Health officials are urging Americans not to gather for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend after cases and hospitalizations both hit record levels.
Health officials are urging Americans not to gather for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend after cases and hospitalizations both hit record levels.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel."Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer: * Fort Providence, N.W.T. * Sambaa K'e, N.W.T. * Fort Simpson, N.W.T. * Norman Wells, N.W.T. * Fort Resolution, N.W.T. * Aklavik, N.W.T.As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.
EDMONTON — Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, in violation of Starfleet’s Prime Directive, is questioning the intelligence of Alberta-based life forms over their COVID-19 contact tracing app.William Shatner, the Canadian who played the iconic commander in "Star Trek" has taken to Twitter to urge Alberta use the federal app.Shatner writes, “you just need to get Alberta on board,” adding that the province cannot go its own way in a world interconnected by travel.Shatner writes Alberta’s approach is, “bizarre and dangerous,” but also says “what do I know? I’m just an actor.”Premier Jason Kenney’s government has avoided signing onto the federal app, saying it’s not as effective because Alberta’s app is connected to contact tracing rather than simply delivering notifications of close contacts.Alberta’s app has tracked down just a handful of cases in six months, but the government says the program will be more effective as more people sign on.The Prime Directive in "Star Trek" was a top-down direction to avoid interference in alien cultures -- a directive the two-fisted Kirk and crew repeatedly violated as they beamed up, beamed down and otherwise finger-wagged their way through the galaxy on a five-year mission.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says November home sales were down from October — but still well above the same time last year, as the market catches up to the effects of COVID-19.The board says real estate agents sold 3,064 homes last month, down 16.9 per cent from October, but up 22.7 per cent from November 2019.The board's report says the benchmark price of a Vancouver home hit $1,044,000, up 5.8 per cent from November 2019.Vancouver is a seller's market, board chairwoman Colette Gerber said, as demand for detached houses and townhomes is pushing prices higher while the rate of new listings lags. Although the number of homes listed for sale in November rose 36.2 per cent year-over-year to 4,068, new listings were down 27 per cent from October. That left the sales-to-active listings ratio — a closely watched figure in the industry — at 27.6 per cent, still above the 20 per cent level where prices tend to rise.Meanwhile, November sales passed 3,000 for the first time since 2015, marking the second-best November in the past decade.“The supply of homes for sale are a critical factor in understanding home price trends," Gerber said in the report.The Vancouver area has seen near-record home sales since the summer, said Gerber, after COVID-19 restrictions tamped down on the usual home buying season, which tends to peak in spring and slow down by winter.The was a surge of sales in the far reaches of the metro area, such as the Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and Squamish, as homebuyers looked toward less dense neighbourhoods amid work-from-home arrangements and physical distancing policies, according to Gerber. The Sunshine Coast, in particular, saw home sales jump 82.8 per cent.The trend of buyers seeking space was also apparent in the type of homes sold. Detached home sales were up 28.6 per cent during the month, with prices up 9.4 per cent from a year ago. More than 40 per cent more attached homes were sold this November than last, and prices for properties such as townhomes were up 5.6 per cent from November 2019.Apartment sales growth was slower, up 12.2 per cent, as apartment prices rose 3.4 per cent from last year.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 8, 2020 Barrie police has released an artist’s rendition of a sexual assault suspect and created a dedicated tip line. Investigators are looking for any information in connection with sexual assault in Hurst Park on Oct. 1 between 9 and 10 p.m. The tip line is 705-728-5629. Police say a woman was walking her dog in the park located at Hurst Drive near Pert Court when she was attacked by a male stranger. Police are releasing few details, including whether the victim was physically injured. Officers have already done a door-to-door canvas of the immediate neighbourhood looking for information. The suspect is described as: • A white male between the ages of 16 and 26, about 5-feet, 8 inches tall, with a slim build and shaved blond hair. • Wearing an Under Armour top of unknown colour. Anyone with information is asked to call 705-728-5629 or 705-725-7025, ext. 2700, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or leave an anonymous tip online at www.p3tips.com. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
McNab/Braeside’s $10-million 2021 budget, set to be passed on Dec. 15, is still “very fluid,” according to township treasurer Kelly Coughlin. She cannot comment on whether taxpayers will pay more taxes in 2021. “I don’t want to give taxpayers the impression that there will be no increase. There are some items that need to be finalized in the coming weeks, that could change the numbers,” Coughlin said in a phone interview Dec. 1. Mayor Tom Peckett, however, said he is confident that there will be “almost no increase in money required from the taxpayers” in an interview Nov. 26. “There’s a little bit of tweaking but I fully expect (the 2021 budget) to be passed on Dec. 15,” he said. “It’s almost equal to last year’s budget.” The first draft of the township’s 2021 budget proposed a 9.59 per cent tax levy increase over this year, with a big chunk of spending set aside for the roads department. “Once it’s passed, we’ll explain how we got there. I can’t really quantify (it yet),” he said. The pandemic has impacted next year’s budget. Expediting the systems required to stream public meetings online will be part of expenses next year. The mayor talked about moving into a new township building in January this year, “getting the kinks out of (the building)” and tackling one of the priorities for council: being able to stream online. “It was always on council’s agenda to get it done. With COVID-19, it’s taking a bit longer than we would have liked to. It’s been a work in progress for us,” Peckett said. “That’s why it’s (included) in the budget. We’re getting there,” he said. He cannot disclose how much updating the systems will cost. Coughlin said that the biggest consequence that the pandemic had on the township’s budget is on recreation programs. “We have to reimagine our programming because of the restrictions on the number (of participants). It impacts indoor programming, and there will be an impact on the revenue side of the things,” she said. “Staff is trying to adjust the operating budgets. We still want to have money available to provide programming to the ratepayers. On the Dec. 15 budget, I will be providing a comprehensive report summarizing the key things included in the budget,” Coughlin added. The treasurer stressed that there have been changes since their last council meeting. “The overall budget is a little over $10 million, that’s what it currently is. That is subject to change. Everything will be finalized on Dec. 15,” she said. Asked if taxpayers can expect any surprises in the budget next year, the mayor said “not for me there isn’t (a surprise). It’s the same as usual, there’s always an increase in fuel cost and labour cost. It’s pretty well the usual.” A notice is posted on the township’s website about the upcoming meeting: “Notice is hereby given that the Council of the Township of McNab/Braeside intends to consider passing a Bylaw to adopt the 2021 Operating and Capital budgets in accordance with Section 290 of the Municipal Act, 2001 at the Regular Meeting of Council to be held on Dec. 15, 2021 at 7 p.m. at the Township Council Chambers, 2473 Russett Dr.”Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News
Waterloo Region council will vote Dec. 2 on whether to get rid of the five child-care centres it operates. Parents and advocates say the move would harm quality of care and leave hundreds of children in the lurch. Tania Gonzalez said her son Marcus has been well cared for since going to Christopher Children's Centre in Cambridge in mid-2019, when he was an infant. Caretakers at the centre recognized when Marcus was behind on his speech and made her aware of it. Marcus started talking around March, said Gonzalez, just before the province declared a state of emergency and closed all child-care centres. When Marcus returned to Christopher in July, they “lost all the progress,” Gonzalez said. “Not for lack of trying at home, but again, we ... don't specialize in children's development,” she said, adding, since returning to Christopher, Marcus is using easily up to 50 words. “It's not just a daycare. It's not just a babysitter. It's a whole system looking out for my kids.” Tania Resendes said her kids Leo, three, and Matteo, one, really love seeing their teachers at Christopher. Matteo, who has hearing loss, could only speak around three words when he started out and saw a “significant difference” within a month of being at the centre, using over 12 words. Resendes said parents should have “options,” and believes it would be hard to find care of the same calibre in a private daycare system, especially for children with special needs. She said she has tried calling around to child-care centres, but it has been hard to find available spots during the pandemic, when child-care centres are operating at a around 70 per cent capacity. “The prospect of closing or off-loading child-care centres during a pandemic is absolutely shameful,” Carolyn Ferns, policy co-ordinator at the Ontario Coalition of Better Child Care (OCBCC) stated in a media release. “The regionally-operated child-care centres play an important role in the child-care system in the Region of Waterloo. “High-quality, public child-care centres are a benchmark for decent wages, pensions, and benefits for educators who are predominantly women.” With the closures, the region would lose around $2.2 million in fees from parents and would free up $4.3 million in provincial financing earmarked for child care, a consultation review found. Closure would also, it found, require the region to immediately shell out up to $6.4 million in severance pay as the region is projected to be $25 million in the red. CUPE Local 1883, which represents workers in each of the five child-care centres, said the move would leave parents, caretakers and the children in the cold. “Hundreds of working families in the region are already at their breaking point during this brutal pandemic,” says Noelle Fletcher, president of the local. “Losing public child-care spaces due to closures or off-loading them to the community will result in a destabilization of care. “Many parents and caregivers may have to quit their jobs and rely on unlicensed, private care with exorbitant fees or be placed on lengthy wait lists in community-based centres.” Staff recommend eliminating Cambridge Children’s Centre, Kitchener’s Edith MacIntosh Children’s Centre, Kinsmen Children’s Centre and Christopher Children’s Centre, both in Cambridge, by mid-2021. Elmira Children’s Centre is recommended to be closed at a future date. As a result, around 250 children would lose support and 62 full-time staff would be permanently laid off. In 2015, council voted against the closure of all five centres amid public pressure. This time, Resendes said, parents were given too little time to prepare. “From the moment that we found out to when it's going to vote, we've been given three weeks to try and advocate, do our research ... and figure out exactly what's going on.” The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 and will be livestreamed. Call 519-575-4400 to leave feedback.Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times
Halifax councillors want to crack down on landlords who purposely make rental units unlivable as a ploy to pressure tenants to move out of their homes. Rosanna Chilton, a renter in Halifax, said the door to her basement apartment on Joseph Howe Drive was removed on Dec. 1 for 24 hours."My roommate was there when he removed the door and ran away with it," she said. "He wanted to bully us out of here."Chilton had to miss work and make a number of calls before the door was put back. She is looking for another place to live, but has not been able to find one that she can afford.Councillors are hearing from other tenants with similar stories."I just had another note from a young woman who had her doors and windows taken off," said Coun. Pam Lovelace. "Landlords should know that Halifax will not put up with this."Councillor calls for $10K finesThe province handles landlord-tenant disputes, such as overdue rent, through the tenancy board. The municipality is responsible for health and safety standards of rental buildings."If the tenancy board has problems, that's an issue for landlords to take to the province," said Coun. Waye Mason. "But in the interim, they can't do these things that put people's lives at risk."Mason said there should be a $10,000 fine per day, per incident, and the municipality should have the ability to send in a contractor to immediately replace a door or window.HRM officials are already working on a new rental bylaw that will have occupancy standards and a rental registry. Mason is calling for new fines for health and safety violations to be included in the bylaw, which is expected to be ready by April."I think our bylaw officers need the biggest stick possible," he said. "You cannot make a unit dangerous because you have a tenant dispute."MORE TOP STORIES
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams is accusing the City of St. John's of taking Christmas away from the residents of a subdivision he developed on the city's outskirts.Williams says that just as he did last year, he recently installed a 10-metre Christmas tree in the centre of a traffic roundabout in the Galway subdivision, which was developed by his company DewCor.But this year, he says the city took issue with the tree, requiring that he take out an insurance policy and asking him to keep it unlit due to traffic concerns.In a statement emailed Wednesday, city staff in the transportation engineering department say they're open to considering other locations for the tree in Galway that don't interfere with an intersection.Meanwhile, the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl has offered to give the tree a proper home with lights, and Williams says the tree will be delivered there within the next two days."All's well that ends well," Williams said in an interview. "It's going to the neighbouring city of Mount Pearl, and to be quite honest with you, if Galway could be part of Mount Pearl, that would be my choice."In another statement emailed Wednesday, Kevin Breen, the St. John's city manager says the tree went up last year without a permit, and he reiterated that the issue is with the proposed location of the tree."There is a concern with its illumination in the middle of a busy roundabout due to driver distraction," Breen said.Williams says he spent around $14,000 last year to install a permanent power source for the tree in the roundabout.He said the tree wasn't exactly inconspicuous last year — there was a tree-lighting ceremony with hot chocolate and carollers — and if the city had a problem about a permit or about traffic considerations, they had ample opportunity to make it known.He said the twinkling tree didn't cause any traffic accidents and pointed to the Christmas lights the city puts up along some its busiest streets each holiday season.Williams butted heads with the City St. John's a number of times during the development of the Galway subdivision. When asked if he felt the city's pushback about the tree was personal, he said he wasn't sure what to think."I don't see any logical reason why they would do this. There's no common sense," he said. "Especially at this time of the year. It's mean-spirited."Williams said if Mount Pearl plans a lighting ceremony for the displaced Galway Christmas tree, he would be "delighted" to attend.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 6, 2020 Jamie Thomas hopes his artistic talents are a hit for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO. The Barrie artist created a piece depicting baseball great Jackie Robinson called Breaking Barriers, that will be up for auction online to raise money for the museum. Thomas will be among participating artists from Asia, Europe, and North America who will be featured at www.nlbmart.com where their work will be prominently displayed by @Tagboard. Thomas will have his piece up for auction on eBay, with 42 per cent of sales going to the museum to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Negro League. Established in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America. The online event runs until Oct. 10. Amid a backdrop of renewed calls for social justice and equal rights throughout 2020, the NLBM has led a nation-wide celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
A report from an international organization that monitors global biodiversity says climate change is an immediate threat to one-third of all World Heritage Sites, including one in Canada's North. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says of 252 natural World Heritage Sites, 83 are threatened by climate change. The group's World Heritage Outlook 3 report, released Wednesday in Switzerland, says those sites include the Great Barrier Reef and locations ranging from South Africa to Brazil along with Kluane Lake in southwest Yukon. The report assigns a "critical" rating to the Great Barrier Reef for the first time, while it says the rapidly melting Kaskawulsh Glacier has changed the water flow into Kluane Lake, depleting fish populations. The study assesses threats to the protection and management of unique values within each World Heritage Site and finds 30 per cent face threats of "significant concern," while critical threats exist in seven per cent of the sites. The report says half of the sites have "effective" or "highly effective" protection and management, with sustainable funding being the most common issue rated as a serious concern. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is composed of government and private groups from 170 countries, including Canada, and spokesman Peter Shadie says it aims to ensure a "brighter future for nature's finest." "The findings of the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 3 point to a dire need for adequate resources to manage our irreplaceable natural areas," he says in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
JERUSALEM — Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers — supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner — passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament.The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just over a year. Netanyahu's Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting.The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Gantz and Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance.By joining the opposition in Wednesday's vote, Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country.Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Gantz accuses the prime minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Gantz and other critics believe Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution.Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.”The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at over 20% because of the pandemic.In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Gantz to remain in the government but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail.Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region.He derisively referred to Gantz's party as “an opposition within the coalition" and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Gantz.“In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines, and not campaign ads,” he said. "The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.”Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic.“We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.”Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning that rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted.If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March.Under the coalition deal, Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November 2021, with the job rotating to Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held.There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held.Although Gantz's party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better.By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial.Starting in February, Netanyahu's corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The prime minister expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom.Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes that a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hardline coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case.“Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu," Gayil Tashir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer.One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with President Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear that Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with archenemy Iran.Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign.“Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument which says 'I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,'" she said.Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 There’s bound to be a lot of pouting because Santa Claus isn’t coming to town this year. COVID-19 restrictions have forced the Barrie Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Barrie to cancel the popular annual parade, which was slated for Nov. 21. The organizations have also cancelled the annual Tree Lighting Celebration. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce hopes to maintain the history of the parade, which has been a focal point of the holiday season since the Second World War. “Our team has been working on an online format that will keep Santa in your hearts and minds this Christmas season,” said Paul Markle, the chamber’s interim executive director. There will still be lots to do this Christmas season in downtown Barrie. Visitors will be able to explore the new Dunlop streetscape while checking out all that’s planned for Noella in the City, including the Rotary Festival of Trees in Meridian Place and Heritage Park, festive window displays in downtown businesses, the Noella Tree & Wreath Lot, in support of Hospice Simcoe, and the well-known Holly Days. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
MONTREAL — Refugee advocates are criticizing Canada's decision to resume deportations before the country irons out the details of a program to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers who have been working in the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.Frantz Andre, who advocates on behalf of asylum seekers, says the decision has heightened the feelings of insecurity among the essential workers dubbed "guardian angels" by Quebec Premier Francois Legault.The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed it resumed deportations as of Nov. 30, after halting most removals in March due to the pandemic. The agency clarified that it would not be deporting people who are likely to qualify for permanent residency under a federal program announced in August to grant a path to residency for people working in the health-care sector or in long-term care or assisted living facilities."The CBSA would like to clarify that the agency will not be removing those who may be eligible to qualify for permanent residency under the guardian angels public policy," the agency wrote in an email Tuesday.Advocates estimate that hundreds of asylum-seekers have been working in long-term care homes in Quebec, which bore the brunt of the first wave of COVID-19 this spring.Andre notes that the final details of the program have yet to be made public, leading many of the so-called guardian angels to fear they may yet be deported."So, we’re starting (deportations) three weeks before Christmas, when the program and the details of this special program for the asylum-seekers or orderlies cannot be announced," he said."I call this criminal. This is not right."Andre said the initial elation over the announcement of the program has faded, leaving many asylum-seekers feeling fearful and unsure if they'll qualify.He says some workers who could have been eligible have given up and decided to return home; others have contemplated suicide.Wilner Cayo, the president of a group that advocates for asylum-seekers and visible minorities, notes that even asylum-seekers working in long-term care — the exact group targeted by the program — are not sure they'll qualify because there are other criteria to meet, including having been issued a work permit and having a certain amount of experience and hours worked. He said the uncertainty is causing people "enormous anxiety.""When they take such a long time and the rules are not clear, we don’t know what to expect," he said in a phone interview.Quebec has a large degree of control over immigration criteria for the province, and it will select the applicants who qualify under the federal program and wish to reside in Quebec.In an email, a spokesperson for the Quebec Immigration Department said the program is expected to come into effect over the winter, and the details of how it will apply in Quebec will be announced "shortly."Cayo said the program also does not address the situation of other essential workers, including security guards and cleaning staff in care homes, truck drivers and those working in food production."These people sacrificed for Quebec, sacrificed for Canada," he said. "When many people were staying home, these people went out to work."Their contribution has shown they are not a burden to Canada, but a gift, he added.Andre believes the deportation order should be suspended until it becomes clear who exactly is eligible for the guardian angels program. But in his opinion, all the asylum-seekers who have been in the country since the pandemic began deserve to stay."I think they all have contributed economically, to saving lives, and Canada is better thanks to these people," he said.In its email, the CBSA defended its decision to deport, noting that the "timely removal of failed claimants plays a critical role in supporting the integrity of Canada’s asylum system."Removals to some regions remain suspended, including the Gaza Strip, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq.The agency also said the volume of deportations is expected to be reduced for some time, and that claimants will continue to have access to all the appeals and recourses available under the law.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
The Orangeville Public Library has followed the trend of finding creative solutions to Christmas in 2020, — new ways to bring their usual festive activities to children in the community. Beginning on Dec. 4, children young and old will be able to tune in every Friday and enjoy a recording of Santa reading around the fireplace. Videos will be posted to the Orangeville Public Library’s YouTube channel at 10 a.m. on Dec. 4, 11, 18, and on Christmas Day. Additionally, the library will extend the festive fun through holiday-themed story time craft kits for families to enjoy together at home. These kits will be available for pickup from the Mill Street branch beginning on Dec. 4, and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Stories with Santa program has been a favourite at the library over the years, with one aspect of it being Santa’s annual gift of literacy. This facet of the festivities will not be forgotten with the virtual event. Beginning on Dec. 18, children will be able to pick up a wrapped picture book at the Mill Street Library. There is a limit of one book per child, and quantities are limited. Additional virtual programming is available online during the closures via the library’s YouTube channel. Notifications are available by subscribing to the channel. For more information visit www.orangevillelibrary.ca.Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner
IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut's two-week lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 was lifted in almost all communities Wednesday as the territory had more recovered than active cases for the first time. Schools, businesses and workplaces were allowed to reopen, except in Arviat, which had 65 active cases. The coastal community on the western edge of Hudson Bay is to remain shut down for at least two more weeks.Nunavut had 80 active infections Wednesday and 113 recovered cases for a total of 193. There were 11 new cases — all in Arviat. The territory had not had any cases at all until early November.Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said his team hadn't yet determined if community transmission in Arviat is ongoing."I know this is a difficult time as these strict measures continue, but please understand it is not meant to punish Arviat. This is the best way to break community transmission and the fastest way to eventually loosening these restrictions," Patterson said. The Canadian Red Cross has been on the ground in Arviat to help people self-isolate and to contact trace. Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, in the same region as Arviat, still have active COVID-19 cases, but no evidence of community transmission.Masks remain mandatory in all public spaces in the three communities, although students in Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet do not have to wear them in classrooms as long as they are physical distancing, Patterson said.He credited Nunavut's shrinking case count with residents observing public-health orders and the work of contact tracers to "break chains of transmission."Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the federal government will provide rapid-testing machines to Nunavut's isolation hotels in Winnipeg. The territory's public-health orders require anyone who leaves the territory must isolate for 14 days in a southern hotel before flying home. Patterson said Winnipeg is currently the jurisdiction that poses the biggest risk to Nunavummiut who travel there. Using the Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid-testing device, which provides results in 15 minutes, Nunavummiut staying in the hubs will be tested several times throughout their stay. "The testing will be initially offered to everybody, whether they have symptoms or not ... as a way to augment the current isolation practice and reduce the chance of COVID getting through the isolation hubs," Patterson said. Nunavut's first cases of COVID-19 were individuals who completed 14 days of isolation in Winnipeg hotels. Patterson said it's still unknown how exactly they contracted the novel coronavirus while in isolation and an investigation into how it happened continues.The Northwest Territories, which has a similar isolation rule, announced Tuesday that residents who leave the territory for non-essential travel will have to pay for their two-week isolation stays. Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut's health minister, said Nunavut has considered a similar move, but isn't making residents pay for isolation stays at this time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.___This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News FellowshipEmma Tranter, The Canadian Press
Here’s a collection curated by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists of what’s arriving on TV, streaming services and music platforms this week.MOVIES— Film history fans will get a meal out of David Fincher’s “Mank,” about “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz who is masterfully played by Gary Oldman. Shot in gorgeous black and white, “Mank” transports you into the depression era studio system, Upton Sinclair’s bid for governor, William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies’s elegant parties and to that bungalow in Victorville where the first draft of the classic Orson Welles film was composed. Available on Netflix on Friday, “Mank” is one of the year’s very best films and both a tribute to and searing critique of Hollywood’s golden age. Amanda Seyfried, as Davies, is one of the great performances of the year.— Another film full of excellent performances is “Sound of Metal,” starring Riz Ahmed as a punk metal drummer who experiences sudden severe hearing loss. The film, which is captioned in English, dives into the world of the deaf community with Ruben (Ahmed) in a way you’ve never seen or heard before. It’s the directorial debut of Darius Marder (a writer on “The Place Beyond the Pines”), who assembled an crack team of sound mixers and editors to create a unique auditory experience to simulate what Ruben is going through as he loses his hearing entirely.— If $30 was a little steep for your tastes to rent the new live-action “Mulan,” it’ll finally be free for Disney+ subscribers Friday. From director Niki Caro, this adaptation of the Chinese folk tale about a young woman who disguises herself as a man and takes her father’s place in the army, is breathtakingly beautiful, from the stunning landscapes to the colorful costumes. Although it may fall short on the kind of intoxicating story magic that the Disney label signifies, it is worth a watch and may just inspire some curious young viewers to delve into more Asian cinema classics. Also, if you find yourself missing the songs and Eddie Murphy, the animated 1998 version is also available on the service.— AP Film Writer Lindsey BahrMUSIC— A house is not a home during the holiday season if Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is not blasting – daily! During a normal, non-pandemic year, Carey and her Christmas craziness would be on a holiday tour, bringing joy to fans and lambs in-person. Because live shows aren’t really a thing in 2020, she’s launching a holiday TV special on Apple TV+ on Friday. “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special” will includes a mix of musical performances and dancing with amination. Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg, Tiffany Haddish, Misty Copeland and Carey’s 9-year-old twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe, will make special appearances.— Shawn Mendes released his debut album in 2015 and he’s dropping his fourth effort Friday. “Wonder” continues to showcase Mendes’ growth as a singer, songwriter and performer. The album features the singles “Wonder” and “Monster” with Justin Bieber, which debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot chart this week. Along with the album is the Netflix documentary called “Shawn Mendes: In Wonder,” which is available for streaming and follows Mendes’ rise and journey over the last few years.— Christmas came early when Carrie Underwood released her first holiday album in September, and on Thursday she’ll debut a musical TV special to accompany the album. On HBO Max’s “My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood” — conducted by award-winning musical director Rickey Minor — the country superstar is backed by a live orchestra, choir and her band. John Legend makes a special appearance and viewers will get a behind-the-scenes look at Underwood’s 5-year-old son, Isaiah, recording his vocals for their version of “Little Drummer Boy.”— AP Music Editor Mesfin FekaduTELEVISION— “Selena: The Series” is described by Netflix as a coming-of-age drama that follows Selena Quintanilla from talented youngster to musical phenom, aided by her family. A breakthrough star in male-dominated Tejano music, the singer was just shy of her 24th birthday in 1995 when she was fatally shot by a former business associate. The two-part series debuts Friday with Christian Serratos (“The Walking Dead”) as Selena and Gabriel Chavarria (“East Los Angeles’) and Ricardo Chavira (“Desperate Housewives”) among the cast members.— The 11th and final season of the Showtime dramady “Shameless” debuts 9 p.m. EST Sunday, weaving the pandemic, urban gentrification and personal pressures into the lives of the Gallaghers of Chicago’s South Side. Aging patriarch Frank (William H. Macy) is facing the toll of longtime alcohol and drug abuse, while and Ian and Mickey (Cameron Monaghan, Noel Fisher) struggle as newlyweds. Deb (Emma Kenney) stands ready to give her all to single motherhood and Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) feels the same about his nascent law enforcement career.— Two respected veterans are behind “A Suitable Boy,” a limited series directed by filmmaker Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding,” “The Namesake”) and written by Andrew Davies (“Pride and Prejudice,” “House of Cards”). An adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1,300-plus page novel of the same name, the 1950s, India-set drama revolves around a university student who’s shaping her identity as the newly independent country does the same. The all-Indian lead cast includes Tabu (“The Namesake,” “Life of Pi”) and Tanya Maniktala. The series debuts Monday, Dec. 7, on Acorn TV.— AP Television Writer Lynn Elber___Catch up on AP’s entertainment coverage here: https://apnews.com/apf-entertainment.The Associated Press
During Wednesday's coronavirus briefing, Ontario premier Doug Ford announced more than $115 million to support 850 patients with complex care needs transition to home and community care as part of the province's COVID-19 fall preparedness plan. The funding also includes 14.5 million to expand virtual care across the province.
La MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord consacre la plus grande partie de son budget 2021 au développement pour la première fois en plus de 20 ans. Un montant de 4 038 837 $ est prévu pour ce poste budgétaire, soit plus du double qu’en 2020 alors qu’il bénéficiait de 1 846 393 $. C’est ce qui a été dévoilé le 25 novembre alors que le conseil des maires était réuni en assemblée ordinaire de façon virtuelle. « Il s’agit d‘une année exceptionnelle en terme de développement », a déclaré la préfète Micheline Anctil en parlant des prévisions budgétaires pour 2021. « Cette croissance en faveur du développement s’explique, entre autres, par une participation financière accrue des instances gouvernementales. Ce choix du conseil des maires en faveur du développement aura des impacts considérables au cours des trois prochaines années », explique le directeur général de la MRC, Paul Langlois. Effectivement, de nouveaux fonds verront le jour en 2021 et toucheront « à plusieurs domaines tant la relance économique, l’agroforestier que le culturel », dévoile Mme Anctil. Le Fonds pour le rayonnement des régions sera doté d’un troisième (Innovation et signature) et quatrième volets (Vitalisation et revitalisation). Ils bénéficieront respectivement de 197 000 $ et 977 000 $ annuellement pendant cinq ans. De plus, le nouveau réseau de transport mis en place par Hydro-Québec sur le territoire de la MRC permet la récolte de redevances d’un montant de 1 900 000 $ à dépenser sur deux ans selon un protocole d’entente qui sera signé en février. « Les MRC sont appelées à devenir des intermédiaires du gouvernement pour le développement économique des régions. Le ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation a d’ailleurs instauré de nouveaux comités de développement régional, qui auront à agir dans un avenir proche », de dévoiler le directeur général, en entrevue téléphonique. Les critères de ces nouveaux programmes d’aide financière ne sont pas encore fixés et la MRC n’est pas prête à recevoir des demandes. Ils seront établis au cours de l’année et « les fonds qui ne seront pas dépensés comme prévu, seront redistribués dans l’enveloppe 2022 », soutient M. Langlois. « Les efforts de la MRC porteront fortement sur la consolidation des entreprises, des organismes et des commerces des huit municipalités qui la composent, tout en cherchant à favoriser le développement du tourisme, de l’agroalimentaire et de l’innovation pour la création d’emplois », a précisé Micheline Anctil, lors de l’adoption du budget. Les secteurs social et communautaire feront aussi l’objet d’une attention plus intensive en 2021 « dans le but d’assurer des services de qualité, entre autres, par le biais de programmes sociaux, et de favoriser le mieux-être des personnes aînées et des moins favorisés de nos communautés », a dévoilé Mme Anctil. Revenus et dépenses En ce qui concerne les revenus, les municipalités de la Haute-Côte-Nord devront contribuer pour un total de 2 236 181 $ en quotes-parts, divisées selon la richesse foncière. La Ville de Forestville déboursera la plus importante quote-part, soit plus de 500 000 $ tandis que Portneuf-sur-Mer versera environ 99 000 $, la plus basse. Les transferts gouvernementaux totaliseront 6 213 314 $ et les services rendus procurent 1 645 595 $ à la MRC. Les autres revenus d’intérêts rapportent 31 000 $ dans les coffres et les revenus d’investissement 1 460 000 $. Quant aux dépenses, 1 710 228 $ seront décaissés pour l’administration générale, 863 624 $ pour l’aménagement, 4 038 837 $ pour le développement, 2 815 902 $ pour la gestion des matières résiduelles, 455 000 $ pour l’évaluation, 704 800 $ pour les baux, 460 700 $ pour le transport et, finalement, 40 000 $ pour la forêt privée. Les dépenses d’investissement atteindront 497 000 $. C’est donc un budget équilibré qui a été déposé par la préfète tout comme celui de l’an dernier qui s’élevait à 8 892 387 $, soit 2,6 M$ en moins.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
New membership is bringing new ideas to one Tay Township neighbourhood. Several of those new ideas were presented to council at a recent meeting by Victoria Reaume,president, Talpines Property Owners' Association. “Waubaushene has changed over the last few years and it's still changing a lot,” she said. “We see young families and retirees moving into town. They're looking for wonderful new things to do in the community.” One of those, said Reaume, is to enhance the usability of the Tay Trail. “We've raised a number of issues with bylaw about motorized vehicles,” she said. “The township did do some stakeouts and managed to catch some folks who were riding motorcycles on the trail and other types of vehicles.” But the trail, said Reaume, is increasingly being used by bike clubs and there seem to be no speed limits. “They will ride by in numbers like 20 and it's scary when they drive by at that speed,” she said. “We're asking for more signage because clearly people are not seeing the signage that exists.” The group is also looking to beautify Pine Street Beach with a mural on the tin building in the vicinity, said Reaume. “It's a very popular site and we're starting to see people use it more,” she said, talking about the beach. “We also mentioned last year a ramp or stairs at the beach so people with mobility problems could have better access to the beach. We don't want a boat ramp for sure. We do want a pedestrian ramp, something that people can use to walk down more easily.” As well, Reaume said, a lot of the seniors and kids go down to enjoy the beach, where there's no shade. “We know that other parks in Tay have gazebos,” she said. “We just want something to provide a bit of shade; we don't need anything fancy.” At least two councillors expressed support at the meeting. “We could maybe look at accessibility grants out there to make that beach more accessible,” said Coun. Mary Warnock. “I'm sure there are artists out there looking to paint something so you could collaborate with them. And I'm sure staff would appreciate the help in getting some money for signage.” Coun. Jeff Bumstead said he could watch out for opportunities through the Cultural Alliance Committee channel. A final decision about how much money can be given to the Talpines POA will be made at a December council meeting around grants.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com