Top Capitol Hill negotiators sealed a deal on a new COVID-19 economic relief package, finally delivering long-overdue help to businesses and individuals and providing money to deliver vaccines to a nation eager for them.(Dec. 21)
Top Capitol Hill negotiators sealed a deal on a new COVID-19 economic relief package, finally delivering long-overdue help to businesses and individuals and providing money to deliver vaccines to a nation eager for them.(Dec. 21)
WASHINGTON — The lead prosecutor for President Donald Trump's historic second impeachment began building his case for conviction at trial, asserting on Sunday that Trump's incitement of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol was “the most dangerous crime" ever committed by a president against the United States. A Senate trial could begin as soon as this week, just as Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., did not say when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will send the single article of impeachment against Trump — for “incitement of insurrection” — to the Senate, which will trigger the beginning of the trial. But Raskin said “it should be coming up soon” as Pelosi organizes the formal transfer. The House voted to impeach Trump last Wednesday, one week after the violent insurrection that interrupted the official count of electoral votes, ransacked the Capitol and left Congress deeply shaken. Before the mob overpowered police and entered the building, Trump told them to “fight like hell” against the certification of Biden's election win. “We're going to be able to tell the story of this attack on America and all of the events that led up to it,” Raskin said. “This president set out to dismantle and overturn the election results from the 2020 presidential election. He was perfectly clear about that.” Democrats and the incoming administration are facing the challenge of reckoning with the Capitol attack at the same time that Biden takes office and tries to move the country forward. They say the Congress can do both, balancing a trial with confirmations of the new president's Cabinet and consideration of his legislative priorities. Raskin said Congress cannot establish a precedent where “we just want to let bygones be bygones” just because Trump has left office. Yet it's clear that Democrats do not want the Senate trial to dominate Biden's opening days. Pelosi on Friday said that Democrats intend to move quickly on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief, calling it “matter of complete urgency.” Ron Klain, Biden's incoming White House chief of staff, said he hopes Senate leaders, on a bipartisan basis, “find a way to move forward on all of their responsibilities. This impeachment trial is one of them, but getting people into the government and getting action on coronavirus is another one of those responsibilities.” It is unclear how many Senate Republicans — if any — would vote to convict Trump. Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is telling his caucus that their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president will be a “vote of conscience.” His stance, first reported by Business Insider, means the GOP leadership team will not work to hold senators in line one way or the other. McConnell is open to considering impeachment, but said he is undecided on how he would vote. He continues to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial this week could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate with the seating of two new Democratic senators from Georgia. For Republican senators, the trial will be perhaps a final test of their loyalty to the defeated president and his legions of supporters in their states back home. It will force a further reevaluation of their relationship with Trump, who lost not only the White House but majority control of the Senate, and a broader discussion about the future of the Republican Party as he leaves office. Some GOP senators are already standing by Trump, despite their criticism of his behaviour. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president's most loyal allies, said impeachment was a "bad, rushed, emotional move” that puts the presidency at risk and will cause further division. He said he hopes every Senate Republican rejects impeachment. “Please do not justify and legitimize what the House did,” Graham said. A handful of Republican senators have suggested they will consider conviction. Two of them, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, have said he should resign. Murkowski said the House responded “appropriately” with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments. No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, a high hurdle. But conviction is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from Trump's brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempts to overturn the election. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, was spotted at the White House Saturday and told ABC he was likely going to join Trump’s impeachment defence team. He suggested he would continue to spread baseless claims of election fraud on the Senate floor. Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley moved to distance Trump from Giuliani’s comments, tweeting: “President Trump has not yet made a determination as to which lawyer or law firm will represent him for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy, known as the 'impeachment hoax.' We will keep you informed.” There was not widespread fraud in the election, as has been confirmed by a range of election officials and by William Barr, who stepped down as attorney general last month. Nearly all of the legal challenges put forth by Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges. Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to his tenure. A precedent set by the Senate in the 1800s established that a trial can proceed even after a federal official leaves office. Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted last year to acquit. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 impeachment vote on Wednesday, the most bipartisan modern presidential impeachment. When his second trial does begin, House impeachment managers say they will be making the case that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric hours before the attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but directly intended to interrupt the electoral count as part of his escalating campaign to overturn the November election. A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. Raskin and Klain were on CNN's “State of the Union,” and Graham appeared on Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures.” ___ Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
CAIRO — Egypt’s former antiquities minister and noted archaeologist Zahi Hawass on Sunday revealed details of an ancient funerary temple in a vast necropolis south of Cairo. Hawass told reporters at the Saqqara necropolis that archaeologists unearthed the temple of Queen Neit, wife of King Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty that ruled Egypt from 2323 B.C. till 2150 B.C. Archaeologists also found a 4-meter (13-foot) long papyrus that includes texts of the Book of the Dead, which is a collection of spells aimed at directing the dead through the underworld in ancient Egypt, he said. Hawass said archaeologists also unearthed burial wells, coffins and mummies dating back to the New Kingdom that ruled Egypt between about 1570 B.C. and 1069 B.C. They unveiled at least 22 burial shafts up to 12 metres (40 feet) deep, with more than 50 wooden coffins dating back to the New Kingdom, said Hawass, who is Egypt’s best known archaeologist. Hawass, known for his Indiana Jones hat and TV specials on Egypt’s ancient sites, said work has been done at the site close to the Pyramid of Teti for over a decade. The discovery was the result of co-operation between the Antiquities Ministry and the Zahi Hawass Center at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The Saqqara site is part of the necropolis at Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis that includes the famed Giza pyramids as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1970s. In recent years, Egypt has heavily promoted new archaeological finds to international media and diplomats in the hope of attracting more tourists to the country. The vital tourism sector suffered from years of political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The Associated Press
BERLIN — The Austrian government is extending the country's lockdown until Feb. 7 in a drive to push down still-high infection figures as officials worry about the possible impact of new coronavirus variants. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Sunday that some measures will also be tightened as a result of the more infectious variants that were first detected in Britain and South Africa. He said people will now be asked to stay 2 metres (61/2 feet) apart instead of 1 metre. Beginning on Jan. 25, they will also be required to wear full protective masks on public transport and in shops, rather than just fabric face coverings. People on low incomes will get such masks free, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said. Austria’s current lockdown, its third, started on Dec. 26 and was to end on Jan. 24. Kurz said Austria is keen to avoid a situation such as that in Britain and Ireland, where infections have risen sharply and rapidly as new variants take hold. So far, Austria has over 150 suspected infections with the British variant, Anschober said. Kurz said Austria needs to get as close as it can to, and preferably below, an infection level of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over 7 days. The figure now stands at 131. “Our aim is to approach this figure ... by Feb. 8 and start the first steps toward opening on Feb. 8,” with schools, nonessential shops, museums and services such as hairdressers reopening, Kurz told a news conference in Vienna. But Kurz made clear that restaurants and hotels will have to wait longer. “We have to assume at present that, at least in February, it will not be possible to open tourism and catering," he said, adding that a decision will be made in mid-February. Austria, a nation of 8.9 million, has confirmed nearly 390,000 cases and seen 6,964 deaths related to COVID-19. ——- Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
OTTAWA, Ill. — For a man who has devoted his life to promoting kindness, a diagnosis of advanced-stage cancer in his pancreas and liver might seem the unkindest cut of all. But Rabbi Reuven Bulka, often dubbed "Canada's rabbi," says he has no complaints. "In terms of having complaints to God or complaints that life isn't giving me a fair shake, that doesn't enter my mind," the 76-year-old beloved spiritual leader in Ottawa's Jewish community said in a telephone interview from New York City, where he has gone to be with his five children. "I really feel blessed in the life that I've lived." Over almost 50 years as rabbi and now rabbi emeritus at Ottawa's Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Bulka has spent countless hours at the bedside of dying people and consoling grieving family members. It's an experience he feels has prepared him to face his own mortality. "When you see it happening all around you, you know that nothing is forever." Indeed, Bulka thinks it's beneficial to embrace that reality early on in life because it shifts your focus from the pursuit of pleasure to thinking seriously about the meaning of life and how to make the most of whatever time you have. "It doesn't mean that we can't enjoy life but we shouldn't be obsessed with the pleasures without being totally also focused on the meaning and doing things which are important that actually enhance the human condition, that actually improve people's lives and have a lasting impact," he says. "However long we're destined to live, when we say goodbye, that's an indelible part of one's resume. Nobody really cares whether you've golfed 1,000 rounds or 1,500 rounds … It's how you impact others that really defines who you are." Bulka has spent nearly his entire life trying to improve the human condition, starting at 16 when he took over rabbinical duties at his father's New York synagogue after his father suffered a serious heart attack. He has championed causes like organ and blood donation, co-founded Kindness Week in Ottawa and spearheaded many events aimed at promoting tolerance and understanding among people of different faiths. He has imparted his wisdom in dozens of books, a weekly newspaper column and a weekly radio phone-in show. Ottawa has given him the key to the city and named Rabbi Bulka Kindness Park in his honour. He's also been awarded the Order of Canada. "He's really been a healer when there's been religious rifts in the city and he's respected by all faiths and people of no faith at all," says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. "He's just been a stalwart of our community for so, so long and we can do nothing now but pray for a miracle." On Monday, Congregation Machzikei Hadas will host a virtual "worldwide prayer rally" for Rabbi Bulka. "In Ottawa, we like to claim him as our own but certainly he's everybody's rabbi," says Rabbi Idan Scher, one of Bulka's successors at the synagogue. "The moniker Canada's rabbi … couldn't be more true." Indeed, Scher adds: "The people that he's touched live all over the world." Within a day of setting up a website last week (aprayerforrabbibulka.ca), Scher says about 2,000 people had registered to take part in the online rally. Former prime minister Stephen Harper and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty are among the dignitaries scheduled to speak at the event. Bulka is probably best known to Canadians outside the capital from the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial — a role he modestly suggests was given to him some 30 years ago because the government wanted to engage a local rabbi "on the cheap" rather than bring one in from Montreal. Watson marvels that Bulka delivers his Remembrance Day sermons without referring to notes, never repeating the same message twice and always managing to capture a countrywide audience with "his words, his wisdom, his humour." Former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, now Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, says Bulka has also been a national leader in "breaking down hatred and building greater religious understanding and embracing multiracialism and multi-faith work." He was among the first, Rae recalls, to reach out to Muslim groups when they faced a backlash following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey, pastor at Ottawa's Parkdale United Church, recalls working with Bulka to organize a multi-faith blood donor drive in response to a spate of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic graffiti spray-painted on houses of worship in Ottawa in 2016. "We were trying to make a statement that we basically support each other as human beings at the very level of blood," he says. Bulka practices what he preaches, says Andrew Bennett, director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute and former ambassador for religious freedom during the Harper government. "He is certainly a kind man, he really lives by that. But he lives it in a way that's not sort of superficial kindness, it's not sort of a Walmart-greeter kindness. It comes from a very deep place." Christians and Jews alike believe that human beings "bear the image and likeness of God," adds Bennett, a deacon in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. "And it's very easy for me to recognize that image and likeness in Rabbi Bulka." Bulka, like any human, says he thinks about things he should have or could have done. "I would say a person who lives a life without regrets is probably living in La-La land," he says. Still, he's grateful for everyone's "showing of appreciation and all their good wishes." "We'll do our best. With God's help, hopefully we'll be able to live a little bit longer." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
This story is part of Stopping Domestic Violence, a CBC News series looking at the crisis of intimate partner violence in Canada and what can be done to end it. Ashley McVean wasn't quite ready to go to police about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her former partner. But when she went to the emergency room with neck pain and evidence of strangulation, she hoped someone would notify law enforcement for her. That never happened. Strangulation is one of the most dangerous types of abuse that victims of intimate partner violence can endure. But doctors, nurses, paramedics and other first responders are not required to tell police if they suspect a person has been choked. Members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's intimate partner violence unit say reporting suspected cases of strangulation should be mandatory. "It can just be seconds between life and death," said Malin Enström, crime analyst with the IPV unit. "It's a great concern." There is currently no federal or provincial legislation that requires first responders to report cases of domestic violence involving adults to a relevant third party. There is, however, a legal obligation under Newfoundland and Labrador's Children, Youth and Families Act to report incidents that place children at risk of abuse or neglect. People present at the emergency rooms are crying out for help but they don't get it because it's not mandatory for them to report it to us. - Const. Lindsay Dillon In this province, emergency rooms are obliged to notify police about stabbings and shootings. Const. Lindsay Dillon and Const. Nadia Churchill say that doesn't go far enough to protect victims of abuse at home. "Anything to do with the neck is a lethality factor when it comes to domestic violence," Churchill said. If the unit receives a new case involving a couple and a neck injury is involved, it automatically is given a higher priority. "The issue with strangulation and choking is that you come very close to death sometimes, and there are many studies out there that show the long-term effects of strangulation," said Dillon. "When someone presents with a gunshot wound and stab wound and it's reported to us, great, but choking and strangulation should be up there too because when you look at the dangers involved in that, it's huge." Dillon said they often hear of cases similar to McVean's, where the victim isn't ready to speak to police but hopes the attending medical staff will pass along their findings to the RNC. "People present at the emergency rooms are crying out for help but they don't get it because it's not mandatory for them to report it to us." The IPV unit has been working to address strangulation being included in mandatory reporting on both provincial and federal levels of government, including community partners. 'A very complex issue' The mandatory reporting of gunshots and stab wounds has been in effect in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2015. The House of Assembly passed the law in 2011, but it was not enacted until four years later. In a statement, the province's Department of Justice said, "The idea of adding strangulation to that list is a very complex issue and one that requires more research and consultation with stakeholders before legislative changes are considered." The department highlighted a series of other recent initiatives aimed at reducing violence, including electronic monitoring and a suite of legislative changes. Provincial officials said they are "watching with great interest" the progress of Bill S-249, and noted that the federal approach "will inform our analysis here." That bill — called the National Strategy for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act — was introduced in the Senate in 2018. It was a private member's bill spearheaded by Newfoundland and Labrador Senator Fabian Manning, and would have resulted in the creation of a national strategy or blueprint dealing with the issue of intimate partner violence. One of the things Manning highlighted during debate was reporting regulations for potential cases of abuse. He noted that if a woman arrives at a hospital in many parts of the country with a gunshot wound or has been stabbed, it is mandatory to call the police. "If that same woman arrives at a hospital tonight with two black eyes, a broken nose, her front teeth missing, and evidence of choking or strangulation from the physical abuse of her partner, there is no obligation or law to call the police," Manning said during debate in the Senate in 2018. "I find that absolutely absurd." Bill S-249 made it to second reading in the Senate, before being dropped from the order paper when Parliament dissolved in advance of the 2019 federal election. Manning told CBC News he has since drafted a new bill, along the same lines of the one that had previously been introduced. But it hasn't been tabled yet, and may not be any time soon, because of the pandemic and possibility of a looming federal election that would send the process back to the drawing board. He said he continues to meet with individuals who are advocating for legislation to tackle domestic violence. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ If you need help and are in immediate danger, call 911. To find assistance in your area, visit sheltersafe.ca or endingviolencecanada.org. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Law enforcement officers far outnumbered protesters at state capitol grounds on Sunday, as few Trump supporters who believe the president's false claim that he won the 2020 election turned out for what authorities feared could be violent demonstrations. More than a dozen states activated National Guard troops to help secure their capitol buildings following an FBI warning of armed demonstrations, with right-wing extremists emboldened by the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6.
NAIROBI, Kenya — From “emaciated” refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens the survivors of more than two months of fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The first humanitarian workers to arrive after pleading with the Ethiopian government for access describe weakened children dying from diarrhea after drinking from rivers. Shops were looted or depleted weeks ago. A local official told a Jan. 1 crisis meeting of government and aid workers that hungry people had asked for “a single biscuit.” More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region's entire population, need emergency food, participants say. At their next meeting on Jan. 8, a Tigray administrator warned that without aid, “hundreds of thousands might starve to death” and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press. “There is an extreme urgent need — I don’t know what more words in English to use — to rapidly scale up the humanitarian response because the population is dying every day as we speak,” Mari Carmen Vinoles, head of the emergency unit for Doctors Without Borders, told the AP. But pockets of fighting, resistance from some officials and sheer destruction stand in the way of a massive food delivery effort. To send 15-kilogram (33-pound) rations to 4.5 million people would require more than 2,000 trucks, the meeting's minutes said, while some local responders are reduced to getting around on foot. The spectre of hunger is sensitive in Ethiopia, which transformed into one of the world's fastest-growing economies in the decades since images of starvation there in the 1980s led to a global outcry. Drought, conflict and government denial contributed to the famine, which swept through Tigray and killed an estimated 1 million people. The largely agricultural Tigray region of about 5 million people already had a food security problem amid a locust outbreak when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Nov. 4 announced fighting between his forces and those of the defiant regional government. Tigray leaders dominated Ethiopia for almost three decades but were sidelined after Abiy introduced reforms that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. More than 50,000 have fled into Sudan, where one doctor has said newer arrivals show signs of starvation. Others shelter in rugged terrain. A woman who recently left Tigray described sleeping in caves with people who brought cattle, goats and the grain they had managed to harvest. “It is a daily reality to hear people dying with the fighting consequences, lack of food,” a letter by the Catholic bishop of Adigrat said this month. Hospitals and other health centres, crucial in treating malnutrition, have been destroyed. In markets, food is “not available or extremely limited,” the United Nations says. Though Ethiopia's prime minister declared victory in late November, its military and allied fighters remain active amid the presence of troops from neighbouring Eritrea, a bitter enemy of the now-fugitive officials who once led the region. Fear keeps many people from venturing out. Others flee. Tigray’s new officials say more than 2 million people have been displaced, a number the U.S. government’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance calls “staggering.” The U.N. says the number of people reached with aid is “extremely low.” A senior Ethiopian government official, Redwan Hussein, did not respond to a request for comment on Tigray colleagues warning of starvation. In the northern Shire area near Eritrea, which has seen some of the worst fighting, up to 10% of the children whose arms were measured met the diagnostic criteria for severe acute malnutrition, with scores of children affected, a U.N. source said. Sharing the concern of many humanitarian workers about jeopardizing access, the source spoke on condition of anonymity. Near Shire town are camps housing nearly 100,000 refugees who have fled over the years from Eritrea. Some who have walked into town "are emaciated, begging for aid that is not available,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Thursday. Food has been a target. Analyzing satellite imagery of the Shire area, a U.K.-based research group found two warehouse-style structures in the U.N. World Food Program compound at one refugee camp had been “very specifically destroyed.” The DX Open Network could not tell by whom. It reported a new attack Saturday. It's challenging to verify events in Tigray as communications links remain poor and almost no journalists are allowed. In the towns of Adigrat, Adwa and Axum, “the level of civilian casualties is extremely high in the places we have been able to access,” the Doctors Without Borders emergency official Vinoles said. She cited the fighting and lack of health care. Hunger is “very concerning," she said, and even water is scarce: Just two of 21 wells still work in Adigrat, a city of more than 140,000, forcing many people to drink from the river. With sanitation suffering, disease follows. “You go 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the city and it’s a complete disaster,” with no food, Vinoles said. Humanitarian workers struggle to gauge the extent of need. “Not being able to travel off main highways, it always poses the question of what’s happening with people still off-limits,” said Panos Navrozidis, Action Against Hunger’s director in Ethiopia. Before the conflict, Ethiopia’s national disaster management body classified some Tigray woredas, or administrative areas, as priority one hotspots for food insecurity. If some already had high malnutrition numbers, “two-and-a-half months into the crisis, it’s a safe assumption that thousands of children and mothers are in immediate need," Navrozidis said. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, funded and managed by the U.S., says parts of central and eastern Tigray are likely in Emergency Phase 4, a step below famine. The next few months are critical, John Shumlansky, the Catholic Relief Services representative in Ethiopia, said. His group so far has given up to 70,000 people in Tigray a three-month food supply, he said. Asked whether combatants use hunger as a weapon, one concern among aid workers, Shumlansky dismissed it by Ethiopian defence forces and police. With others, he didn’t know. “I don’t think they have food either, though,” he said. Cara Anna, The Associated Press
BELGRADE, Serbia — Vaccines from the West, Russia or China? Or none at all? That dilemma faces nations in southeastern Europe, where coronavirus vaccination campaigns are off to a slow start — overshadowed by heated political debates and conspiracy theories. In countries like the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria, vaccine skeptics have included former presidents and even some doctors. Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic was among those who said he did not want to be forced to get inoculated. False beliefs that the coronavirus is a hoax or that vaccines would inject microchips into people have spread in the countries that were formerly under harsh Communist rule. Those who once routinely underwent mass inoculations are deeply split over whether to get the vaccines at all. “There is a direct link between support for conspiracy theories and skepticism toward vaccination,” a recent Balkan study warned. “A majority across the region does not plan to take the vaccine, a ratio considerably lower than elsewhere in Europe, where a majority favours taking the vaccine.” Only about 200,000 people applied for the vaccine in Serbia, a country of 7 million, in the days after authorities opened the procedure. By contrast, 1 million Serbians signed up for 100 euros ($120) on the first day the government offered the pandemic aid. Hoping to encourage vaccinations, Serbian officials have gotten their shots on TV. Yet they themselves have been split over whether to get the Western-made Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or Russia’s Sputnik V, more divisions in a country that is formally seeking European Union membership but where many favour closer ties with Moscow. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday greeted a shipment of 1 million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, saying he will receive a shot to show that it is safe. “Serbs prefer the Russian vaccine,” read a recent headline of the Informer, a pro-government tabloid, as officials announced that 38% of those who have applied to take the shots favour the Russian vaccine, while 31% want the Pfizer-BioNTech version — a rough division among pro-Russians and pro-Westerners in Serbia. In neighbouring Bosnia, a war-torn country that remains ethnically divided among Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats, politics also are a factor, as the Serb-run half appeared set to opt for the Russian vaccine, while the Bosniak-Croat part likely will turn to the Western ones. Sasa Milovanovic, a 57-year-old real estate agent from Belgrade, sees all vaccines as part of the “global manipulation” of the pandemic. “People are locked up, they have no lives any longer and live in a state of hysteria and fear,” he said. Djokovic has said he was against being forced to take a coronavirus vaccine in order to travel and compete but was keeping his mind open. The top-ranked tennis player and his wife tested positive in June after a series of exhibition matches with zero social distancing that he organized in the Balkans. They and their foundation have donated 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for hospitals in Serbia. Serbian Health Ministry official Mirsad Djerlek has described the vaccine response as “satisfactory,” but cautioned on the state-run RTS broadcaster that “people in rural areas usually believe in conspiracy theories, and that is why we should talk to them and explain that the vaccine is the only way out in this situation.” A study by the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, published before the regional vaccination campaign started in December, concluded that virus conspiracy theories are believed by nearly 80% of citizens of the Western Balkan countries striving to join the EU. About half of them will refuse to get vaccinated, it said. Baseless theories allege the virus isn’t real or that it’s a bioweapon created by the U.S. or its adversaries. Another popular falsehood holds that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is using COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips in the planet's 7 billion people. A low level of information about the virus and vaccines, distrust in governments and repeated assertions by authorities that their countries are besieged by foreigners help explain the high prevalence of such beliefs, according to the Balkans think-tank . Similar trends have been seen even in some eastern European Union countries. In Bulgaria, widespread conspiracy theories hampered past efforts to deal with a measles outbreak. Surveys there suggested distrust of vaccines remains high even as coronavirus cases keep rising. A recent Gallup International poll found that 30% of respondents want to get vaccinated, 46% will refuse and 24% are undecided. Bulgarian doctors have tried to change attitudes. Dr. Stefan Konstantinov, a former health minister, joked that people should be told neighbouring Greece would close resorts to tourists who don't get vaccinated, because “this would guarantee that some 70% of the population would rush to get a jab.” In the Czech Republic, where surveys show some 40% reject vaccination, protesters at a big rally against government virus restrictions in Prague demanded that vaccinations not be mandatory. Former President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce critic of the government's pandemic response, told the crowd that vaccines are not a solution. “They say that everything will be solved by a miracle vaccine,” said the 79-year-old Klaus, who insists that people should get exposed to the virus to gain immunity, which experts reject. “We have to say loud and clear that there’s no such a thing. … I am not going to get vaccinated.” Populist authorities in Hungary have taken a hard line against virus misinformation, but rejection of vaccines is still projected at about 30%. Parliament passed emergency powers in March that allows authorities to prosecute anyone deemed to be “inhibiting the successful defence” against the virus, including “fearmongering” or spreading false news. At least two people who criticized the government's response to the pandemic on social media were arrested, but neither was formally charged. Romanian Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu said he is relying on family doctors to “inform, schedule and monitor people after the vaccine” and that his ministry will offer bonuses to medical workers based on the number of people they get onboard. Asked if such incentives would fuel anti-vaccination propaganda, Voiculescu said: “I am interested more by the doctors’ view on the matter than I am about the anti-vaxxers.” Dr. Ivica Jeremic, who has worked with virus patients in Serbia since March and tested positive himself in November, hopes vaccination programs will gain speed once people overcome their fear of the unknown. "People will realize the vaccine is the only way to return to normal life,” he said. ___ Associated Press writers Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria; Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic; Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary; and Vadim Ghirda in Bucharest, Romania, contributed. —- Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Dusan Stojanovic And Jovana Gec, The Associated Press
Weekly protests continue in Jerusalem calling on Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to step down over corruption chargesView on euronews
The company that bought the ammonium nitrate which exploded in Beirut last August had possible links to two Syrian businessmen under U.S. sanctions for ties to President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report by a Lebanese journalist and London company filings. Savaro Ltd, the trading firm which procured the chemicals in 2013, shared a London address with companies linked to George Haswani and Imad Khoury, according to the report by documentary film-maker Firas Hatoum, which aired on Lebanon's al-Jadeed TV station this week. Haswani, Khoury and his brother Mudalal Khoury have all been sanctioned by Washington for supporting Assad's war effort.
Thousands of Nova Scotia Power customers were without electricity Sunday morning after high winds and heavy rain swept the province. By the mid-afternoon, crews had made major headway and the number of customers still without power had fallen considerably. As of 4 p.m., there were still eight outages affecting more than 190 customers, according to Nova Scotia Power's outage map. The number of homes and businesses without power had been steadily rising and peaked at 7,200 around 8:40 a.m. The outages began early Sunday and most are in the northeastern half of the province. More than 4,000 customers in Cape Breton were without electricity early Sunday. Estimated restoration times varied between 1-9 p.m. A public weather alert was issued by Environment Canada Saturday morning, warning that a system from New England was expected to bring southeasterly gusts of up to 90 km/h to parts of the mainland, and up to 100 km/h in Cape Breton. A Les Suêtes wind warning was also issued for Inverness County, north of Mabou, which brought southeast wind gusts up to 200 km/h. Most weather warnings had ended by late Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal closed the Canso Causeway to vehicles 2.5 metres or higher due to high winds. It had reopened by 9:20 a.m. Heavy rain also began falling across the province Saturday evening and continued to fall over the eastern mainland and most of Cape Breton Sunday morning. Rainfall warnings ended for Victoria County and Sydney Metro and Cape Breton County by the early afternoon. MORE TOP STORIES
The debate about the U.S. Electoral College pits those who think the president should be chosen via popular vote versus those who believe the interests of small and large states must be balanced.
Some members of the Saskatoon Fire Department may soon have a new task ahead of them: administering the COVID-19 vaccine. Primary-care paramedics (PCP) with the city's fire department are able to upgrade their training in order to administer the vaccine and several are already trained. "Any vaccine that would be provided by the health ministry and distributed through SHA for administration could be by our PCPs to other Fire Department staff, civic staff — and then upon request from the SHA — maybe even to members of the public within the Saskatoon region," said Wayne Rodger, assistant chief with the Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD). He said right now there are 34 paramedics able to conduct COVID-19 tests and 23 trained on providing the vaccine. Those numbers could climb as the pandemic continues. Of the service's roughly 337 employees, only the roughly 137 PCPs will be given the option for priority vaccination. Clint Belitsky is the secretary with the International Association of Firefighters Local 80 (IAFF 80), which represents firefighters in Saskatoon. He said that while the IAFF welcomes paramedics getting the vaccine quickly, there are some concerns other frontline firefighters were missed. "All of our firefighters go into medical calls, they assist in different ways," he said, noting a firefighters' role may include helping with CPR or transporting a patient. "Whether it's inside a house, or inside an apartment, or up and down stairs, all of our members are in close contact throughout shifts." Belitysky said the association isn't trying to muscle its way into the line-up. "We feel like they're left out a little bit, but we understand that there's a limited number," he said. Belitysky said the association is happy members will be able to help administer vaccines, saying it will be "easier and quicker" to get the vaccination in house than going to a clinic or immunization centre. Rodger said the SFD is determining who will get the vaccine first by examining risk and potential exposure. "Our firefighters that are working alongside the paramedics would certainly have a greater opportunity than say I would to receive that vaccine earlier," he said. Rodger said communication between the Ministry of Health, the SHA and the department has been consistent and ongoing.
German pharmaceutical giant Bayer is examining whether it can help CureVac to produce its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, its chief executive was quoted as saying on Sunday. "We are prepared to pull out all the stops for this," Werner Baumann told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "This is not primarily about financial considerations but about making the vaccine available as quickly as possible."
Two United Conservative MLAs are pushing for COVID-19 restrictions to be altered on a regional basis, rather than apply the same rules across the entire province. Drew Barnes and Michaela Glasgo, who represent ridings that cover the Medicine Hat area, say the public health orders are often disproportionate to the low number of cases in their southeastern region. They've both heard from many constituents urging them to ask for relief from some of the measures — and that message has been relayed to the premier. "I think it's time to open up now," Barnes told CBC News. "I would ask the premier to consider this strongly." Medicine Hat is included in the South health zone, which had 362 active cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday (2.9 per cent of the total active cases across Alberta). Alberta Health Services data shows that the South zone has had less than five per cent of the province's total infections since the beginning of the pandemic. Barnes says the effects the current restrictions are having on mental health, the economy and opioid overdoses are reaching a crisis point. He wants to see a return to 15 per cent occupancy limits for places like restaurants and for sports for children to be reinstated. He says his constituents are upset that less than 45 minutes away, Saskatchewan's public health rules are looser. "They're saying, 'We've done everything we can to keep each other as safe as possible. We don't have the cases. And we feel that a more regional approach is fair,'" Barnes said. "We've had a lot of businesses, we've had a lot of families lose everything." Glasgo had previously told CBC News that her constituents have shown a responsible approach to combating COVID-19. "My riding understands just how important these public health measures are to moving forward, but they are asking for a reasonable and evidence-based approach when it comes time to lessen the restrictions," she said. Request made to the premier Both MLAs say they think COVID is a serious issue, but that one broad approach won't fit the specific needs in each region of the province. The request for regional restrictions has been communicated to the premier, his COVID cabinet committee and health officials. Premier Jason Kenney's office said the pandemic response is constantly evolving. "The COVID cabinet committee considers a wide range of options on [a] continuous basis. Decisions made are based on the advice of Dr. [Deena] Hinshaw and her team of public health experts," spokesperson Christine Myatt wrote. "We understand that many Albertans are frustrated with current restrictions and we thank them for their continued co-operation as we work to safeguard our health-care system." Those restrictions will ease slightly on Monday, permitting outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and reopening personal services like salons. In the summer and early fall, Alberta's public health orders were regionally specific based on infection rates, but as case numbers exploded, blanket restrictions were introduced for the entirety of the province. Dr. Jennifer Corcoran, an assistant professor in the University of Calgary's infectious diseases department, says it's too early to think about lifting the restrictions — especially with new strains of the virus at play. "What I would not like to see happen to the province is that we get an explosion of cases right before the vaccines arrive and we have a much harder winter than we need to," she said. "If we let the variants spread and take over, then I think we're going to prolong how the pandemic impacts our lives for a longer period of time." Corcoran said it's possible that if different regions open first, we could see more spread there as people from outside that location travel to take advantage of lesser restrictions. Barnes said if case numbers in the south were to spike again, he agrees it would be appropriate to tighten restrictions as necessary. Medicine Hat saw a spike at the same time as the rest of Alberta, but currently has only 38 active cases of COVID-19 with a population of about 68,000.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated and more than a dozen have been killed in recent days in flooding on Indonesia's Borneo island, officials said Sunday. National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati said floods brought by intense rains caused floodwaters as high as 3 metres (10 feet). As of Sunday, 39,549 people had been evacuated and at least 15 had been killed due to floods that affected 10 districts and cities in South Kalimantan province on Borneo island. Separately, five people were killed and 500 others were evacuated after floods and landslides in Manado city in North Sulawesi province on Saturday. One other person was missing. Seasonal rains and high tides in recent days have caused dozens of landslides and widespread flooding across much of Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains close to rivers. The Associated Press
Small groups of right-wing protesters — some of them carrying rifles — gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunday, outnumbered by National Guard troops and police brought in to prevent a repeat of the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol. As darkness fell, there were no reports of any clashes. Security was stepped up in recent days after the FBI warned of the potential for armed protests in Washington and at all 50 state capitol buildings ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. Crowds of only a dozen or two demonstrated at some boarded-up, cordoned-off statehouses, while the streets in many other capital cities remained empty. Some protesters said they were there to back President Donald Trump. Others said they had instead come to voice their support for gun rights or decry government overreach. “I don’t trust the results of the election,” said Michigan protester Martin Szelag, a 67-year-old semi-retired window salesman from Dearborn Heights. He wore a sign around his neck that read, in part, “We will support Joe Biden as our President if you can convince us he won legally. Show us the proof! Then the healing can begin.” As the day wore on with no bloodshed around the U.S., a sense of relief spread among officials, though they were not ready to let their guard down. The heavy law enforcement presence may have kept turnout down. In the past few days, some extremists had warned others against falling into what they called a law enforcement trap. Washington State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said he hoped the apparently peaceful day reflected some soul-searching among Americans. “I would love to say that it’s because we’ve all taken a sober look in the mirror and have decided that we are a more unified people than certain moments in time would indicate,” he said. The security measures were intended to safeguard seats of government from the type of violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when far-right Trump supporters galvanized by his false claims that the election had been stolen from him overran the police and bashed their way into the building while Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote. The attack left a Capitol police officer and four others dead. More than 125 people have been arrested over the insurrection. Dozens of courts, election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have all said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the presidential race. On Sunday, some statehouses were surrounded by new security fences, their windows were boarded up, and extra officers were on patrol. Legislatures generally were not in session over the weekend. Tall fences also surrounded the U.S. Capitol. The National Mall was closed to the public, and the mayor of Washington asked people not to visit. Some 25,000 National Guard troops from around the country are expected to arrive in the city in the coming days. U.S. defence officials told The Associated Press those troops would be vetted by the FBI to ward off any threat of an insider attack on the inauguration. The roughly 20 protesters who showed up at Michigan’s Capitol, including some who were armed, were significantly outnumbered by law enforcement officers and members of the media. Tensions have been running high in the state since authorities foiled a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year. At the Ohio Statehouse, about two dozen people, including several carrying long guns, protested outside under the watchful eyes of state troopers before dispersing as it began to snow. Kathy Sherman, who was wearing a visor with “Trump” printed on it, said she supports the president but distanced herself from the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol. "I’m here to support the right to voice a political view or opinion without fear of censorship, harassment or the threat of losing my job or being physically assaulted,” she said. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said he was pleased with the outcome but stressed that authorities "continue to have concerns for potential violence in the coming days, which is why I intend to maintain security levels at the Statehouse as we approach the presidential inauguration.” Utah's new governor, Republican Spencer Cox, shared photos on his Twitter account showing him with what appeared to be hundreds of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers standing behind him, all wearing masks. Cox called the quiet protests a best-case scenario and said many ”agitating groups" had cancelled their plans for the day. At Oregon's Capitol, fewer than a dozen men wearing military-style outfits, black ski masks and helmets stood nearby with semiautomatic weapons slung across their bodies. Some had upside-down American flags and signs reading such things as “Disarm the government.” At the Texas Capitol, Ben Hawk walked with about a dozen demonstrators up to the locked gates carrying a bullhorn and an AR-15 rifle hanging at the side of his camouflage pants. He condemned the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and said he did not support Trump. “All we came down here to do today was to discuss, gather, network and hang out. And it got blown and twisted completely out of proportion,” Hawk said. At Nevada's Capitol, where demonstrators supporting Trump have flocked most weekends in recent months, all was quiet except for a lone protester with a sign. “Trump Lost. Be Adults. Go Home,” it read. More than a third of governors had called out the National Guard to help protect their capitols and assist local law enforcement. Several governors declared states of emergency, and others closed their capitols to the public until after Biden's inauguration. Some legislatures also cancelled sessions or pared back their work for the coming week. Even before the violence at the Capitol, some statehouses had been the target of vandals and angry protesters during the past year. Last spring, armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol to object to coronavirus lockdowns. People angry over the death of George Floyd under a Minneapolis police officer's knee vandalized capitols in several states, including Colorado, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Last last month, crowds in Oregon forced their way into the Capitol in Salem to protest its closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures. Amid the potential for violence in the coming days, the building's first-floor windows were boarded up and the National Guard was brought in. "The state capitol has become a fortress,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat. “I never thought I’d see that. It breaks my heart.” ___ Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio; Gillian Flaccus in Salem, Oregon; Mike Householder and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; Sam Metz in Carson City, Nevada; Marc Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report. David A. Lieb And Adam Geller, The Associated Press
This workweek will kick off with what's fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history.Experts say Blue Monday may be a little more than a marketing gimmick, but the pseudo-scientific concept speaks to the real struggles weighing on Canadians between the doldrums of winter and the pandemic's second wave.But the national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association says one of the best salves for this contagion-fuelled seasonal slump is as simple as getting up on your own two feet."Our physical well-being really impacts our mental well-being," Margaret Eaton said. "There is a very well documented connection showing that increasing your physical activity definitely impacts your mood."There's no evidence to support the notion that the third Monday of January is the glummest date on the calendar, but Eaton said the concept of Blue Monday may especially resonate this year.In a spring survey of more than 1,800 participants, 84 per cent of Canadians reported that their mental health had worsened since the outbreak hit, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.Eaton suspects that moods haven't improved as the COVID-19 crisis has dragged on, and with the onset of seasonal affective disorder, she said many Canadians are contending with a potent confluence of psychological stressors.The weather is getting colder. The holidays are over, and bills are coming due. Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts. It's been nearly a year since people have been able to safely socialize with their friends.And forget about those New Year's resolutions to go to the gym. That's not even an option in many parts of the country. Some people are also indulging in "temporary fixes" such as food and alcohol to distract themselves from the dolor of the pandemic, Eaton said, rather than engaging in diversions that have been proven to lift people's spirits."Canadians are not turning to physical activity to help with their mental health," said Leigh Vanderloo, an exercise scientist with non-profit Participaction. "There seems to be a disconnect. We know it helps, but we don't necessarily do it."According data collected by Participaction, Canadians are more likely to cope with the anxieties of life under lockdown through sedentary activities, such as increased screen time, rather than by getting active.But research suggests that all it takes is a single bout of physical activity to release neurochemicals that lift one's mood, Vanderloo said.You don't have to commit to an intense training routine or invest in expensive equipment to see the benefits of exercise, she said. The key is to find an activity you enjoy, whether that's a stroll outdoors or a brief dance break.Vanderloo said it's also important to spend a few minutes moving for every hour you spend sitting. She encouraged desk dwellers to find ways to sneak in steps during the workday, such as pacing while on phone calls.The key is consistency, said Vanderloo, and in such uncertain times, an exercise routine can offer some much-needed structure."It might take a little bit of trial and error. But there's certainly an activity out there for everyone."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2020. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
NAIROBI, Kenya — New satellite images of a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region show more than 400 structures have been badly damaged in what a research group believes is the latest “intentional attack” by fighters. The report by the U.K.-based DX Open Network non-profit, shared with The Associated Press, says “it is likely that the fire events of 16 January are yet another episode in a series of military incursions on the camp as reported by (the United Nations refugee agency).” The Shimelba camp is one of four that hosted 96,000 refugees from nearby Eritrea when fighting erupted in early November between Ethiopian forces and those of the defiant Tigray region. The fighting has swept through the camps and two of them, including Shimelba, remain inaccessible to aid workers. Many refugees have fled. On Thursday, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi cited recent satellite imagery of fires and other destruction at the two inaccessible camps as “concrete indications of major violations of international law.” A U.N. refugee agency spokesman on Sunday morning did not immediately respond to questions about the latest reported attack. The new report says the satellite images show “smouldering ruins, blackening of structures and collapsed roofs.” The structures, it said, “match the profile of mud-brick dwellings constructed by the refugees themselves. The attackers likely split into multiple groups going door to door to set fires inside buildings," consistent with previous attacks on the Hitsats camp, which also is inaccessible. Neither the U.N. nor DX Open Network has blamed anyone for the attacks, but the presence of troops from Eritrea, a bitter enemy of the Tigray region’s now-fugitive leaders, has caused alarm. Grandi noted “many reliable reports and firsthand accounts” of abuses including the forced return of refugees to Eritrea. The day after Grandi’s statement, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel tweeted that “UNHCR seems to indulge, yet again, in another bout of gratuitous & irresponsible smear campaigns against Eritrea.” He said Eritrea rejects the “forced repatriation of ‘refugees.'" Eritrea has been described by human rights groups as one of the world's most repressive countries. Thousands of people have fled the country over the years to avoid a system of military conscription. Fighting continues in parts of the Tigray region. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced. Cara Anna, The Associated Press
Montreal police say they have arrested a 23-year-old man after his mother was fatally stabbed early Sunday morning. Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant said police were called to an apartment on Gilford Street in the city's Plateau neighbourhood just after 1:30 a.m. That is where they found the 49-year-old woman, who was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries but later died. The man was arrested at the scene. He was taken to hospital to undergo a psychological evaluation. Members of the Montreal police forensic identification unit were dispatched to the scene.