There is uncertainty for Ontario parents and students amid surging coronavirus cases and in-person learning could be put on hold. As Travis Dhanraj reports, some schools are telling families to prepare for online classes.
There is uncertainty for Ontario parents and students amid surging coronavirus cases and in-person learning could be put on hold. As Travis Dhanraj reports, some schools are telling families to prepare for online classes.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner. In a report issued to the media Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities" to adopt basic public health measures as early as possible. “What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” it said. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying disputed whether China had reacted too slowly. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions,” she said, pointing out that Wuhan — where the first human cases were identified — was locked down within three weeks of the outbreak starting. “All countries, not only China, but also the U.S., the U.K., Japan or any other countries, should all try to do better,” Hua said. An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them, including the new virus' genetic sequence. The story noted that WHO didn't have any enforcement powers. At a press briefing on Tuesday, Johnson Sirleaf said it was up to countries whether they wanted to overhaul WHO to accord it more authority to stamp out outbreaks, saying the organization was also constrained by its lack of funding. “The bottom line is WHO has no powers to enforce anything," she said. “All it can do is ask to be invited in." Last week, an international team of WHO-led scientists arrived in Wuhan to research the animal origins of the pandemic after months of political wrangling to secure China's approval for the probe. The panel also cited evidence of COVID-19 cases in other countries in late January, saying public health containment measures should have been put in place immediately in any country with a likely case, adding: “They were not.” The experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency — its highest warning for outbreaks — sooner. The U.N. health agency convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. “One more question is whether it would have helped if WHO used the word pandemic earlier than it did,” the panel said. WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic until March 11, weeks after the virus had begun causing explosive outbreaks in numerous continents, meeting WHO’s own definition for a flu pandemic. As the coronavirus began spreading across the globe, WHO's top experts disputed how infectious the virus was, saying it was not as contagious as flu and that people without symptoms only rarely spread the virus. Scientists have since concluded that COVID-19 transmits even quicker than the flu and that a significant proportion of spread is from people who don't appear to be sick. Over the past year, WHO has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the response to COVID-19. U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the U.N. health agency for “colluding” with China to cover up the extent of the initial outbreak before halting U.S. funding for WHO and pulling the country out of the organization. The U.N. health agency bowed to the international pressure at the annual assembly of its member states last spring by creating the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The WHO chief appointed Johnson Sirleaf and Clark — who both have previous ties to the U.N. agency — to lead the team, whose work is funded by WHO. Although the panel concluded that “many countries took minimal action to prevent the spread (of COVID-19) internally and internationally,” it did not name specific countries. It also declined to call out WHO for its failure to more sharply criticize countries for their missteps instead of commending countries for their response efforts. Last month, the author of a withdrawn WHO report into Italy’s pandemic response said he warned his bosses in May that people could die and the agency could suffer “catastrophic” reputational damage if it allowed political concerns to suppress the document, according to emails obtained by the AP. To date, the pandemic has killed more than 2 million people worldwide. ___ AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from Toronto. Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Maria Cheng And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
A newly released study suggests university students are eating worse, are less active and are drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic than they were before. Gordon Zello, a professor in nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan, was one of the head researchers on the study, which has been published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. "There's certainly been some research out there that suggested that the COVID epidemic made university students and vulnerable groups have poor diets and less physical activity," Zello said. "But the problem with a lot of these studies is they didn't have a pre-COVID analysis." The study took a survey about the student's pre-pandemic lifestyles in the spring of 2020, so the University of Saskatchewan researchers had a frame of reference for the new data. Zello said the findings show university students, especially those most vulnerable — people who live independently, or with roommates or partners but are responsible for buying and preparing their own food — need to be targeted for interventions. The four-month study surveyed 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were considered vulnerable. Worsening habits weren't surprising, Zello says, but the study found students ate less of the foods typically eaten in the spring — like fruits and vegetables. Similarly, "with physical activity going into summer months, you would expect people to be more physically active. So to actually see things get worse during COVID was a bit surprising," Zello said. The study found students weren't getting the vitamins and nutrients they needed, that hours of sedentary behaviour rose dramatically from three hours to 11 per day, that students ate less meat, and that their alcohol consumption significantly increased. "Remember, these students were not those which had a big [social] bubble, if you like," he said. "So they're going to be more isolated and [that] probably led to more things like screen time or sedentary behaviours." Keely Shaw, a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, was another of the study's authors. She knew university students don't always have the best habits during normal times, let alone during a pandemic. "If it's their first or second year being away from home, they might not have the skills to cook food. They might rely a lot on eating out or ready-made meals," Shaw said. Combined with recommendations to avoid going out to restaurants, "there's a lot more strain put on the individual," she said. But Shaw says the increased alcohol consumption wasn't expected, because pre-pandemic, people typically drank more with their peers than when alone. Shaw was also surprised by the decrease in meat consumption. "I feel like in Western culture, we kind of structure our meals around the meat. So I would almost have expected that to be a little bit more stable across the board, but our research showed otherwise," Shaw said. Zello said he hopes the impacts from this study are remembered for the next waves of the pandemic and any future pandemics. He said there's been more focus on family units instead of isolated people and fostering positive habits. "These lifestyle changes are hard to change again," Zello said. "So the longer this epidemic goes on and the longer people are not physically active, the longer they're eating poor diets. To change them back to what they were before becomes also difficult." Shaw hopes university students read the research and consider their own habits, she said. She suggests walking around the block, eating as healthy a diet as a person's budget allows, and carrying any positive habits forward into a post-pandemic world. "Hopefully from there they can really understand the importance of maintaining a super well-balanced, rich in fruits and vegetables diet, and trying to really ensure that they're limiting their sedentary behaviour," Shaw said. Shaw and Zello conducted the research with co-authors Leandy Bertrand, Phil Chilibeck, research assistant Jongbum Ko and undergraduate summer student Dalton Deprez.
TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisian youth clashed with police overnight, maintaining their protests and riots over economic difficulties despite efforts by the president and the prime minister to calm tensions. "Your voice is heard, and your anger is legitimate, and it is my role and the role of the government to work to realize your demands and to make the dream of Tunisia to become true,” Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi appealed to the protesters on national television Tuesday night. Hours later, dozens of people throwing projectiles and setting barricades on fire faced off with police firing tear gas in the Tunis suburb of Ariana. Unrest was reported in other cities as well, the fifth straight night of protests that prompted Tunisia to deploy the army to try to keep order. The unrest has shaken the country just as it marks 10 years since an uprising over similar frustrations that pushed out a longtime autocrat, ushered in a new democracy and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings. A third of the North African nation’s young people are unemployed. This and Tunisia's prolonged economic crisis — aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic — have fueled the anger. Protests have notably rocked impoverished towns in the interior of the country but also reached bigger cities on the coast. “I know that the economic and social situation is a crisis deepened by COVID and the necessary measures that we have taken to preserve the health of Tunisians, and that they (lockdown measures) have limited some personal freedoms such as the freedom of movement,” the prime minister said. However he condemned looting and violence by protesters, who have sometimes targeted police. “I make a distinction between the peaceful protests and acts of robbery and sabotage,” he said, adding that while Tunisia's post-revolution Constitution guarantees the right to protest, his role is to maintain the peace. The Associated Press
BERLIN — Police say a 26-year-old was detained in Berlin twice after throwing snowballs and other projectiles at the American consulate and scuffling with security personnel while yelling slogans against outgoing President Donald Trump. The man, whose name wasn’t given in line with German privacy laws, first appeared outside the consulate Tuesday yelling slogans and throwing snowballs at about 3 p.m. At about 10:30 p.m., the man reappeared outside the consulate and threw two half-full beverage cans at police officers. He was eventually released after being brought to a police station. Police said Wednesday he's under investigation for causing property damage and bodily harm. The Associated Press
The owner of Canada's biggest stock exchanges is seeking to attract more Asian derivatives investors, aiming to boost the share of its overall revenues from outside the country to half from one-third currently. TMX Group, which operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, the TSX Venture Exchange and the Montreal Exchange, plans to extend derivatives trading to 23 hours in the second half of 2021 from 14-1/2 hours now to attract Asia-Pacific institutional investors, Chief Executive John McKenzie told Reuters in an exclusive interview. McKenzie said TMX hopes both to expand outside Canada and beyond its traditional equities trading operations, which already accounted for less than a tenth of revenues in fiscal 2019, half the level of a decade earlier.
Regina– Saskatchewan, and Canada as a whole, is seeing hiccups in what are still early days of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. On Jan. 19, the federal government explained that it would not be receiving any of the Pfizer vaccine the following week, for instance. The New Democratic Party pointed out a Regina facility didn’t have enough vaccine for all its assisted-care clients in addition to its long-term care clients on Jan. 18. But eventually, the residents and staff of long-term care facilities, the provinces’ highest priority for the vaccine distribution, will be fully vaccinated. Will we see restrictions start to lift for those people, or will they have to wait six months? At the regular COVID-19 briefing on Jan. 19 in the Legislature, both Premier Scott Moe and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab replied. Shahab said, “I think that’s really important.” “The main thing, right now we have been very cautious because the vaccination rate is coming up very slowly. And as you know, in the clinical trials the vaccines had 95 per cent effectiveness, but in the real world we do know that if you're elderly, have immune suppression, the vaccine may not be that effective and COVID is so highly transmissible that, even if you have a long term care facility where you, for example, have a 90 per cent uptake of the vaccine, and the vaccine is 90 per cent effective that still leaves you a significant proportion of the long-term care residents still susceptible to COVID. “So, I think at the present time, it is very important that as our vaccination picks up, we adhere to all public health measures. Once we have the vast majority of the population vaccinated, especially adults with that underlying risk factors, but also broadly all adults, I think then we can cautiously start looking at how we relax our public health measures over the summer, likely that will start happening. “And again, I think it remains important. Right now, Obviously, there's no vaccine amount, high demand especially for the most vulnerable. I think once we have a large amount of vaccine available in the summer, we need to make sure that those of us who, if COVID so even low in the summer, all of us think of getting vaccinated. Well, that is one way how we can you know come out of most of restrictionns that we currently face, by fall. Shahab added, “But I think, right now, we really have to, even after getting vaccinated, we do have to comply with all public health measures, because not everyone is fully protected by the vaccine, and we're understanding more about how the immunization affects not just clinical illness, which it does protect to a large extent, but also transmissibility. But as we get more data from Canada, from our own province, and from other countries, you know, we'll be updating guidelines that but that likely won't change. Then at least May, June, once we have the majority of the population, especially the most vulnerable fully immunized. Moe said it ties into hospitalizations, and it is still a couple months early for this discussion. “But the fact of the matter is, as we are able to access vaccines for the most vulnerable in our population, the elderly in our population, and start creeping those vaccines and the availability of those vaccines down through the age groups in society, it does beg the question on when will we be able to start to look at relaxing the measures that we have in place; the very, very significant measures that we have in place here in Saskatchewan.” He continued, “I would point back to the conversation we had about hospitalizations and as we start to hopefully, if you look at our hospitalizations, quite often the age of the of the folks in hospital are somewhat younger than what we might have in our long-term care facilities. And so, as we work our way through the age groups, and we start to see our hospitalizations decreasing in significant fashion, that would speak to the fact that we have many of those that are more vulnerable in our community receiving the vaccine and not contracting COVID-19, and not as a point, I think, when we could have a little more open conversation about what the future looks like for Saskatchewan. “So two things on that: that isn't in the in the next number of weeks, that will be the next number of months. And this speaks to the importance of us, as Canadians and us, looking to our Canadian government to do everything they can to procure as many vaccines as they can, and to do so in as the shortest timeframe as possible. “I think premier Ford and made some comments today about what he would urge the prime minister to do and that was to find, I believe, someone, if not the CEO of Pfizer, and maybe light a firecracker up his yin yang, I think was the words that I heard. And I, I would just say, that there would be a lineup of premiers behind that the prime minister was able to do that; there would be a lineup of premiers behind that would bring a lighter to that party.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
A small Nova Scotia First Nation is poised to start collecting property taxes in April from non-Indigenous businesses located on land it purchased for commercial development in the Annapolis Valley. Chief Sidney Peters of the Glooscap First Nation says it's about self-reliance. "It's just another way of trying to bring in a few extra dollars of revenue to help the community out," Peters said. The 400-member band currently pays a little over $20,000 a year in property taxes to the Municipality of the County of Kings for Glooscap Landing, which is home to a gas station and Tim Hortons on 11 hectares it owns on Highway 101 near Hantsport. Passed motion last month To get its hands on that money, Glooscap band council passed a motion last month to create its own taxing authority under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. The band says initially it is likely to charge the same tax rate as the neighbouring municipality. Peters said the "biggest thing" is to have the money come back to the band. The band is also pressing the federal government to designate the 11 hectares part of its reserve, the other key step that will enable it to exercise taxing authority. Peters said he expects to have the reserve addition in time for April. This will not impact federal or provincial taxes. Band members won't be charged property taxes because they are exempt. Millbrook pioneered band tax collection in N.S. Glooscap is not the first to go down this road in Nova Scotia. The Millbrook band pioneered property tax collection under late Chief Lawrence Paul. It has been levying property taxes at its Power Centre outside Truro for years. According to financial records, taxation generated $711,000 in revenue for Millbrook in 2019. Eskasoni, in Cape Breton, also collects property tax, according to data from the First Nations Tax Commission that helps bands across Canada set up tax regimes. Paqtnkek, near Antigonish, is also looking at creating its own property tax regime. Taxing across Canada The First Nations Tax Commission says 152 First Nations collected $96 million in property tax across the country in 2020. About $1.25 million was collected by bands in Atlantic Canada. "Communities are looking for more ways to become more independent of government and to exercise their own self-governance through their own institutions. And taxation is a fundamental governmental power," said Manny Jewels, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission. About 80 per cent of First Nation tax regimes in place across Canada are under the authority of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, which came into force in 2006. The remainder are under the Indian Act. 'Legislation is working' In addition to strengthening First Nations' property taxing power, it also created the First Nations Financial Authority, a non-profit corporation used by bands to raise money. It bankrolled the blockbuster $250-million loan to the Membertou band to pay for its share of the purchase of Clearwater Seafoods. "It tells you very clearly that the legislation is working," said Jewels. "It's the most successful legislation for First Nations in Canadian history. We were working, quite frankly, with over 50 per cent of the communities right across the country." MORE TOP STORIES
BEIJING — China’s Foreign Ministry described outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday as a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” The allegations of abuses against Muslim minority groups in China's Xinjiang region are “outright sensational pseudo-propositions and a malicious farce concocted by individual anti-China and anti-Communist forces represented by Pompeo,” spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing. “In our view, Pompeo’s so-called designation is a piece of wastepaper. This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century," Hau said. Pompeo’s announcement Tuesday doesn’t require any immediate actions, although the U.S. must take the designation into account in formulating policy toward China. China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic growth and social stability. The U.S. has previously spoken out and taken action on Xinjiang, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund repressive policies in the vast, resource-rich region. Last week, the Trump administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labour. Many of the Chinese officials accused of having taken part in repression are already under U.S. sanctions. The “genocide” designation means new measures will be easier to impose. Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken to ramp up pressure on China over issues from human rights and the coronavirus pandemic to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. China has responded with its own sanctions and tough rhetoric. China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of prison-like political indoctrination camps, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labour as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority. The Associated Press reported on widespread forced birth control among the Uighurs last year, including the mass sterilization of Muslim women, even while family planning restrictions are loosened on members of China's dominant Han ethnic group. China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labour has been linked by reporting by the AP to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors. James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe in Melbourne, Australia, said international pressure appears to have had some effect on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, particularly in prompting the government to release information about the camps and possibly reducing mass detentions. “So hopefully we’ll see a continued continuity with regards to the new (Joe Biden) administration on holding China to account," Leibold said in an interview. “And hopefully the Biden administration can bring its allies along to continue to put pressure on the Chinese government," he said. ___ Associated Press journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
When David Bernhardt joined the Inuvik fire department as an 18-year-old volunteer in 1980, he never dreamed that he would still be part of the team 40 years later. "I got surprised," said Bernhardt. "I didn't think I'd go this far." Not only has he gotten this far, he's being recognized for his 'significant contributions' to firefighting in the territory with this year's N.W.T. Fire Service Merit Award. The annual award honours individual firefighters or fire departments based on nominations from the public, according to the Department of Community and Municipal Affairs. This year, Bernhardt, who is Inuvik's longest serving firefighter, was the sole recipient. Last year Bernhardt received the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Municipal Long Service award, which recognizes achievements of long-serving volunteer firefighters in communities across the nation. Mentor In a statement from Inuvik Fire Chief Cynthia Hammond, she said Bernhardt has had multiple roles in the fire department over the years including firefighter, lieutenant, captain, and deputy fire chief. In 2013, Bernhardt had a heart attack, so he is no longer on the front lines but he still plays a communication role with the department and helps out the rookies during orientation. Hammond wrote that Bernhardt shares "his history and knowledge as a mentor to novice firefighters." He continues to show up to fire practice every Wednesday where he is part of the support platoon. Hammond said Bernhardt is "ensuring exterior operations run efficiently and more importantly, maintains a calm, steady presence with a watchful eye." 'They are like family to me' Bernhardt, who is originally from Cape Dyer on Baffin Island, Nunavut, has lived in Inuvik since the early 1960s. He said he believes Hammond nominated him for the award and he is thankful to her, the other firefighters on the Inuvik fire department, the fire marshal and the public. "We call each other brothers and sisters in the fire department and I'd like to thank them … they are like family to me ... it's good to see new equipment, new gear, new people." Bernhardt said he thinks he'll be in the department for a couple more years, and he's got some advice for anyone thinking of joining. "I always say the door is always open for you young guys. If you want to learn, it's a good choice," said Bernhardt. "Don't be scared of fire. I know fire burns you but you can also put it out."
This time of year would normally be the height of flu season in Nova Scotia, but so far there have been no reported cases in the province. Health Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis confirmed the absence of influenza cases to CBC News and said there were 442 cases last season. Nova Scotia's experience is reflected in national influenza figures. A Jan. 15 report from Public Health Agency of Canada said there haven't been enough influenza cases to even declare the start of the 2020-2021 season in Canada. MacInnis said in an email that public health protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19 have had a similar effect on influenza in the province. "Masking, physical distancing and good hand hygiene are all measures that can not only reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, but other viruses such as influenza," she said. Statistics for the past six years show that by this time of year there would normally be an average of 14,811 influenza detections reported in Canada. So far this season there have been just 51 influenza cases reported. Twenty-seven of the 51 influenza detections reported to date this season are connected to people who received an attenuated influenza vaccine and do not represent community circulation of the flu virus. The agency's Flu Watch report for Jan. 3-9 said the percentage of positive tests for influenza in Week 1 of 2021 was 0 per cent, compared to 23.4 per cent during the past six seasons. There have been no laboratory confirmed outbreaks in Canada this season. The low circulation of the seasonal flu has meant that the National Microbiology Laboratory has been unable to test for influenza strain characterizations or antiviral resistance. MacInnis said the province ordered more doses of the flu vaccine this year than we ever before, but said many providers ran low because of demand. She said the province secured more influenza vaccine in December and has distributed these additional doses to providers. MacInnis said if someone still wants the vaccine and it is not available at their usual provider they may need to call around. Some experts predicted flu cases would tumble in the Northern Hemisphere based on Australia's experience with plummeting flu figures after it introduced COVID-19 measures. Australia's flu season coincides with Canada's summer. In October, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said it's possible to avoid a flu season. "We would expect and hope that as long as we all stick with the COVID protocols it'll have a significant positive impact on influenza as well," he said. "But that doesn't diminish the importance at all of having as many Nova Scotians as possible add another layer and the best way to protect influenza and that is getting a flu vaccine." In a normal year, the Public Health Agency of Canada said influenza causes 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in the country. MORE TOP STORIES
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The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
BEIJING — China’s capital, Beijing, recorded seven more coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north. Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia, and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths. China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days. A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response. “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said. A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats. Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — India has began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India’s Foreign Ministry said the country will send 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on Wednesday. Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government will ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs as they supply partner countries in the coming months. Of the more than 12 billion coronavirus vaccine doses expected to be produced this year, rich countries have already bought about 9 billion, and many have options to buy even more. This means that Serum Institute, which has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make a billion doses, is likely to make most of the vaccine that will be used by developing nations. The Associated Press
The owner of an RV campground in Pouch Cove is crying foul after tax changes have left him holding a projected bill that's nearly eight times what he paid last year. Dave Snow, who owns Marine Park, says a complex array of municipal tax changes last month have left him fuming. "From $10,000 a year ago, the campground business alone will go up to over $78,000," he said. "Not counting the RV, the propane, the self storage — none of those included. It's substantial." Snow says two things are at play. The taxes jumped because the municipal assessment agency split his one business into four, and determined his business is about more than just camping. So, the town is now taxing him at a much higher rate — his campground mill rate alone goes from 14 mils to 70. "We had some disagreements and miscommunications with the municipality," he said, noting that the province sided with him after the town objected to families staying at the park year-round during the pandemic. WATCH | The CBC's Cec Haire speaks with business owner Dave Snow and Pouch Cove Mayor Joedy Wall: "I don't know if this is a form of retribution or punishment … but it's certainly punishing, and after two-and-a-half decades it really feels like we're being singled out and persecuted, and fairly maliciously at that." Snow took over the day-use picnic park from the province 24 years ago. It now boasts 450 campsites, a propane refill station, a convenience store, self-storage, RV sales and an outdoor tool dealership. Council did not foresee impact on business Mayor Joedy Wall denies any ill intent, and told CBC News council didn't realize how the changes would affect Snow when they passed the town's budget. Wall said it wasn't clear, at the time, how much Snow's business had grown through renovations and additions. "He has a large business, there's no doubt," Wall said. "It has grown leaps and bounds the last couple of years." Wall said council last met on Dec. 7, when they tabled and passed the town's budget for 2021. He added that council set the rate while waiting on a reassessment for Snow's property, which came a week later. "It was then when we realized that there was such an exponential jump in his assessment for Marine Park at that time," Wall said. "We couldn't do anything about it. It was our last meeting for the year, and we knew that we would deal with this issue in the new year." The mayor says he understands Snow's frustration, and stresses that council wants to work with Snow, but says there's also pressure on council from mom-and-pop businesses wondering about their tax rates compared to larger companies. "We have to be logical and reasonable when we do all our taxation ... taking into consideration the smaller business owners, who said 'How can you tax me the same at this large business owner?'" Snow told CBC he's appealing the town's mill rates and assessment by the municipal assessment agency. Wall, meanwhile, says he's confident council can find a solution. "I'm very proud this business is in our town," Wall said. "It's a huge draw." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Irving Oil Ltd. is blaming petroleum price regulation in New Brunswick for failing to keep up with industry costs and pushing it to request "urgent" price increases, even though it twice refused requests from the Energy and Utilities Board to help improve wholesale margins. In written evidence submitted to the board earlier this month, Irving Oil marketing president Darren Gillis said that regulated markets "have become disconnected from non-regulated markets over time and do not provide for adequate recovery of costs." That has "eroded industry's ability to continue to supply regulated markets and remain competitive across our regions," Gillis said. Irving Oil applied on Jan. 5 to increase the margins wholesalers can earn on gasoline, diesel and furnace oil sales by 4.13 cents per litre, including an "immediate" increase of 3.5 cents. This week, it revised that request downward to 4.09 cents for gasoline and diesel and 3.02 cents for furnace oil. If that request is granted, that will increase the cost to consumers by a total of $60 million more per year. Irving Oil, others declined to help EUB update margins In evidence submitted with the application, Gillis said the last increase in wholesale margins was awarded by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) in 2013, based on 2011 cost data. Since then, he said, industry expenses have escalated significantly without matching increases in revenue. Irving Oil's claim that petroleum regulation has caused wholesaling margins in New Brunswick to grow stale comes after two major Energy and Utility Board attempts to keep them current were thwarted by a number of companies, including Irving Oil. In 2016, three years after the last margin adjustment, the board wrote to every New Brunswick petroleum wholesaler asking for help to update margins to cover changing costs. "It is important to remember that the Board can only change the margins if it has sufficient evidence to support such adjustments," it noted in asking for the companies' cooperation, and the review had to be abandoned. But four months later, the consultant the board hired to conduct the analysis, Gardner Pinfold of Halifax, reported back that no companies would cooperate with it. Review abandoned in 2019 after second attempt "Gardner Pinfold sent a letter to each petroleum wholesaler on December 15, 2016 to invite companies to participate in the review," it told the Energy and Utilities Board at the time. "No wholesaler expressed an interest in participating in the review and none provided data. Due to a lack of data, Gardner Pinfold is unable to provide a recommendation to change the current wholesale margin." The board tried again in 2019. Petroleum wholesalers again declined to provide any information to Gardner Pinfold about the adequacy of margins, prompting comment from then Energy and Utilities Board chair Raymond Gorman. "I would point out that this technically is a review of the wholesale margin, but Mr. Gardner didn't get any evidence," Gorman said during hearings in September 2019. "Nobody filed any evidence, so again we are in that situation where we have no data in order -- you know, to be able to deal with it." Following the hearing in November 2019, the board announced it could not increase margins for New Brunswick petroleum wholesalers because none of them would provide information, even in confidence. The board noted that a consultant "made initial and follow-up requests to wholesalers" to provide data on certain specified costs, including maritime freight, working capital, receivables, and terminal costs. "No data was submitted by the wholesalers. In the absence of sufficient evidence of changes to those factors, or other factors, an adjustment to the maximum wholesale margin for motor fuels cannot be justified," the board wrote, concluding the matter and taking no action. Irving Oil did not respond to a request for an interview about why it did not ask for margin increases in 2017 or 2019, when the board was asking for its help to reset them. But the company is pointing to margins not increasing in those years, combined with sudden demand reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidence regulation is not working. "Petroleum pricing regulations in New Brunswick were created 15 years ago. They did not contemplate the challenges of the last several years and were not designed to react to a global pandemic," said Gillis. "Unregulated markets, however, respond as required to ensure supply at reasonable cost recovery levels. This is not the case in regulated markets."
Public health officials have expressed concern about a new strain of COVID-19 after cases of the UK variant were identified in Ontario. New modeling projections suggest this new variant, called B117, could drop the virus’s doubling time significantly, meaning that daily case counts could double every 10 days by March. There’s evidence that this new strain is about 56 per cent more transmissible, according to co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, which could lead to higher case counts, increased ICU occupancy, and higher mortality rates should community transmission occur. The first known cases of the UK variant in Ontario were in a man and a woman who initially withheld information about being in close contact with a recent traveller from the UK. The couple is now facing charges. At least four new COVID-19 variants have been identified around the world. These include the UK variant B117 and a variant that originated in South Africa. “One also emerged recently in Nigeria, and Japan is reporting as of Sunday that they detected a new variant among travelers returning from Brazil,” said Justeen Mansourian, Public Health Nurse on the Communicable Disease Team at Public Health Sudbury & Districts. Mansourian told The Sudbury Star that not much is known about the new variants at this time, but the Public Health Agency of Canada is closely monitoring the situation. “What we know so far is that there is evidence that these variants increase the transmissibility of COVID-19. An individual who catches a new strain is more infectious and contagious, but the severity of the actual disease or the course of the illness is not more severe,” she said. “Early data is not showing that the new strain has any impact on any type of antibody response, and when I say that I am talking about the vaccine. You need a lot of mutations within a virus, within the genetic sequencing, for it to actually affect the vaccine itself. We’re not there yet.” What people need to appreciate about any virus, she added, is that variants or mutations are quite normal. As an example, she cited the influenza virus. “The flu virus mutates often, and sometimes it mutates within the same season. There are also several thousands of variants of the influenza virus. There are so many mutations that it actually changes the behaviour of the virus,” she said. “That’s why sometimes you hear that a vaccine was not effective during a particular year.” With only a handful of mutations identified so far, it is unlikely that the COVID-19 vaccine will become less effective. The real concern at this point is that increased transmissibility will drive COVID-19 rates up, putting pressure on an already strained health-care system and potentially increasing mortality rates. Growth in COVID-19 cases in the province is over seven per cent on the worst days. If this trend continues, Ontario could eventually see more than 40,000 cases per day. Cases have soared in Public Health Sudbury & District’s service area in the new year, and outbreaks have been declared at Amberwood Suites, Extendicare and the Elizabeth Centre, as well as Ecole St. Denis. The provincial government has imposed a stay-at-home order to try to get things under control. The governing body monitoring the COVID-19 variant situation is the Public Health Agency of Canada. Samples are sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory, located in Winnipeg, for genetic sequencing. “There are sentinel sites across all labs in Canada, and samples are sent pretty much at random. There’s a very, very large surveillance program in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia right now,” said Mansourian. “The majority of any sequencing that’s established comes out of those three provinces, but we do know that the first two variants were identified in Ontario.” According to Ontario public health officials, 500 to 600 samples are being tested each week. Experts are working on compiling data from across the country to identify variants “as soon as possible and understand what the implications are.” “In the grand scheme of things, what we really need to know from a public health perspective is that nothing changes,” said Mansourian. “We just need to be more hyper-vigilant about following all public health protocols and provincial regulations to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Looks like this conductor isn't crazy about a drone getting some up-close footage of his train. Watch out for the water canon!