Infectious disease doctors answer questions about COVID-19 and Halloween, including whether kids should be trick-or-treating and how to stay safe if they head out.
Infectious disease doctors answer questions about COVID-19 and Halloween, including whether kids should be trick-or-treating and how to stay safe if they head out.
WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The Oscar-nominated Canadian star of the film "Juno" has come out as transgender.The Halifax-raised Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, made the announcement in a powerful post on social media.The star of the Toronto-shot Netflix series "The Umbrella Academy" says his preferred pronouns are he/they.Page's letter thanks those who have supported him along the journey, and addresses the trauma trans people face from discrimination, hateful acts, and a lack of rights.He says it feels remarkable "to finally love" who he is enough to pursue his "authentic self."And he's been "endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community.""Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place. I will offer whatever support I can and continue to strive for a more loving and equal society," Page said in Tuesday's post."I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I'm scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the 'jokes' and of violence." Page said he's not trying to "dampen a moment that is joyous" but wants to address the full picture. "The statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences," Page wrote."In 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which were Black and Latinx trans women. To the political leaders who work to criminalize trans health care and deny our right to exist and to all of those with a massive platform who continue to spew hostility towards the trans community: you have blood on your hands."Page concluded the post by saying he loves that he is trans and queer."And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive."Page got an Oscar nomination for playing a pregnant teen in 2007's "Juno," and two Emmy nominations for his reality series "Gaycation," which explores LGBTQ experiences around the world.Page often uses his platform to speak out against injustices and amplify underrepresented voices.In his documentary "There's Something in the Water," which hit Netflix in March, he shines a light on marginalized groups in Nova Scotia affected by what's known as environmental racism.Netflix said Tuesday it was in the process of updating all of the titles the performer and producer is involved with on its service to credit Elliot Page.The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD praised Page for delivering "fantastic characters on-screen" and being "an outspoken advocate for all LGBTQ people.""Elliot will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. We celebrate him. All trans people deserve to be accepted," said a tweet from GLAAD, which also issued a tip sheet for journalists covering Page's story, to help them write it in a respectful and accurate way. Alphonso David, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, thanked Page for sharing his truth and "shining a bright light on the challenges too many in our community face.""We are proud of you, and we love you. And we will never stop fighting alongside you for change," David posted on Twitter.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
TORONTO — New England Revolution sophomore Tajon Buchanan and Canadian under-20 stalwart Jade Rose have been named the 2020 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year.The two were recognized for their performances and progress as part of Canada Soccer’s national teams program, albeit in a pandemic-affected 2020.For 2020, the women's award was drawn from players who took part in the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in February and March in the Dominican Republic. The men's award was drawn from under-23 players, given that no international youth competitions took place because of COVID-19.Buchanan was one of 20 players selected to represent Canada at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in March before the tournament was postponed.The 21-year-old from Brampton, Ont., made his mark during the MLS season, leading all Canadians by appearing in all 23 regular-season games. Buchanan scored his first MLS goal on Sept. 12 and his first MLS playoff goal Nov. 24, both against league-leading Philadelphia.He was one of only two Revolution players to appear in every regular season game for the Revolution, and has also started all three of New England’s playoff wins to date.Buchanan also started 10 of New England's last 12 regular-season games. While normally a forward, he has thrived at right back to meet team needs in the regular-season stretch drive.Rose, runner-up for the youth award in 2019, anchored the Canadian defence at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. A centre back, she was the only player to start in all five of Canada’s matches at the tournament.The 17-year-old from Markham, Ont., led Canada, playing 446 minutes through to the quarterfinals when the team was eliminated by the eventual champion Americans.A member of Canada Soccer’s youth program since 2017, Rose previously played at the CONCACAF U-15 and U-17 championships as well as the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.She took part in two senior camps in 2019 and featured in an exhibition training match against Japan. Previous youth award winners were Jayden Nelson and Olivia Smith (2019) and Derek Cornelius and Jordyn Huitema (2018). This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020The Canadian Press
Volunteers with the Canadian Conservation Corps (CCC) gave a virtual presentation of projects they completed while working alongside the Flood Mitigation Office on Thursday, November 26. Longtime Drumheller resident Stan Solberg played a key role in bringing the program, and the volunteers, to the Drumheller Valley. Chief Resiliency and Flood Mitigation Officer Darwin Durnie told the Mail, “Stan pulled together this entire program with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, allowing them to get here.” Mr. Solberg also garnered the participation of the Flood Mitigation Office, and also Mayor Heather Colberg and Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Drohomerski. The presentation showcased three projects the volunteers worked on throughout their time with the Flood Mitigation Office, with the main focus of each project being on conservation. While conservation was the main focus of the projects, the findings will provide the Flood Mitigation Office with invaluable information. “The Flood Mitigation Office was pleased with the work that the CCC volunteers performed,” Durnie said. “The activities, research, and energy they created will surely continue in the coming years.” Patrick Crowchild Jr. presented Conservation Through Art, a series of paintings inspired by the landscape and his time in the Drumheller Valley. Crowchild’s artwork is part of an art installation at the Flood Mitigation Office and challenges the definition of conservation while showcasing its many facets. Crowchild also completed sketches and drawings of local, native plants, though these were not included in the presentation. CCC volunteers, Megan Davies, Victoria Choi, and Kelsey White journeyed down the Red Deer River with Andy Neuman, former executive director of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. They discovered several river islands along the Red Deer River, which are Crown Land, are already being used as camping areas. The group surveyed the river and adjacent riparian areas, using GPS and geographic information systems (GIS) to map areas on these river islands which could be sustainably used for both day-use and overnight camping. They also proposed semi-permanent structures to help educate campers to “Leave no trace” after discovering litter, including discarded diapers, beer cans, and fish hooks in the areas. These proposed sites could target tourism from canoers and kayakers in otherwise undevelopable areas, while also promoting conservation of these areas, without compromising structural developments in the floodplains. The final project by Heather Blanchette and Ryan Wilkes, Birding in the Badlands, showcased the wildlife, particularly avians, found naturally within the Drumheller Valley. Volunteers undertook six road trips to survey wildlife from Orkney Viewpoint to Dorothy and Oyen. They discovered Orkney Viewpoint offers a unique vantage where bird watchers can look down upon raptors, such as hawks and eagles, as they soar above the valley. Mr. Solberg said, “There are more and more people coming to Drumheller, very wildlife conscious.” While some of the expeditions were not suited for casual bird and wildlife watchers, Mr. Solberg added, “Always be camera-ready when you come to Drumheller.”Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail
As coronavirus cases surge in California, county officials are issuing new COVID-19 restrictions, imposing curfews and closing museums and other businesses after the state broke a record with more than 7,400 coronavirus hospitalizations. (Dec. 1)
MONTREAL — When the Quebec government tells English schools they cannot hire women wearing the hijab, it violates the rights of the English-speaking minority to manage its educational institutions, a lawyer argued Tuesday in a case challenging the province's secularism law.The law, known as Bill 21, forbids the wearing of religious symbols such as turbans, kippas and hijabs for certain employees of the state deemed to be in positions of authority, including police officers and school teachers.Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard, who is presiding over the trial, has set aside 14 days to hear closing arguments, which began on Monday.Constitutional rights lawyer Julius Grey argued on behalf of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Quebec Community Groups Network, which are both challenging the law.Grey invoked Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right of Quebec's anglophone minority to be educated in English. Over time, jurisprudence has interpreted this right as giving management power to English schools, which Grey argued includes the right to hire whom they choose as teachers, including those who wear religious symbols.While Bill 21 invokes the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield it from most charter challenges, including those based on freedom of religion, Grey argued it can't be used to override the language-rights protections in Section 23.Grey argued Section 23 is essential to the protection and preservation of the language and culture of the English-speaking minority in Quebec.And included in the culture of the English-speaking community is the protection of cultural minorities, he said.Grey also argued that Bill 21 infringes Section 28 of the charter, which provides for gender equality and isn't subject to the notwithstanding clause.A lawyer for Amnesty International argued that the law is too vague and that it doesn't include a definition of "religious symbols."School administrators can't all become theologians to manage their schools, Marie-Claude St-Amant said. Like Grey, she argued that it is not the government's objective in adopting the law that is important but rather the effects of the legislation. Those are disproportionately felt by Muslim women, she said, arguing that the stated goal of the law is a pretence. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Republican state lawmaker from Pennsylvania revealed Monday that he has COVID-19, confirming the positive test five days after he went to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and went maskless at a packed public meeting to discuss efforts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. State Sen. Doug Mastriano first revealed the diagnosis in a Facebook live video Monday night, one day after The Associated Press reported that Mastriano was informed of the positive test while at a West Wing meeting with Trump. On Tuesday, conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck asked Mastriano about his diagnosis. “I'm feeling fantastic,” Mastriano said, then changed the topic. Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker who attended Wednesday's public meeting in Gettysburg with Mastriano, Sen. Judy Ward, revealed that she also has tested positive. The public meeting was held, despite state Department of Health and internal Senate pandemic directives limiting gatherings. The AP learned of the White House test results from a person with direct knowledge of the meeting. Mastriano insisted on Facebook that the report was inaccurate, but did not say how in a 15-minute video in which he confirmed he had tested positive and described his symptoms as “pretty mild.” He did not say where or when he got tested and did not discuss the White House meeting. Neither Mastriano nor his spokesperson have returned messages seeking comment over the past several days. Mastriano, who has led rallies against mask-wearing and other pandemic mitigation efforts, said in the video that after interacting with large numbers of people this year, “finally eight months in, and 20,000 people in, I do get it.” Mastriano said he wanted to “dispel any rumours and get to the bottom of it,” and suggested he contracted the virus in a “basement suite that lacked air circulation” where two other people in the room later tested positive. He did not say when that occurred, or whether it was before the Gettysburg event, but also complained that, before going on camera, he allowed a makeup artist there to use the same brushes on him as others before him. “I knew right there, you know, stop her, don’t let her put those brushes on your face, just walk away,” he said. “And I didn’t.” He said he has not had a fever, and expected his quarantine “will be ending here pretty quick, actually.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that people who tested positive not be around other people for 10 days after symptoms first appeared, if the person has gone 24 hours without fever and other symptoms are improving. Mastriano's White House trip followed the hours-long meeting in a Gettysburg hotel, which was held at Mastriano’s request and where few people wore masks. At the meeting, the state Senate Republican Policy Committee listened to Trump — calling in by telephone — and Trump’s lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, repeat baseless claims that Biden's victory in Pennsylvania was gained fraudulently and urge them to overturn it. No state or county election official or prosecutor in Pennsylvania has cited evidence of widespread election fraud in the state, and Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Department of Justice has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Republicans convened the Gettysburg meeting amid rising coronavirus infections in Pennsylvania that state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine warned Monday have strained the state’s hospitals and intensive care units. Blair County Sen. Judy Ward, who sat with a mask on a few feet away from Mastriano at the public meeting, announced in a Facebook post Monday that she also had tested positive for the virus. Ward said she believes she became infected at a Thanksgiving gathering. She has not returned messages seeking comment. It is not clear how state Senate Republican leaders, who have remained silent about the matter, have responded internally to a potential outbreak stemming from that meeting. Mastriano said contact tracing has been performed, but provided no details, and a Senate GOP spokesperson would only say the “Senate continues to adhere to the COVID-19 mitigation policy which was adopted in the spring.” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, criticized the meeting as irresponsible. “The spread of this virus is something that we have to really take seriously and we should not be subjecting our staff and others to exposure,” Costa said. A spokesperson for the state Department of Health declined to say whether the agency was conducting contact tracing as a result of the Gettysburg event. __ Follow Mark Scolforo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/houseofbuddy and Marc Levy at www.twitter.com/timelywriter. Mark Scolforo And Marc Levy, The Associated Press
BERLIN — A man zig-zagged an SUV at high speed through a pedestrian zone in the southwestern German city of Trier on Tuesday, killing five people, including a 9-month-old child, and seriously injuring more than a dozen, officials said.The driver, identified as a 51-year-old German man born in Trier, was arrested at the scene and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police said.The suspect, whose name was not released in line with German privacy laws, had no fixed address and had been living in recent days in the Land Rover that a friend had loaned him, which was used in the attack, said prosecutor Peter Fritzen, who was heading the investigation.He was being interrogated by police and was to undergo a psychiatric examination, Fritzen said, adding that a doctor had recently reached the preliminary conclusion the man could be suffering from mental illness.“We have no indication that there was any kind of a terrorist, political or religious motive that could have played a role,” he told reporters.The suspect had also consumed a “not insignificant” quantity of alcohol before the incident and was well above the legal limit, he added.Mayor Wolfram Leibe, who was brought to tears during the day talking about the horrific scene, said it was difficult to come to grips with what had happened.“I can't understand how someone gets the idea to drive through the city centre with an SUV to kill people,” he said. “Kill people — a baby, 9 months old to a woman 72 years old; what did these people do? They just wanted to go to the city, shop, and now they are dead.”Four people were still in life-threatening danger in the hospital and five others suffered serious injuries, while another six had less serious injuries, state Interior Minister Roger Lewentz said. Police later said one of the injured succumbed, but provided no further details.The others killed were identified as a 25-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man from Trier; the baby's mother was among those hospitalized. Police said the oldest victim was aged 73.“This incident has shaken all of Germany,” Lewentz said.Police were called shortly before 2 p.m. with reports of the attack.Lewentz commended security forces on their reaction, saying that they had located the car, which had stopped at the side of the street, and taken the suspect into custody within four minutes of receiving the first call.The driver, who was alone in the car, resisted arrest but was overpowered by police, authorities said.In a video posted by a local media outlet purportedly showing the arrest, police could be seen pinning a man down on the sidewalk next to a car with Trier license plates. The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified and it was taken down shortly after police tweeted a request that people do not share photos and videos of the scene.Footage from the scene showed people outside a shop apparently helping someone on the ground lying among scattered debris.Rhineland-Palatinate state governor Malu Dreyer, who comes from Trier, condemned the attack as a “brutal act.”“It was a really, really terrible day for my hometown,” Dreyer told reporters after visiting the scene.Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, tweeted that the incident was “shocking.”“Our thoughts are with the relatives of those killed and with the numerous injured, and with everyone currently on duty caring for them,” he said.Trier is about 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of Frankfurt, near the border with Luxembourg. The city of about 110,000 people is known for its Roman gate, the Porta Nigra, which is near the scene of the incident, and as the birthplace of Karl Marx.___Geir Moulson contributed to this report.David Rising, The Associated Press
SASKATOON — Community associations in Saskatoon are being urged to take away nets at outdoor rinks to avoid groups from playing hockey. The provincial government and public-health officials recently suspended all team sports until Dec. 17 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. In a letter to community associations dated Nov. 30, the city says it sought clarification from the province about how the restriction applied to outdoor rinks. The city's letter says it was told that the ban on team sports applies to both indoor and outdoor rinks. It cites the province's public-health order that says organized or pickup hockey games during public skating times are not allowed and asks that hockey nets be removed.As a result, the city is strongly recommending that its community associations not leave out hockey nets that could be used while rinks are unsupervised. "These are recommendations and guidelines to protect the community and to try to address the spread of COVID," said Andrew Roberts, the city's director of recreational and community development. "We realize it's not a normal winter and that there (are) some sacrifices being made."Roberts noted that the public-health order is in place for three weeks and that the city's recommendation around outdoor hockey nets isn't mandatory. Even though team sports are prohibited, the province says athletes 18 and younger can still practise in groups of eight but must take precautions such as wearing masks. The Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association says on its website it checked with the city and nets will remain in place for practices. Health officials reported 181 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and said 123 people were in hospital. The Ministry of Health has said team sports were suspended for three weeks because the activities were leading to COVID-19 cases in schools and workplaces. Recently, health officials warned that nine players and one coach on a teenage hockey team tested positive for COVID-19, and other teams were self-isolating. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.— By Stephanie Taylor in ReginaThe Canadian Press
MILLBROOK — Cavan Monaghan Township residents from Cavan Ward were able to voice their opinions about off-road vehicles during a virtual public meeting on Monday. A total of 16 individuals signed up to speak for a maximum of three minutes, some who were for and some who were against the concept of ORVs on township roads in the Cavan Ward. Robert Winslow, the founder of 4th Line Theatre, was among the speakers. “I live at 779 Zion Line in Cavan Ward; fifth generation of my family on this property. I was born and raised on our farm which I retrofitted into a live outdoor theatre in 1992, almost 30 years ago,” he said. Winslow said that added noise from ORVs during performances will reduce the appeal of their theatre. “In a movie theatre you can ask the person who is talking in the row ahead of you or behind you to shush so you can enjoy the film properly. Our theatre patrons won’t have that option as ATVs, side-by-sides, or dirt bikes pass by the farm during our plays,” he said. In addition to the hazards of the winding, narrow, steep and shoulder components of the road, along with high speeds of cars, trucks, motorcycles and commercial industrial vehicles along the road, Winslow said, ORV traffic on his road could also be an added danger for both patrons arriving and leaving the theatre and as well as ORV operators. However, Garry Otten, a realtor at Century 21, said many people he deals with move to the region because of the recreational opportunity. “More so today with the pandemic, our ORV interest has gained popularity beyond belief,” he said. The value of many properties in the area will increase if council chooses to allow ORVs on municipal roads, Otten said. “Our location allows us the good fortune of being able to access a trail that could take us all the way to Bancroft. We could certainly use that extra business in this township and our businesses could use that extra business. I would hope our councillors recognize the benefits instead of all the fear mongering that’s taking place,” he said. Comments will be received by the township until Dec. 4. Staff will then summarize the comments and bring forward a report in early 2021 for council to make a final decision. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.comMarissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
GENEVA — The U.N. humanitarian office says needs for assistance have ballooned to unprecedented levels this year because of COVID-19, projecting that a staggering 235 million people will require help in 2021.This comes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and global challenges including conflicts, forced migration and the impact of global warming.The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, expects a 40% increase in the number of people in need of such assistance in 2021 compared to this year — a sign that pain, suffering and torment brought by the coronavirus outbreak and other problems could get worse even if hopes of a vaccine are rising.OCHA made the projections in its latest annual Global Humanitarian Overview on Tuesday, saying its hopes to reach 160 million of those people in need will cost $35 billion. That’s more than twice the record $17 billion that donors have provided for the international humanitarian response so far this year — and a target figure that is almost certain to go unmet.“The picture we’re painting this year is the bleakest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs we’ve ever set out, and that’s because the pandemic has reaped carnage across the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet,” said U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who heads OCHA.“For the first time since the 1990s, extreme poverty is going to increase, life expectancy will fall, the annual death toll from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria is set to double,” he said. “We fear a near doubling in the number of people facing starvation.”Lowcock told a U.N. briefing in New York on the overview that he thinks the U.N. appeal will probably raise a record $20 billion by the end of the year -- $2 billion more than last year. But he said the gap between needs and funding is growing and the U.N. is looking to “new players” coming on the scene in 2021, including U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration.The U.N. aims to reach about two-thirds of those in need, with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations trying to meet the rest, Lowcock explained.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said humanitarian aid budgets are now facing dire shortfalls as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, and said extreme poverty has risen for the first time in more than a generation.“The lives of people in every nation and corner of the world have been upended by the impact of the pandemic,” he said in a video statement. “Those already living on a knife’s edge are being hit disproportionately hard by rising food prices, falling incomes, interrupted vaccination programs and school closures.”The overview, which is billed as one of the most comprehensive looks of the world’s humanitarian needs, has put together nearly three dozen individual response plans for a total of 56 “vulnerable” countries.Lowcock said the biggest problem is in Yemen where there is danger of “a large-scale famine” now, saying a prime reason is lack of funding from Gulf countries that were major donors in the past which has led to cuts in aid and the closing of clinics.He said the biggest financial request is for the Syrian crisis and its spillover to neighbouring countries where millions of Syrians have fled to escape the more than nine-year conflict.OCHA said other countries in need include Afghanistan, Congo, Haiti, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine and Venezuela. Newcomers to this year’s list are Mozambique, where extremist activity has increased in the north, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.Lowcock said it’s not the pandemic, but its economic impact that’s having the greatest effect on humanitarian needs.“These all hit the poorest people in the poorest countries hardest of all,” he said. “For the poorest, the hangover from the pandemic will be long and hard.”Lowcock told the launch of the overview, speaking virtually from New York, that the world faces a clear choice.“We can let 2021 be the year of the grand reversal – the unravelling of 40 years of progress – or we can work together to make sure we all find a way out of this pandemic,” he said.___Lederer reported from the United NationsJamey Keaten And Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. — Outgoing North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker on Tuesday announced his bid to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr in 2022, a path the Republican indicated a year ago he'd pursue after his House district shifted to the left during an unscheduled redistricting.The quick entry of Walker, mere days after almost all North Carolina 2020 election results were finalized, may signal an attempt to make other big-name conservatives think hard before entering the race. Those include Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law and a North Carolina native.Burr announced years ago that his third six-year term would be his last.“I’m running for the United States Senate because serving others is my life, and I have the experience to fight and to win in Washington," Walker, 51, said in a campaign kickoff video on his website.A favourite of the Republican base, Walker is a Baptist minister who was first elected to Congress in 2014. He rose through the ranks and chaired the conservative Republican Study Committee. He made inroads working with African American lawmakers by working on efforts to promote historically Black colleges and universities. Black residents are featured prominently in his fast-paced four-minute video, recorded in downtown Greensboro.Walker had considered challenging Sen. Thom Tillis in the 2020 Republican primary, particularly after GOP activists aligned with Donald Trump questioned Tillis' allegiance to the president. But Walker declined, and two weeks later Trump endorsed Tillis for reelection.Walker said he had spoken to Trump about challenging Tillis, and that he would focus on winning another term in central North Carolina's 6th Congressional District.That calculus changed in late 2019 when the state legislature redrew all 13 U.S. House districts after judges ruled it was likely the previous map was tainted with extreme partisan bias favouring the GOP.The reworked 6th District made it likely that a Democrat would win the seat and Walker announced last December he wouldn't run for anything in 2020. Walker said in a phone interview Tuesday that Trump had told him previously he would back him in a 2022 Senate run, affirming what a Walker spokesperson said last year.Such an endorsement, if Trump gives it, could winnow the Republican field in North Carolina, where Trump twice earned the state’s electoral votes. His 2020 victory over Joe Biden by 1.3 percentage points, however, was less than half of his victory margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016.But any such commitment to Walker could be threatened if a family member of the president enters the race.A person close to Lara Trump, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss her thinking publicly, told The Associated Press that the president’s daughter-in-law has expressed interest in Burr’s seat in 2022 and is exploring a run.Lara Trump, 38, grew up in Wilmington and went to N.C. State University. She currently lives in New York with husband Eric Trump and their two children. She made frequent North Carolina campaign appearances for her father-in-law in both 2016 and 2020, connecting her to the state's GOP culture.Asked about the possibility of Lara Trump's candidacy, Walker told the AP “it’s not illegal for somebody to move to a state and establish a residence and run.” As for the president's endorsement, Walker said, “ultimately, that’s his call. But we would certainly appreciate the fact that if he was able to stay with that support, it certainly would mean a lot to us."His campaign website shows a photo of Walker with President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence in the Oval Office. Walker's video didn't mention Donald Trump by name but mentioned that his time in Congress included “taking on the swamp.” Walker's goal, he said, was “to be a conservative warrior and a bridge builder for all of our communities. And that’s exactly what we did.”Other Republicans who've said they'd consider Senate bids include former Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. George Holding of Raleigh, who also didn't seek reelection this year due to redistricting.On the Democratic side, state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost to Cal Cunningham in the 2020 primary for the seat held by Tillis, is already running in 2022. Other names in the mix include state Attorney General Josh Stein and Anthony Foxx, a former Charlotte mayor and U.S. transportation secretary.Official candidate filing for the March 2022 primaries begins in December 2021, but clearly candidates will have to gas up their campaign fundraising machines well before.Burr’s retirement will make the first open Senate seat in North Carolina since Democrat John Edwards didn’t run for reelection in 2004, when he instead was the vice-presidential nominee.Gary D. Robertson, The Associated Press
Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) opened its doors last week to a new primary care clinic located on reserve at the OKIB Health Centre. The new clinic is a partnership between Shuswap North Okanagan Division of Family Practice and Interior Health. The primary care clinic, which is open to OKIB members living both on and off-reserve, is an expansion to the existing facility but now providing patients with access to doctors. “There has been a need for a long time for these types of services,” says Chief Byron Louis of Okanagan Indian Band. “The idea has always been there, it’s based upon community growth.” OKIB, which is located at Inkumupulux (Head of Okanagan Lake), near Vernon, B.C., currently has 2030 members, with half of its members living on reserve. It’s the growing population that has fueled discussions of the need for a new primary care clinic. “We also have a growing need when we start looking at that,” says Louis. “Even with half of our population being non-reserve, but band members, you’re starting to get into the size of a small community.” The clinic is now open and accepting new patients via appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 p.m. The services available range from medical assessments, to diagnosis and treatment plans, diabetes and physical exams for newborns, seniors and elderly care. (See the full list here.) “It represents a new approach to providing health care services and access to doctors on OKIB reserve land. Now, OKIB members can receive care at all stages of life, right here in community,” Louis says. A healthcare system right at home in the community builds on pre-existing programs and services, but meets the needs of “the ageing population,” he explains. “It’s good that you’re able to provide a home base for your health care.”Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
If you’re looking for some exercise in the great outdoors, rest assured that cross country skiing options will be available aplenty this winter. And really, how can one social distance any better than in serene nature? SPIN has prepared a list of what’s open and what’s about to open. If you’re looking to get hyped for the winter, we recommend checking out this video of Skmana Ski and Snowshoe Club produced by Tourism Kamloops, it’s sure to get you stoked for the winter. Skmana Ski and Snowshoe Club Located in Chase, the area is now open to the public for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. All ski trails are “packed and tracked,” with the exception of Sunflower Trail, which is closed due to a lack of snow There are some hazards to be aware of, but overall it’s good to go. Sun Peaks Nordic Centre Sun Peaks Resort LLP’s (SPR) nordic trail system is open for business. The resort asks the public to ski with caution and respect terrain closures that are in place. Sun Peaks Nordic Centre is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. STAKE LAKE (25 km south of Kamloops) The Stake Lake Trails are accepting registration for the 2020/2021 season, but the trails are not yet open. On its website the Overlander Ski Club, which operates the 60km trail system, said they’re waiting for more snow and sustained colder temperatures. Give them a follow on Facebook (search Overlander Ski Club) for more updates. HARPER MOUNTAIN Harper Mountain has a tentative opening date of Dec. 12 for its operations. The mountain offers a three kilometre groomed trail that meanders through a forested area, and is great for both traditional cross country skiing and skate skiing. TELEMARK NORDIC CLUB The Telemark Nordic Club, located in West Kelowna, has an anticipated opening date of Dec. 5. The club recently delayed its opening due to a lack of snow, saying in the following: “We have a good base of snow, things are currently looking pretty white, and some people are already skiing and snowshoeing,” states the club’s website. “However, the base is too thin for us to do regular grooming of the trails without damaging them and making them unsafe. We just need one more good snowfall and we’ll be ready to open. Skiing and snowshoeing are possible right now but grooming will be limited and we will not have rentals or day passes available until Dec 5th.” They provided the following update at the start of the week: “We received two good snowfalls this week and we will be starting to pack the trails and do our final preparations for the coming winter. There is not enough snow yet to open officially but if this cool and snowy weather holds we anticipate being open and ready for member and public skiing by Saturday.” KELOWNA NORDIC This nordic skiing area got off to an early start, having opened on Nov. 11. They provided the following update on its website. “There has been a fair amount of snow over the past week and we have groomed approx 55 per cent of our trails. The ski tracker system has not been activated yet by the host so there is no live reporting. All car parks are plowed. Some of the lowest trails will not be re-groomed in order to preserve snow and avoid bringing up dirt. The upper trails are good but may be soft for skating. Watch for sticks, rocks, dirt and open water. The groomer will be on the trails in daylight hours in order to see any hazards. Watch and listen for it. Snowshoeing is good.” Sovereign Lake Sovereign Lake, located near SilverStar Resort, is open. You can see a full list of the trail that are open here. Rates for skiing can be found here. Big White Nordic Big White’s nordic trails are open for business.Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
From Halifax to Toronto to Calgary to Vancouver, there are plenty of ways to safety enjoy the simple pleasure of Christmas lights.
Last week, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced his top cabinet picks, and selected Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Melanie Mark as the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. Mark holds the distinction of being the first First Nations woman to serve in the B.C. Legislature. She was elected to the riding in 2016 and previously served as the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, before being given this new assignment. Mark’s appointment was heralded by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). “We look forward to working closely with Melanie Mark, the new Minister of Tourism, Arts Culture and Sport to tackle the significant challenges facing the industry, and ultimately moving the sector down the path to economic recovery,” said TOTA President and chief executive officer Glenn Mandziuk. Mandziuk is currently serving as the chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat. The organization is a collaboration between the province’s regional destination management organizations and is giving key input on the province’s tourism recovery plan. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
Police in Hamilton say they are investigating after a protest group left a coffin outside the home of the city's mayor on Monday night. The force says the coffin, which was filled with flowers and naloxone kits, was placed outside Mayor Fred Eisenberger's residence by members of the Defund Hamilton Police group. Group members say the coffin was meant to draw attention to homelessness and overdoses in the city. "So many people die on the street due to the inaction by the City of Hamilton and by the mayor," member Sabriena Dahab said Tuesday. The group has been calling for police funds to be redirected to deal with what they say is a housing crisis in the city. Dahab said the coffin was placed outside the mayor's home after he refused to have a public meeting on the matter. The mayor's office did not immediately respond to request for comment. Since January, paramedics have responded to 487 incidents related to suspected opioid overdoses in Hamilton, city data indicates. Another group member said the coffin incident was also a response to police's removal and disposal of fellow protester's tents outside city hall. "Many people lost their belongings," said member Koubra Haggar. The encampment had been set up last week as part of the group's effort to push for police funds to be reallocated. Last week, Hamilton police said they charged the group's organizer with failure to comply with provincial limits on outdoor gatherings. There were between 80 to 100 people outside city hall that day, police said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press
AMOS-Les maires d’une quinzaine de municipalités de la MRC d’Abitibi font front commun pour dénoncer la décision du Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue de fermer la plupart des points de service situés dans les petites municipalités de la région. En point de presse, les maires de la MRC ont qualifié d’«unilatérale» la décision du CISSAT. «Ils nous ont mis devant le fait accompli, a déclaré le maire de Preissac, Donald Rheault. On a rencontré la PDG du CISSSAT, Caroline Roy, qui nous a désignés comme partenaires pour le maintien des services de santé dans la région. Sauf que normalement, un partenaire a son mot à dire dans les circonstances.» Des citoyens lésés M. Rheault dit comprendre que le contexte est difficile dans le domaine de la santé, et qu’il y a des choix à faire. Dans ce cas particulier, pour lui, les décisions viennent carrément léser les citoyens des petites municipalités. «Ça nuit à nos citoyens à plus d’un chef, dit le maire de Preissac. Les gens doivent faire plus de 40 km pour des services de suivi, des prises de sang, etc. De plus, la plupart de ces municipalités réservent des locaux dans leurs infrastructures pour offrir ces services. Est-ce qu’on jour, ces services vont revenir dans nos localités? Parfois, la pandémie et la pénurie de main-d’œuvre ont le dos large.» M. Rheault voit aussi une certaine contradiction entre les décisions du CISSS et ses recommandations. «Cette situation pénalise de nombreuses personnes avec des besoins spécifiques, notamment nos aînés et les gens avec des problèmes de santé. En raison de la pandémie, ceux-ci doivent éviter le plus possible les déplacements et les contacts physiques. Devoir se déplacer à l’hôpital, à Amos, loin de leur demeure, représente un immense risque pour eux.» Des discussions Les maires estiment que s’ils avaient été consultés, ils auraient pu amener des solutions qui auraient eu des impacts moins lourds dans les municipalités rurales de la région. «Tout ce que cette réorganisation a pu donner comme récupération, ce sont deux postes ÉTC (équivalent tems complet), affirme le maire d’Amos, Sébastien D’Astous. Nous connaissons bien nos municipalités, et en ce sens, peut-être aurions nous pu apporter des solutions qui n’auraient pas mené à des coupures aussi drastiques.» Le CISSS-AT souffre toujours d’une pénurie criante d’infirmières sur son territoire. Actuellement, 20% des postes d’infirmière sont à pourvoir pour l’ensemble du territoire, et on a de plus en plus recours à des employées en agence, ce qui provoque un déficit anticipé avoisinant les 30 M$ pour l’exercice budgétaire actuel. La décision de l’instance régionale a aussi reçu un accueil plutôt tiède sur le territoire du Témiscamingue, qui compte lui aussi plusieurs petites municipalités éloignées des grands pôles.Michel Ducas, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
Le bilan lavallois est désormais de 756 cas actifs selon les données émises par le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de Laval. Cela signifie que le territoire connait une hausse de 54 cas actifs par rapport à la veille. Le total de décès augmente à 726 depuis le début de la pandémie. 120 tests positifs ont été effectués dans les 24 dernières heures. Ainsi, depuis le mois de mars, 11 584 citoyens lavallois ont été affectés par le virus. Parmi les personnes touchées par la COVID-19, 23 sont présentement hospitalisées, dont 5 aux soins intensifs. 29 employés de l’organisation de santé sont toujours absents du travail en raison de la COVID-19. Chomedey a été durement touché par la nouvelle mise à jour des données. On y compte 45 cas de plus que la veille. Il demeure le quartier le plus touché de Laval avec 337 cas confirmés et un taux d'infection de 358 cas par 100 000 habitants sur les 14 derniers jours. Duvernay/Saint-François/Saint-Vincent-de-Paul a aussi été particulièrement affecté lors des dernières 24 heures. Ce secteur ajoute 22 cas à son total. Fabreville-Est/Sainte-Rose suit avec 15 nouvelles personnes touchées. De leur côté, Pont-Viau/Renaud-Coursol/Laval-des-Rapides et Sainte-Dorothée/Laval-Ouest/Laval-Les Îles/Fabreville-Ouest/Laval-sur-le-Lac comptent 13 nouveaux cas confirmés sur leur territoire respectif. Vimont/Auteuil constate la plus petite augmentation de l'île Jésus avec huit nouvelles personnes infectées. Il est d'ailleurs le secteur lavallois qui s'en tire le mieux au cours des deux dernières semaines. 109 personnes touchées et un taux d'infection de 173 cas par 100 000 habitants y ont été dénombrés sur cette même période. *** Prendre note que tel qu’indiqué sur le site Web du CISSS de Laval, ces données par secteur incluent l’ensemble des cas des citoyens testés positifs à la COVID-19, qu’ils résident dans des milieux fermés ou ailleurs dans la communauté. Les milieux fermés incluent des milieux de vie comme les centres d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD), les résidences privées pour aînés (RPA), les ressources intermédiaires (RI), ainsi que les centres correctionnels. Les données présentées sont calculées en fonction du lieu de résidence. Le CISSS tarde à déterminer le foyer de 71 cas jusqu’ici.Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
A delegate to the recent Nipawin council meeting is requesting work be done to improve the tennis courts in Nipawin. Craig Decker with the Nimbledon Tennis Club presented to the Nipawin council during their meeting on Nov. 30 about the state of the two tennis courts at LP Miller Comprehensive. According to the report presented by Decker, the club is borderline unplayable. “Despite the poor condition of the courts, the courts are frequently used. However, it is our position that usage would significantly increase were the courts to be refurbished,” reported Decker. The club has about 20 active members and has been doing as much maintenance themselves as they are able, including the cleaning and weed removal on the court and painting the tennis lines onto the court. “The Nimbledon TC is passionate about tennis, and they have not shied away from spending both their time and money on prepping the courts for the summer season,” reported Decker during the meeting. Looking into some of the larger expenses and more in depth repairs to the court, Decker has received a quote for $60,000 for the asphalt and resurfacing and about $7,000 for a new net. To rebuild the court entirely would be around $250,000 to $300,000. Chelsea Corrigan, the parks and recreation director, said the town contributed to cleaning and weed removal in the past few years and replacing the courts, including finding a more suitable location, has been on the town’s radar for a number of years. While she rarely sees the courts in use, she does admit that that could be because of the current state of the courts. “That's not new to us, [the courts] definitely are in bad condition. (The Parks and Rec department) has been looking into new courts for a number of years and looking at a multi-sport court. It is great that a group of individuals are interested in a new court in Nipawin.” The club would like to expand its programming to youth and junior programs and singles and double leagues, Decker said, and recruitment for these programs would be made much easier with upgrades to the courts.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist