Shoppers in Toronto and Peel Region made the mad dash to pick up everything from essential items to Christmas gifts ahead of a 28-day coronavirus lockdown in those regions. Morganne Campbell has more in this report.
Shoppers in Toronto and Peel Region made the mad dash to pick up everything from essential items to Christmas gifts ahead of a 28-day coronavirus lockdown in those regions. Morganne Campbell has more in this report.
MLAs both new and re-elected will begin a two-week fall sitting Monday, which will likely be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Saskatchewan Party government's election promises.Monday's sitting begins with the Speaker election at 10 a.m. CST and a speech from the throne delivered by Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty at 2 p.m.The speech will be debated and voted on in the days that follow.Following the Oct. 26 election, the governing Sask. Party enters the sitting with 48 members, while the NDP has 13.Pandemic responseWith the province experiencing a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past month, policy announcements by the government will likely be overshadowed by its response to the pandemic.The NDP opposition has asked for a three-week "circuit breaker" shutdown and a plan to compensate those affected.Moe said again last week he preferred targeted measures as opposed to anything that shut down portions of the economy.On Friday, the province's most recent set of restrictions went into effect, which includes suspension of sports, gathering limit restrictions and an expansion of the mask mandate.Election promisesAfter announcing his cabinet shuffle on Nov. 9, Premier Scott Moe said his government would use the sitting to introduce legislation, including bills, to keep its campaign promises.The Sask. Party made $849 million in promises during the October campaign, including: * A two-year home renovation tax credit. * A one-year 10 per cent SaskPower rebate. * A three-year tax reduction for small businesses. * Create 750 licensed home-based child care spaces. * Provide funding to kids living with autism up to the age of 12. * Cover the cost of glucose monitoring up to 18 years old. * Reduce seniors' ambulance costs by 50 per cent. * Increase the post-secondary Sask. Advantage scholarship to $750/ year.It also promised to bring back two programs cancelled in 2016, the active families benefit and the community rink grant. Speaker election The sitting will begin with the election of the Speaker. Saskatchewan Party MLA Mark Docherty has held the position since March 2018. He has put his name forward again and faces five of his caucus colleagues who are also vying for the position: Lisa Lambert, Hugh Nerlien, Greg Ottenbreit, Randy Weekes, and Nadine Wilson.The election will be conducted by secret ballot.The Sask. Party has 11 new MLAs, while the NDP has six.On Nov. 9, Moe shuffled his cabinet, with notable changes including Paul Merriman as Health Minister, Dustin Duncan as Education Minister, Lori Carr as Minister of Social Services and Gord Wyant as Minister of Justice.Finance Minister Donna Harpauer is the deputy premier and Nicole Sarauer is the NDP's deputy leader.All MLAs will have to wear a mask while inside the legislature. Plastic barriers have been erected between desks inside the chamber.
BEIJING — China on Monday said it is sanctioning leaders of U.S. government-affiliated bodies that promote democracy around the world in response to what it calls practices that “blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs.”Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the measures would cover the senior director for Asia at the National Endowment Democracy, John Knaus, the regional director for the Asia-Pacific at the National Democratic Institute, Manpreet Singh Anand, and two of the institute’s officials responsible for Hong Kong.Hua gave no details and the institute said in a news release that it had no further information but that it “remains steadfastly committed to these core principles and to continuing our work in support of democracy worldwide.”China has long accused such groups of encouraging dissidents who built grassroots movements to push for greater direct democracy in Hong Kong. Those burst out into street protests in 2014 and again last year, prompting a harsh crackdown from authorities.The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials over the passage of a National Security Law that imposed strict penalties for critics of the Beijing-backed government that has ruled the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.The sanctions ban the officials, including the head of Hong Kong’s local government, Carrie Lam, from travelling to the U.S. and freezes all dealings with American financial institutions.Hua told reporters Monday that “the relevant U.S. practices blatantly meddle in Hong Kong affairs, grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the international law and basic norms governing international relations."“The U.S. should immediately cease interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs and avoid going further down the wrong path," Hua said at a daily briefing.Hong Kong is just one area where tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen over recent years.The Trump administration has cut off Chinese tech giant Huawei’s access to most U.S. components and technology on security grounds, part of a feud over trade and technology that has led the White House to press the Chinese owner of video service TikTok to sell its U.S. operation, which American officials say is a security risk.U.S. accusations of Chinese human rights abuses, particularly against Muslim minority groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, have resulted in frequent angry exchanges between the sides. Frictions have also built over Washington's support for Taiwan, which China claims as a breakaway province to be recovered by force if necessary, along with China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.The Associated Press
If there's one thing Sheila Levy-Bencheton took for granted, it's that the safety deposit box her father rented from a big bank was secure. That's until her dad passed away in 2017 at age 103.The Toronto woman went to TD Canada Trust to empty the box a few months later, and discovered the bank had already done it years ago — forcing it open by drilling the lock then emptying the contents.The bank drilled open and emptied thousands of safety deposit boxes across the country in 2012 in an effort to get rid of those no longer being used or paid for. It says its policies require the contents to be set aside for safe keeping.But Levy-Bencheton says she's still missing her family's most valued possessions and fighting for compensation. And she's not the only one. Go Public also spoke to an Edmonton man who lost thousands of dollars' worth of irreplaceable 22-karat gold jewelry, who says the bank did the same thing to him."Once it is gone, it's gone," said Suraj Khatiwada.Both he and Levy-Bencheton say they can't believe the bank would open the boxes and remove their possessions."The reason you have a safety deposit box is to specifically put things in a very safe place and not to be tampered with. This was clearly tampered with," Levy-Bencheton said.Missing, she says, is her mother's diamond ring, an 18-karat gold watch bought in 1947, gold and silver coins and thousands of dollars in cash. Those are the items her father — still lucid in his older age — told her he'd stashed at the bank for safe keeping.She's not sure exactly how much cash, but says her father kept it there because her parents were Holocaust survivors, so were always anxious about having easy access to money and valuables in case they needed to run."That's the kind of mentality they lived with," she said.WATCH | Safety deposit boxes emptied:But instead of getting cash and jewelry, the bank handed Levy-Bencheton a pile of paperwork and receipts, a few silver dollar coins and an empty ring box, saying that's all that was in there.Experts say banks operate safety deposit boxes as a side business, with few rules except those they set for themselves."It's called the safety deposit box, but really it's just a contract that has all sorts of provisions in it to protect the banks from liability," said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, an advocacy group for corporate responsibility and law reform.Levy-Bencheton says TD's rules mean it didn't need to prove anything.She asked for the bank's records showing who had accessed the box before it was drilled open, and for a copy of the registered letter the bank said it sent her father before opening it. The bank didn't have either, she says."It made me suspicious," Levy-Bencheton said. "God knows what happened there."TD tells Go Public the family's box was opened by accident, as part of a "network wide reconciliation process" — one of the 16,000 boxes it drilled open in 2012 for reasons including overdue rent, lost keys or where "required by law." The bank says it has one million boxes across the country and the need to drill them open is rare.Levy-Bencheton fought for more than a year to get any compensation.At first, a bank manager told her the box never existed, but she says that "didn't feel right" since the family had two sets of keys and her dad had told her all about it. So, on a whim, a family member called TD customer service about a week later and asked again."And within five minutes, he got back in the line. He said, 'Yeah, it was here [but] it was drilled in 2012,'" said Levy-Bencheton. "I couldn't believe it."When the family asked why it had been given two different stories, the bank said the manager "was newer to the role and not as resourceful" as the employee on the phone.The bank said there would be no compensation since the family couldn't prove what was in the box and the bank didn't have any records.Instead it offered $250 as a "goodwill gesture."Levy-Bencheton turned the offer down and then moved her complaint up to TD's ombudsman.That went nowhere. Three complaint levels later, in October 2018, the private national mediation company that handles TD complaints — ADR Chambers — said there was a 50-50 chance valuables and cash were missing.After doing a loose accounting, the company found the jewelry was worth about $8,400, and recommended TD to pay Levy-Bencheton and her family half that amount. ADR has been criticized for being biased toward the banks it investigates because they pay fees for its service.Levy-Bencheton turned down the offer, saying it doesn't begin to cover the family's losses. She also wants the bank to have to pay a hefty penalty."We really don't know how much was in there [but] it was more than that for sure," she said."It really caused us a lot of aggravation. We've lost a lot of sentimental things and the only language the bank knows is money … so we have to hit them where it hurts."The family has hired paralegal George Berger to help get answers from TD — and maybe file a lawsuit."They refused to provide information about what exactly happened," Berger said.'Once it is gone, it's gone'Suraj Khatiwada of Edmonton is still missing his wife's 22-karat gold wedding bangles, necklace and wedding ring after TD Canada Trust also "inadvertently" opened his safety deposit box without his permission.He says it happened sometime between 2015, the last time he opened the box himself, and 2017, when he discovered the bank had drilled the lock. After months of back and forth and an investigation by the bank's ombudsman, TD apologized and awarded him $12,000 for the missing jewelry. He says he didn't have any proof, but did provide photos of the jewelry to the bank.At the time the bank promised to investigate, but has yet to explain how the items went missing. "That is a very unfortunate thing … we cannot replace the sentimental value of those things," said Khatiwada, who immigrated from Nepal in 2010. "In Western culture, the wedding ring is very valuable. But in our culture, it's the necklace and also the ring. We have a special ring ceremony, so they are not replaceable."TD spokesperson Carla Hindman says the bank has protocols for forcing open safety deposit boxes including, "ensuring at least two employees, one of whom must be a manager, are always present as they [staff] remove, catalogue, package and securely store the contents." But she didn't say if those rules were followed in the two cases Go Public looked at.Banks have been reprimanded for not taking enough care with safety deposit boxes.In 2002, a B.C. court awarded a woman more than $20,000 in damages after TD drilled hers open, having wrongly concluded her rental was in arrears.And in 2001 and 2006, Canada's privacy commissioner broadly criticized banks for inaccurate record-keeping and for breaking privacy rules related to boxes being opened.The commissioner didn't name which bank or banks were involved in those complaints. Conacher, at Democracy Watch, says bank customers are forced to fight these long battles because rules for how banks manage safety deposit boxes are not part of Canada's Bank Act and are largely unregulated.He says the lack of government rules makes it hard for Canadians to get fair compensation when banks mishandle boxes.Provincial estate laws do mention safety deposit boxes but are limited to how beneficiaries gain access after someone dies."If [something] goes missing, then not only do you have a contract that protects the bank, but you also have the burden of proof to prove that the bank has not handled that box properly."That's a really big hurdle for any consumer to try and climb over to get accountability," Conacher said. He's calling on the federal government to update the Bank Act to include safety deposit boxes.Go Public asked the Department of Finance if Ottawa plans to make changes. In a statement, it would only say it regularly reviews laws, "to ensure that Canadians have the protections they need."Unlike regular bank deposits, Conacher says, the contents of safety deposit boxes aren't insured by financial institutions, so owners need to insure valuables themselves as part of home insurance policies and to regularly document what's inside with photos and witnesses.Both Levy-Bencheton and Khatiwada say, after their experiences, they're done with safety deposit boxes.Khatiwada says he still has an account with TD which includes the use of a deposit box, but he told Go Public it's sitting empty."I lost my trust," he said.Submit your story ideasGo Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.We tell your stories, shed light on wrongdoing, and hold the powers that be accountable.If you have a story in the public interest, or if you're an insider with information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, contact information and a brief summary.All emails are confidential until you decide to Go Public. 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An 80-year-old man who is visually impaired and received a $13,000 bill from Virgin Mobile is no longer on the hook for the large sum."I think right now they could be doing a little better, but I'm satisfied with that," said Willie Guerard, who lives in Amherstburg, Ont. "They're not going to get my best wishes, you know what I mean?"Guerard and his wife, Yvonne, who by their own admission are not tech-savvy, told the CBC earlier this month that they don't really even use the internet on their phone.They said it was their understanding that their service would be cut off if their account balance reached $200 in any given month, so they were surprised when they received two bills, for approximately $5,000 and $7,000, respectively.Virgin Mobile said it had removed spending caps such as those after the pandemic began up until the beginning of July but it continued to charge for any costs for overages people incurred.Guerard and his wife said they contacted Virgin Mobile after receiving the large bill and were told they had to pay it. It was only after CBC made inquiries published in a web story earlier this month that the company took a second look at the massive bill."At least they're paying attention now. Before that I couldn't get nobody [to look into it], I just got the runaround," Guerard said.Significant reductionInitially, Virgin Mobile said that Guerard, who was an active data user, had twice requested to increase the amount of data on his account and consented to it. The company was unaware of Guerard's visual impairment and that it would be significantly reducing the outstanding balance in his account.Last week, they said they'd reduced the amount he owed to what his usual monthly bill would have been."We took another look at Willie's account and couldn't verify that he received the notice about removing spending caps during COVID," a written response from the company read.Guerard said after he called them, he found out the amount he now owes is $281, which he plans to pay. But he said he'll only be doing so once he gets it in writing.
A decision of the Halifax and West Community Council to turn down a commercial development in Hatchet Lake has been appealed to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.The owners of Hatchet Lake Plaza Ltd. applied to build a fast-food outlet along with a gas bar and convenience store on Prospect Road. The zoning allows for a restaurant and drive-thru but the owner needs municipal approval for a service station.Local residents have raised several concerns."We're on well water here and I know they keep trying to reassure us that there will be no danger to groundwater,'' said Beverley Volsky, who lives next door to the proposed development. "But I don't want to take the chance."Other submissions sent to a public hearing on Sept. 24 talked about noise, odours and increased traffic.A petition opposed to the project with 578 names was also submitted to the community council meeting. A number of residents questioned the need for another gas station."There's an Irving and a Petro-Canada less than five minutes from our location," said Volsky."I don't need a convenience store right behind my house. We have several along Prospect Road."HRM staff say there are no rules limiting the number of service stations within a particular area. They recommended approval of the proposed development, but the community council decided against it.According to minutes of the meeting, councillors said the proposal "does not reasonably carry out the intent of the Municipal Planning Strategy."They cited the potential environmental impact and the proximity to residential properties. Community council members also noted opposition from the community.Peter Rogers, the lawyer for the property owner, said his client decided to appeal because he believes the development is consistent with the planning rules in place at the time."Cases like this are supposed to be decided not by popularity or petitions of citizens," said Rogers. "They are supposed to be decided by the Municipal Planning Strategy itself."The UARB will hear arguments in the appeal on Wednesday.MORE TOP STORIES
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania state senator abruptly left a West Wing meeting with President Donald Trump after being informed he had tested positive for the coronavirus, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano had gone to the White House last Wednesday with like-minded Republican state lawmakers shortly after a four-hour-plus public meeting that Mastriano helped host in Gettysburg — maskless — to discuss efforts to overturn president-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Trump told Mastriano that White House medical personnel would take care of him, his son and his son’s friend, who were also there for the Oval Office meeting and tested positive. The meeting continued after Mastriano and the others left, the person said. The person spoke to the AP on Sunday on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private session because the matter is politically sensitive. Positive coronavirus cases are surging across the United States and the nation's top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the U.S. may see “surge upon surge” in the coming weeks. The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States topped 200,000 for the first time Friday. Everyone who will be in close proximity to the president must take a rapid test. Trump was himself hospitalized in October after he contracted the virus. Dozens of White House staffers and others close to the president have also tested positive, including the first lady and two of the president’s sons. All participants in Wednesday's meeting took COVID-19 tests, but the positive results were not announced until they were in the West Wing of the White House, the person said. “The president instantly called the White House doctor in and he took them back to, I guess, the medical place,” the person said. The meeting with Trump was to strategize about efforts regarding the election, the person said. After Mastriano and the others left, the discussion with Trump continued for about a half-hour. Mastriano did not return to the meeting. Mastriano sought the meeting of the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Policy Committee earlier Wednesday that drew Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a second Trump lawyer, several witnesses and a crowd of onlookers. Only a few of them were masked. The committee let Giuliani and others, for several hours, air their beliefs that there had been problems with how the Pennsylvania vote was conducted and counted. All claims were baseless; no evidence was presented to support any of the allegations they made. Trump even participated, calling from the White House while one of his lawyers held a phone up to a microphone. He reiterated the same unfounded claims of fraud he's been tweeting about for weeks. Those beliefs have persisted despite Trump losing repeatedly in state and federal courts, including a Philadelphia-based federal appeals court's decision Friday that said the Trump campaign’s "claims have no merit," and a state Supreme Court decision Saturday that threw out a legal challenge to the election and effort to stop certification of its results. Mastriano, a conservative from a rural district in central Pennsylvania and outspoken Trump supporter, did not return several messages left Sunday seeking comment. Republican state Sen. Dave Argall, who chairs the policy committee, declined Sunday in a text message to discuss Mastriano’s medical condition and the White House visit. “I’ve received some conflicting information that I’m trying to resolve,” Argall said in the text. “It’s my understanding a Senate statement later today will help us all to understand this better.” Argall said he would not talk publicly about the matter “until I know more.” Senate Republican spokeswoman Kate Flessner declined comment, describing it as a personnel matter. The person with knowledge of the White House visit said several people rode in a large van from Gettysburg, where the policy committee met in a hotel, to the White House. Mastriano, his son and his son’s friend drove in another vehicle. It's not clear why Mastriano's son and his friend accompanied the state senator to the meeting, which the person said was also attended by Trump and the president's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who tested positive in early November. Mastriano has aggressively opposed policies under the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and keep people safe. He has led rallies where he advocated to reopen businesses despite the risk of infection and he has repeatedly and sharply denounced Wolf’s orders. Mastriano also spoke to a few thousand Trump supporters who gathered outside the Capitol on Nov. 7, hours after Democrat Joe Biden’s national win became evident. ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report. Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press
Prince Wong was still in her mother's womb when the Chinese government reclaimed control over Hong Kong from the British in the summer of 1997. For her 23rd birthday this year, Wong posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a pastel-striped paper hat trimmed with pink pompoms. On a recent day, Wong spun a gold ring on her finger in continuous circles as she spoke quietly about the past year of her life.
TOKYO — Organizers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics have declined to confirm widely circulated reports in Japan that the costs of the one-year postponement will be about $3 billion.The estimates have been published in the last several days by some of Japan’s top-circulation newspapers, the national broadcaster NHK, and the Japanese news agency Kyodo. All are citing similar figures and unidentified sources close to the games.“We are in the process of assessing the additional costs associated with the postponement of the games due to COVID-19 and therefore are not able to comment on any details at this time,” Tokyo organizers said Monday in a statement.The statement did not challenge any of the reports.The Tokyo Games are becoming very expensive.The official cost of putting on the Tokyo Olympics is $12.6 billion. However, a government audit last year said it was probably twice that much. All but $5.6 billion is public money.Tokyo said the games would cost $7.3 billion when it won the bid in 2013.The $3 billion for the delay only adds to the totals. A University of Oxford study published early this year — calculated before the postponement — said Tokyo was the most expensive Summer Olympics on record and the meter is still running.The Yomiuri newspaper and Kyodo on Sunday detailed added costs of 200 billion yen, about $2 billion, to renegotiate venues leases, pay staff salaries, and cover other operational expenditure.NHK and the Asahi newspaper on Monday said another 100 billion yen, about $1 billion, was needed for countermeasures against COVID-19. This could include the cost of vaccines, rapid testing, and countless precautions to guard against the coronavirus.The reported cost of the delay because of the pandemic is in line with repeated estimates of between $2 billion and $3 billion in Japan over the last several months.The organizers, the Tokyo metro government and the Japanese national government are expected to explain added costs in December and detail how they will be shared.Organizers in October said they had found cost-savings of about $280 million by simplifying and cutting some frills from next year’s postponed games. This was about 2% of the official costs.The International Olympic Committee has said it would chip in about $650 million to cover some of the costs of the delay, but has offered few public details.The Switzerland-based IOC is heavily dependent on revenue from selling broadcast rights, which account for almost three-quarters of its income.The unprecedented postponement has put financial pressure on the IOC, national Olympic committees, and international sports federations that heavily rely on the IOC for sustenance.The IOC and organizers have been campaigning over the last several months to convince sponsors and a skeptical Japanese public that the Olympics can be held safely in the middle of a pandemic.Domestic sponsors in Japan have paid a record of $3.3 billion to organizers, but there are reports of some balking at further payments during the pandemic-caused economic slide.The Olympics are to open on July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24. They involve 15,400 athletes and ten of thousands of officials, judges, staff, VIPs, sponsors as well as media and broadcasters.Kyodo reported last week that the Japanese government may require visitors from abroad to have private health insurance to cover costs from any COVID-19 complications.IOC President Thomas Bach, who was in Tokyo a few week ago, has said a vaccine and improved rapid testing would help pull off the Olympics. But he cautioned they are not “silver bullets.”Athletes are expected to be closely monitored, held in quarantine-like conditions, discouraged from sightseeing and encouraged to leave as soon as they finish competing.Some fans are expected at the events, but it is unclear if many fans from abroad will be allowed to attend.Japan has controlled COVID-19 relatively well, but has seen a spike over the last several weeks in Tokyo and elsewhere. Tokyo set a one-day record for new infections on Friday with 570. About 2,000 deaths in Japan have been attributed to COVID-19.___More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsStephen Wade, The Associated Press
SURREY, B.C. — Surrey RCMP say a man is dead following a shooting in Fleetwood Sunday evening. They say officers responded to a shooting call around 7:40 p.m. in front of a shopping complex at the corner of 152 Street and Fraser Highway. They say paramedics also attended and provided aid to a wounded man, but he died at the scene. Investigators say the victim is known to police and that they believe he was targeted. No names or suspect information was immediately released. The Mounties say they're assisting the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team with the case and are asking anyone who witnessed the incident or has pertinent video surveillance or dash-cam video to contact them. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
Students returned to Charlottetown Rural High School on Monday morning for the first time since they found out one of their peers had tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.Norbert Carpenter, acting director of the Public Schools Branch, spoke with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin about how that day went.Santa Claus began a series of drive-by tours of Charlottetown Monday night, accompanied by bright lights and sirens. The emergency operations centre is back up at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown in preparation for more COVID-19 cases.A Montague couple has adapted to ensure the weekly free meal offered at a local church is still on the table during the pandemic.Despite the pandemic, P.E.I. restaurants offering takeout and delivery registered some growth in September, according to Statistics Canada restaurant sales data.The P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities is cautioning Islanders about making assumptions regarding people who don't wear masks.P.E.I. has seen a total of 72 cases, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, giving the province a total of 138 active cases.New Brunswick reported six new cases, bringing its number of active cases to 120.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden will have an all-female senior communications team at his White House, reflecting his stated desire to build out a diverse White House team as well as what’s expected to be a return to a more traditional press operation. Biden campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield will serve as Biden’s White House communications director. Jen Psaki, a longtime Democratic spokeswoman, will be his press secretary. Four of the seven top communications roles at the White House will be filled by women of colour, and it’s the first time the entire senior White House communications team will be entirely female. President Donald Trump upended the ways in which his administration communicated with the press. In contrast with administrations past, Trump’s communications team held few press briefings, and those that did occur were often combative affairs riddled with inaccuracies and falsehoods. Trump himself sometimes served as his own press secretary, taking questions from the media, and he often bypassed the White House press corps entirely by dialing into his favourite Fox News shows. In a statement announcing the White House communications team, Biden said: “Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House.” He added: “These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.” Bedingfield and Psaki are veterans of the Obama administration. Bedingfield served as communications director for Biden while he was vice-president, and Psaki was a White House communications director and a spokesperson at the State Department. Others joining the White House communications staff are: — Karine Jean Pierre, who was Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’ chief of staff, will serve as a principal deputy press secretary for the president-elect. She’s another Obama administration alum, having served as a regional political director for the White House office of political affairs. — Pili Tobar, who was communications director for coalitions on Biden’s campaign, will be his deputy White House communications director. She most recently was deputy director for America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group, and was a press staffer for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Three Biden campaign senior advisers are being appointed to top communications roles: — Ashley Etienne, a former communications director for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will serve as Harris’ communications director. — Symone Sanders, another senior adviser on the Biden campaign, will be Harris’ senior adviser and chief spokesperson. — Elizabeth Alexander, who served as the former vice-president’s press secretary and his communications director while he was a U.S. senator from Delaware, will serve as Jill Biden’s communications director. After his campaign went virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden faced some of his own criticism for not being accessible to reporters. But near the end of the campaign, he answered questions from the press more frequently, and his transition team has held weekly briefings since he was elected president. The choice of a number of Obama administration veterans — many with deep relationships with the Washington press corps — also suggests a return to a more congenial relationship with the press. ___ Taylor reported from Washington. Alexandra Jaffe And Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The coronavirus vaccine inching toward approval in the U.S. is desperately anticipated by weary Americans longing for a path back to normal life. But criminals are waiting, too, ready to use that desperation to their advantage, federal investigators say.Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the scams that are coming, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with phoney personal protective equipment, false cures and extortion schemes.“We're all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations. “But I also caution against these criminal organizations and individuals that will try to exploit the American public."No vaccine has yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has approved the first treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir. With vaccines and treatments both, it has warned about the potential for fraud.“The FDA is particularly concerned that these deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm,” the agency said in a recent statement.The drug companies are to have safeguards and brand-protection features in place to help avoid fraud, but that may not be available until the second generation of vaccine because everything is operated on such an emergency basis, said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a company that works as a bridge between the government, businesses and consumers. She said that makes it more important to educate health care providers on what the real thing looks like.“When you have anything in high demand and limited supply, there is going to be fraud,” she said. Desperation will drive people around normal channels.Meanwhile, investigators are learning about how the vaccine will be packaged and getting the message out to field agents, creating a mass database of information from more than 200 companies, so they can be prepared to spot fakes and crack down on dangerous fraud. They are monitoring tens of thousands of false websites and looking for evidence of fake cures sold online.Earlier this year as cases exploded, hospitals and governments grew short on masks, gloves and other protective gear. Scams grew, too. Tricksters preyed on unwitting citizens to hand over money for goods they'd never receive.Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phoney products and arrest hundreds of people. The effort is headquartered at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, a government watchdog aimed at enforcement of its international trade laws and combating intellectual property theft.The agency has already analyzed more than 70,900 websites suspected as being involved in some type of COVID-19 fraud. Millions of fake or unapproved personal protective equipment products and antiviral pharmaceuticals were seized. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests.Home test kits, for example, were only recently made available to the public in the past few weeks. But investigators seized tens of thousands of fake kits in the months before. On the dark web, scammers were selling domain names like “coronaprevention.org," attractive to counterfeiters. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 fake websites a day have been removed during the pandemic.A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases have topped 13 million in the U.S. and many cities have started restricting movement again as the country heads into winter. The pandemic has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide, more than 266,000 of them in the U.S., according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But Francis and other investigators are worried that desperation will make Americans more susceptible.If the FDA allows emergency use of a vaccine, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year.Gen. Gus Perna, in charge of the government’s efforts to distribute the vaccine, said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” the government was prepared to distribute the vaccine within 24 hours of approval. There’s a stockpile of the prospective vaccine itself plus kits of needles, syringes and alcohol swabs needed to give the dose. The secret stash is watched by armed guards.“We have taken extraordinary precaution in this area,” he said. "It’s such a commodity to us, we’re taking the full steps to make sure that the vaccine’s secure.”Who is first in line has yet to be decided. But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the hope is that enough doses are available by the end of January to vaccinate adults over age 65, who are at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and health care workers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said it may take until spring or summer before anyone who is not high risk and wants a shot can get one.States already are gearing up for what is expected to be the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. First the shots have to arrive where they’re needed, and Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 70 degrees Celsius. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern.Governments in other countries and the World Health Organization, which aims to buy doses for poor nations, will have to decide separately if and when vaccines should be rolled out broadly.Meanwhile, Homeland Security investigators and others are trying to send the message now to the public before the vaccines are approved and begin distribution. They say people should only get a vaccine from an approved medical provider. They shouldn't respond to calls seeking personal information. And they shouldn't click on social media posts purporting to sell cures.“If it sounds too good to be true, it is," Francis said.Colleen Long, The Associated Press
France to double police on coastline patrols as part of the new deal with Britain to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Channel.View on euronews
Food bank usage across Ontario was already increasing in the year leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, says a new report. Then came a further surge in demand as people grappled with unemployment, closures, and loss of income throughout the pandemic. Feed Ontario's annual hunger report released on Monday analyzes food bank usage across the province, makes recommendations, and also looks at the impact of the pandemic on food banks and vulnerable populations. Following a year where people made 3.2 million visits to food banks, the number of first-time food bank visitors spiked by 26.5 per cent during the first four months of the pandemic, the report says. "That means that we're seeing brand new people who have never come to our services, and those who have already accessed our services experiencing further difficulties in life than they've already had to deal with," said executive director Carolyn Stewart. "It's extremely concerning for us."Before the pandemicBetween April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, the report said 537,575 people accessed food banks — an increase of 5.3 per cent over the previous year — and that one third of those visitors were children. Total visits amounted to 3,282,500, which is up 7.3 per cent from last year.Feed Ontario lists a lack of affordable housing, insufficient social assistance programs, and a growth in precarious employment (like part-time and casual work) as the top three drivers of food bank usage.Ontario also has the highest number of minimum wage workers in the country, Stewart added, noting precarious work has been greatly impacted by the pandemic. The report says 65.7 per cent of food bank visitors cite social assistance as their primary source of income. There has also been 44 per cent more employed people accessing food banks over the past four years. "As these numbers continue to grow, it really creates concerns for us that the income is not keeping up with what everyone needs to afford their most basic cost of living," Stewart said. "Things are becoming increasingly out of reach for everyone."Paying for housing means no financial cushionPrior to the pandemic, people were already living with the extreme stress that comes with living in poverty, stretching dollars and potentially being unable to make ends meet, Stewart said.Around 86 per cent of food bank visitors are rental or social housing tenants spend most of their monthly income on housing. Feed Ontario notes this makes it near impossible for low-income people to have savings or a "financial cushion" to offset losses during times of emergency.Coupled with a year that prompted further anxiety and called for additional expenses — like PPE, staying home for health reasons, and the loss of social services — "hundreds of thousands of people" were without the means to afford basic needs. The top three reasons people would skip meals was to help afford rent, utilities, and phone or Internet bills, the report says."I think it's extremely problematic. No one should have to make those choices. Those are impossible choices for anyone to have to make," said Stewart. Surge in demandDuring the first two months, access to food and meal support also became the number one reason people called Ontario 211 — the community and social services help line.Stewart said this might have been out of fear these essential services would be closed. But food banks have been working around the clock, she said, with limited resources and staff to meet pandemic guidelines. None have shut down. They've implemented new emergency food support programs, and upped the amount of food provided to reduce number of visits. Some also put in a home delivery service and opened a drive-thru service. Here's a look at how demand increased at different centres across the province once the pandemic hit: * The Daily Bread Food Bank in the GTA serviced nearly 20,000 people a week. * The Mississauga Food Bank saw a 120 per cent increase in first time users. * Ottawa Food Bank had 400 per cent more calls from people needing food support. * The Unemployed Help Centre in Windsor had double the amount of households access their services. * The Salvation Army in Owen Sound saw over 400 people in the first nine days of the pandemic, which is near the number of people it would service in a month. * Community Care West Niagara in Lincoln had a 20 per cent increase in those using their services. * A Sudbury Food Bank agency saw a 150 per cent jump in people accessing emergency food support.Eviction, financial challengesIn September alone, there was 10 per cent more visits to food banks compared to the same time last year. When Feed Ontario surveyed around 200 food bank visitors in September, it found one out of two food bank visitors said they were worried about facing eviction or defaulting on their mortgage in the next two to six months.One participant said, "Everything is hard. Paying rent is hard, going to the doctor is hard, accessing groceries and food are hard. Everything is so much harder now."Over 90 per cent were also navigating extreme financial challenges due to the pandemic and incurring a significant amount of debt. Ninety-three per cent of respondent were borrowing money from friends and family, accessing payday loans, or using a credit card to help pay bills. Though Feed Ontario doesn't collect data related to race, immigration or refugee status, it notes that Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by poverty and food insecurity, and are three times more likely to be food insecure than non-racialized households. Support from provincial and federal governments helped food banks meet an initial surge at the start of the pandemic, said Stewart. But as these supports wound down through summer and into fall, the numbers have increased again. The supports showed that "investing in income supports for individuals can provide that essential safety net that people need," she said. Stewart pointed to the 2008 recession where food bank usage went up by almost 30 per cent over two years. "It's never gone back down," she said, adding that the network is "quite fearful" that without those supports food bank use will grow "exponentially" over the coming months."While food banks do their very best with very little to meet the need in their communities, and they do incredible work, they do not replace good, public policy," she said. "We are not a solution to poverty." Feed Ontario says it's calling on the provincial government to: * Provide immediate support to low-income families, including developing a rent relief or payment program for tenants facing rent arrears or eviction. * Reinstate the emergency benefit for social assistance recipients. * Align Ontario's social assistance rates with the national standard set by CERB. * Develop stronger labour laws and policies, like reinstating paid sick days and quality jobs with a livable wage.
A prominent Canadian forecaster says the country's residents could experience everything from winter wonderlands to spring-like spells in the months ahead. The Weather Network says cooler Pacific Ocean temperatures off the coast of South America, also known as "La Niña," will create a strong jet stream separating warm southern air masses from their colder northern counterparts. Chief Meteorologist Chris Scott says this means most Canadians can brace for a wildly variable winter with major departures from seasonal norms. In British Columbia and the Prairies, for instance, Scott says forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels and temperatures below seasonal norms. He says major swings in both temperatures and precipitation levels are on tap for Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, with stretches of both extreme cold and unusually mild air forecast alongside a mix of storms and dry spells.Scott says Newfoundland and Labrador and northern Canada are slated to buck the trend, with the eastern-most province set to experience a more typical winter while colder than average conditions are expected across all three territories. But Scott said the long-term patterns may not be evident at first, since the December forecast is calling for conditions that defy the overall forecasts. In broad strokes, he predicted an overall milder month for western Canada with more wintry conditions likely in Ontario and points east. "It's going to be quite a winter," Scott said in a telephone interview. "A lot of extremes within the given regions. And if you're talking to your friends or family back east or out west, you're probably going to have a very different experience from week to week as the weather changes across the country."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
TOKYO — A brightly burning meteor was seen plunging from the sky in wide areas of Japan, capturing attention on television and social media.The meteor glowed strongly as it rapidly descended through the Earth's atmosphere on Sunday.Many people in western Japan reported on social media seeing the rare sight.NHK public television said its cameras in the central prefectures of Aichi, Mie and elsewhere captured the fireball in the southern sky.A camera at Nagoya port showed the meteor shining as brightly as a full moon as it neared the Earth, the Asahi newspaper reported.Some experts said small fragments of the meteorite might have reached the ground.The Associated Press
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Australia’s prime minister said Monday that a Chinese official’s tweet showing a fake image of an Australian soldier appearing to slit a child’s throat was “truly repugnant” and merits an apology. China said there would be no apology. The incident is further souring already tense relations between the two nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was seeking an apology from the Chinese government after Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, posted the graphic image that shows a grinning soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of a veiled child, who is holding a lamb. Zhao wrote a caption with the tweet saying: “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.” He was referring to a disturbing report by Australia’s military earlier this month which found evidence that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the conflict in Afghanistan. It recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to federal police for criminal investigation. Asked about the issue at a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying cast blame on the Australian side. “What Australia should do is to reflect deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, make a formal apology to the Afghan people, and solemnly promise to the international community that they will never commit such terrible crimes again,” Hua said. Morrison said Zhao's tweet was “utterly outrageous” and a terrible slur against Australia's military. It “is truly repugnant. It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform,” he told reporters in Canberra. “The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.” Morrison said his government had contacted Twitter asking it to take the post down. The post had a warning tag on it by Monday afternoon but could still be viewed. Zhao's account comes with a Twitter label stating that it's a Chinese government account. Despite China blocking Twitter and other U.S. social media platforms within the county, Chinese diplomats and state media have established a strong presence on them. Zhao was criticized by the U.S. in March after tweeting a conspiracy theory that U.S. soldiers may have brought the coronavirus to China. He is considered a leading representative of China’s high-pitched new strain of assertive foreign relations. Morrison acknowledged there were tensions between China and Australia. “But this is not how you deal with them," he said. “Australia has patiently sought to address the tensions that exist in our relationship in a mature way, in a responsible way, by seeking engagement at both leader and ministerial level.” The rift between the two nations has grown since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. China has since imposed tariffs and other restrictions on a number of Australian exports. Nick Perry, The Associated Press
BAMAKO, Mali — The cities of Kidal, Gao and Menaka in northern Mali were hit by simultaneous attacks on Monday against military camps housing international forces, according to residents and a United Nations official.Kidal resident Souleymane Ag Mohamed Ali said he heard more than 10 explosions coming from the direction of the camp for U.N. peacekeepers and soldiers for the French Operation Barkhane.A U.N. official confirmed the attacks on three cities, saying rockets fell Monday morning on the camp in Kidal, and at the same time there were similar attacks in Gao and Menaka. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to press on the matter.There were not further details.No group has claimed responsibility for the simultaneous attacks, but they bear the mark of jihadist groups linked to al-Qaida that carry out attacks in both northern and central Mali.Attacks on the camps of international forces are frequent, but this is the first time that towns several hundred kilometres apart have been attacked around the same time — a sign of the co-ordination capabilities of jihadist groups in Mali.Baba Ahmed, The Associated Press
As the city struggles to balance the 2021 budget in the face of a worsening pandemic, councillors are coming to grips with a steep drop in revenue from one of its key money-makers: the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA).The agency was expected to chip in almost $60 million this year to city coffers. But steep drops in demand for parking downtown mean that amount has plummeted to just $4.1 million, And the amount it expects to contribute in 2021? Zero. Those numbers,.however, don't shock Coun. Brad Lamb, who represents Ward 19, Beaches-East York and sits on the TPA board."They're staggering, but they're not surprising," Bradford said. "If ... folks aren't paying for parking and you do that for several months, it's not surprising that revenue is going to be down.Several October reports by TPA staff — two of which go to the city's general government and licensing committee Monday — indicate the agency lost millions of dollars a month in the first few months of the pandemic.The number of people parking downtown started to pick up in the summer, as the first lockdown eased. But one report warns, "recent evidence has shown a decline in transactions and revenue with the emergence of the second wave of the pandemic."One report going to Monday's meeting shows revenues at some of the TPA's off-street lots plunged by more than 300 per cent in April, compared to 2019.Traditionally, the TPA covers its own expenses, then passes most of the remaining revenues over to the city. After property taxes, which cover about 86 per cent of the city's $13.5 billion annual budget, the TPA is the third largest contributor, records show."The key here is not necessarily to just look at what happened in light of a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, but look ahead to the future, how we rebuild, how we respond and how we move forward as an agency and as a city," Lamb told CBC Toronto.In 2021, the report warns, the financial picture for the city is even more bleak:"TPA's budgeted 2021 net income is expected to be nil," the Oct. 19 report reads, "reflecting the assumption that the pandemic will continue to impact the full year of operations."'Absolutely essential'City initiatives like CafeTO, ActiveTO and CurbTO, which were designed to ease the impact of the pandemic on residents and local businesses, chewed up more than 800 paid parking spots as patios and bike lanes took over traffic lanes. But Bradford said the benefits of those initiatives far outweighed the $2.5 million cost of the eliminated paid parking spots."I think it was absolutely essential to get us through the summer months of the pandemic, in an unprecedented time," he said.With the city already facing a $1.8-billion deficit heading into the 2021 budget calculations, Bradford said he and other councillors will look at ways to make up for the hole created by slumping demand for parking."We have to fill those holes," he said "We need to think about service levels. We need to think about revenue tools. We need to work with the provincial and federal government in order to fill that gap."But he said the average person probably won't notice a difference in the level of service provided by the Toronto Parking Authority.Drivers may need to look harder for places to park next year though: One of the reports suggests paid parking spots lost to ActiveTO's accelerated bike lane expansion could be replaced by converting one-hour-free spaces to paid parking spots."TPA has identified approximately 1,660 potential paid parking spaces that fall into this category," the report reads.One bright spot throughout the pandemic has been the TPA-run Toronto BikeShare program.Ridership continued to increase this year, Bradford said, as people looked for alternative ways of moving around the city."It's been a godsend throughout the pandemic," he said. "We have historic ridership numbers, and people are getting out."
Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are expected to see a "multi-day snowfall event" that could last from Monday until Wednesday and bring up to 20 centimetres of snow, according to Environment Canada. Rain mixed with snow are expected for the regions Monday, Environment Canada said in a statement issued around 5 a.m. By Monday afternoon, the rain is expected to change to snow, with five to 10 centimetres of snow possible by Tuesday morning. An additional five to 10 centimetres are also possible for Tuesday into Wednesday morning. "Motorists should be prepared for winter driving conditions," Environment Canada said. In the statement, Environment Canada said that strong northwesterly winds, gusting around 70 kilometres per hour, are possible Monday night and Tuesday, specifically near Lake Huron.Flood watch in effectDue to the strong winds, the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) issued a flood watch Monday for the Lake St. Clair shoreline from Belle River to Tilbury North in the Town of Lakeshore and for the western shoreline of Pelee Island in Lake Erie. By Monday afternoon winds are expected to reach speeds higher than 40 kilometres per hour, with some gusts more than 60 km/hr, the statement reads. These conditions could last until Tuesday. Based on these wind speeds, ERCA said in its watch statement that there is the potential for near-shore erosion with wave overtopping and spray along the Lake St. Clair shoreline, specifically between Belle River and Lighthouse Cove in the Town of Lakeshore. Some areas might experience breakwall damage and could erode the western shoreline of Pelee Island. More from CBC Windsor