WASHINGTON — China poses the greatest threat to America and the rest of the free world since World War II, outgoing National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said Thursday as the Trump administration ramps up anti-Chinese rhetoric to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to be tough on Beijing.“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Ratcliffe wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. “Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”“I call its approach of economic espionage ‘rob, replicate and replace,'" Ratcliffe said. “China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace.”Trump administration officials have been stepping up their anti-China rhetoric for months, especially during the presidential campaign as President Donald Trump sought to deflect blame for the spread of the coronavirus . On the campaign trail, Trump warned that Biden would go easy on China, although the president-elect agrees that China is not abiding by international trade rules, is giving unfair subsidies to Chinese companies and stealing American innovation.The Trump administration, which once boasted of warm relations with China's President Xi Jinping, also has been ramping up sanctions against China over Taiwan, Tibet, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. It has moved against the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and sought restrictions on Chinese social media applications like TikTok and WeChat.China’s embassy in the U.S. did not respond to a request for comment on Ratcliffe’s op-ed, although China has routinely denied many of these allegations in the past.Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who has been accused of politicizing the position, has been the nation's top intelligence official since May. In his op-ed, he did not directly address the transition to a Biden administration. Trump has not acknowledged losing the election.Ratcliffe said he has shifted money within the $85 billion annual intelligence budget to address the threat from China. Beijing is preparing for an open-ended confrontation with the U.S., which must be addressed, he said.“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge. Americans have always risen to the moment, from defeating the scourge of fascism to bringing down the Iron Curtain,” Ratcliffe wrote in what appeared to be call for action to future intelligence officials.Biden has announced that he wants the Senate to confirm Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, to succeed Ratcliffe as the next national intelligence director.“This generation will be judged by its response to China’s effort to reshape the world in its own image and replace America as the dominant superpower," Ratcliffe wrote.He cited several examples of Chinese aggression against the United States:The Justice Department has charged a rising number of U.S. academics for transferring U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China.He noted the theft of intellectual property from American businesses, citing the case of Sinoval, a China-based wind turbine maker, which was convicted and heavily fined for stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a U.S.-based manufacturer formerly known as American Superconductor Inc. Rather than pay AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services it had agreed to purchase, Sinovel hatched a scheme to steal AMSC’s proprietary wind turbine technology, causing the loss of almost 700 jobs and more than $1 billion in shareholder equity, according to the Justice Department.Ratcliffe and other U.S. officials have said that China has stolen sensitive U.S. defence technology to fuel Xi's aggressive military modernization plan and they allege that Beijing uses its access to Chinese tech firms, such as Huawei, to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten the privacy of users worldwide.Ratcliffe said he has personally briefed members of Congress about how China is using intermediaries to lawmakers in an attempt to influence legislation.Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Toronto police say they have arrested two men and seized large quantities of drugs following two separate investigations.Police say about 150 kilograms of crystal meth, cocaine, fentanyl and heroin were recovered during the probes.They say two firearms and about half a million dollars were also seized.The men were arrested separately and are facing multiple charges including possession for the purpose of trafficking.Police allege that an address in Mississauga, Ont., was being used as a fentanyl lab and for distribution of drugs.A 23-year-old man from Vaughan, Ont., and a 26-year old from Edmonton are scheduled to appear in court on separate dates later this month.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A female volunteer who regularly feeds big cats was bitten and seriously injured by a tiger Thursday morning at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Florida, which was made famous by the Netflix series “Tiger King,” officials said. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue received a trauma alert call about 8:30 a.m. Thursday from the sanctuary, agency spokesman Eric Seidel told The Associated Press. Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, said in an email to the AP that the volunteer, Candy Couser, was feeding a tiger named Kimba when she noticed the animal was not in his usual location. Baskin said Couser opened a gate that had been clipped shut but she reached in to unclip it. “This is our universal signal NOT to open a gate” without assistance, Baskin said. “It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it.” “Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder,” Baskin added. Couser was taken to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries after staff and other volunteers at Big Cat Rescue sought to stop the bleeding, Baskin said. Kimba will be placed in quarantine for the next 30 days, but Baskin said the tiger was “just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity.” Baskin said Couser did not want Kimba to suffer any consequences for the incident. The sanctuary was founded by Baskin and Don Lewis in the 1990s and is a prominent animal sanctuary. Lewis disappeared in 1997. The incident came the same day the U.S. House is to vote on a bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, championed by Baskin that would ban handling of big cat cubs and personal possession of them in places such as backyards. “This sort of tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye and we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats,” Baskin said. “Tiger King", which debuted in March, was a documentary series about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” an eccentric former Oklahoma zookeeper who loves big cats. Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison earlier this year for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down, accusing the Oklahoma zoo of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs. In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Baskin’s former husband, Lewis. The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin has not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly released statements refuting the accusations made in the series. ___ Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Curt Anderson And Freida Frisaro, The Associated Press
We may not be able to gather to attend or participate in major sporting events right now, due to COVID-19 restrictions, however the Town of Paradise, along with the City of St. John’s and other communities in the metro region, are looking ahead to 2025, when hopefully, large events are a reality once again. “The City of St. John’s, along with the region, is bidding to host the Canada Summer Games in 2025. A bid committee is determining host locations for various sports taking place as part of the games,” said councillor Patrick Martin during Tuesday’s meeting of council. “Critical to this submission is to identify partners. Paradise has been selected by the committee to host volleyball, male and female. This is one of the most exciting venues of the games filled with music, action-packed competition, and an overall festival atmosphere. The committee has advised the park will need one million dollars in upgrades before 2025.” Martin concluded by saying the committee requested confirmation from Paradise on whether it would be willing to make the necessary financial and operational commitments. Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Laurie said that it would be an incredible opportunity for the town, and would bring great economic benefit to the region, which she heard might be as high as $100 million. She also noted it would be an opportunity to upgrade facilities in Paradise Park, and, on top of that, staff would likely explore funding options so that the full cost of upgrades did not fall to the Town. Councillors Kimberly Street and Sterling Willis echoed several of those sentiments. Councillor Alan English, however, served up a different take on the situation. “I’m taking a slightly different track. I can’t support this. I think it’s wonderful to assist the City of St. Johns with their bids for the summer games, but I can’t see us making a commitment of this amount, given all the things we need to do in the town,” English said. “We’ll be discussing the budget later on, and we know the constraints we have. I know a million dollars is probably not going to solve all these problems, but we need a water tower, we need water and sewer, road improvements. And I realize this is over a four year period, but I just don’t see the return of investment here for the town.” English allowed it was too bad the Town has not been asked to host soccer, as they already have a sufficient facility. CAO Lisa Nibock said the upgrades have more to do with seating than the playing grounds. “None of the facilities that we currently have would meet the requirements for the seating,” she said. Niblock also noted, as Laurie had said earlier in the meeting, that grants and funding would likely become available. Councillors Deborah Quilty and Patrick Martin then outlined their support for the motion, for reasons iterated by other councillors. Still, English was not convinced, and voted against the motion to commit to the project, the lone councillor to do so.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
The Nova Scotia government is giving boat builders until next week to submit bids for a new 18-car ferry to carry passengers and vehicles between Blandford and the Tancook Islands.Although some are opposed to the new vehicle ferry and others have questioned its size, John Majchrowicz is convinced this is the right boat for the job."I have years of studies on all the volumes and people that we collect on the ferries," he told CBC News recently. As manager of marine services at Nova Scotia's Department of Transportation, Majchrowicz has crunched the numbers and determined an 18-car ferry and 11 crossings per day are what islanders need.According to figures supplied by Majchrowicz, ferry traffic is highest in June, July and August. In 2019, the number of passengers increased from 3,600 to 4,300 to 6,700 during those three summer months. Majchrowicz used a two-passenger-per-vehicle model to determine how many vehicles a ferry might carry per trip during those peak summer months. In June and July, he estimated seven to eight vehicles per crossing and closer to 11 or 12 in August. That's based on a projected 11 crossings per day, not the current four."For example, on a sailing at 10:20, you could average up to 90 people per voyage," said Majchrowicz. "So if you look at 90 people, two people per car, I would need 45 cars."Because we would be running more runs, I could now distribute those cars over so many runs. So an 18-car ferry would cover the load, so to speak."Current ferry has 1-car capacityThe ferry now in service, the William G. Ernst, has become old and unreliable. It can carry one passenger vehicle at a time and only during crossings when the tide is high enough.Having an 18-car ferry would also allow for truck traffic on the island, another major consideration for the province."Right now there are no service trucks, delivery trucks of any type, that go to the island," said Majchrowicz. "In the future, you will have the school bus, the delivery trucks, the septic tank pumpers, you know, all that type of traffic."Because right now it's all carried by hand, virtually."Ward Carson and his wife have been residents of Big Tancook Island for 4½ years. He acknowledged there are pros and cons to the proposed replacement ferry, but said he believes the benefits outweigh the disadvantages."Well, personally, for my wife and myself, I think they do, but I recognize that a number of people we know are less than happy about it," he said. "I think they recognize there will be benefits, but they like the existing system that we have."Simplifying oil, firewood deliveriesWhat he was sold on was the possibility of having door-to-door delivery."People can get oil delivered to their houses," he said. "We can get firewood delivered directly to our house.... It's complicated now. I know we have, over the years, had to get firewood either in crates or cattle boxes into our pickup truck on the island."He said it has taken multiple trips to bring it from the dock to his island home.About a month ago, the province announced it would spend almost $10 million to replace the William G. Ernst. The tender call ends Dec. 8.Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said the province would need to spend about $20 million more on building ramps and a new docking facility in Blandford, and on changes to existing docks on Big Tancook and Little Tancook islands.MORE TOP STORIES
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Fresh off another rejection in Pennsylvania's courts, Republicans on Thursday again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, while the state's lawyers say fatal flaws in the original case mean justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to prevent the state from certifying any contests from the Nov. 3 election, and undo any certifications already made, such as Biden’s victory, while its lawsuit is considered. They maintain that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. However, in a sign that the case is likely too late to affect the election, Justice Samuel Alito ordered the state's lawyers to respond by Dec. 9, a day after what is known as the safe harbour deadline. That means that Congress cannot challenge any electors named by this date in accordance with state law. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the case Saturday. Kelly's lawyers sought an injunction Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, then withdrew it while they asked the state's high court to halt any certifications until the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The state's justices refused Thursday, and Kelly's lawyers promptly refiled the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state’s courts, justices cited the law’s 180-day time limit on filing legal challenges to its provisions, as well as the staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In addition to challenging the state's mail-in voting law, Kelly’s lawyers question whether the state's justices violated their clients' constitutional rights by throwing out the case on the basis of time limits and barring them from refiling it on the same grounds. Lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in court filings that Kelly's lawyers never before argued that the U.S. Constitution provides a basis for their claims, making it “highly unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will grant what they are seeking. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors. ___ Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter Marc Levy, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — There's theatre on Broadway. You just have to adjust your sights.More than a hundred blocks north of Manhattan's shuttered theatre district but on that same famed thoroughfare, an actor recently read his lines from a huge stage.But there was no applause. Instead, all that was heard was a strange command for the theatre: “And cut!”Tony Award-winner Jefferson Mays was performing multiple roles for a high-tech “A Christmas Carol” that was being filmed for streaming this month at the empty 3,000-seat United Palace.The one-man show is an example of how many who work in theatre are increasingly defying COVID-19 by refusing to let it stop their art, often creating new hybrid forms.“Because it’s such a roll-up-your-sleeves business, theatre people figure it out,” said Tony Award-winning producer Hunter Arnold, while watching Mays onstage. “Of everything I’ve ever done in my life, it’s the place where people lead from ‘how?’ instead of leading from ‘why not?’”The coronavirus pandemic shut down theatre and the TV/movie industries in the spring. Film and TV production have slowly resumed. Live theatre is uniquely tested by the virus, one reason it will be among the last sectors to return to normal. Props and costumes are usually touched by dozens each night, an orchestra is crammed into a pit, backstage areas are small and shared, and audiences are usually packed into seats. New ways are needed.Mays' “A Christmas Carol,” which was filmed on a high-tech LED set, veers much more filmic than most other streaming theatre options and is raising money for suffering regional theatres — one stage production helping others during the pandemic.Other green shoots include radio plays, virtual readings, online variety shows and drive-in experiences that combine live singing with movies. The cast of the musical “Diana” reunited on Broadway to film the show for Netflix before it opens on Broadway.The San Francisco Playhouse recently offered screenings of Yasmina Reza’s play “Art,” an onstage production captured live by multiple cameras, with a crucial wrestling scene reimagined to keep social distancing. A musical version of the animated film “Ratatouille” is being explored on TikTok.“We will conquer it. We are theatre people. By God, we will conquer it and get it done,” says Charlotte Moore, the artistic director and co-founder of the acclaimed Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City.Her company has put on a free streaming holiday production of “Meet Me in St. Louis” with a dozen cast members, each filmed remotely and then digitally stitched together. Moore directed it — appropriately enough — from St. Louis. Other theatre pros are calling to ask how she did it.The cast was mailed or hand-delivered props, costumes and a green screen. They rehearsed via Zoom and FaceTime. A masked and socially distant orchestra recorded the score, and the sets were beamed onto the actors' screens.“You learn minute by minute by minute along the way what works, what doesn’t, what to do, what not to do,” said Moore, who starred in the original Broadway run of “Meet Me in St. Louis” in 1989. “It’s torture and it’s thrilling — thrilling torture.”Like many other theatrical hybrids venturing into the digital world these days, it's not clear what to call it. It's not technically live theatre, but its soul is theatrical.“It’s not definable in our current vocabulary,” Moore said. “It has to have a new definition, truly, because it’s certainly unlike anything that has been done.”One of the companies to show the way forward was Berkshire Theater Group in western Massachusetts, whose “Godspell” in August became the first outdoor musical with union actors since the pandemic shut down productions.Artistic director and CEO Kate Maguire refused to entertain the notion that the company — established in 1928 — would have an asterisk beside 2020 that said no shows were produced that year.“We’re theatre makers, we’re creators, she said. ”We should be able to figure out how to create something.”So they used plexiglass partitions between each masked actor. The performers were tested regularly — at a cost of close to $50,000 — and had their own props and a single costume. Each was housed in their own living space — bedroom, living area and little kitchenette. In an open-air tent, they managed to pull off a crucifixion scene without any touching or lifting, itself a miracle.Audiences underwent temperature checks and were separated by seats. Staff were placed in three protective bubbles: artistic, production and front-of-house. And there was monitoring: Last year it was an intimacy officer; this year it was a COVID-19 one.Maguire thrashed out a 40-page agreement with the stage union Actor’s Equity Association. “We never had a positive test,” Maguire said. “We had five false positive tests,” which was “harrowing.”She thanked grants for allowing her to keep her staff on payroll, making the stress level tolerable. It was clear audiences were hungry for theatre: “I would watch people shoulders shaking as the show started because they were weeping,” she said. They're doing another outdoor show now — “Holiday Memories.”Since that first brave step, other theatre companies have plunged into the void. Play and musical licensor Concord Theatricals says theatre companies across the country are looking for flexibility in case of virus restrictions.“We’re seeing many groups applying for small cast, easy to produce, plays and musicals. They’re even seeking casting flexibility and asking for permission to perform with or without an ensemble,” said Sean Patrick Flahaven, chief theatricals executive.“There’s also a trend for groups to apply for both live performance and streaming rights. Many amateur theatres are producing single virtual performances to keep revenue flowing.”Playwright Natalie Margolin decided to write a new play during the pandemic but not a conventional one. She imagined what the world would look like when it was a given that all social life existed on Zoom.Hence “The Party Hop,” a play specifically to be performed on Zoom that's set three years into quarantine in which three college girls hit the town — online. It became her first published play, and she got stars such as Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein and Ashley Park to perform in an online version, currently on YouTube. She hopes high schools and colleges will be attracted to a play reflecting the era.“It was just exciting to take part in something where it wasn’t a placeholder or a replacement, and no one needed to imagine they were anywhere else than where they were to fully realize the piece,” she said. “It’s been exciting and heartwarming to see different ways theatre has reinvented itself during this time.”Theater makers have also leaned into the storytelling part of their craft, making The Broadway Podcast Network a hub for everything from audition advice to behind-the-scenes stories.Launched shortly before the pandemic with 15 podcasts, the theatre shutdown initially wiped out its revenue streams, advertising and sponsorship. The network has since righted itself and is growing with some 100 podcasts — from the likes of Tim Rice and Tonya Pinkins — plus benefits, show reunions and original programs, like the digital theatre-based frothy soap opera, “As the Curtain Rises” with stars Alex Brightman, Sarah Stiles and Michael Urie.“Even though we had lost all of our advertising, we just knew that this was important to our community, to keep our community connected and continue to tell stories," said Dori Berinstein, co-founder of the network and a four-time Tony-winning Broadway producer. “It’s not anything that will ever replace live theatre, but it’s an extension. It’s a different way of doing that.”___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 23, 2020 Simcoe County first responders, including dozens of police officers, lined bridges over Hwy. 400 Nov. 23 to salute Const. Marc Hovingh, who died following a shoot out on Manitoulin Island last week. Hovingh died Nov. 19 after an incident that also caused the death of a civilian. Hovingh's body was taken to Toronto for an autopsy and transported back to Manitoulin Island in a hearse, accompanied by two police cruisers. The OPP encouraged supporters to follow the procession’s live Twitter feed. “Because we’re in this pandemic, we’re on lockdown, we’re in a different situation here right now,” Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for paying of respects and for gatherings.” Hovingh was one of the officers who responded to a call about an “unwanted man’’ on a property in Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island. According to the Special Investigations Unit – Ontario’s police watchdog – Hovingh and civilian Gary Brohman died in hospital after exchanging gunfire. Hovingh was a 28-year veteran of the force. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board team has been assigned to investigate a marine accident that seriously injured two crew members from a freighter moored in English Bay, off Vancouver.A statement from the board says the team will examine why a lifeboat from the bulk carrier Blue Bosporus was accidentally released from the ship on Dec. 1.A coast guard statement issued Tuesday said the two crew members were hurt as they carried out a routine drill in the covered lifeboat.The boat began to sink after it had dropped into the water and a vessel from the Kitsilano coast guard station was one of several that responded, rescuing the injured sailors.The statement from the safety board says its team will gather information and assess the occurrence.Three Ukrainian crew members died and one was hurt in October 2000 when a similar covered lifeboat fell about 15 metres into the water from a bulk carrier moored in English Bay.A report by the safety board in 2003 identified issues with the lifeboat's lowering mechanism and the hooks connecting it to the launching equipment. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.The Canadian Press
A recently released study details the number of Ontario health-care workers who have been infected by COVID-19, and the psychological stress that comes along with being on the frontline of a pandemic. The 15-page study, titled Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19, was authored by Dr. James T. Brophy, Dr. Margaret M. Keith, Michael Hurley and Jane E. McArthur. It was presented by Hurley at a news conference in Sudbury on Thursday morning. Hurley introduced Brophy and Keith, who he said were the two principal authors of the report and took part in the news conference through an online video connection. "Health-care workers in Ontario are suffering from much higher rates of COVID infection than the general public," said Brophy. "According to a report published in September, Canada's health-care workers make up almost 20 per cent of confirmed cases." "While we are all experiencing COVID fatigue and worry, health-care workers are suffering disproportionately from serious psychological distress," Brophy said. In her comments to the news event, Dr. Keith said not only has the regulatory system failed to protect the workers, but there has also been a failure by some of the joint management-employee health and safety committees, at a time when they are so urgently needed. "The health-care worker's experience is that the Ministry of Labour is not functioning as mandated, leaving them feeling unsupported and unprotected," said Keith. She said it was important to note that women make up the overwhelming majority of frontline health-care workers in Ontario. She said a lot of those workers were immigrants, part-timers and in precarious work positions that left them vulnerable to being exploited or losing their jobs. "They are burning out from stress. They are overworked and have unrelenting fear and anxiety," she added. "In April and May, we conducted in-depth anonymous interviews with 10 frontline health-care workers from hospitals and long-term care facilities across the province. We talked to nurses, personal support workers, clerical staff and cleaners." Keith added that the interviews took place in real-time as the pandemic was reaching its highest sense of urgency in the first wave. Brophy said the findings from the study interviews were consistent with a poll carried out in March by CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) which surveyed 3,000 members. "The poll revealed that an overwhelming majority believed they were not being adequately protected. Eighty-seven per cent said there was not enough PPE (personal protective equipment) on hand to keep them safe and 91 per cent responded that they feel abandoned by the provincial government," he said. Brophy said many workers experienced intense anxiety of becoming infected and bringing the COVID virus home with them at the end of their shift. "A nurse told us, ‘I've come home and cried many times. I am stressed out. I can't sleep at night'," Brophy revealed. "Fear, coupled with understaffing and increased workload, has resulted in exhaustion and burnout. Ontario's health-care system is underfunded and understaffed. It has the fewest hospital beds and nursing hours per patient in the country," Brophy added. Another concern is that health and safety legislation does not give full protection to frontline health-care workers. Hurley said a nurse or a PSW cannot refuse to go into a situation they believe might be unsafe for them personally if it means that a patient or resident urgently needs care. Brophy explained it in detail saying any health and safety concerns must be declared before a worker engages with a patient. "If a work refusal might have an implication or endanger a patient for instance, they (health workers) are not allowed to exercise that right at that point. The examples we heard from health-care workers would be things like before they were actually engaged with a patient, or before they went in and cleaned up a room or before they put a person's CPAP machine on in long-term care, they would raise the questions and say I am exercising my right to refuse unsafe work because I am not properly protected," said Brophy. He said it was interesting to be commenting on Ontario's health and safety laws given that the genesis of those laws came from protecting the rights of hardrock miners in Northern Ontario. "It is ironic that 40 years after the historic breakthrough that they spear-headed for all workers in Ontario, and really across the country, that we now find in the midst of one of the worst occupational health and safety disasters and crises in modern memory, that these workers have been systematically denied the most basic protections and their legal rights," said Brophy. It was also mentioned that in many instances Ministry of Labour inspectors have not visited the long-term care homes as they feared for their own safety. Keith told the news conference that the plea on behalf of frontline workers was a simple one. Give them what they need to go to work safe and healthy and to let them go home at the end of the day, safe and healthy, she said.Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
Health officials say another 12 Manitobans have died from COVID-19 and 368 have been infected with the virus. Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said a previously reported COVID-19 death has been removed from the province’s list of deaths due to a data entry error.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 20, 2020 Garry Hopkins received great news two days in a row. When you’re the CEO of a long-term-care facility in the middle of a pandemic, you can use all the good news you can get. First, a COVID-19 outbreak at IOOF Seniors Home in Barrie that began Nov. 5 when a staff member tested positive was declared over Nov. 19. “Even though we did have the one case, we are very pleased because nobody else contracted the disease, which indicates we are doing a good job with our (personal protective equipment), and our hand-washing and infection-control measures,” Hopkins told Simcoe.com. The second piece of good news came Nov. 20 when the provincial government announced it would invest $30 million in the facility to create 64 long-term-care spaces and renovate 66 existing spaces. IOOF is one of 29 projects across the province that will see 30,000 new spaces created over 10 years at a cost of $1.75 billion. There are 38,500 Ontario residents waiting to access a long-term-care space. The new spaces will be built with the current pandemic in mind by ensuring fewer residents per room. The first phase of the IOOF project — 62 new beds — should be ready in about two years, with the entire project complete by 2024. Hopkins said the IOOF facility does not have any rooms with four residents, even though it was built in 1980. “They were pretty forward thinking,” he said. “Many live in separated accommodations. They may share a washroom, but have their own bedroom spaces.” Hopkins said IOOF now has workers wearing face shields, as well as face masks, to further reduce the risk of infections. “We have to be alert all the time; you can’t let your guard down,” he said. “Of course it’s stressful because you know what the case numbers are and you worry. That’s why we are extra vigilant.” Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin made the project announcement outside the IOOF facility, saying the Conservative government is focusing on long-term care, including a recent provision to provide four hours of daily care per resident. “It’s not been an easy year during COVID, but, given our government was only elected two years ago, we have done as much as we can to put our best foot forward,” Khanjin said. “Stay tuned for more.”Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 19, 2020 A 51-year-old Innisfil woman is charged with impaired driving after her vehicle collided with two parked cars, then veered off the road into a ditch Nov. 17. She was not injured. South Simcoe Police say the vehicles sustained “significant” damage in the collision on 25th Sideroad at about 11:30 p.m. The driver was arrested at the scene and taken to the North Division station in Innisfil where she was charged. Her licence was suspended for 90 days and her vehicle impounded for seven days. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
The Commissioner of Yukon has announced this year's inductees to the Order of Yukon.In a news release sent Wednesday, Commissioner Angélique Bernard gave the names of the ten inductees from the territory who were chosen from nominations submitted to an advisory council. "2020 inductees were chosen for their demonstrated excellence and achievement and their outstanding contributions to the social, cultural or economic well-being of Yukon and its residents," the release states. This year's recipients include:Bess Cooley, who is known as a master of the Tlingit language, and has done significant work on the genealogy of the inland Tlingit. Keith Byram, known for being a big supporter of multiple community organizations and working with many local businesses in Yukon. Byram founded Pelly Construction and employs a large number of Yukoners.Doug Phillips, who served as an MLA from 1985 to 2000, and then as the territory's commissioner from 2010 to 2018. He lobbied to have the Taylor House in Whitehorse designated as Yukon's Government House. Philips has also been small-business owner, and a volunteer on many Yukon boards and committees. Jack Cable, a Liberal MLA from 1992 to 2000, and commissioner of Yukon from 2000 to 2005. He has also been involved in volunteer organizations including the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon and the Law Society of Yukon.William Klassen, who has worn many hats in his career, including as an RCMP officer in Teslin, a conservation officer, a wildlife biologist, and deputy minister with the Yukon government. He has also been involved with the Riverdale Baptist Church since the early 1970's, the Whitehorse Gun Club, Yukon Agriculture Association and the Salvation Army. Frances Woolsey, a respected Ta'an Kwäch'än elder and a leader in promoting Indigenous culture. Dr. Sally MacDonald, who has been a family physician in Whitehorse and several Yukon communities since 1980, delivering over 1,000 babies in the territory. She has also taken on the role of assisting people at the end of their lives. Gertie Tom, who has contributed to First Nations language revitalization throughout the territory. She used the details of her speech patterns to provide a basis for a practical writing system for the previously-unwritten Northern Tutchone language. From 1961 to 1965, she worked as a part-time translator and broadcaster for CBC Radio in Whitehorse.Agnes Mills, a Vuntut Gwitchin elder who has worked to advance the rights of Indigenous people as the National Elder of the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, and was the First Nations elder at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The Honourable Ron Veale who was the first to have the title of Chief Justice of Yukon, and initiated the earliest civil actions about the abuses suffered by Indigenous children in residential schools. The commissioner's office says it will be posting a video recognizing this year's recipients on its Facebook page on Jan. 1.
The Yukon government is closing its flu shot clinic at the Whitehorse Convention Centre two weeks ahead of schedule, as demand for the vaccine subsides.More than 14,000 Yukoners got the flu shot this year, the government said. That's the highest number since 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic, according to Pat Living, director of communications for Yukon Health and Social Services."While we saw tremendous uptake at the very beginning of the flu clinic, the number of people showing up has slowed dramatically in the last little while," Living said.The clinic will end on Friday at 4:30 p.m. local time.People can still get the flu shot at Whitehorse pharmacies, however. There will also be two final clinics for children under five on Dec. 9 and 16.Flu shot clinics in rural communities will continue as planned.This is the first year Yukon has tried having one centralized flu shot clinic in Whitehorse, instead of moving between locations.Living said government is still working on its COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan, but she said they wanted to see if a mass, centralized clinic would be a good vaccination method.After closing the clinic, Living said staff will be redeployed to help with the COVID-19 response, such as contact tracing, follow-up calls or giving other staff a break."In anticipation of any kind of COVID[-19] vaccine clinics that may come, we want to make sure that people have a bit of a rest before then," said Living.Living encouraged people to get their flu shot if they have not yet done so.
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump's team made the filing late Thursday evening.In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump's allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.But she also questioned whether disqualifying ballots was appropriate, saying that "may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that the court “forsakes its duty” by not determining whether elections officials complied with the law and the inaction will undermine the public's confidence in elections. Allowing the elections commission to make the law governing elections would be a “death blow to democracy,” she wrote.“While some will either celebrate or decry the court's inaction based upon the impact on their preferred candidate, the importance of this case transcends the results of this particular election,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Roggensack and Ziegler. “The majority's failure to act leaves an indelible stain on our most recent election.”Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised the decision.“I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous," Evers said.Trump's lawsuit challenged procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.He claimed there were thousands of absentee ballots without a written application on file. He argued that the electronic log created when a voter requests a ballot online — the way the vast majority are requested — doesn’t meet the letter of the law.He also challenged ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted — a practice that has long been accepted and that the state elections commission told clerks was OK.Trump also challenged absentee ballots where voters declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined,” a status that exempts them from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that was used much more heavily this year due to the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it was up to individual voters to determine their status.Roggensack, the chief justice, appointed Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek of Racine County to hear the case at the circuit court level. Simanek retired in 2010.The court late Thursday also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin resident, Dean Mueller, that argued that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal and must not be counted. The court's brief order included a single line noting Roggensack, Ziegler and Bradley all dissented with the denial.One other lawsuit filed by conservatives is still pending with the court seeking to invalidate ballots. In federal court, there is Trump’s lawsuit and another one with similar claims from Sidney Powell, a conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team.Wisconsin this week certified Biden’s victory, setting the stage for a Democratic slate of electors chosen earlier to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for him.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
Shelburne’s food bank, Shepherd’s Cupboard, along with others across the province are facing an increased demand, with staff there reporting a 40 per cent increase in the number of families they’ve seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ardith Dunlop, volunteer coordinator at Shepherd’s Cupboard, in an interview with the Free Press said that since the start of the pandemic the Shelburne food bank has seen an average of 125 to 150 families using their services each month, while it saw only 70 to 80 families pre-COVID-19. Currently, 279 families are listed as using the food bank. “This certainly does speak to a dramatic rise in the numbers,” said Dunlop, adding that the food bank has seen a large influx in the number of first time users. The influx in first time users is not just a sentiment seen by the local food bank. Feed Ontario released a new report on Monday (Nov. 30), which found a 26.5 percent increase of first time users in the first four months of COVID-19. Data for the report was collected from 130 direct member food banks and 1,100 affiliates. While food insecurity is one of the main focuses of the food bank, Dunlop and the document from Feed Ontario both note that users of food banks are also facing other insecurities including housing. According to Feed Ontario, the primary driver for the growth of food bank use has been, “inadequate social safety net, precarious employment, and unaffordable housing.” “The primary reason that an adult or family may need to access a food bank is that they do not have sufficient income to afford all of their necessities, like rent, heat, hydro, transportation, and food, in a given month,” details the report. Dunlop said that she has had five clients who were facing eviction at the end of November. “I see a lot of increase in the worry and the stress that they’re facing in the world, over food, over will they be able to make ends meet, will they be able to keep themselves safe and their kids safe – you hear all those concerns when you’re there.” The holiday season is now in full swing and the food bank is entering what Shepherd’s Cupboard calls their “fatter time” of the year, where they receive donations that help support them from January to June. With increasing demand for food security, Feed Ontario in its report said it believes that “the worst is yet to come.” Dunlop said they expect to be looking at the fall out of COVID-19 for the next two years. “While we have enough food to finish the year, who knows how long into the new year we can continue at this pace,” she noted.Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press
Bay Roberts mayor Phillip Wood has received a Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation for his work with the Branch 32 Legion. Having taught for over 30 years in schools across the province, and acting as current mayor of Bay Roberts, Philip Wood is a well-known in Conception Bay North. And anybody who knows Wood knows that he’s passionate about his work with the Legion. Now, Wood has received national recognition for his long-time work, something he said he was rather surprised to receive. “It’s an honour to receive this,” Wood said about the award. “I’m very surprised, because you don’t apply for theses awards, someone has to nominate you, and as a part of the nomination process, you’re also not supposed to tell the nominee that you’ve nominated them. So, to receive it was quite a surprise…When you go into any service organization, you don’t go in it to win awards, but it’s also nice to receive a little nod of approval, and it’s humbling also.” But for those who know about his work it should come as little surprise. Wood has been a member of The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 32 for over 26 years, holding various positions on the board, including secretary and president. Currently, Wood holds the position as 2nd vice-president of Provincial Command, Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s been a lengthy career of service in the Legion for Wood. He was part of the original committee that planned and developed the Veterans Quay Marina in Bay Roberts, and was involved in the recent refurbishment of the Bay Roberts cenotaph. Wood also served as liaison between the Legion and Heritage Society during the installation of the military exhibit in the Cable Building. Wood’s work with the Legion follows a military career which began when he completed his basic officer training in Chilliwack, BC. In the late 70’s he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Mlitary service is a tradition deeply established in Wood’s family. His son, Paul, is currently serving with the PPCLI Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and has done a number of duty tours over seas, while his father, Eric, served in WWII. It means that, for Wood, honouring the sacrifices of those who have served is of the utmost importance. Following Wood’s retirement as an educator, he visited the battlefields of Europe, and has walked the Trail of The Caribou as a student chaperon. Wood said he is grateful that someone recognized him for his work with the Legion and nominated him. “I would certainly like to thank them,” he said. “It’s a great honour to know that they would take the time to fill out the nomination forum. And that’s why its humbling, because you don’t go out and solicit someone to do this. So, when someone takes the time to go out of their own initiative and say, ‘Philip Wood would be a very worthy recipient of this,’ it’s very humbling.” Like all organizations, Legions have had to adjust to COVID-19 restrictions and have had to cancel a number of events, Wood noted. “They’ve been struggling. Some branches haven’t opened up. Other branches are rebounding; however they are working very hard to keep everything going,” he said. Perhaps the most difficult decision made by the Legion across the country was to limit the number of attendees at remembrance ceremonies, or, in some case, to cancel them altogether. “It was very sad, July 1 and Nov. 11, to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremonies without the crowds this year,” said Wood. “But it’s all you can do. Hopefully next year we’ll be back. But the different legions have done an excellent job, and people working hard and doing the best they can.” Initial reports for the Poppy campaign, both from Branch 32 and the province as a whole, are positive, Wood, said, though numbers seem to be down slightly. “There were far more bills put in the cans then in previous years, versus coins, which was good to hear, because all funds collected go towards supporting veterans and their families,” Wood said.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 5, 2020 Simcoe County paramedics had to rush to aid an Orillia assault victim Nov. 4 who was in “immediate” need of first aid, police say. The man was treated at the scene of what Orillia OPP is calling a “serious assault” and rushed to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The alleged assault took place at an Elgin Street residence at about 4 p.m. Officers arrived on scene quickly and were able to track down the suspect who was in the area. A 27-year-old man from Orillia is charged with assault causing bodily harm. The accused was held for a bail hearing at the Barrie courthouse. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance