunday, hours before Prince Harry and Meghan talk about stepping down from royal duties on U.S. television. The prince was joined by other royals, including his elder son and heir Prince William, in talking about the impact of COVID-19 in messages recorded for a programme marking Commonwealth Day dedicated to the countries, mainly from the former British empire, that maintain links with Britain. "The coronavirus pandemic has affected every country of the Commonwealth, cruelly robbing countless people of their lives and livelihoods, disrupting our societies and denying us the human connections which we so dearly cherish," Charles said in the message.
Two people died in a fire at an apartment building Saturday morning in in Hilden, N.S. RCMP say they responded to a report of a fire on Truro Road at 6:55 a.m. A media release stated that local fire departments were able to extinguish the fire. No other details were provided. The cause of the fire is being investigated by Colchester District RCMP, the Northeast Nova Major Crimes Unit and the Office of the Fire Marshal. The RCMP does not believe the fire is suspicious, according to the release. The Red Cross tweeted that the building had 22 units and that 46 tenants are displaced. It has set up a comfort centre at the Hilden fire hall to assist anyone from the apartment building with emergency needs. MORE TOP STORIES
Ontario is reporting 990 new cases of COVID-19 and six new deaths, according to the latest provincial figures. The new daily case count brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began in Ontario to 306,997. Toronto saw 284 new cases while Peel Region saw 173. Both regions are under stay-at-home orders that are scheduled to lift on Monday. York Region reported 82 new cases. WATCH | Hillier talks about vaccine rollout: The update follows the release of Ontario's accelerated vaccine rollout plan, which should see all adults 60 and older given a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by early June — a month sooner than initially planned. "That was very optimistic," Dr. Peter Lin told CBC News on Saturday. Lin applauded the province's rollout strategy for including an option to space out shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by up to four months. "[That] means more people can get vaccinated and the whole idea is to burn the virus out," he said. "If you have lots of people vaccinated, the virus can't find a new host and we could say goodbye to the virus quicker and get back to normal life faster." To date, Ontario has administered more than 860,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines with more than 270,600 people fully vaccinated. Toronto, the province's largest city, is responsible for the administration of nearly 200,000 of those doses — a figure that amounts to more than 124,686 people being vaccinated. In a Saturday news release, the city said 197,155 doses have been administered, and that several clinics are underway on Saturday to vaccinate hospital and community-based healthcare workers who are in Phase 1 priority groups. Vaccine availability continues to be a stumbling block for cities, including Toronto, which has a population of more than 2.9 million. Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in cases were: Ottawa: 60 Thunder Bay: 54 Halton Region: 34 Waterloo Region: 33 Durham Region: 32 Lambton: 27 Simcoe Muskoka: 27 Windsor-Essex: 27 Hamilton: 24 Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District: 19 Sudbury: 17 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 17 Eastern Ontario: 12 (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.) 2 regions to see restrictions eased Monday Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Zain Chagla told CBC News on Saturday that Canada's approval of the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — news that came after Ontario released its vaccine plan — should definitely help speed up the timeline. "We'll get to the point where vaccines are scaling up and up and up," he said. But he cautioned: "There may be turbulence for the next month or so." On Monday, stay-at-home orders in Toronto and Peel Region will be lifted, although both regions will stay in lockdown. Medical officers of health for both regions had urged caution ahead of the shift. "Vaccines do us no good if they're not in arms yet," Dr. Lawrence Loh said at a Wednesday news conference. "We must stay the course." Last month, the province made a few changes to what people are allowed to do in a grey lockdown. As of Monday, residents in Toronto and Peel Regions will be able to shop in person at reduced capacity: 50 per cent for grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies and 25 per cent for other retailers. Loitering in shopping malls or other stores will not be permitted. Individuals will still need to wear a mask and practice physical distancing. WATCH | Toronto and Peel Region to move into grey zone as stay-at-home order lifts on Monday
A COVID-19 outbreak at Bowness High School in northwest Calgary is causing all grades to transition to online classes starting Monday. The Calgary Board of Education sent a letter to parents Friday detailing that the school was placed on outbreak status for the provincial COVID-19 map. According to the provinces' website, an outbreak refers to schools with five to nine cases. The CBE said classes will be held online until March.16 and will impact around 1,184 students in grades 10-12. Students will continue their coursework through a variety of virtual classroom programs but will not be able to transfer to Hub online learning, the CBE said in the letter. The province considers an outbreak investigation completed when there have been no new confirmed cases in the school for 28 days.
Police are now patrolling Brazil's most famous beach after its many stalls were closed on Friday.View on euronews
Canadian internationals Evelyne Viens and Vanessa Gilles both scored in French league play Saturday. Viens' 90th-minute goal closed out the scoring in Paris FC's 4-1 win at Stade Reims. The 24-year-old from L'Ancienne-Lorette, Que., is on loan from Sky Blue FC, which selected the University of South Florida forward fifth overall in the 2020 NWSL draft. Gilles' header off a 19th-minute corner opened the scoring in Girondins Bordeaux's 2-0 victory at Dijon. The 24-year-old centre back from Ottawa is coming off an impressive performance for Canada against the U.S. at the SheBelieves Cup. Viens made her debut for Canada at the SheBelieves Cup. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021 The Canadian Press
An Israeli-Canadian lobbyist hired by Myanmar's junta said on Saturday that the generals are keen to leave politics after their coup and seek to improve relations with the United States and distance themselves from China. Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli military intelligence official who has previously represented Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Sudan's military rulers, said Myanmar's generals also want to repatriate Rohingya Muslims who fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The United Nations says more than 50 demonstrators have been killed since the Feb. 1 coup when the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won polls in November by a landslide.
TORONTO — Ontario's New Democrats say they would create a new cap-and-trade carbon pricing system if elected in 2022. The official Opposition made the promise in an environmental policy plank of their election platform, released today at a morning news conference. Party leader Andrea Horwath says the province needs the carbon pricing system to help fight climate change. She says the system would generate $30 billion in revenue, and the NDP would raise another $10 billion through the sale of "green bonds", over four years. The NDP says that cash would be used to pay for green building retrofits, to ramp up electric vehicle sales, and to plant a billion trees by 2030. The platform also promises to give each household in the province $600 to add an electric car charging station. Ontario's Progressive Conservative government scrapped the province's cap-and-trade system in 2018, a regime introduced by the previous Liberal government. Horwath said the NDP carbon pricing system will ensure polluters pay for their emissions and promised it will not add costs to low and middle income Ontarians. The party says the plan would help Ontario reach a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. "I think more and more people have come to the realization that we must tackle the climate climate crisis," Horwath said. "A just transition means we will really look after our people while we look after our climate." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021. The Canadian Press
PLAINS OF UR, Iraq — Pope Francis walked through a narrow alley in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf for a historic meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric, and together they delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence in a country still reeling from back-to-back conflicts over the past decade. In a gesture both simple and profound, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed Francis into his spartan home. Afterward, he said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians, and that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defence of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, and his rare but powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. He is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites worldwide. Later in the day, the pope met with Iraqi religious leaders in the shadow of a symbol of the country’s ancient past — the 6,000-year-old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Such interfaith forums are a staple of Francis’ international trips. But in strife-torn Iraq the televised gathering of figures from across the country’s religious spectrum was nearly unheard of: From Shiite and Sunni Muslims to Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians and tiny, lesser known, ancient and esoteric faiths like the Kakai, a sect among ethnic Kurds, Mandaeans and Sabaean Mandaeans. Missing from the picture was a representative of Iraq’s once thriving, now nearly decimated Jewish community, though they were invited, the Vatican said. Together, the day’s two main events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity. It is a message he hopes can preserve the place of the thinning Christian population in the tapestry. Still, it faces a tough sell in a country where every community has been traumatized by sectarian bloodshed and discrimination and where politicians have tied their power to sectarian interests. In al-Sistani, Francis sought the help of an ascetic, respected figure who is immersed in those sectarian identities but is also a powerful voice standing above them. Their meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home, the first ever between a pope and a grand ayatollah, was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly negotiated beforehand. Early Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff, travelling in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, pulled up along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which culminates at the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. He then walked the few meters (yards) down an alley to al-Sistani’s home. As a masked Francis entered the doorway, a few white doves were released in a sign of peace. He emerged just under an hour later, still limping from an apparent flare-up of sciatica nerve pain that makes walking difficult. A religious official in Najaf called the 40-minute meeting “very positive.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media. The official said al-Sistani, who normally remains seated for visitors, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room — a rare honour. The pope removed his shoes before entering al-Sistani’s room and was served tea and a plastic bottle of water. Al-Sistani and Francis sat close to one another, without masks. Al-Sistani spoke for most of the meeting, the official said. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public or even on television, wore black robes and a black turban, in simple contrast to Francis’ all-white cassock. The official said there was some concern about the fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before. Francis has received the coronavirus vaccine but al-Sistani has not. The aging ayatollah, who underwent surgery for a fractured thigh last year, looked tired. After the meeting ended, Francis paused before leaving the room to have a last look, the official said. In a statement issued by his office afterward, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.” Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said. Iraqis cheered the meeting, and the prime minister responded to it by declaring March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Cooexistence in Iraq. ”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” said Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi. “It is a historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.” Iraq’s Christians, battered by violence and discrimination, hope a show of solidarity from al-Sistani will help secure their place in Iraq and ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community. Al-Sistani’s voice is a powerful one, often for moderation. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, his opinions forced American administrators to alter their transition plans, and his approval opened the way for Iraq’s Shiites to participate in force in post-Saddam Hussein elections. In 2019, as anti-government demonstrations gripped the country, his sermon led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. But his word is not law. After 2003, he repeatedly preached calm and restraint as the Shiite majority came under attack by Sunni extremists. Yet brutal Shiite reprisals against Sunni civilians fed a years-long cycle of sectarian violence. His 2014 fatwa, or religious edict, calling on able-bodied men to join the security forces in fighting the Islamic State group helped ensure the extremists’ defeat. But it also swelled the ranks of Shiite militias, many closely tied to Iran and now blamed for discrimination against Sunnis and Christians. Later, Pope Francis evoked the common reverence for Abraham to speak against religious violence at the inter-faith gathering at the Plains of Ur, near the southern city of Nasiriyah. “From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.” The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain. Ali Thijeel, a Nasiriyah resident who attended the event, said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage investment in the area to attract pilgrims and tourists. “This is what we were waiting for,” he said. “This is a message to the government and politicians. They should take care of this city and pay attention to our history.” Francis’ visit — his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Iraq. Despite concern about infections, Francis celebrated Mass in a packed, stuffy Chaldean Catholic Cathedral later Saturday in Baghdad that featured chanted Scripture readings and a maskless choir singing hymns. “Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus,” Francis told the faithful, who did wear masks. ___ Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed. Nicole Winfield And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
A Northwest Territories Power Corporation employee is in hospital after sustaining an injury at the Jackfish Lake generating plant in Yellowknife. In an email, a power corporation spokesperson confirmed the incident happened Friday afternoon. "Our thoughts are with our employee and his family. We will provide them with whatever support we can at this difficult time," read a statement by Noel Voykin, the president and CEO of the power corporation. The power corporation is not providing any further information about the identity or condition of the employee at this time. An update is expected early next week, the spokesperson says. The power corporation said the incident has been reported to the Workplace Safety and Compensation Commission.
SHEFFIELD, England — Southampton shrugged off the disappointment of losing Danny Ings to another injury by beating last-place Sheffield United 2-0 to end its nine-match winless run in the Premier League on Saturday. The England striker walked off the field in the 12th minute with an apparent right leg injury that was sustained off the ball and in seemingly innocuous circumstances at a free kick. Southampton overcame Ings’ absence as his replacement, Che Adams, scored from a fierce 25-meter shot in the 49th minute to add to a penalty converted by James Ward-Prowse in the 32nd. A first league win in more than two months moved Southampton 10 points clear of the bottom three and will alleviate fears that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team was being dragged into a relegation fight, despite a brilliant start to the season that saw it briefly in first place in November. Sheffield United was destined for demotion to the second-tier Championship even before this 22nd loss of the campaign, with the team 12 points from safety. Ings is set to spend a third spell on the sidelines because of injury this season. He has struggled with fitness issues in recent years, although managed to stay injury-free last season and finished second in the league’s scoring list. It remains to be seen how long this latest problem keeps him out, and Hasenhuttl will be happy fellow striker Adams got back scoring after a 16-match goal drought. It was a superb strike, too, as Stuart Armstrong chested down the ball after a clearance by Sheffield United was blocked and Adams thrashed a rising shot into the net from outside the area. Southampton had gone in front after Ethan Ampadu brought down Nathan Tella in the area. Ward-Prowse sent Aaron Ramsdale the wrong way from the spot. The defeat could have been much heavier for the hosts, with Ramsdale saving well from Adams and Takumi Minamino shooting wide when free 10 metres out. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums. After labouring through the night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature. “We tell the American people, help is on the way," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Citing the country's desire to resume normalcy, he added, “Our job right now is to help our country get from this stormy present to that hopeful future.” The huge package — its total spending is nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy — is Biden’s biggest early priority. It stands as his formula for addressing the deadly virus and a limping economy, twin crises that have afflicted the country for a year. Saturday's vote was also a crucial political moment for Biden and Democrats, who need nothing short of party unanimity in a 50-50 Senate they run because of Vice-President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. They also have a a slim 10-vote edge in the House. A small but pivotal band of moderate Democrats leveraged changes in the bill that incensed progressives, not making it any easier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to guide the measure through the House. But rejection of their first, signature bill was not an option for Democrats, who face two years of trying to run Congress with virtually no room for error. The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and vast piles of spending for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, states and cities, schools and ailing industries, along with tax breaks to help lower-earning people, families with children and consumers buying health insurance. The package faced solid opposition from Republicans, who call the package a wasteful spending spree for Democrats’ liberal allies that ignores recent indications that the pandemic and the economy could be turning the corner. “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Of Democrats, he said, “Their top priority wasn't pandemic relief. It was their Washington wish list.” The Senate commenced a dreaded “vote-a-thon” — a continuous series of votes on amendments — shortly before midnight Friday, and by the end had dispensed with about three dozen. The Senate had been in session since 9 a.m. EST Friday. Overnight, the chamber was like an experiment in the best techniques for staying awake. Several lawmakers appeared to rest their eyes or doze at their desks, often burying their faces in their hands. At one point, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, at 48 one of the younger senators, trotted into the chamber and did a prolonged stretch. The measure follows five earlier ones totalling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring and comes amid signs of a potential turnaround. Vaccine supplies are growing, deaths and caseloads have eased but remain frighteningly high, and hiring was surprisingly strong last month, though the economy remains 10 million jobs smaller than its pre-pandemic levels. The Senate package was delayed repeatedly as Democrats made eleventh-hour changes aimed at balancing demands by their competing moderate and progressive factions. Work on the bill ground to a halt Friday after an agreement among Democrats on extending emergency jobless benefits seemed to collapse. Nearly 12 hours later, top Democrats and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, perhaps the chamber's most conservative Democrat, said they had a deal and the Senate approved it on a party-line 50-49 vote. Under their compromise, $300 weekly emergency unemployment checks — on top of regular state benefits — would be renewed, with a final payment made Oct. 6. There would also be tax breaks on some of those payments, helping people the pandemic abruptly tossed out of jobs and risked tax penalties on the benefits. The House's relief bill, largely similar to the Senate's, provided $400 weekly benefits through August. The current $300 per week payments expire March 14, and Democrats want the bill on Biden's desk by then to avert a lapse. Manchin and Republicans have asserted that higher jobless benefits discourage people from returning to work, a rationale most Democrats and many economists reject. That agreement on jobless benefits wasn't the only move that showed the sway of moderates. The Senate voted Friday to eject a House-approved boost in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, a major defeat for progressives. Eight Democrats opposed the increase, suggesting that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other progressives pledging to continue the effort in coming months will face a difficult fight. Party leaders also agreed to restrict eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks that will go to most Americans. That amount would be gradually reduced until, under the Senate bill, it reaches zero for people earning $80,000 and couples making $160,000. Those amounts were higher in the House version. Many of the rejected GOP amendments were either attempts to force Democrats to cast politically awkward votes or for Republicans to demonstrate their zeal for issues that appeal to their voters. These included defeated efforts to bar the bill's education funds from going to schools closed for the pandemic that don't reopen their doors, or that let transgender students born male to participate in female sports. One amendment would have blocked aid to so-called sanctuary cities, where local authorities balk at helping federal officials round up immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Friday's gridlock over unemployment benefits gridlock wasn't the bill's lengthy delay. A day earlier, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., forced the chamber's clerks to read aloud the entire 628-page relief bill, a wearying task that lasted nearly 11 hours. ___ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
Charlottetown's winter festival was put on ice this week due to COVID restrictions, but will be extended six days to make up for the pause. Organizers behind the Ice City Festival, a "distant cousin" of the Jack Frost Festival normally held pre-pandemic, say the past week has been a whirlwind. The festival was supposed to have events throughout the city last week, but the circuit-breaker restrictions instituted Feb. 27, followed by red-phase restrictions early this week, put the festivities on pause. The province had announced a two-week stop to indoor dining as part of the bid to stop the sudden jump in cases. But at a pandemic briefing on Wednesday, Premier Dennis King announced restaurants could reopen Thursday. The current rules limit 50 patrons in a restaurant, no more than six at a table and the establishment must close by 10 p.m. With in-room dining allowed again, Ice City organizers could restart the festivities, which include outdoor activities as well as food. "Skating and stuff could have still carried on, but definitely with the in-room dining, a lot of our restaurant partners are having micro-events at their restaurants," said Heidi Zinn, executive director of Discover Charlottetown. "And certainly, you know, one of the reasons we're doing this is to bring people downtown and get them into the restaurant.... We're super excited to have the programming back." Charlottetown's Ice City Festival began on Feb. 12 and was slated to run until March 14. Now because of the pause it'll run until March 20.
NEW DELHI — Thousands of Indian farmers blocked a massive expressway on the edges of New Delhi on Saturday to mark the 100th day of protests against agricultural laws that they say will devastate their income. Farmers stood on tractors and waved colorful flags while their leaders chanted slogans via a loudspeaker atop a makeshift stage. Thousands of them have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by Parliament last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture, but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations. Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or Joint Farmers’ Front, said the blockade would last five hours. “It is not our hobby to block roads, but the government is not listening to us. What can we do?” said Satnam Singh, a member of the group. The farmers have remained undeterred even after violence erupted on Jan. 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead and hundreds injured. But they could soon run into problems. For 100 days, Karnal Singh has lived inside the back of a trailer along a vast stretch of arterial highway that connects India’s north with New Delhi. He camped outside the capital when it was under the grip of winter and smog. Now the city is bracing for scorching summer temperatures that can hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). But Singh, like many other farmers, is unfazed and plans to stay until the laws are completely withdrawn. “We are not going anywhere and will fight till the end,” Singh, 60, said Friday, as he sat cross-legged inside a makeshift shelter in the back of his truck. The mood at the Singhu border, one of the protest sites, was boisterous on Friday, with many farmers settling into their surroundings for the long haul. Huge soup kitchens that feed thousands daily were still running. Farmers thronged both sides of the highway and hundreds of trucks have been turned into rooms, fitted with water coolers in preparation for the summer. Electric fans and air conditioners are also being installed in some trailers. Farmers say the protests will spread across the country soon. The government, however, is hoping many of them will return home once India’s major harvesting season begins at the end of the month. Karanbir Singh dismissed such concerns. He said their community, including friends and neighbours back in the villages, would tend to farms while he and others carried on with the protests. “We’ll help each other to make sure no farm goes unharvested,” Singh said. But not all farmers are against the laws. Pawan Kumar, a fruit and vegetable grower and ardent Modi supporter, said he was ready to give them a chance. “If they (the laws) turn out to not benefit us, then we will protest again,” he said. "We will jam roads, and make that protest even bigger. Then more common people, even workers, will join. But if they turn out to be beneficial for us, we will keep them.” Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to end the stalemate. The farmers have rejected an offer from the government to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they want a complete repeal. The legislation is not clear on whether the government will continue to guarantee prices for certain essential crops — a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help India shore up its food reserves and prevent shortages. Farmers also fear that the legislation signals the government is moving away from a system in which an overwhelming majority of farmers sell only to government-sanctioned marketplaces. They worry that will leave them at the mercy of corporations that will have no legal obligation to pay them the guaranteed price anymore. ___ Associated Press videojournalist Rishabh R. Jain contributed to this report. Neha Mehrotra And Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press