(Leah Mills/Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters - image credit) Donald Trump's actions will take centre stage in a Vancouver courtroom this week as Meng Wanzhou's lawyers try to prove the former U.S. president poisoned extradition proceedings against the Huawei executive. The case should be tossed out because of alleged political interference, Meng's lawyers are expected to argue at the first of three sets of B.C. Supreme Court hearings scheduled to stretch into mid-May. A decision on the extradition request isn't expected until much later this year. The 49-year-old, who is Huawei's chief financial officer, is charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC banker in Hong Kong in 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The arguments related to the former president concern a statement he made to a Reuters reporter in the weeks after Meng's arrest at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018. At the time, Trump said he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary to help the U.S. reach a trade deal with China. Charter rights argument could be 'decider' The Crown — which represents the U.S. in the proceeding — contends there's no evidence Trump made good on his words and that any possible influence he could have had on the case ended along with his term in office. University of B.C. professor Michael Byers, an expert on international law, says he doubts the defence team will have much success convincing Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes the U.S. Department of Justice has been swayed by political considerations. Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of the telecommunications giant. She is accused of fraud and conspiracy. But he does think they'll have a better shot in the coming weeks with claims Meng's rights were breached on her arrival when Canada Border Services Agency officers questioned her for three hours before RCMP executed a warrant calling for her "immediate arrest." "That three-hour period could well have constituted a violation of her Section 7 rights to security of the person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "And so if the extradition judge is to rule that Ms. Meng should be set free, my expectation is that it's that particular element of the case that will be the decider." Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, the man who became a billionaire by turning his global communications giant into a flagship business prized by the Chinese state. Meng's legal team includes lawyers from firms across Canada. And her case is being spearheaded by Vancouver's Richard Peck, of Peck and Company. Strategy to have case thrown out Along with arguments about Trump's role, the allegations related to Meng's treatment by the CBSA are part of a multi-pronged defence strategy to have the proceedings stayed. Meng's lawyers also claim the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of its case and that American prosecutors are reaching far beyond their jurisdiction by trying a Chinese citizen for a conversation that took place in Hong Kong with an executive for an English bank. Meng Wanzhou's lawyers are expected to claim her charter rights were violated during her first few hours in CBSA custody. Holmes will hear submissions about the events surrounding Meng's arrest during the second stretch of hearings, scheduled to begin in mid-March. The defence claims the CBSA conspired with the RCMP and CBSA to have border agents question Meng without a lawyer. They also seized her cellphones and later gave the passcodes to police, in contravention of policy. The defence has accused the RCMP of sending technical information from Meng's electronic devices to the Americans. A senior officer who was in touch with a legal attache for the FBI has refused to testify — and last month, Meng's lawyers announced their intention to try to force the Crown to disclose their communication with him about that decision. 'An irritant' in U.S.-China relationship In court documents filed in advance of this week's hearing, Meng's lawyers cited comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about a need to tie a trade deal between the U.S and China to the resolution of Meng's situation and the fate of two Canadians imprisoned in China. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor have been accused of spying by the Chinese government in what most observers believe is retaliation for Meng's arrest. Michael Kovrig, left, and Michael Spavor, right, were arrested by China in the wake of charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. U.S. President Joe Biden has called for their release. The Crown doesn't make any mention of the so-called "two Michaels" in its submissions, but the defence claims the constellation of factors riding on the case has made it extremely difficult for Meng to defend herself without worrying about the impact on others. U.S. President Joe Biden called on China to release Kovrig and Spavor last week following a bilateral meeting with Trudeau, saying "human beings are not bartering chips." Byers believes Biden may decide to bring an end to efforts to extradite Meng in the coming months as he looks to improve the U.S. relationship with China. "It is in the hands of the Biden administration to end this case. And the Biden administration will be in the process now of resetting the relationship between the United States and China. That is a hugely important relationship, for economic reasons, for security reasons. "Those two superpowers need to get along. They need to get things done. And Ms. Meng's presence in Vancouver is an irritant in that relationship." To that end, reports by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters last December claimed Meng was in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice to bring an end to the case through a deal that would see her admit to some wrongdoing in exchange for a deferred prosecution agreement. In an exclusive interview with CBC's chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any deal would have to be made free of geopolitical considerations. "We follow the law. We follow the facts. "And one of the things that we don't do is have politics or foreign policy interfere in the workings of the Justice Department."
The U.S. Senate will start debating President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday after Democrats backed down from an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 as part of it. The backpedaling did not end hopes of addressing the minimum wage issue in Congress. Democrats and some Republicans have voiced support for the idea of raising the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 an hour, for the first time since 2009, although they disagree on how much.
As Bolivia struggled late last year to secure deals with large drug firms to supply COVID-19 vaccines, the incoming president, Luis Arce, turned to Russia for help. By the end of December, Bolivia clinched its first major COVID-19 vaccine deal, with enough shots for some 20% of the population. The first Sputnik V doses arrived in the country in late January, just as virus cases were spiking.
NEW DELHI — India is expanding its coronavirus vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. Among the first to receive a vaccine on Monday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those now eligible include anyone older than 60, as well as those over 45 who have ailments such as heart disease or diabetes that make them vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness. The shots will be given for free at government hospitals and will also be sold at over 10,000 private hospitals at a fixed price of 250 rupees, or $3.40, per shot. But the rollout of one of the world's largest vaccination drives has been sluggish. Amid signs of hesitancy among the first groups offered the vaccine, Modi, who is 70, got a shot at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science. He received the vaccine produced by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech — which has been met with particular skepticism. He appealed for all to get vaccinated, tweeting afterward, “together, let us make India COVID-19 free!” The drive, which began in January in the country of 1.4 billion people, has recently taken on even more urgency, since new infections have begun to increase again after months of consistent decline, and scientists have detected worrisome variants of the virus that they fear could hasten infections or render vaccines or treatments less useful. Scores of elderly people started lining up outside private hospitals on Monday morning. Sunita Kapoor was among them, waiting for a vaccine with her husband. She said that they had been staying at home and not meeting people for months to stay safe from the virus — and were looking forward to being able to socialize a bit more. “We are excited,” said Kapoor, 63. Many said that they had struggled with the online system for registering and then waited in line for hours before receiving the vaccine — problems that other countries have also experienced. Dr. Giridhar R. Babu, who studies epidemics at the Public Health Foundation of India, said that long waits for the elderly were a concern since they could pick up infections, including COVID-19, at hospitals. “The unintended effect might be that they get COVID when they go to get the vaccine,” he said. Even though India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs, things haven't gone according to plan. Of the 10 million health care workers that the government had initially wanted to immunize, only 6.6 million have gotten the first shot of the two-dose vaccines and 2.4 million have gotten both. Of its estimated 20 million front-line workers, such as police or sanitation workers, only 5.1 million have been vaccinated so far. Dr. Gagangdeep Kang, an infectious diseases expert at Christian Medical College Vellore in southern India, said the hesitancy by health workers highlights the paucity of information available about the vaccines. If health workers are reticent, “you seriously think that the common public is going to walk up for the vaccine?” she said. Vaccinating more people quickly is a major priority for India, especially now that infections are rising again. The country has recorded more than 11 million cases, second in the world behind the United States, and over 157,000 deaths. The government had set a target of immunizing 300 million people, nearly the total U.S. population, by August. The spike in infections in India is most pronounced in the western state of Maharashtra, where the number of active cases has nearly doubled to over 68,000 in the past two weeks. Lockdowns and other restrictions have been reimposed in some areas, and the state's chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, has warned that another wave of cases is “knocking on our door.” Similar surges have been reported from states in all corners of the massive country: Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir in the north, Gujarat in the west, West Bengal in the east, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in central India, and Telangana in the south. Top federal officials have asked authorities in those states to increase the speed of vaccinations in districts where cases are surging, and to track clusters of infections and monitor variants. “There is a sense of urgency because of the mutants and because cases are going up,” said Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India. He said that the consistent dip in cases over months resulted in a “reduced threat perception,” leading to vaccine hesitancy. “The (vaccination) drive began when perception was that the worst was over, so people were more hesitant,” Reddy said. Others have also pointed out that the reticence to get vaccinated was amplified, at least in part, by the government's opaque decision making while greenlighting vaccines. But experts say that allowing private hospitals to administer the shots — which began with this new phase of the campaign — should improve access. India's health care system is patchy, and in many small cities people depend on private hospitals for their medical needs. Still, problems remain. India had rolled out online software to keep track of the shots and recipients, but the system was prone to glitches and delays. The federal government will decide which hospitals get which vaccine and people will not have a choice between the AstraZeneca vaccine or the Bharat Biotech one, confirmed Dr. Amar Fettle, the nodal COVID-19 officer for southern Indian state Kerala. The latter got the go-ahead by Indian regulators in January before trials testing the shot's effectiveness at preventing illness were completed. But opening up the campaign to private hospitals may allow the rich to “shop” around for places that are providing the AstraZeneca vaccine — an option that poorer people wouldn't have, said Dr. Anant Bhan, who studies medical ethics. India now hopes to quickly ramp up vaccinations. But the country will likely continue to see troughs and peaks of infections, and the key lesson is that the pandemic won't end until enough people have been vaccinated for the spread of the virus to slow, said Jishnu Das, a health economist at Georgetown University who advises West Bengal state on the virus response. “Don’t use a trough to declare success and say it's over,” he said. ___ Associated Press journalists Krutika Pathi and Rishabh Jain contributed to this report. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press
(Shutterstock / ehrlif - image credit) Three Fraser Valley churches will be in court Monday seeking to overturn provincial health orders barring in-person religious gatherings. The orders were put in place by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry last year as a way to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and were last extended on Feb.10. In January, pastors with Langley's Riverside Calvary Chapel, Abbotsford's Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack filed a petition claiming Henry had violated their guaranteed constitutional right to expression and religious worship by shutting down all in-person religious gatherings and worship services while allowing restaurants and businesses to remain open. A response filed by the provincial government said even though there is "no question that restrictions on gatherings to avoid transmission of [COVID-19] limit rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," the limits were justified. "Rights and freedoms under the charter are not absolute," the response reads. "Protection of the vulnerable from death or severe illness and protection of the health-care system from being swamped by an out-of-control pandemic is also clearly of constitutional importance." Last month the government went to court asking for an interlocutory injunction to stop the churches from flouting the health orders in the period leading up to the March hearing. But the chief justice of British Columbia's Supreme Court dismissed the application, saying there were other remedies available to enforce the orders without the court getting involved. "To be clear, I am not condoning the petitioners' conduct in contravention of the orders that they challenge, but find that the injunctive relief sought by the respondents should not be granted," wrote Justice Christopher Hinkson.
Celebrity birthdays for the week of March 7-13: March 7: TV personality Willard Scott (“Today”) is 87. Actor Daniel J. Travanti (“Hill Street Blues”) is 81. Bassist Chris White of The Zombies is 78. Singer Peter Wolf of The J. Geils Band is 75. Keyboardist Matthew Fisher of Procol Harum is 75. Guitarist Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers is 69. Actor Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) is 65. Actor Donna Murphy (“Mercy Street,” ?Murder One”) is 62. Actor Nick Searcy (“Justified”) is 62. Actor Mary Beth Evans (“Days of Our Lives”) is 60. Singer Taylor Dayne is 59. Actor Bill Brochtrup (“Major Crimes,” ?NYPD Blue”) is 58. Opera singer Denyce Graves is 57. Comedian Wanda Sykes is 57. Actor Jonathan Del Arco (“Major Crimes”) is 55. Drummer Randy Guss of Toad The Wet Sprocket is 54. Actor Rachel Weisz (WYS) is 50. Actor Peter Sarsgaard (“Kinsey,” ?Garden State”) is 50. Actor Jay Duplass (“The Mindy Project”) is 48. Singer Sebastien Izambard of Il Divo is 48. Singer Hugo Ferreira of Tantric is 47. Actor Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) is 47. Actor Tobias Menzies (“Outlander,” ?Game of Thrones”) is 47. Actor Audrey Marie Anderson (“The Unit”) is 46. Actor TJ Thyne (“Bones”) is 46. Actor Laura Prepon (“Orange Is The New Black,” ?That ’70s Show”) is 41. Actor Bel Powley (Film: “Diary of a Teenage Girl”) is 29. Actor Giselle Eisenberg (“Life in Pieces”) is 24. March 8: Jazz saxophonist George Coleman is 86. Actor Sue Ane Langdon is 85. Songwriter Carole Bayer Sager is 77. Actor-director Micky Dolenz of The Monkees is 76. Bassist Randy Meisner (The Eagles, Poco) is 75. Singer Peggy March is 73. Jazz pianist Billy Childs is 64. Singer Gary Numan is 63. NBC News anchor Lester Holt is 62. Actor Aidan Quinn is 62. Guitarist Jimmy Dormire (Confederate Railroad) is 61. Actor Camryn Manheim (“The Practice”) is 60. Actor Leon (“Cool Runnings”) is 60. Singer Shawn Mullins is 53. Actor Andrea Parker (“Less Than Perfect”) is 51. Actor Boris Kodjoe (“Code Black,” ?Madea’s Family Reunion”) is 48. Actor Freddie Prinze Jr. is 45. Actor Laura Main (“Call the Midwife”) is 44. Actor James Van Der Beek (“CSI: Cyber,” ?Dawson’s Creek”) is 44. Singer Kameelah Williams of 702 is 43. Actor Nick Zano (“Minority Report,” ?2 Broke Girls”) is 43. Singer Tom Chaplin of Keane is 42. Guitarist Andy Ross of OK Go is 42. Singer Kristinia DeBarge is 31. March 9: Singer Lloyd Price is 88. Actor Joyce Van Patten is 87. Country singer Mickey Gilley is 85. Actor Trish Van Devere is 80. Singer John Cale (The Velvet Underground) is 79. Singer Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders is 79. TV anchor Charles Gibson is 78. Guitarist Robin Trower (Procol Harum) is 76. Singer Jeffrey Osborne is 73. Guitarist Jimmie Fadden of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is 73. Actor Linda Fiorentino (“Men In Black”) is 63. Actor Tom Amandes (“Eli Stone,” ?Parenthood”) is 62. Guitarist Rusty Hendrix of Confederate Railroad is 61. Actor Juliette Binoche (“Chocolat,” ?The English Patient”) is 57. Bassist Robert Sledge of Ben Folds Five is 53. Drummer Shannon Leto of 30 Seconds To Mars is 51. Rapper C-Murder (aka C-Miller) is 50. Actor Emmanuel Lewis (“Webster”) is 50. Actor Jean Louisa Kelly (“Yes, Dear,” ?Mr. Holland’s Opus”) is 49. Actor Kerr Smith (“Life Unexpected,” ?Dawson’s Creek”) is 49. Actor Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) is 42. Comedian Jordan Klepper (“The Daily Show”) is 42. Rapper Chingy is 41. Actor Matthew Gray Gubler (“Criminal Minds”) is 41. Guitarist Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory is 40. Keyboardist Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes is 38. Actor Brittany Snow (“American Dreams,” ?Hairspray”) is 35. Rapper Bow Wow is 34. Rapper YG is 31. Actor Luis Armand Garcia (“George Lopez”) is 29. Actor Cierra Ramirez (“The Fosters”) is 26. March 10: Country talk show host Ralph Emery is 88. Bluegrass musician Norman Blake is 83. Actor Chuck Norris is 81. Singer Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean is 81. Actor Katharine Houghton (“Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?”) is 79. Actor Richard Gant is 77. Guitarist Tom Scholz of Boston is 74. TV personality-businesswoman Barbara Corcoran (“Shark Tank”) is 72. Actor Aloma Wright (“Scrubs”) is 71. Singer-guitarist Gary Louris of The Jayhawks is 66. Actor Shannon Tweed is 64. Actor Sharon Stone is 63. Bassist Gail Greenwood of L7 (and of Belly) is 61. Magician Lance Burton is 61. Actor Jasmine Guy is 59. Bassist Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam is 58. Music producer Rick Rubin is 58. Singer Edie Brickell is 55. Actor Stephen Mailer (“Reversal of Fortune”) is 55. Actor Philip Anthony-Rodriguez (“Grimm”) is 53. Actor Paget Brewster (“Criminal Minds”) is 52. Actor Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) is 50. Rapper-producer Timbaland is 49. Actor Cristian de la Fuente is 47. Guitarist Jerry Horton of Papa Roach is 46. Actor Jeff Branson (“The Young and the Restless”) is 44. Singer Robin Thicke is 44. Actor Bree Turner (“Grimm”) is 44. Singer Michael Barnes of Red is 42. Actor Edi Gathegi (“Twilight” films) is 42. Bassist Matt Asti of MGMT is 41. Actor Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) is 39. Singer Carrie Underwood is 38. Actor Olivia Wilde is 37. Singer Emeli Sande is 34. Country singer Rachel Reinert is 32. Keyboardist Jared Hampton of LANCO is 30. Actor Emily Osment (“Hannah Montana”) is 29. March 11: TV journalist Sam Donaldson is 87. Accordionist Flaco Jimenez of Texas Tornadoes is 82. Actor Tricia O’Neil (“Genghis Khan”) is 76. Actor Mark Metcalf (“Animal House”) is 75. Singer Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge is 74. Singer Bobby McFerrin is 71. Movie director Jerry Zucker (“Airplane!” ?Ghost”) is 71. Singer Cheryl Lynn is 70. Actor Susan Richardson (“Eight Is Enough”) is 69. Recording executive Jimmy Iovine (“American Idol”) is 68. Country singer Jimmy Fortune of The Statler Brothers is 66. Singer Nina Hagen is 66. Actor Elias Koteas (“Chicago P.D.”) is 60. Actor Peter Berg (“Chicago Hope”) is 59. Actor Jeffrey Nordling (“Desperate Housewives”) is 59. Actor Alex Kingston (“ER”) is 58. Actor Wallace Langham (“CSI”) is 56. Actor John Barrowman (“Arrow”) is 54. Singer Lisa Loeb is 53. Keyboardist Al Gamble of St. Paul and the Broken Bones is 52. Singer Pete Droge is 52. Actor Terrence Howard (“Empire”) is 52. Actor Johnny Knoxville is 50. Musicians Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte are 42. Actor David Anders (“iZombie,” ?The Vampire Diaries”) is 40. Singer LeToya Luckett (Destiny’s Child) is 40. Actor Thora Birch (“Ghost World,” ?American Beauty”) is 39. TV personality Melissa Rycroft is 38. Actor Rob Brown (“Blindspot,” “Treme”) is 37. Actor Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”) is 28. March 12: Actor Barbara Feldon (“Get Smart”) is 88. Actor-singer Liza Minnelli is 75. Singer-songwriter James Taylor is 73. Singer Bill Payne of Little Feat is 72. Actor Jon Provost (TV: “Lassie”) is 71. Bassist Steve Harris of Iron Maiden is 65. Actor Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”) is 65. Singer Marlon Jackson of The Jackson Five is 64. Actor Courtney B. Vance is 61. Actor Titus Welliver (“Deadwood”) is 59. Actor Julia Campbell (“Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion”) is 58. Actor Jake Weber (TV’s “Medium,” film’s “Dawn of the Dead”) is 58. Actor Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) is 53. Guitarist Graham Coxon of Blur is 52. Drummer Tommy Bales of Flynnville Train is 48. Actor Rhys Coiro (“Hostages,” “Entourage”) is 42. Country singer Holly Williams is 40. Actor Samm Levine (“Freaks and Geeks”) is 39. Actor Jaimie Alexander (TV’s “Blindspot”) is 37. Actor Tyler Patrick Jones (“Ghost Whisperer”) is 27. Actor Kendall Applegate (“Desperate Housewives”) is 22. March 13: Jazz drummer Roy Haynes is 96. Songwriter Mike Stoller is 88. Singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka is 82. Singer Candi Staton is 81. Actor William H. Macy is 71. Comedian Robin Duke is 67. Actor Dana Delaney (“Body of Proof” ?China Beach”) is 65. Bassist Adam Clayton of U2 is 61. Jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard is 59. Drummer Matt McDonough of Mudvayne is 52. Actor Annabeth Gish (“The West Wing,” ?The X-Files”) is 50. Actor Tracy Wells (“Mr. Belvedere”) is 50. Rapper Common is 49. Rapper Khujo of Goodie Mob is 49. Singer Glenn Lewis is 46. Actor Danny Masterson (“That ’70s Show”) is 45. Musicians Natalie and Nicole Albino of Nina Sky are 37. Actor Noel Fisher (“Shameless”) is 37. Actor Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”) is 36. The Associated Press
(Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit) Flavoured vape and e-cigarette products are now banned on Prince Edward Island. The regulation changes are part of a private members bill from PC MLA Cory Deagle, which received unanimous support from the legislature in 2019. "The only flavour you'll be able to use would be tobacco flavoured so all those other flavours will be gone," Deagle said. "This is probably one of the biggest steps that we're going to see trying to get rid of, or at least reduce, the amount of youth that are vaping." 'Reverse the trend' P.E.I. has already made two other changes to the Tobacco and Electronic Smoking Devices Sales and Access Act as part of Deagle's bill. Effective March 2020, the age of access for tobacco and vaping products increased to 21, and the points of purchase became more regulated — with products only available through vape shops and tobacconists. "Obviously the age was big, and restricting the access to it was big as well. But the flavours are, I think, clearly what draws youth to it and keeps them on the product as well as being addicted to nicotine," Deagle said. "Really the flavours is what keeps them coming back." Manager J-K Thorne said Wild Impulse carries more than 45 flavours for vaping, but as of March 1st, they will only be able to sell ones that are tobacco flavoured, flavourless or labelled clear. Deagle received some online threats when the bill was being discussed in the legislature in November 2019. "With the flavour ban coming, I imagine that I'll probably receive a bit more criticism, that's to be expected, but hopefully it won't be what we saw when I first passed the bill," Deagle said. "I understand that some people might be upset. I believe this is the right thing to do. Despite that criticism, hopefully it stays respectful, and and it doesn't translate into threats or anything like that." Deagle's bill received unanimous support from the legislature in 2019, to crack down on nicotine use among young people. Six months notice Vendors were notified of the upcoming ban on flavoured products in August 2020, in a letter distributed by the Department of Health and Wellness. The letter said the department believed that with six month advance notice, "tobacconist shops have sufficient time to deplete their inventory of flavoured electronic smoking device products". Wild Impulse manager J-K Thorne said some customers stocked up on the flavours, but others will be turning elsewhere. At Wild Impulse in Charlottetown, the shelves were still full of flavoured products on Friday afternoon, with the ban just days away. Manager J-K Thorne said the store carries more than 45 flavours for vaping, but as of March 1st, they will only be able to sell ones that are tobacco flavoured, flavourless or labelled clear. "Customers are a little disappointed. They feel that they have something to lean on if they wanted to get off cigarettes," Thorne said. "They found that the tobacco flavour actually reminded them of cigarettes, but it wasn't good enough, and it actually brought them back to buying cigarettes, which is a little unfortunate." At Wild Impulse in Charlottetown, the shelves were still full of flavoured products on Friday afternoon, with the ban just days away. Thorne said some customers stocked up on the flavours, but others will be turning elsewhere. "They also said that they'll be looking online, to get it shipped here," Thorne said. "So it's taking some customers away as well, which is a little disappointing." Important step The co-ordinator of the P.E.I. Lung Association, Julia Hartley, called the ban on flavours a "really important step." According to the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey in 2018-2019, 39.3 per cent of Island teens in grades 10 to 12 had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. The co-ordinator of the P.E.I. Lung Association, Julia Hartley, called the ban on flavours a 'really important step'. "We know that flavoured products are a huge driver for youth. We know that youth between the ages 12 and 20 are using these products in a huge way," Hartley said, referring to a survey conducted by the Lung Association and Heart and Stroke, of more than 800 youth across Canada. "We found that 95 percent of those youth prefer the flavoured product, and of those participants, 50 percent said that they would quit if the products were no longer available." "So we think that this is going to have a huge impact on our youth." According to the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey in 2018-2019, 39.3 per cent of Island teens in grades 10 to12 had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days As a next step, Hartley would like to see the provincial government increase the prices of vaping products and e-cigarettes. "These products, although they do have the flavours removed, are still very, very cheap," Hartley said. "So what we would like to see is a 20 percent tax, at least, on vaping products, be implemented by the provincial government to ensure that these products are not affordable for youth, and to deter initiation, as well as encourage current smokers to quit." Lead the country Deagle said he hopes the changes on P.E.I. will inspire other provinces to take similar actions. "I think it went quite far, it'll be some of the strictest regulations in Canada," Deagle said. "I realize that this isn't going to eliminate youth vaping overnight, but hopefully over the next two, three, four years, that will start to be able to reverse the trend of the staggering increase of the amount of youth that are vaping." More P.E.I. news
PARIS — A Paris court on Monday found French former President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced him to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence. The 66-year-old politician, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted for having tried to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved. The court said Sarkozy will be entitled to request to be detained at home with an electronic bracelet. Sarkozy will face another trial later this month along with 13 other people on charges of illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below. The verdict is expected on Monday in a landmark corruption and influence-peddling trial that has put French former President Nicolas Sarkozy at risk of a prison sentence if he is convicted. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, firmly denied all the allegations against him during the 10-day trial that took place at the end of last year. The 66-year-old politician is suspected of having tried to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved. This is the first time in France’s modern history that a former president has gone on trial for corruption. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty in 2011 of misuse of public money and given a two-year suspended prison sentence for actions during his time as Paris mayor. Sarkozy’s co-defendants — his lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog, 65, and now-retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 74 — also deny wrongdoing. Prosecutors have requested two years of prison and a two-year suspended sentence for all three defendants over what they said was a “corruption pact.” “No pact has ever existed,” Sarkozy told the court. “Neither in my head, nor in reality.” “I want to be cleared of that infamy,” he added. The trial focused on phone conversations that took place in February 2014. At the time, investigative judges had launched an inquiry into the financing of the 2007 presidential campaign. During the investigation they incidentally discovered that Sarkozy and Herzog were communicating via secret mobile phones registered to the alias “Paul Bismuth.” Conversations wiretapped on these phones led prosecutors to suspect Sarkozy and Herzog of promising Azibert a job in Monaco in exchange for leaking information about another legal case, known by the name of France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. In one of these phone calls with Herzog, Sarkozy said of Azibert : “I’ll make him move up ... I’ll help him.” In another, Herzog reminded Sarkozy to “say a word” for Azibert during a trip to Monaco. Legal proceedings against Sarkozy have been dropped in the Bettencourt case. Azibert never got the Monaco job. Prosecutors have concluded, however, that the “clearly stated promise” constitutes in itself a corruption offence under French law, even if the promise wasn't fulfilled. Sarkozy vigorously denies any malicious intention. He told the court that his political life was all about “giving (people) a little help. That all it is, a little help.” “I was 100 billion miles away from thinking we were doing something we did not have the right to do,” he said. Sarkozy said he did not get confidential information from Azibert. Prosecutors believe Sarkozy was at some point informed that the secret phones were being wiretapped and that it is the reason why he did not ultimately help Azibert get the job. The confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and his client has been a major point of contention in the trial. “You have in front of you a man of whom more that 3,700 private conversations have been wiretapped... What did I do to deserve that?” Sarkozy said. Sarkozy’s defence lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, argued the whole case was based on “small talk” between a lawyer and his client. “You don’t have the beginning of a piece of evidence, not the slightness witness account, the slightness declaration,” she told the court. Sarkozy withdrew from active politics after failing to be chosen as his conservative party’s presidential candidate for France’s 2017 election, won by Emmanuel Macron. He remains very popular amid right-wing voters, however, and plays a major role behind the scenes, including through maintaining a relationship with Macron, whom he is said to advise on certain topics. His memoirs published this summer, “The Time of Storms,” was a bestseller for weeks. Sarkozy will face another trial later this month along with 13 other people on charges of illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign. His conservative party is suspected of having spent 42.8 million euros ($50.7 million), almost twice the maximum authorized, to finance the campaign, which ended in victory for Socialist rival Francois Hollande. In another investigation opened in 2013, Sarkozy is accused of having taken millions from then-Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to illegally finance his 2007 campaign. He was handed preliminary charges of passive corruption, illegal campaign financing, concealment of stolen assets from Libya and criminal association. He has denied wrongdoing. Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press
(Submitted by Chip Taylor - image credit) A new report says monarch butterfly populations in Mexico have decreased, but according to one expert, the number of butterflies Canada will see this year depends on what happens this month as they embark on their migrations north. The presence of the monarch butterfly in the Mexican hibernation forests declined by 26 per cent due to a reduction of its habitat, according to the recent report by WWF-Telmex Telcel Foundation. According to the report, the species occupied 2.1 hectares in December 2020 compared to the 2.83 hectares in December 2019. These numbers are unsurprising to Chip Taylor, the director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. "They were about as I expected," he said. "But that tells us that we are dealing with a population that fluctuates with the weather conditions, but it's also dependent on the amount of habitat available. Had there been a lot more habitat available last year in the form of nectar plants, then it's likely we would have seen a higher population," he said. Taylor said that monarchs need nectar plants and milkweed, which he said Canada provides a lot of. The presence of the monarch butterfly declined by 26% in the Mexican hibernation forests due to a reduction of its habitat, according to a recent report by WWF-Telmex Telcel Foundation. "As we get into Canada ... we get a lot more common milkweed. And one of the things that happens in Canada is that the monarchs who have reached Canada in May and June develop a population of common milkweed and that population tends to move along the lakes and eventually move through Point Pelee in fairly large numbers," he explains. Every fall, Point Pelee plays host to thousands of monarch butterflies on their migrations. The insects make their way across Lake Erie to the mountains of Mexico, roughly 3,000 kilometres south, for the winter. In late spring, their offspring return to Canada, and the cycle continues. According to Parks Canada, monarchs have a life span of about a month but the ones who emerge late in the summer are born to migrate and stay alive for over six months to make the journey. Taylor said it's hard to predict what the population of the monarch butterfly will be like this spring until he sees how conditions are like in Texas. "The Canadian situation is highly dependent on what happens in March in Texas. So if the returning butterflies are abundant and they have good conditions in Texas, there are good conditions as they move north in May and June and they encounter good conditions in Canada, the population does well," he said. "If they get off to a bad start in Texas. It's going to be a bad year in Canada." - Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch Taylor said the butterflies have already left the overwintering sites in Mexico and should reach Texas in about two weeks. "The question is, what are they going to find when they get there?" He asks, pointing to the massive winter freeze that took place just weeks ago. "The question I'm asking all my colleagues in Texas is that vegetation going to come back in time, so they're going to be milkweeds above ground and nectar plants for the butterflies to feed on," he said. Chip Taylor, the director of Monarch Watch, says how conditions will look in Canada is highly dependent on how conditions will be like in Texas in two weeks. Taylor said he's watching the weather and monitoring plant development carefully and can better predict how things will look in two weeks. "What we've learned in the past is that what happens in March in Texas has a big influence that that determines everything that happens, including what happens in Canada, on the rest of the year," he said. "So it's very important for the population to get off to a good start. If they don't, if the population doesn't get off to a good start, then it's very likely that it's never going to be able to recover. There just aren't enough generations," he said. What you can do Taylor says people can help preserve the monarch butterfly by creating a lot of habitat for the species. Point Pelee National Park also encourages local residents to plant a butterfly garden with native plants, milkweed for monarch butterflies and caterpillars. "Create a habitat and they will come, they will use it," Taylor said.
This kitty is captivated by the newborn chicks in the box. So sweet and gentle!
Unable to find work, Ahmed Farea has sold everything including his wife's gold to feed and house two young daughters in one small room. Elsewhere in Yemen's capital Sanaa, widow Mona Muhammad has work but struggles to buy anything more nutritious than rice for her four children amid high prices. And in a nearby hospital, severely malnourished children receive lifesaving nutritional drinks.
Tina Fey asked the tough question 10 minutes into the three-hour Golden Globes broadcast Sunday: Could this whole night have been an email? Well, maybe. We wouldn’t have gotten to see the awkwardness of Daniel Kaluuya’s acceptance speech (almost) cut before it began, Don Cheadle giving a tie-dyed sweatshirt clad Jason Sudeikis the wrap-up signal, or Catherine O’Hara’s husband playing her off with his iPhone — a funny bit hampered by bad sound. But we also wouldn’t have gotten to tear up along with Chadwick Boseman’s widow Taylor Simone Ledward or see the sweetness of Mark Ruffalo’s kids standing proudly behind him when he won, or Ethan Hawke’s sitting with him when he didn’t. We also wouldn’t have gotten swept away by Norman Lear’s heartfelt remarks. It helped that Lear’s setup looked professionally produced. Many did not. Celebrities, we’ve all learned over the past year, have bad lighting and shoddy internet connections too, even on an awards show night. The 78th Annual Golden Globes came in limping Sunday, not just because of the strangeness of producing a live, bicoastal show a year into a pandemic, but because in the week leading up to the event, the 87-person organization behind the endeavour, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, was given an unflattering spotlight in a series of exposes in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. The most stinging revelation was that there are zero Black members in their ranks. Whether or not they would address it was perhaps the biggest question going into the night. Hosts Fey and Amy Poehler said they needed to change. And three members of the HFPA came out on stage to say they intended to. The remoteness of it all allowed them to control the controversy on their own terms, or at least manage it. For the show, it was a silver lining. For the audience, it felt like a punt. In a normal year, every nominee and guest would have been asked about it on the red carpet. All the celebrities who posted that Time’s Up message on their socials would have had to say something. Sunday, there was no one to ask. The HFPA may have just bought themselves another year to get their act together. Although their nominations are occasionally absurd, the ultimate winners often aren’t. “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao became the first woman to win best director since Barbra Streisand in 1984. Boseman won too. As did “Minari” and Lee Isaac Chung (who also shared an especially sweet moment with his young daughter), even if it was relegated to the foreign language category. Kate Hudson, who proved to be a trouper despite all the fun made of her nomination and film, did not. Unfortunately, as the night wore on, more and more winners found themselves played off by the show, including most of “The Crown.” Worse, the cut off music was bad. The evening had its inspired comedic moments too, most of which came from hosts Fey and Poehler who in their fourth time leading the show seamlessly played off of one another with almost 3,000 miles between them. Though it was easy to forget that they were on different coasts, they were always ready with a well-timed gag acknowledging that they weren’t. They also mocked the weirdness of it all, about halfway through exhaustedly recapping the meagre GIF and meme moments thus far — Cheadle, Tracy Morgan mispronouncing “Soul” as sal and Sudeikis’ hoodie. “Those are the messy things we love about the Globes,” Poehler said. The show has always been touted as a party, boozy, glamourous and unruly with hosts who are welcome to poke fun and occasionally even cross the line. The booziness perhaps has been overstated of late — most are far too savvy to get drunk on camera before their category. Besides, that’s what the after parties are for. But there was a lot lost here, even as the show tried to manufacture moments between the nominees with awkward semi-public five-way conversations before commercial breaks. “This is so weird,” said Lily Collins, to the heads on the five disconnected screens around her. She could have been speaking for all of us. Cutting away to the nominees after a joke or a related win was rarely successful and often stilted, although the later categories seemed to learn from the mistakes of the earlier ones. But it made it even more frustrating that the show failed to use their in-person talent more creatively. Yes, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo got a fun “Barb and Star” moment, as did Maya Rudolph and Kenan Thompson. But they also got Tiffany Haddish to show up and all she got was one quip about Eddie Murphy’s mansions. The NBC tie-ins, too, seemed more shameless than usual. The Golden Globes have in years past been a frivolity that's still a pretty watchable, star-studded show. It occasionally even captured the zeitgeist in surprisingly meaningful ways. Audiences expect the worst and sometimes find it. But there are also grace notes in all the silliness— remember the sea of black to support the newly formed Time’s Up a few years ago and that Oprah speech? And maybe it’s that tension that has kept the Globes audience relatively stable. Whether or not this year will hold up when the numbers come in remains to be seen, but it would be a surprise. And does it matter? It’s not as though anyone involved is planning to relive this experience. “We all know that awards shows are stupid,” Fey said early on. Yes, they are. But maybe it’s just the stupidity we all need after a very tough year. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. Chris Scott, chief meteorologist with The Weather Network, said Canadians can count on some sunny days to put a bounce in their step after a long winter. "There's going to be some challenges. We're not out of the woods for winter, but we've certainly put the worst behind us and there's some really nice days ahead," said Scott, adding that people should get out and enjoy the sunshine when the daily forecast calls for it. The Weather Network predicts that March will bring extended tastes of early spring to Ontario and Quebec after a particularly wintry February. But Scott said the province should brace for a period of colder weather in mid-spring before more consistent warmth sets in. The Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia, with lower-than-average temperatures in the offing for the first half of the season. An above-normal snowpack will make for excellent skiing conditions but also a heightened risk for spring flooding when warm weather finally arrives, Scott said. The Weather Network's outlook suggests March will be dramatically warmer through the Prairies, but indicates western parts of the region will struggle to reach consistently mild temperatures. The network said it's concerned that drought conditions south of the border could become more widespread and affect southern parts of the region by the start of the growing season. Scott predicted temperatures exceeding seasonal norms in Atlantic Canada, but said the region is still at risk for high-impact, late-winter storms. In Northern Canada, colder than normal spring temperatures are expected for southern Yukon, while eastern Nunavut will be warmer than usual. "There's going to be good days (for outdoor activities) in every part of the country, you're just going to have to pick your battles," Scott said. The meteorologist did have good news for most of Canada's largest river valleys, predicting they would be spared disastrous floods in the months ahead. Scott said the Red River Valley in Manitoba, the Ottawa and St. Lawrence valleys in Ontario and Quebec, as well as the Saint John River valley in New Brunswick likely won't have to contend with dangerously high water levels in March and April. "That's because we don't have the tremendous snowpacks that are the antecedent condition that you need to get really severe spring flooding," said Scott. "That's really good news in places, especially in Eastern Canada, that have been hit with floods." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
(Supplied/Prairieland Park - image credit) A Saskatoon city councillor says he's "baffled" by Prairieland Park's decision to cancel the 2021 horse-racing season at Marquis Downs, calling the organization's reasoning behind the decision a set of excuses. Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill, who has a background in the agriculture industry, says he was surprised by the recent news the 2021 racing season at Marquis Downs was a no-go. He feels Prairieland Park leadership has an obligation to both the city and the province's agriculture sector, including those working in the province's horse-racing industry, noting the cancelled season will have widespread consequences beyond horse owners and trainers. "There's so many other people that are going to be impacted by this," he said. "I'm baffled by this." Prairieland Park, located on land designated for agricultural activity, cancelled horse-racing in 2020, and like others in the community, Hill worries those involved in the sport won't be able to survive another cancelled year. "Their margins are so thin to begin with, let alone now, a second season with no revenue or no racing for them, I think we're going to see some of the racers pack up and move to a different province," he said. Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill says Prairieland Park has an obligation to the province's agriculatural community, which includes the horse-racing sector. CBC reached out to Kristy Rempel, marketing manager with Prairieland Park, on Sunday for a response to Hill's concerns, but she said Prairieland Park won't be making further comment beyond the statement issued on Feb. 25 indicating the season was cancelled. Leadership says costs, lack of agreement with the Saskatchewan's Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association (HPBA) and the logistics of bringing international jockeys into the city for racing under COVID-19 protocols are some of the biggest factors behind the cancellation, noting the organization has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The HPBA wanted to see a 24-day season go ahead, while Prairieland Park was pushing for 20 days, and the two groups failed to reach a compromise. "With the shutdown of our whole operations here, Prairieland could be losing as much as $3 million this year. So that poses a big challenge for us too," said Prairieland Park CEO Mark Reiger in a previous interview with CBC. Reiger said they've invested in the sport heavily. "How many days are enough? What are we supposed to do? We try our best here to make it work, but there are limitations as to what we can do." The HPBA, however, says it feels Prairieland Park is leaving income on the table by not globally broadcasting simulcasts of its races, bringing in more revenue and a wider audience, with leadership saying they are also "at a loss" as to why Prairieland Park won't join in its ongoing efforts to lobby the provincial government for funding. 'I can't believe it' The reasoning isn't sitting well with Coun. Hill either. Hill says people could "easily" physically distance themselves from one another inside the Marquis Downs facility and precautions like planned quarantined and COVID-19 tests for jockeys upon departure and arrival could have ensured the season could go ahead. "There's so many ways around this, and taking the easy way out and putting at risk everybody that's involved in the horse-racking sector, I can't believe it," he said. Moving forward, he said he'll ask city administration to look into whether or not Prairieland Park did everything it could to run the season. Mayor monitoring situation Saskatoon's top elected official, Mayor Charlie Clark, also expressed concern for those affected by the cancelled season in a statement when asked about Prairieland Park's decision, but said mediation may be beyond the city's scope. "I understand how concerning it is to see the challenges that are facing this historic industry in our city and province, and the impact this has on many families," said Clark. "I have been following the combination of the impacts of COVID on the ability to run a season and the financial challenges of the industry. I'm also aware that it would take interventions beyond the scale of the city's role to address these issues," he continued. "The city does not own or operate Prairieland Park or operate horse racing. Prairieland Park is a third-party corporation governed by a board of directors elected by their membership. Prairieland Park already receives tax abatements and a very favourable land lease in place on the property." Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey in Saskatoon who got her start at Marquis Downs, has said publicly she feels the organization isn't doing enough to back the sport. She's organizing grassroots demonstrations aimed at raising awareness about what the cancelled season will mean for the sport and the city. Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey and an advocate for the Saskatchewan horse-racing industry, can be seen in this supplied photo during a morning gallop at Prairieland Park. She says concern from an elected official about the cancellation of the upoming season is welcome. Asked what she thinks about Coun. Hill's plans to inquire about Prairieland's efforts around the cancelled season, she said it's a "good step forward. "If the city can take a look at Prairieland's responsibilities on their ag-land, it would certainly help us move forward with us making sure that it's in the right hands, or that it's operated properly according to the zoning and their agricultural responsibilities." Hein hopes this year's season can continue despite the cancellations, saying she feels it's important Prairieland hears and responds to the industry's concerns and what she says is growing support. "They are an agricultural society, and for them to just write this off knowing the damage that it's doing with the support behind us, that is just, I would call it a slap in the face," she said. "It's just blatant disregard for the importance of the industry."
Le Moulin Michel de Gentilly est le tout premier commerce des MRC de Bécancour et de Nicolet-Yamaska à adhérer au réseau La Tasse. Le concept de La Tasse permet aux clients de différents commerces participants d’acheter une tasse consignée et réutilisable au coût de 5$ et de la rapporter par la suite dans une des antennes du réseau. Ces tasses seront sous peu mises à disposition de la clientèle du Moulin Michel qui compte rouvrir son comptoir de commandes pour emporter au cours des prochaines semaines. L’effort n’est pas inutile. Le Réseau affirme que « plus d’un million de gobelets à usage unique sont jetés chaque minute dans le monde » et la tasse réutilisable consignée offre « une alternative sanitaire, simple et abordable. Elle permet de réduire l’impact de notre consommation quotidienne sur l’environnement ». « Le meilleur déchet est celui qu’on ne produit pas », affirme Philippe Dumas, directeur général du Moulin Michel. « C’est quelque chose qu’on voulait mettre en place. Le réseau La Tasse prend de l’expansion. C’est un geste responsable pour la planète. C’est tellement simple d’y adhérer. Tu te présentes au Moulin Michel, tu as oublié ta tasse réutilisable? Le client peut ainsi en emprunter une et la ramener une autre fois pour récupérer son dépôt de 5$.» Le Moulin Michel avait déjà pris un virage plus vert. Tous les gobelets des commandes pour emporter du Moulin Michel sont aussi compostables. M. Dumas est convaincu que la meilleure tasse réutilisable est celle que l’on conserve avec soi. « La Tasse permet de combler - l’oubli de - et chez nous, à Bécancour-Gentilly » de conscientiser la population au gaspillage croissant des gobelets jetables non réutilisables. Philippe Dumas a déjà mis La Tasse consignée à l’épreuve au café La Distributrice de Montréal dont il est aussi copropriétaire. Ce café est depuis près d’un an membre du réseau. « Le seul enjeu, c’est la gestion des consignes et le côté sanitaire. Toutes les tasses qu’on remet en circulation doivent évidemment être lavées correctement », comme toutes les autres d’ailleurs. Le projet La Tasse est né en 2019 dans la métropole et a rapidement fait des petits. Une campagne de sociofinancement de La Tasse lancée en 2019 a récolté près de 60 000$. Le réseau est aujourd’hui présent dans près de 350 commerces des différentes régions du Québec. Boris Chassagne, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix du Sud
(Helen Pike/CBC - image credit) The union representing Calgary's transit workers says despite an overall drop in ridership, a steady number of operational issues indicate a need to bring back some of the transit workers laid off last spring. Mike Mahar, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583, says staff are complaining about too much overtime, too many overloaded buses and sporadic bus breakdowns that lead to "no shows" because there's no one to backfill. Mahar said within the last week, a charter transit bus ran into problems and left students at a high school scrambling to find another way home. "Normally Calgary Transit will have, you know, five or six or seven people on what they call standby, and as soon as the bus breaks down, they dispatch another bus with another driver," he said. "They can't do that when they've maxed themselves out, there's just no resources left." Approximately 450 workers were laid off last spring and routes were scaled back or temporarily suspended after revenues and ridership plunged due to COVID-19. Mahar said some of the laid off workers have already been brought back, but he believes more need to return — especially considering concerns around health and safety with respect to the pandemic. Stephen Tauro, a spokesperson with the city, said Calgary Transit is monitoring the situation and called the "no show" incident involving a high school charter bus a one-off. Tauro said ridership is only 25 per cent of what it was pre-pandemic, yet service levels are at 82 per cent. He said if they see a significant increase in ridership, they'll boost service levels. Approximately 450 workers were laid off last spring and routes were scaled back or temporarily suspended after revenues and ridership plunged due to COVID-19. Tauro added that according to the city's ongoing citizen satisfaction surveys, 85 per cent of riders say the service is meeting their needs. "So it's really a balancing act and being responsible with the tax dollars and ensuring that we can use those dollars to the best of our ability to meet the customer needs," he said. Transit overloads Mahar said the city sends him copies of the daily overload reports and lately he said he's been noticing reports of 50 or more overloads every day. Mahar shared a week's worth of the overload reports with CBC News which support that assessment. Pre-pandemic, a bus was considered overloaded if it reached 100 per cent capacity. During the pandemic, it has been lowered to 75 per cent capacity. When a bus is considered overloaded, the driver feels it's too full to pick up additional riders, so the length of time can vary depending on when people exit the bus. Mahar said there were reports of bus overloads pre-pandemic but he alleged the numbers are consistently up right now on some routes, especially during peak periods. He said drivers have a plastic shield and passengers must wear a mask, but said not everyone feels safe behind those barriers, nor always wears a mask. One rider who spoke to CBC News through social media said the bus she takes is usually packed, which she said doesn't make sense. "Calgary Transit still thinks it's okay to allow 70 people on the bus when there's only 36 seats [on a regular bus] and most people are not wearing masks," said Megan Mary, who is a regular transit rider. "If my place of work did that, or if I gather in my home or outside with 70 [or more] people, we'd be fined and closed down for not following public health regulations." Stephen Tauro, a spokesperson with the city, said Calgary Transit ridership is only 25 per cent of what it was pre-pandemic, yet service levels are at 82 per cent. Tauro said the reports shared with CBC News are raw data that require further investigation to see if they represent consistent issues that require a service change. He said if overloads happen on a consistent basis, then they will respond by adding another bus, increasing the frequency of the service or adjusting the size of the bus. In that case, he urged drivers and passengers to notify Calgary Transit every time a bus is too full so the city can see if any patterns emerge. Increased overtime Mahar said he's been tracking the overtime and double time logged by his members after drivers started complaining about their workload over the last three or four months. He said overtime is an acceptable solution when it's used correctly, but said drivers are asked to do overtime too often to cover staffing shortages, which he said leads to burnout. "There's a lot of them that don't want to work overtime and they certainly don't want to work 10- and 12-hour days," Mahar said. But despite the complaints, Tauro said his records show overtime hasn't gone up in recent months. CBC News tried to compare the total number of overtime and double time hours sent by Tauro, which compared January 2020 to January 2021, with several overtime sheets sent by Mahar. However at the time of publication, CBC News couldn't confirm whether drivers are being asked to do more overtime at this time. Tauro said there are a number of factors that go into the decision to use overtime — like budget, operator availability, the "sick" list and the schedules. "It's really hard to just pinpoint one consistent issue and I think we are using some operators in overtime. Is it excessive?" Tauro said. "No, but we're just trying to ensure we're meeting the service that customers expect." But Tauro said the bottom line is Calgary Transit is about customer service, and so far, he said, it seems customers are satisfied. Mahar said he realizes there are budget constraints and that ridership is down, but he said those who are still using it and providing it should be better supported. "During a pandemic I think they need to promise a safe ride that is as safe as it can possibly be while still providing service," he said. He said the buses should be better spaced out, as they were when the pandemic first hit. Calgary Transit initially blocked off every second seat due to COVID-19. Last August, it removed the seating restrictions because it said the mandatory face covering bylaw would keep riders safe when they couldn't distance.
LOS ANGELES — Chloé Zhao became the second woman to win best director at the Golden Globes and the first female winner of Asian descent on a night in which her film “Nomadland” was crowned the top drama film. Zhao, who was among three women nominated in the directing category, was honoured for her work on “Nomadland,” about people who take to the road and move from place to place seeking work for usually low wages. It stars two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand and includes nonprofessional actors. “I especially want to thank the nomads who shared their stories with us,” Zhao said, accepting the directing honour virtually on Sunday night. She singled out real-life nomad Bob Wells, who appears in the movie, for help with her remarks. “This is what he said about compassion,” Zhao said. “Compassion is the breakdown of all the barriers between us. A heart to heart pounding. Your pain is my pain. It’s mingled and shared between us.” The 38-year-old director who lives in Los Angeles is a leading Oscar contender for “Nomadland,” which is in select theatres and streaming on Hulu. “Now this is why I fell in love with making movies and telling stories because it gives us a chance to laugh and cry together and it gives us a chance to learn from each other and to have more compassion for each other,” Zhao said in her acceptance remarks. “So thank you everyone who made it possible to do what I love.” She joins Barbra Streisand, who won in 1984 for “Yentl,” as the only women to win directing honours at the Globes. Until this year, just five women had been nominated in the category. “Sometimes a first feels like a long time coming. You feel like, it’s about time,” Zhao said in virtual backstage comments. “I’m sure there’s many others before me that deserve the same recognition. If this means more people like me get to live their dreams and do what I do, I’m happy.” Regina King ("One Night in Miami...") and Emerald Fennell ("Promising Young Woman") were the other female director nominees. Zhao also was nominated for best motion picture screenplay and lost to Aaron Sorkin. McDormand received a nod for actress in a motion picture drama, but lost. Born in China, Zhao made her feature directing debut in 2015 with “Songs My Brother Taught Me.” She broke out in 2017 with “The Rider.” Next up for her is the big-budget Marvel film “Eternals,” set for release this fall. Beth Harris, The Associated Press
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday stood by an unidentified Cabinet minister against calls for him to step down over an allegation he raped a 16-year-old girl more than 30 years ago. The accusation has created a cloud over the 16 men in Morrison’s 22-minister Cabinet and is feeding complaints of a culture within Parliament that is toxic for women. The allegation was contained in an anonymous letter sent to the prime minister’s office and to three female lawmakers last week. The letter contained a statement from a complainant that detailed her allegation of a rape she said occurred in New South Wales state in 1988. The woman, who has not been publicly identified, reported the allegation to police before taking her own life in June at age 49. Morrison said the Cabinet minister “vigorously and completely denied the allegations.” Morrison said he forwarded the letter to police and discussed the allegation with the federal police commissioner. Morrison said he did not intend to take any further action. “We can’t have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicized through the media is grounds for ... governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that,” Morrison said. The Ministerial Code of Conduct states a “minister should stand aside if that minister becomes the subject of an official investigation of alleged illegal or improper conduct.” Some within the government argue that because the complainant is dead, her allegation is no longer under official police investigation because a conviction is unlikely. Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, a minor Greens party lawmaker who received the anonymous letter, said the minister must step down pending an independent investigation by a former judge. “It is just not right to suggest that this type of allegation could linger, hang over the heads of the entire Cabinet,” Hanson-Young said. She said the accusation erodes the belief that the government takes sexual assault seriously. Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley, who represented the complainant when she took her accusation to police, said the allegation cannot be resolved through the criminal justice system because she has died. The minister should step down while some independent inquiry investigates the evidence, Bradley said. “His position is pretty clearly untenable and he should step aside or be stood aside until this matter can be addressed and resolved,” Bradley said. The disclosure comes two weeks after Morrison apologized in Parliament to a former government staffer who alleged she was raped by a more senior colleague in a minister’s office two years ago. Brittany Higgins quit her job in January and reactivated her complaint to police after initially not pursuing the case because she felt it would have affected her employment. The colleague, who has not been named publicly, was fired for breaching security by taking Higgins into a minister’s office following a night of heavy drinking. Three other women have made sexual misconduct allegations against the same man since Higgins went public with her complaint. A government staffer who alleged she was raped by the man last year told The Weekend Australian newspaper the attack wouldn’t have happened if the government had supported Higgins’ initial complaint. Morrison responded to Higgins’ public complaints by appointing government lawmaker Celia Hammond to work with political parties to investigate Parliament House culture, improve workplace standards and protect staff. Hammond and opposition Labor Party Sen. Penny Wong also received anonymous letters about the 1988 rape allegation. Wong said she met the complainant in 2019 and the complainant detailed her allegation against the man, who was not in Parliament in 1988. “I facilitated her referral to rape support services and confirmed she was being supported in reporting the matter to NSW Police,” Wong said. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whom Morrison replaced in a power struggle within the ruling conservative Liberal Party in 2018, said the complainant wrote to him in 2019 seeking advice on what she should do with her allegations. Turnbull described her allegations as “pretty harrowing” and said Morrison should remove the minister. Turnbull said he had sent the woman's email and his reply to police in the woman's home state of South Australia in expectation that they would be used as evidence in a coroner's investigation into her death. An investigation has not yet been announced. Morrison said that before he was told of the rape allegation last week, he had heard “rumours” that an Australian Broadcasting Corp. investigative reporter was “making some inquiries” about a rape around November last year when the ABC’s Four Corners program broadcast its “Inside the Canberra Bubble” investigation. The program accused the Liberal Party of tolerating and condoning inappropriate sexual behaviour. The program exposed an extramarital affair between Population Minister Alan Tudge and a female adviser in 2017. It also alleged Attorney General Christian Porter had been seen “cuddling and kissing” a female staffer in a Canberra bar, which he denies. The government has condemned the program. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has asked the ABC board to explain how the program was in the public interest and complied with the state-owned broadcaster’s obligation to produce accurate and impartial journalism. Minister for Women Marise Payne on Monday described the recent allegations of sexual misbehaviour as a low point of her 24 years in Parliament. “This is most definitely the most difficult, most confronting and most distressing period of my work life in this environment,” Payne told Sky News. “But distressing for me is meaningless in comparison to those people who have had to endure issues around sexual assault, the experience of sexual assault or harassment in its many forms, and we want to make sure that that stops now,” she added. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
For much of last year, the coronavirus crept, undetected, across eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Buyers in the United States and Canada are paying $30 to $50 for each cartridge, according to laboratory sources in North America and a regional Canadian policy document.
(Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit) The father of a 10-year-old girl injured at school says staff should have done more to treat her after the accident. Mukhtar Chaudhry says family members received a voicemail letting them know their daughter, Memona, had bumped her head in a fall at Samuel W. Shaw School in Shawnessy on Feb. 22. When they arrived to pick her up, they say they were shocked to find her with a deep, gaping head wound on her forehead running up into her hairline, as seen in a photo shared with CBC News. The family believe more first aid should have been administered by staff and even an ambulance called, given it was a head injury. The girl ended up being transported to hospital from her home, where she received treatment, including several stitches. Chaudhry said it was much worse than just a bump on the head and should have been treated as such. "The teacher gave her just a brown paper towel, like you see at any gas station, to put on the wound," he said. "That was it. "When they got home, they saw it was a very deep cut and we didn't want to take any chances, so [we] called a paramedic." The girl was taken to the South Health Campus in an ambulance. Concerns surrounding protocol "They did not follow the protocol after the incident," Chaudhry claimed. "They didn't do anything." In an emailed statement, a Calgary Board of Education spokesperson said staff at the school did everything correctly. "The Calgary Board of Education follows established protocols and processes for all accidents, injury reporting and investigations," the spokesperson said. "All accidents are reported as soon as the injured have been taken care of. The reporting process for student accidents includes contacting the parent/guardian, administering first aid if required, and identifying the level of medical attention required. "Following the incident, supervisors and employees participate in an investigation of the accident or injury report. In all situations, we examine the steps taken to improve our practices and ensure the safety of our students." Chaudhry said he sent an email to the Calgary Board of Education and has been in contact with the principal and education director at the school. In Chaudhry's view, the responses he received were lacking and his concerns weren't taken seriously. "They don't want to look at the case or what they did at their side," he said. "They have a first aid kit at school. If it's possible, she should be given first aid, and if not, they should have called a paramedic." Chaudhry said they should take a look at what happened and what they could have done differently. "What happened to my daughter, I don't want to see happen to other kids," he said.